Reason interviews John McWhorter

November 26, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I usually get bored listening to one person talk for an hour on video, but I found this interview of John McWhorter by Reason (a libertarian site) absorbing and thought-provoking.  If you listen to the whole 65-minute interview, you’ll hear pretty much the entire panoply of McWhorter’s views on race, which are also in his new book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.  I’ve listened to the whole video, but haven’t yet read McWhorter’s book (much of its draft, however, used to be on his Substack site).

I’m heartened that McWhorter describes himseslf as a “Sixties-style liberal”, which is how I see myself, too. He’s certainly not an “alt-righter” or conservative, but he’s often characterized that way as he doesn’t buy into the standard “progressive” Left views on racism.

Part of the YouTube notes:

That’s New York Times columnist and Columbia University linguist John McWhorter talking about his best-selling new book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. He argues that the ideas of Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi, and The 1619 Project undermine the success of black people by sharpening racial divides and distracting from actual obstacles to real progress.

His shortlist for what would most help black America? “There should be no war on drugs; society should get behind teaching everybody to read the right way; and we should make solid vocational training as easy to obtain as a college education.”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie spoke with the 56-year-old McWhorter about what white people get out of cooperating with an ideological agenda that casts them as devils, what black people gain by “performing” victimhood, and what needs to change so that all Americans can get on with creating a more perfect union.

Canadian government denies McGill professor grants on the grounds that his mandatory DEI statements describe color-blind hiring based on merit

November 26, 2021 • 10:15 am

Here’s a renegade scientist described by Canada’s conservative National Post, which must love articles like this.  It is the tale of a person of color—Patanjali Kambhampati, an Indian physical chemist at McGill University who seems quite accomplished. He works on “quantum dots“, which are tiny semiconductors, has published 132 papers, on many of which he was first author, and has an “h index of 37”, which means he’s published 37 papers that were each cited 37 times or more. (The higher the index, the more widely you’ve been cited.)

One other relevant fact besides his scientific quality: he’s been subject to racism since he moved to North America from India at age four. He reports that he’s been verbally harassed, beat up constantly, and has been “harassed by U.S. border guards and racially profiled in Canada, too.”

But his scientific quality, his “person of colorhood”, and his oppressed past haven’t helped him get grants from the Canadian government. Why? Because he refuses to write the kind of woke diversity statement that the Canadian grant authorities demand.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Kambhampati has been turned down for his last two grants because of insufficient diversity statements, which are mandatory. And in Canada, if you don’t past muster with that statement, your grant gets canned without even being evaluated for scientific merit. I quote from the article, and I’ve put his terse diversity statement in bold:

Patanjali Kambhampati, a professor in the chemistry department at Montreal’s McGill University, believes the death knell for the latest grant was a line in the application form where he was asked about hiring staff based on diversity and inclusion considerations. He says his mistake was maintaining that he would hire on merit any research assistant who was qualified, regardless of their identity.

“I’ve had two people say that was the kiss of death,” said Kambhampati. “I thought I was trying to be nice saying that if you were interested and able I’d hire you and that’s all that mattered. I don’t care about the colour of your skin. I’m interested in hiring someone who wants to work on the project and is good at it.”

Kambhampati said he didn’t go public after the first grant was rejected but decided to speak out now because the increasing use by the government of equity, diversity and inclusion, aka “EDI,” provisions, as well as woke culture, are killing innovation, harming science and disrupting society.

“I believe this is an important stand to make. I will not be silenced anymore,” he said.

It is the kiss of death, for prizing merit above race, but being color-blind in your hiring (the now-outmoded view of Dr. King), is not the way to succeed. To get these grants, I’m assuming that your diversity statement has to including some affirmative action, which means elevating members of oppressed minorities above those whose indices of merit used by the school are higher.

As I’ve said, I believe in some forms of affirmative action in hiring, but I do not believe in diversity statements, for they are forms of compelled speech to which you must adhere, and Kambhampati didn’t. He paid the price. What’s even worse than diversity statements. though, is evaluating them as the first step in the grant-giving process, and then deep-sixing your application if the diversity statement isn’t up to snuff.

Like Dorian Abbot at the University of Chicago, Kambhmpati believes in hiring solely on merit.  While I don’t adhere to that 100%, I adhere to it more than I do to the Canadian or University of California hiring systems, which use the DEI statement as a first-step “up or out” gateway to funding.

Because both applications were rejected at the bureaucratic level, it means that neither proceeded to the step where they would be forward to other scientists to review Kambhampati’s proposals.

But Kambhampati said he believes basing his hiring decisions on merit is a valid, moral position to hold.

“I think what’s happened is the woke and the social justice warriors have made a moralistic argument the way the religious right used to make moralistic arguments. And now people are afraid to challenge them. But I think it’s okay to say I believe that equality is a morally valid position. I believe that meritocracy is a morally valid position.”

The salt in his wound is the huge funding that Canada recently gave for a dubious project on preventing cancer using “indigenous healing practices” (for more on that, see the news section in this recent post of mine).  The National Post says this:

Around the same time that Kambhampati’s latest application was turned down, another arm of the government, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, gave Dr. Lana Ray, a professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., a $1.2-million grant to study cancer prevention using traditional Indigenous healing practices. When the award was announced, Ray said “We need to stop framing prevalent risk factors of cancer as such and start thinking about them as symptoms of colonialism.”

As I said, Canada is woker than the United States. In terms of DEI statements and hiring they’re about equal, but to me Canadians seem more timorous about standing up to metastasizing Wokeism. Kambhampati did, but he’ll pay the price, because without outside funding, you can’t do experimental science.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Here’s the first installment of rainforest photos from reader Athayde Tonhasca Júnior.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and his notes and IDs are indented:

You asked for readers’ photos, so here’s a tour through the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.

Moth:

Access road:

Bad-tempered toad:

Black-faced hawk (Leucopternis melanops):

Bothrops sp. (fer-de-lance). Keep your distance!

Bromeliad:

Another bromeliad:

Cheeky lizard:

Forest:

Forest:

Fungus 1:

Fungus 2:

Fungus 3:

Friday: Hili dialogue

November 26, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Friday, November 26, 2021: a day to eat turkey sandwiches. But formally it’s National Cake Day (it is also, more appropriately, National Leftovers Day).

Further, it’s Maize Day (“you call it corn“), Black Friday (a massive shopping day), Fur Free Friday, National Flossing Day (every day, and don’t forget your Water-Pik), National Day of Listening, and National Native American Heritage Day.

Here’s a piece of art I encountered on my walk yesterday. It was inside the David Rubenstein Forum of the University of Chicago, is by François-Xavier Lalanne, and is called Grand Chat Polymorphe (1968-2008)

News of the Day:

*A new “variant” (why don’t they call it a “mutant strain”?) of the coronavirus has been found in South Africa, and it’s worrying, as it’s spreading and infects the vaccinated.

Botswana’s health ministry confirmed in a statement that four cases of the new variant were detected in people who were all fully vaccinated. All four were tested before their planned travel. One sample was also detected in Hong Kong, carried by a traveler from South Africa, South African scientists said.

With over 1,200 new infections, South Africa’s daily infection rate is much lower than in Germany, where new cases are driving a wave. However, the density of mutations on this new variant raises fears that it could be highly contagious, leading scientists to sound the alarm early.

And the mutations are many:

The B1.1.529 variant has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” with more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, said Mr. de Oliveira. On the ACE2 receptor — the protein that helps to create an entry point for the coronavirus to infect human cells — the new variant has 10 mutations. In comparison, the Beta.

In light of this, one thing I ask,
Just bury me in my trusty mask.

*Have a butcher’s at the NYT guest essay by Democrat Greg Weiner: “There is another Democrat that A. O. C. should be mad at.”  That’s beyond Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, of course. Who is it?

But if disappointed progressives are looking for a Democrat to blame, they should consider directing their ire toward one of their party’s founders: James Madison. Madison’s Constitution was built to thwart exactly what Democrats have been attempting: a race against time to impose vast policies with narrow majorities. Madison believed that one important function of the Constitution was to ensure sustained consensus before popular majorities could prevail.

Democrats do represent a popular majority now. But for Madison, that “now” is the problem: He was less interested in a snapshot of a moment in constitutional time than in a time-lapse photograph showing that a majority had cohered. The more significant its desires, Madison thought, the longer that interval of coherence should be. The monumental scale of the Build Back Better plan consequently raises a difficult Madisonian question: Is a fleeting and narrow majority enough for making history?

In this Madisonian sense, Democrats are tripping over their own boasts.

. . . the overuse of omnibus bills that throw every possible priority into a single measure make bipartisan support nearly impossible. Madison may have predicted the future of factions poorly. But his assumption was that coalitions would shift from issue to issue. A stand-alone bill on any one Democratic priority might well receive votes from across the aisle, as the recent $1 trillion infrastructure bill did. One reason for that bipartisan support is that isolating issues raises the cost of opposing them.

*The migrants waiting in Calais to cross illegally to Britain have gotten so desperate that they’ve taken to small boats. Sadly, 27 of them drowned in an accident and their bodies were recovered yesterday. Only two are alive, but both are in critical condition.

Four people suspected of being involved in the sinking have been arrested, Mr. Darmanin said. The Dunkirk, U.K., prosecutor’s office said an investigation has been opened into human smuggling and aggravated manslaughter.

Now, according to the Washington Post, France and Britain are squabbling over who gets the blame and how to stop further deaths.

In a letter to his French counterpart on Thursday evening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the establishment of “joint patrols” by Britain and France or by “private security contractors.” Johnson also called for a pact that would allow migrants to be deported back to France.

Previous British proposals of joint patrols had raised concerns in France over sovereignty. The French government accuses Britain of a lack of action against traffickers as well as businesses that employ undocumented migrants. On Thursday, the French called for more European and British support for their efforts to combat human trafficking in the channel.
Sovereignty? That’s what’s causing people to die? This seems to be something that could be settled easily—except that the French and English have a historical and mutual suspicion.
*Okay, some adaptationist has contemplated the question: “Here’s why you will always have room for pie.’  It’s evolution, Jake!

Our ability to eat a ridiculous amount of food on Thanksgiving Day is related to the sheer variety of foods typically offered on a holiday table. Variety excites the appetite.

This “variety effect” is an evolutionary adaptation that served us well during pre-buffet times. Imagine if your ancestors binged on buffalo meat and then stumbled across a patch of ripe berries — but everyone was too full to eat them. Skipping dessert in that scenario would mean missing out on a stash of important nutrients. (And if that had happened, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now.)

Note the complete certainty of author Tara Parker-Pope. But what if you come across the berries first and gorge on them? Will you still have room for buffalo? They don’t give an answer, though this question arises naturally. This assumption that we know the answer for sure is a mark of bad science reporting. Also, a good Thanksgiving dinner includes many items besides the turkey and pie (stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, casseroles, potatoes, yams, etc.)

*According to IFLS (formerly “I Fucking Love Science”), the UK has taken a step forward towards animal rights, including invertebrates as “sentient beings”  Remember that “sentient” means that you have feelings—what philosophers call “qualia”. (h/t Ginger K.) I don’t know how they determine this, but it surely must rest on phylogenetic similarity (as in other primates) and perhaps the presence of pain receptors similar to ours.

The UK government has officially included decapod crustaceans — including crabs, lobsters, and crayfish — and cephalopod mollusks — including octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish — in its Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. This means they are now recognized as “sentient beings” in the UK.

The move comes off the back of an independent review carried out by a team led by Dr Jonathan Birch, an associate professor in the London School of Economic’s Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method. They looked at over 300 studies and found “strong scientific evidence decapod crustaceans and cephalopod mollusks are sentient”. Sentience is a subjective concept that’s been batted about for centuries, but it generally refers to the capacity to consciously perceive feelings and sensations like pain.

Vertebrates (animals with a backbone) are already covered by the bill, but octopuses and other invertebrate animals have previously had a hard time being recognized as being sentient due to their lack of backbone. The central nervous system of invertebrates is immensely different from that of vertebrates — for instance, octopuses have a donut-shaped brain in their head and eight other “mini-brains” in each tentacle. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean their central nervous system is any less complicated than certain mammals considered sentient by humans. If you’ve watched the documentary My Octopus Teacher, you’ll know that cephalopods can be incredibly intelligent, capable of some remarkably complex behavior, including potentially physical and emotional pain. There’s also some solid evidence that some crustaceans feel a sense of pain.

If you look at the link to “solid evidence” above, it goes to a study in which shore crabs learn in the lab to avoid light stimuli if lights are associated with a shock. Well, that’s something, but it doesn’t tell us if the crabs FEEL the shock or are simply having adaptive and automatic reactions to nerve stimuli that, in the wild, signal danger.

That said, we should err on the side of caution, and not demand 100% certainty. For if an animal feels pain, we must protect its well-being more than organisms who don’t. And that’s what this finding will do:

The review recommends against using a variety of current commercial practices involving these animals, including live boiling without stunning, extreme slaughter methods, transporting the animals in icy water, and the sale of live decapod crustaceans to untrained handlers.

*Also thanks to Ginger K., I’ve learned that Brach’s, America’s biggest producer of that vile confection “candy corn”, has produced a Thanksgiving version that is even more odious than the normal product:

Oy gewalt!:

For Thanksgiving, the candy corn manufacturer Brach’s has outdone itself with a flavor that’s sure to turn heads (and stomachs). As Texas Standard reports, the product captures the essence of a turkey dinner in candy corn form.

Brach’s seasonal candy corn includes a variety of colorful pieces, each one representing a different aspect of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some flavors are sweet—like cranberry sauce, apple pie, and coffee—while others are rarely mentioned in the same breath as dessert.

The fluorescent green pieces are meant to evoke green beans, though they reportedly taste closer to green tea. One of the brownish pieces is a sage-forward stuffing flavor. And, of course, the bag includes turkey and gravy candy corn, which regrettably tastes similar to the real thing.

You have to be a masochist to eat this stuff? But if you are, you can get it on Amazon in a 12-ounce package for $10.87.  Let’s take a poll!

How do you feel about regular candy corn?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 776,574, an increase of 1,066 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,202,433,  an increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 26 includes:

  • 1778 – In the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to visit Maui.
  • 1789 – A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as proclaimed by President George Washington at the request of Congress.

He also proclaimed it in 1795—in the document below:

  • 1863 – United States President Abraham Lincoln proclaims November 26 as a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated annually on the final Thursday of November. Following the Franksgiving controversy from 1939 to 1941, it has been observed on the fourth Thursday in 1942 and subsequent years.
  • 1917 – The National Hockey League is formed, with the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas as its first teams.
  • 1922 – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years.

Here’s a colorized video of Carter uncovering Tut’s coffin:

Here’s the entire movie, starring Anna May Wong:

  • 1942 – Casablanca, the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, premieres in New York City.

You can find the entire movie in high-definition on Youtube.  Here’s one of the two most famous scenes, and nobody says, “Play it again, Sam.”

Here’s the first meeting of the Assembly with the architects of of Indian independene and democracy: “First day of Constituent Assembly of India. In the first row (From Left): Dr. B. R. AmbedkarB. G. KherVallabhai Patel and K. M. Munshi.”

Therefore, it’s Constitution Day in India.

  • 1970 – In Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, 38 millimetres (1.5 in) of rain fall in a minute, the heaviest rainfall ever recorded.
  • 1983 – Brink’s-Mat robbery: In London, 6,800 gold bars worth nearly £26 million are stolen from the Brink’s-Mat vault at Heathrow Airport.
  • 2000 – George W. Bush is certified the winner of Florida’s electoral votes by Katherine Harris, going on to win the United States presidential election, despite losing in the national popular vote.
  • 2003 – The Concorde makes its final flight, over Bristol, England.

Here’s the last flight. After the accident in 2000, the plane lost business:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1607 – John Harvard, English minister and philanthropist (d. 1638)
  • 1853 – Bat Masterson, American police officer and journalist (d. 1921). Here’s the famous “Dodge City Peace Commission” on June 10, 1883. Wikipedia caption: “From left to right, standing: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon; seated: Charlie BassettWyatt Earp, Michael Francis “Frank” McLean and Cornelius “Neil” Brown.” I’ve put arrows by Masterson (top row) and Earp (seated):

Hauptman was accused and convicted of kidnapping the baby of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1932. He was executed in 1936; below is his mugshot:

  • 1907 – Ruth Patrick, American botanist (d. 2013)
  • 1922 – Charles M. Schulz, American cartoonist, created Peanuts (d. 2000)
  • 1931 – Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentinian painter, sculptor, and activist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1939 – Tina Turner, American-Swiss singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress
  • 1945 – John McVie, English-American bass player
  • 1954 – Roz Chast, American cartoonist

After having read Roz Chast’s fantastic cartoons for years, and absorbed her combination of anxiety and pessimism, I guessed that she was Jewish. Sure enough, Wikipedia confirms it. Here’ a Jewish joke I learned recently:

Jewish pessimist: “Things can’t get any worse.”
Jewish optimist: “Sure they can!!:

Those who “fell asleep” on November 26 include:

  • 1504 – Isabella I, queen of Castile and León (b. 1451)
  • 1883 – Sojourner Truth, American activist (b. 1797)

Her real name was Isabella Baumfree, and she excaped from slavery, recovered her children, and then became a passionate speaker for abolitionism and women’s rights. Photo below:

O’Hare, after whom the big Chicago airport is named, was a crack pilot who won the Medal of Honor for an extraordinary feat (read at the link). He went missing in 1943. His plane bore the image of Felix the Cat, as did all the planes of the Sixth Squadron:

  • 1956 – Tommy Dorsey, American trombonist, trumpet player, and composer (b. 1905)
  • 2005 – Stan Berenstain, American author and illustrator, co-created the Berenstain Bears (b. 1923)

I have never seen these. Were they supposed to be Jewish bears?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili isn’t having much luck hunting mice:

Hili: If nothing comes you will have to open a can for me.
A: So Maybe, we should go home at once?
Hili: No, I will wait a bit longer
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli nic nie przyjdzie, to będziesz musiał otworzyć mi puszkę.
Ja: To może chodźmy od razu do domu?
Hili: Nie, jeszcze chwilę poczekam.
Bonus: Kulka (photo by Paulina) advertises Andrzej’s new book:
Kulka’s press conference:
Verily, I say unto you that beautiful are my pictures in this book and very helpful to understand where good and evil come from. And the pictures were wrought by Paulina. In truth, Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra was truthful saying that everybody lacks money for different things.
If ye spend a few zlotys on this thing, you will not regret it.
Here you can order the book: https://www.stapis.com.pl/…
In Polish:
Konferencja prasowa Kulki:
Zaprawde powiadam Wam, że pięknę są moję zdjęcia w tej książce i bardzo pomocne dla zrozumienia skąd się wzięło dobro i zło. A zdjęcia te robiła Paulina. Zaiste rację miał Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra mówiąc, że wszystkim brakuje pieniędzy, na różne rzeczy.  Wydajcie kilka złotych na tę rzecz, a nie pożałujecie.
Tu można książkę zamówić: https://www.stapis.com.pl/… ;

From FB:

From Norm; I believe these are the winners of the 2021 Math Olympiad, and the first time in three decades that the U.S. team beat the Chinese team:

From Nicole:

From Bruce:

From Titania:

From Dom, who explained to me that this is the last “dambuster.” When I asked him what “dambusters” were, he said, “Ah. They were the RAF bombers that carried out the bouncing bomb raids on the Ruhr dams in the war.” That was on May 16 and 17 of 1943, and 40% of the 153 RAF airmen involved were killed during the raid. George Johnson, below, survived and just turned 100!

From Barry, who says this proves I’m not going to Heaven. (Proteins aren’t transcribed, by the way—DNA is, into messenger RNA.)

From Ginger K.: An excellent library sign:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. This is the craziest beetle I’ve ever seen, bar none:

Stingrays having fun:

Sound up from the beginning to hear how softly they’re called. One cat doesn’t go in, though.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2021 • 2:01 pm

Let’s not forget our animal friends on this day of gluttony. Reader J. C. McLoughlin didn’t, and sent these two photos with a caption:

I append views from the kitchen window of some of the ravens who visit our corvid-table, which this Thanksgiving morning sports a fryer chicken in a wire gibbet. The chicken will be gone by this afternoon.

Man, these ravens are going to FEAST!

Two more university deans (at Princeton and NYU) condemn the Rittenhouse verdict

November 25, 2021 • 11:30 am

Well, you’re going to have to rely on two conservative sites for this news.  The first site is The College Fix, a right-wing venue that reports about campus follies, usually of the woke genre. The other is another conservative site, Newsmax.  Together, they report the third and fourth instances I know about of a college administration going beyond the bounds by officially condemning the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. (The previous two colleges were the University of California at Irvine, whose Vice-Chancellor first kvetched about the verdict before apologizing for opening his yap, and The University of Caifornia at Santa Cruz, whose two administrators—the Chancellor and the director of DEI—haven’t retracted their condemnation.) The Fix appears to have gotten its information about Princeton from Newsmax.

UCI and UCSC are very good schools, and both are public. Administrators are not supposed to make public statements about jury verdicts—especially when the verdict might have been correct—lest they chill the speech of the many people who likely took issue with the administrators’ opinion.

Be that as it may, this is all part of universities’ attempts to flaunt their virtue by appearing to take sides with the black protestors in Kenosha who, they think, were allies to the three white people whom Rittenhouse shot.  There is no explanation I can see other than that these universities want to be seen as being “on the right side of history”, in solidarity with the students.

At any rate, both The College Fix and Newsmax report that a dean at a tony private school—none other than Princeton University—sent out an email to students and faculty condemning the verdict and implying that it reeks of racism and white supremacy. The administrator was Amaney Jamal, recently appointed as dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.  Newsmax doesn’t give the full text of her email, but The College Fix does. Here’s the email Jamal reportedly sent out:

Dear SPIA [School of Public and International Affairs] community,

Last August, Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two protestors and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During his trial, he emotionally broke down on the stand, saying he was acting in self-defense. Today, he was acquitted of all six charges against him, including three of which were homicide related.

My heart feels heavy as I write this. As dean of a School of Public and International Affairs, I believe people have a right to assembly. I also believe that, during events like the protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, it is the job of formal law enforcement bodies — not individual citizens —to ensure public safety. I fail to comprehend the idea of a minor vigilante carrying a semi-automatic rifle across state lines, killing two people, and being declared innocent by the U.S. justice system. Yesterday’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent.

Rittenhouse is not a racial minority, and some would say this is another example of biases and leniencies embedded within the justice system. That may be true. What we do know without a doubt is there are racial inequities in nearly every strand of the American fabric. Today’s verdict employs me to ask you — our current and future public servants — to investigate our policies and practices within the justice system and beyond. How can we use evidence-based research in pursuit of the public good? What role do we play, and what obligation do we have to serve?

It feels like an immeasurable, daunting task. I’m sure there are days in which you feel like giving up. In those moments, remember: Democracy is not a guarantee. We must always act with our feet, evoke change with action. We must always remain part of the policy solution. People. Policy. Progress. This is the basic order of our work. In between is passion, grit, tenacity. It is our moral duty to support and advance public policy that makes the world better.

Resources are available for our students. Sue Kim, our TigerWell outreach counselor, is available for virtual drop-in visits. Dr. David Campbell from Counseling and Psychological Services will host a virtual space for SPIA students to process the Rittenhouse Trial on Monday, November 22 at 5:00pm ET. …

With regards,
Amaney

Note the familiar use of Jamal’s first name, noted previously as a likely tactic for expressing “allyship” with the students.  More important, note how she racializes the event, claiming that Rittenhouse (or the judge or jury) may well have been racially biased (there was a “juror of color” on the Rittenhouse trial). She then moves on to the structural racism of America as a whole, and tells the students what they need to do to fix, which is not only something she should be doing, but also infantilizes the students—as if they don’t know that it would be good if they improved the world. But what if some of them want to become hedge fund managers? It is this call to action that violates Princeton’s policy of free speech, as students should be free from such incitements.  Princeton is not supposed to instill morality and ideology in its students; it’s supposed to teach them things and teach them to think.  Then can then make their own decisions.

Note the offer of counseling and a “virtual space to process the Rittenhouse Trial”.   The students are once again being treated like small children.

Finally, “Amaney” should not be questioning a verdict that she blatantly calls a “dangerous precedent”. Precedent for what? Apparently for letting white supremacists off the hook. She wasn’t in the courtroom, she wasn’t on the jury, and she apparently doesn’t understand that the law was applied as it was written.  She also doesn’t know that Rittenhouse did not carry a semi-automatic rifle across state lines. Perhaps owning one (which was legal) shouldn’t be permitted (which is what I believe), but then she should go after the gun laws.

The two reports are at the screenshots below, and I’ll add any useful information they provide:

Newsmax:

du Quenoy has a few questions for Dean Jamal.

Does she believe that Rittenhouse was “declared innocent by the U.S. justice system,” or did she “fail to comprehend” what really happened – that he was found “not guilty” in a trial by a jury of his peers?

As dean of a public affairs school, has she read the U.S. Constitution, including its Second Amendment?

Is she aware that U.S. citizens do, in fact, have the right to keep and bear arms, and to defend themselves and others with deadly force in a plethora of circumstances, particularly when they are violently attacked?

Does she know that our “right of assembly” does not grant anyone a right to destroy property, threaten bodily harm, hit people with skateboards, or hold pistols to their heads – all of which happened to Rittenhouse in the minutes before he pulled the trigger of his AR-15?

Does she realize that calling Rittenhouse a “vigilante,” especially after he was found not guilty on all counts, and falsely claiming that he carried his gun across state lines, exposes her and her university to potential defamation claims?

Do we know “without a doubt” that “racial inequities” figure “in nearly every strand of the American fabric?”

Many disagree, even if, as Jamal is undoubtedly aware, disagreeing on Princeton’s campus can result in baleful consequences, against which the traditional hallmarks of academic freedom are no shield.

Which “policies and practices” does she want her students to “investigate?” Open jury trials? Constitutional liberties? Rights of self-defense? Due process? Presumption of innocence?

and so on.

The College Fix:

The College Fix reports on other college follies around the Rittenhouse affair; I didn’t know of these:

The scholar is not the only one within academia to be voicing alarm over the verdict.

As The College Fix reported today, controversial Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper had said the Rittenhouse verdict was a sign of “which version of whiteness” America wants. When discussing the fact that the men Rittenhouse shot were white, she said there “have always been white victims of white supremacy.”

At Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, administrators scheduled “virtual and in-person physical” spaces for students who needed to process the Rittenhouse verdict. The spaces are segregated by the students’ color, with white and students of color being asked to attend separate “processing spaces.”

At New York University, Dean Neil Guterman issued a statement saying the school’s social work scholars, teachers, and learners “stand in solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice, and share the pain at the outcome of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.”

Brittney Cooper, whoever she is, does have the right to express her viewpoint so long as it’s stated as her personal opinion and not as an institutional statement. (I haven’t seen it). But Fitchburg State and now New York University have broadcast official opinions, which isn’t kosher.  Further, I easily found the statement of Dean Guterman on the internet. It is is official and also unwarranted. To wit (bolding is mine):

NYU Silver Dean Neil B. Guterman sent the following message to students, faculty, staff, and alumni on November 22, 2021.

To Members of the Silver Community:

As a community of social work scholars, teachers, and learners, we stand in solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice, and share the pain at the outcome of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who, at 17 years old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic gun, shot and killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz during protests of the shooting of Black Kenosha, WI resident Jacob Blake. The acquittal verdict is reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and once again lays bare the unequal and pernicious way our justice system permits and indeed enables deadly shootings. We also stand in solidarity with the Arbery family as we near a verdict in the trial of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan, who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man in Georgia. Our profession stands for the promotion of all forms of social justice, protection of life, equal treatment, and we must continue to advocate against all forms of state sanctioned violence.

[JAC note: There was no state sanctioned violence in either the Rittenhouse case or the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.]

Such visible instances in the media can understandably be distressing — particularly for our BIPOC colleagues and other members of our community from marginalized groups. Given this and the many other challenges of the day, I encourage our community to find ways to come together to give and receive support from one another at this time, and in the coming days. NYU offers a number of resources to help community members care for themselves in difficult times like this.

  • Students may access the NYU Wellness Exchange to talk with a counselor 24/7 via phone (212) 443-9999, chat through the Wellness Exchange app, or by stopping by during their virtual drop-in hours.
  • Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program (Optum) 24/7 at (888) 980-8740 and via chat in their app. Dr. Bob Talbot, NYU’s onsite EAP consultant, is also available as a resource.
  • Students, faculty, and staff seeking spiritual support may connect with a Spiritual Life Advisor through NYU Global Spiritual Life during their virtual office hours.

I am thinking of you all as we process this latest injustice and redouble our commitment to advance social justice and racial equity.

Neil B. Guterman
Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor

Lord, I don’t know what happened to American colleges, but they’re apparently full of adnministrator-cowards who are afraid of being mobbed by Social Justice.

 

h/t: Bill

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today I’ll show my own “wildlife” photos just for fun, but keep sending yours in.  Click the pictures below to enlarge them.

Feeding wild cats at a nunnery in Mystras, Greece, 2002. I always carry a box of dry cat food in my backpack in places like this.

A rare bloom in Death Valley, California, 2005. I don’t know what the moth is, and I’m baffled about where the many pollinating insects come from in those very occasional wet years. They just appear from out of nowhere.

Me feeding a grape (with permission) to a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) at the Duke Lemur Center, 2006. Note the baby clinging to its belly.

Another ringtail with child:

Sifakas (lemurs, Propithecus sp.):

Cepea nemoralis snails on a fencepost, Dorset, England, 2006. The riot of colors and banding in this species was subject to a lot of investigation when I was in college, but evolutionary geneticists still don’t have an explanation for why the variation persists:

A butterfly (I don’t know the species) in the garden at Thomas Hardy’s boyhood home, 2006:

Snail and fly near Clouds Hill (T. E. Lawrence’s cottage), Wareham, Dorset, 2006:

Gooseneck barnacle, a rare and expensive delicacy. Galicia, Spain, 2006:

The one above was found on the rocks at low tide. Here are some for sale in the market. You eat the meat underneath the leather skin. It’s very good.

Me feeding a Texas longhorn on David Hillis’s and Jim Bull’s Double Helix ranch outside Austin, 2007:

Groundhog (Marmota monax), Capitol grounds, Ottawa, Canada, 2007:

Greg Mayer’s pet common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); I believe its name was “Snappy”), Kenosha, Wisconsin, 2008:

Butterfly and orchids (species unknown), Guatemala, 2009:

Statue dedicated to all the lab cats “sacrificed” in medical research. St. Petersburg, 2011:

Gulls, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 2011

Trees in autumn, Switzerland 2011:

I have many more, and perhaps I’ll post some of them on another holiday (Chanukah, Christmas, and Coynezaa are coming up).

Thursday: Hili dialogue

November 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Happy Thanksgiving! Welcome to Thanksgiving Day in America, Thursday November 25, 2021. All good Americans (save me) will be stuffing themselves on dry turkey and pumpkin pie and then, sated, fall asleep in front of the television watching football.  Here’s Norman Rockwell’s painting of Thanksgiving dinner; it’s part of his “Four Freedoms” series, and this one is “Freedom from Want“:

It’s also National Parfait Day, National Day of Mourning (but for what?), Blasé Day, Turkey-Free Thanksgiving, and International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

There’s an animated Google Doodle for Thanksgiving today (click on screenshot), but note that a traditional Thanksgiving item is missing from the dancing foodstuffs. Can you guess why? (There is gravy, though.)

For your meatless Thanksgiving pleasure, you can haz this: Tofurkey, made from tofu and grain. I have heard it given other names. See the first cartoon below.

News of the Day:

*According to Georgia state law, the minimum sentence for each of the three men involved in the Ahmaud Arberty is life in prison. The judge, who will sentence them within a few weeks, does have the option of allow them to be considered for parole, but only after 30 years in prison, when two of the men will probably be dead. If the judge denies parole, the three men will die in prison.

*Two big guns in the infectious disease world, Eric Topol and Michael T. Osterholm, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post called “The CDC got it wrong. It should have urged all adults to get covid-19 booster shots.” Instead, the CDC urged only adults over the age of 50 to get the shots. Why is that a mistake? Because the booster really does boost—a lot.:

Public health officials have always expected that mRNA coronavirus vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) to be a three-shot regimen. The only question was when the third shot would be necessary. Originally, the hope was that it would be after one or two years. It turns out, it is necessary at about six months.

More than 10 large reports have shown that the reduced protection from infections, including symptomatic infections, across all age groups, wanes from 90 to 95 percent at two months down to about 60 percent for Pfizer and 70 percent for Moderna after five to six months. There is further substantial waning after six months.

The good news is that a booster dose can restore that initial efficacy, as data makes abundantly clear. One randomized trial of Pfizer’s vaccine involving more than 10,000 participants — half receiving a third shot and the other half receiving a placebo booster — showed a remarkably high 95-percent efficacy. In that trial, people aged 18 to 55 benefited just as much as those older than 55. There were no safety issues raised, such as myocarditis.

I’m not a doctor—I only play one in the lab—but I urge all readers over 18 who don’t have contraindications to get that booster now. (I’m pretty sure we’ll need boosters at least yearly for a while, but that’s a guess.)

*YouTube announced that it would no longer show the “dislikes” on any video, although the button will still be there. That means that the person who posted the video has the option to see how many “dislikes” there were, but nobody else does. Why?

At YouTube, we strive to be a place where creators of all sizes and backgrounds can find and share their voice. To ensure that YouTube promotes respectful interactions between viewers and creators, we introduced several features and policies to improve their experience. And earlier this year, we experimented with the dislike button to see whether or not changes could help better protect our creators from harassment, and reduce dislike attacks — where people work to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos.

As part of this experiment, viewers could still see and use the dislike button. But because the count was not visible to them, we found that they were less likely to target a video’s dislike button to drive up the count. In short, our experiment data showed a reduction in dislike attacking behavior. We also heard directly from smaller creators and those just getting started that they are unfairly targeted by this behavior — and our experiment confirmed that this does occur at a higher proportion on smaller channels.

If they get rid of the “dislike” button, they should also get rid of the “like” button. How else can you judge the public’s reaction to a video? If you can’t weather a “dislike” attack, you shouldn’t be posting there. The vast majority of “dislikes” are not “harassment”. In fact, even a concerted attack isn’t really harassment. Now everybody just sees the likes, so all will have prizes.

*An article in the NYT Magazine calls Hayao Miyazaki “the greatest animated filmmaker since the advent of the form in the early 20th century and one of the greatest filmmakers of any genre.” I have seen three of his anime-ted films from the Studio Ghibli and was mesmerized by all of them: “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), “Princess Mononoke” (1997), and “Spirited Away” (2002). I didn’t think I’d like them, but was immediately sucked into a world of fantasy and imagination of the highest order. As the NYT says:

Miyazaki does not like to frame his work in explicitly ideological or moral terms. The mission of his films, he says, is to “comfort you — to fill in the gap that might be in your heart or your everyday life.” But his movies are haunted by his grief over the damage humans have done to the natural world.

. Now Miyazaki, 80, has come out of retirement to make one last film, about which we’re told almost nothing except that it’s based on a children’s book:

It is time. Miyazaki rubs the top of his head and lights a cigarette, one of his signature king-size, charcoal-filtered Seven Stars. I am allowed one last question. “The title of your next film is ‘How Do You Live?,’” I say. “Will you give us the answer?”

The smile comes only after he speaks: “I am making this movie because I do not have the answer.”

The profile is wonderful; if you like Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films, do read it.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 776,197, an increase of 1,117 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,195,428, an increase of about 6,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 25 includes:

  • 1491 – The siege of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, ends with the Treaty of Granada.
  • 1759 – An earthquake hits the Mediterranean destroying Beirut and Damascus and killing 30,000–40,000.
  • 1915 – Albert Einstein presents the field equations of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

Here’s the first page of Einstein’s manuscript on general relativity, a theory which eventually predicted both black holes and gravity waves.

These were ten people who refused to answer Congress’s questions about whether they were affiliated with the Communist Party and had also spent time in jail: Alvah BessieHerbert BibermanLester ColeEdward DmytrykRing Lardner, Jr., John Howard LawsonAlbert MaltzSamuel OrnitzAdrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo.

It’s still running at the theater below, after more than 28,000 performances.  It closed for a while during the pandemic but reopened on May 17 of this year.  Do you know what the second longest-running play is (a distant second with only 13,000 performances)? Go here for the answer.

Here’s a 43-minute film of the funeral, which is very moving:

  • 1970 – In Japan, author Yukio Mishima and one compatriot commit ritualistic seppuku after an unsuccessful coup attempt.

Mishima committed seppuku at age 45, but before he did (and botched it), he gave a speech asking for the restoration of the Emperor. That failed as well; here he is speaking from the balcony on the day he died:

And here’s a video about the song’s making. How many people do you recognize?

  • 1986 – Iran–Contra affair: U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese announces that profits from covert weapons sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
  • 1999 – A five-year-old Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, is rescued by fishermen while floating in an inner tube off the Florida coast.

Gonzalez’s mother drowned during the escape, and he stayed with relatives in Miami while his father, still in Cuba, demanded his return. After a long transit through the courts, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that Elian be returned to his father in Cuba. Here’s the famous photo of Border Patrol agents breaking into the Miami house to retrieve the boy. Guns, really? Elian, now 27, works “as a technology specialist at a state-run company that makes large plastic water tanks.” The photo, by Alan Diaz, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1562 – Lope de Vega, Spanish playwright and poet (d. 1635)
  • 1846 – Carrie Nation, American activist (d. 1911)

Nation, who described herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like”, and decided that Jesus didn’t like booze. She was famous for entering bars and, with a hatchet, destroying the bar and the stock of booze. Here she is with her hatchet and her Bible. She must be looking at a verse declaring the wickedness of alcohol.

Vavilov, below, was a martyr to genetics. Adhering to the principles of “real” genetics, instead of Lysenko’s phony theories that were supported by Stalin, Vavilov was arrested for counterrevolutionary activities and sentenced to 20 years in prison, where he died.  Here’s his prison mugshot:

Höss was commandant of Auschwitz and promoted the use of Zyklon B for mass murder of Jews and other prisoners. Here he is being escorted to the gallows in 1947:

  • 1913 – Lewis Thomas, American physician, etymologist, and educator (d. 1993)
  • 1914 – Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player and coach (d. 1999)

The Yankee Clipper hit safely in 56 straight games in 1941, a record that still stands. Here he is smooching his bat that year:

  • 1940 – Percy Sledge, American singer (d. 2015)
  • 1960 – John F. Kennedy Jr., American lawyer, journalist, and publisher (d. 1999)

Those who went the way of the Butterball on November 25 include:

  • 1944 – Kenesaw Mountain Landis, American lawyer and judge (b. 1866)
  • 1968 – Upton Sinclair, American novelist, critic, and essayist (b. 1878)

A signed first edition of Sinclair’s most famous work (1906), which exposed the horrors of Chicago’s meatpacking industry, and led to reforms in that industry, will cost you around $4,500.

  • 1970 – Yukio Mishima, Japanese author, actor, and director (b. 1925)
  • 1987 – Harold Washington, American lawyer and politician, 51st Mayor of Chicago (b. 1922)

Washington was the first African-American elected as Chicago’s mayor. He lived very close to me in an apartment building, and loved the immigrant monk parrots who had a huge social nest in the tree outside his building. (They’re gone now as the damn city tore all the nests down a few years ago.)

  • 2005 – George Best, Northern Irish footballer (b. 1946)
  • 2016 – Fidel Castro, Communist leader of Cuba, and revolutionary (b. 1926)
  • 2020 – Diego Maradona, Argentinian football player (b. 1960)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Andrzej’s book with Paulina’s photos has arrived, and Hili is furious and super jealous! You can see the book below (Kulka’s on the cover) with Andrzej and Hili.

A: Hili: The books with Kulka’s pictures arrived!
Hili: That’s unethical.
You can read about the book (in Polish, but Google will translate) here.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, przyszły książki ze zdjęciami Kulki!
Hili: To nie jest etyczne.

From Don, a modern Thanksgiving Dinner by Roz Chast:

From Facebook:

From On the Prowl Cat Cartoons:

This is not a joke, as it really comes from the Women’s March website.  Apparently they’re ashamed that they didn’t mention colonization and genocide when bringing up the average contribution of $14.92 (the year that Columbus “discovered” America).

Reader Jeremy, who sent me the link, says “I’m not sure if it was intended as satire or was serious, but the replies rip into it mercilessly and many are very funny.”  It wasn’t satire.Jeremy adds, “Of course, 1492 was not a year of colonisation and genocide in North America, at least not by Europeans. It was, however, a year in which all the Jews in Spain and Portugal were made to convert to Christianity or be expelled.”

Nope not satire, for that would be in bad taste for this woke organization. The Woke lack humor, anyway.

More conjuring with numbers, this time from Titania, who makes fun of the tweet above:

From Paul, who says that Kyle Rittenhouse is on a “hero tour”. Here he is with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Nobody ever said that Rittenhouse was a fricking saint! He was a jerk who was found not guilty of murder.

More mockery, this time unearthed by Luana:

From Barry. But don’t fill up a wine glass that much!

From Ginger K.:

Tweets from Matthew. An appropriately Japanese Christmas tree:

Stand back!!

Three found guilty of murder in Ahmaud Arbery case

November 24, 2021 • 1:38 pm

I hope that those people who beefed about the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse as an instance of white supremacy will mute their cries that there’s no justice for black people, for this afternoon there was a verdict that, as far as I can see, was eminently just.

An innocent black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was shot to death in Georgia by one of three white men who were practicing vigilante justice with no cause other than the Arbery’s race. They said they were attempting a “citizen’s arrest” when Arbery, who had no weapon, tried to grab one of the vigilantes’ guns, and was himself gunned down. But there was video, and it didn’t support their story. All three men were convicted this afternoon. 

The convicted murderers, Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, will likely get life in prison. And that’s just the beginning for them, for that was just a trial in state court.  The trio also face federal charges: hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. That trial will begin in February

Not all of them were convicted on all counts though. From the NYT:

The jury has found Travis McMichael, the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and felony murder.

The jury has found Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael’s father, not guilty of malice murder, but guilty of all other counts he faces, including felony murder.

The jury has found William Bryan, who filmed the fatal encounter with Ahmaud Arbery, not guilty of malice murder. He was found not guilty of one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, but guilty of three counts of felony murder and three other charges.

I predicted this result, but it wasn’t hard to do. Although the murderers claimed that Arbery was a burglar, pointing to video of him wandering inside a house under construction, he didn’t steal anything. (I used to wander into houses like that when I was a kid.) And the video clearly showed the three men pursuing Arbery, who was running away from them.  It’s fairly clear that he was being pursued because he was black.

Condolences to Arbery’s family, who had to sit through the whole trial, and no pity for the other three. The verdict and sentencing will hopefully be a deterrent to others like them, and perhaps the miscreants will some day reform, but surely now they need to be removed from society.

Small spider pulls big empty shell up into a bush to make itself a home, and I haz questions

November 24, 2021 • 1:30 pm

This is one of the most amazing pieces of spider behavior I’ve ever seen (filmed, of course, by the BBC and narrated by Attenborough). You have to watch yourself it as it’s too complex to describe.

There are several questions that arise, and I have no answers:

a.) Does every member of the spider species do this, or is this a behavior evinced by just one individual? (Nobody knows.)

b.) If the latter, how the hell did that spider figure out what to do? If it’s not species-wide, it probably isn’t genetically encoded in the brain, and this behavior would have to be figured out! I don’t think that spiders have that kind of savvy, though they can spin very intricate webs or build trapdoors. Those however, are species-wide evolutionarily derived behaviors.

c.) How does the process of affixing one strand after another to the shell lift it up? The spider isn’t strong enough to haul the shell up, nor does it seem to be using the silk as a pulley, which wouldn’t work anyway

If readers can answer any of these questions, be my guest!

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’m taking a tiny break tomorrow, so although there will be posts, don’t expect many. Enjoy your noms instead!

h/t: Jim