Thursday duck report

October 14, 2021 • 1:15 pm

It’s getting towards the end of duck season at Botany Pond, though the warmer weather at this time of year may be slowing migration. Still, we’re down to anywhere between 2 and 9 ducks per day, all of them familiar. There are Honey, Dorothy, and Prince Charming (their drake), Mona, a duck with only one working eye, Cyndi, a duck trained to eat out of our hands, who jumps up for food (see below), her boyfriend Charlie, and a trio of undocumented ducks we call “the sisters.”

Here’s the member of team duck who trained Cyndi (or is it the other way round?) to eat from her hand. Now Cyndi will jump and even flutter up to the hand to get duck pellets. Her swain, the drake Charlie, has learned to do the same thing by watching Cyndi.

We all love Cyndi; she is a sweet and affectionate hen who comes running when she sees her own personal staff member on Team Duck. Here she is leapiing; you can see her feet off the ground.

Here Cyndi’s getting ready to flutter up to the food:

More of her cute activity. We’ve had one “trained duck” every year (last year it was one who flew up and perched on the metal pond railing when called), but Cyndi is by far the most interactive. We will miss her.

Another video of her feeding:

Cindy on tippy-webs:

Cyndi and boyfriend Charlie. They’re a handsome pair, aren’t they?

Drake fight! One of the drakes, Drako, had not achieved full color yet. But he was a mean s.o.b, and chased all the ducks. Here he gets into it with another drake. Note how they swim side by side in between repeated attacks. I suspect they are wooing females. (Ducks pair up, I hear, before they fly south.)

Prince Charming, the chosen mate of both Honey and Dorothy. I know he will fly away with them when they migrate, but I don’t know if he’ll return with them. I have trouble telling drakes apart as they have no distinctive marks on their bill.

We mustn’t forget the turtles, who come out only when it’s warm and sunny now. They’re preparing for winter.

And so we’re getting ready to say farewell to wings, but 2022 is another year. . . . .  Every year is different at Botany Pond, full of its own quirks and drama.

Is the NYT defanging John McWhorter?

October 14, 2021 • 11:00 am

A reader sent me a link to John McWhorter’s latest post at the New York Times, which activated an idea I’ve been mulling over for some time. The email with the link:

I guess we’re only going to get mostly fluff from McWhorter while he’s with the NY Times. I’ll admit that I only skimmed this quickly so if I missed something important, perhaps you’ll tell us in WEIT. 😉

Here’s the piece, and I can’t decide for myself whether John McWhorter is losing his hard edge now that he’s with the NYT. I worried about this when he left Substack, but I didn’t mind his move to the NYT, as who could turn down the opportunity to write twice weekly for them (no doubt for substantial emoluments), not to mention the bigger audience and publicity. No, I was worried that his honest contrarianism on issues of race would turn milder. After all, no white man could get away with what McWhorter has been saying regularly on his Substack column, and I wondered if the Times would even let McWhorter, a black man, be so honest.

I was reassured when he came out with a fantastic column on the crazy rock kerfuffle at the University of Wisconsin, which involved moving a huge boulder out of sight since it had been given the term “n******head rock only once by a local newspaper—in 1925. McWhorter pulled no punches calling out the performative wokeness and faux offense of the University’s student and the cowardice of its administration. Click to read that one:

Never have I seen such a hard-nosed (and truthful) indictment of performative outrage in the NYT, and I cheered.

But since then, we’ve gotten nothing so hard nosed, and I’m wondering if McWhorter has been given the word to go a bit easier (I doubt he’d even accept such criticism) or, more likely, decided to soften his tone for the general public. After all, a column like the one above doesn’t resonate with most NYT readers, editors, or writers.

So I read the column the reader sent me, and while it is somewhat fluffy, I can’t yet decided whether McWhorter, whom I much admire, is getting softer. Click to read:

Half of the column is devoted to discussing phrases that are used for social communication rather than for truth value (“to be honest,” which implies that the speaker sometimes isn’t; and “nice shirt” compliment when you don’t mean it). It’s okay stuff, but I myself have written about “to be honest’ in my “words and phrases I detest” feature, and I’d like to think that McWhorter is less fluffy than I.

The rest of his piece improves as it segues into a notice that tomorrow evening he’s holding a virtual event, “Woke Words”, for NYT subscribers. He follows that with a discussion of which words and phrases are verboten and which (in his view) are okay to keep using. An excerpt:

We’ll talk about this sort of quandary [the “to be honest” usage] in “Woke Words,” my New York Times Q. and A. this Thursday, and the conversation will surely get spicier when we go into more societally loaded questions, including some you’ve submitted in advance: One person reports being told that we are no longer to say “brown bag lunch” because the phrase evokes the crude color scale that some elite (and elitist) African American organizations are said to have used, once upon a time, to determine eligibility for membership, with only people lighter in complexion than a brown bag admitted.

On this one I must admit a certain skepticism (not of intra-Black colorism — that’s quite real) that “brown bag lunch” should be implicated, for the reason of the antiquity. How many people today know what the brown bag test was, and more to the point, need we proscribe words and expressions to symbolically exorcise a practice that no longer exists?

If we do, then by the same logic, we should no longer refer to whipped cream, since enslaved people were whipped, or shucking corn, because the phrase “shucking and jiving” refers to Black people faking glee to placate white people. If those hypotheticals seem to be pushing it, I’m not sure how “brown bag” is different.

More readily understandable is the pox on “retarded”; associations with the word became so noxious (in my youth it was, sadly, regularly used as a slur) that the impulse to replace it with other terms was natural. But the change to terms like “intellectually disabled” exemplifies the euphemism treadmill I referred to in an earlier piece: “Crippled” becomes “handicapped” becomes “differently abled,” and each new term tends to take on the old connotations. At one point, at least some developmentally disabled people were described as having “special needs” but, plus ça change, “special” also gets leveled as a slur in certain malicious contexts.

Then I’ve also seen calls to get rid of expressions in which the word “black” denotes anything sinister: No more “blacklist,” despite that it did not emerge with a meaning related to Black people.

So here he’s combined his academic field of linguistics with his take on race, and worrying about “mission creep” as innocuous phrases undergo “mission creep” into things supposed to cause harm. That’s something we discuss a lot around here, but again, it’s not new with McWhorter.

But the column’s still worth reading. He’s been alternating columns about race with ones about linguistics, and I have to say that I find the former far more thought-provoking. (Many readers, on the other hand, probably come for the linguistics.) After all, right now America is obsessed not with linguistics but with race, and McWhorter’s point of view, similar to that of his Bloggingheads colleague Glenn Loury, is unique among black liberals.

No, I don’t think the man has sold his soul to the NYT, but remember: this is the paper whose editor, after he dumped science writer Don McNeil Jr. for using the n-word in a didactic way (on a NYT tour, not in the paper), claimed that the intent of using such a word didn’t matter; all that mattered was its effect on the listener. Editor Dean Baquet even ditched a column by Bret Stephens pushing back against the “intent doesn’t matter” trope.  And that gives me a suggestion for another column by McWhorter that combines linguistics and wokeness: “Does intent matter?”


Bret Stephens on Dorian Abbot and reforming campus dogmatism

October 14, 2021 • 9:15 am

The case of Dorian Abbot, a University of Chicago associate professor of Geophysical Sciences, would have been a purely local event: he was locally excoriated by his colleagues for making three anti-DEI videos, and people here called for his punishment.  This being the U of C, that went nowhere. As Bret Stephens notes in his exegesis of the affair in a NYT op-ed (click on screenshot below):

Last November, Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, posted a series of slide presentations on YouTube making a case against the use of group identity as a primary criterion in selection processes. He was immediately targeted for cancellation.

So Robert Zimmer, Chicago’s magnificent president (now chancellor), stepped in with a clear statement of support for academic freedom. The controversy evaporated.

Zimmer was a great defender of free speech, and his retirement doesn’t bode well for our campus reputation for free expression. We’ll see if our new President, Paul Alivisatos, a chemist and former Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of the University of California, Berkeley, can keep our school’s reputation for academic freedom and free speech.

Click below to read.

Abbot’s current prevalence in academic news came from two events, one of his own making and the other not. The first was his co-publication of an op-ed in Newsweek with Ivan Marinovich, “The Diversity Problem on Campus“, which objected to affirmative action in favor of their own proposal, which would accept students and hire faculty solely on the basis of merit. There would be no affirmative action for anyone, including athletes and “legacy students” whose parents went to that school:

We propose an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone. Crucially, this would mean an end to legacy and athletic admission advantages, which significantly favor white applicants, [JAC: note that the link to “significantly favors white applicants” for athletes and legacy students refers only to the policies of Harvard] in addition to those based on group membership. Simultaneously, MFE would involve universities investing in education projects in neighborhoods where public education is failing to help children from those areas compete. These projects would be evidence-based and non-ideological, testing a variety of different options such as increased public school funding, charter schools and voucher programs.

Viewed objectively, American universities already are incredibly diverse.

While statements like this are kryptonite to the woke, Newsweek is on the Right and Abbot’s and Marinovich’s statement was actually part of a current debate on DEI. Well, it should be a debate, and is if you look at it as Right vs. Left, but it’s not a debate on the Left, where criticizing DEI initiatives has become taboo.

I didn’t agree with the Newsweek piece entirely, as I favor some affirmative action as a form of reparations, but I vehemently defend Abbot and Marinovich’s right to say what they think without harassment or punishment. (They also kind of scuppered their argument at the end of the piece with a ham-hand comparison of the “obsession with race” of current DEI initiatives with the anti-diversity obsession with race of the Nazis, who wanted to decrease diversity (viz., Godwin’s Law).  Abbot then wrote another account of his MIT disinvitation on Bari Weiss’s Substack site.

That got Abbot more attention, but when the excrement really hit the fan was when MIT, which had invited Abbot to deliver a prestigious lecture on climate change, rescinded its invitation after a big social-media outcry, mostly on Twitter.  Even the mainstream media took notice of MIT’s cowardice; after all, MIT professes adherence to freedom of speech and thought, and, further, Abbot was going to lecture on climate change, not DEI! His disinvitation was purely a punishment for views on DEI that he had expressed elsewhere. (Abbot has since been invited by a professor at Princeton to give that lecture in a week, and the spineless, yellow-bellied, craven cowards at MIT, realizing their misstep, have invited Abbot to give a smaller and different lecture “on his own work.”

Now Abbot is all over the media, not just in Stephens’s column, but many other places (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). And, if I don’t miss my guess, there is more to come. This is all a consequence of the Streisand Effect started by MIT’s cancellation.  Business is booming for Abbot’s Oct. 21 lecture at Princeton:

MIT shot itself in the foot.

At any rate, Stephens uses l’affaire Abbot to riff on how MIT violated what he sees as the core mission of universities, and offers his solutions to the problem of campus dogmatism. I agree with Stephens only in part. Here’s what started Stephens musing:

I’ve been thinking about all this while reading “What Universities Owe Democracy” by Johns Hopkins University’s president, Ronald Daniels. Full disclosure: I’m on the board of overseers of Hopkins’s SNF Agora Institute, and he is a personal friend. Don’t hold it too much against him: This is an exceptionally important, insistently reasonable, delightfully readable book, even if his views sometimes differ from mine.

Daniels’s core point is that, at their best, universities serve as escalators for social mobility, educators for democratic citizenship, stewards of fact and expertise, and forums for “purposeful pluralism” — the expression and contest of ideas. That’s the role higher ed has played for generations, helping to fulfill George Washington’s dream of schooling that would “assemble the youth of every part under such circumstances, as will, by the freedom of intercourse and collision of sentiment, give to their minds the direction of truth, philanthropy and mutual conciliation.”

Yet on each point, Daniels correctly argues, higher education now falls short. Legacy preferences in admissions perpetuate a system of class privilege at the expense of less-pedigreed applicants. Academic specialization has left universities increasingly indifferent to questions of civics. A reproducibility crisis — i.e., an explosion of junk science — has helped produce a crisis of faith in the trustworthiness of scientific experts and their conclusions.

And, perhaps most serious of all, “an unmistakable pulse of dogmatism has surfaced on campus.” Though Daniels doesn’t think there’s a full-blown speech crisis on campus, he recognizes that something is badly amiss when, according to a 2020 Knight Foundation survey, 63 percent of college students feel “the climate on their campus prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive.”

I agree with much of this, though the bit about “an explosion of junk science” is not largely due to things happening on campuses. Although Stephens doesn’t mention race-based affirmative action here, he’s against as, as you’ll see below. On this I disagree, and I also favor class-based affirmative action as well, something that many universities practice.

But it’s certainly true that nearly all campuses that aren’t religious schools do have a chilling of speech of students who disagree with Left-wing ideas, and students with contrasting ideas tend to keep their mouths shut. They may be the Trump voters of the future.

Here’s how Stephens proposes to solve this “crisis”:

It’s hard to argue with Daniels’s solutions. End, once and for all, legacy admissions. Institute a “democracy requirement” in school curriculums. Enhance openness in science and reform the peer-review process. Curb self-segregation in university housing. Create spaces for engagement and foster the practices of reasoned disagreement and energetic debate.

All essential proposals — and all the more necessary in an era of right-wing populism and left-wing illiberalism.

I agree with all of this, though I’m not sure what reforms Stephens envisions in the scientific peer-review process. I oppose segregated housing for college students, and, in addition, I favor some classes or discussions of freedom of speech for entering college students to go along with the usual dose of woke ideology.

Here’s where Stephens and I disagree:

Still, I’d add two items to Daniels’s list of what universities owe democracy.

The first is an undiluted and unapologetic commitment to intellectual excellence. What spurred Dorian Abbot to action was a comment from a colleague that “if you are just hiring the best people, you are part of the problem.” But if universities aren’t putting excellence above every other consideration, they aren’t helping democracy. They are weakening it by contributing to the democratic tendency toward groupthink and the mediocrity that can come from trying to please the majority.

Because I believe in a restricted form of affirmative action for class and race (and perhaps other groups like veterans), I am not an advocate of pure meritocracy. That would eliminate a large number of minority students, and it’s just not on to have, say, Harvard populated entirely by white and Asian students. I believe that you can have affirmative action and excellence too in many places, though there’s some tradeoffs. In my opinion some tradeoff is worth it. This, of course, must be coupled with root-cause initiatives to offer poor kids and minority kids equal opportunity to achieve—something that doesn’t exist on average and will be much harder achieve. But yes, we owe that kind of reparations. And if they succeed, we no longer will need affirmative action. But societal reform offering equal opportunity is a very long way off.

But I wholly agree with Stephens’s second solution:

The second is courage. Most university administrators, I suspect, would happily subscribe on paper to principles like free expression. Their problem, as in Abraham Lincoln’s parable of a runaway soldier, isn’t with their intentions. “I have as brave a heart as Julius Caesar ever had,” says the soldier of Lincoln’s telling, “but, somehow or other, whenever danger approaches, my cowardly legs will run away with it.” Right now, we have an epidemic of cowardly legs.

Courage isn’t a virtue that’s easily taught, especially in universities, but sometimes it can be modeled. After Abbot’s talk was canceled at M.I.T., the conservative Princeton professor Robert George offered to host the lecture instead; it is scheduled for Oct. 21 on Zoom.

Courage begins with de-cancellation. Wisdom, thanks to books like Daniels’s, can then take wing.

My contempt for MIT is boundless, and has only been increased since, badly burned, they invited Abbot back to give a smaller lecture. They care not about freedom of thought, but about the bottom line. Very few universities can stand up to a woke Twitter mob. The University of Chicago is one, and so is Swarthmore, where the University’s black president, Valerie Smith, politely rejected student activists’ unreasonable demands for reform and “further discussion.” Beyond that, no colleges with spine come to mind.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please!

Today we have a lovely series of falcon pictures taken by reader Steve Adams, whose notes are indented. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Here is a young Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) that we came across during a visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York State. The refuge lies between the cities of Rochester and Syracuse and is one our favorite places to visit. At first, the falcon was perched on what seemed a perfectly serviceable horizontal branch. Suddenly, it turned and eyed up the vertical branch next to it and leapt. The ensuing few seconds were both comical and nerve-racking as the poor bird strived fruitlessly to gain a hold. Eventually, it abandoned its attempt and flew off.

This was the first time I’ve been able to capture a falcon perched, so I was very happy. The show was an added bonus!


Thursday: Hili dialogue

October 14, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the Thursday, October 14, 2021: National Dessert Day. Today’s Hili will be truncated because of my misfortune yesterday, which took up a lot of time (I prepare most of the Hili post the day before) and also makes it hard for me to type. Bear with me! The good news is that I am not in any pain.

News of the Day:

*This is almost unbelievable. Some guy killed five people and injured two in Kongsberg, a town outside Oslo, using a BOW AND ARROWS. Bows and arrows in NORWAY, for crying out loud! Some sources intimate that he may have used other weapons as well, but CNN says bow and arrows. The suspect is in custody, but a motive for the attack has not yet been determined (terrorism has been mentioned). Reuters notes that:

The death toll was the worst of any attack in Norway since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a youth camp

*If you have access to the NYT online, do watch the 17-minute video, “My toxic Afghan love story“, a bittersweet video diary of Najlla Habibyar’s feelings for a country where (and from where) she’s been on the run much of her life, and is on the run now from the Taliban. (She worked with Americans and has a green card, but couldn’t get out.)

*Gail Collins, also at the NYT, has some news about new scams that robocallers are pulling (now it’s robotexts as well), how you should respond, and why Congress isn’t doing anything.  How many warning about the expiration of your car’s warranty have you gotten this week? (My car is 21 years old so I think they have some bad information.)

*Meteorite news: Ruth Hamilton in British Columbia says she was sleeping when her dog’s barking woke her up, she sat up, and a meteorite fragment came crashing through her roof and ceiling, landing on the pillow where she had just been resting.  (h/t Matthew). From the CBC:

A charcoal-grey chunk of rock roughly the size of a melon had plummeted from space, tearing through Hamilton’s roof before coming to rest on her floral pillowcase, inches from where her head had been moments earlier.

“I was shaking like a leaf,” said Hamilton. “You’re sound asleep, safe, you think, in your bed, and you can get taken out by a meteorite, apparently.”

Apparently! I’m glad she was okay, but that last sentence is pretty funny. Here’s a photo from the CBC article of the hole in her ceiling and the nefarious meterorite:

I have one question, though: Why was the dog barking? Did it hear the meteorite approaching? That seems weird.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 719,725, an increase of 1,887 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,891,281, 4,883,492,  an increase of about 7,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 14 includes:

  • 1322 – Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeats King Edward II of England at the Battle of Old Byland, forcing Edward to accept Scotland’s independence.
  • 1586 – Mary, Queen of Scots, goes on trial for conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I of England
  • 1908 – The Chicago Cubs defeat the Detroit Tigers, 2–0, clinching the 1908 World Series; this would be their last until winning the 2016 World Series.
  • 1947 – Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to exceed the speed of sound.
  • 1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis begins when an American reconnaissance aircraft takes photographs of Soviet ballistic missiles being installed in Cuba.

Here’s one of those photos from a U-2 showing “Soviet nuclear missiles, their transports and tents for fueling and maintenance.” Can you see the missiles? I remember when I was young and this happened when my dad was in the Army. He called the family together and said that he may have to help with this issue,” and I truly thought we were going to have a nuclear war.

  • 1964 – Martin Luther King Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

He well deserved it! Here he is with his medal:

As the video below shows, a man (the hated Bartman) deflected a ball about to be caught by Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou. This would have been legal had Bartman not reached over the railing to get the ball, and it’s unclear if he did. Regardless, the Cubs (and Chicago) held Bartman responsible for setting up the Cubs’ loss of the game and then of what would have been their first National League pennant since 1945. Bartman became the Satan of Chicago, forever demonized. The ball was recovered, sold for $113,000, and blown to bits.

Such is my town

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1890 – Dwight D. Eisenhower, American general and politician, 34th President of the United States (d. 1969)
  • 1894 – E. E. Cummings, American poet and playwright (d. 1962)
  • 1918 – Thelma Coyne Long, Australian tennis player and captain (d. 2015)

I don’t know if we’re related, but I will announce the births and deaths of notable Coynes just in case. Here she is. Does she look like me?

Those who popped their corks on October 14 include:

About Rommel’s death: The Nazis found out that their great general had actually conspired to depose Hitler, and two generals drove to his home offering him a choice between suicide (in which case the public would be told he died of the aftereffect of wounds and his family taken care of), or a public trial, in which case his family would be disgraced, incarcerated and he’d be executed. Rommel opted for suicide, and an hour after being accosted, he had said goodbye to his family and was dead from taking a proffered cyanide capsule. He was given an elaborate state funeral. Here’s a 16-minute documentary of the downfall of Rommel.

  • 1959 – Errol Flynn, Australian-American actor, singer, and producer (b. 1909)

The great womanizer (he may have been the one for which the phrase “in like Flynn” was coined) died at only 50 of a heart attack. Here he is with Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

  • 1977 – Bing Crosby, American singer-songwriter and actor (b. 1903)
  • 1990 – Leonard Bernstein, American pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s kvetching about her food.

A: Is it tasty?
Hili: Yes, but I would prefer a piece of raw beef.
Ja: Smaczne to jedzenie?
Hili: Tak, ale wolałabym kawałek surowej wołowiny.
Here’s a joke from a friend of mine: “What do Winnie the Pooh and Alexander the Great have in common?”  Answer at the bottom of the post. 

From Stash Krod:

From David:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

Titania is prescient again—twice. To bring yourself up to speed on the Othello kerfuffle, I recommend this column by Cathy Young:

From Luana, who wants to know if Biden really said these things. Did he?

From Ken, who notes, “Texas governor Greg Abbott answering a question about banning the morning-after pill and birth control to curb women’s ‘incentives to be promiscuous'”: I knew these chowderheads hate the idea of women having sexual desires.

Tweets from Matthew. Have a gander at these mating big-headed flies:

Assassin bug about to go after a carpenter bee:

Mochi the feral kitten learns to accept love:

I’m inbred!

Answer to the joke: They both have the same middle name.

The Times of London defends Kathleen Stock’s freedom of expresson, and so should we

October 13, 2021 • 12:00 pm

So what if the Times of London is a Tory paper? Gender-critical feminist Professor Kathleen Stock of Sussex needs a stalwart defense and they gave it to her. There was NO defense from the Guardian, of course, just a new article about how Stock’s own union (the University and College Union) is investigating her for transphobia, and that Stock feels that her teaching career is “effectively ended”. The Guardian loves that, and they would get rid of Stock if they had the power. They are reprehensible, especially on issues of freedom of speech.

On October 10, in the Hili News, I summarized the campaign against Stock:

Kathleen Stock, a feminist professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is the subject of a cancellation campaign over her views on gender. Wikipedia has characterized her views thusly:

Stock has expressed gender critical views on proposed reforms to the UK Gender Recognition Act and trans self-identification. She has called for trans women who have male genitalia to be excluded from women’s changing rooms, characterising them as “still males” who may be sexually attracted to women. She has denied opposing trans rights, saying, “I gladly and vocally assert the rights of trans people to live their lives free from fear, violence, harassment or any discrimination” and “I think that discussing female rights is compatible with defending these trans rights”.

For this some of her colleagues and students have started a campaign to get her fired, hyperbolically characterizing her as a transphobe whose views cause “harm”:

In January, hundreds of academics criticised the decision to give Stock an OBE for services to higher education in the New Year honours list.

In an open letter, they condemned academics who use their status to “further gender oppression” and said they denounced “transphobia in all its forms”.

The letter said: “Trans people are already deeply marginalised in society, facing well-documented discrimination, ranging from government policy to physical violence. Discourse like that Stock is producing and amplifying contributes to these harms, serving to restrict trans people’s access to life-saving medical treatments, encourage the harassment of gender-non-conforming people, and otherwise reinforce the patriarchal status quo. We are dismayed that the British government has chosen to honour her for this harmful rhetoric.”

This is what happens when you try to philosophically discuss the issues of rights when people are changing genders. The Guardian article reports that Stock is subject to concerted intimidation and harassment. To its credit, the University of Sussex is defending stock’s right to say what she wants, saying it won’t tolerate “threats to academic freedom.” The discourse on gender has gotten so polarized that even talking about it is taboo unless you agree with the most extreme construal of gender rights.

This article from Today’s Times (I have to use a screenshot because it’s paywalled, but click to enlarge) says what I would say: her views are “hardly inflammatory” and “even if Professor Stock held opinions that were less obviously defensible, she would have an unqualified right to express them.” But you can read it for yourself:


There is of course no constitutional principle in the UK like our First Amendment, but that is no excuse to promulgate censorship in a university. All universities should, I think, abide by the tenets of free expression that the University of Chicago (a private university not required to adhere to the First Amendment) holds as one of its foundational principles.

The Times also recounts the harassment Stock has endured, including threats of violence. She has been advised not to go to campus and to install closed-circuit television in her home. The University of Sussex is still defending her, though hedging it a bit (from the Guardian):

University of Sussex spokesperson said: “We have acted – and will continue to act – firmly and promptly to tackle bullying and harassment, to defend the fundamental principle of academic freedom, to support our community and continue to progress our work on equality, diversity and inclusion. We care deeply about getting this balance right.

“There are a range of very strong views and opinions held across the university on a whole variety of issues and topics, including how we support our trans and non-binary community particularly at this time.

“As a community, we need to come together and talk about what is happening at the moment and to look at the way forward.

“We will be doing this in the coming weeks and this will be led by our newly appointed pro-vice-chancellor for culture, equality and inclusion.”

Given that Stock is not a transphobe, they should have stopped the statement after the first paragraph.

The Guardian has not and will not defend Stock; they censored one of their columnists for expressing similar views, forcing her to resign. The important thing to remember is that Stock is by no means a transphobe; her views are expressed above and in her Wikipedia article. But because she questions the complete equivalence of transwomen and biological women (ditto for transmen and biological men), she’s being mercilessly hounded. Every university, much less Stock’s own union, should be united in defending her right to express opinions on this matter.

The discussion (or rather, lack thereof) about trans issues has gotten completely out of hand. And so it is up to us to defend whatever views we hold with reason, not with threats, but also to defend the right of our opponents to express their views openly and without fear and intimidation. We should all be behind Stock’s freedom of expression.


h/t: Simon, Luana

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

October 13, 2021 • 10:45 am

This is a truncated Hili dialogue, minus the historical photos and info, all due to my unfortunate mishap. But we shall have a Hili!

Welcome to the humpy Day of Wednesday, October 13, 2021, and National M&Ms Day. A perennially popular candy, society is divided up into those that like the plain ones, filled with chocolate, or the peanut M&Ms, containing a chocolate-coated peanut.  Invented in 1941, 340 million M&Ms are produced daily.

Why the name? Wikipedia explains:

The two ‘M’s represent the names of Forrest E. Mars Sr., the founder of Newark Company, and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate’s president William F. R. Murrie, who had a 20 percent share in the product. The arrangement allowed the candies to be made with Hershey chocolate, as Hershey had control of the rationed chocolate at the time.

Here’s one version; can you tell which?

It’s also National Yorkshire Pudding Day, National Fossil Day, International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, English Language Day, International Plain Language Awareness Day, Emergency Nurses Day, and Bring Your Teddy Bear to School and Work Day (school and work are same to me, and here I am this morning in my office with Toasty, who lives here).

News of the Day:

Texas is once again the site of political mishigass.

*First, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning any business or “entity” from enacting vaccine mandates for its employees. going smack against Joe Biden’s Presidential order for vaccine mandates (or weekly testing) for all employers with more than 100 employees. These conflicting orders put businesses in a bind, though some, like Southwest Airlines, have stated that the White House order supersedes that of Texas. They’re likely to be right given the “supremacy clause” of the U.S. Constitutuion. Abbott made this weaselly statement:

Abbott said that the vaccine is “safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus,” but he believes it “should remain voluntary and never forced.”

Yet even in his own state, no fewer than 8 separate immunizations are required for children to attend both private and public schools.

*And on the confusing Texas abortion front, where a judge’s ban on the state’s unconstitutional new anti-abortion law lasted but 48 hours before an appeals court reinstated the ban, the government has asked the same appellate court to overturn the law pending rulings at a higher level. I’m not sure why the Fifth Circuit would reverse what it had already ruled earlier, but the drama goes on as pregnant women from Texas flood abortion clinics in adjacent states.

*For years I took a daily aspirin as a preventive for heart attacks, though I have no family history and my heart is healthy. I asked my doctor a few years ago if I should continue, and he said “no.” He was right. The NYT reports that people not already taking aspirin for cardiovascular problems should not start taking it, as the risks of bleeding internally are greater than the benefits to the heart:

Doctors should no longer routinely begin prescribing a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin to most people at high risk of a first heart attack or stroke, according to new draft guidelines by a U.S. panel of experts. The proposed recommendation is based on mounting evidence that the risk of serious side effects far outweighs the benefit of what was once considered a remarkably cheap weapon in the fight against heart disease.

The U.S. panel also plans to retreat from its 2016 recommendation to take baby aspirin for the prevention of colorectal cancer, guidance that was groundbreaking at the time. The panel said more recent data had raised questions about the putative benefits for cancer, and that more research was needed.

*I’m not quite sure why there’s so much interest in the murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito (probably by her boyfriend, who’s on the lam). Horrible as that murder was, things like this happen every day in America but this case, like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, seems to dominate the media. At any rate, the coroner ruled today that Petito, who was last seen at the end of August, and whose body was found on Sept. 19 in a national forest in Wyoming, died of strangulation. Her boyfriend with whom she was traveling, Brian Laundrie, 23, has disappeared and under a warrant for debit card fraud, though he’s a “person of interest” in her murder.

*If you want to watch Captain Kirk William Shatner become the oldest person in the world to go into space (he’s 90), he’s scheduled to be one of four passengers on the “Blue Shepard” capsule that launches tomorrow. One of Jeff Bezos’s “Blue Horizon” space tourist ventures, the launch is scheduled for 10 a.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time (1400 GMT), and you can watch it below (if there’s no video site when this is posted, check back in an hour or so; I believe live coverage begins at 8:30 EDT):



*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 717,501, an increase of 1,938 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,883,492,  an increase of about 8,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 13 includes:

Wikipedia‘s caption of the photo below: “Part of the crowd looking at the Sun during the event.” Many are kneeling. 

Wikipedia notes that there are actually two records:

The IAAF recognizes two world records for women, a time of 2:14:04 set by Brigid Kosgei on October 13, 2019, during the Chicago Marathon which was contested by men and women together, and a “Women Only” record of 2:17:01, set by Mary Keitany, on April 23, 2017, at the London Marathon for women only.

I’m not sure why there is a record for a “woman only” race, but it implies that women run faster when they run with men. So what—surely that’s fair, isn’t it?

Notables born on this day include:

Simon is 80 today!

Those who expired on October 13 include:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili comments after having just read the newspaper:

Hili: Global lunacy.
A: It’s nothing new.
In Polish:
Hili: Globalny obłęd.
Ja: Nic nowego.

From Jean:

Matthew said I should read this book, which he found on Twitter. It’s for real; Goodreads summarizes it:

Heao is a member of Academe, a future group of intelligentsia on a planet in the throes of a receding ice age. She and all her people have been conquered by a primitive king whose dreams of destruction haunt him, and may doom all her kind. Heao is intelligent and loving, a devoted helpmate and mother. But Heao is not an ordinary woman. She is a member of a feline race, and her body, along with those of her peers, is covered with fur and ends in a long busy tail. She is a member of the master race of Shadowland, the race that keeps human slaves to do their work for them, the race that stands in powerless awe of the fiery ball of light she sees once a year—Godsfire!

From Stash Krod. Don’t choose #1!

From Masih: Texas pays people to report currently illegal abortions; Iran doesn’t have to pay its citizens to harass women who don’t dress “properly”:

From Barry, who says he can’t improve the caption. Some dude thought Jesus was really getting stabbed!

From Simon, with Rechavi using a common phrase to criticize scientific comparisons:

From the Auschwitz Memorial (all people pictured in these tweets were born on this day of the year):

Tweets from Matthew. This was yesterday morning in Chicago.

Check out this site, which has 14 animal species sitting on capybaras, the world’s chillest mammal.

Who hired the designer here? They’re called invertebrates for a reason!

Matthew told me I’d especially like the second joke on the list. I did! (it’s joke #4.)

The aftermath

October 13, 2021 • 10:10 am

After 4 or so hours, I’m finally sutured up and discharged. There were two lacerations, one a flap on the ball of my thumb, the other a deep gash on the edge of my hand below the pinky. And of course I came straight back to work from the ER because I’m a tough guy, and my readers need posts. (Not really, I’d come back regardless.)

Here are the stitches: the nurse-practitioner who put them in said it’s an art to do stitching properly, and she did a great job. Kudos to her (I won’t name her) for her artistry.

They come out in 10 days. Otherwise, I wear a big bandage over my left hand for a few days and then little bandages over the gashes. Thank Ceiling Cat it was not my duck-food-throwing hand, but my left hand.

The flap: (11 stitches):

The gash 7 stitches, from underneath (the NP’s favorite kind of stitchng):


Now, back to business: a Hili post. First, though, I haven’t had my coffee yet. .  .

Delayed posting due to injury

October 13, 2021 • 6:50 am

I slipped on a plastic bag in my office and, trying to stop the fall, put my hand through the glass pane of a bookcase, lacertating it in two places. I am temporarily back from the ER after X-ray and must return for stitches or whatever. I have no idea how long this will take, but posting will be delayed today.

Scene of the mishap:

My pants and hand. I bled like a pig:  a gusher!

The floor right after it happened:

More later. Back to the ER!