It’s Sunday, the Sabbath for Christian cats, July 16, 2023, and National Corn Fritters Day. I love these as a snack or side dish, but I haven’t had one in decades. They’re best with a wee bit of syrup poured over them:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 16 Wikipedia page.
There’s a Google Doodle today (click on screenshot below), honoring the 86th birthday of Indian-American artist Zarina Hashmi (1937-2020)
Here’s one of her works, explained by Wikipedia:
Zarina’s work explored the concept of home as a fluid, abstract space that transcends physicality or location. Her work often featured symbols that call to mind such ideas as movement, diaspora, and exile. For example, her woodblock print Paper Like Skin depicts a thin black line meandering upward across a white background, dividing the page from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. The line possesses a cartographic quality that, in its winding and angular division of the page, suggests a border between two places, or perhaps a topographical chart of a journey that is yet unfinished.
*Over at the NYT, in an op-ed called, “How to break a country,” Nick Kristof describes how nearly everybody in Europe now hates Russia.
Vladimir Putin has compared himself to the czar Peter the Great. But to travel through Eastern Europe is to see how much he has instead caused Russian influence to shrink.
I’ve been on a road trip through Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — and it’s clear that Putin has managed to unite nearly everyone against Russia. Even Russian speakers who often used to feel loyalty to Moscow are now fund-raising for Ukraine.
“Poland has been able to serve as a model for countries to the east,” Mark Brzezinski, the American ambassador to Poland, told me. And Russia has been a model of a different kind.
“Putin’s actions since February 2022 have proven the thesis that Russia under Putin is interested in leadership by terror and authoritarianism,” Brzezinski added. “For other countries of the former Soviet bloc, if they ever were wobbly about joining the West, they certainly have had a clarifying experience.”
. . . The improvements in the Baltics have been as pronounced as those in Poland. Estonia is now a jewel of Europe, the global model of a high-tech and prosperous “e-state.” It has nurtured countless high-tech start-ups, including Skype, and as I walked through Tallinn, the capital, I shared a sidewalk with a robot delivering a takeout dinner to a nearby home.
In contrast, Russia and the places that have remained in its orbit like Belarus and Transnistria remain dismal and oppressive. A glimpse of that side of the chasm: One of the world’s bravest journalists, Elena Milashina, who has reported on human rights in Russia, was attacked recently in Chechnya; thugs beat her, shaved her head, poured dye on her and left her with a brain injury.
Putin’s depredations also of course put new life in NATO, so that now Scandinavia will soon be a bastion of U.S. allies. Kristof also mentioned that the Baltic countries, with a sizable Russian populace, are no longer so keen on NATO. Even if Russia manages to win in Ukraine somehow, nobody will love it.
*Nellie Bowles has taken a break from her weekly news summary, with Suzi Weiss (Bari’s sister) filling in on a summary called “TGIF: Hollywood Shutdown.” As usual, I’ll purloin three items (indented):
→ 1776®: Check out this new planned community in Gastonia, North Carolina, for “patriots” over 55. According to the developer, the cluster of 44 homes will all be required to fly an American flag, and owners will have to pledge their allegiance to the United States as well as the Constitution. You can read their own “Declaration” here.
Look, I love planned and intentional communities. My favorites are Mohammed bin Salman’s The Line in Saudi Arabia, Disney’s Storyliving development in California, and the group of people in Snowflake, Arizona, who claim to be allergic to the chemicals associated with modern life. I think if you have the money and want to go all in and live in a real-life Reddit forum, go for it.
→ The Siria Valley 49ers: There is an idea among the progressive prosecutors who run America’s urban justice systems, and that idea is that drug dealers are human trafficking victims who must be protected (I’m serious). Anyway, it turns out that’s not true at all. This week, the San Francisco Chronicle published a blockbuster investigation into the cluster of Honduran villages that provide the Bay Area with its drugs. San Francisco has made the people in Honduras’ Siria Valley very, very rich, and they honor that fact in Honduras with Golden Gate Bridge tattoos, San Francisco-themed murals, and mansions with the 49ers logo welded onto metal gates.
→ Sonia “Buy 11,004 Hardcover Copies of My Book” Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor required the venues hosting her to buy large quantities of her books before she’d agree to show up for a speech, according to a report from the AP.
Apparently, attendees to Sotomayor’s talks weren’t allowed to get in line for face time with her unless they bought a book, and aides pressured the venues—public libraries, public schools, universities—to have many, many copies on hand. For an event at an Oregon public library, Sotomayor’s aide emailed to say that 250 books simply was not enough. “Families purchase multiples and people will be upset if they are unable to get in line because the book required is sold out.”
Her memoir is called My Beloved World and her children’s books are Turning Pages: My Life Story and Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. (We’re linking them here so you can buy multiples in the hopes that a sweet librarian in Oregon won’t get shaken down quite so hard next time Sonia comes to town.) And weren’t the aides just taking the justice’s advice? They were just asking if Clemson might want to take that measly 60-book order and pump it up to 400.
To be fair, it’s standard policy for a book signing to have a book to sign if you’re in line. Otherwise, “facetime” tends to run on and people waiting in line naturally get restive.
*It’s only six months until the Iowa caucuses—the official beginning of the 2024 election season. And the AP reports that even now, under indictment and with several others looming, Trump may be “unstoppable”.
He’s been indicted twice. Found liable for sexual abuse. And he’s viewed unfavorably by about a third of his party. But six months before Republicans begin to choose their next presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump remains the race’s dominant front-runner.
Early leaders don’t always go on to win their party’s nomination, but a growing sense of Trump’s inevitability is raising alarms among some Republicans desperate for the party to move on. Some described a sense of panic — or “DEFCON 1,” as one put it — as they scramble to try to derail Trump and change the trajectory of the race. But there’s no clear plan or strategy on how to do that and Trump’s detractors aren’t rallying around a single alternative candidate yet.
“They’re very concerned,” former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said of fellow Republican leaders who share his view that renominating Trump would be a disaster for the party next November. “People expected us to have made more progress than we have at this point.”
. . .Polling finds Trump routinely besting his closest rival by 20 to 30 points or more. Of course, the six months that remain until the Iowa caucuses can be an eternity in politics, where races can turn in a matter of weeks or days.
And Trump faces glaring vulnerabilities, including state and federal investigations into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the possibility that he could end up in the unprecedented position of standing trial while simultaneously mounting a campaign.
But even critics acknowledge the outside events that many were counting on to dent Trump’s standing — namely his criminal indictments in New York and Florida — have not hurt him. In fact, the charges led some voters who were entertaining an alternative to return to Trump’s camp.
Here’s a recent Presidential poll from Five Thirty Eight. Biden/Trump is a squeaker, while there’s more breathing room for us Dems with DeSantis as the GOP candidate. Other polls show Trump leading Bidden, again narrowly. But there’s miles to go before we vote. .
*From the WaPo, “How addictive, endless scrolling is bad for your mental health.” It’s aimed at parents who have scrolling kids, but applies, I think, to adults as well.
But there’s another side to social media, one about which mental health experts have been sounding the alarm for years: how our social media consumption compares to cocaine or alcohol addiction. And how it’s contributing to a growing mental health crisis among youths.
“Human connection is vital for survival. We’re programed over millions of years of evolution to connect with other people,” says Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. But Lembke says social media companies have essentially exploited our need for human connection.
“Part of the way our brains get us to do that is by releasing oxytocin, our love hormone, which in turn releases dopamine in the reward pathway, which makes connection feel good, ” she added.
Lembke explains that social media has taken the work out of how we connect with other human beings, placing that effort online and adding three major ingredients: novelty, accessibility and quantity, making scrolling a very potent drug.
In May, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a public warning: Social media poses a risk to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.
. . .Now Murthy’s report on social media is trying to move the needle again, and he has statistics to back up his concern: More than 95 percent of people ages 13 to 17 in the country say they use a social media platform, and more than a third say they are “almost constantly” using one.
“We are living in the middle of a youth mental health crisis in America. And my growing concern is that social media has become an important contributor to that,” Murthy told The Washington Post.
In the absence of laws against overuse of social media platforms, Lembke says, the responsibility rests on parents and users. She recommends identifying the particular type of digital media that is affecting us and eliminating it for four weeks, as a sort of dopamine fast.
Parents, of course, can enforce less social media use, though good luck to them. As for adults making a “choice” to use less social media, that’s not possible unless you can rewire the neurons of social-media users, who are bound by the laws of physics to remain online. Consider this posting (which the laws of physics compelled me to make) as an environmental intervention that can rewire your neurons. I’ve known a few full-grown adults who are absolutely addicted to Twitter, but I won’t name them. . .
*And again at the Free Press, Bari Weiss interviews Hannah Barnes, who has a new book on the Tavistock Gender Centre debacle (the Centre was shut down and refurbished after a report led the NHS to conclude that its “affirmative” care was dangerous. Barnes’s new book, Time To Think, gives the entire story of Tavistock from its founding to its closure, and is the subject of a 73-minute interview here. If you’d like a printed excerpt, go to the site “When ideology corrupts medicine—and how one reporter exposed it.”
BW: And as you’re looking through the documents, the internal emails, these unpublished reports, what was your light bulb moment, if there was one? When did you realize that this wasn’t just a few examples of treatment gone awry but a system-wide problem?
HB: So, this is a healthcare story. No one is questioning someone’s identity or that trans people should have anything other than happy lives free of harassment. It wasn’t about identity for us ever. It’s about “Are vulnerable young people being given the best and safest care possible in each and every case?” But I think I realized that there was something quite serious here when I saw the transcripts of some of the interviews that took place as part of an official review of the clinic that was published early in 2019. The review said they had investigated, and none of the concerns that had been raised and leaked to the media were of immediate safeguarding concerns. And then you read what a sizable number of clinicians told the medical director on record, and it’s awful. Some of them had serious child protection concerns. There were clinicians saying these are some of the most vulnerable children they’d ever worked with and they are in really desperate situations. In some cases they’re being referred for a medical intervention after an hour. It’s quite clear from those documents just how worried they are, and it’s just impossible to see those concerns as coming from a place of transphobia. It’s just not credible. These are professional people who’ve dedicated their working lives to helping young people, and what they were saying boils down to: this is not good clinical practice. This isn’t how we’ve ever practiced in other places we’ve worked. Somehow, because this is a gender clinic, the same questions that we would ask normally were not welcome.
. . .BW: In your book, you report that in 2000 there was an internal audit done of about 150 patients at the Tavistock gender clinic. That audit found the vast majority of the clinic’s patients were dealing with lots of other issues on top of gender dysphoria, whether that was anxiety or depression, abuse in the home, or an eating disorder. There was this additional internal report done in 2005 by the medical director of Tavistock, and what it found was pretty alarming. It found that no one was collecting data on the patients and that there was a lot of internal confusion and conflict within the clinic about the very treatments they were providing. In short, providers at Tavistock could not agree on whether they were treating children distressed because they were trans or children who identified as trans because they were distressed? Or was it a combination of both? The medical director also said this of puberty blockers in 2005: “They are relatively untested and unresearched.” Tell me about both of these findings of the audit and the report, and what changes were made at the gender clinic following these things coming to light.
HB: The audit was meant to be the start of a more rigorous, scientific approach to helping this group of vulnerable young people. The better you know your patients and what’s going on with them, the more you can cater their care. So David Freedman, a social sciences researcher, undertook this audit with a couple of other people, and the idea was that they would use the findings to improve, and then continue. But they didn’t do that. Even in 2005, Sue Evans, who was the first whistleblower, felt that young people were being referred too quickly for physical interventions for puberty blockers, and there really wasn’t adequate exploration in some of these cases. So, the report, which was very thorough, went unseen until 2020 when I filed a Freedom of Information Act and received it from Tavistock (they had resisted quite vigorously). And it’s really striking because the recommendations are really sensible. What Dr. David Taylor, who was the medical director, said was: if we’re going to do this, we need to do it properly. We need to conduct proper research. How are these young people using the blocker? Are they using it as time to think, or what else is going on? Who are the people that we’re seeing? And he said, look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t use blockers. But they should be a last resort. Therapy should come first. Most importantly, he said, we have to support our staff in being able to say no when a patient requests puberty blockers and intervention. And he said, if our staff doesn’t think it’s appropriate, they must be able to say no and be supported in doing that. Dr. Taylor also suggested that they do regular and retrospective audits of both those who went on the blockers and those who didn’t, because you can learn from everyone. But none of that happened. So, as for the second part of your question, how were the findings used? Well, they were ignored.
. . .BW: Here in the U.S., this feels like a very partisan issue. I don’t think it actually is, but I think it feels that way to a lot of people. Hannah, why is this topic and conversation so important?
HB: It’s important because they’re children. It’s the rest of their lives, and adults need to protect children. Absolutely trans people face real transphobia and bigotry. But actually, the current system isn’t serving trans people very well. The adults need to come back into the room. It’s the job of adults to say no, and that’s not saying no to every one of these young people, because it’s more complicated than that. There is a lot of nuance and there’s this real desire for certainty, like “ban puberty blockers or everyone has them.” But the welfare of children is everybody’s responsibility. The judge of a civilized society is how we protect the most vulnerable.
The adults need to come back into the room and, sometimes, say “no.”
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is enervated, as it’s hot in Dobrzyn:
Hili: I do not have strength.A: What for?Hili: For any work.
Hili: Nie mam sił.Ja; Na co?Hili: Na żadną pracę.
From Jesus of the Day:
From somewhere on Facebook:
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0: apparently a demonstration of addition:
According to this tweet from Masih, the morality police, reported to be disbanded a year ago, are actually still in action. This is frightening!
This is Iran today and this is how the morality police arrested a teenager for not wearing a hijab. Mahsa Zhina Amini was taken away like this, then killed. Where are those journalists who excitedly reported the cancellation of those morality police? #WomanLifeFreedom pic.twitter.com/xndXlnnkSB
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 15, 2023
From Frits, an elephant who apparently understands how an electric fence works takes the thing down:
Elephant probes electric fence, dismantles it to cross road. Unbelievable! 🐘💥 @ cpwildLanka pic.twitter.com/eaxNCfTDQm
— Tansu YEĞEN (@TansuYegen) July 14, 2023
From Malcolm, who notes that “we all need a hug sometimes.” Sound up to hear the otters!
We all need a hug sometimes.. pic.twitter.com/6Bnrj9XY4f
— why you should have an animal (@shouldhaveanima) July 4, 2023
I found this one, though I’m not sure how far I trust it. India, for example, may not have an official state religion, but Hinduism is given preference, so India should be light blue.
Separation of church and state? Not everywhere. Some grey countries of course have a strong cultural preference for specific religions but church and state are still (officially) strictly separated. pic.twitter.com/VAvR1J55N1
— Simon Kuestenmacher (@simongerman600) November 30, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a four-year-old boy gassed upon arrival. Do you ever see these and say, “How could they possibly DO that?”
16 July 1939 | A French Jewish boy, Jean Jacques Erdstein, was born in Paris.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 16, 2023
From the ailurophilic Doctor Cobb, a biology lesson:
A pic that lets me use two favorite bug words – eclose and teneral. (Both words may be useful in Scrabble; you're welcome.) The beetle has just eclosed (emerged/hatched from a pupa), and is showing a pale orange teneral (ephemeral/temporary) color. A teneral arthropod is in– pic.twitter.com/b7Wn2QApFC
— Tom J. Astle (@tjalamont) July 10, 2023
Look at this intrepid osprey mom. All three eggs remained intact. Sound up to hear that hail.
In this video we see a female osprey protecting her eggs during a hailstorm in Boulder, Colorado. The mother never left the nest, even though she was “pounded” by pea-sized hail
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) July 11, 2023
Matthew’s note on this is, “They are closing ticket offices on UK railway stations, and poor George the cat is going to become homeless…” But I’m sure someone will adopt this lovely moggy:
— Chime Whistle Publishing (@ChimeWhistle) July 10, 2023