Friday: Hili dialogue

June 30, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Friday, June 30, 2023, and my sister Susan’s birthday (she’s exactly 2½ years younger than I, so it’s also my half-birthday). Happy birthday, sis! Here’s our passport picture with mom, taken when we went to Greece in about 1955:

We’ll toast her birthday with a tropical drink, since it’s National Mai Tai Day. a drink made with rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice and orgeat.

Source and recipe

It’s also Cream Tea Day (with scones and raspberry jam, I hope), National Corvette Day, National Food Truck Day, National Meteor Watch Day, International Asteroid Day, and Social Media Day.

My Twitter photo is always Hili, but it changes from time to time:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 30 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*All the buzz is about the Supreme Court’s striking down affirmative action, which is as unexpected as snow in Antarctica.

Leaders of American business and public institutions warned in friend-of-the-court briefs that a ruling against affirmative action would deprive the nation of leaders who reflect the population’s racial diversity. The watershed decision sets new parameters for the continuing national debate over what criteria are permissible to admit people to the country’s elite institutions and hire them at its biggest companies—crucial springboards for upward mobility in America.

University officials have insisted no substitute for racial preferences exists that can ensure that a representative share of minority applicants—particularly Black students—gains admission to selective institutions.

If no substitute exists, does this mean that affirmative action can never end? If so, then there is no endpoint beyond which racial preferences needn’t exist.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite,” he wrote.

The court’s three liberals dissented. Society “is not, and has never been, colorblind,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “The Court ignores the dangerous consequences of an America where its leadership does not reflect the diversity of the People.”

Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, expects five years of chaos before higher education fully adjusts to the new legal landscape, as committees and task forces—already in place at many schools—explore ways to employ income levels, socioeconomic factors and other race-neutral factors to maintain diversity.

Note that what has to be done is maintain the status quo, but take actions that will maintain it legally. We have to admit, though, that no race-neutral factors will ever maintain diversity at the levels universities want. How could that work.

*Well, various workarounds, surreptitious or not, have been proposed. One, suggested in an op-ed in the NYT by Stephanie Saul, is the admissions essay, “The college application essay will become a place to talk about race.” But that, of course, would lead to every college in America asking for essays about race, which is not only tedious, but is in effect a kind of DEI statement for students: a way to show their ideological bona fides as well as reveal their own race. Saul:

The college essay may become more important after the Supreme Court’s decision, and a place where students can highlight their racial or ethnic backgrounds — but with a big caution sign from the court.

In the decision striking down affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”

But that distorts the purpose of the essay, which is to show a student’s writing ability, thoughtfulness, personality, and imagination. The University of Chicago is famous for asking weird essay questions; go here to see a few. I’ll pick two (inspired by students) and ask you if you can work racial issues into them:

The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?
—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022

You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?
—Inspired by Alexander Hastings, Class of 2023, and Olivia Okun-Dubitsky, Class of 2026

But John Roberts is way ahead of these strategies:

However, the chief justice also took a shot across the bow at anyone who might be thinking that the essay could be used as a surreptitious means of racial selection.

“Despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through the application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today,” he wrote, underscoring, “What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.”

And now groups like Students for Fair Admissions, which represented the plaintiffs in the Harvard and UNC suit, will be able to monitor how colleges are admitting students, and look for “proxies for race”, like Harvard’s “pesonality score.” It won’t be easy to do an end run around the Court’s decisions.

As for nice essay questions like the ones Chicago uses, we won’t see many like these from now on. No, here’s what we’re in for:

Some education officials had already strategized on how to use the essay. In a recent presentation sponsored by the American Council on Education, Shannon Gundy, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, said students should tailor their admissions essays to describe how race had affected their lives.

Can you imagine? Every essay topic pretty much the same, with companies springing up that, for a fee, will help a student craft an admissions-winning essay.

*For an eclectic but sensible take on affirmative action, read Freddie de Boer’s Substack piece, “Affirmative action thoughts in an inelegant format.” Here are three of his many points:

  • All things being equal, I’m fine with some race-conscious admissions in our actually-existing university system, though under a theory of reparations for slavery, not the bizarre jerry-rigged “diversity” sham. [JAC: this is my own rationale, too]
  • I am much, much more worried for the vast number of Black people who don’t even apply to college than I am about a theoretical Black student who would get into Harvard with a racial preference but wouldn’t without. The former is in worse shape by absolutely any metric. This whole conversation rests on weird priorities.
  • It remains profoundly weird that people who want to defend affirmative action can’t straightforwardly say what it does. Affirmative action is a system in which students of color who would not ordinarily gain entry to a given college are given a slot thanks to consideration of their racial background, on grounds of diversity or addressing systemic bias. But if you say “these college kids got in because of affirmative action,” that’s a horrible, racist thing to say. I can’t think of another progressive program where the defenders of that program have forbidden people from saying that the system is working as it is intended to work. Very strange.

*Nine states, including California, have already banned affirmative action in college. In the WaPo, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe note that “State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others.

In states with bans, Hispanic and Native Americans were less represented

Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states without bans.

Black representation increased a bit, but didn’t reach parity. The data are complex, though; in some schools diversity increased after affirmative-action bans. In general, though, minority representation decreased after these bans. Do read the piece for yourself if you’re interested.

*The AP reports reactions of various people to the affirmative-action decision, including Biden and some Justices themselves. There are really no surprises, but it’s interesting to hear.

Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

From the White House, President Joe Biden said he “strongly, strongly” disagreed with the court’s ruling and urged colleges to seek other routes to diversity rather than let the ruling “be the last word.”

Besides the conservative-liberal split, the fight over affirmative action showed the deep gulf between the three justices of color, each of whom wrote separately and vividly about race in America and where the decision might lead.

Justice Clarence Thomas — the nation’s second Black justice, who had long called for an end to affirmative action — wrote that the decision “sees the universities’ admissions policies for what they are: rudderless, race-based preferences designed to ensure a particular racial mix in their entering classes.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina, wrote in dissent that the decision “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”

In a separate dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — the court’s first Black female justice — called the decision “truly a tragedy for us all.”

Jackson, who sat out the Harvard case because she had been a member of an advisory governing board, wrote, “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.

Biden, who quickly stepped before cameras at the White House, said of the nation’s colleges: “They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience that reflect all of America,” He said colleges should evaluate “adversity overcome” by candidates.

Well, that’s one workaround, but somehow I don’t think it’s going to guarantee diversity. After all, not every minority student overcame adversity, and many non-minority students did. And I bet almost everyone can write an essay about a major obstacle they overcame.

Finally, statements from two former Presidents:

Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama offered starkly different takes on the high court ruling. The decision marked “a great day for America. People with extraordinary ability and everything else necessary for success, including future greatness for our Country, are finally being rewarded,” Trump, the current Republican presidential frontrunner, wrote on his social media network.

Obama said in a statement that affirmative action “allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged. Now it’s up to all of us to give young people the opportunities they deserve — and help students everywhere benefit from new perspectives.”

It’s interesting that Obama says that both he and Michelle were beneficiaries of affirmative action. I didn’t know that, and never took the trouble to check.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess is going to rest:

Hili: Something is pushing me towards the bed.
A: Either tiredness or hedonism.
In Polish:
Hili: Coś mnie pcha w kierunku łóżka.
Ja: Albo zmęczenie, albo hedonizm.

. . . and a picture of Baby Kulka:


From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Ginger K.:

From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0:

From Masih: another brave doffer of the hijab fights back against those who call her a “prostitute”:

From Titania: truth is stranger than fiction:

From Merilee. Three stray kittens get a forever home!

From Barry, two happy snails. Look at that guy chowing down on the green bean! (Or is it asparagus?)

From the Auschwitz Memorial. a boy marched to death at age 17:

Tweets from Matthew. I wonder if there are any British Jews living in Ham?

Look at that manta ray flap! (Doesn’t do it much good in the air, though.)

This is adorable:

24 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. deBoer: “I’m fine with some race-conscious admissions in our actually-existing university system, though under a theory of reparations for slavery, …”

    I’d be fine with that too … for any teenager who was ever a slave.

  2. On this day:
    1859 – French acrobat Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

    1860 – The 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History takes place.

    1886 – The first transcontinental train trip across Canada departs from Montreal, Quebec. It arrives in Port Moody, British Columbia on July 4.

    1905 – Albert Einstein sends the article On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, in which he introduces special relativity, for publication in Annalen der Physik.

    1908 – The Tunguska Event, the largest impact event on Earth in human recorded history, resulting in a massive explosion over Eastern Siberia.

    1916 – World War I: In “the day Sussex died”, elements of the Royal Sussex Regiment take heavy casualties in the Battle of the Boar’s Head at Richebourg-l’Avoué in France.

    1934 – The Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler’s violent purge of his political rivals in Germany, takes place.

    1937 – The world’s first emergency telephone number, 999, is introduced in London.

    1953 – The first Chevrolet Corvette rolls off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.

    1971 – The crew of the Soviet Soyuz 11 spacecraft are killed when their air supply escapes through a faulty valve.

    1972 – The first leap second is added to the UTC time system.

    1986 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Bowers v. Hardwick that states can outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults.

    1990 – East Germany and West Germany merge their economies.

    2007 – A Jeep Cherokee filled with propane canisters drives into the entrance of Glasgow Airport, Scotland in a failed terrorist attack. This was linked to the 2007 London car bombs that had taken place the day before.

    2019 – Donald Trump becomes the first sitting US President to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

    1685 – John Gay, English poet and playwright (d. 1732).

    1817 – Joseph Dalton Hooker, English botanist and explorer (d. 1911). [Founder of geographical botany and Charles Darwin’s closest friend. For 20 years he served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, succeeding his father, William Jackson Hooker, and was awarded the highest honours of British science.]

    1891 – Stanley Spencer, English painter (d. 1959).

    1917 – Lena Horne, American actress, singer, and activist (d. 2010).

    1933 – Cookie, Australian Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, oldest recorded parrot (d. 2016).

    1939 – Barry Hines, English author and screenwriter (d. 2016).

    1963 – Rupert Graves, English actor, director, and screenwriter.

    1963 – Yngwie Malmsteen, Swedish guitarist and songwriter.

    1966 – Mike Tyson, American boxer and actor.

    1983 – Katherine Ryan, UK-based Canadian comedian and presenter.

    1985 – Michael Phelps, American swimmer.

    “I’ve got to die a queen! It’d be terrible to be dead and common!”
    1966 – Margery Allingham, English author of detective fiction (b. 1904).

    1973 – Nancy Mitford, English journalist and author (b. 1904).

    1984 – Lillian Hellman, American author and playwright (b. 1905).

    2001 – Chet Atkins, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1924).

    2017 – Barry Norman, English television presenter (b. 1933).

  3. And when is the gender inserted into the dog’s body – at birth, or at conception? But wait, it is a “social construct”, so it is not in the dog, it is in us.. but how does a dog discover its soul – I mean, gender? Argh, I’m such a bigot – as Titania scolds :

    [begin quote]
    “Why do bigots find gender identity so confusing?

    It simply means the immutable yet fluid feeling that one is male or female or neither or both based on conceptions of masculinity and femininity that are innate but also social constructs that don’t exist.

    This really isn’t hard.”
    [end quote]

    Best to be “kind” as it says, i.e. say what they want you to say… or could also simply leave.

    1. In my experience pretty much all pets eg dogs cats horses have a gender preference to strangers. It is slight but def discernible. Seems to be along the lines of boy dogs prefer men etc. how do they differentiate the sexes…..smell behaviour? Dunno but they also have a preference for a particular sex within their own species too. No dresses were harmed in this observation

  4. Just a happy birthday wish to little sister Susan. We met just a couple of times with Jerry at William and Mary but I remember you well.

  5. I do not remember the topic of the essay I wrote for Chicago in the 80s. I do remember, partially, a joke about the entrance exam, which featured, in the joke, such questions as, “Define the Universe. Give two examples.”

  6. The fact that California has banned affirmative action did stop Gavin Newsom, the Governor, from saying: “They want to whitewash our nation’s history. They want to bring America back to the era of book bans and segregated campuses. We cannot let them.”

  7. My Dad used to live in Ash, not far from the Ham/Sandwich sign. (those signs would periodically “disappear” and have to be replaced. I don’t recall a sign for Ash/Sandwich, probably had limited appeal.

  8. I don’t know if there are any British Jews living in Ham, but there are many former British Jews in the West Ham Jewish Cemetery in Buckingham Road, West Ham, situated in the London borough of Newham. One section contains graves removed to the cemetery from the former burial ground of the Hambro Synagogue.

  9. Happy Birthday to your sister! It’s so nice that you honor her by commemorating her big day.

  10. I love those UofC essay questions. Truly thought-provoking.

    And that electrical warning cracks me up!

  11. The Bowers v. Hardwick case was overturned in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas. Per Wikipedia:

    “Lawrence v. Texas
    In 2003, the remaining sodomy laws in 13 states were invalidated, insofar as they applied to private consensual conduct among adults, by the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which explicitly overturned Bowers. In Lawrence, the Supreme Court subsequently based its decision on the American tradition of non-interference with private sexual decisions between consenting adults and on the notions of personal autonomy to define one’s own relationships. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence, ruling that Texas’s state sodomy law was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause (adult consensual sexual intimacy in one’s home is a vital interest in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause). Kennedy wrote: “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.”

    If the Lawrence case were heard today, I doubt it would be overturned. After all, the current Supreme Court is a firm believer in precedent. 😊 Besides, homosexual acts offend the sincerely held religious beliefs of many. Clearly, the Supreme Court believes that religious beliefs trump any other belief. Who would be so foolish as to doubt its wisdom and its indisputable understanding of the Constitution?

  12. Ref to any Jews in Ham, there is at least one in Mollusk, VA – an old girlfriend of mine.

    Also, it’s very sad that Oskar Müller couldn’t have made it from Norway to Sweden, where Jews lived thru WWII in total normalcy, as detailed in the recent excellent documentary, Passage to Sweden that I think has turned up on PBS. (The link is to a discussion with the director, not the film itself.) Maybe his name was thought to be able to protect him?

  13. Plus the Supremes allow religious discrimination now (no surprise) and Biden doesn’t get to do debt relief (also no surprise). The former is another example of how this SCOTUS majority is theocratic, the later doesn’t bother me since I never found student-loan debt-forgiveness all that fair.

    I still think it’s ridiculous that SCOTUS even heard the case about “not wanting to build a website for gay people.” When the plaintiff was never asked to build a website for a gay person in the first place. It was just a hypothetical; “hooray,” the plaintiff says, “now I don’t have to do what I was never asked to do!” As if a gay person would want to give money to this bigot in the first place. As an atheist, if I had a web design business, I guess I can turn away a religious person’s request. I don’t know why I would, but I guess SCOTUS says I can now? What about business owners who don’t like Muslims or Jews? It’s very confusing.

    1. My hypothesis is the website designer sought to forestall lawfare suits brought against her by homosexuals asking her to do something they knew she wouldn’t, (and which they had no intention of actually paying for), then sue her for discrimination. Now they know such suits have no chance of succeeding so they will take their business, if actual business they even have, to someone who wants it. You can argue about whether this is good law, but I sympathize with the likely motivation of the web designer’s wish for self-protection. I’m reminded of the turd in Vancouver who shook down immigrant estheticians who wouldn’t wax “her” scrotum in their homes. Not everyone who alleges discrimination has honourable motives, just because the target is Roman Catholic.

      My reason for thinking this comes from a closer reading of the gay wedding cake discrimination suit covered in Time Magazine.. The aggrieved couple didn’t want the baker just to place little plastic figurines of two men in tuxes on the top. They wanted an elaborate working display of a dildo or two that was rigged to simulate ejaculation as the loving couple was cutting the cake. Now, it might well be that a homosexual wedding might find this truly delightful and a sincere request—it takes all kinds. But a baker wouldn’t want to be forced to put his name to this if most of his customers wanted more conservative choices. He probably thought the couple was putting him on, or baiting him, and told them to get lost. They were trying to wreck his business, as Oberlin College tried to do another bake shop under similar motivation.

      Sometimes the little guy wins. Savour it.

    2. Your are correct Mark. The whole thing was made up. There was no harm to any party. If we have some lawyers here they should be speaking up. The court should never have heard such a case and the same is true of the student debt case. It is all made up by the far right to have the supreme court act as the supreme Legislature. It is all nuts.

  14. Affirmative action: Harvard poaches black students from the flagship universities. The flagships poach from the state regional campuses. The regionals, in turn, try to recruit black students who would have gone to junior colleges or the job market. Most of the students at many of the nonselective, four-year schools will never complete a degree and many will leave school with debt. Repeat process for Yale, Princeton, and schools throughout the country.

    How many black students have been helped? How many more have attended college and graduated that otherwise would not have? What percentage of those who have been harmed by a history of racism have been helped? Is this going to turn around those inner-city high schools in which the majority of students lack proficiency in basic math and reading?

    In the end, the game is about getting a handful into the most prestigious clubs and then counting on pedigree and networking to place those students in well-paying or influential jobs and, via socioeconomic advancement and legacy admissions, to entrench their offspring in the social elite. I do not deny that there is some marginal value to this. But I do wonder what these policies did for the Mississippi Delta and Chicago’s South Side and for other communities like them.

  15. In the figure borrowed from the WaPo, it seems that the dots for black people and pacific islanders/native Hawaiians are inverted. If i ama wrong, please correct me ! Thanks

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