Good morning on Caturday, November 12, 2022, cat shabbos and National Pizza with Anchovies Day. I eschew said pizza, and curse the man who thought of putting fish on pizza—especially the malodorous anchovy. If you actually like these, keep it to yourself! And look: there are even lemons on it!
Curiously, it’s also It’s also National Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day, Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, Happy Hour Day, National French Dip Day, Wine Tourism Day, Fancy Rat and Mouse Day, and World Pneumonia Day
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this day by consulting the November 12 Wikipedia page.
Hot off the Press: Democrat Mark Kelly won the contested Arizona Senate seat, meaning that the Democrats are just one seat away from 50, i.e., control of the chamber. The House, however, is creeping towards a Republican majority: 211-201 (218 needed for a majority).
*Ukrainian troops are moving into Kherson (the capital city of the eponymous province), so apparently the Russian exodus from the city was not a trap designed to snap shut on their foes.
The move puts Kyiv on the cusp of achieving one of its most significant victories of the war and deals a bitter blow to President Vladimir V. Putin, who just a month ago declared the Kherson region a part of Russia forever.
“Today is a historic day,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a message posted on the Telegram messaging app. “We are returning to Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the approaches of the city. But special units are already in the city.”
Videos shared by Ukrainian government officials on social media showed scenes of civilians who had endured nearly nine months of occupation cheering the arrival of a contingent of Ukrainian troops.
Other videos showed cars driving in the city center beeping horns as people on the sidewalks shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” In one, Ukrainian soldiers drove slowly past a crowd as people reached out to touch the soldiers through the open windows.
PUtin is not the kind of guy who will let this stand. My feeling is that, humiliated by this withdrawal, he’s gonna drop some serious weapons on Ukraine, perhaps including tactical nukes. It’s likely that NATO won’t retaliate in kind, and Russia is almost sanctioned to the max, so it’s possible that Putin is weighing this option.
*Reader Thomas noted this article in the military journal Defense One, adding that it’s “a very interesting and surprising take on the Supreme Court’s apparent willingness to dismiss affirmative action from the viewpoint of the U.S. Military.”
Putting aside the apparent cluelessness of just the second Black Justice to sit on the Supreme Court, an extraordinary friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case by former senior military leaders aptly described the meaning of diversity by noting its former absence in the U.S. officer corps.
“History has shown that placing a diverse Armed Forces under the command of a homogenous leadership is a recipe for internal resentment, discord and violence,” wrote the group, which includes four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, six former superintendents of the service academies, and 17 retired four-star flag officers. Because most uniformed officers come from ROTC and the service academies that use race as one consideration in admissions, they noted, “the diversity of these institutions and programs directly impacts the diversity of our military’s leadership.”
. . . The costs of having an overwhelmingly white officer corps commanding troops in which African Americans were disproportionately fighting and dying had come due. During the Vietnam-era draft, Blacks made up more than 25 percent of some high-risk elite Army units and frontline Marine companies. According to the amicus brief recently filed by the retired senior military leaders, in 1969 and 1970 the Army catalogued more than 300 race-related disturbances, resulting in the deaths of 71 American troops. Racial tensions reached such a fever pitch that some bases were all but separated into armed camps of “bloods” and “whites.” Many white officers at the time have told me that they were afraid to inspect their own barracks without carrying a sidearm.
The U.S. military has always held up a mirror to the society it serves, reflecting America’s strengths but also revealing its blemishes. In response to the racial crisis of the Vietnam era, the armed services concluded that they must embrace diversity in their officer corps as a national-security imperative, and they committed to race-conscious affirmative action in the service academies and ROTC programs as a key tool in trying to achieve that objective.
*I met Nellie Bowles at the Stanford meetings (she’s tall), and her TGIF column this week, always worth reading, is called “If Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it.” Oh noes! But she seems serious:
The previous Twitter regime didn’t allow reporting on Hunter Biden and blocked conservative satire, so I was excited about a change, but it seems like there’s got to be middle ground before burn it down, lay off everyone, declare bankruptcy. (Just FYI if Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it.)
One item from Bowles’ Friday news summary:
Two (of many) reasons for the Dems’ success.
→First, America rejected the fringe: The extremists all got the boot. Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who makes Trump’s MAGA look tame, lost to the balanced seeming Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has the energy of a cashmere sweater. And Trump-backed congressional candidates across the country lost handily to moderate Dems. The family values candidate Blake Masters, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and strongly supported by Trump, is currently behind in Arizona to former astronaut Mark Kelly. Late Thursday night, some analysts started calling the race for Kelly. And Dr. Oz lost to a large tree (a Redwood, suggests our fact-checker).
The smartest money spent in this whole election was the tens of millions the Democratic party spent to help ensure Republicans picked the craziest candidates in nine different state primaries. It was a risky, cynical move for Dems to boost the most radical Republicans—and it paid off. The most effective (i.e.: dangerous) Republican candidate is someone reasonable like Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin. Trumpist Republicans reject these types as RINOs, and Dems were only too happy to help.
Americans also rejected the #resistance stars. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost again. And Texas’s Beto O’Rourke lost, again again. Not that it will deter either of them from running for President (certainly not from fundraising at least). TGIF looks forward to the Abrams-O’Rourke ticket in 2024.
→Second, the Dobbs backlash: It was clear that a backlash hit right after Roe fell, but it wasn’t clear if that would last til the midterms. It did. Americans didn’t want Roe to fall: 57% were unhappy about its repeal, while only 41% supported the change. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Dems ran on protecting abortion rights, while Republicans mostly scrubbed their websites of anything abortion-related. Anti-abortion amendments to state constitutions failed in both Kentucky and Kansas.
*Matthew’s new book on genetic engineering and its implications has gotten another two-thumbs-up review, this time in the Wall Street Journal. Quotes:
In his wonderful book “As Gods,” a thoughtful, lively and evocative exposition of the history of genetic engineering, English zoologist Matthew Cobb teaches us how, just a few centuries after the completion of the San Giusto mosaics, scientists began learning how to create chimeras in the real world. Developing the ability to cut and paste the hereditary material that determines the form of living things has permanently changed humankind’s relationship with the natural world.
. . . [Geneticist Paul] Berg concluded his Nobel speech by stating that he preferred to be “more optimistic” about the future of genetic engineering. He cited the biologist Peter Medawar, who had said that “to deride the hope of progress is the ultimate fatuity, the last word in the poverty of spirit and meanness of mind.” So while we should not, and cannot, turn our back on the hope of progress—which might reasonably include the elimination of all human diseases—there is a need for more intense and serious dialogue. Matthew Cobb is very clear that this conversation should include more than just scientific specialists. In short, we may need to imagine not just new forms of life but a new sort of forum, in which to debate humankind’s future and define the basis of a manifesto for life.
*After a bunch of imposters and satirists easily obtained Twitter’s blue “verification” check mark by paying $7.99 per month (see here and an example below), Elon Musk deep-sixed that dumb idea—for now.
Almost immediately, users started taking advantage of the new tool. Accounts were created impersonating politicians including President Biden and celebrities, as well other notable people. Several also surfaced purporting to be brands, announcing fake news.
Twitter temporarily disabled sign-ups for the new service Thursday night, according to an internal note viewed by The Washington Post, to “help address impersonation issues.”
But damage was already done, and some fake accounts were still active Friday.
On Friday afternoon, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Musk asking several questions about the blue check mark subscription program. A Washington Post columnist set up an account impersonating Markey this week, with the senator’s permission, and paid for a blue check mark.
“Apparently, due to Twitter’s lax verification practices and apparent need for cash, anyone could pay $8.00 and impersonate someone on your platform,” Markey wrote. “Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable.”
*Finally, the rate of inflation of T. rex bones is unbelievable. The AP reports that a skull of this dinosaur, found in South Dakota, will be auctioned off for BIG bucks, and that’s just the skull:
A Tyrannosaurus rex skull unearthed in South Dakota is expected to sell for $15 million or more at auction in New York next month, officials with Sotheby’s said Tuesday.
The 200-pound (91-kilogram) skull fossil, nicknamed Maximus, is being sold Dec. 9 by an owner who wishes to remain anonymous, the auction house said.
The skull was excavated in 2020 and 2021 in Harding County, South Dakota, where other T. rex skeletons like Sue and Stan were found, according to Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s head of science and popular culture. She called the area “the world capital for T. rexes.”
Most of the rest of this T. rex’s remains were destroyed over time by erosion, but Sotheby’s experts said the skull was a major find. Hatton noted, “When you think about it, more people can fit a skull in their home than people who could fit a full dinosaur.”
The 6 1/2-foot (2-meter) fossil is about 76 million years old and still has most of the external skull bones and numerous teeth, Sotheby’s experts said.
Hatton said two large puncture holes in the skull are evidence of a big fight, probably with another T. rex. “We don’t know that this is what caused the death of this animal, but we can tell that it did have a major battle during its lifetime,” she said.
Here it is:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very concerned:
Paulina: You look very worried.Hili: Yes, I’m observing the political situation.(Photo: Paulina)
Paulina: Wyglądasz na bardzo zaniepokojoną…Hili: Tak, przyglądam się sytuacji politycznej.(Zdjęcie: Paulina)
In nearby Wroclawek, Leon and Mietek are going for a ride (I don’t know where):
The cats: Journeys educate
In Polish: Podróże kształcą
God denigrates the way America treats its veterans:
Veterans, thank you for your service to your country.
Country, fuck you for your lack of service to our veterans.#VeteransDay
— God (Not a Parody, Actually God) (@TheTweetOfGod) November 11, 2022
Another brave Iranian woman:
Leader of Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei said: keeping hijab is more important than winning medals for female athletes.
Parmida Ghassemi, a prolific athlete, removes her hijab in front of officials during the award ceremony.
Another humiliation for the Iranian regime.#MahsaAmini pic.twitter.com/hTFfPTK2hI
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 11, 2022
From Simon. I’ll take this story as true, and if it is it’s amazing. Was there a control?
Koko, the gorilla who could understand about 2000 words in English used to watch Mister Rogers’ on TV. When Fred Rogers met Koko, she immediately wrapped her arms around him and did what she’d always seen him do on-screen: she proceeded to take his shoes off. pic.twitter.com/GpX4u9zwji
— jim rose circus (@jimrosecircus1) November 10, 2022
A groaner from Malcolm:
— internet hall of fame (@InternetH0F) November 9, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: Two girls gassed upon arrival:
12 November 1938 | A Dutch Jewish girl, Liane Minzer (or Münzer), was born in The Hague.
In February 1944 she was deported to #Auschwitz and murdered in a gas chamber after the selection together with her older sister Eva (in the picture: Eva (left), Liane (right)). pic.twitter.com/ll3GwhfUrR
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 12, 2022
Tweets from Matthew: An unenthusiastic verbal tour of a Scottish cat cafe:
Scottish tourguide welcomes you to Edinburgh's cat cafe pic.twitter.com/tGaDG5ZQyz
— Eleanor Morton (@EleanorMorton) November 11, 2022
Matthew says to note all the “checked and verified accounts” in this Twitter exchange:
good morning pic.twitter.com/dix4EFeg5F
— inverted vibe curve: burgertown must be defended (@PatBlanchfield) November 10, 2022
A comedian’s take on the American midterm elections. Sound up.
ON THE MIDTERM RESULTS AND THE “GREAT RED WAVE” THAT NEVER WAS pic.twitter.com/drrAznXczJ
— Trae Crowder in Brea & Oxnard 11/9-10 (@traecrowder) November 9, 2022
That’s what they deserve for putting up Christmas decorations in early November!
📽️Outsized baubles from a Christmas display have caused chaos on London's Tottenham Court Road after rolling into traffic.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) November 1, 2022