May 28, 2023

Political update

According to a poll of American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021, fewer than one in three Americans agree that descendants of slaves should be repaid in some way, such as with land or money. Seventy-seven percent of Black adults favored reparations, but only 18 percent of white adults did so. Among Hispanics, support was 39 percent, and among Asians, 33 percent. About half of Democrats said the descendants of enslaved people should be compensated, while only 8 percent of Republicans agreed.

Meanwhile. . .

The 100 greatest children's books of all time

The case for doing nothing

What's doing in San Francsico?

A national lifeguard shortage will keep thousands of pools across the country closed or operating with reduced hours for the third summer in a row.

A Glimpse into How Teachers Teach: Arranging Classroom Furniture

U.S. judge upholds gun ban for those on probation for misdemeanors

CBS Is Television's Most Popular Network for 15th Straight Year

US  News - CBS claimed the distinction of most-watched television network for the 15th straight year, even as those bragging rights don't mean what they used to. The network averaged just under 6 million viewers on a typical moment in prime time for the season that just concluded, the Nielsen company said on Friday. NBC was the second most popular, followed by Fox and ABC — the same pecking order as last year. , . . .All of the networks lost viewers from the year before, with NBC's 13% decline the steepest and Fox's 1% drop the smallest, Nielsen said. . . . The most-watched news program in prime time, CBS' “60 Minutes,” has been on the air since 1968. The most-watched reality show, NBC's “The Voice,” began in 2011.

At all levels of public office, threats now come with the job

Washington Post - An increase in threats and harassment against local officials has led to calls for response plans and security protocols like those typically reserved for higher offices, according to a new study of targeted officials. The report, released Friday by the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University, is based on interviews with 30 mayors, city council members and other public officials across the political spectrum and from different regions, a snapshot of serving in a violent climate that’s expected to worsen in the run-up to the 2024 election. . .

The Princeton study shows the trickle-down effect on largely defenseless city and county officials in an era with, as one respondent put it, a “new level of permission to be publicly vile.” Though the threat primarily comes from right-wing agitators, researchers found that Democrats and Republicans alike have been targeted, sometimes by members of their own parties.

Slowing ocean current caused by melting Antarctic ice could have drastic climate impact

Guardian -  A major global deep ocean current has slowed down by approximately 30% since the 1990s as a result of melting Antarctic ice, which could have critical consequences for Earth’s climate patterns and sea levels, new research suggests. Known as the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, the global circulation system plays a key role in influencing the Earth’s climate, including rainfall and warming patterns. It also determines how much heat and carbon dioxide the oceans store.

Tales from the Attic: A 50th Harvard college reunion report

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2009 - So I ended up much as I started: the kid they sent to right field because he couldn't or wouldn't play the game right.

I didn't plan it this way. I didn't want it this way. In truth, a large part of me still would like to have been one of the popular boys in the class, but things kept getting in the way—some addictive confluence of moral aggravation, periodic accident, undisciplined imagination, sporadic and unpremeditated courage randomly suppressing chronic shyness and cowardice, sloppy romanticism, episodic existentialism, recurrent hope, stultifying stubbornness, and an abiding intolerance for the dull. A child's dreams and an adult's faith pounding tide after tide on the rock of reality, thinking that maybe this time I'll float off.

Some people take it personally, as though I rebelled simply to annoy them. They make little jokes about the fact that I'm different, as if I had a moral obligation to be like them. When they see someone like me coming, they close the doors of their institutions, their imaginations, and their hearts. We are, after all, thieves who might abscond with their most precious possession: the tranquility of unexamined certainty.

So you become the charming stranger from a strange place, you tell jokes first and then change the subject when it starts to get too close to the real. Better yet, you fool them into thinking that you are one of them, even though you really blend better with those whom the urban itinerant Joe Gould once described as the "cranks and misfits and the one-lungers and might-have-beens and the would-bes and the never-wills and the God-knows-whats."

Among the illusions of my life has been that if I stuck it out long enough, time would provide the acceptance that my words and thoughts had prevented. I. F. Stone used to say that when you're young you're blamed for things you didn't do, and when you're old you get credit for them. It hasn't worked out like that, in part because just when I should have started coasting, the world around me took a nasty, greedy and dangerous turn. America began destroying itself. It was the wrong time to start fitting in. My country—without debate, consideration, or struggle—had decided it really didn't want to be America anymore.

I have tried to help keep alive the beleaguered tradition of plain speaking and truth-seeking that I understood to be at the heart of good journalism. But in a time when much of the media prefers perceptions to facts, bullet quotes to understanding, and spin over reality, such efforts are seen as eccentric at best, apostasy at worst. Truth has little to do with it anymore. It is as if we are living in a new Middle Ages, only with the myths being driven by cable TV rather than by the church.

In the melancholy that descends from time to time, in the loneliness that lies like a desert between reality and my imagination, I think about opportunities and offers that have come my way that I brazenly—wantonly, some might say—rejected. But then, as a friend once noted, if I had accepted such things, I probably would have ended up broken or fired. And a drunk as well.

As best as I can tell, my real impetus was not masochism but a truly manic, grandiose, and cockeyed optimism—the faith that I could do something on my own that would be even better than if I just did what was expected of me.

Saul Alinsky was once asked by a seminarian how he could retain his values as he made his way through the church. "That's easy," replied Alinsky. "Just decide now whether you wish to be a cardinal or a priest." It was a choice I made early.

I don't regret it; much of it's been wonderful. But I can’t really justify having tried it. A lot of it doesn't make sense. I spurned the normal icons of ambition, yet was so ambitious that I sought the unattainable. I was like a bad comedian: I got the punch lines right but my timing was way off. And I gave the outward impression of a radical but, in my heart, was just a moderate of a time that has yet to arrive.


May 27, 2023

White House and G.O.P. Strike Debt Limit Deal to Avert Default

NY Times -  President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Saturday reached an agreement in principle to raise the debt limit for two years while cutting and capping some government spending over the same period, a breakthrough after a marathon set of crisis talks that has brought the nation within days of its first default in history.

Congressional passage of the plan before June 5, when the Treasury is projected to exhaust its ability to pay its obligations, is not assured, particularly in the House, which plans to consider it on Wednesday. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber, and right-wing lawmakers who had demanded significantly larger budget cuts in exchange for lifting the borrowing limit were already in revolt.

But the compromise, which would effectively freeze federal spending that had been on track to grow, had the blessing of both the Democratic president and the Republican speaker, raising hopes that it could break the fiscal stalemate that has gripped Washington and the nation for weeks, threatening an economic crisis.

GOP principles

Andrew Wortman 

Tom Davis, the male state senator from South Carolina that just provided Republicans enough votes to end debate & pass a 6-week abortion ban, said: “At some point in time, the right of the state to see the unborn child born does take precedent over the woman’s right to her body.”

Biden Labor Board Restores Right to Use Heated Language

Labor Notes - In a landmark May Day ruling called Lion Elastomers, the National Labor Relations Board restored the rights of union representatives to use heated language, including occasional profanity, during arguments with management. . . .The ruling reversed the Trump era’s infamous General Motors decision, which had upended 70 years of precedent protecting workers’ rights to use strong language when pressing union points during grievance discussions and other meetings.

Netflix restricts password sharing, leaving some angry and confused

Washington Post - Many longtime Netflix customers [are]upset about the company’s new crackdown on password sharing, which launched in the United States this week and would prevent her from streaming on the road. After years of ignoring and even encouraging password sharing, the streaming company is asking anyone using a Netflix log-in for more than 31 days at a different location to get a separate account or pay $7.99 a month to be added to the main account.Impacted Netflix users have taken to social media to complain about the new policy, some even threatening to quit or switch to competitors with more lax sharing requirements, like Disney Plus and Max.

Wave of lawsuits against US gun makers raises hope of end to mass shootings

Guardian -  The emerging wave of lawsuits against gun makers echoes previous successes against the car industry, opioid companies and big tobacco. . . .In New York, California, Delaware and other states, new laws aim to provide ways around a near 20-year immunity provided to gun manufacturers and distributors. In Indiana, a lawsuit brought by victims of the 2021 mass shooting at a FedEx facility aims to hold a gun manufacturer accountable for the horror wrought by one of its weapons. Lawsuits like the Indianapolis action, brought by two survivors of the shooting and the family of a man killed, broadly argue that gun manufacturers, gun sellers and gun distributors bear responsibility for gun crimes because of the way they design, market and distribute their products and there is evidence the litigation could work to combat gun violence.

Family time is far more important than other aspects of life for most Americans

Pew Research - Americans overwhelmingly view spending time with family as one of the most important things in their life, far outranking other personal priorities, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. About three-quarters of U.S. adults (73%) rate spending time with family as one of the most important things to them personally, regardless of how much time they actually devote to it. Nine-in-ten say they view it either as one of the most important things or as very important but not the most important thing.

More Americans support cutting deficit

 Pew Research - In a new Pew Research Center survey about the public’s policy priorities, 57% of Americans cited reducing the budget deficit as a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year, up from 45% a year ago. Concern has risen among members of both parties, although Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are still far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (71% vs. 44%) to view cutting the deficit as a leading priority. (When the government spends more than it takes in, it borrows to make up the difference. The debt, therefore, can be seen as the accumulated sum of previous years’ deficits that is still outstanding.)

Young adults in the U.S. are reaching key life milestones later than in the past

Pew Research - Young adults in the United States are reaching key life milestones later than they did 40 years ago, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. Adults who are 21 are less likely than their predecessors four decades ago to have reached five frequently cited milestones of adulthood: having a full-time job, being financially independent, living on their own, getting married and having a child. By the time they are 25, however, today’s young adults are somewhat closer to their predecessors in 1980 on two of these milestones: having a full-time job and financial independence.

Supreme Court opinion is terrible news if you care about clean water

Vox -  The Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision on Thursday which places a drastic new limit on the Clean Water Act, the 1972 law that forms the backbone of the United States’ efforts to ensure that America’s water supply is clean and safe.As Justice Brett Kavanaugh writes in a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Sackett v. EPA is likely to hobble the law’s ability to protect several major waterways, including the Mississippi River and the Chesapeake Bay.

May 26, 2023


Study finds marijuana use bad for mental health

 NBC News - New research published this month, involving millions of people worldwide over decades, is adding to worries that heavy use of high-potency cannabis and legalization of recreational weed in many U.S. states could exacerbate the nation's mental health crisis in young adults...

One of the studies, from researchers in Denmark in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, found evidence of an association between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia. The finding was most striking in young men ages 21-30, but was also seen in women of the same age.  The paper, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, looked at data from almost 7 million men and women in Denmark over the course of a few decades to look for a link between schizophrenia and cannabis use disorder.

US to give away free lighthouses as GPS makes them unnecessary

Pope Runs Fever, Skips Meetings, Vatican Says

Just politics

Negotiators were inching toward an agreement that would raise the limit on the amount of money the government can borrow for two years in exchange for spending cuts.

Texas lawmakers approve bill to allow school districts to replace counselors with chaplains

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (FL) confirmed on Thursday that he would consider pardoning former President Donald Trump for any charges stemming from the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election on Jan. 6... "What I'm going to do is I'm going to do on day one, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases who people are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons," DeSantis promised.

Why do minorities join the far right?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) raked in $8.2 million in the 24 hours following his glitchy presidential announcement... The huge sum cements his standing as the top Republican rival to former President Trump, who brought in $9.5 million in the six weeks following his 2024 announcement, the N.Y. Times notes.

Oath Keepers Leader Sentenced to 18 Years: The penalty for Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right militia group, was the Jan. 6 investigation’s longest yet — and the first to be increased for fitting the legal definition of terrorism. 

Two of Donald Trump’s employees allegedly moved boxes of papers just a day before the FBI made a visit to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve classified documents, The Washington Post reports. The paper cites unnamed sources as saying Trump and his aides even carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive documents well before receiving a May 2022 subpoena from the Justice Department. If true, the details would strengthen investigators’ case against Trump for potential obstruction of justice and could shed light on his intent in taking the documents with him once he left the White House.

Trees help us remain sane

Treehugger -   Research shows that access to trees reduces rates of depression, lowers levels of the brain’s main stress hormone, cortisol, and improves cognitive function. This is especially true in cities and urban areas, where residents are significantly more likely to battle depression and anxiety. By breaking up concrete jungles with urban forests, we can help make people happier and healthier...

For example, a study in Germany concluded that just living within 100 meters of a tree has the ability to reduce the need for antidepressant drugs. In Denmark, researchers found that children living at the lowest levels of green space had a significantly higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders later in life as compared to children living near strong green space. Some doctors are even looking to trees as a form of medicine, prescribing struggling patients with a walk in the woods to fully immerse themselves in nature (a practice known as forest bathing).

Kids could fill labor shortages, even in bars, if these lawmakers succeed

Lawmakers in several states are embracing legislation to let children work in more hazardous occupations, for more hours on school nights and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14.  The efforts to significantly roll back labor rules are largely led by Republican lawmakers to address worker shortages and, in some cases, run afoul of federal regulations.

America aged rapidly in the last decade as baby boomers grew older and births dropped

AP News - The share of residents 65 or older grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2020 and at the fastest rate of any decade in 130 years, while the share of children declined, according to new figures from the most recent census. The declining percentage of children under age 5 was particularly noteworthy in the figures from the 2020 head count released Thursday. 

How Americans feel about government size

A line chart showing that Americans remain closely divided on preferences for the size of government

Meanwhile. . .

New York is one of many states where legislators are trying to make school breakfasts and lunches available to some, if not all, students at no charge. Six states — California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont — recently implemented state-sponsored universal free meal programs in schools. The California and Maine programs are permanent. Colorado’s plan, which voters approved via ballot initiative, requires school districts to opt in, but the state shoulders the cost.

The number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. increased to 29.8 million in 2022, from 27.9 million the previous year — a jump of about 6%.

Dems start aiming at rural America

Axios -An outside group supporting Democrats plans to spend over $10 million targeting rural voters and communities in down-ballot races that the party has neglected for years, Axios' Alexi McCammond has learned.  Democrats are desperate to infiltrate GOP-friendly territory. Although they hope the presidential election will help drive turnout down-ballot, the party has significant ground to make up.

  • Roughly 100,000 elections go uncontested every year while grassroots organizers and rural Democratic county parties struggle to survive, according to Movement Labs.
  • Bill Clinton won about 1,100 rural counties in his 1996 presidential election. In 2008, Barack Obama won just 455. Biden won under 200 rural counties in the 2020 election.



After Dan retired, his wife insisted he accompany her on her trips to the local all-in-one superstore. Unfortunately, like most men, he found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out. Equally unfortunate his wife was like many women - she loved to browse but after a few of these shopping trips she received the following letter from the store manager.

Dear Mrs. Harris:

Over the past six months, your husband has caused quite a commotion, in our store.

We cannot tolerate this behavior and have been forced to ban both of you from the store.

Our complaints against your husband, Mr. Harris, are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras:

1. June 15: He took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in other people's carts when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: He set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: He made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, 'Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away'. This caused the employee to leave her assigned station and receive a reprimand from her supervisor that in turn resulted in a union grievance, causing management to lose time and costing the company money. We don't have a Code 3.

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&Ms on layaway.

6. August 14: Moved a, 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.

7. August 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told shoppers’ children he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department, to which twenty children obliged.

8. August 23: When a clerk asked if he could help him he began crying and screamed, 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?' EMTs were called.

9. September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.

10. September 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.

11. October 3: Darted around the store while loudly humming the ‘'Mission Impossible' theme.

12. October 6: In the auto department, he practiced his Madonna Look using different sizes of funnels.

13. October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled 'PICK ME! PICK ME!'

14. October 22: When an
announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed;

15. Took a box of condoms to the checkout clerk and asked where the fitting room was.

And last, but not least:

16. October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile; then yelled very loudly, 'Hey! There's no toilet paper in here.' One of the clerks passed out.

May 25, 2023

Just politics

Robert Reich - As a Navy lawyer, Ron DeSantis advocated for force-feeding Guantánamo prisoners through their noses, a practice the UN Commission on Human Rights has designated as torture.

Institute for Policy Studies - In FY 2023, out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, $1.1 trillion — or 62 percent— was for militarized programs. That includes war and weapons, law enforcement and mass incarceration, and detention and deportation. Less than $2 out of every $5 in federal discretionary spending was available to fund investment in people and communities. ... The U.S. spent $16 on the military and war for every $1 that was spent on diplomacy and humanitarian foreign aid.

Is the Shift to the Left Among Young Voters the Real Deal?

 New York Times - In 2012  white evangelicals — a hard-core Republican constituency — made up the same proportion of the electorate as the religiously unaffiliated: agnostics, atheists and the nonreligious. Both groups stood at roughly 19 percent of the population.

By 2022, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (better known as P.R.R.I.), the percentage of white evangelicals had fallen to 13.6 percent, while those with little or no interest in religion and more progressive inclinations had surged to 26.8 percent of the population.

Defying the adage among practitioners and scholars of politics that voters become more conservative as they age — millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (those born in 1997 and afterward) have in fact become decidedly more Democratic over time, according to data compiled by the Cooperative Election Study.

School news


How Americans feel about AI