It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest Day: May 30, 2023, and National Mint Julep Day. It’s a good drink, especially when made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. I like it served in a frosty metal cup, though you can’t see the booze:
It’s also National Creativity Day, World MS Day, Lod Massacre Remembrance Day, and Jail Day for Theranos Grifters: by 2 p.m. today, Elizabeth Holmes must report to Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, to begin her 11 year+ 3 month sentence. Will she show up? If she does, you can check out what her life will be like here and see her 75-page “Inmate Handbook” here.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 30 Wikipedia page.
Wine of the week: There aren’t many reviews of this red Rhone wine on the web, and those you can find say it’s okay but not great. I disagree a bit: it’s very good, especially for the price: I recall I paid around ten bucks for it. It’s from the Ventoux region, the SE part of France’s Rhone valley.
One site describes this wine as “rich and intense” but adds (for the 2007), “This is not widely known among wines from Ventoux. Interest in this wine has fallen off relative to previous years.” Pity. The 2012, below, is made from Grenache and Syrah, and has the characteristic black-olive nose that I always smell in a good Rhone, and a taste of blackcurrents with very little tannin. It isn’t thin, nor gutsy either: it is in excellent drinking condition.
Rhones are my favorite of all the world’s reds (n.b., I have little experience with good Burgundy), and although this bottle doesn’t come close to the heights of a good Cornas or Côte-Rôtie, neither does it run you the $150 per bottle that those would cost you (oh, for the days forty years ago before people had discovered Rhones!). This is a smooth, luscious wine that I had with bucatini pasta with tomato sauce, and it was a great accompaniment.
Now I have only one bottle of this vintage, and don’t know if you can find it from more recent years, or what newer vintages would cost. But if you find this 2012, try one, and if you like it buy a case. It would make a great house wine.
*We now know more about the details of the debt ceiling deal. I was wrong in my prediction and description yesterday: there is not a new debt ceiling that is frozen for two years; rather, there IS no debt ceiling for two years. But the Dems pay in spending cuts:
The centerpiece of the agreement remains a two-year suspension of the debt ceiling, which caps the total amount of money the government is allowed to borrow. Suspending that cap, which is now set at $31.4 trillion, would allow the government to keep borrowing money and pay its bills on time — as long as Congress passes the agreement before June 5, when Treasury has said the United States will run out of cash.
In exchange for suspending the limit, Republicans demanded a range of policy concessions from Mr. Biden. Chief among them are limits on the growth of federal discretionary spending over the next two years. Mr. Biden also agreed to some new work requirements for certain recipients of food stamps and the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program.
Both sides agreed to modest efforts meant to accelerate the permitting of some energy projects — and, in a surprise move, a fast track to construction for a new natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia that has been championed by Republican lawmakers and a key centrist Democrat.
The spending cut also takes away a substantial sum allocated to the Internal Revenue Service, a blow to Biden, who had said he’d hire additional agents to go after tax cheats. There’s also an official end to the moratorium on repaying student loans, and, in a boon to Biden, still allows his forgiveness of between $10,000 and $20,000 in student loan debt for some ex-students. And there’s one big question mark:
The agreement only sets parameters for the next two years of spending. Congress must fill them in by passing a raft of spending bills later this year. Large fights loom in the details of those bills, raising the possibility that lawmakers will not agree to spending plans in time and the government will shut down.
*New York City is sinking under the weight of its infrasctructure. It’s not Venice yet, but they better start doing something about the future. Dikes around Manhattan?
If rising oceans aren’t worry enough, add this to the risks New York City faces: The metropolis is slowly sinking under the weight of its skyscrapers, homes, asphalt and humanity itself.
New research estimates the city’s landmass is sinking at an average rate of 1 to 2 millimeters per year, something referred to as “subsidence.”
That natural process happens everywhere as ground is compressed, but the study published this month in the journal Earth’s Future sought to estimate how the massive weight of the city itself is hurrying things along.
More than 1 million buildings are spread across the city’s five boroughs. The research team calculated that all those structures add up to about 1.7 trillion tons (1.5 trillion metric tons) of concrete, metal and glass — about the mass of 4,700 Empire State buildings — pressing down on the Earth.
How fast, you’re asking?
While the process is slow, lead researcher Tom Parsons of the U.S. Geological Survey said parts of the city will eventually be under water.
“It’s inevitable. The ground is going down, and the water’s coming up. At some point, those two levels will meet,” said Parsons, whose job is to forecast hazardous events from earthquakes and tsunamis to incremental shifts of the ground below us.
But no need to invest in life preservers just yet, Parsons assured.
The study merely notes buildings themselves are contributing, albeit incrementally, to the shifting landscape, he said. Parsons and his team of researchers reached their conclusions using satellite imaging, data modeling and a lot of mathematical assumptions.
It will take hundreds of years — precisely when is unclear — before New York becomes America’s version of Venice, which is famously sinking into the Adriatic Sea.
I can imagine a dystopian movie set in the future in which just the tip of the Empire State Building is sticking out of the water.
*Uganda has must made homosexuality a capital crime. You can get life in prison for simple same-sex activity, and execution for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Uganda’s president signed into law a wide-ranging anti-LGBTQ bill on Monday that imposes life imprisonment for same-sex activity and the death penalty in some cases, signaling an intensification of the East African nation’s crackdown on LGBTQ+ people despite widespread international condemnation of the law.
The new law also imposes life imprisonment as punishment for anyone found to have performed a sexual act with a person of the same gender, and up to seven years in prison for “an attempt to commit the offense of homosexuality.”
. . .Uganda’s parliament originally passed the bill in March but it was returned to legislators by a presidential veto. The final bill, approved by Museveni, remains largely the same but no longer includes a requirement for people to report homosexual activity or criminalizes merely identifying as LGBTQ+.
Its passage into law Monday sparked fear and confusion among LGBTQ+ Ugandans, many of whom have already fled the country.
This isn’t a Muslim initiative, as only 1/8 of the population of Uganda is Muslim. Nope, this comes from Christianity, as 80% of Ugandans are Christian.
*Eggs are finally coming down in price again, but bread is still way overpriced. I’m sure that everyone’s noticed that food has gone way up in price during the pandemic, but the NYT lays out: “The real reason your groceries are getting so expensive.”
To understand why grocery prices are way up, we need to look past the headlines about inflation and reconsider long-held ideas about the benefits of corporate bigness.
Like other independent grocers, Food Fresh buys through large national wholesalers that purchase goods by the truckload, achieving the same volume efficiencies the big chains do. What accounts for the difference in price is not efficiency but raw market power. Major grocery suppliers, including Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Clorox, rely on Walmart for more than 20 percent of their sales. So when Walmart demands special deals, suppliers can’t say no. And as suppliers cut special deals for Walmart and other large chains, they make up for the lost revenue by charging smaller retailers even more, something economists refer to as the water bed effect.
This isn’t competition. It’s big retailers exploiting their financial control over suppliers to hobble smaller competitors. Our failure to put a stop to it has warped our entire food system. It has driven independent grocers out of business and created food deserts. It has spurred consolidation among food processors, which has slashed the share of food dollars going to farmers and created dangerous bottlenecks in the production of meat and other essentials. And in a perverse twist, it has raised food prices for everyone, no matter where you shop.
It’s capitalism, Jake! The government used to enforce antitrust regulations on some foods, so that small grocers would pay the same wholesale prices as big chains, allowing small towns and poor people in “food deserts” to afford to eat. But they stopped enforcing the laws. Now stores like Walmart takes huge cuts of the food dollar, and farmers are getting less than ever. And independent grocers are going extinct. Further, as more customers flock to the giant chains like Walmart, it increases their market share and hence their ability to demand better deals from food suppliers. If anything should be subject to anti-trust legislation, it should be food.
*The Wall Street Journal offers readers’ tipping habits to help guide you in the post-pandemic food situation. Some of the respondents are servers, others just consumers, and there is of course a variation in responses. Here are some ones you might consider (15-20% tipping on expensive wine is really a no-no; one reason why I usually bring my own bottle, though the main one is that wine in restaurants often costs TRIPLE the retail price, or about six times what the restaurant paid for it).
As a former server, and someone very concerned about the plight of low-wage workers, I usually tip generously. Also, I usually tip in cash, to ensure the tip gets to the server and they get to keep all of it. It is not at all uncommon for owners/managers to steal tips, sad to say. Plus there are fees taken out of electronic transactions.
—Karen Peterson, Brooklyn, N.Y.
STEAL TIPS???? I don’t tip in cash, as I think the credit-card nick is only about 2%. Plus my regular tip for food is 20% unless the server is surly or incompetent.
As a former waitress who worked my way through college almost entirely on tips, I am a very generous tipper in a sit-down restaurant. However, if it’s counter service or self-serve, I hit no tip every time.
—Kathy McMichael, Beaver Dam, Wis.
If I’m just picking up something simple like a Subway sandwich (yes, like Jussie Smollett), I don’t usually tip, though every few times I’ll put a buck or so in the tip jar. I used to tip 15% on that kind of stuff when I used a credit card, but I realized that I just did it out of guilt. I will tip on sit-down counter service or if it’s a small family joint.
Last week, I was at an expensive restaurant and saw the suggested tip amounts were 20%, 23% and 25%, as though these were the norms. To top it off, they showed the tip on the total bill, including tax, which is ridiculous. I never tip on tax. (Do you tip your IRS auditor or tax collector?)
—Rochelle Flynn, Hoboken, N.J.
Do not tip on the tax! It’s easy in Chicago, as the tax on restaurant meals is about 10%. You can see that separately, and just double it on a credit card bill (or use 1.5X if you’re a 15% tipper. Trying to wheedle 25% out of the customer is a rookie move, and greedy to boot.
If somebody orders a very expensive wine, let’s say $300 with a light lunch, why is the expected tip of 20% increasing pro rata with the bill? The amount of work done hasn’t changed vis-à-vis ordering a cheaper $50 bottle of wine.
—Baran Kayhan, Toronto
Wine in restaurants is way overpriced, and often the sommelier does very little, so tipping a lot on a pricey bottle of wine is just dumb! Finally, if you patronize a place often, tip on the high side: you don’t want to stiff people you know and like.
Everybody has their own customs; what are yours?
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess demands to be photographed
A: Hili: It’s not going to be a good picture.Hili: But I want to have the photo.
Ja: Hili, to nie będzie dobre zdjęcie.Hili: Ale ja chcę mieć taką fotografię.
. . . and a photo of baby Kulka:
From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy (yes, this is real: a group of churches):
From Jesus of the Day:
From Peter, a fox cub frolicking in the flowers:
From Masih. The religious Pecksniffs in Iran just can’t bear to see a woman doffing the hijab:
This is a video of a woman who does not want to wear the mandatory hijab and is arguing with a regime prosecutor. The more the Islamic Republic tries to control women, the harder Iranian women fight back. This is the revolution called #WomanLifeFreedom. pic.twitter.com/hLNWEYW3Qx
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) May 29, 2023
From Luana, a dog who loves wind chimes:
Bleu is a golden retriever who has loved singing to wind chimes since she was a puppy
(jukin media) pic.twitter.com/L50QdFE9mH
— theworldofdog (@theworldofdog) March 22, 2023
From Barry, remarkable mental momentum:
This person made it all the way from "the Piltdown Museum" to "a big hoax, like 'Mar Lago'" without ever once pausing to fact-check or even THINK ABOUT anything they were saying, and I think we need to appreciate that sort of momentum. pic.twitter.com/YufRPbahZM
— Take That Darwin (@TakeThatDarwin) April 8, 2023
From Malcolm: a compendium of nosey cats:
NOW HERE GO THE KITTY 😺 CATS 🐈 BEING NOSEY FAMILY👪 pic.twitter.com/IlcU7bdjsa
— LIL GUY (@LILGUYISBACK) May 25, 2023
Cat calculating physics.. 😅 pic.twitter.com/dH2rrCik9U
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) May 28, 2023
30 May 1910 | A Polish Jew, Rubin Jucker, was born in Chrzanów.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) May 30, 2023
Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a sneaky boat (at the end):
Yesterday I filmed @towerbridge lifting to allow cruise ship ‘Le Champlain’ to be carefully & snugly towed in to the Pool of London. But do watch to the end tho: a plucky @citycruises skipper attempts the dash of their career & slipstreams the tug,beneath the closing bascules…👌 pic.twitter.com/Kv11YsS9yq
— Tim Dunn (@MrTimDunn) May 29, 2023
Sound up to hear the moth squeak!
Volume up, this is the unique chattering squeak of the Death's Head Moth, Acherontia atropos. (This is a captive bred female, she's quite old now and not flying much) pic.twitter.com/FICPu9hoJH
— Carim Nahaboo (@CNahaboo) May 29, 2023
Collecting fossils from the ocean floor:
These ancients seamounts of the Central Pacific have been rich habitats for millions of years. The team has spotted TWO rock-encrusted fossilized beaked whale skulls along the seabed, and collected one for age analysis studies ashore. #NOAAOECI pic.twitter.com/LCvExKeftw
— E/V Nautilus (@EVNautilus) May 28, 2023