What’s for dinner?

I’m taking it easy today and am having a long, vigorous walk along Lake Michigan, followed by a shower and then dinner. Turkeys are too big for me (I wonder if those Butterball 20-pounders will go unsold this year), and so I am having a Jewish Thanksgiving: pork roast.

On the side there will be fresh biscuits and local tomatoes. But this modest meal will be washed down with a very fancy wine—the real centerpiece of the meal. It’s a great Rioja, a 2011 Prado Enea Rioja Gran Riserva from Bodegas Muga, which I bought as a three-pack (in a wooden box with a decanter included) for a pretty penny several years ago.  This is the last bottle of the three, and believe me, it’s ethereal. In fact, the food is just a vehicle to get this wine down:

Normally I’d be sharing this bottle with guests, but guests are rarer than hen’s teeth this year and so this puppy is ALL MINE.  I’ll drink half tonight and half tomorrow.

Of course the purpose of this post is to find out what everyone else is eating and drinking, on the holiday.  If you’re not American, though, you’re probably not celebrating.

Supreme Court comes down on side of churches in New York’s pandemic restrictions on congregation size

In a new ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s limitation of congregation sizes in churches during the pandemic.  The ruling was split 5-4, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett voting with the conservative majority—affirming the side of the Roman Catholic Church, which brought the suit—while Chief Justice Roberts voted with the liberals. (Had RBG been alive, the vote would have been 5-4 the other way.)  Beside the unsigned majority opinion, there are separate concurring opinions by Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, while there are dissenting opinions by Roberts, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor in various combinations.

While the judgment affirmed that Cuomo’s order violated the First-Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, one shouldn’t assume that the decision was purely one of religious conservatism, for this was a tough call.  You can read the opinion below (the unsigned majority take is short), or read the New York Times article about the decision (click on both screenshots below).

The Times’s article:

This ruling overturns two lower-court decisions affirming Cuomo’s decision to force churches to have 10 or fewer congregants during the “red-zone” phase of the pandemic.  One of the reasons the majority overturned this restriction (which has since been rescinded!) is that the numerical restriction was not imposed on businesses other than churches. Hence, one could construe that this violates the First Amendments “free exercise” provision by discriminating against churches.

From the majority decision:

In a red zone, while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as “essential” may admit as many people as they wish. And the list of “essential” businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities. See New York State, Empire State Development, Guidance for Determining Whether a Business Enterprise is Subject to a Workforce Reduction Under Recent Executive Orders, https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026. The disparate treatment is even more striking in an orange zone.  While attendance at houses of worship is limited to 25 persons, even non-essential businesses may decide for themselves how many persons to admit.

Irreparable harm. There can be no question that the challenged restrictions, if enforced, will cause irreparable harm. “The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Elrod v. Burns, 427 U. S. 347, 373 (1976) (plurality opinion). If only 10 people are admitted to each service, the great majority of those who wish to attend Masson Sunday or services in a synagogue on Shabbat will be barred. And while those who are shut out may in some instances be able to watch services on television, such remote viewing is not the same as personal attendance. Catholics who watch a Mass at home cannot receive communion, and there are important religious traditions in the Orthodox Jewish faith that require personal attendance. App. to Application in No. 20A90, at 26–27.

But against this, one could argue, as did Justice Sotomayor in her dissent, that businesses that didn’t have government-specified limits are materially different, in terms of viral spread, from church congregations, especially where congregants are singing loudly. From her dissent:

But JUSTICE GORSUCH does not even try to square his examples with the conditions medical experts tell us facilitate the spread of COVID–19: large groups of people gathering, speaking, and singing in close proximity indoors for extended periods of time.

As I noted, the case appears moot because the numerical limits obtaining at the time of the lawsuit have since been lifted (this was emphasized in the dissents). But the majority opinion took that into account as well, saying that Cuomo’s decision could be reversed, and rather than re-litigate the issue, I presume the court wanted to render an opinion that would be in place should that reversal take place:

The dissenting opinions argue that we should withhold relief because the relevant circumstances have now changed. After the applicants asked this Court for relief, the Governor reclassified the areas in question from orange to yellow, and this change means that the applicants may hold services at 50% of their maximum occupancy. The dissents would deny relief at this time but allow the Diocese and Agudath Israel to renew their requests if this recentreclassification is reversed.

There is no justification for that proposed course of action. It is clear that this matter is not moot. See Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U. S. 449, 462 (2007); Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services (TOC), Inc., 528 U. S. 167, 189 (2000). And injunctive relief is still called for because the applicants remain under a constant threat that the area in question will be reclassified as red or orange. See, e.g., Susan

B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U. S. 149, 158 (2014). The Governor regularly changes the classification of particular areas without prior notice.3 If that occurs again, the reclassification will almost certainly bar individuals in the affected area from attending services before judicial relief can be obtained.

I suppose Left-wing sites might couch this as an unwarranted, pro-faith opinion supported by the usual suspects, who now include Barrett. And that may be the case, but it’s not a cut-and-dried issue. Here are my thoughts:

1.) It is supremely important to uphold the Free Exercise clause, just as it’s important to uphold the entire First Amendment, which includes freedom of speech as well as of worship.

2.) Nevertheless, when public safety is compromised by free exercise of religion, the former trumps the latter, as it has historically. Practicing one’s faith does not give you the right to endanger those who are not of your faith.  This gives courts the power to restrict religious practice if it, for example, is likely to spread coronavirus.

3.) But one cannot discriminate against churches in this respect, imposing sanctions on them that aren’t imposed on similar enterprises like businesses.

4.) HOWEVER, and this is the most important bit for me, is a church with a congregation limit of 10 equivalent to a business like Wal-Mart in which more than ten people are present at once—in a much larger space? I don’t think so, particularly when church congregants sing and pray without masks, a particularly dangerous way of spreading the virus via respiratory droplets.  I’m not sure whether the court’s decision, holding equivalence such as this, is justifiable, and Sotomayor makes that point. This is in fact a public health rather than a legal decision, and is not really within the court’s competence.

5.) As for the restrictions having changed, rendering the original lawsuit moot, I do agree with the majority that given the to-and-fro of restrictions during the pandemic, a judgment was still warranted. Whether this was the right one, I am not sure. But it’s better to have some opinion in place rather than having the matter re-litigated should restrictions once again be imposed.

Perhaps there are lawyers in the crowd here who want to render an opinion, and I have to say that I haven’t scrutinized the entire set of opinions minutely. But this decision doesn’t bother me as much, as, say, ones that pose more serious dangers, including those that restrict abortion or dismantle the Affordable Care Act. But those will be coming, for the court is now solidly conservative—even if Justice Roberts is mellowing in his old age.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

Besides his duck and faux-duck photos, John Avise has sent us a series called “Avian Reflections”. His notes and IDs are indented:

I love to photograph waterbirds on still days when the water’s surface is so glassy that I can capture the bird and its reflection in one picture (thereby giving “two views for the price of one”).  Later, I like to reflect on when and where I took each such artistic picture.  So, this brief introduction also reflects my enjoyment of reflection-photos, each of which was taken near my home in Southern California.

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana):

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger):

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus):

Bonaparte’s Gull (Larus philadelphia):

Brant (Branta bernicla):

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola):

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus):

Great Egret (Ardea alba):

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus):

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps):

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus):

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis):

Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides):

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis):

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis):

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) flock:

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus):

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca):

Green Heron (Butorides virescens):

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula):

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia):

 

Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s Thanksgiving Day in America: Thursday, November 26, 2020, and National Cake Day. Here’s are some amazing cakes made by a tattoo artist:

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the history Thanksgiving:

It’s also Unthanksgiving Day, also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, described as “a yearly event that takes place on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Coinciding with the National Day of Mourning in Massachusetts and a counter-celebration to Thanksgiving Day, Unthanksgiving Day honors indigenous people and promotes their rights. It commemorates the survival of indigenous people after the European colonization of the Americas and honors their resistance through the centuries.” Finally, it’s Turkey-Free Thanksgiving, and, truth be told, turkey is an awfully bland dish. Give me a ham, a pork roast, or roast beef! Better yet, rib tips!!!

News of the Day:

Well, we all know about this pardon; how many other undeserved and self-serving pardons will we see before January 20?

More on the shameful new Supreme Court decision on religion later today.

Diego Maradona died; the soccer legend was only 60 years old, but suffered a heart attack (he had abused cocaine earlier in his life, had other health problems, and was overweight). He was a very great player, and two of his goals (below) were notable—one “infamous”, as the video below notes, but the other deservedly famous. Both were scored in the same game: the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup, when England played Argentina. The “hand of God” goal was clearly an illegal handball

. . . and a memorial story (sound up):

For a video of Maradona training in the mud (and doing some incredible dribbling and shots), go to this Facebook video (h/t: Jez)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 262,137,  a big increase of about 2,300 from yesterday’s figure. Yesterday 1.6 Americans died every minute from the virus. The world death toll is 1,428,873, a big increase of about 12,100 over yesterday’s report. About 8.3 inhabitants of this planet died every minute yesterday. 

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.
  • 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.
  • 1922 – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years.

Here’s a view of the tomb when it was opened in 1922 (it had been plundered at least twice previously):

Harry Burton, View of tomb interior, November 1922 (Tutankhamun Archive, Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

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

This needs no introduction:

  • 1950 – Korean War: Troops from the People’s Republic of China launch a massive counterattack in North Korea against South Korean and United Nations forces (Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River and Battle of Chosin Reservoir), ending any hopes of a quick end to the conflict.

Here’s an amazing fact:

  • 2003 – The Concorde makes its final flight, over Bristol, England.
  • 2004 – The last Poʻouli (Black-faced honeycreeper) dies of avian malaria in the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda, Hawaii, before it could breed, making the species in all probability extinct.

Here’s one that was still alive:

  • 2008 – Mumbai attacks, a series of terrorist attacks killing approximately 166 citizens by 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan based extremist Islamist terrorist organisation, and the ship, Queen Elizabeth 2 is out of service, and docks in Dubai.

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)
  • 1894 – Norbert Wiener, American-Swedish mathematician and philosopher (d. 1964)
  • 1907 – Ruth Patrick, American botanist (d. 2013)
  • 1933 – Robert Goulet, American-Canadian singer and actor (d. 2007)
  • 1943 – Marilynne Robinson, American novelist and essayist
  • 1954 – Roz Chast, American cartoonist

Now that the cartoons in the New Woker are going downhill, Roz Chast’s work remains a bright light. Here’s one of her pandemic cartoons:

Those who passed away 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 “Belle” Baumfree, she lived to be 86, and was a famous abolitionists and campaigner for women’s rights. Here she is in around 1870:

 

  • 1956 – Tommy Dorsey, American trombonist, trumpet player, and composer (b. 1905)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Hili dialogue is enigmatic. When I asked Malgorzata what it means, she replied, “This dialogue is not easy to explain and it can have many different interpretations, depending on the reader. One of them is that, maybe, it’s better to remain ignorant about how politics and sausages are made.”

Hili: Is it possible to understand all that?
A: No.
Hili, Maybe, it’s just as well.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy można to wszystko zrozumieć?
Ja: Nie.
Hili: Może to i lepiej.

In nearby Wloclawek, teenager Mietek has a question:

Mietek: What are you doing over there?

In Polish: Co tam porabiacie?

From Peter N., who saw this license plate on a car in front of a grocery store:

From Stash Krod:

From The Cat House on the Kings:

From reader Barry, a comparison between creationism and our “President”:

From Matthew. Here’s the most wonderful thread I’ve seen on Twitter in a long time: ANIMALS WHO ATE TOO MUCH!

DUCKLING!  This is the best one, right up there with the pastry-filled possum:

One of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:

And other. As Matthew says in all caps: “NOTHING GROWS OR SHRINKS OR MOVES ITS POSITION HERE. IT’S ALL ILLUSORY”

And variants:

 

 

Religion infects everyone

If you click on the screenshot below from LiveLeak, or go to an article in the New York Post, you’ll see a pretty horrifying sight: an assemblage of thousands of unmasked and singing religionists celebrating during the pandemic in defiance of New York regulations:

What is it? An Orthodox Jewish wedding. The Post explains:

A Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn planned the wedding of a chief rabbi’s grandson with such secrecy, it was able to host thousands of maskless celebrants without the city catching on.

Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, guests crammed shoulder to shoulder inside the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg for the Nov. 8 nuptials — stomping, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs without a mask in sight, videos obtained by The Post show.

Organizers schemed to hide the wedding of Yoel Teitelbaum, grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, from “the ravenous press and government officials,” says a detailed account in the Yiddish newspaper Der Blatt, the publication of the Satmar sect.

“Due to the ongoing situation with government restrictions, preparations were made secretly and discreetly, so as not to draw attention from strangers,” the paper reported in its Nov. 13 edition.

. . .The synagogue’s stunning willingness to host a potential superspreader event underscores what critics call the Hasidic community’s ongoing disregard and outright defiance of efforts to control the deadly coronavirus, which has killed nearly 25,000 people in New York City.

Ironically, the synagogue’s own president, R’Mayer Zelig Rispler, who openly urged Brooklyn’s Orthodox community to abide by coronavirus safety measures, died of COVID-19 last month at age 70.

Note as well that there’s only one woman in the crowd: the bride. The rest of the women are either absent or watching from screened alcoves above. This is one of the ways the Orthodox turn their women into second-class citizens.

Singing loudly is a great way to spread the virus, especially if you’re jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with other maskless people. And those fur hats must be great traps for respiratory particles.  Let’s hope this doesn’t convert one wedding into a bunch of funerals.

 

A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian

The Guardian is the British equivalent of HuffPost, and Suzanne Moore, one of its premier op-ed writers, has become the British equivalent of Bari Weiss.  For Moore, who had a distinguished career—winning among other awards the Orwell Prize and the British Press’s “Columnist of the Year”—has now been hounded out of her job. Of course it’s because she wrote a piece that offended the Woke, which enraged over three hundred of her colleagues, who wrote a group letter denouncing her. After her editors refused to defend Moore’s right to publish her views, she quit.

She describes this incident, and also her entire career, in a new piece at UnHerd (click on screenshot below). It’s long and rather discursive, and, truth be told, I didn’t find the details of her career all that interesting (the cutesy prose didn’t help), though I felt sorry for her travails in trying—successfully–to break into an all-male domain. The piece gets interesting when she describes how her colleagues hounded her out of the paper after she wrote a column about sex, gender, and transsexuals. (No surprise about the reaction: there is no deviation permitted from Accepted Thought about transsexuals.  

The skinny: in March of this year, Moore published the column below, which isn’t all that inflammatory—unless you take the extreme hard line on sex and gender: i.e., that both are social constructs, and that transsexual women are in all relevant respects identical to biological women.  I’ve put a few quotes from the column below, but read it for yourself and judge how “harmful” it really is:

 

Moore’s big sin was to say that in some respects transsexual women are not the same as biological women—not with respect to their presence in prison or other spaces (I’m thinking of halfway houses, sports, or as rape counselors). She also affirmed the indubitable fact that biological sex is binary and not a social construct. (Moore does see gender as a social construct):

The radical insight of feminism is that gender is a social construct – that girls and women are not fated to be feminine, that boys and men don’t have to be masculine. But we have gone through the looking-glass and are being told that sex is a construct. It is said that sex is merely assigned at birth, rather than being a material fact – actually, though, sex is recognisable in the womb (which is what enables foetal sex selection). Sex is not a feeling. Female is a biological classification that applies to all living species. If you produce large immobile gametes, you are female. Even if you are a frog. This is not complicated, nor is there a spectrum, although there are small numbers of intersex people who should absolutely be supported.

. . . Male violence is an issue for women, which is why we want single-sex spaces. Vulnerable women in refuges and prisons must be allowed to live in safe environments – the common enemy here is the patriarchy, remember? How did we arrive at a situation where there are shocking and rising numbers of teenage girls presenting at specialist clinics with gender dysphoria, while some who have transitioned are now regretful and infertile?

Even if you disagree with her take, you can’t doubt that the issue, given the way many women feel, is certainly discussable, and surely material for an op-ed column. But the Authoritarian Left have rendered it non-discussable, and that’s why, after her column was published, Moore was the (unnamed) subject of a letter sent to the paper by 338 of her colleagues, many of whom were her friends—but not one of them bothered to call her. Here’s the letter:

She was of course hurt, and even more so when her editors declined to defend her piece. What the hell is going on at the Guardian when its editors can’t even say, “We allow our op-ed writers the liberty of their own opinions and have no further comment”?

And so a couple of excepts from her UnHerd piece:

I was discussed at “conference”, the newspaper morning meeting open to all: editorial, digital, advertising, everyone. (It looks like equality, but some people sit on the floor and others get seats, let’s put it that way.) I never go in to the office, or attend conference, but it was reported that a trans woman developer, who had already resigned some weeks earlier, resigned again that morning, because my words, my column, had made her feel unsafe. According to the news story: “the column was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ the trans employee said, following a series of pieces that pitted trans people against women and against women’s rights.”

The “unsafe” bit is simply a canard, and I don’t buy it for a minute. In fact, we’d all be better off if we started questioning these ubiquitous claims of feeling “unsafe,” which rarely make sense.

The letter made it clear to me that it wasn’t just social media activists who wanted me out of the paper. My fellow staff were gunning for me: time to hand over my job to the young Corbyn crew who spend their lives slagging off the mainstream media but cannot wait to be part of it. Could they write a good sentence? Say something from the heart? Does that matter? Apparently not, they simply think the right things.

The letter was then leaked to Buzzfeed and then the names were made public. I was devastated to find people who I like and had worked with had done this. In 30 years of journalism I have often disagreed with people and had stand-up rows with them but no one has ever done something so underhand as to try and get someone fired because of one column.

. . . Mistakenly, I thought my editors would stand up for me because that was my experience at other papers; or they might issue a public statement. They didn’t. There was some internal email, and I hear it was discussed at the Scott Trust, which governs the paper. What this means I genuinely have no idea. Nor do I understand what editorial independence means any more. Do they? Not in my book.

This to me was utter cowardice. Shouldn’t you stand by your writers? But on this issue the Guardian has run scared. I suspect this is partly because of Guardian US sensitivities and, partly because the paper receives sponsorship from the Open Society foundation, which promotes trans rights.

To be sure, there were people who supported Moore, and one even did so publicly, but most did so sotto voce: after all, they didn’t want to be fired or demonized.

So Moore quit the Guardian, just as Bari Weiss quite the New York Times after hounding from her fellow writers. And shame on the Guardian for their refusal to defend their writers.  Nor can we hope that Moore’s column will make things easier. As she says:

The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

We must not be afraid of being called “transphobes”, which we are not if we merely point out socially relevant differences between transsexual women and biological women. For most purposes there aren’t relevant differences, but sometimes there are, and we need to talk about them. Pity that the Authoritarian Left has made “transphobe” a slur to be feared, just as they’ve done with “Islamophobe” or “racist”. Those labels are just easy ways to shut people up. We can’t stifle ourselves (as Archie Bunker often importuned Edith) for fear of a label.

h/t: Pyers

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ positivity

This week’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “such,” came with the email note “Squeezing another strip out of last week’s Joe McKeever nonsense“.  McKeever’s column is called “7 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Choose Atheism Over Christianity,” and it’s a corker.  Apparently the boys are discussing McKeever’s first reason:

1. Positivity

As a rule, atheists tend to be a pretty miserable lot, while the best Christians I know are also the most put-together, positive, and effective people in the room.

I heard someone say once, “The devil has no godly old people.” Indeed. We could add that the Lord also seems to have all the best-mannered, generous-hearted, goal-oriented achievers. If you look at the products of atheism and Christianity, in my personal experience, there is no contest.

I don’t think McKeever knows many atheists! At any rate, the barmaid also finds this laughable:

 

Penguin Random House (Canada) employees rebel against their firm’s publication of Jordan Peterson

Apparently publishers are supposed to adopt a consistent ideological point of view, publishing books that comport not only with “progressive” ideology, but also avoiding publishing any books that violate it.  If there are such violations, the books should not be published. This is what happened when Hachette decided not to publish Woody Allen’s memoirs after employees objected—on the totally unproven grounds that Allen was a pedophile.

You’ll probably remember Jordan Peterson’s 2018 best-seller, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaosa self help book that remains at #95 on Amazon nearly three years after publication. I’m not much interested in the phenomenon of Peterson, who seems unhinged at some times and coherent and thoughtful at others, so I haven’t read any of his works. I did, however, look at 12 Rules in a bookstore, and found it mildly amusing and inoffensive—and possibly of help to some people.

Despite Peterson being demonized by the Authoritarian Left for his views on pronouns and masculinity (neither of which I agree with), his self-help book, published by Random House Canada, avoided all the political stuff. Here are the rules as summarized in Wikipedia:

  1. “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”
  2. “Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping”
  3. “Make friends with people who want the best for you”
  4. “Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today”
  5. “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”
  6. “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world”
  7. “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)”
  8. “Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie”
  9. “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”
  10. “Be precise in your speech”
  11. “Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding”
  12. “Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street”

Each of these rules was the subject of a short chapter, and I especially appreciated rule #12, which I think is a good one and one that I obey religiously.

I judge the reviews to have been mixed but on the positive side of neutrality (here’s a fair, and pretty positive one in the New Woker), but the book sold like hotcakes: over five million copies.

Now Peterson—who’s had his share of troubles, suffering from depression and addiction, and nearly dying in Russia where he sought treatment—is about to publish a sequel to 12 Rules called Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.  It looks pretty much like what it purports to be: more self-help, more rules.  It will be published in March of next year.

Despite the fairly anodyne nature of this book compared to the other ruckuses Peterson has raised, many employees of his publisher are now outraged—not because of the book’s contents, but because of what Peterson has said in his talks and in other publications and interviews. The publisher, again Penguin Random House Canada (it changed its name), is going ahead with the book, but, as VICE reports below (click on screenshot), the publication has ignited a lot of controversy among employees.

Yes, it’s the usual stuff; a few quotes from VICE will suffice, and will show that it’s not this book the employees object to, but Peterson’s views in general. He is an Unperson and therefore should not be published:

The kerfuffle:

Several Penguin Random House Canada employees confronted management about the company’s decision to publish a new book by controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson at an emotional town hall Monday, and dozens more have filed anonymous complaints, according to four workers who spoke to VICE World News.

On Monday, Penguin Random House Canada, Canada’s largest book publisher and a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, announced it will be publishing Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Peterson, to be released in March 2021. The book will be published by Portfolio in the U.S. and Penguin Press in the U.K., both part of the Penguin Random House empire.

Four Penguin Random House Canada employees, who did not want to be named due to concerns over their employment, said the company held a town hall about the book Monday, during which executives defended the decision to publish Peterson while employees cited their concerns about platforming someone who is popular in far-right circles.

. . . A third employee told VICE World News the company’s diversity and inclusion committee received at least 70 anonymous messages about Peterson’s book, and only a couple are in favour of the decision to publish it.

. . . “I feel it was deliberately hidden and dropped on us once it was too late to change course,” said the junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community. The employee said workers would have otherwise considered a walkout, similar to what Hachette employees did when the publisher announced it would be publishing Woody Allen’s memoir; Hachette later dropped the book.

The charges:

Four Penguin Random House Canada employees, who did not want to be named due to concerns over their employment, said the company held a town hall about the book Monday, during which executives defended the decision to publish Peterson while employees cited their concerns about platforming someone who is popular in far-right circles.

“He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him,” a junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community and who attended the town hall told VICE World News.

Is there hate speech in this book? I doubt it? Is there transphobia? I doubt that, too? White supremacy? If Peterson has been a white supremacist, I don’t know about it, but I seriously doubt there’s any of that in his upcoming book.

The view that a publisher must publish books hewing to a consistent ideological line:

“The company since June has been doing all these anti-racist and allyship things and them publishing Peterson’s book completely goes against this. It just makes all of their previous efforts seem completely performative,” the employee added.

. . . “(But) [Peterson’s] the one who’s responsible for radicalizing and causing this surge of alt-right groups, especially on university campuses.”

And the “harm”:

Another employee said “people were crying in the meeting about how Jordan Peterson has affected their lives.” They said one co-worker discussed how Peterson had radicalized their father and another talked about how publishing the book will negatively affect their non-binary friend.

The employee said the company’s diversity and inclusion committee aired concerns about how this will affect other authors.

“We publish a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community and what is the company going to do about making sure these authors are still feeling supported by a company that is supporting somebody who denies their existence,” the employee said.

. . . All of the workers who spoke to VICE World News said if the book isn’t cancelled, they would like Penguin Random House Canada to consider donating the profits from the book to LGBTQ organizations.

Crying???  When I read this kind of stuff, and realize that the book isn’t likely to contain anything seen as “transphobic” or “Nazified”, I want to tell these employees to a.) get a grip and b.) realize that publishers are one of the main venues for promulgating controversial speech. Only religious or creationist publishers have catalogues that don’t include dissenting voices, and Penguin Random House, which happens to be my own publisher in the U.S., has a consistent policy that they accept books based on quality and interest (and profitability, see below), not whether they’re ideologically palatable. If that were the case, they wouldn’t have published Faith Versus Fact. They knew my book would encounter criticism from the faithful, as indeed it did.

Think about how many books you disagree with, whatever your political stand. Many of those are solid books that make good arguments, and even if you reject the arguments, can you say that those books shouldn’t have been published? If so, then you’re not in favor of free speech.

Now of course publishing is a business, and part of the decision to accept books is also based on their likely profitability. But publishers realize that most of their books won’t make money, and they count on a few blockbusters to keep them afloat. Peterson’s book is likely to be one of these, since its predecessor sold over 5 million copies worldwide. But I doubt that Penguin Random House Canada simply wouldn’t publish the book if it were loaded to the gunwales with slurs on trans people or claims of white supremacy. No, it’s another cute self-help book, likely to contain nothing offensive save the name of the author.

But that’s enough. Peterson has been officially Canceled, and therefore nobody should publish anything he says.

h/t: cesar

Readers’ wildlife photos

Don’t forget to send in your good wildlife photos. I bet many of you have been putting it off, but I’ll need them as the holidays approach and nobody feels like sending anything.

Today, Joe Routon is back with some “street photography”, which today is really diverse. I’ve indented his captions.

Here is a potpourri of some of my photo interests. This first is one that I made of a cataract surgery. The instrument in the ophthalmologist’s right hand is a phacoemulsifier, used to send ultrasonic vibrations that emulsify the cataract, allowing the particles to be vacuumed out through the instrument. The phaco, as it’s affectionately called, then inserts a new and clear lens. The procedure, which is 99% effective, usually lasts about 20 minutes and produces spectacular results, in most cases.

This is my macro photograph of an Eupatorium perfoliatum, a wildflower commonly known as the Common Boneset. This entire bundle of exquisite flowers is smaller than an M&M. Each blossom is about a millimeter across.

My favorite subject for photography is the human face, especially when it’s combined with my passion for travel. I photographed this young lady on a street in Tokyo.

What would a photographic sampling in WEIT be without the ubiquitous duck? This is eine Ente in Deutschland.

On my daily social-distancing walk I photograph flowers in the neighborhood. I think this is Clematis vitalba, also known as “Old Man’s Beard.”  I’m not a botanist, so I expect that my identification will be challenged by others on the list.

I enjoy the fun of manipulating images. For example, here’s what you get when you crossbreed a sweet gum seed pod and a potato. It appears that the bloodshot eye might be the result of the potatos early fermenting into vodka.

My final photo is of one of the main gems in Philadelphia. In the Curtis Building, across from Independence Hall, is a magnificent work of art that few seem to know about. “The Dream Garden,” a mural made of 100,000 pieces of hand blown glass, was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, based on a landscape by Maxfield Parrish. It’s 15 feet tall and 49 feet wide, and is breathtakingly beautiful!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Wednesday, November 25, 2020: National Parfait Day. It’s National Jukebox Day (do they still exist?), What Do You Love About America Day (my answer: barbecue and our having voted Trump out of office), and International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

News of the Day:

Good news! Remember Rockefeller, the saw-whet owl that stowed away in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree? According to National Geographic, he’s rehabilitated already and will be set free (click on screenshot):

A aerial surveying team in the remote Red Rock Country of Utah found a 10-12 foot metal monolith embedded in the ground (see below). “It’s probably art” is the consensus, but it may have been there for 80 years or so.  And I’m sure the loons will have their own theories involving extraterrestrials. Here’s a photo:

Utah Department of Public Safety

Some savvy Chinese in Beijing are staging “performance art” in an attempt to having their faces captured on the many CCTV cameras in the country. According to the BBC, there are more than 200 million surveillance cameras in China, and by 2021 there will be at least 560 million.  But it’s futile: Big Brother is watching. Below: a photo showing the crouching protestors, who also wear reflective vests (h/t: Jez).

The Washington Post reflects on Biden’s cabinet choices so far, and concludes that they’re astute. As they say:

Nearly all the senior people he has named so far worked in previous Democratic administrations. In some cases, they held positions just under Cabinet rank. His pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, was deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama; and his choice for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, was deputy director of the CIA, and so on.

. . . These are not people who have to spend time learning how the government and their departments work. And the contrast with the Trump administration is striking.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 259,832,  a big increase of about 2,200 from yesterday’s figure. Yesterday, 1.5 Americans died every minute from the virus. The world death toll is 1,416,840, a huge increase of about 13,100 over yesterday’s report, and the biggest daily increase I’ve seen yet. Yesterday, nine inhabitants of this planet died every minute. 

Stuff that happened on November 25 include:

  • 1491 – The siege of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, ends with the Treaty of Granada.
  • 1915 – Albert Einstein presents the field equations of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.
  • 1947 – Red Scare: The “Hollywood Ten” are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.

Here they are; since they didn’t commit a crime (but were cited for contempt of Congress), they weren’t jailed, but for most of them, their careers were over:

The Mousetrap ended its performance on March 16, of this year, ended due to COVID-19. Total performances, over 28,000.,

Here’s some moving black and white footage of Kennedy’s lying-in-state in the Capitol, the funeral cortege across the Potomac, and the burial at Arlington National Cemetery:

Here’s a video; how many of the performers 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.
  • 1992 – The Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia votes to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with effect from January 1, 1993.
  • 1999 – A 5-year-old Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, is rescued by fishermen while floating in an inner tube off the Florida coast.

Remember this photo when the boy was taken away from his relatives by federal agents and eventually sent back to his dad in Cuba (the photo, by Alan Diaz of the AP, won a Pulitzer Prize). Gonzalez is now 27, works as an engineer in a plastic-container factory, and has his own kid:

Federal agents seized Elián González, held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, in Miami in April 2000. Dalrymple rescued the boy from the ocean after his mother drowned when they tried to escape Cuba

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1562 – Lope de Vega, Spanish playwright and poet (d. 1635)
  • 1835 – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist (d. 1919)
  • 1844 – Karl Benz, German engineer and businessman, founded Mercedes-Benz (d. 1929)
  • 1887 – Nikolai Vavilov, Russian botanist and geneticist (d. 1943)

As I’ve noted recently, Vavilov was a great geneticist and agronomist who was sent to the Gulag for the great crime of following science instead of the charlatan Lysenko. He died in the camps in 1943, and here’s his mug shot:

  • 1914 – Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player and coach (d. 1999)
  • 1941 – Percy Sledge, American singer (d. 2015)
  • 1960 – John F. Kennedy Jr., American lawyer, journalist, and publisher (d. 1999)

Those who kicked off on November 25 include:

  • 1920 – Gaston Chevrolet, French-American race car driver and businessman (b. 1892)
  • 1949 – Bill Robinson, American actor and dancer (b. 1878)
  • 1968 – Upton Sinclair, American novelist, critic, and essayist (b. 1878)
  • 1970 – Yukio Mishima, Japanese author, actor, and director (b. 1925)
  • 2005 – George Best, Northern Irish footballer (b. 1946)
  • 2016 – Fidel Castro, Communist leader of Cuba, and revolutionary (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is doing performance art!

Hili: The poor tree—there are no apples nor birds any longer.
A: But one can climb it.
Hili: That’s an art for art’s sake.
In Polish:
Hili: Biedne drzewo, nie ma już na nim ani jabłek, ani ptaków.
Ja: Ale można się na nim wspinać.
Hili: To sztuka dla sztuki.

And here’s kitten Kulka, with her yellow eyes (Hili’s are green) pawing at a tasty morsel (photo by Paulina R.)

From Facebook:

From Cole and Marmalade on Facebook, captioned, “Challenge accepted, humans!”

Another inadvertently salacious church sign sent by Stephen, who says, “Another catchy warning we’d all do well to heed.” (I always wonder if these signs are real.)

A tweet from Dr. Pinkah, supposedly an “alt-righter”:

13 Women against 13 Clerics: a tweet from my Iranian hero, Masih Alinejad. (Spoiler: the women win. Kudos to the brave women of Iran.)

Sound up:

Tweets from Matthew; you want the second one, the Me-Ow One Step from 1919. The YouTube video says this:

When you get to about half way through this early lateral Gennett Disc from March of 1919, you will hear a familiar melody. This was used as background music in early cartoon and films when ever a “Cat” related moment occurred . This song was composed by Mel B. Kaufman and played by the Gennett Orchestra.

Where’s the village?

I wish!

Without doubt, this is the world’s most beautiful duck, Aix galericulata. Sound up.

n.b.: This children’s book, by Bette Midler (yes, that one) will be out early next year.  Read about the Central Park Mandarin here: it has its own Wikipedia page, of course!

Matthew wouldn’t tell me what “TIL” stands for: he made me look it up. And you’ll have to as well. . . .

Sound up. Nobody knows why the woodcock moves like this. It’s interesting that the babies don’t. . . or do they? (Watch until the end; the action occurs in the last ten seconds.)