29 August 2016
In the one televised interview I have seen with a French official, he did not cite security risks, but rather tried to justify the ordinance on the basis that "seeing those outfits on the beach makes people uncomfortable." There are other "justifications" -
For those on the right, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the burkini is a “provocation,” a symbol of radical Islam in a country still reeling from the terrorist attacks in Paris last fall and in Nice in July. For those on the left, such as Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the burkini is a means of “enslavement,” the subjugation of women to a patriarchal religion.
But in France, that type of secularism, which is common in countries around the world, soon became a creed in its own right. The initial prohibition against the state — or any of its representatives — showing religious preference eventually became a prohibition against private citizens showing any religious preference in public.Here's one counterpoint:
The women who wear burkinis, she said, cannot be called oppressed. They are not the women subservient to a conservative Islam; they are the women who sit on beaches unsupervised by men, enjoying their leisure time in mixed social company.And here's an image posted by an Italian imam who suggested that these women will not be asked to remove their beach clothing:
Here's an extended excerpt from an "The Original Underclass," an article in the September issue of The Atlantic:
For England, the New World beckoned as more than a vast store of natural resources, Isenberg argues. It was also a place to dispose of the dregs of its own society. In the late 16th century, the geographer Richard Hakluyt argued that America could serve as a giant workhouse where the “fry [young children] of wandering beggars that grow up idly and hurtfully and burdenous to the Realm, might be unladen and better bred up.” The exportable poor, he wrote, were the “offals of our people.” In 1619, King James I was so fed up with vagrant boys milling around his Newmarket palace that he asked the Virginia Company to ship them overseas. Three years later, John Donne—yes, that John Donne—wrote about the colony of Virginia as if it were England’s spleen and liver, Isenberg writes, draining the “ill humours of the body … to breed good bloud.” Thus it was, she goes on, that the early settlers included so many “roguish highwaymen, mean vagrants, Irish rebels, known whores, and an assortment of convicts,” including one Elizabeth “Little Bess” Armstrong, sent to Virginia for stealing two spoons.I have not read the book, but the review is enticing.
One of America’s founding myths, of course, is that the simple act of leaving England and boldly starting new lives in the colonies had an equalizing effect on the colonists, swiftly narrowing the distance between indentured servant and merchant, landowner and clerk—all except the African slave. Nonsense, Isenberg says: “Independence did not magically erase the British class system.” A “ruthless class order” was enforced at Jamestown, where one woman returned from 10 months of Indian captivity to be told that she owed 150 pounds of tobacco to her dead husband’s former master and would have to work off the debt. The Puritans were likewise “obsessed with class rank”—membership in the Church and its core elect were elite privileges—not least because the early Massachusetts settlers included far more nonreligious riffraff than is generally realized. A version of the North Carolina constitution probably co-authored by John Locke was designed to “avoid erecting a numerous democracy.” ...The Founding Fathers were, as Isenberg sees it, complicit in perpetuating these stark class divides. George Washington believed that only the “lower class of people” should serve as foot soldiers in the Continental Army. Thomas Jefferson envisioned his public schools educating talented students “raked from the rubbish” of the lower class, and argued that ranking humans like animal breeds was perfectly natural. “The circumstance of superior beauty is thought worthy of attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs and other domestic animals,” he wrote. “Why not that of man?” John Adams believed the “passion for distinction” was a powerful human force: “There must be one, indeed, who is the last and lowest of the human species.”
Class distinctions were maintained above all in the apportionment of land. In Virginia in 1700, indentured servants had virtually no chance to own any, and by 1770, less than 10 percent of white Virginians had claim to more than half the land. In 1729 in North Carolina, a colony with 36,000 people, there were only 3,281 listed grants, and 309 grantees owned nearly half the land. “Land was the principal source of wealth, and those without any had little chance to escape servitude,” Isenberg writes. “It was the stigma of landlessness that would leave its mark on white trash from this day forward.”...
There is another story that casts a different light on what happened. The memoirs of Tom Norman, Merrick’s London manager, are surely as biased as Treves’. But as one of the most respected showmen of his day, Norman’s account challenges head on Treves’ claim that Merrick was ultimately better off in the hospital than at the freakshow...More information and illustrations at The Public Domain Review.
Most Victorian freaks, however, actually earned a comfortable living. Many were free agents who negotiated the terms of their exhibition and could ask for a salary or a share of the profits. They sold souvenirs to the crowds to make extra money. The freakshow was thus an important economic resource for working people whose deformities prevented them undertaking other forms of labour. Indeed, freak performers did not consider their exhibitions to be obscene or degrading. Rather, they saw themselves as little different from other entertainers...
During the two years he was on display in Europe, he was able to save more than £50 – a sizeable sum for a working-class man. In fact, Merrick earned more from his exhibition than his manager. They shared the take evenly, but Norman paid for the rent of the venue, food and lodging...
In the hospital, Merrick was kept largely confined to his rooms. When he ventured too far outside them, he was quickly shepherded back, lest he frighten other patients. Treves said his intention in providing for Merrick was to save him from the humiliation of public exhibition. However, his charge was constantly visited by curious members of high society. Like the masses who attended freakshows, they came out of a prurient fascination with Merrick’s grotesque body rather than merely to “cheer his confined existence”...
The Elephant Man’s hospitalisation sprang from a benevolent desire to help this “poor fellow”. But, for Merrick, it may have been little different from entering the workhouse. As a permanent resident, supported entirely by charitable donations, he was rendered a dependent member of “the deserving poor”. Norman argued that Merrick’s “only wish was to be free and independent”. This could not happen while he remained an inmate of the hospital where, his former manager argued, he must have felt as if “he were a prisoner and living on charity”. Treves maintained that Merrick was “happy every hour of the day”. But Norman’s son unearthed the testimony of a hospital porter who claimed that Merrick asked more than once: “Why can’t I go back to Mr Norman?”
Reposted from 2013 to add this photo of the skull of Joseph Merrick:
From a complaint filed in October 2014 on behalf of a woman who was harassed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Harris County, Texas. In October 2015, the officer, Patrick Quinn, pleaded guilty to official oppression and was sentenced to a year in jail.The rest of "Foot Patrol" is at Harper's.
Ms. S was traveling north when she observed a police car traveling south. She was doing the speed limit and not otherwise breaking any traffic laws. However, she noticed the car make a sharp U-turn and catch up to her. The officer pulled in behind her once she stopped, asked for her driver’s license and proof of insurance, and told her that her insurance was expired. The officer then told her that he smelled marijuana in her car. Ms. S consented to a search, and the officer had her sit in his car while he searched her vehicle. According to Ms. S, the officer told her that he found a marijuana grinder in the car. Ms. S told the officer that it was not hers. She began to get nervous and began shaking. The officer asked her what she would do in his position. She responded that she would give her a warning and let her go. The officer responded, asking if that was really what she would do. She said yes. The officer told her that he had a foot fetish. He would let her go if she let him smell her feet. If she refused, he would take her to jail. Ms. S began to take off her boots...
I was surprised to learn that basketball was introduced to the Yukon about 70 years ago by a Jesuit priest. If you like basketball and think that sports are more than just a game, you will want to see this video. If not, skip it.
Capitalism and the Reformer, by Art Young,
from The Best of Art Young © 1936 The Vanguard Press, Inc., New York City, via Harper's.
Excerpts from an open letter:
You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries...Fulltext of the letter here. Via Jobsanger.
What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind...
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last...
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when...
The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts...
Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.
26 August 2016
The most interesting thing I've read about butterflies this year was a study by Mary Jane Epps, an assistant professor of biology at Mary Baldwin College who examined the reproduction of flame azaleas, publishing her results last August in The American Naturalist. Here's the abstract:
Although many angiosperms are serviced by flying pollinators, reports of wings as pollen vectors are rare. Flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) is visited by diverse insects, yet previous observations suggested that only butterfly wings may transfer pollen to stigmas. We used an experimental approach to determine whether butterfly wings are the primary vehicle of pollination in flame azalea. Over two seasons of observations, only butterflies (Papilio glaucus and Speyeria cybele) contacted both anthers and stigmas, yet because of differences in wing-flapping behavior, P. glaucus transferred pollen most efficiently. In contrast, bee species specialized either on pollen or nectar but did not contact both anthers and stigmas. A field experiment revealed that flowers excluding butterflies experienced almost complete fruit failure, whereas fruit set in open flowers did not differ from those that were hand pollinated. Additionally, butterflies had 56-fold more azalea pollen on their wings than bodies, while azalea stigmas bore both pollen and wing scales. These results suggest that plants with many visitors contacting reproductive organs may still specialize on a single guild of visitors for pollination and that wing-borne pollen transfer is a key mode of flame azalea pollination.Every reader of this blog will be familiar with mechanisms of pollination by bees and similar small insects, which transfer pollen on their bodies and feet. This becomes a problem when the blossoms are large:
“In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator – usually an insect – has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, the distance between these two structures meant that it was unlikely for a bee or other small pollinator to come into contact with both anther and stigma during a visit.”I've noticed this behavior in our back yard, when Tiger Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails constantly flutter their wings while visiting large blossoms (not azaleas at our latitude). In the past I considered this wing motion a nuisance because it frustrated my attempts to get good photographic images, but I assumed it was done to achieve aerodynamic stability (though it doesn't occur with almost-as-big fritillaries, who hold their wings quite still).
The researchers discovered something else interesting – the pollen was most likely being transferred by the butterflies’ wings, instead of their bodies. “We observed two species of butterfly that frequented these flowers: the eastern tiger swallowtail and the great spangled fritillary. However, the majority of the butterflies were the swallowtails, who differ from the fritillaries because they tend to keep moving their wings even when gathering nectar from a flower,” Epps says. “The constant fanning motion gives the wings a number of contacts with both anther and stigma, making the swallowtails more efficient at pollination.”
Here's one additional relevant photo, of Spicebush swallowtails on azalea, by Jim McCormac:
Top photo: Great Spangled Fritillary on a flame azalea, by Suzanne Allison, via NC State University College of Sciences News.
Good riddance to NPR’s comment section, which is shutting down Tuesday after eight years. There has to be a better way for news organizations to engage with the public.TYWKIWDBI will continue to allow comments. The need to delete spam every morning is a nuisance, but the readership here is reasonably sane and immensely well-informed on a huge range of topics, and I have had readers tell me that they routinely read most of the comments on the posts. I will continue to "curate" comments, however, by weeding out the egregiously offensive ones.
NPR is joining a growing list of media organizations that have said “finito” to comments including, ‘This American Life,’ Reuters, Recode, Mic, The Chicago Sun-Times, Popular Science, CNN, The Toronto Star and The Week...
The trolls who rule the comment seas may actually have won because they often scare away people with their vicious attacks. An infinitesimal number of NPR’s 25 to 35 million unique monthly users bothered to join story-page conversations...
There are some sites that handle comments well, noted Alex Howard, a senior analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. “Building a healthy online community is hard, but outlets like TechDirt and forums like MetaFilter show that it’s not only possible but sustainable,” said Howard. “At their best, good comments are improvements upon the journalism they’re focused upon, but they require convening a community and investing in editorial moderation and tools.”
More details at Moyers&Co (and 300+ comments).
You can't make this up:
Weston Imer, a 12-year-old living in Colorado, is running operations for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in one of the state’s most populous counties.Colorado is not a lock for either candidate; it's "leaning towards Clinton" in the most recent polls.
Technically, Imer’s mother, Laurel Imer, is the official field coordinator for the Trump office in Jefferson County, Colorado. But her son, the co-chair for the Jefferson County Trump campaign, has taken a large share of the responsibility in persuading people to vote, according to KDVR, a local news station...
Imer’s mother said working for the campaign was a good introduction to the U.S. political process for her son before he goes back to school this fall.
“You have a responsibility to your children to teach them,” she said.
You're out having drinks with friends after work. They are intelligent, sophisticated people, and nobody wants to talk about Trump/Clinton. So you offer this:
"I'll bet you a (beer/bourbon/whatever) you can't guess how many time zones there are in Antarctica. And I'll give you three guesses."With three guesses they'll probably go for it (or someone in the group will). One guess will be "24" because the continent spans all of the lines of longitude. That's wrong.
A second guess will probably be "1" because Antarctica isn't a country. But it does have time zones, established by the occupying countries.
Then they will have to make a wild guess. It probably won't be the correct answer: 10 or 11.
"Which country - with its dependent territories - covers the most time zones?"Russia, of course, with its immense east-west span, covers almost half the planet. But it doesn't have territories in the other half. So which country and its territories are in the most time zones? Take a guess before looking at the link.
Wrong. You owe me a drink.
23 August 2016
While watching and photographing this year's Perseid Meteor Shower, something unexpected happened: a gigantic jet erupted from a nearby cloud. The whole thing was over in a flash -- it lasted less than a second -- but was fortunately captured by an already-recording digital camera. Gigantic jets are a rare form of lightning recognized formally only a few years ago. The featured high resolution color image, taken near the peak of Shikengkong mountain in China, may be the best image yet of this unusual phenomenon. The same event appears to have been captured simultaneously by another photographer, further away. The gigantic jet appears to start somewhere in a nearby thundercloud and extend upwards towards Earth's ionosphere. The nature of gigantic jets and their possible association with other types of Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) such as blue jets and red sprites remains an active topic of research.I have never heard of this before. You learn something every day. With a hat tip to the Crazy Cat Lady.
Archaeologists dug up the gold artifact, which is just an eight of an inch in diameter and dates from 4,500–4,600 B.C., at what was believed to be the first urban settlement in Europe. It’s just outside of the modern town of Pazardzhik [Bulgaria].
What’s particularly interesting about the item is that researchers believe it to be 200 years older than gold jewelry discovered back in 1976 in the coastal town of Varna, thought to be the oldest in existence. That would make this speck-like bead the oldest piece of gold in the world.