Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 16, 2023 • 5:09 am
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is watching things:
Jerry: What do you see there?
Hili: Flying delicacies.
(Photo: JAC)
Jerry: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Fruwające delikatesy.
(Zdjęcie J.A.C.)
Two of Matthew’s cats, Pepper and Harry, have been similarly excited, but this time by watching cat TV:

More flying, this time on Mars. There is sound, too, although this was added from an earlier helicopter flight. Thomas recommends listening on headphones, as the sound of helicopter in the Martian atmosphere sounds very low:

From Beth: a Scott Hilburn cartoon:

From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

Two foodstuffs from the site above:


Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 15, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Wednesday, a hump day (“puckel dag” in Swedish): March 15, 2023—and the Ides of March. It is my last full day in Poland, and the time has gone by very quickly! It’s also National Peanut Lover’s Day, and again I point out that the position of the apostrophe indicates that only a single peanut lover is being fêted. Who is this person?

It’s also National Pears Hélène Day, National Egg Cream Day (it contains neither eggs nor cream), as well as Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ Birthday (Liberia) and World Consumer Rights Day

Roberts (1809-1876) was a black American who migrated to Liberia and became its first–and seventh–president.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 15 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*In the first direct military contact between U.S. and Russian forces in the Ukraine war, Russian jets brought down an American drone.  I doubt that this presages more serious fighting, but it’s still worrisome, as it was over international waters:

Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on and collided with an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. military officials said, forcing it down and marking the first direct military clash between Russia and the United States since the beginning of the Ukraine war.

The incident, occurring around 7 a.m. local time, left Air Force personnel remotely operating the MQ-9 Reaper with no choice but to crash the aircraft in international waters, U.S. officials said. They characterized the encounter as part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots” while interacting with American and allied aircraft in international airspace, and warned that such provocations could lead to “miscalculation and unintended escalation” between the two powers.

Russia denied responsibility and faulted the American side for breaching what it called a “temporary” boundary.

What? What is a “temporary boundary”?

A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, told reporters that the two Russian Su-27s were first seen in the vicinity of the MQ-9 about 30 to 40 minutes before American pilots brought it down. He declined to say whether the drone was armed, what its mission was or where in the Black Sea it splashed down. Video of the incident recorded by the MQ-9 must go through a declassification process before officials determine whether to release it publicly, he said. It’s unclear how long that will take.

And the Russian version:

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that, “as a result of sharp maneuvering,” the drone was observed by Russian pilots in “uncontrolled flight” before losing altitude and crashing into the sea. Jets were scrambled, officials said, when the American aircraft was detected flying “in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation” with its transponders turned off, what they characterized as a violation of “temporary”boundaries established by Moscow for its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

So now Putin gets to extend the air borders of Russia during the Ukraine war? Apparently. It would be nice if they told everyone where those borders were.

*According to CNN and other outlets, Jimmy Carter, now nearing the end of his life, asked Joe Biden to deliver his eulogy. But Biden wasn’t supposed to let that out.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who remains in hospice care, has asked Joe Biden to deliver his eulogy following his death, the president said Monday.

“He asked me to do his eulogy – excuse me, I shouldn’t say that,” Biden told supporters during remarks at a fundraiser in Rancho Santa Fe, California, according to a pool report.

“I spent time with Jimmy Carter, and it’s finally caught up with him. But they found a way to keep him going for a lot longer than they anticipated, because they found a breakthrough,” the president continued.

I presume they’re referring to keeping him going after the diagnosis but before Carter when into hospice care, because no breakthrough that I know of will keep him alive when he has metastasized cancer and only palliative care.

CNN reported last month that Biden had been advised of the former president’s declining health and his decision to seek hospice care. The fellow Democrat and longtime Carter admirer was staying in close contact with the Carter family and the former president’s close circle of advisers.

Biden last saw Carter during a visit to Plains in 2021.

Carter, who turned 98 last year, became the oldest living US president in history after the passing of George H.W. Bush, who died in late 2018 at 94. The nation’s 39th president has kept a low public profile in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic but has continued to speak out about risks to democracy around the world, a longtime cause of his.

I hope Biden doesn’t commit one of his frequent gaffes and get Carter’s name wrong or anything. Barring that, he’s capable of giving a good eulogy.

*Oy vey! As if Chat-GPT didn’t cause enough trouble for colleges (but fun for web-surfers), the company that produced it has just released the technology underlying it, presumably for free. And it presages more trouble, since it’s reported to be better than Chat-GPT.

. . . . the company [OpenAI] is back with a new version of the technology that powers its chatbots. The system will up the ante in Silicon Valley’s race to embrace artificial intelligence and decide who will be the next generation of leaders in the technology industry.

OpenAI, which has around 375 employees but has been backed with billions of dollars of investment from Microsoft and industry celebrities, said on Tuesday that it had released a technology that it calls GPT-4. It was designed to be the underlying engine that powers chatbots and all sorts of other systems, from search engines to personal online tutors.

Most people will use this technology through a new version of the company’s ChatGPT chatbot, while businesses will incorporate it into a wide variety of systems, including business software and e-commerce websites. The technology already drives the chatbot available to a limited number of people using Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

GPT-4, which learns its skills by analyzing huge amounts of data culled from the internet, improves on what powered the original ChatGPT in several ways. It is more precise. It can, for example, ace the Uniform Bar Exam, instantly calculate someone’s tax liability and provide detailed descriptions of images.

But OpenAI’s new technology still has some of the strangely humanlike shortcomings that have vexed industry insiders and unnerved people who have worked with the newest chatbots. It is an expert on some subjects and a dilettante on others. It can do better on standardized tests than most people and offer precise medical advice to doctors, but it can also mess up basic arithmetic.

Well, we shall see. I predict that companies and even universities will use it to write official communications, further eroding the ability of human beings to write. But this of course will also lead to full-scale fraud among college students who have to write essays or DEI statements for college admissions, and since writing and interpreting reading is no longer necessary for applicants since standardized tests are being eliminated, everyone will revert to illiteracy save professional writers.

From Facebook; how the new bot scores on various standardized tests, along with the percentile of the score (I can’t vouch for this):

*The Stanford Law School (SLS) students who shut down the speech of conservative appellate Judge Kyle Duncan aren’t through yet. They apparently are making life hell for their own dean, Jenny Martinez, who apologized to the University for the disruption and, along with Stanford’s President, to Judge Duncan himself. Apologizing for student behavior was to much for the entitled students, who continued their protest—against Dean Martinez (h/r cesar):

Hundreds of Stanford student activists on Monday lined the hallways to protest the law school’s dean, Jenny Martinez, for apologizing to Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan, whom the activists shouted down last week.

See below: the protestors were wearing black and also face masks.

The embattled dean arrived to the classroom where she teaches constitutional law to find a whiteboard covered inch to inch in fliers attacking Duncan and defending those who disrupted him, according to photos of the room and multiple eyewitness accounts. The fliers parroted the argument, made by student activists, that the heckler’s veto is a form of free speech.

“We, the students in your constitutional law class, are sorry for exercising our 1st Amendment rights,” some fliers read. As a private law school, Stanford is not bound by the First Amendment.

Here’s a picture of the whiteboard:

The protest followed a flurry of open letters from student activists, who spent much of the weekend berating Martinez after she and Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne issued a formal apology to Duncan condemning the students who disrupted his talk and the administrators who stood by silently and watched them do so.

. . .When Martinez’s class adjourned on Monday, the protesters, dressed in black and wearing face masks that read “counter-speech is free speech,” stared silently at Martinez as she exited her first-year constitutional law class at 11:00 a.m., according to five students who witnessed the episode. The student protesters, who formed a human corridor from Martinez’s classroom to the building’s exit, comprised nearly a third of the law school, the students told the Washington Free Beacon.

The majority of Martinez’s class—approximately 50 students out of the 60 enrolled—participated in the protest themselves, two students in the class said. The few who didn’t join the protesters received the same stare down as their professor as they hurried through the makeshift walk of shame.

This protest was even larger than the one that disrupted Duncan’s talk, and came on the heels of statements from at least three student groups rebuking Martinez’s apology.

. . . The groups argued that the students who disrupted Duncan, in violation of Stanford’s free speech policies, were merely exercising their own free speech rights.

These privileged little brats are LAW STUDENTS, and apparently have no notion about what free speech really means, or how it’s supposed to be exercised. Stanford continues to pretty much ignore the juvenile behavior of its students, and if they don’t take serious action (Martinez said they would), this will just keep happening over and over again. There is no contrition on the students’ part—none at all. At the end, the article quotes a first-year student in Martinez’s class:

After Martinez left the building, Schumacher said, the protesters began to cheer, cry, and hug. “We are creating a hostile environment at this law school,” Schumacher said—”hostile for anyone who thinks an Article III judge should be able to speak without heckling.”

In other words, free speech for me but not for thee. How obscene.

And for those readers who blamed the disruption largely on the judge, I have a question: how do you explain this? Does it change your mind? Did Martinez set up the rebellion of the students against her, too?

Addendum: Dean Martinez has written a letter to SLS alumni, similar to the one she and the university President wrote to Judge Duncan, but vowing more strongly that similar incidents would never happen again.

*Did you know that most “boneless chicken wings” sold in restaurants or grocery stores aren’t wings at all? They’re cut-up chicken breasts trimmed and fried to look like wings, and are used because, due to the high demand for real wings, breast meat is cheaper than wings. So, as the Washington Post reports, this has led to the inevitable lawsuit, for America is a litigious land.  And it’s in my town!

A new lawsuit has a bone to pick with Buffalo Wild Wings: A Chicago man is suing the popular chain for false advertising, claiming its “boneless wings” aren’t really wings at all.

Aimen Halim says he purchased the “boneless wings” in January only to discover that they were, in fact, composed of chicken breast. “Unbeknown to Plaintiff and other consumers, the Products are not wings at all, but instead, slices of chicken breast meat deep-fried like wings,” says the lawsuit, which also names parent company Inspire Brands. “Indeed, the Products are more akin, in composition, to a chicken nugget rather than a chicken wing.”

The nomenclature of “boneless wings” has long irked poultry purists. In 2020, Ander Christensen of Lincoln, Neb., stirred the nation with an impassioned speech to his city council on the subject, pleading “that we as a city remove the name ‘boneless wings’ from our menus and from our hearts.”

An Associated Press story last month called the boneless wing a “culinary lie” and one example of a category of “gentle impostors” that includes imitation crab meat and baby carrots (which are actually adult carrots, whittled down to an adorable size). Cookbook author and TV personality Christopher Kimball told the news service that most consumers have “no idea where any of this stuff comes from.”

I hate that imitation crab (I believe it’s fish), always called “krab”.  The “wing” company responded thusly:

This is a class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of hundreds of duped consumers, and if the company doesn’t say on the restaurant that “these are not real wings,” they’ll have to pay up, probably in the form of certificates good for free wings breasts at Buffalo Wild Wings. Here’s what the faux wings look like:

(From the WaPo): Boneless wings photographed at Buffalo Wild Wings in Arlington, Va., in Nov. 2017. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I appear with the Queen!

Jerry: Here you are.
Hili: Yes, I’m often hiding here.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Jerry: Tu jesteś?
Hili: Tak, ja się tu często chowam.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)


Down in Florida, Jango (whose staff is Divy and Ivan) is a happy cat because Hili has finally reciprocated his love. In the photo she’s saying, “Jango, my love!”. Look how gobsmacked he is!

A B. Kliban cartoon:

I can’t post the whole thing here, but go see this strip of Tom the Dancing Bug on Intelligent Design (h/t John).

From Anna via Our Kindred Cats, a Scott Metzger cartoon:

From Things with Faces:

From Titania, a woke letter from her niece:

From Masih, another hijab goes up in smoke. Google translation from the Farsi:

Received message and video: “I burn this log in memory of our beloved Nika.” Today, Nika is the daughter of all Iran. Zina, Hadith, Sarina are the daughters of this land. They inspire millions of young fighters. How simple and stupid were the mercenaries who listened to Khamenei’s orders when they imagined that they would kill Nika, Gina and Sarina and gather the mob. But the story will not end until Khamenei and his mercenaries are seen behind bars.

unitil that day #WomanLifeFreedom, #FireworksWednesday, #Mehsa Amini

From Barry, who says, “These two need to get a room. I can’t believe this happened in broad daylight!”

I can’t believe this: even I don’t get video calls!

From Malcolm, a mother cat cleans up after her kitten:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a whole family—mother, father, and six-year-old son—gassed upon arrival.

Tweets from Matthew. First, the Marathon Duck (note his athletic shoes). He didn’t run the whole thing, but he does get a refreshing drink at the end.

An eagle and four hapless cats (watch the videos in the second tweet):

A clever one:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 14, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest Day, March 14, 2023, and in two days I head back to Warsaw to catch a late-afternoon flight to Chicago. It’s National Potato Chip Day, celebrating my favorite snack food. I can never buy them because I’ll eat so many (usually with a PB&J sandwich) that I’ll get a stomach ache. But I do love the ruffled ones.

It’s also Pi Day (3/14), Science Education Day, Celebrate Scientists Day (Einstein was born on this day in 1879), Genius Day (same reason), Learn About Butterflies Day, Moth-er Day (another celebration of Lepidoptera) National Save a Spider Day, and, in Japan and other Asian countries, White Day when men give gifts to women; complementary to Valentine’s Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 14 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first: Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, everyone’s favorite House feminist, died yesterday at 82 from complications of a stroke.

Mrs. Schroeder, who grew up in a household where her father assumed women could do anything, earned a pilot’s license at 15, weathered sexism to become a Harvard-trained lawyer and was a 32-year-old mother of two when she was first elected to Congress from Colorado in 1972. “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both,” she quipped when one male lawmaker questioned how she could be a wife, mother and congresswoman.

When she arrived in Washington, there were only 14 women in the House, several of whom were widows filling out the terms of their deceased husbands. She described the institution as “an overaged frat house.”

During her 12 terms in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Schroeder was outspoken on issues that ranged from women’s rights and family matters to military policy. She was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and then fought vigorously to be heard and respected.

. . . She was the primary sponsor of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, which established procedures for national criminal background checks for child-care providers, and she played a pivotal role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which was intended to help law enforcement and victim services organizations fight rape and other forms of violent crime against women.

I don’t know any Democrat who didn’t like her.

*According to the NYT, the International Criminal Court in the Hague has opened two cases against Russia for violation of international law.

The International Criminal Court intends to open two war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will seek arrest warrants for several people, according to current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The cases represent the first international charges to be brought forward since the start of the conflict and come after months of work by special investigation teams. They allege that Russia abducted Ukrainian children and teenagers and sent them to Russian re-education camps, and that the Kremlin deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure.

The chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, must first present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges who will decide whether the legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants, or whether investigators need more evidence.

It was not clear whom the court planned to charge in each case. Asked to confirm the requests for arrest warrants, the prosecutor’s office said, “We do not publicly discuss specifics related to ongoing investigations.”

Some outside diplomats and experts said it was possible that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could be charged, as the court does not recognize immunity for a head of state in cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

As the article notes, though, it’s very improbable that we’ll see Russians in the dock at the Hague. And that’s for two reasons: Russia (along with the U.S., Israel, and Sudan) have declared themselves non-signatoreis of the treaty that empowered the court, and, for any criminal action to take place, these nations (including Russia) would have to surrender their accused to the Court, which has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.

*More bad news: is it going to be like 1929 all over again? The failure of two banks in California has led to a loss in consumer confidence so that runs on other banks throughout the U.S. are happening and bank stocks are slipping badly. Things haven’t yet melted down big time, but don’t think that they can’t. It’s so worrisome that the President has hasn’t to reassure worried Americans:

The unexpected seizure of two banks in three days by regulators intensified fears of a broader financial crisis, sending the stocks of more than two dozen banks into free fall on Monday, even as President Biden reassured Americans that the banking system was resilient and that customers’ money was safe.

Banks of various sizes in different parts of the country — from San Francisco-based First Republic Bank to Salt Lake City-based Zions Bank — found themselves battling market turmoil as customers rushed to withdraw their deposits and investors, worried about more runs, dumped bank stocks.

In a brief televised statement from the White House shortly before the U.S. markets opened, Mr. Biden said that the government was responding decisively to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in ways that would protect depositors without rewarding risk-taking executives and investors.

“Americans can rest assured that our banking system is safe — your deposits are safe,” the president said. “Let me also assure you we will not stop at this; we’ll do whatever is needed.”

Mr. Biden’s comments didn’t immediately appear to assuage investors, as shares of banks large and small closed the day in the red, with the KBW Bank Index, a proxy for the industry, down nearly 12 percent. On a day when the S&P 500 stock index ended up flat, shares of First Republic tumbled 60 percent and Western Alliance slumped 45 percent.

Despite the echoes of the 2008 financial crisis, when 465 banks failed within four years, sometimes dozens in a month, regulators and banking officials were quick to insist that the current panic is far more contained, and that the banks whose stocks tanked had enough funds to meet their obligations.

I’m not that worried—yet—but you can never predict whether people who keep their money in banks could panic and then everything would melt down. That’s what caused the Great Depression to begin in 1929. If people keep their heads this would blow over, but there are no guarantees.

*I noted before that a bill that would permit the teaching of creationism had passed the Senate in West Virginia, but didn’t know there was one in Minnesota as well. But there’s good news today: reader Steve notes that The Sensuous Cumudgeon reports the demise of both bills.

Two more crazy creationist bills have gone down in defeat. The news comes from our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), written by Glenn Branch, their Deputy Director. Let’s take them one at a time.

When the first bill was proposed a month ago, we wrote about it in New Minnesota Bill — Creationist, or Just Crazy? The thing was proposed by Glenn H. Gruenhagen, an insurance agent. His bill required teachers to explain “how sickness, disease, pain, suffering, and death are a consequence imposed by the Creator of complex living organisms.”

Impressive, huh? But according to NCSE: Minnesota’s bill requiring instruction about “the Creator” dies.

. . .The last time we wrote about it was West Virginia Senate Passes Creationism Bill. That piece of junk was Senate Bill 619, which would allow teachers in public schools to teach intelligent design, described in the bill as “a theory of how the universe and/or humanity came to exist.”

The crazy thing had passed the Senate with a 27 to 6 vote, and it looked like it might go all the way — but it didn’t. NCSE just posted West Virginia’s “intelligent design” bill dies.

I was more than a little worried about this given the unbalanced vote for the West Virginia bill. If it passed, teachers and parents would surely appeal to the Supreme Court, which has previously ruled out teaching creationism on First Amendment grounds (and a federal district judge rule out teaching Intelligent Design on the same grounds). But today’s Supreme Court cannot be trusted to distinguish science from religion, and might well have ruled that both bills were Constitutional

*Although this is an op-ed (by Helaine Olen), it’s not really “opinion” but news: consumers are mad as hell about the long waits for service while calling companies on the telephone. But whether we will “not take it anymore” seems to be up to the companies themselves, who claim, unbelievably, that customers like the robots and endless attempts to connect with a real human being.

It shouldn’t be this hard to speak to a human. But, increasingly, companies large and small are making it difficult to access a real, live person when help is needed. Contact numbers are hard to find. Wait times to speak to an operator are long — one industry analyst estimated the average wait tripled from 2020 to 2022 and says he believes they still are a third worse than before the pandemic. Some phone lines are seemingly staffed entirely by robots, forcing you to go through menu after menu in quest of a live, real person. Or, increasingly, companies don’t offer a telephone option at all.

This is not simply inconvenient. It’s contemptuous. And consumers pay the price in emotional aggravation, in precious time and in literal money, as people give up on legitimate financial claims because they are unable to surmount the barriers in their way.

Companies say they are reducing options for human contact by popular demand. They claim customers often prefer a virtual option — so said Frontier Airlines after it recently ceased offering customers access to live phone agents, directing them to text, chatbot or email instead. But as the Wall Street Journal noted late last year, Frontier is simultaneously telling its investors that call centers are “expensive,” while use of chatbots eliminates the customer’s ability to negotiate.

A survey by OnePoll in 2021 found that more than two-thirds of respondents ranked speaking to a human representative as one of their preferred methods of interacting with a company, while 55 percent identified the ability to reach a human as the most important attribute a customer service department can possess. “When people are anxious or have problems, they really, really want to talk,” says Michelle Shell, a visiting assistant professor also at the Questrom school. “You need human contact.”

The reason?

What’s really going on here is a question of power. Increasingly, leverage belongs not to the customer paying the bills but to the company offering the needed service — sometimes one for which there is no competition. Foisting the work onto the consumer is a bet that the customer has no other options or won’t choose to exercise them. And often, that bet is a good one.

Don’t take it anymore! Write to the companies (don’t call them!) or put out a tweet. Rage, rage against the dying of the right to speak to a human.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Editor Hili liked my piece on language and sickle-cell anemia, which was translated into Polish on Listy (and I took her photo!)

Hili: I read your article about sickle cell anemia.
Jerry: Did you like it?
Hili: Yes, it’s very inclusive.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Czytałam twój artykuł o anemii sierpowatej.
Jerry: Podobał ci się?
Hili: Tak, jest bardzo inkluzywny.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)


From The Cat House on the Kings:

From Malcolm: Maps turned into portaits:

From Cats That Have Had Enough of Your Shit, a Mark Parisi Cartoon:


From Masih: Five Iranian women were forced to publicly apologize for the crimes of uncovering their hair and (god forbid) dancing. Note the difference between the way they’d like to dress and the way the Iranian theocracy forces them to dress.

Two from Malcolm. By clicking, you can put the hand anywhere in the world and then see how many people are within a radius of that point varying between 10 and 100 km. Click here to get started. I found places in Tibet where there are no people within a 100-km radius.

And another—biker d*g. I love the goggles:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed at eight:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. Blessed be the people who save the animals:

Nah, it’s not what the bat “wants”: the feet are up because the claws evolved pointed down but the bat has to use them to catch fish:

Best bird mimicry ever!

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 13, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Monday, March 13, 2023, and another cold and gray day in Dobrzyn.  But now it’s really Chicken Noodle Soup Day (I screwed up yesterday’s date).

It’s also National Coconut Torte Day, Fill Our Staplers Day (if this is importuning, you have to do that yourself), National Jewel Day, National Workplace Napping Day, Commonwealth Day (previously known as Empire Day), and Donald Duck Day, as depicted at the start of this short Disney cartoon from 1949, “Donald’s Happy Birthday”.

Notice how the nephews spell their names at the end: Huey, Dewey and. . . Luey? And how Donald abuses his nephews by making them smoke his birthday stogies.

And it is really National Elephant Day in Thailand.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 13 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Say it ain’t so, Joe! Today the Biden administration is expected to approve a massive oil-drilling project, a project that will despoil thousands of acres of pristine Alaska wilderness. Granted, the government owns that land, but isn’t this contrary to the administration’s goals of a green energy policy?

The Biden administration on Monday will formally approve a huge oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow, according to two people familiar with the decision, despite widespread opposition because of its likely environmental and climate impacts.

The president will also impose sweeping restrictions on offshore oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean and across Alaska’s North Slope in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the Willow decision and, as one administration official put it, to form a “firewall” to limit future oil leases in the region. The Interior Department also is expected to issue new rules to protect more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska from oil and gas leasing.

The restrictions, however, are unlikely to offset concerns that the $8 billion Willow project, led by oil giant ConocoPhillips, will have the potential to produce more than 600 million barrels of crude over 30 years.

Burning all that oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. On an annual basis, that would translate into 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equal to adding nearly two million cars to the roads each year. The United States, the second biggest polluter on the planet after China, emits about 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Who wanted this bill? Alaska natives, who get a big stipend check yearly from the oil revenues, labor unions, who stand to gain jobs, and of course Big Oil, who lobbied vigorously for this bill. Who was against it? Everybody opposed to despoiling the environment.

I can’t say I’m happy about this, and I’m not reassured by Biden’s lip-service order to protect other areas from gas and oil drilling; that order could easily be overturned by future administration.

As CNN reports:

“This is a huge climate threat and inconsistent with this administration’s promises to take on the climate crisis,” Jeremy Lieb, an Alaska-based senior attorney at environmental law group Earthjustice, told CNN. In addition to concerns about a fast-warming Arctic, groups are also concerned the project could destroy habitat for native species and alter the migration patterns of animals including caribou.

But who cares about the caribou?

*Here’s a partial list of last night’s Oscar winners, and I can’t say I’m happy about this, either. But really, who cares?

Best picture

“Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best actress in a leading role

Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best actor in a leading role

Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”

Best director

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert,“Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Actress in a supporting role

Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Actor in a supporting role

Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best animated feature film

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”

Best original song

“Naatu Naatu,” “RRR”

All I can say is that my two favorite movies, “Tár” and “The Banshees of Inisherin”, were shut out completely in favor of that extended piece of eye candy, “Everything Everywhere All At Once,”, a movie so unwatchable that I couldn’t keep watching it after half an hour. The only saving grace is that neither Tom Cruise nor “Maverick: Top Gun” won for Best Actor and Best Movie.

*A disaffected Canadian has some positive comments on Richard Dawkins’s argument, expounded during his recent visit to New Zealand, that Mātauranga Māori, or the indigenous “ways of knowing” is not the same thing as modern science. (h/t Leslie). And a few ignorant Tweeters weighted in:

Dawkins’ comments also saw a firestorm of Twitter criticism, most in support of his position, one which I have supported for decades as applied to Canada where I have repeatedly argued that indigenous practical knowledge and other “knowings” as rich and varied as they may be are not rooted in scientific understanding: indigenous science is an oxymoron, nothing more, nothing less.

A nonsensical tweet from self-proclaimed Canadian indigenous agitator Dr. Kisha Supernant (Métis/Papaschase/British), the Director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology and a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta, read, “Richard Dawkins doesn’t get to determine what Indigenous knowledge is or is not. He doesn’t understand it and never will. But he’s right in one sense. Indigenous knowledge is not only science. It is so much more.”

Indigenous knowledge is not only science but so much more? I guess that means that religion, origin stories, and other confected fables are “science.”

Another painfully ignorant tweet was that “All knowledge (science) is culturally-situated. Western-trained scientists who ignore this in favor of imperialism and a false sense of objectivity are at risk of misinterpreting data and causing harm. This rhetoric is embarrassing, so inaccurate as to be absurdist, and harmful.“ Lauren Eckert@laureneeckert.

Eckert shows her ignorance by claiming a pure cultural relativism, with science being “imperialistic” and carrying “a false sense of objectivity.” And yet she’s getting a Ph.D. in science. Does she get her immunizations? Take antibiotics for an infection? Ride in airplanes? If so, she puts a lot of trust in science’s “false sense of objectivity.”

I can’t wait for the protestors carrying signs reading “Ideology, not biology!”

*A clam born in 1809? That’s what, according to the Washington Post, a Florida man found while clamming on the Gulf Coast.

[Blaine] Parker, an AmeriCorps member at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, Fla., near Tallahassee, spends his days studying shellfish. This one he encountered on Feb. 18 left him speechless.

He was struck by its size, which indicated its age, he said. Generally, the larger the clam, the older it is. Most quahog clams found in U.S. waters are between 2.8 and 4.3 inches long, although they can grow larger.

“I’ve seen that species of clam, but never one that big or even close to that big,” said Parker, 23, explaining that the average quahog weighs about half a pound and that his discovery was 2.6 pounds and six inches long.

As trees do, clam shells form yearly growth rings. Parker counted the external rings with a fingernail and reached 214 — meaning the clam would have been born in 1809, just like Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president.

Parker decided to name his discovery “Abra-clam Lincoln.” People on social media loved it.

. . .He considered eating the clam. It would make a great addition to the feast he was cooking that weekend, he thought, and the shells would be large enough to use as bowls.

“At the time, we were planning to make a chowder out of it, but we thought about the fact that it probably was special,” said Parker, who kept the shellfish in a bucket of water. “We decided not to eat it, and I brought it to work on Monday.”

Fortunately, Parker released the clam back into the ocean, but also determined that he miscounted the “rings”, and it could in fact have been younger than 214 years.

Charles Darwin was also born in 1809—in fact, on the very same day as Lincoln, February 12. But I can’t think of a clam name that includes an allusion to Darwin.  Here’s Parker with his gynormous clam (caption: “Parker posing with his clam discovery. (Courtesy of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab”)

*And how can you resist a headline, like this in the WaPo, “Two widowed geese were lonely, so they were matched for a blind date“? (h/t Barry)

Frankie and Blossom had a lot in common. They’d both lost their longtime partners and were seeking companionship. They seemed to enjoy the same food and scenery.

On their first date, they walked along a lake, greeted the locals and shared a meal.

Their matchmakers were nearby, eager to see the two develop a bond. They could only guess how the blind date was progressing. After all, it was between geese.

Two residents of nearby Iowa cities connected the widowed geese last month in hopes they’d become soul mates. So far, the arrangement has worked.

Since that date, Blossom and Frankie haven’t left each other’s sides — and might even be in love, their matchmakers told The Washington Post.

“They just kind of wandered around and hung out with each other and got to know each other,” said Dorie Tammen, the general manager for Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Iowa. “And the rest is history.”

. . .On Feb. 10, Tammen wrote a personal ad for Blossom, whom Tammen believes is about 7 years old.

“Lonely, widowed domestic goose seeks life partner for companionship and occasional shenanigans,” her Facebook post reads. “Come share life with me at Riverside Cemetery, where you’ll enjoy swimming in the lovely lake, good food, numerous friends, and peeking in the door of the office building. … I’m youthful, adventurous and lively, and I’ve been told I’m beautiful.”

(From WaPo): Frankie (front) and Blossom have spent all their time together since meeting last month. (Deb Hoyt)

Someone answered with a widowed male goose, and the rest is history.


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I once again feature in the Hili dialogue (and took the photo!). All three humans here spend a lot of time writing on websites.

Hili: What are you doing?
Jerry: I’m writing an article.
Hili: This is not a normal home.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Co robisz?
Jerry: Piszę artykuł.
Hili: To nie jest normalny dom.
(Zdjęcie J.A.C)


From Tom, a Far Side cartoon showing the origin of the man cave:

From Tom, another evolution-of-man sequence from Imgur:

From Doc Bill; the story appears to be true. Go here to see what they do in nature.

God tooted on Mastodon. He and Titania McGrath have largely stopped posting.

From Masih, another innocent Iranian dissident kidnapped (as they’d planned for Masih herself) and then taken to Iran to be killed. There are English subtitles.

From John Oliver via The Divine Sarah. Oy, indeed!

From Malcolm, who hopes these people get grounded.  Does anyone actually look at stuff around them any more—without the filter of a phone camera?

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 20 year old who lived but a month before perishing:

Tweets from Matthew. First, another saved life in Dodoland, which must be what Heaven is like (if there were one!):

Remember this line from “literature”?

Duck and bubbles!

Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 12, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Monday, March 12, 2023, Chicken Noodle Soup Day (much better with matzo balls). If you’re in America and haven’t moved your clock forward an hour, please do so now:


It’s also the Start of Daylight Savings Time, so be sure you set your clocks forward an hour. If you didn’t do it last night, do it NOW.

It’s also National Baked Scallops Day, Girl Scout Day, Check Your Batteries Day, National Working Moms Day, and National Elephant Day in Thailand.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 12 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*I feel a bit removed from news involving the U.S., but I do my best. Here’s a NYT op-ed, by the entire editorial board, that calls for the U.S. to avoid a confrontational strategy with China and get involved in economic rather than military competition. After mentioning Chinese provocations like military displays around Taiwan and the famous “spy balloon” (whatever happened to that?), it urges a more conciliatory posture:

Yet the relationship between the United States and China, for all its problems, continues to deliver substantial economic benefits to the residents of both countries and to the rest of the world. Moreover, because the two nations are tied together by millions of normal and peaceful interactions every day, there is a substantial incentive to maintain those ties and a basis for working together on shared problems like climate change.

Americans’ interests are best served by emphasizing competition with China while minimizing confrontation. Glib invocations of the Cold War are misguided. It doesn’t take more than a glance to appreciate that this relationship is very different. Rather than try to trip the competition, America should focus on figuring out how to run faster, for example through increased investments in education and basic scientific research.

Chinese actions and rhetoric also need to be kept in perspective. By the standards of superpowers, China remains a homebody. Its foreign engagements, especially outside its immediate surroundings, remain primarily economic. China has been playing a much more active role in international affairs in recent years — a new agreement facilitated by China to re-establish relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is the latest example — but China continues to show strikingly little interest in persuading other nations to adopt its social and political values.

There are also signs that China’s leaders are not united in supporting a more confrontational posture. It behooves the United States to reassure those who may be open to reassurance. America and China are struggling with many of the same challenges: how to ensure what President Xi Jinping has termed “common prosperity” in an age of income inequality; how to rein in the worst excesses of capitalism without losing its vital creative forces; how to care for an aging population and young people who want more out of life than work; how to slow the pace of climate change and to manage its disruptive impacts, including mass migration. . .

They’re right: Russia is surely far more worthy of disapprobation than China, though if China tries to take over Taiwan with its military, all bets are off.

*The Washington Post describes how a new technology, specifically a phone app that allows would-be immigrants at the southern U.S. border to make appointments with Customs and Border Protection, is glitching, squelching the hopes of those hoping to enter:

As the Biden administration struggles to bring order to the border, some of the most vulnerable migrants are finding themselves stuck in squalid camps in Mexico. A significant number are seeking asylum in the United States and were expecting the sanctuary of the nation’s immigration law, which allows migrants fleeing persecution to request protection no matter how they reach the country. Advocates estimate close to 7,000 people were spread out in encampments in Matamoros and Reynosa in January.

All are trying to use a new CBP app that is supposed to make entering the country more efficient. Each day, migrants awake before sunrise to search for a WiFi signal and try to get one of the 700 to 800 appointments available at eight entry points. Advocates estimate there are more than 100,000 people seeking entry. The appointments fill up within five minutes.

Previously, attorneys could intervene to make a case for asylum seekers to get emergency admission into the United States. Now those fleeing gang violence are fighting for appointments on their own, alongside those facing less dire conditions.

More than 9,900 individuals have used the app to enter the country by getting an exemption from the Title 42 pandemic-era public health restriction since it went live in January, CBP data shows. Over 10,000 more have used the app to obtain humanitarian parole under a new program for those from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua — offering a lifeline for many who can avoid embarking on a treacherous journey.

Yet at migrant camps, shelters and safe houses along the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers who arrived before the app was launched or faced such imminent danger that they could not wait to get an appointment struggle to get a WiFi signal. Families scramble to register all their relatives only to find out all of the day’s appointments have been taken. Desperation mounts as they look toward a country within eyeshot but perpetually out of reach.

It’s ridiculous to make people in migrant camps fight to get a Wi-Fi signal within a five-minute window and then fight for others who have better access—all to get an appointment. Surely there’s a better solution. Even online forms put into a hopper, with someone selecting the appointed number randomly, is fairer than this.

*Speaking of asylum, many who have entered America seeking a new life have been disappointed with their prospects, or by long processing times for applications, and have crossed the border into Canada. NYC helps by giving immigrants bus tickets to a town near the Canadian border, where the immigrants then seek asylum in Canada. This has caused Canada to reassess its immigration policies:

A sharp increase in asylum seekers entering Canada through unofficial crossings — including many whose bus fares were paid by New York City and aid agencies — is intensifying the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reach an agreement with President Joe Biden to close off the entire land border to most asylum seekers.

Many of the arrivals abandoned plans to seek asylum in the United States, deterred by long processing times and restrictive definitions for asylum, according to aid officials and interviews with asylum seekers.

On a snowy day in late February, about three dozen asylum seekers, some wheeling suitcases, others carrying backpacks, trudged along a snow path from New York State to Quebec.

. . . Almost 40,000 asylum seekers entered Canada through irregular border crossings from the United States last year — nine times higher than in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were still in place, and more than double the nearly 17,000 who crossed in 2019. Almost 5,000 entered in January alone, according to the most recent figures from the Canadian government.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau will take up this issue when he meets with President Biden at the end of March.

*Want to limit your screen time—or that of your kids—on your phone? SCIENCE (and the WSJ) tells us that the best solution is to switch the display to black and white instead of the more stimulating colored screen.

In the first group, participants weren’t asked to do anything specific with the Screen Time app other than to monitor their phone usage. They also were instructed to put their smartphones in grayscale mode, a feature that changes the phone display to black and white from color. The researchers believed that a less-stimulating screen would make for a less-rewarding user experience.

Members of the second group were asked to set time limits for themselves by using both the “downtime” and “app limits” features of the Screen Time app. With “downtime,” users set aside time where only calls and certain apps can be used; “app limits” puts time limits on certain apps or categories, such as social media.

Lastly, those in the control group were asked only to monitor their phone usage.

All participants completed a subjective well-being survey measuring life satisfaction, stress, sleep and happiness before and after the experiment.

The activation of grayscale mode immediately reduced users’ screen time (by 50 minutes a day—the average screen time being 261.50 minutes per day) compared with the control. Those who were asked to set time limits showed a more gradual reduction in screen time, perhaps indicating participants became better over time at reaching their time limit. This group’s average reduction in screen time was not significantly lower than that of the control group.

So that’s about a 20% reduction in screen time, but I’m still appalled that people with iPhones who used the reduction tool still spent over four hours per day on their phone. No wonder that when you ride on public transportation, about 80% of your fellow passengers will be glued to their phones.  These devices have changed our lives permanently—many times for the better, but the mindless scrolling through Twitter can’t be seen as a good.

*The Academy Awards (America’s biggests Wokeathon) are tonight, and of course I won’t be watching. (There’s no t.v. set in our house, but I wouldn’t watch anyway.) The list of nominees is here, but I’ve seen only  of the nominated films (the ones below in bold). Nine nominations are too many!

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (stopped watching after half an hour)
“The Fabelmans”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”

There are quite a few people (e.g., here or here) who think that Tom Cruise should win a Best Actor Oscar for “Top Gun: Maverick”, and even more (like the Guardian) who think that the movie, which Cruise produced, should win for Best Movie. Steven Spielberg lauded Cruise for “saving Hollywood’s ass“, but I never equated box-office draw with movie quality, and the latter is supposed to be the criterion for winning. In action movies, the main actor is The Action. Granted, Cruise is a creditable actor (he was better in “The Minority Report” and “Jerry Maguire”), but he ain’t no male Meryl Streep. I still go with “Tár” for both Best Picture and Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), though my cinemaphilic nephew doesn’t agree.

Any reader who predicts the winner in the five categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress will win a free book (one of mine) with a cat drawn in it. Put your predictions below.


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I’m in today’s Hili, in which her highness gives me napping lessons. In truth, though, no cat ever had insomnia. (The photo is mine, too!)

Hili: Jerry, look, this is how you sleep.
Jerry: I know, but sometimes it’s just a theory.
(Photo Credit: J.A.C.)

In Polish:

Hili: Jerry, popatrz, tak się śpi.
Jerry: Ja wiem, ale czasem to jest tylko teoria.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)


A B. Kliban cartoon from Stash Krod:

From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington via Merilee. There’s a caption:

What would YOU do if you came home to find sooty paw prints all over your bathroom? Well, this Arlington resident did the right thing by calling Arlington County Animal Control for advice! Officer Knight was dispatched to the resident’s home after they reported an unidentified animal in the house. When she arrived on scene, she was able to identify the sooty footprints in the bathroom as raccoon prints. Officer Knight determined that the raccoon had climbed down the chimney, and being a very tidy animal, decided to take a bath in the toilet bowl, before climbing back up the chimney! Officer Knight closed the chimney flue and referred the resident to Humane Wildlife Services and Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution to service and re-cap her chimney.

From Mark. This is what keeps me up at night!

Bonus video: Philomena on acting (h/t Merilee).  Diane Morgan found her niche in the role of Philomena Cunk, but was also good as Kath in Ricky Gervais’s series “After Life.” That, by the way, is an excellent series and you should watch it. Morgan hates stand-up comedy, which is how she started, and in truth wasn’t very good at it.

From Masih. You can’t get more defiant of the Iranian regime than burning your hijab (I remember American protestors burning their draft cards during the Vietnam war.) And you can’t get more oppressive and misogynistic than killing a woman who burns her hijab.

The rest of the tweet is

. . . and she was protesting the murder of #MahsaAmini. We the women of Iran do not deserve Islamic republic.

No, the Islamic Republic does not deserve the support of the women of Iran.

From Malcolm, which shows a d*g can accomplish what the owner can’t:

From Ricky Gervais. This is the very last scene of the last season of his show “After Life”, and is one of the most brilliant set pieces I’ve seen on t.v. The woman who appears is his late wife, who died of cancer: the starting point of the show. It’s all about the ephemerality of life:

From Luana. Don’t try to tell me that ChatGPT isn’t nudged by woke programmers! Read the answers:

From the Auschwitz Memorial. It’s no surprise that this gaunt old man of 75 lasted but three days in the camp:

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is a brilliant demonstration that individuals will do whatever best helps them produce offspring. It’s dangerous to crawl to the water’s edge, where there are predators or the change of being landlocked, but you can squirt your larvae a lot farther in the air than in water. Presumably there’s an advantage to dispersal! (The original paper is here.)

Matthew doesn’t really understand baseball (just as I don’t understand cricket), but sent a pair of tweets about a college player called out on strikes. Here, on the second strike, the player has a mini-fit (it looked like a ball to me). The next pitch was clearly a ball but the ump, who must be blind, called a strike. The catcher jumps in to prevent mayhem. (That last called strike may be the ump’s “acting out tax.”

Jonathan Eisen, who does understand baseball, weighs in. The ump was suspended, and I agree about the last call

I am duck #6, drinking coffee (it’s 9 a.m. in Dobrzyn):

Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 11, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Saturday, March 11, 2023, National “Eat Your Noodles” Day, with quotation marks that make the suggested ingestion uninterpretable.

It’s also National Oatmeal Nut Waffles Day, Johnny Appleseed Day (it’s not clear why), Debunking Day, World Plumbing Day, Worship of Tools Day, and, in Lesotho, Moshoeshoe Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 11 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*How can this be? According to the NYT, Joe Biden has approved a giant project to drill for oil in the Alaska wilderness. I am gobsmacked!

In one of the most consequential climate decisions of his administration, President Biden is planning to greenlight an enormous $8 billion oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Alaska lawmakers and oil executives have put intense pressure on the White House to approve the project, citing President Biden’s own calls for the industry to increase production amid volatile gas prices stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

But the proposal to drill for oil has also galvanized young voters and climate activists, many of whom helped elect Mr. Biden and who would view the decision as a betrayal of the president’s promise that he would pivot the nation away from fossil fuels.

The approval of the largest proposed oil project in the country would mark a turning point in the administration’s approach to fossil fuel development. The courts and Congress have forced Mr. Biden to back away from his campaign pledge of “no more drilling on federal lands, period” and sign off on some limited oil and gas leases. The Willow project would be one of the few oil developments that Mr. Biden has approved freely, without a court or a congressional mandate.

. . .ConocoPhillips intends to build the Willow project inside the National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million-acre area that is 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The reserve, which has no roads, is the country’s largest single expanse of pristine land.

The project will pump out 600 million barrels of oil in the next three decades, and the article notes that “Burning that oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, a federal review found.”

Okay, Mr. Biden, go on national television and justify that decision! Why didn’t you start building nuclear power plants instead.  If you have something to say about this, you can contact Biden here (scroll down to whom your email should go). I already have. I’ve put my letter below the fold in case I get some kind of boilerplate reply.

*Speaking of masks, there’s suddenly a big dissing of mask-wearing due to the Cochrane Report that mask-wearing was ineffective. What hasn’t been publicized is the fact that Cochrane has corrected this misconception. As Zeynep Tufekci writes in today’s NYT:

Now the organization, Cochrane, says that the way it summarized the review was unclear and imprecise, and that the way some people interpreted it was wrong.

“Many commentators have claimed that a recently updated Cochrane review shows that ‘masks don’t work,’ which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation,” Karla Soares-Weiser, the editor in chief of the Cochrane Library, said in a statement.

“The review examined whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses,” Soares-Weiser said, adding, “Given the limitations in the primary evidence, the review is not able to address the question of whether mask wearing itself reduces people’s risk of contracting or spreading respiratory viruses.”

She said that “this wording was open to misinterpretation, for which we apologize,” and that Cochrane would revise the summary.

Soares-Weiser also said, though, that one of the lead authors of the review even more seriously misinterpreted its finding on masks by saying in an interview that it proved “there is just no evidence that they make any difference.” In fact, Soares-Weiser said, “that statement is not an accurate representation of what the review found.”

You can read about the problems with the Cochrane study, including the fact that  the large majority of studies cited didn’t look at the effects of wearing masks versus not wearing them when there was an appreciable chance of encountering the virus.  As for me, I’ll continue to wear KN95 masks if I’m in a crowd, but eschew them otherwise.

*In his column this week, Andrew Sullivan has a topic of interest to many of us: “The eradication of an ‘ism’: the creeping illiberalism of the anti-woke Right“.  His starting point is a speech at CPAC by Michael Knowles implying that “transgenderism” should be rooted out.  Sullivan (and I agree) says this is illiberal and insupportable:

In general, it’s a very good rule to ignore anyone who says there is no middle way on a contentious question. That goes for Ibram X Kendi as well as Knowles. If their first instinct is to reject complexity, they’re not actually interested in humanity as it is. Christina Buttons, who covered gender pediatrics for the Daily Wire until Knowles’ speech, gets it right:

On this issue it is extremely important to clearly distinguish between people and ideas so as not to feed into Left-wing manufactured hysteria about impending genocides. The political Right often rails against “identity politics” and group labels yet many fail to distinguish between transgender people and transgender activists. … There is a critical distinction between speaking truth and being tactless, between sticking to the facts and sticking it to the libs.

Threading this needle in this cultural context is not easy. The far right wants to make this a war against transgender people; and so does the far left. Protecting vulnerable dysphoric kids from potential harm is far more complicated. But I think it’s worth reiterating a simple guiding principle here.

The word “eradicate” — meaning “tear up from the roots” — is something that should never be done to any “ism” in a free society, however vile its effects. The goal should always be to interrogate, probe, disprove, debunk or explain — but never “eradicate.” We need resilient error for truth to exist; we need bad ideas to distinguish good ones; and there is almost always some kernel of truth lurking even in the worst lie.

And that is why the intensifying push to “ban” ideas like CRT, or “ban” performances by drag queens in front of children, or “ban” certain concepts from being taught in universities is a sign of a flagging faith in liberal democracy, rather than a sign of its renewal.

. . .There are ways to fight back without falling into this trap. Legislatures can and should end affirmative action (including legacy preferences) — the original toxin behind today’s neo-racism; they can abolish mandatory DEI statements by public school professors as a condition for employment; they can fire all the countless DEI bureaucrats now proliferating like carpenter ants across public education; they can fund and create institutes within existing colleges to ensure that students have some access to ideas outside far-left orthodoxies. And if corporations are imposing systemic race discrimination as a way to become more “diverse,” sue them under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Always open up; try never to shut down. Don’t ban; offer more.

*Over at The Free Press, Nellie Bowles has returned with her patented snarky look at the week’s news, this week called “TGIF: I hate him passionately.” Three excerpts:

→  Portland loses its last Walmart: This week Walmart announced that, as retail theft continues, they will close their last two Portland locations, which employ about 600 people. Shoplifting in the city has been out of control for years now. But, you see, it’s a mindset problem: there’s no theft if there’s no private property. And in Portland, that dream is close to becoming a reality. For baby wipes and chicken thighs, Portland residents should reach out to their leadership, Rose City Antifa, the oldest and most effective anti-fascist group in America.

→ Ice cream bed of lies: The free love, no-shoes, no-shirt, no-problem ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was named in a New York Times investigation into companies that use migrant child labor. Now, B and J are facing a class action suit from consumers who say they wouldn’t have bought the pint if they’d known it was put together by migrant children with unethically sourced milk. I’ll miss when Ben & Jerry’s had the moral high ground.

→ There’s never good news on the abortion debate: Speaking of issues where moderates have no place, South Carolina lawmakers are looking to employ the death penalty for women who get an abortion—and the bill offers no exceptions for the health of the woman, rape, or fetal anomaly (women would have to argue in court that it was self-defense). Also this week, five women are suing Texas, saying they were denied abortions even when the pregnancy endangered their lives, and they are asking that the law be made clearer. Basically, doctors in Texas are so nervous about being charged with murder in these situations that they now err on the side of waiting till a woman is truly at death’s door before performing the abortion.

*According to Inside Higher Education, a DEI director at California’s De Anza community college was ousted because she questioned the orthodoxy permeating her field. (h/t Wayne)

Tabia Lee, faculty director for a California college’s Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, claims that she was fired because “she questioned antiracist ‘orthodoxy,’ objected to the college’s land acknowledgments for an Indigenous tribe, tried to bring a ‘Jewish inclusion’ event to campus, declined to join a “socialist network,” refused to use the gender-neutral terms ‘Latinx’ and ‘Filipinx,’ inquired why the word ‘Black’ was capitalized but not ‘white,’ and allegedly disrespected a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lee also happens to be black.

Tabia Lee also wrote, in a narrative explaining her situation, that “I no longer participate in gender pronouns because I find that the same toxic ideologies around race ideologies are now being advanced under gender ideologies; I also find that the constant obsession with pronouns and declaration of pronouns causes deep discomfort for individuals who identify as gender fluid or who struggle with gender dysphoria.”

. . . She said an employee in her office accused her of “white speaking,” “whitesplaining” and supporting white supremacy.

She was, in other words, fired for antiwokeness, which cannot be tolerated in a DEI director (although theoretically it could be). Her only attitude that seems out of line with the others is the absolute refusal to use gender pronouns, which to me seems uncivil. Asking for a “Jewish inclusion” event is of course insupportable despite the ubiquitous presence of anti-Semitism on American campuses.

*If you’re a cinema buff, have a look at the WaPo’s list of movies that were nominated for the “best picture” Oscar but failed to win, despite the paper thinking they should have. It’s preceded but this:

UPDATED on March 9, 2023: We published this fine quarrel in 2016, but they just keep on handing out Oscars to the wrong movies, so we have updated it for your further education.

I’ll give just a few of the most egregious missteps. Note that in an appreciable number of years, the authors’ choices actually matched the winner.

1979.  Best Picture winner: Kramer vs. Kramer; the actual best picture: Apocalypse Now

1981.  They’re WRONG here. Best Picture winner: Chariots of Firel; the actual best picture: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

1985. Best Picture winner: Out of Africa; the actual best picture: Back to the Future.

1990. Best Picture winner: Dances With Wolves; the actual best picture: Goodfellas.

1994. Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump; theactual best picture: Pulp Fiction.

2005. Best Picture winner: Crash; the actual best picture: Brokeback Mountain

It goes on. But I have to question the decisions, as authors Dan Zak and Amy Argetsinger chose as last year’s Best Picture “Top Gun: Maverick.” Were they HIGH?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili and Szaron are birdwatching (Szaron leapt on my chest in the middle of the night; it jolted me awake.)

Szaron: I have to check what kind of bird that is.
Hili: Don’t bother, it will escape anyhow.
In Polish:
Szaron: Muszę sprawdzić co to za ptaszek.
Hili: Nie warto i tak ucieknie.


From Malcolm, a reverse waterfall:

A rare reverse waterfall was captured in Ivins, Utah, last week as strong winds ripped across the state. The drone footage shows powerful gusts blowing the waterfall’s stream back up a steep cliff.

My beloved Philomena, here appearing as Diane Morgan arguing against cruelty to farm animals. See more here (h/t: Dom)


From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:


Both God and Titania have pretty much given up posting, the former on Mastodon and the latter on Twitter. Pity!

From Masih, who will not stop tweeting. The Google translation:

Harassment of an “Amer Be Marouf” in a subway car in Tehran for female students led to their standing up and throwing him out of the subway car with the slogan “Death to Khamenei”. Khamenei has the right to be angry with this young and brave generation. Students who are determined to break the chains of oppression and humiliation that the rulers like on their hands and feet. Six months of detention, torture and poisoning, not only did not intimidate the students, but made them bolder and more determined to continue on their way. These are generation #زن_زندگى_آزادى‌ .

And the internet suggests that an Amer Be Marouf is one who enforces spiritual dictates on the body: in the case, the other women’s refusal to wear hijabs:

Amar bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar’ is a phrase widely misinterpreted. This statement was made for the Qalb (spiritual heart) and the Nafs. People have applied this to the body: they think it means to force people to do good and to forcibly stop people from doing bad.

Gravelinspector says, “No further comment necessary,” but I want to know what happened:

From Simon; I suspect I’ve posted this one before. Sound on:

From Luana: a rainbow “progress shark”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a mass parachute jump, and one well choreographed:

Would you walk this Swiss path?

Matthew is still besieged! (New tweet is the last one.)

Click “continue reading” to see my letter to Biden and his boilerplate “reply”. If you want to weigh in, send your own to the link here.

Continue reading “Saturday: Hili dialogue”

Friday: Hili dialogue

March 10, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Friday, March 10, 2023, and National Ranch Dressing Day (I‘m told that the stuff is not healthy, but what is? On the other hand, I also found an article called, “Why you should keep enjoying full-fat ranch dressing.”). Here’s why it’s bad:

Ranch dressing is an American salad dressing usually made from buttermilk, salt, garlic, onion, mustard, herbs (commonly chives, parsley and dill), and spices (commonly pepper, paprika and ground mustard seed) mixed into a sauce based on mayonnaise or another oil emulsion. Sour cream and yogurt are sometimes used in addition to, or as a substitute for, buttermilk and mayonnaise.

Despite the fat (more likely because of it), it’s been the most popular salad dressing in America for three decades.

It’s also National Blueberry Popover Day, International Bagpipe Day, Pack Your Lunch Day, Landline Telephone Day (hands up if you still have yours; I do and I haven’t gotten or made a call on it in a year), and International Day of Awesomeness.

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

Da Nooz:

*The Big Nooz is that Trump may soon be indicted for paying $130,000 in hush money to the porn star Stormy Daniels. The payment occurred before the Presidential election in 2016, although Trump admitted having an affair with her ten years earlier.

After all the recent brouhaha about the Georgia grand jury investigation, this old allegation has come out of left field to bite Trump on the tuchas:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office recently signaled to Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that he could face criminal charges for his role in the payment of hush money to a porn star, the strongest indication yet that prosecutors are nearing an indictment of the former president, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

The prosecutors offered Mr. Trump the chance to testify next week before the grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the potential case, the people said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is close; it would be unusual for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him.

In New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in the grand jury before they are indicted, but they rarely testify, and Mr. Trump is likely to decline the offer. His lawyers could also meet privately with the prosecutors in hopes of fending off criminal charges.

Any case would mark the first indictment of a former American president, and could upend the 2024 presidential race in which Mr. Trump remains a leading contender. It would also elevate Mr. Bragg to the national stage, though not without risk, and a conviction in the complex case is far from assured.

The Washington Post adds this:

Trump issued a lengthy, rambling statement in which he denied having an affair with Daniels and accused prosecutors of trying to “get Trump.”

If charges are brought in connection to payoffs, they would likely focus on the alleged creation of false records to conceal the nature of the funds paid to Daniels. Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer, has said he fronted the money involved in the transactions and was reimbursed by his then-boss. Falsifying business records is generally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors can bring a felony charge if the fabrication was done to conceal or advance another crime.

But I’m wondering if being indicted is sufficient to prevent Trump from running for President. If there’s nothing unconstitutional about it, a mere indictment surely wouldn’t keep the guy from running, and of course it wouldn’t faze most Republicans a bit, even though a trial and conviction would prevent him from acting as President. And of course Trump would delay a trial as long as possible, which would take it into next year’s election season. But remember, an indictment in this case is not guaranteed. But there’s also possible indictments for interfering with the Presidential election in Georgia.

*The latest death is that of actor Robert Blake (real name  Michael James Gubitosi), who died Thursday of heart disease at 89. I suppose he’s best known for his portrayal of a detective in the t.v. show “Baretta”, but I remember him best as playing murderer Perry Smith in the movie “In Cold Blood,” based on Truman Capote’s book. But I didn’t remember this next part of his life, about the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley (whose own past is, well, “checkered”). This is from Blake’s Wikipedia page:

On May 4, 2001, Blake took Bakley out for dinner at Vitello’s Italian Restaurant in Studio City, California. Bakley was fatally shot in the head while sitting in Blake’s vehicle, which was parked on a side street around the corner from the restaurant, across the street and behind a dumpster next to a construction site. Blake claimed that he had returned to the restaurant to collect a pistol which he had left inside and claimed that he had not been present when the shooting took place. The pistol Blake claimed to have left in the restaurant was found and determined by police not to be the murder weapon.

Blake, tried for the murder, was found not guilty, but later found guilty in a civil suit and ordered to pay $30 million (he later declared bankruptcy).

*On March 2, four Americans crossed the Mexican border, one of whom wanted a tummy tuck (plastic surgery is much cheaper there). A few days later, two of them were found dead and the other two alive (one critically injured) in the cartel-ridden border town of Matamoros. But now there’s a weird twist:

Five [living] men, lying face down with their hands tied, were found by the Mexican authorities on Thursday along with a letter purportedly written by a powerful criminal cartel, blaming the men for a recent attack on four Americans, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

The note apologized for the assault, which left two Americans and one Mexican dead, and claimed that the cartel was offering up the men who had carried it out, according to photos reviewed by The Times. The people who described the discovery were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

“We have decided to hand over those involved and directly responsible for the events, who at all times acted of their own volition,” the letter said. The five men were found, alive, along with the note, in Matamoros, the border city on the Rio Grande where the Americans were attacked.

It was not clear whether the message was accurate or actually written by the cartel. The Mexican authorities will question the five men, officials said, to try to determine whether they actually participated in the abduction and killings.

The article mentions that such notes are often found but are not to be trusted. If it was written by the cartel itself, I don’t understand why they’re giving up the men. Do they think that will take the heat off of them? Or it could have been written by a competing cartel trying to move attention off themselves to another cartel. At any rate, if the guys surrendered were canny, they’d simply deny that they committed the murders. They might indeed be innocent people whom the cartel wanted disposed of; but in that case why didn’t they just kill them?

*Texas has executed its fifth condemned prisoner this year, and it’s only mid-March. (Four more have been executed this year in other states.) The murder of which the man (and two accomplices) were accused took place over thirty years ago:

Texas has executed an inmate convicted of the drug-related killings of four people more than 30 years ago, including a woman who was 9-months pregnant.

Arthur Brown Jr., 52, insisted he was innocent before receiving a lethal injection Thursday evening at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was condemned for the June 1992 slayings, which took place in a Houston home during a drug robbery.

Authorities said Brown was part of a ring that shuttled drugs from Texas to Alabama and had bought drugs from Jose Tovar and his wife Rachel Tovar.

Killed during the drug robbery were 32-year-old Jose Tovar; his wife’s 17-year-old son, Frank Farias; 19-year-old Jessica Quiñones, the pregnant girlfriend of another son of Rachel Tovar; and 21-year-old neighbor Audrey Brown. All four had been tied up and shot in the head. Rachel Tovar and another person were also shot but survived.

The execution was by lethal injection with pentobarbital, probably the most humane way to die (it’s how pets are “put to sleep”—so long as the drug comes from a reliable source.

Brown was defiant in his final statement.

“What is happening here tonight isn’t justice,” he said. “It’s the murder of another innocent man.”

He said he’d proved his innocence “but the courts blocked me.”

“The state hid the evidence so long and good that my own attorneys couldn’t find it,” he said in a loud voice, looking at the ceiling of the death chamber while strapped to a gurney and not making any eye contact with a half-dozen relatives of his victims who watched through a window a few feet from him.

As the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital took effect, he took two deep breaths, gasped and then began snoring. After six snores all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 17 minutes later, at 6:37 p.m.

Brown’s attorneys tried to get him off by requesting a DNA test (which the judge for some reason denied) and also raised a “defendant is intellectually deficient” defense:

“Mr. Brown’s intellectual limitations were known to his friends and family. … Individuals that knew Mr. Brown over the course of his life have described him consistently as ‘slow,’” his attorneys wrote in their petition to the Supreme Court.

This of course assumes that had the defendant been smarter, he could have chosen not to kill. But all determinists know that no murderer could have chosen not to kill, not even smart people like Ted Bundy. That makes execution a purely retributive punishment. (Life in prison without parole is as well, unless the murderer is periodically examined and consistently deemed to be a danger to society.)

*The state of Maine has decided to crack down on vanity license plates that could be suggestive or salacious, and rescinded the plates of this car, owned by a vegan:

AP caption: Peter Starostecki and his kids Sadie, center, and Jo Jo, pose behind their car with the vanity license plate that the state of Maine has deemed in appropriate, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Poland, Maine. The vegan family’s car will soon have a randomly selected plate. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Now why on earth would “LUVTOFU” be offensive, especially when it’s on the car of a vegan family? The state’s excuse:

Maine had for several years allowed people to put just about any combination of letters and numbers on their vehicle plates, including words and phrases that other states would ban. But the state decided to change course and this year recalled 274 plates it deemed inappropriate.

Some people are fighting back.

So far the state has rejected all of the appeals, including one brought by the vegan whose license plate referenced tofu.

The state concluded the license plate “LUVTOFU” could’ve been seen as a reference to sex instead of admiration for bean curd. The motorist insisted there was no mistaking his intent because the back of his car had several tofu-related stickers.

“It’s my protest against eating meat and animal products,” Peter Starostecki, the disappointed motorist, said after a zoom session with a hearing examiner for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

I was no aware that “tofu” had any sexual connotations. There were other plate victims, too:

Heather Libby and her best friend grudgingly gave up their matching license plates that contained a word for a female dog.

Maine stopped reviewing vanity plate requests after 2015, giving rise to a spate of “offensive” plates:

Residents in a state known for being laconic and even-tempered soon were sporting uncensored plates pairing the F-word with “snow,” “haters,” and “ALS,” — the incurable neurodegenerative disease.

I guess the state has the right to do this despite freedom of speech, and I suppose there are plates that are in the state’s interest to ban because they could cause road rage incidents.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is puzzled:

Hili: I see something I do not understand.
A: We all have this problem sometimes.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę coś, czego nie rozumiem.
Ja: Wszyscy często mamy ten problem.


From Thomas: a Far Side cartoon from Gary Larson:

From j.a.h., another evolution-of-humans diagram from Imgur:

Here’s reader Divy’s cat Jango, a male tabby who has a deep but unrequited love for Hili. He sees her on my website, and Jango’s comment for this one is:

Meowza! I’d like to knead my paws on that soft belly 😻

Below Masih gave a speech when accepting Time Magazine‘s “Women of the Year” contest, and naturally uses it to promote the cause of Iranian women. If the government there is overthrown, which would be nice, she would be one of the main causes:

From Barry; when your head is a drinking platform.

From Debra, bobcat invades home, takes over d*g bed:

From Simon; maybe it makes sense to the cat. (Yesterday Szaron walked over my keyboard and pasted the same paragraph into my text five times in a row.):

From Malcolm, “Bambie zoomies” and other artiodactyls gamboling:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lived but six weeks in the camp. His eyes in his face-on photo are haunting:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a sleepy call duck:

Another duck tweet. Quack, indeed!

Another nice example of mimicry that Matthew found on Twitter. I retweeted it:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 9, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Thursday, March 9, 2023, and National Crab Day. It’s also Popcorn Lovers Day, National Meatball Day, Barbie Day (the impossibly configured doll was introduced on this day in 1959), and World Kidney Day.’

Speaking of Barbie Day, there’s now a hijab Barbie, modeled after fencer Ibthaj Muhammad, and fully covered except for the face. But where is the Hasidic Barbie, almost as modest as the one below but with a baby carriage and removable wig, or the Hindu Barbie with a bindi mark and sari? Only one religion has its own Barbie—is that fair?

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 9 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Uncle Joe (and yes, that’s meant affectionately) is releasing the proposed budget today, which he says will reduce the federal deficit by at least two trillion dollars. How’s he gonna do that? By taxing the rich:

Mr. Biden’s plans, which will be detailed as part of his budget blueprint, are expected to rely heavily on a familiar batch of tax increases on corporations and high earners along with savings from some spending reductions, including efforts to save money on federal health care programs by expanding legislation he signed last year that allows Medicare to negotiate the price of certain prescription drugs.

The moves come as Mr. Biden faces pressure from Republicans, who won control of the House last fall, to alter the nation’s fiscal path. House Republicans have refused to raise the nation’s debt limit, which caps how much money the federal government can borrow, unless Mr. Biden agrees to steep cuts in federal spending.

To help increase federal revenues and reduce the nation’s reliance on borrowed money, Mr. Biden is expected to announce a new tax on American households worth more than $100 million that would apply to both their earned income and the unrealized gains in the value of their liquid assets, like stocks. Mr. Biden will also call for the quadrupling of a tax on stock buybacks that was approved as part of a sweeping tax, health care and climate bill he signed last year.

The president is also expected to continue proposing some tax increases to offset the cost of portions of his agenda that have not yet passed Congress. That agenda includes efforts to expand access to child care and reduce its cost, provide federally guaranteed paid leave for workers, establish universal prekindergarten and enable students to attend community college for free.

The paper also adds that this is unlikely to fly with the Republicans due to Biden’s refusal to negotiate over raising the debt limit (our debt is currently $31.4 trillion), although Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says that failure to raise the debt limit (a failure the GOP wants), would wreak financial havoc:

“Congress really needs to raise the debt ceiling … if we fail to do so, I think that the consequences are hard to estimate, but they could be extraordinarily adverse and could do long-standing harm,”

Biden’s new tax would apply only to those making more than $100 million per year, and involve a tax on “unrealized capital gains”: rises in values of stock that are not translated into money because the stocks aren’t cashed in. This of course depends on a continuing rise in stock values, and seems a bit unfair to me since there doesn’t seem to be a decrease in taxes when stock values fall, and also because this is money on paper, and isn’t really translated into spendable cash.

*Keanu Reeves has the rare honor of having not a new organism named after him, but a class of drugs that kills a group of organisms: fungicides derived from bacteria.

German scientists have discovered compounds that kill harmful fungi in plants and humans. In honor of Reeves’s combat skills, they named the antimicrobials “keanumycins,” according to Sebastian Götze, a co-author of the German study.

“We were just basically blown away by the high activity,” Götze said. “That’s why we basically said, ‘Yeah, it’s like an assassin, a hit man or something, killing a couple of different fungi very effectively.’”

During a Reddit question-and-answer session Saturday, Reeves shared his gratitude for the recognition.

“They should’ve called it John Wick … but that’s pretty cool … and surreal for me,” Reeves wrote. “But thanks, scientist people! Good luck, and thank you for helping us.”

Keanumycins A, B and C are produced from pseudomonas, bacteria commonly found in soil and water, according to the scientists’ study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The compounds are useful in knocking down infections. Keanumycins fight Candida albicans, a fungus that can create yeast infections in people, according to the German research institution’s news release.

The scientists say keanumycins could be used in medicines. Fungi can become resistant to frequently used antifungals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which leaves medical professionals on the lookout for new remedies.

*The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports that Hadi Matar, the Muslim who attacked Salman Rushdie, blinding him in one eye and costing him the use of his hand, has been rewarded by the Iranian government with one dunam (roughly 1,000 m² of fertile land (he would have gotten more had he killed Rushdie, so the fatwa is clearly still on).

That this reward, a Palestinian-like “pay for slay” emolument, is in part a fulfillment of the 1979 fatwa against Rusdhie, is evidenced by the announcement having been made by Iranian cleric Mohammad Esmail Zarai, secretary of the Popular Organization for Implementing [Ayatollah] Ruhollah Khomeini’s Fatwa to Kill Salman Rushdie (oy, what a committee!) and chief military prosecutor in Mazandaran province in northern Iran.

Here’s Zarai’s announcement:

“We thank the young American [Hadi Matar] from the bottom of our hearts for the courageous action he carried out in an effort to implement the historic fatwa issued by the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]. His success in blinding Salman Rushdie in one eye and paralyzing his hand brought great joy to the Muslims.

“Salman Rushdie is a dead man walking. In order to honor this courageous act, [Matar] or his legal representative will be awarded, in a special ceremony, about 1,000 square meters of valuable and fertile agricultural land, donated in the name of the late hajj and sheikh Hossein Zarai.

“More land will be awarded to whoever sends this virus of corruption [i.e. Rushdie] to Hell. We believe that this fatwa must be implemented under any circumstances, and we will make every effort to implement this historic fatwa of the Imam [Khomeini].”

The MEMRI article ends this way:

It should be noted that Iran has officially denied any connection to Matar’s attack on Rushdie, and has said that Rushdie himself is to blame for what happened to him.

Yeah, Rushdie brought it on himself by writing a novel. Nothing to see here, folks; move along!

*Reader Jez posted this yesterday.

To mark International Women’s Day, JK Rowling tweeted the link to a petition calling on the UK government to amend the Equality Act (2010) to make it explicit that sex means biological sex. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will be considered for a parliamentary debate. Go here.

As I write this at 2 a.m. Chicago time, there are 98,001 signatures, so they’ll surely reach the 100,000 needed to instigate a Parliamentary debate.

The explanation of the proposed change is here. Remember, you have to be a British citizen to sign.

Below is Rowling’s tweet, which of course will be demonized by the ignorant or the ideologically blind as transphobic:

*John McWhorter’s new column in the NYT, “Why racial discussions should also focus on progress,” tries to move discussion of race beyond white racism and white supremacy to more positive stuff: the progress racial minorities have achieved. Here are some achievements that would have been unthinkable when I was a child:

Let’s try, for one, the notion of Black power. The good word would seem to be that we never really have any. But that isn’t true, and any valid chronicle of the history of what’s been happening to Black Americans since the 1960s must not pretend otherwise.

We have now had a two-term Black president, two Black secretaries of state, one Black (and South Asian) vice president and a Black secretary of defense. These were all borderline unimaginable goals a generation ago.

Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was elevated in 2020 to become the Catholic Church’s first Black cardinal. He was the first Black president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as far back as the early 2000s — a time at which Dennis Archer was also the first Black president of the American Bar Association.

Lowe’s and Walgreens, two of the nation’s largest retailers, are run by Black chief executives. The reason you probably didn’t know that is because there are now enough Black chief executives to bypass the notion of firsts. This contrasts with 2000, when there were only two prominent Black chief executives of Fortune 500 companies — Franklin Raines at Fannie Mae and Lloyd Ward at Maytag — although that, too, was awesome progress over what had come before.

Successes of this kind should be held up front and center, not dismissed as footnotes or all but buried in equal coverage of remaining disparities — although those should of coursebe covered elsewhere in a curriculum.

As a linguist, McWhorter also focuses on the advances of black English, which he describes like this:  “Beyond its awesome grammatical structures, it is fascinating that such a dialect primarily confined to Black usage just 50 years ago now decorates the speech of countless Americans who are not Black at all.” He also says that “hip-hop” has been a “glorious revolution” in music, though it’s there that McWhorter and I part ways.

*Barney the purple dinosaur, whom I despise but kids love, has gotten a makeover to prepare for a new animated cartoon about him. The new version is on the right below, the old on the left:

(from yahoo!): The classic PBS version of Barney pictured alongside his Mattel makeover. (Photo: Everett Collection/Courtesy of Mattel)

yahoo! entertainment decided to check the accuracy of the new Barney by actually asking paleontologists to weigh in. (h/t Ginger K.). The question was this, “We weren’t so interested in whether they thought the new cartoon iteration of the Tyrannosaurus rex was adorable, which he is, or horrifying, which he also is. But how does he compare to an authentic dino?”

They weren’t happy:

“T. rex would have had legs similar to a chicken. New Barney has legs like an elephant,” O’Connor tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Both Barneys are missing the bird-like toes.”

Davis remarked that dinosaurs “stood in a horizontal posture with their tails off the ground,” which is definitely different than Barney’s depiction.

. . .Anthony Maltese, curator of the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center who digs up fossils himself, observed that there are too many fingers on the new Barney.

“I don’t even know where to start with it. Tyrannosaurus rex should only have two fingers,” Maltese said. “It’s pretty well known for only having those two with claws on them. So, it having double the number of fingers on the hands is just. … it’s a nice invention.”

. . .Our experts agreed on most things, including that, in real Cretaceous life, Barney’s teeth would be much more ferocious.

. . .”The color choice is also problematic. Looking at living, non-feathered reptiles, purple is a very rare scale color.”

It’s actually more likely that green, which Barney has as an accent shade, is the dominant color.

. . . Speaking of feathers, many of our dino authorities thought Barney would have some.

. . . While birds, the most closely related living species to dinosaurs, have a specialized vocal organ called a syrinx that allows them to sing, the fossil record indicates that tyrannosaurs did not. Sadly, their vocalizations would have sounded more like the hisses and grunts of a crocodile than a catchy ditty about love, hugs and happy families.

Oh for crying out loud! What kid is gonna love a feathery shark that would grunt? The article has an animated webpage alternating between the new kids’ Barney and an “authentic” Barney, and the real one is not endearing.

But animals on kids’ shows aren’t expected to be realistic. Is Kermit the frog realistic? (see below):

The t.v. Kermit:

A real frog: note lack of vertical posture, absence of yellow fringed collar, and presence of webbed feet and eyes placed laterally instead of atop the cranium. Real frogs also have four fingers on each limb and not five on the front.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are taking up space on Andrzej’s and Malgorzata’s bed:

A: Is there any room for a human as well?
Hili: Of course, you are always welcome.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy jest tu jeszcze miejsce dla człowieka?
Hili: Oczywiście, zawsze jesteś mile widziany.


From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

From Merilee, a Mark Parisi cartoon:

Another from America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

Retweeted by Masih; these girls are violating at least four laws, the lack of hijabs being the most prominent. Notice how they dress when they’re not constrained by Muslim-based law:

From Colin Wright (subject of a post yesterday) on the EEB Language Project, subject of a different post yesterday. Here are the most harmful terms suggested to date. Notice that, confusingly, the Project suggests that “gender” be replaced with “sex,” although noting they’re not the same thing.

A cassowary from Simon, who says, “Sound up!”:

From Barry with the comment, “Down, boy—down!”

From the Auschwitz Memorial. Remember that about a million Jews died at Auschwitz (out of 1.1 million people), so there could be a different photo each day for 2740 years.

Tweets from Matthew. I agree with the tweeter’s decision!

An original color photo, but with colors enhanced:

Mitosis is, of course, the normal process of cell division. Here we have whole-felid mitosis:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (by Jerry)

March 8, 2023 • 6:45 am

It is Wednesday, a Hump Day (“Dzien Humpa”) in Polish, March 8, 2022. It’s International Women’s Day”, with Google Doodle (click to read):

I have landed, but it was a long journey to O’Hare, to Poland, and from Warsaw to Dobrzyn, The flight was uneventful but LOT, the Polish National Airline, was dire: the seat was too small, there was a fat man man of size beside me who flowed over into my seat. the food was AWFUL (a big piece of tough chicken breast that was virtually un-cuttable with the wooden utensils they gave us), the carpets on the plane floor were filthy, and breakfast was some kind of cheese sandwich slathered with undefinable sauce.  At least the flight took off and landed on time.

I then took a taxi to the railroad station, and the process of buying my ticket to Wloclawek (the town nearest to Dobrzyn) took a LONG time.  Very few people speak English in Poland, and my Polish is limited to “beer’, “good morning,” “thank you”, and “hearty appetite”!  I had to change trains and got to Wlockawek about 7 pm, whereupon Mariusz and Paulina, the lodgers (Paulina takes the lovely cat pictures), picked me up and drove me the 40 minutes to Dobrzyn. It was good to see Andrzej and Malgorzata again; I think it’s been nearly three years. And this was also awaiting me:

HILI on my bed:

In loaf mode:

Hili this morning. She makes a lot of silent meows now; she can’t be bothered to emit any sound!

The other two kitties have also befriended me. Szaron in particular is very affectionate, and slept with me half the night. He is a dark tabby, but curiously, his underfur is white, as is his skin

Andrzej took this photo of Szaron and me this morning. If I didn’t push him aside, Szaron would be on my lap constantly. Cat paradise!

And don’t forget baby Kulka (at breakfast)!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s at the freezing point, and there’s snow on the ground. Hili is restive.

Hili: We should not be under any illusion.
A: You are right. It’s still winter.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie powinniśmy ulegać złudzeniom.
Ja: Masz rację, to nadal jest zima.

From Nicole:

From Malcolm. I don’t know how the guy does this:

From imgur via j.a. higginbotham. I like the smaller smartphones:

A few tweets.

From Masih; the Google translation is this:

This year’s International Women’s Day has a different color, because the courage of Iranian girls and women has crossed the borders and caused the admiration of the world. Since the day when the name #ژینا shook the foundations of the most anti-women government in the world, nothing is the same, as if there is no way back. From the day when women became scouts, girls burned the scarves of captivity and boys and men stood shoulder to shoulder, the breaths of the child-killing government were numbered. What do women want? They want their dignity, freedom and life taken away. That’s why they shout #زن_زندگی_آزادی in the streets of Iran and the world. They will not stop until the day they break the Islamic Republic and its discriminatory laws and instead build a land based on human values.

Apparently God is an addict. But why?

From cesar. Elephants are wicked smart:

From gravelinspector. Apparently some Christian church in Kenya advertised for a “Christ,” and actually got one. Now they want to crucify him on Easter!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, an infant gassed upon arrival. She was one year old.

Tweets from Matthew; the Google translation of this one is:

Mr. spot-billed duck You don’t want to slip down, do you?



Matthew finds this tweet “stupid but droll”. Why waste good baklava?

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 6, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Monday, March 6, 2023, and this evening I fly to Poland, where two humans and three cats (and cherry pie!) await me. Posting will be light today, and there will be no reader’s wildlife feature (hold onto your photos until I return in 10 days). As always, I do my best.

It’s National Oreo Day, and there are many seasonal varieties that you can try. The best I’ve had was green-tea-cream-filled Oreos sent to me from Japan. I noticed that there are several online places where you can buy them:

It’s also National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day (meh), National Frozen Food Day, Alamo Day (the last day of the siege of the Alamo in 1836), and National Dentist’s Day (given the position of the apostrophe, which dentist are they celebrating?). Finally, it’s European Day of the Righteous, honoring “those who have stood up against crimes against humanity and totalitarianism with their own moral responsibility”, and Foundation Day  on Norfolk Island, marking the founding of that island in 1788. Founded as a penal settlement for the British, it’s now part of Australia (population ca. 2,188). It’s circled below:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 6 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: Looking for an inexpensive but tasty white outside your normal experience? How about this $16 white Bordeaux? I’ve found inexpensive whites from the region uneven, but this one, from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux, was well worth the price. Between light gold and straw colored, it was slightly off-dry but refreshing, with a nose, to me, of peaches and orange peel. Other reviews, like this one by Robert Parker, who rates it 90/100, also mention fruity flavors:

The 2019 Lune d’Argent comes skipping out of the glass with bright, cheery scents of lemon drops, key lime pie and fresh pink grapefruit with suggestions of mandarin peel, honeysuckle and wet pebbles. Medium-bodied, the palate bursts with vibrant citrus flavors and a racy backbone of freshness, finishing with a pretty perfume.

It’s ready to drink, and went well with my usual frugal dinner of chicken thighs (the best part of the pullet), green beans, and rice with plum sauce. I imagine it would pair well with almost any seafood or white meat. A bargain at the price!

Da Nooz:

*The Russians continue their attempt to encircle the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, helped along by the privately owned paramilitary “Wagner troops,” which include men offered release from jail if they’d fight. The city isn’t yet completely surrounded, but my hopes aren’t high that it won’t be.

With their policy of executing on the spot troopers who attempt to retreat or surrender, and a disregard for losses that is shocking for modern warfare, Wagner’s disposable penal battalions have emerged as a unique threat to Ukrainian defenders, advancing at the time when the regular Russian military remains largely stalled.

No military in a democratic society can keep sending wave after wave of soldiers to near-certain death to gain another few hundred yards. Even Russia’s regular armed forces, known for their high tolerance of casualties, shy away from sending troops on clearly suicidal missions. Yet it is precisely such an approach that has allowed Wagner to come to the verge of capturing Bakhmut, at a cost that Ukrainian and Western officials estimate at tens of thousands of Russian casualties.

Ukraine is also suffering large casualties here that could sap its ability to mount a spring offensive with new weapons supplied by the U.S. and allies. President Volodymyr Zelensky has come under growing pressure to pull back from the eastern city, home to 70,000 people before the war, in what would be Kyiv’s first such significant retreat since last summer. Wagner, which began its assault on Bakhmut in July, keeps inching closer to the remaining two supply roads into the shrinking salient, as its men fight house to house on approaches to the city’s central neighborhoods.

Here’s where Bakhmut is:

The Wagner troops, in their relentless suicidal attacks, and willingness to kill fellow soldier who try to retreat or surrender, resemble the Japanese troops on Pacific islands during WWII:

At times, up to 18 human waves of Wagner troops have attacked a single trench in a 24-hour period, said Sr. Lt. Petro Horbatenko, a battalion commander in the Third Storm Brigade, one of the Ukrainian units on the Bakhmut front.

“A Wagner fighter doesn’t have an option to pull back. Their only chance of survival is to keep moving ahead,” he said. “And this tactic works. It’s a zombie war…They are throwing cannon fodder at us, aiming to cause maximum damage. We obviously can’t respond the same way because we don’t have as much personnel and we are sensitive to losses.”

And the US just anted up another $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, while Attorney General Merrick Garland took a side trip to the city of Lviv to meet with President Zelensky(y).

*Is there ever any good news from Republican states? Not Florida: a new WaPo article kills thee birds with one stone (yes, I know that’s an unapproved pharse) under the headline “Florida bills would ban gender studies, transgender pronouns, and tenure perks.” This involves both K-12 secondary schools and universities‚presumably not private schools and universities. Here are some of the new bills:

One of the bills put forward in the 2023 legislative session builds directly on the parental rights law: House Bill 1223 would expand the ban on gender and sexuality education to extend through eighth grade. That bill also says school staffers, contractors and students cannot be required to use pronouns that do not match the sex a person was assigned at birth.

Well, I’m not as opposed to the pronoun-usage provision, though using preferred pronouns is a simple matter of civility. But requiring their use may violate the First Amendment, so a bill that bans such a requirement may simply be unconstitutional. But I’m not a lawyer.

. . . Florida legislators have introduced two other pieces of similar legislation: the near-identical Senate bill filed by Yarborough and House Bill 1069, brought by Rep. Stan McClain (R-District 27). The latter bill requires that students in grades 6-12 be taught that “sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth.” It also grants parents greater power to read over and object to school instructional materials, as well as limit their child’s ability to explore the school library.

Sex is determined by gamete size or whether one has the biological equipment to produce large or small gametes. If they want to be biologically accurate, they should stipulate it that way. I haven’t read the bills, but I can understand why parents are concerned.  Finally, there’s this one:

Another bill on the table is House Bill 999, targeted to higher education and introduced by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-District 2), who did not respond to a request for comment. The bill outlaws spending on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, says a professor’s tenure can come under review at any time and gives boards of trustees — typically appointed by the governor or Board of Governors — control of faculty hiring and curriculum review.

It also eliminates college majors and minors in “Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality.” It says colleges should offer general education courses that “promote the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization and include studies of this nation’s historical documents” including the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

A mixed bag. Until affirmative action is banned, as it will be, strangling DEI funding is a bad move, especially because even without affirmative action there should be some college bureaucrats to support diversity initiatives that don’t involve race-preferential hiring. I don’t in general like legislatures mandating school curricula, though they do have the right to do so. And I no longer care about tenure since I’m retired, but I think it’s a generally good thing in academia and it’s clear that it’s being used here as a political weapon, not to ensure quality education.

All in all, one can see these bills as a reaction to the spread of “progressivism” (i.e., wokeness in colleges), so the extreme Left is reaping what it sowed.

And more news:

The proposed laws have a high likelihood of passing in the State House, where GOP legislators make up a supermajority. Even before Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) landslide victory in November, very few Republicans pushed back against his policy proposals, instead crafting and passing bills that align with the governor’s mission to remake education in Florida from kindergarten through college.

*Conductor and author John Mauceri, who happened to be the musical adviser to the acclaimed film “Tár,” has a NYT op-ed called “The Fight Over ‘Tár’ Shows How Much We Conductors Hate One Another.” Remember that I loved that movie, though my cinemaphile nephew Stephen said it didn’t merit consideration as a “Golden Steve” winner. So why did this movie reveal internecine hatred among conductors?

Many of the complaints within the classical music community seem to grow out of a concern that if you write a fictional drama depicting unsavory characters (Lydia is accused of abusing a young female student — though that is never proved in the film), the segment of the moviegoing public who don’t generally attend classical concerts will be driven even further away.

But audiences are smarter than that. “Tár”was released on Oct. 7, 2022. That month streams of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 — a work that looms large in the film as one Lydia has yet to record with a major orchestra — were up 150 percent from the previous month, according to data provided by Apple. Compared with the previous October, that number had more than tripled. Streaming of Mahler’s Fifth also jumped on Spotify after the release of the film. The “Tár”concept album on Deutsche Grammophon hit No. 1 on the Billboard classical charts. And you can count on it: When my friend Marin Alsop next conducts Mahler’s Fifth, the press will celebrate what surely will be a brilliant performance — and also refer to “Tár.”

But why the rancor?

Fiction or not, the sort of backstage backstabbing depicted in “Tár” is, alas, very real. We conductors do not generally like our colleagues, and we delight in denigrating one another — that is, until one of us dies. (I am now old enough for the younger set — 50 and under — to say nice things about me, which I find somewhat troubling.)

. . .There are many reasons for this. Conductors are competitors. But judging how “good” we are is complicated because we live in a world of opinions, not score cards. Critics respond to the ephemera of our performances with indelible printed words, and far more people read those words than attend our performances. We appear to be all-knowing, grandly wielding a stick and controlling the greatest expressions of humanity, but we are truly in charge only when we are permitted to be in charge.

And it is feminist by presenting

Not all conductors, it should be said, have come out against “Tár,” and especially not all women conductors. After all, the film features a female maestro leading one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, with a female concertmaster and a female soloist playing the fiendishly difficult Elgar Cello concerto. . . One of the most arresting scenes revolves around a composition by a woman, Anna Thorvaldsdottir. The person who wrote the accompanying music to the film, Hildur Gudnadottir, is a woman. Natalie Murray Beale, who has conducted operas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, trained Ms. Blanchett. Other successful women conductors have supported the film, including Alice Farnham and Simone Young.

In the end, conductors hate each other for the same reason that nominees for President hate each other: there are many people competing for a very limited number of glamorous and powerful positions.

*California is getting ready to propose some reparations for black people whose ancestors suffered under slavey and segregation. Reparations can take many forms from check to societal changes, but we have no idea what the state is going to do yet:

Nearly two years into the California reparations task force’s work, the group still has yet to make key decisions that will be at the heart of its final report recommending how the state should apologize and compensate Black residents for the harms caused by slavery and discrimination.

A vote possibly slated for this weekend on requirements for who would be eligible for payments and other remedies was delayed because of the absence of one of the committee’s nine members.

After two hours of intense debate, the task force voted unanimously Saturday in favor of an agency that would provide certain services to descendants of Black enslaved people while overseeing groups that provide other services. The vote followed one proposed by task force member Cheryl Grills at a prior meeting to recommend that this entity mainly serve as an oversight body.

Lawmakers passed legislation in 2020 creating the task force to assess how the legacy of slavery harmed African Americans long after its abolition through education, criminal justice and other disparities. The legislation directs the task force to study reparations proposals “with a special consideration for” the descendants of enslaved Black people living in California and is not meant to create a program in lieu of one from the federal government.

The federal government doesn’t have a program, and it probably won’t: a bill to simply study the question has been stuck in Congress since 1989. He’s how California has divided up the issue:

. . . The task force previously proposed the following time frames for the five harms, which begin either when the state was founded or when certain discriminatory policies were implemented: 1933 to 1977 for housing discrimination and homelessness, 1970 to 2020 for over-policing and mass incarceration, 1850 to 2020 for unjust property takings, 1900 to 2020 for health harms, and 1850 to 2020 for devaluation of Black-owned businesses.

The issue of reparations is perhaps the most difficult one to think about during the “racial reckoning,” and I haven’t written about it simply because I haven’t studied all the arguments for and against

*Food news of the week. The Washington Post describes a British woman on a mission from Ceiling Cat:

Frequently featured in shows such as the “Great British Bake Off” or nibbled alongside tea sipped with pinkies raised on “Downton Abbey,” scones are a sentimental piece of British life.

One British woman was so passionate about scones, and U.K. heritage sites, that she combined her love of the two, spending 10 years on a personal mission to visit 244 sites recognized by the National Trust, a century-old conservation charity, and sampling a scone at every location.

Sarah Merker, 49, delighted Britons and made national headlines on Wednesday when she completed what she called her decade-long “odyssey” and bit into her final scone — amid a backdrop of the ocean facing Giant’s Causeway, a historic site in Northern Ireland.

“It’s been absolutely unbelievable,” the global marketing executive from London told The Washington Post in an interview Saturday about her long journey and the attention it’s received. “I’m never, ever sick of scones.”

Merker’s journey began for a practical reason — she and her husband had joined the National Trust charity as annual members in 2013, and Merker set herself the project of visiting every site with catering facilities to ensure her membership would not go unused, like her gym membership.

However, over the years, her mission also took on emotional significance — her husband Peter died of cancer in 2018, and since the couple had enjoyed visiting the National Trust sites together, Merker also saw completing the journey as a way to pay tribute to him.

Apparently each National Trust site has a cafe, and those cafes have scones:

Throughout her journey, she wrote a personal blog detailing what she learned — as well as scoring the scones she tasted out of five. The blog was even turned into a book, highlighting scone recipes by National Trust chefs across the country — as well as eventually gaining her national news coverage.

“People equate the National Trust with the scone — it’s quaint and a bit old fashioned,” she joked, calling her journey a “double whammy of Britishness.”

I don’t care if it’s old-fashioned; I love scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and could eat a pile of them (they usually give you two):

Now if every National Trust site only had a pub, one that dispense Tim Taylor Landlord on draft. .

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili still doesn’t like Kulka:

Hili: What are you looking at me like that?
Kulka: I’m wondering what you are going to do now.
In Polish
Hili: Co tak na mnie patrzysz?
Kulka: Zastanawiam się, co teraz zrobisz.


From Now That’s Wild:

From Jean, a Roz Chast cartoon:

From mirandaga:

Reader Pradeep got the bot to write a poem (supposedly in my voice) about ducks! Not a bad job from ChatGPT:

Retweeted by Masih: Schoolgirls and women defiant as they get poisoned in their classrooms, apparently by gas:

From Malcolm. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the guy who manned this lighthouse before automation!

From Luana. This is at Yale Law School?

The pinned tweet of the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. What does Larry want with his wallet, though?

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a Cat of Size:

This cat really wants that baguette. Sound up.

And Matthew’s third tweet of the day: a cat-smitten woman adopts a moggy and builds him a house. All ends well in DodoLand (watch to the end). Sound up!