Friday: Hili dialogue

January 6, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the first Friday of 2023: January 6, 2023. It’s National Bean Day, the day on which greenhouse gases undergo a minute but perceptible increase.

It’s also National Shortbread Day (I had some! See below. ), National Take a Poet to Lunch Day, Cuddle Up Day, National Smith Day (honoring people with that surname), Christmas Eve in Orthodox Christian countries like Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia), and Epiphany (Three Kings’ Day in Western Christianity) or the Theophany (Eastern Christianity).

Me ‘n’ shortbread this a.m. (pastry courtesy of Marie):

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

Da Nooz:

*There have now been EIGHT—count them, eight—votes for Speaker of the House, and Kevin McCarthy is still in limbo. I’m wondering, if this goes on forever, whether the Democrats should start voting for him just so they can get down to business. McCarthy has made significant (and dangerous) concessions to his fellow Republicans to win the speakership, but as of Thursday evening, things appear deadlocked, for McCarthy needs to pick up at least 15 votes from 19 holdouts—a tall order.

Mr. McCarthy by Thursday had privately agreed to more demands from the right-wing dissidents after losing six consecutive votes in the 118th Congress’s first two humiliating days. He embraced measures that would weaken the speakership considerably and that he had previously refused to countenance. One would allow a single lawmaker to force a snap vote to oust the speaker, according to three people familiar with the negotiations who described them on the condition of anonymity, noting that they were ongoing and that no deal had been reached.

But the latest vote indicated that the concessions had not been enough to corral the votes he needed to prevail. Until a speaker is chosen, the House is essentially paralyzed. It cannot pass laws or even swear in its members.

Here’s what to know:

  • The thin Republican majority in the chamber means almost all of the party’s members must agree on a speaker. If all members of the House are voting and participating, the winner needs 218 votes. Republicans control 222 seats. On Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy drew at most 203 votes. On Wednesday, his total slipped to 201, where it remained on Thursday.

  • Mr. McCarthy’s maneuvering for the speakership has grown increasingly frantic, prompting him to agree to conditions that he has ruled out in the past. He committed to allowing the right-wing faction to select a third of the party’s members on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls what legislation reaches the floor and in what form, according to one person who has been involved in the talks. He also agreed to open spending bills to a freewheeling debate in which any lawmaker could force a vote on proposed changes, including those designed to scuttle or sink the measure.

  • Far-right Republicans have lined up by turns behind candidates including, on Tuesday, Jim Jordan, who voted for Mr. McCarthy; and, on Wednesday and Thursday, Byron Donalds, the party’s first Black nominee for speaker. The lawmakers do not expect their candidates to win but wish to register their displeasure with Mr. McCarthy.

As the NYT notes this morning:

“It’s not about policies, it’s about the fight,” said Doug Heye, a former aide to Representative Eric Cantor, the onetime majority leader who lost his seat in a stunning 2014 upset by a far-right challenger, David Brat. “The more you hear the word ‘fight’ or ‘fighter,’ the less you hear about a strategy for winning that fight.”

This is in line with Nellie Bowles’s theory, which is hers:

Mainstream media coverage of the situation is basically just the word LOL typed out over and over, so I’ve had trouble understanding what is actually happening. One good read is in the American Conservative: “For anti-McCarthy Republicans, it’s not about finding a better alternative. It’s about proving they can and will hold a Republican leader accountable.”

*After announcing that he’ll visit the U.S.’s southern border, Uncle Joe has announced some immigration reform, and for once he’s not going to allow anybody in who tries to enter illegally:

In a rare White House address on the nation’s southern border crisis, President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled new policy that will accept 30,000 migrants a month from four nations but also will crack down on those who fail to use the plan’s legal pathways.

Speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president said the policy will grant humanitarian “parole” to eligible migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. It will work as part of a border strategy that incorporates an expanded use of Title 42 expulsions.

“Do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there,” Biden said, addressing potential migrants from those nations. “Starting today, if you don’t apply through the legal process you will not be eligible for this new parole program.”

The announcement was made as the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice released details of a plan to impose a new regulation — a version of a Trump-era policy often called the “transit ban.” Under the new rule, migrants would be prohibited from applying for asylum in the United States unless they were first turned away for safe harbor by another country. It would also deem ineligible migrants who don’t go through authorized ports of entry. DHS and DOJ will hear public comment on the proposed regulation before it goes into effect.

Given the crisis of an influx of people entering illegally, this is better than nothing. But wasn’t this Kamala Harris’s job? And why haven’t the Democrats done anything about it until now? Immigration reform is, in fact, one thing that nearly everybody wants, including Hispanics who have gotten their green cards or citizenship through legal routes.

*In view of the botched executions via lethal injection in the last couple of years, South Carolina is thinking of firing up Old Sparky or using firing squads for execution.

South Carolina’s highest court heard arguments Thursday on whether a newly organized firing squad or the old electric chair are legal ways to execute inmates in the state, which has been unable to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

A lower court judge ruled in September that South Carolina lawmakers “ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency” when they passed a law effectively forcing condemned prisoners to choose between electrocution or the firing squad.

The state appealed and the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments for nearly three hours Thursday over whether the 2,000-volt electric chair and/or bullets fired at the heart by a three-person firing squad violate provisions against cruel and unusual punishment in the state’s constitution. Those provisions also exist in the U.S. Constitution.

The court is unlikely to rule for several months, and whichever side doesn’t like the ruling will likely file a federal appeal.

In their questioning Thursday, Supreme Court justices seemed focused on the question of why South Carolina prison officials can’t get lethal injection drugs.

“If other states can so easily obtain drugs and carry out the death penalty by lethal injection, why can’t we?” Associate Justice John Kittredge asked.

I’m not sure why South Carolna can’t get the three drugs needed for lethal injection, but no reputable pharmaceutical company would provide drugs for killing: they’re usually obtained by shady “compounders”, and purity is not guaranteed. (That’s not the only problem with lethal injection, of course: you have to find a vein.)  As far as I know, the electric chair is not a particularly humane way of executing someone, and while firing squads sound better than electric chairs, why not just circumvent the issue by eliminating the death penalty? It’s already been abolished in 23 states, but, to its shame, it’s still allowed by the federal government, which executes inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana.

*According to the BBC, a U.S. Congressman is going to be sworn in using a copy of the Constitution and a Superman comic book, as well as two other items he cherishes. The Congressman’s a Democrat, of course, and ten to one he’s an atheist. He’s also a naturalized immigrant and a married gay man. Ceiling Cat bless the Democrats!   (h/t: Nat)

Incoming US congressman Robert Garcia will be sworn in using the US Constitution – and a Superman comic.

In a tweet on Tuesday, he said it is one of three items he will use that “mean a lot to me personally”.

The other two are a photo of his parents, who he said were lost to Covid-19, and his citizenship certificate.

Mr Garcia is still waiting to take the oath of office, however, after Republicans failed to elect a speaker.

A Democrat from Long Beach, California, and the city’s former mayor before being elected to the House of Representatives, he has a record of sharing his graphic novel fandom on Twitter.

“Anyone who understands comics knows that comics are an essential part of American fiction,” he tweeted in November. “And the lessons learned are invaluable.”

Mr Garcia – who will take the oath using a vintage Superman comic from 1939 – cites lessons that are distinctive to his upbringing as both an immigrant and a member of the LGBT community.

The congressman-elect was brought to the US from Peru by his mother when he was five years old. He is openly gay and married.

In 2021, after DC Comics announced the new Superman would be bisexual, Mr Garcia tweeted: “I became a Superman fan as a kid because I related to him. An immigrant, a sense of justice, and a secret identity.”

The FFRF has sent Rep. Garcia a thank-you letter.

*Until now, no form of life was known that could exist by eating viruses. No longer. Scientists, reporting in the Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (paper here), which was picked up by The Independent, have found two forms of protozoans which can eat viruses, and one of them can live and thrive exclusively on viruses (h/t Brian):

Scientists have found that a species of plankton that populate freshwater worldwide is the world’s first known organism that survives and thrives by dining on viruses alone, an advance that sheds new light on the role of viruses in the global food web.

The study, published last week in the journal PNAS, found that this virus-only diet – which they call “virovory” – is enough to fuel the growth and reproduction of a species of Halteria, a single-celled organism known for the minuscule hairs.

“It seemed obvious that everything’s got to be getting viruses in their mouths all the time. It seemed like it had to be happening, because there’s just so much of it in the water,” study co-author John DeLong from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said in a statement.

Previous studies provide scarce evidence of aquatic organisms eating viruses, researchers say.

Most research place viruses as the top “predator” in food chains, but Dr DrLong and his team say, viruses also can serve as food like most predators.

What are the species that are “virovores”? The PNAS paper reports a species of the familiar Paramecium, but also the ciliate Halteria, can eat viruses, and Halteria can thrive on a diet exclusively of viruses. Now this doesn’t mean that this is their normal diet in nature, for there probably aren’t enough viruses around in the water to constitute a decent meal. Still, their DNA and protein coats can at least allow some sustenance. Here’s a Halteria (species not given):

The virus used was a chlorovirus, a giant freshwater virus that normally lives in algae (and kills them). They were discovered only 40 years ago.  Here’s an alga covered with chlorovirus particles (in red), courtesy of the NIH:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pessimistic (as always: she’s a Jewish cat):

Hili: I feel the breeze of new times.
A: And?
Hili: Somehow it smells bad.
In Polish:
Hili: Czuję powiew nowych czasów.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Coś to źle pachnie.
And a photo of baby Kulka:


From Seth Andrews:

From Anna:

From Facebook’s Catspotting Society:


God is still grumpy at Mastodon:

Titania seems to be tweeting again:

From Masih, an Iranian military officer admits that the government is beleaguered:

From Malcolm: a cat d.j.:

. . and some plucky Ukrainians:

From Simon; see Nooz above for the real concessions McCarthy has made. But this is a good tweet.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Edith Frank died of exhaustion, just a bit too early before rescue:

Tweets from Matthew. The link in the first one has a video of the cat caught in flagrante delicto:

This was a nail-biter, but like all things in DodoLand, it ends well:


16 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1912 – German geophysicist Alfred Wegener first presents his theory of continental drift.

    1941 – United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his Four Freedoms speech in the State of the Union address.

    1974 – In response to the 1973 oil crisis, daylight saving time commences nearly four months early in the United States.

    1994 – U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked and injured by an assailant hired by her rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

    2005 – Edgar Ray Killen is indicted for the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner during the American Civil Rights Movement.

    2021 – Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump attack the United States Capitol to disrupt certification of the 2020 presidential election, resulting in five deaths and evacuation of the U.S. Congress.

    1412 – Joan of Arc, French martyr and saint (d. 1431).

    1745 – Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, French co-inventor of the hot air balloon (d. 1799).

    1822 – Heinrich Schliemann, German archaeologist and businessman (d. 1890). [Discovered ancient Troy, but then kept on digging through the ruins…]

    1882 – Sam Rayburn, American lawyer and politician, 48th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (d. 1961). [Speaker? How civilised…]

    1913 – Loretta Young, American actress (d. 2000).

    1931 – E. L. Doctorow, American novelist, playwright, and short story writer (d. 2015).

    1946 – Syd Barrett, English singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2006). [RIP, Syd – shine on you crazy diamond.]

    1955 – Rowan Atkinson, English actor, producer, and screenwriter.

    Shuffled off this mortal coil:
    1852 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (b. 1809).

    1884 – Gregor Mendel, Czech geneticist and botanist (b. 1822).

    1919 – Theodore Roosevelt, American colonel and politician, 26th President of the United States (b. 1858).

    1993 – Dizzy Gillespie, American singer-songwriter and trumpet player (b. 1917).

    1993 – Rudolf Nureyev, Russian-French dancer and choreographer (b. 1938).

    1995 – Joe Slovo, Lithuanian-South African lawyer and politician (b. 1926).

    2022 – Peter Bogdanovich, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1939).

    2022 – Sidney Poitier, Bahamian-American actor, director, and diplomat (b. 1927).

    1. Sam Rayburn was elected to 24 two-year terms in the House of Representatives and spent a record 17 years (over three separate stints) as House Speaker. “Mister Sam” was also future president, and fellow Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s initial political rabbi in Washington, DC.

  2. … why not just circumvent the issue by eliminating the death penalty? It’s already been abolished in 23 states, but, to its shame, it’s still allowed by the federal government, which executes inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana.

    From 1976, when SCOTUS lifted its four-year moratorium on capital punishment, through 2020, the feds conducted just three executions, all during Dubya’s first term as president. Then, during the last six months of the Trump administration, his DoJ went on a 13-inmate killing spree.

    There have been no federal executions since Biden took office, and I wouldn’t look for any to occur so long as he remains POTUS.

  3. I don’t know which demands of the Republican dissidents could be characterized as dangerous. Most of them have to do with restoring power to members around crafting and passing legislation. Does anyone (other than party leadership) think that 4,000 page bills given to members with less than a day to review is sound practice? I think it was Chip Roy who said in one of the nominating speeches that there has been more debate on the Floor in the last few days then he’s seen in years. The only measure I object to is the push for term limits, which I have always opposed for Congress.

    I find it interesting that much of the press is calling the situation “chaos.” The House is following a defined process to a definite results, it’s the literal opposite of chaos. I also think it’s amusing and annoying that after every vote there are stories that a deal has been struck.

    1. I think the media is calling it “chaos” because for 5 days now, the United States does not have a functioning House of Representatives; the first time since the 1850’s. And some are even voting for Trump to become the Speaker. Chaos seems about right; I don’t see how it can be observed as the “literal opposite of chaos.” I certainly don’t think the word “order” or “normal” is germane, do you?

      1. The Republicans are displaying an embarrassing display of party disunity that suggests further disarray is in store when (if?) they finally elect a Speaker. Pelosi never permitted such a farce—unlike McCarthy she was an effective politician who could keep her party together.

  4. snark/

    How about South Carolina simply use the condemned inmates’ “free will” (which many assume every living thing “has” or “contains”…somewhere in a Free Will organ…) and ask them to do themselves in?

    Oh, right – that doesn’t count. Free will only works with either vanilla or chocolate ice cream.



  5. for there probably aren’t enough viruses around in the water to constitute a decent meal

    Au contraire. My sadly late colleague Roger Hendrix loved to do the numbers on this sort of thing and put the average bacteriophage titer of the world’s sea waters at about 50M/ml, further calculating that there are about 75 million blue whale units of phage on earth – i e the combined global mass of phages equals the mass of about 75M blue whales! Placed end-to-end, these tiny phages would stretch about 100 million light years, or 100x the diameter of our galaxy.

    Some of that is in here.

    1. I don’t know if the Democrats are eager to let a Republican-controlled house get down to business. It might be more in their interest to let the Republicans keep fighting and embarrassing themselves, to let factional bitterness continue growing and festering within the GOP until it’s weakened and less effectual.

  6. God seems seriously disturbed and delusional lately. I’m worried about him. Is he all right?
    No serious person thinks the earth is going to die soon. Good heavens.

    1. … just become substantially less accommodating to the human species.
      Remembering that the last time the Earth’s atmosphere got hit with this much extra CO2 (the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55Myr ago), it took between 100 and 120 thousand years for the atmosphere to clean itself up of the added CO2.
      That was probably the consequence of the Icelandic hotspot lifting a lot of Atlantic-flank methane clathrates above their stability zone, followed by a positive feedback loop.

      120kyr of human quiescence would allow for substantial re-filling of a lot of oil fields that are still connected to their kitchen regions. Damned all use from the point of view of getting the crust re-supplied with nicely concentrated mineral ores though. Or mineral phosphate (for fertiliser). So … the materials supply would be much less accommodating to 2.0, if they tried to have an Industrial Revolution.
      But that would put anatomically modern humans (compared to Neanderthals, Denisovans or the lost lineage of Africans) at around 420kyrs, maybe 500kyrs – a respectable duration for a species, neither extraordinarily short or long. So it’s not all over for humanity on this projection.

  7. >” Under the new rule, migrants would be prohibited from applying for asylum in the United States unless they were first turned away for safe harbor by another country. It would also deem ineligible migrants who don’t go through authorized ports of entry.” [emphasis added.]

    This is good news. It would be good to see our border authorities adopt a similar rule. The propaganda we get from our government is that we have an obligation under international law to hear asylum claims from border crossers no matter how they got into the country, through a border post or by hopping over a fence or crossing Niagara Falls on a hang glider. Clearly America is proceeding as if that is not the case. Bravo.

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