Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

April 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

Grease the new day (as a friend used to say)! It’s Thursday, April 29, 2021: National Shrimp Scampi Day (that’s a dish I’ve never had). It’s also National Zipper Day (this convenient fastener was patented on this day in 1913) and Viral Video Day.  In honor of the last day, here are the 25 most viral videos of 2020. #2, near the end, is the best!

Finally, it’s two UN holidays: Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare and International Dance Day (UNESCO).

Wine of the Day: To drink with my big pot of turkey chili, which should last a few days, I’ve chosen one of my favorite genres of red wine: Rioja! This one, ten years from vintage was about $25.

The experts’ ratings look good, and I’m writing this on Wednesday before I’ve cracked the bottle.

2 hours later (Wednesday), very good again, but not a world-beater. Juicy with ripe cherry fruit, well balanced, but nothing to mark it as a superb wine. I’ll drink another two glasses tonight and see if it improves.

News of the Day:

Joe Biden gave his first speech to Congress last evening, proposing sweeping reforms. Hold your thoughts on that, as we’ll have a discussion post later.

The Supreme Court is considering an important free-speech case in which a high school cheerleader, not chosen to be part of the elite “varsity squad”, ranted and cursed the school on social media. What she said:

“F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything,” 14-year-old Brandi Levy typed into Snapchat one spring Saturday. Like all “snaps” posted to a Snapchat “story,” this one sent to about 250 “friends” was to disappear within 24 hours, before everyone returned to Pennsylvania’s Mahanoy Area High School on Monday.

Levy was suspended from her junior varsity squad for a year, whereupon her parents filed suit in federal court, and it’s gone all the way up to the Supremes. I think they’re likely to rule in her favor, as Levy’s “speech” was on social media, so why should she be punished for her private free speech? This is not harassment, bullying, or any other form of speech prohibited by the First Amendment. But it’s not a trivial case:

“This is the most momentous case in more than five decades involving student speech,” said Justin Driver, a Yale law professor and author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind.”

The Court may be conservative, but if it rules in Levy’s favor in this case, I think it will have ruled properly. This kind of incident will become increasingly frequent as speech is disseminated on social media.

The feds searched Rudy Giluiani’s home and office yesterday,  acting on a federal warrant. As the New York Times reports,

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had sought for months to secure search warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s phones and electronic devices.

Reader Ken, who knows his law, told me this:

To secure such warrants, the government would have had to establish, to a federal magistrate’s satisfaction, fresh probable cause to believe that the search would yield evidence of a crime. The agents reportedly seized Giuliani’s computers and electronic devices.

. . . The search of a lawyer’s premises (not to mention the premises of a lawyer for a former US President) is a big friggin’ deal. See section 9-13.430 of the US Justice Department Manual. Main Justice has to sign off on it, and the government had to be convinced that Giuliani couldn’t be trusted to turn over the materials sought in response to a subpoena.

On a sadder note, astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in the command module during the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, and who helped ensure tht the lunar module containing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin docked properly before their return to Earth, died yesterday at 90 of cancer. He wrote extensively about his journal (they trained for six years for the mission), and memorial tweets show some of his writing:

This is a touching photo and caption:

There are two big vertebrate genome papers in Nature. One paper reports complete genome sequences of 16 vertebrate species in the 8 major lineages, and the other reports a complete sequence for the playtpus and partial sequence of one echidna species, both monotremes—egg-laying mammals. I have yet to read either paper but wanted to call them to your attention. (h/t: Matthew)

Stuff that happened on April 29 includes:

  • 1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans.
  • 1770 – James Cook arrives in Australia at Botany Bay, which he names.
  • 1910 – The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the People’s Budget, the first budget in British history with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the British public.
  • 1916 – Easter Rising: After six days of fighting, Irish rebel leaders surrender to British forces in Dublin, bringing the Easter Rising to an end.

Here’s a 6½-minute BBC video summarizing the Easter Rising:

  • 1945 – World War II: Führerbunker: Adolf Hitler marries his longtime partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker and designates Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor; Hitler and Braun both commit suicide the following day.
  • 1945 – Dachau concentration camp is liberated by United States troops.
  • 1967 – After refusing induction into the United States Army the previous day, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his boxing title.

Here’s a short video about Ali’s refusal of induction. He had applied for conscientious objector status but was refused. After a trial, he was sentenced to five years in jail but remained free until the Supreme Court overturned that decision on the grounds that the refusal of CO status was not accompanied by a reason.

  • 1968 – The controversial musical Hair, a product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, opens at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, with some of its songs becoming anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
  • 1970 – Vietnam War: United States and South Vietnamese forces invade Cambodia to hunt Viet Cong.

The invasion of Cambodia energized all of us in college, leading to widespread protests and, at Kent State, to the shooting of unarmed students.

  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: United States President Richard Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of White House tape recordings relating to the scandal.
  • 1992 – Riots in Los Angeles, following the acquittal of police officers charged with excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. Over the next three days 63 people are killed and hundreds of buildings are destroyed.

This was the first time video was taken of a brutal police beating of a suspect. You can see it below, and yet the officers were acquitted. This would never stand today:

  • 2015 – A baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox sets the all-time low attendance mark for Major League Baseball. Zero fans were in attendance for the game, as the stadium was officially closed to the public due to the 2015 Baltimore protests.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1854 – Henri Poincaré, French mathematician, physicist, and engineer (d. 1912)
  • 1893 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
  • 1899 – Duke Ellington, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1974)

There aren’t a lot of videos of Ellington’s band, particularly in its best years—the early forties. This one, of his signature tune “Take the A Train” (written by Billy Strayhorn), was made in 1943. I prefer the all-instrumental version. I’m reading a biography of Ellington now.

  • 1929 – Walter Kempowski, German author and academic (d. 2007)
  • 1933 – Willie Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor
  • 1945 – Brian Charlesworth, English biologist, geneticist, and academic

My colleague and former chairman of my department, Brian is now retired but still very active at Edinburgh. He was a great colleague (we wrote some papers together) and an excellent chair:

  • 1954 – Jerry Seinfeld, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1957 – Daniel Day-Lewis, British-Irish actor
  • 1970 – Andre Agassi, American tennis player
  • 1970 – Uma Thurman, American actress

Those who went to their Just Reward on April 29 include:

Don’t ask me to explain Wittgenstein’s philosophy; that’s above my pay grade. But I can show you a photo:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is concerned with enforcing the rules. As Malgozata notes,

This old sign says: “It’s forbidden to dump tires under the penalty of shooting your brains out”. It’s written in a “slangy” language. We found it many years ago on a dump outside a closed, abandoned and ruined factory.
A: What are you looking at?
Hili: I’m checking to see whether people are breaking bans.
In Polish:

Ja: Na co patrzysz?
Hili: Sprawdzam, czy ludzie nie łamią zakazów.

And we have a Leon monologue!

Leon: “What kind of wonder of nature is this?”

In Polish: A coż to za cud natury?


Here’s little Kulka:

A meme from Bruce:

From Facebook via Mark: the Jean-Paul Sartre Parking Garage. But how can you pay if you don’t exist?

From Su: A duck trying to connect with the Beyond:

Tulsi Gabbard, who surely counts as a woman of color, here decries the increasing racialization of America, using the Hawaiian conception of “aloha”:

From Facebook. It’s time to do our occasional check-in with Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad. Here’s her reaction (yes, it’s on Fox News) to Iran being chosen to be a member of the UN Commission on Women’s Rights. (The UN is such a joke these days!):

Tweets from Matthew. I believe I’ve posted about Ricky Gervais adopting a foster tabby that he named “Pickles”, but here’s a tweet and some new video:

From the University of Chicago! Two days ago the temperature was about 82°F (28°C), and it was glorious. But they should have included a photo of Botany Pond with the ducks!

Donkeys run free after a winter of being cooped up. Sound up so you can hear as well as see their joy:

This link would make good background music while you’re working; it’s almost like working in the jungle:

This looks to me like a very small slug getting a drink (and getting engulfed by a water drop):

33 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

  1. why should she be punished for her private free speech?

    It wasn’t private speech. She posted it on social media.

    Frankly, this should have been left as a life lesson for her: if you slag people off, they might decide they don’t want to have anything to do with you and that’s not a free speech issue, it’s a freedom of association issue. Instead, her parents have decided to reinforce her sense of entitlement and waste dollars on lawyers. I despair.

    1. What I meant was that this was not official speech; it was her own opinion. And it’s more than just people “slagging her off”; it’s her being fired from her position on the cheerleading team. That is NOT a freedom of association issue. I’m sorry, but this is a very important case, adjuciating whether people can be punished (not “disassociated”) for posting something on social media.

      You can despair, but I think you’re dead wrong about this case. Can’t you see the difference between people disassociating from someone whose speech they don’t like, which is fine, and OFFICIAL PUNISHMENT (remember, schools are considered part of the U.S. government)? Should a governmental employee be fired because he or she criticizes Biden in a Facebook post?

      And that is why lawyers consider this case a very important one, not a “reinforcement of someone’s sense of entitlement.”

      1. And it’s more than just people “slagging her off”

        I’m sorry, I was a little bit ambiguous. I meant if she slags people off, (i.e. insults them, in case the term doesn’t translate to American English), then they can’t be blamed for not wanting anything to do with her. If I posted similar things about you or this web site, how long would I last here? If I posted similar things about the company that employs me, I would expect to be in pretty hot water.

        So legally, she’s in the right and she’s going to win the case, but morally? What are they going to do if the other members of the varsity squad choose to have nothing to do with her? Is the school going to be forced to select her for the varsity squad even though she has already failed to get in? In fact, given that she isn’t good enough for it, isn’t the ban just symbolic?

        1. Ms. Levy’s fellow students are free to snub her to their heart’s content, to cast opprobrium her way until the cows come home (as is anyone else who received her snapchat). The First Amendment is implicated only when a public school (which, in these circumstances, functions as a governmental entity) seeks to sanction her for her speech.

    2. First, in this context “private” speech means speech pertaining to herself as an individual (as opposed to speech that, say a judge might utter while performing the public role of being a judge).

      Second, individuals have freedom of association pertaining to their private lives, but institutions such as publically-funded schools and businesses do not. Institutions acting as a “public accommodation” are greatly restricted in how they may act. I support the idea that they should not be allowed to discriminate over private speech (any more than they are allowed to discriminate over race or sex or whatever).

  2. What is the best thing that Giuliani could do? Stop being a criminal and a traitor and flip on Trump. Poor Rudi never got his pardon.

    1. I remember him saying that “he had insurance” against Trump throwing him under the bus. Perhaps that insurance will soon be needed.

  3. There’s also an important free-speech case going on in the UK at the moment. Maya Forstater was sacked from her law firm for social-media statements along the lines that biological sex is real and important, and that she disagrees that “trans women are women” (she regards them as biologically male). Note that none of this speech was while at work, but she was still sacked for it. She is suing for wrongful dismissal.

    1. I could be wrong here but sacking her is within the rights of the firm. Hiring and firing is their right. She has the right to say whatever she wants on social media and still does. I think the same is true of the cheerleader case. She can say whatever she wants on social media but the school can also do what they want regarding her position on the team.

      1. UK employment law is somewhat more restrictive in this respect. Before you fire somebody, you have to go through a well defined and documented disciplinary process (that will involve written warnings etc) and I believe there has to be some sort of cause. I can’t see how expressing the opinion that “men can’t be women” could ever be a cause unless it makes it impossible for her to do her job properly.

        1. I see. Apparently a person’s job in England is more like some govt. jobs here, with some rights with certain justifications required to fire them. But I will add this. I worked for the govt. here although nonappropriated funds. That means the tax payers did not pay for our existence. When I hired new people I had 6 months to look them over and determine if we wanted them. During that first 6 months I could let them go at any point. After six months I needed strong justification. Outside of government, in the civilian world, a company can just about fire anyone for any reason they want.

      2. In the UK, firms are limited in reasons they can have for firing people. Ultimately, the European convention on human rights gives people a right to free expression.

        As for schools, are you really suggesting that a public school principal could decide: only pupils from homes displaying Trump placards are eligible for the sports teams, any kids from homes with Biden placards are not. Seriously?

  4. I am looking forward to reading all the written opinions and the justices’ logic in the Levy case. When I served on a local school board in the 1980’s and 90’s, one of two or three of my votes that i later believed to be wrong involved a freedom of expression case in which a Black middle (changed by jgb in edit sorry) school student had worn a t-shirt to school that carried the message “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand me”. By appending the “me”, the student through his mother said that he was personalizing the otherwise inflammatory at the time and more general expression, “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand”. The school principal required that he either turn the shirt inside out to hide the writing or go home and change into another shirt. I do not recall exactly what happened to the student … whether he was suspended or just missed that day of school… and so i cannot recall what relief the parent wanted from the board…maybe simply an apology from the administration and the board to set future guidance for staff that their actions in this instance were wrong. The Board unanimously (which would be a 7-0 vote) supported staff’s actions, thus rejecting the student’s appeal. I am sorry to say that i was one of those seven votes, a vote that i later came to believe, and still do, was wrong. I was relying on the political aspect of expression explicitly protected in Tinker (black anti-war armbands) at that time and apparently felt the principal’s need to keep order in the school (fear of a fight being incited by the shirt’s message) outweighed the political aspects of the student’s statement. The issue never proceeded to court. This certainly offered an opportunity for more expression rather than less and the development of original, timely civics lessons across the school district.

    And, particularly in a case like this, I will miss RBG’s thoughts.

  5. The Court may be conservative, but if it rules in Levy’s favor in this case, I think it will have ruled properly. This kind of incident will become increasingly frequent as speech is disseminated on social media.

    Yes, foul-mouthed, fourteen-year-old, failed cheerleaders have First Amendment rights, too. To rule in Ms. Levy’s behalf, SCOTUS will have to distinguish its 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, in which the Court upheld the suspension of a high-school student who’d given a speech full of sexual innuendo and double entendre at a school assembly nominating a fellow student for a position in the school’s student-body government.

    The glaring difference, of course, is that, unlike Ms. Levy, the student in Bethel School District gave his speech on a high-school campus during an official school function, back in the days before social media was a gleam in Silicon Valley’s eye. This case may bring some clarity to the conundrum that is social-media free speech — though I think these issues will ultimately require resolution by the political branches, which are empowered to enact sweeping legislation, rather than by the courts, which are constitutionally limited to case-by-case review.

  6. “…the F.B.I. had sought for months to secure search warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s phones and electronic devices.”

    What’s all the fuss? By now he will have “accidentally” dropped his phone into the East River. I have to assume they already have what they need but are just tying up loose ends before issuing the indictment.

  7. Colllins seeing the moon, responding eloquently, and taking the historic photo of the lunar module… wonder how long it will be before we get Mars tourists taking selfies and complaining that the moon doesn’t even have a McDonalds.

    1. I think of things like Collins’s musings when I hear people (incorrectly) moan that we’ve not had any poets up in space. And Aldrin’s evocative expression “magnificent desolation”! And yet Cardi B is thought by some to be a poet of sorts. Sigh.

  8. As an astronaut fanboy in my youth, I’m mourning the passing of Michael Collins. Since learning of his death yesterday, I’ve had Jethro Tull’s “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” as my welcome earworm.

  9. After a trial, he [Muhammad Ali] was sentenced to five years in jail but remained free until the Supreme Court overturned that decision on the grounds that the refusal of CO status was not accompanied by a reason.

    There was an HBO movie directed by Stephen Frears a few years ago about how the Court reached this decision. It wasn’t great cinema, but it was interestingly cast, particularly as to the actors playing the SCOTUS justices, and was reasonably accurate historically, regarding how the Court went from initially voting against Ali at the justices’ preliminary conference following oral argument to eventually ruling unanimously in Ali’s favor. Here’s the trailer.

  10. Wine of the Day: To drink with my big pot of turkey chili, which should last a few days, I’ve chosen one of my favorite genres of red wine: Rioja! This one, ten years from vintage was about $25.

    We almost overlapped! It was only a few days ago i had homemade turkey/chicken chili with a 2006 Port. It was quite a good combo, with the hot spiciness of the chili contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the port.

    Re: speech issue, not sure I agree on this one. I’m in general agreement that neither students nor staff should be censured by their school for their out-of-school activities. But AIUI a cheer squad’s purpose and role is to represent their school in a positive light. They’re a student PR organization, essentially. Firing a PR person for saying “f*** my client” in a public website seems very reasonable to me, as the speech is directly connected to the position they’re filling in a way that, say, a math teacher or swim team member’s negative speech would not be.

  11. … the Jean-Paul Sartre Parking Garage. But how can you pay if you don’t exist?

    Gotta find a garage where essence precedes existence. Maybe try the René Descartes garage down the street.

  12. The slug video reminded me of the alien creature from that disappointing movie, Life. It attacked a rat in a similar way to the drop adhering to the slug.

  13. I thought Hitler was made of sterner stuff. He underwent all the vissicitudes of WW I and WW II, but found he couldn’t deal with being married.

  14. I don’t know much about her and never know what to make of Tulsi G. but her “we are all children of gahd” doesn’t impress me at all.

    I am an intolerant atheist: a product of DNA, physics and chemistry only. Not a “child of gahd”

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