Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 11, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Saturday, March 11, 2023, National “Eat Your Noodles” Day, with quotation marks that make the suggested ingestion uninterpretable.

It’s also National Oatmeal Nut Waffles Day, Johnny Appleseed Day (it’s not clear why), Debunking Day, World Plumbing Day, Worship of Tools Day, and, in Lesotho, Moshoeshoe Day.

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

Da Nooz:

*How can this be? According to the NYT, Joe Biden has approved a giant project to drill for oil in the Alaska wilderness. I am gobsmacked!

In one of the most consequential climate decisions of his administration, President Biden is planning to greenlight an enormous $8 billion oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Alaska lawmakers and oil executives have put intense pressure on the White House to approve the project, citing President Biden’s own calls for the industry to increase production amid volatile gas prices stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

But the proposal to drill for oil has also galvanized young voters and climate activists, many of whom helped elect Mr. Biden and who would view the decision as a betrayal of the president’s promise that he would pivot the nation away from fossil fuels.

The approval of the largest proposed oil project in the country would mark a turning point in the administration’s approach to fossil fuel development. The courts and Congress have forced Mr. Biden to back away from his campaign pledge of “no more drilling on federal lands, period” and sign off on some limited oil and gas leases. The Willow project would be one of the few oil developments that Mr. Biden has approved freely, without a court or a congressional mandate.

. . .ConocoPhillips intends to build the Willow project inside the National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million-acre area that is 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The reserve, which has no roads, is the country’s largest single expanse of pristine land.

The project will pump out 600 million barrels of oil in the next three decades, and the article notes that “Burning that oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, a federal review found.”

Okay, Mr. Biden, go on national television and justify that decision! Why didn’t you start building nuclear power plants instead.  If you have something to say about this, you can contact Biden here (scroll down to whom your email should go). I already have. I’ve put my letter below the fold in case I get some kind of boilerplate reply.

*Speaking of masks, there’s suddenly a big dissing of mask-wearing due to the Cochrane Report that mask-wearing was ineffective. What hasn’t been publicized is the fact that Cochrane has corrected this misconception. As Zeynep Tufekci writes in today’s NYT:

Now the organization, Cochrane, says that the way it summarized the review was unclear and imprecise, and that the way some people interpreted it was wrong.

“Many commentators have claimed that a recently updated Cochrane review shows that ‘masks don’t work,’ which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation,” Karla Soares-Weiser, the editor in chief of the Cochrane Library, said in a statement.

“The review examined whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses,” Soares-Weiser said, adding, “Given the limitations in the primary evidence, the review is not able to address the question of whether mask wearing itself reduces people’s risk of contracting or spreading respiratory viruses.”

She said that “this wording was open to misinterpretation, for which we apologize,” and that Cochrane would revise the summary.

Soares-Weiser also said, though, that one of the lead authors of the review even more seriously misinterpreted its finding on masks by saying in an interview that it proved “there is just no evidence that they make any difference.” In fact, Soares-Weiser said, “that statement is not an accurate representation of what the review found.”

You can read about the problems with the Cochrane study, including the fact that  the large majority of studies cited didn’t look at the effects of wearing masks versus not wearing them when there was an appreciable chance of encountering the virus.  As for me, I’ll continue to wear KN95 masks if I’m in a crowd, but eschew them otherwise.

*In his column this week, Andrew Sullivan has a topic of interest to many of us: “The eradication of an ‘ism’: the creeping illiberalism of the anti-woke Right“.  His starting point is a speech at CPAC by Michael Knowles implying that “transgenderism” should be rooted out.  Sullivan (and I agree) says this is illiberal and insupportable:

In general, it’s a very good rule to ignore anyone who says there is no middle way on a contentious question. That goes for Ibram X Kendi as well as Knowles. If their first instinct is to reject complexity, they’re not actually interested in humanity as it is. Christina Buttons, who covered gender pediatrics for the Daily Wire until Knowles’ speech, gets it right:

On this issue it is extremely important to clearly distinguish between people and ideas so as not to feed into Left-wing manufactured hysteria about impending genocides. The political Right often rails against “identity politics” and group labels yet many fail to distinguish between transgender people and transgender activists. … There is a critical distinction between speaking truth and being tactless, between sticking to the facts and sticking it to the libs.

Threading this needle in this cultural context is not easy. The far right wants to make this a war against transgender people; and so does the far left. Protecting vulnerable dysphoric kids from potential harm is far more complicated. But I think it’s worth reiterating a simple guiding principle here.

The word “eradicate” — meaning “tear up from the roots” — is something that should never be done to any “ism” in a free society, however vile its effects. The goal should always be to interrogate, probe, disprove, debunk or explain — but never “eradicate.” We need resilient error for truth to exist; we need bad ideas to distinguish good ones; and there is almost always some kernel of truth lurking even in the worst lie.

And that is why the intensifying push to “ban” ideas like CRT, or “ban” performances by drag queens in front of children, or “ban” certain concepts from being taught in universities is a sign of a flagging faith in liberal democracy, rather than a sign of its renewal.

. . .There are ways to fight back without falling into this trap. Legislatures can and should end affirmative action (including legacy preferences) — the original toxin behind today’s neo-racism; they can abolish mandatory DEI statements by public school professors as a condition for employment; they can fire all the countless DEI bureaucrats now proliferating like carpenter ants across public education; they can fund and create institutes within existing colleges to ensure that students have some access to ideas outside far-left orthodoxies. And if corporations are imposing systemic race discrimination as a way to become more “diverse,” sue them under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Always open up; try never to shut down. Don’t ban; offer more.

*Over at The Free Press, Nellie Bowles has returned with her patented snarky look at the week’s news, this week called “TGIF: I hate him passionately.” Three excerpts:

→  Portland loses its last Walmart: This week Walmart announced that, as retail theft continues, they will close their last two Portland locations, which employ about 600 people. Shoplifting in the city has been out of control for years now. But, you see, it’s a mindset problem: there’s no theft if there’s no private property. And in Portland, that dream is close to becoming a reality. For baby wipes and chicken thighs, Portland residents should reach out to their leadership, Rose City Antifa, the oldest and most effective anti-fascist group in America.

→ Ice cream bed of lies: The free love, no-shoes, no-shirt, no-problem ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was named in a New York Times investigation into companies that use migrant child labor. Now, B and J are facing a class action suit from consumers who say they wouldn’t have bought the pint if they’d known it was put together by migrant children with unethically sourced milk. I’ll miss when Ben & Jerry’s had the moral high ground.

→ There’s never good news on the abortion debate: Speaking of issues where moderates have no place, South Carolina lawmakers are looking to employ the death penalty for women who get an abortion—and the bill offers no exceptions for the health of the woman, rape, or fetal anomaly (women would have to argue in court that it was self-defense). Also this week, five women are suing Texas, saying they were denied abortions even when the pregnancy endangered their lives, and they are asking that the law be made clearer. Basically, doctors in Texas are so nervous about being charged with murder in these situations that they now err on the side of waiting till a woman is truly at death’s door before performing the abortion.

*According to Inside Higher Education, a DEI director at California’s De Anza community college was ousted because she questioned the orthodoxy permeating her field. (h/t Wayne)

Tabia Lee, faculty director for a California college’s Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, claims that she was fired because “she questioned antiracist ‘orthodoxy,’ objected to the college’s land acknowledgments for an Indigenous tribe, tried to bring a ‘Jewish inclusion’ event to campus, declined to join a “socialist network,” refused to use the gender-neutral terms ‘Latinx’ and ‘Filipinx,’ inquired why the word ‘Black’ was capitalized but not ‘white,’ and allegedly disrespected a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lee also happens to be black.

Tabia Lee also wrote, in a narrative explaining her situation, that “I no longer participate in gender pronouns because I find that the same toxic ideologies around race ideologies are now being advanced under gender ideologies; I also find that the constant obsession with pronouns and declaration of pronouns causes deep discomfort for individuals who identify as gender fluid or who struggle with gender dysphoria.”

. . . She said an employee in her office accused her of “white speaking,” “whitesplaining” and supporting white supremacy.

She was, in other words, fired for antiwokeness, which cannot be tolerated in a DEI director (although theoretically it could be). Her only attitude that seems out of line with the others is the absolute refusal to use gender pronouns, which to me seems uncivil. Asking for a “Jewish inclusion” event is of course insupportable despite the ubiquitous presence of anti-Semitism on American campuses.

*If you’re a cinema buff, have a look at the WaPo’s list of movies that were nominated for the “best picture” Oscar but failed to win, despite the paper thinking they should have. It’s preceded but this:

UPDATED on March 9, 2023: We published this fine quarrel in 2016, but they just keep on handing out Oscars to the wrong movies, so we have updated it for your further education.

I’ll give just a few of the most egregious missteps. Note that in an appreciable number of years, the authors’ choices actually matched the winner.

1979.  Best Picture winner: Kramer vs. Kramer; the actual best picture: Apocalypse Now

1981.  They’re WRONG here. Best Picture winner: Chariots of Firel; the actual best picture: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

1985. Best Picture winner: Out of Africa; the actual best picture: Back to the Future.

1990. Best Picture winner: Dances With Wolves; the actual best picture: Goodfellas.

1994. Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump; theactual best picture: Pulp Fiction.

2005. Best Picture winner: Crash; the actual best picture: Brokeback Mountain

It goes on. But I have to question the decisions, as authors Dan Zak and Amy Argetsinger chose as last year’s Best Picture “Top Gun: Maverick.” Were they HIGH?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili and Szaron are birdwatching (Szaron leapt on my chest in the middle of the night; it jolted me awake.)

Szaron: I have to check what kind of bird that is.
Hili: Don’t bother, it will escape anyhow.
In Polish:
Szaron: Muszę sprawdzić co to za ptaszek.
Hili: Nie warto i tak ucieknie.


From Malcolm, a reverse waterfall:

A rare reverse waterfall was captured in Ivins, Utah, last week as strong winds ripped across the state. The drone footage shows powerful gusts blowing the waterfall’s stream back up a steep cliff.

My beloved Philomena, here appearing as Diane Morgan arguing against cruelty to farm animals. See more here (h/t: Dom)


From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:


Both God and Titania have pretty much given up posting, the former on Mastodon and the latter on Twitter. Pity!

From Masih, who will not stop tweeting. The Google translation:

Harassment of an “Amer Be Marouf” in a subway car in Tehran for female students led to their standing up and throwing him out of the subway car with the slogan “Death to Khamenei”. Khamenei has the right to be angry with this young and brave generation. Students who are determined to break the chains of oppression and humiliation that the rulers like on their hands and feet. Six months of detention, torture and poisoning, not only did not intimidate the students, but made them bolder and more determined to continue on their way. These are generation #زن_زندگى_آزادى‌ .

And the internet suggests that an Amer Be Marouf is one who enforces spiritual dictates on the body: in the case, the other women’s refusal to wear hijabs:

Amar bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar’ is a phrase widely misinterpreted. This statement was made for the Qalb (spiritual heart) and the Nafs. People have applied this to the body: they think it means to force people to do good and to forcibly stop people from doing bad.

Gravelinspector says, “No further comment necessary,” but I want to know what happened:

From Simon; I suspect I’ve posted this one before. Sound on:

From Luana: a rainbow “progress shark”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a mass parachute jump, and one well choreographed:

Would you walk this Swiss path?

Matthew is still besieged! (New tweet is the last one.)

Click “continue reading” to see my letter to Biden and his boilerplate “reply”. If you want to weigh in, send your own to the link here.

Dear President Biden,

As a biologist at the University of Chicago, I object strongly to your decision to expand oil drilling into a pristine wilderness in Alaska. This decision is contrary to all your promises about fighting climate change and preserving the environment. Why don’t you build nuclear power plants instead?

I voted for you in the last election, but although I remain a Democrat, I doubt I could support you in the next Democratic primary.

Jerry Coyne

And I already got the boilerplate response:


25 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. re: Cochrane Report— The other year, when we were in required masking time, I had a student that consistently refused to wear one. The admin was no help (a couple of them are strongly, politically opposed to reality and were the worst offenders in violating the policy). I was very surprised when I didn’t hear a thing after I got so fed up with the infant-of-majority-age that when he said “masks don’t work”, I replied “Like many things, they only work if you wear them. Just ask your father”, being pretty much what the report said.

  2. On this day:
    1702 – The Daily Courant, England’s first national daily newspaper, is published for the first time.

    1708 – Queen Anne withholds Royal Assent from the Scottish Militia Bill, the last time a British monarch vetoes legislation.

    1845 – Flagstaff War: Unhappy with translational differences regarding the Treaty of Waitangi, chiefs Hone Heke, Kawiti and Māori tribe members chop down the British flagpole for a fourth time and drive settlers out of Kororareka, New Zealand.

    1864 – The Great Sheffield Flood kills 238 people in Sheffield, England.

    1941 – World War II: United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act into law, allowing American-built war supplies to be shipped to the Allies on loan.

    1945 – World War II: The Imperial Japanese Navy attempts a large-scale kamikaze attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Ulithi atoll in Operation Tan No. 2.

    1946 – Rudolf Höss, the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, is captured by British troops.

    1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev is elected to the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, making Gorbachev the USSR’s de facto, and last, head of state.

    2003 – The International Criminal Court holds its inaugural session in The Hague.

    2004 – Madrid train bombings: Simultaneous explosions on rush hour trains in Madrid, Spain kill 191 people.

    2009 – Winnenden school shooting: Sixteen are killed and 11 are injured before recent graduate Tim Kretschmer shoots and kills himself, leading to tightened weapons restrictions in Germany. [The US is an outlier in refusing to learn lessons from these tragedies.]

    2011 – An earthquake measuring 9.0 in magnitude strikes 130 km (81 mi) east of Sendai, Japan, triggering a tsunami killing thousands of people. This event also triggered the second largest nuclear accident in history, and one of only two events to be classified as a Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

    2020 – The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the COVID-19 virus epidemic a pandemic.

    2021 – US President Joe Biden signs the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law.

    1885 – Malcolm Campbell, English race car driver (d. 1948).

    1887 – Raoul Walsh, American actor and director (d. 1980).

    1916 – Harold Wilson, English academic and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1995).

    1931 – Rupert Murdoch, Australian-American businessman and media magnate.

    1936 – Antonin Scalia, American lawyer and jurist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (d. 2016).

    1952 – Douglas Adams, English author and playwright (d. 2001). [There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.]

    1955 – Nina Hagen, German singer-songwriter.

    1957 – Qasem Soleimani, Former Iranian commander of the Quds Force (d. 2020). [Definitely not a hoopy frood, I suspect.]

    1993 – Jodie Comer, British actress.

    Took their final curtain call:
    1952 – Pierre Renoir, French actor and director (b. 1885).

    1955 – Alexander Fleming, Scottish biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1881).

    1969 – John Wyndham, English author (b. 1903).

    1986 – Sonny Terry, American singer and harmonica player (b. 1911).

    2006 – Slobodan Milošević, Serbian lawyer and politician, 3rd President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (b. 1941).

    2018 – Ken Dodd, English comedian and singer (b. 1927). [Dad was in panto with him when I was born.]

  3. Well I can’t read the NYT article, so all I can do here is to opine that masks should help prevent the spread provided there are conditions that everyone sticks to.
    1. Quality of the masks. 95-94% filtration.
    2. Fit. Make them tight.
    3. Social distancing and short duration. I expect even the best masking will fail if people are at close proximity for extended duration.

    This is why I wear KN95 masks (a Korean brand), which comes in different sizes and you can adjust the tension to make ’em tight fitting. But I am an odd-ball around the department now since most people are not masked.

    1. 2. Fit. Make them tight.

      That is something that never got, or gets, stressed enough. If there is a gap around the mask, then that is the route that most of the airflow will take, completely negating the filtration effect of the mask material.
      Our BA training (Breathing Apparatus, specifically for use in “one inhalation is knock-down, swiftly followed by death” toxic gas leaks) required the mask to fit closely enough that it would adhere to your face without the “spider” that goes over the back of your head fitted. The masks provided for general public use were never to that quality.
      An unavoidable corollary : shave every day if you have any visible facial hair. Don’t like it? Leave the site, now ; you’ll never be allowed back to the installation, oil company, and quite likely country. If that means you lose your job, well that was your choice, and it was made clear to you in your induction to the site.
      Nobody in the West took masking sufficiently seriously. In general, the Asian countries learned the lesson much better than the West in the MERS epidemic a decade and a half ago.

      1. Annual training and periodic fit tests in the non-academic side of my life. Trying to explain how masks work to some of the freedom fighters in my area was breath wasted. I am one of maybe half a dozen at my academic site that masks every day, all day (large number of people, closely packed, is worst case). Shopping as well. Only place I don’t need to mask up is the other job. Ventilation is takes VERY seriously, so if a breather isn’t needed for chemical protection, there is no particular need. (CO2 monitors generally don’t go more than about 50ppm above unoccupied levels)

    2. Anecdotally, I didn’t get any form of sickness for the two years I wore a KN95 in public. Nor did my wife, brother, or any of my friends (all wore masks in public). My parents, who didn’t wear a mask (live in Wyoming where there were no mandates + Trumpers) both got Covid; mom once, dad twice. I stopped wearing a mask last fall and got a respiratory infection in December.

  4. Uranium is not fully substitutable for oil. Coal maybe, except for iron smelting, but not oil. President Biden presumably knows, or has been instructed, that nuclear power plants can’t run the diesel trucks and heavy earth-moving equipment that will be needed to build all those windmills and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. Or to build nuclear power plants, for that matter. High gasoline prices are politically toxic and hard on blue-collar voters who can’t run out and buy a Tesla, especially as weather-dependent generation raises the retail price of electricity, hitting them from both directions. You can’t make fertilizer and plastics and essential industrial chemicals from uranium. And, yes, this is snark, but nuclear power plants (nor windmills) can’t make the aviation fuel needed to fly private jets to climate conferences…or penny-conscious pensioners flying coach to their winter retirement communities in Florida.

    I suspect most science geeks our age are keen on nuclear. I’m certainly glad now that Ontario had a nuclear champion in our Premier Bill Davis. But back then we thought we were running out of oil and gas. Sparing it from electricity generation seemed a no-brainer when nuclear was going to make electricity too cheap to meter. And coal always was dirty and smoggy. Good riddance if you can. But today there is so much gas that there is no longer any compelling reason to build more nukes unless the cost can be cut in half. What’s Vogtle up to now? 30 billion? Ontario’s future is gas. We might build more nuclear capacity—a small modular reactor has just started construction in a more favourable legal and regulatory environment than you are burdened with, but we don’t really really need to. And we will still be critically dependent on oil for everything else.

    President Biden is right to approve drilling for oil in Alaska. It will be a favourable signal for the future if the oil companies are willing to invest in the long term viability of the project.

    DIsclosure: I am invested through my modest retirement portfolio in oil and gas stocks, some of which also operate pipelines. The Canada Pension Plan also invests in these companies.

    1. There are so many uncountable numbers of people whistling in the dark that you can’t understand them (none of them make sense anyway so don’t bother). Check out the updated Limits to Growth, the IPCC, Potsdam center, William Rees, Greta Thunberg, check out the biases of those who mock them and you might get a clearer idea of the real global environmental situation and all its costs, ecological, social and economic. Global industrial capitalism is in the final throes and anyone who ignores the warnings (not the verbal ones but actual physical manifestations of ecosystem and climate collapse) will benefit only from having enough company: being stuck on a depauperate planet with lots of people who also denied reality. Try reading things that don’t arise from your confirmation bias or political ideology or your stock portfolio. We are an inch from the precipice but will give you one more chance to prove this is false: please provide it here on this blog. No opinions please, just well sourced facts.

      1. Climate change is not really part of the appetite of this blog, from what I can tell, Lorna. I was responding narrowly to Jerry’s criticism of President Biden’s approval of oil drilling in Alaska. I suggest you direct your concerns about the broader issue of climate to the leaders of and consumers in China, India, and Africa. It is there that the fight will be won or lost.

        I remain confident that global economic freedom, sometimes called capitalism, will continue to be the best way for countries to feed their people and bring them out of poverty. When the world says it wants to stop burning oil and coal, then I will believe it has changed its mind. The energy companies are betting that it won’t.

        On the bright side, oil from Alaska will, all else being equal and for as long as it lasts, make it harder for us to sell bitumen from the tar sands.

  5. ” Johnny Appleseed Day (it’s not clear why)”

    This seems to imply that it’s self evident why it is ‘eat your noodles day’, ‘world plumbing day’ and all the rest. To me, the reasons behind all of them are equally baffling.

    1. Mr. Appleseed’s death is believed by some accounts to be on this day, says the link, which is as clear a reason as any to give him today. He did make a genuine and lasting contribution to agriculture in pioneer America and the eccentricities we learned about in school seem to have been accurate. I’m sure he inspired the later genre of traveling-salesman jokes, including Steve Goodman’s immortal, “Death of a Salesman.”

  6. I had to laugh at the “sweat tea” photo. When I was in the third grade, I liked a little girl who lived nearby. I wrote a poem for her telling her how “sweat” she was. She was smart enough to notice the misspelling.

    1. I don’t remember where I saw it, but a recent study showed that people who listed their preferred pronouns on their job applications were less likely to be interviewed for the jobs.

  7. Ben & Jerry’s has been owned since 2000 by Unilever. So “[t]he free love, no-shoes, no-shirt, no-problem ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s” is none of that, and hasn’t been for some time. Politics before facts.

    1. But on the other hand, B&J sold the company for well over $300 million to them, and didn’t really make any stipulations on how their company brand could be used in the future. They’re classic “champagne socialists,” thinking that giving money to Bernie Sanders’s campaign and making the occasional progressive pronouncement makes them somehow not part of the 0.000000001% that has literally hundreds of millions of dollars and doesn’t do anything significant for humanity.

  8. 1981. They’re WRONG here. Best Picture winner: Chariots of Firel; the actual best picture: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    I watched RotLA last year with my parents who had never seen it before. They thought it was rubbish, and I had to agree with them. The dialogue, in particular, was absolutely dire. My memory was of a vastly better film.

  9. Thorium for nuclear. Oil for plastics and other petrochemicals. Use up their oil first and save ours.

  10. I would not use that hiking path in Switzerland even if I was harnessed onto the hand railing; I don’t like heights so I wouldn’t enjoy it. I don’t think anyone would install a path like that in the US in fear of being sued after an inevitable accident. Europe isn’t litigious like America.

      1. I stand corrected, thanks for the link. It’s probably very safe if you do it with the proper gear and expertise.

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