Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 25, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on a Hump Day, or “Kupros diena,” as they say in Lithuania: Wednesday, January 25, 2023. It’s National Irish Coffee Day, a drink that I like even though it’s got cream and sugar in it. The best one I ever had was in San Francisco at some place near the Wharf that was famous for this drink, but I can’t remember its name. Here’s one:

Source. Don’t forget the Jameson’s!

It’s Burns Supper Night (haggis, tatties, and neeps; I recommend McSween’s Vegetarian Haggis if you don’t like organ meat), Fluoride Day, and National Voters’ Day in India.

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

Da Nooz:

*If you define a “mass shooting” as one in which there are four or more victims injured or wounded (not counting the shooter) in one incident, how many do you think we’ve had so far this year? Remember, it’s just the 25th of January.

Did you guess? It’s 39: more than 1.5 per day!

Rising gun violence and a dizzying pace of mass public shootings in recent years have pushed concerns about public safety to the forefront for many Americans. It remains an open question how 2023 will play out, but several weeks in, there have already been two major public shootings that together left at least 18 dead along with a string of other often-deadly shootings involving multiple victims.

There were 39 shootings involving at least four victims, including the deadly California mass shootings, through Jan. 23, the highest tally at this point in a year since at least 2014, according to available data from the Gun Violence Archive. The nonprofit research group, which tracks shootings, defines these events as an episode in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are wounded or killed.

These shootings have resulted in 70 deaths so far this year, according to the nonprofit, compared with 35 at this point a year ago.

Also, according to NBC News, a Kansas hunter was killed after his dog stepped on a rifle in the back seat of his car, discharging the firearm. The hunter was sitting on the passenger’s seat in front of the car and died after he was struck in the back.

*Although I’m a pacifist, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about who prevails in the war between Ukraine and Russia. So I’m glad to hear that, according to the NYT, the U.S. is moving closer to giving Ukraine the tanks it so badly wants. (UPDATE: Germany just confirmed it will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine.)

The Biden administration is moving closer to sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, in what would be a major step in arming Kyiv in its efforts to seize back its territory from Russia.

President Biden has yet to make a final decision, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. But if he does agree to send the advanced Abrams tanks the move would likely spur Germany to follow with its own coveted Leopard 2 tanks, the officials said.

And that would lead to other NATO members, like Poland, to fork over some tanks as well.  Send it the tanks!

The movement toward sending the Abrams tanks, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes after a testy confrontation last week during a NATO defense chiefs meeting over the refusal by Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to send the Leopards, which many military experts believe could be a decisive weapon in Ukrainian hands.

German officials privately insisted that they would only send the tanks, among the most advanced in the world, if the United States agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks. Publicly, American and German officials have denied that the two issues were linked.

Anticipation for a German announcement was high, as various German news outlets reported that Mr. Scholz had already decided to send the tanks. Attention was focused on the chancellor’s expected address to Parliament on Wednesday.

Many European countries use German-built Leopards. On Monday, Poland’s defense minister said his country had formally requested Germany’s permission to send Ukraine Leopard tanks from its own stocks, and other countries have indicated they would do the same if Germany agreed.

Wanna see one? Here’s a Leopard 2A7A1; Wikipedia notes that “The Leopard 2A4’s armour has a maximum physical thickness of 800 millimetres (31 in) based on unofficial measurements and estimates made by former conscripts and professional soldiers of the German army.” That’s a lot of armor!

The NBC News said last night that three government officials confirmed that the U.S. will send a “couple dozen” Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but they may take months to get there. Why so long?

*Oy! Now they’ve found classified documents at the home of Trump’s Vice-President Mike “The Mummified Person” Pence (see below). Who’s next: Kamala Harris?

A lawyer for former vice president Mike Pence, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, found what they called “a small number” of documents bearing classified markings during a search of Pence’s Indiana home, according to letters to the National Archives.

Gregory F. Jacob, a designated representative for Pence’s vice-presidential records, said Pence gave permission for the FBI to collect the classified documents from his home Jan. 19 while the former vice president was in Washington to attend the March for Life, the yearly gathering of antiabortion advocates. Jacob noted he would deliver the boxes in which those documents were found, along with other vice-presidential papers, to the National Archives on Jan. 23.

“Following press reports of classified documents at the personal home of President Biden, out of an abundance of caution, on Monday, January 16, Vice President Pence engaged outside counsel, with experience in handling classified documents, to review records stored in his personal home,” Jacob said in a letter dated Jan. 18. “Counsel identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records.”
All of this is bound to make it harder to convict Trump, as soon we’ll hear the mantra, “See? Everyone does it; it’s just collateral damage from the job!”

*Something must be wrong with me because the movies that Hollywood loved last year, judging from the number of Oscar nominations, aren’t coincident with the movies I liked. Granted, several of my faves are in here, but the movie that got most of the nods was one I simply couldn’t finish watching (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), and “Top Gun Maverick,” your standard issue action movie was also nominated for best picture. Even “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a charming movie that Rotten Tomatoes rated second best of the year, was better than these.  (I note it was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and I hope it wins). But read on:

The multiverse-skipping sci-fi indie hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” led nominations to the 95th Academy Awards as Hollywood heaped honors on big-screen spectacles like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” a year after a streaming service won best picture for the first time.

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” landed a leading 11 nominations on Tuesday, including nods for Michelle Yeoh and comeback kid Ke Huy Quan, the former child star of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Released back in March, the A24 film has proven an unlikely Oscar heavyweight against the expectations of even its makers. Yeoh became the first Asian actor nominated for best actress.

“Even just to be nominated means validation, love, from your peers,” said an “overwhelmed” Yeoh speaking by phone from London. “What it means for the rest of the Asians around the world, not just in America but globally, is to say we have a seat at the table. We finally have a seat at the table. We are being recognized and being seen.”

The 10 movies up for best picture are: “Everything Everywhere All at Once,”“The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” “Tár,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Elvis,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Women Talking” and “Triangle of Sadness.”

. . . For the first time, two sequels — “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” — were nominated for best picture. The two films together account for some $3.5 billion in box office. Tom Cruise missed out on an acting nomination, but “Top Gun: Maverick” — often credited with bringing many moviegoers back to theaters — walked away with seven nominations, including best sound, best visual effects and best song for Lada Gaga’s “Hold My Hand.” Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” made in the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s death, also scored five nominations, including the first acting nod for a performance in a Marvel movie: Angela Bassett, the likely favorite to win best supporting actress.

I haven’t seen many of these, like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” or the new “Avatar Movie,” so I can’t speak for these. But although “The Fabelmans” was a very good movie (a lightly fictionalized bio of director Stephen Spielberg), I don’t think it was better than “Till” (not nominated). For me the best movie I saw this year was “Tár”, with “The Banshees of Inisherin” as second best. At least they were nominated, but so was a passel of action movies. For some reason these space/fantasy/chase movies don’t float my boat (this is, of course, my subjective opinion), but they did clean up a lot of nominations this year. Is it the slow pace of movies like “Tokyo Story” or “Ikuru” what would keep such a movie out of the running in an era when attention spans are short?

*The newest word to be banned for ideological incorrectness: “mummy”.  And you can guess why, right? It’s because it refers to a human but does not say that the mummy is human. And I can bet without having read the article that the preferred term is “mummified person”.  (h/t Ginger K). Let us see:

London’s British Museum and National Museums Scotland no longer use the term, preferring “mummified person” or “mummified remains” as a politically correct alternative.

I knew it!!! But “remains” is definitely humanizing

A National Museums Scotland spokesperson said: “Where we know the name of an individual we use that, otherwise we use ‘mummified man, woman, boy, girl or person’ because we are referring to people, not objects.

“The word ‘mummy’ is not incorrect, but it is dehumanising, whereas using the term ‘mummified person’ encourages our visitors to think of the individual.”

It is thought to have originated from the Arabic word ‘mummiya’, which translates to ‘bitumen’, a balming substance.

Great North Museum curator Jo Anderson also told The Daily Mail: “Legends about the mummy’s curse and movies portraying supernatural monsters […] can undermine their humanity.”

Campaign for Real Education chairman Chris McGovern said: ‘The curse of the mummy is driving these academics mad!’

I don’t know what the Campaign for Real Education is, but McGovern’s statement is pretty funny—and not far from the truth. The mummies in movies are monsters who come back to live, so whether they count as “people” or “monsters” is up for grabs. Do we really want to change the name of the movie “The Mummy” (and its sequels) to “The Mummified Person”?

A British Museum spokesman told the paper: “Displays and exhibitions have emphasised that mummified remains are of people who once lived.”

Well, what about “remains” or “corpses”? Neither of those use the word “person” or “human.” I guess you need to preface each with “human”. But these were mostly dignitaries, I think, so are you really disrespecting them to call them mummies. Pondering this kind of stuff can drive one mad.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is staring into the abyss again:

A: What are you looking at?
Hili: At the potential of the unknown.
In Polish:
Ja: Na co tak patrzysz?
Hili: Na potencjał nieznanego.

And a picture of baby Kulka in the snow by Paulina:

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From Malcolm: Turning maps into portraits:

From Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

I don’t know what God is talking about here, but remember that His ways are mysterious:

From Maish, another victim of Iranian murder. The Farsi translation is below:

We will not forget you. (44) #Mohammadreza_Sarori, a 14-year-old Afghan child was killed by direct fire from the forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the 30th of Shahrivar 1401 in Tehran. Ali Sharifzadeh, a lawyer, published the picture of his burial permit and wrote: “The cause of death was hit by a high-speed projectile (bullet) and bleeding.

 

From Dom (sound up):

An adorable tweet from Malcolm: kitten practicing his right hook:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, one who made it out alive and one who didn’t, both born on this day.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. He says this first one looks as if the mating pair is having fun, but to me they just look cold!

I had to retweet this:

What a lovely bird! I wonder if both sides are the same sex.

Monday: Hili dialogue

January 23, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings at the beginning of the work week: Monday, January 23, 2023, and National Pie DayIt’s a good reason to read about the apocryphal story in which a royal personage, at dinner, was told by the waitress, “Keep your fork; there’s pie.”

It’s also National Rhubarb Pie Day, celebrating the Worst of All Possible Pies, Measure Your Feet Day (mine are 8.5 regular), National Handwriting Day (we’ve all forgotten how to write by hand), and, in the States of Orissa, Tripura, and West Bengal of India, it’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Jayanti, celebrating his day of birth in 1897. Bose was a hero for many for favoring Indian independence, but not for forming alliances with Nazi Germany and Japan. He died in a suspicious airplane crash in 1948. A photo:

A memorial to David Crosby from his bandmate (and one of his last friends), Steve Stills:

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

Da Nooz:

*The shooter who killed ten and injured another ten in the L.A. suburb of Monterey Park has probably been found—and killed..  As usual, the paper has a patronizing “Here’s what’s to know” section:

  • The 10 victims — five men and five women — were pronounced dead at the scene and were “probably” all of Asian descent, Luna said. He said investigators have not yet identified the victims and did not know their ages.
  • The shooting occurred about 10:20 p.m., a little over an hour after the Lunar New Year event was scheduled to end, Meyer said. The second day of the festival has been canceled, the city of Monterey Park announced Sunday.
  • Officials said an incident that took place in the neighboring city of Alhambra minutes after the Monterey Park shooting may be related. In Alhambra, an Asian man walked into a dance hall with a gun before people wrestled the weapon away from him, authorities said. [JAC: it seems to be the same suspect: a male about 30 years old]
  • A business known as Star Ballroom Dance Studio is located at the same address as the one identified by Monterey Park as the scene of the mass killing, but officials have not confirmed whether this is where the shooting occurred.

There’s no motive yet, but we do know that the male suspect used a semiautomatic weapon.

I’ve just heard a report on the Sunday NBC News that police barricaded a white van at a Torrance, CA parking lot, and in a shootout after a long standoff the occupant was killed. It seems probable that he was the perp (a white van was identified as a vehicle of suspicion). The suspect was Asian-American, and so were his victims.

The NYT has identified the man:

  • The manhunt ended on Sunday afternoon when a SWAT team closed in on a white van in a parking lot in Torrance. Officers heard one shot as they approached the van, and discovered that the suspect, identified as Huu Can Tran, 72, had shot himself, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.

The WaPo also says this:

The state also has an assault weapons ban. It is one of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, with such a law. (Police on Sunday said the weapon the Monterey Park gunman had used was not an assault-style gun.)

I was under the mistaken impression that semiautomatic weapons were assault weapons, but no, they’re not. Assault weapons has an option that allows it to keep firing so long as the trigger is depressed. Semiautomatic weapons are those in which one pull on the trigger allows one bullet to be fired.  I shouldn’t even have to know stuff like this!

*The NYT has a provocative article that will surely create a lot of buzz: “When students change gender identity, and parents don’t know.” In fact, even though the story went up yesterday, there were already 1480 comments  by 3 p.m. yesterday. The gist of the story, buttressed with examples, is that many schools will allow a student to change their gender identity (changing names and pronouns, using different bathrooms) without telling the parents.

The student, now 16, told The New York Times that his school had provided him with a space to be himself that he otherwise lacked. He had tried to come out to his parents before, he said, but they didn’t take it seriously, which is why he asked his school for support.

“I wish schools didn’t have to hide it from parents or do it without parental permission, but it can be important,” he said. “Schools are just trying to do what’s best to keep students safe and comfortable. When you’re trans, you feel like you are in danger all the time. Even though my parents were accepting, I was still scared, and that’s why the school didn’t tell them.”

Although the number of young people who identify as transgender in the United States remains small, it has nearly doubled in recent years, and schools have come under pressure to address the needs of those young people amid a polarized political environment where both sides warn that one wrong step could result in irreparable harm.

. . . The public school that Mrs. Bradshaw’s son attends is one of many throughout the country that allow students to socially transition — change their name, pronouns, or gender expression — without parental consent. Districts have said they want parents to be involved but must follow federal and, in some cases, state guidance meant to protect students from discrimination and violations of their privacy.

. . . But dozens of parents whose children have socially transitioned at school told The Times they felt villainized by educators who seemed to think that they — not the parents — knew what was best for their children. They insisted that educators should not intervene without notifying parents unless there is evidence of physical abuse at home. Although some didn’t want their children to transition at all, others said they were open to it, but felt schools forced the process to move too quickly, and that they couldn’t raise concerns without being cut out completely or having their home labeled “unsafe.”

I can see both points of view here, but thank Ceiling Cat I have no kids and thus no standing to pronounce. But I will say that if there are state regulations, they should be obeyed (or challenged in court), but I hope that NO school district will facilitate surgery or medical treatment without the parents’ knowledge.

*Several cruise ships headed to New Zealand have been forced to turn around or stop and undergo extensive cleaning because of “biofoul”. New Zealand is rightly and proudly scrupulous about letting foreign organisms or biomaterial into the country, as they’ve lost many species from introduces flora and fauna. This fauna comes in on ships:

The ship, along with Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, the Viking Orion and the Coral Princess, is one of at least six cruise liners traveling in and around New Zealand since December to come into conflict with these regulations, condemning those aboard to days of idleness at sea until a painstaking cleaning process, performed by local companies in international waters, can be completed.

For passengers, some of whom had spent tens of thousands of dollars and awaited the cruise for years, it was a crushing and unanticipated blow. For those in the industry in Australia and New Zealand, though, the incidents were all too foreseeable, even if the cause of a spate of them occurring in such a short time frame remained mysterious.

. . . Few countries take as many biosecurity precautions as New Zealand, which goes to great lengths to protect its natural ecosystems. Passengers who arrive by air, for example, are met at the airport by a phalanx of signs that urge them to dispense with any meat or vegetable products or face the consequences. Even a single undeclared apple, tucked into hand luggage and forgotten about, may carry an instant fine of 400 New Zealand dollars, or about $250. (A recent bill introduced in the country’s parliament seeks to increase that fine almost threefold.)

. . . Marine organisms — including mussels, oysters, algae, crabs and starfish, among a wider maritime cast — might hitch a ride either in the ballast water of ships, which helps the vessel’s stability, or by clinging to their exteriors, where they are known as biofoul. A global agreement, set by the regulatory authority known as the International Maritime Organization, dictates how ships handle organisms found in ballast water. But no such agreement exists for biofoul, allowing countries to set their own policy.

New Zealand’s standards, introduced in 2018, were the first of their kind in the world and are the most stringent. They stipulate that vessels must have a “clean hull,” with at most a coating of slime, stray gooseneck barnacles and a smattering of other organisms on their exterior. Once an initial clean is completed, usually in South East Asia, and the accompanying paperwork has been filed, the ship has 30 days to make its way to New Zealand.

The passengers were offered compensatory vouchers for the non-trip, but it didn’t work for one of them: “Another passenger. . . .publicly declined the offer of a compensatory voucher for a future cruise, saying that he had chosen to take the trip after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and that he did not expect to live long enough to take any other cruises.”  Oy!

*ANOTHER six classified documents have been found in Joe Biden’s Delaware home!  This is not looking good:

The search of Mr. Biden’s home, which came after his team offered Federal Bureau of Investigation agents full access to the property, lasted more than 12 hours and “covered all working, living and storage spaces in the home,” Mr. Bauer said. The six items taken included some papers from Mr. Biden’s tenure in the U.S. Senate, where he served for 36 years. Others came from his time as vice president.

During the search, which lasted from around 9:45 a.m. to around 10:30 p.m. Friday, members of Mr. Biden’s personal legal team were present along with officials from the White House Counsel’s Office, according to Mr. Bauer’s statement. Federal investigators also took materials including handwritten notes, “for further review,” Mr. Bauer said.

According to Mr. Bauer, the Justice Department had full access to the president’s home, including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules and reminders going back decades.

Friday’s search is at least the fifth that has turned up classified material in places used by Mr. Biden.

Now I think Biden is handling this pretty well, though he might have announced the earlier findings in November, when the first discoveries were made.  And they keep replaying Biden’s statement about how unbelievable it was that Trump had classified documents in his home. Here’s a CNN video in which Joe and Jill Republican, Democrat, or Independent weigh in.  The opinions are pretty predictable.

*Dear President Biden, Chancellor Scholz (of Germany), and all other heads of state in Western Europe:

The Ukraine has asked for battle tanks to fight off the invading Russians. You won’t hand any over, or sell any. Please do so immediately. They will help Ukraine a lot, and since they can and will be used defensively, there’s no reason not to be generous here. Or are you afraid that Putin will drop a nuke or two on Zelensky if he sees you handing over tanks.

Sincerely,
Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus)

As you know, Ukraine has begged both the U.S. and Germany t send them battle tanks, as they have only shabby equivalents to fight off the Russians. First the U.S. refused, and then, as I recall, Germany said it would give tanks to Ukraine so long as the U.S. did, too. Now Germany seems to have withdrawn from that promise, but said it would allow Poland to send tanks to Ukraine,

Ukrainian officials have been calling on Western allies to supply them with the modern German-made tanks for months – but Berlin has so far held back from sending them, or allowing other NATO countries to do so.

Asked what would happen if Poland went ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Annalena Baerbock said on France’s LCI TV: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

Her remarks appeared to go further than German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s comments at a summit in Paris earlier on Sunday that all decisions on weapons deliveries would be made in coordination with allies including the United States.

Germany has been under heavy pressure to let Leopards go to Ukraine. But Scholz’s Social Democrat party is traditionally sceptical of military involvements and wary of sudden moves that could cause Moscow to further escalate.

German defense minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expected a decision soon on the tanks, though he kept up a note of caution.

. . .German sources have told Reuters they would allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the United States agrees to send its own tanks. But U.S. officials have said President Joe Biden’s administration is not poised to send its own tanks, including the M1 Abrams.

The Kremlin’s spokesman said on Friday that Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine would not change the course of the conflict and that they would add to the problems of the Ukrainian people.

Where are the tanks? There ought to be tanks. Well, maybe next year. . . .

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili can’t stop thinking about snacking on a bird:

Hili: The birds of the air; they do not sow or reap.
A: But they are cute.
Hili: And tasty.
In Polish:
Hili: Ptaki niebieskie nie sieją, nie orzą…
Ja: Ale są ładne.
Hili: I smaczne.
And a cute photo of Baby Kulka by Paulina. Caption by Andrzej: “The snow almost disappeared. Paulina’s picture is from Saturday.”
In Polish: “Śnieg prawie zniknął, sobotnie zdjęcia Pauliny są.”
And Pauliuna’s picture of Kulka with Andrzej’s words:
The snow almost disappeared. Paulina’s picture is from Saturday.

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From Merilee, a Mark Parisi cartoon:

From Stash Krod, we have ducks in a Leunig cartoon:

A great Bizaro comic:

From Masih: translation from Farsi:

We received a video in which one of the armed oppressors in Tehran beats a woman for no reason on November 24.

Video Sender says: “This gentleman attacked the pedestrians without any reason, and when this lady did not run away, he kicked and punched her and asked her to run away.”

It does seem to be a completely unprovoked attack:

Speaking of Matt Yglesias, a tweet found by Luana:

From Barry, who adds,”I love how the other toads turn to the interloper with a ‘we’re gonna kill you’ look”:

From Malcolm, A Tower Of Books:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, four siblings gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. This could be thought of as sexual selection via male-male competition (or does the female empty the sperm because a better male has come along?)

Geneticists: what is wrong with this announcement?

What a bizarre comparison!

Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on Sunday, January 22, 2023: National Blonde Brownie Day, which is basically a brownie-like chocolate chip cookie without the cocoa used to make regular brownies. A blonde one:

It’s also National Hot Sauce Day, Chinese New Year, Roe v. Wade Day (the case was decided this day in 1973, but then rescinded in the Dobbs decision, Day of Unity of Ukraine (celebrating a unification on this day in 1922), and Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. Your cat has one question, and you know what it is: “When are you going to feed me?”

And it’s the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit (see above for New Year) in China, celebrated with this lovely Google Doodle (click to see where it goes):

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

Da Nooz

*Hot off the press: a shooting at a dance club in Monterey Park, California, killed ten people and wounded ten. As the L.A. Times noted, “The suspect is male and is at large. There is no known motive, nor a description of a suspect.”  The man used a semiautomatic weapon.  Another day, another mass shooting in America.

(Written before the above): There’s not much nooz from yesterday. Even the NYT front page fro Saturday afternoon was a snoozer, with the only real news about the failure to sniff out the person who leaked the Dobbs decision. So let us have persiflage.

*Kosher ham? It seems so! CTech reports that cultivated meat produced by culturing stem cells is kosher—even if it’s ham or bacon! Such was the decision of Israel’s head rabbi. At last: those who keep kosher can have ham! (My father used to call our Easter ham a “good kosher ham” when I was a kid.)

In a new halachic ruling published on Wednesday, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau, announced that the cultivated meat produced by Aleph Farms is kosher pareve, as in doesn’t include substances that contain dairy or meat ingredients. This, to the extent that the product – produced from stem cells – will be marked differently from animal meat produced by slaughter, to avoid an appearance that will create confusion among the public.
Lau made the decision after examining the production methods in the company’s laboratory and speaking with experts in the field.

But it’s even better: the food was declared “pareve“, which means that, officially, it’s made with neither meat nor milk so it can be eaten with either. And that means: JEWS CAN HAZ CHEESEBURGERS! (Kosher laws ordains that you can’t eat meat and dairy in the same meal.) Of course I don’t obey any of these foolish laws, but it makes me happy that some day a bearded Lubavitcher can tuck into a cheeseburger, or have bacon and eggs.

Now if the Jews would just decide whether Muscovy ducks can be kosher: a long-standing form of pilpul argument by Jews (regular ducks are kosher if prepared properly, but mallards are a different species from muscovies._

*Mo Dowd at the NYT has a column about lunching with the newly freed Nancy Pelosi, who couldn’t be happier now that she doesn’t have Speaker duties. I’ve always liked Pelosi, and I like the way she eats:

I was expecting King Lear, howling at the storm, but I found Gene Kelly, singing in the rain. Pelosi was not crying in her soup. She was basking as she scarfed down French fries, a truffle-butter roll and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts — all before the main course. She was literally in the pink, ablaze in a hot-pink pantsuit and matching Jimmy Choo stilettos, shooting the breeze about Broadway, music and sports. Showing off her four-inch heels, the 82-year-old said, “I highly recommend suede because it’s like a bedroom slipper.”

Fans dropped by our booth to thank Pelosi, and women in the restaurant gave me thumbs-ups, simply because I was sitting with her.

How did she get fries and macadama nuts before the main course? It’s a long piece, and Dowd, whom I’d stopped reading, has hit her stride again:

Even before Pelosi had a chance to turn over the gavel, the inmates had taken over the asylum. The madness includes scenes of the country teetering on the edge of financial default; Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene throwing down in the congressional ladies’ room; the backlash against giving spots on the Homeland Security and Oversight Committees to Greene — who said that if she had been running the Jan. 6 attack, “we would have won” and it would have been armed, and who blamed “space lasers” she said were controlled by a prominent Jewish family for a wildfire in California; and, of course, the fabulist follies of the Untalented Mr. Ripley, George Santos, the anti-drag queen/alleged former drag queen whose most recent nadir was getting accused of pilfering money from a disabled veteran’s dog.

While McCarthy tried to quell the chaos, Pelosi was busy ruminating on whether she should wear a blue and yellow sweater (Golden State Warriors colors) to take her teenage grandsons to the game against the Wizards that afternoon; they were also going to the White House Tuesday to watch the championship team be honored. When Alexandra complained that her kids would miss school if Mimi, as the boys call her, took them to the Warriors’ celebration, Mimi replied, “This is the White House with Steph Curry.” End of discussion.

. . .Pelosi’s accomplishments are stunning. Besides getting Obama’s health care bill passed, she saved the economy when she forced through the bank bailout in 2008. She shepherded the spending bill last year with a historic investment in climate change. She was that rare, courageous lawmaker who fought the Iraq invasion, while other top Democrats inexplicably went along with the tragic decision.

When I asked other women in journalism what they thought I should ask Pelosi, they all said the same thing: “How does she do it?”

There’s a lot more, and it’s well worth reading, but Dowd doesn’t tell us what Pelosi had for a main course, which of course is vital information. We do find out that Pelosi finished with a double espresso, which is also a good sign, and that her sweet tooth is famous. One more bit:

When a Fox News reporter asked Pelosi in the hall of Congress recently about how the president has handled the classified document kerfuffle, she nibbled on a cookie, indicating she couldn’t talk because her mouth was full. It evoked the days when Ronald Reagan would pretend he didn’t hear tough questions because of the whirring blades of Marine One.

*Speaking of ham, Reader Jez called my attention to an article at the BBC; here’s the whole thing, and there’s a 1.5-minute video of Ham the Duck and his scarf. (Note: a “binman” is what Americans call a “garbageman”.) Be sure to watch the video!

How a Chorley duck who chases bimen became a star.
A scarf-clad duck called Ham has won fans due to his mischievous exploits in his neighbourhood in Chorley, Lancashire.

He has become popular with neighbours and schoolchildren after popping over for the occasional visit.

According to his owner, even local binmen have made friends with the duck after being chased by him.

And there’s a longer story at the CBC: “Ham on the lam: this duck named after dinner won’t stop wandering off.

Taylor-Dugdal says she adopted Ham, along with his sister, from a farm in 2018.

She was there to pick up some rabbits, which she breeds, when she fell head over heels for the pair of Indian runner ducklings.

The farm’s owner told her the baby birds could one day end up on someone’s plate, so Taylor-Dugdal decided to spare them that grisly fate and make them pets instead.

“She was having me on. It was a joke,” Taylor-Dugdal said. “She just knew that I’d end up taking these ducks on.”

At first, Taylor-Dugdal says she was going to name the pair Cat and Dog. But instead, she decided to call them Ham and Pea, inspired by her dinner plans that night.

For the first couple years of his life, Ham was content to be a homebody with his sister, Taylor-Dugdal said. But something changed when Pea died in December of 2021. That’s when he started making his great escapes.

“We think he was looking for Pea originally,” she said. “And then he started to get the attention of the locals.”

And there’s nothing Ham loves more than attention — except, perhaps, for Rice Krispies.

“It’s his favourite treat. And there’s nothing wrong with a treat, every now and then, is there?” Taylor-Dugdal said.

Ham has become something of a regular in the neighbourhood. He’s befriends the local children, and has made a sport of chasing the neighbourhood cats.

He’ll waddle straight into people’s houses if they open the door for him, and charms onlookers with his collection of jaunty scarves, hand-knit for him by Taylor-Dugdal’s mother.

He doesn’t wander too far, but there’s plenty to get up to in the neighbourhood, which includes a pharmacy, a nursery and a pub.

“He’s trying to get into the nursery because he loves the children. He tried to get in the [pharmacy] when people have gone in for prescriptions,” Taylor-Dugdal said. “And he’s tried to get into the pub for an ice cold pint, I think. He’s naughty.”

Voilà—Ham:

A duck walks through an open gate.
Ham the duck returns from one of his adventures about town. (Hamtheduck/TikTok) JAC: Ham is a runner duck.

“He [once] stayed in for about a week and a half, and honestly, he was so miserable,” she said. “Then when he finally escaped, he came back happy as anything.”

Not to mention, the waterfowl’s wanderings have him somewhat famous. He has his own TikTok account, and he’s recently travelled all the way to London to make his first TV news appearance.

“He loved all the attention, all the cuddles. And they brought him a box of Rice Krispies,” she said. “He’s quite the celebrity down there.”

Now THAT’S what I call news: a scarf-wearing escapee duck who loves Rice Krispies and sneaks into pubs!

*As I’ve said before, Chicago’s lesbian black mayor, who’s truly intersectional, is up for re-election, and it’s not a sure bet. It’s not her race or sexual proclivities (Harold Washington, our first black mayor, was wildly popular) but the fact that she doesn’t do squat and comes across as uncaring and self aggrandizing. And crime continues to rise while she does nothing about it, and that’s a big deal in this city.  From the AP:

Lori Lightfoot made history as the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as Chicago mayor, sailing to victory four years ago as an outsider who vowed to rid City Hall of corruption and deliver a safer, more equitable city.

But her bid for a second term is very much in question amid concerns about continuing high crime in the nation’s third-largest city and accusations that she is overly hostile and sometimes flat-out mean — criticism she has dismissed as sexist and racist smears against a tough leader who is passionate about Chicago.

Ahead of a crowded Feb. 28 election, Lightfoot has been forced to go on the defensive in a heated race that has turned into both a personality contest and a policy debate.

“We have started to change Chicago around for the better,” Lightfoot said during a recent debate. “I want to finish the job that we have started.”

Ha! She never even started the job she started.

With nine candidates in the race, it is unlikely that anyone will exceed the 50% threshold needed to win the officially nonpartisan election outright. That means the winner is likely to be decided in an April 4 runoff between the top two vote-getters.

Were she to lose, Lightfoot would be the first Chicago mayor in decades to run for reelection and fail. And unlike her predecessors, Lightfoot doesn’t enjoy a fundraising advantage over her top rivals.

I doubt that I’ll vote for her. Pity that Harold Washington, who was way overweight, had a massive coronary while in office. That’s one reason why I worry about our Democratic governor, J. B. Pritzker, who’s on the right side of issues. He has Presidential ambitions, I think, but his arteries may impede them.

Here’s Lightfoot’s plan for stopping crime (h/t Luana):

*The NYT reports that, as reader David wrote, “There’s more horror from an already failed theocratic state.” The state is Pakistan, and the new horror is a strengthening of the blasphemy laws. Now you could spend life in prison for insulting the RELATIVES of Muhammad:

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which can already mean death for those deemed to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, can now also be used to punish anyone convicted of insulting people who were connected to him.

The move this week by Parliament to further strengthen the nation’s strict blasphemy laws, which are often used to settle personal scores or persecute minorities, has raised concerns among rights activists about the prospect of an increase in such persecution, particularly of religious minorities, including Christians.

As Pakistani society has turned more conservative and religious in the past several decades, religion and display of religiosity in public life have become ever more pronounced.

Those convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, companions or close relatives will now face 10 years in prison, a sentence that can be extended to life, along with a fine of 1 million rupees, roughly $4,500. It also makes the charge of blasphemy an offense for which bail is not possible.

“The punishment for disrespecting these sacred personalities was almost nill earlier,” said Abdul Akbar Chitrali, a lawmaker belonging to a religious political party and author of the bill.

Remember that blasphemy laws are widespread in Muslim states. Some Western countries have them, too, but almost never enforce them. This is also true of Israel, which has old laws on the books from the days of the British Mandate. But they’re never used; the only example I could find was this one: ironic, isn’t it?

The law is rarely enforced due to concerns of infringing civil liberties. However, one right-wing Jewish activist was sentenced to two years in prison after scattering leaflets in Hebron in 1997, which pictured Muhammed as a pig desecrating the Quran.

Tell me that Israel is an apartheid state after reading that! A Jew was sentenced to prison for insulting Muhammad—in Israel! Can you imagine a Pakistani or Palestinian court sentencing a Muslim to prison for insulting Jews?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili uses big words to show that she’s an intellectual:

Hili: Between micro-cosmos and macro-cosmos empty bowls happen.
A: This is something that can be remedied.
In Polish:
Hili: Między mikro i makrokosmosem zdarzają się puste miseczki.
Ja: To akurat można naprawić.
And there are four pictures of Kulka with Andrzej’s caption: “A sudden return of winter and Paulina grabbed her camera.” (In Polish: “Nagły powrót zimy, więc Paulina złapała się za aparat.”)

********************

A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon from Facebook:

From Beth:

From Ducks in Public:

Over at Mastodon, God tries to cheer us up again:

From Masih; the Baloch are an Iranian ethnic group who apparently have joined the protests:

From Malcolm: a mid-air cat encounter:

From my fellow sex binary-ist Octavia Sheepshanks, a poem:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boxer shot during the German evacuation of Auschwitz.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb.  People are jealous of this cat, who was “Worker of the Month.”  A nice tweet!

The Japanese translation: “Spot-billed duck chicks falling asleep”.  There are two species of spot-billed ducks in East Asia.

Sexual selection is EVERYWHERE:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 21, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on cat shabbos, Saturday, January 21, 2023: National Clam Chowder Day (clams, like all shellfish, aren’t kosher). Remember, always get the New England style with cream and potatoes, not the so-called “Manhattan style” chowdah with tomatoes. Ecch!

Good:

Bad:

It’s National Granola Bar Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, Own Your Own Home Day, and National Hugging Day 

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

Da Nooz:

*This is likely the reason our trip to Peru and the Galápagos was canceled yesterday: political riots have moved into the streets of Lima as protestors call for the ouster of the new President. There are clashes with the cops and the potential for severe violence is high:

Thousands of protesters demanding the ouster of President Dina Boluarte poured into Peru’s capital, clashing with police who fired tear gas. Many came from remote regions, where dozens have died in unrest that has gripped the country since Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background was removed from office last month.

The protests have been marked by Peru’s worst political violence in more than two decades and highlighted deep divisions between the country’s urban elite, largely concentrated in Lima, and poor rural areas. Former President Pedro Castillo has been in detention and is expected to be tried for rebellion since he was impeached after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.

Protesters were expected to take to the streets of downtown Lima again Friday, although the city was quiet in the morning, with less movement in the center of the capital than is normal for a weekday.

Thursday was mostly quiet, but punctuated by scuffles and tear gas. The government called on everyone who could to work from home. After sundown, clashes escalated, and late that night, a major fire broke out at a building near the historic Plaza San Martin, although no connection to the protests was immediately clear.

. . . Anger at Boluarte was the common thread Thursday as protesters chanted calls for her resignation and street sellers hawked T-shirts saying, “Out, Dina Boluarte,” “Dina murderer, Peru repudiates you,” and “New elections, let them all leave.”

It’s gonna get worse in Peru, I suspect, though I don’t mind being in the middle of political turmoil, just out of general interest. When I was in Valparaiso, Chile several years ago, waiting for our trip to Antarctica to begin, there were demonstrations that were met with the army in tanks bearing water cannons. I ran TOWARD the tanks, as I wanted to be in the middle of a political protest, but my companion held me back.

*The NYT has a good guest op-ed by political journalist Jonathan Alter, “Oh, Biden, what have you done?“. It’s about the classified documents found in Biden’s Delaware home and VP office, and how they may be pivotal in turning voters against him should he run again. It’s mainly because the atmosphere of trust and honesty that surrounded the Obama administration and, up to now, Biden’s, may be corroded. A few excerpts:

The optical equivalence between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden is phony, of course. Mr. Trump is a grifter who appears to have intentionally taken hundreds of classified documents, bragging that he kept the folders marked “classified” or “confidential” as “‘cool’ keepsakes.” He said of his stash of classified documents, according to several advisers, “It’s not theirs; it’s mine,” and seemingly defied a subpoena to return the documents, thereby exposing him to possible prosecution for obstruction of justice. Mr. Biden, by contrast, was sloppy and slow to search for and disclose the existence of about 20 stray classified documents but is fully cooperating with authorities.

Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, this distinction cannot easily survive the miasma of congressional and special counsel subpoenas, relentless questions from reporters and fresh allegations of impropriety that signal the arrival of a new episodic political drama. Many voters with better things to do with their time than parse the nuances of presidential record keeping may casually conclude that both men are careless, lying politicians.

. . .All 10 American presidencies since 1973 have faced investigation by a special counsel or independent prosecutor, except one: Barack Obama’s. For eight years, Mr. Obama and his vice president and other high-ranking officials were seen as figures of unusual rectitude, and the impression of integrity returned when Mr. Biden took office after four years of wall-to-wall corruption. But now this sharp ethical contrast with Mr. Trump has been dulled. That complicates the president’s expected re-election campaign — and could even short-circuit it.

Most Democrats still think Mr. Biden is honest, and they view his accomplishments on the economy, climate, infrastructure and defending democracy as far more significant than this lapse. But it’s hard to exaggerate the level of Democratic exasperation with him for squandering a huge political advantage on the Mar-a-Lago story and for muddying what may have been the best chance to convict Mr. Trump on federal charges. Mr. Biden’s more serious problem may be with independents, whom he carried by nine points in 2020. Unforced errors can take a toll with them. Even as the classified documents story eventually fades — it will most likely not be a first-tier issue next year — swing voters may see him in a harsher light.

. . .But even if Mr. Biden puts wins on the board, survives venomous Republican lawmakers and gets off with a slap on the wrist in the special counsel’s report, the classified documents story has likely stripped him of a precious political asset with some independents and Democrats: the benefit of the doubt. The general feeling that Mr. Biden — like Mr. Obama — is clean and scandal-free has been replaced by the normal Washington assumption of some level of guilt.

Republicans are ferocious attack dogs, especially when they have something to chew on. And Mr. Biden, a better president than candidate, has never had the nimbleness necessary for good defense.

And the rest you can read for yourself. Frankly, I don’t think Biden should run for a second term (I favor Mayor Pete), but it looks as if he has the self-confidence to declare himself a candidate again. And no other Democrat will put their hat in the ring if Biden does first.

*Andrew Sullivan has a huge paean to the movie The Banshees of Inisherin on his website, a movie I also loved, though a few readers didn’t. His take is somewhat political, seeing aspiration to leave as a liberal trait and staying on a dull island a conservative one (keeping the status quo).

Even by the standards of Martin McDonagh’s lifetime of work, The Banshees of Inisherin is a masterpiece. Like all masterpieces, everyone will have their own interpretation, because the layers of meaning are complex, multiple and interconnected. So what follows is just my own reflection on the piece — because it’s been hard to think about anything else this week. I watched the movie twice, and the first time I was riveted to my seat by the sheer emotional rawness of it all; and the second, I just couldn’t stop laughing. I suppose all dark comedies are a bit like that. But this one was darker and funnier than any I recall.

“What makes life worth living?,” the film asks insistently. Is it love and friendship and community and shared meaning? Or is it achievement, ambition, aspiration and individuality? The answer is both, of course. But the two instincts — the conservative one and the liberal one — chafe at each other. The trade-off is real — and modernity is the stage on which this conflict takes place. McDonagh sees both human urges lovingly — and puts this drama of modernity on a symbolic island.

The charm of pre-modern life is undeniable: that Irish blend of bluntness and humor, rage and gentleness, all moderated in the fog, is real and connected to the long living in this bleak, beautiful place. The pudgy priest, the bully cop, the sharp emotional insights of a “slow” kid called Dominic, the gossips and drunks and oddballs: what a place to live and die!

And yet also McDonagh lets Colm decry the banality of it all. . .

I won’t give any spoilers but please do see this movie. It’s infinitely better than “Top Gun: Maverick”, even if you do say they’re apples and oranges. I’d rather watch the apple five times than see the orange just once more.

*Over at the Free Press site, Nellie Bowles produced her weekly semi-snarky news summary; this week’s is called “TGIF: I love Davos“. Here are three of her shorter items:

→ Biden admin softening on notion of World War III: The president of the United States is now toying with the idea of helping (nudging?) the president of Ukraine to retake Crimea, which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014. Time magazine has this headline: “The Liberation of Crimea Is a Must.” Crimea, by international law, does still belong to Ukraine. But it would be a major escalation in an already expensive and drawn-out war—expensive both in U.S. dollars and in Ukrainian lives.

→ “There is no more room in New York”: Eric Adams, mayor of America’s largest city, announced that his town is just totally full and cannot accommodate any new immigrants. “Our cities are being undermined,” the mayor said this week. “We don’t deserve this. Migrants don’t deserve this and the people who live in the cities don’t deserve this . . . There is no more room in New York.” The liberal response to the surge of migrants goes like this: First of all, the border crisis is fake and racist. Second of all, it was caused by Trump, who is still the president. Third, Park Slope is at capacity.

→ Madonna announces a new world tour: Madonna, 64, is planning a new mega-tour to sing her greatest hits. There are worlds in which this would be good news, a farewell tour for an incredible pop star. But to say Madonna isn’t aging gracefully doesn’t quite capture it. She is rage, rage against the dying of the light. Face like a cat, implants in the butt (I think?), photoshoots meant to look like porn sets. Whatever these clips by the NFT artist Beeple were about.

Me, I plan to age gracefully. A little Botox when I hit 38, a facelift at 45, and then, at exactly 51 years old, I release—grow my hair long and gray, light the patchouli, and greet you at the door inexplicably holding a squash. Readers, there will be caftans.

*I recently watched “Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise, and while I found it an engrossing adventure flick, I couldn’t believe that it would be nominated as a potential Oscar-winner. It’s already appeared on many lists of the Best Movies of 2023, and for some reason Cruise’s acting is given many encomiums. It’s baffling: there is no substantial thought to the movie, just continuation of a franchise, and absorbing plot and good cinematography. Frank Bruni goes after it in the NYT: “Tom Cruise and the Insanity of the Oscars“, and he’s right:

Did Tom Cruise give an honest-to-goodness performance — one that involved disappearing into a character versus reveling in his own ageless and sinewy glory — in “Top Gun: Maverick”? I missed it. Maybe I was blinded by his toothy gleam.

I write that as someone who enjoyed the movie, appreciates a cocky fighter pilot as much as the next guy and believes fully in Cruise’s talent, which is among the reasons I’ve seen “Jerry Maguire” a half-dozen times. In that movie, he shows range. In “Maverick,” he shows off.

And yet there’s apparently an outside chance that he’ll land a best actor nod when Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday. Whether that happens is one of the more intriguing bits of Oscar suspense. Another is whether an unusual and impassioned grass-roots campaign to get Andrea Riseborough a best actress mention for the independent movie “To Leslie,” which you’ve probably never heard of, will pay off.

I haven’t seen “To Leslie,” so I won’t comment. More on “Top Gun”:

“Maverick” grossed more than $700 million in theaters in the United States on its way to a worldwide total of nearly $1.5 billion. Its proponents cite or allude to that box office bonanza as an argument for accolades. Isn’t commercial success a legitimate metric of achievement? Evidence that a project has resonated — and for reasons that surely include craftsmanship?

No! No! No! A movie is more than planes bombing targets and toothy grins.

. . . “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick” — call them the colon movies — are strong contenders for best picture nods next week, but then so are “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Tár,” which have no colons, limited commercial appeal and deliberately challenging narratives and tones. Putting all four movies in the same contest is like contriving some athletic competition that pits football players against a water polo team. They ply different elements.

. . . I bet that neither Cruise nor Riseborough receives the recognition that they’re hoping for. They lie at opposite ends of the blockbuster-to-boutique spectrum. Oscar is comfiest in the mushy middle.

Of the movies I’ve seen this year, I would vote for Tár as “Best Picture” and Blanchett as Best Actress. Popularity with the public should not be a criterion for an Oscar. I’m watching the new movie “Predator” now.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a funny:

A: Chimpanzees are the closest relatives to humans.
Hili: I know, you cannot choose your relatives.
In Polish:
Ja: Szympans jest najbliższym krewnym człowieka.
Hili: Ja wiem, krewnych się nie wybiera.
And a lovely photo by Paulina of Baby Kulka in the snow:

********************

A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon via Stash Krod:

From The Two Crazy Cat Ladies on FB via Merilee. All cat staffers know about the post-poop dash out of the litter box. But I’ve never seen any discussion about this behavior. Why do they do it?

A temporal comparison from David:

I’m not sure who God is addressing here:

From Malcolm: feeding time for beach cats. Sound up!

From Nellie Bowles on her TGIF. And yes, the Intifada (and “right of return”) is a call to murder Jews.

From Simon, whose response was “good grief!”:

From Barry, who says “there’s no doubt that it’s the human who’s carrying the band”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who died in her twenties:

Tweets from Matthew. The interview below is a must-read, and includes these lines:

Excluding himself, who does [Crosby] think is the best songwriter in CSNY? “Stills, no contest. He’s the best guitar player, the best singer and the best writer. I really admire Stephen tremendously.”

Insect rope! (They must be on a twig):

Look at that leap over the fence!

Monday: Hili dialogue

January 9, 2023 • 6:45 am

Top o’ the week to you on a gray Monday. January 9, 2023. It’s  In exactly a month I’ll be in Peru and then the Galápagos, lecturing on an alumni cruise! It’s National Apricot Day, celebrating a fruit I never eat fresh. It’s best eaten inside a Sachertorte:

Source

It’s also National Guten-Free Day, National Static Electricity Appreciation Day, National Clean Off Your Desk Day, Play God Day, and Non-Resident Indian Day, honoring those Indians who have left their natal land and made their mark elsewhere. Here’s a photo from Wikipedia’s “static electricity” entry demonstrating the phenomenon:

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

Wine of the Day: Thank Ceiling Cat I am drinking wine again! Imagine having insomnia that is persistent AND your doctor says to stay away from alcohol, one of my great pleasures of life. I could make the case that not having wine with dinner made me depressed, and that exacerbated the insomnia (ergo one was a causative factor), but in truth the insomnia was already going away when I decided to see if a drink would worsen it. It didn’t, and I’m pretty much back to normal.

At any rate, this lovely viognier set me back all of $14, and although there are very few reviews on the internet, they’re all positive (here’s one). Viognier is a hard-to-grow white grape, the only one permitted in the Condrieus of France. At its very best, as in Chateau Grillet (I’ve tried it once), it has a fantastic perfume of flowers and fruit, and the wines aren’t cheap. But this one still has some viognier character in the nose of apricots and pears. It’s by no means over the hill, with a lovely light golden color and a gutsy flavor that is only slightly off dry. I imagine this would go with most non-red-meaty things; I had it with roast chicken, green peppers, and rice, simply because the wine was at hand and I wanted to try it.  Affordable viogniers aren’t easy to find (and when they are they’re usually mediocre), so if you come across this one, or find another tasty one, stock up!

Da Nooz:

*One of my Brazilian friends call the last election a contest between an incompetent and a criminal (the incompetent won). Actually, I know little about Brazilian politics except ex-President Bolsonaro was on the far right and, like Trump, he did not go gentle into defeat. Now all hell is breaking loose in Brazil. In a remarkable parallel to our January 6 insurrection, Bolsonaro supporters are storming government buildings in the capital Brasilia:

Thousands of radical backers of Brazil’s far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro breached and vandalized the presidential office building, congress and the Supreme Court on Sunday, and sought to enter other halls of power, in scenes that hauntingly evoked the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

The attack came a week after the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in a runoff election in October.

Images on Globo TV showed protesters roaming the halls and standing near smashed glass cases in the Planalto Palace, the office of the president. Thousands of others wearing the national soccer shirt — now a symbol of the far right — and waving the Brazilian flag milled about the massive square outside in a part of the Brasilia capital that is similar to Washington’s National Mall.

In a manner similar to Trump, Bolsonaro has fueled discontent among his base since his loss to the newly-inaugurated leftist, stepping down while refusing to officially concede.

Thousands of Bolsonaristas have camped out at military headquarters across Latin America’s largest country, demanding military intervention to reinstate Bolsonaro, who last week flew to Florida instead of attending a ceremony in the capital of Brasilia where outgoing presidents traditionally hand over the sash of power.

Military police officers attempted to stop the demonstrators with tear gas and other weapons but appeared far outnumbered. The group is inside the Palácio do Planalto, the official building where the president works.

Another Brazilian friend who, living in America, went home for the holidays, worried that the country would be in so much turmoil that they couldn’t leave. Fortunately, the family managed to get back to the U.S. before this started. There’s no word about people leaving the country, though.

*Martin Sherman worked for years for the Israeli defense establishment, which is enough to make mushbrain progressive stop their ears before hearing what he has to say, but fortunately I’m not one of those. Although the man can’t write at all, the point he makes in the Israel National News is a good one. The title is “Palestine: the perverse—and perplexing—paradox“, and the subtitle is “Why do professed liberals persist in support for an entity that would comprise the utter negation of all the values they allegedly cherish?”

It’s a very good question, and one I often ask myself. Here’s the question restarted in the piece:

. . . support for the two-state formula—i.e. the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan river alongside Israel—became the sine-non-qua for access into “polite company”. Indeed, it was considered an indispensable credential for anyone aspiring to be part of “bon-ton” liberal circles. Daring individuals with the temerity to question the prudence of the idea had to brace themselves for grave consequences to their personal and professional standing that almost always resulted from such recalcitrant resistance to the dictates of political correctness.

But vindictiveness aside, liberal support is not only decidedly perverse, but equally paradoxical and perplexing as well. After all, there is virtually no doubt that any future Palestinian state will be the embodiment of values that are the diametric antithesis of those to which Left-leaning, progressive liberals profess to subscribe.

Indeed, there is little reason to doubt that a prospective Palestinian state, in any conceivably plausible configuration, will be anything but what most other Arab states are, in some form or another: A homophobic, misogynistic Muslim majority tyranny—whose hallmarks would be gender discrimination against girls/women, persecution of homosexuals, religious intolerance against non-Muslims and oppression of political dissidents.

Accordingly, it is a decidedly baffling conundrum why so-called “progressives,” who purportedly cherish liberal values of societal diversity, religious freedom, and individual liberty, would cling so doggedly to support for a Palestinian state that would, in all likelihood, comprise the utter negation of everything to which they claim to hold dear. Yet impervious to past precedents and future probabilities, they adhere resolutely to their defective dogma.

. . . This perverse—and perplexing—paradox is something that has not been adequately addressed in the public discourse on the Middle East. Indeed, it is rarely—if ever—fully articulated. The time has come to do so.

That’s horrible prose, but the question is good. And the answer is that progressives support Palestine because they see them as oppressed people of color, while the other side, is, well, Jews. I used to favor a two-state solution, but now I’m not so sure. It’s clear that what Palestinians want, as well as American progressives, isn’t a Palestinian state beside a Jewish one. They want the whole mishigass: no more Israel and a Palestine “from the river to the sea.” Given that, and given that a Palestine that owns the West Bank will simply use it to lob missiles at Israel across the street, I don’t think a good solution can be found. Not, at least, until those who are pro-Palestinian give up the idea of getting rid of Israel completely.

*I guess I can’t call Biden “Uncle Joe” any more, even though it was always a term of affection, because the neuronally deprived think I’m mocking him. So I’ll just say “President Biden” has at last visited the southern border and he made the hard decision. But it was the right one:

President Biden’s Irish ancestors escaped the Famine on coffin ships. Vice President Harris’s parents were scholars from India and Jamaica. And Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas came to the United States as a baby when his family fled Cuba.

All three leaders stood before television cameras in Washington this week to announce that some migrants would get new opportunities to pursue similar dreams in the United States and that others would face swift removal to border cities in Mexico.

It was a deflating and lonely moment for a president who had promised to leave President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies in the dustbin of history. Instead, Biden’s administration will continue to expel people who cross the border illegally amid record numbers of apprehensions — a move to the centerthat could threaten support from liberal groups if he seeksasecond term. The plans drew immediate outrage from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who themselves have failed for decades to create a functioning immigration system.

“I’m left with only one choice,” Biden said Thursday, “to act on my own.”

And his new plan:

Under those new measures, up to 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti will be allowed to enter the United States on “parole” each month if they have financial sponsors here and pass background checks. Separately, migrants may schedule appointments to seek asylum at official border crossings via an app called “CBP One” instead of attempting illegal entry.

As many as 30,000 migrants a month will be expelled to Mexico under Title 42 if they cross into the United States illegally or enter Mexico or Panama without authorization, although humanitarian exceptions will be made, officials said.

Progressives who want open borders can’t win, but what puzzles me is that even centrist Democrats, much less Republicans, could oppose such a move. Is their failure to act going to manifest as opposition to immigration reform?That’s just immature petulance.

*In the NYT, Pamela Paul asks the question we all want answered: “Why has American fallen for Harry and Meghan?

First, here’s why the pair like the U.S.:

It’s because they chose America. Apparently, it’s better to be a celebrity in the United States than fifth in line for the throne in the United Kingdom. Though Harry and Meghan are now without royal stipend, they’ve got a sizable inheritance in a country where the rich grow richer and where royalty, without the baggage of being a tax burden, are treated with less skepticism. Having initially decamped to Vancouver Island in a bid for privacy, they soon fled to Los Angeles in a bid for — what’s the opposite of privacy? As Harry says in the documentary, he’d “outgrown” his environment and “this was the most obvious place to come.”

The fact that the Sussexes ditched a country they characterize as anti-immigrant, overrun with racists and burdened by the legacy of colonialism makes Americans feel better about their own country, which also (whoops) might be described as anti-immigrant, overrun with racists and burdened by the legacy of colonialism. But Harry and Meghan see America as a haven.

In other words, they get to be royalty in America without the duties and restrictions. Now, why does American like them? (I don’t, and clearly Paul doesn’t either (I was worried). This is where she gets snarky:

It’s because they’re fighting for change. Call them martyrs, call them revolutionaries, call them anti-establishment or simply changemakers. Now thoroughly enlightened re: the old order’s ills, Harry and Meghan are taking a stand against colonialism, racism and oppression of all stripes, jetting around the world, occasionally in a friend’s private plane, in their campaign against injustice. As the website for their organization Archewell (“Leading the way with compassion”) proclaims: “Each of us can change our communities. All of us can change the world.”

Many people in Britain, across the Commonwealth and in America did, in fact, see the interracial couple’s union as a sign of positive change — but perhaps no one more so than the couple themselves. In a run-up interview to promote her podcast last year, Meghan recalled a South African man who compared the joy at her royal wedding to the celebrations when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison. But, according to the Sussexes’ narrative, they became too popular, threatening the monarchy. As Harry put it, they were “stealing the limelight” or “doing the job better than someone who was born to do this.”

The series goes a step further in its anti-institutional fervor, tying the couple’s personal travails to a reckoning with British colonialism, the mistreatment of Princess Diana and the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the documentary’s sympathetic talking heads refers to the pair as “symbols of social justice” and says the hate directed toward them was “a way to signal to the rest of us to stand down.” According to this version of events, the palace has pushed back against the couple because, as Harry explains, “if you speak truth to power, that’s how they respond.”

. . .Harry and Meghan have outdone Princess Diana’s collaborations with the press by taking full control. They are our first reality-TV royals. And in America, while it’s wrong for someone else to invade your privacy, it’s perfectly fine — even applauded — to exploit your own.

The Sussexes are accessible. They’re fun! Meghan is just a “working mom.” Harry is a romping millennial dad. These celebrities — they’re just like us! — can tell us all about themselves via their own artisanal media empire.

Yes, it goes on, with a snark so subtle that you might think Paul shares in America’s adoration of this self-promoting pair. I was worried, because I’ve agreed with nearly everything Paul writes, and if she were to love the royals-in-exile, well, I’d be really depressed.

And a new article: more lucrative whining. Maybe Harry’s right, but can they just shut up about it for a while?

The 38-year-old prince offered up what the U.K. news special called “unprecedented detail on life in and outside of the royal family,” in an exclusive interview with broadcaster Tom Bradby, on ITV in Britain.

Repeatedly, Harry railed against his brother and father, who, he charged, essentially forced him and Meghan away.

“At the moment I don’t recognize them, as they don’t recognize me,” Harry said.

Harry said he loved his brother, the heir to the throne, but that William was always competitive, often against him, in “a sibling rivalry” that continues today.

Yadda yadda yadda.  Curious that this coincides with his new book, eh?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is out of sorts and out of focus:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m looking at a moderate climate. It’s the last thing that is still moderate.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Oglądam umiarkowany klimat. To ostatnia rzecz, która jest jeszcze umiarkowana.
And a photo of Baby Kulka:

************************

From Merilee, the variety of cat play:

From Nicole, a captcha image that was good until last Saturday:

From Malcolm, another episode of cats behaving oddly:

From Titania:

From Masih:

From Barry; a very romantic courtship between bald eagles:

From Malcolm, a cat-shaped strawberry:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl dead at 11:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. The first one shows a rehab beaver building a dam inside with human stuff. If you read on, you’ll see that it will eventually be released in the wild. This is just dam practice:

This is truly the shot of a lifetime. To read about weather sprites, go here.

Lovely leaping deer:

I’m adding this song because I heard it yesterday and had forgotten it. It’s simple but could easily have been a Beatles song, but writing credits go to John and Yoko, and it appeared on Lennon’s solo “Imagine” album in 1971. The recorded version is here.  It was in fact written earlier and considered for Beatles albums but never used on one. George Harrison plays guitar in this demo and on the final version, and you can see him invent the guitar accompaniment.

Judging by the clothing, I think this recording was made the same day. I think the guy with the sunglasses is Phil Spector:

Friday: Hili dialogue

January 6, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the first Friday of 2023: January 6, 2023. It’s National Bean Day, the day on which greenhouse gases undergo a minute but perceptible increase.

It’s also National Shortbread Day (I had some! See below. ), National Take a Poet to Lunch Day, Cuddle Up Day, National Smith Day (honoring people with that surname), Christmas Eve in Orthodox Christian countries like Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia), and Epiphany (Three Kings’ Day in Western Christianity) or the Theophany (Eastern Christianity).

Me ‘n’ shortbread this a.m. (pastry courtesy of Marie):

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

Da Nooz:

*There have now been EIGHT—count them, eight—votes for Speaker of the House, and Kevin McCarthy is still in limbo. I’m wondering, if this goes on forever, whether the Democrats should start voting for him just so they can get down to business. McCarthy has made significant (and dangerous) concessions to his fellow Republicans to win the speakership, but as of Thursday evening, things appear deadlocked, for McCarthy needs to pick up at least 15 votes from 19 holdouts—a tall order.

Mr. McCarthy by Thursday had privately agreed to more demands from the right-wing dissidents after losing six consecutive votes in the 118th Congress’s first two humiliating days. He embraced measures that would weaken the speakership considerably and that he had previously refused to countenance. One would allow a single lawmaker to force a snap vote to oust the speaker, according to three people familiar with the negotiations who described them on the condition of anonymity, noting that they were ongoing and that no deal had been reached.

But the latest vote indicated that the concessions had not been enough to corral the votes he needed to prevail. Until a speaker is chosen, the House is essentially paralyzed. It cannot pass laws or even swear in its members.

Here’s what to know:

  • The thin Republican majority in the chamber means almost all of the party’s members must agree on a speaker. If all members of the House are voting and participating, the winner needs 218 votes. Republicans control 222 seats. On Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy drew at most 203 votes. On Wednesday, his total slipped to 201, where it remained on Thursday.

  • Mr. McCarthy’s maneuvering for the speakership has grown increasingly frantic, prompting him to agree to conditions that he has ruled out in the past. He committed to allowing the right-wing faction to select a third of the party’s members on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls what legislation reaches the floor and in what form, according to one person who has been involved in the talks. He also agreed to open spending bills to a freewheeling debate in which any lawmaker could force a vote on proposed changes, including those designed to scuttle or sink the measure.

  • Far-right Republicans have lined up by turns behind candidates including, on Tuesday, Jim Jordan, who voted for Mr. McCarthy; and, on Wednesday and Thursday, Byron Donalds, the party’s first Black nominee for speaker. The lawmakers do not expect their candidates to win but wish to register their displeasure with Mr. McCarthy.

As the NYT notes this morning:

“It’s not about policies, it’s about the fight,” said Doug Heye, a former aide to Representative Eric Cantor, the onetime majority leader who lost his seat in a stunning 2014 upset by a far-right challenger, David Brat. “The more you hear the word ‘fight’ or ‘fighter,’ the less you hear about a strategy for winning that fight.”

This is in line with Nellie Bowles’s theory, which is hers:

Mainstream media coverage of the situation is basically just the word LOL typed out over and over, so I’ve had trouble understanding what is actually happening. One good read is in the American Conservative: “For anti-McCarthy Republicans, it’s not about finding a better alternative. It’s about proving they can and will hold a Republican leader accountable.”

*After announcing that he’ll visit the U.S.’s southern border, Uncle Joe has announced some immigration reform, and for once he’s not going to allow anybody in who tries to enter illegally:

In a rare White House address on the nation’s southern border crisis, President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled new policy that will accept 30,000 migrants a month from four nations but also will crack down on those who fail to use the plan’s legal pathways.

Speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president said the policy will grant humanitarian “parole” to eligible migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. It will work as part of a border strategy that incorporates an expanded use of Title 42 expulsions.

“Do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there,” Biden said, addressing potential migrants from those nations. “Starting today, if you don’t apply through the legal process you will not be eligible for this new parole program.”

The announcement was made as the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice released details of a plan to impose a new regulation — a version of a Trump-era policy often called the “transit ban.” Under the new rule, migrants would be prohibited from applying for asylum in the United States unless they were first turned away for safe harbor by another country. It would also deem ineligible migrants who don’t go through authorized ports of entry. DHS and DOJ will hear public comment on the proposed regulation before it goes into effect.

Given the crisis of an influx of people entering illegally, this is better than nothing. But wasn’t this Kamala Harris’s job? And why haven’t the Democrats done anything about it until now? Immigration reform is, in fact, one thing that nearly everybody wants, including Hispanics who have gotten their green cards or citizenship through legal routes.

*In view of the botched executions via lethal injection in the last couple of years, South Carolina is thinking of firing up Old Sparky or using firing squads for execution.

South Carolina’s highest court heard arguments Thursday on whether a newly organized firing squad or the old electric chair are legal ways to execute inmates in the state, which has been unable to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

A lower court judge ruled in September that South Carolina lawmakers “ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency” when they passed a law effectively forcing condemned prisoners to choose between electrocution or the firing squad.

The state appealed and the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments for nearly three hours Thursday over whether the 2,000-volt electric chair and/or bullets fired at the heart by a three-person firing squad violate provisions against cruel and unusual punishment in the state’s constitution. Those provisions also exist in the U.S. Constitution.

The court is unlikely to rule for several months, and whichever side doesn’t like the ruling will likely file a federal appeal.

In their questioning Thursday, Supreme Court justices seemed focused on the question of why South Carolina prison officials can’t get lethal injection drugs.

“If other states can so easily obtain drugs and carry out the death penalty by lethal injection, why can’t we?” Associate Justice John Kittredge asked.

I’m not sure why South Carolna can’t get the three drugs needed for lethal injection, but no reputable pharmaceutical company would provide drugs for killing: they’re usually obtained by shady “compounders”, and purity is not guaranteed. (That’s not the only problem with lethal injection, of course: you have to find a vein.)  As far as I know, the electric chair is not a particularly humane way of executing someone, and while firing squads sound better than electric chairs, why not just circumvent the issue by eliminating the death penalty? It’s already been abolished in 23 states, but, to its shame, it’s still allowed by the federal government, which executes inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana.

*According to the BBC, a U.S. Congressman is going to be sworn in using a copy of the Constitution and a Superman comic book, as well as two other items he cherishes. The Congressman’s a Democrat, of course, and ten to one he’s an atheist. He’s also a naturalized immigrant and a married gay man. Ceiling Cat bless the Democrats!   (h/t: Nat)

Incoming US congressman Robert Garcia will be sworn in using the US Constitution – and a Superman comic.

In a tweet on Tuesday, he said it is one of three items he will use that “mean a lot to me personally”.

The other two are a photo of his parents, who he said were lost to Covid-19, and his citizenship certificate.

Mr Garcia is still waiting to take the oath of office, however, after Republicans failed to elect a speaker.

A Democrat from Long Beach, California, and the city’s former mayor before being elected to the House of Representatives, he has a record of sharing his graphic novel fandom on Twitter.

“Anyone who understands comics knows that comics are an essential part of American fiction,” he tweeted in November. “And the lessons learned are invaluable.”

Mr Garcia – who will take the oath using a vintage Superman comic from 1939 – cites lessons that are distinctive to his upbringing as both an immigrant and a member of the LGBT community.

The congressman-elect was brought to the US from Peru by his mother when he was five years old. He is openly gay and married.

In 2021, after DC Comics announced the new Superman would be bisexual, Mr Garcia tweeted: “I became a Superman fan as a kid because I related to him. An immigrant, a sense of justice, and a secret identity.”

The FFRF has sent Rep. Garcia a thank-you letter.

*Until now, no form of life was known that could exist by eating viruses. No longer. Scientists, reporting in the Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (paper here), which was picked up by The Independent, have found two forms of protozoans which can eat viruses, and one of them can live and thrive exclusively on viruses (h/t Brian):

Scientists have found that a species of plankton that populate freshwater worldwide is the world’s first known organism that survives and thrives by dining on viruses alone, an advance that sheds new light on the role of viruses in the global food web.

The study, published last week in the journal PNAS, found that this virus-only diet – which they call “virovory” – is enough to fuel the growth and reproduction of a species of Halteria, a single-celled organism known for the minuscule hairs.

“It seemed obvious that everything’s got to be getting viruses in their mouths all the time. It seemed like it had to be happening, because there’s just so much of it in the water,” study co-author John DeLong from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said in a statement.

Previous studies provide scarce evidence of aquatic organisms eating viruses, researchers say.

Most research place viruses as the top “predator” in food chains, but Dr DrLong and his team say, viruses also can serve as food like most predators.

What are the species that are “virovores”? The PNAS paper reports a species of the familiar Paramecium, but also the ciliate Halteria, can eat viruses, and Halteria can thrive on a diet exclusively of viruses. Now this doesn’t mean that this is their normal diet in nature, for there probably aren’t enough viruses around in the water to constitute a decent meal. Still, their DNA and protein coats can at least allow some sustenance. Here’s a Halteria (species not given):

The virus used was a chlorovirus, a giant freshwater virus that normally lives in algae (and kills them). They were discovered only 40 years ago.  Here’s an alga covered with chlorovirus particles (in red), courtesy of the NIH:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pessimistic (as always: she’s a Jewish cat):

Hili: I feel the breeze of new times.
A: And?
Hili: Somehow it smells bad.
In Polish:
Hili: Czuję powiew nowych czasów.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Coś to źle pachnie.
And a photo of baby Kulka:

**********************

From Seth Andrews:

From Anna:

From Facebook’s Catspotting Society:

 

God is still grumpy at Mastodon:

Titania seems to be tweeting again:

From Masih, an Iranian military officer admits that the government is beleaguered:

From Malcolm: a cat d.j.:

. . and some plucky Ukrainians:

From Simon; see Nooz above for the real concessions McCarthy has made. But this is a good tweet.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Edith Frank died of exhaustion, just a bit too early before rescue:

Tweets from Matthew. The link in the first one has a video of the cat caught in flagrante delicto:

This was a nail-biter, but like all things in DodoLand, it ends well:

 

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 4, 2023 • 6:15 am

It’s the first Hump Day of the year (” 험프 데이” in Korean): Wednesday, January 4, 2023, and National Spaghetti Day. Does bucatini count? I prefer it to spaghetti, as it’s a bit thicker and has a hole through the middle to hold more sauce. I was introduced to this hard-to-get pasta by a reader last year, and recommend using it instead of spaghetti, though the Italiians would be upset by that idea:

It’s also Dimpled Chad Day (2 days before Congress certified W.’s election in 2000), World Hypnotism Day, World Braille Day, the eleventh of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and National Trivia Day. Here’s a trivia question for you:

What was the name of the only painting Vincent Van Gogh sold in his lifetime?  (Answer below the fold):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 4 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: I assume that if you like wine, $10 is within your psychological price barrier. And that’s what you’ll pay for this terrific Albariño from Spain, redolent of peaches, cantaloupe and butterscotch, slightly off dry, gutsy, and with a lovely golden color. I’ve often touted Spanish whites like Albariños and Ruedas as great values, and this is one example.  It went well with my simple meal of goat cheese, black Niçoise olives, tomatoes, and a baguette.

If you want value for your money—and who doesn’t?—start investigating the Spanish whites. (Reds, too, though the good ones are pricier but still great value.) Drink it up now—it’s at its peak at a bit over two years old and won’t get much better.

Da Nooz:

*The House of Representatives, now dominated by Republicans, needs to choose a Speaker. It’s not widely known that the Speaker of the House needn’t be a member of the House, but the favorite is Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. But there’s a coterie of extreme right-wing Republicans who don’t want him in charge, and so far they’ve managed to block two votes to confirm him as Speaker. (Here’s a list of those who voted against him.)

As the 118th Congress convened on Tuesday, the election for House speaker devolved into a pitched floor fight, with a mutiny among hard-right lawmakers creating chaos not seen in the chamber in a century.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, failed to win the speakership on the first and second votes, turning what was to be a triumphant moment for the new G.O.P. majority into a political crisis that exposed the fissures within the party just as it assumed control of the House. And since the chamber cannot swear in members or perform actual work until the speaker is chosen, the nation’s legislative process was at a standstill.

Now there have been three votes without a decision.

The hard-righters, including the execrable Lauren “Glock” Boebert, won’t vote for him unless he accedes to a number of demands. He’s done so for some, but not others:

. . . a core group of hard-right Republicans has laid out a series of demands crucial to winning their support.

As part of a grueling, monthslong negotiation to lock down the support he needs, Mr. McCarthy agreed to some of the demands from members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group that includes Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania — and incorporated them in a proposed package of rules governing how the House operates for the next two years.

They included a rule to allow a vote at any time to oust the speaker, which would weaken the post considerably, though Mr. McCarthy proposed to set the threshold for forcing such a vote at five lawmakers rather than a single one, as the holdouts had demanded.

The package also included the so-called Holman rule, which allows lawmakers to use spending bills to defund specific programs and fire federal officials or reduce their pay.

Here’s one he’s resisting:

  • Promising to hold votes on a series of bills backed by hard-right members, including legislation that would require term limits for members of Congress, a balanced federal budget and fortifying security at the southwestern border.

The fun has already begun! The longer it goes on, the better, because Congress can’t do anything without a speaker.

*Some distressing news from NPR: Tennis great Martina Navratilova has been diagnosed with two types of cancer: in the throat and in the breast. This is not her first rodeo with cancer:

Navratilova, 66, will start treatment later this month, she announced Monday. “The prognosis is good,” her agent Mary Greenham said in an email to NPR. “Both these cancers are in their early stages with great outcomes.”

Navratilova, who works as a tennis commentator, noticed an enlarged lymph node on her neck during the Women’s Tennis Association finals in Fort Worth, Texas, last fall, her agent said. A biopsy revealed it to be stage 1 throat cancer. Then, as Navratilova was undergoing tests on her throat growth, doctors discovered an unrelated breast cancer.

This is Navratilova’s second bout with cancer. In 2010, she announced that she was being treated for breast cancer after a tumor was discovered during a routine mammogram. The tumor was removed surgically, and Navratilova underwent a brief course of radiation therapy.

I don’t know whether these are independent cancers or a metastasis, but stage 1 is a good sign. I hope she’ll be okay.

*According to the Guardian, Thor the Walrus continues his journey north. This is a good sign because two previous walri (LOL) hung around British coastal towns, and attracted such big crowds (and damaged some boats), that they “euthanized” (i.e., SHOT) one of them. Fingers crossed that Thor makes a hasty egress from Blighty, (h/t Matthew)

A large crowd quickly gathered in the Northumberland town of Blyth on Monday lunchtime after a walrus was spotted resting on a wooden pontoon at the yacht club.

It is thought to be the same creature – nicknamed Thor – who stopped off in Scarborough before the new year. On Sunday he was filmed plopping back into the water and swimming off.

Thor, the first walrus ever recorded in Yorkshire, had swum round from the Hampshire coast, where he had been spotted earlier in December. Scarborough council decided to cancel its New Year’s Eve fireworks so as not to cause him distress.

Experts believe the short stopovers have been a time for the walrus to recharge its batteries. Chris Cook, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity [BDMLR], said that the creature had needed “time to rest and recuperate before it continues its journey”.

This new sighting coincided with the publication of a report from BDMLR into the walrus’s visit to the Yorkshire seaside resort, which said up to 500 people came to see Thor at any one time, totalling thousands overall.

. . . It added: “At all times the crowd was at least 350 thick. At one point seemingly over 500 people were there, with more bodies continually appearing from all avenues, roads, and even bus trips. It is estimated that several thousand people were in attendance over the whole day, though likely far more.”

The report said: “By 4pm [on 31 December] Thor was becoming slightly more active, and at 4.30pm he sat up, turned around, and promptly slid off into the harbour.

Ceiling Cat speed, Thor, and get the hell out of Dodge before the Brits execute you for being a walrus! Here’s Thor in Scarborough:

*Kurt Streeter wrote an NYT op-ed after the Buffalo Bill’s defensive back Lamar Hamlin collapsed after being hit in a game, and then was revived shortly after his heart stopped (he’s in critical condition).  Streeter’s title: “We’re all complicit in the NFL’s [National Football League’s] violent spectacle.” My response is, “Hell, no: I’m not complicit at all.” I dislike football, largely because of its brutality, have never supported it and the only games I’ve ever been to were those played by my high school. Talk about damning all of humanity!

This is only one of many football injuries this year, including the inevitable concussions, which can produce dementia in later life. I would be much happier if soccer replaced football as the most popular American sport

*The aging Christiano Ronaldo, a soccer star whom nobody could stand, has signed with a Saudi football team for an enormous but undisclosed salary.

Cristiano Ronaldo was presented as the superstar new signing of Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on Tuesday, with the team’s president saying the Portugal great deserves to be the highest paid player on the planet.

Ronaldo said he turned down “many clubs” around the world to complete one of the most surprising transfers in the sport’s history, which could reportedly earn him up to $200 million a year.

Al Nassr president Musalli Almuammar would not confirm the exact figures in the two-and-a-half-year contract.

“He is the best player in football history so it is normal he will be the highest in terms of cost or salary,” Almuammar said. “This is something that he really deserves, so the amount of money he will take, he really deserves.”

Ronaldo was presented to thousands of fans at Al Nassr’s Mrsool Park against a backdrop of fireworks and smoke machines.

The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward will play in the Saudi Pro League after rejecting offers from Europe, North America and beyond.

. . . The Saudis have shown increasing interest in high-profile soccer. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund completed the takeover of Premier League club Newcastle in 2021 despite questions raised about human rights in the oil-rich kingdom and “sportswashing.”

First of all, he’s not the best player in football history. That would be Messi, or, if you want to argue, Pelé (who was buried yesterday).

How much will the arrogant Ronaldo (yes, he was a fantastic player) be making? Well this tweet suggests the salary, which includes endorsements:

500 million Euros! The Saudis are really willing to fork out the dosh to get a big name!

*Finally, for the first time in years, Denmark has had no bank robberies. Why? Because Danes hardly know the meaning of “cash” any more:

For the first time in years, Denmark hasn’t recorded a single bank robbery. There wouldn’t have been much point.

Cash transactions in the Nordic country have become virtually obsolete, with Danes increasingly opting to use cards and smart phones for payments.

The Danish bank employees’ union on Tuesday welcomed the news that 2022 had been robbery-free.

. . .Finance Denmark, the banking sector’s association, said only about 20 bank branches across the country have cash holdings. But then the number of bank branches has fallen from 219 in 1991 to 56 in 2021, it said.

News reports noted that cash withdrawals in Denmark have been dropping by about three-quarters every year for the past six years.

In 2000, there were 221 robberies. Last year: bupkes. Another effect of the pandemic

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili really is hunting, but not outside:

A: Are you hunting?
Hili: No, I’m going to the kitchen.
In Polish:
Ja: Polujesz?
Hili, Nie, idę do kuchni.

. . . And a picture of baby Kulka:

********************

The birth of wokeness, a Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson:

A Bizarro comic by Dan Piraro, sent by Bruce:

. . . and a cat party cartoon by Mark Parisi, contributed by Michael:

God explains why He still tweets even though He’s on Mastodon:

From Masih. Read about Soleimani here; he was assassinated in 2020 by a U.S. drone strike but remains a hero to Iran’s theocracy:

Two Barry: a hamster with its own snack.

And the sound of a giant katydid. It’s remarkable, so turn the volume up:

From Malcolm; I don’t understand why these things work but they do. I won’t remember them, either:

From the Auschwitz Memorial. Look at that expression! He lived two years before he died:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, three adventurous guys in wingsuits. What a flight!

Thor is slowly making his way north. He needs to get away from Britain!

And a gorgeous white porcupine. He has dark eyes, so he’s probably not an albino but leucistic.

Click “read more” to get the answer to the Trivia Question:

Continue reading “Wednesday: Hili dialogue”

Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 1, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the New Year! It’s January 1, 2023 (remember, 2023), and we have a clean slate to besmirch. It’s National Bloody Mary Day (of course), as well as these food months: National Hot Tea Month,
National Oatmeal Month, National Slow Cooking Month, National Soup Month, National Baking Month and National Fat Free Living Month.

It’s also Fruitcake Toss Day, Apple Gifting Day (i.e., give someone an apple), Ellis Island Day, Euro Day (1€ equals $1.07 U.S.), National Hangover DayEmancipation DayGlobal Family DayJapanese New Year, and Polar Bear Swim Day in Canada and the United States.

And Google has a New Year page (click to see the festivities):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 1 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day. Thank Ceiling Cat that my insomnia is abating, as I had given up wine for two months because my doctor said it would exacerbate the condition, perhaps making me fall asleep faster, but also awakening me too early. And believe me, that was one of the worst parts of the bout—having to have a nice dinner with WATER on the side.

But I have now started drinking again, cautiously, and began with this bottle given me by a very generous reader. It’s a 2014 Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso Ca’ del Merlo, an Amarone-like Italian red wine. Wines from that vintage were made with the typical Corvina and Rondinella grapes as well as a few others. Note how long it was aged in oak before bottling:

[It’s] a blend of 55% Corvina and Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest made up of a field blend of Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Croatina, Sangiovese all from a single vineyard. 50% of grapes are pressed immediately after harvest, 50% are dried for 2 months. After 3-4 days of maceration, primary fermentation starts with indigenous yeasts. Wine is racked and then sits until February and then the wine is racked onto the lees of the Amarone which starts a second alcoholic fermentation (this process is called ripasso). After this fermentation, the wine is racked into large Slavonian oak barrels for seven years

I had this with a T-bone steak that I cooked for myself on my birthday, along with rice and green beans. The wine was stupendous: rich and full-bodied, but immensely fruity. Although it had 15% alcohol, went down like velvet, with little trace of acid. It was a perfectly balanced wine, and light enough to be drunk with anything requiring a red. I couldn’t have identified the wine if drunk blindly, but I swear I could taste the touch of cab in it.  There was no sediment, so I didn’t have to decant it.

I didn’t know the price but found it when I looked up the wine, and this is one bottle that ain’t cheap. Many thanks to the generous donor!

Da Nooz:

*Russia intensified its attacks on Ukraine yesterday, bombarding the country with missiles and drone strikes, while Putin the Horror made a bellicose speech, lying extensively about Russia’s motives:

[Putin’s] New Year’s message was notably different from previous years, a reflection of the new path the country has taken since Russia invaded Ukraine this February.

In the address, which was broadcast at midnight on Russian state television in line with the country’s 11 different time zones, Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and called 2022 “a year of hard, necessary decisions” and “fateful events” that had laid the foundation of Russia’s future and independence.

Set against a backdrop of Russian military service members, instead of the typical wintry vista of the Kremlin, Putin’s speech marked a significant shift in tone, more combative and nationalistic, instead of festive and celebratory.

In the nine-minute message — the longest New Year’s address in Putin’s two-decade rule — he thanked the Russian army for its “strength of spirit and courage,” before launching into a tirade against the West, which he has repeatedly blamed for provoking the offensive.

“The West lied about peace but was preparing for aggression” and is “cynically using Ukraine and its people to weaken and divide Russia,” Putin said. “We have never and will never allow anyone to do this to us.”

As the first footage of the speech was broadcast, dozens of missiles rained down on Kyiv and other regions in Ukraine. Several explosions were heard in Kyiv, and a Washington Post journalist saw from her apartment window what appeared to be a Ukrainian air defense rocket intercepting a Russian missile. It was unclear if the sound of the explosions were from the air defense systems or missiles hitting targets.

The war, now ten months old, has been a terrible disaster for Russia, which envisioned a quick end: a couple of weeks, max.  Now they’ve lost a lot of people, lied about not using regular soldiers, and are scraping around for weapons, not to mention that the country has become an international pariah. Of course the Ukrainians, who have also undergone terrible losses, and destructio  that will take years to repair, are the victims.  I predicted, wrongly, that Russia would clean up, and it still might. But it looks increasingly like there will be a peace proces in which Russia will ask for more territory. I can’t  imagine Zelensky (y) giving it to them.

*As expected, Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned as Popester a decade ago, died yesterday at age 95.

Pope Benedict XVI, the eminent German theologian and conservative enforcer of Roman Catholic Church doctrine who broke with almost 600 years of tradition by resigning and then living for nearly a decade behind Vatican walls as a retired pope, died on Saturday at age 95, the Vatican said.

A pope’s death customarily sets in motion a conclave to choose a new leader of the church. But Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, was named when Benedict stepped down in 2013.

On Saturday, in the traditional New Year’s Eve service held at the Vatican, Francis praised Benedict, saying, “With emotion, we remember his person, so noble, so kind. And we feel in our hearts so much gratitude.”

Now, a sitting pope is expected to preside over the funeral of his predecessor — an extraordinary spectacle in the history of the church. The Vatican said on Saturday that Benedict’s funeral would be held on Thursday in St. Peter’s Square, with Francis presiding.

As is traditional, Benedict’s body will be laid in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday so that the faithful can file by to pay their respects.

And then he will, as he believed, meet his Maker. He will not find out, though, that all those beliefs were wrong.

*And I’ve just learned that Barbara Walters died two days ago at 93.

Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists but for all women,” Walters’ spokesperson Cindi Berger told CNN in a statement.

Walters began her national broadcast career in 1961 as a reporter, writer and panel member for NBC’s “Today” show before being promoted to co-host in 1974. In 1976, Walters joined ABC News as the first female anchor on an evening news program.

At that network, Walters launched “The Barbara Walters Specials” and “10 Most Fascinating People” before becoming a co-host and correspondent for ABC News’ “20/20” in 1984. Along the way, she interviewed every US president and first lady since Richard and Pat Nixon.

For more than five decades, Walters was a name to reckon with, whether speaking with world leaders on news programs, in celebrities’ homes for her regular “Barbara Walters Specials” or on “The View,” a daytime talk show in which a diverse panel of women discuss the latest headlines.

The NYT has a memoriam for Walters written by Katie Couric.

According to Wikipedia, Walters was Jewish, and was married four times to three different men (she also once dated Roy Cohn). It’s an honor to her that Gilda Radner did a good imitation on SNL:

*Reader Jez tells me, via the BBC, that Gary McKee, a British man, ran 365 consecutive marathons in 2022: one per day! And he did it for charity. Can you imagine the pain? And he’s no spring chicken: he’s 53 years old.

A man who vowed to complete a marathon on every day of 2022 has hit his £1m target after completing his final run.

Gary McKee, from Cleator Moor, in Cumbria, began his challenge on 1 January, with donations to be shared between Macmillan Cancer Support and West Cumbria Hospice at Home.

The father-of-three often ran his 26.2-mile (42km) route before starting work at the Sellafield nuclear site.

As he crossed the finish line, he thanked the “fantastic” reception.

And he later revealed in a tweet that he had reached his £1m goal in aid of charities.

Cheered on by crowds, he started his latest challenge at 08:30 GMT and finished at about 14:00 GMT in front of a fireworks display.

Mr McKee has gone through more than 20 pairs of trainers, run more than 9,500 miles (15,300km) and finished his final marathon at about 14:00.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “The streets were lined. It was raining, but everybody was out clapping and shouting.

“It was fantastic seeing everybody there. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

Here he is with a brewski at the end of his last marathon:

*The Wall Street Journal has Jon Haidt being interviewed by Tunku Varadarajan (in print) on the “National Crisis” of Generation Z.  A few Q&A.

At 59, Mr. Haidt is a young boomer, and he isn’t talking about millennials, some of whom are in their 40s by now. Rather, he has in mind the younger cohort, Generation Z, usually defined as those born between 1997 and 2012. “When you look at Americans born after 1995,” Mr. Haidt says, “what you find is that they have extraordinarily high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and fragility.” There has “never been a generation this depressed, anxious and fragile.”

He attributes this to the combination of social media and a culture that emphasizes victimhood. The latter was the subject of his most recent book, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” (2018), with co-author Greg Lukianoff. Social media is Mr. Haidt’s present obsession. He’s working on two books that address its harmful impact on American society: “Kids in Space: Why Teen Mental Health Is Collapsing” and “Life After Babel: Adapting to a World We Can No Longer Share.”

What happened? Here’s Haidt’s theory, which is his:

. . . Mr. Haidt’s research, confirmed by that of others, shows that depression rates started to rise “all of a sudden” around 2013, “especially for teen girls,” but “it’s only Gen Z, not the older generations.” If you’d stopped collecting data in 2011, he says, you’d see little change from previous years. “By 2015 it’s an epidemic.” (His data are available in an open-source document.)

What happened in 2012, when the oldest Gen-Z babies were in their middle teens? That was the year Facebook acquired Instagram and young people flocked to the latter site. It was also “the beginning of the selfie era.” Apple’s iPhone 4, released in 2010, had the first front-facing camera, which was much improved in the iPhone 5, introduced two years later. Social media and selfies hit a generation that had led an overprotected childhood, in which the age at which children were allowed outside on their own by parents had risen from the norm of previous generations, 7 or 8, to between 10 and 12.

Haidt is seen as a right-winger, but he’s not: he’s a Democrat who is center left and critical of progressives. He’s put on the Right because he criticizes the extremism (and emotional fragility) of generation Z, whom you can’t criticize without pushback.

*The results of our survey two days ago about whether readers have any love for Twitter. Yes, it’s unscientific and N is small, but the overwhelming majority of those who answered said they wouldn’t be bothered if Twitter vanished:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s a treat for Hili, but she’s still kvetching:

Hili: This is the first cream in the new year.
A: But is it tasty?
Hili: It tastes exactly the same as last year.
In Polish:
Hili: To jest pierwsza śmietanka w nowym roku.
Ja: Ale czy jest smaczna?
Hili: Smakuje tak, jak ta w zeszłym roku.
And Paulina took a photo of baby Kulka with the caption:  “We will see what this year will bring.”
In Polish: Zobaczmy co ten rok przyniesie (Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

*****************

From David, and I don’t know who created this cartoon:

A Far Side cartoon from Stash Krod:

This is, of course, my favorite B. Kliban cartoon, but you wouldn’t drink a red Rhone with shrimp. . . .  On the other hand, it goes well with shit.

A toot from God on Mastodon. He is filled with righteous fury:

From Masih; more perfidy from Iran’s theocracy:

 

From Malcolm; a very well behaved d*g:

What I wouldn’t give to see this spectacle:

I’m posting this because it is the LAMEST proof of God’s existence I’ve ever seen. It depends, of course, on logic rather than observation. It’s by Michael Egnor at a site run by the equally lame Discovery Institute:

The Auschwitz Memorial issued  statement (the King’s Honours list also gave kudos to those who survived the Holocaust and those who publicized it):

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, another walrus, this one named Thor, has shown up in the UK. He’d better get his butt out of there before he’s harassed to death. The crowds are already starting to show up. . .

Dunbar is in Scotland, “DGS” is “Dunbar Grammar School,” and a ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”) is a Scottish social gathering, usually involving lively dancing—as below:

A beautiful and rare Amur tiger (Siberian tiger); not its own species but a population of a subspecies of the single species of tiger (Panthera tigris):

Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 25, 2022 • 6:45 am

The temperature in Chicago this morning is below in Fahrenheit, equivalent to -16ºC.  There is no wind, so this is what it feels like. It’s positively tropical!

Welcome to CHRISTMAS, a capitalistic and gustatory celebration of the birth of a fictitious miracle-working being. Yes, It’s December 25, 2022, and of course it’s National Pumpkin Pie Day. Get the big ones at Costco: four pounds of delicious pie, with no artificial ingredients, for only six bucks!

And of course it’s the First Day of Coynezaa, my own personality holiday which began at midnight last night and ends on midnight of my birthday, December 30. Rejoice! JC is come!

But Santa did not come for me. I must have been a bad boy this year.

Back to Costco pumpkin pies, which I recommend with great enthusiasm. They are also extremely tasty, made with high-quality ingredients. Here’s a video. It’s worth joining Costco just to get their pies (the apple, cherry, and pecan are also superb):

And, according to Wikipedia, it’s:

Christmas Day, Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus. (Internationally observed)

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

Da Nooz:

*I missed this one two days ago, but Cassady Hutchinson, who worked at the White House under Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, has now spilled additional beans. (Her first spillage was her voluntary testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee detailing incriminating stuff about White House complicity.) Now there’s more: she was unethically pressured by White House lawyers:

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that she was advised by her first lawyer to deliberately withhold information from investigators and was wooed with job offers and promises of financial stability in exchange for her loyalty to former president Donald Trump.

The claims — which, if true, amount to possible witness tampering — were detailed at length by Hutchinson in interview transcripts that the committee released Thursday.

In her testimony, Hutchinson accuses her first lawyer, former Trump White House ethics counsel Stefan Passantino, of coaching her to tell committee investigators during her interviews that she did not recall certain things. She said he also discouraged her from jogging her memory or even bringing notes to her interviews that investigators could then collect.

“The less you remember, the better,” Hutchinson recalled Passantino telling her. “Don’t read anything to try to jog your memory. Don’t try to put together timelines. … Especially if you put together timelines, we have to give those over to the committee.”

In addition to her own lawyer, Hutchinson claimed that Trump’s former campaign lawyer, chief of staff, White House lawyers and other close confidants to the former president showered her with praise and promised that her loyalty would be rewarded.

“We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her in one phone call days ahead of her scheduled testimony. “You don’t need to apply other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”

There’s also an op-ed about this in the Washington Post, “For Cassidy Hutchinson, ‘I don’t remember’ wasn’t good enough.” (It damns the Trump team.)

*You probably remember that nine student groups at Berkeley have prohibited hosting any speakers who were “Zionists” (i.e., supporters of the state of Israel), even if they weren’t actually going to talk about Zionism. Opponents called this anti-Semitism, supporters that it wasn’t anti-Semitic but merely against those who believed that Israel has the right to exist (these include the Jewish dean of the law school). The NYT reports on the ongoing skirmish, noting that the Jewish organization at Berkeley has a similar rule but for those who “delegitimize” Israel by being Zionists (by the way, I oppose the policies of both groups).

The controversy, pushed along online by conservative commentators, hits two of the pressure points in campus politics today. The bylaw was adopted as antisemitism is rising across the country. And some critics of academia have cast left-wing students as censors who shout down other viewpoints, all but strangling, they say, honest intellectual debate.

That collision of issues all but guaranteed a tense debate over free speech, even if a broad swath of speech experts say that student groups are allowed to ban speakers whose views they disagree with.

“A student group has the right to choose the speakers they invite on the basis of viewpoint,” said Mr. Chemerinsky, who is Jewish and a Zionist. “Jewish law students don’t have to invite a Holocaust denier. Black students don’t have to invite white supremacists. If the women’s law association is putting out a program on abortion rights, they can invite only those who believe in abortion rights.”

Mr. Chemerinsky said that excluding speakers based on race, religion, sex or sexual orientation would not be allowed, but he noted that the student groups were excluding speakers based on viewpoint. True, he said, many Jews view Zionism as integral to their identity, but such deep passions do not change the law.

Other legal experts noted that the controversy showed just how mangled the understanding of the First Amendment had become, even at a place like Berkeley, the epicenter of the 1960s free-speech movement. The debate, they said, should focus on whether these bans align with the academic ideal of open, intellectual debate. Even if student groups can prohibit speakers, should they? And should such bans be codified — formally adopted with a bylaw?

“There’s a real confusion about freedom of speech as a cultural value and freedom of speech as a legal concept,” said Will Creeley, the legal director of Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free-speech advocacy group.

Reread that last paragraph. Yes, both groups can ban speakers with viewpoints they don’t like, even if the speaker doesn’t express those viewpoints, but they’re plugging their ears by doing it.

*This is a topic we’ve been talking about lately, now a NYT op-ed by historian Molly Worthen: “How would you prove that God performed a miracle?” I’ve written in Faith Versus Fact telling me what would convince me (provisionally, since to a scientist there’s no 100% “proof”) that a miracle involved not just God, but a Christian God. But what does Worthen say?

She cites the work of Josh Brown, head of neuroscience at Indiana University, and his wife Candy, who search the world for healings that have no “natural” explanation. (Brown himself was healed from a glioma, a usually fatal brain cancer.)

But the Browns’ experiences and research — not to mention the abundance of healing testimony from other witnesses, especially outside the West — deserve serious consideration. Watertight proof of divine causation may be an impossible goal, but the search for it forces us to confront the assumptions that prop up our own worldviews — whether one is a devout believer or a committed skeptic.

Well, it wasn’t really diagnosed as a glioma!

He quickly volunteered to me that he never had a biopsy, but doctors often diagnose this type of tumor on the basis of M.R.I.s and the patient’s symptoms. “One way or another, the tumor went away,” he said. “I’ve been symptom-free for 19 years. The doctors said very little.” The Browns felt grateful — and perplexed. “At that point I wondered why, when I had seen so many things that seemed miraculous and difficult to explain, why was there so little careful investigation of these things?” he said.

Then, funded by Templeton (of course!), Brown searched the world for “miracle cures”. A bit more:

Christians have sought to scientifically evaluate miracle claims at least since the 16th century, when the Council of Trent tightened up the verification process for canonizing saints. But the Christian God does not work in randomized, repeatable trials. He works in history. So maybe medical histories are a more appropriate approach. “Medical case reports rely on a different epistemology, which is more of a historical epistemology,” Josh Brown said. “It’s not something you can necessarily recreate, whatever the time course of a disease.”

In 2011 the Browns helped found the Global Medical Research Institute, which publishes case studies on the small number of inexplicable events that its staff members can scrupulously document — like a blind woman who, while praying one night with her husband, regained her sight and a teenage boy who depended on a feeding tube until his stomach suddenly healed itself during an encounter with a Pentecostal minister. “When we write these case reports, we’re not claiming these must have been a miracle of God, but these are the facts of the case,” Josh Brown told me.

Most professional scientists won’t go for this. “Case methods are fine as a way to start,” Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and a historian of science, told me. “But how do you shift from case studies to more experimental protocols that are the gold standard?”

Dr. Shermer sometimes asks believers about all the times prayer fails to heal. “Their answer is, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ It’s just hand-waving,” he said. Divine mystery is central to Christian faith, but it creates problems for a scientific method premised on the assumption that the laws of cause and effect are uniform — and will yield up their mysterious ways if you test and measure again and again.

They then finish by quoting ID advocate William Dembski, who of course does believe in miracles. The thing is, if God wanted us to know of His/Her/Its presence, why doesn’t he just SHOW UP instead of trying to convince us with a handful of unexplained medical remissions?

*The Associated Press strongly hints that soccer great Pelé is close to death in Sao Paulo:

Family members of Brazilian soccer great Pelé are gathering at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo where the 82-year-old global icon has been since the end of November.

Doctors said earlier this week that Pelé’s cancer had advanced, adding the three-time World Cup winner is under “elevated care” related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions.” No other hospital statements have been published since.

Edson Cholbi Nascimento, one of Pelé’s sons and known as Edinho, arrived Saturday, one day after he gave a news conference to deny he would visit his father in hospital. Edinho, who works for a soccer club in southern Brazil, had said then that only doctors could help his father.

“He (Edson) is here,” Kely Nascimento, one of Pelé’s daughters, said in a posting on Instagram with a picture showing her sitting next to Edinho and two of his children at the hospital. “I am not leaving, no one will take me out of here.”

Hours later, Edinho, a former Santos goalkeeper, posted a picture showing his hand holding his father’s.

“Dad… my strength is yours,” Pelé’s son said.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who is globally known as Pelé, had a colon tumor removed in September 2021. Neither his family nor the hospital have said whether it had spread to other organs.

Here’s an assessment of his greatness on the field:

*Reader Athayde informs us that the Darwin Correspondence Project, which has all of the man’s letters online, has now been completed. Just go to the link for anything you want. He was a prolific correspondent: there are 15,000 letters. The link above points to four final ones of note.

Here’s Darwin’s last letter (appropriately, to T. H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”), dated March 27, 1882. Darwin died on April 19.

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

March 27th. 1882

My dear Huxley

Your most kind letter has been a real cordial to me.—1 I have felt better today than for 3 weeks & have had as yet no pain.— Your plan seems an excellent one, & I will probably act on it, unless I get very much better. Dr Clark’s kindness is unbounded to me, but he is too busy to come here.2 Once again accept my cordial thanks my dear old friend. I wish to God there were more automata in the world like you.—3

Ever yours | Ch. Darwin

and an earlier one, from Feb. 13:

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

Feb 13th 1882

My dear Sir

I must write one line to thank you & Mrs Tait for your very kind note on my birthday.—1

I feel a very old man, & my course is nearly run.—

I remain— | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Senior Editor is being bothersome

A: You are disturbing me a bit.
Hili: I’m doing what I can.

In Polish:
Ja: Troszkę mi przeszkadzasz.
Hili: Robię co w mojej mocy.
And Paulina took a picture of Baby Kulka—in a Christmas hat!

*********************

From Paul:

A Mark Parisi cartoon from Facebook:

From Facebook:

From Merilee, a Dave Whammond cartoon:

. . and a cute Instagram video sent by Malcolm (trigger warning: D*G!):

Over at Mastodon, God is in a poetic and a Christmas-y mood:

From Masih; the execution of protestors continues in Iran:

A snarky cartoon from Luana:

From Andrew Doyle, this shows the confusion about sex and gender in Scotland:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a Norwegian Jew, gassed (with her sister) upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew; the first is a poorly drawn medieval hedgehog (what ARE those round things), which a wag has made into a Christmas tweet:

Christmas for isopods!

. . . and a lovely bird of paradise:

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 23, 2022 • 6:45 am

First, it’s howling a gale out there: here’s the ambient temperature when I woke up an hour ago. That’s the equivalent of -23° C, and the wind chill gives an equivalent temperature of -32° F or -36° C. But I had to come to work, for this is where my espresso machine is.  “Breezy” in my iPhone weather isn’t the half of it!

BUT. . .  I’ve seen colder here!

Greetings on the week’s end: it’s Friday, December 23, 2022: two days until Koynezaa begins, and it’s National Pfeffernüße Day, celebrating the gingerbread cookie that we’ve culturally appropriated. A variety of gingerbread cookie, they are not to be eschewed, but rather chewed:

Pfeffernüße

It’s also Festivus, a parody holiday made popular by the sitcom Seinfeld, as seen in the video below, HumanLight (celebrating secular humanism in the U.S.), Night of the Radishes (Oaxaca City, Mexico), Tibb’s Eve in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Tom Bawcock’s Eve in Mousehole, Cornwall.

Festivus!

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

Da Nooz:

*How can one defend a law that women are barred from higher education? What possible good could come from that? Well, of course, this is just what happened in Afghanistan, and the country’s education minister used the only justification he could: religion (which poisons everything).

The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to ban women from universities — a decree that had triggered a global backlash.

Discussing the matter for the first time in public, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. He said the ban was in place until further notice.

In an interview with Afghan television, Nadim pushed back against the widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Nadim said that foreigners should stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Earlier on Thursday, the foreign ministers of the G-7 group of states urged the Taliban to rescind the ban, warning that “gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity.” The ministers warned after a virtual meeting that “Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban.” The G-7 group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

There’s more:

Other reasons he gave for the university ban were women’s failure to observe a dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses.

“We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn’t and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony,” he said. “Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn’t match Afghan culture. Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor.”

He added that work was underway to fix these issues and universities would reopen for women once they were resolved. The Taliban made similar promises about high school access for girls, saying classes would resume for them once “technical issues” around uniforms and transport were sorted out, but girls remain shut out of classrooms.

While Western “progressives” bang on about Israel being an apartheid state, they’re curiously silent about this REAL apartheid state, which demonizes, besides women, non-Muslims, gays, atheists, and apostates. Could it be because Muslims—even the Taliban—are perceived as “oppressed people of color.”  Well, this country is oppressing half of its citizens!

*The cryptocurrency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, after deciding not to fight extradition from the Bahamas, is back in the U.S. and has been set free on the highest bond I’ve ever seen:

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was released on a $250 million bond Thursday and ordered to detention in his parents’ Palo Alto, Calif., home, after the former executive’s first appearance in a New York federal court following his extradition from the Bahamas.

Mr. Bankman-Fried, charged with engaging in criminal conduct that contributed to the cryptocurrency exchange’s collapse, came to court shackled by the ankles and wearing a charcoal gray suit. He sat quietly at the defense table, flanked by his lawyers.

Mr. Bankman-Fried left the courthouse in a black SUV. At a later date he will enter a plea on charges that he engaged in fraud and other offenses, a federal magistrate judge said. The next court hearing is set for Jan. 3.

Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein set the bail package, which requires Mr. Bankman-Fried to be under electronic monitoring and restricts his travel to parts of northern California and New York.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos called Mr. Bankman-Fried’s alleged crimes “a fraud of epic proportions” and said he believed the $250 million bond was the largest ever. The judge said the bond would be cosigned by four financially responsible people, including one non-family member.

The evidence against Mr. Bankman-Fried includes the testimony of multiple cooperators and more than a dozen witnesses from FTX and his crypto-trading firm Alameda Research, as well as encrypted text messages and tens of thousands of pages of financial documents, Mr. Roos said.

The erstwhile billionaire is going down, and all that cryptocurrency can’t save him.

*This offends my American sense of egalitarianism: the NYT reports that the emergency room at New York University has secretly given priority to VIPs and bigwigs—for years.

Doctors say Room 20 is usually reserved for two types of patients: Those whose lives are on the line. And those who are V.I.P.s.

In September 2021, doctors were alerted that Kenneth G. Langone, whose donations to the university’s hospital system had led it to be renamed in his honor, was en route. The octogenarian had stomach pain, and Room 20 was kept empty for him, medical workers said. Upon his arrival, Mr. Langone was whisked into the room, treated for a bacterial infection and sent home.

The next spring, Senator Chuck Schumer accompanied his wife, who had a fever and was short of breath, to the emergency room. As sicker patients were treated in the hallway, the couple were ushered into Room 20, where they received expedited Covid-19 tests, according to workers who witnessed the scene. The tests came back negative.

NYU Langone denies putting V.I.P.s first, but 33 medical workers told The New York Times that they had seen such patients receive preferential treatment in Room 20, one of the largest private spaces in the department. One doctor was surprised to find an orthopedic specialist in the room awaiting a senior hospital executive’s mother with hip pain. Another described an older hospital trustee who was taken to Room 20 when he was short of breath after exercising.

The privileged treatment is part of a broader pattern, a Times investigation found. For years, NYU’s emergency room in Manhattan has secretly given priority todonors, trustees, politicians, celebrities, and their friends and family, according to 45 medical workers, internal hospital records and other confidential documents reviewed by The Times.

On hospital computers, electronic medical charts sometimes specify whether patients have donated to the hospital or how they are connected to executives, according to screenshots taken by frustrated doctors in recent years and shared with The Times.

“Major trustee, please prioritize,” said one from July 2020.

Dozens of doctors said they felt pressure to put V.I.P.s first. Many witnessed such patients jumping ahead of sicker people for CT scans and M.R.I.s. Some said medical specialists, often in short supply, were diverted from other cases to attend to mild complaints from high-priority patients.

. . . Eleven doctors told The Times that they had resigned from the emergency department in part because they objected to favoring V.I.P.s.

The hospital, of course, denies everything. But they’re no longer in the financial trouble they were in 13 years ago.

Stop it, NYU!!!  In fact, the hospital has been put on probation for favoring VIPs and donors and mistreating poor patients. The behavior of the ER is even more horrible than I’ve described above.  I recommend you read the piece.

*I think I’ve written about this before, but the Washington Post has a new story about a Vaughn Smith, carpet cleaner in Washington, D.C. who, as a “hyperpolyglot,” can converse in 24 languages, and knows words and phrases in many more.

“So, how many languages do you speak?”

“Oh, goodness,” Vaughn says. “Eight, fluently.”

“Eight?” Kelly marvels.

“Eight,” Vaughn confirms. English, Spanish, Bulgarian, Czech, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Slovak.

“But if you go by like, different grades of how much conversation,” he explains, “I know about 25 more.”

Vaughn glances at me. He is still underselling his abilities. By his count, it is actually 37 more languages, with at least 24 he speaks well enough to carry on lengthy conversations. He can read and write in eight alphabets and scripts. He can tell stories in Italian and Finnish and American Sign Language. He’s teaching himself Indigenous languages, from Mexico’s Nahuatl. to Montana’s Salish. The quality of his accents in Dutch and Catalan dazzle people from the Netherlands and Spain.

In a city where diplomats and embassies abound, where interpreterscan command six-figure salaries at the State Department or the International Monetary Fund, where language proficiency is résumé rocket fuel, Vaughn was a savant with a secret.

He’s had a rough life, and doesn’t know how to monetize his skills:

And so began an adulthood marked by jobs that came and went. Vaughn has been a painter, a bouncer, a punk rock roadie and a Kombucha delivery man. His friends encouraged him to start a YouTube channel, but after a bout of depression, he stopped filming. On days when there aren’t carpets to clean, he helps a friend tint office building windows. He was once a dog walker for the Czech art collector Meda Mládková, the widow of an International Monetary Fund governor. She kept him on as a caretaker of her Georgetown home, which was the closest he ever came to having a career that utilized his languages. Visitors to the house spoke nearly every Eastern European dialect, and before long, so did Vaughn.

. . .But when she explained the traits associated with being on the autism spectrum, they felt entirely familiar to Vaughn.

Maybe this, he thought, was why he hadn’t understood his teachers. Why some adults thought he was rude. Why people tell him he could be using his talents for all kinds of careers, but he doesn’t really know where to look or the steps he would need to take to get a more formal, professional job.

“Of course, I have tried,” he says. “But nothing has worked out.”

I hope the article will lead to a better life for Vaughn.  BTW, the Post tested his skills, and they checked out, and there’s a 1-minute video of him speaking about ten different languages.

Here’s a conservative list of Vaughn’s talents:

*Finally, “The Chord”, as described in the NYT article, “‘Everyone wants to hear’ this one chord in a Christmas carol.” What chord is it? Read on:

Of all the music heard around Christmas, few passages rival the awe and mystery of one chord, known as the “Word of the Father” chord.

Click on the link just above to hear it: it comes at 3:36. I must say that I wasn’t particularly impressed. But read on:

It’s a rare instance of powerful drama in holiday liturgical music, more akin to Edward Elgar’s depiction of God in “The Dream of Gerontius,” or the opening of the fifth door in the Bartok opera “Bluebeard’s Castle”: a moment of total release, embracing the unknown.

In British choral circles, this moment is referred to simply as “The Chord.” It comes halfway through the final verse of the popular Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (or “Adeste Fideles”), in a mid-20th century arrangement by David Willcocks, an original editor of the widely used “Carols for Choirs” series and a former director of music at King’s College, Cambridge. Willcocks, following a rising figure full of anticipation, places an explosive, half-diminished seventh chord under the text “Word,” resolving it elaborately over the next few measures.

“It’s a startling moment,” David Hill, the musical director of the Bach Choir, said in a telephone interview. “I remember being a boy of 10 playing it in my church in Carlisle, and loving every moment of it, thinking: ‘What is this? This is outrageous!’”

There’s a youthful glee in the way the popularity of “The Chord” has grown; today, the discerning church musician can get it printed on pretty much anything, including T-shirts and tree ornaments. It’s a moment, Hill said, that “everyone wants to hear. It puts a great big smile on your face.”

But “The Chord” is much more than just a crunchy harmonic moment: It carries a deep symbolic resonance for the Christian community, and represents a key moment in the creation of Britain’s carol industry. . .

To learn why it’s a “key momen” in the creation of the carol industry, read for yourself.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, all the cats are here, but Hili’s outside:

Szaron: Come inside, it’s cold out there.
Hili: But it’s too crowded inside.
In Polish:
Szaron: Chodź do domu, tam jest zimno.
Hili: Ale w domu jest zbyt duży tłok.

*********************

From Nicole:

From Malcolm: a SuperDrone, a battery-powered Superman:

From Recreational Meowstafarian:

A toot of God from Mastodon:

From Masih: Afghan girls weeping when told they can’t go to university. If this wasn’t a family-oriented website, I’d curse the Taliban in very salty language:

From Barry: This cat is aping Maru!

From Steve Pinker; I had no idea that the Carter Center was leading the campaign to wiping out guinea worm, and with great success. (Can you name the other two diseases that have been eradicated?)

From the Auschwitz Memorial: an industrialist who survived but five days at Auschwitz. Was he gassed, or he simply couldn’t take it?

From Matthew: Merry Catmas!

What a beautiful butterfly! It’s found in Mexico and south to South America.

And male students supporting the female Afghani students who have just been denied a college education: