Monday: Hili dialogue

June 12, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s the top of the work week: Monday, June 12, 2023, and National Peanut-Butter Cookie Day. Perhaps, if you’re in Alabama, you can have a yellowhammer cookie, the new Official State Cookie made with peanuts, walnuts, and peanut butter:

It’s also Magic Day, Red Rose Day, National Jerky Day, Women Veterans Day, World Day Against Child Labour, and Loving Day, the anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginia) that legalized mixed-race marriages throughout America. (I can’t believe that mixed-race marriages were still illegal in some places the year I graduated from high school.)

Here they are in life. Mildred and Richard Loving:

And they rest together in death:

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

Da Nooz:

*The NYT reports that Ukraine expelling all Russians from their territory is an “unlikely” outcome of their spring offensive.

Much rides on the outcome. There is little doubt the new military drive will influence discussions of future support for Ukraine as well as debates about how to guarantee its future. What remains unclear, though, is exactly what the United States, Europe and Ukraine view as a “successful” counteroffensive.

Publicly, American and European officials are leaving any definition of success to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. For now, Mr. Zelensky has not laid out any public goals, beyond his oft-stated demand that Russian troops must leave the whole of Ukraine. He is known as a master communicator; any perception that he is backing off that broad ambition would risk undermining his support at a critical moment.

Privately, U.S. and European officials concede that pushing all of Russia’s forces out of occupied Ukrainian land is highly unlikely. Still, two themes emerge as clear ideas of “success”: that the Ukrainian army retake and hold on to key swaths of territory previously occupied by the Russians, and that Kyiv deal the Russian military a debilitating blow that forces the Kremlin to question the future of its military options in Ukraine.

Does that qualify as winning? Not if you’re left with less than you had before.

Some battlefield success, whether by decimating Russia’s army, claiming some territory or both, could help Kyiv secure additional military aid from Europe and the United States. It would also build confidence in allied capitals that their strategy of remaking Ukraine’s forces into a Western-style military is working. And most importantly, such an outcome would build more support in Europe for some sort of long-term security guarantee for Kyiv and strengthen Ukraine’s hand at a bargaining table.

Success is not guaranteed. Throughout the war, the Ukrainian army, with deeply motivated troops, creative military operations and advanced Western weaponry, has outperformed Russia’s military. But the Ukrainians have also found it difficult to dislodge the Russians from their entrenched defensive positions in the last few months, with the front lines barely moving.

The report adds that American analysts think that victories would be smaller: retaking parts of the Dobas, retaking the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, and, importantly, retaking the land bridge between Ukraine and Russian-controlled Crimea, cutting off Russia’s access to resupplying that once-Ukrainian land that’s now a fortress.

*The WaPo explains why Trump has been charged with possessing secret government documents, and Pence and Hillary Clinton were not (and why Biden surely won’t be as well). We went over that a bit yesterday but here’s some additional news:

Notably, however,the indictment does not charge Trump with the illegal retention of any of the 197 documents he returned to the archives.

That shows that if Trump had simply returned all the classified documents he had, he probably never would have been charged with any crimes, said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor.

“This is not a case about what documents were taken, it’s about what former president Trump did after the government sought to retrieve those documents,” said Mintz, who noted that willful-retention cases often hinge on how much evidence prosecutors can find that a person deliberately hid material or refused to give it back.

The indictment offers anecdote after alleged anecdote charging that the former president sought to hide and keep some of the classified papers, so much so that Trump and Nauta are accused of conspiring to obstruct the investigation and scheming to conceal the truth not just from the government, but even from Trump’s own lawyer.

“This is not a case about what documents were taken, it’s about what former president Trump did after the government sought to retrieve those documents,” said Mintz, who noted that willful-retention cases often hinge on how much evidence prosecutors can find that a person deliberately hid material or refused to give it back.

The indictment offers anecdote after alleged anecdote charging that the former president sought to hide and keep some of the classified papers, so much so that Trump and Nauta are accused of conspiring to obstruct the investigation and scheming to conceal the truth not just from the government, but even from Trump’s own lawyer.

To my great dismay, the NBC News reported last night that even if convicted, Trump is unlikely to spend any time in jail. That’s because, they said, there’s no way the Secret Service could protect an ex-President, which they’re required to do, if he’s in jail.  I suggest solitary confinement with rotating Secret Service agents sitting outside the Donald’s cell.

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*Affirmative action (race-based admissions) will soon be declared illegal by the Supreme Court, but they’re already illegal in California. How did a Democratic Party core issue get overturned in that state?

Mr. Romero was one of millions of California voters, including about half who are Hispanic and a majority who are Asian American, who voted against Proposition 16, which would have restored race-conscious admissions at public universities, and in government hiring and contracting.

The breadth of that rejection shook supporters. California is a liberal bastion and one of the most diverse states in the country. That year, President Biden swamped Donald Trump by 29 percentage points in California, but Proposition 16 went down, with 57 percent of voters opposing it.

. . .But Proposition 16 suggests the politics of affirmative action are different. The results exposed a gulf between the party establishment and its voters.

To make sense of its failure, The New York Times analyzed the 2020 vote, focusing on Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous county, and spoke to dozens of voters across demographic groups.

Los Angeles voters, an ethnically diverse and liberal lot, passed the proposition by a mere whisker, 51 percent to 49 percent. And the Times analysis of electoral precincts found across all races, support for the referendum fell well short of support for Joe Biden on the same ballot.

This was true across majority Black, Asian, Hispanic and white precincts.

. . . the Times analysis and interviews showed support for Proposition 16 is often divided along racial lines, with Black voters supporting it, while Asian voters rejected it. In fact, nearly all majority Asian precincts in Los Angeles voted against the proposition. And across racial and ethnic groups, support for the referendum fell short of support for Mr. Biden.

This was true even of majority Black precincts in Los Angeles, which supported Proposition 16 by wide margins. Mr. Biden outpaced that support by an average of about 15 percentage points

. . .Valerie Contreras, a crane operator, is a proud union member and civic leader in Wilmington, where half the voters were against the referendum. She had little use for the affirmative action campaign.

“It was ridiculous all the racially loaded terms Democrats used,” she said. “It was a distraction from the issues that affect our lives.”

Asian voters spoke of visceral unease. South and East Asians make up just 15 percent of the state population, and 35 percent of the undergraduates in the University of California system.

Affirmative action, to their view, upends traditional measures of merit — grades, test scores and extracurricular activities — and threatens to reduce their numbers.

. . . He was not surprised, however, that many Asian Americans balked. “The notion that you would look at anything other than pure academic performance is seen by immigrants as antithetical to American values,” he said.

Overall, blacks favor affirmative action, but make up such a small proportion of the population (less than 6%), and there are a lot of Hispanics and Asians, who aren’t so keen on race-based admission.

*It’s been reported that Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber”, who was found dead in his cell on Saturday, actually committed suicide. I figured he was terminally ill when I heard that was transferred from Florence ADX, America’s toughest prison, to a prison hospital in North Carolina. And, to be sure, his illness is likely the factor that caused him to kill himself:

Ted Kaczynski, known as the “Unabomber,” who carried out a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23 others, died by suicide, four people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Kaczynski, who was 81 and suffering from late-stage cancer, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. Emergency responders performed CPR and revived him before he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead later Saturday morning, the people told the AP. They were not authorized to publicly discuss Kaczynski’s death and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Kaczynski had been held in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, since May 1998, when he was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years for a campaign of terror that set universities nationwide on edge. He admitted committing 16 bombings from 1978 and 1995, permanently maiming several of his victims.

In 2021, he was transferred to the federal medical center in North Carolina, a facility that treats prisoners suffering from serious health problems. Bernie Madoff, the infamous mastermind of the largest-ever Ponzi scheme, died at the facility of natural causes the same year.

*Two giant inflatable ducks were released in Hong Kong’s harbor on Friday. By Saturday, one of them had deflated.

 Two giant inflatable ducks made a splash in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on Friday, marking the return of a pop-art project that sparked a frenzy in the city a decade ago.

The two 18-meter-tall yellow ducks by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman resemble the bath toys many played with in their childhood. Shortly after their launch, dozens of residents and tourists flocked to the promenade near the government headquarters in Admiralty to snap photos of the ducks.

Hofman said he hopes the art exhibition brings joy to the city and connects people as they make memories together.

“Double duck, double luck,” he said. “In a world where we suffered from a pandemic, wars and political situations, I think it is the right moment to bring back the double luck.”

Double duck, double luck! After the launch

(from AP): Members of the public photograph an art installation called “Double Ducks” by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman at Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, Friday, June 9, 2023. Two giant inflatable ducks made a splash in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on Friday, marking the return of a pop-art project that sparked a frenzy in the city a decade ago. (AP Photo/Louise Delmotte)

One of the two giant inflatable ducks floating in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor deflated on Saturday, just a day after they were unveiled to revelers.

Crowds of residents and tourists flocked in the scorching heat to the promenade near the government headquarters in Admiralty to snap photos of the ducks by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. But many who arrived in the afternoon only found one duck intact, with the other reduced to a puddle of yellow plastic.

Organizers said their staff found one of the ducks was overstretched due to the hot weather and rising air pressure.

Duck and tourists both deflated!:

(From AP): An art installation called “Double Ducks” by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman as one of the duck is deflated at Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, Saturday, June 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Louise Delmotte)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is spouting bromides:

Hili: Nature is like a book.
A: In what sense?
Hili: Sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring.
In Polish:
Hili: Natura jest jak książka.
Ja: W jakim sensie?
Hili: Czasem fascynująca, a czasem nudna.

And a photo of a cute but sleepy Baby Kulka:


From Doc Bill:

From Pet Jokes & Puns:

From Mark:

A tweet from Masih, showing another protestor who was killed. The Google translation:

IRGC officers shot and killed Kian’s mother’s cousin#Poya_MolayiRad today on his birthday. Khamenei and his agents are responsible for all the crimes and destruction of this land. Let’s not let them fill our innocent children one by one. It is the duty of all of us to stand by the Kian family and against the murderers and demand their innocent blood. #Woman_Life_Freedom.

From reader Jez and his wife:

From Barry: a firefly taking off. “Lights on?” “Check.”


The British Library apparently removed this tweet. Do you suppose it realized that sequential hermaphroditism in fish has nothing to do with either human transsexuality or homosexuality? Or did the tweet get “ratioed”

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who escaped, was eventually recaptured and sent to another camp, but survived and was liberated!

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, still in Norway, I believe. If you EVER get to Boston or Cambridge, go see the glass flowers at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. They are the most stunning glass objects I’ve ever seen, so realistic that you have trouble distinguishing them from real plants. They are a fantastic and underappreciated wonder.

This is really scary!

We’re seeing this fantastic conjunction as it looked 160 million years ago!

Sunday: Hili dialogue

June 4, 2023 • 6:45 am

Happy Sabbath to all Christian humans and cats: it’s Sunday, June 4, 2023, and National Cheese Day (my favorite is Comté aged for three years—until it has a granular texture):

It’s also National Cognac Day, National Cancer Survivors’ Day, National Frozen Yogurt Day, Hug Your Cat DayInternational Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. and Memorials for the Tananmen Square Protests of 1989, which began to be suppressed on June 4.

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

Da Nooz:

First, some pictures of graduation (called “convocation” here). It was a glorious, sunny day for the rite. I don’t care who you are; if you’ve been through the ceremony, it does choke you up a bit to see these inchoate adults launched into the world. Here they are lined up ready to march into the quad before their parents and relatives:

Marching under the arch; my building is to the right. Note the gargoyles climbing up the arch:

Through Hull Gate and into the quad, which is set up with a big open tent under which the dignitaries sit:

Faculty waiting to march in after the students. These are faculty who didn’t get their Ph.Ds here, and are supposed to wear the cap and gown of the school where they got their doctorates (I don’t have one). Some of the foreign academic regalia are particularly attractive.

And the U of C faculty who graduated from here (mostly), wearing their maroon caps and gowns:

Faculty are traditionally marched in with bagpipes:

*In his eponymous website, Jonathan Turley discusses the new political-correctness kerfuffle in which John Cleese is embroiled. Cleese is definitely anti-woke, but is up against the Pecksniffs. They’re doing a stage version of “Life of Brian, and of course you know immediately what the problem is: it’s politically incorrect, mocking a lot of things considered taboo today. One bit in particular is problematic: (h/t Rosemary)

One of the favorite targets of the Monty Python troupe was political activists who lacked any humor or self-awareness. That was the thrust of scenes in Life of Brian involving Cleese’s character, Reg, the leader of the “People’s Front of Judea” who faced endless demands for countervailing causes — so many that the group never actually gets anything done beyond meetings.

In one scene, an activist named Stan announces that he wants to be a woman and have a baby:

Reg: “You want to have babies?!?!”
Stan: “It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.”
Reg: “But … you can’t HAVE babies!”
Stan: “Don’t you oppress me!”

Some actors reading the script urged that the scene be cut, and producers now face a dilemma after Cleese refused to drop it.

For the most part, the war on comedy is working. For nearly a decade, many leading comedians have avoided performing on college campuses because they simply have no material that will avoid triggering one group or another. Six out of ten students in a 2020 survey said offensive jokes can constitute hate speech.

Activists are converting much of the world into their own humorless, ticked-off image. It is hard to enrage others through identity politics if some comedian is making fun of different identities. So the message has become that there’s nothing funny about identity. Satire is now viewed by some as a vehicle for objectification, subjugation and alienation.

These are the modern versions of the Puritans and Victorians, imposing their own rigid demands on artists and writers to conform to their own social values.

When comedians become afraid to tackle subjects largely considered taboo, then the art loses its edge—and its ability to make us think. Imagine having to listen to Bob Hope forever!

*Over at The Weekly Dish, Sully is beefing about “The Unstoppability of Mass Migration.”

Or, of course, we could be living on the precipice of something much worse — a reactionary lurch toward authoritarianism fueled by native replacement and resentment. That’s what my reading of history and human nature inclines me to think. Replacement and resentment were the inchoate forces behind 2016; and some of the factors that made it happen — elite estrangement and the torrid pace of mass immigration — have only worsened since 2016. In Britain, the Tories could lose what’s left of any trust they once had — leading a far-right party to gain a serious foothold. In the US, Trump could soon seem like the beginning of something much darker. This week he renewed his pledge to ban birthright citizenship and described migrants as “some of the toughest, meanest people you’ll ever see,” arriving from “mental institutions” and “jails.” And he continues to froth at the mouth on Truth Social: “TITLE 42 EXPIRES NEXT WEEK. This date will go down in infamy!!!”

Immigration remains his strong card. A Gallup poll in February showed that public satisfaction over immigration had fallen six points in a year, down to 28 percent — “the lowest reading in a decade.” An AP poll that month found that 44 percent of Americans want immigration reduced and only 20 percent want more. And Biden is under water: 58 percent of voters in seven key battleground states disapprove of how he’s handled the issue, and another recent poll showed just 26 percent approval.

And by a critical measure — official systemic discrimination in favor of non-whites and non-Asians across corporate America, government and academia, i.e. “equity” — things have gotten a lot worse from the perspective of the “deplorables.” Throw in truly bewildering cultural change — sex changes for children, abolishing all distinctions between men and women — and it’s as if the left is almost testing the conditions for a far-right revolt. Just read some Edsall, and you’ll get the picture.

This is the fear I’ve had since 2016 knocked me out of my complacency. And it’s a lot more intense today than it was a couple of years ago. Trump is a lot stronger, and Biden is somewhat weaker. Immigration is surging again. White nationalism is resurgent. Inflation still eats away at the ordinary American’s sense of security. The left elites are incorrigible — now targeting children for re-education in the core concepts of critical race, gender and queer theory. Target was selling girls’ swimsuits with a pocket for penis-tucking. Whose brilliant idea was that?

The result is a truly disturbing and metastasizing irrationalism on the right that only seems to get more unbounded over time — an irrationalism that really cannot be represented by anyone but the Great Orange Id of them all. That’s why he’s on the march again. That — and because his strongest issue keeps getting stronger.

The refusal of Democrats to say anything about restricting immigration is definitely hurting them given the data that twice as many Americans want less immigration than want more of it; and we’re all aware that immigrants are supposed to be fleeing persecution but are admitted for any reason, and that seems to be what the Dems want. What we need is bipartisan immigration reform, for  and if both parties enact it, neither can really be blamed. Right now, the immigration issue is primarily hurting the Democrats and helping Trump., and Ceiling Cat help us if anything helps him.

*As the saying goes, “hoist with their own petard.”  That’s what Brian told me when he sent me this BBC news item about Utah primary schools banning the Bible.

A school district in the US state of Utah has removed the Bible from elementary and middle schools for containing “vulgarity and violence”.

The move follows a complaint from a parent that the King James Bible has material unsuitable for children.

Utah’s Republican government passed a law in 2022 banning “pornographic or indecent” books from schools.

Most of the books that have been banned so far pertain to topics such as sexual orientation and identity.

. . . The Utah decision was made this week by the Davis School District north of Salt Lake City after a complaint filed in December 2022. Officials say they have already removed the seven or eight copies of the Bible they had on their shelves, noting that the text was never part of students’ curriculum.

. . .The committee did not elaborate on its reasoning or which passages contained “vulgarity or violence”.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, the parent who complained said the King James Bible “has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition”, referring to the 2022 book-ban law.

It was only a matter of time!

*The train is the cheapest way to get around in India, but if you’ve ridden in any class lower than first (and I always travel second class), you can see why 288 people were killed in a three-way rail crash in India last week. The trains are old, overcrowded, (people often stand packed like sardines, or, if there’s room, sit or sleep on the floor), and they’re best avoided if you can find a decent bus. What happened in the state of Odisha is a terrible tragedy:

Rescuers worked with excavators to untangle crushed train cars on Saturday at the scene of India’s worst rail disaster in decades, as relatives of the victims searched for their loved ones at local hospitals and a makeshift mortuary in a nearby school.

At least 288 people were killed and more than 700 others injured in what officials in a preliminary government report described as a “three-way accident” involving two passenger trains and an idled freight train in the eastern state of Odisha. Officials said they were investigating signal failure as a possible cause of the crash.

The toll, exceptionally large even in a nation with a long history of deadly crashes, has renewed longstanding questions about safety problems in a system that transports more than eight billion passengers a year.

At least 17 cars of the two passenger trains had derailed, some so twisted in the subsequent collision that teams of rescue workers with dogs and cutting equipment were still laboring to recover the bodies. Together, the two passenger trains had been carrying at least 2,200 people, according to railway officials.

And, reading through the piece, I found what I suspected:

Survivors at two hospitals in Balasore said that many of the 288 people who died were packed shoulder to shoulder in three “general compartments,” coaches where passengers buy inexpensive tickets to travel without seats allotted to them and find themselves standing.“It was full of people,” said Sayel Ali, who was admitted to a hospital near the site of accident. “You could only see heads. When the accident happened, I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know how I reached the hospital.”

Not only that, but passengers will ride on the top of trains or hold onto the outside or even stand between cars.  I once saw a train that was so covered with humans on the outside that it looked like a moving ball of people: the train itself was barely visible.

The suspected cause of the three-train crash was a signal failure.

*Tennessee reently passed America’s first “anti-drag” law, which, according to the AP,

. . . would have banned adult cabaret performances from public property or anywhere minors might be present. Performers who broke the law risked being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for a repeat offense.

Just that description makes me worry that this law violates the First Amendment, and, indeed a judge—one appointed by Trump—ruled the law unconstitutional.

Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law designed to place strict limits on drag shows is unconstitutional, a federal judge says.

The law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement,” according to the ruling late Friday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

“There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law,” Parker said.

“Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” he said.

. . .[Judge] Parker used the example of a female performer wearing an Elvis Presley costume and mimicking the iconic musician who could be at risk of punishment under the drag law because they would be considered a “male impersonator.”

Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, filed a complaint in March, saying the law would negatively impact them because they produce “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” with no age restrictions.

“This win represents a triumph over hate,” the theater company said in a statement Saturday, adding that the ruling affirmed their First Amendment rights as artists.

This one’s headed to the Supreme Court for sure. Although I wouldn’t characterize parents who worry about the effect of “sexually explicit” performances on young kids as riddled by “hate” (a word used too often), I do think the law as written is indeed unconstitutionally vague. We’ll see what the conservative Supreme Court does with it—if it agrees to handle an appeal.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is enigmatic again. I asked Malgorzata what Hili meant, and got this reply:

Elephants are always in somebody else’s room, not in ours. I think she meant it as a version of Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. But who knows with Hili?

The dialogue:

Hili: An elephant in the room.
A: Our room?
Hili: No, the neighbour’s.
In Polish:
Hili: Słoń w salonie.
Ja: W naszym?
Hili: Nie, u sąsiadów.

And a photo of baby Kulka:


From Divy:

From David:

A bad spelling mistake from America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:

From Masih. I don’t understand Parsi, but I know that “freedom” is ɑzɑˈd̪i, and that’s what you hear


Matt Walsh doesn’t seem to be an amiable human being, but he’s calm and knows how to ask questions. (He’s also a diehard conservative.) But the 1.25 hour movie in the tweet below, “What is a Woman?” is worth watching. The documentary was originally banned on Twitter as “hate speech,” for Walsh goes around asking various people (including Masai), “What is a woman?” He doesn’t get many answers, mainly because the Leftish people he talks to don’t want to define “woman” in a way that excludes trans women. Many wind up saying that “a woman is anybody who identifies as a woman.” But that kind of definition is recursive, and doesn’t work very well. (Try it with any other noun.)

From Malcolm, cats being cats:

An adorable baby seal getting swimming lessons from humans:

From the Auschwitz memorial, a Polish athlete who died of “exhaustion” in the camp:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is beautiful:

A not-too-great magic trick:

Cat pwned by a duck:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

May 18, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Thursday, May 18, 2023: National Cheese Soufflé Day.

Photo and recipe here

It’s also Ascension, Hummus Day, International Museum Day, National Visit Your Relatives Day, World AIDS Vaccine DayIndependence Day (Somaliland) (unrecognized; click the link to see why), and National Speech Pathologist Day, and Ascension Day, the day Jesus is supposed to have gone up to Heaven after 40 days of appearing to his disciples (Easter) after he was crucified and resurrected.  He then took his disciples up to the Mount of Olives and. . .  . .zoomed up to meet his Father/alternative morph.

Reader Steve shows one reconstruction of the event:


There will be no “readers’ wildlife photos” today as I am running out of photos, none are coming in, and I have to ration them. Sorry!

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 18 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*It’s not yet clear whether anything will happen to keep the U.S. from reaching its debt limit on June 1, at which point most of the government will shut down. According to the NYT, the House Democrats (in the minority, of course) are contemplating their own maneuver, one that seems unlikely to work.

House Democrats pushed forward on Wednesday with a procedural move that could force a vote to increase the debt limit should negotiations between President Biden and Republicans collapse, moving despite signs of progress in the bipartisan talks to advance a long-shot Plan B to avert a default.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, wrote to his colleagues urging them to quickly sign a discharge petition, which can automatically force a House vote on legislation if a majority of 218 members sign it.

There are only 213 Democrats in the House, so they’d have to pull in some Republicans.  Still, things haven’t reached a standstill vis-à-vis negotiations:

Though Mr. Jeffries noted there were signs after Tuesday’s White House meeting hosted by Mr. Biden that a “real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution that prevents a default,” he said Democrats must take all possible steps to avert a crisis.

At the same time, the president has indicated openness to considering adding new work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other federal aid, a Republican demand opposed by Democrats in the House and Senate. Mr. Biden, before he left for Japan on Wednesday for a meeting of the Group of 7 nations, sought to downplay whatever concessions he might give, characterizing the potential changes to benefit requirements as “not anything of any consequence.”

The Republican stand here reminds me of the old GOP “welfare queen” trope. A single mother with kids, for example, has to work to get food stamps?  But Biden has clearly moved, as previously he said he would accept no Republican conditions on his demand that the debt ceiling be raised.

*Well, the Supreme Court has surprisingly accepted some new restrictions on guns.  Recently my state of Illinois enacted a ban on both AR-15 style rifles and large ammunition magazines. It was appealed, but the Supreme Court swatted away the appeal and left the ban in place.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday left in place for now Illinois’ new ban on the purchase and sale of AR-15-style rifles and large ammunition magazines, in the court’s first consideration of gun-control legislation since its conservative majority made it more difficult for governments to justify such restrictions.

The court without comment turned down a request from a gun shop owner from Naperville and a national gun rights organization to keep both the state law and a local measure passed by Naperville from being implemented while legal battles continue. The order comes as the nation has recently weathered dozens of mass killings, many of them involving the kinds of weapons Illinois and the city seek to ban.

It is not unusual in emergency requests for the court not to provide its reasoning. There were no noted dissents to the order.

The Supreme Court’s action follows a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to allow the laws to take effect while courts consider constitutional challenges. Gun shop owners and other organizations have said the laws violate the Supreme Court’s decision last year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen that extended Second Amendment protections.

Now this is an emergency ruling, and the paper notes that the Seventh Circuit appellate court will hear the case later, as different judges below that level have ruled in different ways. It’s still possible that in the end, the case will go back to the Supreme Court and the Illinois law overturned on the case’s “merits.”

*In a speech for Nakba Day at the UN yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a number of completely ridiculous statements and was given a standing ovation for them. (Yes, it’s the UN, Jake!)

Here are some things that Abbas said at the UN:

 “Britain and the United States, in particular, bear direct moral and political responsibility for the Nakba of the Palestinian people. These two countries participated in turning our people in victims, when they decided to plant a foreign entity in our historical homeland, for their own colonialist purposes.

“The truth is that these countries, the Western countries, wanted to get rid of the Jews and to benefit from them in Palestine. They wanted to kill two birds with one stone.

“The false Zionist and Israeli Claims continue… They cannot avoid lying… They lie And lie, like Goebbels [Said]: ‘lie And lie, until people believe it'”

“Israel has been digging [underneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque] for 30 years, in an attempt to find anything that would prove its [past] existence there, but they did not find anything. It is not me saying this. The Israeli historians and archeologists said this. They said: ‘We could not find anything. We have nothing here.’ So why lie? They dug underneath Al-Aqsa and above [sic] it… They dug everywhere but did not find anything.

This is Jew hatred, plain and simple. It is not criticism of the present Israeli government, but simple anti-Zionism, which of course is anti-Semitism. As Newsweek wrote:

In a statement ahead of yesterday’s event, the UN said it aimed to “highlight that the noble goals of justice and peace require recognizing the reality and history of the Palestinian people’s plight and ensuring the fulfillment of their inalienable rights.”

If the UN was so concerned with “recognizing the reality of history,” it would have recalled that in 1947, the local Jewish leadership voted in favor of the UN Partition Plan for the creation of two states, whereas the Arabs rejected it and launched a merciless war of annihilation against the Jewish State the day after its establishment.

*As I noted yesterday, a court ruled that Theranos grifter Elizabeth Holmes could not remain free while she appealed her 11+ year sentence for wire fraud. Now she’s been ordered to report to federal prison in just two weeks.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes must report to prison by May 30, a judge said Wednesday, after a court denied her request to stay out pending appeal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday denied her request to stay out on bail, saying Holmes’s appeal doesn’t raise a substantial question of law and that even if it did, it is unlikely that it would be enough to overturn her fraud conviction.

Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood-testing startup Theranos, was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against the company’s investors in January 2022. She was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

Later Tuesday, Holmes and her former second-in-command Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was also convicted of fraud at Theranos, were jointly ordered by a lower court to pay $452 million in restitution to investors, including $125 million to Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal. The federal government had previously asked for more than $800 million in restitution, according to court filings.

. . . The district court recommended that Ms. Holmes serve her time at a federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas, that allows for family visitation.

This link shows how family visitation (which is not “conjugal visitation”) works in federal prisons.

Holmes doesn’t have any money left, though her husband seems pretty well off. Does that mean that they can take some of his salary to repay the investors? Calling all lawyers!

*The NYT reports on a new study in Nature (I haven’t read it yet) showing a somewhat complex origin of modern Homo sapiens.

Scientists have revealed a surprisingly complex origin of our species, rejecting the long-held argument that modern humans arose from one place in Africa during one period in time.

By analyzing the genomes of 290 living people, researchers concluded that modern humans descended from at least two populations that coexisted in Africa for a million years before merging in several independent events across the continent. The findings were published on Wednesday in Nature.

“There is no single birthplace,” said Eleanor Scerri, an evolutionary archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Geoarchaeology in Jena, Germany, who was not involved in the new study. “It really puts a nail in the coffin of that idea.”

Paleoanthropologists and geneticists have found evidence pointing to Africa as the origin of our species. The oldest fossils that may belong to modern humans, dating back as far as 300,000 years, have been unearthed there. So were the oldest stone tools used by our ancestors.

. . . The researchers analyzed DNA from a range of African groups, including the Mende, farmers who live in Sierra Leone in West Africa; the Gumuz, a group descended from hunter-gatherers in Ethiopia; the Amhara, a group of Ethiopian farmers; and the Nama, a group of hunter-gatherers in South Africa.

. . .The researchers concluded that as far back as a million years ago, the ancestors of our species existed in two distinct populations. Dr. Henn and her colleagues call them Stem1 and Stem2.

About 600,000 years ago, a small group of humans budded off from Stem1 and went on to become the Neanderthals. But Stem1 endured in Africa for hundreds of thousands of years after that, as did Stem2.

If Stem1 and Stem2 had been entirely separate from each other, they would have accumulated a large number of distinct mutations in their DNA. Instead, Dr. Henn and her colleagues found that they had remained only moderately different — about as distinct as living Europeans and West Africans are today. The scientists concluded that people had moved between Stem1 and Stem2, pairing off to have children and mixing their DNA.

The two Stem populations then merged twice (each about 120,000 years ago), with one merger giving rise to populations in southern Africa and the other giving rise to eastern and western African populations who were the ancestors of H. sapiens that eventually left Africa and populated the world.

This part is questionable:

Dr. Scerri speculated that living in a network of mingling populations across Africa might have allowed modern humans to survive while Neanderthals became extinct. In that arrangement, our ancestors could hold onto more genetic diversity, which in turn might have helped them endure shifts in the climate, or even evolve new adaptations.

“This diversity at the root of our species may have been ultimately the key to our success,” Dr. Scerri said.

I don’t know if this is some kind of nod to DEI, but even a moderately small population of animals contains a large proportion of the heritable diversity, though not necessarily very rare alleles. The postulation about genetic diversity being important presupposes that the Stem populations were quite small, and I don’t think we have evidence for that.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is haughty:

Szaron: Do you have a moment?
Hili: No.
In Polish:
Szaron: Czy masz chwilę czasu?
Hili: Nie.
And a picture of Baby Kulka with the caption, “The third ‘tot’ in Paulina’s picture” (in Polish: “I to trzecie ‘maleństwo’ sfotografowane przez Paulinę”).


From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:

From Divy:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Masih: 200 days in solitary in Iran for rapping about. . . freedom!

Two Barry. Why did a python swallow a beach towel?

In this one, he says, “At one point you can see the cat thinking, ‘What is your problem?'”

From Malcolm: Evil cat faces!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, today we have some survivors:

Tweets from Matthew. First, one he calls “natural selection gone mad”.  I have no idea why this pattern evolved.

Cat benefactor!

Look at this legless lizard! (NOT A SNAKE!). Greg thinks that this is the species shown below:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

May 17, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s a Hump Day (“Jum il-ħotba” in Maltese): Wednesday, May 17, 2023, and National Cherry Cobbler Day.

Source (and recipe)

It’s also Dinosaur Day, National Mushroom Hunting Day, National Pino Grigio Day (meh), National Walnut Day, Galician Literature Day, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Norwegian Constitution DayWorld Hypertension Day and World Information Society Day (International)

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 17 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: I rarely drink Burgundy because my pockets aren’t deep enough, but occasionally one finds a good bottle that’s reasonably affordable, and by that I mean the price has two digits and is less than $50. And here is one: Aubert Lefas “Les Trois Follots” Pommard 2015.

I had it with a simple meal: a warmed-up crispy baguette with aged Cabot cheddar, and a bowl of sliced tomatoes and dried olives in good olive oil.  When I have a simple meal like that, I often want a fancy wine, and this one was 36 bucks.  It was excellent: full-bodied, redolent of cedar, cherries, and minerals, and with years to go. Reviews are scarce, but here’s part of one from the Chapel Hill Wine Company:

2015 is the finest red wine vintage in Burgundy since 2010, maybe better. It could rival the 2005… which is why small gems like this are in such high demand! Small producer, with no need to submit for reviews… exceptional quality at a ridiculous price.

. . . . The red cherry, rose petal and subtle spice notes should evolve into a beautiful wine. For near term consumption 45 minutes to an hour of decanting is recommended. Pommard has a long reputation for being a bit chunky, but this is made in a bit more of a fruit forward fashion. There is a bit of heft to this Pommard, but the weight of this wine seems to be revolving around the dark cherry fruit more than the oak. Wild mushroom based dishes, duck or sushi would pair perfectly. I like it with rich cheeses like Époisses, Comté or a domestic option like Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery!

If you have the dosh and want to try a tasty but not bank-busting Burgundy, you might essay this one (if you can find it).

Da Nooz:

*According to the Guardian, the court has ruled against fraudster Elizabeth Holmes’s bid to remain free while her conviction is appealed.  (h/t Gravelinspector). She’s going to jail.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes must begin serving her prison sentence while she appeals against her conviction on charges of defrauding investors in her failed blood-testing startup and must jointly pay $452m in restitution to the victims of her crimes, a court in San Francisco has ruled.

Holmes, who rose to fame after claiming Theranos’ small machines could run an array of diagnostic tests with just a few drops of blood, was convicted at trial in San Jose, California, in 2022 and sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison.

She had asked the ninth US circuit court of appeals to pause her sentence on 25 April, two days before she was to report to prison. The court on Tuesday denied her bail application.

The judge will set a new date for Holmes, 39, to leave her current home in the San Diego area and report to prison.

In a separate ruling Judge Edward Davila held Holmes jointly liable for the restitution payments and ordered her to pay the $452m with her former lover and top Theranos lieutenant, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Justice is done—unless she flees. Her sentence is 11 years, and I now owe a reader $20 because I bet that she’d never be imprisoned. But I won’t pay off until the door of her cell closes behind her. (I don’t trust her to stay in the U.S.)

*Russia must be getting desperate because they’re increasing their missile strikes on Kyiv, strikes that violate international law.

The strikes, which could be heard for over 20 minutes in the capital, were among the most intense in months. The assault “was exceptional in its density — the maximum number of missile attacks in the shortest period of time,” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s city military administration, wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian officials said the barrage offered the latest evidence that Ukraine desperately needs stronger aviation capabilities and more powerful, longer-range weapons.

Ukrainian officials claimed a perfect interception rate, and credited Western-donated Patriot air defense systems with thwarting attacks by the most sophisticated Russian weapons, including the hypersonic Kinzhal, or Dagger, which travels at more than five times the speed of sound. Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, said Russia expended millions of dollars in high-end missiles in a failed attempt to hit targets in the Kyiv region.

“The enemy is attempting to achieve its goals,” Ihnat said. “Right now it had the goal of striking certain installations in the region of the capital. These could be next to the city, or in the city — we can’t know what the enemy had in mind, because we destroyed everything.”

Ihnat said the Russians fired from numerous locations. “They attacked with missiles from various bases: air, ground, sea,” he said. Russia also attacked the capital overnight with drones, Ihnat and other officials said.

Congrats to the Ukrainians for taking down those hard-to-hit hypersonic missiles. If they didn’t have Western help, Kyiv would be a shambles and the Russians would probably be winning big time. My own view: we should stand with our allies and keep the arms and aid coming. It’s people fighting for freedom, Jake!

*We’re only about two weeks away from June 1, the date when the U.S. debt limit will expire, and although talks between Biden and Republicans continue, not much seems to be happening.

The administration said that President Biden may cancel part of his seven-day foreign trip that starts this week as he and congressional leaders met for pivotal face-to-face talks on Tuesday, with time running out to strike a deal on the federal government’s debt limit.

The government could run out of money to pay its bills in a little over two weeks — a default that economists warned could cost Americans jobs and plunge the country into a recession.

Republicans have said they want to slash federal spending before lifting the debt ceiling. The president has maintained that raising the limit is a responsibility of Congress and should be done without conditions to avoid an economic disaster, even as he has said he is open to separate negotiations over spending.

. . .Neither side in the negotiations said they expected to resolve the monthslong dispute during the meeting. But Republicans and Democrats both privately signaled that they saw the session on Tuesday as a make-or-break moment — much more significant than a similar gathering at the White House a week ago and more urgent as the number of legislative days Congress has left to act dwindles.

The big question, of course, is was a deal made or was it broken. If this is to be resolved by Congress, which could raise the debt ceiling, they have only two weeks to do it. This is a big deal, because defaulting could set off a cascade of horrible economic consequences that could extend far beyond America.

*In the latest Israel-bashing episode of the UN, t least the U.S. isn’t participating by valorizing the Palestinians and calling Israel an apartheid state, though of course that seems to be the main business of the United Nations these days.  On Monday the UN held its first “Nakba event”, marking the 75th anniversary of the egress of Arabs (now called Palestinians) from Israel (this of course is the same day that Israel announced its independence, but nobody celebrates that. From CNN:

The United States and Western nations including the United Kingdom and Germany on Monday skipped an event at the United Nations marking the 75th anniversary of the dispossession of Palestinians after Israel called for a boycott.

The event, the first of its kind to be held by the UN, commemorated the Nakba or “catastrophe” – when roughly 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel. The commemoration was boycotted by Israeli officials, who also urged diplomats of other nations not to participate.

On Sunday, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, sent a letter to other UN ambassadors “deeply urging” them not to take part in what he called a “shameful Nakba event,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN. Erdan said “Such events only serve to demonize Israel and further push away any chance for reconciliation.”

The US and the UK were among 30 countries that voted against a UN General Assembly resolution in December to adopt this year’s commemoration. Erdan said he has managed to convince “a number of countries” to boycott Monday’s event.

The spokesman for the US mission to the UN, Nate Evans, said Monday that the US, along with other countries including Germany and the UK, never planned to attend Monday’s event, because it has “longstanding concerns over anti-Israel bias within the UN system.”

What upset me was that Ukraine, unlike the US, Germany, UK, etc. abstained from the vote to hold the Nakba event, but that’s an exception: they usually vote against Israel in the many UN anti-Israel motions.

*In what appears to be “news” or “news analysis” rather than op-ed, the Wall Street Journal discusses “What everyone—except the U.S.—has learned about immigration.” Apparently the lesson involves increasing legal immigration, and concentrating on skilled workers.

Government actions to attract foreign nationals for skilled and unskilled jobs have spread from Germany to Japan and include countries with longtime immigration restrictions and some with a populist antipathy to streams of foreign workers.

The U.S. remains an outlier. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have arrived through back channels, but the country isn’t openly welcoming more legal workers, despite the tight labor market. That hesitancy carries economic costs, including persistent worker shortages and wage inflation, according to economists and some U.S. officials.

Unemployment is at a record low 4.8% across the 38 largely affluent countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These and other nations report a long list of open positions from truck drivers to baggage handlers to miners.

. . . Beyond being needed to fill pandemic-driven labor shortages, migrant workers are in demand to fill the gap left by retiring baby boomers and declining populations, economists and Western officials say. “The labor forces of richer countries are hollowing out,” said Michael A. Clemens, an economics professor at George Mason University.

Germany is rewriting immigration laws to bring in more college graduates as well as blue-collar workers under a new points-based system. Points will be awarded based on age—younger people receive more—educational qualifications, work experience and German-language competency. Canada announced plans late last year to take in nearly 1.5 million more migrants by 2025. Western Australia recently sent a delegation to the U.K. and Ireland to recruit tens of thousands of workers, including police, mechanics and plumbers.

Well, I’m confused. Letting in more and more immigrants without regard to skills seems to be what constitutes the crisis. Perhaps a return to the original rationale: providing a refuge for those fleeing threats or persecution, rather than simple economic opportunity.

*In his NYT op-ed, John McWhorter, never afraid to be heterodox, asks and answers the question, “Is musicology racist?” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that misicology, which is simply the study of music, should be accused of structural racism and whiteness, but of course McWhorter, a music buff, largely disagrees. (He does, however, say that the movement has had some positive effects in calling attention to neglected black composers.) In one place McWhorter even mentions our “merit” paper, of which he was one of 29 authors, and also Pamela Paul’s NYT column on that paper.

Among the many efforts to decenter whiteness in academia and other left-leaning institutions is one to take on the presumed racist tendencies embodied in musicology. It’s an issue that has nagged at me for years, and one exemplified by a new book, the Hunter College music professor Philip Ewell’s “On Music Theory, and Making Music More Welcoming for Everyone.” Ewell’s book, an expansion of his widely read 2020 article “Music Theory and the White Racial Frame,” is an impassioned argument that the study of music theory is infected by racism.

. . . Indeed, much of what Ewell recommends seems to entail relaxing requirements and expectations. In this, he joins similar calls in other fields, where sociopolitical intent is elevated over fact-finding, linear reasoning and basic curiosity (as described in this article, which my colleague Pamela Paul discussed two weeks ago and of which I am a co-author). We are encouraged to contemplate a physics without “white” empiricism and a math where getting the correct answer is optional. And here Ewell proposes a credentialed expertise in musicology that does not require the until now customary abilities to play the piano or translate from any foreign language, and where one is allowed, if desired, to get a degree on the basis of beat making or sound recording, which do not require the playing of any instrument.

. . . Ewell is seeking something more revolutionary than this: a complete overhaul of musicology’s focus, procedures and expectations in which much that is designated “white” is treated with skepticism and much that is not is presumptively welcomed — although Ewell offers few concrete examples of what this additional non- “white” material might be.

That’s all I’ll reproduce; I’m just bragging a bit.

*Finally, Chonkosaurus has made the New York Times! That was, as you’ll recall the name given to a giant snapping turtle seen last week sunning herself on a pile of chains in the Chicago River. (She’s called “Chonk” for short.) See below for why they think she’s a lady turtle.

In the video, which was posted on Twitter this month, one of the kayakers, Joey Santore, sounding astonished, cries with an expletive: “Look at the size of that thing!”

Mr. Santore’s friend, Al Scorch, gave the turtle a name befitting such an enormous reptile: Chonkosaurus.

At first, Mr. Santore and Mr. Scorch couldn’t quite make out what was sitting above the water. Then they paddled closer.

Perhaps the most valuable insight came from the men in the video who actually saw Chonkosaurus.

“Holy hell, you look good!” Mr. Santore says in the video. “I’m real proud of you. You’ve been eating healthy?” He asks the turtle if it has heard of liquid salad, and Mr. Scorch later says that Chonkosaurus is “thick but strong.”

Chonkosaurus’s nutritional pursuit does not appear to be completely selfish, however.

Chris Anchor, a senior wildlife biologist with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, said that the turtle is female — and most likely “loaded with eggs.”

Oh boy, more snappers in the Chicago River! This just shows how much it’s been cleaned up in recent years. It was a polluted mess when I moved here in 1986.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili admits a flaw!

Hili: I’m trying to be understanding.
A: And?
Hili: I’m poor at it.
In Polish:
Hili: Próbuję być wyrozumiała.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Źle mi to wychodzi.

. . . and a picture of Baby Kulka from Paulina, captioned “Paulina was hunting with her camera” (in Polish: “Paulina polowała z aparatem.”)


From Divy:

From Now That’s Wild:

And a Recursion Cat from FB:

From Masih, multiple instances of civil disobedience by women in Iran. God help them, they’re SHOWING THEIR HAIR!  (sound up)”

I remember this Ricky Gervais clip, and think it was from the Golden Globes. And, yes, it was brilliant:

From Peter. I’d join this great party even though there’s a d*g!

From Malcolm.  I KNOW I’ve posted this before but I never get tired of seeing it.

From Barry, who says, “How nonsensical is this?”

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a family gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s still beavering away in the Crick archives in La Jolla. First, the extremely bizarre slime molds; the tweet links to a popular-science article in Australian Geographic:

Matthew notes, “This is not planned, it is a series of individual spontaneous responses to the first short vid, which then cascade into brilliance.”

Yes, there will be hell to pay. . . .


Thursday: Hili dialogue

May 11, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Thursday, May 11, 2023, and National “Eat What You Want” Day. Why the scare quotes? Are we really NOT supposed to eat what we want? And what if what I want I can’t get?

It’s also Hostess Cupcake Day (a staple of my childhood packed lunches) and World Ego Awareness Day (it’s a thin day for holidays).  I haven’t had a Hostess Cupcake in years, and I’m also partial to their Sno-Balls, the coconut-covered marshmallow version. That’s  what I “want to eat” today.

Remember these?

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

Wine of the Day:  I had my T-bone tonight, and this is the wine I drank with it. It was only $14, but was very good. Not a world-beater, but what do you expect for that price? That said, it was an excellent wine for the money, and I’d recommend reader lay in a case of it. The peppery, blackcurrant flavor of Syrah was clear; this is a gutsy wine that could improve for several more year. And of course, this is the kind of wine you need with a rare steak.

My wine guru Robert Parker gave the wine a very high rating: 93. Here’s his take on the 2011:

There are 3,000 cases of the naked, virginal, unoaked 2011 Bastide Miraflors Vieilles Vignes made from 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache aged in concrete. The difficult economic situation in the Languedoc-Roussillon corridor is being exploited to the maximum by importer Eric Solomon. The fact that wines such as this can be purchased is unbelievable. Largely an artisanal wine, it is brilliantly pure with a stunning nose of spring flowers, blackberries, cassis and earth. It is almost incomprehensible that something of this quality, complexity and richness can be purchased for $25 to $50, much less $10 to $12. The 3,000 cases should be gobbled up as quickly as they hit retailers’ shelves. I am honored to share my excitement about this amazing wine with readers.



Da Nooz:

*The serial liar and newly elected Representative from New York, George Santos, is in big trouble, facing multiple federal charges. He will be found guilty of some of them. Nevertheless, he’s not resigning:

Representative George Santos, the Republican whose victory in New York was soon followed by revelations that he had falsified his biography on the campaign trail, has been charged by federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging indictment accusing him of wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds and lying on federal disclosure forms.

Mr. Santos, 34, pleaded not guilty to all charges at a hearing in federal court on Long Island on Wednesday afternoon. He was released from custody on a $500,000 bond that was secured by three individuals, whose identities are not public, and his travel will be restricted to New York, Washington and places in between.

At a chaotic scene outside the courthouse, Mr. Santos told reporters that he thought the charges were a product of a “witch hunt,” choosing the same phrase that former president Donald J. Trump has used to describe his own inquiries. “I have to keep fighting to defend my innocence,” Mr. Santos said, “and I’m going to do that.”

There are three sets of charges. First, he’s accused of soliciting money for a so-called “political fund” whose money went straight into Santos’s pocket for goodies. Second, he’s accused of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits during the pandemic, getting paid $24,000 while he was earning an income of $120,000 from an investment firm. Finally, he’s accused of making false financial disclosures during his congressional campaigns, and also lying about his salary and his wealth. These allegations won’t be hard to prove, You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to predict that in a year Santos will no longer be in Congress, and that’s he’s bound for doing some hard time.

*Title 42, the pandemic-induced restrictions on immigration to the U.S. installed by the Trump administration, expire at midnight tonight. Thousands of central and South Americans, having heard rumors that the borders will be flung open now, are making their way to the U.S./Mexican border, and the government is desperately trying to deal with this.  The L.A. Times’s new editorial criticizes Biden’s quick fixes for being ineffectual:

Severely limiting the option to apply for asylum has resulted in tens of thousands of migrants stranded on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, often in squalid or unsafe conditions and subject to crime and violence. Many observers expect that when Title 42 lifts, migrants will rush to the border with the mistaken idea that restrictions have been dropped, overwhelming Border Patrol officials. The Biden administration is sending 1,500 active-duty National Guard soldiers to help monitor the border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he is deploying a “tactical border force” to secure the crossing.

In recent months, Biden has enacted policies offering other ways for people to apply for asylum. Migrants at the border will continue to be allowed to apply for asylum via an app that has had operational problems, requiring people to spend weeks trying to make an appointment. The U.S. is setting up asylum processing centers in other countries, starting with Colombia and Guatemala. Migrants can also apply from their native countries for U.S. residents to sponsor them. Those who arrive without using any of these options run the risk of being deported to their home countries. Migrants from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the U.S., such as Venezuela and Cuba, will be sent to Mexico.

These policies are inadequate, however, because they do not offer a solution that might address the reasons that compel people to seek asylum. Nor do they acknowledge that the U.S. economy has for decades relied on cheap labor by undocumented immigrants.

. . .Much of the blame falls on Republican legislators for their anti-immigrant rhetoric as they play to a base that does not want to acknowledge the role that migrants play in our economy. But Democrats share some blame for failing to adopt reform measures when they had control of Congress.

Instead, politicians rely on ineffective measures to scare migrants into staying away or use them as political pawns. Until Congress and the president can find a way to reach consensus on immigration reform, the crisis at our borders will only continue to get worse.

The Republicans want immigration restrictions because they fear Hispanic people won’t vote for them; the Democrats (well, at least the “progressive ones”) don’t want any restrictions becuase, without saying so, they want open borders: restricting immigration is seen as bigotry. I have no solution to this problem, and thought that Congress would deal with it (it was initially Kamala Harris’s Job #1). They are not going to

*I am NOT getting used to high inflation because I’m a cheapskate, and every week, it seems, my grocery bills get higher. Inflation overall is falling, but only because of lower gas prices. The Wall Street Journal warns us, “We may be getting used to high inflation, and that’s bad news.”

. Just 9% of Gallup respondents now call inflation the most important problem, behind government leadership and the “economy in general” and just ahead of immigration and guns. It has barely come up in Washington’s fight over raising the debt ceiling.

Good news? Maybe not. It may mean people are getting used to higher inflation, which would be very bad news. The more people behave as if high inflation is here to stay, the likelier it is to stay. That would force the Federal Reserve to choose between inducing a potentially deep recession to force inflation lower, or giving up on its 2% inflation target.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer prices rose 4.9% in the year through April, the lowest in two years and down substantially from 9.1% last June, mostly because gasoline prices have fallen. That drop helps explain why people aren’t obsessing as much over inflation, though they are still obsessing more than before the pandemic.

And yet inflation is very much still a problem. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is a better predictor than overall inflation of underlying price trends. Core inflation was 5.5% in April, down from 5.6% in March. On a monthly basis, core prices rose 0.4%, equivalent to 5% at an annual rate, in line with the past four months. Excluding shelter, core services prices, which the Fed watches closely, rose a much more tame 0.1% for the month, according to independent analyst Omair Sharif. Wages, which strongly influence service prices, grew 4% to 5% through the first four months of the year, too high to be consistent with 2% inflation.

Two percent is the Fed’s goal of inflation rates, and trying to meet that may cause trouble. Already businesses are predicting 5-6% per year, much higher than previous predictions.  Are you ready to pay $10 for a dozen eggs?

*Dogfight! Jezebel calls out the New York Times for publishing a softball and sometimes worshipful profile of fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, about to serve 11 years in jail for her Theranos scam. It’s not that bad, for it does indict Holmes for her crimes, but the big question is whether Holmes new makeover (loving mom, renamed “Liz”, etc.) is just another scam.

And the guilty article:

From the NYT:

On the second day we spent together, Mr. Evans asked me what the most surprising part of spending so much time with Ms. Holmes was. I told him it’s that I didn’t expect her to be so … normal?

If you didn’t know she was that Elizabeth, whose trajectory launched a cottage industry of podcasts, TV shows, Halloween costumes and groupies who sold blonde wigs outside her trial, then you might sit next to her at the Lucha Libre taco shop in Mission Hills without thinking twice.

. .  I was admittedly swept up in Liz as an authentic and sympathetic person. She’s gentle and charismatic, in a quiet way. My editor laughed at me when I shared these impressions, telling me (and I quote), “Amy Chozick, you got rolled!” I vigorously disagreed! You don’t know her like I do! But then, something very strange happened. I worked my way through a list of Ms. Holmes’s friends, family and longtime supporters, whom she and Mr. Evans suggested I speak to. One of these friends said Ms. Holmes had genuine intentions at Theranos and didn’t deserve a lengthy prison sentence. Then, this person requested anonymity to caution me not to believe everything Ms. Holmes says.

Ms. Holmes and I sat at the kitchen table alone, talking. She didn’t seem like a hero or a villain. She seemed, like most people, somewhere in between. As Ms. Holmes broke down thinking about what her children will be like in 11 years, I kept going back to her central promise at Theranos: The technology that she invented would, in her words, create “a world in which no one ever has to say goodbye too soon.”

And there she was, preparing to do just that.

She also works from home doing telephone counseling for rape. The impression you get (and remember, I am biased against her because of all I know) is that she is not only sanitizing her image, but still thinks she didn’t do anything wrong.

A few words from Jezebel:

You see? Holmes dropped the deep voice, had a couple babies, can’t stomach R-rated movies, and is a very normal tradwife called “Liz” now. That whole thing where she conned people out of billions pretending she could do medical tests for all kinds of things with just a single drop of blood when she wasn’t remotely close to being able to do that was just a youthful phase. Since then, she’s actually been volunteering for a rape crisis hotline, because the first voice someone wants to hear after they’ve been violently sexually assaulted and don’t know where to turn is definitely that of the the world’s most infamous liars and frauds. And the reason we know all of these things about “Liz” Holmes now is because a New York Times writer fell deeply in love with her over tacos, or something.

. . . In short: Chozick got rolled. Her editor told her she got rolled. And then the paper published the whole glowing piece anyway for some reason, clearly helping to rehabilitate this white collar (and white) criminal’s reputation ahead of her prison sentence—right at the time that Holmes still trying to get out of having to serve that sentence, or at least hoping to be let out early due to having small children.

Do you know how many women in jail who did far less than what Holmes did would like to be let out due to being new mothers? Do you know how many of them get New York Times profiles? If Holmes were anything but a young white woman (with “piercing blue eyes,” as the piece notes), do you think she would be walking around the San Diego Zoo “in a bucket hat and sunglasses, her newborn strapped to her chest and swathed in a Baby Yoda nursing blanket” with a Times reporter and getting photographed in soft, flattering light on the beach with her family for a profile right before heading to prison?

The author of those words, Jezebel‘s Laura Bassett, is clearly angry, and I’m not happy about that profile, either.

*Yesterday the AP reported that Iranian women are increasingly forgoing the supposedly manditory hijab, and the government is getting antsy about it.

Billboards across Iran’s capital proclaim that women should wear their mandatory headscarves to honor their mothers. But perhaps for the first time since the chaotic days following Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, more women — both young and old — choose not to do so.

Such open defiance comes after months of protests over the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police, for wearing her hijab too loosely. While the demonstrations appear to have cooled, the choice by some women not to cover their hair in public poses a new challenge to the country’s theocracy. The women’s pushback also lays bare schisms in Iran that had been veiled for decades.

Authorities have made legal threats and closed down some businesses serving women not wearing the hijab. Police and volunteers issue verbal warnings in subways, airports and other public places. Text messages have targeted drivers who had women without head covering in their vehicles.

However, analysts in Iran warn that the government could reignite dissent if it pushes too hard. The protests erupted at a difficult time for the Islamic Republic, currently struggling with economic woes brought on by its standoff with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program.

Some women said they’ve had enough — no matter the consequence. They say they are fighting for more freedom in Iran and a better future for their daughters.

In the meantime the government is trying to prevent girls from going to school, and is likely the source of the weird chemical attacks against many Iranian schoolgirls.  But the protests continue, and the government seems unable to control them:

Iran and neighboring Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are the only countries where the hijab remains mandatory for women. Before protests erupted in September, it was rare to see women without headscarves, though some occasionally let their hijab fall to their shoulders. Today, it’s routine in some areas of Tehran to see women without headscarves.

But the theocracy is pushing back:

Meanwhile, government offices no longer provide services to women not covering their hair, after some had in recent months. The head of the country’s track and field federation, Hashem Siami, resigned this weekend after some participants in an all-women half-marathon in the city of Shiraz competed without the hijab.

There are signs the crackdown could escalate.

Some clerics have urged deploying soldiers, as well as the all-volunteer Basij force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, to enforce the hijab law. The Guard on Monday reportedly seized an Iranian fishing boat for carrying women not wearing the hijab near Hormuz Island, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Police also say that surveillance cameras with “artificial intelligence” will find women not wearing their head covering. A slick video shared by Iranian media suggested that surveillance footage would be matched against ID photographs, though it’s unclear if such a system is currently operational .

If there is a revolution in Iran, and I’m hoping there is one but thinking that it won’t happen, it will be due largely to the women: the women who are sick and tired of oppression (and get little support from their Western feminist sisters), and have been spurred on by the killing of Mahsa Amini, the George Floyd of Iran.

*Here’s the results of yesterday’s poll on whether the government is likely to default. Most readers said “no”:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is curious.

Hili: Over there is something that is not here.
A: So what?
Hili: I have to see it.
In Polish:
Hili: Tam jest coś, czego nie ma tu.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Muszę to zobaczyć.

. . . and a photo of baby Kulka:


From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy, how to find Kentucky on a map:

It works, too!:

From Merilee:

From Jesus of the Day, showing the importance of good sentence structure:

From Masih. a very sad video:

From Malcolm: a Dutch boy enjoys the rain:

I tweeted this one, though I found it on Facebook (note: there is NO sensitive content!)


From Luana. Is Kamala becoming like Joe with the garbled words?

A comment from Larry the Cat via Simon:

Two the Auschwitz Memorial, first, a man who survived over four years in the camps:

. . . and two who didn’t:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s risking his life in Texas.  Ignore the superfluous apostrophe in the first one:

From a research fellow at the University of Melbourne:

Matthew took some time to get this, but I’m proud to say I got it instantly:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

April 26, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Wednesday, a Hump Day (or “კეხის დღე” in Georgian), April 26, 2023, and National Pretzel Day. The only acceptable form is the big soft German-style pretzels, liberally dipped into mustard and preferably accompanied with a liter of beer. The Catholic Review says these are good for Lent!

I’m still a bit under the weather, and will probably have to put off a podcast I was scheduled to do Friday. I should be okay by Monday, but I’ll start “Readers’ Wildlife” as soon as I can.  (Doing it always makes me nervous: it has to come out looking perfect.)

It’s also Audubon Day (he was born on this day in 1785), Hug an Australian Day, National Help a Horse Day,  and World Intellectual Property Day

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

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first: The great Harry Belafonte has died at the ripe old age of 96. He was a singer, an actor, and a civil rights activist, though I first became acquainted with him from my parents’ LP album of his calypso songs, which included this classic (“a beautiful bunch of ripe banana/hides the deadly black tarantula” is not one of music’s better rhymes).  It’s a traditional Jamaican folk song.

Harry Belafonte, who stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and who went on to become a dynamic force in the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was 96.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Ken Sunshine, his longtime spokesman.

At a time when segregation was still widespread and Black faces were still a rarity on screens large and small, Mr. Belafonte’s ascent to the upper echelon of show business was historic. He was not the first Black entertainer to transcend racial boundaries; Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others had achieved stardom before him. But none had made as much of a splash as he did, and for a few years no one in music, Black or white, was bigger.

Born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants, he almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” His album “Calypso,” which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. Coming just before the breakthrough of Elvis Presley, it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.

. . .Success as a singer led to movie offers, and Mr. Belafonte soon became the first Black actor to achieve major success in Hollywood as a leading man. His movie stardom was short-lived, though, and it was his friendly rival Sidney Poitier, not Mr. Belafonte, who became the first bona fide Black matinee idol.

But making movies was never Mr. Belafonte’s priority, and after a while neither was making music. He continued to perform into the 21st century, and to appear in movies as well (although he had two long hiatuses from the screen), but his primary focus from the late 1950s on was civil rights.

Both Belafonte and Tony Bennett participated in Dr. King’s famous Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965. Here they are discussing it:

*We’re in for a replay of the 2020 election, for Joe Biden announced today (as expected) his candidacy for the next Presidential election. If he’s elected, he’ll be 82 at the beginning of his next term.  Here’s part of his video, and since Kamala Harris is in it, she’s likely to be running for another term as do-nothing Veep:

President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms,” Mr. Biden said, using Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan to describe the former president’s allies. “Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.

“When I ran for president four years ago,” he added, “I said we were in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are.”

Here’s Biden’s disapproval rating from FiveThirtyEight, and it’s pretty much beenin the dumper since February of last year.

He hasn’t been a bad President (certainly far, far better than Trump!) but he hasn’t been able to convert his acomplishments into figures that would guarantee him re-electon. And he’s pretty much tied with Trump in terms of approval:

One challenge for Biden is that his presidency has arguably been quite successful — his wins just haven’t been enough to save his approval rating. Despite only barely having majority support in the U.S. Senate for all of his time in office so far, the post-honeymoon phase of Biden’s presidency was surprisingly productive: He was able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a bipartisan infrastructure bill and another bipartisan gun-safety bill. In addition, almost half of Americans gave the Biden administration decently high marks for its initial handling of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. The president also received praise after he announced a popular plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt (though that’s currently tangled up with the Supreme Court).

But none of those victories really helped Biden in the court of public opinion. Even Democrats’ strong performance in last year’s midterm races failed to move the needle for him, and now that Republicans control the U.S. House, it’s unlikely that Biden will be able to usher through meaty legislative priorities. Compared to past presidents, though, Biden actually starts his reelection bid as somewhat of an underdog. In fact, as of April 24, only 42.5 percent of Americans approved of his job as president. That’s actually not far off from Trump (41.3 percent) and former President Barack Obama’s (45.1 percent) approval numbers on April 24 the year before they sought reelection. But, perhaps worryingly for Biden, he’s still on lower end compared to recent presidents.

. . .Voters currently say that they don’t want a redux of the 2020 election — but they might get one anyway. Biden and Trump, who is currently leading the Republican primary field, are currently favored to win their respective party’s nominations. And according to Lichtman, Biden’s run for a second term already gives Democrats an edge in 2024 since they avoid both an internal party battle and have the power of incumbency on their side.

But that doesn’t mean Biden will skate into a second term unscathed — far from it. In fact, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Biden’s age could be a liability in a general election, especially if he faces someone like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (currently polling second after Trump in FiveThirtyEight’s 2024 Republican primary polling average) who, at 44, is just over half Biden’s age, making for an easy generational contrast.

I just heard NBC News report that 70% of Americans (including more than half of Democrats) don’t want Biden to run again, while 60% of Americans don’t want Trump to run again. That may well be, but I for one cannot bear to think that we’ll have to put up with a mentally ill Republican President again.

The conclusion? We don’t know enough yet, and might not until Election Day is over, but we do know that this is going to be close. The Washington Post has a rundown of potential candidates, but those willing to challenge Biden are few, and include the crystal gazer Marianne Williamson and the anti-vaxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. It’s gonna be a grim year.

*On a better—and more biological—note, the WaPo lists four free apps for your phone that can help you identify plants and animals around you. I have one of them, and it’s amazingly good. Here’s mine:

There are more than a dozen apps promising to help you identify the natural world, many of them paid. Don’t bother. Four apps, designed and managed by scientists with world-class data, meet all your ID needs free of charge. And every observation will advance our scientific understanding of the natural world.

The easiest to use is Seek. The app, an offshoot of iNaturalist, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, lets you shoot live video. It automatically grabs frames and analyzes them. The augmented reality experience is like downloading a foreign language into your brain. The app identifies the taxonomy of plants and animals instantly as you shoot. If it can’t figure out the species, it will give you its best guess.

In less than an hour, I had racked up dozens of plants and insects near my house from Bombus vosnesenskii, a native yellow-faced bumblebee, to the purple-flowered bush lupine it was buzzing around. The only drawback? The app doesn’t include deeper context about the species it identifies.

And it keeps learning as more people use it. For more context, try

. . .  iNaturalist and Pl@ntNet. Both offer sophisticated, if slightly less user-friendly, apps that upload and analyze photographs of flora. In seconds, they typically return a ranked list ofpotential candidates with rich descriptions of each. The identification of the most common species is a slam dunk

And here’s one I MUST get NOW:

Finally, there’s Merlin Bird ID, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Merlin feels like magic. The app uses a phone’s sensitive microphone to identify bird vocalizations in the sonic landscape around you, painting a visual representation or sonogram analogous to a musical score.

*The East Coast uses a groundhog to test the beginning of spring: whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2. (If he doesn’t Spring will be early.) In Las Vegas, though, they use a tortoise, Mojave Max, whose emergence from hibernation (called “brumation” in these reptiles) signals the onset of Spring. And he just came out:

 A desert tortoise that is the focus of schoolchild predictions and local lore about the start of spring has emerged from its winter burrow at a nature preserve in Las Vegas, officials said Tuesday.

Mojave Max’s appearance above ground with a burrow-mate at 3:40 p.m. Monday at the Springs Preserve marked the latest date since an annual watch contest began in 2000 for the critter compared locally with Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania. Phil’s handlers said Feb. 2 that their groundhog predicted their spring wouldn’t arrive until April.

In Las Vegas, where the threatened species’ reptilian winter rest is called brumation, the earliest a Mojave Max has emerged since 2000 was a little before noon on Feb. 14, 2005. The latest had been April 17, 2012.

Three male tortoises have borne the moniker Mojave Max. Today’s Max is marked with a radio transmitting device attached to his shell. The tortoise seen with Mojave Max on Monday does not have a name.

Here’s his appearance:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili faces down The Ball (“Kulka” is Polish for “ball”). But nobody was hurt.

Hili: You asked for it.
Kulka: I was only joking.
(Photo: Paulina)
In Polish:
Hili: Prosiłaś o to.
Kulka: Ja tylko żartowałam.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)


More misspelling from David:

From Jesus of the Day. Can you figure out how to get around this one?

From Phil:

Two from Masih. First, a Rosa Parks-like moment in Iran:

And they’re still attacking schoolgirls with chemicals:

From Dom, a mother peregrine and her chicks:

A tweet from Simon on Tucker Carlson; Simon thinks Carlson “will pop out of the grave at some point”:

From Malcolm, a cat and a metronome:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a 22 year old woman gassed upon arrival.

Tweets from Matthew. The Google translation of this one is:

What a wonderful image of Deimos, the smaller of the 2 moons of #Mars.  The Emirati probe Hope approached it at 100km, the closest flyby ever made of this moon, observing its surface at an unprecedented resolution. Images were also acquired in IR and UV

It looks a bit like buttocks. . . .

It’s the helicopter Ingenuity!. Click to enlarge the photo. It made a flight on April 23, so it’s been operating for 737 days!

Here’s the first in Matthew’s 23-tweet series on Rosalind Franklin and DNA:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

April 25, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Tuesday, the Cruelest Day: it’s April 25, 2023 and National Zucchini Bread Day: the most odious pastry in existence. It exists because zucchini grows like wildfire, people always have more than they want (which isn’t much as the vegetable is basically inedible), and so they make zucchini breads to give to unlucky friends.

I’m still quite ill, hoarse as the dickens and coughing. Fortunately, I tested a second time for covid and was still negative. I’ll do one more test tomorrow. It’s almost surely a dreadful cold picked up from the crowds on the airplane or the Paris Métro, and I’m taking Robitussin with codeine at night and benzonatate (a non drowsy cough supressant) during the day. But be warned: posting may be light until I’m better, which may take a few days. There will be no readers’ wildlife until that happens, but by all means keep sending your contributions, which I save in a special folder. As always, I do my best, like dragging my tuchas into work at 5 a.m.

It’s also Anzac Day, National Crayola Day, National Plumber’s Day (but which plumber is being fêted?), World Malaria Day, National Telephone Day, and World Penguin Day. Here’s a smudged chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) I photographed in 2019. Sadly, it looks as if I’m not going back this year, and maybe never again.

Finally, it’s DNA Day, the day in 1953 when Watson, Crick, Franklin, and Wilkins published their epochal papers in Nature elucidating the structure of DNA. We’re having a very special feature on today’s 70th anniversary, but I can’t put it up till 11 a.m. Chicago time. Come back then!

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

Da Nooz:

*Tucker Carlson, who makes me cringe every time I see him feign concern with his furrowed brow, is leaving Fox News. While he was Fox’s most popular host, the network had to pay big bucks in an election-related defamation lawsuit against him, and what credibility he had is even less.

The network made the announcement less than a week after it agreed to pay $787.5 million in a defamation lawsuit in which Mr. Carlson’s show, one of the highest rated on Fox, figured prominently for its role in spreading misinformation after the 2020 election.

In making its announcement, Fox offered a terse statement of gratitude. “Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” it said.

His last program was on Friday, Fox said.

Mr. Carlson is also facing a lawsuit from a former Fox News producer, Abby Grossberg, who claims that he presided over a misogynistic and discriminatory workplace culture. Ms. Grossberg said in the lawsuit, which was filed in March, that on her first day working for Mr. Carlson, she discovered the work space was decorated with large pictures of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a swimsuit.

WHAT? Did Carlson put that up? If so, why? Well, I can’t say I’ll miss the old miscreant, but somehow I think he’ll land on his feet. As for letting him go, well, Fox could hardly keep him on after his antics cost them so much money, and even Fox has to worry a bit about its credibility.

*Soon after Carlson was given his pink slip, CNN also firedthe veteran host Don Lemon, although the reasons are obscure.

CNN on Monday fired veteran host and anchor Don Lemon, he said, in a surprise move announced only minutes after Fox News parted ways with its star host, Tucker Carlson.

Lemon announced his departure from CNN in a tweet. “I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN,” he wrote. “I am stunned. After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at work.”

Lemon didn’t spell out what “larger issues” may have been involved, but the longtime host was chastised in February for on-air comments about the “prime” age of Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and other women.

If you want a dramatization of how toxic Fox was not long ago, watch the 2019 movie  “Bombshell,” recounting how Fox boss Roger Ailes was brought down by the toxic and misogynistic environment he created. It stars Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margo Robbie as a fictitious and beleaguered wannabee anchor.  It gets a decent but not outstanding rating at Rotten Tomatoes; I watched it on the plane coming back from Paris (the choice was pretty limited!)

Here’s the trailer:

*Ukraine is apparently preparing for a spring offensive, despite the Discord documents that seem to show that the country is not as well buttressed by the U.S. as we thought.  As the AP reports, they launched a (failed ) drone strike on Crimea, but also one that made it to Moscow—a long way from Ukraine:

Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea said the military fended off a Ukrainian strike on a main naval base on Monday, while an exploding drone was also reportedly found in a forest near Moscow — attacks that come as Ukraine is believed to be preparing for a major counteroffensive.

The Moscow-appointed head of the port city of Sevastopol in Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said the military destroyed a Ukrainian sea drone that attempted to attack the harbor in the early hours and another one blew up. He said the powerful explosions shattered windows in several apartment buildings but didn’t inflict any other damage.

The attack was the latest in a series of attempted strikes on Sevastopol, the main naval base in Crimea that Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

. . . Russian news reports also claimed Monday that a Ukrainian exploding drone was found in a forest in a forest about 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) east of the Russian capital.

While it didn’t explode, the incident again underscored Ukraine’s capability to reach deep inside Russia as the Ukrainian military is thought to be preparing for a spring counteroffensive to reclaim occupied areas.

Observers believe that the counteroffensive’s most likely target would be the Russian-held parts of the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. If the push is successful, it would allow Ukraine to cut the land corridor between Russia and Crimea.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Ukraine got Crimea back? After all, that was also stolen land. None of us know what’s going to happen (my first guess was that Russia would win quickly, which was also Putin’s idea), but the plucky Ukrainians have held off a huge (if incompetent) army for a year. Meanwhile, there’s Bakhmut, more of propagandistic than strategic value:

The Russian forces, meanwhile, have continued their nearly nine-month effort to capture the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.

Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of defending Bakhmut in last month’s interview with The Associated Press. saying that its fall could allow Russia to rally international support for a deal that might require Kyiv to make unacceptable compromises.

Ukraine and Russia both have described the fighting for Bakhmut, the war’s longest battle, as key to exhausting enemy forces and preventing them from pressing attacks elsewhere along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line.

Fingers crossed for Zelensky, his soldiers, and his people!

*The WSJ recounts the story of how Mayer Richard J. Daley decided that charging a dime to use the toilet stalls at Chicago’s airports was an imposition to visitors and residents. As a man with absolute power, he nixed that fee, and within three weeks all the toilets in Chicago’s public places were free.

The existence of pay toilets nationwide had seldom been seriously questioned. In 1970 four Dayton, Ohio, high-school students had founded a semi-whimsical organization called the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America. The group was met mostly with smiles.

Daley, the most powerful mayor in the U.S., heard about the group and understood immediately that the Ohio kids were right. Charge people money to go to the bathroom—something everyone needed to do multiple times each day? What kind of welcome was that to visitors to Chicago? What kind of send-off was that to Chicagoans on their way out of town? Every dime dropped into every toilet-stall slot was lousy public relations for the city.

So, as a man holding all but absolute power locally, he decreed that the pay toilets in the airports would henceforth be free. He even managed to make it a women’s-rights issue: Because men weren’t charged to use the urinals, the pay toilets were an example of sex discrimination. Daley, never known as a feminist, nonetheless announced: “I did it for women’s lib.”

The company that manufactured and installed the lock mechanisms—Nik-O-Lok, of Indianapolis—was understandably displeased. Daley didn’t care. He ordered Nik-O-Lok to remove those locks: “Do it at once, if not sooner.” Within three weeks, the locks were gone. Chicago’s City Council, on Daley’s command, soon expanded the no-pay-toilet edict to all “places which serve and accommodate the public.”

Around the country, it was if a lightbulb had switched on above the heads of mayors and governors. Of course—why anger citizens by constantly charging them for something as personal and necessary as using a bathroom? Other municipalities from coast to coast began to follow the Daley example. Reporters and editorial writers couldn’t help themselves: They described the victorious no-pay-toilet proponents as “flushed with triumph.”

An inconsequential issue? Daley was smart enough to understand that it’s never a good idea for a city to make its residents and visitors resentful. A dime was only a dime, but it felt like a constant and intrusive tax. Cities, then and now, always need income. But even in 2023’s America, where public restrooms can seem hard to find, a savvy mayor knows better than to pick the pockets of people in a hurry to get behind a certain door.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, and comrades, many times I have availed myself of Chicago’s free public restrooms. Besides, who has a dime these days?

*Also the WSJ notes that, according to the American Library Association, in 2022 there were 1,269 attempts to ban books in the U.S., almost twice the number for the previous year.

More than 2,500 individual titles fell under scrutiny in 2022, the majority of which focused on or were written by LGBT individuals and people of color.

The efforts have reached communities across the U.S. Voters in a rural western Michigan town defunded a library over a dispute related to LGBT content. A Texas county considered closing its public libraries after a federal judge ordered more than a dozen recently removed books to be returned to shelves.

Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, president of the American Library Association, said creating a list of the most-challenged books in 2022 could help identify the communities, stories and subjects most often targeted by book-banning campaigns. The group said common reasons for attempting to censor these books included allegations they were sexually explicit or included LGBT content and profanity.

These, I suspect, are coming mostly from the Right. Here is the ALA’s list of the 13 most-challenged books last year:

1. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe

2. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson

3. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

4. “Flamer,” by Mike Curato

5. (tie) “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green

5. (tie) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

7. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison

8. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

9. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Pérez

10. (tie) “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas

10. (tie) “Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins

10. (tie) “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews

10. (tie) “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Kulka goes after Hili! OMG!

Kulka:  Got you.
Hili:     This will end badly.

(Photo: Paulina)

In Polish:
Kulka: Mam cię.
Hili: To się źle skończy.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)


From Stephen via America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy. What a pair of loons! When they starting thinking about doing it, they mist themselves or eat a raw potato!

Here’s one of a big batch of misspelled signs that reader David sent me. There will be a lot more to come! (Maybe they used air freshener. . . )

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih: the expulsion of a hijab Pecksniff:

Titania tweeted again!


From Luana: Colin Wright, whose work I discussed yesterday, gave a talk in Davis, CA on sex and gender, and here’s who came out to greet him. The second para reads, in full,

“But bugs are designated male and female for the same exact reasons humans are designated male or female. They would have learned this if they actually came inside and listened to my talk!

His speech, they aver is killing kids!

Speaker of gender, here’s a Twitter exchange from JKL herself:

And now The Amazing Atheist (whoever he is) has added this to his Twitter handle:

From Barry. My explanation, which is mine: there’s no lead duck, and each duck has to follow one in front of it (these are runner ducks).

From the Auschwitz Memorial. a French girl who died at seventeen:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a faceplant penguin appropriate for World Penguin Day:

The deepest fish yet (two tweets):

Saturday: Hili dialogue

April 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Cat shabbos: Saturday, April 22, 2023, and National Jelly Bean Day. Remember this?

At least Reagan made one good choice: his favorite brand of jelly beans (which was his favorite treat) was Jelly Belly® beans, which were regularly shipped to him at the White House and also when he was California’s governor. He started the bean habit as a way to give up smoking a pipe.

Herman Goelitz Candy Company provided the Reagan White House with Jelly Belly® jelly beans for all eight years of Reagan’s presidency. In February 1981 Herman G. Rowland, the president of Herman Goelitz and a fourth-generation descendant of the company’s founders, received official Government authorization to develop a Jelly Belly® jelly bean jar with the Presidential Seal on it. These Presidential jars of Jelly Belly® beans, each in its own blue gift box, were given by Reagan to heads of state, diplomats, and many other White House guests.

President Reagan’s favorite Jelly Belly® flavor was licorice.

It’s also Earth Day and its related observance: International Mother Earth Day, celebrated in today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot to go to where it points):

Finally, it’s (oy) In God We Trust Day (“On April 22, 1864, Congress passed an act allowing for “In God We Trust” to begin appearing on U.S. coins), and the National Day of Puppetry.

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

Da Nooz:

*UPDATE to item below: Yes, the Supremes decided to allow the abortion pill to remain available while the case works its way through the system.

The Supreme Court said Friday evening that the abortion pill mifepristone would remain widely available for now, delaying the potential for an abrupt end to a drug that is used in more than half of abortions in the United States.

The order halted steps that had sought to curb the availability of mifepristone as an appeal moves forward: a ruling from a federal judge in Texas to suspend the drug from the market entirely and another from an appeals court to impose significant barriers on the pill, including blocking access by mail.

The unsigned, one-paragraph order, which came hours before restrictions were set to take effect, marked the second time in a year that the Supreme Court had considered a major effort to sharply curtail access to abortion. . .

In Friday’s order, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

. . .This is most likely not the final word from the justices. After the Fifth Circuit hears the appeal, the matter is likely to make its way back to the Supreme Court.

None of the justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump publicly dissented.

The court’s decision is, at least temporarily, a victory for the Biden administration.

This split is odd because it was Alito who originally allowed the pill’s distribution to go forward until midnight last night, and now it’s going forward for a while. But this case will wind up in the Supreme Court.

You can see the short formal decision and Alito’s longer dissent here.

What I wrote about this yesterday evening: It looks as if the U.S. Supreme Court is going to weigh in on whether a Texas judge’s blocking of the abortion pill mifepristone (on a national basis, apparently) can be continued. Justice Alito paused the ban at the request of the Biden administration, but that pause ended at midnight last night. This will not be a formal for-all-time ruling, but a temporary ruling. The court may take up the issue later, and it’s a biggie, for it will determine whether the judicial arm of government can rule on whether the FDA used proper science when approving a drug. Here are the some things the article says could happen:

At issue is the availability of mifepristone, part of a two-drug regimen that now accounts for more than half of the abortions in the United States. More than five million women have used mifepristone to terminate their pregnancies in the United States, and dozens of other countries have approved the drug for use.

Federal judges have questioned steps the F.D.A. has taken to expand the drug’s distribution, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, imposed significant barriers to access last week, even as it said that it would allow the pill to remain on the market.

Its decision essentially turns back the clock to 2016, when the F.D.A. added a series of guidelines that eased access to the pill. The restrictions would include blocking patients from receiving the drug by mail.

Experts say removing the mail option would have significant consequences: Patients would have to take time off work, pay travel costs to get to a medical office and endure the stigma of going out in public to seek an abortion.

The case could also pave the way for all sorts of challenges to the F.D.A.’s approval of medications. Legal experts said medical providers anywhere in the country might be enabled to challenge government policy that might affect a patient, as did the anti-abortion medical coalition that filed the original lawsuit against the pill.

If the Supreme Court halts the nationwide distribution of mifepristone, there will be hell to pay, for now the court has arrogated unto itself the right to judge whether drugs were properly tested. Not to mention the outrage of women everywhere, especially in states where the use of the drug is perfectly legal. What will the court do? (I’m writing this on Friday afternoon.) I predict they’ll allow the drug to be distributed until the full court hears the full case. And then, well, anything goes.

*The Washington Post reports that Biden is in trouble with respect to appointing judges, and it’s seemingly the fault of Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic Senator from California. She’s out with shingles and other age-related conditions, and that leaves the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve all federal judges nominated by the President,  one Democrat shy of a majority. The result: it’s a party-line deadlock and no judges can be approved.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein’s failing health has frozen the Senate Judiciary Committee, the group that must consider any judicial nominees before the full Senate votes on them. Feinstein, who’s 89 and has represented California since 1992, has been ill with shingles since February. She has also been struggling with her ability to hold conversations and the deterioration of her short term memory for more than a year. It is unclear when she will return to the Senate.

Biden and other Democrats had hoped for the appointment of judges — both to federal trial courts (known as District Courts) and to appeals courts (known as Circuit Courts) — to be a major accomplishment this year. That plan is now in doubt because Democrats do not have the votes to confirm judges without Feinstein.

Instead, about 20 Biden nominees are in limbo, and 9 percent of District Court and Circuit Court judgeships remain vacant. Among Biden’s unconfirmed nominees: Mónica Ramírez Almadani, a civil rights lawyer; Robert Kirsch, a former prosecutor who focused on white collar crime; and Kato Crews, an expert in labor law.

Look how far behind Biden’s fallen in appointing judges, and its all because of Feinstein’s absence. This is a graph from the paper:

There’s argument back and forth about whether Feinstein should resign (she’s been a very good Senator), and Nancy Pelosi even blames calls for Feinstein to step down on sexism. That’s not fair, though. Feinstein will never again be at the top of her game, and her keeping her job is hurting the liberal cause in a big way. She needs to go with great thanks from us. What will happen now? The paper says this is the result if Feinstein resigns:

“In that case, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, would replace her, and he has pledged to name a Black woman to fill the seat.”

A friend who sent me the link was incensed by that statement, saying that Newsom should appoint the most qualified candidate, whatever their ethnicity. If a black woman is among the most qualified candidates, they argued, then you could exercise a form of affirmative action and appoint a minority candidate. My friend replied:

However, Gavin will make sure this will not be the case – other candidates need not apply.  This is racism in its purest form.  Just replace “black” with “white” and we would have an insurrection in CA.
What do you think? Should the governor pre-specify the sex and ethnicity of his choice before he’s even vetted the candidates? And should Feinstein resign? (I think that’s a no-brainer.)
 *Over at The Free Press, Nellie Bowles wrote her patented snarky review of the week’s news, this time called “TGIF: That’s all, Folx!” It’s mainly for this feature that I keep on subscribing. As usual, I’ll give three of the many stories she features (indented words, as always, are hers):

→ Portland loses its REI: The do-good outdoor recreation chain, the one and only REI, the store where I buy most of my clothes (whoever says they don’t carry black tie clothes isn’t trying hard enough), is closing its big downtown Portland location, citing crime and theft. The company said that the store “had its highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades, despite actions to provide extra security.” From the local coverage: “The company said its theft problem came to a head last November, when a car crashed through the glass front doors of REI’s Pearl District store on Black Friday. It was the store’s third break-in in a week.” Thieves driving a car into and through the side of the store to get access to those sweet REI goods was the third incident of the week. (As someone who appreciates water-wicking material more than most of my blood relatives, I get it!)

I understand that antifa doesn’t believe in private property and that Portland is their capital. But guys, all you wear are cargo pants and hiking boots. How is this going to work? Who will provide your balaclavas and headlamps?

Meanwhile, the brand-new Shake Shack downtown was met with a Portland Hello: a broken window. It goes without saying that this week it was revealed that staff at Portland’s city-funded drug treatment center were doing drugs with the addicts.

→ I like this guy: I don’t know anything about his politics and, no, I do not care to google. I barely want to know his name (Jeff Jackson, Democrat from North Carolina). But I like this message, which I think is true and a good reminder (reader, do not send me some arrest record from the time he killed kittens; let me have one nice thing):

→ Good news on campus: I love campus news. I love it because what starts on campus comes to run all our lives a few years later. It’s like a sneak peek into Thanksgiving in three years. And I love it because it’s funny. It’s funny that the word folks, which was already gender-neutral, had to be changed to folx, to be more gender-neutral. It’s funny that for every sophomore on any given campus, there are five sex educators and three mental health counselors. This week, though, we have some good news. First, Harvard got a free speech group, a special Council on Academic Freedom formed among the faculty. I’m not sure what they’ll do exactly, like day-to-day, but I’m happy for them. And across the country, over at Stanford University, a pro-partying slate won control of the student government, calling themselves the “Fun Strikes Back” movement.


*And in another Substack column, Andrew Sullivan writes about the transgender woman Tik Tok star who sold Budweiser:   “The Strange Minstrelsy of Dylan Mulvaney“. Minstrelsy? Yes, for Sullivan thinks that’s what Mulvaney is doing: acting the role of a female in stereotypical ways, and it’s all just a big shtick. Is he right? Who knows; he could be! But it’s certainly a lucrative shtick:

Dylan has brand partnerships with Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Crest, Instacart, Ulta Beauty, Kate Spade and many more. And here is what Dylan means by “becoming a girl” in his/her own words. Trigger warning for feminists:

Day One of being a girl and I’ve already cried three times, I wrote a scathing email that I did not send, I ordered dresses online that I couldn’t afford, and then, uh, when someone asked me how I was, I said I’m fine — when I wasn’t fine [applies lip gloss]. How’d I do, ladies? Good? Girl power!

If you think this has to be a joke, a parody making fun of sexist ideas about women, you’re not the only one. (Trans YouTuber Blaire White also assumed it was a spoof at first, and her video on Dylan’s “womanface” is well worth a watch.)

. . . But is Dylan genuinely trans? We’re not supposed to ask, of course. In our post-modern world, everyone is who they say they are — even if Dylan has an impressive bulge in a bikini. (One of her a cappella songs is titled “Normalize the Bulge!” for women with big dick energy. Go on, I dare you: watch the vid.) More to the point, she’s walking the walk, is on estrogen and underwent “facial feminization surgery.” There’s no evidence she is a fake as such. But has Dylan always felt some deep, destabilizing disjuncture between the sex in her head and in his body and is now trying to alleviate it?

. . .There is, in fact, a perfect word to describe Dylan Mulvaney. She isn’t trans or queer or subversive so much as a minstrel. She’s performing a deeply misogynistic version of a Disney princess for an audience that is uncomfortable with actual transgender people whose appearance is not monetizable and whose lives are more than gay parodies of blonde ditzes. But minstrelsy has always been lucrative — and I don’t fault Dylan for seeing an opening here, and succeeding beyond what must have been his/her wildest dreams.

What I worry about is what happens to Dylan as this buzz eventually wears off. She’s only 26, and has a lifetime to live after her 12 months of TikTok fame. The future may not be as pretty as she currently is.

*This is pretty horrible: the Russians, who deny HIV-infected prisoners effective treatment in jail, offer them good antiviral drugs if they agree to leave prison and fight against Ukraine. Since 20% of Russian prisoners are reported to be HIV-positive, this is a Hobson’s choice: a slow death from AIDS or a quick one from a bullet. But I’d do the fighting, because at least then you have a chance to live—assuming the Russians keep their promise about the antivirals.

It was a recruiting pitch that worked for many Russian prisoners.

About 20 percent of recruits in Russian prisoner units are H.I.V. positive, Ukrainian authorities estimate based on infection rates in captured soldiers. Serving on the front lines seemed less risky than staying in prison, the detainees said in interviews with The New York Times.

“Conditions were very harsh” in Russian prison, said Timur, 37, an H.I.V.-positive Russian soldier interviewed at a detention site in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, and identified only by a first name, worried that he would face retaliation if he returned to Russia in a prisoner swap.

After he was sentenced to 10 years for drug dealing, the doctors in the Russian prison changed the anti-viral medication he had been taking to control H.I.V. to types he feared were not effective, Timur said.

He said he did not think he could survive a decade in Russian prison with H.I.V. In December, he agreed to serve six months in the Wagner mercenary group in exchange for a pardon and supplies of anti-viral medications.

Timur had no military experience and was provided two weeks of training before deployment to the front, he said. He was issued a Kalashnikov rifle, 120 bullets, an armored vest and a helmet for the assault. Before sending the soldiers forward, he said, commanders “repeated many times, ‘if you try to leave this field, we will shoot you.’”

Soldiers in his platoon, he said, were sent on a risky assault, waves of soldiers with little chance of survival sent into battle on the outskirts of the eastern city of Bakhmut. Most were killed on their first day of combat. Timur was captured.

The Russians are that desperate for bodies on the front line. The paper also reports that captured Russian soldiers who were former prisoners also had tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are talking serious business:

Hili: We should stop waiting for better times.
Szaron: And do what?
Hili: Start meowing.
In Polish:
Hili: Trzeba przestać czekać na lepsze czasy.
Szaron: I co?
Hili: Zacząć miauczeć.

And a photo of baby Kulka:


From Jesus of the Day:

A Dan Piraro cartoon sent by reader Merilee. I mention this attraction in an upcoming book review (stay tuned):

Novel uses for Marshmallow Peeps™, one of my favorite confections:

From Masih, mothers whose children were killed by the Iranian theocracy. The white scarves symbolize the desire for freedom:

I found this one, the original Big Gulp. Sound up to hear the crunching!

From gravelinspector. The Brits, god love ’em, are tracking individual cuckoos migrating from Africa to Blighty. There’s a race on. For more, see here.

From Malcolm, an extreme case of pareidolia in a shark photo:

From Simon, who says, “But Larry gets food and lodging [at 10 Downing Street] with the job”:

An adorable tweet from Peter:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a 16-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew. The proper response to the first one is “Oy!”:

Well, the Northern Cardinal is not found exclusively in Canada, either:

Friday: Hili dialogue

April 21, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the tail end of the work week: Friday, April 21, 2023, and National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day.

It’s also Big Word Day, National Tea Day in the UK, Thank You for Libraries Day, Tuna Rights Day, and Ask an Atheist Day.

Reader who wish to single out special events, births, or deaths that happened on this day should go to the April 21 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*This news will cheer you up because, no matter whether Republican or Democrat, it shows the hegemony of empirical fact over wish-thinking. It’s about a disproof of election denialism:

MyPillow founder and prominent election denier Mike Lindell made a bold offer ahead of a “cyber symposium” he held in August 2021 in South Dakota: He claimed he had data showing Chinese interference and said he would pay $5 million to anyone who could prove the material was not from the previous year’s U.S. election.

He called the challenge “Prove Mike Wrong.”

On Wednesday, a private arbitration panel ruled that someone did.

The panel said Robert Zeidman, a computer forensics expert and 63-year-old Trump voter from Nevada, was entitled to the $5 million payout.

Zeidman had examined Lindell’s data and concluded that not only did it not prove voter fraud, it also had no connection to the 2020 election. He was the only expert who submitted a claim, arbitration records show.

He turned to the arbitrators after Lindell Management, which created the contest, refused to pay him.
In their 23-page decision, the arbitrators said Zeidman proved that Lindell’s material “unequivocally did not reflect November 2020 election data.” They directed Lindell’s firm to pay Zeidman within 30 days.
LOL, as they say. The juicily ironic bit is that the winner himself voted for Trump. Lindell claimed that he had archival internet captures demonstrating that the Chinese interfered in the 2020 Presidential election. Zeidman, a text expert, examined the complicated data and showed that none of it had anything to do with the 2020 election. Bingo, checkmate, and Zeidman is $5 million richer.

*The SpaceX Starship launch was somewhat successful: the ship cleared the launch tower and nearly got to separation of the capsule from the booster. But then the rocket pitched end over end and EXPLODED.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded on Thursday, minutes after lifting off from a launchpad in South Texas. The rocket, the most powerful ever built, did not reach orbit but provided important lessons for the private spaceflight company as it works toward a more successful mission.

At 9:33 a.m. Eastern time, the 33 engines on the Super Heavy booster ignited in a huge cloud of fire, smoke and dust, and Starship rose slowly upward. About a minute later, the rocket passed through a period of maximum aerodynamic pressure, one of the crucial moments for the launch of any rocket. Shortly after, it began to tumble before exploding in a fireball high above the Gulf of Mexico.

. .  . . The space agency is relying on SpaceX to build a version of Starship that will carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon during its Artemis III mission. There was great anticipation from the flight, which had been delayed from Monday as the gargantuan rocket could one day carry massive amounts of cargo and many people into space.

Before the launch, which had no people aboard, Elon Musk, the company’s founder, had tamped down expectations, saying it might take several tries before Starship succeeds at this test flight.

As you can see in the video below, which goes from launch to “rapid unscheduled disassembly” (as the SpaceX announcers called it), at about 3:30 in the ship turns end over end (it was supposed to invert once before separation of the booster), and then explodes into smithereens at 4:05. The explosion might have been triggered deliberately to prevent damage to humans below. Space experts don’t regard this as disastrous because the purpose of these launches is to work bugs out of the system (NASA had plenty of failed launches like this in the old days), and also because no humans were injured.  In the coming days we’ll learn what went wrong.

*Inside Higher Ed reports something that I mentioned briefly the other day involving the notoriously venal scientific publisher Elsevier. They make tons of dosh charging libraries exorbitant fees to subscribe to their journals, and charging authors exorbitant “publishing fees” to get their papers to appear. Now they’ve gone too far (h/t Jon):

Elsevier, which says it disseminated about 18 percent of Earth’s scientific articles last year, declined editors’ requests to lower the $3,450 publishing fee at one of its journals.

NeuroImage editors said they formally asked Elsevier in June to drop the charge below $2,000. Early last month, they warned they would resign.

“We believe that the current slow decrease in submissions/publications is primarily due to the APC [article publishing charge]—we hear a lot on this from researchers in our field, no longer willing to submit papers or review,” they wrote.

“We appreciate that you do not accept that, but it’s not helpful to argue further in the absence of definitive proof.

The company wouldn’t budge, and so. . . .

On Monday, every editor at NeuroImage and the NeuroImage: Reports companion journal—over 40 people—resigned.

“It’s a pretty big exodus,” said Cindy Lustig, a University of Michigan at Ann Arbor psychology professor and one of the eight now former senior editors of the open-access NeuroImage. The departures also include editors in chief and handling editors.

“Pretty big exodus” is a wild understatement: it’s a fricking disaster, and one that may lead to the death of that journal. (Elsevier, however, publishes 2800 other journals.) What will happen now? The departed editors are going to start a newer, cheaper journal covering the same topic:

They’re starting their own journal, taking themselves, the Twitter profile they were using and (almost) the same name. They plan to publish their new Imaging Neuroscience with MIT Press.

Elsevier says it has over 2,800 other journals. But the en masse exit is part of continuing backlash against the business model of the world’s largest scientific journal publishers.

I signed a petition a long time ago not to have any connection with Elsevier journals. I’m not a Marxist, but this is capitalism gone wild. The $3,450 publishing fee means that the taxpayers pay twice for the research: once via government grants to fund it, and then again when scientists use grant money to pay the money-grubbing publisher.

*Jessica Grose in the NYT has an op-ed in which she dilates on a favorite topic of mine: the declining religiosity of America.  The piece, “Lots of Americans are losing their religion. Are you?“,  (h/t: Ken)

“In the United States,” the authors tell us, “somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 churches close down every year, either to be repurposed as apartments, laundries, laser-tag arenas, or skate parks, or to simply be demolished.” (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my apartment was once the rectory of a church, also built in the 1800s and transformed, a couple of decades ago, into condos for yuppies who want dramatic windows and a hint of ecclesiastical flavor.)

It’s not just the frequency of churchgoing or temple membership that’s declining in our country: Last month, The Wall Street Journal and NORC at the University of Chicago surveyed around 1,000 American adults about the importance of different values to Americans, including the importance of religion. In 2023, only 39 percent of respondents said religion was very important to them, compared to 62 percent who said that in 1998.

But Grose, a secular Jew, says that what’s happening is more nuanced than a simple decline in religiosity:

When you look at the full results, the picture becomes a bit more complicated. Sixty percent of respondents said that religion was either somewhat or very important to them, and only 19 percent said religion was not important to them at all. The United States is still a more religiously observant country than our peer nations in Western Europe — according to Pew Research in 2018, for example, we are more likely to believe in God or some kind of higher power and more likely to pray daily.

But two things can be true at the same time, said Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at Duke Divinity School who directs the National Congregations Study: America can still be a comparatively observant nation and religious observance can be on the decline in various dimensions, happening at different paces, Chaves explains. “The decline in religious belief and interest is much slower than the decline in organizational participation,” he said when we spoke.

Where’s the nuance in that? Churchgoing, identification with a church (the “nones”) and belief in God are all falling, with the last falling more slowly than the others—but still falling!  Grose tries to flaunt her “I’m better than both atheists and believers” attitude by saying that she doesn’t care much whether religion is good or bad for society:

My goal: to inject some nuance and specificity into this discussion, since I feel like it can be and sometimes is dominated by partisans who want to argue that the decline in religiosity is either uniformly good or bad for society. My own feeling is one of profound ambivalence. I have no interest in going back to temple and little trust or appetite for organized religion. But I feel passionately about being Jewish, and a little heartsick about not knowing quite how to pass along my ritual and history to my children. I do wonder about what may be lost by not having a community connected by belief, but I’m not quite sure what that is, or if replacing it is possible, or even desirable.

It’s certainly possible to replace belief communities, as Scandinavia and northern Europe amply demonstrate. And if you can have their moral and empathic societies without having the undeniably bad bits of religion (Catholic priests raping women, Muslims killing apostates and infidels, orthodox Jews oppressing their wives and keeping their children from learning) then why isn’t the lack of religion also desirable? All religions also tout faith—belief without good evidence—as a virtue, and that by itself makes religion bad, for it’s an enabler of other forms of belief without evidence (e.g., Donald Trump really won in 2020).

It’s interesting that Grose, who may be an unbeliever, is passionate about being a Jew, for Judaism is the one faith where vast numbers of its advocates are atheists. One can be a cultural Jew, but not a cultural Muslim. For many of us, Judaism isn’t even a religion, but simply a tribe or a club. I don’t believe in God or a word of Jewish dogma, but I still enjoy being Jewish.

* Voting along party lines, the House of Representatives passed a sensible vote that will undoubtedly be rejected by the Senate, or, if passed there, will be vetoed to death by Biden:

Transgender athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth was male would be barred from competing on girls or women’s sports teams at federally supported schools and colleges under legislation pushed through Thursday by House Republicans checking off another high-profile item on their social agenda.

The bill approved by a 219-203 party-line vote is unlikely to advance further because the Democratic-led Senate will not support it and the White House said President Joe Biden would veto it.

Supporters said the legislation, which would put violators at risk of losing taxpayer dollars, is necessary to ensure competitive fairness. They framed the vote as supporting female athletes disadvantaged by having to compete against those whose gender identify does not match their sex assigned at birth.

And, in fact, that’s the correct framing. Here I stand with the Republican vote itself, even if some of its members are surely motivated by transphobia. The Democrats frame it another way:

Opponents criticized the bill as ostracizing an already vulnerable group merely for political gain.

The House action comes as at least 20 other states have imposed similar limits on trans athletes at the K-12 or collegiate level.

The bill would amend landmark civil rights legislation, known as Title IX, passed more than 50 years ago. It would prohibit recipients of federal money from permitting a person “whose sex is male” to participate in programs designated for women or girls. The bill defines sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

I’m sorry, but the Democratic framing is largely bullpucky. The simple fact is that the data show, over and over again, that transwomen who have gone through male puberty retain, probably permanently, muscle, bone, and physiological features  that give them substantial athletic advantages over biological women. There are no data I know of to the contrary. To deny the evidence in favor of ideology puts you in the camp with ivermectin-pushers and QAnon conspiracists.

To me the bill is about keeping sports fair to women, not demonizing transsexuals, and although I get my share of emails for being a transphobe, I laugh them off. What I can’t laugh off is that organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who support the participation of trans women in women’s sports—even if the transwomen are medically untreated biological men who identify as women—are trampling on women’s rights without admitting it. I hate being in bed with Republicans, but on this issue the facts stand on their side. And their definition of sex as “reproductive biology” is okay, though they should have left out the “genetics” bit. They need a biologist to tell them what a biological woman is: it’s simply about gamete size and the reproductive apparatus that makes different-sized gametes.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are worried:

A: What are you looking at?
Hili: We are observing global warming.

In Polish
Ja: Na co patrzycie?
Hili: Obserwujemy globalne ocieplenie.

And a photo of baby Kulka:


From Barry, checkmate religion! (This appears to be a real organization, at least.)

From Facebook, a cartoon by Jimmy Craig:

From Jesus of the Day. It helps if you sit several feet away and move your head, though some might see it without moving:

From Masih: More brutality directed towards protestors in Iran. Look what they did to this girl! Be sure to read the whole tweet by clicking on it.

I found this one after I discovered that Twitter will accumulate tweets that it thinks you will like. Sound up.

. . . and I found this one too. Ten tweets by FIRE showing the disturbing trend of scholars being investigated for speech and their work. It’s skyrocketing!

From Simon. Someone applied SpaceX’s description of the “malfunction” today to the Hindenburg:

From “Otter”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a family probably gassed upon arrival at the camp. The boy wasn’t even a year old.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s temporarily abandoned Twitter for his book. (Good choice!) Thank Ceiling Cat I have a backlog of his tweets.  Here’s one of a nice gentleman saving an owl. The Google translation is:

“The best part of a good man’s life is his small, unknown, forgotten acts of kindness and love.”

I wonder if this guy got beheaded because he didn’t show sufficient fealty to The Cat:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

April 9, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Sunday, April 9, 2023, Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and National Chinese Almond Cookie Day. These are okay, but are a bit dry and need to be dipped into coffee.

An Easter groaner:

Q. What’s the Easter Bunny’s favorite restaurant?

A Christian Easter joke:

Jesus walks up to a crowd of people getting ready to stone a lady to death for committing adultery and says, “Whoever is without sin may cast the first stone.”

So this little lady walks up with a big rock and smashes it down on the poor woman and splits her head wide open.

Then the little lady dusts off her hands and starts walking away. Jesus shakes his head and says, “Mom, sometimes you really get on my nerves.”

And a Jewish Easter joke (posted six years ago):

This comes from the site Southern Jewish Humorwhich gets the story from Eli N. Evans, who wrote The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South:

Evans said he searched for the best example he could find of Southern Jewish humor.  He told the story of a Jewish storekeeper in a small town who was approached by the Christian elders to show solidarity for their Easter holiday.

Mr. Goldberg was chagrined but when Easter came, after sunrise services on a nearby hilltop, the mayor, all the churchgoers, and the leading families in the city gathered in the town square in front of his store.  The store had a new sign but it was draped with a parachute.

After an introduction from the mayor, at the appointed hour, the owner pulled the rope and there it was revealed in all its wonder for all to see: “Christ Has Risen, but Goldberg’s prices remain the same.”

He is risen!

He is NOT risen! Happy Passover!

It’s also National Gin and Tonic Day, National Baked Ham with Pineapple Day, Jenkins’s Ear Day (read the story about how a severed ear helped promote war), National Winston Churchill Day (he was made an honorary citizen of the U.S. on this day in 1963, only the second person ever to accrue this honor ), National Former Prisoner of War Recognition DayRemembrance for Haakon Sigurdsson (The Troth), a pagan holiday, and, in Canada,Vimy Ridge Day

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the April 2 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT reports on Biden’s new initiative giving guidance for participation of transgender people in school sports. This clarifies some news reports yesterday that were a bit ambiguous:

Under the Department of Education proposal, “categorically” barring transgender athletes in that way would be a violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding.

But it would give universities and K-12 schools the discretion to limit the participation of transgender students, if they conclude that including transgender athletes could undermine competitive fairness or potentially lead to sports-related injuries, a key part of the debate about transgender athletes in women’s sports.

Elementary school students would generally be able to participate in school sports according to their gender identity, under the proposal. But at more competitive levels, including high school and college sports, questions of physicality and fairness could prompt restrictions on transgender athletes.

The Education Department advised that schools would have to assess the ages of students and the level of the competition, as well as the nature of the sport itself. The impact may be different, for example, in track versus badminton.

The proposal must undergo a period of public comment. Once it is in effect, a senior official with the Education Department said, the federal government will be ready to investigate and enforce violations — up to and including withholding federal funding, if necessary.

That sounds fair enough, as there may be some sports (I don’t know of any, including badminton) in which men don’t have an average athletic advantage over women. But if there are, fine! However, do you go on averages or on individual performance. Does a really good woman badminton player get to play on men’s teams? If so, does a really good male badminton player get to play on women’s teams (assuming each claims that they’re a member of the opposite sex)? This would be a disaster.

*We now have opposite appellate court rulings on whether the FDA approval of the abortifacient drug mifepristone should be rescinded. A Texas judge says “yes”, while on the same day a judge in Washington State ssaid “no”. The Texas ruling bothers me as I don’t think it’s up to judges to rule on the safety of a tested and approved medication (and that’s the basis for the Texas decision). This case may well be headed to the Supreme Court. The WaPo says this:

“It is totally unclear how FDA is supposed to resolve this because this isn’t the way FDA does its job,” said Kirsten Moore, director of the advocacy organization Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project. “It shouldn’t have to say in these states the drug is approved, in these states the drug isn’t approved. That’s not tenable.”

The conflicting opinions probably mean a fast track for a legal showdown before a conservative Supreme Court that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion last June. If the high court were to uphold the ruling handed down by U.S. Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk in Texas, the FDA’s authority to vet and approve drugs, considered the gold standard around the world, could be permanently undermined, scholars said.

“This kind of Monday morning quarterbacking logic would allow courts to invalidate almost any FDA approval,” said Nathan Cortez, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, one of 19 legal experts who signed onto an amicus brief supporting the agency’s position that the pill had been properly approved in 2000.

. . .The FDA said in a statement Friday that it would appeal the decision.

“FDA stands behind its determination that mifepristone is safe and effective under its approved conditions of use for medical termination of early pregnancy, and believes patients should have access to FDA-approved medications that FDA has determined to be safe and effective for their intended uses,” the agency said.

And this is the most worrisome bit:

Ameet Sarpatwari, an expert on pharmaceutical policy and law at Harvard Medical School, said Kacsmaryk’s ruling is likely to encourage a spate of additional challenges.

“This opens the door to the courts’ second-guessing any FDA approval — especially for drugs for controversial areas like gender-affirming care, or PrEP for HIV prevention.”

If you read the Texas judge’s decision (see the footnote on page 2), you’ll see that he is making a medical decision that’s really based on politics. That’s why the Supreme Court cannot let this decision stand, as it applies not just in Texas, but in every state in America.

*The NYT has a deeper analysis of what’s going on with these rulings, concluding that even if the drug become illegal in the U.S., you’ll be likely to get it overseas. But here’s the skinny on the conservative judge’s ruling.

The lawsuit in the Texas district court, filed by a consortium of groups and doctors opposed to abortion, argues that the F.D.A. did not adequately review the scientific evidence or follow proper protocols when it approved mifepristone in 2000 and that it has since ignored safety risks of the medication.

The F.D.A. and the Department of Justice have strongly disputed those claims and said that the agency undertook rigorous reviews of mifepristone over the years that repeatedly reaffirmed its decision to approve mifepristone, which blocks a hormone that allows a pregnancy to develop. They point to numerous studies showing that serious complications are rare, with patients needing hospitalization in less than 1 percent of cases.

In his ruling, Judge Kacsmaryk, who previously worked for a conservative Christian legal organization, repeatedly used the language of abortion opponents, calling medication abortion “chemical abortion,” calling abortion providers “abortionists” and referring to a fetus as an “unborn human” or “unborn child.”

He appeared to agree with virtually all of the anti-abortion groups’ claims, writing: “Here, F.D.A. acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns — in violation of its statutory duty — based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions. There is also evidence indicating F.D.A. faced significant political pressure to forgo its proposed safety precautions to better advance the political objective of increased ‘access’ to chemical abortion.”

The F.D.A. has regulated mifepristone more stringently than many other drugs and applied a special framework of restrictions that is currently used for only 60 drugs in the country. In the case filed in federal court in Washington State, Democratic attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia are seeking to eliminate that special framework of extra restrictions on mifepristone. Judge Rice did not grant that request in his ruling Friday but did order the F.D.A. not to do anything to limit current access to mifepristone.

Three bits of heartening news. First, withdrawing a drug’s FDA approval is a LONG proess, and could take months or years. Second, the other drug usually used in the two-drug combination, misoprostol, is approved by the WHO to be used by itself to induce abortion. Third, patients in all states could, without much difficulty, order high-quality drugs from agencies overseas like the telemedicine service Aid Access,

*Over at CNN, three young climate activists, , and 

President Joe Biden’s recent approval of the Willow Project in Alaska has alarmed many young people and once again made us question his seriousness about addressing the climate crisis before it is too late.

His decision to greenlight ConocoPhillips’ massive oil project isn’t just a betrayal of his promises on the campaign trail when he vowed to halt drilling on federal lands and to help the United States make the transition toward clean energy. It’s a betrayal of our generation’s future and of the millions of people suffering the impact of the climate crisis.

As if that were not enough, the Biden administration is auctioning off more than 73 million acres of waters in the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and gas drilling — double the size of the Willow Project if it goes ahead as planned. The president faced one of the greatest tests of his commitment to addressing climate change, and he failed. His administration must step up and commit to do better.

By the administration’s own estimates, the Willow Project on Alaska’s North Slope is projected to add 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere per year. That’s the equivalent of adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the road every year — potentially for 30 years. Despite the large amounts of emissions that await, the administration — which faces pressure from unions, Alaskan lawmakers and some Native Alaskans who support the project — argues that refusing a permit for the Willow Project would trigger legal issues due to previously issued leases.

However, this decision not only contradicts Biden’s promises but also undermines the steps set forth by last month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report. The IPCC, a panel of experts brought together by the United Nations, made it clear that the world already has too many fossil fuels in production to limit global warming to the relatively safe level of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) unless swift action is taken.

Yep, this is one of the most arrant lies among Biden’s campaign promises. The other, which he couldn’t do anything about, was to “reach across the aisle” to forge legislative consensus between Democrats and Republicans.

*Here’s a gruesome Easter story for you from the AP, and shows how crazy religion can make people behave:

Eight Filipinos were nailed to crosses to reenact Jesus Christ’s suffering in a bloody Good Friday tradition, including a carpenter, who was crucified for the 34th time with a prayer for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to end because it has made poor people like him more desperate.

The real-life crucifixions in the farming village of San Pedro Cutud in Pampanga province north of Manila resumed after a three-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. About a dozen villagers registered but only eight people showed up, including 62-year-old carpenter and sign painter Ruben Enaje, who screamed as he was nailed to a wooden cross with a large crowd watching in the scorching summer heat.

In a news conference shortly after his crucifixion, Enaje said he prayed for the eradication of the COVID-19 virus and the end of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has contributed to gas and food prices soaring worldwide.

A photo. Yep, they’re really nailed up there!

(from the AP): Wilfredo Salvador grimaces after he was nailed to the cross during a reenactment of Jesus Christ’s sufferings as part of Good Friday rituals April 7, 2023 in the village of San Pedro, Cutud, Pampanga province, northern Philippines. The real-life crucifixions, a gory Good Friday tradition that is rejected by the Catholic church, resumes in this farming village after a three-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s striving to be an intellectual:

Hili: I see complexity.
A: And what?
Hili: I’m trying to analyse its component parts.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę złożoność.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Próbuję ją rozłóżyć na czynniki pierwsze.

And a photo of baby Kulka


From America’s Cultural Decline into Idoicy. Get the reference?

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih. I doubt these girls are faking it. Sound up.

From Amy; Jerry the Cat is still taking care of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum:

AOC clearly wants non-medically-treated transgender women to compete with biological women. In other words, she favors the demise of women’s sports. Such is the conflicts that beset “progressives”:

From Simon, who says, “Still the greatest”.  Muhammad Ali gives the host a boxing lesson, demonstrating the Ali Shuffle:

A tweet I found. In DodoLand, all ends well, and this caged tiger finally gets to roam free:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy (wearing lederhosen!), dead at twenty:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, Moose on the loose!

All you can eat potato chips??? Served bread butter and sauce so you can make potato-chip sandwiches! OY! I repeat: the Brits don’t know the meaning of a “proper sandwich”.

Mars! Enlarge the photo to see the dust devil; the thread shows how this was made: