Good morning to you on The Cruelest Day, Tuesday June 27, 2023, and it’s National Orange Blossom Day. This refers to the flowers, whose aesthetic beauty we are supposed to admire today, but it also refers to a drink made with orange juice, gin, grenadine, orange liqueur, and vermouth. It’s a healthy cocktail:
It’s also National Bingo Day, Helen Keller Day (she was born on this day in 1880), National Ice Cream Cake Day, National HIV Testing Day, National PTSD Awareness Day, National Indian Pudding Day (America’s best indigenous dessert, though some people don’t like it), Industrial Workers of the World Day, and Seven Sleepers’ Day or Siebenschläfertag in Germany.
Wikipedia says this about that:
In the Islamic and Christian traditions, the Seven Sleepers (Greek: επτά κοιμώμενοι, romanized: hepta koimōmenoi,Latin: Septem dormientes), otherwise known as Aṣḥāb al-kahf, Sleepers of Ephesus and Companions of the Cave, is a medieval legend about a group of youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus (modern-day Selçuk, Turkey) around AD 250 to escape one of the Roman persecutions of Christians and emerged some 300 years later. Another version of the story appears in the Quran (18:9–26). It was also translated into Persian, Kyrgyz, and Tatar.
And an “Illustration from the Menologion of Basil II“:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 27 Wikipedia page.
*Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary Wagner group, explains that in his March on Moscow he wasn’t trying to overthrow Putin, and he’ll now be operating from Belarus:
Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced Monday for the first time since his Saturday mutiny, and declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military — not to topple President Vladimir Putin.
Prigozhin, who did not disclose his whereabouts, said he ordered the rebellion after Russia’s military killed 30 Wagner fighters in a missile strike on one of the militia’s camps, and he said he accepted a deal to avoid prosecution and move to Belarus because it would allow Wagner to continue its operations there.
. . . Speaking in an 11-minute audio address posted on Telegram on Monday, Prigozhin said Wagner fighters were strongly opposed to signing a contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry — as they had been ordered to do by July 1 — because it would have effectively dismantled the group. Wagner had decided to hand back its equipment to the Defense Ministry when the missile strike occurred, he claimed.
He boasted that Wagner was perhaps the “most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, and possibly in the world” and had performed a huge number of tasks in the interests of the Russian state, in Africa, the Middle East “and around the world.”
“Recently, this unit has achieved good results in Ukraine,” he said, adding that Wagner had received an outpouring of support from Russians in Saturday’s revolt, which he called a “march for justice.”
While Prigozhin issued his defiant statement, Russia’s embattled leadership tried to demonstrate control on Monday after the bruising, chaotic mutiny by airing a video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting a command post. The Kremlin released video of a recorded address by President Vladimir Putin to young engineers.
Finally, there’s still rancor between Putin and Prigozhin:
State-owned media, meanwhile, reported Monday that the insurrection charges against Prigozhin had not yet been rescinded. The Kremlin on Saturday had announced that the charges would be dropped as part of the deal in which Prigozhin agreed to halt his military advance on Moscow and leave Russia for Belarus.
Key questions about the deal remained unanswered, and messaging from Russian officials about Wagner’s future appeared confused, amid signs that the militia would be allowed to continue to function, despite calls for it to be curbed.
And who, exactly, is going to curb Wagner save Prigozhin? Not Belarus, for sure, and not Russia? It’s a militia, Jake, and they make money. I can’t imagine it not functioning in some capacity.
*The NYT implies that Wagner may now be dissolving as a fighting force, but at least no longer shares a war partnership with Russia.
To some Ukrainian forces, soldiers from the Wagner Group were the best-equipped fighters they had seen since Russia invaded last year. To others, it was their training that distinguished them: Ukrainian soldiers recalled battlefield stories of aggressive tactics or a sniper downing a drone with a single shot.
But after the short-lived mutiny led by the head of the group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, it is not clear whether Wagner will still be a fighting force on the battlefield with its fate now in question.
For now, the uncertain status of Wagner is bound to be a relief for Ukrainian soldiers. Though the front lines in Ukraine are likely to remain unchanged in the short term, depending on how events unfold in Russia, the Ukrainian military may be able to capitalize on the chaos and weakening morale to try to make some gains, according to independent analysts and American officials.
Still, it is too soon to determine the long-term implications of the feud between Mr. Prigozhin and the Russian military establishment, American officials said. In Bakhmut, Wagner played an outsize role in the campaign to take the eastern city, Moscow’s one major battlefield victory this year, and solidified an uneasy alliance with the Russian military — only to see the partnership break once the city was captured.
“The previous relationship between Wagner and the Russian government is likely over,” said Rob Lee, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Even had this not happened, it was unclear if Wagner would have played the same role in this war as it had in the battle for Bakhmut.”
. . .After seizing Bakhmut, the Russian Defense Ministry took steps to integrate Wagner into the broader military, which would have reduced Mr. Prigozhin’s power. When Russia forced all volunteers fighting in Ukraine to sign contracts with the ministry, it meant that Mr. Prigozhin would have had to put his forces under the control of the military, said Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“This is one of the reasons Prigozhin went mad,” Ms. Stanovaya said, “because he realized now he is out of Ukraine.”
And here’s the bit suggesting how Wagner may disappear:
The Kremlin announced that Wagner troops who did not participate in the revolt would be allowed to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry. Those that had joined the convoy would not be prosecuted. The statement suggested that Wagner in its current form would no longer exist.
Though part of Mr. Prigozhin’s mercenary cadre is likely to continue under Russian Army control, how many Wagner soldiers would be willing to fight under the ministry’s umbrella is an open question.
My guess: not very many. But what do I know?
*The Supreme Court is now adjudicating a case that could bestow millions of dollars of tax bonuses on corporations and rich individuals.
The Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear arguments in a tax law case that could yield billions of dollars for large corporations, block Democrats’ proposals to tax wealthy Americans and upend longstanding chunks of the tax code.
The court, in an unsigned order, said it would decide a case that asks whether people and companies have to receive, or realize, income for it to be taxed under the 16th Amendment. Arguments will happen in the court term that starts in October.
The case stems from a one-time tax on accumulated foreign profits that Congress created in 2017 in the tax law signed by then-President Donald Trump. That tax applied to 30 years of profits that U.S.-based companies held overseas and hadn’t repatriated. It also applied to individuals who owned at least 10% of foreign companies.
The tax, projected to raise $339 billion to help pay for rate cuts and other business-tax changes, was designed to smooth the transition to new tax rules that no longer allow companies to defer U.S. taxes on their foreign income.
Charles and Kathleen Moore, a Washington state couple, challenged the tax and sought a $14,729 refund. They argued they hadn’t realized any income on their investment in an India-based company and thus couldn’t be taxed.
Here are the implications if the Moore’s win, which is by no means a sure thing (the law and precedents are unclear on this point):
. . . if the court rules in favor of the Moores, it could have widespread implications, depending on what the justices say.
First, if the court sided with the Moores, it could mean that companies that have been paying the one-time tax may be able to seek refunds totaling hundreds of billions of dollars.
Second, it could affect existing pieces of the tax code that impose taxes without realization of income. That includes taxes on individual shareholders in foreign companies with passive income, investors who buy certain discounted bonds, and wealthy people who renounce their citizenship.
. . . And, looking forward, a realization requirement could block some of Democrats’ most ambitious tax proposals. President Biden has called for an annual minimum tax on wealthy Americans, based in part on their unrealized capital gains. And some Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), want an annual tax on the net worth of the richest households.
*The Associated Press summarizes all the important cases that the Supreme Court is about to rule on. A brief summary
Affirmative action. The survival of affirmative action in higher education is the subject of two related cases, one involving Harvard and the other the University of North Carolina. The Supreme Court has previously approved of the use of affirmative action in higher education in decisions reaching back to 1978. But the justices’ decision to take the cases suggested a willingness to revisit those rulings. And when the high court heard arguments in the cases in late October, all six conservative justices on the court expressed doubts about the practice.
Student loans [$10,000 relief for those who make less than $100,000 per year.] The justices will also decide the fate of President Joe Biden’s plan to wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans. When the court heard arguments in the case in February, the plan didn’t seem likely to survive, though it’s possible the justices could decide the challengers lacked the right to sue and the plan can still go forward.
Gay rights. A clash of gay rights and religious rights is also yet to be decided by the court. The case involves a Christian graphic artist from Colorado who wants to begin designing wedding websites but objects to making wedding websites for same-sex couples.
State law requires businesses that are open to the public to provide services to all customers, but the designer, Lorie Smith, says the law violates her free speech rights. She says ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their beliefs. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black, Jewish or Muslim customers, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants.
This will be a tough one, involving two clashes of well established rights: freedom of religion and laws against discrimination. This next one I didn’t know about:
Religious rights. Another case that could end as a victory for religious rights is the case of a Christian mail carrier who refused to work on Sundays when he was required to deliver Amazon packages.
The question for the high court has to do with when businesses have to accommodate religious employees. The case is somewhat unusual in that both sides agree on a number of things, and when the court heard arguments in April both liberal and conservative justices seemed in broad agreement that businesses like the Postal Service can’t cite minor costs or hardships to reject requests to accommodate religious practices. That could mean a ruling joined by both liberals and conservatives.
Voting. As election season accelerates, the Supreme Court has still not said what it will do in a case about the power of state legislatures to make rules for congressional and presidential elections without being checked by state courts.
In a case out of North Carolina the justices were asked to essentially eliminate the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by legislatures on the grounds that they violate state constitutions.
However, the state Supreme Court threw out that law, and the Big Supremes could throw out this case on that basis. But there’s a similar case waiting from another state.
*If you want to understand why biological sex is defined by the reproductive system one has for producing gametes, and not by chromosome type, have a look at Zach Elliot’s recent piece on “Reality’s Last Stand” Substack site, “Sex isn’t all about chromosomes.” In many animal species, including ours, biological sex is highly correlated with chromosome constitution, but genes affecting biological sex can move around on those chromosomes, making them less than ideal for defining sex. Further, sex is defined by gametes not arbitrarily so there is a true sex binary (which there is), but because this binary is ubiquitous in animals regardless of how sex is determined (social environment, chromosomes, haploidy or diploidy, temperature, and other factors Elliot mentions), and, most important, the gametic definition explains a lot about animal evolution, most notably sexual dimorphism that arises via sexual selection that comes ineluctably from the difference between males and females in the investment they put into their gametes.
This is worth reading if you’ve followed the kerfuffles about sex:
There are two primary reasons why the chromosomal definition of sex is flawed, which I will outline below.
First, many species do not have the X-Y chromosomal system, and yet males and females are still produced. Across the plant and animal kingdom, nature has evolved many mechanisms for developing individual organisms into males or females.
For instance, birds use Z and W chromosomes, where the females develop with ZW and the males develop with ZZ.⁶ Reptiles, however, don’t have sex chromosomes and rely instead on environmental factors such as temperature for sex determination. A specific temperature range triggers male development, whereas a different range promotes female development.
Second, genetic disorders can result in a sex opposite of what one would expect from the chromosomes. Three case studies help illustrate this fact:
These cases involve XX males, SSR Y-negative females, and XY CBX2 negative females. I won’t summarize the rest of the article, but it does show that the common assertion that “sex is determined by chromosomes” is generally correct, but it’s not the same as saying “sex is defined by chromosomes,” which is wrong, even for humans. This is what’s correct: “the sexes are defined by their structure and function: the reproductive anatomy that produces sperm or eggs. Biological sex is highly correlated with chromosome type, though, but the chromosomal constitution is not involved in the definition of sex in any organism.”
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is chilling:
A: What are you doing?Hili: I’m lying and digesting.
Ja: Co robisz?Hili: Leżę i trawię.
From Bad Cat Clothing. For some reason I find this hilarious:
Convergent evolution from Jesus of the Day:
Masih retweeted this from former chess champion and anti-Russian activist Garry Kasparov:
Don't wonder what will happen if Russia collapses. It already did! Years ago. It's not a state, it's a mafia front with factions fighting each other for money, resources, and power.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) June 23, 2023
Titiana has started posting again, but I’ve missed it. Here’s are two recent ones:
THINGS THAT ARE RACIST
• Waking up early
• Working from home
• Music lessons
• Coffee pic.twitter.com/x34MUPRdnK
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) May 24, 2023
Reader Simon has no idea if this is true, but he’s willing to give it some credence for the time being:
Got no idea if this is true, but it makes more sense than "Lukashenko the peacemaker offered a safe haven in Minsk" https://t.co/4oih2BmUrj
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) June 26, 2023
From Ken, who dubs this, “The Donald sampling HUAC and Joe McCarthy”. I guess all the Marxist professors here will have to be deported if Trump wins. . .
Trump: Using federal law, I will order my government to deny entry to all Communists and all Marxists.. So we're going to keep foreign Christian hating Communists, Marxists and Socialists out of America pic.twitter.com/BXWcJIdGZF
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 25, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a young woman who died at just 21:
27 June 1921 | A Polish woman, Halina Gasparska, was born in Warsaw. An accountant.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 27, 2023
From Matthew Cobb. No, the cat is in the right place:
— place where cat shouldn't be 😺 (@catshouldnt) June 26, 2023
Apparently the quote comes from Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb:
A microbiologist coined the term "fission" for the splitting of the atom. It's biologists all the way down folks. pic.twitter.com/rbYmqxsB1h
— Arye Lipman (@aryelipman) June 24, 2023
Two Duck Leaps Into the Unknown. Translation of the second one:
— mochi(o (@mochico251) June 21, 2023