Monday: Hili dialogue

May 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Monday, May 22, 2023, and National Vanilla Pudding Day (tapioca’s better).

It’s also Harvey Milk Day, as the murdered gay rights activist was born on this day in 1930, International Day for Biological Diversity,Sherlock Holmes Day (Arthur Conan Doyle was born on this day in 1859), United States National Maritime Day, and World Goth Day. If you’re a goth (are there any left?), you can find a list of today’s Goth Day events here. And here are photos from Wikipedia of a male and female Goth:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 22 Wikipedia page.

And there’s a Google Doodle today; if you click on it below, you’ll find that it celebrates the 69th birthday of Barbara May Cameron (1954-2002), described on Wikipedia as “a Native American photographer, poet, writer, and human rights activist in the fields of lesbian/gay rights, women’s rights and Native American rights.” You can’t get more intersectional than that.

Here’s a photo:

Da Nooz:

*Ukraine’s repeated claims that it still held onto the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and was making gains, have been muted lately. And now it looks as if that silence denotes the dismal fact that the city has been pretty much taken over by the Russians.

Ukrainian forces have lost effective control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukraine’s top commander in the region said, as Moscow declared its first significant conquest since last summer after months of relentless fighting that has cost thousands of lives and obliterated the city.

Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskiy said Ukrainian forces were clinging to a tiny part of Bakhmut and advancing around its flanks, but acknowledged that the city was largely under Russian control.

The city’s capture would mark the only significant success of a monthslong Russian offensive that has severely depleted its military.

The question of who really won the battle of Bakhmut, military strategists say, will be decided not by control over the shattered city but by the next phase of the war. Kyiv fought street by street and at great cost to grind down Russian forces and prepare its forces for its own offensive aimed at seizing back territory occupied by Russia. Fighting has also cut into Ukrainian forces after Kyiv committed additional units to its defense.

And a quote from President Zelensky:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that Bakhmut was “only in our hearts,” hours after Russia’s defense ministry reported that forces of the Wagner private army, with the support of Russian troops, had seized the city in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking alongside U.S. President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Zelenskyy said the Russians had destroyed “everything.” “You have to understand that there is nothing,” he said.

“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he said. “There is nothing in this place.”

How many Ukrainian cities will turn into “nothing”?

*Ezra Klein at the NYT explains why “Liberals are persuading themselves of a debt ceiling plan that won’t work.” Although he thinks the whole idea of a debt ceiling is nonsense, he also argues that two solutions limned by the Democrats are equally dumb:

Now two more unconventional tactics are proving particularly popular in the liberal imagination.

In one, President Biden simply declares the debt ceiling unconstitutional, pointing to the 14th Amendment, which holds that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” Five Senate Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are circulating a letter calling on Biden to do just that. On Friday, 66 progressive congressional Democrats sent the president their own letter making a similar case.

In the other, the Treasury Department uses a loophole in a 1997 law to mint a platinum coin of any value it chooses — a trillion dollars, say — and uses the new money to keep paying the government’s debts.

In remarks after a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Biden said he was “considering” the argument that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. The problem, he continued, is that “it would have to be litigated.” And that’s the problem with all these ideas and why, in the end, it’s doubtful that Biden — or any Democrat — will try them.

The legality of the debt ceiling or a trillion-dollar platinum coin doesn’t depend on how liberals read the Constitution or the Coinage Act. It depends on how three conservatives read it: John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who are the closest the Supreme Court now comes to having swing justices.

. . . My point is not that more conservative readings of these laws are right in some absolute sense. It’s that no such absolute sense matters. We just watched this Supreme Court wipe out decades of precedent to overrule Roe. It has repeatedly entertained cases that even conservative legal scholars thought farcical just a few years earlier. I still remember Orin Kerr, a law professor who clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, telling me at the beginning of the Obamacare case that there was “a less than 1 percent chance that the courts would invalidate the individual mandate,” only to update that to a “50-50 chance” as the court prepared to rule.

The Supreme Court does what it wants to do. Does it want to let the Biden administration dissolve the debt ceiling using a novel legal theory?

As he notes, Biden making a move that might be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court is a dumb move. His ending: “Republicans are the ones threatening default if their demands are not met. They are pulling the pin on this grenade, in full view of the American people. Biden should think carefully before taking the risk of snatching it out of their hands and holding it himself.”  But I’m wondering if it would do nearly as much damage if Biden refused to compromise and we defaulted then. Remember, he promised during his campaign to reach across the aisle and bring the country together. Or has everyone forgotten that?

*If you’ve visited Tikal in Guatemala (I have twice, and you must if you’re ever in the country), you’ll be stunned at the site of a huge Mayan city rising out of rain forest: green as far as you can see. It was a major city for fifteen centuries, but we know that others are buried in the forest, which quickly covers up ruins.  But there are many of these—as the Washington Post reports, at least 417 are being mapped by archaeologists.

Beneath 1,350 square miles of dense jungle in northern Guatemala, scientists have discovered 417 cities that date back to circa 1000 B.C. and that are connected by nearly 110 miles of “superhighways” — a network of what researchers called “the first freeway system in the world.”

Scientists say this extensive road-and-city network, along with sophisticated ceremonial complexes, hydraulic systems and agricultural infrastructure, suggests that the ancient Maya civilization, which stretched through what is now Central America, was far more advanced than previously thought.

Mapping the area since 2015 using lidar technology — an advanced type of radar that reveals things hidden by dense vegetation and the tree canopy — researchers have found what they say is evidence of a well-organized economic, political and social system operating some two millennia ago.

The discovery is sparking a rethinking of the accepted idea that the people of the mid- to late-Preclassic Maya civilization (1000 B.C. to A.D. 250) would have been only hunter-gatherers,“roving bands of nomads, planting corn,” says Richard Hansen, the lead author of a study about the finding that was published in January and an affiliate research professor of archaeology at the University of Idaho.

. . .Before the lidar study, archaeologists, biologists and historians had identified about 50 sites of importance in a decade. “Now there are more than 900 [settlements]. … We [couldn’t] seethat before. It was impossible.” Hernández says.

Among the multistory temples, buildings and roads, images of Balamnal, one of the Preclassic civilization’s crucial hubs, were revealed for the first time. It dates back to 1,000 or possibly 2,000 years before the most famous, and well-excavated, Maya site of Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which was constructed in the early A.D. 400s.

Excavations around Balamnal in 2009 “failed to recognize the incredible sophistication and size of the city, all of which was immediately evident with lidar technology,” Hansen says. Lidar showed the site to be among the largest in El Mirador, with causeways “radiating to other smaller sites suggest[ing] its administrative, economic and political importance in the Preclassic periods.”

The only way into the region is by helicopter or a 40-mile hike through the jungle, so for now tourists are few. Here’s a photo from the article with the WaPo caption:

(from WaPo): The La Danta pyramid in northern Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, researchers have found evidence of a well-organized system of hundreds of ancient Mayan cities. The discovery suggests the ancient civilization was far more advanced than previously thought. ( Andres Turcios and Mirciny Moliviatis/FARES)

*Okay, here’s a new movie you’ll have to see when it comes out in October: “Killers of the Flower Moon,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Di Niro: a team that’s worked together seven times before. As CNN reports,

Their latest project, true-crime drama “Killers of The Flower Moon” starring DiCaprio and De Niro, premiered at the swanky Cannes Film Festival on Saturday and the post-screening reception was instantly impressive with a minuteslong standing ovation.

video posted to the Cannes Film Festival’s YouTube channel shows the audience inside the Grande Theatre Lumiere exuberantly applauding the movie for at least seven minutes, with more applause coming after director Scorsese thanked the audience.

“Thank you to the Osage,” Scorese said, adding “everyone connected with the picture – my old pals Bob, Leo, all of us together” and described filming the movie as a “very alive” experience.

. . .The cheers and applause grew louder for DiCaprio, De Niro and Lily Gladstone, who were all in attendance at the premiere. Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, and Jillian Dion also star in “Killers.”

Based on the bestseller by David Grann, the film is a true-crime story “set in 1920s Oklahoma and depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror.”

The three and a half hour film marks Scorsese’s first-ever foray into the Western genre and premiered out of competition at Cannes. It has so far received positive reviews.

It’s based on a true story: that of the “Osage Indian Murders” from 1910 to the 1930s. I had no idea about this! The Osage discovered oil on their lands, many got rich, but Congress decreed that each Osage have a white guardian to manage their finances. You can imagine what that led to!  Here’s a trailer about the movie (Robbie Robertson composed the music), which is based on an eponymous book:

And here’s a half-hour video documentary about the real incidents:

*Here’s some juicy gossip, and I’ll be brief, as you can read the story for itself. Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein!

Jeffrey Epstein discovered that Bill Gates had an affair with a Russian bridge player and later appeared to use his knowledge to threaten one of the world’s richest men, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Microsoft co-founder met the woman around 2010, when she was in her 20s. Epstein met her in 2013 and later paid for her to attend software coding school. In 2017, Epstein emailed Gates and asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the course, according to the people familiar with the matter.

The email came after the convicted sex offender had struggled and failed to persuade Gates to participate in a multibillion-dollar charitable fund that Epstein tried to establish with JPMorgan Chase. The implication behind the message, according to people who have viewed it, was that Epstein could reveal the affair if Gates didn’t keep up an association between the two men.

“Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes. Having failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates,” said a spokeswoman for Gates.

. . . The new details about Epstein and Gates reveal a layer of complexity to their relationship, and shed new light on how Epstein operated. In the years between his 2008 conviction and death, Epstein packed his days meeting with politicians, businessmen, academics and celebrities. He provided favors and sought to use the connections for his own purposes. And when the relationships soured, he could turn against people.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I believe Hili is dissing either his editors or the other family cats:

A: Do you like to sit here?
Hili: Yes, this is the best place to throw pearls before swine.
In Polish:
Ja: Lubisz tu siedzieć?
Hili: Tak, to jest najlepsze miejsce do rzucania pereł przed wieprze.

And a picture of the affectionate Szaron, taken by Paulina:

And here is Mishka, Anna Krylov’s lovely British shorthair. Look at those eyes—they are the color of honey.


From reader David:

From Facebook:

From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

From Masih: Iranian protestors protesting the execution of protestors:

I found this one (read more about the Torch Lady here).

. . . I found this one, too. (I discovered a way to find some good tweets without following anyone):

From Gravelinspector, a lovely Egyptian carving:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a nine-year-old boy gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who had a rough time in Heathrow this morning. Always check your order before you press the “pay” button!

Independent only seconds after birth (there’s no parental care, as I recall):

Kitties supervising the construction of their own cat-hole:

35 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1370 – Brussels massacre: Between six and twenty Jews are murdered and the rest of the Jewish community is banished from Brussels, Belgium, for allegedly desecrating consecrated Host.

    1520 – The massacre at the festival of Tóxcatl takes place during the Fall of Tenochtitlan, resulting in turning the Aztecs against the Spanish.

    1762 – Trevi Fountain is officially completed and inaugurated in Rome.

    1807 – A grand jury indicts former Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr on a charge of treason.

    1846 – The Associated Press is formed in New York City as a non-profit news cooperative.

    1849 – Future U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is issued a patent for an invention to lift boats, making him the only U.S. president to ever hold a patent.

    1906 – The Wright brothers are granted U.S. patent number 821,393 for their “Flying-Machine”.

    1915 – Lassen Peak erupts with a powerful force, the only volcano besides Mount St. Helens to erupt in the contiguous U.S. during the 20th century.

    1915 – Three trains collide in the Quintinshill rail disaster near Gretna Green, Scotland, killing 227 people and injuring 246.

    1927 – Near Xining, China, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake causes 200,000 deaths in one of the world’s most destructive earthquakes.

    1939 – World War II: Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel.

    1947 – Cold War: The Truman Doctrine goes into effect, aiding Turkey and Greece.

    1960 – The Great Chilean earthquake, measuring 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, hits southern Chile, becoming the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.

    2002 – Civil rights movement: A jury in Birmingham, Alabama, convicts former Ku Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry of the 1963 murder of four girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

    1783 – William Sturgeon, English physicist and inventor, invented the electromagnet and electric motor (d. 1850).

    1813 – Richard Wagner, German composer (d. 1883).

    1859 – Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer (d. 1930).

    1907 – Hergé, Belgian author and illustrator (d. 1983).

    1907 – Laurence Olivier, English actor, director, and producer (d. 1989).

    1914 – Sun Ra, American pianist, composer, bandleader, poet (d. 1993).

    1942 – Ted Kaczynski, American academic and mathematician turned anarchist and serial murderer (Unabomber).

    1943 – Betty Williams, Northern Irish peace activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2020).

    1946 – George Best, Northern Irish footballer and manager (d. 2005).

    1950 – Bernie Taupin, English singer-songwriter and poet.

    1959 – Morrissey, English singer-songwriter and performer.

    1968 – Graham Linehan, Irish comedy writer and activist.

    1987 – Novak Djokovic, Serbian tennis player.

    It was said that life was cheap in Ankh-Morpork. This was, of course, completely wrong. Life was often very expensive; you could get death for free:
    1885 – Victor Hugo, French novelist, poet, and playwright (b. 1802).

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

    1972 – Margaret Rutherford, English actress (b. 1892).

    1997 – Alfred Hershey, American biochemist and geneticist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1908).

    2010 – Martin Gardner, American mathematician, cryptographer, and author (b. 1914).

    2019 – Judith Kerr, German-born British writer and illustrator (b. 1923).

    2022 – Dervla Murphy, Irish touring cyclist and author (b. 1931).

  2. Regarding the debt ceiling, I found this chart to be instructively appalling. Approximately 2/3rds of the debt ($10T of $31T) has been accumulated since 2010, and 1/3 in the last six or seven years. I find it impossible to believe that spending cannot be cut without jeopardizing critical operations to reduce the debt and prevent the further ballooning of the debt. The GDP is only $23T. At this pace insolvency will come whether we raise the debt ceiling continually or not.

    1. I do think cuts have to be made, but that needs to include significant parts of the budget that are politically off limits (military spending being one). Then there are all those tax cuts and loopholes.

    2. It is important to understand, and keep in mind, the difference between the deficit and the debt ceiling. There is a connection but it is not a direct one and most talk in the press and otherwise confuses and conflates the two.

      The deficit is a result of spending, and spending is defined by the budget, which is a result of legislation. A budget gets approved at which point it becomes law, and the Whitehouse is required to spend exactly as the budget details. Whenever the budget requires spending in excess of available funds then borrowing is required to cover the difference, and the Whitehouse is obligated by law to do that in order to execute the budget. That’s where the deficit comes from. Passing budgets that exceed available funds.

      The RP likes to lower available funds by tax cuts and cutting or eliminating funding for existing programs they don’t like, while at the same time passing budgets that exceed previous budgets, and that’s why the rate of deficit increase has sharply increased whenever the RP has the reins, since at least the Reagan era. Funny how they whine about the deficit every time the DP has the reins, even funnier how many people believe them. The funniest is how everyone seems to forget how the DP has always reduced the deficits by the time they hand the reins back to the RP

      Notice how the debt ceiling doesn’t have anything to do with how spending is determined and passed into law. The debt ceiling was created by the 2nd Liberty Bond Act of 1917 and was intended to give the White House the ability to borrow money (sell bonds) without having to get approval from Congress, up to a certain limit, the debt ceiling. Borrowing in excess of the ceiling required getting approval from Congress. This act, along with several other pieces of legislation from the same few year period, defined the legalities of how budgets were created and how the government spent and borrowed.

      That entire legal framework was replaced by new laws with the passing of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, instigated by Tricky Dick being a crook, as was his wont. As I wrote above, the White House is legally bound to spend as the budget details. TD decided to not spend as the budget required. He withheld funding for budget items that he didn’t like. That was, and still is, against the law. The 1974 act changed up the entire legal frame work for spending and borrowing. The previous legal framework was enacted in order to give POTUS more leeway, this new 1974 framework was enacted in order to take that away. Guess what isn’t included anywhere in these 1974 laws that govern spending and borrowing? A debt ceiling. No where to be found.

      Even if it is granted that the debt ceiling from the 1917 Liberty Bond Act is still legitimate law, despite all legal and legislative precedent, it only limits what the White House can borrow (increase debt) without getting prior approval from Congress, in order to spend what the budget, that Congress previously approved, requires. It was never intended to be used like the RP is trying to use it. And the way they are trying to use it is against the law and unconstitutional. Anyone worried about the deficit should be talking about budgets and revenues, not about the debt ceiling. It’s a fabricated non sequitur intended to literally hold us hostage so that the RP can gain more power, that they have not been able to achieve legitimately.

      1. Good summary darrelle, thanks. It’s also worth noting that when the DP creates programs/passes legislation that cost a lot of money, they find ways to pay for them (higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy for example). Biden’s spending, as well as Obama’s, (on paper at least) is eventually “paid for”. The debt accrued by W. and Trump (mostly by tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and a 20 year war “off the books”) are never paid for; they are simply hand-outs. It’s been going on since Reagan, and has been coined the “two Santa Claus theory.” Here’s a summary (not mine and probably a little too simplified, but it explains the gist).

        First, when Republicans control the federal government, and particularly the White House, they spend money like a drunken sailor and run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible. This produces three results – it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy, it raises the debt dramatically, and it makes people think that Republicans are the “tax-cut Santa Claus.”

        Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how “our children will have to pay for it!” and “we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!” This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus.

        It all started with Reagan who tripled the US debt from $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in 8 years. The GOP loved it. Then Clinton got elected and the GOP went nuts about the “unsustainable debt.” You can actually see this in the chart provided by DrB. From 1980-1990 the debt to GDP went from 33% to 55%. Then under Clinton from 1990-2000, it stayed the same (56%). Under W. 2000-2010 it shot up to 92%. If you follow Obama’s years, the debt stayed close to the GDP, but when Trump took office in 2016, it shot up again DRAMATICALLY. Covid destroying the US and world economy and then stimulus packages under Trump and Biden accounts for a lot of the craziness from 2020 to present and I imagine if the DP remains in control, the debt vs. GDP will eventually level off again.

        1. Thanks Mark R.

          I like that summary, sort of rings a bell but I can’t quite place it. It frustrates me that all this information is readily available and yet so many people believe the contrary. A regular I miss seeing around here, jblilie (spelling?), used to maintain and update some graphs that clearly showed these trends, and post a link when the topic came up.

  3. … Barbara May Cameron (1954-2002), described on Wikipedia as “a Native American photographer, poet, writer, and human rights activist in the fields of lesbian/gay rights, women’s rights and Native American rights.” You can’t get more intersectional than that. (emphasis added)

    Dunno about that. Back in the day, James Booker was called (originally by Dr. John, I believe), “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”

    Top that for intersectionality. Here’s Mr. Booker layin’ it down live at the Montreaux festival:

  4. … Moscow declared its first significant conquest [Bakhmut] since last summer after months of relentless fighting that has cost thousands of lives and obliterated the city.

    Well, to paraphrase an unnamed US Army major after the Battle of Bến Tre during the Tet Offensive, I guess the Russians “had to destroy that village in order to save it.”

      1. Yeah, well, the Americans didn’t really “save” Bến Tre either, did they? They merely kept out of the hands of the VC by destroying it, the way the Russians are intent to destroy Bakhmut to deny it to the Ukrainians.

    1. Zelensky commented yesterday, in a speech at the G7 at Hiroshima, that Bakhmut now looked like Hiroshima in August 1945. Not quite, there are more buildings standing, and no radiation, but not an entirely bad analogy.

    1. Indeed…but then there was that guy from yesterday’s Hili who made the illuminated table. That one boggled my mind…at least with the cat tunnel, I could follow what was going on.

      1. The “table guy” was pretty handy with a router himself. I didn’t watch often enough to work out how he was mounting/ dismounting his jig for the router … but it was handy handiwork regardless.

      2. I don’t have good results from taping parts together while glue sets. Not enough pressure. And some glues expand while setting and force the parts apart if not clamped. For that project I would have passed a couple of gluing clamps through the bore of the tunnel to clamp each portal to its mating wall. Wouldn’t have needed a lot of squeezing —don’t break the drywall—but enough to squeeze some glue out to ensure a good bond. A good clamp is half the job. You can never have too many.

  5. Could somebody explain the Malcolm X tattoo thing? I have no idea what is it about. I googled up who was Malcolm X (never heard before), but I still do not get what is the joke there.

      1. I see. Thank you. I recognize neither of them from photo (although I heard of Denzel Washington at least) and only read the text when googled up the guy, so I had no chance.

          1. When my nephew was about 15 or so, he was tasked with looking after a new boy who had just joined the school. It was impressed on him in no uncertain terms that he must, under no circumstances make anything of the fact that the new boy was the son of Tom Hardy.

            The first words out of the new boy’s mouth were “hello, my Dad is Tom Hardy, the actor”.

          1. The historian Jonathan Eig believes that the historical integrity of the Autobiography of Malcom X may be compromised due to the participation of Alex Haley. See the May 10 article in the Washington Post by Gillian Brockell about MLK and his relationship with Malcom X.

      2. I suspected it was that, but didn’t check. I was also entertaining the idea, from the “X” lapel pin, that the tattooée thought he was celebrating the racial inclusion of the X-men movies.
        Which would have been rather “meta”, given the way the “X-men” comics were (allegedly) a way to “discuss” the “politics which dare not speak it’s name” of early 1960s America.

  6. Late to Hili today, but want to put in a plug for David Grann’s excellent book, Killers of the Flower Moon, and also his Lost City of Z. (And it looks like a long wait for the library to offer The Wager, which you or a reader might have mentioned here at some point recently?)

  7. PCCE wrote: “Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I believe Hili is dissing either his editors or the other family cats:”


    I’m calling the ACLU! O the humanity, err, felidity??

    I’m literally shaking with outrage.

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