Democrats on the Debt Ceiling: Your Problem, GOP

Three weeks ago, I wrote this:

This will not go well for anyone. The GOP will not fund the government or raise the debt-ceiling without concessions from Biden and the Democrats. The Republicans can’t seem to make policy when they are in charge, instead they wait until they are in the minority then put a gun to the head of the Democrats. The problem for them is, they lose every time. The country saw enough of this under Clinton and Obama. The Democrats will not give an inch, they will offer zero concessions, and dare the GOP to shut the country down. Which the GOP will, then they will eventually fold, and we will back where we started, but with yet more damage done.

It was an easy prediction to make, and it has come true. The White House and the Democratic Party has been explicit. They aren’t offering any concessions, they aren’t just holding to a hard position. They are refusing to even negotiate entirely.

And indeed, the GOP will fold. Their position is obviously wrong on the merits, hypocritical, nonsensical, and unconstitutional. But given that none of those things matter much to the crazy wing of the GOP pushing this, it is more important that it is a political loser. The consequences of shutting down the government will be large, they will get bigger, and they will be visible to ordinary citizens. Struggle as they will, the GOP will be unable to pin any blame for the consequences on the Democrats.

The questions remaining are:

  • How much pain and damage will be caused before the GOP folds?
  • Will the White House even try particularly hard to mitigate the pain and damage, or will they simply let the consequences unfold.
  • How will the GOP spin the narrative when they lose? What ridiculously untrue story will they tell?
  • Will this humiliating loss finally teach the GOP their lesson, and stop them from doing it again?

Muttrox Goes to England: Travel and Leftovers

I love double decker buses. I love the subways, trains, and buses are well integrated and they all run very frequently. Public transport is easy and quickly fades to the background.

The subway (tube) has frequent exhortations to “Please mind the gap!” What a wonderfully polite way to remind people not to fall in between the tracks and train. That is the t-shirt I never got around to buying. Please mind the gap. Delightfully English.

At last we saw the true source of the wealth of the House of Tyrrell. (The reference is out of date, but you can’t pass up a chance to post a picture of Margaery Tyrell.

Bourtons town sign: Wonderful engraving. From my angle, I first thought it was a coincidental color match.

We stayed in the Shepards Bush area. I was excited. This is where The Who grew up and started out. Our first taxi driver shared stories of seeing them in the old days with his father. Shepards Bush was the starting point for The Who, The Clash, Bush, The Sex Pistols. Does it have the highest rock and roll per capita of any area? (I guess not. Coventry, Newcastle, and Cardiff all have it beat.)

We were traveling with two young boys, one of whom is incredibly active and needs constant activity. After ten hours on a plane we needed to burn calories, and hiked fifteen minutes through the airport to find the play area. We couldn’t find it. We walked past it twice. I’ve helpfully circled the play area in the picture below. That’s the play area — just pathetic.

We had a fantastic time in England. So let’s end on a good note. The reason we were in England in the first place? Our oldest boy was in a boys choir and they were the choir-in-residence at St. Pauls for a week. They performed every day for the evening prayers. They were incredible, and our boy and his solo brought water to the eye most nights. They also toured the country, sight seeing and signing. After one show an old woman hobbled up to my boy. She suffered from severe arthritis. The music was so wonderful that she was pain free for the first time in years and walking without help. Top that, my boy heals the sick!

Bad Calorie Math at the Costco

What’s wrong with this sign?

There are two mysteries about the numbers on this sign. It’s very odd that the cheese pizza has more calories than the pepperoni. Do pepperoni slices have negative calories? Could those numbers reflect reality? Well, yes, they could. The pepperoni pizza could have less cheese in it. It’s not a topping on a cheese pizza, it’s a replacement for cheese in the cheese pizza. (Darn it, I’m not the first to notice this! Reddit was all over it.)

The bigger mystery is the ratios. The calories in a cheese pizza are are exactly six time the calories in a cheese slice. Presumably the pizza is cut into sixths to make individual slices. That matches common sense, so far so good. But the calories for pepperoni pizza are not in that ratio, the pizza is only 5.969 as caloric as an individual slice. The pizza is being cut into 5.969 slices? That doesn’t make sense, the ratio should be a nice whole number (and divisible by two). And the ratio should be the same for both options, they wouldn’t cut cheese pizzas differently than pepperoni.

Could this be a rounding error? 650 calories for one slice times six slices would equal 3,900 calories for the whole pizza. That would be an even easier number to display and understand. But if you go the other way, the likely story reveals itself. 3,880 calories (as displayed) divided by six slices is 646.66 calories. If you round that the nearest ten-calories, you get the 650 that is displayed on the sign.

It still doesn’t seem correct though. Under the rounding hypothesis, they measured the entire pie, wrote that down, and the divided it by six to get the individual slice number. If this is true though, then we need to accept that the cheese pizza just happened to be a perfect multiple of six, while also being a nice round number. That is possible, but. We conclude it is unlikely that the same calculation method was done for both the cheese and pepperoni. The numbers reveal a likely inconsistency in methodology.

You may be wondering how precise these numbers need to be? (You are more likely wondering what the hell is wrong with my brain that I’ve spent this much effort noticing and thinking through the inconsistencies. I can’t help it. Yes, I noticed the math discrepancies while waiting in line. Just wired that way.) It turns out the FDA accepts a 20% margin of error in calorie counting. Twenty percent! That’s a lot! It’s probably safe to say that almost every displayed calorie count you have ever seen has been understated by close to 20%, as close as the manufacturer can make it. That margin of error seems crazy high to me, particularly for mass produced foods that are made and packaged through a consistent manufacturing process.

As applied here, twenty percent means that Costco could have very easily kept all these ratios consistent. The simplest approach would have been to display the pepperoni pizza at 3,900 calories and each slice at 650. The numbers are nice and round and the ratios stay consistent. They did not. Why not? Because someone over there doesn’t understand math and how to use numbers to convey information.

My Latest Favorite Song #30: Johnny Cash- When the Man Comes Around

The Man in Black, underrepresented on Muttroxia!

This track is not a typical song from his career. This is a remake from late in his life, the title track of American IV. I’m not sure it’s his best. But it’s a good one, I like it enough, and that’s good enough.

For all you beginning guitarists out there, this is an easy one to learn. All beginner chords.

Muttrox Goes to England: Trash

This trash can has a specially built area to dispose of cigarettes. While leaning on it and yakking on her cel phone, a young banker actually threw her lit cigarette on the ground next to it. Wow. That may be the worst person in the world.

True grit.

Why would I post a picture of a condom vending machine from the loo? Because the red caution circle says, “CAUTION: May enliven sexual vigour”. That’s the whole point! Aspirin warning: May cure headaches. Cars warning: May transport you safely to a distant location at great speed in comfort.

Muttrox Goes to England: Tourist Stuff

Speakers Corner is a wonderful idea. On a corner of Hyde Park, anyone can set up and begin talking to anyone who wants to listen. It has been going for two hundred years or so. It is free speech at it’s best. I was looking forward to hearing the English citizen intellectual tradition continued. Only — it is terrible. Just like the nutjobs who infest every college campus, it’s just where the crazies happen to end up. There was none of the hoped-for wit or debating. Our day was dominated by a truly crazy Korean religious nut there. She had a bull horn. Why, why… that’s cheating! We walked away quickly. Then the boys accidentally broke a big limb off a tree in the park — we ran like hell. Americans, right?

Hampton Palace boasts the oldest existing hedge maze. The boys solved it in under two minutes. We should have gone to a big one like the Longleat Hedge Maze.

This incredible sweet shop:

Keep Calm and Carry On: This slogan is everywhere. Everywhere. Just about variant you can think of was used. Keep this and do that. On posters, shirts, buildings, buses, it is non-stop. We would wage 20 pence bets on whether a particular instance was in production (“OK. Keep calm and call Batman?”). Almost all were. Interestingly, the slogan was never used during the war. Posters were developed and printed but never used.

My father remembers seeing wartime propaganda in Boston. Citizens were urged to reduce their usage of everything so the war machine could use those resources. This wartime poster is also good dietary advice. Michael Pollen would approve.

Fascinating fact we learned at the Churchill War Rooms: Carrots are not good for your eyes. This comes from a World War II disinformation campaign. British radar was able to spot German planes, and they needed a cover story to explain how their defenses had improved so dramatically. Cool!

Muttrox Goes to England: The Money

(This post may be out of date since Brexit.)

It was fun figuring out the English money system. It’s very straightforward. They appear to have got rid of shillings and quids. That makes it a lot less romantic, but easy to understand.

And the actual coins are great. Just the right heft to them. They have coins for one and two pounds. This is very handy. America keeps trying to use a one dollar coin but can’t get it to stick. Too bad. But just like American money, the coin sizes don’t make sense. 1, 2, and 10 pence coins are all fairly large. Why can’t any country do the obvious thing? Large coins should mean more money. Duh. It’s not hard to understand.

I wonder if English rappers say it’s all about the Elizabeths.

Notice than when the coins are assembled correctly, they make the Royal Shield of Arms. Cool!

Muttrox Goes to England: Drink up, Mate

Obviously, the English have a different attitude about alcohol consumption than Americans. They drink so much more and it very open, but there is not as much over the top behavior. A much more civilized approach.

Civilized open drinking. The Blackfriars Pub was “only” a couple hundred years old.

Why do they drink so much beer? Because the tap water is so awful. Good lord, the stuff is rank! It tastes like it’s been filtered through someone’s old shirt.

Our first meal of the trip was at Chequers, deep in an alley in Oxford. This pub was eight hundred years old. Eight hundred years! (You don’t get used to the age of things. I’m from some of the oldest places in America, and those are only a few hundred years old, and none are still used. Borough Market was celebrating it’s 1,000th year.) Myth has it that Henry VIII’s soldiers chased a group of monks to the tunnels beneath the pub and sealed the tunnel. “On quiet nights, you can still hear them scream…” The boy was mesmerized.

I had the best beer of my life- Nicholson’s Pale Ale. It tasted great and went down so easily. I am not a hard drinker by any stretch, but I inhaled two glasses in two minutes, easily a personal record. I had Nicholson’s everywhere I could find it. Get it to America already!

English pubs use a mechanical tap system that involves frequent pumping of the tap as the beer is poured. I’m convinced that has something to do with the superior taste throughotu.

We also went to Dicken’s pub, founded by Charles Dickens. Many pubs are named after very famous people and often have a direct connection. America doesn’t have anything to rival kings, Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, etc. We get Kenny Rogers Roasters instead. Barbarians, the lot of us.

My Latest Favorite Song #29: Isolation (Jeff Beck with Johnny Depp)

As you might imagine, the last week has led to more Jeff Beck. The genres he had mastered, the incredible tones he created, his amazing control of pitch, it’s incredible how deep down the rabbit hole you can get. Did he ever play a song the same way twice? Go listen to multiple live versions of any of his songs, the phrases are unique each time.

And he was so collaborative. He worked with all kinds of musicians. Who else worked with Stanley Clarke, Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin, ZZ Top, Joss Stone, but also helped out Jon Bon Jovi on Blaze of Glory? Lately, he had been working with Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp!? I figured it wasn’t worth listening to whatever crap they had churned out. I was wrong.

I stumbled on their live version of John Lennon’s Isolation. This thing rocks.

Proposed Changes to the American Democratic System: Leftovers

I posted four proposals over the last few weeks:

  1. The Hastert Rule
  2. The National Popular Vote
  3. Approval Voting
  4. Supreme Court term limits

To conclude the series, here are others that don’t get their own post.

  • Reducing Incumbency: Remember the exciting 2022 midterm election we just had? Incumbents won 94.5% of the races. That’s absurd. In the Senate, the re-election rate was 100%. Not a single sitting Senator lost a campaign to stay in office. That’s just absurd! But… I don’t have any particular ideas how to mitigate this specifically, although the below ones would help enormously.
  • Eliminating the Filibuster: So many others have written about this, it has all the visibility it needs. I am in favor of this. Ezra Klein convinced me that it is worth having some bad things by a slim majority, pass to get a system back to accountability – candidates win, become elected, pass policy, and that policy is judged by the voters next cycle. This goes with reducing the incumbency advantage, part of the key is that officials are held accountable.
  • Gerrymandering: This is maybe the most important of everything listed. Voters should choose candidates, not the other way around. This is a big problem, well publicized. My opinion is obvious. Note that the National Popular Vote essentially eliminates gerrymandering at the Presidential level.

What else did I miss?