Identify the intros

September 30, 2022 • 1:30 pm

Andrew Sullivan put this video on his column today as a “Mental Health Break,” and I got sucked into it. It consists of 80 famous song intros played back to back on the piano by David Bennett.  How many can you identify? I haven’t had time to go through them all yet, but I think I’m getting about 85%. The titles are in the upper left-hand corner, so either cover that or turn off the video and just listen if you want to guess.

If you have the patience to go through 16 minutes and make marks of the ones you don’t know, put it down below. I will do that later, so look for my comment below.

Enjoy, and have a good weekend!

Look to the evidence, but don’t gloss over it if you don’t like it

September 30, 2022 • 12:20 pm

I’m not going to dissect this entire article from Nature; I’m too dispirited about how it, its American equivalent Science, and, indeed, nearly all scientific journals I read, are acting, tinting their science for ideology. You can read the article by clicking on the screenshot below, but I want to highlight just one of its assertions.

The author identifies himself, and it’s clear that he’s somewhat of a trans activist:

I am founding co-editor of the journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and the author of a book on how sex classification is regulated. It’s naive to think that politics and social mores have no place in lawmaking, but seldom has policy been so disconnected from science and data. The rights of trans people, including myself, have been weaponized in a culture war.

There’s nothing wrong with being a “trans activist” if you’re fighting genuine wrongs inflicted on transgender or transsexual people. And to Currah’s credit, he does claim that one must use real data if you’re making assertions. If you claim that having transsexuals use the bathrooms of the sex they identify with” is a harmful act, then you have to show it, defining what “harm” really means.

Now that’s a tough call in many cases, as it involves people’s feelings, philosophy, “fairness”, and morality. But there’s one area where claims can be adjudicated with data, and that’s sports. The issue is, and has always been, whether transsexual females, born as biological males, should compete in athletics against biological women. My own feeling, which is based on data as well as on attendant feelings of fairness, is that such competitions are unfair to biological women who want to do sport. That’s because the data show that trans women, even after hormone treatment, retain athletic advantages that accrue during male puberty, making them more likely to defeat “cis” (non-transgender) women. And of course I reject entirely the view—promulgated by, among others, the Biden Administration, the state of Connecticut, and the ACLU—that men who simply identify as women, and have had no medical intervention, should be allowed to compete on women’s teams.

But here’s the bit of Currah’s article that seems to involve a bit of dissimulation (my emphasis)

The gap between research-informed, reasoned debate and gut-feeling absolutism is just as obvious in sport. In June, Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, declared that “biology trumps gender” when hinting at moves to exclude transgender women from track and field sports.

Invoking biology is a rhetorical move, not a data-driven conclusion. It’s also wrong. From a medical perspective, sex is not the uncomplicated either–or proposition that many laypeople imagine it to be.

Those arguing for total bans on trans girls and women competing as girls and women rely on studies comparing the athletic performance of cisgender men with that of cisgender women. But that’s not an apt comparison. A better one would be between transgender and cisgender women. Sports researcher Joanna Harper at Loughborough University, UK, is one of a number of scientists who have found that hormone therapy significantly reduces athletic advantages (J. Harper et alBr. J. Sports Med.55, 865–872; 2021). More research like this could clarify how hormones and other factors affect athletic performance. That understanding should guide policy.

And indeed, it’s true, as you might expect, that hormone treatment of biological men transitioning to women reduces measures of strength and muscle mass related to athletic performance. It would be surprising if it didn’t! But the question is not whether there’s a significant reduction, but whether hormone treatment roughly equalizes the athletic abilities of cisgender and transgender women?  (By the way, it is fair to compare the performance of cisgender men with that of cisgender women if you’re arguing that medically untreated men who identify as women should be allowed to compete in women’s sports.)

And no, hormone treatment never asymptotes at athletic equality.  For the article above, you can see this merely from its abstract (my emphasis)L

Twenty-four studies were identified and reviewed. Transwomen experienced significant decreases in all parameters measured, with different time courses noted. After 4 months of hormone therapy, transwomen have Hgb/HCT levels equivalent to those of cisgender women. After 12 months of hormone therapy, significant decreases in measures of strength, LBM [lean body mass] and muscle area are observed. The effects of longer duration therapy (36 months) in eliciting further decrements in these measures are unclear due to paucity of data. Notwithstanding, values for strength, LBM and muscle area in transwomen remain above those of cisgender women, even after 36 months of hormone therapy.

At the end of the paper one of Harper et al’s conclusion is this:

  • It is possible that transwomen competing in sports may retain strength advantages over cisgender women, even after 3 years of hormone therapy.

So yes, strength, muscle mass, and and muscle area are decreased by hormone therapy. But look at the last sentence in bold: equality is not achieved, even after 3 years of hormone treatment (far longer than the Olympics used to recommend). Why did Currah say that physiological and morphological traits related to athletic ability decline with hormone treatment, but leave out the critical result they never get to the levels seen in cisgender women?

In February I posted about twp related articles not cited by Currah (one study here and the other here), both reaching the same conclusion as the Harper et al. study: changes that occur during male puberty that give biological men athletic advantages over biological women can be reduced by hormone therapy in transitioning biological men, but never decrease (at least not over 2-3 years of observation) to levels seen in biological women.

Of course, more research needs to be done, for sample sizes are small. But the data so far show that changes in male puberty cannot be effaced with hormones, eliminating any athletic advantage of transgender women.

Now what to do about these data is something I won’t discuss at length; my view is that the data already show enough to bar hormonally treated transgender women (and untreated men who identify as women) from competing in women’s sports.  And you can’t gloss over that data by saying, “well, yes, hormone treatment does reduce the athletic ability of transgender women.” That, after all, is not the right question.

If you haven’t read my earlier post, I recommend doing so, as well as looking at the three papers linked above.

Crowdsourcing the best arguments for DEI initiatives

September 30, 2022 • 10:45 am

Reader Karl, who is investigating the relative benefits and harms of DEI initiatives in “scholarly life” (I presume he means “universities”), and like a good Mills-ian, he’s trying to find the best arguments on each side.  I gave him some possible resources, but he would like to crowdsource the answer to the question he poses below. I, too, would like to know the best arguments in favor of the side that I often criticize. So, if you don’t mind, try answering Karl’s question in the comments:

My question is: what are the strongest arguments for making DEI activities a required part of scholarly life? Who has articulated these arguments most clearly? I’m not asking for you to reply to me personally or do my homework for me. This might might be a fun/useful thing to poll the WEIT readership about.

Well, I’m not taking a poll, but you can suggest readings and arguments.

Thanks.

The University of Idaho tries to restrict faculty speech on abortion

September 30, 2022 • 9:30 am

Idaho is one of those states that enacted draconian abortion bans after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Here’s how the law in that state is described by the Center for Reproductive Rights:

On August 25, Idaho began enforcing its trigger ban, which prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with exceptions for the life of the pregnant person and for survivors of rape and incest who have reported the incident to law enforcement. following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  However, the state is prohibited from criminalizing medical providers who provide abortion care to pregnant people in emergency situations pending the outcome of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Idaho on the theory that the trigger ban violates the requirement of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). EMTALA requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds to provide stabilizing treatment to patients regardless of their ability to pay.

. . .Idaho retains targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws  related to facilities, which was held to be unconstitutional, and reporting. Idaho law continues to restrict the provision of abortion care to licensed physicians and still restricts the use of telemedicine for medication abortion. Providers who violate Idaho’s abortion restrictions may face civil and criminal penalties.

The criminalization of abortion in this way has caused a chilling of speech about abortion. A report from the Academic Freedom Alliance (click screenshot below), notes that the University of Idaho’s legal department tried to regulate faculty speech on the topic:

The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to the University of Idaho responding to a guidance memo from the university’s general counsel regarding faculty compliance with the state’s new abortion laws, particularly the memo’s guidance that faculty should “remain neutral on the topic” of abortion during classroom discussions. The general counsel’s memo warns that, due to new state laws against abortion, those found to be “promoting” abortion could face penalties including mandatory loss of state employment, bars on future state employment, prison time, and fines.

The University of Idaho is a state University, and thus academic speech falls under the aegis of the First Amendment.  Promoting choice (i.e., advocating breaking state law) is not a violation of the First Amendment, and, if there is a discussion of this in the classroom, there can be no Constitutional way to prevent a professor from expressing his or her opinion one way or the other.

The AFA’s letter to the University, from Keith Whittington, chair of the academic committee, lays out the reasons why this chilling of speech is unconstitutional:

It is well established that public universities like the University of Idaho are constrained by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The federal courts have specifically recognized that classroom speech by professors is constitutionally protected. Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 (1967); Demers v. Austin, 746 F.3d 402 (9th Cir. 2014). The Demers court specifically held that “teaching and academic writing that are performed ‘pursuant to the official duties’ of a teacher and professor” at the university level is protected under the First Amendment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit just months ago emphatically reaffirmed that the First Amendment does not tolerate state actions “that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom” or that “stifle[s] a professor’s viewpoint on a matter of public import.” Quite simply, “the First Amendment protects the free-speech rights of professors when they are teaching.” Meriwether v. Hartop, 992 F.3d 492, 505 (6th Cir. 2021).

As for the law’s prohibition of the use of public funds (i.e., professorial salaries) to “promote abortion,”) that too is unconstitutional.

It is true that the Idaho Code § 18-8705 prohibits the use of public funds to “promote abortion,” but construing that statutory language to require state university professors to “remain neutral on the topic” is a vast overreach and inconsistent with the requirements of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has emphasized that a law is constitutionally invalid “if it prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech.” United States v. Williams, 553 U.S.

. . . When Congress criminalized not only conduct involving criminal facilitation or solicitation but also pure speech involving abstract advocacy, the courts have concluded that the First Amendment requires that those statutes be applied narrowly so as to exclude pure speech such as the kind of promotion of abortion that might occur in a classroom discussion. “The statute’s plain language is ‘susceptible of regular application to protected expression,’ reaching vast amounts of protected speech uttered daily.” United States v. Hernandez-Calvillo, 39 F.4th 1297, 1313 (10th Cir. 2022). In such circumstances, the restriction of classroom teaching on topics relating to abortion through the criminal law is impermissible under the First Amendment.

Ergo, if a professor says, “I favor unlimited abortion,” she is not violating the law.  You might think it would be different if the professor tells students that if they are pregnant they should get abortions, but I suspect that, too, is legal speech, for the prof is merely expressing an opinion and not facilitating or soliciting abortion.

In the end, the AFA says it takes no position on the legal regulation of abortion, but asks that the University of Idaho rescind its “required neutrality” regulation in favor of telling faculty that they have the right of free expression, including with respect to this law. The AFA also “calls on state official to swiftly clarify that the state criminal law should not be interpreted to apply to classroom discussions that do not involve the facilitation or solicitation of unlawful acts”:

The general counsel’s guidance sends a chilling message to every member of the faculty who must discuss difficult and controversial material relating to abortion as part of their teaching duties. The statute itself might not recognize “academic freedom [as] a defense to violation of law,” but the First Amendment is an overriding limitation on the power of the state legislature to impose such a restriction on classroom teaching in state university classrooms.

DART impact as photographed by companion craft

September 30, 2022 • 8:00 am

Readers’ wildlife will be postponed until tomorrow so that we can see astronomical “wildlife.”

Once again our faithful space-exploration reporter, Jim “Bat” Batterson, found some new photos of the DART impact on the asteroid Dimorphos, an attempt to knock the small asteroid out of its normal orbit around its larger companion asteroid, Didymos. This was, of course, a practice to see if we could perturb the course of a future celestial body that actually might hit the Earth. The impact was on target, but we don’t yet know whether we perturbed its orbit in the expected way.

Here’s a photo from Wikipedia of Dimorphos taken from the DART spacecraft moments before impact. It’s a pile of rubble! The diameter is 170 meters, or 560 feet.

And Jim sent this:

The first NASA-released images from the small companion craft are at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/first-images-from-italian-space-agency-s-liciacube-satellite

The rubble really blasted out!  Because of small gravitational field of the impacted asteroid, I imagine that some of the debris may form a ring around the larger one, some might have escape velocity from the system itself and just continue in orbit around the sun, and of course some may slowly drift down back onto Dimorphos’ surface.  I hope that the engineers will hold a press conference about this and I hope that they got a picture of the impact point and crater.

But I’ll show you the NASA pictures below. They were taken by DART’s companion spacecraft, the LICIACube (from “Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids”), the first autonomous spacecraft developed by a wholly Italian team under the Italian space agency. It was a tiny minicraft affixed to DART with the express purpose of photographing the impact. As the Wikipedia note shows below, it separate from DART more than two weeks before impact:

After the launch, the Cubesat remained enclosed within a spring-loaded box and piggybacks with the DART spacecraft for almost the entire duration of DART’s mission. It separated on 11 September, 2022 from DART by being ejected at roughly 4 km/h (2.5 mph) relative to DART, 15 days before impact. After release, as part of the testing process to calibrate the miniature spacecraft and its cameras, LICIACube captured images of a crescent Earth and the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.

It conducted 3 orbital maneuvers for its final trajectory, which flew it past Dimorphos about 2 minutes 45 seconds after DART’s impact. That slight delay will allow LICIACube to confirm impact, observe the plume’s evolution, potentially capture images of the newly formed impact crater, and view the opposite hemisphere of Dimorphos that DART will never see, while drifting past the asteroid.

Here’s the LICIACube by itself and then affixed to the DART spacecraft (I’ve circled it in the second photo). Look how small they can make a satellite these days!

As Jim wrote:

The LICACub is about 4x8x12 inches.  The cube class of vehicle (cheaper) was initiated by NASA in the 90’s, if I recall correctly, to give access to a broader class of potential users who wanted to conduct Their own space experiment.
The full DART mission itself is one of another class of “cheaper” at $300M or so compared with the more than $1B major mission to Pluto and beyond.

And the pictures that the cube took from NASA, with their captions (click to enlarge). They all show the dust cloud around Dimorphos after the impact:

Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after the intentional collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on Sept. 26, 2022. Credits: ASI/NASA

 

Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after the intentional collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on Sept. 26, 2022. Credits: ASI/NASA

 

Image captured by the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube a few minutes after the intentional collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, captured on Sept. 26, 2022. Credits: ASI/NASA

 

Here, from Facebook, is a lovely video taken from a telescope on Earth showing the impact. The asteroid system, in the center of the screen is moving to the left relative to the stars in the background:

There are a few more videos and more information in this article from the NYT (click to read):

Friday: Hili dialogue

September 30, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s the last day of the month: September 30, 2022, and October will come again. In Virginia, the chinkapins are falling. It’s National Mulled Cider Day, which of course is a harbinger of Fall.

It’s also German Butterbrot Day, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day (get it at Costco, which has the pure stuff at a reasonable price), Chewing Gum Day, Hug a Vegetarian Day, National Bakery Day, International Blasphemy Rights Day, International Translation Day , National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, and Save the Koala Day.

Stuff that happened on September 30 include:

Suleiman is usually shown with a big white turban. Here is is as painted by Titian (attribution not certain) in 1530, when Suleiman was still alive:

  • 1791 – The first performance of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute takes place two months before his death.
  • 1888 – Jack the Ripper kills his third and fourth victims, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.

What a monster! Here’s what he did to Edowes’s body after he slashed her throat:

Eddowes’s body was found in a corner of Mitre Square in the City of London, three-quarters of an hour after the discovery of the body of Elizabeth Stride. Her throat was severed from ear to ear and her abdomen ripped open by a long, deep and jagged wound before her intestines had been placed over her right shoulder, with a section of intestine being completely detached and placed between her body and left arm.

The left kidney and the major part of Eddowes’s uterus had been removed, and her face had been disfigured, with her nose severed, her cheek slashed, and cuts measuring a quarter of an inch and a half an inch respectively vertically incised through each of her eyelids. A triangular incision—the apex of which pointed towards Eddowes’s eye—had also been carved upon each of her cheeks, and a section of the auricle and lobe of her right ear was later recovered from her clothing. The police surgeon who conducted the post mortem upon Eddowes’s body stated his opinion these mutilations would have taken “at least five minutes” to complete.

  • 1935 – The Hoover Dam, astride the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada, is dedicated.

Here is a short video of the highlights of Hoover Dam:

Nearly 34,000 Jews were shot over two days in a ravine (photo below). If done over 48 straight hours, that would be 708 people per hour or about 12 per minute.

  • 1962 – James Meredith enters the University of Mississippi, defying racial segregation rules.

Here’s a natty Meredith in 1962:

  • 1968 – The Boeing 747 is rolled out and shown to the public for the first time. It could hold 366 passengers.

Here’s the rollout.

Surprise! Wikipedia shows the drawings at the link, but I dare not reproduce them here or Pakistan will have the post taken down.

These aren’t particularly good van Goghs, but given his name they were worth a lot. Here they are:

Da Nooz:

*All Americans know the details of hurricane Ian, which has wreaked havoc across Florida, knocking out power throughout the state. Now,  out at sea, it’s predicted to turn landward again and inflict itself on South Carolina. The NBC Evening News devoted its entire program last night to the hurricane, but it’s a pretty bad one.

But here’s some good news from the bad: KITTEN RESCUE. Reader Darrell wrote this (names and words posted with permission):

Thought you might like this story, given the nature of most news these days. Last night as [Hurricane] Ian was brushing past us my daughter, Brianna, found a very young kitten huddled on the side of the road. He was in pretty bad shape. Cold, wet, emaciated and with wounds on his face and belly.
We’ve taken care of him and he has improved a good deal in the past 12 hours so I think he will make it. We will be taking him to our vet tomorrow morning to have him thoroughly checked out. Hoping for the best!

Meet the “storm kitten”. I think he should be named “Ian”:

Tomorrow’s Vet Day but he’s doing pretty well, all things considered:

*Man, Putin didn’t know what he was in for when he drafted a bunch of Russian reservists to fight in the Ukraine. As the Washington Post reports, not only are Russian men fleeing the country in droves, but protests are breaking out everywhere.

Through angry protests, acts of violence and an exodus of more than 200,000 citizens, Russians are rebelling against the prospect of further escalation of the war and the steep price they will probably pay.

Kremlin officials have downplayed the turmoil but the scenes coming out of Russia tell a different story, one of widespread opposition against a government known for quashing it. Dissent has been documented across the country even in areas that were previously quiet.

Here’s a map: yellow dots are protests, green ones are attacks against military recruiting centers. There are a lot of dots!

Rather than engaging in attacks or protests, many more young men seeking to avoid the war have opted to flee the country. Social media posts and satellite imagery showed miles of cars lined up at Russian border crossings as neighboring nations reported influxes of Russian migration.

Lines of cars stretched back at least nine miles from the Upper Lars checkpoint on the border with Georgia, far longer than the usual backup, according to Stephen Wood, senior director at Maxar Technologies. The traffic jams are visible both in satellite images and videos posted online.

You can leave, as these people did, so long as you haven’t gotten your summons to serve. Once that comes, you’re toast.

*Speaking of protests, nearly 80 people, nearly all of them civilians, have died in clashes with Iranian authorities as protests against the theorcratic regime and its headscarf mandate continue.  The situation has gotten so bad that the Iranian government was condemned even by the do-nothing United Nations:

The violence drew strong condemnation from the UN on Tuesday.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva that the office was “very concerned by the continued violent response by security forces”. She urged the authorities to restore internet access and release those who had been detained.

Iran is stepping up arrests of protesters and journalists in a clampdown on the unrest, activists have said. Iranian riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in dozens of cities on Tuesday, state media and social media reported.

Iranian authorities’ official death toll remained at 41, which included several members of the security forces.

Officials said on Monday they had arrested more than 1,200 people.

Ms Shamdasani said there was no reason for security forces to use live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Radio Free Europe reports that, along with the clashes, Iranian women are simply taking off their headscarves as a protest.

Such acts of civil disobedience have increased in Iran, where the country’s “hijab and chastity” law requires women and girls over the age of 9 to wear a headscarf in public, since the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police on September 16.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini has triggered over two weeks of angry protests in dozens of Iranian cities. During the ongoing rallies, some women protesters have removed and burned their headscarves, in a direct challenge to the clerical regime.

. . .A woman in Tehran who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution told RFE/RL that “things won’t go back to the way they were.”

“I used to remove my headscarf in some restaurants where I knew the owners,” she said. “I’m now determined to do it more often in public, it’s the least I can do after the death of Amini and the [state] violence,” she said.

Here’s a protestor, hair flying free. She knows she’s risking jail and even death doing this, but she does it anyway. My admiration for these women, who aren’t going to take it any more is unbounded:

*A radiation of jawed fish, the first vertebrates with jaws, appeared in the fossil record about 419 million years ago. The NYT reports on four new publications that push back the origin of jaws by about 14 million years, and suggest that they could have originated 485 million years ago. Where did they come from? We’ve long known that jaws evolved from the first pharyngeal arch, which in other species develops into a gill arch, a strut of bone supporting the gills. One pair moved forward and, voilà, jaws! (We don’t have the intermediate fossils, but we can see this happening during development.)

Jaws originated in “jawless fishes,” and the earliest ones are seen in the chondrichthyans, cartilaginous fish that include modern sharks and rays. But clearly jaws originated before that group split from the bony fish. Here’s one reconstruction of one of the earliest jawed fish:

(from the NYT) . . scientists found a collection of spines, scales and head-plates from an animal named Fanjingshania renovata. Credit: Heming Zhang

*We now know what killed Queen Elizabeth and when she died:

Queen Elizabeth II died of “old age,” according to her death certificate, which was released on Thursday by the registrar general of Scotland. The certificate, which lists her occupation as Her Majesty the Queen, also notes that the queen died at 3:10 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle.

The first fact is indisputable, given that the queen was 96. But the report offers no further details about the cause of her death, which came two days after she was photographed standing and smiling as she greeted Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss.

The time of death, just after 3 p.m., is more revealing, coming more than three hours before Buckingham Palace announced it at 6:30 p.m. That indicates none of her family saw the queen just before her death, aside from King Charles III and his sister, Princess Anne, who were both already in Scotland on official duties.

Her two other sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, and her grandson Prince William arrived at Balmoral, in the Scottish highlands, shortly after 5 p.m., while Prince Harry, who traveled separately, did not get there until just before 8 p.m.

I’m not a doctor (I just play one at college), but can you really die “of old age”? Isn’t there something that just shuts down and does you in, or, if that happens, is it undetectable. Physicians, help me out here!

* Sent in by a reader: the form required for a their kid to get a flu vaccine. Note that there are three sexes, “male,” “female,” and “nonbinary”. The last one is not a human sex. And how does giving your gender identity promote the quality of your vaccination experience?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is worried about the “value added tax” that applies to all EU countries:

Hili: Do we pay VAT tax on caught mice?
A: No if they are for private consumption.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy od złapanych myszy płaci się VAT?
Ja: Nie, jeśli są do własnej konsumpcji.

***************

Several readers sent me this SMBC cartoon by Zach Weinersmith. It’s very clever, for it uses memes to arrive at the concept of replicators in biology—the reverse of how Dawkins presented it.

Re the first panel: not all evolution occurs by natural selection, so evolution rather than “evolution by natural selection” is more “fundamental.”

From Paul:

From Divy:

A Tweet of God, making fun of an American politician (can’t remember who), was removed this morning, so I’m substituting these two, retweeted by God, as He is now supporting the women of Iran in a big way.

And since Joan Baez was shown in that tweet, I went to her site and found this:

From Simon.  What is that fish biting as bait???

More heartening scenes from Iran:

From Masih:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. I share his kvetching about the lack of book reviews, especially because I used to write them for both Science and Nature. Philip Ball is an editor of Nature and also writes for it.

It’s amazing how animals can live with injuries or deformities. Look at this fossil!

They don’t make cartoons like they used to. Be sure not to miss the duck instrument!

Nature flagellates itself for creating “harms” and being “damaging” in its past publications

September 29, 2022 • 12:00 pm

It seems that science journals are in a race to see which can be the most penitential for apologizing for past publications that don’t comport with modern morality.  To use my Cultural Revolution analogy, they are competing to see who can hang the biggest “I was a bad and hurtful journal” sign around their necks.  Nature just entered the competition with the article below, which you can read for free.

It seems that the journal’s biggest no-no, and cause for apology, was publishing the work of Francis Galton (1822-1911), a Victorian polymath who made big contributions in statistics, anthropology, forensics (he invented a way of classifying fingerprints), and other areas. But he was also an advocate of eugenics, and his name has been removed from buildings and other venues in the last couple of years.  Although Galton’s views are abhorrent to modern sensibility, none of them, so far as I know, actually led to any eugenic actions that wouldn’t have been carried out without his writings (Hitler didn’t need Galton, and eugenics wasn’t practiced in England).

Though the word “damaging”, referring to Nature’s publications, is used 9 times, and they evoke the “harm” of their journal 6 times, it all seems to me a bit hyperbolic. Of course Galton was a racist, but is this an accurate statement?:

Galton’s scientifically inaccurate ideas about eugenics had a huge, damaging influence that the world is still grappling with. The idea that some groups — people of colour or poor people, for example — were inferior has fuelled irreparable discrimination and racism. Nature published several papers by Galton and other eugenicists, thus giving a platform to these views.

Irreparable discrimination and racism? I hope not! But let’s accept that Galton was a eugenicist, which he was, and that his views may have influenced other eugenicists, and move on to other mea culpas:

This is not just a problem in Nature’s deeper history. In more recent years, we have also, to our shame, published some articles that were offensive or destructive, or attracted criticism for being overly elitist. “The scientific journal, back in the day, was the mouthpiece to a very privileged and highly exclusive sector of society, and it is actually continuing to do the same thing today,” says Subhadra Das, a science historian and writer in London who has researched scientific racism and eugenics.

Since they cite none of these articles (“elitism”, really?), I can’t judge this statement.  Yes, Nature is considered one of the two most prestigious scientific journals in the world (Science is the other), but is that the kind of “privilege” and “exclusivity” they’re talking about? I don’t know, because they give no examples. (Save for Galton’s papers, citations of transgressing articles are scant—a common problem with this form of apology.)

There will be some redacting of the past, too:

We know that Nature’s archives contain numerous items that are harmful and can be upsetting. But, like other scholarly publishers, we think it is important to keep all of our content accessible, because it is part of the scientific and historical record. It is important for researchers today and in the future to study and learn from what happened in the past. That said, we are developing a way to alert readers that our archive contains articles that do not represent our current values and would be unacceptable to publish today.

What are “our current values”, and what if they change? Can’t we count on the readers to know whether an article is acceptable or unacceptable to publish today? Does Nature really need a Pecksniff to trawl through its archives to single out offensive articles and highlight them? And who will be the Pecksniff, the person who enforces “our current values”?

They don’t neglect colonialism, either, though again no examples are given:

The journal matured as Britain became the biggest colonial power in history — by 1919, the British Empire spanned roughly one-quarter of the world’s land and population. In their contributions, many scientists editing and writing for Nature endorsed the views of white, European superiority that drove this empire building. An air of imperiousness, imperialism, sexism and racism permeates many articles in Nature’s historical archive.

As it does all of British literature from that era! Who will apologize for that? And is there a need to?

. . . Nature’s archives also include harmful contributions from the fields of ecology, evolution, anthropology and ethnography, which were inextricably linked with colonial expansion. Another 1921 editorial reflected imperialist and racist views, reporting on a session at a meeting of what was then the British Association for the Advancement of Science “devoted to the discussion of the ways and means by which the science of anthropology might be made of greater practical utility in the administration of the Empire, particularly in relation to the government of our subject and backward races”. There are numerous other examples in which Nature published offensive, injurious and destructive views, cloaked in the veil of science.

They do mention one book review that was pretty sexist, written by editor Richard Gregory (1919-1939), and two antisemitic articles by Johannes Stark, but eve back then Nature criticized the anti-Semitism:

In the 1930s, the journal printed two antisemitic articles by Johannes Stark, a physicist, who wrote of the “damaging influence of Jews in German science”. At the time, Nature had taken a strong position in opposition to the rise of Nazis in Germany, which eventually led to the journal being banned there. Nature implied in an accompanying article that it had invited one of Stark’s contributions to show readers how shocking his words were, but it nevertheless exposed a wider audience to antisemitic views.

So is that a net bad or a net good? Nature opposed the Nazis and highlighted one article that denigrated Jews, but only to show that it was “shocking”.  Is this something the journal needs to apologize for?

One more example, but the articles aren’t cited or linked, so we can’t judge for ourselves:

Nature has published hurtful articles even in the past few years. One was an inaccurate, naive editorial about memorials to historical figures who committed abhorrent acts in the name of science. The editorial was damaging to people of colour and minority groups, and the journal apologized for the article’s many faults. That experience exposed systemic problems at Nature that we are working to correct, including the lack of diversity among our editors and a failure to acknowledge the journal’s role in racism. The editorial you are reading is part of our attempt to acknowledge and learn from our troubled deep and recent past, understand the roots of injustice and work to address them as we aim to make the scientific enterprise open and welcoming to all.

So Nature has hung this big editorial sign around its neck, and promises to do better. But it’s already doing better, as are all science journals and science departments.  The question I am asking, I guess, is given that morality is improving over time, and has come a long way in the last hundred years, to what extent do we need to apologize for what was said by our predecessors? Yes, it’s fair to point out that bad things were done in the past, but how instructive is that since everyone now knows that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry are wrong? And if they don’t, Nature’s apology won’t fix them

In the end, I see the Nature piece not as wholly performative, but nearly performative, since they are already policing themselves.

Matthew has a different take, as given in these tweets. He’s concerned with the fact that Nature, in going to an open-access policy, is now charging authors huge amounts of money merely to publish their articles. In other words, the journal may not be sexist or racist, but they are still money-gouging capitalists who impoverish scientific investigators.

This is from Nature’s 2020 announcement that it was going “open access”:

Publisher Springer Nature has announced how scientists can make their papers in its most selective titles free to read as soon as they are published — part of a long-awaited move to offer open-access publishing in the Nature family of journals.

From 2021, the publisher will charge €9,500, US$11,390 or £8,290 to make a paper open access (OA) in Nature and 32 other journals that currently keep most of their articles behind paywalls and are financed by subscriptions. It is also trialling a scheme that would halve that price for some journals, under a common-review system that might guide papers to a number of titles.

Soon you won’t have the option of paying: you will have to pay to have your articles published. This money will soon be coming out of the pockets of investigators—either out of their grants (funded by taxpayers) or out of their own pockets. And, as Matthew said, this policy is against the policy of diversity and openness favored by the journal, as it penalizes scientists with the least funding, more likely to be people of color or peoople from lower socioeconomic classes that could use their grants to do research instead of pay a journal exorbitant fees to publish their work.

In comment #3 below, Lysander calls our attention to the financial results of open-access publishing, embodied in this video:

Quote of the week: “A university is not a kindergarten. . . “

September 29, 2022 • 9:00 am

Yesterday someone called this quote to my attention; it seems to have been made in 1961 by Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977), who became President of the University of Chicago at only 30 and served for 16 years, adding an additional six years as Chancellor. Here’s the Quote of the Week, though I’m not going to make this a regular feature. This statement, however, resonated with me:

“A university is a community of scholars. It is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda. A university is a community of scholars.”

Hutchins was a remarkable force who helped shape the University and its Foundational Principles of free expression.  He started the Great Books Program (with Mortimer Adler), got rid of varsity football (seeing an emphasis on big-time sports as inimical to our academic mission), and constantly emphasized academic freedom and free speech. The University page on Hutchins (now archived) says this:

Hutchins was a strong advocate of academic freedom, and as always refused to compromise his principles. Faced with charges in 1935 by drugstore magnate Charles Walgreen that his niece had been indoctrinated with communist ideas at the University, Hutchins stood behind his faculty and their right to teach and believe as they wished, insisting that communism could not withstand the scrutiny of public analysis and debate. He later became friends with Walgreen and convinced him to fund a series of lectures on democracy. When the University faced charges of aiding and abetting communism again in 1949, Hutchins steadfastly refused to capitulate to red-baiters who attacked faculty members.

When I read the quote in bold above, it reminded me of our own Kalven Report, which, aiming to avoid chilling or quashing the speech of university members, established the principle that, with rare exceptions, The University of Chicago and its units were forbidden from making political, ideological, or moral statements. This policy has sometimes put it at odds with activists. (There was, for example, pressure for the University to denounce the war in Vietnam and to disinvest in corporations that did business in Darfur. It remained silent on both issues.) Kalven emphasizes that political statements and their like are the purview of individuals, not the university.  As First Amendment scholar, law professor, and former Provost Geof Stone said (see previous link): “It is for the students, faculty, trustees, alumni, staff, and friends of the University to take their own positions. It is not for the University to do so for them.”

At any rate, the quote at the top jogged my memory. I reread the Kalven report, written in 1967, and in it found the statement below, surely written with Hutchins’s words in mind.

“A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.”
How many universities see themselves as lobbies, political parties, reform schools, and agencies of propaganda? I’d say a large fraction, for political statements and social-justice manifestos proliferate on college websites. And of course you know how universities behave as kindergartens: just look at the recent follies of The Evergreen State University, Yale University, or Oberlin College. Will we even recognize the university as a community of scholars in fifty years, or will it abjure its academic mission in favor of an ideological one?

*********

Here’s a photo of the remarkably young Hutchins in 1929, just after he picked up the reins as President. It accompanies his first Convocation Address, which is worth reading.

Photography by Angelica King, University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-05032, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 29, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos are from reader Kevin Elsken, who hails from Arkansas. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. (There’s a bit of politics, too.)

I would like to share some outdoor photos depicting some sights of interest in the part of the world where I grew up: Northwest Arkansas. It is truly beautiful here, not that I would compare it with the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, but the Ozark Mountains do have their charm.  The downside of living here is that it is Trump Country. There is a church on every corner, sometimes two or three. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the loathsome former press secretary for Trump and daughter of a former Arkansas governor (a person perhaps even more loathsome than Trump) has secured the Republican nomination for governor. Her opponent is a black man, the son of two preachers, who has a BS in math and physics, a Masters in nuclear engineering and a PhD in urban planning, the latter two from MIT. Unfortunately the vote will start at 60-40 in favor of Sanders. I think that the vote gap will close, but I cannot dare to hope he might win.

Enough of the whining and on with the photos. First, just a couple of fall panorama photos to give you a feel for the terrain. The first is a spot which is humbly called the ‘Grand Canyon of Arkansas’ near Jasper, Arkansas. I guess Arkansans like to think big. The second photo is a random panorama along one of the country roads my brother and I favor for our cycling trips.

The next photos are of Hawksbill Crag, sometimes called Whitaker Point, a popular hiking destination and often featured on any Arkansas tourism brochure. The first two photos are of the crag itself, one from a distance and a second (on a different day) featuring my brother and I for some perspective. The last photo is an interesting boulder perched on the edge of the cliff along the hiking trail to the crag. While it looks like it could fall with a light push, it is pretty firmly in place.

Devil’s Den State Park is a lovely spot, built in those halcyon socialistic days of the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park features a creek with a small dam forming a lake, along with numerous hiking trails. Lovely in the fall. Great place to get away from college on the weekend and spend the night on a bluff while enjoying the effects of a psychedelic, or so I’ve heard…

The Lost Valley trail is located near the Buffalo National River, the first to be declared a national river. The Buffalo River is great for canoeing, kayaking, and hiking, and the Lost Valley trail features some excellent scenery concluding with a small limestone cave and a waterfall. Unfortunately on the day we were there water was hard to come by.

And if you are in the Ozarks and feeling a bit hungry, visit the Oark General Store. It is another tourist brochure favorite, but it serves a mighty tasty burger.

Lastly, a couple of fun photos. The first is an old truck my wife and I ran across in the middle of the woods. No idea why it was there.

I mentioned cycling with my brother, and I took this photo of him tooling down a country dirt road in fall. It is kinda what life is all about.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 29, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s the penultimate day of September: Thursday, September 29, 2022, and National Coffee Day, though of course that’s every day caffeine junkies. One of my friends was just forbidden both caffeine and dairy products for two weeks during a course of antibiotics, and she’s quite desperate for a cup of Joe (she takes it with milk, of course).  And imagine a world without coffee!  Then think of all the drinks BETTER than coffee that don’t exist because the plants never evolved.

It’s also National Mocha Day, National Biscotti Day, Goose Day (the bird), Broadway Musicals Day, and World Heart Day.

In honor of Broadway Musicals Day, here’s a great song from the original cast album of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon, one of my favorite musicals (1947). I use to listen to my parents’ album for hours, and I still know all the words to the songs. This is one of the best. Do not accept any substitute for the original cast album!

Stuff that happened on September 29 is very thin, and includes:

The history of the region is so complicated that I won’t even begin to recount it, but here’s the declaration itself and “Mandatory Palestine” in 1946, before the division into Israel and the Palestinian territories. Back then the area did extend “from the [Jordan] river to the sea.”

  • 1954 – The convention establishing CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) is signed.

Here’s the complex dedicated to the study of particle physics. It’s hard to find out what country it’s in, as it sits very close to (or even on) the border between Switzerland and France.

It’s surrounded by the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is underground and traced by the yellow line below:

  • 1975 – WGPR becomes the first black-owned-and-operated television station in the US.

Here’s the studio, which was in Detroit. The station was eventually sold and now appears to be a broadcast museum:

  • 1990 – The YF-22, which would later become the F-22 Raptor, flies for the first time.

The YF-22 was a prototype of which two remain in museums. The F-22 Raptor, however, is a tactical fighter that’s still in service for the the U.S. Air Force. Here’s a video showing it in action:

 

Da Nooz:

*If you want to see how much of a failure the Russian Army has been in Ukraine, the NYT has a story featuring  “‘Putin is a fool’: Intercepted calls reveal Russian Army in disarray.” Here’s the backstory:

From trenches, dugouts and in occupied homes in the area around Bucha, a western suburb of Kyiv, Russian soldiers disobeyed orders by making unauthorized calls from their cellphones to their wives, girlfriends, friends and parents hundreds of miles from the front line.

The New York Times has exclusively obtained recordings of thousands of calls that were made throughout March and intercepted by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies from this pivotal location.

Reporters verified the authenticity of these calls by cross-referencing the Russian phone numbers with messaging apps and social media profiles to identify soldiers and family members. The Times spent almost two months translating the recordings, which have been edited for clarity and length.

It’s amazing that there’s an ability to intercept these calls, but of course we know that’s possible. As you scroll down the page, you’ll hear call after call in Russian, translated into English, and also read commentary from the NYT.

A few examples. First, war crimes, and they may be able to use the names of the callers to find war criminals:

We were given an order to kill everyone we see.

. . . . Fuck.There are corpses lying around on the road. Civilians are just lying around. It’sf ucked up.

Right on the road?

Yes.

. . . In what may amount to evidence of war crimes, a soldier named Sergey confesses to his girlfriend that his captain ordered the execution of three men who were “walking past our storehouse,” and that he has become “a killer.”

And there are the revelations about abysmal military failure, coupled with criticisms of Putin.

Our offense has stalled.  We’re losing this war.

Putin is a fool. He wants to take Kyiv. But there’s no way we can do it.

Mom, this war is the stupidest decision our government ever made, I think.

There were 400 paratroopers.  And only 38 of them survived.Because our commanders sent soldiers to the slaughter.

The parade of killings, military foulups, execution of civilians goes on and, in the end, it leads to this:

Back home in Russia, the phone calls reveal that the mounting deaths are beginning to reverberate in military towns, where tight-knit communities and families exchange news of casualties. Relatives describe rows of corpses and coffins arriving in their cities, as soldiers warn that even more bodies will soon return. One woman tells her husband that a military funeral was held every day that week. In shock, some families say they have begun to see psychologists.

Let’s talk about Iran. It took the death of one woman, Mahsa Amini, to mobilize Iranian women, and now it appears to be mobilizing Western opinion. Do people not realize what’s been going on in Iran for decades. I hope they will now. Several articles have just appeared from Iranian women. (I reproduce some tweets at the bottom.)

*Masih Alinejad, someone whose words I often post here, has an op-ed in the Washington Post, “Women are leading a revolution in Iran. When will Western feminists help?

The news of [Mahsa’s] death has triggered outrage throughout Iran. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are defying security forces to ask why an innocent young woman lost her life to religious radicals who merely wanted to show off their militant male power. The compulsory hijab is not just a small piece of cloth for Iranian women; it is the most visible symbol of how we are oppressed by a tyrannical theocracy. Now, by drawing attention to that injustice, Mahsa’s death has the potential to serve as a new turning point for Iranian women.

They deserve the support of their Western counterparts. Yet so far we see little evidence that women in Europe or North America are willing to take to the streets to show their solidarity for a women’s revolution in Iran.

The true feminists and women’s rights activists are those in Afghanistan and Iran who are stepping forward, at great cost, to resist the Taliban and Islamic republic. They are the true feminist leaders of the 21st century, risking their lives by facing guns and bullets. They will go on fighting against the regimes, and we who have the privilege to live in free countries should actively amplify their voices. This is the moment for women in the West to stand with Iran’s mothers, daughters and sisters.

Don’t forget, too, that the U.S. is coddling Iran, dangling carrots to secure a false promise that the country won’t build nuclear weapons. Of course it will. We should not be acting as we have towards a country that violates human rights: not just against women, but against gays, non-Muslims, and atheists.

*There’s a parallel editorial in the NYT, which heartens me that the MSM really are cottoning on to the oppression in Iran: “Iran has lost sight of its greatest asset: women.” by Iranian-American Firoozeh Dumas.

The hijab has not always been a part of Iranian culture. Pictures of Tehran in the 1960s and ’70s show women wearing Jackie Kennedy-inspired dresses, short sleeves and miniskirts. But more important than their freedom to dress as they wished, Sedigeh’s generation witnessed the rise of women throughout Iranian society, in law, education and medicine, to name a few fields.

I have two posts on the change in dress since the Revolution, inspired simply by looking up Google images: see here and here. The NYT op-ed continues:

. . .When women are oppressed, no one wins. Iran today is full of educated, capable women who have risen to the top of their fields and whose bodies, paradoxically, are regulated by the government. Regardless of their education or contributions to society, outside their homes, every woman in Iran is at the mercy of the morality police. This is insulting, soul-crushing and not sustainable.

These brave, determined women marching in the streets want the chance to live unencumbered and to regain rights taken by a government that treats them as second-class citizens. Their level of determination, their hunger, can lead to great things. I have no doubt that Iranian women, if given the opportunity to fully become who they are meant to be, could be making even greater contributions to society that would benefit all Iranians. Instead, they are asking not to be killed for showing their hair.

That last sentence is so sad, and so true.

*What heartens me nearly as much is that many Iranian men are starting to show solidarity with the women. The fact is that most people in the country are fed up with the theocracy, forcing a vibrant country back to the middle ages. But here’s an example of the solidarity.  According to the Guardian, Iranian male soccer players are covering up their country’s emblems when playing matches overseas, expressing solidarity with the women protesting the murder of Mahsa Amini. (h/t Jez)

Iran’s players covered up their national symbols by wearing jackets before the friendly with Senegal on Tuesday evening, showing solidarity with protests against the repression of women in their home country.

The past 11 days have seen significant unrest in Iran after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested on 13 September for refusing to wear a hijab. There have been widespread protests and before their match in Maria Enzersdorf, a town just outside Vienna, the national team made their anger visible.

Carlos Queiroz’s team wore black jackets while the national anthems were played, concealing their country’s colours and badge. The match was played behind closed doors by edict of Iran’s football association, which held the rights to the fixture, but a sizeable number of demonstrators gathered outside in an effort to make their voices heard on television feeds.

On Sunday the influential Iran forward Sardar Azmoun had spoken out in support of the protests via his Instagram account. “At worst I’ll be dismissed from the national team,” wrote the Bayern Leverkusen player. “No problem. I’d sacrifice that for one hair on the heads of Iranian women. This story will not be deleted. They can do whatever they want. Shame on you for killing so easily; long live Iranian women.”

.Azmoun is a brave man, for he could face far more than just dismissal from the team. Here’s another player:

(From the Guardian): Iran’s forward Mehdi Taremi listens to the national anthem – all the Iran players wore black jackets which covered up the national team badge. Photograph: Jakub Sukup/AFP/Getty Images

*Remember that old fraud and spoon bender, Uri Geller? Well the WSJ reports that in 2009 he bought an island (a rock, really) off Scotland, created his own country (and selling citizenship for $1), and wants, most of all, the soccer team he’s creating.

Here’s his island

Several years ago, he bought a small rocky island lying off the town’s coast called the Lamb. The place is uninhabited, a wildlife reserve no larger than a soccer field and home to colonies of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds. Mr. Geller says he was drawn to it partly for his belief it might hold relics buried by a pharaoh’s daughter 3,500 years ago. He paid £30,000 for it when it came up for sale, though excavations are prohibited.

Now Mr. Geller is turning the Lamb into his own micronation, adding to a galaxy of imaginary countries, from old oil rigs to assorted backyards or bedrooms, jousting for international recognition.

He designed a flag, based on a design he thought up with Salvador Dali in the 1970s. He adopted an anthem and has drawn up a constitution professing peace and love for all mankind and extraterrestrials, too. Several celebrities have signed up, including singer Peter Andre and writer and TV personality Stephen Fry.

But what Mr. Geller really wants is a soccer team—and he will use his powers if it will help rack up a few wins.

North Berwick Amateurs captain Jack Fish looked up Mr. Geller’s email after the mother of a couple of the players read about his plans in the local paper, the East Lothian Courier. Mr. Fish fired off a proposal, thinking it could bring the team some publicity, like when the actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the Welsh team Wrexham AFC two years ago.

. . . But in Scotland, Mr. Geller, now 75, is best known for a stunt in which he claims to have used his telekinetic powers to nudge the ball just as Scottish player Gary McAllister was taking a penalty kick against England in the 1996 European Championships. The ball went rocketing over the crossbar and England won the game. Mr. Geller was deluged with hate mail from north of the border.

In the future, he hopes the team will play against those of other micronations or in the Island Games, an annual tournament involving teams from places such as Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Gotland, in Sweden. Perhaps it could play in the World Cup one day, he muses.

Fat chance. But I like the title of the article, “Bend it like Geller: famous psychic turns his powers to a football team.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is in a mental recursion:

Hili: I’m contemplating.
A: Contemplating what?
Hili: Contemplating the mystery of contemplation.
In Polish:
Hili: Kontempluję.
Ja: Nad czym?
Hili: Nad misterium kontemplacji.

********************

From Divy: Hurricat classification:

From Malcolm: a sugar glider on Facebook:

Another church sign from David:

God retweets part of the notorious Stephen Fry interview:

Masih wants us to listen, so listen:

From Barry: A Republican Jesus:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: it’s the day of the Babi Yar massacre. There were 29 survivors.

Tweets from Matthew. First, one of his showing a beaver in VIENNA!

. . . and look at this foraging platypus!

Have you ever seen prettier clouds?:

Can you spot the dog? Yes, there is one here. I’ll put the answer below the fold:

Click “read more” to see the dog.

Continue reading “Thursday: Hili dialogue”