#5SmartReads - March 14, 2023
Hitha on the debt ceiling, floppy disks, and the continued fight for freedom in Iran
Debt Ceiling Debacle Could Double Unemployment (The Balance)
Silicon Valley Bank naturally took over the news over the weekend, and I think Treasury Department’s quick decision to protect depositors is the right one.
But there’s another looming financial crisis on the horizon with significant consequences - the debt ceiling. And unlike the SVB crisis, the debt ceiling requires an unlikely bipartisan agreement in Congress.
If an agreement isn’t met and we default on our debt, the consequences are significant. An estimated 6 million people may lose their jobs and the unemployment rate would double, government services could be threatened, and it would ripple into the global markets.
There’s one way this could end, and it’s to eliminate the debt ceiling completely (and legislation has been introduced to do just that, though it will never make it out of committee in the House).
Speaker McCarthy is in a precarious situation. Leading a compromise debt ceilling agreement could very well result in the end of his speakership (in this Congress’ rules package, a single member can file a motion to “vacate the chair”), and defaulting on our debt has catastrophic financial consequences that we’ll be dealing with for years to come.
How will it end? Five Thirty Eight has some predictions, if you’d like to read it.
How the Oscars Failed South Asian Artists with Its ‘Naatu Naatu’ Performance (IndieWire)
I’m thrilled that Naatu Naatu won the Oscar for Best Song. To see the language I grew up speaking and one of the dance forms I spent my childhood learning be recognized on the world’s biggest stage is MASSIVE and makes me so proud to be Telugu.
And while there are some rightful criticisms of the film, this song - and how instrumental it is to the plot - is one of its best parts. And I had hoped to see Jr. NTR and Ram Charan take the stage and perform the dance. If not them, I hoped to see Indian dancers who trained in both Indian classical and folk to have the opportunity to showcase our art and culture on said stage. It’s as if you cast ballet dancers in a contemporary piece - they may have the athleticism to perform the dance, but they lack the knowledge and training of these forms to dance them properly.
I’m both unsurprised and disappointed that there no South Asian dancers were cast to perform, despite many of them asking their agents and union reps to audition or be cast.
And given that Naatu Naatu is an anti-colonialist anthem, you’d think greater care would be taken to cast the dancers who perform it.
This article does a far better job of explaining the massive miss of this performance, as well as the ongoing failure to properly represent Indian entertainment and cinema (RRR is a Tollywood film, not Bollywood - there are many immensely successful film industries within India alone, let alone the entire subcontinent).
If our art is worthy of being recognized on the world’s biggest stage, it deserves the respect to be properly represented.
Women across Iran are refusing to wear headscarves, in open defiance of the regime (NPR)
The bravery and resilience of Iranian women will never fail to inspire me.
In the face of being poisoned, prisoned, and sentenced to death, they continue to fight for their freedom every day by living their lives in public - without a hijab.
"The only thing that I can actually do at this age is to not have a scarf," she said. "To have the scarf or to not have the scarf, for me, is not very important. I'm not young to show off my hair, but I'm not wearing it to show that my views are against the government's views."
The “morality police” has been the primary enforcer of hijab laws in Iran, though this enforcement has been paused since the nationwide protests.
Hijabs have been symbolically politicized throughout Iran’s history, from being banned in the 1930s to being embraced by Iranian women in the 1970s to protest the coup that sat Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi over an elected government, to then being mandated by the Islamic republic in 1983.
At the end of the day, wearing or not wearing a hijab should be a choice by the individual - not a tool of control by the government.
“"The government might try. But the society will not ever go back because we have suffered so much and we have become so brave. People went out into the streets asking about corruption, about inflation, why they can't pay for their rent anymore."
And the government, she said, can no longer hide behind the headscarf.”
Chuck E. Cheese Still Uses Floppy Disks To Make Its Rodent Mascot Dance — For Now (BuzzFeed News)
If you thought that floppy disks had disappeared from modern life, think again.
They apparently are still used to program the robotic animal band at a handful of Chuck E. Cheese locations, which is the most delightful double throwback I didn’t know I needed.
That floppy disks are still used and valued today makes me weirdly happy and nostalgic.
“The floppies work surprisingly well. The animatronic, lighting, and show sync data are all in the floppy disks,” the employee told BuzzFeed News. “I've seen a few of the newer Studio C Chuck E.'s run on flash drive/SD card combo. But usually newer setups cause issues with stuff, and it's easier to just keep the old stuff running.”
Even after Chuck E. Cheese phases out floppies, they’re likely to remain in use for some time in other domains — such as in medical devices. While the thought of this might make you nervous, Persky insisted it’s a good thing. “Why don't you use USB? Well, let's say your life depends on it,” he said. “If you have a choice between a USB drive or a floppy disk, pick the floppy disk every time.
“It’s one thing if your animatronic bear doesn’t smile on cue,” he continued. “It’s another if your medical device fails.”
Why the humble city bus is the key to improving US public transit (The Conversation)
Continuing the theme of throwbacks being future solutions, I give you the bus.
The future of transit may very well look to building on its past by scaling bus transit in American cities.
“The history of bus transit is littered with pilot programs that were abandoned on cost grounds just as they were gaining popularity. As I see it, buses don’t need to be faster or more convenient than cars to attract and retain riders – but they need to be, and can be, much better transit options than they are today.”
Bus-only lanes, contactless payment (as a convenience and not a complete switch, as cash is still vital for so many folks) can improve the transit experience in and out of and within cities without a massive overhaul. All we need is to stick with the pilot programs and give them a proper timeframe to succeed.
My children love the bus and almost always ask to take it over the subway or walking when we’re running around the city. The crosstown buses have been my personal favorite when I need to get to the east side with ease (and for whatever reason, I don’t get nauseated in the bus the way I do in the car).