First, the air quality in Chicago is improving. When I took this photo at a out 5 pm yesterday, the AQI was 89, in the moderate range, and I could make out the skyscrapers downtown from my crib. The air is still not clear, but it’s not dangerious, either.
It’s July!!! To be precise,
CaturSaturday, July 1, 2023, and cat shabbos. It’s also National Gingersnap Day, and I’ll eat any confection that has ginger (candied ginger is the best). Here’s the best value for candied ginger on Amazon (click photo for source):
It’s also these food months:
National Baked Bean Month (just one bean???)
National Culinary Arts Month
National Hot Dog Month
National Ice Cream Month
National Picnic Month
National Pickle Month
It’s also American Zoo Day, International Joke Day, U.S. Postage Stamp Day, Zip Code Day, International Chicken Wing Day, International Reggae Day, Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day), and International Cherry Pit Spitting Day, and, for some reason, Bobby Bonilla Day in the U.S.
First, here’s a video of the National Cherry Pit Spitting Competition from several years ago. The world record is a long 93 feet!
And here’s a Jewish joke in honor of Joke Day. I’m allowed to tell it because I’m Jewish, but this isn’t anti-Semitic; it’s just TRUE:
What’s the difference between a Jewish pessimist and a Jewish optimist?
The Jewish pessimist says, “Things can’t possibly get any worse.”
The Jewish optimist says, “Sure they can!”
Readers are invited (indeed, strongly urged) to put a joke in the comments:
Further, Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 1 Wikipedia page.
*First, reader Reese informs us, and it seems to be true, that you can no longer view anybody’s tweets without having your own Twitter account.
If you’re not logged into your Twitter account and try to view a tweet, you’ll be presented with a sign-in screen. And if you don’t want to have an account on the bird app, too bad!
Twitter hasn’t commented on this change, and given how sloppy the platform has been since Elon Musk’s takeover, it might just be a glitch. However, in a time when Twitter is struggling to grow its user base, it’s possible that this is a tactic to force silent lurkers into creating an account.
*Legal news from reader Ken:
The Court just ruled in favor of the Colorado web designer who refused to provide services for same-sex marriage couples. The vote was 6-3. You can guess the rest.
From the NBC site:
The justices, divided6-3on ideological lines, said that Lorie Smith, as a creative professional, has a free speech right under the Constitution’s First Amendment to refuse to endorse messages she disagrees with. As a result, she cannot be punished under Colorado’s antidiscrimination law for refusing to design websites for gay couples, the court said.
The ruling could allow other owners of similar creative businessesto evade punishment under laws in 29 states that protect LGBTQ rights in public accommodations in some form. The remaining 21 states do not have laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ rights in public accommodations, although some local municipalities do.
Clearly they felt that religious freedom outweighed civil rights laws.
“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place, where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.
Gorsuch, who wrote a 2020 ruling that expanded LGBTQ rights in an employment context, said that public accommodation laws play a vital role in protecting individual civil rights.
“At the same time, this court has also recognized that no public accommodation law is immune from the demands of the Constitution. In particular, this court has held, public accommodations statutes can sweep too broadly when deployed to compel speech,” he added.
Smith, who opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds and runs a business designing websites, sued the state in 2016 because she said she would like to accept customers planning opposite-sex weddings but reject requests made by same-sex couples wanting the same service. She was never penalized for rejecting a same-sex couple — and it’s unclear if she ever did — but sued on hypothetical grounds.
I have mixed feelings about this, but tend to lean more towards the civil liberties side than the religious accommodation side. FIRE, however, feels differently:
Today’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis is a resounding victory for freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. The Court’s opinion reaffirms decades of precedent protecting our First Amendment rights to speak and think free of government compulsion.
Freedom of conscience is a fundamental individual right: The First Amendment protects our right not to speak, too, and the government cannot force Americans to voice its preferred message on pain of punishment. Today’s decision recognizes that just as the First Amendment protects students in our public schools from discipline for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag, so too does it protect the right of artists to voice only those messages they wish to express, without risking government-imposed fines and “remedial training.”
*At the Weekly Dish, Andrew Sullivan reacts to this decision (and the one on affirmative action).
The decisions this past week — and the reactions to them — are clarifying. In the affirmative action case, the evidence was overwhelming that Harvard was actively and consciously discriminating, sometimes crudely, against Asian-Americans. You might imagine that would embarrass my alma mater, even shame them, exposing their admission methods as systemically racist. Yet Harvard’s response did not mention this at all. That’s how strongly they despise race discrimination: if it’s against Asian-Americans, they don’t despise it at all.
Similarly, the New York Times was able to write a long editorial without mentioning Asian-American students, the key group at issue, once. They are actually lamenting a decision that upholds the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because like the old racists, they want to establish a systemically racist country which privileges some races over others: a mirror image of the old white supremacy, in a vastly more complicated and diverse ethnic population. And it’s a population that opposes race in college admissions with a three-quarters majority, including 60 percent of Democrats.
On the Creative v. Elenis case:
In the free-speech case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the issue was whether the state could compel an individual — through public accommodation laws — to create expressive messages which violated her religious conscience. How, I wonder, is this even a question? The idea of compelling someone to express views she does not hold and violate her deepest convictions should be utterly anathema in a free country. This is emphatically not a question of refusing service to same-sex couples in general; it’s about freedom of speech and conscience. I helped pioneer the campaign for marriage equality, I have lived it, I believe in it as passionately as anyone, and I have not a scintilla of a desire to compel someone to celebrate it in their own words if it goes against her conscience.
To repeat, because so many outlets are distorting this so badly, this is not anti-gay. It’s pro-freedom of expression. It’s written by Neil Gorsuch, who gave trans and gay people full equality under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, asserting that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” And if we are to live in a free society, respect and toleration goes both ways. Gay and lesbian freedom is inextricable from religious freedom. And the right to speak freely was the only right gay people had for centuries. We’d now take it away from someone else?
*The Supreme Court is really busy changing laws this week. As I am looking at news pieces on Friday afternoon, I learned that the Supreme Court just rejected Biden’s plan to forgive some student loans (to be exact, forgiving $10,000 for students that make over $100,000. The vote? 6-3 of course.
The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority struck down President Biden’s proposal to cancel at least some student debt for tens of millions of borrowers, saying it overstepped the powers of the Education Department.
In a 6-to-3 decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that a mass debt cancellation program of such significance required clear approval by Congress.
Chief Justice Roberts declared that the administration’s logic — that the secretary of education’s power to “waive or modify” loan terms allowed for debt cancellation — was a vast overreach. “In the same sense that the French Revolution ‘modified’ the status of the French nobility,” he wrote, quoting a previous court decision.
Citing the same authority the Trump administration used to begin the pause on student loan payments during the pandemic, Mr. Biden promised in August to forgive $10,000 in debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per household, and $20,000 for those who received Pell grants for low-income families.
Nearly 26 million borrowers have applied to have some of their student loan debt erased, with 16 million applications approved. But no debts have been forgiven or additional applications accepted in light of the legal challenges.
The decision — a day after the court struck a blow against affirmative action policies in college admissions — effectively ended what would have been one of the most expensive executive actions in U.S. history.
This would have cost the American taxpayers about $430 billion. Here’s Sullivan’s take on that decision, clearly written at the last moment:
On the third Court question, student loans, it seems equally astonishing to me that the Democratic Party, which rightly decried Trump’s penchant for exceeding the bounds of presidential power, should now believe that the president, by executive action alone, can waive away $400 billion of student debt. If temporary forgiveness during the emergency of the Covid pandemic was permissible, that emergency is now over. And if the Congress wants to devise other ways to ease the pain of former students, they have every right to do so. Restraining executive overreach is what the Supreme Court is designed for. And it did the right thing.
*Nellie Bowles is back with her ever-entertaining weeklynews summary, this week called “TGIF: Going to Supremes.” As usual, I’ll steal three items from her:
→ Affirmative action has been struck down: The Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions on Thursday, ending a decades-long battle. If you’re upset about this, I wouldn’t worry. Schools will find a way (to ensure that Asian students don’t succeed too much). In the court’s decision you’ll find the line: “nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life.” In a response to the decision, Harvard cites that exact carve-out, while noting that they will “certainly comply with the court’s decision.” So there can’t literally be a big minus-10 for children of Indian descent. But all the Korean kids will just get very bad marks for their essays, you see. Harvard finds a way (to keep out Asians). For those applying to schools this upcoming college admissions cycle, make sure to include anecdotes about your lived experiences making pupusas with your abuela, regardless of your race.
Yes, expect some cringe-making (and uniform) essay topics from American universities this fall. Next, don’t neglect the piece Nellie singles out; it’s heartbreaking.
→ If you read anything about disasters at sea: Let it be this deeply reported piece about the fishing boat that wrecked off the coast of Greece, and the 750 migrants who were on board. We give the mainstream media a lot of flak here, but this piece in the Washington Post reminds us of how great the old newspapers can be.
→ Martha’s Vineyard accepts four (4) migrants, gets glowing NYT story: After those bad mean Southern red-state governors sent migrants to liberal cities, Martha’s Vineyard residents looked inside their hearts. They found their strength. They harnessed their love. They spoke their truth. And they accepted exactly four migrants under their wing, who have stayed in the region and found odd jobs. How gracious! How good! In honor of this big-hearted embrace, The New York Times arrived to document the kindness of these Martha’s Vineyardians. Those four migrants are shacked up in the Vineyard and it’s not even a big deal, except that there’s a New York Times profile of them. From the story:
“Ms. Cauro is one of at least four migrants who have quietly stayed behind on the island, forming bonds with a community that opened what doors it could. Ms. Cauro, 25, is working as a landscaper. Her brother, Daniel, 29, and her cousin, Eliud Aguilar, 28, found jobs in painting and roofing.”
“A community that opened what doors it could.” Four doors, to be exact. If you’d like to see these four migrants simply thriving in their new community, there’s a lovely, understated $13 million house for sale nearby (six beds, no doors).
Nellie’s piece is especially good this week, so go over there and read all the items.
*And, not really news but advice for coffee lovers from the Wall Street Journal:
For the last umpteen years I’ve used only a Breville espresso machine, but the article touts pour-over coffee as the apotheosis of Java:
IN PURSUIT of the perfect cup of coffee, Dorothy Weinstein has tried almost every method of brewing.
The 62-year-old adjunct professor of clinical research and leadership based in Bethesda, Md., has reached one firm conclusion: No drip machine, AeroPress, Keurig, percolator, French press or moka pot can compare to the $7 plastic Melitta pour-over cone she began using in college. To get the best results with such a device, or the ubiquitous hourglass-shaped Chemex, you must heat the water yourself, precisely weigh, then grind your coffee—and then stream the heated water over those grounds with finesse.
I am dubious. But now Dr. Weinstein is thinking of going high end:
Last year, she decided to splurge on one of a growing class of machines that promise pour-over-quality joe with press-a-button convenience: the Chemex Ottomatic 2.0 ($350). Though pricey, the Ottomatic might seem a bargain compared to similar machines that range from $645 to $799, including: the Ratio Eight, which debuted in 2012; the xBloom, released last year; and the Brew by Balmuda, new this May.
. . .Pour-over devotees might point out smugly that a cone like Melitta’s costs little more than a latte with tip. As any good barista will tell you, though, getting the most from one of these drippers does require some skill. Every decision you make while brewing a cup of pour-over leads to small, but discernible, changes in flavor. It’s not just water temperature that matters, but the rhythm, motion, and speed with which it’s poured over the grounds.
These automatic pour-over machines promise to simulate the motion of a human barista, extracting all the coffee’s particular flavors and hidden notes, without making it too bitter or acidic. But, according to Jon Freihofer, 34, the director of coffee services for Joe Coffee Company, these further degrees of control aim to “add a level of replicability that’s hard to achieve as a human.”
. . . I was drawn to the sleek, compact design of Balmuda’s the Brew, and some of its extra features, including its ability to make cold brew concentrate. Mostly, though, I wanted to see if it was worth the absurd cost: Could it brew a transcendent cup of coffee?
Author Max Cea tested the pricey machines SCIENTIFICALLY, using blind testing:
To help test if its results beat those from my drip machine, I invited my sister over for a blind, but certainly not peer-reviewed experiment. Using beans from two favorite New York roasters—Brooklyn’s Abbotsford Road and Tarrytown’s Coffee Labs Roasters—I brewed coffee three ways: with a manual Hario V6 pour-over; with my Bonavita Connoisseur drip machine; and with the Brew.
The differences were small but noticeable. Each time, my sister favored the manual pour-over, closely followed by the Brew, with the standard drip ranking a relatively distant last. “The manual pour-over was the Goldilocks cup, not too burnt or bitter, something I could drink every day,” she said.
There you go, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends: if you drink regular Joe, the cheap funnel and filter paper is the way to go. As for me, I need espresso, and a funnel won’t get you that.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s becoming the Greta Thunberg of cats:
Szaron: Scientists say that the world will end in three years.Hili: I’ve heard that it can be prevented if we become vegetarians.
Szaron: Naukowcy twierdzą, że za trzy lata będzie koniec świata.Hili: Słyszałam. Podobno możemy temu zapobiec przechodząc na wegetariańską dietę.
, . . and a picture of baby Kulka:
From Stash Krod, a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon, and a sad one for duck lovers:
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0:
From Masih: Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German journalist, was kidnapped from Dubai in 2020, taken to Iran, and sentenced to death on bogus charges.
Thank you congressman @NormaJTorres for stepping up on the defense of my father, California resident and US-national, Jamshid Sharmahd. Now we need more representatives to call on the @StateDept @StateSPEHA and @POTUS to save my dad‘s life before it’s too late. #SaveSharmahd pic.twitter.com/ItXOmj8Vqx
— Gazelle غزاله شارمهد (@GazelleSharmahd) June 29, 2023
Titania clears up a misunderstanding:
There have been lots of angry responses to my tweet. I deeply regret any offence caused.
So to be clear: I agree that the Holocaust was quite bad. But removing blue checks from left-wing accounts is arguably worse because so many of us rely on them for guidance.
Is that better? https://t.co/5FGMswvFp9
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) April 25, 2023
From Malcolm: a kitten falls asleep standing up:
— Tweets of Cats (@TweetsOfCats) June 26, 2023
From Barry: a crazy creationist. (Plus we have plenty of evidence for macroevolution: many fossil “transitional forms” between current major taxa, for instance (reptile—>mammal, reptile—>bird, for instance).
“The fossil record has reached saturation” is a remarkable series of words.
“Hello. I’d like to apply to become a fossil after I die, please.”
[sucks air through teeth] “Sorry, squire, fossil record’s all full up, innit. Tell you what: I’ll make you potting soil instead. Deal?” pic.twitter.com/0OMYagEc7a
— Take That Darwin (@TakeThatDarwin) June 30, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 7-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:
30 June 1935 | A French Jewish girl, Jacqueline Zemelman, was born in Paris.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 30, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. This one, which he just posted, is, I think, his daughter’s graduation from the University of Cambridge.
Newnham graduation procession pic.twitter.com/5CnmhG1RcF
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) June 30, 2023
I posted this audio illusion on Twitter and it works most of the time for me, but not all the time. I have no idea why it works at all!
This is wow pic.twitter.com/4tQjBXxW3u
— Figen (@TheFigen_) June 27, 2023
This is a fantastic lineup:
Genuinely can’t believe it was 53 years ago I hitched with two mates from Manchester down to the June 1970 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music – what an amazing line up of bands that was!! pic.twitter.com/BEHRrQstN7
— Ralph Darlington (@irrelations) June 27, 2023