San Francisco’s best public high school reinstates merit-based admissions after a lottery system produced miserable failure

June 24, 2022 • 1:00 pm

In May of last year I described the situation at Lowell High School in San Francisco, which had decided, for reasons we all know, to drop the merit-based admission system adopted in favor of a lottery system. Previously, Lowell was San Francisco’s best high school, the sixth best in California, and #82 in the national rankings.

You already know what happens when a school like Lowell prioritizes equity above merit in admissions. I quoted a yahoo! article at the time:

San Francisco’s Lowell High School, regarded as one of the best in the nation, is seeing a record spike in Ds and Fs among its first batch of students admitted in fall 2021 through a new lottery system instead of its decades-long merit-based admissions.

Of the 620 first-year students admitted through the lottery, nearly one in four (24.4%) received at least one letter grade of D or F in the said semester, according to internal records obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. This marks a triple increase from 7.9% in fall 2020 and 7.7% in fall 2019.

Principal Joe Ryan Dominguez attributed the rise in failing grades to “too many variables.” Last month, Dominguez announced his resignation from the school district, citing a lack of “well organized systems, fiscal responsibility and sound instructional practices as the path towards equity.” [JAC: Donguez took over only last fall!]

The lottery system was born out of a long, contentious battle that began in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Proponents of the new system argue that the merit-based system was racist as it resulted in an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students, while opponents say it would harm Asian students – who make up the majority of Lowell’s population – and undermine the benefits of a competitive academic environment.

Discussions regarding a long-term policy are still being held. Outgoing District Superintendent Vincent Matthews has proposed an extension of the lottery system, while critics such as Members of the Friends of Lowell group and Lowell’s own Chinese Parent Advisory Council continue to lobby for the return of the old system.

The San Francisco School Board, which introduced the lottery system at Lowell, saw three of its members removed in February after a recall election initiated over misplaced priorities, including what many felt were “anti-Asian” policies.

The school’s principal resigned after only one year on the job.

Now sf.gate reports that the year of trial has resulted in a return to the system of merit-based admissions (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

Lowell High School will return to academic-based admissions, the San Francisco Board of Education decided Wednesday evening in a 4-3 vote.

The board’s decision restores merit-based admissions for the 2023-24 school year at Lowell, which had been suspended during the pandemic in favor of lottery-based admissions.

The board had decided in early 2021 to make the lottery-based admissions permanent, but a Superior Court judge ruled late last year that the board had violated California’s open meeting law. The judge’s ruling came too late for the 2022 academic year.

The board’s vote on Wednesday turned down a recommendation from Superintendent Vince Matthews to keep the lottery system in place for another year.

The vote was pretty close, but still. . . .  What with the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chelsea Boudin, maybe we have a glimmer of sanity peeking through the darkness.

What this vote and policy change means is what we all know: pure equity is incompatible with a merit-based system, simply because minorities don’t perform as well in schools, and thus don’t have credentials good enough for admission. As someone who favors some forms of affirmative action, I suggested some ways in my earlier post to make the system a bit more equitable, but I’m not fully happy with any of them. What will solve this problem is only one thing: setting in place equal opportunity for all at birth. And we’re decades away from that.

h/t: cesar

Roe v. Wade is history

June 24, 2022 • 11:09 am

Here’s the headline that we were fearing but expecting, especially given the earlier leak, but I suspect most of us are still depressed by it.

You can find the Court’s decision in Dobbs et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization et al. here (Alito wrote the majority opinion).

And click below to read the NYT article:

The vote was, as we knew it would be, 6-3, and you can find the decision here. What will happen now is that each state will make its own ruling, and states may even take steps to prevent its residents from going out of state to get an abortion.

A quote from the NYT:

The decision, which echoed a leaked draft opinion published by Politico in early May, will result in a starkly divided country in which abortion is severely restricted or forbidden in many red states but remains freely available in most blue ones.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. voted with the majority but said he would have taken “a more measured course,” stopping short of overruling Roe outright. The court’s three liberal members dissented.

It’s a horrible day for America and especially for American women.  I will make just three points and let the readers discuss this.

1.)  Most Americans agree with Roe v. Wade. Of course, that doesn’t bear on its constitutionality, but you can make an argument that the right to privacy allows the government to legalize abortion. Here’s what CNN said an hour ago:

In a May CNN poll conducted immediately after the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion, Americans said, 66% to 34%, that they did not want the Supreme Court to completely overturn its decision. In CNN’s polling dating back to 1989, the share of the public in favor of completely overturning Roe has never risen above 36%.

Just 17% of Americans in the CNN poll said they’d be happy to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, with 12% saying they’d be satisfied, 21% that they’d be dissatisfied, 36% that they’d be angry, and 14% that they wouldn’t care. Most Democrats (59%) and nearly half of adults younger than 35 (48%) said they’d be angry. And a 59% majority of Americans said they’d support Congress passing a law to establish a nationwide right to abortion, with just 41% opposed.

2.) For a laugh, read what the 6 conservative justices who killed this precedent said during their hearings when asked about it. To a man and woman, they either equivocated or invoked stare decisis, i.e., respect precedent. They were lying; they knew how they would one day vote to overturn it. But of course you are expected to lie if you want that black robe.

3.) Some of the laws made by the red states, like the one already in force in Louisiana, will not allow abortions even in cases of incest or rape: a palpably immoral decision. Only Ceiling Cat knows the various restrictions that the Republicans have in store for controlling women’s reproduction.

We’ll all have more to say about this in the coming days, usually involving cursing Roberts et al. but now just react, vent your spleen, or whatever. It’s 6-3 against real progress from now on.

Oh, and then there’s this for “originalist” Thomas:

Yet another word for “women”

June 24, 2022 • 10:30 am

As you know, we have a spate of new words for “woman” or “women”, all devised to either efface the distinction between biological women and transwomen, or to include transmen (many of whom still have male genitals, have periods and can bear children) together in a group with biological women.

If you say, “trans women are women”, then you are forced to make up new words to refer to biological women who are physiologically and reproductively different from tranwomen. So far these words have included “people who menstruate”, “chestfeeder”, “womxn” and others I can’t recall.  Yet the activists haven’t seemed to settle on one word that fits all.

Lately they’ve added a new one as a euphemism for “biological women + transmen who can have children”. This was brought to my attention by Nellie Bowles, whose Friday weekly summaries on Bari Weiss’s Substack site are both informative and snarky.

Here’s from her latest summary (her emphasis):

New slur for women arrives: “Womb carriers.” You have to hate women a lot to refer to Native American women who suffered horrific abuse as “womb carriers.” Verso Books, the ultra-trendy Brooklyn publisher and cultural hub, brings us the latest slur for females.

Because nothing really disappears on the Internet, I found the Verso tweet, which they’ve apparently removed because so many people mocked or criticized the usage. Yes, the sterilization and forced adoption (as well as forced away-from-home schooling) of Native Americans in Canada and America are well known, and are reprehensible and immoral. The problem is with how “women” are semantically described. I’m wondering what J. K. Rowling will have to say about this. What you can’t deny is that “womb carriers” is simply a synonym for “biological women”.

Speaking of “womxn“, Bowles also reports there’s a controversy about how to pronounce it (I had the same issue with “Latinx”.) The word was, I believe, introduced by feminists to take the word “men” out of “women” or “man” out of “woman”, but now is also being used to include transwomen.


For some dark humor, take a look at University of California, Irvine’s Womxn’s Center, a publicly funded institution now debating how to pronounce womxn. So as not to leave out the blind community who can’t see the X, the new thinking is: “say it as wom-inx or woma/en-x, or wom-ux.” Wominx. Womux. (h/t Aaron Sibarium)

I never say either word, preferring “Hispanic” to “Latinx”, and I don’t think it’s in me to say “womb-carriers.”

Some humor brought to our attention by reader Jez:

Indigenous science center set up at Otago University before they could decide what “indigenous science” consists of

June 24, 2022 • 9:15 am

This short article from Stuff bears on the controversy about whether indigenous Māori “ways of knowing”, or Mātauranga Māori (“MM”)should be taught as science in New Zealand science classes. This is the Ardern government’s plan, and is supported by many Kiwi educators and educational administrators (see my many posts here). I oppose the teaching of MM in general in science classes, as most of it isn’t science.

Like all sensible people, I think that MM is an important part of the history, anthropology, and sociology of New Zealand, and should definitely be taught in classes within those areas. But only a small part of MM can be construed as science: its”practical science”, like how to grow crops or catch eels. The rest of MM is a gemisch of straight-out superstition, theology, legend, morality, and other non-science topic, yet those are to be seen as science as well. And MM is explicitly creationist. Do we want that taught in biology classes.

If you try to learn about MM, as I have, you’ll find it confusing, as different writers, including Māori writers, differ about exactly what MM is—and how much of it is “science”. Some say it’s all science and should be taught as such, others say that it’s completely different from modern science, and should not be equated with it.

This confusion is reflected in this short new article from the mainstream publication Stuff in NZ. Click to read for free:

The report is that Otago University (actually “The University of Otago” in Dunedin on NZ’s South Island) is starting a Centre for Indigenous Studies, which will either include or constitute (it’s not clear from the article) a “Centre for Indigenous Science”, which itself will be within the Division of Sciences.

The first bit of the report (not the liberal use of Māori words, most of which are unintelligible to non-Māori speakers in the country; it is a way of flaunting one’s virtue in respecting indigenous culture—at the expense of clarity.

It’s about being aspirational, inspirational and authentic – from next year, the University of Otago will offer students a different way of learning.

The Centre of Indigenous Studies – a first of its kind – will support and develop scholarship based on ngā kaupapa Māori, Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa, Ngāti Wai) says.

. . . At a minimum, it would be a nurturing environment for students, or tauira, who would be encouraged to contribute to their communities and the world as well as Māori research, she said.

. . .It would also normalise excellence.

“There might be a student, kid, or whānau member who sees us, and they can see themselves standing right where we are.

“We can teach anyone the academic skills… our graduates achieve highly in their work, but also come out the end of the process as a whole person with their mana intact.”

Indeed! Who would want their mana to be eroded?

But who could object to such a Centre, so long as it doesn’t confuse people about how much of MM is “modern science” and how much falls under anthropology, history or sociology? The problem is that the Centre’s founders don’t seem to have decided what indigenous science in New Zealand really is (my emphasis):

In a statement to media, Jackson said for the rest of the year, she and colleagues would speak with iwi and wider networks to settle on a shared understanding of what indigenous science looked like.

[JAC: “iwi” are large groupings of Maori into what is roughly equivalent to what used to be called “tribes” in the U.S.]

. . . What exactly will be offered is yet to be determined. Like Otago’s other centres, such as the Centre for Sustainability and Centre for Science Communication, it could offer postgraduate or specialist programmes.

The Centre of Indigenous Science would be based within the Division of Sciences. Division pro-vice-chancellor Professor Richard Barkersaid the centre’s time had come.

I think Professor Jackson and her colleagues have things backwards here. How can you set up a center for teaching Māori science when they haven’t settled what “indigenous science looks like”? What courses will they have?

This is of course a reflection of the confusion about the nature of “science” embedded in MM, but the fact that the Centres are done deals shows more than anything that their creation comes from ideology and not academic need or, indeed, scientific reality.  First get your ideology and definitions in place, and then shape the science curriculum to fit it.

There’s a bit more:

“As a country we need to value and apply more mātauranga to help address the biodiversity and climate crises. This is a huge moment for Otago and tertiary education worldwide.”

Maybe when they decide exactly what MM is, and how its rules and methods differ from that of “regular” modern science, they’ll figure out how it can give new insights into the climate and biodiversity crisis beyond that we have already.

One thing we know already: when Māori had sole control of the land, they weren’t any better stewards of the environment than were the “colonials”. the passage below is from the “effectiveness of environmental stewardship” part of the Wikipedia article on MM which, believe me, has been scrutinized anything that could be construed as anti-Māori:

Archeology and quaternary geology show that New Zealand’s natural environment changed significantly during the period of precolonial Māori occupation. This has led some academics to question the effectiveness of Māori traditional knowledge in managing the environment. The environmental changes are similar to those following human occupation in other parts of the world, including deforestation (approximately 50%), the loss of the megafauna, more general species extinctions and soil degradation due to agriculture. The models favoured by academics today describe precolonial Māori as accessing resources based on ease of access and energy return. This would have involved moving from one location or food source to another when the original one had become less rewarding. Historically academic models on precolonial environmental stewardship have been closely tied to the idea of the ‘Noble Savage’. and the now debunked hypothesis of multiple ethnicities being responsible for different aspects of New Zealand’s archeological record.

And of course they weren’t very good stewards of the flightless moas, driving all nine species of these magnificent flightless birds to extinction by clubbing them to death for food. I’m not denigrating this environmental degradation, for it was what was expedient at the time, and there was no study of conservation of extinction then.  But since an important part of MM is to pass on Māori tradition, we’ll need to know what unique insights MM now offers into biodiversity loss and global warming. Science has already given us a good idea of what causes these problems—anthropogenic greenhouse gases and habitat loss—and we need to know what new things Mãori science has to offer us.

In the meantime, Otago University had better get its curriculum and construal of MM into place—quickly!



Readers’ wildlife photos

June 24, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from UC Davis ecologist Susan Harrison. They’re birds, with one mammal thrown in for fun. Click the pictures to enlarge them.

BTW, I have enough photos for less than a week, so once again this feature is circling the drain.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, May 6-11, 2022

Malheur NWR, in the high sagebrush desert of southeastern Oregon, is, alas, recently best known for having its headquarters taken over in 2016 by anti-government extremists.  Much more significantly, it’s a migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway and a rich breeding ground for resident wildlife.  Even in the current severe drought, snowmelt from 9,700-foot Steens Mountain provides water to the Donner und Blitzen River at the head of the refuge.  During our May visit, an unseasonable storm was the biggest challenge for the birds (and the birdwatchers).

Steens Mountain:

Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) in the snow:

Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) female in the snow:

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea), several hundred miles north of the species’ normal breeding range in the California Central Valley.  Maybe it got confused in the storm.

Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) singing on a rainy and snowy morning:

American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) huddling together for warmth… or is it love??

Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) nesting in a cave.  Look closely to see mom, dad, and a fluffy youngster:

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) on her nest:

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla):

MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei):

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger):

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus):

Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis):

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia):

American Badger (Taxidea taxus):

Friday: Hili dialogue

June 24, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the TCCIF Day: Friday, June 24, 2022. It’s National Praline Day, celebrating the Southern confection that is the sweetest and most cloying of all candies (I love ’em!).

Source and recipe

It’s also St John’s Day and the second day of the Midsummer celebrations (although this is not the astronomical summer solstice, see June 20).  Here are the related holidays:

Stuff that happened on June 24 include:

  • 1314 – First War of Scottish Independence: The Battle of Bannockburn concludes with a decisive victory by Scottish forces led by Robert the Bruce.
  • 1497 – John Cabot lands in North America at Newfoundland leading the first European exploration of the region since the Vikings.

We’re not sure where he landed, but Canada has designated this spot in Bonavista Bay as the Official Landing Site (see caption). It’s marked with a statue of Cabot:

(From Wikipedia): A statue of John Cabot gazing across Bonavista Bay in eastern Newfoundland

She was queen for 24 years; here’s a painting from 1580:

  • 1880 – First performance of O Canada at the Congrès national des Canadiens-Français. The song would later become the national anthem of Canada.
  • 1916 – Mary Pickford becomes the first female film star to sign a million-dollar contract.

Here’s Pickford in the year she signed that contract, and she has a cat!

The details: “On June 24, 1947 Kenneth Arnold claimed that he saw a string of nine, shiny unidentified flying objects flying past Mount Rainier at speeds that Arnold estimated at a minimum of 1,200 miles an hour (1,932 km/hr).”  The story gets quite complicated, but seems likely it was either a fraud or a mistake.

  • 1950 – Apartheid: In South Africa, the Group Areas Act is passed, formally segregating races.

Ironically, exactly 45 years later there was a moment of reconciliation, involving (of course) the great Nelson Mandela.

And here’s a video of the moment of victory and the presentation of the trophy. As Wikipedia says, “During the remarkable post-match presentation ceremony Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey bearing Pienaar’s number, presented him with the Webb Ellis Cup. During his acceptance speech, Pienaar made it clear that the team had won the trophy not just for the 60,000 fans at Ellis Park, but also for all 43,000,000 South Africans.”

How long was it? Over 11 hours! From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

The match began at 6:13 pm (British Summer Time, or 17:13 UTC) on Tuesday, 22 June 2010, on Court 18 at Wimbledon. At 9:07 pm, due to the fading daylight, play was suspended before the start of the fifth set. After resuming on Wednesday, 23 June, at 2:05 pm, the record for longest match was broken at 5:45 pm. Play continued until the final set was tied at 59 games all, at which point the daylight faded again, and so play was suspended once more at 9:09 pm. Play resumed again at 3:40 pm on Thursday, 24 June, and eventually Isner won the match at 4:47 pm, the final set having lasted for 8 hours, 11 minutes.

In total, the match took 11 hours, 5 minutes of play over three days, with a final score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68 for a total of 183 games. It remains, by far, the longest match in tennis history, measured both by time duration and also by number of games. The final set alone was longer than the previous record for longest match.

Here’s a 9-minute summary of the match (the end is at 2:55):

Because this is a subspecies (all Galápagos tortoises are considered members of the same species, C. nigra), it may be possible to resurrect this genetically differentiated population because individuals highly related to George’s population (perhaps discards from sailors over a century ago) have been found on Wolf Island.

Here’s a photo of Lonesome George at Galápagos National Park headquarters in 2006. He was probably 101 or 102 years old.

Here’s a photo clearly showing the partial collapse. It doesn’t seem like this happened a year ago, does it?

Da Nooz:

*The Senate passed the bipartisan gun bill, assuring it will become law. The vote was 65-33, and even Mitch “666” McConnell voted with the Dems. The stipulations:

It would enhance background checks for prospective gun buyers ages 18 to 21, requiring for the first time that juvenile records, including mental health records beginning at age 16, be vetted for potentially disqualifying material. The bill would provide incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws that allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed by a judge to be too dangerous to possess them. And it would tighten a federal ban on domestic abusers buying firearms, and strengthen laws against straw purchasing and trafficking of guns.

It also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for mental health programs and to beef up security in schools.

Don’t expect the Republicans to allow tighter regulations to be passed in the future.

*I haven’t seen the January 6 hearings in Congress today, but I’ve been reading about them. And the noose is tightening around Trump’s neck. Today’s hearing apparently centered on the way Trump tried to manipulate the Department of Justice into overturning the election. This may be the straw that brings the indictment, as he apparently pressured several officials. Here’s a bad one:

Shortly before the attack on Congress, senior Justice Department officials resisted Trump’s attempt to oust the acting head of the department, Jeffrey Rosen, if Rosen didn’t agree to have the agency publicly suggest that the election results were invalid.

“The president didn’t care about actually investigating the facts,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who helped lead the hearing, said Thursday. “He just wanted the Department of Justice to put its stamp of approval on the lies.”

Rosen testified Thursday that the Justice Department “held firm” against political pressure to take sides over the 2020 election results. Rosen said he told Trump that the department could not seize voting machines from the states because there was nothing wrong with the machines; Trump grew agitated.

Rosen wasn’t the only DoJ official pressured by Trump.

The GOP was dead wrong that nobody would pay attention to the hearings. It’s revelations like this one that are turning the public against Trump.

*But wait! It gets worse! The feds searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, a DoJ official whom Trump decided to designate as “acting Attorney General” in hopes that Clark would help overturn Biden’s election. Searches imply warrants and warrants could lead to charges.

Federal investigators searched the home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark this week, according to a person familiar with the matter, in an escalation of an inquiry into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Investigators searched Mr. Clark’s suburban Virginia home on Wednesday, said the person, who declined to say what specific items investigators were trying to obtain. The search came in advance of Thursday’s hearing by the House Jan. 6 select committee focusing on Mr. Trump’s efforts to enlist senior Justice Department officials, including the acting attorney general, into a wide-ranging effort to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

The Justice Department is conducting its own parallel investigation of Jan. 6 separate from the House committee. The raid of Mr. Clark’s house is the clearest indication yet that prosecutors have moved beyond the violence at the Capitol itself and are examining the actions of senior officials involved in Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in office.

I swear: Merrick Garland is going to hand down some indictments.

*In another 6-3 ruling (get used to that vote), the Supreme Court has struck down New York State’s law that a citizen who wishes to carry a concealed handgun in public must show a special need to do so. (The opinion, written by Clarence Thomas, is here. Guess who dissented!)

The 6-3 ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, is the court’s first significant decision on gun rights in over a decade. In a far-reaching ruling, the court made clear that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right “to keep and bear arms” protects a broad right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense. Going forward, Thomas explained, courts should uphold gun restrictions only if there is a tradition of such regulation in U.S. history.

The state law at the heart of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen required anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” for the license. New York courts interpreted that phrase to require applicants to show more than a general desire to protect themselves or their property. Instead, applicants must demonstrate a special need for self-defense – for example, a pattern of physical threats. Several other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, impose similar restrictions, as do many cities.

The lower courts upheld the New York law against a challenge from two men whose applications for concealed-carry licenses were denied. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court tossed out the law in an ideologically divided 63-page opinion.

*The NYT reports an explanation by Thomas that appears buy the widest possible interpretation of the Second Amendment:

Justice Thomas wrote that citizens may not be required to explain to the government why they sought to exercise a constitutional right.

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” he wrote.

*From Ken:

The federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals sitting en banc has reversed an earlier 2-1 panel decision holding that an Arkansas law requiring that state contractors pledge not to participate in the BDS boycott of Israel violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The en banc court’s rationale is that such boycotts constitute mere “economic activity” rather than “speech.”
The decision runs contrary to a long national tradition of treating political boycotts as speech. It also seems inconsistent with the US Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) that spending money on political causes constitutes protected free speech.
I expect this issue may require resolution by SCOTUS.
Stay tuned.

*You know of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, the state’s premier college (“The Buckeyes”). Well, did you know that its official name is really “The Ohio State University”, and the school just patented the word “The”? (Even the schools the Wikipedia entry is under “Ohio State University” without the article.) They need to protect their brand!

The Ohio State University has successfully trademarked the word “THE,” in a victory for the college and its branding that is sure to produce eye rolls from Michigan fans and other rivals.

Stating the full name of the school has become a point of pride for Ohio State’s athletes when introducing themselves on television during games. The three-letter article “THE” has also become an important part of the school’s merchandise and apparel.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Ohio State’s application Tuesday. The trademark applies to T-shirts, baseball caps and hats.

. . .For Ohio State, the university doesn’t have an absolute right to use the word “THE” on apparel, Mr. Gerben said. There are numerous other trademark registrations that include the word “THE” in clothing as part of a phrase.

The trademark, however, could stop another party from using just the word “THE” as the name of a brand, he said.

LOL!!!  The wags immediately emerged on Twitter:

Reactions from a patent attorney:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili apparently foraged for her own wild dinner:

A: Breakfast?
Hili: I already had my breakfast on the grass, now I will have a nap.
In Polish:
Ja: Śniadanie?
Hili: Już jadłam śniadanie na trawie, teraz się prześpię.
And a photo of Szaron:


A groaner from Bruce:

From Merilee. And yes, you can buy one for your d*g:

From Gregory.  I’d ask what the Mormons had been drinking when they made this code, but they don’t drink. “BYU” is, of course, Brigham Young University.

New Israeli fighter pilots:

Irrefutable proof that rock and pop music have gone way downhill!


Really cool animal living in the skin of another. Phronima (note spelling) is a genus of deep-sea amphipod. Watch the video!

From Simon: Raptors are really good at this:

Do I have to say again that cats are smart? Remember the tweet the other day when a cat feigned a leg injury so he could get inside?

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a sad tale of escapees:

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up to hear the baby sloth:

RIP Mr./Ms. Clam! How did they now it was dead, and, most important, how do they know it died of “natural causes”?

An invasive species. How did it get here?

Planet parade tonight: you can see five with the naked eye (plus the Moon) if conditions are right

June 23, 2022 • 10:45 am

Throughout the month of June, the planets have been falling into a rough line as viewed from Earth.  Tonight, five of them will be visible with the naked eye before sunrise times—aligned according to their distance from the Sun. This won’t happen again until 2040.  And if you have a good view and no city lights around, tonight will be an excellent time to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (Neptune and Uranus will be too faint to see unless you have a telescope).

In principle, you could see the array below tomorrow morning, but only five of planets with the naked eye. But you get a crescent Moon thrown in, and right in the proper place: between Venus and Mars.

You should start your observations before dawn, bringing binoculars if you have them:

From Star Walk:

Also from Star Walk:

 Don’t miss the large planet parade on June 24, 2022! 🪐

✨ The most spectacular planet parade of the year will take place on the morning of June 24. Observers will see five planets of the Solar System aligned in the sky: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

❗ In fact, this will be a seven-planet alignment as Neptune and Uranus will also join the celestial show. However, these two giant planets are too dim to be spotted with the naked eye.

👀 You should start your observations about an hour before dawn. The planets will extend from east to south (from north to east in the southern latitudes) across the sky. Observers from the Southern Hemisphere will have a better view — the planets there will rise earlier and climb much higher.

🌙 An additional bonus is the waning crescent Moon, shining between Venus and Mars. It will be slightly out of the “planetary line,” traveling from planet to planet during the latter half of June.

📱 To easily locate and identify planets on the sky’s dome, you can use mobile apps like Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight. Simply point your device at the sky, and the apps will show you what object you’re looking at. 👇

#planets #planetparade #planetparade2022 #planetaryalignment #planetalignment #astronomy

Sky & Telescope has some fancy diagrams and more information. All of June is good to see this, but two periods, June 3-4 and tonight, are notable. (I’ll neglect the days that are gone):

June 24: According to Sky & Telescope magazine, the planetary lineup this morning is even more compelling. To begin with, Mercury will be much easier to snag, making the five-planet parade that much more accessible. And you’ll have about an hour to enjoy the sight, from when Mercury pops above the horizon to when the rising Sun washes it out of the sky. But the real bonus is the waning crescent Moon positioned between Venus and Mars, serving as a proxy Earth. By this time of month, the planets are spread farther across the sky — the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be 107°.

Here’s a diagram of what you can see 45 minutes before sunrise tomorrow. It’s from the Sky & Telescope post, and the caption is indented:

At dawn on June 24th, the crescent Moon joins the planetary lineup. It’s conveniently placed between Venus and Mars, serving as a proxy Earth.

I wish I could see this splendid array, but there are too many lights around where I live. I hope I’ll get a photo to post tomorrow.

Click to enlarge:


How useful are guns in civilian hands for defending against “active shooters”? Not very much.

June 23, 2022 • 9:15 am

The common defense of gun ownership by private individuals is that “what stops armed bad guys is armed good guys”. (This is a quote from Ted Cruz). Such is the defense for much private gun ownership, and also now for the ridiculous movement to arm teachers to deter or kill school shooters. Of course if you include police and security guards as “armed good guys,” the mantra has more credibility, but the mantra is often used to justify gun ownership by private citizens.

A new article in the New York Times (click on headline below) tests whether the Cruz Mantra is a verity, at least as far as “active shootings” are concerned.

It turns out that the answer is that the “conventional wisdom” is wrong for active shooters. It’s also wrong for home invasions in general, as private gun ownership involves accidental deaths, or suicides, far more often than it stops (by shooting) individual altercations between innocent citizens and “bad guys”. But today we’re talking about “active shooters”.

What is an active shooter? The paper, drawing from data collected by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State, collaborating with the FBI, defines active shooter attacks this way:

[Active shooter attacks are those] in which one or more shooters killed or attempted to kill multiple unrelated people in a populated place.

And they’re increasing—currently up to more than one a week. Here’s a figure from the NYT (all figures from the article) showing the number of active shooter attacks per year from 2011 to 2021. (According to the Washington Post, we’ve had 250 already in 2022; although their figures are for “mass shootings”, these seem the same as “active shootings”).

According to the data, there have been 433 active shooter attacks in the US from 2000-2021. What the figure below shows is how they ended, divided into two main groups: attacks that ended before police arrived (249) and those that ended after police arrived (184).Each of the two main divisions is further subdivided.

Click to enlarge:


Here are the lessons (bold headings and indented stuff are taken from the paper):

a.) Police officers shoot or physically subdue the shooter in less than a third of attacks. ”

Most events end before the police arrive, but police officers are usually the ones to end an attack if they get to the scene while it is ongoing.

Hunter Martaindale, director of research at the ALERRT Center, said the group has used the data to train law enforcement that “When you show up and this is going on, you are going to be the one to solve this problem.”

The average response time for police to get to the scene is very fast: three minutes. But this doesn’t mean that the cops themselves nearly always end the attack. Very often the shootings end when the attacker simply leaves the scene (not because he’s being shot at, kills himself, surrenders, or is subdued without guns.  These add up to 65% of total active shootings.

b.) The rate of suicide is extraordinarily high in these events. 110 of the 433 events ended with the attacker killing himself (there are a few women who carry out these attacks, but nearly all are by men). This is most likely either via “suicide by cop” or the result of a realization by the attacker that he’s going to be either caught or shot.

c.) When attacks are stopped by bystanders rather than security guards, cops, or off-duty cops, they are ended more often by physical force than by shootings.  Of 54 cases of attacks stopped by citizen bystanders, 42 of them—78%—were stopped by subduing rather than shooting the perp. Further, when attacks are stopped by shooting before police arrived, about half of them (10/22, or 45%) are stopped by security guards or off-duty cops than by citizens.

d.) When attacks are ended by the shooting of the attacker, the vast majority of time it’s by a police officer, on or off duty, or a security guard.  The number of attacks shopped by shooting the perp were 120. Of these, 12, or 10%, were stopped by citizen shooters. But 12 is only 2.7% of all active shootings that were ended.

Conclusion (from me): When mass shootings are stopped, only a very small percentage are stopped via shooting by armed citizens who are not cops or security guards. And attacks stopped by private citizens were most likely to be stopped by subduing him than by shooting him (42/54, or 78%; this drops to 66% if you include “bystander” cops or security guards.

But taking all the ways that active shootings could end, including the shooter leaving the scene (most are captured later), suicide, or subduing the shooter, only 2.8% of them are stopped by private citizens shooting perps (12/433). Ergo, Ted Cruz is wrong: in these mass shootings, at least, it’s not the “armed good guys” (implying private citizens) but other forces, tactics, and people (including cops) who stop the shootings. 

I have no objection to cops or security guards carrying guns; I do have objections to private citizens carrying or owning guns. In most cases these lead to the death of innocent people more often than to the extirpation of “bad guys.”

I’ll end with a couple of quotes from the article:

“It’s direct, indisputable, empirical evidence that this kind of common claim that ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with the gun is a good guy with the gun’ is wrong,” said Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, who has studied mass shootings for more than a decade. “It’s demonstrably false, because often they are stopping themselves.”

. . . But armed bystanders shooting attackers was not common in the data — 22 cases out of 433. In 10 of those, the “good guy” was a security guard or an off-duty police officer.

“The actual data show that some of these kind of heroic, Hollywood moments of armed citizens taking out active shooters are just extraordinarily rare,” Mr. Lankford said.

In fact, having more than one armed person at the scene who is not a member of law enforcement can create confusion and carry dire risks. An armed bystander who shot and killed an attacker in 2021 in Arvada, Colo., was himself shot and killed by the police, who mistook him for the gunman.

Now remember that this post (and the article) is about “active shooters,” which seem roughly equivalent to “mass shooters”. We’re not talking about home invasions or private confrontations between people. And at least in this case, almost no benefit is derived from arming citizens. When you compare that to the down side of arming citizens, the Ted Cruz defense falls to pieces.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 23, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos of fantastic spiders from Tony Eales of Queensland.  His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

Not for the arachnophobes. We’re in the depths of a particularly cold winter at the moment so I haven’t been out photographing much. This has given me a chance to look over my spider photos from the last several months and here’s some of the interesting ones.

First a large orb weaver. Currently undescribed but will likely be placed in the genus Backobourkia (in Australia one phrase for the outback is “the back o’ Bourke” Bourke being an outback town once considered the edge of civilization). Currently it goes by the temporary name ‘Morningstar Orbweaver‘ on account of the shape of its abdomen.

Next is a Pirate Spider (Australomimetus sp.) doing what Pirate Spiders do, eating another spider, in this case a Calamoneta sp., one of the long-legged rainforest sac spiders in the family Cheiracanthiidae.

In my last set I showed a close-up of the face of this hump-backed net-casting spider, Menneus sp. This photo shows the full body.

Only last week I found this feather-legged venomless spider, Miagrammopes sp. At night they hang in these high tension three strand webs. I read that when an insect touches the web one end is detached and the strand immediately tangles up ensnaring the prey. The silk used is cribellate silk, a fuzzy wool-like silk that doesn’t have adhesive droplets. A paper I looked at recently said that despite the lack of adhesive, the silk bonds with hydrogen bonds to insect hairs and exoskeletons, making it nearly impossible to escape from.

I recently found my first juvenile Poecilopachys australasia which I’ve been after for a while. Hairy little things, aren’t they?

This is the adult.

At the same location I found a lot of these Poltys illepidus, Tree Stump Spider. While large for a Poltys, I think ‘tree stump’ is quite the exaggeration. But when all folded up they do resemble a snapped off twig.

And last but not least a few of my recent Arkys finds

Arkys cornutus, Horned Arkys:

Two female Arkys tuberculatus, Blobby Arkys.

. . . and a tiny male Arkys tuberculatus.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

June 23, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, June 23, 2022: National Pecan Sandy Day, celebrating a kind of dry cookie that some people like.

It’s also International Widows Day, National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism (in Canada), Saint John’s Eve and the first day of the Midsummer celebrations (these occur in Spain, Cornwall, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Belarus. Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine), and United Nations Public Service Day.

Stuff that happened on this day include:

Here’s a short animated reconstruction of the battle, in which the stalwart Scots defeated the English despite being outnumbered by more than three to one:

  • 1611 – The mutinous crew of Henry Hudson’s fourth voyage sets Henry, his son and seven loyal crew members adrift in an open boat in what is now Hudson Bay; they are never heard from again.
  • 1794 – Empress Catherine II of Russia grants Jews permission to settle in Kyiv.

“Catherine II” was Catherine the Great, who ruled for 34 years as the last Empress of Russia.  Here’s a portrait of her by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, from 1780, presumably painted from life:

Here’s a model for the patent, which was very rudimentary. Sholes is also said to have invented, some time later, the QWERTY keyboard, which I’ve heard is less efficient than other keyboards. But it’s too late to change:

  • 1887 – The Rocky Mountains Park Act becomes law in Canada creating the nation’s first national park, Banff National Park.
  • 1917 – In a game against the Washington SenatorsBoston Red Sox pitcher Ernie Shore retires 26 batters in a row after replacing Babe Ruth, who had been ejected for punching the umpire.

Shore pitched a nearly “perfect” game (one in which all 27 batters are retired without reaching first base). Here he (left) is with another baseball great:

(From Wikipedia): Major League Baseball players Ernie Shore (left) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (right) during the 1915 World Series.
  • 1926 – The College Board administers the first SAT exam.
  • 1940 – Adolf Hitler goes on a three-hour tour of the architecture of Paris with architect Albert Speer and sculptor Arno Breker in his only visit to the city.

Here’s Hitler with Speer (left) in front of the Eiffel Tower. On the right is sculptorn and architect Arno Breker:

  • 1960 – The United States Food and Drug Administration declares Enovid to be the first officially approved combined oral contraceptive pill in the world.
  • 1969 – IBM announces that effective January 1970 it will price its software and services separately from hardware thus creating the modern software industry.
  • 1972 – Watergate scandal: U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman are taped talking about illegally using the Central Intelligence Agency to obstruct the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the Watergate break-ins.

Here’s part of the smoking gun tapes, with subtitles. It’s pretty incriminating!

  • 1972 – Title IX of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 is amended to prohibit sexual discrimination to any educational program receiving federal funds.
  • 2017 – A series of terrorist attacks take place in Pakistan, resulting in 96 deaths and wounding 200 others.
  • 2013 – Nik Wallenda becomes the first man to successfully walk across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.

A news report of that walk. You can hearing him praying to God to help him across:


*Ukraine is slowly falling into the hands of Russia. From the NYT’s summary:

Approaching a pivotal moment in their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have tightened their vise around two key eastern cities, raising the risk their slow, brutal advance will capture the cities and trap the Ukrainian troops defending them.

The fall of the two neighboring cities, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, would all but complete Russia’s conquest of Luhansk Province, a major part of the Donbas region that the Russians are attempting to seize in the four-month-old war. That would give a strategic and symbolic victory to President Vladimir V. Putin, and open avenues for Russia’s military to advance deeper into Ukraine.

In my view, Putin could take the whole country if he has the will, and he does—Russian deaths be damned. The war will end only when Putin wants it to end, and on his terms. I don’t like that, but I think it’s true.

*One of the more odious Trumpisms that’s come out in the January 6 panel is that the Orange Man proposed sending fake electors to Washington to try to sway the vote towards him. But now the remit of the panel is widening, and some of those electors have been subpoenaed:

Agents conducted court authorized law enforcement activity Wednesday morning at two locations, FBI officials confirmed to The Washington Post. One was the home of Brad Carver, a Georgia lawyer who allegedly signed a document claiming to be a Trump elector. The other was the Virginia home of Thomas Lane, who worked on the Trump campaign’s efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. The FBI officials did not identify the people associated with those addresses, but public records list each of the locations as the home addresses of the men.

Separately, at least some of the would-be Trump electors in Michigan also received subpoenas on Wednesday, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The precise nature of the information being sought by the Justice Department wasn’t immediately clear; however, Arizonaand Georgia officials testified Tuesday to a House panel probing the Jan. 6 attacks about attempts by Trump and his inner circle of advisers to try to reverse Biden’s electoral college victories in those states.
*Testifying before Congress yesterday, Jerome Powell, head of the Federal Reserve, says that it’s possible that the Fed’s raising interest rates to stem inflation may in the end lead to a recession.

“It’s certainly a possibility,” Mr. Powell said Wednesday during the first of two days of congressional hearings. “We are not trying to provoke and do not think we will need to provoke a recession, but we do think it’s absolutely essential” to bring down inflation, which is running at a 40-year high.

His remarks underscore the challenge facing the central bank as it raises interest rates at the most rapid clip since the 1980s to slow the economy and cool inflation.

My prediction, though I’m not pundit and know virtually nothing about economics, is that we will have a recession, for the balance of interest rates, employment, and inflation is a tricky situation, and certainly no science. Remember, I was the first person to call the last election for Biden, and got the electoral count exactly right. Surely I still retain the credibility to make some predictions!

*Uncle Joe has finally decided to give us a “gas-tax holiday,” lifting the federal tax on both gasoline and diesel fuel. But this is pretty pathetic given the taxes, which are low (see below). We’re paying $6 a gallon in Chicago, and not only will this make little inroads in inflation, but those taxes are used for infrastructure.

The Democratic president also called on states to suspend their own gas taxes or provide similar relief, and he delivered a public critique of the energy industry for prioritizing profits over production. It would take action by lawmakers in Washington and in statehouses across the country to actually bring relief to consumers.

“It doesn’t reduce all the pain but it will be a big help,” Biden said, using the bully pulpit when his administration believes it has run out of direct levers to address soaring gas prices. “I’m doing my part. I want Congress, states and industry to do their part as well.”

At issue is the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on gas and the 24.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on diesel fuel. If the gas savings were fully passed along to consumers, people would save roughly 3.6% at the pump when prices are averaging about $5 a gallon nationwide.

But this is pretty much moot given Congressional resistance, even among Democrats, to this “holiday”. Even Nancy Pelosi is lukewarm about it:

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a noncommittal response to Biden’s proposal, saying she would look to see if there was support for it in Congress.

“We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the president’s proposal in the House and the Senate,” Pelosi said.

Now that is a ringing endorsement, no? There will be little support for this in the Senate, that’s for sure.

*The Atlantic—to which I’m newly subscribed because it’s inexpensive for academics—reports that comedian Dave Chapelle, in a surprise announcement, turned down a big honor. The school from which he graduated and has donated to repeatedly, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, decided to name its theater after him.  The naming was delayed from Nov. 1 after Chapelle’s Netflix show, “The Closer”, was criticized for homophobic and transphobic comments

The naming ceremony was rescheduled for last Monday, and guest after guest got up and praised the comedian. Then it was his turn:

. . . Chappelle spoke, telling his own story of the Ellington school’s influence on his life, his fond memories of faculty and classmates. The narrative slowly built toward the controversy that erupted last November. Then came a surprise plot twist.

Chappelle proposed that the theater be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression, and then said that his name would be added later, only when and if the school community was ready.

It was quite a moment. The audience rapturously applauded.

Author David Frum had two reactions. The first was positive:

The first was admiration for the bravado and ingenuity of Chappelle’s maneuver. So often in these debates over free speech, the adversaries of expression claim to represent the wave of the future. Major surveys have found that Gen Z and Millennial Americans are much more willing to suppress speech in the name of equity than older Americans. Chappelle took a bet here, as if to say: Let’s see who will look silly in five years’ time, you or me.

The very act of bet-taking changes perceptions of the wager. The most powerful weapon of the adversaries of expression is their certainty. Chappelle wrenched that weapon from their hands, again as if to say: I am more certain even than you—and I’ve put a lot more of myself on the line.

The second was more negative: that Chappelle had evaded responsibility for his own words. But in the end Frum judges Chappelle’s behavior as a brilliant “gesture of defiance.”

The NYT has a new article on how you can get a young duckling to imprint on you, though you don’t want to do this deliberately unless you’re prepared to care for the duck until it fledges.  (h/t Robyn)

Hang around a duckling constantly, right after it hatches. Ducklings are most sensitive to imprinting 12 to 36 hours after they emerge from the egg (and the imprinting window lasts about 14 days). Place yourself where they can see you. Birds are visual creatures; a duckling opens its eyes and immediately starts looking for a caregiver. They prefer duck-size objects and S-curve-shaped necks, but they aren’t picky — they will imprint on humans, cats, dogs or, in the case of Martinho-Truswell’s lab research, brightly colored plastic balls or cardboard shapes suspended from a rotating boom on a string. Avoid wearing yellow; ducklings would rather not imprint on anything yellow-colored. “We think that’s to keep them from imprinting on their siblings,” Martinho-Truswell says. Don’t become a duck parent on a whim, though; it’s a big commitment. Imprinting is helpful if you’re a duck farmer, but otherwise might be a burden. Mallard ducks can live for more than 20 years. “You’re taking on something that is going to treat you as its mother for the first year and then as family for the rest of its life,” he says.

I rescued two orphans and slept with them on the day or day after they hatched, and both imprinted on me, following me around the house and peeping pathetically if I was out of sight or tried to put them to bed in a nice soft, padded box. They needed to be with me, and so I slept with them in my armpit or on my chest covered with my open palm (to mimic the mother’s protective wing). Or rather, the ducklings slept. Afraid of crushing them, I didn’t sleep a wink. Still, they were two of the greatest nights of my life.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s dialogue needs an explanation from Malgorzata:

In Poland when somebody cannot decide between the two courses of action he/she says “I’m fighting with my thoughts” [Biję się z myślami]. Hili took it literally and because she (as a Goddess) is a “dualist”, that’s the answer she came with.

Hili: I’m fighting with my thoughts.
A: And?
Hili: I’m winning.
In Polish:
Hili: Biję się z myślami.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Wygrywam.

And a photo of Kulka:


From Jez, a Dan Piraro cartoon:

Quarterback Tom Brady is apparently promoting a new line of underwear, and in this Instagram video, described here, he simply destroys the sign of a protestor with an precise football throw. But the article also shows that they made up. This is likely an advertising set-up (I can’t imagine otherwise why they’d pull a stunt like this), but it does show Brady’s passing abilities.

A groaner from Merilee:

Ricky Gervais mocking wokeness with a very ideologically incorrect couple of jokes:

These are brilliant; see the thread. But they left out the cat saying “Mrkgnao!”: my favorite part!

Free talk by Pinkah tomorrow. All you have to do is register at the link:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, one who survived:

Tweets from Matthew. This first two are cool! There are other methods given in the thread.

Parental care in beetles! Who woulda thought?

What a sight!

This guy comments on bad lighting. I may have shown this before, but here it is again. Whoever designed this should have immediately fixed it. Or maybe it was deliberate. . .