Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 18, 2023 • 6:45 am

Because I have only a handful of readers’ wildlife contributions, there won’t be a photo post today: the wildlife photos will be sporadic until I receive more. Please send in your good photos. Thanks!

Welcome to Hump Day ( “Lá Cromáin” in Irish), January 18, 2023, and National Gourmet Coffee Day. It’s fine if you want good beans, but this is the kind of “gourmet coffee” you don’t want (it’s better called “gourmand coffee”):

It’s also National Peking Duck Day, Thesaurus Day, and Winnie the Pooh Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 18 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*A defector from Russia’s paramiliary force has defected to Norway, implying that he’ll expose Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine. Well, that would be one witness:

Andrei Medvedev, who says he commanded about 15 fighters in the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine, has applied for asylum in Norway after being detained by local security forces for illegally crossing the nation’s border with Russia in the early hours of Friday, his lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, said.

Norwegian immigration authorities confirmed that a man matching Mr. Medvedev’s description was detained and had requested asylum, but declined to comment further, citing security and privacy concerns.

In a video published on Monday, Mr. Medvedev told a Russian human rights activist, Vladimir Osechkin, that he had crossed into Norway on foot and requested asylum after surrendering to the police. He said he was willing to collaborate with international investigators into potential war crimes committed by Wagner, a major paramilitary force at the center of the Kremlin’s war efforts in Ukraine.

Mr. Risnes, the lawyer, said Mr. Medvedev’s case is the first of its kind in Norway, adding that it could set a precedent for how the West handles the defection of Russian fighters.

However, it may not be as damaging as it looks, for the guy has a history:

Mr. Medvedev’s own accounts of his life and military service have been contradictory at times, and he has declined to provide evidence for his most explosive claims.

Mr. Medvedev, who grew up in a Siberian orphanage and had served at least four years in jail for robbery, said he had witnessed summary executions on the front lines of Wagner fighters accused of cowardice and desertion, as well as dramatic casualty rates suffered by inmate units sent by commanders on suicide missions. The claims have not been independently verified.

Two people who knew Medvedev before confirmed he was in the paramilitary unit, but couldn’t corroborate his claims about war crimes.

*In yesterday’s NYT, writer Jesse Singal discusses the question, “What if diversity trainings are doing more harm than good?” A lot of us have known for a while about data that these sessions were ineffectual, but Singal also argues that they’re harmful:

Diversity workshops can foster better intergroup relations, improve the retention of minority employees, close recruitment gaps and so on. The only problem? There’s little evidence that many of these initiatives work. And the specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may well have a net-negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.

. . . Though diversity trainings have been around in one form or another since at least the 1960s, few of them are ever subjected to rigorous evaluation, and those that are mostly appear to have little or no positive long-term effects. The lack of evidence is “disappointing,” wrote Elizabeth Levy Paluck of Princeton and her co-authors in a 2021 Annual Review of Psychology article, “considering the frequency with which calls for diversity training emerge in the wake of widely publicized instances of discriminatory conduct.”

. . .If diversity trainings have no impact whatsoever, that would mean that perhaps billions of dollars are being wasted annually in the United States on these efforts. But there’s a darker possibility: Some diversity initiatives might actually worsen the D.E.I. climates of the organizations that pay for them.

That’s partly because any psychological intervention may turn out to do more harm than good. The late psychologist Scott Lilienfeld made this point in an influential 2007 article where he argued that certain interventions — including ones geared at fighting youth substance use, youth delinquency and PTSD — likely fell into that category. In the case of D.E.I., Dr. Dobbin and Dr. Kalev warn that diversity trainings that are mandatory, or that threaten dominant groups’ sense of belonging or make them feel blamed, may elicit negative backlash or exacerbate pre-existing biases.

Many popular contemporary D.E.I. approaches meet these criteria. They often seem geared more toward sparking a revolutionary re-understanding of race relations than solving organizations’ specific problems. . .

But it doesn’t matter whether they work, does it? All that matters is that universities look like they’re doing something—just to show that they’re taking the DEI movement seriously If this training doesn’t work—and an enormous amount of money is being spent implementing it—it will be America’s most expensive form of virtue signaling.  Singal does have a solution: focus on an organization’s specific diversity problems rather than on race itself, including problems with employee retention, employee relationships, treatment of customers, and so on. I’ve heard for a long time that DEI trainings in general aren’t what they are cracked up to be, and it’s appalling to think of the millions of dollars that universities like Yale spend on them (they are a major function of DEI units, and that means permanent hires) The University of Michigan’s DEI programs, for instance, are estimated to cost $18 million this year.

*Will the Elgin Marbles, part of the Parthenon frieze, go to Greece? A NYT article reports that the Greek Prime Minister and the British Museum (who has custody of a large number of them) are discussing their return. They should go back to join their friends in Athens, as they were taken by Lord Elgin under dubious circumstances. And it looks as though they might, though I’ll miss seeing them on the first floor of the British Museum:

Now there are hopeful signals that perhaps a resolution between the British Museum and Greece could be in sight as officials on both sides have acknowledged that secret talks have taken place. But even as those disclosures have flowered into optimism that real progress will soon be made, both sides have made it clear that no deal is yet imminent.

Indeed, they remain far apart on some key questions.

Some suggest that the deal is almost done, but it doesn’t sound like it:

But a deal remains much further away than those reports suggest, according to the two people with knowledge of the negotiations who spoke to The New York Times. And, in fact, in recent days officials from both sides have spoken publicly to pump the brakes on the soaring expectations that any deal was imminent.

For his part, Mitsotakis has asked the British Museum to return all of the frieze in its collection, some 250 feet of carved stone that once wrapped around the Parthenon, the person with knowledge of the Greek position said. Mitsotakis wanted an agreement that those panels would stay in Greece for at least 20 years, the person added. There, they would be reunited with other parts of the frieze already on display in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

. . . The Greek side hoped to negotiate the return of the remaining sculptures at a later date, the person with knowledge of its position added. In return for the frieze, Greek museums would supply the British Museum with a rotating selection of priceless artifacts, some of which had never left Greece, the person added.

There’s no doubt that the marbles should be given back, but I would hope that some of them could be loaned to the British Museum on a rotating basis, as it’s a big draw there, and many people wouldn’t be able to see them if they had to go to Greece.

*At the WaPo, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, argues persuasively that “The time for incremental in Ukraine is over. Send in the tanks.” Germany is in talks to send tanks to Ukraine, and if they do it, then there’s no excuse for us not to.  O’Hanlon argues that while we’ve helped Ukraine a lot, most of the help has been reactive, while tanks will help Ukraine win the war in a major way:

What one might call the “the Goldilocks policy” will continue to work only if we recognize its risks — most importantly, that it is fundamentally reactive, thus hindering the development of a strategy to end the war. (And by the way, I’m in favor of sending hundreds of Western tanks as soon as possible — for reasons I will explain below.)

. . . Yet the debate over tanks has also revealed the biggest weakness of the incrementalist approach — namely, that it is always reacting to events on the battlefield rather than trying to shape them. Going step by step has helped Ukraine patch up vulnerabilities, to be sure, but it hasn’t furthered the goal of formulating a strategy to end the war or defining the capacity that will be ultimately needed to do so. Tactically, we have been very good, but strategically our planning is somewhat lacking.

As for the tanks, I think it’s time we provide them. That’s not because doing so will necessarily help Ukraine win the war decisively. Rather, Kyiv deserves a fair chance to win back as much territory as possible. Until it has that chance, neither Russia nor Ukraine is likely to negotiate with the kind of sober realism needed to end this war on reasonable and sustainable terms. Sending tanks will also show Moscow that American resolve remains firm even with war-skeptical Republicans in charge in the House of Representatives — another factor crucial to productive talks.

Where are the tanks? There ought to be tanks. Well, maybe this year.

*Finally, Greta was lugged away by the Polizei during a protest.

Police in western Germany carried Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and other protesters away Tuesday from the edge of an open coal pit mine where they demonstrated against the ongoing destruction of a village to make way for the mine’s expansion, German news agency dpa reported.

Thunberg was among hundreds of people who resumed anti-mining protests at multiple locations in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia a day after the last two climate activists holed up in a tunnel beneath the village of Luetzerath left the site.

The German government reached a deal with energy company RWE last year allowing it to destroy the village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038. Both argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security that’s squeezed by the cut in supply of Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine.

. . .Thunberg had traveled to western Germany to participate in weekend demonstrations against the expanded mine and also took part in Tuesday’s protest near Luetzerath. Police in nearby Aachen said a group of around 50 protesters got dangerously close to the rim of the mine and did not want to leave despite being asked to do so.

All the people in that group had to be carried away from the edge of the mine and were then temporarily held to determine their identities, police said. Photos from the scene showed Thunberg was one of those whom officers took away.

She looks very satisfied:

Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is hopeful for once:

Hili: I see new prospects.
A: What prospects?
Hili: A return home and a warm bed.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę nowe perspektywy.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Powrotu do domu i ciepłego łóżka.
And Paulina took a lovely picture of Szaron:


Two from FB:


From Bruce:

And a biology lesson from Bizarre and Wonderful World:

This is the cyclosmis, and its incredible abdomen looks like an ancient coin! This genus of spider lives in burrows, and it uses the hardened disc at the end of its abdomen to clog the entrance when it’s threatened.

From Frits. Translation (his asterisk): “”Brave little sheep d*g still has to learn the trade a bit, but gets some tips whispered.”

From Barry, a helpful pinniped:

From Malcolm: a population-density map of India:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed upon arrival; he was 1½ years old:

Tweets from Matthew.  The backstory for the first one is here.

Stoats run free! (Matthew and I love stoats, who eat stoatmeal for breakfast):

Okay, there are a lot of passes here but I can show only a handful:


23 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1778 – James Cook is the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the “Sandwich Islands”.

    1788 – The first elements of the First Fleet carrying 736 convicts from Great Britain to Australia arrive at Botany Bay.

    1896 – An X-ray generating machine is exhibited for the first time by H. L. Smith.

    1911 – Eugene B. Ely lands on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay, the first time an aircraft landed on a ship.

    1919 – World War I: The Paris Peace Conference opens in Versailles, France.

    1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: The first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

    1967 – Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler”, is convicted of numerous crimes and is sentenced to life imprisonment.

    1977 – Scientists identify a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious Legionnaires’ disease.

    1981 – Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield parachute off a Houston skyscraper, becoming the first two people to BASE jump from objects in all four categories: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).

    1983 – The International Olympic Committee restores Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals to his family.

    1990 – Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is arrested for drug possession in an FBI sting.

    1752 – John Nash, English architect (d. 1835).

    1882 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright (d. 1956).

    1892 – Oliver Hardy, American actor and comedian (d. 1957).

    1904 – Cary Grant, English-American actor (d. 1986).

    1908 – Jacob Bronowski, Polish-English mathematician, historian, and television host (d. 1974).

    1911 – Danny Kaye, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1987).

    1933 – David Bellamy, English botanist, author and academic (d. 2019).

    1934 – Raymond Briggs, English author and illustrator (d. 2022).

    1971 – Pep Guardiola, Spanish footballer and manager.

    Counting worms:
    1873 – Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English author, poet, playwright, and politician, Secretary of State for the Colonies (b. 1803).

    1936 – Rudyard Kipling, English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865).

    1952 – Curly Howard, American actor (b. 1903).

    1954 – Sydney Greenstreet, English-American actor (b. 1879).

    2009 – Tony Hart, English painter and television host (b. 1925).

    2010 – Kate McGarrigle, Canadian musician and singer-songwriter (b. 1946).

    2016 – Glenn Frey, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1948).

    2017 – Rachael Heyhoe Flint, Baroness Heyhoe Flint, English cricketer, businesswoman and philanthropist (b. 1939).

  2. Kaka’s pass is from the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, AC Milan versus Liverpool. Milan led 3-0 to end up on 3-3 and lost on penalties 🙂

    Was Thunberg’s mode of transport greener than the available alternatives?

    1. Well, she’s not going to be showing up at work for a few days, so it’s possible it will save on resources, accounting for everything – plus the millions of inspired .. millions… who will be inspired.

  3. Diversity trainings must be the second most expensive form of virtue signaling in the U.S. Surely, the Green humbug is the most expensive? I think we miss the point if we think this is about race or sex relations, too. While these trainings may once have been about behavior, they are now part of the larger message about identity politics that is fighting to capture our institutions for an equity-based viewed of “fairness.” Take, for example, Singal’s own use of “dominant group”: It used to be that the dominant group was management. Similarly, now it is not individual employees that are the problem, but racial and sexual groups are assumed to be problems.

    1. Though I, through the virtue of retirement, have no experience with current diversity training in the environment of an institutionalized DEI structure, I did have plenty of experience with the 1980’s incarnation. And I had both excellent education in the area and awful…so awful it produced negative attitudes toward diversity by workshop participants. I had various training sessions provided by NASA, a local school board, the state school boards association, and a local museum board at least, and maybe more. The usefulness really depended on who specifically was the trainer. The best I had was given to NASA supervisors…and boy we needed it! There were about 25 people in the class comprising high pay grades of GS-15’s and SES’ers. There was one black guy, two women (both white), and the rest were white guys. One of the white guys kicked things off by claiming that this activity was a waste of time since NASA promotions were always based on technical merit and that there was no racial or gender discrimination. To which the somewhat taken aback trainer said simply: “look around this room”. The trainers were a black guy and an asian american, under a contract from NASA hq. Both had a terriffic sense of humor, did not talk down to people, and gave a message that we are all a part of how we have grown up and look at the world through those eyes …. that the nation was heading from a huge majority white to a majority minority population in the coming years… and there were at least two major reasons to reset our expectations that had been created in a fully white-male dominated workplace over the years (that time at NASA was very well captured in the book and movie “Hidden Figures”): 1. altruistic- it is only fair to individuals who do not fit (look like) our traditional colleagues a chance for success if they meet all the technical job requirements, and 2. Pragmatic- as time goes on, if you keep considering only white males, you will be looking for the best and brightest to be drawn from a smaller and smaller sample of the available workforce, making it statistically less likely to get the best and brightest. That said, I had later trainers that were just awful, but I could always rely on the wonderful four hours that these guys had provided.

      1. But Jim, your last two points, altruism and pragmatism apply only if minority candidates really were being discriminated against on the basis of race even if they had equal technical qualifications for the job. I guess you have to know the history and culture of an organization to know if that’s true. If you say it was true of NASA I believe you. But it would mean that an organization that really did need to hire the best and the brightest in order to launch successful missions was deliberately hiring in a way that ensured it wouldn’t get the best and the brightest. Do high-competence organizations really do that? Shifting demographics of one’s country as a whole is irrelevant if 90% of engineer candidates are still white or Asian men. Even if there are only 1000 white and Asian men left in the country, 90% of your engineers are going to be drawn from that 1000, not from the other 300,000,000, unless everyone else pulls their socks up and does STEM at university instead of grievance studies.

        Even the best-intentioned diversity initiatives say that if you have two candidates who are equal in every respect but one is Black (or black, if you didn’t ever have slavery) and one is white, you hire the Black person by default. “The tie goes to the minority.” But this doesn’t really work.

        First, two people are never really equal — that’s only a theoretical construct. In reality, two people can be made to appear equal or not depending on how you weight each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Second is the later consequences if the hire doesn’t work out. If you fire the white guy because he’s not a good fit after all, he just takes his lumps and his severance and walks out the door. If you fire the Black, gay, or female person, you have a human rights case on your hands both for creating a toxic working environment that prevented them from thriving and also for firing them based on illegal factors. So a rational HR department considers even the truly identically equal Black (or gay or female) candidate to have a lower expected return given the difficulty of firing them once hired, and should avoid hiring them in the first place. And of course if you hire the female candidate you know that in a year or two you will be facing maternity leave and having to replace her temporarily or doing without whatever work she does. Feminists roll their eyes at this but it’s true.

        Some initiatives that say you should create a cut-off of minimal job qualifications and consider everyone who meets the cut-off without further ranking them. Then you hire as many minority candidates as possible — all of them if necessary even if they are in fact all in the bottom third of the people who meet the minimum standard. Then you are saying explicitly that you are not attempting to hire the best and the brightest.

        Finally, in “altruism”, who is the expected beneficiary from altruism displayed as telling a white engineer he is being passed over in favour of a Black person who is “just as good” or “good enough”? The men at the top of 7.5 million pounds of thrust being blasted into space or the Black engineer who gets a job that he wasn’t the best qualified for? Or, it’s easy to be altruistic with other people’s fates. But that’s not what altruism really means.

        1. Perhaps I did not say it well, but the take away was simply self awareness. To be aware of unspoken prejudices that we pick up over our lives. Our laboratory was in southeastern virginia…katherine johnson of hidden figures fame was in an office next door to mine in the 80’s…where public schools minimally desegregated ten years after Brown and only integrated under federal court direction seven years later. Neighborhoods were de facto segregated through the 60’s.

  4. There had been a lot of reports that negotiations about the return of the Elgin marbles to Greece looked like making a breakthrough, but the last I heard was that the Culture Secretary, Michelle Donelan, had made comments rejecting the move. It would take a change in law for the sculptures to be handed back and I’m not sure whether the current parliamentary arithmetic would support that.

  5. “From Barry, a helpful pinniped”

    A helpful Mustelid (otter). It would have been very difficult for a seal to move the cones with its bare “hands”.

    1. That calls for a madrigal from Ryan’s Fancy, a trio of Irish immigrants to Toronto who hit their stride in Newfoundland when they attended Memorial University in St. John’s together.

      Chastity Belt

  6. That is an especially beautiful picture of Szaron today, illustrating why he is one of my favorite internet cats even though he seldom shares his opinions about things.

  7. The British Museum has the Rosetta Stone, and a very good replica of it. Why can’t they make a replica of the Elgin Marbles and return the originals? Very few people would know or be able to tell the difference.

    1. Or make replicas for Greece and secretly keep the originals. That way when Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion or the Taliban or whatever they call themselves these days tries to smash them in Greece, the originals are hiding in plain sight safe and sound in England. Like having a body double.

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