Thursday: Hili dialogue

April 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Thursday, April 27, 2023, and National Prime Rib Day, a day for beefivores (I like it, but only when it’s rare). TRIGGER WARNING: MEAT!


It’s also Babe Ruth Day, the day in 1947 when the Bambino, dying of cancer, was honored at Yankee Stadium; Love Your Thighs Day; Marine Mammal Rescue Day; Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work DayFreedom Day  in South Africa (the day in 1964 when the first post-apartheid elections were held in South Africa); and World Tapir Day.

Once again I present an adult and juvenile tapir (this is the Malayan tapir T. indicus, one of four species in the genus Tapirus. You tell me why they’re colored this way!  Note that both adults and calves are weirdly colored, with the young ones looking like watermelons:


Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the April 27 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*As the NYT argues, the visit of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol  to the White House yesterday is portentous, for it’s a tacit admission that North Korea is now a nuclear power to be dealt with.

North Korea’s missile tests are so frequent that they prompt more shrugs than big headlines in Seoul.

So when President Biden welcomes President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea to the White House on Wednesday, only the second state visit of Mr. Biden’s presidency, there will be few pretenses that disarming North Korea remains a plausible goal.

Instead, American officials say, Mr. Biden’s most vivid commitment to Mr. Yoon will focus on what arms control experts call “extended deterrence,” renewing a vow that America’s nuclear arsenal will be used, if necessary, to dissuade or respond to a North Korean nuclear attack on the South.

The emphasis on deterrence is a striking admission that all other efforts over the past three decades to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program, including diplomatic persuasion, crushing sanctions and episodic promises of development aid, have all failed. It is also intended to tamp down a growing call in South Korea for its own independent arsenal, on the very remote chance that North Korea would make the suicidal decision to use a nuclear weapon.

Now this is not rocket science. Any damn fool could figure out that NOTHING would prompt North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons, for the DPRK is by far the most paranoid nation on Earth about attacks from the U.S. and its allies. They see nukes as the only way to prevent those attacks, and eventually they’ll have nuclear weapons that can strike the U.S. Trying to slow that down is a fool’s errand. It’s also a fool’s errand to try it with Iran, who want to have missiles to attack, among other countries, Israel. We will not be able to stop Iran from getting the bomb, either, and those why try are deluded.

The only consolation vis-à-vis the DPRK is that they’re so small that they know that firing just one missile at the U.S., Japan, or South Korea will be suicide: the eradication of their entire country and its people (who are largely on the verge of death from disease and starvation in normal circumstances). But we have to worry more about Iran: a large and populous country who have their sights set on a small, easily-destroyed country.

*A civil trial against Trump that I’d forgotten about (there are so many!), proceeded yesterday with a woman accusing him of rape (remember, this is not a criminal trial), and asking damages for battery and defamation.

E. Jean Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in hercivil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist for Elle magazine, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation and called her a liar.

Carroll’s harrowing testimony dominated the trial’s second day. The case centers on her allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her during a chance encounter in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale New York department store, in the mid-1990s. She filed a lawsuit last year accusing him of battery and defamation.

Upon taking the stand Wednesday, Carroll quickly testified that Trump sexually assaulted her and then further harmed her with his denials. “He lied and shattered my reputation and I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll testified.

Carroll testified until shortly after 4 p.m., when the judge excused the jury for the day. she is expected to continue her testimony on Thursday.

Trump’s lawyer will probably go after Carroll today. In truth, I don’t know what evidence she has after all this time; I haven’t followed the case closely enough. She says she told two friends about it at the time (one of which advised her to go to the cops, but Carroll didn’t). Does that count as substantial evidence?

The standard for civil suits is “a preponderance of evidence,” that is, if the jury of nine thinks it’s more likely that Carroll’s version of the story is true than it is false, they should vote to find Trump liable. And if that’s the case, it means a jury of Trump’s peers (?) has said that he probably raped someone. Do you think that would put people sufficiently off him to get him out of next year’s Presidential race? As he once said, he could shoot somebody in plain view on Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t hurt him politically. I hope that won’t be true for an accusation of rape. (Go here for more details of the trial.)

*The NYT also gave some publicity to the Cobb and Comfort piece on Rosalind Franklin that we talked about two days ago (you heard it here first!)  And yet the paper still wants to maintain the narrative spooled from the skein of “The Double Helix”:

Other experts said that the new documents were interesting but did not radically change the narrative; it has long been clear that Dr. Franklin played a key role in the discovery. “What this does is add a little new evidence to a trail, which leads directly to Franklin’s being a major participant,” said David Oshinsky, a historian of medicine at New York University.

And regardless of what Dr. Franklin knew about who had access to her data, the new documents do not change the fact that she did not receive adequate recognition for her work, some historians said.

Well, this argument will never end, and you can decide for yourself. All I can say is that Watson and Crick probably were “ungallant”, but they didn’t steal anything so long as Franklin knew what was likely and didn’t object. The data show that she remained friends with both Watson and Crick after she left King’s College, and that both of them, especially Crick, took pains to give Franklin proper credit (see yesterday’s post). I wish only that Franklin had lived to receive the Nobel Prize, for it surely would have been hers. Not only did she have a lot of good science left in her (she died at only 37!), but getting a Nobel Prize would have finally laid to rest all complaints that her accomplishments were ignored.

*This looks bad for Ron DeSantis: he’s being sued by the Walt Disney company. Remember, DeSantis took away the special privileges he gave the company a while back when he thought they were been too harsh in opposing his “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday over the Republican’s takeover of its theme park district, alleging the governor waged a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” after the company opposed a law critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

The lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee minutes after a Disney World oversight board appointed by DeSantis voted to void a deal that gave the company authority over design and construction decisions in its sprawling properties near Orlando.

“Disney regrets that it has come to this,” the case said. “But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”

The legal filing is the latest salvo in a more than year-old feud between Disney and DeSantis that has engulfed the governor in criticism as he prepares to launch an expected presidential bid in the coming months.

What’s the law that Disney criticized? The AP reported on it a while back:

The law’s central language reads: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

*Over at CNN, Stuart Vyse, who happens to be the acting editor of the Center for Inquiry’s (CFI’s) Magazine Skeptical Inquirer, recounts the history of superstition among American Presidents.Remember that the CFI’s historical mission has been debuking pseudoscience and woo, including the superstition that seems to have afflicted quite a few Presidents. Vyse points out that Biden’s announcement that he’s running came exactly four years after his last one, and that Biden is “very superstitious“. So was Barack Obama.

Even the seemingly hyper-rational Barack “No Drama” Obama had a famous campaign superstition. As he told “60 Minutes,” Obama often arranged pick-up basketball games with his staff on the campaign trail. He played basketball on the day of the 2008 Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary, both of which he won. For whatever reason, he failed to organize a game before the early contests in New Hampshire and Nevada, which he lost to Hillary Clinton. So Obama decided he should always play basketball on Election Day. (Obama’s Election Day win in November 2012 came on a day the president’s basketball game included former Chicago Bulls stars Scottie Pippen and Randy Brown.)

People employ superstitions when there’s a lot at stake and the outcome is uncertain. . .

Is there any harm in that? Vyse says “sometimes, but not all the time”:

No one is born superstitious. You need to learn this kind of magical thinking, and that usually comes from being around other superstitious people, as I’ve written elsewhere. Once you acquire a superstition, it provides psychological comfort at the moment it is invoked. Those who are superstitious can experience a psychological benefit from the feeling that they have done one more thing to help achieve a desired outcome, something psychologists call the illusion of control. Even if they know on a rational level that their superstitions can’t work, people often say they feel better doing them than not: “I don’t want to take a chance.”

. . . But clearly all these superstitions are contradicted by science and reason. Should voters be concerned about presidents who buy into them? It depends. A 2014 poll found that 24% of Americans describe themselves as superstitious and 22% said they were “not too superstitious,” so we’re talking about a common set of beliefs that don’t signal psychopathology. However, normal people often do things that aren’t good for them. What about superstition?

. . . Psychologists separate superstitions into positive and negative — good luck encouraging and bad luck discouraging. Of the two, the negative or taboo superstitions are the more concerning.

Presidents have shown both forms:

It is completely understandable and natural to be plagued by such fears. Unlucky 13 is arguably the most well-known superstition in the world, and both Ronald and Nancy Reagan came from the traditionally superstitious world of the stage. In addition, the president had survived an attempt on his life that made the first lady concerned about his safety. But understandable or not, these negative superstitions created needless anxiety and led to bad decisions.

. . . Similarly, Biden and Obama’s election superstitions — and to a lesser degree, Truman’s horseshoe over the Oval Office door — are expressions of a shared hope. The immediate psychological benefits of those actions are undoubtedly positive, and many Americans probably recognize this behavior as something they might do.

Okay, I can live with this kind of magical thinking, but what I can’t live with is a President who doesn’t accept evolution. NOBODY asked any of the candidates that in 2020, and I hope some savvy reporter brings it up next year. For any candidate who doesn’t accept evolution is a candidate who won’t admit plain facts, and I won’t vote for them.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is doing some deep philosophizing with Andrzej. She and Andrzej are wise old mammals:

Hili: Everything already was.
A: Yes, but with different actors.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszystko już było.
Ja: Tak, ale z innymi aktorami.


Another misspelling from reader David. This is a particularly bad one:

From Bizarre and Wonderful World, captioned “sky camping”. These guys are all gonna sleep on that ledge, too, secured to the rock face. I couldn’t do it:

From Jesus of the Day. What would YOU do?

From Masih. Sound up, and look at the hijabi’s arguments (there are subtitles):

There are still people who know nothing about satire who take Titania McGrath seriously:

From Malcolm, who says “This shows how disgusting British hunts can be.” The fox was caught and bagged, later to be released to be chased by dogs. The practice is illegal, and this particular vixen probably had cubs. Why are fox hunts still legal in the UK?

Sound up:

From Barry, a smart crow (is that an oxymoron?):

From Dom, a great photo:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a Frenchman, and not a Jewish one, lived about a month after arrival. The color of the upside-down triangle on his uniform would tell us his “crime”.

Tweets from Professor Cobb. The paper discussed first suggests that blinking, because it keeps the eyes wet (and they must be kept wet) was an adaptation to life on land.

In photos taken from space, we see the shadow of the Moon on Earth (and no, the second tweet isn’t “sensitive):

Lots of good answers in this thread. I’ll give one:

17 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Hunting of wild mammals (foxes included) with hounds has been banned in England and Wales since 2004, so if the Cotswold Hunt was planning to pursue the bagged fox, that would have been completely illegal. Drag hunts (i.e. riding after hounds following a scent trail) are still permitted.

  2. On this day:
    1667 – Blind and impoverished, John Milton sells Paradise Lost to a printer for £10, so that it could be entered into the Stationers’ Register.

    1861 – American President Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus.

    1906 – The State Duma of the Russian Empire meets for the first time.

    1945 – World War II: Benito Mussolini is arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, while attempting escape disguised as a German soldier.

    1953 – Operation Moolah offers $50,000 to any pilot who defects with a fully mission-capable Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 to South Korea. The first pilot was to receive $100,000.

    1978 – Willow Island disaster: In the deadliest construction accident in United States history, 51 construction workers are killed when a cooling tower under construction collapses at the Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island, West Virginia.

    1987 – The U.S. Department of Justice bars Austrian President Kurt Waldheim (and his wife, Elisabeth, who had also been a Nazi) from entering the US, charging that he had aided in the deportations and executions of thousands of Jews and others as a German Army officer during World War II.

    1992 – Betty Boothroyd becomes the first woman to be elected Speaker of the British House of Commons in its 700-year history.

    2006 – Construction begins on the Freedom Tower (later renamed One World Trade Center) in New York City.

    1593 – Mumtaz Mahal, Mughal empress buried at the Taj Mahal (d. 1631).

    1759 – Mary Wollstonecraft, English philosopher, historian, and novelist (d. 1797).

    1791 – Samuel Morse, American painter and inventor, co-invented the Morse code (d. 1872).

    1820 – Herbert Spencer, English biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher (d. 1903).

    1822 – Ulysses S. Grant, American general and politician, 18th President of the United States (d. 1885).

    1891 – Sergei Prokofiev, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1953).

    1904 – Cecil Day-Lewis, Anglo-Irish poet and author (d. 1972).

    1927 – Coretta Scott King, African-American activist and author (d. 2006).

    1932 – Casey Kasem, American disc jockey, music historian, radio celebrity, and voice actor; co-created American Top 40 (d. 2014).

    1944 – Michael Fish, English meteorologist and journalist.

    1963 – Russell T Davies, Welsh screenwriter and producer.

    1969 – Darcey Bussell, English ballerina.

    It is not death that a man should fear, but never beginning to live. [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.]

    1882 – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and philosopher (b. 1803).

    1936 – Karl Pearson, English mathematician and academic (b. 1857. [Credited with establishing the discipline of mathematical statistics. He founded the world’s first university statistics department at University College, London in 1911, and contributed significantly to the field of biometrics and meteorology. Pearson was also a proponent of social Darwinism and eugenics, and his thought is an example of what is today described as scientific racism.]

    1937 – Antonio Gramsci, Italian sociologist, linguist, and politician (b. 1891).

    1965 – Edward R. Murrow, American journalist (b. 1908).

    1989 – Konosuke Matsushita, Japanese businessman, founded Panasonic (b. 1894).

    1992 – Olivier Messiaen, French organist and composer (b. 1908).

  3. She [E. Jean Carroll] says she told two friends about it at the time (one of which advised her to go to the cops, but Carroll didn’t). Does that count as substantial evidence?

    Such so-called “fresh complaint” testimony constitutes substantial evidence that the complainant did not recently fabricate her claim of rape (in this case, for example, years later, after Trump became a presidential contender, to harm his electoral chances and reputation).

    The trial judge in Carroll’s case has also ruled that two other women will be allowed to testify to “similar act” sexual attacks on them by Trump. In addition, the court has ruled admissible the “Access Hollywood” hot-mic tape in which Trump asserts that, when you’re a star, you can just grab women by their pussies and they’ll let you.

    Last I heard, Trump does not plan to make an appearance at this trial in federal court in Manhattan to dispute Ms. Carroll’s allegations. With all his other pending legal troubles, I doubt Trump wants to expose himself to cross-examination by Carroll’s counsel.

    1. Perhaps we will have more time to discuss this as it drags on. But on the one hand, her belated claim (and the claims of others) normally would not carry a lot of weight since the burden of proof should be higher than that. On the other hand, in a civil suit isn’t it the case that the standard of proof is considerably relaxed?

  4. Regarding Dr Lystrup being sworn in by Bill Nelson to be NASA Goddard Research Center Director: I do not know her, but what a great choice for a center director. According to Wikipedia, she has a BS in physics from Portland State; spent some time in AmerCorps doing STEM work in K12; then got a PhD in astrophysics from University College London. She then did post-docs in astrophysics and worked for Ball Aerospace, was a congressional fellow in Sen. Ed Markey’s office. Her industry and legislative portfolio’s were all in space physics and Nasa type projects. Really glad to see what I would call a “peace corps like” k12 STEM experience (AmeriCorps) mixed with real science research in her background. So often NASA education officials are more educators in their experiences than engineers or scientists.
    Even Keith Cowing who runs NasaWatch, an often critical watchdog on all things NASA was impressed with her swearing in picture showing her left hand on the pale blue dot real science book rather than a bible. Keith also noted the the Nasa PAO did not mention this demonstration of commitment to science in his write-up.

  5. “Remember, DeSantis took away the special privileges he gave the company a while back when he thought they were been too harsh in opposing his “Don’t Say Gay” law.”

    DeSantis did not give Disney those privileges. The legislation doing so was passed in 1967.

    1. And how dumb is the governor, going after the largest employer in his state, because they hurt his pride. I wonder if he realizes how petty he looks from the outside. And this will only impede his chances of becoming POTUS. Trump is taunting him as well. For someone who is supposedly smart, all evidence to the contrary with this issue.

  6. If I could ride an insect, it would surely be a dragonfly- good for errands and for war. Sort of like the Ornithopters in Dune. That silver ant is really cool though.

    And I’m with you on “sky camping”…no f’n way!

  7. How does Vyse know that no one is born superstitious? I would argue that humans are predisposed to superstition. Superstition is just erroneous cause-and-effect reasoning, the mistaken perception of a pattern. If a machine provides a pigeon with food at random times, often the pigeon associates what it has just done with the food reward and starts repeating that thing. In other words, pigeons are superstitious.

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