Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 14, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, July 14, 2022, Bastille Day and National Grand Marnier Day, honoring what happens to be a great after-dinner liqueur. It’s also National Mac and Cheese Day, Shark Awareness Day, and International Non-Binary People’s Day.

Wine of the Day: Again we have a nice Rioja, but given to me as a Coynezaa present by a very kind reader. The R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Reserva from Viña Todonia has a reputation as one of the best bottlings of Rioja, and this one, 14 years old (it’s aged for a decade before release, so it’s been in the bottle for only 4 years) lived up to its reputation.

Because this was a gift, I won’t quote listed prices, but they vary considerably. Let’s just say it ain’t cheap.  I drank it with my weekly restorative t-bone steak, and it turned out to be a great choice. The aromas I detected were pear, raspberry, and licorice, and I was elated to see after I sussed out the flavors and aromas that Robert Parker, my wine guru (who awarded this wine a very high 95/100, said this:

The nose of the 2008 Viña Tondonia Reserva is very elegant, fresh and with an herbal twist, starting to show the complexity of the aged wines that are sometimes still too young when they are released 10+ years from the vintage! The palate is medium-bodied, with lightness and depth, very classical with extra freshness and all that is needed for a long development in bottle. This is the more Tondonia of the two vintages I tasted side by side. There are notes of maple syrup, smoke, licorice and crisp fruit. The palate is more austere, crunchy and reveals the chalkiness of the soils. There’s more definition and precision here.

I would say it’s a bit more full-bodied than Parker implies, and it clearly will improve for several more years. I decanted it, expecting a sediment, but there was none—perhaps because of the aging in barrel. This is a fabulous and elegant wine, gutsy enough to stand up to steak. And it was even better when I drank the second half-bottle a day later.

As I always say, the quality/price range for Riojas is much higher than for, say, good French reds, and if you like red wine, you should essay this wine or others made with the temperanillo grape. There are less expensive Riojas than this that still afford excellent drinking.

Stuff that happened on July 14 includes:

You really need to watch “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928) with Renée Jean Falconetti in the title role. In my view it’s the greatest silent movie ever made. Sadly, it’s no longer on YouTube, so you can see only snippets. But here’s one:

Here: ” An eyewitness painting of the siege of the Bastille by Claude Cholat:

Two etchings by Doré: The ascent of the Matterhorn and then the tragic accident when a rope broke:

  • 1874 – The Chicago Fire of 1874 burns down 47 acres of the city, destroying 812 buildings, killing 20, and resulting in the fire insurance industry demanding municipal reforms from Chicago’s city council.

There aren’t many photos of the post-fire city, but here’s one from the Chicago Architecture Center:

Here’s the only known authentic photo of Billy the Kid (caption from Wikipedia), who died at 21:

The only surviving authenticated portrait of Billy the Kid. This tintype portrait sold at auction in June 2011 for USD $2,300,000 to William Koch. Detailed description here

And Pat Garrett:

As Wikipedia notes of the exchange of ten letters:

The McMahon–Hussein Correspondence is a series of letters that were exchanged during World War I in which the Government of the United Kingdom agreed to recognize Arab independence after the war in exchange for the Sharif of Mecca launching the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The correspondence had a significant influence on Middle Eastern history during and after the war; a dispute over Palestine continued thereafter.

Actually, the “Gleichschaltung” was not one degree, but a program of increasing totalitarian control of Germany by the Nazis. This was just one part of it.

Here’s Part 1 of that decree, which was published on July 25. Its provisions were these:

(1) Any person suffering from a hereditary disease may be rendered incapable of procreation by means of a surgical operation (sterilization), if the experience of medical science shows that it is highly probable that his descendants would suffer from some serious physical or mental hereditary defect.

(2) For the purposes of this law, any person will be considered as hereditarily diseased who is suffering from any one of the following diseases: –

(1) Congenital Mental Deficiency,
(2) Schizophrenia,
(3) Manic-Depressive Insanity,
(4) Hereditary Epilepsy,
(5) Hereditary Chorea (Huntington’s),
(6) Hereditary Blindness,
(7) Hereditary Deafness,
(8) Any severe hereditary deformity.

(3) Any person suffering from severe alcoholism may be also rendered incapable of procreation.

Here’s Ateva, a rara avis as an Arab feminist. Although she served in the Assembly for only two years, she remained politically active until her death in 1997:

Here’s a lovely picture Goodall touching Flint, the first chimp born after she arrived at Gombe:


Da Nooz:

*The NYT reports that more than half of the American population has severe issues with the state of the country and are sufficiently bothered that they want to “upend the system” (my emphasis):

A majority of American voters across nearly all demographics and ideologies believe their system of government does not work, with 58 percent of those interviewed for a New York Times/Siena College poll saying that the world’s oldest independent constitutional democracy needs major reforms or a complete overhaul.

The discontent among Republicans is driven by their widespread, unfounded doubts about the legitimacy of the nation’s elections. For Democrats, it is the realization that even though they control the White House and Congress, it is Republicans, joined with their allies in gerrymandered state legislatures and the Supreme Court, who are achieving long-sought political goals.

For Republicans, the distrust is a natural outgrowth of former President Donald J. Trump’s domination of the party and, to a large degree, American politics. After seven years in which he relentlessly attacked the country’s institutions, a broad majority of Republicans share his views on the 2020 election and its aftermath: Sixty-one percent said he was the legitimate winner, and 72 percent described the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a protest that got out of hand.

This is not good news given that Biden was the clear winner of the election, and doubting those results is becoming akin to a Republican religion. Fortunately it’s not all Republicans; just 76% of them: here are some data from the survey, and it’s scary:

*Now is the time to go to Europe, for the euro and the dollar are now equal in value— the first time this has happened in over 20 years. I was there during one of these episodes, and stuff seemed a lot cheaper to me than it used to.

The euro has been losing ground against the dollar since the start of the year, when it hovered near $1.13, amid an aggressive inflation-fighting campaign by the U.S. Federal Reserve, along with broader global disruptions set off by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They reached parity on Wednesday morning, according to Bloomberg data.

The stronger dollar is good news for Americans considering a European vacation or buying goods abroad. It could lower the price of commodities, such as grain, and potentially ease the relentless inflation that has sent household and business expenses surging. But experts say the euro’s retreat also hints at the slower pace of global trade, adding to recession worries.

* The bad news is that inflation in the U.S. is running at its highest yearly rate in forty years: a whopping 9.1%!

U.S. consumer inflation climbed to 9.1% in June, a pace not seen in more than four decades, adding pressure on the Federal Reserve to act more aggressively to slow rapid price increases throughout the economy.

The consumer-price index’s advance for the 12 months ended in June was the fastest pace since November 1981, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. A big jump in gasoline prices drove much of the increase, while shelter and food prices were also major contributors.

The June inflation reading exceeded May’s 8.6% rate, prompting investors and analysts to debate whether the Fed would consider a one-percentage-point rate increase, rather than a 0.75-point rise, later this month.

. . . The Fed last month raised its interest-rate target by 0.75 percentage point, the largest increase since 1994. Slowing demand is key to the Fed’s goal of restoring price stability in an economy that is still struggling with supply issues, but raising interest rates also elevates the risk of a recession.

It also is trying to prevent consumer expectations of higher inflation becoming entrenched, since such expectations can be self-fulfilling. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank wants to see clear evidence that price pressures are diminishing before slowing or suspending rate increases.

Persistent high inflation is putting a strain on businesses and consumers who, after decades of price stability, aren’t used to it.

Lower gas prices alone will not relieve Biden of what Americans believe is something he should have controlled. Just go to the supermarket! Remember the motto of The War Room: “It’s the economy, stupid.” More trouble for the Democrats is in the offing.

*I’m not trying to be hard on Biden today, but according to a report in the New York Times, he’s seems to be lying to the public about the Iran nuclear deal:

President Biden sought to calm Israeli fears of a potential nuclear deal with Iran as he began a Middle East tour on Wednesday, promising not to give in to a key demand by Tehran and assuring Israelis that he would use force if needed to stop Iran from developing a bomb.

In an interview taped at the White House on Tuesday and aired on Israeli television on Wednesday night shortly after his arrival, Mr. Biden argued that Israel was made more vulnerable in 2018 when President Donald J. Trump withdrew from a nuclear agreement reached under the Obama administration.

It will be safer, he said, with a renewed accord.

“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons, and if we can return to the deal, we can hold them tight,” Mr. Biden told Yonit Levi of Channel 12. “I think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They’re closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before.”

Anybody with two neurons to rub together knows that Iran is trying as hard as it can to build nuclear weapons, and that it will have them eventually. Moreover, we also know that Biden will NOT “use force to stop Iran from building a bomb.” It already is building a bomb, and no force has been used.  It is this kind of mendacity that angers me about my own party, and makes me certain that the Democrats must find a Presidential candidate to replace Biden in 2024.

*However, on the good deeds of the administration, we have the Biden administration apparently set to issue an executive order requiring all pharmacies that get federal money from programs like Medicare and Medicaid to dispense “reproductive health prescriptions”, including pills that induce abortion.  Presumably this also applies to states where abortion is or will be illegal, and where those who abet it will violate the law.  That puts those states in a dilemma, so this move is very clever on the Administration’s part. It also goes hand in hand with two other attempts to circumvent the Dobbs ruling on the national level:

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that pharmacies receiving federal money from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid cannot discriminate in how they supply medications or advise patients on prescriptions.

The agency noted that discrimination against people based on their pregnancy or related conditions would be a form of sex discrimination.

The announcement comes as the administration seeks to ensure reproductive health services for women following last month’s Supreme Court decision that ended a constitutional right to abortion.

On Monday, the administration told hospitals that they “must” provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk. The government said federal law on emergency treatment guidelines preempts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban the procedure without any exceptions. Now, all states provide an exception for the life of the mother.

President Joe Biden also has signed an executive order to try to protect some access to the procedure, but he also has acknowledged that his administration is limited in what it can do. He noted earlier this month that an act of Congress would be required to restore nationwide access to abortion services, and he has urged Americans angered by the Supreme Court’s ruling to vote in November.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Szaron are involved in a grass-is-always-greener discusison:

Szaron: I have a feeling that there are more attractions on the northern side of the orchard.
Hili: I think that the southern side looks more interesting.
In Polish:
Szaron: Mam wrażenie, że na północnej stronie sadu jest więcej atrakcji.
Hili: Ja myślę, że południowa wygląda ciekawiej.
Baby Kulka!


From Stash Krod, a beautiful poem by Michael Leunig, extolling the healing powers of my favorite waterfowl:

I forgot the source, but thank you, whoever you are, for this John Deering cartoon:

And from Tom, a cartoon by Dave Blazek:

From Ken, with his note

“Words of Scriptural wisdom from US senate hopeful Kelly Tshibaka (whom Donald Trump has endorsed in the Alaskan Republican primary as part of his vendetta against incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who voted against Trump at his second impeachment trial)”.

The second tweet will self-start after the first one ends:

Ricky Gervais makes ample use of the “c word” in his wonderful Netflix series, “After Life“. Do watch the first two seasons if you can.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. This woman simply made up stuff: fictitious states, battles, and people. She was found out last month.

If you have some knowledge of genetics, read this paper:

Here’s a five-minute clip of a discussion  between Pat Churchland and Briane Greene about the “hard problem of consciousness”.  Churchland goes hard after panpsychism, but they do differ in their construal of the word “hard”.

And a tweet from Dr. Cobb, who of course is busy writing the definitive biography of Francis Crick. I think what Crick means below is not that the structure of DNA itself supports natural selection per se, but that the structure shows us how mutations can occur and affect the sequence of proteins, which then affect the traits of individuals. In other words, I think he’s emphasizing not the structure itself, but the errors it makes possible.

The caption is a bit misleading, but this is cute!

I want to see this oak! Where is Bowthorpe? You’re allowed to have private time with the tree in an hour-long guided tour at 10 pounds per person. I’d say that’s £10 well spent!

34 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. That is excellent juxtaposing of Ricky Gervais’ clips with the Kelly Tshibaka (¶You say Tshibaka¶ and I say Chewbacca¶) diatribe. My guess is Kelly Chewbacca has spent too much time watching televangelists and thinks she has the ability to ASSimilate her MTG/Boebert persona into the “truthfulness of scriptures in today’s world”.

    1. I think she got such an ability by following the model of that great Alaskan political exemplar, Sarah Palin.

    2. (¶You say Tshibaka¶ and I say Chewbacca¶)

      Tshibaka’a big advantage in the primary race is name recognition — her last name is line 8 on the eye charts used by Alaskan optometrists.

    1. I never think of for movies. I’ve only just recently gotten used to them as a source for (old) music.

        1. To anyone who has not seen “La Grande Illusion,” you don’t know what you’re missing. The greatest line in the history of cinema: “Why did you come back?”

    2. Better yet, the Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection, which has much better visual quality and plenty of extras, is currently half-off at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

      I know some people have given up physical media in favor of streaming, but there is a lot to be said for genuinely owning films. And it’s also nice to support companies like Criterion that spend money to restore and present classic movies.

  2. “International Non-Binary People’s Day”

    “binary (adj.)
    “dual, twofold, double,” mid-15c., from Late Latin binarius “consisting of two,” from bini “twofold, two apiece, two-by-two” (used especially of matched things), from bis “double” (from PIE root *dwo- “two”). Binary code in computer terminology was in use by 1952, though the idea itself is ancient. Binary star in astronomy is from 1802.”


    So what is a “nonbinary person”? I assume it’s nothing to do with gamete characteristics.

    If the “nonbinary” behave like a male sometimes and a female sometimes, that is still, by their lights, “binary”. But is that not sexist to assign males certain behaviors and females certain other behaviors?

    I think this is what Orwell means by debasement of the English language. Chomsky also spoke a bit about certain academic departments feeling left out when science and math started landing people on the moon and curing diseases, so the certain departments usurped the scientific language.

    [ venting complete ]

    1. It’s also a somewhat limited usage, as it applies only to human sex. Presumably someone who doesn’t see any issue as either/or would also be “non-binary.” For instance, someone who didn’t believe in the dichotomy between good and evil, or Mac and PC.

      1. Right or left handed still means there is either right, left, or “ambidextrous” <- uncertain if that is proper Latin. It does _not_ mean there is a third handedness, or fourth. There is no "spectrum" of handedness. It is either one, the other, or both.

        It is not accurately "nonbinary".

        I’m trying to find the Chomsky clip.

      2. Well, there’s plenty of Chomsky on language, humanities, and post modernism, but not what I recall.

        This is the problem with non-written material – videos. It is a mess to pull up at will.

        Unless I write the url down, but that can change.

        Put it in writing, as the old saying goes. Maybe published with indices, a way to find it.

      1. But I don’t know if biology in fact regard mating types or sexes in this way or with this term “binary”. I think biology does not, so post modern literature insinuated the language “binary”, not understanding that words have precise meanings for a reason.

        And at best, I’d say ternary – not sure why, but ternary or quaternary are words in that series.

    2. Just – one more idea, if I may – just occurred to me :

      Symmetry might be an important pattern in sex or mating types.

      I’ll have to read some more. But the nebulous idea being things go one way but if a certain symmetry arises, it goes another. As in crystal growth.

      Ok thanks.

  3. I am not sure what good that decree on pharmacies is. It gives them the choice between losing revenue or breaking the law (assuming the State prohibits “reproductive health prescriptions”), which presumably means losing their profession.

    1. The AP mangled the story. It’s not at all what it seems. See my post at #13.
      Details matter.

  4. The essay by Graham Coop distinguishes between describing samples of human variation vs. putting labels on the samples (especially assigning a sample as coming from a particular ancestry group). He favours descriptions not labels because “Human groups are structured from broad geographic scales to fine-scale patterns well below the level of a country. These fine-scale patterns are generally not well captured by discrete labels. The choice of level of granularity will depend on the specific questions being addressed.”

    He also does a nice job of explaining the difference between one’s genealogical ancestors (many) and one’s genetic ancestors (fewer, the subset whose gene copies actually ended up in one’s genome).

    From the last section of the essay:

    “As a field we should move away from genetic ancestry labels and towards simple statements of genetic similarity: ‘This sample/haplotype is genetically similar to the XX sample set (in comparisons to YYY samples using ZZZ metric).'”

    So describe human variation, don’t put labels on it. Seems like good advice.

  5. Kelly Tshibaka’s audience didn’t seem impressed with her argument. And ‘subdue’ is not a good word to use when talking of government, even if it is only about every living thing 🙂

    Ingmar Bergman and Gerald Ford were born on this day. I like Winter Light.

  6. I like Pat Churchland’s stance on the purported “Hard Problem” of consciousness. I’m with her on that. There seems to be a sort of special pleading involved with the Hard Problem where it’s almost defined in a way that is resistant to evidence either way. It’s like an impossible standard is raised for refuting the problem, of a type we’d never accept for anything else, as Pat implies in her response.

    The Hard Problem advocates will say that, yes it’s a special high bar to be passed because the question of consciousness IS truly unique. But…again…when it’s hard to imagine ANYTHING – any evidence or experiment – that would satisfy what Dennett referred to as “the new mysterians,” one wonders about the worth of their hypothesis. As Pat very ably points out.

    I admit I get a bit irked when one of my heroes, Sam Harris, talks about consciousness in a way that
    feeds in to this mysteriousness. (And I’m similarly dubious about the inferences he draws from his meditation).

    1. Eliezer Yudkowsky does a nice job puncturing Hard Problem/Panpsychism/ and in particular Philosophical Zombies. He even does a humorous screenplay involving a zombie apocalypse in which people are turned into philosophical zombies, whom you can recognize by the fact that they act exactly the way they did before. Dan Dennett appears in the script in leather jacket and boots riding a motorcycle and wielding a shotgun, with the catchphrase, “There is a spoon.”

      I agree with you about Sam Harris and the “hard problem”. I couldn’t even get THROUGH the part of Annaka Harris’s (Sam’s wife’s) book where she starts dealing with panpsychism. Sam SAYS the “mystery” of consciousness is not an elan vital style argument…and yet, every time its discussed, it sure seems like an elan vital, phlogiston type of argument. He says it’s not, because it’s something experienced, not just seen. But, to quote Radiohead, “Just ’cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.”

      1. Robert,

        I just read the zombie movie script. That was great! Thanks!

        Agree about Annaka Harris. I tried checking out her stuff on consciousness for a bit and had the same reaction.

    2. Most philosophers, with Dennett a notable exception, maintain a bit of mysteriousness in their takes on consciousness. This is because they’re unwilling to embrace computationalism, or lack the expertise. They can only view consciousness via introspection and pure thought and that is self-limiting.

  7. Based on some of the focus groups studying Trump voters, some of those who believe that Trump really won in 2020 would like to move past Trump in 2024. I suspect this is due to at least some reality creeping into their misinformation-addled minds. We can’t expect them to announce that they were wrong, as that’s human nature, but if they have some new thinking on the subject, we can expect it to effect future decisions, such as who they vote for in 2024. Most will still vote for whoever gets the GOP nomination, even if it’s Trump, as they hate Democrats more than they want to move past him. Still, that’s not enough to give Trump a win. The big question is whether the GOP will have installed enough cheaters at the state and local levels to deny Dems a win. My guess is that they won’t have. Fingers crossed!

  8. I don’t know exactly what it is about that Billy the Kid photo, whether it’s expression or pose or what, but when I see it, it erases all romanticized notions of him as any sort of cultural icon, and makes him look like simply a violent thug. Definitely somebody I’d cross the street to avoid.

  9. Re: Pharmacies can’t discriminate on reproductive health scripts, says Biden administration.

    I don’t interpret this as HHS unscrupulously trying to bully pharmacies into violating state laws prohibiting abortions and thus “clever”ly putting states in a “dilemma”. There is less here than meets the eye and I see no attempt to thwart the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs.

    The AP dispatch at the link is clear that the Department is reminding pharmacies participating in Medicare/Medicaid (which surely must be all of them) that they cannot refuse to dispense prescriptions for drugs just because one use of those drugs can be to produce abortion. This is not new or controversial. Misoprostol, for example cited in the story, is used to protect the stomach from the ulcer-promoting side effects of some pain medicines. And the combination of prostaglandins used to induce abortion may also be used to clean up the uterus after spontaneous miscarriage.

    The DHSS is not trying to tell pharmacies that they must fill prescriptions intended to induce abortion in states that prohibit it.

    There is a bit of dance here. When a patient brings a Rx to a pharmacy, the pharmacist doesn’t know what medical condition it’s for unless he asks (or the Rx has to have a diagnosis written on it for billing purposes.). In order to counsel appropriately, the pharmacist will typically ask at the window, “And this is for….?” because the advice may be different for the same drug but different conditions. If the patient in Louisiana says, “I had a miscarriage and this is to finish it off so I don’t get sick”, HHS’s expectation is that the pharmacist dispense it without fuss even if his store is full of crucifixes. (The doctor who saw the patient would have told her, “Whatever you do, be sure to tell the pharmacist you had a miscarriage, else he’ll think I’m trying to do an abortion.”) In reality, pharmacists do call doctors all the time it they aren’t sure about the rationale for a Rx. In this case the pharmacist might ask, “Sorry to bother you, Doctor, but under state law I do have to satisfy myself that this prescription is not to procure an abortion.” If the doc says, “It’s not”, the pharmacist is covered. It’s on the doctor if he lied.

    However. pharmacists must also be alert for when drugs shouldn’t be used (“contraindicated” in the jargon.) Here the AP’s story goes off the rails:

    “A pharmacy that refuses to fill a prescription of misoprostol prescribed to help deal with severe stomach ulcer complications may be discriminating based on disability, HHS said.”

    This is acceptable advice only if it is established that the patient could not be pregnant, which the AP did not make clear. Misoprostol is contraindicated in pregnancy for obvious reasons. The pharmacist would certainly ask the patient if she was pregnant, not to try to act as the abortion police but to make sure a wanted pregnancy was not accidentally aborted, especially if the prescribing doctor had forgotten to ask. (It happens.) If the patient said, “Um, my period’s a week overdue now that you mention it, but I’m often irregular, so I guess I could be. We’re trying.”, the pharmacist would certainly not fill the prescription. He’d discuss alternatives with the doctor (and probably sell her a pregnancy test to do right there in the drugstore’s bathroom.) That is how pharmacist-doctor collaboration works for good patient care. Good catch.

    The AP muddled up the story by referring to HHS’s views on pregnancy as a disability or a medical condition. This could have created the impression that HHS was telling the pharmacies that they could not decline to dispense misoprostol for a woman known to be pregnant, which would be a grossly inappropriate position to take.

    The AP story has a link to a pdf from DHHS which shows that most of its advice when properly fleshed out in context is uncontroversial. Someone at the AP is trying to cast President Biden into a devious SCOTUS-flouting hero or tyrant, take your pick.

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