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.
I still haven't found anyone who really knows why the Russian cosmonauts wore yellow flight suits (with Ukraine blue highlights) to board the ISS. However, this is a revealing answer from the mission commander. Just wild if they smuggled these suits on board. https://t.co/UBr1I0WauJ
— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) March 18, 2022
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):
“It means the world to be here.”
Lia Thomas spoke about swimming in the NCAA women's championships. pic.twitter.com/aP0afVA0KE
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 18, 2022
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.
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!):
— Bruna (@brunanovo_) March 18, 2022
Also from Simon:
This is the most optimistic shit I've seen in my entire life. pic.twitter.com/Ttt9IsZWJE
— Bruna (@brunanovo_) March 15, 2022
And still another from Simon; I had forgotten St. Patrick’s Day!
— Travis Jerde🌹🇩🇪🇳🇴 continues to wear his mask (@ProfJerde) March 17, 2022
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:
No, it’s not Lemon Heads.. it’s the burning hole in my pocket thanks to a Joe Biden presidency.. 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/UpPvfHEjRv
— Kyle Rittenhouse (@ThisIsKyleR) March 18, 2022
From SarahTheHaider (her twitter name):
I guess this is lame of me but my favorite mind/behavior altering substance is just alcohol.
— Sarah Haider 🤖👾 (@SarahTheHaider) March 17, 2022
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
For a long time, it was believed that Europeans brought tuberculosis to the Americas, along with smallpox, measles, etc
But there are signs of TB in the Americas in bones 1000+ years old. An analysis of those bones suggests an unexpected culprit: seals https://t.co/t2zfDcQLm5
— Sarah Zhang (@sarahzhang) March 17, 2022
Is this a “dog bites man” story? Remember, there are snakes that do this all the time (but they regurgitate the shells):
Oxford Public Ledger, North Carolina, December 13, 1907 pic.twitter.com/AD37eGjmjP
— Yesterday's Print (@yesterdaysprint) March 17, 2022
Rainbow Starfrontlet (Coeligena iris)🐦🦜🕊️❤️ pic.twitter.com/ZW4CXXa5m8
— World birds (@worldbirds32) January 16, 2022