Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 19, 2022 • 6:30 am

Where we are:  According to the ship’s real-time map, we’re in the Drake Passage heading toward the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands. This is a long transit, taking two days, and there’s no chance to land. I’ll cool my heels, write a bit, and look over my lectures. This crossing has been smooth: the “Drake Lake” voyage, as they call it.

There is nothing outside my window but the wine-dark sea.

Welcome to an at-sea Cat Sabbath, Saturday, March 19 2022, National Oatmeal Cookie Day, which are much better with chocolate chips than with raisins. Cookies, after all, are not pills!

If you’d like to be helpful, check out the Wikipedia page for March 19 and let us know what events, births, or deaths on that day strike you.

+This morning’s NYT headline took me aback (click on screenshot):

I haven’t watched a lot of the news, but I didn’t see anything about China’s impending help to Russia. Here’s the summary of the biggest news:

President Biden warned China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that there would be “implications and consequences” for providing direct military aid to Russia amid a grinding assault in Ukraine that is increasingly aimed at civilian targets.

But Beijing’s readout of the same two-hour video call dwelled more on the fate of Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own. “Mishandling of the Taiwan question will have a disruptive impact on bilateral ties,” the statement said, paraphrasing Mr. Xi’s remarks.

From this it looks as if Xi Jinping has been heartened at Putin’s success in Ukraine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Taiwanese were nervous.  A Chinese assault on the vibrant nation of Taiwan wouldn’t be pretty, as it would take place largely by planes launched by naval ships. And of course the U.S. could do little but impose sanctions on Taiwan. If you think we’re going to fight China over Taiwan, well, we don’t recognize it as a country, and although some U.S. troops are stationed there, our latest treaty,The Taiwan Relations Act, “does not guarantee the U.S. will intervene militarily if the PRC attacks or invades Taiwan”.

*Another NYT story says this:

Mr. Xi, according to a statement issued on Saturday, warned Mr. Biden that “some people in the United States” had sent the “wrong signal” by supporting independence for Taiwan. It was not clear if he meant officials in the Biden administration, members of Congress — or both.

“Mishandling of the Taiwan question will have a disruptive impact on bilateral ties,” the statement said, paraphrasing Mr. Xi’s remarks.

. . .Mr. Xi told Mr. Biden that the United States and NATO should “address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine,” according to the Chinese readout.

He used an aphorism meaning those responsible for a problem must resolve them: “He who tied the bell to the tiger must take it off,” he was reported to have told Mr. Biden, suggesting as other officials have, that the United States bore blame for the conflict.

We may be in for a long, hard, time now, though not as had as the inhabitants of Ukraine and Taiwan.

*Curiously three Russian astronauts who entered the ISS Friday were wearing yellow-and-blue space suits, the colors of the Ukraine flag. This was noted by many, and though there are other explanations (those are the colors of the technical school attended by all three astronauts) solidarity with Ukraine is plausible.

In the meantime. 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion—nearly one in eight of the population. The brutal bombardment of Kyiv continues, and the NYT has an article devoted solely to photographs of “Ukraine under attack.” As they say on television, “Warning, some of the images are disturbing.” Actually, all of them are. And there are reports that some of the refugees from Ukraine (nearly all women and children) to countries like Poland are being subject to sexual trafficking.

*In contrast, the Washington Post’s headline concentrates more on Ukrainian President Zelensky (click on screenshot):

The gist of the article is that to avoid complete destruction, Zelensky will have to make some concessions to Russia, but we have no idea (nor has he told the West) which ones he’s considering. Contrary to some readers, I don’t think Ukraine is going to push the Russian army out, but what Zelensky will accept of course has repercussions for the rest of Europe:

The secretive rounds of meetings between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators could hold the key to ending the conflict but also carry broader implications for European security depending on how the warring parties settle their differences. If Russian President Vladimir Putin can use military force to compel political change in Ukraine, he could use the same tactic elsewhere, U.S. and European officials fear.

The prospects of a near-term deal look bleak, diplomats say, but mixed signals from Zelensky about how close he is to striking an agreement have only heightened anxiety about the trajectory of the negotiations.

*As ESPN and other sources report, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas won the 500-meter freestyle at the NCAA championships swimming on the Penn woman’s team. As the site notes:

Lia Thomas is a national champion.

Thomas, who is a transgender woman, touched the wall in 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday night to become the first known transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship in any sport.

Thomas finished 1.75 seconds ahead of second-place Emma Weyant, who attends Virginia. Thomas’ time was a season best and a little more than 9 seconds off of Katie Ledecky’s 4:24.06 record.

The race began with the crowd cheering for each of the swimmers, but fans were noticeably quiet for Thomas’ introduction. Save Women’s Sports founder Beth Stelzer draped a vinyl banner with the organization’s phrase over the railing.

As she stood on the podium with her trophy, she flashed a peace sign, just as she did for her four Ivy League championships. And once again, the crowd was noticeably quiet as she was announced as the champion.

Thomas returns to the pool Friday morning for the 200-yard freestyle prelims. She also is scheduled to compete in the 100 on Saturday.

This is, as I’ve said before, grossly unfair to biological women athletes, and if Thomas wins her two other races, people get even more upset. (At least Thomas didn’t come close to Katie Ledecky’s record in the 500.) I do object to Stelzer’s public display of a banner, but do agree with tennis great Martina Navratilova, who said that Thomas’s record should perhaps be “asterisked” and perhaps a new category created:

“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,” said Navratilova, 65. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.”

“But right now, the rules are what they are. Maybe put an asterisk there, if she starts breaking records left and right,” said Navratilova, referring to Thomas.

Navratilova suggested the NCAA could have one category where only biological females compete against each other, then adopt “an open category” for everyone else.

Finally, Andrew Sullivan, whose Weekly Dish column is truncated because he’s just had a double hip replacement, gets in a few words after showing this interview with Thomas after her victory (the video in the second tweet below):

Lia Thomas’ triumphs at the NCAA swimming finals are never going to be treated as completely fair by most people. Inclusion is important and trans athletes need to be treated with dignity. But the core biological differences between men and women simply cannot be wished away, and when we’re talking about high-level competition, the unfairness is simply unmissable. Yelling TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN! will not persuade anyone, and it isn’t designed to. It would be wonderful if this were true in every respect, but it isn’t. Ask yourself: if you knew nothing else but the interview above, what would you think was going on?

Maybe it’s worth trading off fairness for inclusion. I’m open to that idea. But activists need to understand that demanding people not believe what is in front of their ears and eyes is a mark not of a civil rights movement, but a form of authoritarianism.

If he’s open to “that idea,” then he’s open to the idea of destroying women’s sports. Or is he really as open minded as he says?

*From Nellie Bowles at Bari Weiss’s Substack site:

Nice of them to clarify: Amnesty International, which previously declared Israel an apartheid state, has helpfully clarified this week that the organization does not believe in the Jewish state’s right to exist at all.

“It is not Amnesty’s position, in fact we are opposed to the idea—and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate—that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people,” said Amnesty USA head Paul O’Brien in a talk this month with the Woman’s National Democratic Club.

Jewish Insider asked: “So Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state but Israel is a Jewish state.”

And Paul O’Brien again was good and clear: “It shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

There are those who are shocked—shocked!—that Amnesty would say such a thing. We’re not. And we actually think it’s helpful that the mask is now off.

*Land acknowledgments in colleges are pervasive and metastasizing. As far as I can see, they accomplish virtually nothing, and may be the paradigmatic example of pure virtue signaling, often accompanied by historical ignorance. If you feel strongly school is on stolen land, give it back! Or at least hand over an equivalent amount of cash or give help to the people from whom you think the land is stolen. But in many cases determining who “owned” the land, if anybody, is impossible, as land often changed hands many times.

.* In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Melissa Korn reports that the pushback against these statements is growing, particularly when they’re mandatory on syllabi, ad they are in some universities. When they are, they constitute compelled speech, which is illegal under the First Amendment and shouldn’t be occurring in public universities. But it does at several of them, including San Diego State:   (h/t Robert)

Several campuses are now walking back how they direct or encourage faculty to adopt the statements, or are under pressure to do so.

Earlier this month, San Diego State University’s senate overturned by a slim margin a year-old policy requiring that faculty include a school-approved land acknowledgment in their syllabi, with the senate chairman saying he had been advised by the school’s legal team to make the change.

The abbreviated version of the land acknowledgment reads: “For millennia, the Kumeyaay people have been a part of this land. This land has nourished, healed, protected and embraced them for many generations in a relationship of balance and harmony. As members of the San Diego State community, we acknowledge this legacy. We promote this balance and harmony. We find inspiration from this land; the land of the Kumeyaay.”

The mandate caught the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group known as FIRE whose stated mission is to defend the rights of students and faculty, including free speech. In January, it wrote to San Diego State’s president, saying: “[C]ompelling faculty—even those sympathetic to the statement’s sentiment—to repeat and endorse its specific ideological assertions violates both the Constitution and SDSU policy.”

The senate voted to make the land acknowledgments optional, with 40 votes in favor, 35 against and seven abstentions.

*It’s breeding time for the world’s only flightless parrot, New Zealand’s kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus),, and there’s a good crop this year. All of them are confined to a predator-free island as they’re easily killed by non-indigenous animals.  Follow this Facebook page to keep tabs on parents and chicks:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Hili are discussing the war, though Hili has other interests:

A: All this is horrible.
Hili: Yes, but you have to eat.
In Polish:
Ja: Koszmar z tym wszystkim.
Hili: Tak, ale jeść trzeba.

From Jesus of the Day:

The DuckFather.  “Leave the gun, take the corn.”

My after0dinner treat last night, consumed on the balcony of my cabin. For much of the morning it was warm enough to relax on the balcony in just a tee shirt.

Reader Simon sent this after he saw my photo of our ship loading cases of Doritos (I still haven’t seen a single Dorito; I think the suite cabins get them all!):

Also from Simon:

And still another from Simon; I had forgotten St. Patrick’s Day!

From Ken, who says this is from the Unbelievably Bad Taste Department and adds, “Kyle Rittenhouse has posted a tweet of himself shedding the same tears as at his criminal trial for killing two people, and wounding one, in Kenosha — this time over high prices at the gas pump:

From SarahTheHaider (her twitter name):

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is especially intriguing. I’ve now read the article. But it doesn’t mean that colonists weren’t responsible for a huge number of TB infections, for they were. However, the evidence is convincing that long before European colonists arrived in the Americas, indigenous people were catching TB from eating seals

Is this a “dog bites man” story? Remember, there are snakes that do this all the time (but they regurgitate the shells):

This is a hummingbird native to Ecuador and Peru, and yes, from certain angles it can look like these photo:

29 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1649 – The House of Commons of England passes an act abolishing the House of Lords, declaring it “useless and dangerous to the people of England”.

    1831 – First documented bank heist in U.S. history, when burglars stole $245,000 (1831 values) from the City Bank (now Citibank) on Wall Street. Most of the money was recovered.

    1863 – The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines, and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000. – By a strange coincidence, it was also discovered on 19 March by teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence in 1965, exactly 102 years after its destruction.

    1895 – Auguste and Louis Lumière record their first footage using their newly patented cinematograph.

    1900 – The British archeologist Sir Arthur John Evans begins excavating Knossos Palace, the center of Cretan civilization.

    1920 – The United States Senate rejects the Treaty of Versailles for the second time (the first time was on November 19, 1919).

    1932 – The Sydney Harbour Bridge is opened.

    1945 – World War II: Adolf Hitler issues his “Nero Decree” ordering all industries, military installations, shops, transportation facilities, and communications facilities in Germany to be destroyed.

    1982 – Falklands War: Argentinian forces land on South Georgia Island, precipitating war with the United Kingdom.

    2018 – The last male northern white rhinoceros, Sudan, dies, ensuring a chance of extinction for the species.

    1813 – David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer (d. 1873)

    1821 – Richard Francis Burton, English soldier, geographer, and diplomat (d. 1890)

    1848 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (d. 1929)

    1880 – Ernestine Rose, American librarian and advocate (d. 1961)

    1881 – Edith Nourse Rogers, American social worker and politician (d. 1960)

    1900 – Frédéric Joliot-Curie, French physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1958)

    1921 – Tommy Cooper, British magician and prop comedian (d. 1984

    1936 – Ursula Andress, Swiss model and actress

    Those who kicked the oxygen habit:
    1950 – Edgar Rice Burroughs, American soldier and author (b. 1875)

    1982 – Randy Rhoads, American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1956) – taken too young in a stupid accident

    1987 – Louis de Broglie, French physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1892)

    2008 – Arthur C. Clarke, English science fiction writer (b. 1917)

  2. From this it looks as if Xi Jinping has been heartened at Putin’s success in Ukraine, …

    More that Putin has realised that things are going badly, and has (if reports are true) asked the Chinese for military aid, and the US is warning them off.

    As for Taiwan, they will put up a fight. And, as Ukraine is showing, modern war is all about missiles and drones. If Taiwan has enough state-of-the-art anti-air and anti-ship missiles, then even China would struggle to invade. And missiles cost about 0.1% of the aircraft or ship they bring down.

    1. And in the Strait of Formosa, Chinese who survived hits by missiles striking their conveyances would drown, instead of being able to run away.

    2. Yeah, the news I saw and read said that Xi was not pleased about Russia invading Ukraine and conducting this war against them. At the same time, they don’t approve of the sanctions as they hurt ordinary people.

      1. Of all people, President Xi ought to know that the people are the state and the state is the people. So worrying about sanctions hurting “ordinary people” is just decadent Western sentimentalism.

        Maybe he’s softening in his old age.

  3. Vladimr Konstantinov – hockey player – was born this day in 1955. He was part of the influx of Russian hockey players to the NHL following the fall of the Soviet Union and a member of the Detroit Red Wings juggernaut of the 1990s. His career was cut short by head injuries suffered when a limousine he was a passenger in crashed days after the 1997 Red Wings Stanley Cup victory.

  4. What is more beautiful than hummingbirds? Those tiny, perfect little feathers in those gorgeous colors! And they are such intense little birds, too. I especially appreciate the photo of the one bending forward a little as if he’s showing off his crown feathers.

  5. How badly does China want to look to the rest of the world? Do they care? I would say they do not care much and their actions have shown it. They do worry about image and money. These are the channels the U.S must play. Being friends with Russia is only good for China because it pisses off the U.S. They get oil from Russia and not much more. They should worry about their relationship with Europe and the West. That is where the money is.

    What is happening in Ukraine should not give China much to compare with the land they are after. What Putin needs to worry about now is keeping the land he has. He has already lost Ukraine.

    1. Indeed, and China needs to support Ukraine’s territorial independence in accordance with its own policy that other nations should not interfere in sovereign states’ affairs, or it will set a precedent it won’t like. (Of course, this doesn’t make any difference to China’s approach to Taiwan since it has always claimed it as part of the People’s Republic – and unlike Ukraine, Taiwan has little formal recognition by other countries and is no longer a member of the United Nations, etc.)

  6. I saw one of those Rainbow Starfrontlets last week! Sadly, field conditions almost never reveal all those colors. Still a wonderful bird briefly flashing glorious colors as it flits from flower to flower..

    1. Lucky you! Anna’s are the most colorful around these parts; still very pretty, but nothing like the Rainbow Starfrontlet.

  7. I would be in complete agreement with our host on the swimmer. It is all about biology and fairness. But I will add one more thing that does not help – She looks like a guy.

      1. …and he swims like one, too.

        I trust that the “fairness has to yield to inclusion” crowd is aware that the removal of the testosterone cut-off that men who want to compete as women used to have to meet now means that they need not actually be taking any anti-androgen meds at all. The cut-off did not have any significance performance-wise but it did at least offer a barrier to cheating: a man who wanted to compete in women’s meets at least had to take enough meds to lower his testosterone, and put up with side effects. Now he just has to slip into a women’s maillot and he is good to go.

  8. I don’t expect China’s leadership to admit it, but how things have turned out in the Russia/Ukraine war has to have them worried. Their stock market has been tanking lately for this and other reasons. Foreign investment in China has slowed tremendously because investors have been reminded by both China and Russia, that their governments can take anything on a whim. As Marc Andreessen tweeted to his investor followers, “What do you own, exactly?” Even their vaunted approach to COVID seems to be coming off the rails now.

    Xi Jinping may be reconsidering his association with Russian and Putin as they have made the West stronger, not weaker. This episode has also demonstrated what can happen when the economic wrath of the West comes down on a country. Xi may be thinking that if China were involved in such an incident in, say, Taiwan, things would come out differently. Maybe but the sheer unpredictability of it all alone may dissuade him.

  9. Is this a “dog bites man” story? Remember, there are snakes that do this all the time (but they regurgitate the shells):

    Given the low pH of stomach fluids, the consequences of swallowing the eggshell are likely to be negligible.

  10. That Kyle Rittenhouse post was terrible. That whooshing sound is his reference to “It’s not Lemon Heads” going over my ignorant head…

    1. And if you read the posts/retweets/whatever on this account you’ll find the 2 main topics in the Western World right now are a) Hunter Biden and b) Lia Thomas

  11. Jerry: Have you heard this: “The coldest location on the planet has experienced an episode of warm weather this week unlike any ever observed, with temperatures over the eastern Antarctic ice sheet soaring 50 to 90 degrees above normal. The warmth has smashed records and shocked scientists,” the Washington Post reports.

  12. On the Ukraine problem, the Democratic Socialist of America have discovered and publicly proclaimed a magical elixir to solve it: US withdrawal from NATO, See: .
    On the new vogue for “land acknowledgments”, I predict that it will begin to spread, like many other American fads, to Europe. But the fad will disintegrate when it arrives in central and eastern Europe, where everyone will collapse in helpless laughter at its attempted use.

  13. If Russian President Vladimir Putin can use military force to compel political change in Ukraine, he could use the same tactic elsewhere, U.S. and European officials fear.

    This will be almost impossible to do. Think Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq…the U.S. has never been able to use its superior military force to change a country’s politics. I don’t know why Putin’s current situation is any different. I just hope he’s not as obstinate as the U.S. when it comes to acknowledging defeat, but I fear he will be. The sunk-cost fallacy is a travesty when it comes to war.

    1. Political change compelled by military force is exactly the formula employed by Ivan III, Grand Duke of Moscow, when his army conquered the merchant Republic of Novgorod in 1470. Application of the same formula throughout the next four and a half centuries (with some ups and downs) defines what came to be called the Russian Empire and then the USSR. Perhaps Vladimir Vladimirovich and his circle believe that 1470 has come around again.

      1. That’s why I didn’t mention WWII…apples oranges…I’m citing unilateral American involvements. Plus, it’s debatable that the bomb did what the American propaganda suggests in regards to Japan’s surrender.

        1. It’s not the surrender Jeremy refers to. It was the post-war writing of the Japanese constitution downgrading the Emperor’s supreme authority and creating a democracy that forswore further military adventurism.
          Germany also got a new government created literally out of ashes.
          I suspect the demand for unconditional surrender gave the Allies a blank slate in dictating the form of the new governments and accomplishing de-Nazification and de-militarization. It also helped that German “ex”-Nazis were happy to work in intelligence against their recent enemy, the USSR.
          So it is apples to apples. You can’t disallow the comparison just because it rebuts you.

          In both cases, this wise statesmanship allowed the U.S. and the other western Allies to end their military occupations in short order on good terms with their former enemies. If they had not been able to change their politics, they would still be there today as occupying powers. suppressing die-hard militaristic factions.

          Anyway, who cares if the atomic bombs caused the surrender or didn’t? Surrender happened without the need for an invasion is all that matters. If the truth is that it was because the emperor’s mind suddenly cleared to reality after a good bowel movement, is fine with me.

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