Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Thursday,  July 27, 2023, and National Scotch Day. Make mine a:

It’s also National Chicken Fingers Day (??), National Chili Dog Day, National Refreshment Day, National Crème Brûlée Day, and José Celso Barbosa Day in Puerto Rico.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 27 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*In an ironic act of recursion, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear arguments about the new law that curbs their own authority.

Israel’s Supreme Court said Wednesday that it would begin in September to review a contentious new law that diminishes the court’s own role, setting the stage for a constitutional crisis and renewed social turmoil if the judges then overturn the legislation.

The decision sets up a looming clash between the executive branch of government and the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court must now decide whether to reassert its dominance over Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s government — or it must accept the move to reduce its own power.

Either conclusion is likely to provoke widespread anger, since the issue has become a proxy for a much broader battle over Israel’s character.

The court’s announcement came in response to the decision on Monday, by Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, to pass a deeply divisive bill that stops the court from overruling government decisions with the legal standard of “reasonableness.” The government said the term, never defined in a statute, was too subjective and gave unelected judges too much leeway to overrule elected lawmakers.

. . .on Wednesday afternoon, the court announced on its website that it would hear two of the petitions in September. An exact date has yet to be set, and the court did not announce which of its 15 judges would hear the petitions or how long the process would last. The court often takes weeks if not months to reach a decision.

The court has not issued an injunction barring the law from coming into effect, as some opponents had hoped. The hearing’s date will be set in the coming days, a Supreme Court spokesman said.

If the court strikes down the law, Mr. Netanyahu’s government will be forced to decide whether to respect the decision of an institution that it is trying to restrain. And should the government reject the court’s ruling, Israel’s other key institutions — its military, police, civil service and lower courts — will in turn need to decide whether to obey the country’s executive or judicial branch.

I’m wondering why more people don’t object to the Court using the term “reasonableness”, which needn’t be explained, to overturn laws and ministerial appointments. It’s as if the Supreme Court of the U.S., without a suit being brought, could strike down any law it wanted because it was “unreasonable”—without giving a written explanation. I’m wondering if this fracas (and the discussion has been going on for three decades) wouldn’t be taking place if the Prime Minister wasn’t perceived as right wing.

But get a load of this: as Adam Shinar says in a NYT op-ed:

As the bill cleared Parliament 64-0 — all 56 opposition members walked out to boycott the vote — petitions challenging the legislation were quickly submitted to the Supreme Court in the hope that it would strike down the new law. That hope, however, may be dashed.

All the proposed components of the overhaul — a concerted effort to entrench the government’s hold on power — are amendments to the Basic Laws, the body of legislation that serves as Israel’s de facto constitution. The Supreme Court striking down an amendment to a Basic Law is tantamount to accepting the idea of an “unconstitutional constitutional amendment”: theoretically possible, but incredibly unlikely. It’s true the court has declared it has the power to invalidate amendments to the Basic Laws, but only on very narrow grounds, such as denial of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Well, what do I know? I’m not even sure, after making inquiries, whether that last contention about the unlikelihood of the court overruling the new laws is even accurate.

*Hunter Biden’s plea deal with the government, in which he’d plea guilty to tax charges and the government would drop gun charges, is now in jeopardy.

A federal judge on Wednesday delayed accepting a plea deal for President Biden’s son Hunter, saying the terms as written by prosecutors and defense lawyers may not be constitutional, but also signaling the agreement could be approved in the future.

The deal that had been struck in June began to unravel near the start of the three-hour hearing. U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika asked a series of questions that revealed a disagreement between federal prosecutors and Biden’s lawyers over whether the agreement — in which he would plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors and likely avoid jail time — would protect him from the possibility of additional criminal charges.

While the judge pressed the prosecutors and defense attorneys to resolve the immunity issues, she also expressed concern that they had crafted a two-step plea deal in which some key features may not be reviewable by the court.

The sides had proposed that Biden would plead guilty to the tax charges in a fairly standard agreement that requires the judge’s approval. Separately, they crafted a “diversion agreement” with Biden’s attorneys in which the president’s son would admit to wrongdoing in the gun case and agree to certain conditions, including not purchasing a firearm and not using drugs, to avoid actually being charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

The rub is that this second agreement is highly aberrant and may be unconstitutional:

A provision of the gun diversion agreement said that if Biden failed to remain drug free and meet other conditions for the next two years, the judge would determine whether he had broken the terms of the deal and tell prosecutors they could revive the gun charge against him.

But Noreika questioned whether she could lawfully do that, given that she is not a party to the diversion agreement and judges generally are not responsible for pursuing criminal charges.

It’s still possible, however, that this could still be fixed without the President’s son going to jail.

*A whistleblower has testified before Congress that the government has acquired several specimens of unidentified flying objects and has been “reverse engineering them.” These aren’t necessarily alien spacecraft; they could be enemy vehicles from Earth.

The U.S. is concealing a longstanding program that retrieves and reverse engineers unidentified flying objects, a former Air Force intelligence officer testified Wednesday to Congress. The Pentagon has denied his claims.

Retired Maj. David Grusch’s highly anticipated testimony before a House Oversight subcommittee was Congress’ latest foray into the world of UAPs — or “unidentified aerial phenomena,” which is the official term the U.S. government uses instead of UFOs. While the study of mysterious aircraft or objects often evokes talk of aliens and “little green men,” Democrats and Republicans in recent years have pushed for more research as a national security matter due to concerns that sightings observed by pilots may be tied to U.S. adversaries.

Some lawmakers criticized the Pentagon for not providing more details in a classified briefing or releasing images that could be shown to the public. In previous hearings, Pentagon officials showed a video taken from an F-18 military plane that showed an image of one balloon-like shape.

Pentagon officials in December said they had received “several hundreds” of new reports since launching a renewed effort to investigate reports of UFOs.

At that point, “we have not seen anything, and we’re still very early on, that would lead us to believe that any of the objects that we have seen are of alien origin,” said Ronald Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. “Any unauthorized system in our airspace we deem as a threat to safety.”

I do wonder (haven’t you?) whether there is an excessive amount of secrecy attending these sightings. Perhaps, if they’re analyzing our enemies’ secret airplanes, they want to keep it to themselves.

*CNN summarizes recent doings in the Ukraine-Russia war; apparently Ukraine has made some gains, but we keep hearing that, and the gains are always small. Here are a few items:

  • Heavy fighting continues in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, especially around the village of Robotyne, where Ukrainian forces have been trying to break through heavily mined Russian defensive lines, according to Ukrainian and Russian accounts.

    “We came close to Robotyne. Have not yet entered the settlement itself. Fighting continues in trench positions in front of Robotyne,” Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which is involved in the offensive, told CNN.

    Ukrainian forces are also “gradually advancing” in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Farther east, Ukraine is “making progress” and consolidating its positions in the area of Staromaiorske, she added.

    Ukrainian forces have made only modest territorial advances in the south since the counteroffensive began at the end of May.

  • The Ukrainian Air Force has issued a warning that powerful Russian Kinzhal missiles have been fired toward the Khmelnytskyi and Kirovohrad regions in western Ukraine, as well as at the capital of Kyiv.

    Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, said the latest volley involved a variety of types of missiles launched from different areas and changing direction.

    Explosions have been reported in the western Khmelnytskyi region in Ukraine, hours after the Ukrainian Air Force had warned that Russian strategic bombers were airborne.

  • More than 40 Ukrainian companies have contracts to develop drones for use in the war against Russia, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

    Shmyhal appeared at a forum marking the first anniversary of the “Army of Drones” project that brought together Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturers. The prime minister said the production of UAVs has since increased tenfold.

    Both surveillance and attack drones have played a critical role for both sides in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, assisting with targeting enemy weapons, tracking the movement of units and taking out armor.

    Shmyhal said the Ukrainian government has allocated about $1 billion this year for investing in Ukrainian UAV manufacturers.

And more:

  • SBU says it carried out October attack on Crimea bridge: The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has acknowledged its involvement in the attack on the Crimean bridge in October last year. “SBU officers have been destroying the enemy in the hottest spots and doing everything to liberate our land as soon as possible. The destruction of the Crimean bridge is one of our achievements,” said SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk.\


  • Kyiv denies losses in northeast: The Ukrainian military has denied the loss of three settlements in the northeastern part of the country, near Kupyansk. The denial came after Russian officials and Ukrainian sources reported Moscow’s troops had forced Kyiv’s forces to retreat several kilometers, abandoning three small settlements in the process.

*Singapore has just hanged a man for drug trafficking, and is about to hang a woman for the same offense. You probably know that the country has draconian rules for trafficking, with as little as a pound of marijuana bringing you a mandatory death sentence. Look at this!

More adventurous Singaporeans might think that the laws under the MDA only apply within Singapore, and that they can get away scot-free by consuming drugs overseas. This cannot be further from the truth.

Under section 8A of the MDA, a Singapore citizen or permanent resident who consumes drugs abroad will be dealt with as if that offence had been committed within Singapore and punished accordingly.

From the CNN report:

Singapore executed a man Wednesday for drug trafficking and is set to hang a woman Friday — the first in 19 years — prompting renewed calls for a halt to capital punishment.

Mohammed Aziz Hussain, 56, was hanged at Singapore’s Changi Prison and has been buried, said activist Kirsten Han of Transformative Justice Collective, which advocates for abolishing the death penalty in Singapore. A citizen of the city-state, he was sentenced to death in 2018 for trafficking around 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of heroin, Han said.

Saridewi Djamani, a 45-year-old Singaporean woman, is due to be hanged Friday after she was convicted and sentenced in 2018 for trafficking around 30 grams (1.05 ounces) of heroin, the group and other human rights organizations said. Han said the last woman known to have been hanged in Singapore was 36-year-old hairdresser Yen May Woen, also for drug trafficking, in 2004.

. . .If Djamani’s is executed as planned, Singapore will have executed 15 people for drug offences since it resumed hangings in March 2022, an average of one execution every month, Transformative Justice Collective, Amnesty International and seven other groups said in a joint statement.

Anyone — citizens and foreigners alike — convicted of trafficking more than 500 grams (17.64 ounces) of cannabis and 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of heroin faces the mandatory death penalty.

Singapore justifies this capital punishment because it’s near the “Golden Triangle,” an area of drug trafficking.  But they haven’t shown that the death penalty is a deterrent. In fact,  they’ve had about one execution per month for drug crimes since March of last year.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is jesting:

A: Where are you running to?
Hili: To the computer.
A: What for?
Hili: I have to ask AI where the source of the truth is.
In Polish:
Ja: Dokąd biegniesz?
Hili: Do komputera.
Ja: Po co?
Hili: Muszę zapytać A.I. gdzie jest źródło prawdy.


From Divy:

A B. Kliban cartoon from Stash Krod:

From Thomas:

From Masih; another Iranian protestor loses an eye:

I found this one, and the peacock looks as if it’s breathing fire:

From Malcolm, three examples of superb veiled sculpture:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 7-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, getting new eye lenses (cataract operation). His comment on this one: “One of the most bizarre pretexts for a study I have ever seen. The real question of course is HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK YOUR EARS WEIGH?”  I don’t think he meant “ears.”


Wigged-out animals:



19 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. I, of course, have no idea what the underlying stats are, but one execution per month for a crime that we consider commonplace suggests that perhaps there is a deterrent effect from it being a capital offense in Singapore.

  2. On this day:
    1789 – The first U.S. federal government agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, is established (it will be later renamed Department of State).

    1794 – French Revolution: Maximilien Robespierre is arrested after encouraging the execution of more than 17,000 “enemies of the Revolution”.

    1857 – Indian Rebellion: Sixty-eight men hold out for eight days against a force of 2,500 to 3,000 mutinying sepoys and 8,000 irregular forces.

    1866 – The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable is successfully completed, stretching from Valentia Island, Ireland, to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland.

    1890 – Vincent van Gogh shoots himself and dies two days later.

    1919 – The Chicago Race Riot erupts after a racial incident occurred on a South Side beach, leading to 38 fatalities and 537 injuries over a five-day period.

    1921 – Researchers at the University of Toronto, led by biochemist Frederick Banting, prove that the hormone insulin regulates blood sugar.

    1929 – The Geneva Convention of 1929, dealing with treatment of prisoners-of-war, is signed by 53 nations.

    1940 – The animated short A Wild Hare is released, introducing the character of Bugs Bunny.

    1949 – Initial flight of the de Havilland Comet, the first jet-powered airliner. [The de Havilland Aircraft Company’s founder, Geoffrey de Havilland, was also born on this day in 1882.]

    1953 – Cessation of hostilities is achieved in the Korean War when the United States, China, and North Korea sign an armistice agreement. Syngman Rhee, President of South Korea, refuses to sign but pledges to observe the armistice.

    1974 – Watergate scandal: The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes 27 to 11 to recommend the first article of impeachment (for obstruction of justice) against President Richard Nixon.

    1996 – In Atlanta, United States, a pipe bomb explodes at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

    1667 – Johann Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician and academic (d. 1748).

    1733 – Jeremiah Dixon, English surveyor and astronomer (d. 1779).

    1768 – Charlotte Corday, French assassin of Jean-Paul Marat (d. 1793).

    1781 – Mauro Giuliani, Italian singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1828).

    1833 – Thomas George Bonney, English geologist, mountaineer, and academic (d. 1923).

    1867 – Enrique Granados, Spanish pianist and composer (d. 1916).

    1870 – Hilaire Belloc, French-born British writer and historian (d. 1953).

    1906 – Jerzy Giedroyc, Polish author and activist (d. 2000).

    1907 – Irene Fischer, Austrian-American geodesist and mathematician (d. 2009).

    1916 – Skippy Williams, American saxophonist and arranger (d. 1994).

    1921 – Garry Davis, American pilot and activist, created the World Passport (d. 2013).

    1930 – Shirley Williams, English academic and politician, Secretary of State for Education (d. 2021). [Long before we moved here, she was the local MP and opened one of the schools my kids attended.]

    1944 – Barbara Thomson, English saxophonist and composer (d. 2022).

    1950 – Simon Jones, English actor.

    1958 – Christopher Dean, English figure skater and choreographer. [At the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Dean and his partner Jayne Torvill’s free programme obtained the only all-perfect score ever awarded in ice dancing.]

    Life, it seems will fade away/Drifting further every day:
    1844 – John Dalton, English physicist, meteorologist, and chemist (b. 1776).

    1946 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, and playwright (b. 1874).

    1980 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iranian Shah (b. 1919).

    1981 – Elizabeth Rona, Hungarian American nuclear chemist (b. 1890).

    1984 – James Mason, English actor (b. 1909).

    1990 – Bobby Day, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer (b. 1928).

    2003 – Bob Hope, English-American actor, comedian, television personality, and businessman (b. 1903).

    2013 – Fernando Alonso, Cuban dancer, co-founded the Cuban National Ballet (b. 1914).

    2017 – Sam Shepard, American playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director (b. 1943).

  3. The annoying thing about David Grusch, the claimed whistleblower talking about alien spaceship parts, is that it’s all hearsay at best. He is relaying what he says other people told him. He has no documentation for his claims, no pictures, and he admits he hasn’t seen any of the things he talks about. I see no reason to take him seriously.

    1. My Dad, prior to his retirement, was in a position to know whether the US military held such secrets. I once asked him about UFOs and aliens.
      He told me that he would not reveal classified information even to me, but that he did not personally believe in UFOs as an extraterrestrial phenomenon.

    1. I don’t have anything in the range of Jerry’s preferred dram, but I do have a bottle of Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask on hand at the moment. Best bang for the buck I’ve found in the past few years.

      I’ll raise a toast to you this evening, GBJames.

  4. The Kliban cartoon is amusing, but, from my understanding the consensus of historians believe Jesus was a real figure, although evidence of his divinity is missing.
    Magic Jesus – 404 – not found.

  5. I think the NYT characterized the Biden court room scene better than WaPo. Per NYT,

    “… It was a signal that she was about to subject them [the lawyers] to three-plus hours of relentless interrogation over elements of an agreement she described, variously, as “not standard, not what I normally see,” possibly “unconstitutional,” without legal precedent and potentially “not worth the paper it is printed on.”

    Judge Noreika quickly zeroed in on a central component of the deal, a paragraph offering Hunter Biden broad immunity from prosecution, in perpetuity, for a range of matters scrutinized by the Justice Department during its five-year investigation.

    … in 10 minutes of incisive questioning, she exposed serious differences between the two sides on what, exactly, that paragraph meant.

    … Biden’s lead lawyer, said it indemnified his client not merely for the tax and gun offenses uncovered during the inquiry… but for other possible offenses stemming from his lucrative consulting deals with companies in Ukraine, China and Romania.

    Prosecutors had a far narrower definition. They saw Mr. Biden’s immunity as limited to offenses uncovered during their probe of his tax returns dating back to 2014, and his illegal purchase of a firearm in 2018, when he was a heavy drug user, they said.

    When the judge asked Leo Weiss, a lead prosecutor in the case, if the investigation was still going on, he answered: “yes.”

    When she asked him, hypothetically, if the deal would preclude an investigation into possible violation of laws regulating foreign lobbying by Mr. Biden connected with his consulting and legal work, he replied: “no.”

    Mr. Biden then told the judge he could not agree to any deal that did not offer him broad immunity, and Mr. Clark popped up angrily to declare the deal was now “null and void.” …

  6. Israel must work out its own politics. I do think that it is wrong to characterize the law as an attempt to put the executive above the law, as the Times did. That might be a correct view in an American separation-of-powers system. But Israel uses a parliamentary system in which the legislature (the Knesset) is supreme over the Cabinet, which is responsible to it. The Prime Minister must be an elected member of the Knesset and his Ministers are traditionally Knesset members also. The Knesset can vote no confidence in the government, dissolving it and forcing an election. This is a real source of power because there are so many parties elected by proportional representation, the Prime Minister’s party never enjoys an outright and docile legislative majority.

    Currently Israel’s Supreme Court can overrule not just the executive (which the Knesset already can, totally) but the Knesset itself on vague grounds of unreasonableness. Generally speaking, under the principle of parliamentary supremacy, parliaments should be able to pass any laws they want. If there are to be Constitutional limits (to prevent tyranny of the majority and to respect constituent elements of a federation, which latter doesn’t apply in Israel) they should be explicitly written down..

    Jerry is probably right that opposition has been energized over the politics and personality of the current PM. However, if Israelis want their country to be ruled by 19 judges with parliament only in an advisory capacity, that is up to them.

  7. There’s literally nothing to the latest UFO flap. Mark Palko has been following it. All the “latest” videos were debunked years ago (see here at WEIT, too). Grusch is not a whistleblower. He appears to be, at best, a crank, claiming, among other things, that Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XII were part of the coverup. Leslie Kean, the NY Times reporter who has ginned up interest in UFOs, is, according to Palko, a “paranormal true believer”, and her evidently credulous book on the “afterlife” attests to this.


  8. Disappointing that the flap over UFOs has not included a component of trans-planetary activism. Surely there are individuals who, though assigned at birth to this planet, really really know that they are visitors from Mars, Ixneria, or Tau Ceti e. Incidentally, I am not just imagining things. The radio program “Coast to Coast” periodically has guests or callers who solemnly assert their own extra-terrestrial origin, politely agreed by the host.

    1. @10: I used to have fun listening to Coast to Coast. I remember people who claimed to be remote viewers. They said that remote viewers were employed by the CIA in their search for Osama bin Laden. It must have worked!

      The late night radio broadcast Coast to Coast, Michael Savage’s Savage Nation, and the BBC World Service. Good wholesome stuff!

  9. I saw the 30g of heroin mentioned twice, once by CNN and once by the BBC. In fact it seems she was convicted of trafficking a total of 1kg of drugs, of which 30.72g were cocaine, totalling $15k. Her excuse, as per the BBC, that she was stocking up for Ramadan was said to be “unbelievable” by the judge because, based on her own account of her daily usage, the drugs would have lasted her 682 days.

    Now whether you agree, disagree, or are neutral (I fall mainly into this camp) on the death penalty, what I can guarantee is that almost every time a story like this is reported the crime will be downplayed wherever possible. Particularly by human rights organisations and liberal media outlets.

    It’s just another tiresome example of facts being ignored in order to facilitate a narrative.

    This is pretty banal and I’ve seen the same sentiments echoed on many an occasion: Singapore, at least superficially, appears to be a wonderfully safe city/country. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on a number of occasions and have never had even an inkling of danger…except on the roads. I also haven’t ever noticed much of a police presence. It suggests they’re doing something right in their system of law and order.

  10. Amazing marble sculptures! Good to see they still exist, unlike the work of Callimachus from Yeats’s “Lapis Lazuli”:

    No handiwork of Callimachus
    Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
    Made draperies that seemed to rise
    When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;

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