Tuesday: Hili dialogue

December 6, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, December 6, 2022: National Gazpacho Day, honoring an underappreciated soup.

It’s also National Microwave Oven Day, National Pawnbrokers Day, National Trick Shot Day, and, in Canada, National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.  Here are 100 minutes of trick shots in pool, many by the greats:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 6 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*If you listened to much of today’s Supreme Court hearing on the web designer vs. gay wedding case, you’ll have heard that the Court’s conservatives seemed sympathetic to the web designer who wouldn’t set up a website for a gay marriage. But there were a lot of “hypotheticals” asked to try to demarcate who could and couldn’t be refused service under different conditions. The web designer, Lorie Smith, says that being forced to make gay-themed websites would be “compelled speech,” violating the First Amendment. The NYT summary:

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed prepared on Monday to rule that a graphic designer in Colorado has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings based on her Christian faith despite a state law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But several justices leaning in that direction appeared to be searching for limiting principles so as not to upend all sorts of anti-discrimination laws.

They explored the difference between businesses engaged in expression and ones simply selling goods; the difference between a client’s message and that of the designer; the difference between discrimination against gay couples and compelling the creation of messages supporting same-sex marriage; and the difference between discrimination based on race and that based on sexual orientation.

The bottom line, though, seemed to be that the court would not require the designer to create customized websites celebrating same-sex marriage despite the state anti-discrimination law.

The court’s three liberal members expressed deep qualms about the damage a ruling in favor of the designer could do to efforts to combat discrimination.

The decision won’t come down until June, but if anybody wants to bet me that they’ll rule against the website designer, I’m on. It’s going to be a 6-3 decision, and a very long one, with, of course three dissents. I was wrong earlier today in couching this as a freedom-of-religion case, as if that were the only thing at stake, then the designer would have to serve gay customers. No, the case is about the First Amendment:

The precise question the justices agreed to decide in the new case is “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”

That presumably wouldn’t apply to cakes, unless bakers are considered as “making statements” when concocting a gay wedding cake. Now what’s next: overruling the right to gay marriage enshrined in the Obergefell v. Hodges case? Thomas and his cronies are itching to do away with that right.

*There’s still considerable doubt about whether Iran really is going to do away with the morality police, or eliminate the hijab requirement. The government has not confirmed the former, and the latter is a matter of pure speculation. What we do know is that more women are going without headscarves than ever before.

Confusion over the status of Iran’s religious police grew as state media cast doubt on reports the force had been shut down. Despite the uncertainty, it has appeared for weeks that enforcement of the strict dress code has been scaled back as more women walk the streets without wearing the required headscarf.

The mixed messages have raised speculation that Iran’s cleric-run leadership is considering concessions in an attempt to defuse widespread anti-government protests that are entering the third month. The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the religious police.

Monday marked the start of another three-day nationwide strike called by protesters. In Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, about a third of the shops were closed, witnesses said. In response, Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi ordered the arrest of anyone encouraging the strike or trying to intimidate shops into shutting down.

. . . On Saturday, Iran’s chief prosecutor, Mohamed Jafar Montazeri, said the religious police “had been closed,” in a report published by the semi-official news agency, ISNA. He was also quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law.

“We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” he said, without offering details.

But late Sunday, Arabic-language state outlet Al-Alam issued a report suggesting Montazeri’s comments had been misunderstood. The report said the religious police were not connected to the judiciary, to which Montazeri belongs. It underlined that no official has confirmed the closure of the religious police.

If you ask me (and you didn’t), I think the protestors are going to win on both counts: no more morality police and no mandatory hijab. Iran’s international reputation has suffered severely since the murder of Mahsa Amini. And women are openly flouting the law, apparently without punishment.

Still, for weeks, fewer morality police officers have been seen in Iranian cities. Across Tehran, It has become common to see women walking the city’s streets without wearing the hijab, particularly in wealthier areas — but also to a lesser extent in more traditional neighborhoods. At times, unveiled women walk past anti-riot police and Basiji forces.

The anti-government demonstrations have shown few signs of stopping despite a violent crackdown in which, according to rights groups, at least 471 people were killed. More than 18,200 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.

Protesters say they are tired of decades of social and political repression, including the dress code. Women have played a leading role in protests, stripping off their headscarf.

*An article by Nicholas Wade in the City Journal gives more credibility to the hypothesis that the Covid-19 virus truly was a lab leak rather than an escapee from a Wuhan wet market. The linked article gives two pieces of evidence that the genome of the virus might have been altered by human intervention:

a). The SARS-CoV2 genome, some 30,000 nucleotide units in length, contains a 12-nucleotide insert, known as a furin cleavage site, which greatly enhances its infectivity. Closely related viruses frequently exchange genetic material, so it would be easy to see SARS-CoV2’s furin cleavage site as having a natural origin if any other viruses in its group possessed one. But none does. Hence Farzan’s perplexity and his inference that the furin site must have been engineered into the virus.

Well, that’s suggestive but not dispositive; natural selection could have favored an insertion and then DNA-code changes. But this one is the kicker:

b). Inside the anomaly of the furin cleavage site is another puzzle, also highly indicative of an engineered virus. The genetic code is universal but also loose enough to allow for spelling preferences that differ from one organism to another. So coronaviruses prefer one set of spellings and humans another. Six of the 12 nucleotides in the furin cleavage site, the sequence CGG-CGG, represent the human-preferred spelling. Indeed, this sequence, when in correct frame, is unknown in coronaviruses, raising the clear possibility that it came from a lab kit, not from nature.

Now that gets me perked up. The rest of the article discusses how American scientists were aware of these issues but kept pretty quiet about it, presumably not wanting to accuse the Chinese of either malfeasance (they would not deliberately release the virus in their own country), incompetence, or a plan to make a bioweapon that accidentally got out of the lab. I’m withholding judgment because the evidence goes back and forth in this one.

*Here are yesterday’s World Cup results in the knockout Round of 16. First, Croatia beat Japan, a team now headed home

The highlights: Japan scores 45 seconds in, Croatia ties at 1:17. In the shootout after play ended, the Croatian goalkeeper guessed right and stopped three Japanese shots, and Croatia slipped one in to win:

And. . .South Korea got mashed by Brazil but the score would have been even more lopsided without many saves by the Korean goalkeeper.

From CNN: 

Brazil is through to the quarterfinals after a convincing 4-1 victory over South Korea in the Round of 16.

The Seleção did the majority of its damage in the first half. Vinicius, Jr., Neymar, Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta all found the back of the South Korean net during the first 45 minutes of action.

Despite the insurmountable deficit, the South Koreans came out in the second half and showed a lot of fight.

The video (the third goal for Brazil, involving head-juggling [1:55], is brilliant, as is the sole South Korean goal [4:07]):

*The Washington Post‘s Food Fascists are at it again with an article called “Ask a doctor: are salads actually good for you?” You know the answer: put more yucky stuff in them and leave out the tasty dressings, especially the bottled kind like ranch dressing.

To build a great salad, start with lettuce or leafy greens. It may surprise you to learn that the type of greens you choose doesn’t really matter that much. Compared to other greens, iceberg lettuce probably has the fewest nutrients, but pretty much all lettuces are low in vitamins and minerals. Dark leafy greens like spinach have more micronutrients, but the type of iron in spinach is poorly absorbed, and there’s plenty of oxalate, so be careful if you’re prone to kidney stones.

The main health benefit of lettuce and other greens in a salad is the fiber. Salads are usually packed with fiber, which is a nutrient — just not for you! Fiber is really food for the microbiomethe trillions of bacteria that live in your gut. Fiber is also the key to metabolic health. Bacteria in your gut turn fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which can regulate immune function and keep inflammation in check.

In other words, think of your salad as MEDICINE rather than food! It goes on, sadly:

But the healthiest salads include plenty of other good-for-you ingredients, such as antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that are essential for your liver, which detoxify virtually all the environmental poisons that enter the body. To perform this magic trick, your liver needs these antioxidants.

For antioxidants, try chopped colorful vegetables (the darker, the better), chopped fresh fruits, herbs (fresh or dried) and spices. Then add proteins, like free-range eggs, pastured beef, fish, chicken, tofu, beans or lentils.

Well, it could have been worse: they could have said to put in ANCHOVIES! I don’t mind eggs, fruits, or chicken.  Then it gets worse again:

Bonus points go to kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts — cruciferous vegetables that can increase your body’s own natural production of antioxidants and stimulate the production of liver detoxification enzymes.

. . .Okay. Now let’s talk about salad dressings. To make a great homemade dressing, focus on ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, tahini, vinegar, Dijon, herbs, spices and citrus juices low in sugar (lemon, lime, grapefruit).

But the same can’t be said about most store-bought dressings. Store-bought versions are often made with canola and soybean oils, which are chock full of linoleic acid, an inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid.

And OMG sometimes there’s sugar in bottled dressings. Look, I don’t mind people eating healthy, but when you start making food into a medicine, some of the joy goes out of life.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows her Jewish-cat pessimism:

Hili: If you want to be an optimist it’s your business.
A: And you?
Hili: I prefer to be careful.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli chcesz być optymistą to twoja sprawa.
Ja: A ty?
Hili: Ja wolę być ostrożna.


A cartoon sent by Stash Krod on FB. It’s a pretty accurate summary of every postgame sports interview ever done, and not just including soccer!

A winter snow globe from Nicole:

From David:

Two tweets from Masih. The new Iranian revolution is growing:

From Barry: inter-male competition in sexual selection (Darwin called it “the law of battle”):

From Malcolm, a fun way to lay bricks’ the reverse wave has a physical explanation:

From Luana, a true news story:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from His Eminence Professor Cobb. First, what is this kid doing?

The Whitechapel fatberg was a 130-ton, 250 m-long congealed mass of fat and other gunk found and removed from London’s sewers. There’s a commemorative manhole cover!

I may have posted this amazing murmuration of starlings before, but if so you get to see it again. It’s amazing, and a long video: 2¼ minutes. Watch it all!

49 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. But there were a lot of “hypotheticals” asked [in yesterday’s SCOTUS argument] to try to demarcate who could and couldn’t be refused service under different conditions.

    Recognizable to those who’ve read the dialogues of Plato or endured 1L (or even just seen John Houseman as Prof. Kingsfield in The Paper Chase 🙂 ) as “the Socratic method.”

  2. Those points raised by Nicholas Wade were made in Chan & Ridley’s book Viral. Have you seen the newly released unredacted e-mails from the trove obtained by Jimmy Tobias? Whatever the truth of the matter, Fauci, Collins et al clearly issued their joint letter to Nature saying a lab leak was impossible, not because they knew any more than anyone else, but as they say “in the interests of science and world harmony”. To rush to that judgement a week after the pandemic was declared, while some of the better informed people in the e-mail chain were saying they were “50:50” or “60:40” towards lab origin seems hasty, and goal-driven. Odd that they did not approach Ralph Baric for an opinion, the world’s acknowledged expert on coronaviruses. It all looks like a stitch-up, and possibly carried out for good reasons, after all, at the time no one knew how bad it might be, and to add international tension and blaming on top might have been to risk some nasty outcomes. This is all consistent with the cock-up theory of history rather than the conspiracy theory of history!
    But the time has come for honesty if we want to get the rest of it right. This means saying clearly:
    -sorry about the lockdowns, we really though they were necessary and it turns out we over-reacted, especially now we see the XS deaths from untreated heart disease and cancers.
    -sorry we said the vaccine would protect against infection. We hoped it would, but it turned out not to. It still stops you dying and is well worth getting. In fact if you want us to return to somewhat normal, you really should do you part and get the vaccine.
    -Yes, it looks like an accidental lab leak but we don’t know for sure and never will unless the Chinese throw open all their records.

    If cannot level with the public, it will be impossible to regain any trust and we’ll be dealing with the stupid anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists for ever.

    1. There is also a new book out called The Truth About Wuhan by an Andrew Huff, who supposedly worked at the Wuhan lab and claims Covid was a lab leak.

  3. Glad to be back after a six-day hiatus with no internet (welcome to life in rural America).

    May I respectfully disagree about bottled salad dressings, especially ranch. Yuck.

    You can taste the real deal, made by yours truly, at Alpine Alley Cafe in Mountainair, NM. You will NEVER go back to bottled again.

    Homemade salad dressing is easy to make, and takes hardly any time at all. Just dump all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. If you just want to make enough dressing for one salad, make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, and add your salad ingredients on top.

    But most salad dressings contain vinegar, which is a preservative, so if you make a batch it will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


    1. I agree. More often than not I just add a pinch (or 2) of salt, a few grinds of pepper, drizzle on some nice olive oil (or walnut oil) and squeeze a 1/2 a lemon (or whole depending on salad size), right over top the salad, then toss.

      Or I’ll make a vinaigrette. It takes maybe 5 minutes. Nice oil, nice vinegar, maybe a squeeze of lemon too, salt, pepper, a dollop or 2 of dijon mustard. Dump it all into a small storage container, put the lid on, shake vigorously for 30ish seconds and it’s done. If I’m using herbs I don’t put them in the dressing. I’ve found it works better to put them directly in the salad,

      I do like creamy dressings like a good ranch or blue cheese (I love a good classic wedge salad), but I’ve never taken the time to make them from scratch.

      1. I make ranch for the restaurant a gallon at a time, which usually lasts a week, but not always.

        It takes about five minutes. The hardest part of the whole procedure is getting the mayonnaise out of the jar.


        1. “The hardest part of the whole procedure is getting the mayonnaise out of the jar”.

          And you can avoid having to do that by making your own mayo which is also not difficult!

          1. Unfortunately, homemade mayonnaise is not a good fit for a restaurant, unless you want to pay $50 for a sandwich.

            You can eat raw egg yolks at home, but you can’t serve raw egg yolks in a restaurant; they have to be pasteurized. Pasteurizing enough egg yolks for a gallon of salad dressing would take over an hour, not a good use of staff time. We would have to hire someone just to do that. Even at minimum wage, the cost would be prohibitive.

            And there is no shortcut to pasteurizing egg yolks. You have to stand there and whisk continually. One false move, one distraction, and you will have scrambled eggs.


            1. You can pasteurize eggs quickly in the microwave. But I only make a couple cups of mayo at a time, probably not ideal for a restaurant. Cook’s magazine has a great recipe. Homemade mayo that lasts a month! Gotta love it.

      2. One of my favorite home-made dressings is creamy blue cheese. Cheese can be Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort. I mix a 2 to 1 ratio of mayo (preferably home-made) and sour cream. Add some red wine vinegar, minced parsley, Worcestershire, fresh garlic and salt and pepper. It’s basically the “Joy of Cooking” recipe. Tried and true. Perfect on salad or buffalo chicken wings.

        And I agree with Linda, bottled Ranch is the worst. And if I ever make it to Mountainair, NM, I’ll have to try her homemade ranch…never had that. I just do the Hidden Ranch packet with buttermilk and mayo.

        1. That blue cheese dressing sound wonderful, I’ll definitely be trying that. Thanks!

          Yeah, making ranch with the packet is about 87 times better than the bottled stuff.

      3. A little bit of aged black garlic and honey go well in vinaigrette as well. It last for weeks just on the counter. My bf is lucky to be alive as he recently threw out one of the little jars of vinaigrette I had made, thinking it garbage😵‍💫🙈I’m not a fan of most creamy dressings.

    2. For me a simple olive oil and balsamic mix, with a bit of salt and pepper, is about the perfect salad dressing. Compare that with the ingredient list for a store-bought “balsamic vinagrette!”

  4. We have the morality police right here in U. S. in the form of the proud boys showing up in tactical gear and machine guns to a storybook reading. We may soon need to get pointers from the brave people in Iran

  5. I leave it to the experts such as our host or his former student, Allen Orr, and others to really evaluate the science writers’ findings and conclusions in the matter of Covid origins, but as a layman, I have trusted David Quammen in general. Quammen’s newest book, “Breathless – The scientific race to defeat a deadly virus”, addresses the issue of lab leak and engineered versus natural origins. He has spent lots of time crawling through caves and the like for earlier books such as “Spillover” and I think that Jerry has reviewed or at least spoken about his “The Tangled Tree” on this site a few years ago. Breathless was done during the pandemic and most interviews done over zoom with researchers Quammen had worked with in the field over the years. His last chapter, “Nobody Knows Everything” struck me as a great summary of the situation. My lay take-away for now from much of the carrying on is that the lab-leak supposition is of strong political motivation…the natural properties of Sars Cov2 being more than enough to account for its role in starting the pandemic. And the experts still disagree.

    1. Jim, I agree with you there’s lots of uncertainty. I want to believe that SARS-CoV-2 infected people in Wuhan via a wild animal in the wet market, and it would be better if the virus didn’t come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

      But the WIV was doing gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses, and they had humanized mice and human lung cell cultures used for serial passage. The genomes of SARS-CoV-2 have unusual sequences that are not found in the wild coronaviruses most closely related to SARS-CoV-2 but could easily have been added to the SARS-CoV-2 genome as part of a lab experiment.

      And no one has yet found SARS-CoV-2 in a wild animal population, or in an animal from the wet market. The closest that Kristian Andersen and others have come is to find SARS-CoV-2 in lots of environmental samples (from the floor drains and other spaces) in the wet market. This is not very convincing evidence for a natural origin because most of the mammal biomass in the wet market was humans.

      Combined with the conflicts of interest among the NIH administrators and the virologists they were funding, it’s easy to fall into a conspiratorial view of the natural-origins hypothesis. Wade does a good job of not falling for the conspiracy. I’m staying agnostic on this until someone finds the natural host population in the wild.

    1. Ruth Turner, one of my biology professors at Harvard and, at that time, a rare tenured woman, talked a lot about Libbie Hyman. Turner was a malacologist and an early visitor to the deep in the submersible Alvin. Turner had a lot of respect for Libbie Hyman.

      1. That’s awesome. I would love to be able to talk to someone who knew her. I became fascinated with her by accident. I kept seeing the name pop up in citations in old invertebrate biology books (I adore old science textbooks) and looked her up. After seeing how important she was, I bought her books, including her 6 volume magnum opus on eBay, then started finding her papers through Abe books. I got a bit obsessed. Since I never finished my biology degree, I sorta live vicariously through these books and papers and sites like this. I would love to know if the University of Chicago had anything of hers tucked away in their collections somewhere.

  6. I wonder what lessons our would be dictators will take from what’s happening in Iran? That ideological dictatorships don’t work in a single country? That repression needs to be more stringent? That more people need to be killed?

  7. The person who refused to do the job of baking a cake could have easily used any excuse for it – e.g. the frosting is out if stock – but no – they saw an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with their customer – and, by extension, the world.

    I’d say that distinction is the difference between a trivial case of simply taking one’s money and business elsewhere, or baking your own cake, and a public threat the Supreme Court must sort out for any or all citizens.

  8. I never did understand the, . . . fervor perhaps is a good word(?), the fervor with which so many people responded whenever I questioned why they were so adamant that a lab leak could not possibly have happened. Note, not did, but could not.

    To be honest I was a bit disappointed that so many on “my side” seemed to have allowed their political views, or something, outweigh their reasoning.

    Note, I’m not pro lab leak, pro Wuhan market, or pro anything on this issue. I still think the only answer the data I’m aware of supports is “don’t know.” Hopefully some day China will share the information necessary to figure it out.

    1. The fact the virus originated in China was enough to trigger a wave of anti-Asian sentiment and violence. It’s fairly easy to see why officials would be reluctant to add fuel to that fire by entertaining the lab-leak hypothesis, but I think it was more generally the politicization of everything that led to such rigidly dogmatic denial by the lay public. Many people were inclined to immediately blame China (and Chinese people by extension), so if you were a liberal against racism, it seemed obvious that you had to deny it was China’s fault, that it could have happened anywhere. Such is the nature of today’s dichotomous thinking that the spectrum of possibility from wet market crossover to bioterrorism must be ignored.

  9. Two totally unrelated thoughts.

    First, re: murmuration. I wonder if the purpose is to scare predators away from the roosting sites. By massing together and swooping conspicuously through the air before roosting time, perhaps the birds give the appearance of an enormous and alarming creature. This could cause predators (mainly owls) to flee the area. If the predators were too wary to return to the vicinity for many hours, that could sufficiently protect the birds sleeping in the roosting area from being picked off during the night. On the other hand, I’m sure this idea has occurred to biologists.

    Secondly, as a Georgia resident, I’m a few minutes away from tramping to the polls to do my duty to defend democracy, for the second time in two years. So, when – not *if* – you read this evening that Warnock has won the election, you can thank me, personally… And, in fairness, a few million of my compatriots!

    1. By massing together and swooping conspicuously through the air before roosting time, perhaps the birds give the appearance of an enormous and alarming creature. This could cause predators (mainly owls) to flee the area.

      Let’s break that down a bit.
      A predator – specifically an owl, but that isn’t a strong point – is at rest in it’s roost, where it has been for a number of hours without being spotted by predators.
      This bird, from it’s roost, spots a novel and scary apparition in the sky.
      It’s response is (1) to take to it’s wings and greatly increase it’s visibility ; or (2) stay in it’s roost, stationary and worrying what this weird new thing that hasn’t so far seen it in it’s roost.
      Yeah, I don’t think that really works out. At least not against the alternative proposition that the murmuration keeps the predators in their roosts until the murmurers (?) disappear either over the horizon, or into a forest to their own relatively inconspicuous roosts.
      Nice try though.

    2. Thank you Georgian resident! I don’t live there, but I’ve given the Warnock campaign at least $100. Walker needs to go, he’s a disgrace.

      1. Good for you! I can report that the turnout in my precinct, at least, was higher than I’ve ever seen it before. Since my district is Georgia’s bluest, that suggests that the dems are really turning out–which bodes well for our man Warnock.

        1. Good news, thanks. I’ve got some action down on Warnock at even money to top the +.9% by which he beat Walker in last month’s election.

  10. Religion was (or was claimed to be) the basis for slavery and the resulting discrimination against Blacks, as is clearly evident from this quote from the Texas Declaration of Secession, written by some of its good Christian citizens in 1861, complaining about Northern “hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.” Indeed, entire books were written at the time in support of the proposition that slavery and the subjugation of Blacks was divinely ordained. See, e.g., “The Bible Defence of Slavery” written in 1851 by Josiah Priest.

    If the Supreme Court rules that someone’s purported religious beliefs legally justify discrimination against gays, wouldn’t it necessarily follow from that holding that religion-based discrimination against Blacks is also protected by the First Amendment, thereby tearing a gaping hole in all of the existing civil rights laws? If not, why not???

    1. Sure. Go for it. A right is a right. It doesn’t stop being a right just because it thwarts some social engineering project that started 170 years after it was elucidated. Honestly, you won’t know until someone challenges the Civil Rights Act on religious freedom grounds using the texts you have helpfully cited. (You might have a hard time finding a religious motel owner or restauranteur who could profess under oath that he sincerely believed those teachings as the result of his weekly church attendance, though. They do go back a ways…)

      But at issue in this case is not religious freedom to discriminate against homosexuals at all. It’s the right to resist the government compelling you to express yourself in a way someone else wants you to but you don’t. If you declined a commission to create a website promoting Black Lives Matter or some other obnoxious set of political beliefs, you should not have to answer to the government’s bully boys just because the person requesting the job was dark-skinned.

  11. I don’t think we will ever know about the origins of the virus. But we tend to never know that about any virus. The linked article comes across as very slanted toward any hint that key Americans (Fauci and others) squelched publicizing lab leak hypothesis. That puts me off.
    Saying that 6 out of 12 bases in the furin cleavage site are those preferred in humans seems an exaggeration – and that is another feature that makes this article seem biased. The bases are used in triplets, called codons, so its a matter of just 2 codons, not 12 bases. You see, counting the bases makes it seem a bigger number and so makes it seem less likely and so it looks more suspicious. Further, what makes the codons preferred or less preferred is just the 3rd base of a codon, so just 2 bases out of 12 bases.

    1. Good point about the inflationary description of the furin site. There are of course six arginine codons, all of which have a G at the second position, so in the most extreme would be 4 of 12, depending on what the reference sequence is.

      And this seems to be Nicholas Wade’s agenda, too.

      In any event, AFAIK there are mutations all across the SARS-CoV-2 genome vs. the closest relative yet to have been found in the wild. IIRC, someone on one of This Week in Virology’s podcasts said that that level of change would require 50yrs of mutagenesis. If a very close relative were to be found, differing just in the furin cleavage site and with those humanized codons, I think the leak argument would be a lot more compelling. As it is, I can’t see anyone inserting a humanized furin site AND sprinkling mutations all thru the genome as well. Am I missing something?

      Also, I don’t like the way Wade writes – I think it comes down to tortuous sentence structure.

    2. Also, what happened does not fit a lab leak scenario. The lab and the wet market are both in Wuhan, but that’s where it ends. An actual leak ought to happen IN the lab, not a place that IIRC is 7km away. Oh, but someone could have intentionally dispensed it there. If so, with what motive? The guy who mailed anthrax could’ve clandestinely left bags of it in the nearest shopping mall, but he mailed the stuff to targets. It took a long while to trace to him. A nearby mall would’ve pointed fingers much sooner. But still, you say, they’re both in Wuhan. Yeah, but the very reason the lab was built in Wuhan is because has been a hotbed of zoonotic viral infections.

  12. > Now what’s next: overruling the right to gay marriage enshrined in the Obergefell v. Hodges case?

    There is a huge difference between allowing private individuals to treat humans differently and government institutions doing so. Governments should not be segregating by sex, race, age, or any other condition.

    I do like a proposal I’ve frequently heard: abolish all government recognition of all marriages of any combination of sexes and genders. I’ve heard it from multiple corners of the political spectrum, too: from religious conservatives who feel that marriage is exclusively a religious covenant; from progressives who don’t want to regulate relationships or privilege monogamous two-partner relationships; from anti-racists who see that much of the American tradition of marriage licenses was derived from the desire to prevent inter-racial marriages; from libertarians/classical liberals, because relationships don’t need government recognition.

    1. You must not ever have been married….or perhaps wish you hadn’t.

      Relationships don’t need government recognition but marriages do, because they are legal contracts that can exist and be enforced only if the couple are regarded as married. Not just room-mates possibly fornicating, but married. There is no way to get the government out of marriage because when the marriage ends, as all do eventually, the government has to determine who gets what if the former spouses and greedy heirs can’t agree. Even if you write a proper Will to bequeath your entire estate to your children or to a feral cat shelter, the person who believes s/he was your spouse and not your room-mate or hook-up is going to challenge the Will. In family law reform jurisdictions, she will win. Because you were married. Religious, civil, common-law, doesn’t matter. Her task of proving you were married if there was no written contract or marriage certificate is more difficult (hence “palimony”) but common-law marriages are every bit as enforceable once proven as official ones.

      If it’s not clear in law that two people living together are married or just room-mates, it will become very messy when one gets tired of the other (and any children involved) and just moves out. This is especially true if two people of the same sex living together cannot be regarded as married. There are many other situations (financial, consent to medical treatment, joint property ownership) in which someone legally recognized as a spouse can act on your behalf that would be thwarted if the relationship was not recognized as a marriage. We saw this a lot during the worst of the AIDS epidemic when many guys were dying. Unless they had specifically designated a significant other in writing as a substitute decision-maker, a shift that got started only then, it would be their often estranged parents who would have to make decisions on their behalf when they were unconscious at the end. (Some hospitals would allow only “family” to visit, which locked out the only loving person the patient had in his life.) When cohabiting homosexuals could legally call themselves at least common-law spouses, this difficulty evaporated.

      In Canada there are no tax benefits to being married as we all file separate returns and can’t income split (except for a recent provision to split pension income). So I’ve ignored the benefits that married people in other jurisdictions might gain.

      1. > There are many other situations (financial, consent to medical treatment, joint property ownership).

        All of those attributes can be individually agreed upon by partners. As we are seeing an increase in the number of polygamous unions, there are times when it is advantageous to engage in one contractual agreement with one spouse and a separate agreement for another. One might be your primary beneficiary, while another might be your medical proxy. Rather than bundling them all up into the label of ‘marriage’, allow individuals to pursue each agreement separately.

        This is precisely why we are seeing people entering aromantic non-physical marriages: elderly siblings, etc., for the benefits, to take advantage of existing infrastructure. And some jurisdictions still trip them up, because only some adults are legally able to get married in certain jurisdictions. Look into some of the cousin marriage forums (yep, they exist. Gotta love the Internet.)

        > So I’ve ignored the benefits that married people in other jurisdictions might gain.

        You’re free to ignore them. I guess Canada doesn’t grant visas to foreign spouses. The abuse of marriage I am most familiar with is spousal benefits provided by the US Armed Forces. Co-workers of mine gamed that system by entering aromantic marriages.

        1. I ignored benefits the state provides to married people, as these have to be funded by non-married people and will be regarded as fair or unfair by different observers with different agendas in different countries. The fewer cash or immigration benefits the state offers to married couples, the less incentive there will be to commit tax or immigration fraud. So no, Canada does not grant visas to foreign spouses of Canadian citizens. They have to apply to immigrate, sponsored by their Canadian spouse. Takes years. Really.

          I was concentrating on the mutual benefits and obligations that married people make to each other, which the state enforces though its recognition of contracts of marriage as distinct from business partnerships or contracts to renovate a kitchen. “A marriage” includes certain rights and obligations that bind the couple even if they didn’t know about them when they moved in together. A big deal is the matrimonial home. Regardless of whether it is owned “in her name”, the couple will split it when the marriage ends, unless they contracted otherwise before cohabiting. In a business partnership, the property is divided according to the bylaws of the partnership. So if two people cohabit in an apparently romantic relationship with no written contract, but then split up and sue, the court will say, “OK, this was a marriage, so property is divided according to marriage law, no matter who owned the house before the marriage. Next case.” That only happens because the state recognizes marriage as a legal if unwritten contract and uses certain marriage-specific rules in the adjudication of disputes that it does not use in other civil disputes.

          Absent state recognition of marriage, individuals wanting to write cohabitation contracts would have to, in essence, write all their state’s current marriage and family law into the contract. Many starry-eyed twenty-somethings wouldn’t bother, or they’d leave out important things that only two expensive hatchet-faced lawyers (one for each) would pick up. Not a pleasant way to start a life together. Honestly you don’t think of this stuff when you are taking up with someone, even if you’ve been married before. Why not just insist the guy accept the ready-made contractual provisions of the state’s marriage and divorce laws? That’s why women wisely want the ring. Men won’t buy a cow if they can have milk for free. But with the ring and nothing else, the woman has the enforcement machinery of the state behind her. I’m astounded that women could think they’d be better off if the state didn’t recognize marriage.

  13. I heard about the furin cleavage site evidence in an interview of Yuri Deigin by Bret Weinstein in mid 2020. Maybe June? It’s only that now we’re allowed to talk about it.

  14. As I understand it, antioxidants are supposed to fight oxidation directly, not as substances used by the liver.

    Not to mention that they haven’t been shown to have any effect on diseases.

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