Saturday: Hili dialogue

September 24, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on cat shabbos; it’s, September 24, 2022, and we’re headed inexorably towards October. (and, of course, the Big Nap).  It’s National Cherries Jubilee Day, honoring a dessert that’s easy to make and somewhat elegant. All you need are some liqueurs, canned cherries, ice cream, butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon. (The cherries, while cooking, are doused with the booze and then ignited.)

It’s also National Horchata Day (definite cultural appropriation), International Rabbit Day, Fish Amnesty Day (do not eat a fish), Kiss Day, Museum Day, National Singles Day, National Wildlife Day, National Punctuation Day, and National Bluebird of Happiness Day. Speaking of the last day, here’s one of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons:

Stuff that happened on September 24 include:

  • 787 – Second Council of Nicaea: The council assembles at the church of Hagia Sophia.
  • 1789 – The United States Congress passes the Judiciary Act, creating the office of the Attorney General and federal judiciary system and ordering the composition of the Supreme Court.
  • 1852 – The first powered, passenger-carrying airship, the Giffard dirigible, travels 17 miles (27 km) from Paris to Trappes.

Here’s a model, but I think it carried only one person: the pilot. It was also filled with hydrogen, which was to prove lethal in the dirigible Hindenburg.

  • 1890 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounces polygamy.

This renunciation was necessary to allow Utah to become a state. Nevertheless, “plural marriages” are still being performed in some extremist sects of the faith. Here’s one example:

  • 1906 – U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devils Tower in Wyoming as the nation’s first National Monument.

Here it is, a tower of intrusive igneous rock:

Glen Allison/Getty Images
  • 1929 – Jimmy Doolittle performs the first flight without a window, proving that full instrument flying from take off to landing is possible.

From Pioneers of Flight:

Doolittle made the first “blind flight” on September 24, 1929. He took off in the Guggenheim Fund’s Consolidated NY-2, flew a set course, and landed while under a fabric hood and unable to see outside the airplane. He relied entirely on a directional gyro, artificial horizon, sensitive altimeter, and radio navigation.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (SI 79-9405).
  • 1975 – Southwest Face expedition members become the first persons to reach the summit of Mount Everest by any of its faces, instead of using a ridge route.

Six climbers reached the summit. From Wikipedia:

The 1975 British Mount Everest Southwest Face expedition was the first to successfully climb Mount Everest by ascending one of its faces. In the post-monsoon season Chris Bonington led the expedition which used rock climbing techniques to put fixed ropes up the face from the Western Cwm to just below the South Summit. A key aspect of the success of the climb was the scaling of the cliffs of the Rock Band at about 8,200 metres (27,000 ft) by Nick Estcourt and Tut Braithwaite. Two teams then climbed to the South Summit and followed the Southeast Ridge to the main summit – Dougal Haston with Doug Scott on 24 September 1975, who at the South Summit made the highest ever bivouac for that time, and Peter Boardman with Pertemba two days later. It is thought that Mick Burke fell to his death shortly after he had also reached the top. British climbers reached the summit of Everest for the first time in an event that has been described as “the apotheosis of the big, military-style expeditions”.

Here’s the route of the successful expedition; trace it on the photo above (the lower part of the photo is obscured by Nuptse, one of the two other mountains in the Everest massif.

Da Nooz:

*Russia has begun holding its fake elections in parts of occupied Ukraine, having mandated referendums take place. This is all a sham for Putin to rig the elections (yes, rigged), trumpet that the regions want to be part of Russia, and then claim them for his own country. And surprise!—the elections are being “observed” by gun-toting Russian goons:

From the AP:

A Kremlin-orchestrated referendum got underway Friday in occupied regions of Ukraine that sought to make them part of Russia, with some officials carrying ballots to apartment blocks accompanied by gun-toting police. Kyiv and the West condemned it as a rigged election whose result was preordained by Moscow.

. . .Ukraine and the West said the vote was an illegitimate attempt by Moscow to slice away a large part of the country, stretching from the Russian border to the Crimean Peninsula. A similar referendum took place in Crimea in 2014 before Moscow annexed it, a move that most of the world considered illegal.

Citing safety reasons, election officials carried ballots to homes and set up mobile polling stations for the four-day voting period. Russian state TV showed one such election team accompanied by a masked police officer carrying an assault rifle.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, told The Associated Press that Russians and residents of Crimea were brought into his city to urge people to vote.

Is there any doubt what the outcome will be?

*A few weeks ago, I predicted a recession even though I have absolutely no economic expertise.  And this is not one time I’d be proud of being right. But that’s what seems to be happening: here are the NYT economics headlines from yesterday. Click screenshot below to read the bad news:

Just a bit of a summary:

Stocks nose-dived, government bond prices plummeted, the pound dipped against the dollar, oil prices slumped and cryptocurrencies wobbled on Friday as investors, already worried about rising interest rates and stubbornly high inflation, started quaking at the growing likelihood of a recession.

Their worries grew throughout the week as central banks around the world, from Sweden to Indonesia, once again wielded their blunt but powerful tool — interest rate increases — to combat inflation. Previous rate increases have already raised costs for consumers and businesses. Further ones could augur a period of higher unemployment and slower economic growth.

And it’s not just the U.S., either:

Europe’s Stoxx 600 index ended the day in bear market territory, a bleak reflection of the state of the European economy.

The benchmark index, which includes large companies from 17 European countries, like Britain’s Shell, Switzerland’s Nestlé and Germany’s Volkswagen, fell 2.3 percent on Friday, pushing the index down about 21 percent from its Jan. 5 peak.

A fall of more than 20 percent from a high is the common definition of a bear market, a rare and grim signal for stock markets. The S&P 500 slipped into a bear market in June.

The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and other central banks across Europe and elsewhere are aggressively raising interest rates to bring down high inflation, which cools economic activity in many countries that are already showing signs of recession.

I’m staying the course; I never sell (equity mutual funds) during a downturn and have maintained that position for decades, investing what I can regularly, which has served me well. But of course that’s what I do, and I wouldn’t give financial recommendations to anyone else. I have a high tolerance for financial risk and anxiety, which is unlike me in every other aspect of my life. I’m not worried about me; I’m worried about what’s going to happen to the impecunious. And I think the R-word is in the offing.

*Although John McWhorter is black, he takes more of a hard-line position on affirmative action.  I’m in favor of a circumscribed version, while he opposes any preferential treatment of races. This is evident in his column yesterday, “Stop making Asian Americans pay the price for campus diversity.” As you may know, the Supreme Court will adjudicate two affirmative-action suits this fall, one of them involving claims that Harvard discriminated against Asian American and Asian students. And we already know how they will rule, overturning the Bakke decision by a vote of 6-3. This does not bother McWhorter:

To those dismayed by the court’s recent rulings on issues such as abortion and gun control, it might seem natural to see a looming ban on affirmative action in admissions as water from the same well. I do not. The way racial preferences have been defended in recent years has involved a good deal of shaky argumentation.

Take, for instance, the idea that a diverse student body is a key component of a good education: As I’ve argued previously in this newsletter, diversity is a thin justification for treating applicants differently. But beyond that, it’s worth noting that a different, earlier and disturbing version of the diversity argument emerged not in reference to students of color but to Jewish students. In the early 20th century, “character”-based goals emerged among some Ivy League schools. One such goal was “geographic” diversity. This was held up as a boon to student bodies but motivated largely by an assumption that admitting students from schools far from northeastern cities would serve to hold down the number of Jewish applicants accepted.

. . . Today, increasing diversity may mean giving preferential treatment to some Black and Latino students who otherwise might not qualify for admission. And this practice, whether intended or not, has had the effect at Harvard — which, in a 2013 internal investigation, was found to display bias against Asian American applicants — of artificially keeping down the number of students of Asian descent. (Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten about legacy admissions, I’ll just note that I’ve said before in this newsletter that we should do away with the forms of affirmative action that tend to benefit rich white students, too.)

Of course, no one explicitly says Harvard has too many Asians, but the parallel between old-school justifications for keeping a student body from being too Jewish and a process that keeps it from being too Asian are discomfiting. According to the plaintiffs’ data, Asian American applicants were 25 percent more likely than whites to be rated, dismissively, as “standard strong,” meaning that they’re academically excellent but merely in a garden variety way for Harvard applicants. They were also shown to be rated by admissions officers as less personable than applicants of other races with similar applications. This is alarmingly close to the kinds of prejudices held about Jewish students in the old days. Harvard itself documented in an internal study in 2013 that the undergraduate student body would be 43 percent Asian using academic scores and rankings alone, as opposed to the 19 percent that they constituted at the time.

There’s no reason to suppose that the reason for these sneaky biases in the admissions system is bigotry against Asians. Rather, the idea is to demonstrate a lack of bigotry against Black and Latino students, to justify it with the claim that diversity enhances the educational experience of all students and to achieve it by artificially keeping Asian numbers down while hoping they go quietly along with the program.

McWhorter questions the argument that ethnic diversity would “crucially enhance education”, but he’s in favor of another kind of diversity: socioeconomic diversity, which would favor poor people. He notes that yes, this procedure, replacing the one that’s going to be outlawed, would reduce the number of black and Hispanic students in top-tier colleges.

But McWhorter has always argued that students who would fail at top-tier colleges shouldn’t be admitted because of their race. Rather, he avers, “there’s no tragedy in Black and Latino students attending other excellent if somewhat less selective schools.”

And I’ll quote his ending:

Racial preferences should now be thought of like chemotherapy, a cure that can cause side effects that should be applied judiciously. We’ve applied the cure long past that point, and have drifted toward an almost liturgical conception of diversity that makes less sense by the year.

In a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the majority, said, “we expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences” in the university admissions context “will no longer be necessary.” That was considered resonantly wise at the time. But now we have only about six years to go. Folks, it’s time.

It will be interesting to see, after Bakke is overturned and race cannot be a criterion for admission, how colleges, with their complicated and expensive diversity apparatus, will try to maintain affirmative action on the sly. For make no mistake about it: both the Zeitgeist and the entrenched DEI bureaucracy of universities will push back hard against any attempt to eliminate race-based admissions.

*This week’s news summary on Bari Weiss’s site is by Kat Rosenfeld, who usually does podcasts, and is called “TGIF: Bad news for bad guys.” Sadly, it’s not snarky or funny—nowhere close to what Nellie Bowles produced before she left to have her baby. I hope she can start doing the column soon. Here are a few snippets from Rosenfeld. The only funny bit is this, which comes after an unedifying discussion of the immigrants-flown-to-Martha’s-Vineyard fracas:

For those worrying they might have to put their money where their IN THIS HOUSE WE BELIEVE yard sign is, it’s not too late to buy the alternative version that proclaims your belief in (and carnal lust for) Bigfoot instead.

Check it out!

→ Stacey Abrams: science denier? Here’s Stacey Abrams explaining that fetal heartbeats aren’t a thing, actually: “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body,” she says, as everyone around her nods in somber agreement.

This is the latest, greatest example of what happens when science collides with The Science™ on a politicized playing field. Is that sound you hear on a six-week ultrasound the pumping action of a fully formed human heart? No. Does that matter to the millions of pregnant women who feel a profound sense of joy and wonder when they hear it? Gee, I wonder.

That’s a bogus argument: first she admits the truth, a truth that’s the basis for banning abortions, and then admits it’s not really the truth but “The Science™”, a slur on empirical truth if there ever was one.

Here’s a tweet from the Washington Post‘s fact checker about what is going on:

True, it’s not what we think of as a heartbeat but it’s still a sign of fetal development. But so what?

But the whole fracas is bizarre, for one might as well use “electrical activity” as a marker of when you should prohibit abortion. Any stage of development can become an arbitrary marker for those who want to restrict abortion.  Since I favor complete choice of abortion up to birth, this is a non-issue to me.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is looking for trouble:

Hili: Are we outraged indiscriminately today or do we have an outrage of the day?
A: Today everybody is outraged over whatever he or she wants.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy oburzamy się dzisiaj jak leci, czy mamy jakieś oburzenie dnia?
Ja: Dziś każdy oburza się na co chce.


From Anna, an “Off the Mark” cartoon by Mark Parisi. But a cat wearing the Cone of Shame can still catch mice!

And another one from Parisi:

From Bruce:

The Tweet of God, who is mad at all religions these days. First, Anglican (the article’s first sentence is “The daughter of the late Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu has been barred by the Church of England from officiating at her godfather’s funeral in a Shropshire church because she is married to a woman.”

And Islam (God is furious at Iran’s theocracy after the death of

From Simon:

From Ken, who says “As Margie Gunderson might say, I’m not sure I agree 100% with the senator’s meteorological police work here.”


From Malcolm: interspecific love:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is fascinating: could you have guessed the distribution?

If you don’t know the Velvet Underground and Nico’s “Banana Album,” you’re missing out. Matthew says, however, that this source of the famous banana might not be true:

Here’s the original cover. Looks the same to me!

Very sad; that seal is either neurotic or trying to do tricks (for the cat?):

28 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. “1890 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounces polygamy.”

    Ah, that proves it – where would we be without religion to guide us?

    How would anyone know polygamy is as God meant things until he says it should be renounced in 1890 so Utah can become a state?

    Mysterious ways, that God.

  2. Jerry. Something seems to be missing at the end of the mcwhorter piece. Mine says “both the Zeitgeist and entrenched DEI beauracracy of”. Of what? The end of this thought is missing in my download.

  3. …. and ultrasound physics vis-à-vis (vis-á-vis?) human embryology.

    And an awesome – yes awesome! – photo of Everest! Admittedly, I’m looking at it on a 3 X 5 inch screen, but hey!

  4. I just looked up James Lankford: He has a degree in divinity, so he should know how to read the signs 🙂 According to Wikipedia, his school seeks interpretive guidance from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement. The latter is a statement about gender roles. I didn’t know that a statement on biblical inerrancy was among Chicago’s contributions to modern culture. God must be looking after Chicago as well 🙂

  5. Ultrasound doesn’t detect electrical activity. It bounces sound waves at a frequency too high to hear off moving structures such as the walls of the embryonic cardiac tube. The returning sound waves are then transduced by the equipment into some visible or audible representation to make them intelligible for human observers.. It is a test for movement, is all. It can be imagined metaphysically as the first sign that something is “alive” but of course there is no time that the conceptus was ever not alive.

    Stationary objects can be imaged by ultrasound if they have the right acoustic shape but movement is more easily picked up against the returns from background clutter. Material moving away from or toward the ultrasound beam can in addition be detected by Doppler effects.

    The embryologic “heartbeat” is in no way analogous to the audible heartbeat of a late-term fetus or a born person heard with a stethoscope. The ultrasound examination of an embryologic heart tube is somewhat analogous, though, limited to what has actually been built at the time of the study: contractile walls but no valves or flowing blood..

    1. Thanks for that clarification. The idea of detecting electrical activity with ultrasound seemed somewhat bizarre.

      I am still left with the question as to why anti-abortion people have become fixated on the heart as the beginning of human life. It is, after all, just a pump and other animals also have them.

      1. I think the blood is the important thing – “blood of Christ”, the wine, Nicene Creed and all that … and it’s impossible or technologically difficult to extract blood from a fetus so they go with less expensive technology that god gave them to use, the ultrasound… and DNA isn’t in the Bible, so … heart.

        Makes sense.

    2. This was an excellent summary. Bouncing sound waves around and somehow detecting *electrical* activity (something intangible) does not make much sense. But, I learned a couple of new things from you!

    3. I must apologize for a howler of an error in my post about ultrasound. Blood and vessels have formed in the third week of embryonic life–this would be during the fifth week after the last menstrual period, the way gestational age is conventionally figured–and the heart, which has undergone considerable folding from its primordial fused tube, does propel it with coordinated pulsatile flow. (Heart muscle cells allow a membrane depolarization initiated in one place to flow through the whole muscle mass and cause coordinated muscle contraction even before the specialized pacemaker and conducting tissue needed to make a bigger heart work efficiently in a bigger organism has developed.)

      At six weeks gestation, four weeks after fertilization, it’s not much of a heart yet but it is doing the job it needs to do: pumping blood from the early placenta effectively enough to keep the embryo supplied with oxygen and nutrients. The attempts to avoid calling it a heartbeat on the grounds that it is not a heart and has no beat seem perversely wrongheaded. OTOH, sound effects intended to make the mom think she is “hearing” her baby’s heartbeat strike me as manipulative. A pox on partisans on both sides. includes a looped gif file of a trans-vaginal ultrasound showing a heartbeat at 5 weeks 5 days gestation, so 26 days after fertilization — the length of the loop is about 2 seconds. No sound effects. The length of the embryo is stated to be 3.5 mm.

      The reasons for choosing a detectable fetal heartbeat as a criterion for prohibiting abortion are metaphysical and political, not medical or scientific.

  6. According to the BBC Radio 4 news security forces have been driven out of one Iranian city by protesters (I can’t find the report on the Beeb’s website yet, so I can’t link to it).

  7. Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian has a twofer inspired by today’s Hili Dialogue. It’s hinged on the author Jon Krakauer. First, IRT the Mormons, I recommend Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, which I believe is being made into a movie. Not only is it a riveting read, it’s postscript is one of the best expressions of irreligion and unbelief ever penned. Second, speaking of riveting, I highly recommended Krakauer’s classic Into Thin Air, about the disastrous Everest climb he was a part of.

    1. This too is a very good doco/drama called “Touching the Void”
      It won a Bafta award for best documentary.
      Bit of the blurb:
      In 1985, two young climbers, Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron), set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They succeed, and the two embark on the treacherous descent down the mountain — only to meet with disaster when Simpson breaks his leg in a fall, leaving Yates to lower him the rest of the way with ropes. When a storm threatens both their lives, Yates must decide whether to cut the rope and risk Simpson’s likely death.

  8. That letter placement graphic is fascinating, agreed. It’s also a model of effective data presentation.

    Is there one for five-letter words specifically?…asking for a, uh, friend. No, no, a bot.
    A bot-friend.

  9. Nurse Ratched/Louise Fletcher died. She was 88. How cool that she signed to her deaf parents after she won her Oscar and gave an amusing acceptance speech back in 1976. I’d never seen it before, but it was quite moving. Seeing her sign and trying to hold back tears made me get a bit misty-eyed. 🤟

  10. John McWhorter nails it, as usual. His reference to “an almost liturgical conception of diversity” is particularly apt. And his analogy to chemotherapy—treatment that must be used with due attention to side-effects and must be temporary— is brilliant.

    After Bakke is overturned, OF COURSE the colleges will try to maintain “affirmative action” on the sly. The very phrase “affirmative action” is a sly verbal evasion (what action? affirmative for what?) covering attempts to maintain racial quotas on the sly. Deceptive language like this is the template for all the kinds of bunco that Progressives (the term itself is bunco) emit: “lived experience”, “decolonizing” this or that, “other ways of knowing”, sex as arbitrarily “assigned”, etc. etc.. The liturgical use of the word
    “diversity”, and making “affirmative action” equivalent to the Eucharist, is the ancestor
    of every bit of DEI humbug now swamping academia. The universal application of “Diversity Statements”, making dishonesty a requirement for academic employment, will complete the process.

  11. In countries where there is essentially no abortion debate, and essentially none of the disadvantages such a debate brings, the law is some sort of compromise, usually, more or less, no reason required up to, say, three months, and thereafter some reason is required (and most reasons are legitimate). One of the reasons for the harmful (to those who suffer from it) debate in the States are the extreme positions on both sides. It should be clear to both sides that they will never convince the other side of their position, If one side were to put forth a sensible compromise, then with time public pressure would force the other to move toward it. Personally, I don’t think that abortion up until birth is OK in any case, but even if I did, I wouldn’t want my position to lead to a lack of compromise which could benefit many.

    1. I think you are significantly mischaracterizing at least one of the sides. One side wants what you describe as the norm for whatever countries you are using as a model of reasonableness. The other side wants much more stringent restrictions, up to no abortions for any reason.

      And it’s easy to tell that this is indeed the case. When the side that wants what you described as reasonable has things their way the laws and regulations provide for pretty much what you describe. And now we’ve seen what laws and regulation the other side enacts when they have things their way. And it’s bad. Real bad.

      I think you are out of touch with the facts on this issue. The “both sides are bad” argument is bogus.

  12. Phillip,

    You write that it is the extreme positions of both sides that is causing the harmful debate here in the US and then say:

    Personally, I don’t think that abortion up until birth is OK in any case,

    Which, to me, sounds like you’ve absorbed some very bad information, put forth by one side in particular. Why do I think that? Because the cases of later abortions are tragedies one and all. Some medically necessary to save the mothers life, some to prevent the torture of carrying a severely compromised fetus that will perish regardless of medical effort and never (find me an example if you disagree) of the ‘convenience’ of a woman who just wakes up one day eight months and change along and decides to abort. That is a lie pushed by the right to re-center the debate on the reasons why they think some abortions may be permissible instead of centering it on the autonomy of the pregnant woman.

    After much thought, I’m at a place where the only argument necessary for me is ‘autonomy is enough‘. If people are worried about the reasons, there are policy actions that can be taken to alleviate the issues that might cause someone to abort when they would otherwise be interested in continuing a pregnancy.

    1. I mention Canada only to illustrate the practical application of “autonomy is enough”. Unique in the world, Canada has had no abortion criminal law since 1988 when the Supreme Court struck down the Criminal Code provision in Morgantaler.* This did not create a constitutional right to abortion in Canada; the Court invited Parliament to craft a replacement law, if it wanted to, that would answer its objections but, after a couple of half-hearted attempts, Parliament never did. Yet despite being legal, abortions in the third trimester are rare (and safe). While it’s not something we publicize, it is believed that all these occur for the reasons you allude to, not on whim.

      So our experience is that even when abortion is allowed at any time before birth, there is no groundswell of opinion that would criminalize late abortions. Even if late abortion was morally repugnant in some circumstances, it seems unnecessarily intrusive for the state to prohibit it if abortion in those circumstances never happens.
      * If a fetus is injured in utero through human agency, is born alive, and then subsequently dies of its injuries, it is homicide. But there is no crime of “abortion” in the Criminal Code.

    2. Read what I wrote: “in any case”. That means that there can be some cases, such as the ones you mention, where it would be OK, in contrast to our host, who thinks that it should be unrestricted. Yes, late abortions are rare, but there would be more chance of compromise if the “left” had a unified position along the lines I mentioned above. The debate is not rational, so appealing to ration doesn’t help. The choice is perhaps a compromise where it is unrestricted up to, say, three months, then after that a reason, such as the ones you mention, is needed, and, on the other hand, the way the States are going now. Which is better? Is it worth harping on one’s own extreme stance as a matter of principle if it prohibits a sensible compromise?

      Birth is an arbitrary time. Any justification for abortion up until birth can be used for infanticide. Yes, any line is arbitrary, but that doesn’t mean that none should be drawn; if one has to be drawn, then at a sensible time (with exceptions for some things like you mentioned).

      I’ve laid out my position rather clearly and if you follow what I’ve written here and elsewhere it should be obvious that I am in no way influenced by the religious right. That’s a huge part of the problem, not just in this debate: anyone who slightly disagrees with you is seen as a member of the opposing camp.

  13. FYI, butter isn’t normally an ingredient in cherries jubilee. Your recipe is from, which of course wants you to put butter in everything.

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