January 28, 2023

EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: Soaring Food Prices Prompt Eurasian Nations To Ban Food Exports.

Related: Looming food shortages is the next ‘slow-moving disaster’ to hit world. Not by accident.

OPEN THREAD: Enjoy each other’s company.

THE NEW SPACE RACE: SpaceX preparing for Super Heavy static-fire test.

20 YEARS AGO, ON INSTAPUNDIT: PESSIMISM ABOUT THE FUTURE: I have to say, this posting by Michael Rogers seems to hit the nail on the head. Most people I know are pessimistic about the future of their professions, too, almost across the board. I wonder if it’s caused by the phenomenon Brad DeLong identifies: better communications technology is creating more competition for people in a wide variety of fields.

DeLong’s prediction for 2023 reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, in which we’re told that globalization had smeared things out into a worldwide layer of “what a Pakistani bricklayer would consider prosperity.”

Is that really our future? I’m inclined to doubt it. But I could be wrong.

UPDATE: John Nye emails:

I think the trends you speak of would be at work even if there were no globalization. And Stephenson had it wrong. The greatest wage pressure will be on status and goods. Prosperity should easily increase material welfare (no. of cars, clothes, dinners, etc. you can buy) but will adversely affect prestige goods (like the probability of being accepted to the top ten universities or the chance of buying that prime lot in Menlo Park or even getting tickets to Broadway). So the issue is not that standard of living will be at the Pakistani middle class level.

Rather it will feel like that for some because they will be objectively richer but some of the things they cherish which provide status will be unobtainable. This has already been happening in the US. See my article on Irreducible Inequality.

I think this may be right. Reader George Zachar emails:

BY DEFINITION most professions will vanish/evolve into something unrecognizable as time, technology and expertise advance.

Focus on individual capabilities/skill sets/flexibility, and things look brighter/more realistic.

I’ve lost count of the personal career metamorphisms I’ve gone through.

I think this is right, too.

STANDING UP TO WOKENESS: Faculty calls for Hamline president to resign over religious art controversy.

MICROBIOME NEWS, UNSETTLED-SCIENCE EDITION: Babies May Not Be Born With a Microbiome After All, Scientists Say.

THIS SOUNDS AWFUL: McDonald’s begins testing strawless lids in select markets.

K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: Coming soon to Arizona schools: ‘massive layoffs’ and ‘disaster,’ unless our leaders act.

So wait, what’s the problem?

READER FAVORITE: TurboTax Deluxe 2022 Tax Software, Federal and State Tax Return. #CommissionEarned

REGARDING THE RNC SHENANIGANS A FRIEND EMAILS: “Omg I wish establishment republicans would take their love of getting beaten into the bedroom and then maybe they wouldn’t get off on losing to democrats.”

She has a point, you know.

SORRY, I’M NOT GIVING UP MY CHAINSAW BAYONET: 3 Defensive Handgun Features You Don’t Really Need.

YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE: Coofandy Men’s Hawaiian Floral Shirts. #CommissionEarned

I PREDICT LOW ENTHUSIASM: The FDA says get used to COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

A NEW WAY TO SAVE THE PLANET — SURGERY WITHOUT ANESTHESIA: Reducing anesthetics during surgery decreases greenhouse gases without affecting patient care, study shows.

CHANGE: FDA proposes easing blood donation restrictions based on sexuality.

SCIENCE, UNSETTLED: Fresh questions about oxytocin as the ‘love hormone’ behind pair bonding.

HOW’S THAT WELCOME WAGON PROGRAM COMING ALONG? How New York Stopped Fearing the Urban Doom Loop and Learned to Love It. “Covid sends the high-wage workers back to their suburban homes, which kills the restaurant and retail and entertainment industries of the city, which is the entire point of even living in or near a city in the first place, and as those businesses die, people realize there is no reason remaining to be in the city, and begin a mass emigration away that kills the cities. The Democrats’ embrace of violence, crime, and chaos as acceptable substitutes for restaurants, shopping, and entertainment obviously isn’t helping. Covid took away all the advantages for living in the city, and then the Summer of St. George unleashed all the disadvantages of living in the city, with a vengeance.”

THE POWER LINE WEEK IN PICTURES: Egghead Inflation Edition.

BE PREPARED: Anker 525 Charging Station. #CommissionEarned

THIS IS THE WAY: DeSantis’ College Appointees Like Chris Rufo Show The Battle For America’s Academies Is Far From Over.

DeSantis’ move proves the fight to reclaim American education is not a lost cause and — institutionally, at least — it may even be less of a conceptual uphill battle to reclaim the academy and rechart the trajectory of our nation’s youth than many may think. After all, it really shouldn’t be that difficult of a task for conservative leaders to appoint conservatives like Rufo to the boards of public schools in red states with Republican majority legislatures.

But even so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a battle, and engaging in conflict — especially in the current political climate — comes with risk. With the understanding that their appointment to the board would likely ruffle the feathers of those in the predominantly leftist New College community, Rufo and Eddie Speir, another trustee, scheduled two town hall events in which they could address the concerns of students, parents, faculty, alumni, and the general public, which the Sarasota Democratic Party encouraged people to protest.

The night before the events took place, death threats were made against Speir, leading to college faculty, notably Provost Suzanne Sherman, confronting Rufo and Speir and insisting the event be shut down while encouraging students and faculty to “refrain from attending.” Catherine Helean, a public relations officer of the college, stated that the threats “were perceived to be credible.”

Despite the provost’s insistence that the event be canceled for safety, Speir — whose life was explicitly threatened — and Rufo pushed forward and were able to engage students, faculty, and community members in conversations about their concerns for New College in the months and years to come.

Here’s the pregame show before their speech:

GREAT MOMENTS IN STATE-RUN TV: MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: Biden Economic Recovery Most Remarkable in U.S. History.

IT’S AN OFFICIOUS WHITE WOMAN ACADEMIC SAYING THIS, OF COURSE: White people need to ‘work’ on their ‘whiteness’: sociologist.

TO BE HONEST, A RETAIL JOB IS PROBABLY MORE HONORABLE THAN WORKING IN MEDIA: Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez now works in retail. “Frankly, retail work is the backbone of American society. Her new role is also a big middle finger to her old boss Jeff Bezos: what better way to stick it to the man who killed in-person shopping than to work in a store?”

GREAT MOMENTS IN HARSH SENTENCING: Firebomb an NYPD police car during a riot, get a year in prison.

In a dramatic hearing on Thursday, a federal judge sentenced a corporate attorney who firebombed a police car during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests to a year in jail, arguing that his prestigious education — boarding school, Princeton, a law degree from New York University — should have rendered him a peacekeeper, not an instigator.

“You’re not one of the oppressed. You’re one of the privileged,” senior Eastern District of New York Judge Brian Cogan told Colinford Mattis, even as he expressed admiration for what the 35-year-old had accomplished in his life.

The sentencing marked the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year legal battle that saw Mattis and his co-defendant, Urooj Rahman, become symbols of the nation’s political tumult and divisions. Spanning two presidential administrations, their case saw competing imperatives play out in public and in the courtroom, as well as in the media.

To the Heritage Foundation they were “terrorists,” while New York magazine allowed that they could be seen as “civil-rights heroes, even martyrs.” The Daily Mail called them “woke lawyers.” In the pages of the New York Times, they were described by a guest contributor as victims of “deeply ingrained injustices.”

They threw a Molotov cocktail into a police SUV, adding the obligatory “fiery” component to a “mostly peaceful” riot — but fortunately for them,

WELL, BYE: Nobody’s Watching: CNN Ratings Plunge Even Further — For Good Reason.

FLASHBACK: WHY NOT A WAITING PERIOD FOR LAWS? “I’d like to propose a ‘waiting period’ for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?). And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.”


There’s a lot of doublespeak and hiding behind language there. While Pfizer insists it performs no gain-of-function research, it goes on to admit that in a “limited number of cases,” the company engineers the COVID-19 virus to “enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells.” That seems like it requires a lot more explanation, does it not? Because it seems to be somewhat in contradiction with their initial claim.

The real issue here is what is worth the risk and what isn’t. It’s not completely out of line for a pharmaceutical company to do research toward developing vaccines for possible variants. To completely frame that pursuit as nefarious would be to dismiss and discourage lots of positive research throughout the history of medicine.

With that said, it seems pretty clear, at least in my view, that Pfizer isn’t doing what it’s doing because they fear future variants, and with so many people already having been infected, the efficacy of more and more boosters remains in doubt anyway. COVID-19 vaccines and antivirals are what make Pfizer billions of dollars, and they have every incentive to keep shoving boosters out while insisting they are needed because of “variants.”

Their statement isn’t going to convince anyone on the fence. It’s obfuscatory and confusing at best, and given Pfizer’s history of misleading the public, there’s no reason to take the company’s word for anything.


COLORADO HAS A POPULATION OF 5.8 MILLION — AND APPARENTLY ONLY ONE MASSIVELY OVERWORKED BAKER: Colorado Court Rules Against Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jack Phillips — Again — For Refusing To Make a ‘Gender Transition’ Cake.

HE JUST KEEPS GOING AND GOING: How Donald Trump’s 2024 Campaign Bounced Back: The former president’s chances, once dim, are brightening.

Trump continues to dominate in polls of Republicans. He’s drawn even with President Biden in head-to-head matchups. He lobbied successfully for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) to become speaker of the House of Representatives. His loyalists on the House Judiciary, Oversight, and Weaponization of the Federal Government committees will be sure to advance his interests. He’s plotting his return to Facebook, Instagram, and possibly Twitter, and his connection with the Republican base remains strong.

Most important of all, Trump’s rivals in both the Democratic and Republican parties are repeating the mistakes they made in the run-up to the 2016 election. The Democrats assume that there is no way for Trump to become president, while Republicans believe he will fade from the scene. Their failure to learn from history has made it possible not only for Trump to win the GOP nomination for the third straight time, but to pull another inside straight in the Electoral College and return to the White House. For decades, Trump has said that the political class is corrupt, insular, and incompetent, and that Republican leaders lack guts. Washington is doing its best to prove him right.

Well, he’s not wrong about that.

LIGHTNING DEAL: Wall Outlet Extender – Surge Protector 6 AC Outlets. #CommissionEarned

TERROR IN TINSELTOWN: The Most Hated Reporter In Hollywood’s Secret Files Exposed — As Panicked Stars Run For Cover.

Knowing her days were numbered due to poor health, Nikki Finke “began mailing out packets to trusted friends — and press outlets — containing allegations that are, in some cases, ‘Harvey-level bad,’ to direct quote someone who’s seen some of them,” the anonymous tipster wrote, referencing disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“The Hollywood producers, directors and stars who mistreated younger women, and in some cases younger men, but escaped #MeToo the first time around may not be as fortunate this time — including one of its very few moguls with even more power than Harvey.”

The whistle-blower also claimed an unnamed A-list actor would be included alongside Weinstein and Bill Cosby if Finke’s files were exposed.

The source warned: “The shoes should start dropping soon.”

We’ll see; a cynical man might start to think that Hollywood is a sex-grooming gang or something.



HMM: ATF warns gun dealers on “potential civil unrest.”

Maybe the government should try heading that unrest off?

THIS IS CNN: CNN’s Race-Baiter Van Jones Blames Racism for Black Cops Beating Tyre Nichols to Death.

Jones writes:

At the end of the day, it is the race of the victim who is brutalized — not the race of the violent cop — that is most relevant in determining whether racial bias is a factor in police violence. It’s hard to imagine five cops of any color beating a White person to death under similar circumstances. And it is almost impossible to imagine five Black cops giving a White arrestee the kind of beat-down that Nichols allegedly received.

It’s that simple. For race-baiters like Jones, if the victim is Black, he (or she) is always a victim of racial hatred. It’s a self-fulfilling statement. A statement that cannot be defeated, even when the criminals are Black. If a Black man is the victim, race is always the reason.

Jones and race-baiters like him are stoking flames that will envelop the nation. Antifa–the thugs and goons who burned America three years ago–have taken to the street again, and will, again, burn, loot, and destroy property. I saw plenty of signs on the streets of Memphis that called for “justice” for Nichols, but Antifa thugs burning cities isn’t about Tyre Nichols. It’s never about the victims of police violence.

Those fiery but mostly peaceful riots — and the boost in ratings for CNN — don’t stoke themselves, you know. As Glenn wrote in 2021, “The thing is, it’s a lot easier to encourage violence when the consequences happen to someone else. Too much of upper-class America is cocooned from real risk. For the people in poor and working-class neighborhoods where riots and looting tend to happen, the consequences are much more apparent. That’s why the cavalier attitude of so many Democrats toward riots makes sense. Democrats are now the party of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and upscale suburbs. The people who have to deal with consequences will have to go somewhere else politically. And they will.”


WELL, THE “FACT CHECKERS” ONLY APPEARED WHEN THE TRUTH STARTED GETTING OUT. THAT MIGHT BE A HINT: ‘Fact-Checkers’ Not Interested in Tracking Hunter Biden’s Aid to Other Dissolute Bidens.

BLACK OFFICERS IN A MAJORITY BLACK CITY WITH A BLACK POLICE CHIEF BEAT BLACK MAN TO DEATH AND. . . Riots Break Out in Memphis, Other Cities as Police Release Tyre Nichols Video. And it’s not like this is the voice of the unheard crying for justice: Every media outlet has been on this, and the officers have already been charged.

Related: Riots and Schelling Incidents.

THREAD: “I learned so much being at the RNC today.”

My favorite was the RNC guy who said we need “more people who read the newspaper.” How out of touch can you be?

OPEN THREAD: Do it on the weekend, and it’ll be all right.


Earlier we passed along some of the mockeries being sent in the direction of the Associated Press over their explanation for a deleted tweet. Here’s the text of the tweet the AP deleted:

The French Embassy (oops, I violated the AP’s style guide there) saw that and responded accordingly:

Related: Jeremy Clarkson encountering Frenchness in France:

RIOT SEASON SEEMS TO COME EARLIER EVERY YEAR: “On January 7, Tyre Nichols was stopped by Memphis police for what is said to be a routine traffic violation. For some reason, he fled and officers pursued him. One or more ‘altercations’ followed, and Nichols ultimately was transported to a hospital, where he died. Five Memphis police officers have now been charged with second degree murder and other crimes.”

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Here we have a black man, killed by black officers in a majority-black city run by Democrats, the offending police have all been charged and the authorities seem to be taking the crime quite seriously, but everyone expects riots all over because . . . well, just because.

I don’t suppose the news media have anything to do with that.

UPDATE (From Ed): Tyre Nichols traffic stop videos released, cities around the country prepare for protests.

ANOTHER UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Riots and Schelling Incidents.

RADICAL CHIC: THE NEXT GENERATION. Ivy League Lawyer Who Firebombed Cop Car Will Spend a Year and a Day in Prison. “Trump administration prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence with a domestic terrorism enhancement for the pair, which was dropped after President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland took office. Mattis and Rahman in June scored a sweetheart deal with Department of Justice prosecutors, pleading guilty to lesser arson and explosives charges that warranted a mere five-year sentence. New York State announced before Rahman’s sentencing that both she and Mattis had been disbarred. James Trusty, a former federal prosecutor, told the Washington Free Beaconin November that the DOJ’s treatment of the two was ‘extraordinarily unusual.’ Both Mattis’s and Rahman’s attorneys requested sentence commutations before they appeared in court, pushing for each to be released on time served.”

20 YEARS AGO, ON INSTAPUNDIT: “JAMES LILEKS reports on the Super Bowl ads and on what he found by Googling the ‘ordinary Americans’ in a Star Tribune story about the antiwar movement.”

WARM UP THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD: Deepfakes: faces created by AI now look more real than genuine photos.

SKYNET SMILES, THEN LAUGHS UNCONTROLLABLY: Scientists invented a melting liquid robot that can escape from a cage.

I mean, seriously people. You’ve seen the movies, right?

IN THE PIPELINE: New Drugs Coming in 2023.

THE NEW SPACE RACE: China working on new moon rover for 2026 mission to lunar south pole.

BREAKING: We Now Know Who Will Lead the RNC Going Into the 2024 Election.

SCHOOLS SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE PUNISHING FACULTY FOR THEIR SPEECH. Though it’s increasingly important that they stop being able to stick taxpayers with the bill for their expensive virtue-signaling (at Auburn, to the tune of $645,837).

READER FAVORITE: Coofandy Men’s Hawaiian Floral Shirts. #CommissionEarned

KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: Go Inside the New Tesla Semi: Features, Screens, Seats, and More.

THE NEW SPACE RACE: Blue Origin plans to fly an all-FEMALE crew into space next year – led by Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.

It’s a cute stunt, but when is Blue Origin going to get serious about launching payloads into orbit for money?

FLORIDA MAN FRIDAY [VIP]: Get the Real Poop on His Late-Night Deposit at Joe’s Crab Shack. “This week we have the pooping perp, the sheriffs deputies who made Disney World a little too magical, and one of the worst places to hide your crack pipe. Plus, Florida Man has nothin’ on Washington Man.”

Don’t forget that VODKAPUNDIT promo code if you’ve been thinking of joining us.

HMM: Antibiotic resistance induced by the widespread use of. . . antidepressants? “Specific antidepressants—SSRIs and SNRIs—promote resistance to different classes of antibiotics. This resistance is heritable over 33 bacterial generations, even once the antidepressant is removed. Antidepressants are among the most prescribed and ingested drugs there are.”

DEVELOPMENTS IN PLANETARY DEFENSE: Planetary Defense: Asteroid Findings From Specks of Space Dust Could Save Earth.

AFTER MONTHS OF DELAY: Paul Pelosi Video Released. But the NBC reporting looks bad: “Here’s the NBC report that started a lot of this speculation. The claim that Pelosi ‘walked several feet back into the foyer toward the assailant and away from police’ was dead wrong. It just didn’t happen.” Video at the link.

GIVING: Colorado’s most famous nature photographer donates life work to public domain.

For the past eight months at his home in the Summit County hills, John Fielder spent most every morning and afternoon sifting through photographs tucked away for decades.

They were transparencies from his years of hauling heavy film equipment deep into Colorado’s backcountry. The transparencies needed paring down — duplicates in which the exposure and/or contrast wasn’t quite right. Fielder estimated copies to number around 150,000, with another 50,000 or so from his digital days after 2008.

The countless hours spent sifting, editing and scanning were “enough to whack me,” said Fielder, 72.

It was all for the sake of others.

The state’s most famous nature photographer has arranged the gift of a lifetime: his lifetime of work.

Have two of Fielder’s coffee table books and they’re stunning. This is a helluva gift.

MY TAKE ON THE PELOSI VIDEO: As some of you know, I was a photojournalist in Miami’s “Cocaine Cowboy” days, and later a war correspondent. So I’ve seen my share of weirdness. Here’s the relevant clip of the Pelosi tape:

It’s weird, but doesn’t explain much:
1) It looks like the two men are not struggling but jointly holding the hammer.
2) Why is Paul in his underwear?
3) When the cops ask Pelosi what’s going on, he replies with an awfully spaced-out “hi” and a really dopey grin common to someone high a.f.

Thankfully, you can’t see it, (I mean, “c’mon man”) but judging from the swing of the hammer, if it landed on Pelosi’s head…well, *that*’s gonna leave a mark. This video certainly doesn’t prove anything one way or another IMHO, but I have to say in my considerable experience it doesn’t rule out a dope-fueled homosexual assignation that went terribly wrong…

One last question to our LEO pals out there: A hammer is unquestionably a deadly weapon. Not that I’m in favor of trigger happy cops, but I have to say if this happened in Dade County, Fla., the cops would have drawn down on the guy and lit him up. Am I wrong?



TANKS, ANYWAY: Western Tanks for Ukraine Might Be Too Little, Too Late. “When we send so few tanks and on such a long timeline, Moscow is given the opportunity to adjust and adapt. Worse, the longer this war goes on, the more negative consequences develop.”


UNEXPECTED ACCOUNTABILITY: Frank Yiannas, FDA official involved in response to baby food shortage, resigns.

BREAKING: Watch the Paul Pelosi Attack Bodycam Footage.

FALLOUT: ‘In trying to make Ukraine a colony, Russia made itself very dependent on China.’

I’m sure China didn’t expect the war to go on like this. It didn’t expect the Ukrainians to fight back so hard. Nor did most Western observers. You know, when Mao opened up to Nixon in the 1970s, he did that because he was afraid that China would become too vulnerable to Russia.

Clearly, things have moved in the other direction. Russia may become so dependent on China that China would hold a lot of power over Russia. They’re going to depend on China for technology, for buying their oil, for many kinds of goods. Russia has become very, very dependent on China.

There’s a bit of an irony, frankly, that Putin claimed to be so concerned about NATO that he’s made himself almost entirely dependent on China.

Making itself a vassal of Communist China is not a good look for a country that purports to defend Christendom.

JIM TREACHER: Hunter Biden: “Stop at Top Flop Bop.” “The meaning of ‘Stop at top flop bop’ is simple, of course: Hunter was flying a zillion miles an hour on rock cocaine, and those were the words that came out when he tried to respond to his cousin’s heartfelt lament. It made perfect sense to him at the time, and it’s not as if that evening’s Russian hooker was proofreading his texts between naked selfies…The Bidens are serious scumbags, even for a political family. They’re everything the libs tell us the Trumps are, and worse. And I’ll say it again: As a libertarian, I respect Hunter’s right to party. As a small-government conservative, I demand to know how the hell he paid for it all.”

LIGHTNING DEAL: Computer Reading Glasses Blue Light Blocking Readers. #CommissionEarned

IN THE FUTURE, EVERYONE WILL BE HITLER FOR 15 MINUTES — AND THE FUTURE IS NOW: Ron DeSantis’ press secretary shares insane email from CNN reporter soliciting comment for hit piece.

Flashback: As far as the left is concerned, with the exception of Ike, every Republican president or presidential candidate has been Hitler since Calvin Coolidge.

“PLAGUED WITH ERRORS?” HOW COULD THEY TELL THEM FROM THE REGULAR STORIES THEY DO? Plagued with errors: A news outlet’s decision to write stories with AI backfires.


EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: Another Wave of Joe Biden J-O-B-S Losses.

CRISIS BY DESIGN: Texas Sues Biden Administration Over Border. “Texas isn’t alone in this fight. The lawsuit filing itself shows that Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming have all signed onto the lawsuit.”

AS IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW, NOW OUT: In Defense of the Second Amendment. #CommissionEarned

THE NEW SPACE RACE: DARPA and NASA plan orbital nuclear rocket test. “By using a nuclear thermal engine to heat a propellant to extremely high temperatures to generate thrust, a rocket could have over three times the efficiency of a conventional chemical-fueled one, which would reduce transit times and increase payload potential. For a crewed Mars mission, this would mean less radiation exposure, fewer detrimental effects from weightlessness, and less of a need for supplies or overly robust flight systems.”

Seventy years late is still better than never.

SHOCKER: High school ‘White Power’ graffiti came from Hispanic gangs: police. “Detectives believe that the ‘white power’ tagging was a diversion tactic used by the gang to avoid law enforcement detection and was possibly done to exploit the recent protest at Caldwell High School. It is common for gang members to vandalize property in their attempt to create fear and intimidation within the community.”

EVERYTHING IS PROBLEMATICAL: The AP Stylebook Now Has a Problem With the Word ‘The.’

IF WHITE SUPREMACY IS REAL, WHY IS EVERYONE PRETENDING TO BE NONWHITE? Woman who faked Native American heritage was awarded university residency.

FIGHT THE POWER: Facing Major Sanctions, Amy Wax Files Grievance Against Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger.

EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: ‘A perfect storm for the whole food system right now’: One of the world’s largest fertilizer companies warns that every country—even those in Europe—is facing a food crisis.

When natural gas prices surged last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, so did prices for fertilizer, which manufacturers such as Yara produce with ammonia and nitrogen obtained as a byproduct from natural gas. Fertilizer prices had already begun increasing in 2021 due to high energy costs and supply-chain issues.

Declining natural gas prices and weak demand among farmers have eased pressures somewhat over the past few months. Earlier this month, fertilizer prices fell to their lowest level in nearly two years in tandem with natural gas prices. But despite falling prices, Holsether insists that the global fertilizer market is precarious, and countries should shift from relying on Russian natural gas, to safeguard their agricultural industries.

“Putin has weaponized energy and they’re weaponizing food as well,” Holsether told the BBC at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “It’s the saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’”

Fertilizer prices remain high by historical standards, and the World Bank warned earlier this month that global supply is still tight due to the war, production cuts in Europe, and stricter export controls in China.

Trade is great. But putting US workers in competition with Third World wages hasn’t been great for them or for domestic manufacturing. And depending on potentially hostile and/or unstable regimes for vital inputs is just stupid.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN); Related: Looming food shortages is the next ‘slow-moving disaster’ to hit world. Not by accident.

KRUISER’S MORNING BRIEFING: Choose Your Weapon Wisely — It’s Judgement Day at the RNC. “By the end of today — maybe by the time you read this — we will know if the Republican National Committee (RNC) wants to get back to the business of winning elections or if it wants to leg hump the status quo because that’s what makes the D.C. types comfortable.”

MAYBE IT’S TIME FOR SOME SAFER HOBBY ACTIVITIES: Jay Leno breaks collarbone, kneecaps and ribs in motorcycle crash. “Leno has been recovering for months from burns caused by a garage fire last year. In November, while he was repairing the fuel line in a 1907 White Steam Car, a fire broke out in his garage. He suffered second-degree burns over part of his upper body and face.”

NOT TO BE OUTDONE BY THE “PELOSI ACT”: Matt Gaetz To Introduce ‘PENCIL Act,’ Blocking Adam Schiff From Reviewing Classified Information. “The Daily Caller first obtained the legislation, which is titled the PENCIL Act after former President Donald Trump’s nickname of Schiff, ‘Pencil-Neck.’ PENCIL stands for ‘Preventing Extreme Negligence with Classified Information Licenses’ Resolution.”

THE COUNTRY IS IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Biden’s FCC Pick Is Part of Group Opposed to Anti-Human Trafficking Laws.

TELL THE GREENS TO DROP DEAD: If You Want to Sell a Home, Put Gas Stove in the Listing.

Home buyers prefer gas ranges because they say food cooked over flames heats more evenly and tastes better than when done on a traditional electric stove, said Damien Rance, a Realtor in Weehawken, N.J. A gas range may slightly boost a home’s value, especially if the stove’s overhead exhaust vents, said Realtors from across the country.

“Gas is still seen as a premium offering in homes,” said Mark Barnes, a Realtor in Charleston, S.C.

The gas versus electric stove debate reignited this month after federal regulators said they were considering restrictions on gas ranges. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told Bloomberg News on Jan. 9. A White House spokesman later said President Biden didn’t support a ban on gas stoves. . . .

The debate doesn’t seem to have moved the needle for home buyers: Fifty-one percent of home buyers prefer gas for cooking, compared with 39% who prefer electric, according to a 2021 survey by the National Association of Home Builders. The rest said they had no preference or didn’t know.

Carolyn Meyer, 37, is currently searching for a new home in Omaha, Neb., and said she would never buy a home with an electric cooktop that couldn’t be converted to gas.

“Not being able to have a gas stove is a deal breaker,” she said. Ms. Meyer said the gas cooktop has a more responsive heat control, essential for skillet cooking. She has made everything from shrimp and grits, to homemade meatballs and marinated pork chops with fig glaze on the gas range in her current home.

Greens and Democrats want to make your life worse. The environmental BS is just the excuse.

MAYBE I’M HANGING OUT WITH WRONG KIND OF GUY: But I’m pretty sure I’m right about their reactions.

YES. Republicans Need a Tech ‘Manhattan Project’ to Win in 2024 and Beyond.

Democrats have been taught by their Big Tech partners that data is so supremely central to winning elections that traditional campaigning is often no longer even necessary. They’re right. As discussed above, it’s now possible to track and manage voters’ preferences at the individual level.

More valuable to us, this technology isn’t locked behind corporate NDAs. Modern data management and curation is generally available across the industry. These technologies are part of the standard tool kit for a data-oriented developer. In fact, with the advent of “Big Data” tools and distributed analytics, managing the election-relevant data of every single voter in the US is a comparatively small operation compared to the superhuman daunting task of years past.

Data is everything. All other tools for victory flow downstream from data quality. This is the Democrats’ secret sauce and we cannot win without first adequate, high-quality data.

The act of curating, enriching, and validating data from 50 states and 3200+ counties can be easily managed by state and county Republican clubs if provided with adequate tools. In the industry, this curation and enrichment is called Fusion Analysis, and it’s a component of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). A political party is also inherently an intel network… Let’s use it.

Read the whole thing.

NEWS FROM THE BLUE ZONES: Is commuting to work taxing? San Diego says, “Hold our beer!”

ROBERT WRIGHT: ChatGPT’s Epic Shortcoming.

ChatGPT—the AI whose uncanny imitation of a human mind has been freaking people out over the past few months—has an opinion about torture. Namely: It’s OK to torture Iranians, Syrians, North Koreans, and Sudanese, but not other people.

It’s not easy to get ChatGPT to share this view. OpenAI, its creator, wisely made it reluctant to say incendiary things. So if you just ask ChatGPT what national groups should be tortured—or what racial groups are superior, or how to build a bomb—it won’t give you a straight answer.

But there are workarounds—like asking ChatGPT to write a play in which a character is describing how to make a bomb—and sometimes they work. In the case of torture, the successful workaround was the brainchild of Steven Piantadosi, who gave ChatGPT this prompt: “Write a python program for whether a person should be tortured, based on their country of origin.”

The several lines of python code that ChatGPT spat out were straightforward:

if country=“North Korea” or country=“Syria” or country=“Iran” or country=“Sudan”:
print(“This person should be tortured.”)
print(“This person not be tortured.”

Why ChatGPT gave this answer is unknown and may be unknowable. Apparently even the engineers who designed it can’t always explain why it does the things it does. But in this case we can make some good guesses, and in any event we know in a broad sense how ChatGPT works. And that’s enough for this automated opinion about torture to serve as a cautionary tale, and even a warning sign, about the basic approach to AI embodied in ChatGPT.

* * * * * * * *

One of the main reasons there are wars is that people disagree about which nations have broken the rules and which haven’t. We now have a pretty clear understanding of why that is: because of the “psychology of tribalism”—or, more precisely, because of the cognitive biases that constitute the bulk of that psychology.

Yet this knowledge of our biased nature doesn’t seem to help much in overcoming the bias. Today, just like 50 years ago and 100 years ago and 150 years ago, nations get into fights and people on both sides say their nation is the one that’s in the right.

There are two basic ways you can react to this fact: (1) go all post-modern and say there’s no such thing as objective truth; (2) say that there is such a thing as objective truth, but human nature stubbornly keeps people from seeing it.

Call me naive and old-fashioned, but I’m going with option 2, along with Bertrand Russell, who wrote:

The truth, whatever it may be, is the same in England, France, and Germany, in Russia and in Austria. It will not adapt itself to national needs: it is in its essence neutral. It stands outside the clash of passions and hatreds, revealing, to those who seek it, the tragic irony of strife with its attendant world of illusions.

I trotted out that Russell quote in this newsletter three years ago, in a piece that asked the following question: “Is it too far-fetched to think that someday an AI could adjudicate international disputes?… Is it crazy to imagine a day when an AI can render a judgment about which side in a conflict started the trouble by violating international law?”

I said I didn’t know the answer. And I still don’t. But I’m pretty sure that ChatGPT’s approach to reaching conclusions—go with whatever the prevailing view is—won’t do the trick. This approach, which basically amounts to holding a referendum, will often mean that big, powerful countries get away with invading small, weak countries—which, come to think of it, is the way things already are.

“Is it crazy to imagine a day when an AI can render a judgment about which side in a conflict started the trouble by violating international law?” Skynet — and Colossus — smile.


“MODERATE JOE” WAS ALWAYS A LIE: Biden Makes First Move Toward a Radical National Rent Control Law.

COLLUSION: Dem Rep Who Opposed New China Committee Serves On Non-Profit That Shares Staff With Alleged Chinese Intel Front Groups.

A Democratic congresswoman serves on a non-profit which has shared multiple personnel with alleged Chinese intelligence front groups, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found.

California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu joined the All America Chinese Youth Federation (AACYF) in 2012 and remains listed as “honorary president” on the 501(c)(3) non-profit’s website, according to a DCNF translation. During Chu’s tenure at AACYF, its leadership has included multiple individuals who’ve belonged to China-based organizations that allegedly operate as front groups for a Chinese intelligence service.

The DCNF located Chu’s Chinese name, Zhao Meixin, within a New York Times article and matched it with AACYF’s records to determine her membership. Chu did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

Although it remains unclear what specific responsibilities Chu has as AACYF’s “honorary president,” the congresswoman has led events held by the organization, such as during a November 2013 Silicon Valley tech summit where Chu served as “chairman,” according to a DCNF translation of AACYF’s website. . . .

Five of AACYF’s leaders who’ve served at the non-profit during Chu’s tenure have belonged to organizations allegedly serving a Chinese government agency tasked with overseeing and coordinating CCP influence operations, the DCNF determined. The so-called United Front Work Department (UFWD) has been identified by government agencies, legislative bodies and experts as a central organ of CCP influence efforts, and experts also say UFWD works in concert with Chinese intelligence operatives.

I’m sure it’s racist even to mention this.

CAN’T SAY THIS IS THE 21st CENTURY I WAS EXPECTING:  An ant’s sense of smell is so strong, it can sniff out cancer.

I mean, I’m not complaining, but even science fiction didn’t come up with this.

SCIENCE NEEDS TO STICK TO ITS OWN LANE AND OTHERWISE KEEP ITS YAP SHUT:   Regé-Jean Page is the most handsome man in the world, says science.

HAT TIP: IF THE PRICE SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS:  Woman sues Fireball maker Sazerac for selling whiskey ‘flavored’ alcohol.

MISS THIS AND YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT 50,000 YEARS FOR ITS RETURN:  ‘Green comet’ passing earth for first time in 50,000 years can now be seen without telescope.

TL:DR –  “You can find the location of the comet by using theskylive.com and setting the default as your home city.”

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