Thursday: Hili dialogue

August 10, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Thursday, August 10, 2023. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving to the Galápagos until the 20th, so posting will be light until my return.  Matthew will handle the daily Hili dialogue until then, but I may have little or no internet connection. I do my best.

It’s National S’Mores Day, celebrating an excellent campfire confection beloved of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It’s two graham crackers sandwiching a toasted (and melted) marshmallow, topped with a couple of squares of Hershey’s chocolate. The name first appeared in 1938, and here’s one below (the marshmallow should be charred a bit). This would make an excellent breakfast—if you had a campfire.

It’s also National Duran Duran Appreciation Day, National Spoil Your D*g Day, National Lazy Day, World Lion Day, and International Biodiesel Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the August 10 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first. Sadly, Robbie Robertson, a superb musician famous for his work with The Band, and one of my favorite writers/players, died yesterday at 80.

Robbie Robertson, the chief composer and lead guitarist for the Band, whose work offered a rustic vision of America that seemed at once mythic and authentic, in the process helping to inspire the genre that came to be known as Americana, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 80.

His manager, Jared Levine, said he died after a long illness.

The songs Mr. Robertson wrote for the Band used enigmatic lyrics to evoke a hard and colorful America of yore. With uncommon conviction, they conjured a wild place, often centered in the South, peopled by rough-hewed characters, from the defeated Confederate soldier in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to the tough union worker of “King Harvest Has Surely Come” to the shady creatures in “Life Is a Carnival.”

There’s a lot more I can say about his music, but I’ll just show one of his songs from 1968, featuring a melange of worldwide singers, including Ringo Starr. (You can see a video about the making of this video here and here.) This video was made on the 50th anniversary of the release of “The Weight.”

*A victory for supporters of freedom of choice: Ohio voters rejected an initiative that would make it harder to change the state constitution. This now allows voters to amend the constitution more easily, and that’s good because Ohio recently voted in some strict curbs on abortion.

Ohio voters rejected a measure Tuesday that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution ahead of a November vote to ensure access to abortion.

For more than a century, Ohioans have been able to amend the state constitution with a simple majority. The failed measure would have changed that threshold to 60 percent.

With about 88 percent of votes counted Tuesday night, 56.5 percent voted against the proposal, while 43.5 percent supported it. The Associated Press projected the measure would fail.

Republican state lawmakers decided to try to make it tougher to amend the constitution as reproductive rights advocates gathered signatures of support this spring for a November measure that would guarantee access to abortion. Because of those stakes, Tuesday’s election became a proxy fight over abortion, which is expected to again be a defining issue in the 2024 election.

The margin in the vote is fairly substantial, and Ohio voters, facing a legislature that is increasingly Republican have spoken their mind. While this is a general vote about amending the state constitution, it was understood that the real object of the proposed initiative was to make it harder to enshrine freedom of choice in that constitution.

*As part of Trump’s indictment for actions connected with the January 6 insurrection and his attempts to overthrown the election, Special Counsel Jack Smith has obtained a search warrant for Twitter records related to Trump’s account. And the company got fined for slowness in complying.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team obtained a search warrant in January for records related to former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and a judge levied a $350,000 fine on the company for missing the deadline to comply, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The new details were included in a ruling from the federal appeals court in Washington over a legal battle surrounding the warrant that has played out under seal for months. The court rejected Twitter’s claim that it should not have been held in contempt or sanctioned.

Smith’s team repeatedly mentioned Trump’s tweets in an indictment unsealed last week that charges the former president with conspiring to subvert the will of voters and cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump, a Republican, has pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of Congress’ certification of Biden’s win. He posted on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday that the Justice Department “secretly attacked” his Twitter account, and he characterized the investigation as an attempt to “infringe” on his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024.

It’s unclear what information Smith may have sought from Trump’s Twitter account. Possibilities include data about when and where the posts were written, their engagement and the identities of other accounts that reposted Trump’s content.

The search warrant underscores the breadth of the investigation and the lengths Smith has gone to to obtain evidence to build his case. In a recent signal that Smith’s investigation is continuing, former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik met Monday with investigators from special counsel Smith’s team.

It’s unclear to me, too. Why would the time and location of when Trump’s tweets were written  be relevant? What is “their engagement”? And are the identities of account that retweeted Trump’s posts a way to indict other people? Well, I’ll assume that the Department of Justice knows what it’s doing.

*The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had come to an agreement whereby the Saudis would recognize Israel in return for some concessions. That would be a huge story—if it were true. But it may well not be. First, from the Wall Street Journal article:

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the broad contours of a deal for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel in exchange for concessions to the Palestinians, U.S. security guarantees and civilian nuclear help, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. officials expressed cautious optimism that, in the next nine to 12 months, they can hammer out the finer details of what would be the most momentous Middle East peace deal in a generation. But they warned that they face long odds.

The stepped-up efforts come after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in Jeddah two weeks ago with Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, in a bid to accelerate talks. Negotiators now have moved to discussing specifics, including addressing Saudi requests that the U.S. help them develop a civilian nuclear program and offer iron clad security guarantees.

The Saudis are also seeking significant concessions from Israel that would help promote the creation of a Palestinian state. In return, the U.S. is pressing Saudi Arabia to impose limits on its growing relationship with China.

But then the Jerusalem Post has denied that there was any such agreement.

The White House downplayed a report in the Journal that it and the Saudis have a working plan to bring about Israel-Saudi peace within the next year.

National security spokesperson John Kirby said that “there’s still a lot of discussing to happen here. There’s still a lot of conversations that have to occur before we get there.”

“There is no agreed-to set of negotiations, there’s no agreed-to framework to codify normalization or any of the other security considerations that we and our friends have in the region,” he continued.

In addition to the timeline, the Journal reported that the US asked Saudi Arabia to limit its increasingly close defense and economic relationship with China as part of the broader agreement. This includes assuring the US that the kingdom will not allow Beijing to build military bases in Saudi Arabia, and to price oil with US dollars.

At the same time, the report said US President Joe Biden had not yet decided what he would give the Saudis in exchange for a historic Middle East peace agreement.

I’m hoping that such an agreement will be hammered out, as it seems like a win-win-win-win: everybody benefits (except, perhaps for Arab states that want Israel eliminated or don’t want the Saudis, the most important Arab state, to normalize relationships with Israel. But that would create more peace, and perhaps a two-state solution in in the offing. Whatever happens, the Wall Street Journal article was premature. (Malgorzata pointed out the Jerusalem Post article to me after I called her to ask what the Wall Street Journal‘s piece might mean.

*Paul Krugman answers a question we discussed last week, “Why are groceries so expensive?” (h/t Enrico)

 Yes, there’s a negativity bias in perceptions of food inflation, in which big jumps make a stronger impression than big declines. For example, the Eggpocalypse of 2022 got a lot more attention than the rapid normalization of 2023. . . . (data given)

Still, it’s true that grocery prices have risen considerably more than average consumer prices since the eve of the pandemic. . . (data given)

Why? Can we blame Bidenomics? Or are surging food prices an example of “greedflation,” inflation caused by price gouging?

No and no. OK, the economic surge under Biden may have had some marginal impact on food prices, especially because it has led to big wage gains for low-paid workers, including workers at supermarkets. And I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some big players in the food business have taken advantage of general inflation to exploit their market power even more than usual. But the key point to understand about food inflation is that it’s a global phenomenon, outside the control of any one government (except, in a sense, Russia’s — I’ll get there in a minute) and transcending the pricing policies of even the biggest businesses.

. . .Also, getting food into your shopping cart involves a number of costs over and above the price of food commodities. Among these is the cost of labor. Retail food employees earn notoriously low wages, but tight labor markets have led to significant gains for the worst paid workers, which must have had some impact on consumer prices.

And yes, maybe there was some price gouging. But it can’t have been central to the story. If it were, we wouldn’t have seen egg prices come down as fast as they went up.

Yes, egg prices have come down, and I recently bought my first two cartons of cackleberries in months.  So maybe it’s not all gouging. Still that 50% increase in the price of my baguette bothers me. If that happened in France, there would be riots regardless of the cause.

*Evolution never ceases to amaze me. (Evolutionary biology is one area where nearly every week you find out how “clever” natural selection is, though in this case it may involve learning instead of or in addition to selection.)  A NYT report, drawing on a new paper in Current Biology, reveals a clever hunting strategy of the predatory trumpetfish: hiding behind an innocuous, herbivorous fish that doesn’t spook prey.

Trumpetfish like to snack on damselfish and shrimp in coral reefs and sea grass beds around the world. But with 20-inch long bodies and conspicuously large snouts, they need tricks to sneak up on their prey.

In a study, published on Monday in the journal Current Biology, scientists demonstrated the effectiveness of one trumpetfish strategy — hiding behind a larger, friendlier fish. The subterfuge of such a fakeout seems almost human in its cleverness, leading scientists to wonder whether other species are also making use of similar hunting strategies.

, . .It’s also not the trumpetfish’s only means of catching prey off guard. It can change color to blend into its surroundings or disguise itself as inanimate objects like a stick or seaweed. It can also attack from above, hanging vertically in the water column and darting down to suck prey into its gaping mouth.

However, hiding behind a larger nonpredatory fish, such as a parrotfish, until its prey is within striking range seems to be one of its favorite hunting strategies.

“For the last couple of decades, guidebooks, dive blogs and a couple of research papers have documented observations of this behavior,” said Sam Matchette, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Cambridge and an author of the new study.

The NYT article has some nice video of artificial parrotfish (herbivores) and trumpetfish being pulled over a reef. The other fish ignore the nonpredatory parrotfish but freak out when the trumpetfish model is pulled by. They can clearly tell the difference. There’s also a video of a real trumpetfish shadowing a parrotfish, so close to the herbivore that it’s almost bonded to it.

As I said, this could involve the trumpetfish learning to shadow other fish rather than having evolved a tendency to shadow herbivorous fish. But I’d be willing to bet that there is some genetic evolution involved.

Here’s a figure from the paper showing predatory trumpetfish hiding behind other fish.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili decries trans-speciesism:

Hili: Are there people who feel they are cats?
A: There are.
Hili: I can’t see the letter C in initials LGBT+.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy są ludzie, którzy czują się kotami?
Ja: Są.
Hili: Nie widzę w skrócie LGBT+ litery K.
. . . and a photo of the lovely and affectionate Szaron:


From Seth Andrews:

From Merilee, a Vernessa Himmler cartoon:

From The Absurd Sign Project 2.0:

From Masih. I may have tweeted this before but it’s worth seeing again to apprehend the bravery of Iranian women. This one, for instance, could be arrested for walking about with uncovered hair:

From Simon, a sarcastic post about the advice of Trump’s lawyers:

From Malcolm, two types of dogs:

A tweet from Chris Christie, a Republican with no love lost for Donald Trump. After you hear this, you’ll know why:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a Belgian girl murdered at age 14:

Tweets from Matthew, this one a BBC journalist’s encounter tweeted by Larry the Cat. Matthew adds: “The journalist is called Dave Guest. Years ago he interviewed me about ‘the duck that thinks it’s a dog’. He is a terrific local journalist.”

Poor kitty!

The thread gives the full story, but these two posts are a teaser for you:

22 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. I’d have hoped the wage gains might have something to do with “Decent Work and Economic Growth” (no. 8) of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals :

    “Goals: 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”

    … it’d make a lot of sense, if UNESCO would make jobs in the grocery industry more equitable and dignified for all. UNESCO has been hard at work on these goals for years, so I think this is a sign it’s on track.

    1. While I pretty much always find the WEIT articles on philosophy, science, and politics to be interesting and enlightening with content that I am unlikely to find anywhere else in my daily routine, I must say the the music articles are the most enjoyable. I sometimes put off reading the deeper-content material to later in the day, but always read and, most enjoyably, listen to the musical offerings right away, first thing in the morning. Thanks for so many videos that have brought back so many nice memories for me.
      (Also, nice trailer Ken. Tnx!)

  2. Notice in the video the pilot has the door open well before the plane hits the water. That is always one thing to remember in an ocean ditching, get the door open before the landing. You want to be able to get out really fast, before the plane goes under.

    I feel really bad for the people in Hawaii, especially Maui. The death toll is up to 36 now and will be worse. It will be a long hard climb for the Island to come back. Maybe hits me harder because I lived in Hawaii, even though I have never been to Maui.

      1. I do not think most people know how remote Maui and the Big Island are in Hawaii. Most people relate to Oahu where most of the people live. The town of Lahaina on Maui is only around 13,000 population, yet it is the second largest city on that Island. Most everything gets to Maui by ocean barge from Oahu. Everything is very expensive. Everything depends on tourism which will go to nothing for sometime. It will be very rough for a long time.

      2. I was at the Kaanapali resort in the early 2000’s. It’s a part of Lahaina and we visited the city proper just about every day to eat or shop at the local stores. It was a quaint yet lively, beautiful city. There was also a huge banyon tree that was planted in 1873 that was the center of a lovely park; I found out that it is no more. The death toll alone is obviously an ineffable tragedy, and this along with the city’s destruction affected me more than I thought it would. I guess because I had such fond memories and it’s hard to believe Lahaina is pretty much gone.

  3. Most remarkably, Robertson was Canadian (and half-Indigenous), but still managed to capture that semi-mythical lost America in his songs.

  4. On this day:
    1519 – Ferdinand Magellan’s five ships set sail from Seville to circumnavigate the globe. The Basque second-in-command Juan Sebastián Elcano will complete the expedition after Magellan’s death in the Philippines.

    1741 – King Marthanda Varma of Travancore defeats the Dutch East India Company at the Battle of Colachel, effectively bringing about the end of the Dutch colonial rule in India.

    1755 – Under the direction of Charles Lawrence, the British begin to forcibly deport the Acadians from Nova Scotia to the Thirteen Colonies and France.

    1792 – French Revolution: Storming of the Tuileries Palace: Louis XVI of France is arrested and taken into custody as his Swiss Guards are massacred by the Parisian mob.

    1920 – World War I: Ottoman sultan Mehmed VI’s representatives sign the Treaty of Sèvres that divides up the Ottoman Empire between the Allies.

    1948 – Candid Camera makes its television debut after being on radio for a year as Candid Microphone.

    1961 – Vietnam War: The U.S. Army begins Operation Ranch Hand, spraying an estimated 20 million US gallons (76,000 m3) of defoliants and herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover.

    1969 – A day after murdering Sharon Tate and four others, members of Charles Manson’s cult kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

    1977 – In Yonkers, New York, 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) is arrested for a series of killings in the New York City area over the period of one year.

    1981 – Murder of Adam Walsh: The head of John Walsh’s son is found. This inspires the creation of the television series America’s Most Wanted and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

    1988 – Japanese American internment: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing $20,000 payments to Japanese Americans who were either interned in or relocated by the United States during World War II.

    1990 – The Magellan space probe reaches Venus.

    1999 – Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting.

    1814 – Henri Nestlé, German businessman, founded Nestlé (d. 1890).

    1856 – William Willett, English inventor, founded British Summer Time (d. 1915).

    1889 – Charles Darrow, American game designer, created Monopoly (d. 1967).

    1889 – Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Polish writer and member of the WW II Polish Resistance (d. 1968).

    1897 – Jack Haley, American actor and singer (d. 1979).

    1909 – Leo Fender, American businessman, founded Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (d. 1991).

    1913 – Wolfgang Paul, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1993).

    1924 – Jean-François Lyotard, French philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist (d. 1998).

    1926 – Carol Ruth Vander Velde, American mathematician (d. 1972).

    1933 – Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Baroness Butler-Sloss, English lawyer and judge.

    1938 – Tony Ross, English author and illustrator.

    1939 – Kate O’Mara, English actress (d. 2014).

    1943 – Ronnie Spector, American singer-songwriter (d. 2022).

    1947 – Ian Anderson, Scottish-English singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1959 – Rosanna Arquette, American actress, director, and producer.

    1959 – Mark Price, English drummer. [Best known for his work with Nik Kershaw, All About Eve, and Del Amitri.]

    1960 – Antonio Banderas, Spanish actor and producer.

    1963 – Andrew Sullivan, English-American journalist and author.

    1997 – Kylie Jenner, American television personality and businesswoman.

    Though Death be poor, it ends a mortal woe:
    1784 – Allan Ramsay, Scottish-English painter (b. 1713).

    1915 – Henry Moseley, English physicist and engineer (b. 1887).

    1932 – Rin Tin Tin, American acting dog (b. 1918).

    2002 – Kristen Nygaard, Norwegian computer scientist and politician (b. 1926).

    2007 – Tony Wilson, English journalist, producer, and manager, co-founded Factory Records (b. 1950).

    2008 – Isaac Hayes, American singer-songwriter, pianist, producer, and actor (b. 1942).

    2014 – Kathleen Ollerenshaw, English mathematician, astronomer, and politician, Lord Mayor of Manchester (b. 1912).

    2019 – Jeffrey Epstein, American financier (b. 1953).

    1. A quote from Andrew Sullivan

      Monsters remain human beings. In fact, to reduce them to a subhuman level is to exonerate them of their acts of terrorism and mass murder — just as animals are not deemed morally responsible for killing. Insisting on the humanity of terrorists is, in fact, critical to maintaining their profound responsibility for the evil they commit. And, if they are human, then they must necessarily not be treated in an inhuman fashion. You cannot lower the moral baseline of a terrorist to the subhuman without betraying a fundamental value. -Andrew Sullivan, writer (b. 10 Aug 1963)

    2. 1947 – Ian Anderson, Scottish-English singer-songwriter and guitarist.

      I recall him primarily as a flautist with Jethro Tull.

      1. Me too. According to Wikipedia, “He is a multi-instrumentalist who also plays harmonica, keyboards, bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone and a variety of whistles”. I’m not sure if he plays them all wearing tights and standing on one leg, though…

  5. Amending the US Constitution is much more difficult than amending state constitutions. Why?

    “The U.S. Constitution is difficult to change and has only been amended 27 times. State constitutions, on the other hand, are much easier to modify, and state constitutional amendments are adopted on a regular basis. The current constitutions of the 50 states have been amended around 7,000 times.

    States vary in how often they amend their constitutions. The constitutions of Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and California are amended more than three to four times per year, on average. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Vermont constitutions are amended only once every three to four years on average.”

    1. Ohio republicans made the mistake of thinking, since they control the legislature in the state, they could do whatever they wanted and would control their constitution. Pretty stupid and it is doubtful how much longer they will control anything in Ohio. People generally would like to live in a democracy, something the republicans no longer want.

    1. We will hear countless media riffs on the Never Ending Tour–and Dylan will pay as much attention to them then as he does now.

Leave a Reply