Monday: Hili dialogue

July 24, 2023 • 6:45 am

Posting may be  light for a while as my insomnia has returned big time and I’m barely sentient.  It’s persistent, but I do have help, so readers need not bother suggesting cures.

Welcome to the top o’ the work week: Monday, July 24, 2023, and National Tequila Day, celebrating a fine tipple.  This bottle costs $2500!

It’s also Amelia Earhart Day (she was born on this day in 1897), National Drive-Thru Day (I have never been to one–never!), National Tell an Old Joke DayPioneer Day in (Utah), and Simón Bolívar Day in (Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, and Bolivia); Bolivar was born on this day in 1783.

Her are several old Jewish jokes told by Steve Talmud. The first one is one of my very favorite (trigger warning: NSFW for several of these jokes!). That first one resonates with me because it exemplifies the character of Jews—the hallmark of the true Jewish joke.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 24 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Israel is tearing itself apart over a proposed revision of the judicial system by the Netanyahu government. Since the country doesn’t have a constitution, the judiciary now has the power to overturn any legislative action that it considers “unreasonable.”

When tens of thousands of Israelis marched up to Jerusalem this weekend to protest the far-right government’s plan to limit judicial power, many were driven by an urgent fear that the government is trying to steal the country that their parents and grandparents fought to build against the odds.

“It’s really a feeling of looting, as if the country is their spoils and everything is theirs for the taking,” said Mira Lapidot, 52, a museum curator from Tel Aviv. This desperate march, in the middle of a heat wave, over the 2,400-foot mountains that lead to Jerusalem, was “a last chance to stop it.”

The government’s supporters — many from more nationalist and religious backgrounds — largely believe the opposite: that the country is being stolen by a political opposition that has refused to accept its losses, not only in a series of democratic elections but also through sweeping demographic and cultural changes that have challenged its once-dominant vision of the country.

The issue:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is set to pass a law on Monday that will limit the ways in which the Supreme Court can overrule the government. Its plan has become a proxy for a broader emotional and even existential battle about the nature of the Israeli state, who controls it and who shapes its future.

. . .The law that comes up for a final vote on Monday is significant in and of itself: It would bar the court from using the contentious legal standard of “reasonableness” to block government decisions, giving ministers greater leeway to act without judicial oversight.

The government says the change would enhance democracy by making elected lawmakers freer to enact what voters chose them to do. The opposition insists it would damage democracy by removing a key check on government overreach, paving the way for the governing coalition — the most conservative and nationalist in Israel’s history — to create a more authoritarian and less pluralist society.

But the fly in the ointment is the standard of “reasonableness”, which seems arbitrary, especially in light of the fact that there’s no constitution. I have no dog in this fight, and we’ll see what happens today.

In the meantime, Netanyahu was taken to the hospital on Sunday to have a pacemaker implanted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was rushed to the hospital early Sunday for surgery to implant a pacemaker, casting new uncertainty over his government’s deeply contentious plan to pass a law on Monday to limit judicial power.

Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center, east of Tel Aviv, said on Sunday morning that the unexpected procedure had been successful and that “the prime minister is doing very well.” But Mr. Netanyahu was expected to remain hospitalized until at least Monday, a spokesman for the hospital said.

*Things aren’t going that well for Ukraine in the war. First of all, the Russians are pounding the Black Sea port of Odessa with missiles after canceling its grain-shipping deal with Ukraine.

Russia struck the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odesa on Sunday, keeping up a barrage of attacks that has damaged critical port infrastructure in southern Ukraine in the past week. At least one person was killed and 22 others wounded in the early morning attack, officials said.

. . . . Russia has been launching repeated attacks on Odesa, a key hub for exporting grain, since Moscow canceled a landmark grain deal on Monday amid Kyiv’s grinding efforts to retake its occupied territories.

. . .UNESCO strongly condemned the attack on the cathedral and other heritage sites and said it will send a mission in coming days to assess damage. Odesa’s historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this year, and the agency said the Russian attacks contradict Moscow’s pledge to take precautious to spare World Heritage sites in Ukraine.

“This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against the cultural heritage of Ukraine. I strongly condemn this attack against culture, and I urge the Russian Federation to take meaningful action to comply with its obligations under international law,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said that six residential buildings were destroyed by the strikes.

And the WSJ reports that Ukraine’s “spring offensive” has been hampered by lack of weaponry and trained soldiers.

When Ukraine launched its big counteroffensive this spring, Western military officials knew Kyiv didn’t have all the training or weapons—from shells to warplanes—that it needed to dislodge Russian forces. But they hoped Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day.

They haven’t. Deep and deadly minefields, extensive fortifications and Russian air power have combined to largely block significant advances by Ukrainian troops. Instead, the campaign risks descending into a stalemate with the potential to burn through lives and equipment without a major shift in momentum.

As the likelihood of any large-scale breakthrough by the Ukrainians this year dims, it raises the unsettling prospect for Washington and its allies of a longer war—one that would require a huge new infusion of sophisticated armaments and more training to give Kyiv a chance at victory.

As the United States becomes more cautious, particularly with a Presidential election approaching Europe, in contrast, is more gung-ho, but largely powerless:

The American hesitation contrasts with shifting views in Europe, where more leaders over recent months have come to believe that Ukraine must prevail in the conflict—and Russia must lose—to ensure the continent’s security.

But European militaries lack sufficient resources to supply Ukraine with all it needs to eject Moscow’s armies from the roughly 20% of the country that they control. European leaders are also unlikely to significantly increase support to Kyiv if they sense U.S. reluctance, Western diplomats say.

*I reached my limit not long ago when I bought a $2 baguette at a bakery and was asked, when paying with my card, whether I’d like to leave a tip. And this is from a business that boasts about how well it pays its employees. Yes, all Americans have noticed the increased and inappropriate importuning for tips, a behavior highlighted in the WSJ’s article, “Why businesses can’t stop asking for tips.

American businesses have gotten hooked on tipping.

Tip requests have spread far beyond the restaurants and bars that have long relied on them to supplement employee wages. Juice shops, appliance-repair firms and even plant stores are among the service businesses now asking customers to hand over some extra money to their workers.

“The U.S. economy is more tip-reliant than it’s ever been,” said Scheherezade Rehman, an economist and professor of international finance at George Washington University. “But there’s a growing sense that these requests are getting out of control and that corporate America is dumping the responsibility for employee pay onto the customer.”

Consumers seeing tip prompts at every turn say they are overwhelmed—and that worker wages should be business owners’ responsibility, not theirs.

I’ll tip at restaurants, take-out meals from restaurants, but I won’t be guilt-tripped into tipping when I buy bread or groceries. You can believe that a 50% increase in the price of bread at a bakery (the Medici, by the way) doesn’t translate into a 50% increase in pay for the workers. .

*The WaPo has a fascinating article about an ancient winery, “Roman ruins reveal how emperors used winemaking in an ancient power play.

 Fights involving exotic cats, chariot races, gladiatorial battles: At the banquets of ancient Rome, there was no skimping on dinnertime entertainment. And, according to a recent study, sport for elite guests included something rarer, too: winemaking as a form of theater.

The findings, published in the journal Antiquity, describe how the Villa of the Quintilii used alcohol production for show in what is now believed to be the among the most lavish wineries in the ancient world. This makes the 2nd-century villa only the second known to have used wine in this way, said lead study author Emlyn Dodd, a lecturer in classical studies at the University of London.

. . .On the basis of these clues, archaeologists think the Quintilii served as a kind of “imperial toy,” said Alice Poletto, a Rome fellow at the British School at Rome who was not involved in the research.

The experts think enslaved people would have pounded grapes in the winery’s treading area, most likely slipping about on the luxurious red marble while doing so, to the gruesome delight of sloshed guests. Attendees from the era’s highest social circles would look on as the roughage of crushed grapes, or must, made its way down to mechanical presses, which would send juice gushing through fountains set in the courtyard wall and pouring from open channels into dolia, or ceramic storage jars, in the ground to collect the spoils.

By Poletto’s estimations, the dining complex could seat 25 to 27 guests, with the winemaking spectacle taking place perhaps twice a year as “a unique opportunity and an absolutely high honor that served not only as a reward to the invitees, but also, in my opinion, a way for the emperor to highlight [and] reinforce his power.”

What I’d like to know is what the wine tasted like!

*The NYT has a bird-song quiz: “Can you understand bird? Test your recognition of calls and songs.” You’re given five identified birds, and one call from each. Your job is to interpret what that call is saying.  Then you’re given two other questions asking you to distinguish a bird call from either a frog or a car alarm.

The intro:

Ornithologists have made progress in understanding the rich variety of ways in which birds converse, thanks in part to large and growing databases of bird calls such as one from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which includes millions of recordings captured by citizen scientists.

This summer the New York Times birding project is encouraging readers to try birding by ear. So here’s a quick tour of the avian soundscape.

Here’s one example:

I got five of them, but that’s pure dumb luck.  Try your hand; it’ll take only two minutes. And post your results below.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, guests from Warsaw visited Dobrzyn yesterday. Szaron and Hili have messed up the bed!

A: Guests are coming, the bed must be made.
Hili: Close the door and they will not see it.
In Polish:
Ja: Goście przychodzą, trzeba łóżko posłać.
Hili: Przymknij drzwi to nie będą widzieli.


From Nicole:

From Jenny:

From Facebook:

From Maish. Ceiling Cat bless the brave women of Iran:

From Malcolm, a real heartwarmer (sound up):

From Barry (sound up):

I found this one. Separation of church and state throughout the world:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 12-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this nice man!

Here’s a fly that’s eager to mate!

I could use these for my itchy back:





20 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1487 – Citizens of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, strike against a ban on foreign beer.

    1847 – Richard March Hoe, American inventor, patented the rotary-type printing press.

    1866 – Reconstruction: Tennessee becomes the first U.S. state to be readmitted to Congress following the American Civil War.

    1911 – Hiram Bingham III re-discovers Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”.

    1915 – The passenger ship SS Eastland capsizes while tied to a dock in the Chicago River. A total of 844 passengers and crew are killed in the largest loss of life disaster from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

    1927 – The Menin Gate war memorial is unveiled at Ypres.

    1935 – The Dust Bowl heat wave reaches its peak, sending temperatures to 109 °F (43 °C) in Chicago and 104 °F (40 °C) in Milwaukee.

    1943 – World War II: Operation Gomorrah begins: British and Canadian aeroplanes bomb Hamburg by night, and American planes bomb the city by day. By the end of the operation in November, 9,000 tons of explosives will have killed more than 30,000 people and destroyed 280,000 buildings.

    1966 – Michael Pelkey makes the first BASE jump from El Capitan along with Brian Schubert. Both came out with broken bones. BASE jumping has now been banned from El Cap.

    1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

    1974 – Watergate scandal: The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.

    1980 – The Quietly Confident Quartet of Australia wins the men’s 4 x 100 metre medley relay at the Moscow Olympics, the only time the United States has not won the event at Olympic level.

    1987 – Hulda Crooks, at 91 years of age, climbed Mt. Fuji. Crooks became the oldest person to climb Japan’s highest peak.

    1783 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan commander and politician, second President of Venezuela (d. 1830).

    1794 – Johan Georg Forchhammer, Danish mineralogist and geologist (d. 1865).

    1802 – Alexandre Dumas [père], French novelist and playwright (d. 1870).

    1895 – Robert Graves, English poet, novelist, critic (d. 1985).

    1897 – Amelia Earhart, American pilot and author (d. 1937).

    1900 – Zelda Fitzgerald, American author, visual artist and ballet dancer (d. 1948).

    1951 – Lynda Carter, American actress.

    1952 – Gus Van Sant, American director, producer, and screenwriter.

    1969 – Jennifer Lopez, American actress, singer, and dancer.

    1982 – Elisabeth Moss, American actress.

    Because one day, I’ll leave you a phantom
    To lead you in the summer to join the black parade:

    1974 – James Chadwick, English physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1891).

    1980 – Peter Sellers, English actor and comedian (b. 1925).

    1986 – Fritz Albert Lipmann, German-American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899).

    1991 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902).

    2005 – Richard Doll, English physiologist and epidemiologist (b. 1912).

    2012 – Robert Ledley, American physiologist and physicist, invented the CT scanner (b. 1926).

    2016 – Marni Nixon, American actress and singer (b. 1930). [She is now recognized as the singing voice of leading actresses on the soundtracks of several musicals, including Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, although her roles were concealed from audiences when the films were released.]

    2022 – David Warner, English actor (b. 1941).

  2. Since jokes are in today the long horn used to scratch the rear parts reminds me of a short one. How did Captain Hook die? Scratched his ass with the wrong hand.

    1. Damz…I really thought they wouldn’t go through with it. On the AP clip at the top of the hour, I heard an Israeli say: “Netanyahu is Israel’s first dictator.” Yikes. Over the fierce protests, it looks like Netanyahu shelved the overhaul until late November. Fig leaf.

  3. I’m not sure what to take from the separation of church and state map. Religion can be more intrusive in one’s life in some places where It is officially separate from government (the USA for example, especially in rural areas and the south or Israel which has no official religion) than in places where there is an official church (UK, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, to take four geographically close examples). I don’t really care if it’s “official” as long as it’s not intrusive.

    1. Here in Britain, the state religion is more intrusive than you might think. The 26 most senior bishops of the Church of England have an automatic right to sit in the House of Lords, where they can speak and vote on new laws. The Church of England also runs a large number of primary schools, where they can indoctrinate kids as young as 5 or 6. It’s a lot more intrusive than the absurd flummery of the coronation.

      1. I went to a CofE primary school in the 60s, lived in the UK for the first 32 years of my life and pretty much all of my family are still there. While I take the point re bishops in the House of Lords they are an aspect of a body that has been an incrementally changing anachronism for centuries. I’m still pretty sanguine about the Church of England. None of my friends got indoctrinated in school, in fact my only church attending school friend – from a non-denominational high school – is Catholic. So the infant and junior indoctrination, such as it was, never stuck.

        Having lived in the American south (as well as the west coast and the urban midwest), I’m pretty clear about where I think the religious intrusion is greater. And this seeps into politics at a national level – hence the stacking of the supreme court by a multiply divorced hypocrite, to further his supporters’ theocratic agenda. Vicars armed with cucumber sandwiches (or even bishops voting in the House of Lords) don’t, at least to me, hit the threat level of southern three Gs voters (god, guns and gays as election issues).

  4. Clase Azul is a favorite treat of mine. I keep it in the fridge and sip it chilled. I don’t drink much so like the best when I do.

    I am up for at least several hours each night. Lifting light (given my age) weights every few days really tires me out and helps me sleep. But it’s not a perfect solution so I gave up trying to sleep my ‘old normal’ hours and shifted to accommodate ‘the new normal’. I now simply read and write during these hours. Indeed, I find it an exceptionally productive and creative time. More so than daylight. I then nap during the day. I have read that human males evolved to be awake and alert for lions at night. Having been to Africa I understand that, and a lot more, about our nature, especially our social nature.

    Regarding Israel, this trend of events should have been expected (and was, by many.) The authoritarian approach to the Palestinian ‘problem’ has bred this mindset. Once bred, this mindset is not simply or easily constrained to this particular problem — it will express itself in a similar fashion on other perceived problems, as well.

    I think a larger problem may be that Homo sapiens are more naturally aligned with authoritarian government. Our recent experience with widespread participatory representative government may have just been a blip in human history. In that sense, Israel is simply returning to the norm with the US and other countries not too far behind.

  5. Ever listen to a bird song but can’t see the bird to identify it? Well, the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology identifies bird songs and calls. It listens to the birds around you and shows real-time suggestions for who’s singing so you can identify birds you hear.

    And for identifying plants and trees, the junior botanists should try the app called Seek.

  6. It’s time to face facts: Putin is largely achieving his objectives. (Capturing Kiev was never a primary objective; it would have been a means to an end.) He seeks to retain much of the east; he needs Crimea; he will want to extend control along the coast all the way to Odessa, but this isn’t strictly necessary; he does want a security buffer in Ukraine between NATO and Russia—mining the place is fulfilling both a short- and a long-term objective. The cost is likely far greater than he expected, and the timetable is not one he likely preferred. But he believes—with reason—that Russia can outlast Western attention to the matter. The question is whether Putin himself can.

    This war is not over. It likely won’t be over for a very long time, not officially. If I were Ukrainian, then I would be fighting like hell in any way possible. Zelensky has been superb in keeping the public pressure on the West, but our military and political leadership knew that throwing dollars and equipment at the problem was not anytime soon going to turn Ukraine into a force that could eject Russia from the territory. They knew that. All the time that the media was pumping rah-rah stories at us, the US leadership knew differently. (Imagine needing your expensive lab equipment repaired and operated: quick, somebody grab those two guys off the street, give them some money, and have them get this stuff running.) “Give them F-16s” is so easy. It just flows off the tongue. Give them F-16s. Okay, done! When do they win?! I don’t know whether Ukraine can ever expel Russia. I don’t think it likely. (I think it less likely if they don’t attack Russia itself.) But it will take more time, attention, and discipline than the US population has ever demonstrated that it is capable of exercising.

    As an aside, the idea that Putin ever intended—let alone was able—to invade and conquer NATO countries was always a mix of fear, fantasy, and propaganda. Using that assertion simply allowed us to trot out a current version of “We fight the terrorists there so that we don’t need to fight them here.” The “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists” line has been repurposed as well. As has “They fight us because they hate our freedoms.” No surprise. Same neocons running the show now as back then. They just commandeered a different party.

    1. I think you are right in your parenthetical point that a Ukrainian victory is less likely without an invasion of Russian territory. It is hard to win a war if you can’t destroy the enemy’s ability to make war on you. The wishful thinking was that Putin would die of cancer or break his neck or Russia’s economy would collapse with sanctions and they would beat a hasty retreat, recognizing their folly especially after the Moskva sank.

      Western public opinion underestimated Russia’s staying power in persevering with its war aims in the face of military incompetence and the inspiring heroism of the defenders.. Seventeen months later, they are still lodged in Ukraine and it is Ukraine who is running out of troops, momentum, and ammunition. I don’t see how Ukraine wins without somehow destroying Russia’s railway logistics as a minimum. Which would risk escalation in a way the European welfare states won’t want to face. Russia has that chunk of Ukraine by Right of Conquest. A nuclear state can do pretty much whatever it wants as long as it avoids existential confrontation with another nuclear state. This truth is as obvious now as common sense would have predicted in Feb 2022.

      The Allies in WW2 couldn’t liberate France and Poland without defeating Germany in Germany and forcing its surrender. I can’t see Ukraine liberating itself without the defeat of Russia. And who on earth is going to attempt that?

  7. “But it will take more time, attention, and discipline than the US population has ever demonstrated that it is capable of exercising.“

    Well, the US population went along with W.’s Middle-eastern wars for over 20 years without much push back, and Americans were dying and we were spending a hell of a lot more money than we are in Ukraine. I really can’t see a scenario where a majority of Americans become “weary” of the war in Ukraine and want to abandon the cause. As long as Americans see Putin as the dangerous, murderous dictator that he is, and as long as Americans aren’t dying or getting hit in their pocket book, I think support for Ukraine will remain strong for the foreseeable future.

    Of course, if Trump wins in 2024 (Putin’s wet dream) America’s support for Ukraine will be a moot point.

  8. “Well, the US population went along with W.’s Middle-eastern wars for over 20 years without much push back, . . .”

    Interesting. I wasn’t aware that “W” was in office for 20 years.

    Please note that I said time, attention, and discipline. It’s easy for the majority to put in the time when few, if any, of them ever risk the human cost. And inertia is not attention. Nor is leaving a Ukrainian flag on one’s Twitter account profile evidence of discipline.

    And, by the way, how did that military operation in Afghanistan work out?

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