Saturday: Hili dialogue

May 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s CaturSaturday, May 27, 2023, shabbos for Jewish cats, and National Italian Beef Day, a sandwich that reaches its apogee in Chicago—at Al’s in particular.  Here’s one:

It’s also Cellophane Tape Day, International Jazz Day, National Grape Popsicle Day, Sunscreen Protection Day, and, in Australia, the beginning of National Reconciliation Week.

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

Da Nooz:

*The NYT’s op-ed, “Who can rein in the Supreme Court?” (notice that they didn’t use the incorrect “reign in”), diagnoses the problem, which we all know about, and offers a solution:

The problem:

Since a conservative supermajority took control of the court in 2020, it has blown through the guardrails courts are expected to observe — showing little respect for longstanding precedent, reaching out to decide bigger questions than it was asked to and relying on a secretive “shadow docket” to make hugely consequential rulings with no public explanation.:

The nine justices — unelected and employed for life — are shielded from the usual mechanisms of democratic accountability, and so they depend on a high level of public trust like no other institution of American government. Their failure to take the steps necessary to restore that trust, steps that are entirely within their control, is undermining their legitimacy as one of the country’s most vital institutions.

They also have no ethics code, and it shows. Finally, they are an “activist court”, a charge leveled at any court by its ideological opponents:

The Times’s Adam Liptak wrote last year in a review of recent legal scholarship that the Roberts court “has rapidly been accumulating power at the expense of every other part of the government,” arrogating to itself the authority to make policy decisions on issues, such as climate change, that had long been the province of Congress or executive agencies.

The solution: (my take)

Constitutional checks and balances give Congress the power to regulate some aspects of the court, like its size and jurisdiction. What they need to regulate is first, create and enforce an ethics code that gives clear guidance on when a judge should recuse herself. Second, the Court needs a “dedicated ethics officer, “akin to an inspector general for the court, empowered to investigate complaints, issue reports and create a body of precedent that justices can rely on.” But does this person have power?


Last and most difficult is the matter of enforcement. Even well-designed rules will not matter if the justices know that they will face no consequences for ignoring them. In the lower courts, judges who violate ethics rules are sanctioned by panels of appeals-court judges — their peers. That wouldn’t work in the Supreme Court, which sits at the top of the judicial branch.

Congress could but won’t impeach justices. So the “solution” is what’s above, which doesn’t really address their failure to abide by precedent or issuing decisions that seem outrageous. The ombudsman is the only route to that, and good luck with making that work. Nevertheless, the NYT seems optimistic.

Still, adopting these proposed elements — a code, an ethics officer, a system for investigating and reporting on unethical behavior — would provide a constant reminder to the justices that they work for the American people. That would help foster a culture of accountability and transparency for a small group of powerful officials who have long avoided both.

*Sports/gender news from Jez:

Science (and common sense) is beginning to prevail at last. British Cycling has just decided to protect women’s ability to compete by banning transwomen from competing in the female category. There will now be an open category for men and all those not “assigned female at birth”.Predictably, a transwoman cyclist has called the decision “a violent act” and called it “genocide” (which is pretty offensive to victims of actual genocides, of course).

The BBC story is here and the Guardian story hereBritish Cycling is now at odds with the international cycling federation, the UCI.

You can find the new policy here.  There are separate rules for “competitive” cycling (the elite events) and noncompetitive cycling (the “fun” or “friendly”events. I quote from the policy:

The Policy for Competitive Activity covers all British Cycling-sanctioned competitive events. It will see the implementation of an ‘Open’ category alongside a ‘Female’ category. This means that the current men’s category will be consolidated into the ‘Open’ category.

Transgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals and those whose sex was assigned male at birth will be eligible to compete in the ‘Open’ category. The ‘Female’ category will remain in place for those whose sex was assigned female at birth and transgender men who are yet to begin hormone therapy. At this stage, they will be eligible to compete in the ‘Open’ category only, and should ensure that they continue to adhere to the requirements of UK Anti-Doping. Those whose sex was assigned female at birth are also able to compete in the ‘Open’ category if they so wish.

This is a solution we’ve discussed before, and I think it’s a good one. Everybody gets to compete, and nobody’s stigmatized by being in an “other” category.

And the “noncompetitive category:

This includes our Breeze programme, a women-only community programme, which will continue to remain open and inclusive for transgender women and non-binary people.

Trans and non-binary people can also continue to participate in a broad range of British Cycling activities in line with their gender identities, including: club and coach-led activities, ability based race programmes (such as Go-Race events), community programmes, Talent Development Centres and non-competitive events such as sportives.

The policy is fair and “inclusive” in that anybody who wants to cycle can cycle, either competitively or noncompetitively. The people who object will be gender activists, particularly transgender women, who will be forced, in competitive events, to compete against members of their natal sex.

*Over at The Free Press, Nellie Bowles gives us her weekly and snarky summary of the news, this week called “TGIF: Cruising for a Bruising“. Here are three bits of nooz I’ll highlight (much of Nelie’s Nooz I’ve already posted about this week.

→ Tim Scott announces the normal way: The Senate’s sole black Republican, Tim Scott, also announced [his candidacy for President[ this week, which is surprising only because he seems like a happy person. He made the announcement on a stage in South Carolina, the state where his grandfather was born in 1921, dropped out of the fourth grade to pick cotton, and never learned to read or write. Two generations later, that’s the state Scott represents. NBC had the important question, with a reporter asking the new presidential contender: “As a single man, is there someone in your life? Is there time for a woman in your life right now?” All right, then.

→ The latest anti-science: J. Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, published a paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior focused on the parents of children experiencing rapid onset gender dysphoria. Shocker: activists got mad! Now the journal updated the piece to say “the publisher is currently investigating” and that some “supplementary information” was removed.

→ Professor’s scam interrupted: Amy Wisner, a professor at Michigan State University, had a really lovely scam going on. She required her 600 students to pay $99 to join “The Rebellion Committee,” a political advocacy group, during the spring 2023 semester. Turns out, Amy Wisner controlled the Rebellion Committee and then funneled that money wherever she pleased, namely to pro-choice advocacy. The dean apparently knew about this. Alliance Defending Freedom this week announced they are suing her. According to the lawsuit, this is what Wisner wrote on her own Facebook page: “The Rebellion community is a safe place to coordinate our efforts to burn everything to the f–king ground. 100% of membership fees are donated to Planned Parenthood.” She also used funds to buy an RV to go on a Rebellion RV Tour, according to the suit.

. . . and one more for me that I hadn’t seen:

Bob Zimmer helmed University of Chicago for 15 years, making it a bastion of intellectual rigor and debate during a time when both those things were increasingly out of fashion. Read the WSJ editorial board on his life.

It’s a good obituary but not a great one, saying very little about the person himself, which every obituary must do.  And of course they don’t mention ducks.

*In his latest Weekly Dish, “The resistance resists. . . . DeSantis!“, Andrew Sullivan casts a cold eye on the GOP’s new candidate:

And, to be fair, they weren’t wrong on the launch. Using Twitter for it was bizarre — horrid visuals, useless optics, on a platform loved by very online elites but alien to the vast majority of normie Americans DeSantis needs to reach. And although I once had some small hopes for Elon Musk’s Twitter, I sure don’t now. His platform is a shit-show, in all meanings of that word, and so was the DeSantis event. A shrewd pol would have kept Musk far away. Yet DeSantis effectively made his own announcement a hostage to the tech tyrant’s amour propre. Sad!

And if DeSantis wants to be the anti-woke candidate, he has to do better than telling us that DEI and SEL and ESG are just as bad as CRT. That’s an insane amount of insidery jargon. He has to do more than simply repeating the word “woke.” He has to appeal beyond the GOP base to the moderates and independents who still believe in individual freedom, merit, colorblind racial policy, personal responsibility and letting kids grow up shielded from progressive fanatics.

DeSantis has to engage the majority who are fine with trans adults but don’t believe young children can consent to sex changes and who think sports are sex-segregated for a good reason; those who support non-discrimination laws but don’t believe in hiring people because of their race and sex; those who want their kids taught the basics of math and reading — not that America is a white supremacist country and must be dismantled; those who oppose police abuse but not the police themselves; those who supported a short-term lockdown but not open-ended social death.

And DeSantis has to remind people, as Peggy Noonan puts it today, that “his calling card [is] that in a time of true national crisis — a historic pandemic, the sharp rise of woke ideology — he provided strong leadership under which his state thrived.”

Is DeSantis capable of this? Judging from Wednesday night, no. Perhaps this was because he’s in a primary campaign and thinks a narrow, online, wingnut focus is the safest bet. But key to his primary bid is his ability to convince Republican voters that he can reach beyond the Trump base in ways that Trump cannot. So far: not happening.

Nevertheless, Sullivan is rooting for DeSantis, which is weird but he gives his reasons:

And I find myself rooting for him against Trump not out of any affection or much admiration, but simply because I believe Biden is a lot weaker than many Democrats seem to think, and because my primary goal is preventing a second Trump term. I fear that Biden is fast becoming the Yuri Andropov of the Democratic Party — and can’t actually beat Trump next time.

Well, the polls don’t show that, at least those at FiveThirtyEight, which show a Biden/Trump contest pretty much even at this time, while Trump is a good thirty points ahead of DeSantis in a primary contest. I’ll vote for Biden, thank you, but Sully does add one bit of wisdom:

I also believe that the rapid corrosion of the core beliefs that sustain liberal democracy is the deepest underlying crisis we face. Wokeness is incompatible with a free society as we know it; it is in fact designed to destroy it, and replace it with identity-based collectivism. Biden will accelerate this, we now know. And Trump’s record in ensuring the cultural dominance and legitimacy of the far left is clear.

I know several people who would vote for Trump (or, perhaps, DeSantis) because they are one-issue voters: they hate wokeness. I’m no fan of it, either, but I’d rather have a somewhat woke Democratic administration than an right-wing authoritarian one.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s being the Princess again:

Hili: The wind has damaged my favorite dandelion seed ball.
A: Find another.
Hili: It will not be the same.
In Polish:
Hili: Wiatr uszkodził mój najładniejszy dmuchawiec.
Ja: Znajdź inny.
Hili: To nie będzie to samo.

. . . and a photo of Szaron:


From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:

From reader Jez via his daughter:

From reddit via Thomas. This was a narrow escape!

An exciting moment.
by u/fat_old_boy in SweatyPalms

From Masih (retweeted by Richard Branson):

From Malcolm, a sweet cat brings food to its sick owner:

From Barry, who says, “It took a while for them to become buddies.”

From Peter, a man feeds a fish. I don’t know what kind of fish it is, nor whether that’s an oyster the man is cracking. The fish is certainly hungry, though! (Matthew also sent this.)

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a heartbreaking picture.  Be sure to read all the text:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. Firstm, a cat flummoxed by a domino pile:

Read the linked essay to see how easily science is distorted by the media, and how credulous the public is. We need better science reporting.

An excerpt from the Undark essay:

The three of us have studied forest fungi for our whole careers, and even we were surprised by some of the more extraordinary claims surfacing in the media about the wood-wide web. Thinking we had missed something, we thoroughly reviewed 26 field studies, including several of our own, that looked at the role fungal networks play in resource transfer in forests. What we found shows how easily confirmation bias, unchecked claims, and credulous news reporting can, over time, distort research findings beyond recognition. It should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists and journalists alike.

This male’s genes have created a behavioral and morphological package that helps spread those genes!

41 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1703 – Tsar Peter the Great founds the city of Saint Petersburg. [Modest or what…?]

    1917 – Pope Benedict XV promulgates the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first comprehensive codification of Catholic canon law in the legal history of the Catholic Church. [Up until then, they just made it up as they went along?]

    1930 – The 1,046 feet (319 m) Chrysler Building in New York City, the tallest man-made structure at the time, opens to the public.

    1933 – New Deal: The U.S. Federal Securities Act is signed into law requiring the registration of securities with the Federal Trade Commission.

    1937 – In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic, creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County, California.

    1940 – World War II: In the Le Paradis massacre, 99 soldiers from a Royal Norfolk Regiment unit are shot after surrendering to German troops; two survive.

    1941 – World War II: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaims an “unlimited national emergency”.

    1941 – World War II: The German battleship Bismarck is sunk in the North Atlantic, killing almost 2,100 men.

    1967 – Australians vote in favor of a constitutional referendum granting the Australian government the power to make laws to benefit Indigenous Australians and to count them in the national census.

    1975 – Dibbles Bridge coach crash near Grassington, in North Yorkshire, England, kills 33 – the highest ever death toll in a road accident in the United Kingdom.

    1998 – Oklahoma City bombing: Michael Fortier is sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about the terrorist plot.

    2016 – Barack Obama is the first president of United States to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and meet Hibakusha.

    1818 – Amelia Bloomer, American journalist and activist (d. 1894).

    1819 – Julia Ward Howe, American poet and songwriter (d. 1910).

    1837 – Wild Bill Hickok, American police officer (d. 1876).

    1867 – Arnold Bennett, English author and playwright (d. 1931).

    1878 – Anna Cervin, Swedish artist (d. 1972).

    1894 – Dashiell Hammett, American detective novelist and screenwriter (d. 1961).

    1907 – Rachel Carson, American biologist, environmentalist, and author (d. 1964).

    1911 – Vincent Price, American actor (d. 1993). [Shared a birthday with Christopher Lee, see below. I don’t remember knowing that before.]

    1912 – John Cheever, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1982).

    1921 – Bob Godfrey, Australian-English animator, director, and voice actor (d. 2013).

    1922 – Christopher Lee, English actor (d. 2015).

    1923 – Henry Kissinger, German-American political scientist and politician, 56th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate. [100 today!]

    1924 – John Sumner, English-Australian director, founded the Melbourne Theatre Company (d. 2013).

    1943 – Cilla Black, English singer and actress (d. 2015).

    1957 – Siouxsie Sioux, English singer-songwriter, musician, and producer.

    1958 – Neil Finn, New Zealand singer-songwriter and musician.

    1975 – Jamie Oliver, English chef and author.

    Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages:
    1564 – John Calvin, French pastor and theologian (b. 1509).

    1840 – Niccolò Paganini, Italian violinist and composer (b. 1782).

    1896 – Aleksandr Stoletov, Russian physicist, engineer, and academic (b. 1839).

    1910 – Robert Koch, German physician and microbiologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1843).

    1949 – Robert Ripley, American cartoonist, publisher, and businessman, founded Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (b. 1890).

    1964 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian lawyer and politician, 1st Prime Minister of India (b. 1889).

    1984 – Eric Morecambe, Comedian, actor, entertainer and singer (b. 1926).

    2011 – Gil Scott-Heron, American singer-songwriter and poet (b. 1949).

    2013 – Bill Pertwee, English actor (b. 1926).

    2017 – Gregg Allman, American musician, singer and songwriter (b. 1947).

    1. Dead at age 94 is Spike Lee’s jazz musician father, Bill Lee. The latter scored Spike’s early films, including his film about a working jazz band in New York, Mo’ Better Blues. Below is the title tune Bill Lee composed. (It’s a simple tune, but, damn, is it ever pretty. Performed IRL by jazz great Terence Blanchard.)

  2. Can someone explain why would someone lacking the faintest chance to be a contender enter the presidential election arena? Who gives super bland Tim Scott money to waste? What strategy is there? Do not tell “minorities vote” because Latino and (limited) Black conservatives’s enthusiasm for tRump explains problems are somewhere else

    1. So you want expert vetting of political candidates now, by leftist wonks, presumably, to exclude the ones who don’t have the “faintest chance”? That would have excluded your own oddly misspelled (like a secret handshake?) example back in 2015. One of the nice things about America is that anyone can run for President if he can attract campaign donors. In parliamentary countries you have to win approval through a largely secret private-club process run by the political party you want to lead before you can put yourself out to the people.

    2. So, Mr. Scott lacks sufficient charisma. Do you care to hold forth on the efficacy of his political positions? How do you evaluate Trump’s charisma? Trumpers attend his rallies in order to bask in the glow of the Great Man’s presence. Do you wish Trump had less charisma?

    3. There’s this guy who isn’t remembered all that well today because he never became President (due to his pathetic chances, as demonstrated by pre-primary polls), but he went into the Democratic primaries back in the 1990s with only 6% of likely voters five months from the primaries and a very crowded field with a seemingly unbeatable candidate. Can’t remember what happened after that. I think he was from Arkansas…

  3. There is no control that you could give to Congress over the Supreme Court that would not destroy the separation of powers. And isn’t it rich to think of Congress complaining about the appearance of impropriety of the Court given the lucre that Congressmen collect during their terms by excluding themselves from common measures like insider trading? The extreme left, like the NYT, wants to eliminate problematic Constitutional provisions that prevent them from doing whatever they want.

    1. Lower federal judges — circuit and district — are already subject to a binding code of judicial conduct. With Tile 28 of the United States Code section 351, the US congress provided an enforcement mechanism for this code of conduct. These lower federal judges are every bit as much creatures of Article III of the US constitution as are SCOTUS justices. Do you think the system in place for them violates the separation of powers? If not, why would the extension of this system to SCOTUS do so? I see this not so much as a matter of separation of powers issue as one of checks-and-balances.

      In this regard, I’d recommend you read the five-page written statement the highly respected, principled conservative former judge of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals J. Michael Luttig recently submitted to the US senate judiciary committee. (Luttig’s chambers long served as a “feeder” for law clerks for SCOTUS’s most conservative justices. Over 40 of Luttig’s clerks went on to serve Supreme Court clerkships — 33 of them for Nino Scalia or Clarence Thomas.)

      In any event, SCOTUS’s current system of completely optional adherence to any type of ethical standards has grown increasingly untenable.

      1. Hey, Ken! Your mention of Joel Edgerton the other day was prescient, as I just watched Netflix’s The King, in which he and the entire cast were phenomenal. Would highly recommend. Also, have you seen his directorial effort, The Gift? Also excellent, with him in a leading role.

        The name Joel also brought to mind Joel Kinnaman, which led to me remembering that he did a terrible (presumably; I haven’t seen it because YOU CAN’T REMAKE A PERFECT MOVIE) remake of Robocop, which reminded me of the fact that I watched the semi-reboot Dredd again the other day, starring Edgerton’s near-countryman, Karl Urban.

        Why did I write all of that? To ask if you’ve seen Dredd. If not, don’t go in thinking it’s your regular action flick. It’s one of the most beautifully photographed and directed movies I’ve ever seen, and most of the shots (you’ll know which ones I’m talking about) were done with practical effects. It’s an absolute visual feast, and not in the way you’d expect from an action film. There are segments where the phrase “every frame a painting” truly applies in a way I can’t remember being matched in any other motion picture.

        1. Yes, I’ve seen both Edgerton’s directing efforts, The Gift and Boy Erased (about a teenager sent to a gay-conversion camp by his strict Baptist parents, played by Edgerton’s fellow Aussies Russell Crow and Nicole Kidman, though the film is set in the USA.)

          And speaking of Edgerton, did you ever have a chance to see the Aussie film he stars in, and which we discussed before, The Night We Called It a Day, in which Dennis Hopper plays Frank Sinatra (based on a real-life incident in which, during a tour Down Under, Sinatra insulted a female Aussie journalists and the nation essentially rose up as one against him)? I’m not saying it’s great cinema, but it is a kick.

          I haven’t seen Dredd, but if you’re saying it surpasses the usual action-film conventions, I’ll check it out.

          1. Haven’t seen either of those, but I will take a look.

            Regarding Dredd being of the action genre: If I had to guess, that was just the director’s way of getting the studio to finance an art film. The action is great too, but you’re in for a visual treat. Lena Headey also gives a great performance as the villain.

  4. The mashed potato product in the photo is a UK product, not US, so this actually represents the UK’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy. 🤣

    1. Not really. It uses vegan alternatives to the milk and butter that are essential components of good mash.

  5. Is there any reason why US voters currently registered as Democrats can not swap to registering as Republicans to vote in the Republican primaries? Admittedly hard to pick—Trump who Biden might be able to beat, or the slightly saner DeSantis, who would be less dangerous if he won, but is more likely to beat Biden. Nothing would stop them from voting Democrat come the presidential election.
    We do not register in Canada or the UK, and can join any number of parties at once. I am currently both a member of the Liberals and the Conservatives, simply so I can vote in leadership elections (more often to vote against someone, rather than for someone!)

  6. “And DeSantis has to remind people, as Peggy Noonan puts it today, that ‘his calling card [is] that in a time of true national crisis — a historic pandemic, the sharp rise of woke ideology — he provided strong leadership under which his state thrived.'”

    His “leadership” was catastrophic. Florida’s Covid death toll in the Delta wave was by far the worst in the country. I argue it was due to his suppression of masks.

    1. Florida, famously, has a lot of old people. It was the only state (of the ones who report health statistics by race—not all do) in which black and Hispanic patients did not die in disproportionately large numbers compared to whites. Everywhere else (except for Iowa which has statistically tiny numbers of black people), blacks died at 2-4x their proportion in the population and Hispanics 4-6 X. Not so in Florida. Whites died in numbers as your figures show. This rate is based on causes of death reported to CDC by state health authorities. As you point out, Florida had an unusual discrepancy between deaths reported due to Covid and excess mortality which is, yes, suspicious of misreporting. However, if residents of nursing homes accounted for much of the excess mortality especially in white people who are less likely to be obese especially if old, it is conceivable that those deaths would legitimately not be called Covid. Frail elderly people may get Covid, have a positive test, and then appear to rally (especially if vaccinated), only to die a month or so later from having stopped eating, by which time they will have been recorded in public health stats as a recovered case, death not having occurred within 30 days of a positive test. Also, non-frail people admitted to ICUs with Covid can linger for months before dying of “intensivitis”. Scoring them correctly as a Covid death takes good communication between the doctor assigning cause of death and the state health authorities. So undercounts of true Covid deaths are likely in these two populations. (Over-counts can also occur, and did in Ontario when we started to look.)
      The Cochrane collaboration which is often claimed to show that masks “didn’t work” did not actually show that. Not surprising, because there was no convincing high-quality primary evidence for Cochrane to review. Nonetheless the value of masks remains a question of common sense over skepticism. Any actual marginal value got lost in politics.

      I sometimes challenge my friends to name the single month of the whole two years that saw the largest number of Covid deaths in Ontario, a highly vaccinated population with aggressive mask mandates and business closures, despite which our ICUs nearly collapsed, twice. That month was January 2022, when omicron swept in and killed many frail vaccinated elderly in nursing homes (again) where masking was rigidly enforced. Fortunately we shook it off because few nursing home residents get transferred to ICUs.

      I don’t think any jurisdiction can say that it suffered a catastrophe from Covid. Essential services nowhere stopped working and deliveries of food, fuel, and other essential goods continued. The lights stayed on. Economically destructive inflation, disruptions in supply chains, and in America the George Floyd riots and wholesale abandonment of policing, were due more to public health restrictions on business and social activity than to illness and death from Covid.

      I’m over 65 yet I don’t know anyone who died of Covid. My son’s 103-year-old father-in-law might have, four months after his positive test. But our society is more dysfunctional than it was in 2019. I can blame that on lockdowns as credibly as you can that Gov. DeSantis ruined Florida by scoffing at masks.

      1. It is rather obvious to thinking people that the lockdowns might have caused more deaths than they prevented. Nova Scotia has recorded 866 deaths from Covid-19 since March 2020, but it is hard to know how many deaths are “excess deaths”? I’ve spent some time searching for answers, and the best I can come up with is a figure reported by the CBC that in a four week period in Nov – Dec 2022 the excess deaths were 262. In comparison, the latest government figures are for Jan-Feb 2023 and show an excess of 53 deaths. and at another government site, I see that 27 deaths were due to Covid-19 in the Jan-Feb period in 2023. We are dealing with shaky data, but by government stats alone, we have an excess of 36 deaths in a one month period that were not deaths from Covid-19. Presumably some of this is random variation, but it is obvious to all of us living here, just from listening to our neighbours’ accounts of relatives dying, that some of those deaths were due to delays in ordinary treatment.
        Let me give a non-fatal example. I had a bone marrow transplant in February 2021. One might imagine that there would be close follow-up for such a treatment, but I have had no follow-up appointment since February 2022. Yes, 13 months with no follow up. I’m still here, and still complaining. Being a physician, I can assess to some extent what danger I am in from lack of follow up, but everyone else? What can I say? Hurray for single-payer healthcare? I was born into the NHS in the UK, grew up in it, lost the hearing in one ear in it, went to med school in it, left for Canada as a result of it, and now I am on my own after a bone marrow transplant despite Canada’s much-vaunted medicare? Should I be happy I have an ALS certificate?

      2. Leslie, thank you for an injection of sanity. Once I see a post about a state’s COVID death toll without any adjustment for age or population, I tune out. Likewise, when I see comparisons between regions of the country (usually New England and the Deep South) that don’t account for pre-COVID health and mortality differences, I tune out. Likewise, ones that take a snapshot in time rather than judge the entire race. (Remember Sweden? They were going to kill everybody, or something.)

        Have you ever read D. A. Henderson’s 2006 paper “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza”? It was written at a time when–post-9/11 and post-anthrax incidents–U. S. policy makers feared a broader biological weapon attack, and the defense establishment was gaining influence in the crafting of public health responses. Henderson’s measured guidance served as rebuke to the ideas circulating in D. C. at the time, but throughout this pandemic it would have been dismissed as fringe—his longtime leadership of both the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and of the world smallpox eradication campaign would have been ignored.

        His conclusion: “An overriding principle. Experience has shown that
        communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical
        care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”

        The article is reproduced in full at the link below (after some optional short commentary that seems libertarian enough to rile some readers here). There is also a .pdf of the article floating around online.

        COVID “debate” in some circles became no different than Ukraine is now: you question the wisdom of some of the U. S. policy over the last thirty years and you are a Putin supporter. So, too, with COVID: the ad hominem attacks, the social-media silencing, the pure vitriol and ostracization directed at anyone who questioned the wisdom, validity, or scientific justification behind the least aspect of any of a host of government claims, statistics, or measures—major or minor.

        Was COVID a serious public health problem? Yes. But the black plague it was not. (If it had been, you would have scoured the earth to find an “antivaxxer”.) Serious problems call for reasoned leadership—not fearmongering attempts to induce panic, groupthink, and scapegoating of outgroups. The more deadly the situation, the more critical this is. And an honest appraisal of a government’s successes and failures is always in order. Good luck waiting for that.

        (Let’s see if this third posting attempt works. I deleted it twice because it keeps posting at the bottom of the comment thread instead of as a reply to a comment.)

        1. A short note on D. A. Henderson: Why would a man who was one of the preeminent public health experts of his time publish an article about mitigation measures for pandemic influenza in the journal “Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science”?

          Who was he trying to reach? Perhaps those people who directed that I be vaccinated against smallpox decades after the disease had been eradicated.

      3. By “marginal value” I don’t mean that the value of masks was some trivially small amount, as “marginal” is often used to give the illusion of scientific precision. Instead I meant the additional value of mask mandates “at the margin” is hard to measure beyond the bundle of other measures being adopted at the same time.

        Edit: and I really don’t/didn’t mean to open a can of worms or praise Caesar when he should stay buried, about either pandemic control practices or specific political leaders making decisions about them. An exercise in critical appraisal is to “exhaust the hypothesis space” when presented with a plausible primary hypothesis. Then the student suggests strategies to collect data to test all those hypotheses and not close prematurely on one that seems attractive, so as to avoid confirmation bias. For all I know, masks saved lives. I just don’t think we’ll ever know if mask mandates did and I wanted to illustrate why excess deaths, the subject of the original comment, are difficult to interpret. Socioeconomic status trumps everything we do in public health with the singular exception of some vaccines.

  7. I believe that one of the ways the Democrats should have dealt with the supreme court, when they had the chance, is to increase the size.

    I did a rough estimate that the population of the US had increased 9x since the number of judges was set at 9. Scaling with population would suggest that 81 judges would give the same per capita ratio. That sounds like a bit much to me, but then selecting random panels from those judges could both increase the work rate and reduce the current problems of knowing the outcome of cases in advance, based solely on politics.

    Of course, someone with better historical knowledge might want to correct my numbers. Similarly, with the make up of the Senate, the Dems never really had a chance to do this. But still, it’s nice to dream of a functioning judicial system.

    1. I think the US constitution should be amended to provide term limits for US Supreme Court justices. I’d recommend staggered 18-year terms. That way, one of the nine SCOTUS justices would be replaced every two years. I’d further recommend that the nomination and confirmation process occur in the year following our biennial federal elections. This would assure that every US president would get two SCOTUS nominations during each four-year term.

      1. Turnover every two years seems a bit chaotic for what is supposed to be the most consistent of our three branches (whether we like the texture of their consistency or not). I do like the idea of switching between which parties get to appoint the judges.

        If course, if RBG wasn’t so adamant that she be replaced by the first female president, we wouldn’t be in quite the pickle we are now, especially as I believe that Roberts would act as much more of a swing vote like Kennedy if it was only a 5-4 court. I will forever hold it against her. It was an incredibly selfish move, not to mention the hubris it required in being absolutely certain that HClinton would win.

        1. I think replacing just one of the nine justices every two years would promote continuity rather than chaos. It would also strip some of the rank politics from the Court and from the nomination process, by assuring that every president — Democrat or Republican — gets the same number of SCOTUS nominations.

          Where the senate is under the control of the opposition party, it would also encourage the senate to fulfill its constitutional “Advi[s]e and Consent” authority by negotiating for a more moderate nominee, but do away with the type of unseemly game-playing that occurred with the nominations of Merrick Garland and Amy Coney Barrett.

  8. It’s good to see Richard Branson taking notice of and showing concern about events in Iran.

    It certainly beats a few years ago when he publicly castigated South Dakotans, not one of whom up to that moment had deigned to fly on his precious airline.

  9. *The NYT’s op-ed, “Who can rein in the Supreme Court?” (notice that they didn’t use the incorrect “reign in”),

    Are you sure? If the headline meant ‘Who can be the ruler in the Supreme Court?’ then ‘reign’ would be correct, but if it meant ‘Who can bring the court back into line’ then rein in – as in reining in a horse – is correct.

    1. Ignore the above. I read it too fast and missed the ‘in’ in ‘incorrect’.
      My apologies

  10. I make my own Italian beef, including a kick-ass giardiniera; it’s one of my favorite sandwiches. After looking at the Chicago version, I need to give that a try, but it’s so far away!

    I think the fish is an Asian sheepshead wrasse.

    I rarely agree with Sullivan, and I think he’s a bit of an ass. But I decided to look up Yuri Andropov since, apparently, Biden is becoming him. I read Yuri’s bio and I can’t find one similarity; he was the head of the KGB for a time where he is described as “repressive”, he orchestrated the Soviet invasion into Hungary in the 50’s… I have no idea what Sullivan is talking about (again). I guess I’m not smart enough to glean his ersatz sophisticated comparison.

      1. Yes, it guessed it was a reference to that. (Although Andropov was 11 years younger when he died than Biden is now, of course.)

    1. As Coel alluded to, Andropov suffered an extreme decline in health soon after he was elected to be the General Secretary of the Communist Party. By all accounts, this was unexpected. In contrast, his successor, Chernenko, was already extremely ill in both mind and body when he was elected, lasted barely over a year before dying, and was essentially a puppet for Ustinov and Gromyko. Another interesting fact: Andropov actually tried to enact quite a few sweeping reforms and had picked Gorbachev to succeed him, a wish that eventually came to fruition after the death of Chernenko.

      1. Thanks for the connection, though I still regard it as loose and exaggerated. Andropov sounds more like Reagan at this point. Biden is not being “propped up,” he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s for instance…in another term? Who knows? I’d still vote for a rock before Trump (or Desantis for that matter).

  11. I haven’t seen it mentioned yet(?), but I think that fish is commonly known (among my fellow divers) as a Napoleon Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus–and I don’t know how to make italic or other fonts on this site), altho Wikipedia has it under the title of Humphead wrasse, and also mentions some other common names, including Maori Wrasse (if that is acceptable under MM?). Experts can correct me.

  12. “… little respect for longstanding precedent…”

    Yeah, as if Plessy v. Ferguson or Baker v. Nelson should still stand.

    “… reaching out to decide bigger questions than it was asked to….”

    This is PRECISELY what RBG said the Blackmun court did with Roe v. Wade.

    “… arrogating to itself the authority to make policy decisions on issues, such as climate change”.

    Most of what they’ve done is to insist that laws should be created by Congress rather than by unaccountable regulatory agencies. The law in that EPA case has been argued over many times. If Congress refuses to clarify it, this is what you get.

    If the NYT is really concerned with SCOTUS ethics, they should rail against the Dobbs leak.

    “I’d rather have a somewhat woke Democratic administration than an right-wing authoritarian one.”

    So would I, but that’s not what we have. The current administration has aggressively pushed every facet of the farthest-Left agenda, from gender ideology to outright totalitarian speech suppression. It is allowing banks to close accounts simply because someone there doesn’t like a person’s politics. We’re becoming China of 1970. I don’t see much hope for the U.S. as the center has been primaried out of existence and we’re left with competing forms of extremism. It doesn’t seem to matter much who’s in the White House as much of the revolution occurs at the administrative level.

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