Wednesday: Hili Dialogue

January 11, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a Hump Day (“Dia de gepa” in Basque): January 11, 2023. It’s National Hot Toddy Day, celebrating the hot whisky drink, usually with honey, lemon, and spices. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the name is Indian:

The word toddy comes from the toddy drink in India, produced by fermenting the sap of palm trees. Its earliest known use to mean “a beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices”  is from 1786. It is often referred to as a ‘Hot Toady’ However, a few other sources credit Robert Bentley Todd for his prescription of a hot drink of brandy, canella (white cinnamon), sugar syrup, and water.

It’s also National Milk Day, Girl Hug Boy Day, and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 11 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Reader Enrico is surprised that the NYT didn’t find this piece newsworthy (I haven’t been able to find it there, either), but it certainly is newsworthy, especially since a federal appellate court ruled that Title IX protects people on the basis of biological sex, not gender. That has all kinds of ramifications, most obviously for women’s sports in schools, and note that the next step up if there’s an appeal will be the Supreme Court, which would uphold the appellate decision.  From the Independent Women’s Forum:

A federal court of appeals has held that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination “on the basis of sex” refers to biological sex, not gender identity. The year-end ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit calls into question the legality of the Biden administration’s proposed Title IX rules, which equate “gender identity” with “sex” and would require schools to open up women’s sports and other spaces to males who identify as women.

The case, Adams v. Sch. Bd. of St. Johns Cty., involved a challenge to a Florida school district’s bathroom policy. The Florida school district separates bathrooms based on biological sex while providing sex-neutral bathroom accommodations for students who identify as trans or gender fluid.

The 11th Circuit ruled 7-4 on December 30 that the bathroom policy violates neither Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 nor the U.S. Constitution. The court rejected the claim that the school board’s actions discriminated against trans-identifying students.

. . .But the decision has implications far beyond the bathroom context, as Title IX prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in all aspects of education.

In determining whether the policy at issue violated Title IX, the court of appeals was forced to consider whether the word “sex”, as used in the statute, includes “gender identity.” The court held that it does not, noting that if Congress wants to prohibit discrimination against trans-identifying students, it must say so explicitly.

It seems that Congress would have to make a new law modifying Title IX to get around this decision, and I don’t see how, given that the House is Republican, this would happen in the next two years. And although I don’t think transsexual people should be subject to discrimination in nearly all cases, in a couple of cases, including sports, prisons, and rape counseling, there’s a case to be made for a meaningful difference between sex and gender.

*The NYT published five letters from readers about the Hamline University/Muhammad’s Face controversy. Three are properly critical of Hamline’s hamhanded approach, which involved firing the instructor who showed the two pictures that outraged the fragile, while two other letters are ambiguous in that they say that it’s not a clearcut case. But it is. I’ll give excerpts from those two.

This is part of a letter from one Catherine DeLazzero, described as an “educational researcher”:

During class, Dr. López Prater could have provided a link to the painting, offering options to participate by viewing or listening (as it’s unfair to ask students to leave the class). Before offering such options, educators can seek guidance from experts with different perspectives as well as from students themselves, through one-to-one conversations, written reflections, anonymous surveys or dialogues with student organizations.

Ultimately what matters most is the students’ right to a quality education, which requires taking their needs into account and not forcing them to adopt an educator’s choice of whether or how to perceive an object.

First, did DeLazzero read the NYT article? For it says this:

In the syllabus, she warned that images of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, would be shown in the course. She asked students to contact her with any concerns, and she said no one did.

In class, she prepped students, telling them that in a few minutes, the painting would be displayed, in case anyone wanted to leave.

It wasn’t that they had to leave the class, for they could have contacted the instructor López Prater in advance, and could thus have received advance warning. Further, a “quality education” doesn’t mean catering to the fragilities of every single student. In my view, those who complained might have been offended, but given the advance warning, they wanted to be offended. What they need is not teachers who cater to them, but therapists to work on their hypersensivity.

Here’s part of a letter from one Michael Rigsby from Connecticut:

There are many disturbing aspects of this sad story, but what concerns me most is the apparent inability to acknowledge that more than one truth can exist simultaneously, even when they are not in complete alignment.

In the rush to identify villains and heroes, we lose sight of the complicated possibility that a) the professor was justified and well intentioned and b) the student was nevertheless genuinely offended by the professor’s decision to show the image.

Or that a) the professor gave opt-out options in advance but b) the student didn’t feel empowered to exercise them fully.

If the university had begun with a presumption that all of these things were simultaneously true and had attempted to find a better conflict resolution process along the lines of restorative justice, both the student and the professor might have felt that they had benefited from the conflict.

This is absurd. Of course truths can be in conflict: one person can genuinely love Hitler and his ideas, while another can teach in class that they were reprehensible. This isn’t complicated. The professor was justified and perhaps  the student was offended, but the solution was for the student not to have come to class or looked at the image. The claim that the student didn’t feel empowered is equally ludicrous. Students are adults, and shouldn’t be treated as if their every need should be catered to. They’re getting an education, and that involves challenging their ideas. As for “restorative justice,” Mr. Rigsby can pick a number, get in line, and. . .

*From reader Ken:

Donald Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN. If ultimately successful, it would gut the Free Press protections established by SCOTUS in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964).

You can read the complaint here.

First, this is what the Sullivan decision said:

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of speech protections limit the ability of American public officials to sue for defamation. The decision held that if a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit is a public official or candidate for public office, not only must they prove the normal elements of defamation—publication of a false defamatory statement to a third party—they must also prove that the statement was made with “actual malice”, meaning the defendant either knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded whether it might be false.

And the AP’s description of the lawsuit, which asks for $475 million (almost half a billion dollars!):

Former President Donald Trump on Monday sued CNN, seeking $475 million in damages, saying the network had defamed him in an effort to short-circuit any future political campaign.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focuses primarily on the term “The Big Lie” about Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud that he says cost him the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

CNN said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

Trump repeatedly attacked CNN as president, which resonated with his conservative followers. He has similarly filed lawsuits against big tech companies with little success. His case against Twitter for knocking him off its platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection was thrown out by a California judge earlier this year.

Numerous federal and local election officials in both parties, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the election fraud he alleges.

Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie,” a phrase with Nazi connotations, has been used in reference to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January 2021.

“It is intended to aggravate, scare and trigger people,” he said.

Trump ain’t going to win this one. His claims are not only bogus, but the standard of defamation is simply too high. He’ll have to prove that CNN was trying to keep him from running for political office again. Regardless, the AP notes that Trump intends to fire similar lawsuits against other media companies.

*The Washington Post reports that there is an online science journal edited by kids, and they are very demanding—in a good way. For instance, they send papers back to authors if the writing isn’t understandable to an 11 year old:

Such is the stringent editing process at the online science journal Frontiers for Young Minds, where top scientists, some of them Nobel Prize winners, submit papers on gene-editinggravitational waves and other topics — to demanding reviewers ages 8 through 15.

Launched in 2013, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based publication is coming of age at a moment when skeptical members of the public look to scientists for clear guidance on the coronavirus and on potentially catastrophic climate change, among other issues. At Frontiers for Young Minds, the goal is not just to publish science papers but also to make them accessible to young readers like the reviewers. In doing so, it takes direct aim at a long-standing problem in science — poor communication between professionals and the public.

“Scientists tend to default to their own jargon and don’t think carefully about whether this is a word that the public actually knows,” said Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “Sometimes to actually explain something you need a sentence as opposed to the one word scientists are using.”

. .  Frontiers for Young Minds, which has drawn nearly 30 million online page views in its nine years, offers a different message on its homepage: “Science for kids, edited by kids.”

I think this is a terrific way to get kids interested in science, and if the journal can attract reputable authors, so much the better. Of course, it’s not going to be a place for primary research papers (or so I think), but it could be a good replacement for the rapidly-degenerating Scientific American. 

*This is Unfair Department. Reader Barry reports that a Vermont cat has been deemed unsuitable to run for the post of mayor of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Spooky Bones’ political dreams came crashing down Friday, after Attleboro election officials deemed the mayoral hopeful ineligible to run.

After all, Spooky isn’t a registered voter and doesn’t meet the 18-year minimum age requirement.

Oh, and he’s also a cat.

In a Facebook post, the mascot for local game store Spooky Games addressed his failed bid to succeed former Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, who began his new role as Bristol County sheriff last week.

“Dear supporters, it is with great disappointment that I concede the race for Mayor of Attleboro,” Spooky’s post read. “Apparently, you must be be a ‘registered voter.’”

He also vowed to continue fighting for “control of the town’s rat problem, funds for a cat park, and lower tuna prices for all.”

The city responded on Facebook:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, both Hili and Andrzej have become quite pessimistic and cynical.

Hili: Is the New Year a milestone?
A: Yes, on the road to oblivion.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy Nowy Rok to kamień milowy?
Ja: Tak, na drodze do nicości.

. . . and a picture of Szaron:


From Facebook:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Facebook:

From Masih, another impending execution of a protestor in Iran:

From Simon, who agrees with both of these sentiments, as he used to have to wait for long periods behind chatty customers.

From Ken. Here’s Rudy Giuliana, of all people, teaching us about kangaroo reproduction. The thing is, he’s right!

From Barry, who’s worried that I’ve committed  ton of crimes:

From Malcolm. I think I’ve posted it before, but it’s adorable, so here it is again:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a family wiped out:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a new lecture by Richard Dawkins, and it sounds interesting. Go here to register and watch the event live online, which is this Thursday at 5 pm (Israel time, I guess, which is 9 a.m. Chicago time and 3 p.m. London time. Or, if you’re in Israel, you can register for in-person attendance.

Matthew’s word for this is unprintable, and I share his sentiments. Will the new variant going around make us get a new booster?

You can casually drop this information about manatees at your next social gathering to become the hit of the party!

27 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili Dialogue

  1. What I want to know is :

    What’s the deal with the Consumer Reports claim that lead and cadmium is in dark chocolate?

    There’s nary a materials and methods, peer review, or even a single error bar on it – but that didn’t keep Consumer Reports from making a petition.

    A reader posted the Consumer Reports “article” yesterday. I heard about it last month and ignored it. Apparently it “went viral”, or something.

    1. It seems to come from “As You Sow”, a Berkeley activist organization pushing ESG and whatever the WEF wants to prohibit at any given time.

      1. Ah yes, thanks for reporting in – I’ve found that as well. Need to pay for the article they have. Wonder if that’s on SciHub.

  2. On this day:
    1759 – The first American life insurance company, the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Presbyterian Ministers and of the Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of the Presbyterian Ministers (now part of Unum Group), is incorporated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    1787 – William Herschel discovers Titania and Oberon, two moons of Uranus.

    1922 – Leonard Thompson becomes the first person to be injected with insulin.

    1927 – Louis B. Mayer, head of film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), announces the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at a banquet in Los Angeles, California.

    1949 – The first “networked” television broadcasts took place as KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania goes on the air connecting the east coast and mid-west programming.

    1964 – Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Luther Terry, M.D., publishes the landmark report Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States saying that smoking may be hazardous to health, sparking national and worldwide anti-smoking efforts.

    2020 – COVID-19 pandemic in Hubei: Municipal health officials in Wuhan announce the first recorded death from COVID-19. [As of this morning, the global death toll stands at 6,711,939.]

    1755 – Alexander Hamilton, Nevisian-American general, economist and politician, 1st United States Secretary of the Treasury (d. 1804).

    1906 – Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist and academic, discoverer of LSD (d. 2008).

    1938 – Arthur Scargill, English miner, activist, and politician.

    1971 – Mary J. Blige, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress.

    Wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through them:
    1928 – Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet (b. 1840).

    1941 – Emanuel Lasker, German mathematician, philosopher, and chess player (b. 1868).

    1969 – Richmal Crompton, English author and educator (b. 1890).[Best known for her Just William books.]

    2008 – Edmund Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer and explorer (b. 1919).

    2013 – Tom Parry Jones, Welsh chemist, invented the breathalyzer (b. 1935).

    2014 – Ariel Sharon, Israeli general and politician, 11th Prime Minister of Israel (b. 1928).

    2015 – Anita Ekberg, Swedish-Italian model and actress (b. 1931).

  3. I don’t think the Adams case (11th Circuit case) will turn out to be influential. There were procedural and evidentiary problems in the trial, particularly re experts. But one never knows. The main dissent is the best of the opinions in the case. At 150 pages total, not a lot of folks will read the opinions.

    1. Roodles fancies himself a polymath, I guess. Or perhaps it has to do with his infamous lack of abstemiousness in the evening hours. He sounds a bit in his cups in that clip to me, though I’m happy to hear he got his postnatal kangaroo biology correct.

  4. Rudy Giuliana is Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, right? Why is a brilliant NY lawyer talking about kangaroos? I thought he had a full time job as a valued member of Trump’s legal team.

    1. I think his licence to practise law has been suspended in New York and DC, so perhaps he has too much time on his hands?

      1. And he has a large monthly nut to cover, what with the alimony to all the ex-wives and his otherwise elaborate lifestyle. So whatever it takes to bilk the rubes, I guess, especially since Trump reportedly stiffed him on his fees.

        Plus, Rudy wasn’t actually functioning so much as a lawyer for Trump as he was a public-relations mouthpiece.

  5. That is a nice infographic about manatees. But I believe they technically have hooves rather than fingernails.

  6. Auschwitz Memorial every day breaks my heart. The little faces of so many murdered children make me wonder if we had a right to forgive…

  7. I think that tweet about Moderna is being too kind. According to many sources I’ve seen US Federal Government Agencies, in other words US taxpayers, have paid Moderna at least $10 billion for development of their Covid-19 vaccine and for buying 500 million doses. That was as of late 2021, no doubt it’s higher now. Additionally, as pointed out by Doctors Without Borders, “Moderna used patents and non-exclusive rights that the US government made available to them to make this COVID-19 vaccine.”

    Doctors Without Borders is right pissed with Moderna because though the prior research, specific Covid-19 research and development and purchase of hundreds of millions of doses were almost entirely paid for by US taxpayers, Moderna has both made huge earnings and through at least 2021 has not honored its commitment to provide their vaccine to COVAX (“The global procurement mechanism that was supposed to ensure COVID-19 vaccine equity.”)

    In other words, as usual, socialism is just fine with big money corporations when it comes to their costs, not so much when it comes to their profits.

    1. What, you don’t think granny is worth $110, Darrelle? You just paid $10-20 million dollars in economic losses for each granny saved by lockdown measures.* Sure you’d rather save her for free, wouldn’t we all.

      $110 is not out of line for new vaccines. The new shingles vaccine costs us $CDN 200 and that’s with government jaw-boning to keep prices down for the people who get free drugs. Much of the cost is liability insurance. You want expensive drugs, how about ones that cost $600,000 a year per person?

      Anyone who gives money to a corporation to develop something is assumed to have got their money’s worth if the product works and launches as hoped. After that, it’s up to what the corporation can get for its product. If the government wanted to manipulate the price, it should have bought an equity stake or obtained a commitment in advance that it could dictate the selling price. (Moderna would then have told it to take a hike and stuck with its cancer research.) Do you think purveyors of wind power are going to sell their electricity below cost just because the government is pouring billions of dollars of subsidies into it?

      Whatever, no one can tell Moderna what it can charge for its vaccine. You and MSF can say all the unprintable things you like. The price is still $110. Let’s see how many doses they can sell at that price. Moderna is a start-up with big dreams. They aren’t a charity. They always said they were hoping to make a profit on their vaccine (unlike Pfizer) and they probably will This is seed money and a reward for those patient investors in one of the rare start-ups that actually make money. Astra-Zeneca, J & J, and a bunch of others crapped out with theirs.

      * At the start of the pandemic, it was estimated that the economic cost of each life saved by flattening the curve would be about $5 million, which is within the range of many accepted safety interventions like seatbelts and pedestrian bridges over busy roads. This led Andrew Coyne of The Globe and Mail to opine, “Don’t write off granny.” But grannies proved to be cruelly vulnerable to Covid, it took two years not two weeks to flatten the several curves, and the wreckage of supply chains and child development was unforecasted. So my guess at the actual cost to save each elderly person, who accounted for three-fourths of the deaths was conservatively 2 – 4 X as high, maybe 10-50 X.

      1. I never said anything about the price of the vaccine, Leslie. The things I mentioned happened up till 2021. The price increase you are talking about is current. You didn’t address any of the points I mentioned.

        But if you want to talk about price, I’ve got a question. If even under the government contract sales prices (all of 2021) you made $13 billion in pre-tax profits, a profit margin of about 70%, do you think a 400% price increase is reasonable?

        1. The only definition of reasonable is the optimum price that clears the market. Darelle. If they could make more profit by selling it at $80 (because more doses might be sold) or at $150 (because more profit on each dose but fewer doses sold, competing with Pfizer), then those other prices would be reasonable. If their best prediction of the price that optimizes profit is $110, then that is the reasonable price, by definition.

          if you owned stock in Moderna — I don’t, so far as I know — you would see this differently. Better check though. Maybe your pension fund does.

          Do you want vaccines or not? It’s hard to make money on vaccines. Moderna hit this one out of the park through technical success and navigating the world of private-public finance. Good for them.

          Have to say, though. I was happy to get three free doses of vaccines, one of each. At $110 a dose every 6 months I’d baulk. So the price (if I had to pay it) might not be reasonable to me. But it is reasonable for me to demand the government buy it for me.

  8. “Numerous federal and local election officials in both parties, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the election fraud he alleges.”

    To paraphrase an oft-cited dictum on this site, no fraud and successful fraud look very much alike. 😊

      1. “Sorry, but are you implying that there might well have been election fraud?”

        Oh, I’m sure there was some fraud, but no more than usual. No, my comment was simply to the broader point that not being able to find evidence for something doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist. But perhaps that’s self-evident without my gloss. Sorry.

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