Thursday: Hili dialogue

May 19, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, May 19, 2022: National Devil’s Food Cake Day. In the U.S. it’s also Malcolm X Day (he was born on this day in 1925) and Hepatitis Testing Day.  This gives me a chance to show my favorite scene from Spike Lee’s eponymous 1992 movie about Malcolm, when, with his family, he heads to the auditorium where he was killed, and so do the shooters.  The mesmerizing bits are the song (“A Change Is Gonna Come”, by Sam Cooke, my favorite soul song), and Lee’s patented scenario in which a character appears to roll instead of walk. This  is a great scene.  Malcolm is played by Denzel Washington.

When somebody asks me the rare question, “Are you happy?”, I nearly always answer, “I’m a Jew: the best we can do is ‘complacent’.”  But today I’m actually happy because Sammy the Stalwart Duckling was saved yesterday from a horrible life in Botany Pond. It still puts a smile on my face. I will push aside thoughts that this won’t be the last rescue of orphan ducklings we have to effect. Kudos again to Brandon, who saved Sammy, and I hope he gets in touch with me.

Gratuitous note: I had one of those academic dreams last night in which I had to take an exam but hadn’t cracked a book all semester. The school was Yale, and the subject was Assyrian.

* All of a sudden Ukraine has disappeared from the headlines, but the fact remains that Russia is still engaged in a war for the country. The good news is that Ukrainian soldiers appeared to have forced the Russians out of the country’s second most populous city, Kharkiv. The bad news is that the country is severely short staffed with medical personnel, with limbs that could be saved routinely amputated; and there’s a severe shortage of all things medical and medicinal. Finally, Mariupol is a lost cause, with the last Ukrainian soldiers evacuated to be used elsewhere. A WaPo estimate puts the civilian death toll in that city at around 20,000!

* The NBC Evening News reported last night on growing evidence that Hunter Biden committed crimes by taking money from Russia, with one expert saying “You don’t get off scot-free by robbing a bank and then returning the money.” I can’t find any story in the MSM backing up NBC’s allegations, which included massive spending by Hunter Biden on luxury items, but if the emails (the hard drive’s contents are now disseminated by Giuliani) prove genuine, it’s trouble not only for Hunter, but for his dad. Stay tuned. What NBC New reports as a big story (once denigrated by everyone) should not be ignored.

Thursday morning updateThe NBC site now has an article that gives more detail and leaves it unresolved whether Biden’s behavior was criminal. Here’s one excerpt:

From 2013 through 2018 Hunter Biden and his company brought in about $11 million via his roles as an attorney and a board member with a Ukrainian firm accused of bribery and his work with a Chinese businessman now accused of fraud, according to an NBC News analysis of a copy of Biden’s hard drive and iCloud account and documents released by Republicans on two Senate committees.

The documents and the analysis, which don’t show what he did to earn millions from his Chinese partners, raise questions about national security, business ethics and potential legal exposure. In December 2020, Biden acknowledged in a statement that he was the subject of a federal investigation into his taxes. NBC News was first to report that an ex-business partner had warned Biden he should amend his tax returns to disclose $400,000 in income from the Ukrainian firm, Burisma. GOP congressional sources also say that if Republicans take back the House this fall, they’ll demand more documents and probe whether any of Biden’s income went to his father, President Joe Biden.

Remember that most of the liberal media dismissed this as foreign propaganda; perhaps that accounts for their reluctance to report on the updates.

*Michelle Goldberg has an op-ed piece in yesterday’s NYT dissecting the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp defamation trial, a trial that I haven’t followed at all. Goldberg takes Heard’s side, and although experts have said that the couple engaged in “mutual abuse”, Goldberg sees Depp as the principal abuser, which may be true. But she exaggerates when she titled her column “Amber Heard and the Death of #MeToo” and by saying that this case presages the rise of a new misogny. Despite the Supreme Court, I’m confident that the #MeToo genie is out of the bottle.  Apropos, the NYT also has a column about the clothes that the accused and accuser are wearing on the stand, and what message they’re trying to convey both sartorially and in words.

*Although both Sweden and Finland have now formally applied for NATO membership, Turkey continues to try to slow down or block the applications.  From the Washington Post:

Turkey blocked the start of Finland’s and Sweden’s accession talks to NATO on Wednesday shortly after the Nordic nations submitted their applications, a signal of what could be a bumpy process to expand the alliance and reshape Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture.

Turkey’s resistance deprived Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of the consensus he needed to move forward with the membership process. It also put a damper on a historic moment for two countries that held fast to military nonalignment until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended their thinking about security.

At a meeting of NATO ambassadors, Turkey said it still needed to work through some issues related to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, according to two officials familiar with the discussion, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive closed-door talks.

Damn Erdogan! Atatürk will be rolling in his grave.

*As Slate reports, a footnote in Alito’s draft decision in the undoing of Roe v. Wade highlights a repugnant attitude: we should not allow abortion because forced birth assures a good supply of babies for others to adopt. (h/t Richard)

One of the most arresting lines in Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade is a footnote that didn’t really surface until the weekend. A throwaway footnote on Page 34 of the draft cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that in 2002, nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children, “whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent.” In response to the outrage and some misinformation, the conservative legal industrial complex went to great lengths to downplay it as a trivial footnote in a draft opinion, and to insist that Alito was citing the CDC and not himself and that the note appears in a roundup of “people are saying”–type arguments against abortion.

True. But the footnote reflects something profoundly wrong with the new “ethos of care” arguments advanced by Republicans who want to emphasize compassion instead of cruelty after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health fallout. Footnote 46, quantifying the supply/demand mismatch of babies, follows directly on another footnote in the opinion approvingly citing the “logic” raised at oral argument in December by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who mused that there is no meaningful hardship in conscripting women to remain pregnant and deliver babies in 2022 because “safe haven” laws allow them to drop those unwanted babies off at the fire station for other parents to adopt.

This is, in effect, an argument for using women, against their will, as incubators to keep America supplied with infants.

*Finally, last night there was an NBC Evening News headline: “Taylor Swift graduates”. I was surprised because I didn’t know she was getting a degree. Well, she sort of did: she got a  Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, from New York University, so it’s an honorary degree that doesn’t involve graduation.  (She left school at 17 to pursue music.)  Do we call her “Dr. Swift” now?  At any rate, she gave a 22-minute commencement address, which happened to be held at Yankee Stadium!  The speech is not bad for a singer, though it’s loaded with the customary commencement bromides.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making more allusions to politics:

Hili: I’m going to the West.
A: Why?
Hili: East is more and more dangerous.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę na zachód.
Ja: Czemu?
Hili: Wschód jest coraz bardziej niebezpieczny.
Shhhhh…. Szaron is sleeping:

From Reese:

A friend is on a tour of The Cotswolds admiring thatched roofs today. She says the animals are the thatchers’ signatures. This one has ducks.

I try to avoid posting Far Side cartoons (Larson isn’t keen on reproducing them), but reader Thomas sent in this old gem (newly colorized) and I couldn’t resist:

From “Ducks in Public”, a photo labeled “Ducks with Jobs”:

The Tweet of God:

This came from Barry, but I retweeted it:

A book recommendation from Sam:

J. K. Rowling properly refuses to apologize, but I love the way she trolls the trolls:

Tweets from Matthew. You’re definitely going to want to look at some of the papers cited in the article these tweets refer to:

This has to be true because it’s on Wikipedia. The famous stoic philosopher’s death is actually given in two different versions:

He died during the 143rd Olympiad (208–204 BC) at the age of 73. Diogenes Laërtius gives two different accounts of his death. In the first account, Chrysippus was seized with dizziness having drunk undiluted wine at a feast, and died soon after. In the second account, he was watching a donkey eat some figs and cried out: “Now give the donkey a drink of pure wine to wash down the figs”, whereupon he died in a fit of laughter.

Such is Wikipedia. However, this entry it referred me to a positive gem of a Wikipedia article: “List of unusual deaths.” Don’t miss the 1988 deaths of Cachy the Poodle, Marta Espina, Edith Solá, and an unidentified man, all in one incident:

A happy story of a newborn lame found frozen and apparently lifeless. I show only animal stories with happy endings. Sound up:

Matthew loves swifts, swallows, and martens, and here’s one about to snarf an insect in mid-flight:

39 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. The whole world was saved – Sammy’s whole world – a thought to take to heart.

    For some small effort, really, from two – Brandon, Jerry – is, I’d submit, a poignant example of selflessness.

    1. By “small” I of course mean in comparison to the huge efforts by PCC(E) and everyone else at Botany pond. And not that any of it is easy.

      1. Don’t go there.

        In my view, there is nothing funny to be derived from a minced oath, based on pure, rude profanity. To say the least.

        For the sake of this website, and duck rescuers – it is a disservice to them – in my view.

      2. [ my comment is not visible yet ]

        …Nothing to be gained, that is, except by the people who get a big laugh out of it, appearing in places they never thought possible.

        Sorry if that’s stern, and I get your own intention, this isn’t personal, but what can I say… given this was my comment made in utmost sincerity with the “selflessness”.


  2. … a footnote in Alito’s draft … highlights a repugnant attitude: we should not allow abortion because forced birth assures a good supply of babies for others to adopt.

    I get that many will want to damn the Alito draft in every way possible, but it really does not say that.

    The footnote — which is part of a wide review of attitudes to abortion that is actually an aside to the actual ruling — serves only to support the claim (attributed to “Americans who believe that abortion should be restricted”) that: “… a woman who puts her new born up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home”.

    In support of that the draft cites a CDC statistical review of adoption that states that the “demand” for babies to adopt greatly exceeds the “supply”.

    There is no suggestion at all along the lines of needing to meet that “demand”. All it is is a rebuttal to the possible argument that “there would be lots of babies that no-one wants”.

  3. … Lee’s patented scenario in which a character appears to roll instead of walk.

    It’s called the “double dolly” shot, since both the camera and the actor are on dollies, which are moved along at the same speed against the background. Cinephiles have been known to attend the premieres of Spike Lee films just to cheer or boo the shot, depending whether they believe it’s integral or gratuitous to the scene in which it appears.

    The use of the shot in the clip above from Malcolm X is generally considered the shot’s apotheosis, since it gives the sense of Malcolm approaching the Audubon Ballroom not so much as a matter of choice, but being pulled along by historical forces beyond his or anyone else’s control. (Spike Lee isn’t the only director to use the shot — Scorsese and others have done so, too — but Lee has used it more than anyone else and made it a signature move in his movies).

    Here, this piece does a good job of breaking it down:

  4. No, there is only one Dr. Swift, and he wrote “A Modest Proposal.”

    Hunter Biden’s shady business dealings, and his father’s complicity in them, call for a Special Prosecutor. If this were the child of a Republican President, this would have already happened, and every news cycle would be dominated by it. Apparently, treason for the goose is propaganda for the gander.

    1. I guess you missed the reference, but Hunter Biden has been under federal investigation regarding his taxes since at least 2020. And of course the RP is on the case. Even the “liberal” media is on the case (MSNBC). If our justice systems can’t get rid of a clearly criminal president, how can you expect them to expedite investigation into the shady dealings of a president’s son? You are fine with the way things work when it protects your guy, but unhappy when the other guy doesn’t get taken down fast enough for you?

    2. If this were the child of a Republican President, this would have already happened, and every news cycle would be dominated by it. Apparently, treason for the goose is propaganda for the gander.

      My god, good sir, every day of his life since he rode down the gilded escalator in Trump Tower to announce his run for the presidency (and to tell the nation that “Mexico isn’t sending its best people”), Donald Trump has done something that would have ended the career of any Democratic (or, for that matter, any prior Republican) president. Imagine, if you will, that, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama had said that John McCain wasn’t a hero “because he was captured, and I like people who weren’t captured” (or, what would have been comparable, if Bill Clinton had said in 1992 that George HW Bush wasn’t a war hero because he got his plane shot down over the Pacific in WW2). Or if either had mocked a disabled reporter. Or laundered payoffs to porn stars through their lawyers’ legal fees. Or any one of a thousand other things. It would have been The Big Finito for either — and not just for their presidential aspirations, but for their entire political careers.

      Hell, even at this very moment, Donald Trump is out urging his boy Dr. Oz simply to declare victory in the Pennsylvania Republican senate primary (as Trump himself had ludicrously declared victory on election night 2020), even though there are just 1,200 votes separating him from his opponent, and ballots are still being counted. I guess that, pace Sen. Susan Collins, Donald Trump hasn’t “learned his lesson.” Never has, never will.

      Donald Trump dragged the Republican Party into the pot of ever-heating water with the frog. They’ve lost the ability to discern that the water long ago reached a roiling boil.

      1. Speaking of Donald Trump’s malfeasance in office, I see that just yesterday the Office of the Inspector General — the modern US administrative state’s answer to the question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — issued its final report on the whistleblower reprisal investigationregarding Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was drummed out of the White House, and eventually out of the US Army itself, after testifying truthfully pursuant to subpoena during Donald Trump’s first impeachment proceeding.

        You’ll never guess what its findings are regarding Donald Trump’s retaliation against Vindman (not to mention the retaliation visited upon Vindman’s twin brother and fellow Lieutenant Colonel, Yevgeny, whose only offense against Trump was sharing Alexander’s DNA).

  5. Ukraine medical: I don’t know the level of engagement that MSF has in Ukraine, but they are active there – I have a Swedish friend who is posted about 100km N of Mariupol for another couple wks.

  6. Just a heads up that Boeing/NASA has a third attempt at a successful flight of its crew capsule system scheduled for launch just before 7:00 pm eastern u.s. time tonight. There have been two previous failures. This test flight to station rendezvous and docking is uncrewed. Coverage by NASA tv and at is scheduled to begin around 6:00pm eastern time (u.s.)

  7. … the NYT also has a column about the clothes that the accused and accuser are wearing on the stand, and what message they’re trying to convey both sartorially and in words.

    During the ’92 John Gotti trial, one of the New York tabloids — I don’t remember if it was The Post or the Daily News or another — ran a daily feature called “Gotti Garb.” It would feature a sketch (this was federal court, so no cameras) of the outfit of one of the participants or regular attendees — most often of the Dapper Don himself (with his bespoke Brioni suits and hand-painted ties), but sometimes of one of us from the supporting cast, too. In addition to the sketches, the feature would have notes about the designer or tailor who made the suit (or the woman’s outfit) and the accessories (which, in the case of men, meant the shirts and ties, the shoes and belts).

    At the time — and until today — it was beyond imagining that such a feature would ever appear in The New York Times. My, but from what lofty heights has this nation’s “Newspaper of Record” sunk.

  8. My Matriarchal family speaks Assyrian. 3rd gen American, but my Great Grandparents hail from Maaloula. The story is they left because they were Christian in an increasingly Muslim town and they were also bootleggers which didn’t sit well either.
    I don’t speak much except for the curses and threats my grandmother taught us as kids. The important save was the food. A few of my aunts and cousins can still cook using the very traditional recipes and methods and a bunch of us get together as often as we can to preserve the art and pass it down.

  9. Apropos, the NYT also has a column about the clothes that the accused and accuser are wearing on the stand, and what message they’re trying to convey both sartorially and in words.

    Does anyone know what the Oddfather wore in court? Did he turn up in a bathrobe?

  10. In regard to the naughty words hidden in article titles: when I was part of a team working on a new software package, we needed a clever acronym. I took a list of buzzwords and other words vaguely related to the purpose of the package, and wrote a script that searched through a list of English words to see what I could come up with. I was disappointed when the rest of the team refused to call the package ‘ARMPIT’.

      1. The University of Hawaii has a submersible named the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL). Some frat boy must have come up with that one.

  11. Goldberg takes Heard’s side, and although experts have said that the couple engaged in “mutual abuse”, Goldberg sees Depp as the principal abuser, which may be true. But she exaggerates when she titled her column “Amber Heard and the Death of #MeToo” and by saying that this case presages the rise of a new misogny.

    Well I think she’s right about the likely outcome but wrong in what it means. Look, Depp already sued Heard, in the UK, over this same thing. And he lost. Now while the juries and systems are different, it’s a pretty good bet that if he failed to show his case there, he’ll probably fail to show his case here. And we know this isn’t the death of #MeToo because the case already happened once before, and MeToo didn’t die, so it’s not going to die now.


    Wasn’t aware of Alito’s footnote. It’s disgusting, you’re absolutely right that it shows how conservative thinking is treating women as incubators…and for that reason, I hope the footnote stays in. Let the next court see exactly what this conservative court was thinking when it made its legal decision.

    A big NO on Dr. Swift. It’s an honorary degree.

    Though this seems speculative? I hadn’t heard she was demanding people use the title when referring to her. If she’s not asking for it, good for her and nobody should push it on her. If she is asking to be referred to as Dr., she’s a putz.

  12. That tweet by JK Rowling is going to upset some people. I hope so, anyway.

    The list of people who met bizarre deaths is very entertaining, but it doesn’t include some of the deaths of well-known composers, eg:

    Alkan: reached for a Talmud on the top shelf of a bookcase, and was killed when the entire bookcase collapsed on him (to be fair, this has been disputed).

    Chausson: lost control of his bicycle on a steep hill, and crashed into a brick wall.

    Berg: died of septicaemia after an insect bite caused a carbuncle, which his wife tried to remove with a pair of nail scissors.

    Wallingford Reigger: fell over the entangled leads of two fighting dogs, and bashed his head on the kerb.

    There are others.

    1. Webern: stepped outside to enjoy a cigar and was shot by a US Army PFC, thus illustrating the dangers of smoking.

  13. The best part of that Assyrian capital question posed in Monty Python is that the answer is multiple choice.

    1. And they held out long enough to get the civilians they were protecting evacuated. Always remember that.

  14. Aside from the ethical egregiousness of expecting women with unwanted pregnancies to breed for hopeful adopters, adoption isn’t a practical alternative. Although many babies have been placed for adoption without obtaining the father’s consent, there’s now a firm trend toward enforcing fathers’ rights, facilitated by the ease of paternity testing. If the pregnant woman has doubts about the father’s commitment or fitness for parenting, she’ll face an awful dilemma as to relinquishing custody. Imagine this in the context of a teenage boy with no grasp of the demands of single parenting. Or a pregnancy conceived through nonconsensual sex. Sure, there would probably be an exception allowing for a woman’s unilateral relinquishment when pregnancy results from rape, but that leaves her with the problem of convincing adoption authorities that she was raped. Abortion ban advocates aren’t inclined to believe accusations of rape. In 2012 the Republican Todd Akin had the audacity to claim that pregnancy can’t happen from “legitimate rape.” This audacious bs was his undoing, but acceptance of pseudoscience has snowballed since. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this outrageous nonsense took hold, making it impossible for a woman pregnant by rape to unilaterally release the child for adoption. Anonymous abandonment of an infant under “safe haven” laws can never be truly anonymous, thanks to DNA. And it wouldn’t be consequence-free, as Justice Barrett implied. If the woman later became involved in a custody dispute, or CPS proceedings, that past abandonment would almost certainly be raised to prove her unfitness. Adoption as a solution for an unwanted pregnancy is a cynical lie.

    1. I can see how upholding fathers’ rights works against adoption. If the state wants to smooth the way to adoption, it’s going to have to tell the teenage fathers to butt out.. Your post is the kind of thing that should be given as testimony to state legislative committees trying to work out a sensible abortion law, if they want to, now that they can legislate more strictly than Roe allowed. But it’s a better argument for adoption law reform than abortion per se, because it would be helpful to women who absolutely did not want to abort, but couldn’t look after a baby, either. And even if the state will not budge on a heartbeat law or a total ban, adoption reform is still a good idea.

      (Hint: Don’t accuse state legislators whom you want to win over of being cynical liars. Save that, as you did, for Supreme Court justices who have already made their decisions.)

Leave a Reply