John McWhorter versus “The View”

December 2, 2021 • 12:30 pm

The View” is a discussion show, run by a changing group of women, that’s been going for 25 years. They invited John McWhorter on to discuss his new book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Americaand I read that there was some “friction” between McWhorter and the regular hosts. I managed to find two clips on YouTube, and here they are.

In this first clip, McWhorter explains the “third wave” of anti-racism (i.e., “woke anti-racism”) and why he thinks it’s ineffectual.  The only pushback he gets is a confused question about whether, if McWhorter thinks that “woke anti-racism is a religion”, then is racism itself a religion?  But the friction that supposedly occurred isn’t really in this clip. I think it dealt mainly with McWhorter calling anti-racism of the woke stripe a “religion”, which angers both the Woke and the religious.

Here McWhorter is asked about his supposed contention that the extreme right—the Capitol stormers—”don’t have real power.” This seems to be an accusation (one with which i’m deeply familiar), that you shouldn’t spend time calling out the Left when the Right can do so much more damage. I think I’ve answered this repeatedly, and needn’t do so here, but McWhorter’s answer is Luther’s “Here I stand; I can do no other.”  Whoopi Goldberg seems to accuse McWhorter of denying the very existence of racism, or at least how serious racism is.  McWhorter doesn’t deny racism, but he’s not given a chance to explain his fix before the segment ends.


h/t: Divy

Iran will build a bomb no matter what

December 2, 2021 • 9:15 am

If you think that Iran, under its present theocracy, is willing to halt the production of nuclear warheads and missiles, then you are deluded. In fact, even Tom Friedman in the NYT is deluded in his column asserting that “Trump’s Iran policy has become a disaster for the U.S. and Israel.”  Why? Because, according to Friedman:

Up until Trump walked out of the Iran deal negotiated by President Barack Obama — even though international inspectors said Iran was still adhering to it — Iran’s breakout time to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon was one year, and Iran had agreed to maintain that buffer for 15 years. Now it’s a matter of weeks. It would still take Iran a year and half or two years to manufacture a deliverable warhead, U.S. officials believe. But that is cold comfort.

Yes, of course Iran has promised to slow down its production of nuclear material for warheads, but has it really done that? What about those UN inspections?

They are a joke. The agreement forged by Obama stipulates that inspectors are forbidden to inspect military sites. Well, where do you think production of Iran’s warheads and missiles is taking place? And when you read about how the inspections are conducted: very lax, with required advance warning (this should not be given) and soil samples provided by Iran, you wonder how the inspectors can be duped so easily.

And don’t forget that according to the so called “sunset clause” in Obama’s deal, after 2035 Iran would have been absolutely free to develop whatever bomb it wants. 2035 is not as far away as we imagine. But of course Iran has no intention of waiting even that long.

The aims of Iran have been declared explicitly. Here’s one from the spokesperson for Iran’s armed forces (click on screenshot):

A quote:
The spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, on Saturday urged the total elimination of the Jewish state during an interview with an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet.
“We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world,” Shekarchi told the Iranian Students News Agency.
Shekarchi’s genocidal antisemitic remarks come just days before the nuclear talks are set to restart in Vienna Monday on curbing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s illicit nuclear program. The United States and other world powers are seeking to provide Tehran with economic sanctions relief in exchange for temporary restrictions on its atomic program. Israel and other countries believe Iran’s regime seeks to build a nuclear weapons device.

The Iranian general also blasted Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for normalizing diplomatic relations with Israel, terming the diplomacy “intolerable” for Iran’s clerical regime. “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and other countries considered as Muslims, for us they part of the Zionist regime and this is very important,” said Shekarchi.

But wait! There’s more:

Anybody with a lick of sense knows that the theocracy and its mullahs have an overweening aim: to destroy “Zionism,” by which they mean Israel.  And if you think that Iran will agree to stop cold in its production of fissile material, warheads, and missiles, I would question your credulity. Perhaps Trump had speeded up that process a bit when he withdrew from the nuclear agreement, but I think the withdrawal might have been justified. It reduced the contributions of the mullahs to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, and the economic pressure made the Iranian public even more dissatisifed with the mullahs. That’s why Iran is so desperate to get back to the negotiating table and get the sanctions lifted, as well as trying to exact a patronizing promise from the U.S. and EU that they will never again impose sanctions. Read about the demonstrations against the government of Iran, in which soldiers just shoot the demonstrators.


And insofar as Biden and the EU renegotiate a deal with Iran in which it promises to slow down (but not stop) production of nuclear weapons, they are also dupes. Everyone knows that the production of those weapons is inevitable. At best we can buy some time, but not very much.

So what can be done? Israel can be destroyed by one or two nuclear missiles fired from Iran, and there will be no warning and little possibility of retaliating against such a large country.

Israel has two choices, neither of them palatable. It can bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, but that is very likely to start a war—a war that nobody wants, including Israel itself, the U.S. and the EU. Or Israel can do nothing, or do smaller acts of sabotage like assassinating Iranian nuclear experts, which it has done. That will have little effect, and eventually Iran will aim its missiles at Israel.

The only viable solution I can see is the overthrow of the Iranian theocracy and institution of a secular government in there. We cannot do that, of course: it is up to the Iranian people. But those people are getting increasingly fed up with the theocracy and the economic degeneration of the country. And many are sick of the constant intrusion of fundamentalist Islam into their lives. You may have read about anti-regime demonstrations all over Iran, especially in Isfahan. Read Masih Alinejad’s Twitter feed for daily documentation. Persistent sanctions, with U.S. support of the demonstrators and denunciation of Iran’s human-rights violations (something the Iranians also want to negotiate away), will hearten them.

Alternatively, we can just let Iran develop its armed missiles and accept it into the community of the Nuclear Abled along with the U.S., UK, Russia, and China (with North Korea on the way). But Iran is not like North Korea, and I have no confidence that they won’t use their missiles. Israel is not the EU or the US, and has limited power to defend itself against a nuclear attack.

We can’t get rid of the mullahs, but the only way forward is to keep up with the sanctions to leverage a change of regime.  In this sense I have to say that Trump’s actions made more sense than Obama’s and now Biden’s (Need I say that I despise Trump and am elated that he’s gone? But I cannot claim that every single thing his administration did was injurious. The revision of Title IX under DeVos was another example.)

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have the first of two installment of Cooper’s Hawks photographed by Greg Stewart in California. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Some time in 2011, a male Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) showed up in my backyard, attracted to birds at my birdfeeder in Orange County, California.  His injured left wing made him easy to recognize over the years. I raise feeder mice for snake food in my garage and soon began sharing some with the hawk.

He would disappear (migrate ??) in the spring and reappear in fall. Beginning in 2017, he stayed all year, found a mate and raised 3 young. This year (2021) is the 5th year he and his mate have successfully produced young here. Because he had adult plumage and a red iris in 2011 (Cooper’s Hawk eye color darkens with age), he could be 13 years old now. That’s pretty old for a breeding Cooper’s Hawk.

Old man and hawk:



Hawk on roof with feeder mouse:

Reaction to strange hawk in the area:



Nap after bath:

Preening after bath:


Fluffing after bath:

p.s. Hili’s brother Ziggy is living the good life in Laguna Beach, CA:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

December 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, December 2, 2021: National Fritter Day. Corn fritters are, I think, the best example of this genre, preferably with a bit of syrup:

It’s also Business of Popping Corn Day (celebrating the opening of the first company selling commercial popcorn machines in 1885), National Mutt Day, Safety Razor Day, Play Basketball Day, and the UN holiday International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.  (See here for “modern” forms of slavery.)

Today’s Google Doodle is a clever gif that celebrates the birthday in 1859 of pointillist Georges Seurat (click on screenshot):

News of the Day:

*Well, the verbal arguments in the Mississippi abortion case were heard yesterday, and, based on the Justices’ question,s things don’t look good for Roe. v. Wade

The court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.

He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.

Roberts, who I expected would be more open to upholding a 50-year-old precedent, appears ready to join the other 5 conservative justices in rendering Roe inapplicable in one way or another. My prediction, which you needn’t be a savant to offer, is a 6-3 vote in favor of dismantling the precedent. To the new Court, “stare decisis” translates as “throw the bums out.”

*In a related op-ed by the editors of the Washington Post, “Gutting ‘Roe’ would devastate millions of Americans—and the court itself,” the group argues that we’re neglecting the effect of overturning Roe on the court’s credibility:

The court’s authority derives not from its ability to enforce its declarations — it lacks any such power — but from the fact that Americans respect its decisions. Those decisions must reflect something greater than mere whim or raw political power in the Senate. The court should overturn precedent only in exceptional circumstances. The justices must exercise particular care in the case of Roe, because the court previously reviewed and reaffirmed it in Casey, reinforcing its status as the law of the land. In such a circumstance, the court should reverse only decisions that have proved, with the wisdom of hindsight, to be wildly bad. That is not the case with Roe or Casey.

They’re right, of course, as most Americans favor the Roe stipulation of freely chosen abortion—at least up to 24 weeks. But what happens if the court overturns that decision, as it most likely will? The court will continue on as the highest arbiter of the law, no matter how the public feels. So what if its credibility is diminished?  And abortion will probably be banned or restricted in nearly half of the American states.

*Adhering to principle rather than income, the Women’s Tennis Association, in light of the near-disappearance of star player Peng Shuai after she accused a high Chinese government official of sexual assault, decided to abandon any future women’s matches in China. The WTA isn’t satisfied that Shuai is “safe” despite what seem to be hokey videos made to dupe the public.

Though the decision could cost women’s tennis hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue, WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said he would willingly cut off one of the sport’s largest business partners until Ms. Peng’s status was clarified.

Other sports organizations, such as the National Basketball Association and soccer’s English Premier League, have previously found themselves in conflict with China over various matters. But the WTA’s move to suspend the nine tournaments it has scheduled there for next year appears to be unprecedented in global sports.

Good on them!

*The CBC has produced a list of words “you may not want to use” (i.e. DO NOT USE). They include words whose etymology, like “black sheep,” has nothing to do with racism (anything with the word “black” in it is now taboo.) The National Post (of course) takes the mickey out of this speech-policing.  (h/t Leslie)

*Lia Thomas, a woman swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, turned in a record-breaking performance in a meet against Cornell and Princeton.

[Thomas] blasted the number one 200 free time and the second-fastest 500 free time in the nation on Saturday, breaking Penn program records in both events. She swept the 100-200-500 free individual events and contributed to the first-place 400 free relay in a tri-meet against Princeton and Cornell in her home pool.

Thomas is a transgender woman, who competed as a man for three years before switching to the woman’s team. (h/t Luana)

More on transgender athletes later today (if I’m not too tired to post).

*Scientists have found a fossil dinosaur in Chile which is really weird, with a weapon heretofore unknown: a horizontal slashing tail equipped with spikes. (Matthew is guaranteed to love this one.):

Fossils found in Chile are from a strange-looking dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported Wednesday.

Some dinosaurs had spiked tails they could use as stabbing weapons and others had tails with clubs. The new species, described in a study in the journal Nature, has something never seen before on any animal: seven pairs of “blades” laid out sideways like a slicing weapon used by ancient Aztec warriors, said lead author Alex Vargas.

“It’s a really unusual weapon,” said Vargas, a University of Chile paleontologist. “Books on prehistoric animals for kids need to update and put this weird tail in there. … It just looks crazy.”

The plant-eating critter had a combination of traits from different species that initially sent paleontologists down the wrong path. The back end, including its tail weapon, seemed similar to a stegosaurus, so the researchers named it stegouros elengassen.

After Vargas and his team examined the pieces of skull and did five different DNA analyses, they concluded it was only distantly related to the stegosaurus.

A reconstruction on the AP website (their caption):

This illustration provided by Mauricio Alvarez shows a Stegouros. Fossils found in Chile are from the bizarre dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Mauricio Alvarez via AP)

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 782,826, an increase of 847 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,245,169,  an increase of about 8,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 2 includes:

In the “new” Cathedral is a plaque honoring Wren (below). It’s very moving, and the translation says, in the second and third line from the bottom,  “Reader, if you seek his memorial, look around you.”  I could say the same thing about my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin.

Here’s the synagogue, which is still used for worship by Ashkenazi Jews:

Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island

Here’s Brown in the year he was hanged:

  • 1865 – Alabama ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, followed by North Carolina, then Georgia; U.S. slaves were legally free within two weeks.
  • 1867 – At Tremont Temple in Boston, British author Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States.

Dickens writing in 1858:

Here’s the Model T; after 1914, all of them were painted black. It’s regarded as America’s first affordable car. At one time half of all the cars in America were Model Ts:

And the spiffier Model A, which came in many styes and prices:

Here’s a drawing of the reactor, which stood just a block or so from where I’m writing: under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. The site is now occupied by a Henry Moore sculpture depicting “Nuclear Energy”, and looking vaguely bomblike. In the summer it’s inundated with, ironically, Japanese tourists.

The sculpture:

  • 1949 – Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others is adopted.
  • 1954 – Cold War: The United States Senate votes 65 to 22 to censure Joseph McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute”.
  • 1956 – The Granma reaches the shores of Cuba‘s Oriente ProvinceFidel CastroChe Guevara and 80 other members of the 26th of July Movement disembark to initiate the Cuban Revolution.

Here’s that fabled boat:

Clark lived 112 days tethered to the power source, but asked several times to be allowed to die.

She was also a secularist, though she wore a hijab. Here she is:

Here’s his body with the Colombian special police who killed him. The search for Escobar lasted months and cost millions. His legacy is a bunch of undocumented “cocaine hippos” that he imported for his personal zoo, and are now breeding in the rivers and lakes of Colombia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1859 – Georges Seurat, French painter (d. 1891)
  • 1923 – Maria Callas, American-Greek soprano and actress (d. 1977)

La Callas singing Puccini’s “Vissi d’Arte” at Covent Garden in 1964:

  • 1930 – Gary Becker, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1968 – Lucy Liu, American actress and producer
  • 1973 – Monica Seles, Serbian-American tennis player

Seles introduced the GRUNT into women’s tennis, an affectation I despise. Here she is grunting away:

  • 1981 – Britney Spears, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress
  • 1983 – Aaron Rodgers, American football player

Those who took The Big Nap on December 2 include:

  • 1547 – Hernán Cortés, Spanish general and explorer (b. 1485)
  • 1594 – Gerardus Mercator, Flemish mathematician, cartographer, and philosopher (b. 1512)
  • 1814 – Marquis de Sade, French philosopher, author, and politician (b. 1740)
  • 1859 – John Brown, American abolitionist (b. 1800)
  • 1986 – Desi Arnaz, Cuban-American actor, singer, businessman, and television producer (b. 1917)

His real name was Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, and he never actually said, “Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do.” He said this:

Perhaps the most infamous and viciously debated line on the internet, this oft-quoted and memed Ricky Ricardo line is more of a paraphrase, as he never says this exactly. He said things like, “Lucy, ‘splain,” or “‘Splain that if you can,” which evolved into this misquote.

  • 1990 – Aaron Copland, American composer and conductor (b. 1900)
  • 1993 – Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord (b. 1949)
  • 1999 – Charlie Byrd, American guitarist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is outraged that Kulka has taken her favorite spot. Look at Hili’s expression!

Hili: She is sitting in my favorite place!
A: I understand your hurt.
In Polish:
Hili: Ona siedzi na moim ulubionym miejscu!
Ja: Rozumiem twoją krzywdę.

From Ginger K., who says, “One of my Jewish friends who is a pharmacist sent me this pic. She says she did not create the menorah.”

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

A tweet from Simon that he calls, “Two gay men explore botany.” (He worries that this may pollute our family-oriented website.) Be sure to watch the video to appreciate the cleverness of natural selection.

An Instagram post via Amy:

From Cate:

From Ginger K.: Live and learn:

Tweets from Matthew. First, the perfect Xmas gift:

Tooth-achingly cute:

It looks as if nobody got to England, New Guinea, or Madagascar:

It was inevitable . . .

December 1, 2021 • 2:15 pm

CNN and other sites report that the first infection with the multiply-mutant “Omicron” strain of coronavirus has been found in the U.S.

The United States’ first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California.

In a White House news briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the case was in an individual who traveled from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive for Covid-19 on November 29.

That individual, Fauci said, is self-quarantining and close contacts have tested negative for the coronavirus so far.

The person was fully vaccinated and is experiencing “mild symptoms, which are improving at this point,” Fauci said.

Asked by CNN whether that person had a booster shot, Fauci said, “To my knowledge, no.”

The hope, of course, is that the mutant, though a fast spreader, will trade that off against a milder illness. It’s clear this mutation spreads rapidly and looks as if it can sneak past existing vaccination, so let’s hope it doesn’t go for the whole trifecta.

Here’s a NYT figure showing the large number of mutations in the Omicron strain vs. the other strains.  The right figure shows the spike protein, the virus’s armament. Look at all those mutations!


Talking sense about the Omicron variant

December 1, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Reader Tom sent me this 19½-minute video about Omicron from health science expert and nurse John Campbell, who’s apparently been dispensing sound information on the coronavirus for a long time. Tom said this:

Dr. John Campbell has been my go-to-guy for the past 14 months on a nearly daily basis.  He’s lucid, authoritative, clear, concise and engaging, just a superb source of reasonable advice.

When I asked for more information because Campbell’s Wikipedia bio was scanty, Tom added this:

He’s had a YouTube channel since 2008 and is an evidence-based medicine proponent to the bone.  His videos are daily, usually about 20 minutes long and shot in a spare room of his home.  Just him wielding a sharpie, an overhead camera, printed sheets of the day’s topic and a calm, no nonsense discussion delivered in a clipped English accent.  No histrionics.  Like visiting a well-loved teacher during office hours.

Now remember, we know very little about this virus—neither about its infectivity or its virulence (which really encompasses severity and spreadability).  So take this with a grain of salt. However, Campbell readily admits our ignorance while claiming, with support, that this variant will be the dominant strain throughout the world.

He does sound a note of hope, i.e., the vaccinated, when infected with Omicron, seem to get generally mild cases, and hypothesis that its spreadability is negatively correlated with how sick it makes peope.

John also gives us a pessimistic timeline for a vaccination (early to mid-2022). He summarizes where all the cases are (everywhere), and the mortality rate (thankfully, zero).  Remember, it’s early days.

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the Savior’s birthday

December 1, 2021 • 10:15 am

The latest Jesus and Mo cartoon, called “theory”, came with this note:

Prompted by this from The Telegraph (stop loading before download is finished to see full article).

Sadly, I can’t see the article as it’s paywalled. But in the cartoon, Mo for once shows a percipient bit of analysis!  If you read the Torygraph article, please summarize it below.


Under pressure from the benighted, Rhodes College refuses to disinvite Peter Singer but issues a “free speech but. . . ” statement

December 1, 2021 • 9:15 am

There are two main parties to this story (besides Rhodes College itself): Peter Singer, the famous ethical philosopher at Princeton, and Rebecca Tuvel, associate professor and Chair of Philosophy at Rhodes College. We’ve encountered them both before as parties to attempted cancellations.

Backstory: Singer got into big trouble when he proposed that under extreme circumstances it might be not only permissible but morally justifiable to euthanize newborns. Here’s what I wrote in July of 2017:

The question of whether one should be able to euthanize newborns who have horrible conditions or deformities, or are doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable standards afford happiness, has sparked heated debate.  Philosopher Peter Singer has argued that euthanasia is the merciful action in such cases, and I agree with him. If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?  I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral. After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties). It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state. After all, doctors and parents face no legal penalty for simply withdrawing care from such newborns, like turning off a respirator, but Singer suggests that we should be allowed, with the parents’ and doctors’ consent, to painlessly end their life with an injection. I agree.

Note that both Singer and I restrict this action to newborns who are doomed to die soon, probably painfully, or will live without any prospect of a meaningful or sentient existence. It was not meant to apply to disabled people who could live reasonably or happily (e.g. children with Down Syndrome or cerebral palsy), but only for extreme cases. But it didn’t matter. Disabled people demonized Singer, saying that his views cancelled or dehumanized all disabled people, and would put us on a slippery slope to euthanizing any unwanted child. This was not the case we were making, and of course we’d both put strictures in place: parents as well as several doctors would have to consent, and so on.

I wrote this in 2020, when Singer had been deplatformed in New Zealand, Germany, and Canada for his “inhumane” stand on euthanizing doomed infants:

It seems to me that an enlightened philosophy would allow people to be able to end their lives in a humane way if they’ve undergone proper medical and psychiatric vetting. Some form of this “assisted suicide” is already legal in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Colombia, Switzerland, Victoria in Australia, and and in some states of the U.S. (California, Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, and—by court order—in Montana).

I further believe—and I’ve gotten into trouble for this—that we should also allow newborns afflicted with incurable conditions—conditions from which they will suffer and die young—to be euthanized humanely. The conditions under which I think this is not only allowable, but ethical, were first laid out in this post of mine.  I was aware at the time that philosopher Peter Singer had agreed with and defended this view, but I can’t remember whether I arrived at it independently or read it in some of his writings. No matter, for it’s a view that people need to consider, and of course Singer has defended this view far more extensively and ably than I.

For his views, Singer has undergone considerable pushback, and has been not only deplatformed, but subject to calls for his resignation from Princeton (he splits his time between Princeton and the University of Melbourne). I, too, was subject to a surprising amount of publicity, nearly all negative, for my one website post about this. On her own website Heather’s Homilies, Heather Hastie defended my views, summarizing and answering some of the pushback I got (thanks, Heather!),  I also wrote about the surprising opposition to my views here and here.

See also Russell Blackford’s defense of Singer here.  I have to say that this topic elicited a fair number of very nasty emails and comments, with people accusing me of wanting to kill babies of all kinds. Since a newborn cannot make a decision for itself, someone has to step in—especially in the case of impending death—and I think Singer, a deeply humane and moral man—made the right call.

Now for Rebecca Tuvel. She’s a woman of extraordinary courage, which she demonstrated in the Hypatia transracialism controversy, in which she published a paper in that journal questioning whether there was a meaningful difference in seeing yourself as a member of another sex or seeing yourself as a member of a different race (Caitlan Jenner exemplifies the former; Rachel Dolezal the latter). For reasons that defy me, this was regarded as a taboo question (I see it as very meaningful), and Tuvel was attacked. There were calls for her to be fired, for the journal to retract the article, and Hypatia even apologized. But Tuvel didn’t back down, and the article still stands (you might want to read Tuvel’s piece, “In defense of transracialism“).

These two academics intersected in September when a group of philosophers, including Tuvel, invited Singer to be part of a panel at Rhodes College. The topic was “Pandemic Ethics”. Note that this had nothing to do with euthanizing infants. (That reminds me of Dorian Abbot’s cancellation at MIT not because he was talking about a verboten area, but because he had criticized DEI initiatives on his own, and privately, before his scheduled talk.)

But that didn’t stop the faculty and students at Rhodes College from calling for Singer’s disinvitation, and indeed, Rhodes College itself issued a “free speech but. . . ” statement defending Singer’s right to speak but deploring much of what he said previously.

The fracas is described in two pieces, which you can see in the screenshots below.

From The Daily Nous, a philosophy site:

From Inside Higher Ed:

Three incidents are of special interest.

The faculty objects and urges Singer to be disinvited (from Inside Higher Ed):

Faculty in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the Africana Studies Program sent out an email to the college community that said, in part:

We, the faculty in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the Africana Studies Program, wish to express our deepest dismay at the invitation of Professor Peter Singer to our campus. We believe that proceeding with this event as currently structured could further alienate students, faculty, and staff, particularly after the unresolved racist “incident” [story here] against African Americans that occurred in early September. 

Professor Singer’s longstanding advancement of philosophical arguments that presume the inferiority of many disabled lives is dehumanizing and dangerous. The creation of a hierarchy of lives as a justification for the allocation or denial of limited resources (whether “pleasure,” medical care, insurance, etc.) is a logic that has a long and violent history. It is a logic that underlies eugenicist arguments marking various marginalized populations as unfit to be a part of the advancement of the human race…

Disability scholars have critiqued Singer’s body of work across a range of themes, and we encourage anyone who reads Singer to also read this rich scholarship. Salient among these themes for the purposes of a panel on pandemic ethics is the denial of some disabled people’s full humanity and the premise that certain disabled people have lives that are less worth living than “normal” people (with whom they might be competing for medical resources). Given that COVID is one of the most profound disability rights issues of our lifetimes, it would seem that any panel on pandemic ethics would include disability scholars (especially given their significant challenges to Singer’s credibility in this area). 

Rather than suggesting an alternative structure to the event such as the inclusion of one of the aforementioned disability scholars, though, the faculty instead says:

[W]e affirm our dedication to disability justice and urge the college to withdraw the invitation. We stand next to our students who are working hard to fight for their ideals of equality, fairness, and diversity, not as lip service, but as the basis of reflection and action. We cherish and advocate for freedom of speech and expression as long as it does not deny others their humanity. 

Note the erroneous characterization of Singer’s views as “denying some disabled people’s full humanity.”  That is simply hyperbole claiming that newborns doomed to suffer and die soon are “denied their humanity.” No, they are denied needless suffering. If your baby was born without a brain and would die within days, and was in great distress, would you be showing “full humanity” to let it suffer until it passes away?

These people either haven’t read Singer’s work or are signaling their virtue with or without understanding what Singer has to say.  I have had doctors and nurses write me privately by email saying that they’ve encountered situations like the one Singer envisions and absolutely agree that putting the infants out of their suffering is the right thing to do. I have had no medical professionals write me and say that they disagree with me. The letters I get are from people who are disabled but have meaningful lives, and accuse me, wrongly, of denying their humanity, or saying that I would have killed them had I had the say.

Some history faculty at Rhodes also sent out an email objecting to the event:

As historians, we the undersigned condemn Prof. Peter Singers’ abhorrent views that some humans have less value than others. We object to inviting him to Rhodes College to speak as part of a “Pandemics Ethics” panel. Positioning him as an expert on ethics only legitimizes his reprehensible beliefs that deny the very humanity of people with disabilities. Hypothetical philosophies on morality cause real violence. We historians are all too familiar with ideas that justify labeling marginalized, vulnerable, and minority populations as “life unworthy of life,” and the murderous consequences for those deemed “unfit” to live. Adhering to the College’s own IDEAS Framework that seeks to foster “a sense of belonging” and embrace “the full range of psychological, physical, and social difference,” we historians assert that Prof. Peter Singers’ blatant inhumanity has no place in serious academic exchange here at Rhodes.  

“Positioning him as an expert on ethics?” Give me a break—he’s the world’s expert on practical ethics. Note as well that they play the race card, mentioning “marginalized, vulnerable, and minority populations.” That is what’s really reprehensible, as race plays no role in Singer’s views on this issue.

The university gives hedged support for Singer.  Rhodes College issued this statement (my bolding):

Yesterday a member of our faculty informed us of his profound disturbance caused by the invitation of Princeton University Prof. Peter Singer to speak on a Rhodes “Pandemic Ethics” virtual panel next week.

We are writing to acknowledge that our institution’s spirit of supporting expressive speech does not prohibit Professor Singer’s participation in this virtual panel. At the same time, our community’s values compel us to denounce some of the views he has expressed repeatedly over years through various addresses, writings, and media interviews.

Fundamentally, Rhodes College is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These values extend to every member of our community, including individuals with disabilities. While we view the invitation to Peter Singer in light of our commitment to free and open dialogue at a liberal arts college, his views on disability are unequivocally antithetical to our institutional values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We reject and condemn in the most forceful manner possible any views that call into question the value and worth of all human life. It is within this context that we make the following affirmations:

    • We affirm our strong belief in an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible community – as outlined in the College’s IDEAS framework – one in which the worth and dignity of all persons is championed and supported.
    • We affirm particular support for disabled members of our community who, justifiably, have expressed anger, outrage, and offense at some of Prof. Singer’s writings. Not only does Rhodes not tolerate discrimination on the basis of disability, the College also strongly believes that disabled people enrich our community by their presence on our campus. We affirm this while recognizing that we still have much work to do as an institution to support individuals with disabilities.

As an academic institution, we re-affirm our Statement on Diversity, which expresses our commitment to providing an “open learning environment,” where “freedom of thought, a healthy exchange of ideas, and an appreciation of diverse perspectives” are fundamental. It is this commitment to freedom of expression that allows academic departments to invite a variety of speakers to campus to enrich the educational experience of our students. Nevertheless, they should do so with responsibility, as well as with careful attention to our values as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive institution.

Note how weaselly this statement is. they should have just issued the first sentence in the second paragraph: “We are writing to acknowledge that our institution’s spirit of supporting expressive speech does not prohibit Professor Singer’s participation in this virtual panel.”  Period.  To affirm “institutional values” that many people doubtlessly disagree with is a view that chills speech.  First, they don’t understand what Singer has said, or willfully misconstrue it to get virtue points with disabled students. Second, people like me (and perhaps Tuvel) disagree with the “institutional values” that call for a doomed infant to suffer needlessly. But with that official position, which student or untenured faculty member would dare stand up to the Rhodes administration? If Rhodes adhered to Chicago’s Kalven Principles, it would not be making official statements on contestable and debatable moral issues.

Finally, although Rhodes pretends to favor free speech, they are giving succor to those people who don’t want free speech—who don’t want this fraught but ethically important subject to even be discussed.

The Rhodes Philosophy Department holds their ground. After that single faculty member (Charles Hughes, Director of the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College) objected to Singer’s appearance, the philosphers who organized the event this email to the College:

We write in response to one of our colleagues, who has publicly expressed concern about the Philosophy department’s invitation to Peter Singer—and he has every right to do so. The objection raised is apparently not to the topic, but to the speaker. We are of course aware that Professor Singer has advanced philosophical arguments on bioethical issues that many find not only disturbing but deeply offensive, a reaction by no means confined to members of the disabled community. Indeed, the organizers also take issue with some of Dr. Singer’s views.

Serious intellectual exchange about matters of significance cannot avoid sometimes causing anger, offense, and pain and no one should be cavalier about that fact. It is not clear to us, however, what follows from our colleague’s understandable expression of disturbance at some of Professor Singer’s views. Do those views disqualify Singer from participating in the exchange of ideas that ought to occur at a liberal arts college? If that is the conclusion, we respectfully disagree, for its premise is that ideas that cause anger and dismay ought not, for that reason, be part of the exchange and that premise, we think, is incompatible with our mission to teach students how to engage in productive dialogue even, and indeed especially, with thinkers with whom they vehemently disagree. 

That is an excellent letter—civil but firm. Tuvel then offered to run a reading group on the issue:

I realize that now is not the time to get into the weeds of Singer’s utilitarian ethics. Should there be interest at some point down the line, I would be more than happy to organize a reading group and/or zoom event where myself and other members of the Philosophy department can clarify Singer’s views on these incredibly sensitive topics. At some point, I think our community would also benefit greatly from an event devoted to discussing these delicate matters. On pains of intellectual and moral failure, such an event would absolutely need to include experts in disability rights (such as Professor Charles Hughes), parents of children with disabilities, and relevant others…

The Daily Nous also has a letter from philosophy postdoc Eric Sampson clarifying Singer’s misunderstood views.

Here’s a video of the whole Singer event—a Zoom panel. In Turvel’s first question (3:03), Singer responds to the controversy, and does a great job.

Rhodes College needs to get with the program and stop truckling to the mob. Disinviting someone of the stature of Singer, who is talking about a subject unrelated to the other controversy, is a cowardly thing to do. The administrators of Rhodes are simply invertebrates.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 1, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have some nice raptor photos from Alan Clark in Liverpool.  His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the fearsome bird pictures by clicking on them. TRIGGER WARNING: Predation!

Here are some more photos for your Wildlife Photos section. The birds were all photographed at a recent photo shoot organised by a local Nature photography group, with birds provided by a falconer.

Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus. This species is widespread on all the unfrozen continents. It became endangered in some places because of the use of DDT, but has now recovered well. It has been used in falconry for over 3000 years, and is the fastest bird in the world, having been reportedly measured at 389kph/242mph in a dive.

Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis. Widespread in the Northern hemisphere. The name means Goose hawk, as it is able to catch large species of birds.


Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus. The same genus as the Goshawk, but a much smaller species. Found in much of the Old World North of the Equator. It is often seen in gardens. At one time in England it was thought that Cuckoos changed into Sparrowhawks in Winter.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Bubo bubo. Mostly nocturnal. This bird weighs 5 pounds and has a wingspan of 6ft.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 1, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the first day of the month and een bultdag, Wednesday, December 1, 2021: National Fried Pie Day, a delicious Southern treat. (My favorite is peach.) It’s also these food months:

National Pear Month
National Egg Nog Month
National Fruit Cake Month

Ignore the egg nog and fruitcake Here’s a fried peach pie. Admit it: if one were put in front of you, you’d eat it!

We can dispense with the last two. It’s also Eat a Red Apple Day (I prefer tart Granny Smiths), Wear a Dress Day, National Christmas Lights Day, World AIDS Day, and Rosa Parks Day, celebrated in Oregon and Ohio on December 1, the day she was arrested in 1955 for refusing to sit in the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That was a major impetus for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which itself helped spur the Civil Rights Movement.  Here’s her mugshot after her arrest for refusing to “know her place”:

News of the Day:

*Omicron first: The variant hasn’t yet been detected in the U.S., but experts say it’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, Biden is preparing to impose very strict requirements for travelers entering the U.S., including covid-negative U.S. travelers:

As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden plans to announce on Thursday, U.S. officials will require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

*More cause for concern about the new strain: The CEO of Moderna has pronounced that the existing Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be less effective against the Omicron variant than against other variants.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good.'”

I’m an ex-scientist who agrees. Be prepared for a quick rollout of a new mRNA vaccine, and then, of course, a new mutant strain may arise. Financial markets took this into account by dropping substantially.

*Dr Mehmet Oz, the television doctor who dispenses large dollops of quackery with his “advice”, has announced that he’s running for the Senate from Pennsylvania. Guess which party he’s representing? (h/t John).

*There’s a spate of abortion op-eds today, for this is the day the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the Mississippi anti-abortion law, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the state banned all abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. (Endangering the mother’s life, thank Ceiling Cat, is grounds for exemption.) The Court won’t decide today, but it won’t be all that long, and I’m betting that while Roe may not be overturned, it will be gutted. This is just one of Trump’s odious legacies.  So here are three op-eds:

*A NYT guest essay by Harvard Law professor Charles Fried explains the title: “I once urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. I’ve changed my mind.” Yes, it’s a clickbait title, but what are his arguments? Well, one was that there was no constitutional basis for allowing abortion:

Abortion implicates not only those liberties of the pregnant woman but also, in the opinion of some, the life of another person, the fetus. Although personally agnostic on that issue, I did not see how the Constitution provides a principled basis for answering the question. That Roe was a poorly reasoned extrapolation from Poe and the later Griswold case, which overturned the Connecticut law, was a position taken by many constitutional scholars, including John Hart Ely, Paul Freund and Archibald Cox. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly predicted in a later talk at New York University, it was a leap that would shadow the law for decades to come. Perhaps better to have left it to legislation and the development of public opinion.

Sadly, we’ve learned that the states and public opinion are at odds on this one, with the public being far more pro-choice. But why the change of mind?:

. . . the law had changed since 1989. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in 1992, a joint opinion of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter reaffirmed the central holding of Roe and put it on a firmer constitutional basis: the dignity and autonomy of the pregnant woman and the equal rights of women more generally.

Since that time, Casey had been cited and used as a basis of constitutional reasoning in many decisions in many areas of the law, including gay rights and the parental rights of a surviving parent. The decision has not only taken root; it has flourished and ramified.

To overturn Roe now would be an act of constitutional vandalism — not conservative, but reactionary.

Well, I agree with his stand, but I think he’s grasping for legal reasons to keep Roe in place. While the Constitution allows equal legal rights for women, it ays nothing about “the dignity and autonomy of the pregnant woman.”

*There’s an opposing opinion right next door: Ross Douthat’s “The case against abortion.” His argument is nothing new:

At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.

There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing. At a less advanced stage of scientific understanding, it was possible to believe that the embryo or fetus was somehow inert or vegetative until so-called quickening, months into pregnancy. But we now know the embryo is not merely a cell with potential, like a sperm or ovum, or a constituent part of human tissue, like a skin cell. Rather, a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception, and every stage of your biological life, from infancy and childhood to middle age and beyond, is part of a single continuous process that began when you were just a zygote.

Yes, abortion kills a zygote, but a zygote is not a human being, much less a sentient human being—any more than an acorn is an oak tree. We divide up continuous processes on moral grounds all the time: for instance, we don’t allow five-year-olds to drink, and many states have an age limit for charging people with “statutory rape,” even if the sex was consensual. Does Douthat’s Catholicism have anything to do with his opinion? Surely.

*For a personal view of a heartbreaking case, read the NYT op-ed by Michele Goodwin, a law professor at UC Irvine, called “I was raped by my father. An abortion saved my life.” Raped at 10 and pregnant at 12 by her father, her life and sanity would have been ruined under either the Texas or Mississippi laws (this is a case of both rape and incest). Note that she specifically criticizes abortion bans that don’t exempt rape or incest, and avoids the more general problem of abortions lacking those features.

*An academic hoax paper has surfaced which has gained traction because it confirms the fears of the Left. (h/t: Luana)

Higher Education Quarterly (a Wiley publication) which is just out with a howler entitled “Donor money and the academy: Perceptions of undue donor pressure in political science, economics, and philosophy.”

The study purports to demonstrate that “right wing” money is having a significant effect in pushing colleges to the right.

The first sign this is a hoax is that the article says the two authors, Sage Owens and Kal Avers-Lynde III, are on the economics faculty at UCLA, but I can find no record of their existence at UCLA or anywhere else, and no record of other publications by either author. I believe they do not exist. My suspicion is that the “authors” may be conservatives, or at least anti-leftists, who decided to see whether an article that flatters the deep biases of academia could get past peer review and into print.

There’s a lot more.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 780,843, an increase of 893 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,236,948, 5,227,821,  an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 1 includes:

John Quincy Adams was voted into the Presidency by Congress—the only President who won without a majority of both the electoral college vote and the popular vote.

Here’s the original document that freed the slaves, though of course it had no effect:

  • 1918 – Iceland becomes a sovereign state, yet remains a part of the Danish kingdom.

As of 1944, Iceland is a completely free and independent state.

  • 1934 – In the Soviet Union, Politburo member Sergey Kirov is assassinated. Stalin uses the incident as a pretext to initiate the Great Purge.
  • 1941 – World War II: Emperor Hirohito of Japan gives the final approval to initiate war against the United States.

Here’s the Emperor and his family photographed on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941. Curiously, he was never indicted for war crimes; in fact, the U.S. protected him from such an indictment, and he continued to be emperor. His only “punishment” was that he had to renounce that he was an incarnated divinity.

Unable to marry a man because her birth certificate listed Jorgenson as a male, she became a trans activist as well as an actress, and gained enormous publicity. She went the whole nine yards, getting both hormone reassignment and her male bits removed. I still remember her from my early childhood. She was courageous in her outspokenness. Her photo:

See above.

  • 1988 – World AIDS Day is proclaimed worldwide by the UN member states.
  • 1990 – Channel Tunnel sections started from the United Kingdom and France meet beneath the seabed.

Here’s a 7-minute video of the Tunnel joining (click on “Watch on YouTube”):

  • 2000 – Vicente Fox Quesada is inaugurated as the president of Mexico, marking the first peaceful transfer of executive federal power to an opposing political party following a free and democratic election in Mexico’s history.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1761 – Marie Tussaud, French-English sculptor, founded Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (d. 1850)[19]
  • 1847 – Julia A. Moore, American poet (d. 1920)

Moore, known as “The Sweet Singer of Michigan”, is famous for writing really, really bad poetry—poetry so bad that it’s hilarious. She specialized in laments for the death of children (see a bunch of poems here). Here’s her photo; she’s the American equivalent of William McGonagall. (Don’t miss her poem “Little Libbie“, which contains these imortal lines:

While eating dinner, this dear little child
Was choked on a piece of beef.
Doctors came, tried their skill awhile,
But none could give relief.

She was ten years of age, I am told,
And in school stood very high.
Her little form now the earth enfolds,
In her embrace it must ever lie.

Her friends and schoolmates will not forget
Little Libbie that is no more;
She is waiting on the shining step,
To welcome home friends once more.


  • 1913 – Mary Martin, American actress and singer (d. 1990)
  • 1933 – Lou Rawls, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (d. 2006)
  • 1935 – Woody Allen, American actor, director, and screenwriter
  • 1939 – Lee Trevino, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1945 – Bette Midler, American singer-songwriter, actress and producer

I love Bette. Here she is singing her well known song “Friends” with Barry Manilow, who helped her get her start. At the beginning of her career, they’d play together in gay bathhouses in New York City; he later produced her first album.

  • 1949 – Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist (d. 1993)

Here he is in a 1976 mugshot:

The Divine Sarah is 51 today and I’m always available for wedlock. Here she is talking to Jimmy Kimmel, with whom she had an earlier relationship:

Those who went “home” on December 1 include:

Everest was the Surveyor General of India, but had no connection with the mountain that bears his name: the world’s highest.  Here he is:

  • 1947 – Aleister Crowley, English magician, poet, and mountaineer (b. 1875)
  • 1947 – G. H. Hardy, English mathematician and theorist (b. 1877)
  • 1964 – J. B. S. Haldane, English-Indian geneticist and biologist (b. 1892)

“J. B. S.” as he was known, moved to India for the last seven year of his life. He adopted Indian dress; he’s seated on the left below:

  • 1973 – David Ben-Gurion, Israeli politician, 1st Prime Minister of Israel (b. 1886)
  • 1987 – James Baldwin, American novelist, poet, and critic (b. 1924).

You can buy a first edition and first printing of his great novel “Native Son,” for a mere $130:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili and Szaron are napping together (or rather, it looks as if they’re napping

Hili: Are you asleep?
Szaron: No, I’m just giving that impression.
In Polish:
Hili: Śpisz?
Szaron: Nie, tylko robię takie wrażenie.

From Divy:

From Athayde (click to enlarge):

From Bruce:

James Carville on Republican dumbasses like Lauren Boebert:

What happened to Lara Logan, who reported for “60 Minutes” for so many years? She went to Fox News and now is a complete whack job. Josef Mengele???

And a response to Logan from the Auschwitz Museum:

From Steve: Dawkins pulls no punches!

From Luana: A reponse to Dawkins. Oy!

From Ginger K:

Tweets from Matthew. Now here’s a cat who is not shy about making its needs known. That is, it’s a CAT:

WHO’S a bad cat? Raheem is!