Friday: Hili dialogue

December 9, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the end o’ the week: Friday, December 9, 2022, and National Pastry Day. Here is a lovely pastry: a strawberry pie (not my photo), the speciality of Anna Miller’s in Honolulu, where I’ve had one:

It’s also Christmas Card Day, National Llama Day, International Day of Veterinary Medicine, and International Anti-Corruption Day.  Have a baby llama on me:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 9 Wikipedia page.

*Most important: WISDOM IS BACK!!!!, though without her mate.  That probably means that, at 71, her chick-producing days are done (she’s the oldest confirmed-age bird in the world, and has fledged at least 30 chicks during her lifetime—about as many as Honey). We all love Wisdom! (Tweet from Matthew). She’s probably as old as I am.

Da Nooz:

*I’m not exactly sure what it means to hold an “office” in contempt of court, but that’s what the Justice Department asked a judge to do  to Donald Trump’s “office” (he and his lawyers?). The issue is their failure to return classified documents to the government.

Prosecutors have urged a federal judge to hold Donald Trump’s office in contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a May subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, according to people familiar with the matter — a sign of how contentious the private talks have become over whether the former president still holds any secret papers.

In recent days, Justice Department lawyers have asked U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sealed court proceedings. But the judge has not yet held a hearing or ruled on the request, they said.

The request came after months of mounting frustration from the Justice Department with Trump’s team — frustration that spiked in June after the former president’s lawyers provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence. But the FBI amassed evidence suggesting — and later confirmed through a court-authorized search — that many more remained.

One of the key areas of disagreement centers on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, according to two of these people. The Justice Department has repeatedly sought an unequivocal sworn written assurance from Trump’s team that all such documents have been returned, and Trump’s team has been unwilling to designate a custodian of records to sign such a statement while also giving assurances that they have handed documents back.

What a bunch of weasels! It goes on:

The precise wording of the filing could not be determined because it remains under seal. Trump is under investigation for three potential crimes: mishandling classified documents, obstruction, and destruction of government records.

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said the former president’s lawyers “continue to cooperative and transparent.” He added: “This is a political witch hunt unlike anything like this country has ever seen.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The government will continue to get Trump held in contempt until somebody on the team takes responsibility for saying that all classified documents have been turned over. Nobody’s willing to do that. And if they don’t?

If the judge were to agree, the most likely scenario would be a daily fine until the demands of the contempt motion are met. How large of a fine, or who would be forced to pay it, would be up to the judge.

That’s ridiculous—no amount would be a hit to Trump’s pocketbook. I want someone behind bars!

*With the help of Republicans, a bill to protect same-sex marriage (mostly against Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court) passed the House, and will soon become law.  About damn time! This bill arose from remarks by the reprobate Clarence Thomas, who said in his opinion on the Dobbs abortion case that the court  “’should reconsider’ precedents enshrining marriage equality and access to contraception.” WHAT? Contraception, too? These are already established precedents and he’d better keep the court’s hands off condoms, birth-control pills, and the like.  Fortunately, the legislative branch acted quickly to protect same-sex marriage:

With a vote of 258-169, the landmark legislation cleared Congress, sending it to President Biden to be signed into law and capping an improbable path for a measure that only months ago appeared to have little chance at enactment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the tally triumphantly, banging the gavel repeatedly as if to applaud as members of the House cheered.

It was the second time in five months that the House had taken up the Respect for Marriage Act. Last summer, 47 House Republicans joined Democrats in support of the legislation, a level of G.O.P. enthusiasm for same-sex marriage rights that surprised and delighted its supporters. That set off an intensive effort among a bipartisan group of proponents in the Senate — boosted quietly by a coalition of influential Republican donors and operatives, some of them gay — to find the 10 Republican votes necessary in that chamber to move it forward.

In the Senate, the legislation was revised to address concerns among some Republicans that it would punish or restrict the religious freedom of institutions that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. That version passed last month, forcing it back to the House for a second vote to approve the changes.

. . .The fact that the bill managed to attract decisive, bipartisan majorities in both the Senate and the House proves a significant shift in American politics and culture on an issue that was once considered politically divisive. Over the past decade, same-sex marriage has become widely accepted by members of both parties, and polls show that more than 70 percent of voters support same-sex marriage.

Still, the majority of Republicans remained opposed. During debate on Thursday, they argued that the measure was a response to a nonexistent threat to same-sex marriage rights, and condemned the bill as immoral.

Immoral? What planet are these people from?

*After ten months, basketball star Britney Greiner has finally been freed from custody in Russia (she was in a labor camp, sentenced to nine years of prison for bringing hash oil, for vaping, into the country). As I write, she’s on her way back to the U.S. and will be back by the time you read this. I’m sure she’s elated to be out of Russia. 

It was of course a prisoner swap, and the U.S. had to trade a really bad actor for Greiner, whose “crime” was far more innocuous. 

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star imprisoned in Russia, was released in an exchange for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, President Biden announced on Thursday. The trade ended 10 months of captivity for Ms. Griner, whose conviction on drug smuggling charges became an international cause, entangled in Russia’s deteriorating relations with the United States since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking from the White House with Ms. Griner’s wife Cherelle by his side, Mr. Biden said that he had spoken with Ms. Griner and that she would be back in the United States within 24 hours. “Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones — and she should have been there all along,” he said.

Here is what to know:

  • Russian officials refused to free another jailed American, Paul Whelan, despite “ceaseless efforts” by U.S. diplomats to include him in an exchange, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said. “While we celebrate Brittney’s release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly,” Mr. Blinken said.

  • The trade freed Viktor Bout, one of the most notorious arms dealers of modern times, who earned the nickname “Merchant of Death” as he evaded capture for years. He was convicted in 2011 by a New York jury on four counts that included conspiring to kill Americans and sentenced to 25 years.

  • U.S. officials said Ms. Griner, 32, was flown from Russia to the United Arab Emirates, and there boarded a plane to the United States. Arrested in February at an airport outside Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, she had been convicted of drug smuggling and been transferred to one of Russia’s most feared penal colonies, where former inmates have described torture, harsh beatings and slave labor conditions.

  • The swap may have been an effort by President Vladimir V. Putin government to divert attention from Russia’s flailing war effort in Ukraine. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have struck military bases inside Russian territory with long-range drones, demonstrating their intent to bring the conflict closer to Moscow. On Wednesday, Mr. Putin acknowledged in a televised speech that Russians should expect a protracted war.

A fair trade would have been Griner PLUS Paul Whelan in exchange for Bout, but Whelan’s still in Russian custody, charged with espionage; and who ever said that Putin is fair? He knows that, to Americans, Griner is more valuable than Whelan.

*The Wall Street Journal doesn’t think much of the new Netflix series “Harry and Meghan,” about You Know Who, criticizing it for being one-sided and trying to make a name for the couple in the U.S. (Remember that they also did a self-serving interview with Oprah Winfrey not long ago; I guess I’ve turned that into a series). The first three episodes (of six) sound like a big pity party:

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, stick to a familiar script in a new Netflix series that chronicles the couple’s estrangement from the royal family, chastising Britain’s media and the societal racism they believe has fueled coverage of their relationship.

The first three episodes of “Harry and Meghan,” released Thursday, dissect the symbiotic relationship between tabloid newspapers a nd the royal family and examine the history of racism across the British Empire, and how it persists.

The storytelling relies on interviews with the couple, their friends, and experts on race and the media. The series does not include dissenting voices, and there is no response from any of the media organizations mentioned.

. . . Promoted with two dramatically edited trailers that hinted at a “war against Meghan,” the Netflix show is the couple’s lat est effort to tell their stor y after a series of interviews with U.S. media organizations, most notably a two-hour sit down in 2021 with Oprah Winfrey.

The first three episodes break little new ground on royal intrigue, leading one British-based analyst to conclude that the main audience Harry and Meghan are trying to reach is in the United States.

The series is an effort by Harry and Meghan to cement their place in American society, where fame and riches await, says David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, which has analyzed the monarchy’s value to the UK economy.

“They are trying to become the next Kardashian family. And they are using the fame and notoriety of the monarchy as their stepping stone to get there,” he said. “No one would take the remotest bit of interest in either of them if they weren’t strongly associated with the UK monarchy.”

That’s pretty harsh; has anyone seen it?  Here’s one trailer:

*If you want a festive bottle of bubbly for the holiday season, the Wall Street Journal recommends five bottles for less thatn $40 (well, one is $44). Here  they are:

Buying real French champagne at its usual inflated price (even $40 is above my psychological price barrier) should be done only if you have to impress fancy friends. Otherwise, I’d recommend looking for a good Spanish cava, a sparkling wine made in the same way as champagne. It can be very good (especially when dry), and is certainly less expensive than the wines above, though pricey cavas can be had.

You can find a guide to the wine here, and a “best value” cava list here (I’d recommend anything with the name Llopart on it (the family of my ex postdoc). The one listed for $42 is their top of the line, but any of their cavas are tasty and good value. For a pink one, recommend their Brut Rosé.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili’s passing judgment on life:

Hili: My opinion is that it’s not worth arguing with fools.
A: Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.
Hili: Yes, sometimes it complicates life.

In Polish:

Hili: Stoję na stanowisku, że nie warto spierać się z głupcami.
Ja: Niestety, to nie zawsze jest możliwe.
Hili: Tak, to czasem komplikuje życie.


From Merilee:

From Peter: an oldie but a goodie from Gary Larson’s “The Far Side“:

From David:

From Masih; I don’t know if this is true, but it has been reported in the news.

From Simon. Soccer fans will know what it means, but I think it means that Brazil has had more than its share.

From Ken, who notes, “Ukraine is definitely winning the battle for hearts & minds.” Indeed!  How cool!

From Malcolm. I’m so happy that both were rescued and adopted together:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a reminder that you didn’t have to be Jewish or Roma to be imprisoned and perhaps killed. This is a lucky survivor.


And another Auschwitz related tweet sent by Matthew. This man was very fortunate to have lived, though his entire family was murdered. He lives in the same town as Matthew!

More from Professor Cobb, who says, for the first one, that he knows the tense but not what it’s called. There are some guesses in the thread.

An amphipod has found itself a cozy home inside a tunicate:

Yep, this is a real bird!

37 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Bari Weiss did the second dump of the Twitter files last night. I look at her Twitter in the evenings, and last night she was still posting when I started reading. It was distracting to see all the little icons for likes and reposts and such changing continually on the Tweets. She posted several screenshots of the Twitter admin application for accounts, showing that they do, in fact, “shadow ban.” Astute readers also pointed out that there is a tab for “Direct Messages,” suggesting that Twitter also looks at those. There is also a tab for “Guano,” which people have asked be investigated.

  2. Oh, and in other news from around the web, Krysten Sinema is leaving the Democratic Party and becoming an Independent.

    1. Narcissists gotta narcissitate. Sinema had to find some way to remain the center of attention now that she’s no longer the 50th Democrat in the US Senate. I’m guessing she’ll continue to caucus with Democrats (the way Independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont do), or risk losing all her committee assignments.

      Anyway, Sinema is essentially a dead-woman-walking when it comes to politics. She’s extremely unpopular with her constituents. (For one thing she refuses to hold townhalls or otherwise to meet with them face-to-face, preferring to gallivant around meeting up with big-dollar out-of-state donors.) She also bade fair to lose bigtime in a 2024 Democratic US senate primary to Arizona congressman Ruben Gallego. And, as a self-described “centrist,” she would have no future switching parties, given that the Arizona GOP has descended ever deeper into wingnuttery the more purple the state has become. It’s a Party led by the ghoulish GOP state chairwoman “Chemtrails” Kelli Ward, and that featured a losing slate of conspiracy-mongering, Trump-loving statewide candidates in the last election, including Kari Lake, Blake Masters, and Mark Finchem (an actual, honest-to-god Oath Keeper).

  3. Soccer fans will know what it means, but I think it means that Brazil has had more than its share.
    Brazil has won the World Cup five times – the remaining seven teams left in this year’s competition have only won it five times between them.

    1. Only 3 of the seven other remaining teams have won the world cup, Argentina 2, France 2 and England 1.
      I hope one of the other four teams (oops, three, Croatia just got beaten by Brazil in extra time) will win. Netherlands, Morocco and Portugal.
      I hope for the Netherlands, they reached the final thrice, but never made it.
      In a few hours we’ll know if they went through to the semis (semi’s?).

  4. Yes, how do you hold an “office” accountable? Though I guess as Mitt said something to the effect of “yes friend, corporations are people too”. Enough of this mishigas! If I recall correctly, and I think that I do, every classified document I saw during my government career had a control number on it and those which I personally checked out from the classified library holdings were assigned to me personally until returned to the library…even unto the end of my 30+ year career which I could not leave until the security folks signed off that all classified documents signed out to me had been returned. Each of these documents was delivered double-wrapped to me, the requestor, personally by courier and we exchanged a hand-signed receipt, which was again exchanged, with a personal courier, upon return of the document. While in my possession, These documents were stored in a safe in my office that had been certified by our security office as appropriate for a specific level of classification. So each of the discovered errant documents at Mar Lago and even the other ones that archives wants returned is signed out to a person…so enough of these games…there should be a person or a bunch of people who are on the hook for these classified documents and I would think a good way to att least start to end this whack a mole game would be to start putting people who signed for receipt of these documents and have no confirmation receipt for proper return of said documents in jail. I assume the big Kahuna did not sign anything himself but those around him who have gotten up with fleas are a good place to start.

    People who have worked with classified materials in the White House can coorect me if I am wrong, but this is how the procedures worked at my field laboratory in the hinterlands of my agency.

    1. Yes, but during the reign of President Trump, classified documents were also handed out as party favors. That might fall under a different system of protocol.

      1. Good grief. It’s almost enough to make me want to watch Harry and Meghan on Netflix (whatever that is).

  5. Message from an overseas friend: “Your Supreme Court better not ban contraception. There are too damn many Americans already!”

    1. Can’t you manage just one more? That ginger b*****d in Montecito. We’d really like you to keep those two, as they won’t be welcome back in the UK.

  6. With the help of Republicans, a bill to protect same-sex marriage (mostly against Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court) passed the House, and will soon become law. About damn time!

    It’s nice and all that 39 Republican House members saw their way clear to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act. But the fuck is wrong with the 169 Republicans in the House (80%) who couldn’t bring themselves to support such an anodyne bill — a bill that merely grants continued protection for same-sex and interracial marriages entered into in reliance on Supreme Court precedent and that would grant full faith and credit to such marriages in states that elect to keep them legal in the event SCOTUS tosses Obergefell v. Hodges and Loving v. Virginia onto the offal heap next to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey?

    There is, of course, but a single reason: once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, comes the poisonous effect of religion. Do these congresscritters really think their constituents are such snowflakes that they can’t bear to live with the knowledge that someone, somewhere — someones whom they are unlikely to know and someones who are unlikely to want to get to know them — might be engaging in something other than P-in-V coitus of the non-felonious sort?

    The religious nature of the Republican opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act was laid plain for all to see on the House floor by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R – Holy Roller). Cry some more, lady; cry some more:

    1. Yeah, there was a lot of bed wetting from the GOP after the passage of this anodyne bill; they even got more “religious freedom” add-ons in this version than in the first version which also passed (and more GOP members voted for the 1st round than the 2nd which makes no sense). Typical hypocritical politicians ruled by capricious religion. I heard a number of Sunday sermons from a couple men as well (forget names, purposely). After watching this Hartzler woman, I seriously think she needs to seek counseling. What will happen to her when something real happens to her life.

  7. >” Putin . . . knows that, to Americans, Griner is more valuable than Whelan.”

    Exactly what is Griner valuable for?
    You folks have strange heroes.

    1. Brittney Griner is a sports celebrity. Vladimir Putin understands the value that gives her in terms of a prisoner swap, so used it to secure the release of arms’ dealer Viktor Bout.

      The family of Putin prisoner Paul Whelan has been very gracious and congratulatory regarding Griner’s release. Ms. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, in turn has been completely supportive of the Whelan family.

      Paul Whelan has been (falsely) accused of being a US spy operating inside Russia. Putin wants a Russian spy returned in exchange for Whelan’s release.

      1. I also heard that there was a problem with Bout’s criminal case and he was going to be released on a technicality relatively soon, anyway. Don’t know the veracity of this claim. Heard it from a sports-reporter.

  8. Ref the tense, I don’t know the answer, but look to Swedish where there are just three tenses, present, past and past perfect. But IIRC there’s once exception which involves vore, which is would. I think that’s right, but comment from an authentic Swede is needed.

    1. From the depths of my memory, Subjunctive comes up. No idea if that’s right. I’ll ask my daughter the English maven if nobody else comes in.

      1. I think that that tense doesn’t have a name yet. It’s conditional (would), continuous (-ing), present (the verbs are not in the past form), but the action finished in the past.

  9. A Republican ban on contraception might not be a bad idea. It could backfire nicely, as did their stunt with Roe vs Wade. I’ve wondered if the real attempt to remove a woman’s rights over her own body and choices was a contributing factor in how the midterms played out.

    1. The Republicans have not the power to ban contraception, or abortion for that matter. If the Supreme Court were to rescind its finding that state laws banning contraception violate a Constitutional right, then the states would be free to ban it if their legislators chose to do so.

      Condoms could still be legal even if a state banned contraception. A teenage rite of passage way back when was buying condoms for the first time.* (They were kept behind the counter and you had to ask the druggist in the hearing of old ladies waiting for their arthritis prescriptions.). The foil wrappers were always stamped, “Sold for prevention of disease only.” This is why the (Connecticut?) law prohibited their sale to married couples, who presumably had no fear of venereal disease and must have been exploiting their useful unintended consequence of preventing conception.

      Contrary to what EA Blair’s overseas friend says, there are nowhere close to enough Americans already. The United States needs vast numbers of young workers to keep pay-as-you-go Social Security solvent for another decade or two. Canada, with similarly low fertility, needs 300,000 immigrants a year. For America it would be 2,700,000. A year. It would be nice to have legal entry of skilled workers but failing that, they don’t have much choice to connive at open borders. They may not be skilled but one mouth is two hands and as long as most of them stay out of trouble they should be OK, just as for previous waves of immigration. It would be good to give them legal status so they get paid on the books and thus pay into the welfare state. But by whatever mechanism, there needs to be a lot more young Americans.

    1. None of those GQP ever said a word about Paul Whelan until Griner was released. They can all go take a long walk off a short pier, IMHO. Whelan was arrested in 2018 when tRump was in office and he had over 2 years to get Whelan out. He did nothing. Oh, wait! tRump and his sec. of state did manage to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners back to Afghanistan, though. And the USA got nothing in return except the return of an Islamic theocracy. Whelan was convicted by the Russians of espionage which apparently makes things more difficult to get his release.

  10. To address Matthew’s grammatical question, “would” here is simply the past tense of the auxiliary verb “will” and is used correctly, though Matthew’s (or Nick’s) use would also be grammatical.

    This can be more easily seen if we imagine using the present tense to describe past events, as we often do in headlines or with important events. So we could say “The war in Europe ends in May of 1945; the war in Japan will last another 3 months.” This use of “will” is correct but we could also the simple present tense of “lasts” without the auxiliary verb: “The war in Europe ends in May of 1945; the war in Japan lasts another 3 months.” Similarly, putting everything in the past, we could say “The war in Germany ended in 1945; the war in Japan lasted another 3 months” or we could use the past tense of “will”—i.e., “would”: “The war in Germany ended in 1945; the war in Japan would last another 3 months.” Hope all that is clear.

    1. Thanks, Mirandaga, for thinking about this.
      1) “ends . . . will last”
      2) “ended . . . lasted”
      3) “ended . . . would last”

      Use 2) is sturdy and straightforward for telling history. The teller and the reader are both in the present and everything happened in the past. The teller has no need for present-day knowledge of the future or to insert himself into the past before some subsequent events happened. He just has to get the order of events correct. No one in May 1945 could write even as a headline that the war in Japan “will end” in 3 months, full stop. Grammatically, yes, but not logically. ” . . . will continue until Japan unconditionally surrenders, said the President”, OK.

      1) and 3) are literary devices used where the protagonist is living in his present, which is whenever in the past (or the future!) the story is set. The narrator will want to indicate that the protagonist doesn’t know (of course) what will happen in his future even though we do, also of course, whether fictional (because the author makes it so if he chooses to tell us) or real-life. A character in a novel set in 1917 couldn’t know that the Imperial flag was going to fall out of use in a couple of years. If the author thought it important to tell us what was in store for the flag, he would say it “would be hauled down for the last time in 1919”, and then get back to whatever the character was doing in 1917. So I agree with Matthew and Nick that the construction “continued until” is better style than “would continue until…” for an ordinary chronology.

      Two literary examples will illustrate 1) and 3):

      Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years, LeVien and Lord, 1953 is told in the present tense as if we are receiving the war news at the same time Churchill is. The future tense “will” is used sparingly because at the time the events occur, no one including Churchill knows what will happen even later today. When the authors cite something Churchill wrote himself commenting later on an event, when he could find the time, they say, “Churchill will write . . .”

      My copy has disappeared. But the book was serialized for television using the same narrative style (with Churchill’s words themselves read by Richard Burton.) Some episodes are on YouTube.

      John Irving used the “would” construction in the long epilogue chapter of The World According to Garp, 1978.

      Bainbridge [Pooh] Percy, . . . would live a long, long time. The last of a train of psychiatrists would claim to have rehabilitated her, but Pooh Percy may simply have emerged from analysis–and a number of institutions–too thoroughly bored [italics in original] with rehabilitation to be violent anymore. (p.588, 1998 paper ed.)

      The succeeding paragraphs about Percy (as with all the characters whose loose ends are tied off this way) return to the simple past tense, as if Mr. Irving knows that this “past tense of ‘will’ in the future” needs to be used with restraint, even as a literary device.

    1. “Apparently it is called ‘present conditional continuous.'”

      Actually not. There’s nothing either conditional (“if”) or continous (“-ing”) about the use in question. An example of present conditional continuous would be, “I would be lying [continuous] at the beach if [conditional] I didn’t have to work.” Sorry to be pedantic.

  11. I feel Clarence Thomas would be much happier in Iran, a morally-upstanding, God-fearing place where folks who believe in traditional values can execute as many gays as they like.

    In unrelated news, I wish to inform Santa Claus that I’d like a potoo for Christmas.

    1. I think Thomas would also appreciate Iranian’s treatment of women by men in power. He’s very lucky the “Me Too” movement wasn’t around when he was being vetted.

  12. Today, December 9, is John Milton’s birthday. I know this because it also happens to be my birthday—84 and counting. Whenever I’m in the poetry section of a bookstore, I turn copies of Paradise Lost spine out and my books cover out. I figure John doesn’t need the hype and he‘s not gonna notice anyway—the man’s blind.

  13. No reason to buy either French or Spanish bubbly when California produces such gems as Domaine Chandon and Roederer Estate, both well under $40.

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