Monday: Hili dialogue

October 17, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, October 17, 2022: National Pasta Day! This year I discovered (thanks to a reader), the wondrous pasta of bucatini: thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a tiny hole through the middle of each noodle, allowing it to sop up additional sauce.  Here’s a famous version, Bucatini al’Amatriciana, with tomato sauce and pancetta:

It’s also Four Prunes Day (based on the belief that eating 4-9 prunes/day brings digestive health, Black Poetry Day, Forgive an Ex Day, Wear Somethng Gaudy Day, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and World Trauma Day.

Readers are welcome to highlight notable events, births, and deaths on this day by going to the October 17 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*We’re NYT-heavy today as I found several items of interests, not all of which is Nooz.

First, we have a Twitter spat from Ibram Kendi over David Brooks’s op-ed piece, “This is what happens when race is everything.” Brooks’s topic was the revelation of racist remarks in a secret but now-released recording of the Los Angeles City Council, remarks made in a meeting in which Hispanic leaders plotted how to solidify their power by changing the school district boundaries.

According to Brooks, the Council members had internalized two assumptions:

Their first assumption was that America is divided into monolithic racial blocs. The world they take for granted is not a world of persons; it’s a world of rigid racial categories.

At one point Martinez vulgarly derided someone because “he’s with the Blacks.” You’re either with one racial army or you’re with another.

The second assumption was that these monolithic racial blocs are locked in a never-ending ethnic war for power. The core topic of their conversation was to redraw Council districts to benefit Latino leaders.

Brooks’s point is that these assumptions come from people like Ibram Kendi, while others think that this constant emphasis on race is a problem. In the end, he says that this Manichean view is self-fulfilling—not a new view but one worth repeating.

If we use rhetoric that assumes that we’re all locked into rigid racial blocs and that group conflict is the essential element of public life, then group conflict is what we will get — Balkanization on a continental scale. That’s not just about L.A. City Council members. That’s about a set of ideas and a way of talking too readily accepted in this society.

He attributes a lot of this balkanization to Ibram Kendi, and I think Brooks is right (I think everyone needs to read Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist):

Those two assumptions didn’t come out of nowhere. We have had a long-running debate in this country over how to think about racial categories. On the one side there are those, often associated with Ibram X. Kendi and others, who see American society as a conflict between oppressor and oppressed groups. They center race and race consciousness when talking about a person’s identity. Justice will come when minority group power is used to push back on white supremacy. “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” is how Kendi puts it.

That is an accurate and succinct view of Kendi’s book, but Kendi himself, who refuses to debate critics in person, simply emitted a bunch of tweets saying that he was misunderstood. Here are the first two:

Kendi’s always had a thin skin, but in this case Brooks is spot-on in representing Kendi’s view in the paragraph above. Kendi certainly holds a Manichean view of blacks and whites as a binary of oppressed and oppressor, respectively. Other claims of Brooks are not those of Kendi (who sees blacks and whites as identical in culture), but Brooks doesn’t attribute those views to Kendi. Kendi’s tweetstorm is misguided, defensive, and incorrect. Read his book and see for yourself.

Twitter catfight! John McWhorter took out after Kendi on Twitter but then deleted two tweets and apologized to Kendi. McWhorter’s apology and two screencaps of the tweets he deleted are below.  If McWhorter had just said “phenotype” or “blackness” instead of “skin tone and your hair,” there would have been no need for an apology. It’s also a bit snarky, but good of McWhorter to apologize.

*By all accounts, new British Prime Minister Liz Truss has gotten herself into deep doo-doo in her first weeks on the job. Even members of her own conservative party are thinking that their leader already has failed. As the Associated Press reports:

 When Liz Truss was running to lead Britain this summer, an ally predicted her first weeks in office would be turbulent.

But few were prepared for the scale of the sound and fury -– least of all Truss herself. In just six weeks, the prime minister’s libertarian economic policies have triggered a financial crisis, emergency central bank intervention, multiple U-turns and the firing of her Treasury chief.

Now Truss faces a mutiny inside the governing Conservative Party that leaves her leadership hanging by a thread.

Conservative lawmaker Robert Halfon fumed on Sunday that the last few weeks had brought “one horror story after another.”

“The government has looked like libertarian jihadists and treated the whole country as kind of laboratory mice on which to carry out ultra, ultra free-market experiments,” he told Sky News.

It’s not as if the party wasn’t warned. During the summertime contest to lead the Conservatives, Truss called herself a disruptor who would challenge economic “orthodoxy.” She promised she would cut taxes and slash red tape, and would spur Britain’s sluggish economy to grow.

Her rival, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, argued that immediate tax cuts would be reckless amid the economic shockwaves from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

And it looks as if her promised tax cuts will be more than offset by tax increases—that is, even if Truss’s tax cuts even materialize. Britain may soon be facing the same problem as the U.S.: where can you find a good leader?

*Is there any Democrat, or for that matter any sane person, who thinks Herschel Walker is fit to be a senator from Georgia? The man is thick, a liar, and possibly mentally ill.  In his NYT column, “Why Herschel Walker may win“, Frank Bruni gives us the reason why this sad specimen of a retired football player might actually haul in a Senate seat in November. I’ve put below Waker’s one debate with Democratic opponent, Senator Ralph Warnock, and if you watch it you’ll see that Bruni has a point.

But his performance serves as an important reminder to Democrats who’ve taken such heart from — and found such hope in — the blemishes and blunders of Republican candidates in crucial races: Being flawed and being doomed are very different things.

The mess around Walker over the past two weeks and the mess of him over the entirety of his campaign have made it easy to focus on those flaws and forget the advantages that he, like all Republicans running in the midterm elections, possesses. But Walker spent Friday night remembering. He knew what he had to do to stay competitive in, and possibly win, the neck-and-neck Senate race against Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat — which could decide which party controls the chamber.

He seized on President Biden’s unpopularity to cast Warnock as Biden’s dutiful manservant. “Can he tell me why he voted with Joe Biden 96 percent of the time?” Walker asked the moderators and the audience. He said Biden’s name so often that a strategy almost came across as a stutter.

He dwelled, too, on Americans’ economic woes, the nature of which could well lead voters to punish Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress.

And if he was rattled in the least by all the recent attention to a former girlfriend’s allegations that he paid for her to have one abortion and urged her to have another, he didn’t show it. Walker, who opposes abortion rights, emphatically denied her account and then sought to portray Warnock as the hypocrite, suggesting that Warnock’s Christian faith — he’s a Baptist preacher — was incompatible with his pro-choice politics.

Watch part of this, including the brief opening statements:

By a factor of more than two, Walker demonstrated that the prime concern of Georgia voters was the economy (“threats to democracy” was a distant second). And so Walker brought up the shaky American economy, as well as Biden’s expensive plan to forgive student loans. It’s the old James Carville trope, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Will Donald Trump fume? Does it matter? Rather than Warnock trying to make Walker answer for his alliance with the former president, Walker insisted that Warnock defend his with the current one — a dynamic that doesn’t exactly track with media coverage of the midterms. We keep wondering how much Trump will wound Republican candidates. Warnock seemed plenty worried about how much Biden would wound him.

Remember, Biden’s approval rating stands at 42.9%.

*According to The Washington Post, new Supreme Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has hit the ground running, asking tons of questions during oral arguments while her colleague Clarence Thomas says his usual amount: nothing:

few were prepared for Jackson’s venturesome debut in the court’s first sitting. Over eight oral arguments, she dominated the questioning and commentary, speaking twice as much as her next most loquacious colleague. It is likely a record for a new justice, according to Adam Feldman, who tracks such things for his Empirical SCOTUS blog.

Jackson was a persistent questioner in every case. Her contributions ranged from the sweeping — a rejection of an originalist interpretation of a colorblind Constitution that provoked swoons from the liberal legal community — to the kind of mundane minutiae upon which even Supreme Court decisions turn.

To wit, in a case about federal law regarding overtime pay: “You’re now suggesting that [Section] 601 is distinguishing highly compensated at the 455 level, but I see that in 600, which is not in the highly compensated.”

Janai S. Nelson, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Jackson’s focus on issues large and small “was a delight to witness.”

“Many of us have advocated for increased diversity on the court, but I don’t think that we anticipated there would be such an appreciable difference out the gate,” Nelson said, adding that Jackson demonstrated oral arguments at the court are not just “performative.”

“She is asking very trenchant questions and demonstrating that it’s important for the justices to actively engage with the material and issues and arguments and people before them.”

The article is heartening: Justice Jackson has done her homework, and is asking trenchant questions. It’s a pity that despite her ascendancy to the bench, the votes are going to be 6-3 in favor of the wrong decision—all down the line.

*I like the NYT reporting of Pamela Paul, who is either 51 or 52 years old (her date of birth is unclear). That makes her officially Middle Aged, but in her latest NYT column, “Wait, who did you say is middle-aged?“, Paul refuses to go gentle into her dotage. But she worries at the signs that she’s no longer young:

It’s that shift from copying the outfits of your slightly younger colleagues to realizing that their fashion choices would not look at all OK on you. And then moving on to the final frontier: looking at the outfits of your much younger colleagues and really not wanting to dress like them at all. With a lurch, you recall those Harper’s Bazaar features about what to wear for each decade of your life and understand that you’ve entered the age in which wearing jewel tones is meant to be a good idea. Welcome to the long slide.

Then it starts hitting you repeatedly in the face. It’s all those little moments: waking up after a really good, long night’s sleep only to feel worse off than you did when you got into bed the night before. You don’t bounce out but instead heave yourself up to audible snaps and crackles. You learn that you can inflict a grave injury to your own body simply by reaching for the alarm clock in the wrong way. You know that when you wind up in physical therapy it will not be the result of a marathon or water skiing but because of something that happened on a sidewalk.

It’s in understanding that after a lifetime of incremental improvements to your self-care regimen, you’ve finally figured out how to make your face and hair look the best they possibly can at precisely the moment it’s all for naught. Your resting bitch face that in an earlier decade may have given off a miffed Jeanne Moreau vibe has hardened into something that more closely resembles unbridled fury. “What’s wrong?” people ask you while you’re daydreaming or gazing softly into the middle distance.

No one is applying words like “moxie” or “edgy” or “gamine” to describe you anymore.

She winds up with something I’ve realized about getting old: you can get away more often with acting like Andy Rooney:

You realize you are getting closer to something inconceivable only a short time ago: the grandma years. When you are a grandma, you won’t even need excuses. You can behave in ways entirely inexplicable to everyone younger than yourself and it will be seen as an eccentricity. You can sidle up to strange men in line for the movies and take some of their popcorn to give to your grandchild, the way my grandma did. You can pretend to have gone entirely batty whenever it suits you. You can pretend you don’t know that you’re shouting or that you can’t hear anything anyone else says.

And you know what? It starts to feel like something to look forward to.

It’s good writing, and of course hits home: I’m two decades older than she.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making a funny:

Hili: I don’t have the smallest doubts.
A: So what doubts do you have?
Hili: Only the bigger ones are left.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie mam najmniejszych wątpliwości.
Ja: A jakie masz?
Hili: Zostały mi już tylko te większe.
And baby Kulka on the roof:

From Wild Kingdom, a herbaceous dragon via Malcolm:

From Anna (I may have posted this before), a cartoon that appears to be from Eric Decetis:

From Lynn:

God takes sides in Iran, and He’s not on the side of the mullahs:

From Masih: the Iranian morality police beat up an improperly clothed woman (female morality police are in dark blue):

From Simon, an excellent tweet:


From Malcolm:

From Gravelinspector: a very scary Halloween motif:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a woman who lived but three months in the camp:

Tweets from Matthew.  First, an oxymoron—a dumb cat:

I think these are ducks,not geese, but can’t be sure. Sound up!

A tweet found by Matthew that I retweeted:

39 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. “Sanction” always gets me, too, and I have to look it up every time.

    Such words are known, I believe, as contronyms. “Oversight” is another. The opposite meanings of “sanction” I remember by employing an ostensive definition — the prizefight between heavyweights Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson was sanctioned as a championship bout by the World Boxing Association, and the WBA sanctioned Tyson after the fight by suspending his boxing license for biting Holyfield on the ear, twice.

  2. It’s fascinating comparing the people who insist that there is an underlying race war (who then end up promoting exactly those racial tensions) with people who insist there is an underlying class war. Traditionally, the ‘race war’ theorists had been on the right while the ‘class war’ theorists had been on the left. I enjoyed the thought exercise of replacing ‘race’ with ‘class’ in the first article to see how well it reads. To some extent, it also applies to comments I used to hear about the war between the sexes.

    “Their first assumption was that America is divided into monolithic racial blocs. The world they take for granted is not a world of persons; it’s a world of rigid racial categories.”

    With all that said, the intersectionalists are making headway in reminding the New Left that there are a lot of people in the black-Latino intersection. I have seen a few posts talking about “colorism” in the Latino community and the lack of representation of black Latinos (people of Dominican (DR) descent, etc.). Unfortunately, they only look at the intersections of oppressed peoples.

    As for the inevitable comment about the world of gender categories, I’ll leave that for someone else to elaborate today.

    1. Isn’t “table” more an example of how US English and British English differ? It’s a bit like “pavement”. If I table a motion, none of my British acquaintances would dream that it means we are not going to discuss it at the meeting, especially if the motion in question is the alternate meaning “to evacuate the bowels”.

      1. > Isn’t “table” more an example of how US English and British English differ?

        Try asking a Canadian. 🙂

      2. Isn’t “table” more an example of how US English and British English differ?

        That is exactly how I encountered it. I was confused by the US meaning for a while. Some words change over time to mean the opposite — ‘egregious’, meaning outstanding in one way or another, was used in a positive sense at one time. But I don’t know if the modern word ‘cynic’ has anything to do with the Greek cynics.

        And Hardy wasn’t saying sorry in A Mathematician’s Apology.

        1. I just remembered as amusing exchange:
          Hacker: What does ‘egregious’ mean?
          Sir Humphrey: I think it means ‘outstanding’…
          Hacker: Ah!
          Sir Humphrey: …in one way or another.

        2. According to Wiktionary, “cynic” is:

          From Middle English cynike, cynicke, from Middle French cinicque, from Latin cynicus, from Ancient Greek κυνικός (kunikós), originally derived from the portico in Athens called Κυνόσαργες (Kunósarges), the earliest home of the Cynic school, later reinterpreted as a derivation of κύων (kúōn, “dog”), in a contemptuous allusion to the uncouth and aggressive manners adopted by the members of the school.

          “Meritocracy” was originally intended to be derogatory when it was coined by Michael Young in his dystopian satire The Rise of the Meritocracy and he was disappointed to see its later positive incarnation.

    2. When I first moved to Canada from the U.S., the Canadian use of “table” in Parliament confused me every time. Now I think that The Canuck (and UK?) version makes more sense and that “shelve” makes more sense for something that is put aside.

      1. Both uses make sense in the context of their respective metaphors. In the American metaphor, the ‘table’ is like a drawing board; ‘tabling’ takes the bill off of the podium and send it back to the table. In the British metaphor, the ‘table’ is discussion table; ‘tabling’ takes the bill is taken off of the shelf and opens it up for discussion.

        My trouble is that I have been in enough multi-national groups that we have to be clear about the word every single time – which is why it fits into this category.

        And, for Canadians, my understanding is that the Canadian /government/ usage reflects British usage, but Canadian /common/ usage can go either way, especially if someone is working from an American copy of Robert’s Rules, or using terminology they have seen in American shows (which were still probably filmed in Canada).

    3. Here’s a contronym of recent origin: badass.

      Per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

      Definition of badass
      (Entry 1 of 2)
      1 chiefly US, informal + sometimes offensive : ready to cause or get into trouble : mean pretending to be a badass gunslinger— L. L. King

      2 chiefly US, informal + sometimes offensive : of formidable strength or skill such a badass guitar player— N’Gai Croal

        1. I’ve heard ‘Oh Julie! You look totally sick in that dress.’ I was looking at her too and she seemed fine.

          ‘Filthy’ is word I’ve heard in US soccer commentary, something along the lines of ‘That’s a filthy pass. Pure filth served up by Rodríguez.’ It was a terrific assist for a goal.

          1. Filthy! yay, that’s another. I was racking my brain, trying to get 3 examples (as “they” say you should do) and came up with the lame “gnarly”. Thanks for my 3rd example, sir.

  3. The list of contronyms is interesting. Does anyone know the term for when a word and what looks like its opposite actually mean the same thing, e.g. Flammable/Inflammable?

  4. David Brooks is correct when he says this: “They [Kendi and others] center race and race consciousness when talking about a person’s identity.” However, what Brooks fails to mention is that a central theme in American history has been race (along with ethnic and religious) consciousness. After all, the Civil War was fought between one group of white people that felt that racial superiority allowed them to enslave black people against another group of white people that felt this was wrong (not just for moral reasons), but nevertheless felt that black people did not deserve an equal role in society.

    Identity politics have always played a significant role in American history. Appeals to white racial consciousness by demagogic politicians have been so common that we need not look far to find it in any period of the nation’s past. It has been central to the politics of the South. Nationally, the emphasis on white identity politics has ebbed and flowed, but always present as a virus in the body that is never eradicated. We are now in a period where black identity politics has become pronounced, disturbing many white folks that feel identity politics should be reserved just for them. The prominence of identity politics in today’s America is reflective of an unstable society, created by demographic and economic changes where the future is more uncertain than usual, making people scared and looking for those to blame and demagogues to save them. Identity politics in its current extreme incarnation (both black and white) is not a cause of the nation’s instability, but a symptom that in turn make the patient worse. No one has come up with a workable plan to restore stability within a democratic framework. Perhaps it is already too late. But, if and until that happens we can expect to see identity politics to become more extreme.

    1. I would argue that if your goal is to create a tolerant, multiracial society, it is far better to divide politically by class rather than by race.

  5. Interesting historical tidbits: on this day in 1957, Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, sadly, in 1979 Mutha Teresa is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    1. Sadly, too, Camus was dead just over two years later, at age 46, killed in a car crash that at least some have speculated occurred under dubious circumstances.

  6. … new Supreme Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has hit the ground running, asking tons of questions during oral arguments …

    I recall that, when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman Supreme Court Justice, her frequent questioning during oral arguments annoyed some of her staid, old male colleagues. Then, five years later, along came Nino Scalia, whose tendency to dominate oral argument questioning made O’Connor seem taciturn by comparison.

  7. Bucatini is a great pasta. We often use it instead of other pastas like vermicelli or spaghetti. It just seems more satisfying. First had Bucatini all’Amatriciana in Rome, where it comes from. Hard to find pancetta around here so we substitute thick cut bacon.

  8. With Iran, and with Russia, I think we intellectuals in the west are making a terrible category error. We listen to media savvy, English speaking (that’s really important) liberal west leaning reports of the problems and assume they are representative of the people in those countries.

    We never hear from the Russian masses who believe RT or Sputnik, the Iranians of a more conservative bent who think “these whores should wear their hijabs and go back to the kitchen like Allah intended” or “Ukraine was always ours” – Personally I’m not with those opinions myself but I’d be crazy to think they weren’t the loudest voices in Russia AND Iran.

    Remember, there were (larger actually) protests in Iran 3 and 10 years ago, all horribly crushed.

  9. Would someone mind helping me out here, please, for context?

    from WaPo re Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson cited in Jerry’s OP: “. . . a rejection of an originalist interpretation of a colorblind Constitution that provoked swoons [emphasis added] from the liberal legal community.”

    I understand a swoon to be a staged collapse and feigned unconsciousness (always in the presence of attendants to prevent injury from hitting the floor) that was expected of well-bred women when confronted with something distressing, scandalous, or egregiously off-colour. As from Eliza Doolittle dropping her mask (and posh accent) at the races in My Fair Lady while urging on her backed horse: “Come on Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!”

    Does this mean the liberal legal community was scandalized into a catatonic faint — shocked and appalled!, as editorial writers would say, back when there were any — by Justice Jackson’s contention that the Constitution is not to be interpreted as color-blind? Or is there some other meaning of swooning being used here?

        1. I think as the term was used in the WaPo, Leslie, it was meant as rhetorical hyperbole to describe the reaction of some Democrats to new SCOTUS Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s willingness to call out her conservative colleagues for their hypocrisy in claiming both to believe in a “colorblind constitution” and to pay obeisance to the “original intent” of the 14th Amendment’s framers (who clearly did was not anticipate that this Civil War-era amendment would function in a completely colorblind manner).

          1. I would pay to hear you lead a seminar on that interpretation, Ken, and would doubtless learn something, but here is not the place. I’m satisfied to be corrected that the swoons were from delight rather than dismay. That will have to do for now.

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