Friday: Hili dialogue

April 7, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s the work week’s fundament, April 7, 2023, and National Coffee Cake Day, a day to have dessert for breakfast. The only thing better is pie or a huge, warm, cinnamon roll.

I’m headed off for Paris for nine days on Monday, and if all goes well, I’ll post a goodly amount of travel and food photos (all restaurant reservations are made). More intellectual posts may be delayed until my return.

It’s also Good Friday, International Beaver Day, Metric System DayNational Walk to Work Day (I did!), National Beer Day, the day “the Cullen–Harrison Act came into force after having been signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933, which led to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment and the end of Prohibition, and, finally, World Health Day.

Here’s a news report on the end of Prohibition. Imagine: no legal booze for 13 years!

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the April 7 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*As we all know now, the U.S.’s precipitous evacuation from Afghanistan was a mistake, costing many lives and endangering many more. So far I don’t think that the Biden administration has admitted this, but it has now, though burying the admission in a related document.

The United States on Thursday acknowledged that the government should have started evacuations from Afghanistan earlier at the end of the war in 2021, and said the government has changed policies to carry out such evacuations sooner when security conditions worsen.

That finding was tucked inside a 12-page summary of the government’s review of the August 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which led to the swift collapse of the Afghan government. As U.S. officials rushed to evacuate people from Kabul’s international airport, an Islamic State suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed as many as 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

“Clearly we didn’t get things right here with Afghanistan with how fast the Taliban was moving across the country,” said John Kirby, a White House spokesman, who fielded questions from reporters for more than an hour about the government’s review.

The summary does not directly say that officials made mistakes as they discussed evacuating the country and assessing how much time that would take, but in two places, the document says that the government has changed its policies and will prioritize swift evacuations.

“We now prioritize earlier evacuations when faced with a degrading security situation,” the administration said in the summary. “We did so in both Ethiopia and Ukraine,” referring to continuing conflicts in the countries.

But the document, produced by the National Security Council, put a lot of the blame on Trump’s doorstep:

The summary heavily lays blame on actions taken by former President Donald J. Trump, beginning with his deal with the Taliban to withdraw American troops by the spring of 2021 and his later failure to share relevant transition materials with his successor’s team.

Give me an administration and a President who will admit a mistake when they make one. Even scientists, who should do this, are loath to admit error, but it’s even rarer in politicians.

*Yesterday the Supreme Court refused to immediately reinstate a West Virginia transgender-ban-in-sports law that had been put on hold by an appellate court:

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to immediately reinstate a West Virginia law barring transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams from middle school through college.

The 2021 law was challenged by 12-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, who wants to remain on her middle school girls’ track team. It has largely been on hold since its passage, and an appeals court is reviewing its constitutionality. The law defines eligibility for certain sex-specific teams to “be based solely on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

Pepper-Jackson’s case was the court’s first examination of restrictions on transgender athletes, and came on an emergency application from the state. Thursday’s action means the lower court’s order remains in place while the legal battles continue, but is not a decision on the merits of the case.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have granted West Virginia’s request to allow the law be implemented.

West Virginia, backed by Republican attorneys general in 21 states, asked the Supreme Court to allow the athletic law to take effect, saying it is urgently needed to protect female athletes from players classified as male at birth who would otherwise have an advantage.

Under the law, anyone can compete on male and coed teams, but only those designated as female at birth can play on girls’ teams.

. . . Becky, who has presented as a girl since fourth grade and whose name has been legally changed, is the only transgender athlete in the state known to be affected. She receives puberty-delaying treatment and estrogen hormone therapy, and has not gone through puberty, according to her brief.

Since the plaintiff hasn’t gone through puberty, there’s no immediate danger of her outcopeting biological women, but this is a general law that applies to everyone. Until we know the conditions under which transgender women have a level athletic playing field against biological women, I don’t think they should be able to compete with them—with the possible exception of girls like Becky who haven’t yet reaped the athletic advantages of male puberty. Ultimately, this will be decided by the Supreme Court, and if they overturn the law, it would be a severe blow to women’s sports.

*Pamela Paul’s latest NYT column is called “Trump’s indictment is karmic justice, regardless of the verdict,” and its thesis is that the indictment FINALLY tells all America what kind of sleazeball Trump really is. But all America knew about it already, and half didn’t care!

But for the moment, let’s appreciate the karmic justice of these particular charges — no matter the outcome. Falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to a porn star, brings us full circle to the sleaziness we knew about well before Trump ever set foot in office. In the indictment’s focus on Trump’s financial malfeasance and his flagrant misogyny, the charges recall two pivotal events that took place before his election: his failure to disclose his tax returns and the contemptuous behavior revealed in the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Both told us everything we could have expected from a Trump presidency. Both should have stopped Trump from becoming president. And the fact that they didn’t — that roughly half of American voters were willing to overlook Trump’s moral failings in the service of politics — shows why the country is still so intractably polarized. But neither side can claim it didn’t know exactly the kind of person who was elected in the first place.

That many Americans nonetheless did take the prospect seriously seemed bound to be undone by those two pre-election events. First, Trump’s refusal to release his tax records was a departure from years of accepted practice. If he had nothing to hide, he would have shared his returns. If he had been telling the truth, he wouldn’t have repeatedly said he intended to share his returns. And if he couldn’t abide by this seemingly innocuous precedent, we knew he would not follow others. And that’s what we got: the blatant graft that marked his term in office, whether it was his rampant financial conflicts of interest, his frequent self-dealings and misuse of the Trump International Hotel and other properties or the taxpayer-funded excesses and shady profit-seeking by members of his extended family.

The second event was the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, which revealed a man with such disdain for women that he would respect neither their humanity nor their bodily autonomy. To anyone paying attention, Trump’s vocal contempt for women had been on display in New York and on “The Howard Stern Show” for decades. But “Access Hollywood” made it plain to everyone, immediately before the election, exactly what kind of man we were getting: one who would callously separate mothers from their children at the border and deliberately appoint people to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

. . . Lying. Cheating, personally and professionally. Financial misdeeds. Sexism. Whatever the eventual outcome of this trial, the moral and political case against Trump now echoes the case against Trump back then.

Yes, but my question to Ms. Paul is, “So what else is new?” Half of America voted for him knowing all this stuff, for crying out loud!

*Apparently Cornell University has rejected a student call for “trigger warnings”  (see here at The Hill and here at Fox News here. (h/t Gary) From The Hill:

Cornell University rejected a resolution passed by the school’s student assembly that would require professors to add trigger warnings to their syllabus for class content that could be offensive to students.

The resolution, titled “Mandating Content Warnings for Traumatic Content in the Classroom,” was passed on March 23 and would make professors inform students in advance of “trigger classroom content.”

The student assembly says such topics include “sexual assault, domestic violence, self-harm, suicide, child abuse, racial violence, transphobic violence, homophobic harassment, etc.”

Cornell President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff said Monday the school “cannot accept this resolution,” saying it would “infringe on our core commitment to academic freedom and freedom of inquiry.”

While Pollack and Kotlikoff believe it would be “common courtesy” in some instances for professors to give warnings for controversial topics, requiring content warnings for all the topics stated in the resolution “would unacceptably restrict the academic freedom of our community, interfering in significant ways with Cornell’s mission.”

“It would have a chilling effect on faculty, who would naturally fear censure lest they bring a discussion spontaneously into new and challenging territory, or fail to accurately anticipate students’ reaction to a topic or idea,” Pollack and Kotlikoff said. “And it would unacceptably limit our students’ ability to speak, question, and explore, lest a classroom conversation veer into an area determined ‘off-limits’ unless warned against weeks or months earlier.”

Not only that, but Cornell refused to let students opt out of being exposed to triggering content of courses, saying:

“Learning to engage with difficult and challenging ideas is a core part of a university education: essential to our students’ intellectual growth, and to their future ability to lead and thrive in a diverse society. As such, permitting our students to opt out of all such encounters, across any course or topic,” the school said.

Reader Gary also called my attention to this site (mostly for subscribers) which tells you which way the media that report a given story “lean”. Here it is for the Cornell trigger-warning story: mostly leaning right, of course:

The numbers:

The sources:

This is remarkable, for Cornell has been known as a pretty woke school. I’m glad they’re coming to their senses, but I am not yet convinced that the tide of “illiberal progressivism” in colleges is going out.

*Green Chartreuse, a drink made by French monks (there’s an inferior but pricier yellow version) is my absolute favorite liqueur. It’s vegetal, a bit sweet and extremely complex, for as Wikipedia notes,

The liqueur has been made by the Carthusian monks since 1737 according to the instructions set out in a manuscript given to them by François Annibal d’Estrées in 1605. It was named after the monks’ Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains north of Grenoble. Today the liqueur is produced in their distillery in nearby Aiguenoire. It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers.

Now I hear, perhaps too late to get a bottle, that the monks have decided to prioritize their monastic life over capitalism, and are turning down requests to make more of the stuff.

Monks from the 900-year-old Carthusian order in the French Alps have cocktail devotees shaken and stirred.

The herbal liqueur Chartreuse, long made by the community, has been in short supply in drinking establishments far and wide. The mystery has been solved, and it is bittersweet. It turns out the secretive monks, who closely guard the recipe for the fluorescent spirit, have chosen to focus more on prayer and solitude over expanding their historic business.

“The monks are not in this to drive Mercedes and live a lavish life,” says Tim Master, the senior director of spirits at Frederick Wildman and Sons, the sole American importer of Chartreuse.

The news drizzled out in a January letter from Chartreuse Diffusion, the French company in charge of distributing the liqueur, and in charge of business communications. The monks are limiting production to “protect their monastic life,” the letter said in part, adding that they “are not looking to grow the liqueur beyond what they need to sustain their order.”

. . .Intrigue swirls around Chartreuse, which stems from a secret recipe, for a so-called “Elixir of Long Life,” given to the monks by a marshal for France’s King Henry IV in the 17th century. The recipe for the liqueur sold today involves some 130 herbs, spices and flowers, and is known only by a chosen few in the order.

To make a year’s worth of Chartreuse, the monks blend about 40 tons of ingredients, send the mixture to the distillery and oversee the entire process.

I should drink it more often, but I have a cabinet full of fancy liqueurs, rums, and whiskies, and tequilas that I rarely tough. It’s fantastic drunk neat with just a little bit of ice. If you can find some (only Ceiling Cat knows what it must cost now), get it—but try it first. It’s not to everyone’s taste. And good for the monks!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s watching the time go by:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m watching how the present changes to the past.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Patrzę jak się teraźniejszość zmienia w przeszłość.


From David; I don’t know the artist:

This is absolutely true for me, though I think the tee shirt meant to say the opposite.

From Facebook, and don’t ask me if it’s genuine:

From Masih, a new fatwa? “Haram” means “forbidden by Islamic law”:

From Simon, who says, “Such a fetching picture!”:


From Malcolm: Cat gets its owner a drink of water:

Coincidentally, the tweet came from Barry, who calls it “pure excitement”:

From Rosemary, who says, “Say what you want about Walsh, this was/is brilliant.” Yes, it’s a good exchange about sex:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who was in the camp for about a week before dying:


Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s busy writing his biography of Crick. Crick must have gotten lots of letters from loons like this:

Matthew says, “We have a new moon. For a few millennia, anyway. . . . “:

Bat buffet! Sound up.

19 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Errrmm… pork is a pancetta, not beef.

    I kid I kid! That letter is precious! The remote ancestor/cousin of the Nogerian prince?

    1. Oh sure, if that’s the hill you want to die on.

      ^^^satirical way to agree.

      Sadly though, the trans EMT was harmed by the person who stopped the recording before they even explained everything wrong and harmful with everything that was said.

      Because everything is complicated and nothing fits neatly into categories in the real world. Real life is not a 5th grade biology quiz.

      ^^^my intersectional activism exercises for the day. Needs work, I think.

    2. The trans activist in that video does what far too many activists do, which is to conflate concepts and refuse to agree on what words mean. The EMT was conflating sex with sexual development, and both of those ideas with gender. And it sure seems like this is the winning rhetorical and political strategy to gaining power, truth be damned!

  2. The most impressive things about the cat handling the spigot for water was not his pushing it, but his stopping at the right time. Usually they just like to see it flow.

  3. ” . . . Trump’s refusal to release his tax records was a departure from years of accepted practice.”

    I wonder if Ms. Paul is for making tax records release a legal requirement (but only for POTUS elections?). It wouldn’t bother me if it was made the law. (But perhaps that’s all to easy for anyone, who does not intend to run for public office, to say.)

    I’m reminded of the NY Times refulgently holding forth on Trump’s violation of “norms.” Maybe these norms should be codified in law and have done with it. (Though that might inconveniently reduce the number of opportunities for sweating journalistic kvetching.)

    In any event, a lot of norms have changed in the several domains of life in the last century or so. It’s human nature to want to maintain those norms with which we personally agree and find convenient and useful (or change them if more agreeable, convenient and useful)..

    (Also, if memory serves me, several years ago there was an effort in some legislative body – Congress? Or some state legislature – to make it a criminal offense to lie during a political campaign. The effort was not successful. I wouldn’t object to such a law. I wonder what Ms. Paul’s position is on that. Who would say for the record that they are not opposed to lying in a political campaign, or generally? Yet some of those people oppose such a law.)

    1. (Reply to Fillippo @ 4)

      I wonder if Ms. Paul is for making tax records release a legal requirement (but only for POTUS elections?)

      Why only for POTUS elections?
      Surely, if someone is wanting to stand for an office in which they can significantly change the distribution of large amounts of tax-payer’s money, they should be willing and able to prove their financial probity. If publishing tax returns would prove that (never seen one ; don’t know what they contain).

  4. On this day:
    1141 – Empress Matilda becomes the first female ruler of England, adopting the title “Lady of the English”.

    1724 – Premiere performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion, BWV 245, at St. Nicholas Church, Leipzig.

    1795 – The French First Republic adopts the kilogram and gram as its primary unit of mass.

    1805 – German composer Ludwig van Beethoven premieres his Third Symphony, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna.

    1906 – Mount Vesuvius erupts and devastates Naples.

    1933 – Prohibition in the United States is repealed for beer of no more than 3.2% alcohol by weight, eight months before the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Now celebrated as National Beer Day in the United States.)

    1933 – Nazi Germany issues the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service banning Jews and political dissidents from civil service posts.

    1940 – Booker T. Washington becomes the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp.

    1943 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: In Terebovlia, Germans order 1,100 Jews to undress and march through the city to the nearby village of Plebanivka, where they are shot and buried in ditches.

    1948 – The World Health Organization is established by the United Nations.

    1954 – United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower gives his “domino theory” speech during a news conference.

    1955 – Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom amid indications of failing health.

    1968 – Two-time Formula One British World Champion Jim Clark dies in an accident during a Formula Two race in Hockenheim.

    1969 – The Internet’s symbolic birth date: Publication of RFC 1.

    1978 – Development of the neutron bomb is canceled by President Jimmy Carter.

    1988 – Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov orders the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    2003 – Iraq War: U.S. troops capture Baghdad; Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime falls two days later.

    2011 – The Israel Defense Forces use their Iron Dome missile system to successfully intercept a BM-21 Grad launched from Gaza, marking the first short-range missile intercept ever.

    2022 – Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed for the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first black female justice.

    1506 – Francis Xavier, Spanish missionary and saint, co-founded the Society of Jesus (d. 1552).

    1763 – Domenico Dragonetti, Italian bassist and composer (d. 1846).

    1770 – William Wordsworth, English poet (d. 1850).

    1860 – Will Keith Kellogg, American businessman, founded the Kellogg Company (d. 1951).

    1891 – Ole Kirk Christiansen, Danish businessman, founded the Lego Group (d. 1958).

    1915 – Billie Holiday, American singer-songwriter and actress (d. 1959).

    1920 – Ravi Shankar, Indian-American sitar player and composer (d. 2012).

    1928 – James Garner, American actor, singer, and producer (d. 2014).

    1928 – Alan J. Pakula, American director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1998).

    1939 – Francis Ford Coppola, American director, producer, and screenwriter.

    1939 – David Frost, English journalist and game show host (d. 2013).

    1951 – Janis Ian, American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1954 – Jackie Chan, Hong Kong martial artist, actor, stuntman, director, producer, and screenwriter.

    1972 – Tim Peake, British astronaut.

    1985 – Humza Yousaf, Scottish politician. [The newly elected First Minister of Scotland, who has inherited a host of problems.]

    When the Duck of Death gets you, you stay got. Jesus!:
    AD 30 – Jesus Christ (possible date of the crucifixion (b. circa 4 BC). [LOL! I can’t believe that Wikipedia included this one!]

    1614 – El Greco, Greek-Spanish painter and sculptor (b. 1541).

    1739 – Dick Turpin, English criminal (b. 1705).

    1761 – Thomas Bayes, English minister and mathematician (b. 1701). [He never published what would become his most famous accomplishment; his notes were edited and published posthumously by Richard Price.]

    1891 – P. T. Barnum, American businessman and politician, co-founded The Barnum & Bailey Circus (b. 1810).

    1947 – Henry Ford, American engineer and businessman, founded the Ford Motor Company (b. 1863).

    1994 – Lee Brilleaux, English singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1952).

    2013 – Andy Johns, English-American record producer (b. 1950).

    2014 – V. K. Murthy, Indian cinematographer (b. 1923).

    2020 – John Prine, American country folk singer-songwriter (b. 1946). [Three years already? *Sigh*]

  5. Pamela Paul’s latest NYT column is called “Trump’s indictment is karmic justice, regardless of the verdict,” and its thesis is that the indictment FINALLY tells all America what kind of sleazeball Trump really is. But all America knew about it already, and half didn’t care!

    Disclosure of either of their voices on a hot-mic speaking the same words Trump did on the Access Hollywood tape, or the disclosure of credible evidence that either had paid hush-money to porn actress to cover up a sexual encounter would have spelled an almost immediate end to the political careers of Donald Trump’s two immediate presidential predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama (or for any of their predecessors), no criminal prosecution required.

    In the case of Obama, it would have also likely meant that no black man would again have been taken as a serious presidential contender for the rest of this century. Imagine the ugly racial stereotypes his political enemies would have employed against him. It would have been portrayed as an instantiation of black men’s uncontrollable hypersexuality and as a microcosm for the dysfunctionality of the black family — with the irresponsible husband abandoning his new wife while she was nursing their infant daughter at home to go galivanting to a golf tournament on the other side of the continent to chase after porn actresses and playmates.

    For Trump, on the other hand, it was all just baked into the final product — his low character, his utter lack of rectitude and probity — even for his numerous evangelical supporters, the ones who were outraged by Bill Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinski, the ones who hypocritically insisted that their most important political goal thereafter was to return a “godly man” to the White House.

    1. We have to keep in mind, Trump’s core constituency are fans of pro “wrestling” and residents of trailer parks. Trump gives them a certain amount of respect, which they can’t get elsewhere. “These are my people”, could have been Jesus Christ’s slogan.

  6. As a Cornell alumnus (I’ll be attending my 50th reunion this June), I am impressed by President Pollack and Provost Kotlikoff’s handling of the trigger warning issue. Regarding Cornell as an institution, while it is a member of the Ivy League and is academically outstanding, it really isn’t a Harvard/Yale/Princeton type institution. Rather, it is actually New York’s land grant college and is a combination of both public (Agriculture, Industrial/Labor Relations and others) colleges and endowed ones (Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Architecture etc). Thus, it has always been diverse in the best sense of the word, even admitting women from it’s beginning in the 1860’s (although they were pretty well segregated even into the 1960’s). So my point is that referring to it as “pretty woke” is an oversimplification. Yes it may at times pursue progressive policies that some find objectionable, but overall, I think it lives up to Ezra Cornell’s founding statement – “I would found an institution where any person can find study in any discipline.” And yes, he did say person, even back in the mid-19th century.

  7. Sorry, Ken. I should have read your comment more closely. When you characterized “his utter lack of rectitude and probity,” I thought you were referring to Clarence Thomas, quite possibly the most corrupt Supreme Court justice ever as reported in this ProPublica article. It appears that for about 20 years Thomas has accepted lavish vacations from a billionaire Republican donor. Unlike Trump, Thomas will never face a jury or be accountable to the American public. The result of this revelation is that the public faith in the institution of the Supreme Court will be further diminished, which puts American democracy in even more danger.

    1. It might be theoretically possible for Thomas to face justice – he did not report these gifts as required, and thereby falsely completed a Federal form, which is evidently a criminal act of some sort.

  8. Thank you Cornell.

    In addition to marketing themselves as having great faculty and facilities, colleges should make it known up front in their literature that…

    “One of the purposes of college is to expose you to views that are different from your own and to teach you how to engage in respectful debate with others. This may entail being exposed to ideas and artifacts that make you feel uncomfortable. If you aren’t ready for the challenge, you may not be ready for college and should consider other options.”

    Building a “trigger warning” something like this into what college is all about would spare colleges and universities the burden of issuing trigger warnings every time someone is about to use a bad word, play a bad song, show a bad picture, or read a bad passage of literature. Requiring trigger warnings for every potential “infraction” is crazy and a waste of time. Just build “discomfort” into the very fabric of what college is all about.

  9. I feel really bad for Becky Pepper-Jackson. With blockers and estrogen before 12 years old he won’t go through any puberty at all, is unlikely to have a sex life, and won’t father children, but can look forward to a lifetime of medical treatments and side effects. Not getting to run on the girls’ track team seems like a minor additional consequence of his parents choosing to do this to him.

    Seems a shame that the law would scoop up edge cases like Becky’s while also protecting girls from unfair competition by boys who did go through male puberty. But that doesn’t seem like a good argument against such laws. Is it?

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