Don’t Bang on My Teakettle

There’s a Yiddish expression -- Hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik! It means “don’t bang on my teakettle.” Apparently when you went to see someone and they were in the field, workshop or barn, you banged on their teakettle to summon them. So the expression means, don’t bother me.

Each day when I check my emails, there are at least 20 messages with the header “disturbing” or some like word designed to get me agitated enough to contribute something to the sender.

Honestly, I’m disturbed enough about the state of the world that I don’t need more things to get disturbed about. For starters, there’s rising inflation with no discernible end in sight.  There’s a horrible war in Ukraine with enormous destruction and loss of life. People are starving in Sri Lanka as a result of idiotic “green” agriculture mandates which are undoing there and soon elsewhere the marvels of Borlaug’s Green Revolution where the use of manufactured fertilizers and crops bred to be disease-resistant were making national famines a thing of the past.

Perhaps because of the seven years he spent living in America during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mr. Rajapaksa was in thrall to green nostrums. He campaigned for president in 2019 on a platform that promised a form of technocratic utopia, including the commitment to turn Sri Lankan agriculture completely organic in a decade. He was particularly attentive to Vandana Shiva, a rabid Indian opponent of modern scientific agriculture. She considers Borlaug the enemy.

Covid hit Sri Lanka particularly hard, wiping out tourism, its economic mainstay. Heedless of this calamity, and of the wider impoverishment caused by lockdowns, Mr. Rajapaksa took a step that poleaxed Sri Lanka. On April 27, 2021 -- with no warning, and with no attempt to teach farmers how to cope with the change -- he announced a ban on all synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Henceforth, he decreed, Sri Lankan agriculture would be 100% organic. Agronomists and other scientists warned loudly of the catastrophe that would ensue, but they were ignored. This Sri Lankan Nero listened to no one. [snip]

 Lost in all the ideological ululation was another likely explanation for Mr. Rajapaksa’s action: So debt-ridden was Sri Lanka -- to China, in particular -- that he may have decided to forgo imported fertilizer and pesticide as a money-saving measure.

What happened next? Rice production fell by 20% in the first 180 days of the ban on synthetic fertilizer. Tea, Sri Lanka’s main cash crop, has been hit hard, with exports at their lowest level in nearly a quarter-century. Whether from indignation over the new laws or an inability to go organic, farmers left a third of all farmland fallow. Food prices soared as a result of scarcity and Sri Lanka’s people, their pockets already hit by the pandemic, began to go hungry. To add to the stench of failure, a shipload of manure from China had to be turned back after samples revealed dangerous levels of bacteria. The farmers had no synthetic fertilizer, and hardly any of the organic kind.

The people of Sri Lanka learned a sad lesson -- mandated “organic farming” proved a horrible disaster. The people of Ghana also face starvation and national collapse as a result of green policies (and government corruption). Farmers in the Netherlands are striking in protest of equally unworkable green mandates on agriculture.

Just as absurd is the notion of zero carbon emissions. Germany is rationing conventional fuels and distributing wood and urging householders to burn it. I anticipate that will be insufficient to keep Germans warm this winter. I suppose the nitwits who shut down the country’s nuclear and coal plants will blame climate change for the deaths and misery, but I bet that won’t long work for them.

To prove the stupidity of this blinkered objective, China is fast constructing more coal plants, plants likely (given Communist countries’ penchant for production over environmental concerns) to be emitting not just carbon but the unhealthy emissions which had already been scrubbed from U.S. and western European coal plants.

Not disturbing enough for you? There’s a doddering head of state here and removing him would leave an equally feckless vice president in charge. A man who armed the Taliban in an ill-planned pullout of our troops in Afghanistan. A man who has ignored U.S. immigration law and common sense to leave our Southern border wide open, a man who opened the floodgates on our diminished treasury which only fired up inflation. A man who selected as his Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, a dimwit who promises to spend our money fighting “racist” highways while doing nothing to ease the supply chain shortages. The President leaves in place the head of the FDA who with one stroke could lift the restrictions on baby formula from Canada and Europe to ease the shortage the agency itself foolishly caused by shutting down our major production facility for no good reason.

Crime in our major cities is out of control in large part due to the irrational response to the death of George Floyd and the bowing to the grifting BLM. Major corporations are heading out of those cities and states as are many thousands of the former residents. 

I’m old fashioned, I suppose.  I think the most important jobs of the federal part of our federal republic are to protect the borders (and our sovereignty), defend the country from attack, keep the food supply secure, and maintain adequate energy for decent lives and production. Instead, we have one concerned about pronouns, abortions, transgender operations for children, and diversity, the latter of which, speaking honestly, is but a cloak over a war on merit, effort, and accomplishment in my opinion.

I haven’t listed all the “disturbing” things already on my plate, but I’d be negligent if I ignored my concern about the state of U.S. academia. What was once a world beacon of research, places with a mission to teach critical thinking, is now in the hands of the most ridiculous, tyrannical people in the country. The drive is to propagandize their students and terrorize any professors who dissent from their orthodoxy.

Just a few examples from this week: Academic fraud and Harassment at Princeton. With but a few dissenters, colleges are all aboard the Lysenkoistic  anthropogenic “climate change” nonsense. Most universities (62%) issued statements opposing the Dobbs decision. The ones I read missed the point, suggesting the Supreme Court made abortion illegal, instead of acknowledging the Court’s view that this was a state issue. In the process, to my way of thinking, they proved they lack capacity for objective critical analysis. Law schools have nothing to brag about either, One Georgetown Law professor (thankfully no relation) called the Supreme Court “actively rogue.”

Professor Ilya Shapiro, protesting cancel culture at the same school, dubbed it a “den of vipers.” A UCLA anthropology professor, Joseph H. Manson, resigned because of the tormenting of a colleague who had developed a predictive model for crime. He details other examples of the Red Guard atmosphere at UCLA:

Outside the anthropology department, UCLA as a whole is showing all the signs of Woke capture that typify the contemporary U.S. university. Emeritus Professor Val Rust (Graduate School of Education) was banned from campus, and researcher James Enstrom (Environmental Health Sciences) and lecturer Keith Fink (Communication Studies) were fired, all for dissenting (in different ways) from Woke orthodoxy. Gordon Klein, after being fired by UCLA’s business school in Spring 2020 for refusing to use race-based grading criteria, mobilized mass support and legal assistance, was reinstated, and is now suing the university. Statements recounting one’s activities on behalf of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are mandatory in faculty job applications and in promotion dossiers. Among its “Gender Recognition” policy recommendations, a university task force is calling for “curricular updates.… For example: inclusion of non-binary and intersex identities in biology courses for health care practitioners.” Is this a threat to pressure course instructors in the life sciences and social sciences to deny the human sex binary? The experience of former Penn State evolutionary biology postdoc, now Substack writer, Colin Wright (although unconnected with UCLA), suggests that it might be. For arguing against assertions that “biological sex is a continuous spectrum [and] that notions of male and female may be mere social constructs,” Wright’s academic career was derailed by an online mob.

Also typical of elite U.S. universities, UCLA is awash in anti-Zionism, a.k.a. thinly disguised Jew-hatred. In May 2019, one of my colleagues, Kyeyoung Park, invited a guest lecturer, San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi, to her class to proclaim that Zionism is a form of white supremacism. A considerable brouhaha ensued. Unlike Rust, Enstrom, Fink, Klein, or Brantingham, Park was celebrated by the faculty and administration as a courageous, embattled exponent of academic freedom. The Anthropology Graduate Students Association chimed in with a resolution agreeing with Abdulhadi. More recently, the Asian-American Studies Department posted to its website a statement accusing Israel of settler colonialism, racial apartheid, etc. Irrespective of the content, doesn’t it infringe on the academic freedom of individual professors (and postdocs and graduate students, whose careers are dependent on faculty recommendations) for an academic department to take a political stand on behalf of all its members? Several other Jewish faculty and I have made that case to the UCLA and overall University of California leadership, to no avail.

With this and more on my plate, please forget about sending me emails about “disturbing developments.” I’m waiting for more comforting good news.

If you experience technical problems, please write to