Saturday: Hili dialogue

May 13, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s CaturSaturday, May 13, 2023, shabbos for Jewish cats as well as National Apple Pie Day. This is not one of my favorite pies, or even favorite fruit pie (cherry or blueberry are better), but it’s certainly edible, and even toothsome when made well. Plus it is the one dessert that is used as archetypal American: things are “as American as apple pie.”

It’s also Cough Drop Day, Frog Jumping Day (honoring Mark Twain’s short story), International Hummus Day, National Fruit Cocktail Day, Skeptics Day International, Tulip Day, World Cocktail Day, and, in Rotuma, Rotuma Day. Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 13 Wikipedia page.

Here’s what’s widely seen as the best hummus in the world (it’s in a dive in Tel Aviv):

Da Nooz:

*According to the Washington Post, CNN is in trouble because of the “disastrous” Town Hall meeting they broadcast with Kaitlyn Collins. The bits I saw of it didn’t seem disastrous, but ludicrous: Trump was being his usual nasty, arrogant, and lying self. But others, like CNN< seem to think he engineered a television victory:

The former president repeatedly dodged or sneered at questions from CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, during the live, 70-minute forum at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire on Wednesday night. He doubled down on false claims that “a rigged election” led to his 2020 ouster and referred to writer E. Jean Carroll, who just prevailed in her lawsuit against him for defamation and battery, as a “whack job,” to cheers and laughter from the audience, made up of local Republican voters.

And when Collins pressed him on why he removed classified documents from the White House, he replied: “You are a nasty person.”

“Predictably disastrous,” wrote former network TV news executive Mark Lukasiewicz, part of a chorus of media critics and political observers who bemoaned the on-air spectacle. “Live lying works. A friendly MAGA crowd consistently laughs, claps at Trump’s punchlines … and the moderator cannot begin to keep up with the AR-15 pace of lies.”

At a time when CNN has been struggling to turn around viewership decline, the telecast proved to be a ratings disappointment, with Nielsen reporting just 3.1 million viewers overall. That was a big boost over CNN’s typical 8 p.m. telecast, but a smaller audience than CNN’s town hall with President Biden last summer (3.7 million) and six previous Trump town halls carried by Fox News — calling into question both CNN and Trump’s drawing power.

The more profound impact, however, may be the damage done to the reputation of the network that has long promoted itself as “the most trusted name in news.” It also raised questions about the future prospects of chief executive Chris Licht, who replaced Trump-friend-turned critic Jeff Zucker last year and is charged with striking a more neutral tone at a cable channel that exploded with impassioned commentary during the Trump years.

Journalists at CNN and others outside the organization called the town hall a “debacle,” a “disaster” and “CNN’s lowest moment.” On Twitter, the hashtags and phrases BoycottCNN, DoneWithCNN and ByeCNN trended late Wednesday.

Come ON! Collins kept pushing back, Trump talked over her and insulted her, and the audience, mostly MAGA-heads, ate it up. But it’s only a victory if it either boosts or doesn’t affect Trump’s popularity. My problem is that I think that anybody with neurons would have to be appalled at Trump’s performance, coming off his civil sexual assault/defamation conviction. People don’t seem to be appalled, except for Democrats. Draw your own conclusions.

*But over at the Weekly Dish, Andrew Sullivan argues that “CNN has done us a favor“. How can that be, since he thought Trump turned in a good performance?

The reason so many are freaking out about CNN’s astonishing ad for the Trump re-election campaign this week is that he was on tip-top form. Donald Trump is, as a performer, in a class of his own. From the second the show began, he was in command: withering, funny, sharp, powerful. He may be one of the most effective and pathological demagogues I’ve ever encountered: capable of lying with staggering sincerity, of making up stories with panache: shameless, and indefatigable.

Now think of Joe Biden, peace be upon him. He can barely get a sentence out without a mumble, a slur, or a confused expression. He seems frail and distant. In a direct contrast between the two old men, there will surely be some voters — and maybe many — who simply back the man who seems capable of doing the job vigorously for four more years. There hasn’t been this kind of contrast since Clinton-Dole (and Dole in 1996 was sharp AF) and Reagan-Mondale (it took Reagan’s debate genius to destroy the concern). Trump, in stark contrast, bulldozed the host Kaitlan Collins, who was far more in charge of facts and details than Biden will ever be.

Apparently the “favor” CNN has done us is to remind us that Trump’s still a very viable candidate for President.

I say the emergency is still here; that Trump is more likely than not returning to the White House as of now; and the interlude of these few precious years when this monster wasn’t daily assaulting our constitution, sanity, and our sense of decency is over.

Get used to it; and strap yourselves in.

Some favor!

*From the Substack site The Liberal Patriot, a piece called “The Democrats’ Merit Problem“. by Roy Teixiera, says that it’s not just science that’s down on the idea of merit. It’s the Left in general. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

The Democrats have a merit problem. The traditional Democratic theory of the case ran like this: discrimination should be opposed and dismantled and resources provided to the disadvantaged so that everyone can fairly compete and achieve. Rewards—job opportunities, promotions, commissions, appointments, publications, school slots, and much else—would then be allocated on the basis of which person or persons deserved these rewards on the basis of merit. Those who were meritorious would be rewarded; those who weren’t would not be.

But Democrats have lost interest in the last part of their case, which undermines their whole theory. Merit and objective measures of achievement are now viewed with suspicion as the outcomes of a hopelessly corrupt system, so rewards should instead be allocated on the basis of various criteria allegedly related to “social justice.” Instead of dismantling discrimination and providing assistance so that more people have the opportunity to acquire merit, the real solution is to worry less about merit and more about equal outcomes—“equity” in parlance of our times.

Yet most Americans, including blacks, favor merit-based measures rather than race as a criterion for college admissions.  We get a shout-out, too:

The people had spoken but Democrats were not inclined to listen. Instead, the last several years have seen an intensification of the drive to disregard meritocratic criteria in favor of identity-based characteristics. It has spread to countless workplaces and institutions and to an ever-wider variety of decisions within them. It is more or less the official orientation of the Biden administration. To insist on the centrality of merit, despite this being the dominant view among ordinary voters, is to invite accusations of racism in Democratic circles.

And once merit is disregarded in one area, it becomes easy to disregard it in others. Most perniciously, it invades the realm of ideas. Where once it would have been unthinkable to screen candidates for faculty positions—in everything from economics to theoretical physics—on whether and how much they adhere to a particular ideological project on promoting “diversity,” it is now commonplace. Where once it would have been unthinkable to judge a scientific project or analysis on anything other than its intrinsic merits and truth value, that too is now commonplace. Indeed, a recent paper, “In Defense of Merit in Science” by 29 distinguished co-authors, including two Nobel laureates, literally could not get published by a mainstream journal because the paper was “hurtful” and because the concept of merit “has been widely and legitimately attacked as hollow”.

. . . Will Democrats pull themselves back from the brink? We shall see. But they should know this: the voters they aspire to lead are not with them. On the bedrock question of merit and outcomes, Americans still believe—and will continue to believe—that “equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not”.

More people agree with this statement than not, including Democrats.

*Nellie Bowles has returned with her patented and snarky take on the weekly news, with Friday’s version called “TGIF: Writers of the world, unite!” As usual, I’ll put up three of her items:

→ My hometown Nordstrom: In the ongoing fall of San Francisco’s downtown, the city’s two iconic downtown Nordstroms have closed. That’s 357,500 square feet of retail space, empty. More importantly, it’s the place I used to shop for every major life occasion and where I got my first bra. The owner of the mall where that beloved Nordstrom sat had this to say: “A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees” and that the Nordstrom closures “underscores the deteriorating situation in Downtown San Francisco.”

In Chicago, the police are recommending that shop owners simply install Riot Glass. No big deal, just pay for bulletproof windows.

And at Temple University in Philadelphia, parents of students living off-campus have banded together to hire their own security guards.

→ Racially segregated math classes: In the wealthy suburb of Evanston, Illinois, segregation is back, baby. Evanston Township High School is segregating math classes by race. The Spectator, which is always fabulous, brings us the scoop this week, with images:

After the Spectator story, the school updated their language to be a little more vague, about certain classes simply “intending to support” certain races but technically being open to others. There’s a long-standing joke that the ultra-woke and the racist actually agree on everything. But it’s supposed to be a joke. Now we have, in real life, an algebra class for “black male students” and, unspoken but implied, algebra for white students. My jaw is dropped as I write this; it seems vaguely racist even to type these things.

*The Guardian reports that astronomers have found the biggest cosmic explosion ever seen. (h/t Jez).

It started as an unremarkable flicker in the night sky. But closer observations revealed that astronomers had captured the largest cosmic explosion ever witnessed, an event thought to have been triggered by a giant cloud of gas being gobbled up by a supermassive black hole.

The flare-up, traced to 8bn light years away, is more than 10 times brighter than any known supernova and has so far lasted more than three years, making it the most energetic explosion on record.

“It went unnoticed for a year as it gradually got brighter,” said Dr Philip Wiseman, an astronomer at Southampton University who led the observations. It was only when follow-up observations revealed how distant it was that astronomers appreciated the event’s almost unimaginable scale.

“We’ve estimated it’s a fireball 100 times the size of the solar system with a brightness about 2tn times the sun’s,” Wiseman said. “In three years, this event has released about 100 times as much energy as the sun will in its 10bn-year lifetime.”

Scientists believe that the explosion, known as AT2021lwx, is the result of a vast cloud of gas, possibly thousands of times larger than our sun, plunging into the inescapable mouth of a supermassive black hole. The cloud of gas may have originated from the large dusty “doughnut” that typically surrounds black holes – although it is not clear what may have knocked it off course from its orbit and down the cosmic sinkhole.

A hundred times the size of the solar system!!!!

*Lagniappe: A runner duck named “Longboi,” a favorite of students at York University, has disappeared and, after a month or so, is now feared dead.  (h/t David)

Long Boi, the grand old duck of York, is presumed dead after going missing for several weeks, leaving behind grieving students at his favourite university watering holes.

The 70cm-tall drake was celebrated at the University of York for his unusual height and gregarious nature, delighting students with his appearances around campus for several years.

The university – where alumni include the former Times editor John Witherow and the comedian Harry Enfield – described the duck as “a much-loved character” but said that after two months without a confirmed sighting it had been “forced to conclude” that Long Boi had passed away.

Here’s a video of Longboi, a “Indian runner duck” (also called “pencil ducks” because they stand upright:

I’m so sad he’s gone. . ..

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is perturbed:

Hili: You took Szaron’s place.
Kulka: He gave me his permission.
In Polish:
Hili: Zajęłaś miejsce Szarona.
Kulka: On mi pozwolił.

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

From America’s Cultureal Decline into Idiocy:

From Masih; see second tweet for confirmation:

This travesty happened just 4 days ago, and shows how morally depauperate the U.N. is these days:

From Malcolm; little boy gets glasses, sees Mom clearly for the first time:

From Simon. Oded does academic takes on news photos. “Data not shown” often means “data isn’t that great”:

From Barry, an “excellent critique of the British monarchy”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a four year old gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. This first one is fantastic: the woman spent ALL DAY looking for the ducklings’ mother:

Straddling tectonic plates:

20 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1830 – Ecuador gains its independence from Gran Colombia.

    1846 – Mexican–American War: The United States declares war on the Federal Republic of Mexico following a dispute over the American annexation of the Republic of Texas and a Mexican military incursion.

    1861 – The Great Comet of 1861 is discovered by John Tebbutt of Windsor, New South Wales, Australia.

    1861 – Pakistan’s (then a part of British India) first railway line opens, from Karachi to Kotri.

    1888 – With the passage of the Lei Áurea (“Golden Law”), the Empire of Brazil abolishes slavery.

    1912 – The Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the Royal Air Force, is established in the United Kingdom.

    1917 – Three children report the first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal. [The miracle is that adults believed them…]

    1940 – World War II: Germany’s conquest of France begins, as the German army crosses the Meuse. Winston Churchill makes his “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech to the House of Commons.

    1948 – Arab–Israeli War: The Kfar Etzion massacre occurs, a day prior to the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

    1958 – Ben Carlin becomes the first (and only) person to circumnavigate the world by amphibious vehicle, having travelled over 17,000 kilometres (11,000 mi) by sea and 62,000 kilometres (39,000 mi) by land during a ten-year journey.

    1985 – Police bombed MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, killing six adults and five children, and destroying the homes of 250 city residents.

    1989 – Large groups of students occupy Tiananmen Square and begin a hunger strike.

    1995 – Alison Hargreaves, a 33-year-old British mother, becomes the first woman to conquer Everest without oxygen or the help of sherpas.

    2005 – Andijan uprising, Uzbekistan; Troops open fire on crowds of protestors after a prison break; at least 187 people were killed according to official estimates.

    2014 – An explosion at an underground coal mine in southwest Turkey kills 301 miners.

    1842 – Arthur Sullivan, English composer (d. 1900).

    1907 – Daphne du Maurier, English novelist and playwright (d. 1989).

    1931 – Wilfred Grove, English actor. [Happy birthday, Dad!]

    1931 – Jim Jones, American cult leader, founder of the Peoples Temple (d. 1978).

    1937 – Trevor Baylis, English inventor, invented the wind-up radio (d. 2018).

    1939 – Harvey Keitel, American actor.

    1940 – Bruce Chatwin, English author (d. 1989).

    1941 – Ritchie Valens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1959).

    1944 – Armistead Maupin, American author, screenwriter, and actor.

    1949 – Jane Glover, English conductor and scholar.

    1949 – Zoë Wanamaker, American-British actress.

    1950 – Danny Kirwan, English singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2018).

    1950 – Stevie Wonder, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer.

    1951 – Rosie Boycott, English journalist and author.

    1964 – Stephen Colbert, American comedian and talk show host.

    1966 – Alison Goldfrapp, English singer-songwriter and producer.

    1969 – Buckethead, American guitarist and songwriter.

    1986 – Lena Dunham, American actress, director, and screenwriter.

    Death, they say, acquits us of all obligations:
    1832 – Georges Cuvier, French zoologist and academic (b. 1769).

    1835 – John Nash, English architect, designed the Royal Pavilion (b. 1752).

    1929 – Arthur Scherbius, German electrical engineer, invented the Enigma machine (b. 1878).

    1930 – Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian scientist, explorer, and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1861).

    1961 – Gary Cooper, American actor (b. 1901).

    1988 – Chet Baker, American singer and trumpet player (b. 1929).

    1995 – Hao Wang, Chinese-American logician, philosopher, and mathematician (b. 1921).

    2012 – Don Ritchie, Australian humanitarian (b. 1925). [Officially, he rescued 180 people from suicide as of 2009 over a 45-year period, although his family claims the number is closer to 500. Ritchie resided next to The Gap, a location in Sydney, Australia, known for multiple suicide attempts.]

    2019 – Doris Day, American singer and actress (b. 1922).

    2019 – Unita Blackwell, American civil rights activist and politician (b. 1933). [The first African-American woman to be elected mayor in the U.S. state of Mississippi. A project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Blackwell also served as an advisor to six US presidents: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.]

  2. At one time, Ruy Teixeira was a Democratic consultant. I do not know if he still considers himself that. In any case, I refer to him as the Democrats’ “Prophet of Doom.” His article cited in the post is one of a multitude he has written during the past few years, all with the same theme – that the Democrats are going too far left, becoming too cozy with the Woke, need to move to the center, and if they don’t, electoral disaster awaits them. By next year, we’ll see if the Democrats take his political advice. If they don’t, the election outcome will make Teixeira a man that should not have been ignored or an out-of-touch crank that should be relegated to obscurity.

    My own view is that the Democrats should disassociate themselves from the Woke by publicly repudiating its extremist positions because it is the correct public policy to do so. However, even if most mainstream Democrats keep mum regarding discussing the Woke, it is unclear how much they will be hurt electorally. The Republican strategy for 2024 seems to be emphasizing the cultural issues as opposed to economic ones. The unknown at this time is how many people not already committed to voting Republican will do so because of cultural fears. After all, the Democrats can point to Trump and other Republican extremists. In other words, the vast majority of the American voting public may very well dislike the Woke, but whether this dislike will be the decisive factor that tilts the election to the Republicans is open to debate at this time.

    1. What is the mechanism by which the Democratic Party (or the GOP) might purge its prgressive authoritarian wing? So as not to be contentious, I won’t single out a particular policy—everyone who wants the Democrats to win has their own ideas of what those electorally toxic policies are. How does the Party kneecap the political futures of candidates who will, untrammelled, get elected in 2024? Or, rather,who has the power to do the kneecapping? Can the Democratic National Committee revoke the party memberships of off-brand would-be candidates? In Canada, each party leader (who is selected by internal mechanisms in each party and is the man or woman who, by tradition, will become Prime Minister if his party is most successful in the election), exerts absolute control over candidates He can refuse to sign the nomination papers of any candidate nominated by the local constituency association and can parachute in his preferred candidate. Elected MPs who buck the leader are kicked out of caucus and have to sit as independents. The idea that these rogues would be allowed to “caucus” with an official party and “count” toward majority control, would be absurd. They can vote as they like but could not be privy to party strategy.

      This system allows leaders to prevent certain types of views from being put to the electorate as election issues. To my understanding there is no office similar to party leader in the U.S. legislative branch. The Majority and Minority Leaders certainly control the rules and who gets heard in Congress but they don’t control who gets to run for office or sit in caucus once elected. Absent this type of absolute ruler in a party, I don’t see how either party can repudiate or dissociate itself from people who want to run under its banner. Funding constraints from central resources? (Canadian candidates can’t fund-raise on their own account. All donations are to the party and the amounts here are minuscule by comparison, which makes it hard for us to even imagine how the American system operates.)

      1. The primary system would be the main mechanism for a political party to purge office seekers that are running on a platform that is not in favor with the party’s voters in the electoral district. On the presidential level, Biden should make clear what Woke policies he rejects if he determines that such a pronouncement would win him more votes than he would lose. Otherwise, he would be better off politically by saying nothing on Woke related issues.

  3. The critique of the British monarchy clip has echoes of “Dennis” being repressed in the famous Monty Python clip from The Holy Grail. Such brilliant (and prescient) comedy!

  4. Kaitlyn Collins did as well as anyone could. She pushed back many times, but pushing back harder would have turned the Town Hall into a debate between the two. It was not supposed to be a debate; it was supposed to combine viewer questions with interviewer commentary. Oh. And it was supposed to include Trump as well, and it did. Trump was in excellent form (for Trump). He understood that the audience was behind him and he used that fact to the max, garnering frequent applause and laughs. If there was anything wrong with the event, it was the choice of venue; the all Trump audience generated the inevitable result.

    Trump filled the airwaves with his usual lies, but it was his vigor that scared me. The man can still dish it out fast and furious. The comparison with President Biden is worrisome. At some point, people will decide to vote for Trump’s clown show over Biden’s informed somnambulism. I do like President Biden, but (Duh!) his age and vigor are a big problem, and we’re still 18 months away from the election.

    1. I agree with your assessment of the CNN town hall. I think criticism of Collins is misguided; as you wrote, she did as well as anyone could, under the circumstances.

      Just my opinion, but what you describe as Biden’s “somnambulism” is likely due to his dealing with a profound stutter. My reading tells me it’s something people who stutter must compensate for all their lives, even those who, like Biden, appear to have eliminated a stutter’s more obvious effects.

      But I will admit I may just be rationalizing in order to find reasons to feel optimistic about Biden’s 2024 chances.

      1. Then there was his last State of the Union address where he was astute and feisty, taking it to the booing GOP loons. I’d vote for a rock before Trump, so I guess Biden’s age doesn’t concern me at this point.

  5. That was Emanuel the emu’s mom looking for the ducks’ mom. I wonder how Emanuel’s doing?

  6. According to our guide when we visited Iceland, and this link below, these little rifts that you can straddle are not the plate boundary. As the two plates separate, the graben between them, which is now several kilometres wide in places, sinks to form a rift valley and new rock is being brought up from below through the faults. These little fissures in the Twitter photo occur where the graben is pulling down and away from one receding plate. You don’t anywhere have one foot in Europe and one foot in North America.

    Iceland’s original parliament was located in a kind of natural amphitheatre (slightly narrower 1200 years ago!) in this rift valley, which allowed everyone present to hear the new laws being read out.

    1. I went to a place near Reykjavík where it was only about 10 or 20 metres wide and the chasm was not at all deep. It was somewhat disappointing compared to further North.

  7. “People don’t seem to be appalled, except for Democrats. Draw your own conclusions.”

    My conclusion is that the Dems are in danger of projecting their estimation of Trump onto Independent voters like myself, which is a sure-fire recipe for underestimating him. Yet again.

  8. The little boy with the glasses is adorable. But how do they know his prescription since (I’m assuming) he’s not old enough for a visual acuity test? Can you figure out a prescription by analyzing the eye somehow?

    And I’d love to try “the best hummus in the world”.

    1. Yes you can. Retinoscopy explained here.

      The example in the embedded video depicts a far-sighted eye that is corrected with convex lenses. In the near-sightedness that begins in adolescence, the light focuses in front of the retina and is corrected with concave lenses….as with the child in the video.

      Simple equipment, could be done with a regular ophthalmoscope in a pinch. I bet they have some automated mechanism by now.

  9. The clips of tRump show nothing new about him or his delivery what amazes me is that no one smart enough could have anticipated and done the home work on the guy… e.g. when going on about the “I was robbed” election result, Collins could have countered “yes that’s all very well but that’s your fake news Mr ex President you have to deal with that, so lets leave it there…. next question.”
    You need to rattle the guy and see what comes out and it won’t be pretty is my guess.
    When I think about tRump, Putin, and Charlie and how I am basically anti aristocracy, hereditary privileged power, wealth, the elite, as I think the US has, where they see no further than their own feet. I am grateful for the extra layer of stability that a monarchy system brings along with it. Like democracy being the best way forward I can live with it (the monarchy) until we can navigate out of it without power vacuums which as far as I can see never usually ends well.

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