Wednesday: Hili dialogue

October 19, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s Hump Day (also known as ημέρα καμπούρας in Greek): Wednesday, October 19, 2022, and National Seafood Bisque Day.

It’s also International Gin and Tonic Day, Evaluate Your Life Day, Dress Like a Dork Day, Hagfish Day, Rainforest Day, International Pronouns Day, and, in England, Oxfordshire Day,

Readers are invited to call attention to notable events, births, and deaths on this day by consulting the October 19 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*According to the Associated Press, President Biden has vowed that the top priority among his legislation is to be a federal law allowing abortion.

President Joe Biden promised Tuesday that the first bill he sends to Capitol Hill next year will be one that writes abortion protections into law — if Democrats control enough seats in Congress to pass it — as he sought to energize his party’s voters just three weeks ahead of the November midterms.

Twice over, Biden urged people to remember how they felt in late June when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, fresh evidence of White House efforts to ensure the issue stays front of mind for Democratic voters this year.

“I want to remind us all how we felt when 50 years of constitutional precedent was overturned,” Biden said in remarks at the Howard Theatre, “the anger, the worry, the disbelief.”

He repeatedly lambasted Republicans nationwide who have pushed for restrictions on the procedure, often without exceptions, and told Democrats in attendance that “if you care about the right to choose, then you gotta vote.”

As he has done all year, Biden emphasized that only Congress can fully restore abortion access to what it was before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe. But he also acknowledged “we’re short a handful of votes” now to reinstate abortion protections at the federal level, urging voters to send more Democrats to Congress.

Aye, and there’s the rub. First of all, can Congress really pass a law that can reinstate Roe versus Wade? Apparently, though I don’t understand how it can given that the Supreme Court declared that ruling unconstitutional.  It could pass a Constitutional amendment permitting abortion, but that would require votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the state, an impossible requirement. (Even the Equal Rights Amendment didn’t meet that standard.) Perhaps a reader can explain this to me.

Even so, here’s why Biden’s legislation is pie in the sky: a prognostication from Five-Thirty-Eight:

Dems need to take both houses of Congress to pass any legislation of consequence, especially one that reinstates the provisions of Roe v. Wade. Not a chance (well, maybe a 30% chance).

*Get ready to roll up your sleeves for your fourth Covid-19 booster. That, at least, is the conclusion you can reach from a Washington Post article reporting the appearances of a spate of new viral mutations that can evade the body’s immune defenses. Which will come to the fore? We don’t know, but it’s certain that new vaccines are in store:

Instead of a single ominous variant lurking on the horizon, experts are nervously eyeing a swarm of viruses  and a new evolutionary phase in the pandemic.

This time, it’s unlikely we will be barraged with a new collection of Greek alphabet variants. Instead, one or more of the multiple versions of the omicron variant that keep popping up could drive the next wave. They are different flavors of omicron, but eerily alike — adorned with a similar combination of mutations. Each new subvariant seems to outdo the last in its ability to dodge immune defenses.

“It is this constant evolutionary arms race we’re having with this virus,” said Jonathan Abraham, an assistant professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School.

The pace of evolution is so fast that many scientists depend on Twitter to keep up. A month ago, scientists were worried about BA.2.75, a variant that took off in South Asia and spawned a cloud of other concerning sublineages. In the United States, BA.4.6 and BF.7 have been slowly picking up steam. A few weeks ago, BQ.1.1 started to steal the spotlight — and still looks like a contender to take over this fall in Europe and North America. A lineage called XBB looms on the sidelines, and threatens to scramble the forecast.
All of these variants make antibodies less effective by changing the place on the virus’s spike protein that antibodies normally attack.  This is a classic case of an evolutionary arms race, but it’s not so much fun to think about:

The coronavirus spike protein is made up of about 1,300 building blocks called amino acids, and mutations that change even a single building block can make it harder for antibodies to block the virus. Instead of a Greek alphabet, scientists are maintaining shortlists of worrisome spots for mutation: 346, 444, 445, 452, 460, 486, 490.

Seeing so many lineages of the coronavirus develop similar constellations of genetic changes at these spots is a sign of convergent evolution — when different versions of the virus have slammed into the wall of immune defenses in the human population, and then come up with similar ways to get around them. That happens with influenza but is fairly new to SARS-CoV-2. And in the case of the coronavirus, the more mutations, the bigger advantage a new variant seems to have.

It’s not certain that we’ll see a resurgence of a viral pandemic, but the article notes that the new mutations may make monoclonal antibodies, used to prevent and treat covid in those with compromised immune systems, ineffective.  And that itself could lead to, well, a scarier scenario. Read the article.

*Until recently one one university in America—mine—holds an offiicial position of institutional neutrality: the principle that (with a few exceptions), no unit of the university can take an official stand on issues of morality, politics, or ideology. This principle, embodied in our Kalven Report, is there to ensure that speech not be chilled by stifling of those opposed to “official” doctrine. So far it’s held up pretty well: we don’t have the administration and departments weighing in on issues like Trump, abortion, or Critical Race Theory.

Now another school has joined us: the University of North Carolina of Chapel Hill.  At the Heterdox Blog, Professor Mark McNeilly, with whom I’ve had some contact on this issue, has not only reported that his own school has adopted both Kalven and the Chicago Principles of Free Speech, but explains why, giving five reasons why universities should be politically and ideologically neutral and also answering four common but unsupportable objections to such neutrality. It’s a succinct and well-written piece. I’ll give one reason supporting Kalven and one defending objections to it:

[Institutional neutrality] Increases academic freedom and free-expression protection for faculty and students. Because the institution takes no position on political issues of the day, open inquiry and free expression for faculty and students are not chilled. They can research areas of potentially controversial subjects and take provocative positions without fearing that those subjects and positions run counter to stated university views.

And a refutation of the claim in bold:

The mission of the university should be seeking not only knowledge but also social justice.
Jonathan Haidt does an excellent job discussing this topic. Fundamentally, he makes a strong case that a university must choose. A university can no more pursue both truth and knowledge and social justice than it can pursue truth and knowledge and religion simultaneously. When a university pursues any cause in addition to truth and knowledge, it must limit what can be discussed. A university must pick one and only one.

If you’re an administrator of faculty member reading this, do consider adopting these two principles. If UNC/CH can do it, so can yours. Our embracing of these principles is the reason why FIRE has rated us as the best university in America for upholding freedom of speech.

*Over at Foreign Affairs, Masih Alinejad, our pipeline to the woman (and dissent) in Iran, analyzes the current demonstrations, concluding that it’s “The beginning of the end of the Islamic republic“, with the subtitle “Iranians have had enough of theocracy.” (I can’t resist pointing out that I too predicted that, but we both could be wrong, and she knows more than I, anyway.)

The spark that ignited the current protests was the beating to death of the 22 year old Mahsa Amini, who is the George Floyd of Iran: both were reprehensibly killed by police for minor crimes, and became symbols of a wide disaffection. Alinejad credits the woman and the young with setting off the protests that, we hope, will bring down the mullahs:

Since Iran’s 1978–79 revolution, the Islamic Republic has relegated women to second-class status under sharia and the strictures of the Iranian constitution. But women, especially young women, have had enough, and they are now volubly rejecting the requirement to wear hijabs along with the social order that the Islamic Republic has sought to impose on the country. Some women have burned their headscarves, an act that two months ago was punishable by lashing and a jail sentence but now is not that rare an act in Iranian cities.

It is said that revolutions devour their children, but in Iran the grandchildren are devouring the revolution. Iran’s clerics have responded to this existential challenge with brute force, but violence and repression will not snuff out the will of a nation so roused against its government.

If you look at Iran before the 1979 Revolution, it was perhaps the most Westernized of Middle Eastern states, and women had far more opportunity for jobs and schooling. Now more than half of the population is chafing for a return to the old days, even those who weren’t born then. She sees the hijab as a critical prop for the power of the theocrats:

The Islamic Republic rests on three ideological pillars: vehement opposition to the United States, obdurate antagonism toward Israel, and institutional misogyny, especially in the form of compulsory hijab rules requiring women to wear coverings in public spaces. If any of these pillars weakens, the whole edifice of the Islamic Republic falls down. Tehran needs enmity with the United States and Israel to keep the revolutionary flame alive. Anti-Americanism is seared into the Islamic Republic’s identity.The enforcement of the dress code for women is also a redline for the clerical leadership. The compulsory wearing of the hijab is to the Islamic Republic what the Berlin Wall was to communism, a symbol not just of power and endurance but of vulnerability. The Berlin Wall was also an admission of the fragility of the communist system, which depended on exercising great control over people. Similarly, compulsory hijab laws reflect the Islamic Republic’s fear of allowing its citizens personal freedoms and its intent to control society by treating women as if they are pieces of property to be corralled and protected. Once the Berlin Wall fell, communism was doomed. The same fate awaits the Islamic Republic once women can throw off their veils and participate in social life as men do.

And yes, women are starting to throw off their hijabs, so I wonder if Alinejad isn’t perhaps putting too much weight on the power of that piece of cloth. But I don’t think she is: the government is heavily invested in ensuring that women be veiled, and punish transgressions savagely. Brave women are refusing to do so, and the men are following with their own discontent. Will we see the regime fall within a year? And what will replace it? She adds this, and is absolutely right:

The protests in Iran put the West in an awkward position. The Biden administration has tried hard to restore some version of the nuclear deal that the Trump administration jettisoned. But this deal cannot be salvaged. The Islamic Republic is not an honest broker: it has a track record of cheating

The jury deliberated for about eight hours. Many jurors, according to a juror who spoke to me after the trial, believed at the outset that what we did was unlawful and we needed to be punished. But two issues influenced their decision to acquit, the juror said. First, the jurors concluded that we lacked the intent to steal. We were there to document the conditions, and to rescue an animal only if we found one in need. Second, the jurors felt that the piglets at issue had no value to Smithfield. The jury thus concluded they could not be the objects of a theft.

The juror I spoke to also mentioned a third major factor that went beyond the legal issues: our appeal to conscience. During the closing statements in the trial, in which I represented myself, I told jurors that a not-guilty verdict would encourage corporations to treat animals under their care with more compassion and make governments more open to animal cruelty complaints.

This was a stark contrast to the prosecution’s narrative. The prosecutor compared the injured piglets to dented cans. He argued that if you found a “dented can” in the store, the fact that it was damaged did not mean you could “rescue” it and “take it out of the store.” The reality is, every year, we treat tens of billions of animals no better than dented cans.

The two piglets, Lily and Lizzie, have been nursed back to health. I wonder if things would change if Americans were taken to places like Smithfield Farms and made to see how the animals are treated.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej are preparing for verbal battle:

A: I have a bone to pick with you.
Hili: We will talk when I sharpened my claws.
In Polish:
Ja: Mam do ciebie pretensję.
Hili: Porozmawiamy jak naostrzę pazurki.
And Baby Kulka on the roof. She loves to climb, just like Hili:

From Facebook:

From Merilee, who says this is a cartoon from Barry Blitt in the New Yorker. It’s a Rube Goldbergesque vision of how Trump declassified the White House documents:

From Jesus of the Day:


A bon mot from God:

From Masih: two tweets about Elnaz Rakabi, who didn’t wear her hijab in an international climbing competition. I predicted that if she returned to Iran, she’d be punished.  Now she’s gone missing. She posted (was forced to post, I thin), a faux apology that she had dropped her headscarf by mistake. (Iranan female athletes, including chess players, have to wear hijab overseas.)  It’s a damn piece of cloth, and for want of it a lot of women have suffered and died.

From Jeremy, who says, “As a citizen of the UK, I found the video in the attached tweet hysterical – in more than one sense of the word.”

From Luana. First, red blood cells don’t have chromosomes at all. And in the white ones, as well as in the rest of the body, the XY chromosomal constitution does NOT become XX.  Why do people make such ludicrous claims?

From Malcolm: Coffee that won’t spill:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a child gassed upon arrival:

From Matthew, who finds this “Mozartian indeed.” Quite a prodigy!

Some British bollard history:

I retweeted this tweet from Matthew with my own story. Do look at the thread for other great stories of French hauteur:

54 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. First of all, can Congress really pass a law that can reinstate Roe versus Wade? Apparently, though I don’t understand how it can given that the Supreme Court declared that ruling unconstitutional.

    Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but: The Dobbs ruling said that the constitution said nothing about abortion either way. Thus the whole logic of the Dobbs ruling is that this is a matter for the legislatures. Hence the legislatures can indeed pass laws either permitting or banning abortion, as they see fit.

    It is fully consistent to hold that women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion, but still favour giving them a legal right to an abortion.

    1. Yes. What I don’t get, though, is the nature of a law that would allow something, as opposed to prohibiting something or providing money/services for something. Technically, Federal law allows abortion now, in that it doesn’t restrict it. What would be the interplay between a Federal law “allowing” abortion and a State law that doesn’t?

      1. The “Supremacy Clause” in the second paragraph of Article VI of the US constitution provides as follows:

        This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

        (Emphasis added) Under this clause, state statutes that contradict federal statutes are void and unenforceable. (This is the same basis on which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 voided the Jim Crow laws across the South.)

        1. I haven’t thought enough about this, and have forgotten what I probably once knew, but there is also a question of whether there is federal power to legislate in certain areas. The Commerce Clause has been used in ways that certainly torment Scalia’s ghost and that was the underpinning of the Civil Rights Act (IIRC). Legislating a federal right to abortion is a fantasy in the current or foreseeable Congress, but if it were accomplished, I’d bet on a Supreme Court rejection of federal authority here. I’m sure the current Gang of Five majority would be happy to void almost all legislation hanging on the Commerce Clause thread, preserving only that directly affecting trade by wagon, slave porters, or sailing ships.

          1. I think it would be an extraordinarily close legal question about whether such a law is authorized by the commerce clause. (for legal analysis:

            On the question that matters—what the Supreme Court would actually do—it’s still stupidly close. Roberts cares a lot about precedent, but he hates Gonzales v Raich and commerce clause authority generally (see Obamacare case). Kavanaugh wants to be seen as a political moderate and would have to make a tough decision. I feel confident the other 7 would vote party line, but Barrett surprises me often.

  2. RealClearPolitic’s election tracker has Republicans with a lock on 221 House seats, which is already a majority, so that would be 100% chance of them gaining control of the House.

    1. Yes, it appears inevitable at this point that the Republicans will at least take control of the House of Representatives. Here’s what we can expect.

      1. Attempts to cut off aid to Ukraine.
      2. A multitude of investigations that will be endless and lead nowhere.
      3. The impeachment of Joe Biden that has no chance of success in the Senate.
      4. Attempts to cut social programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
      5. An attempt to extort Joe Biden to do their bidding by refusing to raise the national debt and having no qualms in shutting down the government.
      5. The placement of loons such as Marjorie Taylor Greene to positions of power on various House committees.
      6. An attempt to codify a national abortion ban.
      7. The use of the House as a megaphone to cater to white Christian grievances.
      8. Anything else that Trump orders them to do.

      As a result the federal government will become more dysfunctional, which is what the Republicans want. Their propaganda machine will blame Biden for the nation’s descent into hell, and the Democrats, as usual, inept in their political messaging, will be unable to effectively rebut the attacks. Of course, the Republican aim is to enhance their chances of winning the presidency in 2024.

      Of course, the masses that voted for the Republicans will be oblivious to what the House will be doing or couldn’t care less. This is what the Republicans are banking on – catering to their base while blaming Democrats for the messes they will have created.

      1. Yes, and it will mean that that clear plastic trash can liner full of lukewarm unflavored gelatin named Kevin McCarthy will likely become the next Speaker of the House, though I expect he’ll have even less luck than was had by his two Republican predecessors — Paul Ryan and John Boehner — in riding heard on his (even more) truculent hard-right members. Ryan and Boehner, better men than he (admittedly, a low bar), were both driven from office by this far-right caucus.

        It’s not certain at this point that McCarthy will be able to muster the votes in January to become House Speaker. (I believe Donald Trump continues to withhold his endorsement of McCarthy for the job so as to keep him in rein.) But even if McCarthy succeeds, I doubt that he’ll last long in the job. Election-denying right-wing wackos like Elise Stefanik and Marjorie Taylor Greene will be looking to stick a shiv in his back, and to take his place, first chance they get.

      2. “Here’s what we can expect [if Republicans take control of the House]:
        . . .
        2. A multitude of investigations that will be endless and lead nowhere.”

        No big deal: we already have that. 😊

        1. Maybe historian should have said: “A multitude of frivolous investigations…”
          None of the House’s investigations under the Dems have been endless, but most have lead nowhere (so far at least) due to obstruction, defying subpoenas, abusing our dysfunctional legal system, etc. And none of them have been frivolous…unlike what will happen if/when team Benghazi takes over.

            1. Hmmm? Not really. Beauty is far more subjective than frivolity. I’m defining frivolity as waste, which is generally easy to track nowadays. What’s beautiful? Hard to track with authority. In your beholden eye, were the Benghazi hearings serious investigations that revealed serious truths? And can you compare that to the Jan 6 hearings and make a similar claim? Can you tell the difference between a frivolous investigation and a serious one? All evidence to the contrary.

  3. Aye, and there’s the rub.

    Yes, that is the Democrats’ choice — to sleep or, perchance, to dream. To suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of the current reactionary Court, or to take up arms against this sea of troubles by getting their butts to the voting booth.

  4. Seafood bisque day: Make mine shrimp or lobster please. My favorite winter lunch is a bowl (not a cup, thank you) of creamy seafood bisque, served with a hunk of crusty bread on the side.

  5. … can Congress really pass a law that can reinstate Roe versus Wade? Apparently, though I don’t understand how it can given that the Supreme Court declared that ruling unconstitutional.

    In Dobbs, SCOTUS ruled that a woman’s right to an early term abortion (as set forth in Roe v. Wade and its progeny, such as Planned Parenthood v. Cases) is not guaranteed by the US constitution. Nothing in the Dobbs decision prevents congress from guaranteeing that right by statute (although, of course, doing so must be within congress’s Article I powers, such as the power enumerated in Section 8, Clause 3 to regulate interstate commerce).

    1. Ken, you seem to me to have contradicted yourself. Above in your reply at #1 you wrote that federal law is supreme over all state law, e.g., with the Civil Rights Act. Yet here you say that Congress’s power over the states is limited by Article I, e.g., but not limited to the power to regulate interstate commerce.

      If Congress writes a law stating that all state statutes mentioning abortion are hereafter null and void, then Congress will have decriminalized abortion nationally, so fine, case closed. Until the court challenge by the states. But what if, in order to secure passage, Congress has to place some restrictions to placate those uncomfortable with abortion at any time for any reason. So let’s say abortion after 24 weeks is prohibited. What happens in states where abortion after 24 weeks is allowed now? Will Congress’s supremacy clause be invoked to nullify those states’ abortion laws, too? Will the FBI now become the abortion police to enforce the federal law in all the states?

      Even writing the law so that a state law would survive as long at was more liberal than the federal standard doesn’t solve this. Is a state law allowing abortion on demand up to 24 weeks but then only for physical health endangerment after that more or less “liberal” than one that allows it up to 13 weeks on demand but allows it after that any time up to birth for rape, incest, non-medical sex selection, physical health, and mental anguish?

      In my unsophisticated view, I don’t think Congress can by statue render a provision in a state’s criminal code fully in that state’s jurisdiction to be without enforceable effect. Here’s what I believe would happen if Congress passed such a law. The state medical regulators and attorneys-general would advise their doctor-members that anyone who did an abortion would still be prosecuted by the state under the state law and would have to take her chances at the Supreme Court where she would probably lose 6-3 and go to jail. I admit I don’t understand how the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was able to undo Jim Crow. But then why has Congress not used that power to set aside other state laws it doesn’t like? (The national 55 mph speed limit of the 1970s doesn’t count: Congress threatened to withhold federal highway money from states that didn’t co-operate by reducing their own limits under state law.)

      1. Under the US constitution’s Supremacy Clause, so long as a federal statute is grounded in one of the enumerated powers granted it by Article I, no state law that contradicts the federal statute can be enforced by the state. This is known as the Federal Preemption Doctrine.

        Whether a federal statute preempts state law on the same topic depends upon the specific language employed by the federal statute. Preemption can be either implied or express. For example, if Republicans pass a federal law restricting abortion, the states would presumably be allowed to enact statutes of their own that restrict access to abortion even further, but not laws that grant greater access to abortion. By a similar token, if Democrats were to pass a federal statute expressly permitting abortion under specific circumstances, states would presumably be allowed to enact even more liberal abortion statutes of their own, but would be prohibited from enacting more restrictive statutes. On the other hand, if congress were to enact a federal statute specifying both the circumstances in which abortion was allowed and the circumstances under which abortion was prohibited, such a statute would completely preempt all state laws on the subject.

        As the linked Wikipedia entry demonstrates, federal preemption can be a complex topic. See also here and here. I hope the above analysis helps clarify it somewhat, Leslie.

        1. Thank you, Ken. When a lawyer tells me a topic is complex, I will take that as advice to get legal advice before getting into trouble.

          So my advice to American pro-choice voters is this: Don’t imagine that a federal pro-choice law will cause doctors to start doing abortions in states that currently prohibit or severely restrict them. The complexity of the question about whether Congress can indeed nullify state criminal law in a SCOTUS-proof manner will guarantee that abortions remain unavailable in restrictive states, no matter how many Democrats get elected to Congress next month.

            1. Imagine Congress passes a law expressly pre-empting state criminal laws against abortion, declaring them unenforceable. The states appeal against this intrusion into traditional state turf. Before the appeal reaches SCOTUS, a doctor performs an abortion contrary to the state law, counting on protection from I.10.

              >”. . . no doctor could be held criminally liable for following the letter of a federal statute . . .”

              Do you mean that the DA would be barred from prosecuting under the state law, and so for sure wouldn’t? Or do you mean that after a conviction in a jury trial that used up the doctor’s life savings two or three times over, she would most likely be exonerated on appeal, citing the pre-emption power and the Ex Post Facto clause? Or somewhere in between, like the judge telling the jury that it must acquit because of the federal pre-emption and admonishing the DA for bringing the case in the first place?

              The bar for ordinary people–Henry Morgentaler was extra-ordinary– deciding whether to commit some act is whether they are going to be charged with a crime, not whether they are likely to be exonerated.
              Perhaps it would depend on what the DAs said they were going to do in response to the Congressional pre-empting law. If they announced a moratorium on prosecutions until their appeal was decided, some doctors might return to doing abortions if their licensing Board didn’t object. If they said they were going to continue to fight for the rights of the unborn by carrying on with prosecutions in the sure knowledge they would prevail against this unprecedented intrusion into state sovereignty, that would be sufficiently chilling to prevent abortions being done.

              By the way, would such prosecutions count as an insurrection by the state against federal authority?

              1. Enforcement of any state statute contrary to federal law would be enjoined by the local federal court. This is precisely what happened in states that enacted statutes that contravened Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, including in Mississippi as to the statute at issue in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in that case.

                I believe that an “insurrection” presupposes the use, the planned use, or some incite to violence.

              2. Thanks once again, Ken, for your patience in answering my questions. I know Jerry frowns on to-and-fro but I came away from this one better informed than when I started.
                So it comes down to political will to enact the legislation, plus the required majority of course if there is no bi-partisan consensus.

      2. “I admit I don’t understand how the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was able to undo Jim Crow. But then why has Congress not used that power to set aside other state laws it doesn’t like?”

        While it was partly a question of the Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce, there are also the Fourteenth Amendment (which prohibits any state from “depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or “deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) and the Fifteenth Amendment (which bars both the federal and state governments from denying or abridging the right of U.S. citizens to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”). Both of those amendments also include clauses explicitly granting Congress the power to enforce them by appropriate legislation.

    2. Why is it impossible in the US to get a Federal abortion law that is incremental, that takes into account that a pregnancy is a process, like most civilised countries (from the Netherlands to South Africa) do?
      Eg. up to twelve weeks upon demand, up to 16 or 18 weeks for reasons like severe attested socio-economical or psychological reasons, and up to 20 weeks for rape or incest, and up to 24 weeks for severe malformation, conditions incompatible with viability long beyond birth and always if the (by then prospective) mother’s life is compromised. After that it will more be like a Caesarian section than an abortion.
      This is just an example to illustrate that pregnancy is a process, those numbers of weeks are somewhat arbitrary, of course, but they try to find a balance between the practically possible and desirable ethics (as is done in those many civilised countries). If a legislation were to be made, it would be wise not to deviate too much from them, I’d say. They have proven to be successful at reducing the actual numbers of abortions. (guess we all strive to that, don’t we?)
      The question remains, why can’t a comprehensive Federal abortion law in that vein not be implemented in the US?

      1. It’s hard to achieve compromise on the subject when a substantial portion of a the population believes in the ensoulment of zygotes and that the termination of a pregnancy at any stage constitutes murder.

        But I think we’ll get there eventually, Nicky, given that the long arc of the moral universe eventually bends toward justice (and common sense).

        1. There is still the thorny federalism issue. As much as I would like to see these awful abortion bans nullified, under the precedent set in United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (200(, there is no way Congress can intervene in local criminal laws that have nothing to do with interstate commerce or another enumerated power. Granted, the Commerce Clause has been read very broadly such as in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US (upholding the 1964 Civil Rights Act) or Gonzales v. Raich (2003- private cultivation of medicinal marijuana), but even these things had some effect on commerce.

  6. The Dem seem to have bet everything about the midterm on the Roe v. Wade battle and it certainly is a sacrosanct fight, but Biden’s promise sounds pretty lame

  7. On university neutrality – “The mission of the university should be seeking not only knowledge but also social justice.
    Jonathan Haidt does an excellent job discussing this topic. Fundamentally, he makes a strong case that a university must choose. A university can no more pursue both truth and knowledge and social justice than it can pursue truth and knowledge and religion simultaneously. When a university pursues any cause in addition to truth and knowledge, it must limit what can be discussed. A university must pick one and only one.”
    Unfortunately, here in Virginia, the wind seems to be blowing back toward the pre-17th century and the churches’ (both Rome and Reformation) dominance over the developing enlightenment methods of science seen in work from Galileo, Newton, Bacon, Descartes, and others – that is that the revealed religion of the church IS the truth and any deviation from those truths is punishable heresy. Social Justice (with capital S and J) seems to get unquestioning support, as we have read on this site before, of an almost religious acceptance by the Woke. So we have both the extreme left and extreme right supporting revealed truths among their starting assumptions.
    Congrats to UNC – I would love to see Jerry’s (and my) undergraduate institution, College of William and Mary which received its royal charter in Newton’s time, take a similar step as it develops its updated mission statement over the coming year.

    1. UNC-Chapel Hill appears to be the epicenter of NC Wokeness. These Wokesters (and the Raleigh News & Observer) have a problem with an alumnus and benefactor (whose family owns/runs the Arkansas Gazette) of the school of journalism whose sentiments parallel those of Prof. Haidt.

      Plust, he Nicole Hannah Jones kerffufle there. She and her supporters felt her entitled to tenure from day one, as opposed to say, an organic chemistry professor. Would they have similarly given, say, Gore Vidal, tenure, notwithstanding his never having graduated college? How would Jones have fared debating William F. Buckley, or writing screenplays for Hollywood blockbusters or novels?

      Had Nobellist Bob Dylan (having declined or unable to write a Nobel acceptance speech) expressed an interest in a tenured position in the English department, would they have turned themselves into a pretzel justifying (not) hiring him?

  8. Famous birthdays today:
    1862 Auguste Lumière
    1910 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
    1929 Lewis Wolpert, who’s book, Malignant Sadness, I read thanks to comments made by our host. Recommend reading for anyone who suffers from melancholy.

    1. I’d also add that dressing like a dork is something I do unintentionally every day. Nice to get some recognition though. 🤓

        1. Good question…I assume one can identify as a dork, or have a fluid identity these days. Or maybe that would be cultural appropriation? Either way, I’m a dork, nerd, dweeb, whatever the PC term is these days, I’m a dork through and through, and nobody can take that or my Casio CA53W-1 calculator watch or my Bic 4-color pen collection away from me!

  9. I wonder if things would change if Americans were taken to places like Smithfield Farms and made to see how the animals are treated.

    The next best thing, I think, would be to read the longform piece published by Ted Conover in Harper’s magazine, “The Way of All Flesh,” about the year he spent undercover working as a USDA meat inspector at an industrial slaughterhouse. (Conover is one the immersion-style New New Journalists, whose earlier book Newjack chronicled the year he spent working undercover as a correctional officer at New York’s Sing Sing prison.)

    Like Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, Conover’s Harper’s piece is a work best approached with a strong stomach.

    1. As part of making the public aware of the row of culinary dominoes required to deliver fillet mignon and other delights to their restaurant tables, perhaps it should be a required field trip for middle or high schoolers to visit a slaughterhouse. (Before they go to university and develope such exquisitely rarefied sensibilities as to require “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”)

      In my late teens I visited one while delivering rock salt. They were “processing” cattle that day. It was an eye-opening, shocking experience, starting with the pneumatic rod applied to the cattles’ foreheads. (I assume that that is about as merciful and humane as it can be made.) It was quite cold. One of the workers was a bit flummoxed dealing with all the quickly-clotting blood on his person.

  10. It’s by two animal-rights people who trespassed onto Smithfield Food’s pig-farming operation in Utah and rescued two small and injured piglets for certain culling

    I feel for the little piggies, but there is a huge problem with nullifying criminal trespass: accident liability. If a piggie savior goes into a slaughterhouse to rescue little piggies, slips, falls, and hurts himself on machinery, as long as the trespass is considered criminal, the slaughterhouse is not responsible for the perpetrator’s injuries. As we start loosening up policies on when the general public can enter an industrial site unsupervised, we’re opening up a huge can of worms. What about people wanting to save wild animals in a testing lab? What about people wanting to save the earth from nuclear power? Allowing untrained unsupervised non-specialists into industrial processing plants is dangerous for everyone involved.

    I’ll go as far as to support allowing criminal trespass to save a human life directly (burning house, etc.), but not to save a non-human life.

    1. I get your general point, and I basically agree, but (the dreaded but) was the trespassing in this particular case actually endangering anybody or anything?
      Are you sure the Jury did not take your point into account? Since it is a pretty obvious point, I’d think they did. Note, this is not a hill I’d be willing to die upon, just speculation.

      On an aside (somewhat supporting your point, I guess), if I were actually guilty of a crime I’d rather have a trial by Jury, if innocent, not so much.

    2. It would appear that the defendants were acquitted, at least in part, as a matter of jury nullification. But such jury nullification extends only to the particular case presented by the prosecution; a jury has no power to nullify criminal statutes more generally.

      Criminal trespass statutes (and their concomitant exception pertaining to civil liability toward the trespasser) are in no danger of repeal, by jury nullification or otherwise.

  11. SARS-CoV-2 nomenclature: I have asked the virologists who I follow why we went straight from BA to BQ, without any answer so far. The CDC page on this was last updated in April, but didn’t shed any light on what determines each new numerical suffix anyway.

    Anyone here have any clue?

    Otherwise, I’ll just default to what (IIRC) the enzyme kineticist WW Cleland once said, “A taxon is whatever a taxonomist says it is.” I think he also noted that “All taxa look the same after they’ve been thru a Waring blender.”

    1. As a layman, I’ve enjoyed/puzzled at how the nomenclature has changed over the past two years, from locations (“the India variant”) to Greek letters (“Delta”) to complicated names (BA.2.75) that laypeople can’t be expected to follow. I wonder how much of the most recent shift has been part of the push to make people feel that the world has returned to normal.

      Mandatory XKCD:

  12. Re: Covid evolution,

    Between the never ending threat of new COVID variants and the current threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads, this is a bad time for the mental health of scaredy cats like me. Feels dystopian. 🙁

  13. The bollard story was really interesting, and that these continue to be replicated in the form of confiscated French cannons is an example of an architectural palimpsest.
    Sort of.

  14. In regard to the principle that Universities shall not decree official ideological positions: once upon a time, the US Supreme affirmed a closely related principle. The majority opinion, written by justice Jackson, in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette (1943) includes the following:

    “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

    This ruling might be relevant to other matters at universities, such as mandatory Diversity Statements, officially dictated wording of “Land Acknowledgements”, etc. etc.

  15. That Klipspringer post was funny, but I’d not be surprised they could actually jump over a small bungalow. Their agility on seemingly unforgiving rock faces is positively breathtaking.and they make ‘prostate cramping’ leaps.
    Count me as a fan.

  16. I must tend an apology for the Muppet Show video. Unfortunately, Suella Braverman who appears in that video has had to resign because she used her personal email address to send government documents.

    Also, a vote on banning fracking has descended into chaos with the Conservative chief whip* being accused of manhandling Tory MPs into the the No lobby**. The Conservative chief whip has had to resign according to some people or has not resigned according to others.

    These are the people running our country. Jesus fucking Christ.

    ETA: The BBC’s latest

    Earlier this evening, some Conservative MPs told the BBC that Chief Whip Wendy Morton had left her post following chaotic scenes in Parliament.

    Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg then told Sky News he was “not entirely clear” what the situation with the chief whip was.

    We have been making phone calls to confirm whether she has resigned or quit – but so far it has not been confirmed and no one in the whips’ office is currently answering calls.

    We’ll of course bring you the latest as we get it.

    Not sure what the difference is between resigning and quitting. But I want to resign from the UK, right now.

    *the chief whip is the person tasked with making sure MPs in their party vote in the right way.

    ** Votes in the UK parliament are still counted in an archaic way. MPs have to physically go into one of two lobbies, one for yes and the other for no.

    1. Canada? At least it’s easier for you than this USian (I think?). Seems a charming, enlightened place in these stooopid times.

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