Are Sinema and Manchin the Democratic party’s past or its future?

Money plays an obscenely large role in American politics. It is not unusual for politicians with a reforming agenda to get elected to Congress and then get seduced by the big money interests that lobby heavily in Washington. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic senator from Arizona, perhaps holds the record for the speed with which she abandoned the policies that appealed to the people who elected her and became a tool of the plutocrats and corporations. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 as a progressive and then was elected to the senate in 2018 and it was hoped that she would help wrest control of that reactionary body from the Republicans. But it has become increasingly clear during the recent discussions on the infrastructure bills that she has abandoned any progressive agenda that she might have once had. I recounted her political transformation back in March.
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The murky ancestry of John James Audubon

I know nothing about birds but was of course aware of the name John James Audubon who became famous for his books containing detailed and lavish color paintings of the birds of America. His name has been adopted by various ornithological societies and one hears references to his name all the time. For some reason, I had thought that he was Black and was thus surprised when I read this news item that the Audubon Naturalist Society is dropping the name because of Audubon’s unsavory history and racist attitudes that, among other things, involved slave trading. They are making this move as part of a nationwide trend of not honoring people who have been guilty of deplorable acts.
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The most vaccinated region in the US is … Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has become the most vaccinated region in the US and why that may be so is interesting.

Puerto Rico has fully vaccinated just over 73% of its 3.3 million residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 2.3 million people.

On the mainland, Vermont leads with 70.8% of the population fully vaccinated, followed by Connecticut at 70.2% and Maine at 70%, according to the CDC, which added that just over 57% of the total US population was fully vaccinated as of Friday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter that Puerto Rico’s “fabulous” vaccination efforts have “gotten way too little attention.”
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Lego trafficking? Seriously?

When I saw a news story headline “Seattle police bust lucrative Lego trafficking scheme”, I assumed that ‘Lego’ was either an acronym or the street name for some new illegal drug or something else. So imagine my surprise when it turns out to be actually about the familiar children’s toy.

Police in Seattle went undercover to break open what they said was a trafficking ring involving the sale of expensive stolen goods: Lego, taken from an Amazon store.

Saying they had seized 171 sets, police released a picture showing the boxes stacked together.

According to one expert, Lego theft and trafficking has become a major concern.

RJ Coughlin, a director at Brickcon, a convention for adult Lego enthusiasts, told Fox 13 Seattle Lego theft was “very, very prominent here in the north-west”, in part because sets can fetch $800.

“You could go to Fred Meyer and Walmart in many parts of the city, in the outlying areas, and you’ll actually see Lego sets are locked up,” Coughlin said.

“You will see shelves that are pretty much empty, and if you talk to the employees they will tell you someone literally came that morning, loaded up the cart full of Lego and just walked right out [of] there.”

This summer, the Amazon 4-Star, a store in downtown Seattle run by the online retail giant, said it was the target of a repeat shoplifter who stole electronics and Lego sets worth more than $10,000.

I just don’t get it. But then again, there are a lot of things I just don’t get.

One of the best arguments for getting vaccinated and wearing masks

And it comes from Fox News, of all places, and was made by host Neil Cavuto during an interview with Howard Kurtz. Cavuto has multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer and is thus severely immunocompromised. He was vaccinated and contracted covid-19 and has recovered. He feels that being vaccinated was what enabled him to survive the breakthrough infection.

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Why would you have live ammunition on a film set?

There has been a lot of coverage of actor Alec Baldwin firing a gun on a film set that resulted in killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. It appears that a single bullet went through Hutchins and then hit Souza who was standing behind her. It appears that Baldwin thought he was firing a gun that did not have live rounds.

There are so many questions that come to mind.

One is that this is a film set, not a hunting trip. Why are there any live rounds at all on the set? What purpose do they serve? And why did he point the gun at someone and fire it anyway? Was it a prank in order to startle them? This demonstrates how dangerous it is to point and fire any type of gun at anyone even in fun. There have been so many stories of people getting killed and injured because a gun that was thought to be fake or unloaded actually had live rounds.
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The rise and fall (and rise again?) of quicksand

Nearly four years ago, I had a post about quicksand. In it I mused how it used to be a common plot device in the books and films I watched and read as a boy but seemed to have faded from view. The 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia has a poignant scene with quicksand.

This week the program Radiolab had a segment on quicksand in which it turns out that my sense that quicksand was a significant feature of popular culture that has slowly disappeared has some empirical support. There is a database of films that have quicksand scenes in them and after starting out small in 1900 or so, the frequency of appearance increased, reaching a peak around 1960, and then decreasing again to the present day. That jibes with my personal experience.

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On heroes with clay feet

Over at Impossible Me Abbeycadabra had an interesting post in which she wrote about author Neil Gaiman with whom she shares a lot of literary interests, so much so that she considers him a ‘hero’. She is well aware of the danger of having heroes, given that so many public figures whom one once liked or admired have later revealed themselves to have quite obnoxious views on some major issues (the number of such people is too large and the names too well-known to be worth listing), so she is naturally relieved that so far he has not had any unflattering things revealed about him. But she shares the same feeling of unease that all of us have that some figure we look up to might have some dark secret revealed.
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Intentional fouling in sports

I remember the first time I watched a professional basketball game in the US and saw a player intentionally foul a player on the opposing team to prevent them from scoring a basket. What surprised me was not the foul itself, which can happen in contact sports, but that everyone, players, spectators, TV commentators alike, treated it as not only routine but even as a good strategy. I found this appalling. I felt that a deliberate foul should never be something that is adopted as a strategy. The penalties for doing so should always be high enough that any fouling is always unintentional or at least that players try to act as if it were unintentional. In soccer for instance, the fouling player risks getting thrown out of the game and they often put on quite a show to try to persuade the referee that the foul was accidental, while the fouled player would put in a good performance to suggest that they were grievously injured. While this may all be fake, at least the effort shows that fouling as a deliberate act is not to be tolerated.
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