…deficit or deficient? [DOT 8/1/23]

still better than derelict or delinquent...

…gotta be honest…I wish the news was funny…I mean I know it sort of has been while they were not-voting-for-kevin & all…& there’s whole industries devoted to poking fun at it…often well…insightfully…or even both…but there’s a reason they call it light relief & talk about heavy news…or indeed woe…so…I suppose it stands to reason that some news is hard to think about…& I kind of feel like I ought to apologize for bringing up the next few things…on a sunday no less…& maybe a double apology to anyone lacking a pet…puppy or otherwise…not least since I doubt I have 5¢ worth of psychiatric assistance to offer

…& it’d probably take a lot of more expensive hours from a lot of more qualified people than me to explain how this comes to be…but I regret to admit these are things that genuinely appear to have happened…in a sense while I was paying more attention to the thing that seemed funny…but very possibly in a different sense might be happening because people rather closer to events weren’t paying as much attention as they maybe thought

A 6-year-old first-grader at an elementary school in Newport News, Va., shot a teacher on Friday afternoon during an altercation in a classroom, the authorities said, leaving her with “life-threatening” injuries and renewing calls for greater gun restrictions.

…my lack of understanding of the nuances of the 2nd amendment & its ramifications notwithstanding…it wouldn’t be hard for this part to be a.n. other news story about a school in the US

The superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, Dr. George Parker, said at the news conference that “we need to keep guns out of the hands of our young people.”

…but…six years old? …outside of the wire towards the end or city of god…the idea of a kid of single-digit-years being able to lay hands on a gun…much less shoot someone with it intentionally…just doesn’t really enter my mind

“I cannot control access to weapons,” Dr. Parker said. “My teachers cannot control access to weapons.” He added, “Today our students got a lesson in gun violence and what guns can do to disrupt not only an educational environment, but also a family, a community.”

Dr. Parker said school would be closed on Monday “as we work on the mental health of our staff and our students.”
“I’m in shock, and I’m in awe, and I’m disheartened,” Dr. Parker said.

…& I’m not in a hurry to pass that disheartened thing along…even if I suspect I might not be able to avoid it…even if you manage to keep it in perspective

David Riedman, who founded the K-12 School Shooting Database after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, has compiled data on every school shooting — anytime a firearm has been discharged on school property — dating back to 1970. He found 16 cases involving shooters under the age of 10.

Three of them involved 6-year-old children. Two of those were ruled accidental shootings: One in 2011 at an elementary school in Houston in which a student had a gun that went off, injuring three people; and another in Mississippi in 2021, when a first-grader shot a fellow student with a gun he had brought to school and was playing with. In the third case, which attracted national attention, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a young girl as the teacher was lining up students in a hallway.

According to Mr. Riedman’s research, there has been only one shooting at a school that involved someone under 6 years old: a kindergartner, aged 5, shot a gun in the cafeteria of his school in Memphis, Tenn., in 2013. No one was injured.
Dr. Parker said that while district schools have “metal detection capability,” the schools do not make children walk through a metal detector every day.

…the idea of having to walk through a metal detector to go to school at all is one I confess I struggle with…but…elementary school…that plain hurts my head…which maybe isn’t fair…because at the end of the day at least a metal detector will notice a thing like a gun or a knife & maybe you can avoid some overt harm

“If we have a perceived threat, or an issue, we administer random metal detections on those days,” he said.


…arguably the threats & associated harms that wouldn’t be caught by a metal detector might be worse because they’re a different sort of overt but equally unperceived

When Abbie Marsh (not her real name) overheard a 15-year-old boy in the West Midlands school she works in praising Andrew Tate, the social influencer known as the “king of misogyny”, she asked him if he understood Tate’s views on women. The boy replied: “Well, men are better than women, so he’s right.” His friends all nodded in agreement.

Marsh reported the conversation to her school’s head of safeguarding. She says misogyny is rife, even among students as young as 12, and is convinced Tate’s videos are fuelling it. “I heard one student in the playground introduce his girlfriend and as soon as she was out of earshot he was asked by several friends if they could ‘have a go’ with her,” she says.

“I don’t think the staff are fully aware who Tate is and what he stands for,” she adds. “I worry for these boys’ girlfriends.”
Many parents may be hearing about Tate for the first time, but schools across the country say he is already a hugely familiar figure to many of their pupils. Many are giving teachers training on how to talk to students about him. Some are holding special assemblies, or using personal social and health education lessons to encourage students to question the content he puts out.

…I don’t intend to inflict the details of that content on you…either you already know & it’d just be misery heaped on misery…or you can take my word for it being as bad as you assume…& very possibly worse…& would seem to be pouring into some impressionable ears without ringing any bells that might alarm their parents in a bunch of cases

Michael Conway, whose company Men at Work trains school staff on talking to boys about these issues, says: “Algorithms make it possible for someone like Tate to be hugely well known to 14- to 18-year-old boys”.

Conway has run sessions in 50 schools on online misogyny. Teachers have raised Tate’s influence in every one. One teacher talked about a lesson on sexual consent in which a boy quoted Tate, saying if a woman went out alone at night and was attacked it was her fault. Conway says teenagers also mention Tate as a form of “micro-aggression” towards female teachers.

In one session Conway discussed the sexist meme “make me a sandwich”, used by some men on social media to belittle women. “A female teacher said: ‘I’ve got a lad in year 10 who always writes MMAS at the bottom of my homework,’” he says. “She hadn’t known what it meant until then. But he was trying to humiliate her.”

Conway believes Tate is “grooming” young men in a similar way to terrorist groups or gangs, and his image of “conspicuous success” woos boys desperate for a connection.

A teacher at a primary school in north London agrees. “It’s the most vulnerable and socially awkward boys that are drawn in and given a sense of belonging to something that is very dangerous.” She describes an “extremely vulnerable” 10-year-old “praising Tate and parroting his vile ideas” as “terrifying”. The school’s lessons on respect “can’t compete with the tidal wave of misogyny online”, she adds.

…the asymmetry is baked into the whole con…& it’s as effective as it is insidious despite the part where it really shouldn’t be able to gain traction in the first place

Ben Karlin, who advises teachers on Twitter about how to counter Tate’s influence, says: “It’s important to try to explain what he’s doing and why. Yes, he’s successful and rich, but he made his money off you. Acknowledge that not everything he says is hateful: that’s his whole tactic.”

Karlin describes Tate’s influence as “grooming on a massive scale” and insists schools must talk about him, as well as explaining how he has “gamed” the social media platforms and exploited their algorithms. “He may go to prison, but there will be another one playing the same game,” he adds.

Thomas Michael, deputy safeguarding lead at a school in the West Midlands […] warns that some well-meaning schools are only boosting Tate’s popularity. “There are lots of videos on TikTok of kids recording assemblies on Andrew Tate and they are loving making fun of it,” he says. “He tells them teachers don’t want them to hear the truth. Schools are doing his job for him.”


…&…I guess in common with other things that ought by rights to struggle a lot more to find as much traction as they have…when you get your serious stuff and your having fun mixed up…it’s more likely to be a serious problem than the good sort of fun…or trouble for that matter

It’s just drama,” sighed Jaime Herrera Beutler last Wednesday as the new Republican majority in Congress repeatedly fumbled its first automatic obligation, taking 15 votes to elect a speaker. Beutler herself took no part in the posturing and play-acting. Having voted in favour of impeaching Donald Trump after the riot at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, she missed her chance for re-election when Trump pushed one of his loyalists to challenge her.

The Trumpist ousted Beutler in a run-off, then lost to a Democrat in the general election: Trump had his petty revenge, for which the Republicans paid. Though he continues to whip up drama, he has lost his capacity to direct it, and so the unscripted, absurdly improvised drama reels on – in the short term comic but, as it confounds the country’s government, in the long run probably tragic.
Washington’s current disarray is a delayed epilogue to that ruinous afternoon. Kevin McCarthy, who on Friday night squeaked through a 15th ballot by just four votes to be elected speaker, led the Republican minority in 2021. Frightened by the mob’s incursions, he privately told colleagues that he had “had it” with Trump, and in a public statement the next day accused him of inciting an insurrection. Two weeks later, tail between legs, he travelled to Florida to beg forgiveness. McCarthy first enraged rightwing Republicans by denouncing Trump, then sickened the centrists by cravenly apologising to him; his hopes of advancement have been curtailed by his own slithery reversals.

The report of the select committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol minutely documents the first stages of this collapse into dysfunction and self-destruction. “Jan 6th is gonna be epic,” a leader of the Proud Boys militia predicted; the 850-page report certainly is, and, in half a dozen different commercial editions, it has turned into something of a publishing bonanza. Even before its release two weeks ago, pre-orders had made it Amazon’s top bestseller. With luck, it may frighten Americans into recognising how shaky their political system is – or will they consume it as docudrama, the end of democracy as a ready-made Tom Clancy thriller?
In a Congress that took a historically long time to elect a speaker, the process that Trump instigated rumbles towards a dead end. During the week long stalemate as the majority Republicans battled each other, government was unable to function, although in truth it may have no interest in being drearily functional. For Trump’s legatees, politics is drama, and the exercise of power consists of performing for the cameras. Between the inconclusive speaker ballots, assorted Republicans valiantly proclaimed all was going according to plan. One representative, nominating McCarthy for the fourth ballot, said that “the American people are in charge”, and crowed “how lucky we are to be citizens of the greatest country in the history of the world”.


“The extreme wing of the Republican Party launched an insurrection against our government,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a progressive and outgoing chair of the Rules Committee, told me on a break during votes. “We want to govern, Democrats of all stripes — conservatives, moderates and liberals.”

As a practical matter going forward, he said, the concessions McCarthy made to the rebels, including expanding far-right membership on a Rules Committee that determines what gets to the House floor, will hollow out the speaker’s power, enable a radical right agenda and make it far more difficult to get anything done in a politically divided federal government.


Economists, Wall Street analysts and political observers are warning that the concessions he made to fiscal conservatives could make it very difficult for Mr. McCarthy to muster the votes to raise the debt limit — or even put such a measure to a vote. That could prevent Congress from doing the basic tasks of keeping the government open, paying the country’s bills and avoiding default on America’s trillions of dollars in debt.
The federal government spends far more money each year than it receives in revenues, producing a budget deficit that is projected to average in excess of $1 trillion a year for the next decade. Those deficits will add to a national debt that topped $31 trillion last year.
Raising the limit was once routine but has become increasingly difficult over the past few decades, with Republicans using the cap as a cudgel to force spending reductions. Their leverage stems from the potential damage to the economy if the limit is not increased. Lifting the debt limit does not authorize any new spending; it just allows the United States to finance existing obligations. If that cap is not lifted, the government would be unable to pay all of its bills, which include salaries for military members and Social Security payments.
“Is he willing to shut the government down rather than raise the debt ceiling?” Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who was one of 20 Republicans to initially vote against Mr. McCarthy on the House floor, recently told reporters. “That’s a non-negotiable item.”

Mr. McCarthy appeared to agree to those demands, pledging to allow open debate on spending bills and to not raise the debt limit without major cuts — including efforts to reduce spending on so-called mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare — in a deal that brought many holdouts, including Mr. Norman, into his camp.

If the speaker violated that deal, he could risk being overthrown by his caucus — a single lawmaker could force a vote to oust Mr. McCarthy, under the terms of the agreement. But Mr. Biden and his party’s leaders in the Democratic-controlled Senate have vowed to fight those cuts, particularly to social safety net programs. That could mean a standoff that goes on until the government runs out of money to pay its bills.
“Their specific ask of balancing the budget in 10 years is just totally unrealistic. It would take $11 trillion in savings,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in Washington, which has long pushed lawmakers to reduce future deficits through spending cuts and tax increases.

“I want to save more money than a lot of people,” Ms. MacGuineas said. “But what they’re demanding is just not achievable.”
Moderate lawmakers have already begun floating possibilities for how the House might raise the limit. One long-shot idea: a so-called discharge petition signed by a majority of the House to force a vote on a bill. A move of that kind would presumably rely almost entirely on Democratic votes with a few Republicans joining in. But that outcome is far from guaranteed; it would require extensive coordination by both sides and expose defecting Republicans to punishment and primary challenges.



…give the people what they want?

The lesson that the base has internalized is that cowardly moderates were constantly betraying it. The solution now is to maintain a permanent vise grip on the House speaker, ensuring that he or she will always do what the hardliners want. This is, as many have noted, a recipe for permanent blackmail and constant chaos.

The Republican Party’s troubles are severe. Newt Gingrich told Axios that the party is in its worst shape in almost six decades. But it is not alone. In many countries around the world, populists are flailing.

Look at Britain, where Brexit — perhaps the ultimate 21st-century populist cause — has caused havoc within the Conservative Party, which used to be described as the world’s oldest and most successful political party. Britain has had five prime ministers in the six years since 2016; the prior five prime ministers spanned more than 30 years. The self-defeating decision to exit its largest market, the European Union, continues to depress the country’s economic prospects, and it remains the weakest of the Group of Seven economies. In the Group of 20, only Russia is projected to do worse than Britain in the near future.

The story is similar in South America. Even though that continent has been swept up in populism from both the right and left, neither version is doing very well. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection, but the winner, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, will also find it hard to implement some of his most radical promises. In Chile, left-wing populists coalesced around a plan to completely redo the country’s constitution, putting forward a new one that even many left-of-center politicians regarded as extreme and unworkable. In the ensuing referendum, 86 percent of Chileans turned out, rejecting the new constitution by a whopping 62 percent.
Why is this happening? Populism thrives as an opposition movement. It denounces the establishment, encourages fears and conspiracy theories about nefarious ruling elites, and promises emotional responses rather than actual programs (build a wall, ban immigration, stop trade). But once in government, the shallowness of its policy proposals is exposed, and its leaders can’t blame others as easily. Meanwhile, if non-populist forces are sensible and actually get things done, they defang some of the populist right.
These trends are not permanent. The world’s complicated problems will always allow for someone who proposes answers that are simple, seductive and wrong. But let us hope that 2023 will see populism exposed for the sham that it is.


…or respect the intent of the sainted O.G.s?

While the new House GOP majority prepares for its Götterdämmerung, it might be time to raise our voices to speak a good word for original intent—for nothing could be more unconstitutional under the original 1787 Constitution than for Congress to use its powers to willfully default on the debt. Right now, in the name of original intent, the Biden administration should be in a friendly federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that the Debt Limit Statute cannot limit the obligation of the United States to continue borrowing to prevent a gratuitous default on its debt.
Let’s start not in the usual place: Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868, which refers to the validity of the public debt. Instead, let us start with Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power to Lay and Collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, to pay the Debts and provide for the Common Defence and General Welfare of the United States; To borrow money on the credit of the United States.” (Emphasis added.)

For the Framers, the payment of the debt was an important factor in providing for the “Common Defence and General Welfare.” In Federalist Number 30, Hamilton explains that the power to tax and borrow is conferred on the new government only for the purpose of preventing a default or ensuring the payment of the debt. Article I is not open-ended but a grant of limited powers for specific purposes. If Hamilton is right, then it is a mistake to argue—as some legal scholars have—that the power to “borrow money on the credit of the United States” includes the “lesser” power of not paying the debt and willfully ruining the credit.

As with the power to tax, Congress has the power to borrow, only on the condition of its use to prevent a default. The power to tax and borrow conferred only to prevent a default cannot logically include a “lesser” power to then actively engineer a default. It would nullify the very purpose of Congress’s borrowing powers. As Hamilton argued in Federalist Number 30, “Who would lend to a government that would preface its overture for borrowing by an act which demonstrated that no reliance could be placed on the steadiness of its measure for paying for it?”
Were Congress to use its power to willfully trigger a debt ceiling default, it would be no ordinary constitutional violation. It would be a repudiation of the Constitution in a much more fundamental way, a betrayal of the very purpose of leaving the Articles of Confederation—which did not grant borrowing powers to Congress—behind; that is to say, it rebukes the very thing that gives our Constitution its legitimacy. From the perspective of Hamilton in Federalist 30, it would be tantamount to terminating the Constitution itself.
A Congress that willfully defaulted on its debt, Hamilton argued, would expose the country to destruction. But on the off chance that Hamilton’s word is not enough, the Framers added, in Article I, Section 10, a prohibition against the states attempting to willfully default on debts by prohibiting changes “in the obligations of contracts.”
The short answer: Even with the current Supreme Court, this strategy may prove to be more effective than it seems at first blush. First of all, at least some federal courts in some of the judicial circuits would find the case to be “justiciable,” in the legal jargon. There are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people who have the concrete injury necessary for standing to sue to challenge the Debt Limit Statute. It is sometimes assumed that only a bondholder could launch such a suit and that a bondholder has no standing, because the United States could hold up other payments to pay off its bonds. But the only thing Article III requires for standing to challenge invasions of constitutional rights is a concrete injury. The elderly, especially the poorest widows, may need those small Social Security checks in order to survive; countless people might perish if hospitals hold off health or nursing care for which they may never be paid.

Suppose one such plaintiff were to sue and win a declaratory judgment, or even a preliminary injunction, from a district court. Would this case move on to the Supreme Court? Only if the Biden administration were to appeal the decision. It could, alternatively, accept the decision, and let the legal controversy end.

Could a member of Congress, like Jim Jordan, appeal such a decision? As it happens, the law is abundantly clear that members of Congress have no standing either as a plaintiff or as a defendant to sue to vindicate the interest of Congress in enforcing a law. For at least 20 or more years, federal courts have washed out these claims by members of Congress on standing grounds.

This point is set out by the Supreme Court in Byrd v. Raines, a 1997 case brought by the late Senator Robert Byrd, whose protégé was Senator Manchin. Byrd was an inveterate advocate of the institutional power of Congress. On behalf of Congress, in his official capacity, and not because of any injury to him, Byrd, along with others, challenged the Line Item Veto Act. That law allowed the president to cancel spending and tax measures in a bill even after the president signed it into law. The court held that individual members of Congress had no standing to challenge an injury to Congress as an institution: Rather, it was up to Congress to take away the president’s authority expressly. Here too, if Congress did not like the amount of debt that Congress had incurred, there is a simple institutional remedy—pass a law, admittedly over the president’s veto, to slash Social Security or anything else it likes. After all, Congress can shut down the funding of the federal government. What it cannot do is to challenge the validity of the public debt.

The question arises: To what extent does the Biden administration, or the Democrats in Congress, really want to stop the GOP from engineering a default? Give some rope to the GOP to hang the Constitution, and it may end up hanging the GOP instead. Let the public see that the House Republican caucus is ready to destroy the public credit in order to slash Social Security and Medicare, which could be the price it demands from Biden. Republicans’ intransigence would leave them on the hook for all the chaos in the financial markets that a debt ceiling breach would unleash. On that issue alone, the Democrats might bring about the destruction of the GOP. It may seem appealing to let the House ruin the public debt if it destroys the GOP.

But the cost is too high. Debt has been the country’s greatest asset, as Hamilton knew it would be. Debt let us grow. Debt let us win World Wars I and II. In this century, debt saved us from the financial crisis. Debt let us survive Covid. A fine recent book, In Defense of Public Debt, by four distinguished economists, explains how much we owe to debt. We have an obligation to save it for crises ahead and use every means, legal or political, that may help to do so. It is typical of the GOP to treat the country’s debts as dishonorably as Trump treats his own. Default is his business model. The Framers would be horrified if we made it the country’s model too.


…if someone calls a truce while lobbing bombs…bad faith seems like a given

Russia has launched attacks across Ukraine, killing at least two civilians, in violation of a unilateral, self-declared ceasefire for the Orthodox celebration of Christmas on Saturday.
Ukraine’s government had rejected the unilateral ceasefire as a cynical Kremlin move after heavy attacks during celebrations on 25 December and over the new year holiday, which is an important one in Ukraine.

…& symbolic acts can be meaningful

In Kyiv, priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox church held a highly symbolic Orthodox Christmas service in Ukrainian at the 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra monastery, one of the most important religious sites in the city.

Overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River, the cathedral and monastery complex has been a pilgrimage site for centuries.

Until Thursday, it was under the control of the Orthodox church loyal to Moscow, whose priests are widely suspected across Ukraine of harbouring pro-Kremlin sympathies.

Ukraine’s government took over the administration of the complex and allowed the Ukrainian church to use it for the Orthodox Christmas service.

It was the first time in the 31 years of Ukraine’s independence that a service had been held in the Ukrainian language there, and troops in national uniform were among those singing well-known Ukrainian carols.


…as the saying goes…when they tell you who they are…believe them

This was far from the first time the House was mired in a stalemate over the speakership. It’s the 15th such battle in Congress’s history, and the ninth time that electing a speaker required more than three ballots.
Take the speakership struggle of 1855-56, the longest in American history. It ultimately lasted two months and 133 ballots. Why? Because the fight over the fate of slavery created party chaos. The Whig Party was dying. The Democratic Party was splintered over slavery. A newer third party — the nativist Know Nothing Party (or the American Party) — had gained a block of seats, and there was an amorphous antislavery party forming: the Republican Party.
But the 1855-56 battle was different from the current contest in an important way. Although it was fueled by fractured parties, it was grounded in a vital policy difference: the fate of slavery, which was the core of the period’s politics, inescapable, growing hotter by the moment and entangled with American fundamentals like the economy, sectionalism and citizenship.

It was for good reason that congressmen wanted to know who they were dealing with given the coming struggle. Once installed, the speaker would be staffing committees, fundamentally shaping Congress in the process.

The speaker election of 1849 — the second longest — ended after 63 ballots, the 1859-60 election (the third longest) after 44; both were also centered on slavery. In the latter case, the struggle over slavery’s fate had reached its peak. Instead of two parties, there were sectional blocs going head-to-head, with Southern extremists — the so-called fire-eaters — prepared to resort to violence rather than subject themselves to an antislavery speaker.

And indeed, there was violence. In the 1859-60 election, during the first eight weeks of the first session, there were nine physical fights and numerous nonviolent confrontations. One fight broke out on the street. During debate, Republican John Hickman scoffed that the ardent abolitionist John Brown of Harpers Ferry raid fame had terrified the entire state of Virginia with a handful of men. When the Virginia Democrat Henry Edmundson happened to pass Hickman on the street, he slugged him, but was pulled away by Representative Laurence Keitt of South Carolina.
In these cases, Northern and Southern voting blocks were arguing over concrete policy issues that could be debated, if not resolved. In the contentious 1859-60 battle for speaker, for example, a group of Republicans tried to persuade Southerners that they weren’t as extreme in their antislavery sentiments as they were made out to be. But there was little good faith to be found.

And there’s little good faith in today’s House. After years of election denial, promises broken and lies abounding, the left has little faith in the right. And some parts of the right have little trust in their own most extreme members who skillfully practice a politics of personality — playing to their constituents and to the nation at large with sweeping claims and broad denials, personal attacks on the opposition, and a willingness to upset core tenets of democracy, all with joyful exuberance at damage done.

The resulting speakership struggle was not about an issue. It was not about a policy. It was about power. Kevin McCarthy’s reported concession to empower the extreme right by making it easier to oust him as speaker was a surrender of power — and that’s all a potential speaker has to offer in today’s political climate. Promises to support key bills or logrolling mean nothing in a party that has very little real planned legislation and very few policies.

It’s tempting to laugh at the strut and fret that took place in the House, much of it seemingly signifying nothing. But it was not just theatrics, and it was not a joke. It was a symptom of a dysfunctional party that is questionably anchored in a democratic politics, and a glaringly obvious sign of things to come. Given Mike Rogers’s near-lunge at Matt Gaetz on Friday night, it’s also an eerie echo of things past.

[…by the by…I, much like @farscythe, didn’t get the connection…but that clip where kevin wandered down the aisle before going back in gaetz’s direction…right about as your eye (& the camera) swings away to follow kevin walking away is when someone went from laying hands on rogers’ shoulders to somewhat hold him back to wrapping their hand over his mouth as part of seeming to try to drag him back in a semi-headlock…&…I am tempted to see if the “bad lip reading” folks have taken a run at some footage from a different angle?]

In effect, we’re witnessing the rupture of the Republican Party, the ultimate outcome of Republicans’ continuing failure to stand up to the extremism in their ranks. In choosing to remain silent in the face of their right wing’s politics of destruction, they have essentially endorsed it. Their silence in the face of Donald Trump’s lies and his election loss denial did much the same, laying the groundwork for the upheaval that we’re watching now.


Revolutions in communications and technology have transformed our democracy in more profound ways than just the more familiar issues of misinformation, hate speech and the like. They have enabled individual members of Congress to function, even thrive, as free agents. They have flattened institutional authority, including that of the political parties and their leaders. They have allowed individuals and groups to more easily mobilize and sustain opposition to government action and help fuel intense factional conflicts within the parties that leadership has greater difficulty controlling than in the past.

Through cable television and social media, even politicians in their first years in office can cultivate a national audience. When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez entered Congress, she already had nine million followers on the major social media platforms, more than four times the number for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an order of magnitude more than any other Democrat in the House. Recognizing the power social media provides, Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a provocateur in the opposition to Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, has said he wants to be the A.O.C. of the right.
Despite being stripped of her committee assignments, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, raised more than $3 million in small donations in the first quarter of 2021, a staggering haul for a new member of Congress. National attention on cable and social media rewards the provocative, the outrageous and the ideological extremes. Representative Elise Stefanik of New York transformed herself from a moderate to a “warrior” for Donald Trump, a move that helped engender a torrent of small donations.

Control over committee assignments was once a powerful tool party leaders had to encourage members to follow the party line and punish those who did not. Now major legislation is often developed in a more centralized process among a small group of party leaders, rather than through the committee process, which has made committee assignments less valuable. In addition, members no longer need to serve on important committees to gain national profiles or attract campaign funds and, with modern communications tools easily available to individual members, can still readily mobilize opposition to proposals. Those challenging Mr. McCarthy for speaker know they run the risk of being punished in their committee assignments, should he eventually prevail. But that threat no longer carries the weight it once did in an era of free-agent politicians.

Many members also benefit from being in increasingly safe seats, which leaves them unconcerned about general elections and encourages playing to more ideologically committed primary voters. The power to gain a national audience and raise more than enough funds through small donations has also encouraged the rise of politicians who are in the game more for the attention and opportunities it provides than for governing. The risk of cable television hosts turning on them is a much greater concern than failing to get desired committee assignments.


None of that is embarrassing at all! What’s embarrassing is that you were expecting anything else.

Honestly, we are a little confused you are taking this so poorly. This is like electing a bunch of clowns to office and being disappointed when they put on a magnificent clown show for you. Here is precisely the clown show you ordered! You shouldn’t be ashamed. You should be applauding. It is like ordering a decorative salad made entirely from Legos and being mad that you can’t eat it. It is like voting for Lauren Boebert and then becoming upset that a legislature that contains her is not productively working for the American people.

I’m sorry, what did you think you were getting? Did you really say to yourself, when you voted for Matt Gaetz, “Here is a man who is going to build coalitions and pass sensible, bipartisan legislation that will improve our lives?” No! You said, “I’m voting for Gaetz!”

We thought you were serious about just electing people to be squeaky wheels, and specifically squeaky wheels that keep setting off the House metal detector because they are armed with guns for no clear reason. We said to ourselves, “If they wanted to move legislative priorities through Congress in a functional way, they knew whom they ought to have voted for: not us! We came here to make pointless noise and pass nothing, and we are never going to be out of noise!”
To those few of you who voted for a Republican in a swing district who made some wild claim about governing or enacting any piece of legislation, we say, “Whoops! Next time, look at the whole party you’re putting into power when you cast your vote! Because we have a QAnon caucus now!”

Our party is always yelling that Washington is a broken, dysfunctional mess. What is embarrassing is that you thought we meant we were going to govern to change that. What is embarrassing is that you thought we were going to govern at all.


…know who isn’t embarrassed? …ladies & gentlemen, I give you…the deep state?

The person who deserves a standing ovation after this week’s House speaker chaos is clerk Cheryl Johnson. She has been the calm presence at the front of the House chamber, keeping order with a gavel, a poker face and a lot of dignity. Without a speaker in place, she was temporarily in charge.

There was no rulebook for the role in which she found herself. In fact, there are no rules at all for the House until a new speaker takes over. The reason proceedings weren’t dysfunctional was largely because of Ms. Johnson’s ability to command respect — and even admiration — from Republicans and Democrats alike, asking rowdy representatives to refrain “from engaging in personalities toward other members-elect.”

Watching Ms. Johnson in action — along with reading clerks Susan Cole and Tylease Alli, who have called out all 435 representatives’ names over and over again — was a reminder that democracy relies not just on elected officials, but also on dedicated and largely apolitical civil servants. They kept order. They kept the House moving, even when the Republican majority appeared ungovernable. They did their jobs in a neutral way, showing no favor for any candidate. They didn’t even show emotion as disgraced former president Donald Trump received a vote for speaker.


…tell you what…between those clerks & the crooked tail trying to wag kevin’s dog for him…I know who I’d feel happier in charge of getting me help in the face of your more natural disasters

More than 1.3% of the adult population in the US was displaced by natural disasters in the past year, with hurricanes responsible for more than half of the forced relocations, according to first-of-its-kind survey results from the US Census Bureau.

The Household Pulse Survey results said that 3.3 million US adults were displaced by either hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes or other disasters. The two-year-old online survey asked for the first time about displacement from natural disasters in results released on Thursday.
Of the 3.3 million displaced adults, more than a third were out of their homes for less than a week. About one in six residents never returned to their homes, according to the survey.

The demographic makeup of the displaced did not deviate much from the overall race and ethnic background of the US population, but they tended to be poorer. About 22% of the displaced adults reported having a household income of less than $25,000 a year, compared to 17.4% for the overall US population.


…&…sometimes folks in the past knew things we seem to have forgotten

“The Pantheon would not exist without the concrete as it was in the Roman time,” said Admir Masic, MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering and the lead author of the paper.
Roman concrete was produced using lumps of volcanic rock and other aggregates held together with a mortar made with ingredients including a pozzolan (such as volcanic ash), a lime source (calcium oxide) and water.
Now researchers say it appears techniques used to prepare Roman concrete might also help explain why it has stood the test of time.

Writing in the journal Science Advances, Masic and colleagues note that samples of Roman concrete contain small lumps known as lime clasts that are not found in modern structures.
The researchers say this suggests the quicklime was not mixed with water before it was added to the other ingredients. Instead, it is likely it was added to the ash and aggregates first, before water was added.

This approach is known as “hot mixing” because of the heat produced. The team add that these high temperatures would not only have helped the mortar to set, but would have reduced the water content in and around the lime clasts, explaining their results.

The team propose the resulting lime clasts could have helped the concrete “self heal”, as water seeping into cracks in the material would dissolve calcium carbonate as it passed through the lime clasts.

The fracture in the concrete could then self-heal either by this calcium-rich fluid reacting with volcanic material, or by recrystallisation of the calcium carbonate. Indeed, the team note calcium carbonate filled cracks have recently been found in Roman concrete.
“Roman-inspired approaches, based for example on hot mixing, might be a cost-effective way to make our infrastructure last longer through the self-healing mechanisms we illustrate in this study,” he said.


…& people are finding out new things every day

Wheat now provides 20% of the calories consumed by humans every day, but its production is under threat. Thanks to human-induced global heating, our planet faces a future of increasingly severe heat waves, droughts and wildfires that could devastate harvests in future, triggering widespread famine in their wake.

But the crisis could be averted thanks to remarkable research now being undertaken by researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. They are working on a project to make wheat more resistant to heat and drought. Such efforts have proved to be extremely tricky but are set to be the subject of a new set of trials in a few weeks as part of a project in which varieties of wheat – created, in part, by gene-editing technology – will be planted in field trials in Spain.

The ability of these varieties to withstand the heat of Iberia will determine how well crop scientists will be able to protect future arable farms from the worst vicissitudes of climate change, and so bolster food production for the Earth’s billions, says the John Innes Centre team.

…no pressure, then

Wheat was not the only botanical agent to fuel the agricultural revolution. Other staples, such as rice and potatoes, played a part. But wheat is generally accorded the lead role in triggering the agricultural revolution that created our modern world of “population explosions and pampered elites”, as Harari puts it in his international bestseller Sapiens.

Two main forms of wheat are grown in farms: pasta wheat and bread wheat. Together they play a crucial role in the diets of around 4.5 billion people, said Professor Graham Moore, a wheat geneticist and director of the John Innes Centre, one of the world’s leading crop research institutes. “Of these, around 2.5 billion in 89 countries are dependent on wheat for their daily food, so you can see how vitally important the crop is to the world,” he added.

The problem that has faced crop scientists, who have been seeking to improve the resilience and productivity of wheat varieties, has been the complexity of wheat genetics, Moore added. “Human beings have a single genome that contains our DNA instructions. But pasta wheat has two different ancestral genomes while bread wheat has three.”

…& we like to think people are complicated

This complexity has had important consequences. In order to control their differing genes and chromosomes, wheat has acquired a stabilising gene that segregates the different chromosomes in its various genomes. This has ensured these forms of wheat have high yields. However, the gene also suppresses any exchange of chromosomes with wild relatives of wheat, frustrating the efforts of geneticists trying to make new varieties with beneficial properties.

“Wild relatives have really useful characteristics – disease resistance, salt tolerance, protection against heat – attributes that you want to add to make wheat more robust and easy to grow in harsh conditions. But you couldn’t do that because this gene stopped these attributes from being assimilated.”

This gene was known as the “holy grail” of wheat geneticists, added Moore. “Wheat – despite its critical importance to feeding the world – has proved to be the most difficult of all the major crops to study because of the complexity and size of its genome. Hence, the importance of the search to find the gene that was the cause of this problem.”

It has taken several decades but scientists at the John Innes Centre have now succeeded in their hunt for their holy grail. They identified the key gene, labelled it Zip4.5B and have created a mutant version of it, one that allows the gene to carry out its main function – to allow wheat chromosomes to pair correctly and maintain yields – but which lacks its ability to block the creation of new variants with attributes from wild grasses.
Jones Innes scientists have since discovered that there are at least 50 different versions of Zip4.5B. “We are now going to test these in different varieties of wheat that we have created,” added Moore.


…but…if it all seems a bit much…there’s always…balloon animals?


…or the aforementioned pet(s)

…or…failing that…maybe award yourself a cookie



  1. i knew it was going to be fucked up when only one person getting shot made the news over here…

    getting shot by a 6 year old shouldnt be an occupational hazard for a first grade teacher…

    also…the fuck is wrong with that kid? kinda struggling to wrap my head around 6 year old takes gun to school and intentionally shoots teacher….doesnt strike me as normal behaviour for a 6 year old like

    • …I know I can’t explain it…but my most charitable reading would be a combination of not actually grasping the consequences don’t operate by the logic of a cartoon…& enough surprising-amount-of-ingenuity that the parents believed the gun to be inaccessible

      …then it could just be a tantrum type of a thing not a premeditated attempt to actually kill your teacher instead of making up nonsense rhymes about it?

      • Agree. There’s only one type of person that leaves a loaded gun around for a six-year-old to find. Or, worse yet, it was unloaded but an irresponsible asshole taught the kid how to load it. Either way, it’s gonna be a gun-humper.

    • You may not know how much guns are treated as everyday objects in a scary number of US homes. It’s not uncommon for adults to let kids hold a gun the way they’d let them sit behind the wheel of a parked car, except of course it’s a lot easier to accidentally shoot a gun than it is to start a car.

      • i am aware….i also think its insanity tho

        like….does not compute…. americas relationship with guns is never going to be anything other than mental to me

    • Of course I remember “Eight is Enough.” What was remarkable about that show was that all the kids were always bickering and feuding and running away from home and thinking almost homicidal thoughts about their step-Mom. I remember my mother used to say, “If those were my step-kids, four would be enough. Maybe three.”

  2. It’s important to stress the difference between those Zakaria and Petri pieces, which superficially appear to be in agreement. GOP bad! they both seem to say.

    But only Petri is serious about the problem. Zakaria is going full speed ahead to perpetuate it.

    Petri has been yelling for years about the rot in the GOP, but she has critically been yelling as well about the fake centrists who enable them by treating it as a both sides problem. Fake centrists like Zakaria, who repeatedly lands turds in the punchbowl, like this.


    The false equivalence he draws between AOC and the GOP is nicely skewered here.


    But it doesn’t matter for Zakaria, who is absolutely auditioning the use of the failure of the GOP as a wedge to settle scores against liberals with more, more, more of his fake centrism.

    AOC turned out to be exactly the type of politician fake centrists say they want — fact driven, pragmatic, willing to compromise, and effective at building a coalition. But that’s not what they want. They want rightwing strongmen who make put on a velvet glove of fake compromise while ruling with iron fist — they want GW Bush’s fake “compassionate conservativism” while launching a ruinous war in Iraq, something which Zakaria not only supported but engaged in creepy maneuvers to promote.


    Petri has called out the fake centrists for years. She has diagnosed exactly who they are and what they’re doing. And I can promise we’ll see Zakaria and the rest of his sick crew pivoting to someone like DeSantis before too long as a solution, treating whatever minor fig leaf of compromise he offers as some kind of complete change of heart.

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