It’s Monday, July 3, 2023, and tomorrow’s a holiday: Independence Day. It’s also National Chocolate Wafer Day. Have one:
It’s also American Redneck Day, National Eat Beans Day, National Fried Clam Day, Plastic Bag Free Day (all plastic bags are free today!), Emancipation Day in the United States Virgin Islands, Independence Day in Belarus, celebrating the liberation of Minsk from Nazi occupation by Soviet troops in 1944, and the start of the Dog Days according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac but not according to established meaning in most European cultures.
Why are they called the Dog Days? Wikipedia is here to help:
The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the “Dog Star”), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 3 Wikipedia page.
*The NYT highlights another way that schools may be able to promote ethnic diversity without running afoul of the new laws: use “adversity scores.” This is based on a rubric used by the University of California at Davis Medical School.
In his role at the medical school at the University of California, Davis, Dr. Henderson has tried to change that, developing an unorthodox tool to evaluate applicants: the socioeconomic disadvantage scale, or S.E.D.
The scale rates every applicant from zero to 99, taking into account their life circumstances, such as family income and parental education. Admissions decisions are based on that score, combined with the usual portfolio of grades, test scores, recommendations, essays and interviews.
The disadvantage scale has helped turn U.C. Davis into one of the most diverse medical schools in the country — notable in a state that voted in 1996 to ban affirmative action.
. . .Last week, President Biden called adversity scores a “new standard” for achieving diversity.
Word has gotten out about the U.C. Davis scale. Dr. Henderson said that about 20 schools had recently requested more information. And there are other socioeconomic measurements, including Landscape, released in 2019 from the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SATs. That tool allows undergraduate admissions offices to assess the socioeconomic backgrounds of individual students.
But skeptics question whether such rankings — or any kind of socioeconomic affirmative action — will be enough to replace race-conscious affirmative action. And schools that use adversity scales may also find themselves wandering into legal quagmires, with conservative groups promising to fight programs that are simply stand-ins for race.
I favor this for several reasons, one being that it seems fairer, taking into account life circumstances instead of ethnicity. It also seems to create more diversity than just assuming that each ethnic group has a homogeneous outlook. But is it fair to penalize those who haven’t experiences as much adversity? And how do you rank adversity versus “merit” as measured by tests? Finally, if this is just a proxy for race, it’s illegal. Still, if you have two equally-meritorious students, you should have a rule that you generally favor the one with the higher “adversity” score. But my thinking about this is all over the place.
*The riots in Paris continue about the police killing of Nahel Merzouk, a 17 year old North African shot during a traffic stop near the capital. And it’s not just a one-off incident: les flics have a history of racism and bad treatment of minorities:
Police treatment of minorities in France has come under scrutiny in recent years. A 2017 study by France’s independent civil-rights watchdog found that men perceived to be of African or Arab origin were about three times more likely than white men to have experienced a police identity check in the previous five years.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 fueled new debate in France about police tactics, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets. The government of Macron denied there was a problem of racism in the police. Later that year, police were filmed on video beating Michel Zecler, a Black music producer, at his studio in France. Zecler said one of the officers called him a “dirty n—” in French, while striking him.
Despite the criticism, French police kill far fewer people than their counterparts in the U.S. The French national police and the gendarmes, which police France’s rural areas, killed a total of 26 people in 2019, according to BastaMag, a French media organization. U.S. police forces killed 1,098 people that year, according to Mapping Police Violence, a group that tracks police killings. That is more than eight times as many police killings as France on a per-capita basis.
Yes, that’s true, but it’s not just the murders that count; it’s the more brutal treatment of minorities as well as closer police scrutiny. I once saw, in a French subway station, a bunch of cops beating up a black man with nightsticks. I don’t know what had happened, but that frightening image has remained in my mind for over thirty years.
*In an analysis in the Washington Post, Anne Marimow suggests that the latest Supreme Court Justice, Keanji Brown Jackson, while remaining on the liberal side, is actively carving out her own niche on that side.
Jackson on Friday completed her rookie term as the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, making a forceful debut from the bench and in writing while showing signs of an independent streak. As anticipated, she was most often aligned with the court’s two other liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — putting her on the losing side of high-profile, contentious decisions involving affirmative action in college admissions, gay rights and President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.
But Jackson also demonstrated a willingness to part ways with her liberal colleagues, even when they were on the same side of an issue, to express her own vision of the law. She authored more solo dissenting opinions —three — than any of the three most recent justices to join the court did as newbies.
And Jackson surprised some observers by teaming up several times with conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, typically in cases involving a conflict between government power and the rights of individuals.
“She was not going to sit on the sidelines. She dove in and made her presence known,” said New York University law professor Melissa Murray, who also was among the attorneys Biden considered nominating to fulfill his promise to name the first Black female justice to succeed Stephen G. Breyer.
. . .Jackson responded directly to Thomas’s interpretation of a colorblind Constitution and his harsh critique of what he described as Jackson’s view that “almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race.”
Jackson answered in a pithy, rhetorical style to what she called Thomas’s “prolonged attack” on a “dissent I did not write.”
“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat,” Jackson wrote. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”
This mixed metaphor doesn’t strike me as particularly percipient, as the issue of whether race is irrelevant in life doesn’t automatically lead one to favor affirmative action. And several of her questions during the affirmative-action hearing struck me as misguided. There’s more:
Sean Marotta, an appellate attorney and close watcher of the court, said Jackson appears to be positioning herself as a “thought leader” for the left wing of the court in the way that Thomas has for years done on the right. Thomas led the court in dissents this term, writing a total of nine.
What will be will be, but I really should spend more time reading the decisions, and also listening to the questions from the bench. Sadly, life is short, and there are many things competing for our attention.
*Cranky People of the Week Award. Yes, there are some Americans who won’t celebrate the Fourth of July because it’s not “inclusive.” There are other reasons given for not celebrating, too (crowds, fireworks, etc.), but those are more sensible. America’s not perfect, but there are people all over the world fighting to become Americans, so there’s something good about being here, and something, at least to me, worth celebrating about our birth as a nation.
Growing up in Benton, Ark., Malaya Tapp loved celebrating the Fourth of July with her family. “We would go to parades and see firework shows and hang out with friends,” she said. “It was always such a fun holiday.”
But now that she is an adult — she’s 18 and entering college next year — commemorating the holiday isn’t so simple.
It started in 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement spotlighted many of the injustices across the country. “I lost a lot of my patriotic feelings,” she said.
. . . [Melissa Vivori] also has political qualms with the holiday. “Last summer Roe v. Wade was overturned, and that really made me less inclined to celebrate,” she said.
Even if she wanted to celebrate, she would worry about the message it sent.
So this year she is leaving U.S. soil altogether and heading to Italy and Britain instead. “I’ll be in London for the actual Fourth,” she said, laughing. “The irony is not lost on me.”
What kind of message does it send to watch fireworks and eat hot dogs on the Fourth? Does that mean you approve of the Dobbs decision? One more:
Conner Miskowiec, 28, a content creator in Phoenix, decided to do a video series in which he asked strangers if they were going to celebrate Independence Day.
“I got everything from, ‘America is the greatest country in the world, and we have to celebrate the American dream,’ to ‘This country has a lot to work on, and America isn’t so free, and I don’t feel like celebrating,’” he said. “I honestly didn’t expect to get the variety of answers I got.”
“I think a lot of people think America isn’t for everyone anymore, and so it’s not an inclusive holiday,” he said.
I’m not a jingoist, nor do I think America is the best country in the world, but it’s been a pretty good experiment, albeit with some bumps, and it’s sure as hell better than it was two hundred years ago. Eat your hot dog and enjoy!
*This is a sad story about one man’s dedication to botany, and how it led to his death.
For four years, Gabriel Trujillo trekked the breadth of the United States and south into Mexico in search of a flowering shrub called the common buttonbush.
The plant is native to the varied climates of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Trujillo, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to know why it thrived in such a range of places, and whether the evolution of the species held possibilities for future habitat conservation and restoration efforts.
The research was tragically cut short last week in Mexico, where Trujillo’s father said he was shot seven times. Authorities discovered his body on June 22 in the state of Sonora, in northwest Mexico, days after his fiancée reported him missing.
. . .. His family begged him not to go to such a dangerous place: Sonora recorded 518 homicides through May, according to federal government data. But Trujillo believed the trip was crucial to his research.
And his research had beneficial social consequences for Mexico.
. . . Drawn to Sonora, Trujillo hoped to connect with his Opata Indigenous roots through the group’s ancestral lands in the dry, mountainous region. He ultimately wanted to apply his research to building a garden in Mexico and using the buttonbush for wetland restoration. His planned trip included three potential sites to make a final choice.
I’ve known botanists with that kind of obsessive curiosity, and I admire it. It’s tragic that someone so possessed met such a senseless end. Here’s his photo from the AP:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is challenging Baby Kulka, whom she hates. “Are you looking at me?”
Hili: Did you want to say something?Kulka: Of course not. I’m a cat of peace.
Hili: Chciałaś coś powiedzieć?Kulka: Ależ skąd. Jestem kotem pokoju.
From Merilee, a Scott Metzger cartoon:
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0 Facebook page:
Masih’s pinned tweet, which is very good (sound up):
All my sisters who have the experienced the brutally under Sharia laws are now united. Women of Iran, Afghanistan and all Middle Eastern who still get lashes, jailed, killed and Kicked out from their homeland for demanding freedom and dignity now asking the world: #LetUsTalk pic.twitter.com/pOT4BFp0kM
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 18, 2022
From Titania: a speech in favor of a hate speech law. Restrict freedom of speech for the common good! This is Irish Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly:
Thank you Ireland! 👏☘️🇮🇪
Governments that restrict freedom for the common good *always* end up on the right side of history.pic.twitter.com/cbfHiIxOrI
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) June 16, 2023
Really interesting animals found by reader Malcolm:
This particular shark is believed to predate the existence of the United States of America. A team of scientists discovered a cluster of Greenland sharks and concluded that some of them are the oldest known vertebrates alive today. These sharks inhabit the frigid waters of… pic.twitter.com/HHDqBnOmuz
— Historic Vids (@historyinmemes) June 30, 2023
From Barry. I don’t understand why they’re hiding the video, but the tweet is here also.
This is a very very bad dog https://t.co/8iUt7CwcsI
— Pastor Alex (@PastorAlexLove) June 26, 2023
From Merilee. Who’s the staff now?
When the tables have turned.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/vdUTPra4fA
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) June 27, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed upon arrival, not yet two years old.
3 July 1942 | A Hungarian Jewish girl, Livia Hirsch, was born.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 3, 2023
Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a wry comment:
pretty sure that’s not a first for germany https://t.co/EAMHoALcch
— Paris Marx (@parismarx) June 26, 2023
Apparently the hen really has brought up these ducklings. Sound up.
— caenhillcc (@caenhillcc) June 23, 2023
Oy! The Otter Poo Dance:
This is an Otter Poo Dance. You’re welcome! pic.twitter.com/R0IgHrUZii
— incidental naturalist (@IncNaturalist) June 21, 2023