Thursday: Hili dialogue

December 29, 2022 • 6:45 am

‘Tis Thursday, December 29, 2022, and the penultimate (fifth) day of Coynezaa, which culminates in a huge celebration tomorrow (sadly, NOT!). As a food day, it’s National “Get on the Scales” Day, I suppose so you can see how much weight you’ve gained over the holidays. But the scare quotes they’ve put around the order means that you don’t have to take it seriously.

It’s also National Pepper Pot Day (a soup), The fourth day of Kwanzaa (don’t mistake this for Coynezaa), the fifth day of Christmas,  and National Jewish Book Day.  You can find a list of the ten best Jewish novels here (and top 100 Jewish books in all genres (ignore the religious stuff):

1. The Chosen, Chaim Potok.
2. Exodus, Leon Uris.
3. As a Driven Leaf, Milton Steinberg.
4. Night, Elie Weisel. [JAC: NOTE THE MISSPELLING: it’s “Wiesel”}
5. Inside, Outside, Herman Wouk.
6. Jephte’s daughter, Naomi Ragen.
7. The Love of Elspeth Baker, Myron Kaufmann.
8. The Rise of David Levinsky, Abraham Cahan. An immigrant success story, written by the long-time editor of the Yiddish Forward.
9. Badenheim 1939, Aharon Appelfeld.
10. Goodbye Columbus, Philip Roth.

I’ve read only three of these (the Uris, the Wiesel, and the Roth), so my Jewish education is very thin. But note that they’ve left out Isaac Bashevis Singer, so this list has no credibility.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 29 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*By a vote of 5-4 (not 6-3; Gorsuch joined the liberals), the Supreme Court voted to keep in place the Title 42 “covid restrictions” against immigration.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end a pandemic-era policy allowing the quick expulsion of migrants from U.S. borders without the opportunity to seek asylum, as officials warned of a crisis along the southern border.

A federal judge had ruled that the Trump-era policy, known as Title 42, should expire last week, but the court’s action extends a pause Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. imposed to give the high court more time to weigh the issue.

In Tuesday’s order, five conservative justices sided with Republican officials in 19 states, including Texas and Arizona, who sought to maintain Title 42, which has been used to expel migrants more than 2 million times since it was implemented in March 2020.

In effect, the Supreme Court’s action keeps the status quo in place by blocking the district judge’s order until the court can consider the dispute in late February. But the court said it will consider only whether the objecting states have the legal standing to intervene.

While the majority did not provide reasoning, which is common in emergency requests, dissenting Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said the order would “effectively require the federal government to continue enforcing the Title 42 orders indefinitely.” He suggested that the majority was buying time in hopes the political branches would reach a compromise.

I think Gorsuch is right here. It’s time for the damn Congress to enact some immigration reform, but they’re sitting on their hands. The Democrats, who still control both Houses of Congress, could have done this, but I think they either don’t want to be seen as anti-immigrant (or are under the somewhat mistaken perception that all immigrants will vote Democratic), or they really want open borders. But having the Supreme Court uphold a ruling enacted for medical reasons which no longer obtain is just not the right thing to do. The legislative branch should legislate.

*The U.S. has launched a multipronged program to keep Iran from supplying Russia with drones, drones presumably to be used against Ukraine, as they already have been. Iran and Russia: a true axis of evil. The only partner they need now is North Korea.

The Biden administration has launched a broad effort to halt Iran’s ability to produce and deliver drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, an endeavor that has echoes of its yearslong program to cut off Tehran’s access to nuclear technology.

In interviews in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, a range of intelligence, military and national security officials have described an expanding U.S. program that aims to choke off Iran’s ability to manufacture the drones, make it harder for the Russians to launch the unmanned “kamikaze” aircraft and — if all else fails — to provide the Ukrainians with the defenses necessary to shoot them out of the sky.

The breadth of the effort has become clearer in recent weeks. The administration has accelerated its moves to deprive Iran of the Western-made components needed to manufacture the drones being sold to Russia after it became apparent from examining the wreckage of intercepted drones that they are stuffed with made-in-America technology.

U.S. forces are helping Ukraine’s military to target the sites where the drones are being prepared for launch — a difficult task because the Russians are moving the launch sites around, from soccer fields to parking lots. And the Americans are rushing in new technologies designed to give early warning of approaching drone swarms, to improve Ukraine’s chances of bringing them down, with everything from gunfire to missiles.

. . . Officials across the Western alliance say they are convinced that Iran and Russia, both isolated by American-led sanctions, are building a new alliance of convenience. One senior military official said that partnership had deepened quickly, after Iran’s agreement to supply drones to the Russians last summer “bailed Putin out.”

*Sniffing around the Capitol building for an entire year, the Washington Post counted up the number of statues or paintings of either Confederates (13) or “enslavers” (141 of them) you can’t use the word “slaveholder” any more), with the clear idea that they should be removed or given context. But I’m getting tired of this moral purity: they should remain, and the really bad ones given context with a plaque or label. The thing is, they’ll have to give context to or remove some people who America honors rightfully:

Just as governments and institutions across the country struggle with the complex and contradictory legacies of celebrated historical figures with troubling racial records, so too does any effort to catalogue the role of the Capitol artworks’ subjects in the institution of slavery. This analysis, for example, includes at least four enslavers – Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, Rufus King and Bartolomé de las Casas – who voluntarily freed the people they enslaved and publicly disavowed slavery while they were living. Other people, such as Daniel Webster and Samuel Morse, were vocal defenders of slavery but did not themselves enslave people; artworks honoring them are not counted in The Post’s tally.

There goes Franklin, and there are others:

The Capitol Rotunda, at the heart of the building, is particularly replete with enslavers. More than two dozen artworks there depict enslavers, from statues on its marble floors and paintings on the walls to friezes and murals overhead. It also includes the only known depiction of a female enslaver in the building: Martha Washington, who inherited 84 enslaved people from her first husband.

Some of the artworks reflect the reality that most of the nation’s prominent founders were also enslavers; there are 17 depictions of George Washington, nine of Thomas Jefferson and five of James Madison. But there are also 15 depictions of Christopher Columbus, who never set foot in North America and enslaved Indigenous people in the Caribbean. The majority of the artworks honor lesser-known figures who were deeply involved in the African slave trade, the enslavement of Indigenous people, forced plantation labor and the war fought to preserve slavery. Two statues portray physicians who experimented on enslaved people.

None of the works are accompanied by any acknowledgment that their subjects enslaved people.

Well, that’s a good use of reporters! Granted, we shouldn’t be honoring some people, but if they’re going to contextualize enslavers (Confederates are doomed), then they can start be renaming Washington D. C., whose name can’t be “contextualized and has the names of both Washington and Columbus in it. Likewise with the Washington Monument. And take down the Jefferson Memorial, for crying out loud! I’m just wondering if the Post thinks that, even if their investigation bowdlerizes the Capitol, it will really do any good towards fixing inequalities in America.

*For years Southwest Airlines has been my go-to way to fly, and I’ve accumulated a gazillion frequent flyer points from them. They’re cheap, give full refund vouchers if you chance your plans, and you can check two bags for free. Plus the flight attendants are often a hoot.

But this holidays the airlines melted down, canceling more than half of its flights, while competitors like American and Delta did much better. The Wall Street Journal explains why.

When Southwest Airlines Co. reassigns crews after flight disruptions, it typically relies on a system called SkySolver. This Christmas, SkySolver not only didn’t solve much, it also helped create the worst industry meltdown in recent memory.

Airline executives and labor leaders point to inadequate technology systems, in particular SkySolver, as one reason why a brutal winter storm turned into a debacle. SkySolver was overwhelmed by the scale of the task of sorting out which pilots and flight attendants could work which flights, Southwest executives said. Crew schedulers instead had to comb through records by hand.

The airline has said SkySolver works well during a more typical disruption and had helped it manage recent hurricanes and snowstorms. But the scale of this past week’s storm, coupled with a network that still hasn’t been fully restored in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, gummed things up. Even as it tried to solve one set of problems, new ones would emerge.

Crews and planes were out of place. Phone lines jammed up, and Southwest pilots and flight attendants trying to get assignments couldn’t get through to the scheduling department. Some shared screenshots on social media that showed hold times of eight hours or more—which meant they could wait a full workday for instructions while flights were stuck for the lack of a crew. The airline was scrambling just to figure out where its crew members were located, union leaders said.

Some people have spent more than one night at Midway Airport, and Mayor Pete (now Secretary of Transportation) has come down hard on Southwest, making them promise full refunds, as well as transportation, hotel, and meal expenses to the people they left stranded.  The evening news last night reported that 62% of Southwest flights yesterday were canceled, and another 60% will be canceled today.

Now the airline’s reputation is in the dumper, and for good reason:

Southwest prides itself on a laid-back culture and exceptional customer service. Now that reputation has been badly damaged. It canceled more than 13,000 flights since Thursday, stranded passengers and bags across the country, snarled Southwest’s crew members and drew fire from federal officials. Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan, who has been in the job for less than a year, publicly apologized. Mr. Watterson has been his job since October. Both are longtime company executives.

Yes, I’ll fly them again, if only to use up those frequent flyer miles.

*Two people who are going to die soon:

One of Pelé’s daughters said Wednesday she and her family are enduring moments of sadness and despair as the 82-year-old Brazilian soccer great’s hospitalization nears one month.

The three-time World Cup winner’s cancer has advanced and doctors at Albert Einstein hospital recently said he’s under “elevated care” related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions.”

Pelé was admitted to the Sao Paulo facility on Nov. 29. The hospital hasn’t published any updates in the past week.

“These moments are hard to explain. Sometimes it is a lot of sadness and despair, in other moments we laugh and speak about fun memories,” Kely Nascimento said on Instagram.


 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ’s health has worsened over the past hours due to advanced age and doctors are constantly monitoring his condition, the Vatican said Wednesday, as Pope Francis appealed to the faithful to pray for his “very ill” predecessor “until the end.”

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said Francis went to visit the frail, 95-year-old Benedict in the monastery on Vatican grounds where he has lived since retiring in February 2013.

“Regarding the health condition of the emeritus pope, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of his general audience this morning, I can confirm that in the last hours, a worsening due to advanced age has happened,″ Bruni said in a written statement.

And Pope Francis, whom everybody loves, is practicing demonology again (h/t: Barry):

Pope Francis warned Vatican bureaucrats on Thursday to beware the devil that lurks among them, saying it is an “elegant demon” that works in people who have a rigid, holier-than-thou way of living the Catholic faith.

Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia to again put the cardinals, bishops and priests who work in the Holy See on notice that they are by no means beyond reproach and are, in fact, particularly vulnerable to evil.

Francis told them that by living in the heart of the Catholic Church, “we could easily fall into the temptation of thinking we are safe, better than others, no longer in need of conversion.”

“Yet we are in greater danger than all others, because we are beset by the ‘elegant demon,’ who does not make a loud entrance, but comes with flowers in his hand,” Francis told the churchmen in the Hall of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace.

Francis, aged 86, is also in a wheelchair, and I suspect he’s not going to be around much longer, either.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili envisions a Hili-ocentric universe!

Hili: Are there cats in the cosmos, on other planets?
A: It’s unlikely.
Hili: So the whole Universe was created so that I could come into being.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy są gdzieś w kosmosie koty na innych planetach?
Ja: Mało prawdopodobne.
Hili: Czyli cały wszechświat został stworzony, żebym ja mogła zaistnieć.


From David:

From Ducks in Public:

From FB: A cartoon by Dave Coverly.

The Tweet (Toot) of God from Mastodon:

From Masih: a pre-suicidal video:

A refutation of the Naturalistic Fallacy:

He became round. . . . .  Be kind to your web-footed friends.


From the Auschwitz Memorial, one who didn’t survive:

. . . and one who did. There are only a handful of survivors of the camps left; this one died yesterday:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, an amazing video. It happens so fast!

A smart and acrobatic moggy:

In the second tweet (you’ve seen the first one), it’s either a brave or a stupid cat. You decide!

19 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Top 10 Jewish novels, my ass. Nary a mention of Saul Bellow or Bernard Malamud or Isaac Beshevis Singer, and only Roth’s first skinny novella, not the nine Zuckerman novels or Portnoy? And don’t get me started on Kafka.

    I’ll check out the remaining list of 90, but they damn well better be there, or someone will be getting a sternly worded letter from yours truly.

      1. I do heartily recommend Inside, Outside by Wouk. I’ve read through it a couple of times, and it’s enlightening on the subject of writing comediy for radio, but also conveys the duality of Jews living in the United States.

  2. Regarding the artwork at the Capitol (and historic cancellation in general): I have sat here for an hour now thinking about what to write. I feel I need to write something but cannot figure out what. I generally agree with Jerry’s thoughts posted sometime ago that we need to look at the total contributions of people toward the society we have today including its current trajectory or known future aspirational possibilities. Something of weighing their good vs bad, but knowing that enslavement of human beings (and I think that chattel slavery does not leave people simply “enslaved”, but also, under law of the society, makes them property and commodities, ie “slaves”) is so terrible that it cannot or certainly should not be assigned to a balance sheet for quantitative calculations. Without Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and the group of founders, would we have a nation that can even think about measuring up to the words and thoughts of the founding documents? They certainly moved the needle toward the possibilities and existence of the full range of human rights. So I stumble on.

  3. Pope Francis warned Vatican bureaucrats on Thursday to beware the devil that lurks among them, saying it is an “elegant demon” that works in people who have a rigid, holier-than-thou way of living the Catholic faith.

    Think I’ll call my next rock band “Elegant Demon.”

  4. I say this every December, and I never follow through because I get busy, but this time I’m making a solemn vow and I absolutely SWEAR that 2023 will be the year I kill you all.

    God gave Noah the rainbow sign: No more water, the fire next time.

  5. “ they either don’t want to be seen as anti-immigrant (or are under the somewhat mistaken perception that all immigrants will vote Democratic), or they really want open borders“

    Probably all three, to different degrees in different people.

    Another example of the false dichotomy: either woke or MAGA. If you are not perfectly aligned with one, both will claim that you are in collusion with the other.

    Similarly, those who want SOME restrictions are lumped together with xenophobes and racists, and some who want SOME immigration are lumped together with those who want open borders.

  6. On immigration. Indeed, Congress needs to act. Unfortunately, members on both sides of the aisle use the same mantra to justify doing nothing: “We need comprehensive immigration reform.” By requiring legislation to be comprehensive, they are saying that all of the problems need to be solved at once—an obvious non-starter. Congress needs to drop the “comprehensive” part and implement *piecemeal* immigration reform. Requiring reform to be comprehensive means kicking the can down the road.

  7. If Southwest goes under they will be bought by some other airline and the frequent flyer miles will be honored by the purchasing company. Back in the 90’s, when I traveled a lot for business, I accumulated a lot of miles on Midwest Airlines (a great airline at the time). They went belly up after 9/11 and were purchased, eventually, by Delta. All the miles were honored.

  8. In other news, the J6 Committee has withdrawn its subpoena of Trump. Issued just before the election, it apparently served its purpose.

  9. A gentle admonition from afar that you are all too well-meaning in your efforts to parse and balance whether your first President and Founding Fathers should be revered or condemned and forgotten because of their owning slaves. Honestly, none of us foreigners cares that Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves or had sex with them. We really don’t. We know they were instrumental in getting the new Republic off the ground. That’s why they are important. The most we would say is, “I’ll bet those Americans wish today that they had just decided back then to pick their own dam’ cotton.” But really, the climate of the South and of the West Indies favoured slave economies, so you and the European powers built them, and yours made you rich enough to fight the British and win. Twice. And then you abolished it. Your enemies foreign and domestic will never forgive you for slavery no matter what you do, and you can’t send those long-dead slaves back to Africa. You might as well keep all the paintings and the statues and just teach fuller stories about them in the interests of truth-telling. If you want to put fly-specks of slavery all over your history, knock yourselves out.

    What I’d suggest you do, though, is think hard about why you are doing this. If the hope is by that chattering about it you will muffle and defuse the never-ending calls for financial reparations, fine. But be aware that some people are pushing this to keep the pot boiling in order to get a cash giveaway enacted for people who were never slaves. They are using your good souls against you. We call it “reconciliation” here. We think we’re doing it to manipulate them into going away with symbolic acknowledgements. They are doing it to keep moving the goalposts toward taking the land back. You might be comfortable that you will never actually have to pay painful reparations (beyond the many billions already spent on affirmative action and race-biased cash transfers). We and New Zealand aren’t so sure.

    As for Columbus, the idea that Hispaniola and the Bahamas aren’t part of North America that he “never set foot in” is absurd, as the countries of the Organization of American States will attest. But OK, he never visited or pillaged any territory that has ever been part the United States, so you all are off the hook! He and Imperial Spain and the Roman Church are not part of your heritage. He didn’t even speak English.
    Let modern Spain apologize for it. Columbus, by the Post’s own reasoning, has nothing to do with the United States of America.

  10. An “enslaver” used to be a person who reduces someone to a state of bondage. The implication there is that they were free until the enslaver came along.
    I understand that there were some number of free Black Americans prior to 1865 who were kidnapped into slavery illegally, and at least one early case where a person’s indenture was converted to permanent servitude.
    The implication is that Thomas Jefferson and Nathan Forrest were riding around like the gorillas on Planet of the Apes, capturing free Black folks in big nets.
    In the US, all but a negligible minority of slaves either arrived as slaves, or were born slaves. That might seem pedantic, but it is the world that the people we are criticizing were born into.

  11. In the Friday 12/30/22 NY Times print edition there was an article about the intense loyalty of Southwest Airlines patrons. A sub-headline referred to them as “ordinary” people. Pray tell, NY Times, on what airline(s) do “extraordinary” and “special” people fly?

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