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Fish, by hook and crook

November 19, 2019

We had some redfish for dinner last night, a welcomed gift from one of our neighbors who fish the local waters. It went well with the first chard from our winter garden.

Five Mexican lanchas were seized two days back by the Coast Guard, illegally fishing in US waters here. I trust the contraband fish shown right made their way to someone’s pan. It would be a shame were it all wasted.

Glory Boats, in Little Rock, makes just the john boat for the outdoorsman’s final outing.

Points east

November 18, 2019

By democratic standards, the Hong Kong protesters are not demanding much, and are sacrificing without much hope. Universities are being turned into redoubts by the protesters and into targets by the government. As an American, I want the Senate to pass a strong version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Decency Act with a veto-proof majority, perhaps forcing Trump’s hand. The House passed the original bill last month.

There have been some leaks from the Chinese government on its use of internment camps to bring the Uighurs into line. Despite its capitalist companies competing abroad, no one should mistake the nature of the Chinese regime. Presumably, Saudi Arabia supports the Chinese government rather than the Uighurs because, for the House of Saud, authoritarianism is thicker than religion.

Standing up for human rights would be worth going to the economic mat. Of course, that presumes the US still works with European democracies on such matters. Trump’s goal, controlling the bilateral trade deficit, is one that Adam Smith first explained was wrongheaded.

Kung Fin Fan is painting the historic events in Hong Kong.

Politics of race

November 15, 2019

Stephen Miller is responsible for the policy of separating asylum seekers and their children as a form of retribution and deterrence. Earlier, during the 2016 presidential campaign, he worked with Breitbart editor Katie McHugh, to spotlight material stirring anger at immigrants, on the white replacement theory, and similar themes. Katie McHugh since has repented her work with the alt-right, and has made public those emails with Miller, through the SPLC. Whatever you think of SPLC’s work otherwise, those emails speak for themselves. They likely will reinforce the tension between Miller and some of his family. They should cause such embarrassment and scandal that Miller would be forced out of his position.

Gen. William T. Sherman, ca. 1864-65. Mathew Brady Collection.

A century and a half after the Civil War, white supremacists still threaten violence to black political candidates, now using the internet to amplify such threats while remaining hidden.

Most nations don’t have much ideology as a fundamental part of their foundation. One exception is the Confederacy, which was formed for the purpose of preserving black chattel slavery. Today, 155 years past, the American hero shown right burned Atlanta to the ground.

Strange genes

November 14, 2019

There are a surprising number of species of birds, and of song birds in particular. Recent evidence that all songbirds share a chromosome that is propagated only through germ cells, not present in somatic cells, might help explain that. (Cite.)

The biology taught when I was young focused on nuclear DNA as the mechanism of evolution. That was the modern synthesis, with Fisher and Haldane providing its mathematical basis. Mitochondrial DNA was just carried along. Well, the rule is that biology is always weirder than current theory teaches. Mitochondrial mutations may create conflicts with nuclear DNA that help drive speciation.

Scientists at Emory and Princeton have explored the space of other molecules that could act like nucleic acids, in forming sequences that encode proteins. They found millions. Biology is ridiculously path dependent, both at the level of individual development, and at the level of overall evolution. The reason all life shares one genetic code is because it all descended from the earliest progenitors that had that genetic code. How that came about is one of the great mysteries. (Cite.)

Gryphons are impossible, despite their popularity in art, for reasons every beginning biology student should be able to explain.

Around the world

November 13, 2019

The RCEP — a regional Pacific free trade agreement that covers a third of the world’s GDP — is proceeding. India backed out, foolishly, for protectionist reasons, and despite a worrying economic trend there. That Foreign Policy article compares the RCEP to the TPP:

RCEP is less ambitious than TPP, aiming mostly to lower tariffs between member nations and taking some steps to open up trade in services and updates to dispute settlements and the like. But it doesn’t include any of the stringent labor or environmental standards from the original TPP. The shallower nature of the trade agreement, even across such a huge swath of the globe, also means its expected benefits are smaller: about $286 billion, more than the watered-down TPP but less than the original.

Not long past, the US would use its economic clout to push for such standards. It participated in neither.

I suspect Macron is right that NATO has withered on the vine.

The state of American histories

November 11, 2019

Daniel Immerwahr tells the hope embedded in Lepore’s history of the US. I suspect the reality will more be shaped by the popular histories competing with it.

Bill Murray honors one of the Germany’s WW II soldiers still surviving.

Field biology

November 7, 2019

When Rodrigo Bernal was studying wax palms in the 1990s, he had to duck FARC guerillas. He still is studying the palms. Field biologists have a reputation for toughness. Charles Wright may have set the standard, when he walked from San Antonio to El Paso, collecting botanical specimens and documenting species along the way.