Sunday: Hili dialogue

February 12, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Sunday, February 12, 2023, and National Biscotti Day—but, more important, Darwin Day: the great man was born on this day in 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropsure, England. Have some biscotti and celebrate Darwin’s contributions to biology today! Below we have a special illustration for the day by Mario Zara, who notes:

I have no wildlife photos to send you, but I like to draw and paint, so I’ve made an illustration to celebrate the next Darwin Day. It’s inspired by a famous Darwin quotation. The style resembles perhaps more a medieval bestiary (or gothic “drolerie”) than a scientific illustration. Despite that, you may recognize a (kind of) feline:

You’ll find the quote in the picture. Can you spot the cat?

Here’s Darwin in 1854, five years before he published On the Origin of Species. (Can you give the full name of the book? See here.) He was 45 when the photo was taken, five years away from publishing The Big Book. Later today I’ll post about a new site that has every known photo of the man.

It’s also Super Bowl Sunday (Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Philadelphia Eagles), and therefore Super Chicken Wing Day (beware of “boneless wings,” which aren’t wings at all but pieces of the breast). And it’s Lincoln’s Birthday (Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day in 1809), Autism Sunday, NAACP Day, National Freedom to Marry Day, National Plum Pudding Day (cultural appropriation), Hug Day, Georgia Day, when the first settlers landed in what is now the state in 1733, and the UN-created Red Hand Day, calling attention to child soldiers.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 12 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Unbelievable! Now Canada is invaded by unidentified flying objects, and, at Justin Trudeau’s request, a U.S. plane shot one down over Canadian airspace yesterday afternoon. What the hell is going on?

“I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement he posted on Twitter. He said an American F-22 with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is operated jointly by the United States and Canada, “shot down the object over the Yukon.”

As with the object that President Biden ordered shot down on Friday, officials said they have yet to determine just what was shot down over the Yukon Territory.

Mr. Trudeau said he had spoken with Mr. Biden Saturday afternoon. “Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object,” he said in his Twitter post, adding, “Thank you to NORAD for keeping the watch over North America.”

In a statement, NORAD said that it had “positively identified a high-altitude airborne object over Northern Canada” and declined to discuss specifics.

The U.S. is still looking for the one shot down over Alaskan sea ice two days ago, but the search has been slowed by darkness and freezing temperatures.

*Legal news from reader Ken: it’s about a lawsuit in Texas alleging that the FDA’s approval of an abortion-inducing drug was unlawful and therefore the drug should be banned—not just in Texas, where abortion has become almost entirely banned since Roe v Wade was overturned and abortion left to the states—but everywhere in America. This is one of the most widely-used medications to induce abortion, and medication is used in over 50% of all abortions. If the FDA approval is deemed illegal, the pill thus would hamper abortion everywhere, including in states that have few restrictions on it.

From Ken:

federal lawsuit has been filed in the Northern District of Texas seeking to ban the use of mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication-induced abortions. The case has been assigned to Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — a Trump appointee who obtained his undergraduate degree at Abilene Christian University, formerly served as deputy general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, and is a member of the Federalist Society (the legal group that, during the Trump years, was essentially given the authority to grant the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to federal judicial nominees).

I’m hard-pressed to see how there is a federal cause of action here — which is to say, one grounded in the US constitution or federal law. Any appeal from a ruling by Judge Kacsmaryk in this case will go to the ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (which, as you may recall from a discussion of this case, recently upheld the Second Amendment rights of wife-beaters).
And from the Texas Tribune (link above):

* Over at the Compact site, read about “A black professor trapped in anti-racist hell“. It’s about the Telluride Association’s summer programs for students about to enter their last year in high school. The program gives you six weeks of rigorous educational seminars on specific topics, held at either Cornell University, the University of Michigan, or the University of Maryland. It’s very prestigious and very selective: I was rejected when I applied from my Virginia high school, and I was the class valedictorian. Now, apparently, the summer programs have become completely devoted to antiracist indoctrination of the Kendi-an stripe.  (h/t several readers)

In the wake of the George Floyd protests, a group of black Telluride alumni pressured the association to examine the racism that, they claimed, was baked into the organizational culture. “We have all experienced anti-blackness within the association and through its programs,” their open letter said. The result was a redesign of the summer seminars: Telluride would now offer only “Critical Black Studies” and “Anti-Oppressive Studies” seminars. The former would “seek to focus more specifically on the needs and interests of black students.” The seminar I taught—“Race and the Limits of Law”—would be classed with the latter.

At the Cornell location, students live in the same house while participating in two different seminars. In 2014, participants in the two seminar groups lived their lives together seamlessly outside of the seminar, exploring Ithaca and the Cornell campus, eating and laughing together, and setting up a system to govern their community together. In 2022, however, I was told that the “Critical Black Studies” students would live and learn separately, creating a fully “black space.” My “Anti-Oppressive Studies” students were separated from them. Instead of participating in a summer community of 32 high-school students, my group was to be a community of 12 (that would dwindle to nine by the time of the mutiny).

Furthermore, in the 2022 community, afternoons and evenings would no longer be spent having fun and doing homework. Two college-age students called “factotums” (led by one I will call “Keisha”) were assigned to create anti-racism workshops to fill the afternoons. There were workshops on white supremacy, on privilege, on African independence movements, on the thought and activism of Angela Davis, and more, all of which followed an initial, day-long workshop on “transformative justice.” Students described the workshops as emotionally draining, forcing the high schoolers to confront tough issues and to be challenged in ways they had never been challenged before.

What happened to professor Vincent Lloyd, who appealed for support to the Telluride Association, which didn’t want to interfere, is beyond belief. Read the story if you have time.

*The NYT shows and describes what it considers the 25 most important tweets  (“world changers, they say”) in the history of Twitter. Look at them all:  I’ll show a few and the backstory that the paper gives. It’s a fascinating selection:

The idea of #MeToo, first raised by the activist Tarana Burke, had been around for more than a decade before October 2017. But Alyssa Milano’s tweet, combined with the force of new reporting on Harvey Weinstein, suddenly gave it a broad audience — and #MeToo stories were everywhere. Did they achieve meaningful change, though? We’re still debating that.

Remember this one?

A random P.R. executive tweeted a joke about race, AIDS and Africa before getting on a plane in 2013; the public waited with giddy anticipation for what would befall her once she landed. (She was eventually fired.) Perhaps the definitive Twitter pile-on and cancellation, serving as both preview and cautionary tale.

Janis Krums’s understated 2009 tweet, accompanied by an on-the-scene photo of a sinking US Airways jet, still seems unbelievable. It’s significant not just because it captured a dramatic moment firsthand but also because it was a preview of the ways Twitter would be used for citizen journalism — i.e., real people sharing information, often unverified, about news events — in the years to come.

Well before he was a candidate, Donald Trump harnessed the power of Twitter to direct the conversation and propagate his talking points. One of his go-to subjects — birtherism — contained many of the ingredients (conspiracy theory, dog whistle) that would help propel him to the presidency.
In January 2019 an anonymous Twitter account tweeted a short video that appeared to show white high school students in MAGA gear taunting and mocking a Native American elder. Outrage ensued, and multiple news outlets scrambled to catch up. Then more footage of the encounter emerged that complicated the social media narrative, and conservative media (plus Donald Trump) cried foul. But wait — why was this national news, anyway? Because a video went viral.
As I recall, the kid pictured sued several MSM organizations for defamation and won, as he wasn’t harassing anyone and the students were being harassed by the Black Hebrew Israelites.

From Divy Bill Maher on the spy balloon and, mostly, on the SOTU Address. I didn’t know James Carville got in trouble for calling the shouters like Marjorie Taylor Greene “white trash.” (Another good segment on the “tragedy of the commons” in environmental pollution is here, and another funny one on Matt Damon’s encounters with the Woke Police here.)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej is messing with Hili about Adam Smith:

Hili: Does the invisible hand use sign language?
A: Ask it.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy niewidzialna ręka posługuje się językiem migowym?
Ja: Zapytaj ją.


From Merilee, a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon:

From Divy:

Found on Facebook:

God remains silent, but Titania has tweeted!

From Ricky Gervais, who loves his cat, a moggy called Pickle:

From Barry. I couldn’t find the ichthyosaur tweet on @JBradley119 account, although the man does appear to be a conservative and hundreds of his tweets seem to have been eliminated.

From Amy: another tweet showing Jerry the Cat, who lives at Britain’s de Havilland Aircraft Museum:

From the Auschwitz Museum: Another Czech Jew who died in Auschwitz. She was 39.

Tweets from the striking Professor Cobb. First, another esoteric but fascinating fact about biology. Chitons are marine molluscs, and the “teeth” are on its radula.

Matthew thought that ducks were herbivores until he saw this tweet, but I informed him that they love earthworms and often try to eat small fish in Botany Pond. Note how fast this call duck eats!

Matthew says this:  “The queen is carry a mealybug with her on her nuptial flight – this is an obligate symbiosis. More details here.”

35 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. Re: that tweet about the maga youth and the Native American elder:
    There is on YouTube a Forbes-sponsored panel discussion of defamation and the media, chaired by Ron DeSantis. It’s mostly about the difficulty in bringing a defamation suit. One of the participants is the youth, then sixteen, now twenty, who was attacked in the media. Such a relief to hear everyone acting like adults, even if one doesn’t agree with everything they say. It’s worth watching.

  2. On this day:
    1404 – The Italian professor Galeazzo di Santa Sophie performed the first post-mortem autopsy for the purposes of teaching and demonstration at the Heiligen–Geist Spital in Vienna.

    1502 – Isabella I issues an edict outlawing Islam in the Crown of Castile, forcing virtually all her Muslim subjects to convert to Christianity.

    1689 – The Convention Parliament declares that the flight to France in 1688 by James II, the last Roman Catholic British monarch, constitutes an abdication.

    1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

    1924 – George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” received its premiere in a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music”, in Aeolian Hall, New York, by Paul Whiteman and his band, with Gershwin playing the piano.

    1946 – African American United States Army veteran Isaac Woodard is severely beaten by a South Carolina police officer to the point where he loses his vision in both eyes. The incident later galvanizes the civil rights movement and partially inspires Orson Welles’ film Touch of Evil.

    1993 – Two-year-old James Bulger is abducted from New Strand Shopping Centre by two ten-year-old boys, who later torture and murder him.

    1994 – Four thieves break into the National Gallery of Norway and steal Edvard Munch’s iconic painting The Scream.

    1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is acquitted by the United States Senate in his impeachment trial.

    2001 – NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touches down in the “saddle” region of 433 Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.

    2002 – The trial of Slobodan Milošević, the former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, begins at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. He dies four years later before its conclusion.

    1809 – Charles Darwin, English geologist and theorist (d. 1882).

    1809 – Abraham Lincoln, American lawyer and statesman, 16th President of the United States (d. 1865).

    1870 – Marie Lloyd, English actress and singer (d. 1922).

    1881 – Anna Pavlova, Russian-English ballerina and actress (d. 1931).

    1923 – Franco Zeffirelli, Italian director, producer, and politician (d. 2019).

    1939 – Ray Manzarek, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player, and producer (d. 2013).

    1948 – Nicholas Soames, English politician, Minister of State for the Armed Forces. [Grandson of Winston Churchill. One of his lovers compared sex with Soames to having “a large wardrobe fall on top of you with the key still in the lock”. Apologies for the mental image!]

    1950 – Steve Hackett, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer.

    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown:
    1554 – Lady Jane Grey, de facto monarch of England and Ireland for nine days (b. 1537; executed).

    1804 – Immanuel Kant, German anthropologist, philosopher, and academic (b. 1724).

    1929 – Lillie Langtry, English singer and actress (b. 1853).

    1979 – Jean Renoir, French actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1894).

    2014 – Sid Caesar, American actor and comedian (b. 1922).

    2015 – Steve Strange, Welsh singer (b. 1959).

    2019 – Gordon Banks, English footballer (b. 1937).

    2022 – Ivan Reitman, Slovak-Canadian actor, director, and producer (b. 1946).

  3. I saw the “A black professor in anti-racist hell” below the line of Friday’s “Is academia really disintegrating?” thread here at WEIT. Really dispiriting.

  4. There were few comments on jerry’s penultimate post yesterday…people in u.s. out saturday afternoon shopping for super bowl chips n’ dip? But i do want to recommend that readers go back to that post on understanding the new politics of race
    and, in particular use today to take a look at both the 75-minute video of a panel discussion and john mcwhorter’s 20 minute video. Both links are in his post. The panel introduced me to new people and a couple of new ideas.

    And also wanted to comment on jez’s mention of the 2001 landing of the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft on an asteroid: WOW. That was some incredible old school engineering

  5. The anti-mifepristone suit was specifically filed in Amarillo because they knew they would get Kacsmaryk as the judge. Kacsmaryk previously worked at the far-right First Liberty Institute and fought against equal rights, contraception, and abortion. It’s hard to see how this lawsuit could move forward since the plaintiffs are anti-abortion doctors with no standing to sue. They cannot question the years of data that show the drug is safe to use. Unfortunately, given the state of the country, hyper-partisan judges, and the legal contortions now in vogue to overturn precedents, this legal strategy could work for the conservatives.

      1. Under some circumstances it is inappropriate, Mark, but for federal issues that apply in more than one federal district, lawyers have some discretion regarding where to file an original complaint.

        You may recall that Donald Trump’s lawyers got away — for a while, at least — with forum shopping his challenge to the search and seizure at Mar-a-Lago to Trump-appointed federal district judge Aileen Cannon, by styling their objections as an original complaint and filing it 60 miles up the road from Trump’s resort, in the Southern District of Florida’s Ft. Pierce satellite division, where Cannon is the only resident federal district judge. That was an example of “judge-shopping” at its most egregious.

        Forum-shopping is illegal where a judge disposes of a case on the merits, and the losing party tries to re-file an identical claim in another court. (That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’ll do for present purposes.)

        1. Thanks for the clarification, Ken. I hope Garland is keeping an eye on these shenanigans. (Assuming that it’s the Federal AG who can actually do something about it.)

  6. Beautiful painting. Thank you Mario Zara. The Darwin quotation from the last sentence of the Origin is beautiful and inspiring. It wraps in a bow the culmination of the Enlightenment—nature running along on its own power with no need for a creator meddling in the works.

  7. “Can you give the full name of the book?”

    Ah yes – the question that someone asked Richard Dawkins – the purpose being, perhaps, an attempt to discredit Dawkins. Or maybe it was “just asking questions”. Either way, it made me review the title.

    1. For some reason, creationists think any evidence of a flood anywhere proves the story of Noah. As a teenager, I saw a documentary on Noah that said that archaeologists digging up a civilization in the Near East reached a thick layer of mud, kept digging, and then found relics of an earlier civilization under it. QED! I thought “That shows there was a flood. It doesn’t show that there was a worldwide flood, or that someone built an ark.” The doc was one of several made by the Mormon church and released around the same time. Others were “Beyond and Back” (evidence for the afterlife) and “In Search of Historic Jesus.” These were a big thing for a while.

  8. I think the Justine Sacco tweet was so obviously sarcastic, can’t believe she was sacked for that.
    And I’m sending this from a country with one of the highest AIDS prevalences in the world. I think only Lesotho beats us there.

    1. Yes, Sacco’s tweet was gleefully misinterpreted by a baying mob. There’s an interesting piece about her (and social media shaming) from 2015 by Jon Ronson here:

      I think she was also one of the examples Ronson used in his book So You’ve Been Publicly.Shamed.

  9. Yeah, how could Ichthyosaurs possibly drown in the ‘deluge’? Good question. Maybe to do with salinity? These creationist are so hermetically ignorant. Never mind they -the Ichthyosaurs- went extinct dozens of millions of years before humans appeared. I think ‘ignorant’ is the operative term.

  10. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America.”

    I think I have the following facts straight:

    – NORAD was established in 1958
    – Yesterday was the first time NORAD has downed anything over Canadian airspace
    – Both US and Canadian aircraft were sent, but the US F-22 got there first [The Canadian pilots had to take off their skates first. 😉 ]
    – The first balloon that was shot down last Saturday also moved over both Canadian and US airspace.

    1. Canada’s CF-188 fighters, essentially the equivalent of the legacy F/A-18A formerly used by the US Navy but ours aren’t carrier-capable—they are not anything like the current Super Hornets—have a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, state of the art for the early 1980s. If the balloon was higher than that, they simply couldn’t reach it. Note that in the first shootdown off South Carolina, the F-22 fighter climbed to 58,000 feet, and still fired its missile upward to reach the balloon. These things are difficult to take down with aircraft and the cost of interception is enormous. If Canada has to scramble to meet more than a few of these balloon it will exhaust the defence budget in fuel and flight-time maintenance alone. Even if this balloon was lower, Canada was likely saying to it’s NORAD partner, “We’ll fly along with you but please don’t ask us to shoot a $300,000 (US dollars) Sidewinder at it. Also, you Americans can afford to antagonize China. We daren’t.)”

  11. Mallard are omnivorous and the literature records them eating a wide range of different plant and animal foods in the wild. Diet varies with age (chicks initially eating mainly animal food and switching to more plant based food as they get older), time of year, habitat and location. There are of course many other duck species and these show a wide range of dietary behaviour with omnivores, herbivores, piscivores (e.g. goosanders and mergansers), mollusc specialists (eg eiders) and specialists on aquatic insect larvae (e.g torrent ducks).

Leave a Reply