Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 30, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Thursday, March 30, 2023, which also happens to be National Turkey Neck Soup Day.  (I suppose it would be okay with matzo balls),

It’s also National Doctors’ Day (United States), National Doctors’ Day, World Bipolar Day, Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day in Trinidad and Tobago, and Pencil Day.

Here’s a Faber video about how the humble pencil is made.  It’s complicated but a fun video—except they didn’t show how they put the erasers on!

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 30 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Don’t look for an indictment of Trump any time in the next several weeks, as the grand jury is taking a long break.

The Manhattan grand jury investigating hush money paid on Donald Trump’s behalf is scheduled to consider other matters next week before taking a previously scheduled two-week hiatus, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday. That means a vote on whether or not to indict the former president likely wouldn’t come until late April at the earliest.

The break, which was scheduled in advance when the panel was convened in January, coincides with Passover, Easter and spring break for the New York City public school system.

The person who confirmed the grand jury’s schedule was not authorized to speak publicly about secretive grand jury proceedings and did so on condition of anonymity. A message left with the district attorney’s office was not immediately returned.

In a statement released through a lawyer, Trump said: “I HAVE GAINED SO MUCH RESPECT FOR THIS GRAND JURY.”

Now what the deuce is that about? All odds are that they’ll vote to indict him, so he’s applauding them for taking a break?

. . .the district attorney’s office has made no public statements on the timing of any possible indictments, continuing its work in secret over the last two weeks. On March 20, the grand jury heard from a witness favorable to Trump.

People familiar with how grand jury processes typically unfold cautioned that the schedule could change and that prosecutors could still ask jurors to consider charges or vote on an indictment on one of the days they’re expected to meet on other matters.

Few people — Manhattan District Alvin Bragg and the prosecutors in charge of the grand jury investigation — know precisely how the grand jury investigation is proceeding and at what pace. They control when witnesses are called to testify and will be the ones deciding whether, and when, to seek an indictment.

And of course there’s a possibility of no indictment, though based on the prosecution’s expections, an indictment seems likely. We’ll just have to wait this one out.

*Esau MacCaulley in the NYT on the latest shooting in Nashville (that’s true in both senses of the sentence):

There are many ways to judge the success or failure of a country. We can look at its economy, the strength of its military or the quality of its education. We can examine the soundness of our bridges or the smoothness of our highways. But what if we used a different standard? We should judge a nation by a simple metric: the number of weeping parents it allows, the small coffins it tolerates.

The debate around gun control is not new, of course, and each tragedy brings a fresh wave of calls for common-sense gun regulation. The adversaries of reform will rebuke us for turning a tragedy, the deaths of six innocent people, into an occasion to debate politics. We will be urged to offer prayers for the victims and their families while we await the appropriate time to discuss the more difficult issues. But too often it seems that rather than waiting for the right time, politicians are simply trying to wait out the news cycle.

Frankly, I’m sick of those people who say that we don’t have a gun problem; we have a people problem. Do you think that if we took the British or Scottish approach to gun control, MORE people would die in America? Or that everyone who wanted mental health care got it, there would be no more mass shootings? How would a gun dealer identify someone with mental health issues?

*Apropos, a dispiriting piece in the Washington Post, “In Congress, little urgency to address gun violence with legislation.

After a shooter killed three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville, on Monday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill indicated there was little support for addressing gun violence through legislation.

While President Biden on Tuesday called upon Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, Republicans in the GOP-controlled House reiterated their objection to any actions that would restrict access to guns, instead stressing that mental health issues remain the root cause of the country’s gun violence problem. And Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate, said they were reluctant to push gun-related legislation unless they have significant support from the chamber’s Republicans.

“I’m a realist,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, about the possibility of moving gun legislation through his committee without enough Republican support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster. “I know what’s going to happen on the floor.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a key negotiator of a bipartisan gun-control package that passed last year following the school shooting in Uvalde, Tex., said he didn’t see anything else that Congress could do on the issue, dismissing calls to expand background checks and Biden’s plea to ban assault weapons.

“I would say we’ve gone about as far as we can go” on guns, Cornyn said.

That he can say this, and be correct, is a sad fact about America. Arguing about mental-health issues while leaving guns alone resigns us to one fate: every couple weeks some kids will die in a school shooting, parents and loved ones will weep copiously, and it will keep on forever. I refuse to accept that gun control will never be fixed, just as there was a time when people couldn’t imagine that black people could have equal rights under the law

*The former Supreme Court reporter for the NYT, Linda Greenhouse, discusses a case of gun control where the Supremes may soon make a very bad ruling: “Where will the Supreme Court Draw the Line on Guns?”  It’s about recent court rulings about whether those under restraining orders for committing domestic violence should be allowed to own guns. Only a gun lunatic would say that the Second Amendment, which allows gun ownership for having a “well regulated Militia”, could imagine that the Founders would want domestic abusers to have guns. But read:

On March 17, the Biden administration asked the justices to overturn an appeals court decision that can charitably be described as nuts, and accurately as pernicious. The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit invalidated a federal law that for almost 30 years has prohibited gun ownership by people who are subject to restraining orders for domestic violence.

The Fifth Circuit upheld the identical law less than three years ago. But that was before President Donald Trump put a Mississippi state court judge named Cory Wilson on the appeals court. (As a candidate for political office in 2015, Wilson said in a National Rifle Association questionnaire that he opposed both background checks on private gun sales and state licensing requirements for potential gun owners.)

Judge Wilson wrote in a decision handed down in March that the appeals court was forced to repudiate its own precedent by the logic of the Supreme Court’s decision in the New York licensing case. He was joined by another Trump judge, James Ho, and by Edith Jones, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan; Judge Jones has long been one of the most aggressive conservatives on the country’s most conservative appeals court.

Now it is up to the justices to say whether that analysis is correct.

It’s NUTS! Now the government must prove that any regulation of firearms is in line with America’s “historical tradition” based on the Court’s dubious interpretation of the Second Amendment. And why you can’t use history as a guide;

In a forthcoming article, Professors Joseph Blocher of Duke Law School and Reva B. Siegel of Yale point out that there is a reason for the failure of early American lawmakers to consider domestic violence a reason to take away an abuser’s gun: The very concept of domestic violence was alien to the Constitution’s framers because wives were completely subordinate to their husbands and wife beating was widely tolerated.

Ergo, forget history and make a reasonable assessment based on balancing conflicting interests for the good of society. There is no reasonable construal of that question that would allow domestic abusers to own guns.

. . .There is no doubt that under the old interest-balancing test, the government would prevail. The interest in keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers is that obvious, as even the Fifth Circuit found in 2020. “The parties agree,” the court noted then, “that reducing domestic gun abuse is not just an important government interest, but a compelling one. They only dispute whether §922(g)(8) is reasonably adapted to that interest. We hold that it is.”

*This story from CNN not only shows how serious Americans are about their fishing contests, but the depravity that can be involved in such a trivial matter as the weight of a fish.

Two men who allegedly cheated to win a competitive fishing competition have pleaded guilty to charges, including cheating, according to the Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor.

Jacob Runyan and teammate Chase Cominsky rocked the competitive fishing world after it was discovered their fish were stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets at an Ohio fishing tournament in September 2022.

Both have now pleaded guilty for cheating and the unlawful ownership of wild animals during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament.

“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a statement Monday.

“Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”

In open court on Monday, both men admitted their guilt, as part of their plea agreement, and also agreed to forfeit ownership of the boat and trailer used in the tournament.

They face six months to a year in prison and could have their fishing licenses suspended for up to three years, when they are sentenced.

The state is recommending a sentence of six-months-probation to the court. They will be sentenced on May 11.

Here’s a video of the cheating scandal. The fish were walleyes, and there was, in fact $30,000 at stake. This shows the moment the fishermen were caught cheating:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s having Deep Thoughts:

Hili: I’m thinking about the nature of consciousness.
A: And?
Hili: It’s somehow strange.

In Polish:

Hili: Zastanawiam się nad naturą świadomości.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Dziwna jakaś.

And a picture of Baby Kulka:


From Beth, a cartoon by Sam Gross:

From Now That’s Wild:

From Thomas (I may have posted this before):

From Masih, with the Google translation:

By sending this video today, the 8th of Farvardin, a citizen wrote to us from Mashhad that today near Reza Bazaar, some Basiji groups with placards promoting mandatory hijab were placed on the side of the square. While filming these people, this citizen addresses them with sarcastic questions. The Islamic Republic of Iran thinks that with these works it is creating a culture for forced hijab, which is only imposed on citizens by the Taliban and the Islamic Republic. These people hate you and your compound ignorance and your oppression and way of thinking. You are also well aware that you hide your faces from the people of the city. Turn around to spin. #OurCameraIsOur Weapon #Mehsa Amini

Titania tweeted!

From Malcolm, a cat treadmill:

From Michael: a grant proposal rejected because the applicant misgendered a transgender woman:

From Barry. I sure hope the lion got away! As one commenter said of the King of the Beasts, “He knew when to abdicate.”

From the Auschwitz Memorial, and eight-year-old gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a leucistic penguin, quite rare. I hope it does okay.

From Romania:

An article about the ill-advised endorsement of a political candidate by the journal Nature:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 29, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s a Hump Day (“jum hump” in Maltese): Wednesday, March 29, 2023, and National Chiffon Cake Day.

It’s also Manatee Appreciation Day, Smoke and Mirrors Day, and Piano Day. In honor of the last holiday, here’s some music about a piano man (before he lost his hair):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 29 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Trump isn’t doing that well in his various court cases. A NY state indictment may come down for him in in the Stormy Daniels case, and now he’s taken a hit in the grand jury investigating the January 6 storming of the Capitol: Mike Pence will have to testify.

A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, largely sweeping aside two separate legal efforts by Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump to limit his testimony, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The twin rulings on Monday, by Judge James E. Boasberg in Federal District Court in Washington, were the latest setbacks to bids by Mr. Trump’s legal team to limit the scope of questions that prosecutors can ask witnesses close to him in separate investigations into his efforts to maintain his grip on power after his election defeat and into his handling of classified documents after he left office.

In the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, the former president repeatedly pressed Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.

Prosecutors have been seeking to compel Mr. Pence to testify about Mr. Trump’s demands on him, which were thoroughly documented by aides to Mr. Pence in testimony last year to the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 riot and what led up to it.

This month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Boasberg’s predecessor as chief judge for the court, Beryl A. Howell, to limit Mr. Pence’s testimony by claiming that certain issues were off limits because of executive privilege, which protects certain communications between the president and some members of his administration.

Of course Pence’s testimony can only hurt Trump, and it’s clear that making Pence testify is not to get him in trouble, but to get closer to Trump’s actions. Is yet another indictment in the offing?

*John McWhorter’s latest column, “I did not feel the need to see people ‘like me’ on TV or in books,” is related to something that Bill Maher talked about the other day. His view:

But still, the idea that a Black person is deprived in not exploring that which they already “relate to” is not as natural as it sounds. This position is rooted, one suspects, as a defense against racism, in a sense that learning most meaningfully takes place within a warm comfort zone of cultural membership. But it’s a wide, wide world out there, and this position ultimately limits the mind and the soul. I question its necessity in 2023. The etymology of the word “education” is related to the Latin “educere,” meaning to lead outward, not inward.

It can be especially ticklish to hear white people taking up the idea that a Black person strays from their “self” when taking up things beyond blackness. The Black cabaret pianist and singer Bobby Short spent a glittering career of several decades performing the lesser-known songs of Broadway’s “golden era.” I have every single recording he made; generations of fans of the Great American Songbook learned the B-side corpus of this genre from his work. He often seasoned his renditions with a bit of soul, but the overall tone of Short was tuxedos, the haut monde Café Carlyle where he played for eons, his friendship with Gloria Vanderbilt — an ongoing affectionate salute to a bygone aristocracy of manner.

. . .Today I sit with “Succession,” Steely Dan and Saul Bellow and they wince not. I see myself in none of them. Yes, Bellow had some nasty moments on race, such as a gruesomely prurient scene in “Mr. Sammler’s Planet.” But I’m sorry: I cannot let that one scene — or even two — deprive me of the symphonic reaches of “Herzog” and “Humboldt’s Gift.” What they offer, after all, becomes part of “me” along with everything else.

It isn’t that I don’t engage with books, films, television and theater by and about Black people. And the truth is that characters I can see as “me” are now not uncommon on television in particular. Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was about as close to me as I expect a sitcom character ever to be, for example. That was fun. But honestly, I didn’t need it. I live with me. I watch TV to see somebody else.

I can see his point when it comes to literature, movies, and other entertainment, and he surely makes a dent in the idea that ethnic groups need to look for “people who look like me” in the arts. But it’s a different matter when it comes to real life, I think. I’m not black, but if I went to a school where there were no other black people, I’m pretty sure I’d like to see some people who look like me. Perhaps, though, McWhorter is limiting his take to materials for entertainment and education.

*Just be glad for America’s freedom of speech, even if various forces of darkness are trying to erode it. In Russia, you can go to jail for drawings made by one of your kids! From the AP:

A Russian court on Tuesday convicted a single father over social media posts critical of the war in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison — a case brought against him after his daughter’s drawings at school opposed the invasion, according to his lawyer and activists.

But Alexei Moskalyov fled house arrest before his verdict was delivered in his Russian hometown of Yefremov and is at large, court officials said. His 13-year-old daughter Maria, who has been taken from him by the authorities, wrote him a supportive letter for his trial from the orphanage where she is living, according to his lawyer, telling him, “Daddy, you’re my hero.”

Moskalyov’s case has drawn international attention and was a grim reminder that the Kremlin is intensifying its crackdown on dissent, targeting more people and handing out harsher punishments for any criticism of the war. The broad government campaign of repression has been unseen since the Soviet era.

Moskalyov, 54, was accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian army, a criminal offense in accordance to a law Russian authorities adopted shortly after sending troops into Ukraine.

He was indicted for a series of social media posts about Russian atrocities in Ukraine and referencing the “terrorist” regime in Moscow that he insists he didn’t make. But, according to his lawyer and activists who supported him throughout the case and trial, his troubles started last spring after his 13-year-old daughter, Maria, drew an antiwar picture at Yefremov School No. 9 that depicted missiles flying over a Russian flag at a woman and child and said, “Glory to Ukraine.”

Two years in jail—a single dad! Remember all the criticism in the U.S. of the war in Iraq? You wouldn’t have had any of that if we’d had a regime as draconian as Russia’s.

*If you don’t mind some gore, but want to see what a bullet from an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon can do (the favorite gun of mass shooters), read and watch the Washington Post’s article “The blast effect“. It not only compares the damage that the high-velocity AR-15 bullet (.223 caliber) can do to that of a bullet from a normal handgun (a 9 mm round), but also gives two animations of what happened to two real children who were killed by these bullets (no photos are shown):

The AR-15 fires bullets at such a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession — that it can eviscerate multiple people in seconds. A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child.

“It literally can pulverize bones, it can shatter your liver and it can provide this blast effect,” said Joseph Sakran, a gunshotsurvivor who advocates for gun violence prevention and a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

During surgery on people shot with high-velocity rounds, he said, body tissue “literally just crumbled into your hands.”

The carnage is rarely visible to the public. Crime scene photos are considered too gruesome to publish and often kept confidential. News accounts rely on antiseptic descriptions from law enforcement officials and medical examiners who, in some cases, have said remains were so unrecognizable that they could be identified only through DNA samples.

And then the real people:

The Washington Post sought to illustrate the force of the AR-15 and reveal its catastrophic effects.

The first part of this report is a 3D animation that shows the trajectory of two different hypothetical gunshots to the chest — one from an AR-15 and another from a typical handgun — to explain the greater severity of the damage caused by the AR-15.

The second part depicts the entrance and exit wounds of two actual victims — Noah Pozner, 6, and Peter Wang, 15 — killed in school shootings when they were struck by multiple bullets.

Yes, many of you won’t want to see this, and if you do you’ll be shocked, whoever you are. But then ask yourself, “why is this type of ammunition even sold in the United States.” If you buy a gun to protect yourself, you don’t need a semiautomatic.

*Should you wash your clothes in cold or warm water? This is the question taken up by the Wall Street Journal, and the answer seems to be “it depends.” That is, Proctor and Gamble opts for cold, saying that its products get clothes just as clean at either temperature, but also admits that, in general, warm water does a better job. I’ve always started the wash with a minute’s worth of warm water, and then switch to cold to save energy. But even cold water doesn’t necessarily save that much energy. From the piece:

The maker of Tide detergent has thrown its marketing weight behind Team Cold. Procter & Gamble Co. argues that a chilly wash cycle reduces the impact of a costly and energy-guzzling domestic chore, and has enlisted rapper Vanilla Ice, actor/musician Ice-T, pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and other celebrities to promote the concept.

Some laundry experts say that’s just spin. They contend cold water doesn’t wash clothes as well, and the energy it takes to try to compensate diminishes the environmental benefits.

Patric Richardson is among the skeptics. The host of “The Laundry Guy” on Discovery+ says that using less detergent, washing less frequently and moving to a shorter warm cycle are better ways to save energy.

. . .P&G has sold a line of Tide designed for washing in cold water for almost two decades and still sells that product, called Tide Plus Coldwater Clean. The latest campaign pitches the overall brand as being effective in cold water. The company says it has reformulated Tide over the years to be more effective.

The company says that while hot water cleans more effectively than cold water when all else is equal, Tide’s products are strong enough to render warmer cycles unnecessary.

“If we set the water on cold, how strong do we need our product to be to be sure we don’t need more temperature?” says Todd Cline, a technical expert in P&G’s fabric-care business. “We don’t think you need to use warm or hot.”

He says the company has found clothes get just as clean in cold cycles in both controlled lab tests and in consumer tests. Convincing the public is another matter. “Habits are hard to change,” Mr. Cline says. “People just hit the button to normal, and normal defaults to warm.”

All I can say is that my clothes are washed in mostly cold water, I do use concentrated Tide (though just because it’s reasonably priced and comes in big jugs), and I’ve never found my clothes to emerge less than sparkling clean.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke that he’d never want to join a club that would have him as a member.

Hili: I was thinking about joining a skeptics club.
A: And what happened?
Hili: My skepticism won.
In Polish:
Hili: Zastanawiałam się nad wstąpieniem do klubu sceptyków.
Ja: I co?

Hili: Zwyciężył sceptycyzm.

And a photo of Baby Kulka with flowers:


From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

From David:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih, another woman protestor in Iran is shot in the eye—and in the stomach:

From Simon, Randy Rainbow takes the mickey out of George Santos:

From Barry, this baby panda’s sneeze scares the hell out of its mom:

From Luana, who apprised me of something I didn’t know: there’s a violent wing of trans activists movement:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who died at 23.

Tweets from Matthew, the first being a lovely duck and ducklings video. Sound up.

Don’t worry if you’re flying to Japan. (Sound up.) America is the pits, and I’ve seen this many times from a plane.

Matthew says, “Forget the cheesy bits and look at the skills”:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 28, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, March 28, 2023, and National Black Forest Cake Day, a cream-covered cake made with layers of chocolate cake separated with cream filling and cherries. Good, no? Here’s one:

It’s also Eat An Edy’s Pie Day (formerly “Eskimo Pie”, not changed to “Inuit Pie”), National Hot Tub Day, Weed Appreciation Day (they’re not talking about cannabis), Serfs Emancipation Day in Tibet, and Respect Your Cat Day. Here is Mishka, an English shorthair staffed by Jay and Anna:

There’s also a Google Doodle today (click below to go to its links) honoring Justine Siegemund (1636-1705), who, according to Wikipedia, “was a Silesian midwife, whose book, Court Midwife (1690) was the most read, female-published German obstetrical manual.”

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 28 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Another week, another school shooting, this time in Nashville, where six people died at the hands of a woman shooter

A 28-year-old from Nashville fatally shot three children and three adults on Monday at a private Christian elementary school, officials said, leaving behind writings and detailed maps of the school and its security protocols.

In the latest episode of gun violence that has devastated American families and communities, the assailant opened fire just after 10 a.m. inside the Covenant School, in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood, where children in preschool through sixth grade had just begun their final full week of classes before Easter break.

The shooter, who the police identified as Audrey E. Hale, had entered the building by firing through a side door, armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun, according to John Drake, the chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and went to the second floor, firing shots before being killed by the police. Chief Drake said that the assailant was “at one point a student” at the school.

Surveillance video released by the police on Monday night showed the shooter drive up to the school in what the police described as a Honda Fit. In the clip, two sets of glass doors shatter from bullets before the assailant ducks into the building through the broken glass.

Wearing camouflage pants, a black vest and a backward red baseball cap, the assailant walks through rooms and hallways with a weapon drawn. At one point, the shooter can be seen walking in and out of the church office and down a hallway past the children’s ministry, as the lights of what appear to be a fire alarm flash.

The shooter has been identified in different reports as either a trans man or trans woman; here’s what the NYT says:

There was confusion about the gender identity of the assailant in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Chief Drake said the shooter identified as transgender. Officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the shooter, but, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.

After the attack, Biden called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, but you know the chances of that are exactly zero. I keep calling for more restrictions on guns, as do many Americans, but the chances of that are also zero. What was that old bromide about changing the things you can, and accepting the things you can’t? I cannot accept that every two weeks people die because we have a crazy amount of guns in this country.

*After announcing a plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary system, which caused Israelis to riot en masse, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed off, This is a really contentious issue and I’m trying to read about it, but it turns out that it’s more complicated than I thought. So far, I have no dogs in this fight but want to report on Netanyahu’s about face. I’m going to read two long articles about this tortuous debate; one of them is here and the other here.

“Out of national responsibility, from a desire to prevent the nation from being torn apart, I am calling to suspend the legislation,” said Netanyahu, adding that he reached the decision with the agreement of the majority of his coalition members.“When there is a possibility to prevent a civil war through negotiations, I will give a time-out for negotiations.” he said.

The plan to remake the courts — which would give Netanyahu’s government greater power to handpick judges, including those presiding over Netanyahu’s corruption trial, in which he is charged in three cases and faces potential prison time — has pitted liberal and secular Jewish Israelis against more right-wing and religiously conservative citizens, along a fault line long in emerging.

An explanation of the proposed reform is below. Clearly the attempt to control judges presiding over Netanyahu’s trial stinks of mendacity, but the problem is  that Israel has no constitution, and the Supreme Court sometimes makes decisions not on whether something conforms to the Constitution-equivalent “basic laws,” but based on whether they consider a law “reasonable.” It’s that criterion that I’m trying to find out more about.

The controversy stems from several bills amending Israel’s “basic laws” — legally equivalent to constitutional amendments — which would grant Knesset lawmakers control over judicial appointments, eliminate judicial review of legislation and allow parliament to vote down Supreme Court decisions.

Effectively, these changes would mean “there is no legal boundary to government,” said Aeyal Gross, a professor of constitutional and international law at Tel Aviv University. “A government with no limits totally undermines any idea of democracy.”

In Israel’s parliamentary system, the Supreme Court has been seen as the sole check on lawmakers and the prime minister. Israel’s high court both reviews appeals from lower courts and hears petitions filed against the government and public bodies. It has struck down laws targeting Ukrainian refugees and African asylum seekers and has delayed the eviction of Palestinians in a sensitive Jerusalem neighborhood. In other cases, rights groups say, it has upheld key violations of Palestinian rights.

*Can it be that the conservative Supreme Court actually agrees with the Biden administration on something? Apparently, and that something is the argument that it’s illegal to encourage foreigners to come to America illegally. This was in a case that upheld the right to encouragement on First Amendment grounds.

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared inclined to uphold a federal law that made it a crime to encourage illegal immigration, signaling agreement with President Joe Biden’s administration that the measure does not violate constitutional free speech protections.

The justices heard arguments in the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s decision in a case from California to strike down the decades-old provision, part of a larger immigration statute, as overly broad because it may criminalize legitimate speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The case involves a man named Helaman Hansen who deceived immigrants through a phony “adult adoption” program and was convicted in 2017 of violating that law and others.

In invalidating the law, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Hansen’s conviction for violating the provision, which bars inducing or encouraging noncitizens “to come to, enter or reside” in the United States illegally, including for financial gain. The 9th Circuit upheld Hansen’s convictions on mail and wire fraud charges.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority. Its conservative justices appeared to agree with Biden’s administration that the law does not cover certain hypothetical scenarios that concerned the 9th Circuit, such as simply encouraging immigrants in the country illegally to remain in the United States or advising them about available social services.

The law targets only facilitating or soliciting unlawful conduct, not “general advocacy,” the administration argued.

. . .Biden’s administration urged the justices to restore an “important tool for combating activities that exacerbate unlawful immigration,” particularly because of the high volume of immigration-related litigation and criminal prosecutions that occur in the states covered by the 9th Circuit.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

So we may soon we have yet another case of speech that is not legally protected by the First Amendment. I am surprised, though, that Biden is trying to do anything to restrict immigration.

*The NYT has a “build your own college rankings” article, in which you take the criteria below and move the slider towards the right for each criterion to show how important it is for you. The article then tells you which colleges are right for you:

After I moved my sliders, the article spit out these as my top six colleges:

They want me to go to CUNY, one of the schools reported to be most ridden with anti-Semitism in America! And the University of Florida is a party school, when I ranked partying as of zero priority. Something is wrong here1

*And a bit of persiflage-y news about the late Queen Elizabeth, who apparently specified what “state gift” she wanted from Germany:

Two horses fit for a queen, please.

That’s what Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II had asked for as a gift during her state visit to Germany in 1978, weekly Der Spiegel reported Monday.

The expensive present raised eyebrows among German bureaucrats at the time, who noted that the Holsteiner and the gray Elizabeth requested cost more than any other offering made to a visiting head of state since the end of World War II.

Nevertheless, Germany’s then-President Walter Scheel approved the gift in the interests of good bilateral relations, Der Spiegel reported citing previously confidential archive papers.

The magazine reported that the papers also noted the late monarch’s aperitif preferences — gin and tonic — and dislike of helicopters.

I didn’t know that heads of state could request special gifts from other heads of state, but this all sounds a bit greedy to me–and not like the Elizabeth I’ve heard about. However, she does have good taste in aperitifs, though I would have liked her better had she chosen a Campari and soda—or a very dry fino sherry.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very upset:

Hili: I’m horrified.
A: Of what?
Hili: The state of the world.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem przerażona.
Ja: Czym?
Hili: Stanem świata.
And a picture of Szaron:


From David:

From Nicole:

And a cartoon from Thomas (I can’t make out who drew the cartoon):

God and Titania McGrath have pretty much stopped tweeting, which is a great shame. But we must move on, and Masih Alinejad is a reliable source of tweets about the situation in Iran.


Piers Morgan seems shocked that Richard Dawkins really is an atheist, and doesn’t believe in souls or an afterlife:

Two tweet from Barry. All of these roosters need more practice, but the one in the second tweet has good lung capacity! Sound on, but maybe not too high. . .

From Malcolm. Perhaps this cat has something wrong with its rear legs, but it doesn’t look like it. Even if it does, this is a remarkable ability.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed at 14:

Tweets from Matthew. The last known thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus: the marsupial “Tasmanian wolf”) died in a zoo in 1938, but many people thought they were still out there in the wild. People still report sightings, but there have been no pictures or reliable evidence. These new data suggest that the animal lived on until recently. (I think it’s extinct, but one can hope. )

Here’s some colorized footage of the last one known:

The French manage to enjoy their cafes despite what’s going on over there:

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Monday again, March 27, 2023, and World Whisky Day (as always, I’ll have a Springbank)

It’s also National Spanish Paella Day, National Joe Day (it’s your day if you’re called “Joe”), World Theatre Day , and Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day. Here’s one I remember:

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

Da Nooz:

*On Saturday Vladimir “Look at My Chest” Putin announced that he was going to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which is a palpable threat to Ukraine and the NATO countries helping it out.

Putin said the move was triggered by Britain’s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. Russia plans to maintain control over those it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.

He didn’t say how many nuclear weapons Russia would keep in Belarus. The U.S. government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which include bombs that can be carried by tactical aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery rounds.

Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States, noting that the U.S. has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

But we haven’t moved them around after the Ukraine war started—unlike Putin. In response, Ukrainian President Zelensky demanded yesterday that the United Nations hold a special emergency meeting about the Belarus-based nukes.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement Sunday and demanded an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

“Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the U.K., China, the U.S. and France,” the statement read, saying these countries “have a special responsibility” regarding nuclear aggression.

“The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization,” the statement said.

Ukraine has not commented on Sunday’s explosion inside Russia. It left a crater about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter and five meters deep (16 feet), according to media reports.

Russian state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Soviet-era drone was reintroduced in Ukraine in 2014, and has a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).

. . . The U.S. said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement. So far, Washington hasn’t seen “any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

Let’s hope this is a threat without teeth. But Putin seems mentally unstable to me, and who knows what he’s capable of, especially when cornered?

*I’m not looking for reasons to diss Joe Biden, as he will likely be the guy I vote for in next year’s Presidential election. But this behavior really angers me. Biden, you may recall, promised to end the federal death penalty if elected. He was but he didn’t. The AP reports:

Rejon Taylor hoped the election of Joe Biden, the first U.S. president to campaign on a pledge to end the death penalty, would mean a more sympathetic look at his claims that racial bias and other trial errors landed him on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.

But two years on, Justice Department attorneys under Biden are fighting the Black man’s efforts to reverse his 2008 death sentence for killing a white restaurateur as hard as they did under Donald Trump, who oversaw 13 executions in his presidency’s final months.

“Every legal means they have available they’re using to fight us,” said the 38-year-old’s lawyer, Kelley Henry. “It’s business as usual.”

Death penalty opponents expected Biden to act within weeks of taking office to fulfill his 2020 campaign promise to end capital punishment on the federal level and to work at ending it in states that still carry out executions. Instead, Biden has taken no steps toward fulfilling that promise.

But it’s not just inaction by Biden. An Associated Press review of dozens of legal filings shows Biden’s Justice Department is fighting vigorously in courts to maintain the sentences of death row inmates, even after Attorney General Merrick Garland temporarily paused executions. Lawyers for some of the over 40 death row inmates say they’ve seen no meaningful changes to the Justice Department’s approach under Biden and Trump.

Trump’s favoring capital punishment I can grasp, but BIDEN? HE PROMISED! And there’s no good reason to favor capital punishment. Well, there’s one, but I didn’t think that Biden would stoop so low as to cater to it:

It’s a thorny political issue. While Americans increasingly oppose capital punishment, it is deeply entrenched. And as Biden eyes a 2024 run, it’s unlikely he’ll make capital punishment a signature issue given his silence on it as president.

That is cowardice and lack of principle, pure and simple.

*The Blue State of Illinois, with a Democratic governor, is now becoming a refuge from all those women in the South who can’t get an abortion because of the draconian laws enacted by those benighted states. But it’s causing clinical overlad here (h/t Steve):

Just the day before, 58 women had abortions at the Fairview Heights’ Planned Parenthood clinic, 15 miles east of St. Louis. But the new day is still stacked with appointments; as many as 100 abortion and family planning patients might walk through the doors.

Every day is busy now.

Hundreds of women travel each week to the southern tip of Illinois to secure an abortion, something that is no longer available to millions living in a 1,800 mile stretch of 11 Southern states that have mostly banned pregnancy terminations since the Supreme Court stripped away constitutional protections for women to end pregnancies.

But another barrier awaits them once they reach the clinic in one of the country’s most abortion-friendly states. Anti-abortion advocates in neon hazard vests frantically try to wave passersby down at the gates, hoping to talk them out of what they are about to do.

The clinic’s waitlist for abortions has only grown from two days to nearly three weeks after the Supreme Court ruling last June — even after staffers started working 10-hour shifts and they opened the clinic on Saturdays.

. . . With 10,000 abortion patients expected this year at the clinic, there’s talk of opening on Sundays. Staff developed an emergency plan that would convert some patient rooms, normally reserved for birth control consultations or vasectomies, to make more room for abortions. A recreational vehicle has been retooled into a mobile clinic that can travel along the state line for doctors to provide abortions.

. . . When someone cannot afford to pay for hotels, bus tickets or plane rides, the center books the travel for the patient and works with more than 30 nonprofit groups around the country that solicit funds for abortion access to fund the trip.

This is like the bad old days when the Jane Collective in Chicago, organized by women, provided underground abortions in the days when it was illegal. Now it’s legal, at least in Illinois, but can you imagine “abortion trucks” traveling along the state lines to help women who don’t want to give birth? Thanks, Supreme Court!

*Well, here’s an article I didn’t need to read in the WSJ: “Marijuana has special risks for older people.” WHAT? When I was younger I was told that marijuana would fry my brain like an egg, and now that I’m older I’m told that it’s even more dangerous. Why? Because it can affect the drugs you take. Fortunately, my only drug is a sleeping pill at night. But oy!:

Cannabis use can create particular risks for older people. It can interfere with other medications, which is tricky for seniors because they are often on multiple prescription drugs. Marijuana can also raise the risks of injuries, falls, anxiety and confusion. The situation is further complicated because many seniors may be wary of telling their doctors they use it.

. . .In California, emergency room visits for problems related to cannabis use in adults ages 65 and older increased from a rate of 20.7 per 100,000 visits in 2005 to 395.0 per 100,000 in 2019, according to a January study from doctors at the University of California San Diego.

Although pot products pose some health risks, the reason that seniors are taking them is largely because they are trying to manage other health problems. Among a group of nearly 600 adults over age 65, 15% reported using cannabis within the past three years, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Nearly 80% of those seniors said they took cannabis for medical reasons, with pain, sleep and anxiety the top reasons cited. Most said their family members knew they used it, but only 40% reported telling their healthcare providers.

And I found the ending part hilarious but also sad, as it’s the opposite of what I heard when I was a kid:

If your parent is using marijuana or CBD products, encourage them to talk with their doctor to make sure they understand how it may affect other medications they are taking and possible risks. Many adult children buy products for their parents without understanding that the dose and type have different effects, says Benjamin Han, a geriatrician at UCSD.

. . . Ask your parents why they are taking marijuana to see if there are health issues that may be better addressed with other treatments, recommends Dr. Moore.

And advise parents to “start low and go slow,” or take a low dose at first and increase as needed. . .

*Edgar Allen Poe’s death has always been a bit of a mystery, though my understanding is that he died from a combination of alcohol and tuberculosis (he was only 40). Now the WaPo adds a new possibility: voter fraud!

On a fall morning in 1849, Poe died in a Baltimore hospital after a stranger had found him “in great distress” a few days earlier outside a polling place during an election. The 40-year-old had been missing for almost a week. His deathbed symptoms — fever and delusions — were so vague that they’ve spawned dozens of theories, including poisoning, alcoholism, rabies, syphilis, suicide and homicide.

Now an Ohio journalist has conducted an extensive investigation into Poe’s death. In his new book, “A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe,” Mark Dawidziak contends that the evidence points to tuberculosis, an illness that is forever linked to artistic genius and literary martyrdom. But he says there’s a co-conspirator: an affliction known as election fraud.

Dawidziak believes that Poe failed to get proper medical care because he was “cooped” — an election-rigging scheme at the time that involvedsnatching someone from the streets, confining and perhaps drugging him, then trotting him out to vote again and again.
Poe was actually passing through Baltimore on his way to Richmond, and his behavior and clothing were atypical for him. That gives a clue (plus his death near a polling place) that he might have been “cooped”:

Poe was disheveled and wearing shabby, ill-fitting clothes that weren’t his, according to Hal Poe. “He always took great care in his appearance,” Hal Poe said. “He was fastidious in his dress. Even if his cuffs were threadbare, and his socks were darned, they were all very nice.”

Poe’s clothes seem to be an important clue. He turned up on election day, and the tavern where he was found served as a polling place as Marylanders chose their representatives in Congress. (At the time, states set their own election dates.) This is the crux of the theory that Poe was “cooped.”

Around election time, “ruffians would go out in the street, find someone vulnerable and indigent, hit them over the head, ‘coop’ them up in a room, and feed them alcohol and maybe opium until it’s time to vote,” Jang said. The kidnappers might change the man’s appearance throughout the day, she said, so they could fool election workers and have the person vote multiple times.

. . . Just about every Poe scholar believes he was “cooped,” Hal Poe said. He may have been especially vulnerable to kidnapping because he was drunk or ill — or both — when he left the steamer.

. . . “Almost every medical expert and pathologist that I have talked to said there is absolutely no question Poe had tuberculosis,” Dawidziak said. Specifically, he believes that Poe died of tuberculosis meningitis, which causes the membranes around the brain to swell.

Keeping him cooped up and drugged could account for his untimely demise. Read more at the link.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is watching intently for Spring (my photo taken outside the window)

Hili: It’s getting nicer and nicer out.
A: I, too, like when everything comes back to life.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Robi się coraz sympatyczniej.
Ja: Też lubię jak wszystko budzi się do życia.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

And a photo of baby Kulka:


Three cat memes today. From Beth (it’s me, too, though my insomnia has abated, at least temporarily):

From The Cat House on the Kings:

From Divy:

From Masih. The Iranian government continues to shoot protestors in the eyes. Here’s the Farsi translation of the tweet:

Zaniar Tendru, a protester who was shot in the eyes by the agents of the Islamic Republic during the revolution #WomanLifeFreedom,  left for Europe in a painful condition on a refugee boat for treatment. Zaniar was born in 2004, he was shot by the repressors on the 24th street of Piranshahr city on November 9th and lost his right eye. 11 bullets still remained in Zaniar’s head and the vision of his left eye was also compromised.


And nearby, the braze women of Afghanistan:

From Malcolm: A rescue of an adorable baby sloth. It sure looks as if Mom extends her hand in gratitude afterwards!

A tweet from Barry, who says, “Well, this is certainly unusual.” Indeed. Sound up!

Another from Barry, who says, “…but if this dog isn’t trained, isn’t this a case of thinking? That’s the reason I find this video fascinating. “Oh, crap. He’s picking up all the other treats. I better hide the one that’s on my paw.”  What do you think?

From the Auschwitz Memorial. Below the tweet is a picture I took of the women’s toilets in Birkenau, one of the two camps that made up the Auschwitz complex (Sept., 2013).

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, an addled eagle:

. . . and the shot is so nonchalant, too:

If you’re ever in Huddersfield, between Manchester and Leeds, stop and say “hi” to Felix. He now has an assistant, an all-black cat named Bolt:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 26, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Sunday, March 26, 2023, and National Nougat Day.  Nougat is one of the few sweetmeats I have no use for, especially the white variety.

It’s also National Spinach Day, Solitude Day, Purple Day  in Canada and United States (“a global grassroots event that was formed with the intention to increase worldwide awareness of epilepsy, and to dispel common myths and fears of this neurological disorder”), and, in Hawaii, Prince Kūhiō Day  a Hawaiian prince (1871-1922)) who did a lot for the islands. As Wikipedia notes, “Prince Kūhiō Day is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaiʻi’s King Kamehameha Day on June 11.” After U.S. Big Business overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Prince served in Congress as a representative of the Territory of Hawaii—the only Congressperson ever born into royalty. Here he is:


Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 26 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The BBC reports that a Florida principal was forced to resign his position after he showed a statue of Michelangelo’s “David” to the students and an uproar ensued (h/t Gravelinspector). The story was also reported by ABC (h/t Dom). From the BBC:

A principal of a Florida school has been forced to resign after a parent complained that sixth-grade students were exposed to pornography.

The complaint arose from a Renaissance art lesson where students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David.

The iconic statue is one of the most famous in Western history.

But one parent complained the material was pornographic and two others said they wanted to know about the class before it was taught.

The 5.17m (17ft) statue depicts an entirely naked David, the Biblical figure who kills the giant Goliath.

The lesson, given to 11 and 12-year-olds, also included references to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” painting and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”.

Principal Hope Carrasaquilla of Tallahassee Classical School said she resigned after she was given an ultimatum by the school board to resign or be fired.

Local media reported that Ms Carrasquilla did not know the reason she was asked to resign, but believed it was related to the complaints over the lesson.

They also said Ms Carrasquilla had been principal for less than one year.

So they fire her without telling her why, and the “why” is because the kids were exposed to naked bodies in classical art. It was, of course, in Florida. What a bunch of sniveling Pecksniffs!

Here’s a right-wing nightmare inspired by this event, sent by reader Barry:

*Shoot Me Now Department. If the Republicans didn’t threaten American well being, I would find items like this amusing rather than infuriating. Yes, the neuronally deprived Marjorie Taylor Greene is up to her publicity-seeking antics again:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene swept into the District of Columbia jail to check on conditions for the Jan. 6 defendants, with Republican lawmakers handshaking and high-fiving the prisoners, who chanted “Let’s Go Brandon!” — a coded vulgarity against President Joe Biden — as the group left.

A day earlier Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with the mother of slain rioter Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was shot and killed by police as she tried to climb through a broken window during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

And the House Republican leader recently gave Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to a trove of Jan. 6 surveillance tapes despite the conservative commentator’s airing of conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack.

Taken together, the House Republicans can be seen as working steadily but intently to distort the facts of the deadly riot, which played out for the world to see when Donald Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol, and in the process downplay the risk of domestic extremism in the U.S.

In actions and legislation, the Republicans are seeking to portray perpetrators of the Capitol riot as victims of zealous federal prosecutors, despite many being convicted of serious crimes. As Trump calls for the Jan. 6 defendants to be pardoned, some House Republicans are attempting to rebrand those who stormed the Capitol as “political prisoners.”

The result is alarming to those who recognize a dangerously Orwellian attempt to whitewash recent history.

“There’s no question Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republicans are attempting to rewrite history,” said Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “They’re making light of what was a serious attack on our democracy.”

The tour Greene led at the local jail Friday comes as nearly 1,000 people have been charged by the Justice Department in the attack on the Capitol — leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy. The 20 or so defendants being held at the jail, many in pretrial detention on serious federal charges, are among those who battled police at the Capitol, officials said, in what at times was a gruesome bloody scene of violence and mayhem.

It’s as if these Republicans think the January 6 attacks were merely a bit of fun, but had the rioters actually encountered Democrats and their leaders, there would have been violence. It was nothing less than an insurrection.

*Like many of you, I’ve subscribed to newspapers or other services at a low fee, which automatically renews and goes up in price after a year—and you’re never informed.  I now have on my computer a list of when all these low=price come-ons are set to expire. In some cases it’s easy to cancel, in others it’s hard or nearly impossible (the FTC has fine companies for that), but none of them inform you that you “cheap time” is up.

That may change if the FTC imposes its “click to cancel” rule, which will not only make it much easier to opt out of renewal, but let you know before the subscription auto-renews:

“The vision is that it should be as easy for consumers to cancel subscriptions as it is to enroll,” Levine said. “If they enrolled online, the company should use online mechanisms to let consumers cancel. If they enrolled on the phone, they should be able to cancel on the phone without waiting on hold forever.”

Among other provisions, companies would have to provide an annual reminder to consumers enrolled in negative-option programs involving anything other than physical goods before they are automatically renewed.

In the process of trying to persuade you to stay — it’s referred to as a “save” — companies would have to ask whether you would like to consider such offers or modifications to your subscription plan. But once you decline, they must cancel the negative-option arrangement immediately.

The agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking is part of its effort to strengthen existing consumer protections in the negative-option space.

Unscrupulous companies have become incredibly clever in taking consumers down a rabbit hole where they can’t find their way to cancellation.

You can subscribe to the Federal Trade Commission’s notices about when rules like this take effect simply by submitting your email address here.*A r

*An article in the Jerusalem Post reports that CUNY (the City University of New York) has, in the last two years, become the “most systematically antisemitic school” in America. Take that with a grain of salt, since the report was prepared by a group at CUNY, but do have a look at the 12-page report (it’s free here) and judge for yourself the level of Jew-hatred. From the Post article:

The report, compiled by Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY), an NGO that describes itself as an alliance of CUNY students or scholars, alleges that there are alarming levels of deep-rooted, systemic antisemitism at the highest levels of CUNY “perpetuated through lies, coverups, retaliation campaigns, intimidation against whistleblowers, and corruption that has penetrated the deepest corners and the most senior leaders of the university.”

Jeffrey Lax, the Orthodox Jewish business department chair at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and founder of SAFE CUNY, told The Jerusalem Post that the report took months to research, source, and uncover.

“We received many tips on our email tip line from incredible CUNY sources and this really helped us to expose what the report reveals,” Lax, who does not wear his yarmulke on campus, said.

“Shockingly, in a city of 1.7 million (20%) Jews, our report reveals that a years long campaign has in 2023 resulted in the total expungement of Jews from senior leadership positions at CUNY. After the retirements of Jennifer Raab and Senior Vice Chancellor Pamela Silverblatt, there are no longer any Jews among CUNYs top 80 senior leadership, including 0 of 25 campus presidents,” Lax continued. “In a city with a 20% Jewish population, it is unfathomable that the largest urban US university located in that city failed to employ any Jewish administrative leaders by happenstance,” the report says.

. . . “CUNY’s three most powerful leaders –the chancellor, the 23,000 member union president, and the head of diversity–  are all anti-Zionists, CAIR supporters, and/or BDS activists,” Lax said.

. . .While the report shies away from investigating or re-investigating the “relentless barrage of antisemitic incidents since at least 2015,” CUNY has made a slew of headlines in recent years for anti-Jewish occurrences.

Last year, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a Title VI complaint against CUNY, which has 25 college campuses across the five boroughs. It alleges that CUNY has ignored a sustained pattern of antisemitic activity.

The number of administrators who belong to CAIR and adhere to the BDS principles, both anti-Semitic initiatives, is shocking. In fact, CUNY’s top discrimination officer, Saly Abd Alla, is not only the former director of CAIR but also a BDS activist (remember that BDS has the goal of completely eliminating the state of Israel).  This kind of bigotry would never stand if it involved blacks, but it’s okay because it’s only the Jews.

*And, for your delectation, here are some of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for this year. They’re not as prestigious as the Pulitzer Prizes, but the NBCC awards are chosen by over 600 book reviewers and critics, and are a good way to find good books:

Beverly Gage won this year’s biography award for “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” which The Washington Post’s Book World named one of its 10 Best Books of 2022. In his review for The Post, Kai Bird wrote that “G-Man,” which drew on some previously classified sources, “now becomes the definitive work” on Hoover. “This new material is simply stunning, and Gage uses it to write a highly nuanced — sometimes even sympathetic — account of the man.”

Ling Ma won the fiction prize for “Bliss Montage,” a collection of stories that Michele Filgate called “uncanny and haunting” in her review for The Post. “These stories use fantastical situations to address the isolation and absurdity of being confined by labels.” (Ma’s previous book, a novel called “Severance” — no relation to the Apple TV Plus show — was published to acclaim in 2018.)

Hua Hsu, a staff writer at the New Yorker, won the NBCC prize for autobiography. In “Stay True,” another of The Post’s 10 Best Books of 2022, Hsu remembers his unlikely friendship with a college classmate named Ken. Hsu describes the devastating aftermath of Ken’s murder early one morning in 1998. While that tragedy is at its center, the book is also a wry chronicle of 1990s culture. “With warmth and humor,” Charles Arrowsmith wrote for The Post, Hsu has produced an “extraordinary, devotional act of friendship.”

The nonfiction award went to Isaac Butler for “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,” about the performance technique pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, prominently taught in the United States by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, and utilized perhaps most famously by Marlon Brando, among the many boldface names who appear throughout Butler’s account.

. . . This was the first year the NBCC awarded the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, which is shared by an author and translator; the inaugural winner was “Grey Bees,” a novel by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk.

I’m most keen on the Hoover biography; what a bizarre (and often odious) character he was, possessed of immense power for decades.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili must have had too much ‘nip (my photo!)

Hili: I had such a strange dream.
A: What about?
Hili: About appellate court for saints.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Dziwne rzeczy mi się śniły.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Sąd apelacyjny dla świętych.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

And a photo of Baby Kulka up in the trees:


From Jesus of the Day (note the text error):

From The Sarcasm Society via Stephen, food to share with someone you want to dominate:

. . . and from Stash Krod, a Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoon:

From Masih, the Morality Police don’t like dancing or music, or especially the absence of hijabs. The Google translation from Farsi:

Received video: “Hello, Christ, John I was dancing alone on the night of April 4th in the street of Rasht Municipality, when an intelligence agent (who is seen in the film in white clothes) came to record and kicked the poor old man who was playing music and threatened him to pack up. Face. At the same moment, he took out a wireless from his pocket and called the patrol to come there and said in front of me that there is a girl in a yellow dress and come and arrest her. I quickly ran away.

» Soon, the one who will dance and stay in the main squares of all the cities is us, and the one who will run away, this ISIS group who are enemies of dance and joy and afraid of all three words “#WomanLifeFreedom” #Mehsa Amini

From Luana, who says that to deter bike theft, they make bikes with a rod that sticks out when somebody who’s not the owner sits on it. The result:

From Barry, who says, “Nice haul! I wonder what it did with the money.”

From Simon, who can’t believe it. I can’t wait!

From Malcolm, the lynx in your cat:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who didn’t make it:

Tweets from Matthew, the first one showing ducks popping up:

All is well in DodoLand!. Watch to the end.

And Pepper, one of the three cats Matthew serves, getting in the way.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 25, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s CSaturday, March 25, 2023, shabbos for Jewish cats, and International Waffle Day.  (This corresponds to Vårfrudagen or Våffeldagen, “Waffle Day”, in Sweden, Norway & Denmark). Here’s a traditional Swedish waffle with cream and jam:


It’s a big day for holidays today, as it’s also Pecan Day, National Lobster Newburg Day, Tolkien Reading Day  (the date of the downfall of the evil Sauron inThe Lord of the Rings), Medal of Honor Dayi in the U.S., International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members (a United Nations day), Maryland Day (marking the arrival of the first European settlers in Maryland in 1634), International Day of the Unborn ChildEU Talent Day (European Union), Quarter day (first of four) in Ireland and England, and, finally this complicated holiday:  New Year’s Day (Lady Day) in England, Wales, Ireland, and some of the future United States and Canada from 1155 through 1751, until the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 moved it to 1 January (and adopted the Gregorian calendar. (The year 1751 began on 25 March; the year 1752 began on 1 January.)

Got that?

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 25 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*If Trump’s temper tantrums and juvenile calls for violence don’t turn off so many supporters that he becomes un-electable, then we Democrats have no hope. Now, as the NYT recounts, he’s been broadcasting threats of “potential death and destruction” if he’s indicted. What a crybaby! But the NY DA isn’t budging:

In an overnight social media post, former President Donald J. Trump predicted that “potential death and destruction” may result if, as expected, he is charged by the Manhattan district attorney in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The comments from Mr. Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Mr. Trump said would be unfounded.

“What kind of person,” Mr. Trump wrote of Mr. Bragg, “can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country?”

“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!” the former president wrote.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an email to his staff last week, Mr. Bragg wrote that the office “will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.”

“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he added.

In connection with this, I’ve been wondering how the prosecutors can know that an indictment is likely when that decision nearly always rests in the hands of the grand jury. A friend told me that the grand jury has the power to call witnesses, and they’ve been calling witnesses right up to the top of the heap: first former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and now Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran. Corcoran can, of course, plead the Fifth, but that’s usually seen as evidence of guilt (even though it shouldn’t be). I think that’s the sign of an impending indictment..

*India, often called “the world’s largest democracy,” is moving ever closer to autocracy as the Hinduphilic but popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi shuts down opposition and dissent. His latest move is unconscionable:  he has removed Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first prime minister) from Parliament. Gandhi was the leader of the opposition Congress Party and a vociferous critic of Modi. But there’s also a prison term involved for Gandhi—for nothing other than political criticism:

India’s top opposition leader and fierce critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expelled from Parliament Friday, a day after a court convicted him of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison for mocking the surname Modi in an election speech.

The actions against Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, were widely condemned by opponents of Modi as the latest assaults against democracy and free speech by a ruling government seeking to crush dissent. Removing Gandhi from politics delivered a major blow to the opposition party he led ahead of next year’s national elections.

A local court from Modi’s home state of Gujarat convicted Gandhi on Thursday for a 2019 speech in which he asked, “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” Gandhi then referred to three well-known and unrelated Modis in the speech: a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon, a cricket executive banned from the Indian Premier League tournament and the prime minister.

Under Indian law, a criminal conviction and prison sentence of two years or more are grounds for expulsion from Parliament, but Gandhi is out on bail for 30 days and plans to appeal.

Opposition lawmakers rallied to his defense on Friday, calling his expulsion a new low for India’s constitutional democracy.

. . . Modi’s critics say India’s democracy — the world’s largest with nearly 1.4 billion people — has been in retreat since he first came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of preoccupying itself with pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda, a charge his administration has denied.

“I am fighting for the voice of this country. I am ready to pay any price,” Gandhi, 52, wrote on Twitter.

Gandhi’s family, starting with his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, has produced three prime ministers. Two of them — his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father, Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated in office.

Gandhi has projected himself as the main challenger to the Modi government, but his Indian National Congress party has fared poorly during the last two general elections. He has been trying to woo voters in recent months by raising issues of corruption and accusing the Modi government of tarnishing India’s reputation for democracy.

In America, Gandhi’s mockery of the nation’s leader would be perfectly free speech, but not under Modi. Defamation and sedition have been revived by Modi as ways to silence his opponents, and newspapers are loath to print anything critical of the government or Modi himself. He is an awful leader, a theocrat well on the way to becoming an autocrat, and he needs to go. But that won’t happen because many Indians like him.

*Daniel Ellsberg, a hero to those of us in our youth for releasing the Pentagon Papers, has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He’s 91, and in the last months of his life gave an interview to Alex Kingsbury at the NYT. A couple Q&As:

Q. As you look around the world today, what scares you?

A. I’m leaving a world in terrible shape and terrible in all ways that I’ve tried to help make better during my years. President Biden is right when he says that this is the most dangerous time, with respect to nuclear war, since the Cuban missile crisis. That’s not the world I hoped to see in 2023. And that’s where it is. I also don’t think the world is going to deal with the climate crisis. We’ve known, since the 2016 Paris agreement and before, that the U.S. had to cut our emissions in half by 2030. That’s not going to happen.


Q. Robert McNamara, who was secretary of defense during the Cuban missile crisis, once said, “The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.” Why haven’t we seen nuclear weapons used since 1945?

A. We have seen nuclear weapons used many times. And they’re being used right now by both sides in Ukraine. They’re being used as threats, just as a bank robber uses a gun, even if he doesn’t pull the trigger. You’re lucky if you can get your way in some part without pulling the trigger. And we’ve done that dozens of times. But eventually, as any gambler knows, your luck runs out.

For 70 years, the U.S. has frequently made the kind of wrongful first-use threats of nuclear weapons that Putin is making now in Ukraine. We should never have done that, nor should Putin be doing it now. I’m worried that his monstrous threat of nuclear war to retain Russian control of Crimea is not a bluff. President Biden campaigned in 2020 on a promise to declare a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. He should keep that promise, and the world should demand the same commitment from Putin.


Q. How are you feeling?

A. Great. I was appreciating life even before the CT scan, and then a couple of weeks later had an M.R.I. and then an second CT and was told I have three to six months. It has been said that it’s good to live each day as though it were your last, but that’s not really practical. Living this month as though it is my last is working out very well for me, and I can recommend it. I thought it was pretentious to say publicly, you know, well, I have pancreatic cancer.

But my sons both thought I should share the news with friends, and that was also an opportunity to encourage them to continue the work for peace and care for the planet. As I said, my work of the past 40 years to avert the prospects of nuclear war has little to show for it. But I wanted to say that I could think of no better way to use my time and that as I face the end of my life, I feel joy and gratitude.

*Don’t miss Nellie Bowles’s weekly news summary at The Free Press this week called, “TGIF: Let them eat night cereal,” I’ll re-post three of her many items:

→ Night cereal: It’s hard that food corporations have only three meals a day to shovel corn and vegetable oil down our gullets. To solve for this, they have invented a new meal: bedtime cereal. “Post Consumer Brands is looking to help make your sleep dreams come true with Sweet Dreams—the first ready-to-eat cereal designed to be part of a healthy sleep routine,” the marketing copy reads. At 10 p.m., when you are watching YouTube, slack-jawed and looking like the peak of sleep hygiene, you might as well complete the scene with some Sweet Dreams Honey Moonglow.

In what can only be described as a hate crime against millennial women, they call the night cereal “self-care.” From that same press release: “ ‘More than ever, consumers are looking to embrace acts of self-care, particularly as it relates to bedtime routines and we believe a relaxing bedtime routine is key to a good night’s sleep,’ said Logan Sohn, Senior Brand Manager.” The worst part is that I ordered some.

→ Robin DiAngelo for segregation: The famous author of White Fragility has spent years arguing the case for racial segregation, but now people are starting to notice how creepy it is. Here’s this week’s installment from DiAngelo: “I’m a big believer in affinity space, in affinity work. I think people of color need to get away from white people and have some community with each other.” She’s asserting that it can be damaging for black people to be around white people all the time, especially during hard conversations. Reminder: DiAngelo is white. Imagine for a second that these exact words were said by a white conservative.

Anyway, Robin, just speaking Karen to Karen: if you’re gonna say things like that, you probably should give “people of color” a little space.

→ A large number of UN teachers celebrate genocide against Jews: Turns out, United Nations–funded schoolteachers around the Middle East (i.e., teachers we pay with our taxes) are super pro-genocide against Israelis. And quite open about it on social media. Here’s a great rundown of various cases from Hillel Neuer. It’s basically a bunch of UN staff teachers posting videos of Jews being slaughtered and then calling the killers heroes—also known as “just anti-Zionism.”

The UNRWA (United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), a branch of the UN, has effectively become a cheering squad for Hamas. And you are the one paying for them.

*This week’s edition of Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish is headlined “Culture war politics and the English Language” with the subtitle “Orwell and the mind-deadening neologisms of our time.” Now how could I not read something with that title? He begins with a reference to Orwell’s classic essay, which all readers here are expected to read (the link’s below and it’s free):

The relationship between language and politics — how each can inform or derange the other — was never better explored than in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” After reading these in my early teens, political writing became a vocational challenge of sorts to me. How to say things as clearly and honestly as Orwell? How to “let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about,” as he deftly put it?

Sully’s beef is about how the language involved in gender/sex activism is nebulous and variable among people, almost, he thinks, deliberately meant to make terms obscure (that was Orwell’s point):

. . . check out the new poll from the Washington Post yesterday, in which a big majority of transgender people do not consider themselves either a “trans man” or a “trans woman” at all. They prefer “nonbinary” and “gender-nonconforming” — and distance themselves from both sexes. Less than a third physically present as another sex “all the time.” The vast majority have no surgery at all.

Now read Masha Gessen’s recent interview with The New Yorker, and get even more confused. Gessen denies that transness is one thing at all. S/he says it’s a different thing now than it was a decade ago, and that “being transgender in a society that understands that some people are transgender is fundamentally different from being transgender in a society that doesn’t understand.”

S/he says that there are “different ideas about transness within the trans community … probably different trans communities.” S/he denies a “single-true-self narrative” as some kind of anchor for identity. S/he believes that transitioning can be done many times, back and forth: “Some people transition more than once. Some people transition from female to male, and then transition from male to female, and then maybe transition again.”

If gender is entirely a social construct, with no biological character, why do transgender people want hormones — an entirely biological intervention? Because “being trans is not a medical condition, but it marries you for life to the medical system.” Huh? By the end of the interview, you get the feeling that trans is whatever Gessen bloody well wants it to be, and yet at the same time it remains beyond interrogation.

In this gnostic universe, there is nothing “natural” about the human body, because nature itself is a social construction. It is a mere playground for the psyche to use and tweak, mix and match, subvert and shock.

He will get in trouble for stuff like this, but of course he’s never bridled at that possibility, and I admire him for it. A bit more:

And remember that the “+” in “LGBTQIA2S+” is utterly open-ended. Who knows what the “+” will reveal next? The consonants will keep coming, and you’ll be a bigot if you don’t keep up. Already, there is “aliagender” — “a nonbinary gender identity that doesn’t fit into existing gender schemas or constructs”; there’s “gendervoid” — “a term that describes someone without a gender identity”; and there’s “novigender” — “having a gender that can’t be described using existing language due to its complex and unique nature.” Like being a tree or a fish, I suppose. Notice, as Orwell did, that using Latinate phrases helps lend the meaningless an air of faux authority.

There will never be an end to all the oppressions, just as there will never be an end to all the nonsense genders. This is a machine for endless social revolution, not a one-off change to accommodate and protect a discrete, tiny minority. That’s why it is not a logical consequence of the marriage equality movement, as some conservative writers have claimed. It is, in fact, a riposte to the whole idea of it, which is why its leader, Chase Strangio, has described marriage equality as furthering an “inherently violent institution” and causing “significant harm” to society as a whole.

. . .The language is being re-written in order to make actual, informed debate harder and harder; to obfuscate and numb. In the face of all the neologisms, euphemisms and deceptions coming at you, I can only offer you Orwell’s admonition: “The worst thing one can do with words is to surrender to them.”

That’s why Hitchens called his book on the author Why Orwell Matters. His essay on the English language is pretty timeless.  And Chase Strangio is an embarrassment to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, editor Hili is really critical of Andrzej! (I took the photo.)

Hili: I don’t think that what you write is especially important.
A: The issue interests me so I’m trying to organize my thoughts.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Nie sądzę, żeby to co piszesz było specjalnie ważne.
Ja: Dla mnie sprawa jest ciekawa, więc próbuję uporządkować myśli.
(Zdjęcie J.A.C.)


I heard from reader Lou Jost, who, along with the EcoMinga Foundation, is saving the Ecuadorian rainforest and its species (including the rare Atelopus coynei) in Ecuador. He sent a page from a children’s book aimed at helping kids appreciate biodiversity:

Here is the book page with your frog, It’s not a coloring book but rather a book with paste-in photos that kids are supposed to collect and put in the book where there are spaces for different species and reading material about the species. The page with your frogs is a “Spot-the-__” for kids.
And MY FROG, which I’ve circled:

More from Lou:

I also attach a picture of the new city government truck, completely devoted to advertising our [EcoMinga’s]Dracula Reserve where your frog lives. It seems your frog is not among the ones painted on the vehicle, but it is still neat. Amazing that the local government is so supportive of the reserve! This is due largely to Tulcan’s wondeful mayor Cristian Benavides (and his staff member Gabriela Puetate, who previously was part of EcoMinga).

Click screenshot to go to original species description of MY FROG (be sure to read the part about how it got its name). Ken Miyata was my closest friend in grad school, but drowned in a fishing accident a few years after he graduated.

Isn’t the frog (below) lovely? (I’m self-aggrandizing today.) It appears to be hanging on in the area where it was first found, but Lou reports that there’s a pretty good crop of this frog in the Dracula reserve that EcoMinga has acquired. Photo by Jordy Salazar:

Two memes from Nicole:

A tweet from Masih; a revolution in Iran is still brewing. Sound up:

From Barry, who says it took him too long to get the reference. I’m not sure I do even now unless the water’s supposed to shake when there’s a dinosaur stomping nearby.

From Simon, a great headline:

From Malcolm:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed on arrival at the age of ten:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. I’ve shown this first one recently, but I do love it. It’s a women helping her cat to chatter (I call it “machine-gunning,” and we still don’t know why they do it:

Another cat post, with weird medieval cat stuff going on. Note again that the cat is poorly drawn, looking like a human:

Is this for real? They’re too good!

Friday: Hili dialogue

March 24, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Friday, March 24, 2023, and National Cake Pop Day. I don’t know who invented this faux dessert, but I eschew it.

It’s also National Cheesesteak Day (one of America’s finest sandwiches), National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day (when I was a kid we’d call them “rabbit turds”), National Cocktail Day, International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, and World Tuberculosis Day.

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

There’s a Google Doodle today (click to go to source) honoring stuntwoman and racer Kitty O’Neil‘s 77th birthday (she died in 2018), who until 2019 was the fastest woman in the world, having set a land speed record in 1976 of 621 miles per hour (999 km/h).

Da Nooz:

*The New York grand jury weighing whether to indict Trump for paying hush money to keep Stormy Daniels mum will not convene tomorrow, so that pushes the earliest possible indictment (if the man is indicted) until Monday, when they meet again.

The grand jury hearing evidence about Mr. Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star typically does not consider the case on Thursdays and does not meet on Fridays, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has been questioning witnesses about the role Mr. Trump played in the payment to the porn star, Stormy Daniels, and there have been several signals that the prosecutors are nearing an indictment. Still, the exact timing of any charges remains unknown.

Although the special grand jury hearing evidence about Mr. Trump meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it typically does not hear evidence about the Trump case on Thursdays, according to the person with knowledge of the matter. Special grand juries, which unlike regular grand juries sit for months at a time and hear complex cases, routinely consider several cases simultaneously.

None of the witnesses relevant to the hush-money matter have been seen going into the building where the jury sits on Thursdays. And what may appear to outside observers to be wild swings in the momentum of the investigation are most likely the routine stop and start of the New York grand jury process, either because of scheduling conflicts or other unexpected interruptions.

I still want to know what the signals are that the prosecution is “nearing an indictment” given that the grand jury has to vote to indict Trump by at least 12 of its 23 members. Another development is that House Republicans have demanded that the DA of this case surrender documents and testimony, but the DA refused.

*The issue of trans prisoners and jails has spread to Ireland, according to the Spectator,  Get the name: Barbie Kardashian! (h/t: Jez)

Barbie Kardashian, whose birth name was Gabrielle Alejandro Gentile, is a violent man who identifies as a woman. Last week he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail – a women’s jail – for threatening to torture, rape and murder his own mother. He is, as the journalist who cornered [Taoiseach/Prime Minister] Varadkar put it, ‘a violent biological male with a penis’.

So what was Varadkar’s answer to this easiest of questions? This was a straightforward query as to whether a person who was born male and has male genitalia and who issues violent threats against women is, as he claims, a woman. It wasn’t ‘No’. It wasn’t ‘Yes’, either. The questions seems to have stumped Ireland’s leader, which is bizarre given he studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Varadkar answered with a short, awkward silence followed by this statement: ‘Well, look, I, I, I, I don’t, I actually don’t know anything about the case yet, I saw, I first saw it reported at the weekend, erm, and, and, I’m going to have look into it.’

Look into it? All the facts were right there in front of him. The journalist laid them out. What’s more, if Varadkar had already heard about the case, at the weekend, that means he had plenty of time to come to the same conclusion that every other rational person in Ireland has come to: that this man is a man. That this biological male, who made vile threats against his own mum, is a bloke. And, furthermore, that he has absolutely no place in a women’s prison. Varadkar’s shirking of reason – presumably because he’s terrified of being targeted by hardline trans activists – was an embarrassment. He let down the women of Ireland. This is his Sturgeon moment.

My only beef with the reporter is the word “presumably”. Of course Varadkar waffled because he’s afraid of trans activists. And yes, it is a man who identifies as a woman—and has no place (especially given his crimes) in a women’s prison.

*Remember how, when the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, they promised that women would get the same opportunities for education as men? At the time you didn’t have to have a lot of neurons to know it’s a lie, but now the extent of the lie is documented by Shabana Basij-Rasikh in a WaPo op-ed. It’s distressing:

March 23rd marks one year since the Taliban decreed that Afghan girls don’t need to be educated past sixth grade. One year since they closed the doors of schools in the faces of an estimated 3 million girls, though of course these girls have been out of school much longer than that, really ever since the Taliban took power.

In 2001, when the Taliban’s first regime fell, there was officially not a single girl in elementary school and only a handful in secondary school — that’s in the entire nation of Afghanistan. Less than 20 years later, we had 3.6 million girls enrolled in primary and secondary school, and around 90,000 in higher education.Here are the data:

All of it is gone. Live in silence now behind the walls of your home, the Taliban say to women and girls. Live a ghost life.

This girl, like every Afghan girl who refuses to give up on her education, had two choices: go overseas or go underground. Become a refugee from Afghanistan or, effectively, become a criminal within Afghanistan. Pursue the limited educational opportunities open to refugees, or pursue them in our homeland and hope the Taliban never find out.

This girl and her family chose the former.

In Kabul and across Afghanistan, the secret schools are opening again, with girls coming to learn from women who may never have been teachers before, but who now quite literally risk their lives to beat the darkness back.

It can feel distant to a global audience, the struggle of Afghan girls. It can be easy for policymakers and private citizens to want to look elsewhere, or to want to focus on the perceived political gains or risks of reminding voters of the horror of Kabul’s fall in August 2021. Or to simply imagine that the problem is too intractable, the need too great, the damage too deep, the Taliban simply too immune to the pressure of global public protest.

I wish that more Western feminists, or liberals in general would protest this kind of discrimination. Some don’t know about it, others don’t care, and still other ignore it because Muslims, after all, are people of color. But there’s no doubt that some of the world’s worst treatment of women take place in Muslim-majority countries. The best way to keep women down is to deny them an education while at the same time urging them to breed.

*At last. a decision based on data rather than ideology: World Athletics (the body governing international track and field events) has banned trangender women from competing against biological women in “female” sports events. Until we have data contravening the present data, which is that if a man transitions after initiating or competing puberty, he has an average advantage over biological women in nearly any sport.   (h/t: Athayde)

The governing body’s president, Lord Coe, said no transgender athlete who had gone through male puberty would be permitted to compete in female world ranking competitions from 31 March.

A working group will be set up to conduct further research into the transgender eligibility guidelines.

“We’re not saying no forever,” he said.

Under previous rules, World Athletics required transgender women to reduce their amount of blood testosterone to a maximum of 5nmol/L, and stay under this threshold continuously for a period of 12 months before competing in the female category.

Lord Coe added the decision was “guided by the overarching principle which is to protect the female category”.

He noted that there are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in the sport.

The World Athletics Council also voted to reduce the amount of blood testosterone permitted for athletes with differences in sex development (DSD), such as South Africa’s Caster Semenya.

DSD athletes will be required to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 2.5 nanomoles per litre, down from five, and must remain under this threshold for two years in order to compete internationally in the female category in any track and field event.

I’m not sure, though, whether the 2.5 nanomole/l titer is sufficient to “level the playing field” for athletes who have gone through male puberty. I know of no data showing this, so it may be a ill-advised judgement call.

Here’s one other and older solution—for swimming:

In June 2022, Lord Coe welcomed the move by Fina – swimming’s world governing body – to stop transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they had gone through any part of the process of male puberty, insisting “fairness is non-negotiable”.

Fina’s decision followed a report by a taskforce of leading figures from the world of medicine, law and sport that said going through male puberty meant transgender women retained a “relative performance advantage over biological females”, even after medication to reduce testosterone.

Fina also aimed to establish an ‘open’ category at competitions, for swimmers whose gender identity is different than their sex observed at birth.

The Wall Street Journal has a related story with some added information.

*A captive bear prone to flying the coop has been moved to a zoo with tighter security measures. The AP reports:

An escape-artist bear from Missouri is headed to a Texas zoo with a moat in hopes that it will put an end to his wandering.

The St. Louis Zoo cited the “specific and unique personality” of the Andean bear named Ben in announcing the move Tuesday. His soon-to-be home at the Gladys Porter Zoo near South Padre Island in Brownsville, Texas, has a long history of working with Andean bears. But it’s still adding some extra security measures.

“We’re confident it’s going to be good for Ben,” said Walter Dupree, the Texas zoo’s curator of mammals.

Ben gained notoriety in February by busting out of his habitat twice.

The first time, the 4-year-old, 280-pound (127-kilogram) bear tore apart clips that attached stainless steel mesh to the frame of a door. But he was recaptured before the zoo opened for the day.

Zoo workers then added zip tie-like attachments made of stainless steel that had 450 pounds (204 kilograms) of tensile strength. But Ben managed to escape through those about two weeks later. The zoo was open this time, but he was captured less than an hour later on a public path.

Ben now lives in a nonpublic area of the St. Louis Zoo, where he can move indoors and out — and even splash in a pool — while he awaits his move.

“He’s so fun, he’s so playful — we would love to be able to keep him here,” said Regina Mossotti, the St. Louis Zoo’s vice president of animal care.

Here’s Ben with the AP’s caption; isn’t he adorable?

This 2021 photo provided by the St. Louis Zoo shows the zoo’s Andean bear named Ben. . . the escape-artist bear from Missouri is headed to a Texas zoo with a moat in hopes it will put an end to his wandering. (JoEllen Toler/St. Louis Zoo via AP, File)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili is inspecting the workers for Listy (photo is mine):

Hili: The keyboard is dirty again.
I will clean it in the evening when I switch off the computer.
(Photo: J.A.C)
In Polish:
Hili: Znowu brudna klawiatura.
Ja: Wyczyszczę wieczorem, jak zgaszę komputer.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

And a picture of Szaron taken by Andrzej:


From Richard (I’ve never been to an Ikea, but I presume the exit is hard to find):

From Barry (note that Greta Thunberg just got an honorary theology degree from the University of Helsinki).

From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:

From Maish, with the Farsi translation (sound up):

Elaha Tavaklian, a protester who was injured by a bullet in the eye area, has published a video of herself before surgery in Italy. She is hospitalized in Italy to remove the bullet that entered his head through her eye.

In this video, #Elaha_Tokalian says that silence in front of the unjustly shed blood is treason, because those who remain silent see the suffering of young people and the lives lost. #Mehsa Amini

Some geographical trivia from Malcolm:

From Gravelinspector. This is just WRONG!:

From Barry: Ain’t nature wonderful?

From the Auschwitz Memorial, the family gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first is a couple of seniors dancing to “In The Mood” and “Rock Around the Clock”, two hits from different generations.

How wonderful! Sound up:

A Tasmanian Devil does a U-turn:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 23, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Thursday, March 23, 2023: National Chips and Dip Day.  Would you choose ruffled potato chips and onion dip, or tortilla chips and guacamole? It’s a hard choice:

I have had NO sleep in the last two nights despite being in bed, and four hours three nights ago. Given that, you’ll be lucky to get anything coherent today.

It’s also Chia Day, National Melba Toast Day, National Tamale Day, Cuddly Kitten Day, World Meteorological Day, the Ahmadiyya Muslim holiday of Promised Messiah Day, and the beginning of Ramadan, which will last a month.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 23 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*There will be no indictment of Trump on the day I write this (Wednesday afternoon), as the New York grand jury is not meeting today. For an indictment to come down, the grand jury has to vote for it. There must be indications that it will, because how else could the NYT say that the prosecution considers an indictment for the Stormy Daniels hush-money affair is “likely”.

Criminal charges against Mr. Trump have been hotly anticipated since at least Saturday, when the former president, with no direct knowledge, declared on his social media platform that he would be arrested on Tuesday. But the grand jury, which meets in the afternoons, heard from a witness on Monday until nearly 5 p.m., leaving little time for anything else.

The grand jury meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and may hear from at least one more witness before being asked to vote, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Because the proceeding is held in secret, it is unclear whether other witnesses could appear as well.

There was no indication as to why the grand jury was not meeting on Wednesday, but the panel is not required to convene all three days each week, and scheduling conflicts and other interruptions are not unusual.

. . . While an indictment of Mr. Trump is not a certainty, prosecutors working for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, have signaled that charges are likely. They have been scrutinizing Mr. Trump for the hush-money payment that was made by his former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Okay, how do they know that? A majority of the 23 members of the grand jury have to vote for an indictment to make one materialize. The link to the “charges are likely” bit above just says that an offer of a potential defendant to testify before the grand jury—an offer that was made to Trump—doesn’t usually happen unless “an indictment is close.” I suppose t0morrow (Friday) would be the earliest we’d get an indictment.

*Freudianism is back! Or so the NYT says in a news piece called  “Not your daddy’s Freud.” I’ve always thought, thanks largely to the work and writing of my friend Fred Crews, America’s foremost Freud critic (do read his book Freud: The Making of an Illusion), that Freud is a fraud and that there’s no “there” in either his theories or the therapeutic method based on them. Recently psychoanalysis has waned, largely because few can afford the time and $$ for psychoanalysis (a typical one is said to last 3-7 years, with several sessions per week), but now this pseudoscience is baaaaack!:

Around the country, on divans and in training institutes, on Instagram meme accounts and in small magazines, young (or at least young-ish) people are rediscovering the talking cure, along with the ideas of the Viennese doctor who developed it at the turn of the 20th century.

After several decades at the margins of American healthcare — and 100 years after he published his last major theoretical work — Sigmund Freud is enjoying something of a comeback.

Look and listen carefully these days, and you’ll find Herr Doktor. For instance, the Instagram account freud.intensifies has more than a million followers and posts memes like a portrait of Freud overlaid with the text “Every time you call your boyfriend ‘Daddy,’ Sigmund Freud’s ghost becomes a little stronger.” In an April 2022 TikTok, which has been watched nearly five million times, a young man extols Freud: “Fast forward a hundred years, and he ain’t miss yet!”

The magazine Parapraxis, which was started last year to “inquire into and uncover the psychosocial dimension of our lives,” has attracted a progressive “new psychoanalysis crowd.” The forthcoming film “Freud’s Last Session,” starring Anthony Hopkins, is currently filming in a reconstruction of Freud’s famous Hampstead study, complete with antiquities. The Showtime series “Couples Therapy” documents several patients who see Orna Guralnik, a New York psychoanalyst and psychologist. “Know Your Enemy,” an au courant lefty podcast, has devoted multiple episodes to discussions of Freud, who has become a frequent topic of conversation among the show’s hosts.

. . . several prominent training institutes say applications are on the rise. And the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) says the number of sessions performed by its in-house clinic has roughly doubled since 2017, a sign that more people are seeking analytic treatment.

Remember that not every “talking cure” is psychoanalysis, and some of them, like cognitive behavioral therapy, actually have been shown to work (psychoanalysis hasn’t been shown to work save to enrich the analysts). Fred, former chair of English at UC Berkeley, is quoted in the article, but I prevailed upon him to say a few extra words about the piece, and here they are:

When the Times’s journalist phoned me to get my reaction to the developments he would cover in this article, I said I’ve been mainly concerned with the empirical standing of Freud’s ideas. A resurgence of allegedly Freudian psychotherapy, I mentioned, can have no bearing on the truth or falsity of Freud’s misty doctrine, because:

    1. Cultural popularity doesn’t amount to validation.
    2. Virtually all invoked theories “work” in therapy, including patently false ones. [JAC: This is probably the placebo effect]
    3. Freud’s role in modern analysis is largely honorific, imposing no constraints.

But the Times’s article––a deft summation––proved to be suggestive on other grounds. If the quoted revivers are typical, we could infer the following points among others:

    1. Today’s Freudians don’t care about either scientific accuracy or mental illness.
    2. There is little or no interest in the historical Freud. It suffices that he can be enlisted as a counter-authority to SSRIs [serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors: a type of antidepressant] and CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy].
    3. To engage in psychoanalysis, ether as a patient or as a therapist, is now a “lifestyle” matter.

In Freud: The Making of an Illusion, I traced the founder’s gradual abandonment of empirical rationality. In doing so, I never doubted that empirical rationality itself is consensually valued. But is it? I’m not so sure anymore.

*Is Alice Walker a “teflon icon”? It would seem so, at least according to an article in Out magazine.  As I reported in 2018, the beloved author of The Color Purple and a black literary icon, has a darker side: she believes in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories  that even involve Illuminati and evil Jewish lizard people who control the world. Rarely has Walker been called out for this, and even now, as the Out article reports, her taking the side of J. K. Rowling (a much better position that accepting reptilian Jews) has not led to Walker being criticized, perhaps because she’s a person of color. Walker seemingly immune to all criticism.

The Color Purple author Alice Walker is taking the defensive when it comes to controversial Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

Walker, once best known for her novel The Color Purple, has more recently been known for supporting anti-semetic  [sic] conspiracy theories and now, is joining in on TERF conspiracy theories, saying that J.K. Rowling is right, and trans people exist because we use the word “guy” in a gender-neutral way.

Walker did all of this in an essay on her website, where she chimed in on the new podcast The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.

Early in the essay, she compares Rowling being criticized for her well-doucmented transphobia and anti-semitism to gay people being burned alive. “The women who were burned were sometimes bound atop a pile of ‘kindling’ that was also human: called ‘faggots.’ From which the slur ‘fag derives,” she writes, immediately before talking about Rowling as a modern victim of “witch hunts.”

She then writes that “there is no ‘right witch’ to burn” and that by attacking Rowling, we are falling victim to a “sinister” movement to “erase” the word woman from language.

Then, Walker goes full TERF, implying that gender-neutral language is responsible for “gender confusion” in children.

Now Rowling is depicted as part of an anti-Semitic group in the magazine article, which clearly is on the side of calling Rowling “transphobic,” but the point is Walker’s defense of Rowling, which would get any famous woman in deep trouble, has barely been mentioned in the media. She does seem like a Teflon icon. Who else could keep their reputation intact despite believing in evil Jewish lizard people AND the sentiments of J. K. Rowling about transgender people?

*This is way cool, a new study published in the journal Current Biology sequenced much of Beethoven’s genome in an attempt to understand his well-known maladies, which include gastrointestinal troubles, liver problems, and, of course, his well-known deafness, which began in his 20s. According to the paper and an article in the Washington Post, they got the DNA from five independent locks of Beethoven’s hair, which matched perfectly and had the profile of a European (in addition to the attestation that they came from Beethoven).  The background and upshot:

The central ailmentof Beethoven’s life was his hearing loss, which began in his mid-20s. He also suffered from debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms and attacks of jaundice. An autopsy revealed that he had cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis and a swollen spleen. Medical biographers have debated what killed him at the age of 56 and whether his liver disease was the result of excessive drinking or some other cause.

The scientists studying his DNA did not discover a clear explanation for Beethoven’s deafness. But they identified genetic risk factors for liver disease, andthey found signs he had a hepatitis B infection that could have contributed to his cirrhosis. They also found evidence that one of Beethoven’s relatively recent ancestors had a child with someone other than their spouse.

. . .Beethoven’s fame during his lifetime presented researchers with an opportunity: relatively easy access to many sources of putative DNA. Friends and admirers famously kept locks of his hair as mementos, many of which have been preserved over the years by private collectors and museums.

But first, they had to prove the hair came from Beethoven, a feat the composer himself made more challenging. The year before Beethoven died, the wife of a colleague earnestly wanted a lock of his hair, but shebecame the victim of a prank. Beethoven and his secretary instead sent a coarse snip of a goat’s beard, similar in texture and color to his own curls.

. . .Because the DNA in the strands of hair was degraded, the scientists were able to reconstruct only about two-thirds of Beethoven’s genome. When they scoured that DNA looking for purelyhereditary causes of illness, they did not find any. They then used “polygenic risk scores,” which examine the risk for diseases that may have a genetic contribution but can also have environmental causes.

They did not find any clear elevated risk signals for hearing loss or a number of gastrointestinal illnesses, but they did find that he had a higher propensity for liver disease. The team also found genetic material from the hepatitis B virus, though it’s unclear whether the disease was chronic or a recent infection.

They managed to cover 2/3 of Beethoven’s genome, and the match among samples makes it pretty sure, though not certain, that it was his hair. Now they should try to use the DNA to reconstruct what he looked like. They could also look at his GWAS scores for academic achievement!

*And I can’t pass up this article from the Wall Street Journal, which is a must-read based on its title alone: “MIT scientists twist apart more than 1,000 Oreos in search of the perfect method.” My first thought was, “Wait a minute. YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TWIST OREOS APART!” I know there are some miscreants who like to separate Oreos and scrape off the “cream” filling with their teeth, but that’s just wrong. The proper way to eat Oreos is with a tall glass of cold milk, and you dunk the Oreos into the milk to soften half of one slightly. You eat the soggy half, then eat the undipped half while drinking the milk. Am I right?

But if you must separate and scrape (realizing that the filling contains sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, and palm and/or canola oil), here’s what SCIENCE says, as conveyed by Michelle Deignan, vice president of Oreo in the U.S.:

In a recent study, they glued Oreos of various flavors to the rheometer, then twisted them at different speeds. Materials with similar mechanical properties to Oreo creme—toothpaste, yogurt, ice cream—split down the middle when subjected to enough torsion, Ms. Owens said.

After putting more than 1,000 Oreos to the test, the researchers discovered that the fickle filling stuck to just one wafer about 80% of the time.

. . .And the speed of the twisting didn’t matter. Even at the rheometer’s slowest twisting speed, which took about five minutes to separate the halves, the creme stayed on one side. At the maximum speed—about 100 times faster than a person can twist—the creme flew off both halves, Ms. Owens said.

“We also tested the cookies by hand—twisting, peeling, pressing, sliding and doing other basic motions to get an Oreo apart,” she said. “There was no combination of anything that we could do by hand or in the rheometer that changed anything in our results.”

That suggests the creme is stronger than it is sticky, so is more likely to stay together than adhere to the wafer.

She and her colleagues published their findings last April in the peer-reviewed journal Physics of Fluids.

However, European Oreos were different, with the filling dividing between the wafers most of the time, perhaps due to a different manufacturing process.

The lesson: There’s not one, but the article does show two good new ways to eat Oreos. I like the straw method!


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is all over Andrzej at work (I took the photo!)

A: You are disturbing me a bit.
Hili: Think nothing about it.
(Picture: J.A.C.)
In Polish:
Ja: Trochę mi przeszkadzasz.
Hili: Nic nie szkodzi.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

And we have a photo of Baby Kulka with the caption, “Morning world news review.”  (In Polish: “Poranny przegląd wiadomości ze świata.”)


From Merilee:

From America’s Cultural Decline in to Idiocy:

From Nicole:

Lagniappe: A friend of mine was doing some lobbying in Congress this week, and took this photo from outside the office of GOP wacko Marjorie Taylor Greene (he was lobbying Ayanna Pressley, whose office is across the hall). Greene’s sign, of course, is not there to convey a biology lesson, but she gets it wrong anyway, because “male and “female” refer to the sexes, not to gender. “Trust the science”, indeed, but get the science right, Congresswoman Greene!

From Masih. Read the whole text: these women got four years in prison for doffing their hijabs and handing out flowers in the subway in Tehran. Sound up.

From Malcolm. I’m surprised this woman is so outspoken on Russian television, but, after all, she’s 92. Sound up.

From Merilee: Cat makes biscuits on sheep, finds wooly couch to its liking:

From Barry, we get what’s known as a “groaner”.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, another child gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from the estimable professor Cobb. First, interspecies love (one of Grania’s favorite topics):

You can read about this butterfly here; it’s from New World tropical forests:

I’m sure I posted this before but there’s no harm in seeing it again. By the way, two mallards, a drake and a hen, were wandering around Botany Pond today. It was very sad.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s a Hump Day (“კეხის დღე” in Georgian), Wednesday, March 22, 2023, and World Water Day  Don’t forget to have your eight glasses today, or suckle on your personal water bottle (not really, as that’s bunk: doctors now say just drink when you’re thirsty unless you have a condition that requires you to drink often.

It’s also National Bavarian Crêpes Day, National Red Cross Giving Day, and International Day of the Seal. Here is a tweet from Dom and then two seal photos I took, the first at a market in the Galápagos and the second in Antarctica. The first is actually a sea lion because it has external ear flaps.

And there’s an animated mime in honor of the 100th birthday of Marcel Marceau. Sadly, I dislike mimes, and he was the model for them all. But to his credit, Marceau worked closely with the French Resistance during WWII and saved many Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis.

Click on gif to go to page:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 22 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*As I write this at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Trump has not yet been indicted, but there are two articles to read about this. The first is at the NYT: “How an indictment and arrest of Donal Trump could unfold,” Now it says that an indictment could come as early as Wednesday (Trump himself said Tuesday). The unknowns include whether the grand jury will vote on a charge, how security will work if Trump is arrested (the Secret Service has to be there at all times), and how Republicans will react (DeSantis has already condemned the Manhattan D.A.)

The other piece is at PoliticoStop overthinking it: an indictment would be bad for Trump.” I would have thought that was self-evident, but apparently lots of people think it would energize his base. Not Alexander Burns.

My colleagues David Siders and Adam Wren reported that Republicans expect Trump to get a short-term boost from the indictment because it will energize his core supporters. That is probably true.

But those supporters are a minority of the country, as Republicans have learned the hard way several times over. Stimulating Trump’s personal following was not enough to save the House for his party in 2018 or to defend the White House and the Senate in 2020, or to summon a red wave in 2022.

Trump needs to grow his support, not merely rev up people who already care deeply about his every utterance and obsession. It is not likely that many Americans who are not already part of Trump’s base will be inspired to join it because they feel he is being mistreated by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

It is hard for a candidate to tell voters “I’m with you” when he is mainly consumed with narrow, personal complaints and crackpot conspiracy theories. Plenty of Americans can see themselves in an older white man scorned by liberals and the media for his crude manner and bigoted ideas. Fewer are likely to see themselves in a wealthy husband paying hush money to conceal his debauched sex life and whining about the unfairness of his circumstances in every public outing.

One can hope!

*The Presidents of China and Russia, Putin and Xi, had a meeting about Ukraine, but apparently not much happened. As the Washington Post reports, the two countries confirmed their mutual economic and political alliance, but there was no progress on China’s plan for peace in Ukraine, a plan that Zelensky has rejected:

Putin and Xi, in comments to reporters in Moscow, suggested no forward motion on China’s peace plan. That was expected, given that it did not address Russia’s continuing occupation of Ukrainian territory. The authoritarian leaders, positioned to rule for life, did not take questions.

Putin said much of China’s 12-point plan corresponds with Russia’s view and could form the basis of a future peace agreement, but only when Kyiv and the West were ready. “However, we are seeing no such readiness on their part,” he said.

In a joint statement, the leaders said Russia was willing to resume peace talks, as the Kremlin has been saying for months. Russian officials have said repeatedly that Ukraine must accept new political “realities,” suggesting they would stop the war only if Kyiv surrendered large swaths of sovereign territory and gave up on reclaiming Crimea, which Russia invaded in 2014 and has occupied since.

Xi said China has taken an unbiased position on the conflict based stands for peace and dialogue. “We are steadily guided by the goals and principles of the U.N. Charter,” the Chinese leader said. “We adhere to an objective and impartial position.”

Look at that euphemism: “new political realities” is code talk for “Putin’s decided he wants at least the eastern half of Ukraine.” As for being guided by the goals and principles of the U.N. Charter, well,

“the U.N. General Assembly voted 141-7 last month to demand Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine and adherence to the charter. China was among 32 nations that abstained.”

There’s no reason for Zelensky to accept this “new political reality”,  so any preace that involves the Ukraine giving up land appears, at least for now, untenable.

*Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is being given an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki. She may, at age 20, be the youngest person ever to get an honorary doctorate, but what I find amusing is that the doctorate is in theology. WHY IS THAT?

The Conferment Jubilee of the University of Helsinki commences on 20 March 2023 with the announcement of the University’s new honorary doctors. In the spring, the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Law will celebrate the conferral of degrees.

As per tradition, the title of doctor honoris causa, the University’s highest recognition, will be awarded, in connection with the conferment ceremonies, to several individuals. This year, a total of 30 distinguished individuals from around the world will be conferred as honorary doctors.

Faculty of Theology to confer eight honorary doctorates on 9 June 2023

Riho Altnurme, Professor of Church History, Vice-Dean for Research, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Tartu

Maria Immonen, MA, Director of the Department of World Service, Lutheran World Federation (LWF)

Mia Lövheim, Professor of the Sociology of Religion, Uppsala University

Greta Thunberg, activist

Munib Younan, Bishop Emeritus, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Former President of The Lutheran World Federation

Annabel Brett, Professor, Co-director of Cambridge Centre for Political Thought, University of Cambridge

Grace Davie, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Exeter

Philip Esler, Professor, Portland Chair in New Testament Studies, University of Gloucestershire

All of these have something to do with religion (Grace Davie is a sociologist of religion) except for La Thunberg. Is she religious? I don’t find that on the Internet. They could have given her a degree in philosophy instead.  On the other hand, maybe theology is a broader subject in a country where most people are atheists.

*On his own Substack site, Stephen Knight reports that “Richard Dawkins refuses to give an inch to the mob.” Is Richard the new J. K. Rowling? Knight first refers to this tweet that got Dawkins demonized for no good reason:

Knight adds:

This resulted in the usual chorus of online screeching from the Anime Avatar Army and the Pronoun Mafia. But what was especially disappointing was witnessing several American atheist and humanist organisations completely beclown themselves too. You would hope organisations that exist to defend open inquiry and critical thinking in the face of religious dogma would possess greater immunity to new-born faith-based movements. Sadly not it seems.

But Dawkins will not be silent!

Anyhow, fast forward a couple of years later and it’s wonderful to see this experience hasn’t weakened the professor’s grip on reality. He can be seen reiterating some basic scientific facts about sex and advocating for the crime of ‘discussion’ in this clip from Piers Morgan’s show:

Of course, this has once again triggered the very online gender ‘activists’. Which is fine. However it also appears one of the most vocal critics of Dawkins from within American atheist circles, Hemant Mehta has doubled down on his own unreason:


It’s not so great for Hemant to say that the assertion that there are two sexes in humans, which happens to be true, is the “wrong hill to die on.” But Hemant has chosen to die on the hill of political correctness, which he’s calculated brings him more followers, though I’m not one. Knight goes on:

To recap, the ‘hill’ that Richard Dawkins is choosing to ‘die on’ here is scientific fact and the unhinged idea that we should be able to discuss things. Richard Dawkins is 100% correct in his statements. His reasonable utterances annoy people like Hemant because Hemant has been captured by a new religion. Dawkins is guilty of heresy because nothing but unquestioning affirmation of the ‘correct thoughts’ (decided by Hemant) is acceptable. Hemant has become the sort of irrational zealot he has spent much of his time pushing back against. He seems perfectly capable of noticing the anti-scientific claims and intolerance of conservative Christians, but doesn’t have the self-awareness to recognise it in himself.

The continued demonisation of anyone that dares to espouse gender critical views (or simply just ask questions) wouldn’t be so bad were this issue purely an academic one. But it isn’t. This ideology is responsible for great harm in the real world. Right here, right now. Past, present and future.

Read the rest at Knight’s site.

*And there’s GOOD news tonight. Neuty the hand-raised Louisiana nutria can stay with his rescuers, despite there being a law against keeping neutrias as pets.

After much public outcry, state officials now say they will let a Louisiana couple keep a 22-pound nutria — a beady-eyed, orange-toothed, rat-tailed rodent commonly considered a wetlands-damaging pest — as a pet that frolics with their dog, snuggles in their arms and swims in the family pool.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, in a statement Friday, said Myra and Denny Lacoste are being allowed to apply for a permit so they can legally keep Neuty the Nutria in their New Orleans home, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. Montoucet said details of the permit are being finalized.

The announcement came after more than 17,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the state leave Neuty and his family alone.

“I think this is a good conclusion for all sides,” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet said.

The rodent has been living with the Lacostes for more than two years. The wildlife department initially said Thursday that it had arranged for the animal to be transported to the Baton Rouge Zoo, citing state law banning the ownership of a nutria, which is considered an invasive species. But after the response, the agency provided special conditions allowing the family to keep the nutria as a pet within the law, according to the newspaper.

I would have been ticked off had Louisiana not had a heart about this. In case you don’t know what neutrias (Myocastor coypus) are, they’re semi-aquatic rodents native to South America that have become (I have to use the word) invasive in the U.S. (they were introduced for fur farming but escaped) and are infamous for destroying wetlands and chewing human stuff. But Neuty wouldn’t do that!

Here’s Neuty with his human staff:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s unusually warm today (15° C):

A: What are you looking at?
Hili: I’m looking at global climate change.
In Polish:
Ja: Na co tak patrzysz?
Hili: Na globalne zmiany klimatyczne.

Meanwhile, Baby Kulka is getting juiced for warmer weather.

Caption: Kulka is feeling spring. (In Polish: “Kulka poczuła wiosnę.”)


From Cats, Beavers, and Ducks via Merilee. Can you spot the spotter? The caption is, “He sees you.”

A B. Kliban cartoon from Stash Krod:

From Richard. I find this hilarious, especially when you remember how you licked the frosting beater when you were a kid. It’s right on the money!

A tweet from Masih:

From Barry: A fish gets its revenge!

From Simon, who says, “I could have lived without the visual, but now I have to share this”:

From Malcolm; don’t ask me about the genetics (I think the blue eye might have been color enhanced):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed at 14:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a small carnivorous marsupial:

Here’s a photo of the beast above (source here):

Me too!

Crikey! And it was Nature that published the best scientifically based refutation of astrology (here).

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 21, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Tuesday, the Cruelest Day, March 21, 2023, and National Crunchy Taco Day (I prefer mine soft). It’s SPRING!!!!

It’s also National French Bread Day, National California Strawberry Day, International Day of Forests, World Down Syndrome Day, National Flower Day, National Healthy Fats Day, World Social Work Day, World Poetry Day, World Tattoo DayRosie the Riveter Day, celebrating the women workers of WWII (see below), and the Vernal equinox and related observances.

Reader Dom sent a tweet in honor of World Poetry Day:

Here’s the original “Rosie the Riveter” poster from 1942 by J. Howard Miller, whose model was long a subject of contention:

And a 1943 song about Rose the Smoothie. There’s an article in yesterday’s Washington Post about the identify of the real Rosie the Riveter—if there was one.

Now it’s most likely that the woman was modeled on Naomi Fern Parker Fraley (1921-2018), who worked assembling aircraft at the Naval Air Station Alameda. Here’s the photo of her at work that’s thought to have inspired Miller. The photo actually wasn’t popular or widespread during the war, but became an icon of the feminist movement in the early 1980s:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 21 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Will Donald Trump get indicted for the Stormy Daniels affair today? He thinks so, everybody else is mum. You might read the NYT’s op-ed, “Why charging Trump is required by law” (authors are NYU Law School professors Ryan Goodman and 

This case is just one of a few ongoing criminal investigations into Mr. Trump’s conduct — including potentially a much larger financial investigation by the Manhattan district attorney — and the hush money scheme is no doubt the least serious of the crimes. It does not involve insurrection and undermining the peaceful transfer of power fundamental to our democracy, nor the retention of highly classified documents and obstruction of a national security investigation.

But does that mean the Manhattan criminal case is an example of selective prosecution — in other words, going after a political enemy for a crime that no one else would be charged with? Not by a long shot. To begin with, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was instrumental in the scheme, has already pleaded guilty to a federal crime emanating from this conduct and served time for it and other crimes. Federal prosecutors told the court that Mr. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Mr. Trump (identified as “Individual 1”). It would be anathema to the rule of law not to prosecute the principal for the crime when a lower-level conspirator has been prosecuted.

*This surprised me. As you know, the French, who are more sensible about work vs. life than Americans, have had a mandatory retirement age of 62. Macron and his government wanted to raise that to 64 because of the sums of money involved in pensions for those in their early 60s, and that caused a fracas. You just can’t tell the French that they have to keep on working when they planned to take it easy at 62. There were demonstrations all over the country and a no-confidence vote looming in the National Assembly. This is Macron’s last term, but I predicted he wouldn’t survive the vote. He did, but it was a squeaker:

The French National Assembly rejected a no-confidence motion against the government of President Emmanuel Macron, ensuring that a fiercely contested bill raising the retirement age to 64 from 62 becomes the law of the land.

The motion received 278 votes, nine short of the 287 needed to pass. The close result reflected widespread anger at the overhaul to the pension law, at Mr. Macron for his apparent aloofness and at the way the measure was rammed through Parliament last week without a full vote on the bill itself. France’s upper house of Parliament, the Senate, passed the pension bill this month.

A second no-confidence motion, filed by the far-right National Rally, failed on Monday as well, with only 94 lawmakers voting in favor.

The change, which Mr. Macron has sought since the beginning of his first term in 2017, has provoked two months of demonstrations, intermittent strikes and occasional violence. It has split France, with polls consistently showing two-thirds of the population opposing the overhaul.

In the end, there were just enough votes from the center-right Republicans, who last year proposed raising the retirement age even higher, to 65, to salvage the law and the government led by Élisabeth Borne, the prime minister. The government would have fallen had the censure motion been upheld, obliging Mr. Macron either to name a new government or dissolve the National Assembly, or lower house, and call elections.

I don’t blame the French people for beefing, as they know how to enjoy life, looking upon workaholic Americans like me with disdain (when I did my two sabbaticals in France, I had to get building keys so I could go to the lab on weekends, where I was totally alone). To be told, when you’ve set your heart on moving to that vacation home at 62, that you have to work two more years, simply makes you think that you’re losing two years of relatively good and healthy life. But I don’t know whether the French budget can continue to sustain such luxury.

*If you think you can tell AI-generated prose, imagery, and photos from the human-crated products, take this quiz at the Washington Post. You see eight items, some of each class, and have to decide whether it was AI-generated or not. I did MISERABLY.  Here’s my score:

*I’m still following the case of Elizabeth Holmes, now 39, who was convicted of wire fraud in the Theranos start-up case and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. She was supposed to report to prison on April 27, with that grace period accommodating birth of her second child. Normally, if you are convicted and then appeal, as she’s doing, you have to wait out the appeals from prison. But Holme’s lawyers have asked that she remain free on appeal—appeals that could take years.

On Friday’s hearing in federal court in San Jose, Calif., Holmes and her lawyers asked Judge Edward Davila to delay that deadline until her appeal is concluded, a process that could take months.

Davila said he expected to issue a ruling in early April. The judge will also consider whether Holmes should pay restitution.

. . .Typically, once a person has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, they must pursue any appeals from prison. In order to be released on bail as an appeal is ongoing, a defendant has a high bar to clear.

In general, they must convince the court they are not a flight risk and that their appeal is serious — meaning that it will raise legitimate concerns with the previous trial that could substantially change the outcome.

As far as I’ve heard from lawyers, she doesn’t really have any “legitamite concerns” that could overturn the case, so she hasn’t cleared that bar. But as far as being a flight risk, yes, I think she is one, simply for the reason that she’s such an entitled person that I don’t think she can ever envision herself spending 11 years in jail (she won’t get much less than that even for good behavior). And there’s this:

[Prosecutors] pointed to a one-way plane ticket to Mexico booked by Holmes last year that was set to depart days after a jury found her guilty.

In response, Holmes’ lawyers explained that her partner had booked that ticket — “before the verdict and full of hope” that she would not be found guilty — in order to attend the wedding of close friends. The ticket was canceled after government lawyers objected, they said, adding that “Ms. Holmes has never attempted to flee.”

Well they sure had plans to go to Mexico, ON A ONE WAY TICKET! Can yu believe her lawyers on that point.  I still find it hard to believer that Ms. Holmes will ever spend a day in stir.

*Joe Biden has finally issued his first veto, but of course he really didn’t need to before the midterms since both houses of Congress were Democratic, Now the House is Republican, and he refused to rubber-stamp a bill:

 President Joe Biden issued the first veto of his presidency Monday in an early sign of shifting White House relations with the new Congress since Republicans took control in January. He’s seeking to kill a Republican measure that bans the government from considering environmental impacts or potential lawsuits when making investment decisions for Americans’ retirement plans.

It’s just the latest manifestation of the new relationship, and Biden is gearing up for even bigger fights with Republicans on government spending and raising the nation’s debt limit in the next few months.

. . .The measure vetoed by Biden ended a Trump-era ban on federal managers of retirement plans considering factors such as climate change, social impacts or pending lawsuits when making investment choices. Because suits and climate change have financial repercussions, administration officials argue that the investment limits are courting possible disaster.

Critics say environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments allocate money based on political agendas, such as a drive against climate change, rather than on earning the best returns for savers. Republicans in Congress who pushed the measure to overturn the Labor Department’s action argue ESG is just the latest example of the world trying to get “woke.”

But for Biden to veto a bill, it has to pass both the House and Senate. And it apparently did:

Only two Democrats in the Senate voted for the investment limits, making it unlikely that backers of a potential veto-override effort in Congress could reach the two-thirds majority required in each chamber.

If two Democrats joined the 49 Senate Republicans in voting for the bill, that would have made it pass by 51-49, hence the advance of the bill to Biden’s desk. But for sure the Senate won’t vote to override the veto.

*And for the local gossip, we have Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he’s getting married again—for the fifth time—at age 92. If you want dough, it’s a good move to marry someone that old who’s filthy rich (he’s worth about $17 billion).

Rupert Murdoch, four times married and divorced at 92, isn’t letting age or previous marital experience stand in the way of a fresh start. The billionaire media baron said he plans to marry a fifth time.

Murdoch announced he is engaged once again, this time to Ann Lesley Smith, 66, a former model, singer-songwriter, radio talk-show host, and police chaplain in San Francisco. The couple met last year.

Murdoch is fresh off his divorce from Jerry Hall, the model and actress he married in 2016. Murdoch divorced Hall, the mother of four of Mick Jagger’s children, last year.

Murdoch broke the news of his engagement in the New York Post, the tabloid that helped launch his foray into the American and global media market when the Australian immigrant bought it in 1976. Murdoch-led companies have since founded or acquired the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins book publishers, among dozens of other properties.

“I was very nervous,” Murdoch told Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams (herself 92 years old) of his budding relationship with Smith. “I dreaded falling in love — but I knew this would be my last. It better be. I’m happy.”

Well, Jerry Hall, his previous wife (and former wife of Mick Jagger) did love him, as she said she was “heartbroken” after Murdoch dumped her—by email. Here’s the old happy couple (Murdoch + Hall) from the WaPo (their caption):

Rupert Murdoch and then-wife Jerry Hall in 2019; the media baron, 92, is engaged to Ann Lesley Smith, 66. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Love at 92! There’s hope for me yet.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili gets a physics lesson:

Hili: My shadow is bigger than I am.
A: That’s because the sun is still low.
In Polish:
Hili: Mój cień jest większy ode mnie.
Ja: Bo słońce jest jeszcze nisko.

And a photo of Baby Kulka with some new flowers:


I found this on Facebook from the Meriden Humane Society; it’s a Lucas Turnbloom cartoon:

From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih; here’s the Google Farsi translation:

This is Mashhad. When I boarded the bus, this lady started disrespecting me and hitting on me…” It is interesting that these women with open mouths talk about the killed women of the Iranian revolution in such a shameless manner. The bitter irony of these times is that these lampoons claim to defend values and morals and accuse other women of indecency and indecency because of a few hairs.

Apparently the video was taken by a woman who wasn’t wearing her hijab, or wasn’t wearing it properly. Sound up.

From Frits, who says, ”

Fascinating tweet here, in case you didn’t see it yet. Firstly, the way the goat tries to save its life from the eagle (?) by tumbling down the precipice.  But perhaps even more amazing: what is that second goat doing? Ready to help the  victim? Parent instinct? No bystander effect as someone (me actually) says in the comments. Or is it  a sadist who wants to watch? 

From Simon: a sneaky cat!

From Barry, a human tiger. I think I’ve showed this before, and know that the artist does similar things with other animals, but I can’t remember who he is. Regardless, it’s amazing:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, the death of a 32 year old man:

Tweets from Matthew. I don’t know this species of duck, but look at the little ones scrambling to keep up:

Apparently the language areas of the brain of humans and chimps are similar. When I asked Matthew what the chimp area was used for, he said “Ooh ooh ooh aah ahh ahh ooh.”

Clouds on Mars!