Saturday: Hili dialogue

May 6, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s CaturSaturday, May 6, 2023, and shabbos for all Jewish cats. It’s also National Crêpe Suzette Day, a crêpe flavored with Grand Marnier and flamed. I like them, but they’re not substantial enough as a dessert.


It’s also Beer Pong Day, International No Diet Day, Kentucky Derby Day, National Beverage Day, National Homebrew Day, and Pilates Day.

Britain has a new King! King Charles was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at 6:02 a.m. Chicago time, and here are two screenshots I took at the moment of coronation. The crown didn’t fit all that well, and the Archbishop had to wiggle it around a bit to fit on the King’s dome.

It’s also the birthday of my collaborator Anna Krylov, professor of Chemistry at USC and the driving force behind the big paper “In Defense of Merit in Science” (she also helps staff two cats). Happy birthday, Anna! Here she is with her British shorthair, Mishka (h/t Jay):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 6 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT editorial board has now suggested, in a group op-ed, that California senator Dianne Feinstein resign her seat on the grounds of advanced age and poor health. which apparently has impaired her judgement.

Without Senator Dianne Feinstein, there might never have been an assault weapons ban in 1994. Or the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. Or the revelatory report on the C.I.A.’s torture program in 2014. She has had a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate, but her infirmities and illness now force her — and Senate leaders like Charles Schumer — to make a painful choice.

At age 89, Ms. Feinstein is now the Senate’s oldest member, and health issues have kept her out of Washington and the Senate chamber for more than two months, at a time when vital legislation and judicial nominations are hanging on a knife’s edge. If she cannot fulfill her obligations to the Senate and to her constituents, she should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor. If she is unable to reach that decision on her own, Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, and other Democratic senators should make it clear to her and the public how important it is that she do so.

Senators play many roles in shaping legislation and policy, but they have one primary and inescapable duty: They must show up in person to vote in the chamber. If they cannot do that for extended periods, they are depriving their constituents — and California has 39 million of them — of a voice and of fundamental representation. In six elections, voters have sent Ms. Feinstein to Washington on a Democratic platform, and in the current term of Congress, that agenda consists of confirming judges nominated by the Biden administration and preserving a majority for important legislation in a closely divided Senate. Her absence is a failure that deprives American voters of full representation on legislation and appointments that will affect them for decades to come.

Without Ms. Feinstein’s presence at proceedings of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats have lacked a majority there and struggled at times to advance nominations to the floor.

Feinstein was a good Senator, and deserves our thanks and approbation. But there’s little doubt that it’s in the interest of her own politics—the politics of liberal Democrats—that she steps down. She can no longer do what her position requires, and she’s hurting the advancement of an agenda she surely approves. Now I don’t know that Schumer has the ability to boot her out of the Senate (in fact, I don’t think he does), but surely there is some provision for nonperforming congresspeople to be forced out.  How sad it would be if it came to that. Yes, it’s time for Senator Feinstein to step down. Remember what happened when RBG also hung on, and Ginsburg was at least compos mentis.

*In light of the continuing revelations of financial conflicts of interests (conflicts almost amounting to bribery) involving Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will he step down? Are you kidding me? Just remember his behavior during his hearings: the man is angry and recalcitrant, and feels—probably even now—that he’s the victim of a “high tech lynching”, he’s not going to leave unless forced out. (And who can do that?) The latest scandal involves Thomas’s wife Ginni, who, reports the Washington Post, received a ton of money from a judicial activist, but the fact that she was the recipient was hidden.  It’s not only that, but the donor has a palpable connection with Thomas, who himself favors a conservative judiciary. More seriously, the donor’s group has a case pending before the court.

Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.

Leo, a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges, told Conway that he wanted her to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” the documents show. He emphasized that the paperwork should have “No mention of Ginni, of course.”

Conway’s firm, the Polling Company, sent the Judicial Education Project a $25,000 bill that day. Per Leo’s instructions, it listed the purpose as “Supplement for Constitution Polling and Opinion Consulting,” the documents show.

. . . In all, according to the documents, the Polling Company paid Thomas’s firm, Liberty Consulting, $80,000 between June 2011 and June 2012, and it expected to pay $20,000 more before the end of 2012. The documents reviewed by The Post do not indicate the precise nature of any work Thomas did for the Judicial Education Project or the Polling Company.

The arrangement reveals that Leo, a longtime Federalist Society leader and friend of the Thomases, has functioned not only as an ideological ally of Clarence Thomas’s but also has worked to provide financial remuneration to his family. And it shows Leo arranging for the money to be drawn from a nonprofit that soon would have an interest before the court.

Thomas’s declaration that he and his wife would keep their finances completely separate is no longer credible.  But I see no way to pry him off the bench.

*In a blow against Russia’s efforts to defeat Ukraine, the Russian paramilitary group “Wagner”, which has contributed quite a bit to Russia’s advance, has now threatened to pull completely out of Ukraine because too many of their soldiers are getting killed.

The leader of Russian paramilitary group Wagner threatened to withdraw his troops from the front line in Ukraine, citing growing losses, in a move that raises fresh tensions between Moscow’s military leaders ahead of an expected offensive by Kyiv’s forces.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces would leave their positions in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on May 10 after delivering an expletive-riddled broadside against Moscow’s military leadership, which he accused of withholding ammunition.

“Shoigu, Gerasimov, where is the…ammunition?” he shouted into the camera, referring to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top military officer, in a video posted on his public Telegram channel.

“If you handed over the ammunition quota, there’d be five times fewer dead,” he added, standing in a field covered in rows of dead soldiers.

Wagner has spearheaded Russia’s offensive on the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Ukrainian forces are clinging on to after months of brutal combat that have taken a heavy toll on both sides. The White House estimated this week that about half the 20,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine since December were from Wagner.

“I withdraw units of the Wagner [private military company] because they are doomed to a senseless death without ammunition,” Mr. Prigozhin said in a later statement.

I don’t want anybody to die, Russian or Ukrainian, but if Russia would get its tuchas  out of Ukraine, the killing would stop (they might think about leaving Crimea as well).

*Hallelujah! A European country (France) just voted not to condemn Israel as an “apartheid state”. Given that it’s certainly not one, this should be “dog bites man” news, but of course you know how the world is these days.

The French National Assembly voted down a resolution stating that Israel instituted an apartheid regime, with 199 opposed and 71 in favor on Thursday.

Dep. Jean-Paul Lecoq of the French Communist Party, which is part of the Democratic and Republican Left parliamentary group, proposed the resolution to “reaffirm the need for a two-state solution and condemn the State of Israel’s institutionalization of an apartheid regime as a result of its colonial policy.”

French Secretary of State for Europe Laurence Boone said in his speech opposing the resolution that “France is a friend of Israel. France is unfailingly committed to Israel’s security.”
“It is also this…deep friendship, based on an attachment to common values, which allows France to maintain a frank dialogue with our Israeli friends and to say things clearly,” Boone said. “To say things clearly is to name them well. In this regard, we can only reject the use of the term apartheid.”

Boone added that France rejects terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and seeks security for Israelis and Palestinians.

. . . Meyer Habib, the representative of French expats in the Mediterranean region, including Israel, spoke in the name of his party, Les Republicains, in opposition to the motion.

Habib called the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state “the biggest fake news of the 21st century” and “the fuel that drives all of the antisemites in the world.”

The legislator accused the Communist Party of being “blinded by hatred.”

“Not one of you condemned recent terrorist attacks in which three sets of Israeli brothers and sisters were murdered, including a six- and an eight-year-old. Children were murdered because they were Jewish, by barbarians,” he said.

“There is apartheid in [the Middle East], but it is in the Palestinian territories. A Jew cannot set foot there without endangering his life. Corruption and oppression rule there. They oppress homosexuals and do not respect women’s rights,” Habib stated.

That’s pretty much the truth, especially the last paragraph. I wonder how an identical motion would fare if it were put before the U.S. Congress. I can tell you now that much of the nine-member House “squad,” including Pressley, AOC, Tlaib, and Omar, would vote for it, because they’re in favor of the BDS movement, whose aim is to erase the state of Israel. And there’s still those 71 votes in favor of the resolution from the French parliament. . .

*Finally, and I’ll be brief, the U.S. Supreme Court actually stopped an execution in Oklahoma scheduled for May 18:

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked Oklahoma from executing death row inmate Richard Glossip for his role in a 1997 murder-for-hire after the state’s attorney general agreed Glossip’s life should be spared.

Glossip had been scheduled to be put to death on May 18 despite statements by new Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond that Glossip did not receive a fair trial.

An Oklahoma appeals court subsequently upheld Glossip’s conviction and the state’s pardon and parole board deadlocked in a vote to grant him clemency.

The high court put the execution on hold indefinitely while it reviews the case. Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the decision, presumably because he dealt with the case earlier as an appeals court judge.

. . .Glossip has been just hours away from being executed three separate times. His last scheduled execution, in September 2015, was halted just moments before he was to be led to the death chamber when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug. That mix-up helped prompt a nearly seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma.

That repeated waiting to be executed (three times) got to do a number on you. I’m sure that people will say he suffered less than did his victims, but I’m not into retributive punishment. If he was guilty and incapable of reformation, life without parole would be sufficient. There’s more:

Glossip’s case attracted international attention after actress Susan Sarandon — who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean in the 1995 movie “Dead Man Walking” — took up his cause in real life. Prejean herself has served as Glossip’s spiritual adviser and frequently visited him in prison. His case also was featured in the 2017 documentary film “Killing Richard Glossip.”

Well, this looks like some unexpected empathy from that conservative court.  In my view, of course, there should be no capital punishment in the U.S.—or anywhere.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess demands to be praised! I have to admit, she looks very regal: more so than King Charles. (Paulina takes good cat photos.)

Hili: Do I look good?
Paulina: Undoubtedly.
(Photo: Paulina)
In Polish:
Hili: Czy wyglądam korzystnie?
Paulina: Niewątpliwie.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)


From Jesus of the Day:

From Beth:

From Stash Krod:

From Masih, just to remind you that there’s a lot more than hijab-wearing at stake in Iran:

From Barry; check out this cat’s reaction time to a snake strike. (But why didn’t the videographer stop this?)

From Frits.  The diagonal distance should, of course, be 8.48 feet:

From Malcolm, baby pandas living it up on a slide. I hope they don’t get splinters! (sound up):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed to death upon arrival. She would have been 89 today.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, I’m glad to see the Brits have their priorities straight!

. . . also their priorities about the coronation:

I’m not sure if this BBC show from yesterday, about the banning of evolution education in India, is still available, but you can try.

29 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; many scholars consider this the end of the Renaissance.

    1682 – Louis XIV of France moves his court to the Palace of Versailles.

    1757 – English poet Christopher Smart is admitted into St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London, beginning his six-year confinement to mental asylums.

    1840 – The Penny Black postage stamp becomes valid for use in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

    1877 – Chief Crazy Horse of the Oglala Lakota surrenders to United States troops in Nebraska.

    1882 – The United States Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act.

    1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened to the public at the Universal Exposition in Paris.

    1937 – Hindenburg disaster: The German zeppelin Hindenburg catches fire and is destroyed within a minute while attempting to dock at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-six people are killed.

    1940 – John Steinbeck is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath.

    1949 – EDSAC, the first practical electronic digital stored-program computer, runs its first operation.

    1954 – Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run the mile in under four minutes.

    1966 – Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are sentenced to life imprisonment for the Moors murders in England.

    1994 – Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and French President François Mitterrand officiate at the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

    1998 – Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. unveils the first iMac.

    2013 – Three women, kidnapped and missing for more than a decade, are found alive in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.

    1758 – Maximilien Robespierre, French politician (d. 1794).

    1769 – Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette, French mathematician and academic (d. 1834).

    1856 – Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1939).

    1861 – Motilal Nehru, Indian lawyer and politician, President of the Indian National Congress (d. 1931).

    1895 – Rudolph Valentino, Italian actor (d. 1926).

    1913 – Stewart Granger, English-American actor (d. 1993).

    1915 – Orson Welles, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1985).

    1945 – Bob Seger, American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1953 – Tony Blair, British politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

    1961 – George Clooney, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter.

    No one dies but some one is glad of it:
    1782 – Christine Kirch, German astronomer and academic (b. 1696).

    1859 – Alexander von Humboldt, German geographer and explorer (b. 1769).

    1862 – Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet, and philosopher (b. 1817).

    1919 – L. Frank Baum, American novelist (b. 1856).

    1952 – Maria Montessori, Italian-Dutch physician and educator (b. 1870).

    1991 – Wilfrid Hyde-White, English actor (b. 1903).

    1992 – Marlene Dietrich, German-American actress and singer (b. 1901).

    1993 – Ann Todd, English actress and producer (b. 1909).

    2002 – Pim Fortuyn, Dutch sociologist, academic, and politician (b. 1948). [Assassinated following a radio-interview at the Mediapark in Hilversum.]

  2. Well-timed publication of In Defense of Merit – like a birthday gift given to everyone at the party, instead of the other way ’round.

    I think they do that in some European countries.

    So thank _you_ Prof. Krylov! _Great_ paper!

    1. On my system, “Compose-v,/”. (“Compose” is mapped to the CapsLock physical key.)
      Or, when I’m writing in a browser, I have the √ symbol in my HTML-code-insertion extension (
      Then you could try the HTML entity “& Sqrt ;” (no spaces) or “& radic ;”.
      There are also Unicode code points available.
      This is my 4th attempt – I keep on getting “invalid security token” errors from WordPress. Fortunately, I saved my post outside the browser … 4th time lucky!
      5th time of editing : is the WP “input sanitiser” bowfing on HTML entities? √ ? No, that was accepted, just sanitised. √ ? There you are : “& radic ;” isn’t sanitised. And √ isn’t sanitised from the keyboard.
      OK – there is some heavy duty “input sanitisation” going on here. Which is not unreasonable – obligatory XKCD “Little Bobby Tables” – but is a PITA to second-guess.

      If you’re on Windows – at least some times – then you may find the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC, ) to be what you need. From WinXP to Win 10 ; no idea what you can do beyond Win11

    2. “Anyone able to write “square root sign” here? I tried these but get “invalid security token”:”

      Ah, that scrolled up-page. I’m guessing it’s the Unicode code points that are upsetting the sanitary facilities. But “& radic ;” seems to work, at least for me. And “Compose-v,/” √.

  3. I believe the correct characterization of the Wagner Group is “mercenaries.” Mercenaries don’t like high casualties.

    1. Mercenaries don’t like high casualties.

      Far more importantly, the managers and owners of mercenary businesses do not like the recruitment and training costs of too high a level of casualties. Never mind the “human rights” aspects – we’re talking about literal mercenary businessmen, who really don’t care about that – squared. Look at the bottom line!
      The PBI mercenaries on the front line probably aren’t too keen on getting dead either, but in that business they don’t get much of a say compared to the profit-takers.

  4. The cat with the snake is the best counterpuncher since Archie Moore. Known as “The Old Mongoose” for his cross-armed, peek-a-boo style, Moore held the light heavyweight title for a decade and won 186 professional prizefights (132 by knockout, most coming off a counterpunch) over a 28-year career beginning in 1935. Moore even managed to go four rounds with a 20-year-old Muhammad Ali (then still known as Cassius Clay) in his penultimate bout at age 48. (“Moore will fall in four” predicted Clay before the fight, in his patented rhyming style.)

  5. Regarding the requirements to serve in the U.S. Senate, the Constitution says this:

    “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 3]”

    I would add via a constitutional amendment the following to this clause that starts with “No Person shall be a Senator”:

    “And, who shall have attained the age of eighty years or greater on the date he otherwise would have been sworn in for his term.”

    This means that a person that would be 80 or greater on his otherwise swearing in date could not serve. A person that would be seventy nine years and 364 days old would be eligible to run. Hence, no person older than 86 less one day could be serving in the Senate, which would be the person’s last day in office. This cut-off date is arbitrary and could be debated (I first thought the age should be 75, but I reconsidered), but it needs to be set somewhere. Such a provision would help reduce the gerontocracy and there would be no Dianne Feinstein problem.

    1. And let’s apply a mandatory retirement age to the House, SCOTUS, and Presidency as well.

  6. “Britain has a new King!”

    The coronation didn’t make him king. He’s been king since the moment his mother died. That’s the way it works in Britain. The coronation is just a bit of medieval flummery with fancy costumes and weird rituals set to music. It’s not like a presidential inauguration. If it has any significance, it’s simply that it confirms Charles’s role as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, which is increasingly irrelevant in a country where less than half the population identifies as Christian.

  7. Happy birthday Anna and thank you for your continuing leadership on freedom of speech, academic freedom, and against the mindless forces of post modern philosophy in STEM.

    1. “mindless”

      I think there’s a “mind” in it – the nature of that “mind” though, that’s the question…

        1. No no, there’s no correction here – I get your point 100% – I was perhaps pushing that idea further…

          But it’s Saturday!


          1. Just read susan neiman’s “left iis not woke”. To simply have some former friends who have gone woke discuss the anti-enlightenment issues she raises, would, i think, win over some of them. But as mcwhorter says, trying to discuss the matter with them is useless. So yes it’s the nature of such a mind…which if it won’t discuss the matter, i call mindless. Anyway that’s what passes for a saturday afternoon analysis.

  8. It was fun watching the Pandas have fun.

    The cat swatting the snake mid-strike was astonishing…but I’m with PCC(E), why didn’t the videographer intervene? Maybe they did after shooting the video…?

    I would think it a no-brainer that Feinstein needs to step down. She should have bowed out before her last election; surely she understands that she’s hurting her party and Biden’s Presidency. It’s not like California has a Republican governor, in which case I would understand; Newsom will replace her with another Democrat. What gives?

  9. Senators (and all other voting bodies) : “They must show up in person to vote in the chamber.”

    Didn’t we just have a pandemic over this very question? You probably wouldn’t want it for a routine thing, but for temporary medical issues (“temporary” being a very movable feast), travelling on relevant business (are American senators allowed to have non-senatorial employment or income?) and a modest number of other things (snowed in at an airport, for an example from my personal history). If a literal “state level actor” can’t organise adequately secure communications for their government bodies to conduct their business, then there is no hope for the rest of us.

  10. Imperially speaking, HRH Charles III is now every inch a king, and every foot a ruler.

  11. The coronation crown fits perfectly, they had seven months to make the necessary adjustments to its shape and size. But it weighs 5 pounds and has to be placed in the right position to ensure it doesn’t fall off when he moves his head. The Queen consort’s crown was made for Queen Mary in 1911 and weighs 2.3 pounds, so it too would have to have been adjusted to fit Camilla’s head in a stable fashion. Nothing is left to chance when the Brits throw a party. Also, Charles became King the instant his mother died. Coronations were originally held to show the populace that the new King was in charge and was chosen by god to rule (hence the crowing by the Archbishop). The coronation ceremony has hardly changed since the tenth century.

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