Rugby players and referees

The 2023 Rugby World Cup tournament is currently underway in France. Here are highlights from the first weekend, showing all the tries (touchdowns) that were scored.

One thing that always impresses me in rugby is how a single referee (aided by two touch judges on the sidelines for specific roles) controls such a fast moving game with 30 players. The refs are aided by the strict code of conduct that forbids players arguing with them, so you see nothing like the ugly scenes in American football (or other professional sports) where players and even coaches argue over calls. This is not because rugby players are innately courteous to the refs. It is because in rugby, respect for the referee is instilled into players from the beginning.
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The impeachment charade

The speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy has announced that he will support an ‘impeachment inquiry’ into president Joe Biden.

The impeachment inquiry will be handled by the oversight, judiciary and ways and means committees, all of which are controlled by McCarthy allies and since the start of the year have spent much of their time trying to make corruption allegations against the president stick.

McCarthy had earlier said that he would first ask for a vote from the full house on whether to do so. And indeed, when Nancy Pelosi was speaker he had condemned any suggestion that she might start an impeachment inquiry into serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) without first getting a vote in support.

In a sign of the paucity of the results of their efforts, reports indicate McCarthy does not yet have enough votes in support of impeaching Biden. Earlier this month, the speaker told Breitbart News, “If we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person,” but backtracked on Tuesday, making no mention of holding a vote to start the investigation.

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American is a land of many happy returns

I hate shopping. Whenever I go to a store, I tend to be overwhelmed by the variety before me and so my strategy, when I cannot avoid shopping, is to decide in advance exactly what I want and go in and buy it and get out of the store in the shortest possible time. I particularly hate shopping for clothes so I tend to wear the same clothes over and over until they start to fall apart and then I try to buy exactly the same thing (brand name, size, color, style, etc.) to replace the item. This is not easy because it seems like most people don’t want to wear the same clothes repeatedly and so manufacturers keep changing things. So when I find an item I like, I sometimes buy more than one item just to spare myself a later shopping trip.

The advent of online shopping has been a boon for people like me because it spares me having to search through racks of items looking for just what I want. But even here there are problems. Recently I needed to buy a pair of shoes because the shoes I wore were developing holes in the bottom through which water would seep if the ground was wet. I currently have a pair that leaks that I wear only on dry days. (Yes, I wear the same pair of shoes over and over, with a spare pair handy if the occasion requires me to wear something better than my shabby pair.) I found the identical pair online at the Target department store in the same size and color and so ordered it. But when it arrived, I found to my consternation that it was too large. So I had to take it to the store to exchange it, that required looking through the racks to find a size that fit me, which was a full size smaller than my previous pair. So either my feet have got smaller (unlikely) or the manufacturer’s sizes have changed.
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Breaking things and risking lives for entertainment

There are huge swathes of American pop culture that I am only vaguely aware of and it usually takes some item in the news or an article that draws me in to learn more about it. One of these happened recently involves so-called ‘Monster Trucks’, something that had long been on the periphery of my consciousness. An article in the August 21, 2023 issue of the New Yorker took me into that particular world and made me take a look at some videos of what goes on at these events that draw huge crowds. The following video shows the highlights of the 2023 season. It runs for over an hour but you get the general idea after a few minutes.

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“I am Spartacus!”


If you get the joke in this cartoon, then you likely have seen the 1960 film Spartacus starring Kirk Douglas in the title role and Tony Curtis as his loyal friend and ally, that was directed by Stanley Kubrick with the screenplay by Dalton Trumbo.

Here is the scene.

Trumbo had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era because he had refused to provide names to the congressional committees seeking to identify Communists working in Hollywood and it is assumed that this scene was designed to praise those who refused to betray their friends and colleagues.

The scene has become iconic and I assumed that it had seeped into the popular culture by now so that at least people of my generation would know of it. But it is not the case. I once told a story to a couple my age of a person who would give his name as Spartacus to the baristas at coffee shops so that when they called out his name, he could stand and say, “I am Spartacus!”

My friends had blank looks which told me that they had no idea what the point of my story was so I had to explain it to them, which of course ruins any humor.

False labeling in foods

A lot of thought goes into how food is marketed to people, using the packaging to try to entice them to think that it may be tastier or healthier or more environmentally friendly or otherwise better than it really is. Most of us tend to be at least somewhat skeptical about these claims and not take them at face value and as long as the products are not downright harmful, are willing to overlook the exaggerations snd even outright lies that are told us.

Not Spencer Sheehan, a lawyer in New York state, who has taken upon himself to carefully examine the products that are sold in stores and, if he finds that they have been shading the truth, to sue them. The New Yorker magazine of September 11 has a long piece about his efforts.
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Trump’s obsession over the classified documents is even weirder than I thought

I have mentioned before that I just did not get serial sex abuser Donald Trump’s (SSAT) weird obsession with holding on to the classified documents that ultimately led to his indictment. I can (sort of) understand that he took some with him during his chaotic final days before he left the White. House. But why was he so obsessed with holding on to them even after he was told that he had to return them? What value could they possibly have for him?

But clearly he wanted them very badly, to the extent that he even defied his own lawyer’s advice to hand them over. His lawyer Evan Corcoran warned him that of he did not do so voluntarily, the FBI would get a search warrant from a judge for Mar-a-Lago, and that is precisely what happened. But of course, then SSAT expressed outrage at this utterly predictable outcome.
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That Israel is an apartheid state has become undeniable

There used to be a time in the not-too-distant past when describing Israel as an apartheid state because of the way that it treats Palestinians was considered controversial. Whenever I wrote it on this blog, there would be commenters who would suggest that I was not just anti-Semitic but pretty much a Nazi-sympathizer. The government of Israel has an official propaganda program known as Hasbara that trains people in the US to pose as grass roots individuals who would seek out on the internet those who criticize Israel and defend that nation’s policies, often using the anti-Semitism charge as a weapon. I could count on such people popping up on my blog whenever I criticized Israeli policies.

But as Israel’s appalling treatment of Palestinians has intensified, and as its government has turned hard right and authoritarian, the view that Israel is an apartheid state has become almost mainstream, with even Jewish groups in the US and Israel echoing that view.

Now we have the former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, joining other prominent Israelis in describing the state in those terms.

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Proud Boys leader gets 22 years in prison

Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the so-called ‘western chauvinist’ movement known as the Proud Boys, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the January 6th riot. Earlier in May, Tarrio and of his three lieutenants had been convicted of charges including seditious conspiracy. Readers may remember that the Proud Boys had their moment of fame when in one of the debates between Joe Biden and serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSA) in 2020, the latter was asked to disassociate himself from the white nationalist and racist groups who were supporting him.

“I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said. “What do you want to call them? Give me a name.”

“Proud Boys,” Democrat Joe Biden chimed in, referencing a far-right extremist group that has shown up at protests in the Pacific Northwest. The male-only group of neo-fascists describes themselves as “western chauvinists,” and they have been known to incite street violence.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said.

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