Thursday: Hili dialogue

January 19, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on this gray and drizzly Chicago day of Thursday, January 19, 2023, and National Popcorn Day. On a diet but want a filling and tasty meal? Make a big bowl of popcorn, which has almost no calories, add salt, and drizzle it with olive oil.

It’s also World Quark Day, Tin Can Day, Women’s Healthy Weight Day (I thought that all weights were healthy), Gun Appreciation Day (a right-wing-created holiday that’s not for me), Husband’s Day in Iceland (men are given gifts and a special lamb dish, Hangikjöt, is served). Here’s the dish:

(From Wikipedia): Hangikjöt with potatoes in béchamel sauce and green peas

Finally, it’s Theophany / Epiphany (Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy), and its related observances:

Timkat, or 20 during Leap Year (Ethiopian Orthodox)

Vodici or Baptism of Jesus (North Macedonia)

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 19 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: Chateau Guirard is best known for its lovely (and pricey) Sauternes, a luscious sweet wine that is France’s best “sticky”—and perhaps the world’s. (Sauternes is made in Bordeaux from sémillon and sauvignon grapes that have been infected with mold, which sucks the water out of the grape and concentrates the sweetness.)

I didn’t even know that Guirard made a dry white wine, but when I saw a bottle for $17, and learned that it was made organically from both semillon and sauvignon blanc, I snapped it up. (You can also buy wines of similar composition made  in America, and some of them are okay, but you can’t taste the semillon.) In this bottle was hoping to get the honeyed flavor of the semillon grape without the sweetness, and I drank the bottle (half per night) with a dinner of chicken thighs (the best part of the bird), rice, and green peppers.

The nose reminded me of pears and lemons; the wine was a pale straw color. I don’t drink much white Bordeaux, and I was surprised at how different this tasted from my usual white wines. It had stuffing and a lovely perfume that was better the second day than the first.  This is a wine probably best enjoyed with richer seafood, like smoked salmon, but it was also good with chicken thighs.  It’s usually more expensive than what I paid, at at higher price points I would consider another wine: perhaps a sauvignon blanc or chinon blanc. But if you can find it at less than $20, try a bottle.

Da Nooz:

*Good Lord, I hadn’t heard of this plan but I can’t say I oppose it. According to the New York Times, the U.S. is starting to talk to Ukraine about reclaiming Crimea, which of course the Russians simply annexed nine years ago. The Russians might finish this war with less territory than they started with! (I still think Ukraine is going to lose land, though.):

For years, the United States has insisted that Crimea is still part of Ukraine. Yet the Biden administration has held to a hard line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refusing to provide Kyiv with the weapons it needs to target the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has been using as a base for launching devastating strikes.

Now that line is starting to soften.

After months of discussions with Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is finally starting to concede that Kyiv may need the power to strike the Russian sanctuary, even if such a move increases the risk of escalation, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive debate. Crimea, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is home to tens of thousands of dug-in Russian troops and numerous Russian military bases.

The moderation in position has come about as the Biden administration has come to believe that if the Ukrainian military can show Russia that its control of Crimea can be threatened, that would strengthen Kyiv’s position in any future negotiations. In addition, fears that the Kremlin would retaliate using a tactical nuclear weapon have dimmed, U.S. officials and experts said — though they cautioned that the risk remained.

. . .The new thinking on Crimea — annexed illegally by Russia in 2014 — shows how far Biden administration officials have come from the start of the war, when they were wary of even acknowledging publicly that the United States was providing Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for Ukrainian troops.

But over the course of the conflict, the United States and its NATO allies have been steadily loosening the handcuffs they put on themselves, moving from providing Javelins and Stingers to advanced missile systems, Patriot air defense systems, armored fighting vehicles and even some Western tanks to give Ukraine the capacity to strike against Russia’s onslaught.

Now, the Biden administration is considering what would be one of its boldest moves yet, helping Ukraine to attack the peninsula that President Vladimir V. Putin views as an integral part of his quest to restore past Russian glory.

Now it’s not absolutely clear that these plans would wind up putting Crimea into Ukrainian hands, but I can’t imagine that the plan is just to show Russia how vulnerable it is. And let’s throw in some American made tanks for Zelensky, just as a Christmas present.

*In a column at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin pins the rise of American anti-Semitism, which is a real phenomenon, on the political Right. She says “the cause is no mystery, either. What is it? The answer is in the first sentence above:

Right-wing Republicans have their fingerprints all over the rise of antisemitism in the United States. The latest data make this clear.

“Over three-quarters of Americans (85 percent) believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, as opposed to 61 percent found in 2019,” the Anti-Defamation League recently reported. “Twenty percent of Americans believe six or more tropes, which is significantly more than the 11 percent that ADL found in 2019 and is the highest level measured in decades.” The report continues:

The ADL notes that the number of Americans accepting anti-Semitic tropes, like saying the “Jews stick together” and have “dual loyalty to Israel and the U.S.” And this, to Rubin, is familiar rhetoric:

Much of this sounds like the rhetoric coming from the MAGA movement, and specifically its leader, defeated former president Donald Trump. How many times have you heard Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, prattle on about George Soros, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant, as if he is the chief string-puller controlling the Democratic Party? Trump meanwhile routinely demonizes Jewish Democrats for not supporting him and the Israeli government.

The far left is not blameless for the rise of antisemitism, of course. But the entire project of white Christian nationalism is to marginalize those who are not White and/or not Christian as something less than real Americans. (More than one-third of those who responded to the ADL survey said “Jews do not share my values.”) The chant “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville in August 2017 was a visible reminder that the right wing considers Jews as much a threat to their vision of democracy as immigrants from Central America. Hatred of “elites” and suspicion about urban dwellers often is a thinly disguised swipe at Jews. (“New York values” is often the buzz phrase.)

But although the Far Right is indeed anti-Semitic this way, at least Rubin doesn’t exculpate the Left, much of which, especially the so-called “progressives”, are anti-Semitic in a more subtle way:

The far left makes its own contribution to antisemitism through its over-the-top denunciations of Israel. Not all criticism of Israel is wrong, of course. Plenty of objections to current government policies are legitimate — including its inclusion of rabidly anti-Arab nationalists, its attempt to curtail civil rights and the ultra-Orthodox groups’ attempt to write non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews out of the worldwide community of Jewish people. However, there is a point at which criticism of Israel can veer into abject antisemitism. This includes the suggestion that Israel “treats Palestinians like the Nazis treated Jews” (a view held by a stunning 40 percent of the ADL survey respondents) or “Israel can get away with anything because its supporters control the media” (nearly one-fourth of those surveyed agreed).

For example, the BDS movement is, I think, anti-Semitic, since one of its aims is removal of Israel as a state: “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” That, in effect, is a recipe for genocide of the Jews. As far as I know, every member of the Democratic Congressional “squad” endorses BDS. It’s ironic that two signs of the progressive Left, with the Left as a whole traditionally inclusive, are dissing the Jews as “Zionists” on one hand and ignoring the oppression imposed by Islamic countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Palestine on the other.

*A woman and a boy were killed in a rare polar bear attack in Alaska. That must be a painful way to die, and the miscreant bear was going after a whole village:

A polar bear killed a woman and her year-old son in a remote village in western Alaska on Tuesday after it chased “multiple residents,” officials said in one of the few fatal polar bear attacks to take place in the past century.

The attack occurred near a school in the remote village of Wales, Alaska, which is on the western edge of the Seward Peninsula that juts into the Bering Sea toward Russia. About 170 people live in Wales, according to the Census Bureau, and most residents are Inupiaq.

A spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers identified the victims as Summer Myomick, 24, and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, 1. Ms. Myomick was a resident of St. Michael, Alaska, about 230 miles southeast of Wales, the spokesman, Austin McDaniel, said.

A local resident shot and killed the polar bear as it was attacking the pair, the Alaska State Troopers said in a statement. State troopers said that they were notified of the attack at 2:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

. . . While attacks on humans are extremely rare, polar bears are more likely to attack a person when they are “nutritionally stressed” and in “below-average body condition,” according to a 2017 study published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

You know what tthat means: the bears are hungry because the sea ice, from which they hunt seals, is shrinking due to global warming. Polar bears are already listed as “threatened”, but they could become “endangered”. And the more endangered they are, the more Alaskans are endangered as well.

*Speaking of global warming, Greenland is rapidly becoming the canary in the coal mine for global warming. A report in the WaPo (by Chris Mooney—remember him?) says that Greenland is getting hotter and losing ice, and it’s happening quickly:

The coldest and highest parts of the Greenland ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level in many locations, are warming rapidly and showing changes that are unprecedented in at least a millennium, scientists reported Wednesday.

That’s the finding from research that extracted multiple 100-foot or longer cores of ice from atop the world’s second-largest ice sheet. The samples allowed the researchers to construct a new temperature record based on the oxygen bubbles stored inside them, which reflect the temperatures at the time when the ice was originally laid down.

“We find the 2001-2011 decade the warmest of the whole period of 1,000 years,” said Maria Hörhold, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

And since warming has only continued since that time, the finding is probably an underestimate of how much the climate inthe high-altitude areas of northern and central Greenland has changed. That is bad news for the planet’s coastlines, because it suggests a long-term process of melting is being set in motion that could ultimately deliver some significant, if hard to quantify, fraction of Greenland’s total mass into the oceans.Overall, Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea levels by more than 20 feet.

A 20-foot rise in sea levels would be a disaster. Much of New York would be underwater (blue is underwater):

. . . and Miami would be completely inundated:

. . . and goodbye to much of Florida’s coast, not to mention the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans. :

*Finally, the world’s oldest person has died. It was a woman, of course, as they live longer than men, and she was a French nun, Lucile Randon. The AP reports:

A French nun who was believed to be the world’s oldest person but had been reportedly growing weary of the burdens of age has died a few weeks before her 119th birthday, her nursing home in southern France said Wednesday.

Lucile Randon, known as Sister André, was born in the town of Ales, southern France, on Feb. 11, 1904, and lived through the two world wars. As a little girl she was astonished by her first contact with electric lighting at school and, more recently, survived COVID-19 without even realizing she’d been infected.

Spokesman David Tavella said she died at 2 a.m. on Tuesday at the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home in the southern port city of Toulon.

The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people thought to be 110 or older, listed her as the oldest known person in the world after the death of Japan’s Kane Tanaka, aged 119, last year.

The oldest living known person in the world listed by the Gerontology Research Group is now American-born Maria Branyas Morera, who is living in Spain, and is 115.

In better days, Sister Andre was known to enjoy a daily glass of wine and some chocolate. She toasted her 117th birthday in 2021 with Champagne, red wine and port.

“It made me very, very, very, very happy,” she said in a telephone interview at the time with The Associated Press. “Because I met all those I love and I thank the heavens for giving them to me. I thank God for the trouble they went to.”

She looks tired of living in the photo below, and the idea that this might happen to me is very scary. As the song “Old Man River” goes, “I’m tired of living, and scared of dyin’.”

If you want to know the verified record for longevity, Wikipedia says this under “oldest people‘:

The longest documented and verified human lifespan is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875–1997), a woman who lived to age 122 years and 164 days. She claimed to have met Vincent van Gogh when she was 12 or 13.

All ten of the oldest documented people in history were women, as are all of the ten oldest living people.

(From AP) Sister Andre poses for a portrait at the Sainte Catherine Laboure care home in Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole, File)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sick of winter:

Hili: I’m coming inside.
A: This is the third time today.
Hili: I’m checking whether the winter has gone away.
In Polish:
Hili: Wracam do domu.
Ja: To już dziś trzeci raz.
Hili: Tak, sprawdzam, czy ta zima już sobie poszła.
. . . and a picture of Szaron (Hili’s tail is visible to the right:

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From Cat Attack via Merilee:

Something I found on Facebook:

From Malcolm, a great balancer. Be sure to watch all four balancing tricks.

A toot from God on Mastodon:

From Masih. Translation from Farsi:

A new video of Aida Rostami, a young doctor who secretly treated the wounded of the Iranian revolution in Ekbatan town, has recently been published.  See Aida Rostami’s free and light dance on autumn leaves. This flame, this light and this beauty was extinguished by the criminals of the Islamic Republic on December 21

She’s gone.

This new statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. embracing his wife Coretta Scott King, just unveiled on the Boston Commons, is not a good one. Not only does it now show them, but it looks mildly salacious:

From Malcolm. This bird IS doing a model’s walk!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, two siblings, four and six, were gassed upon arrival

Tweets from the world-renowned Professor Cobb. First, a really messed-up indoor soccer game. These guys should have their footy licenses confiscated.

This guy is a fraud! The BBC must have been hard up for entertainment back then. . .

What’s wrong with her answer? Nothing!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 18, 2023 • 6:45 am

Because I have only a handful of readers’ wildlife contributions, there won’t be a photo post today: the wildlife photos will be sporadic until I receive more. Please send in your good photos. Thanks!

Welcome to Hump Day ( “Lá Cromáin” in Irish), January 18, 2023, and National Gourmet Coffee Day. It’s fine if you want good beans, but this is the kind of “gourmet coffee” you don’t want (it’s better called “gourmand coffee”):

It’s also National Peking Duck Day, Thesaurus Day, and Winnie the Pooh Day.

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

Da Nooz:

*A defector from Russia’s paramiliary force has defected to Norway, implying that he’ll expose Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine. Well, that would be one witness:

Andrei Medvedev, who says he commanded about 15 fighters in the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine, has applied for asylum in Norway after being detained by local security forces for illegally crossing the nation’s border with Russia in the early hours of Friday, his lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, said.

Norwegian immigration authorities confirmed that a man matching Mr. Medvedev’s description was detained and had requested asylum, but declined to comment further, citing security and privacy concerns.

In a video published on Monday, Mr. Medvedev told a Russian human rights activist, Vladimir Osechkin, that he had crossed into Norway on foot and requested asylum after surrendering to the police. He said he was willing to collaborate with international investigators into potential war crimes committed by Wagner, a major paramilitary force at the center of the Kremlin’s war efforts in Ukraine.

Mr. Risnes, the lawyer, said Mr. Medvedev’s case is the first of its kind in Norway, adding that it could set a precedent for how the West handles the defection of Russian fighters.

However, it may not be as damaging as it looks, for the guy has a history:

Mr. Medvedev’s own accounts of his life and military service have been contradictory at times, and he has declined to provide evidence for his most explosive claims.

Mr. Medvedev, who grew up in a Siberian orphanage and had served at least four years in jail for robbery, said he had witnessed summary executions on the front lines of Wagner fighters accused of cowardice and desertion, as well as dramatic casualty rates suffered by inmate units sent by commanders on suicide missions. The claims have not been independently verified.

Two people who knew Medvedev before confirmed he was in the paramilitary unit, but couldn’t corroborate his claims about war crimes.

*In yesterday’s NYT, writer Jesse Singal discusses the question, “What if diversity trainings are doing more harm than good?” A lot of us have known for a while about data that these sessions were ineffectual, but Singal also argues that they’re harmful:

Diversity workshops can foster better intergroup relations, improve the retention of minority employees, close recruitment gaps and so on. The only problem? There’s little evidence that many of these initiatives work. And the specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may well have a net-negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.

. . . Though diversity trainings have been around in one form or another since at least the 1960s, few of them are ever subjected to rigorous evaluation, and those that are mostly appear to have little or no positive long-term effects. The lack of evidence is “disappointing,” wrote Elizabeth Levy Paluck of Princeton and her co-authors in a 2021 Annual Review of Psychology article, “considering the frequency with which calls for diversity training emerge in the wake of widely publicized instances of discriminatory conduct.”

. . .If diversity trainings have no impact whatsoever, that would mean that perhaps billions of dollars are being wasted annually in the United States on these efforts. But there’s a darker possibility: Some diversity initiatives might actually worsen the D.E.I. climates of the organizations that pay for them.

That’s partly because any psychological intervention may turn out to do more harm than good. The late psychologist Scott Lilienfeld made this point in an influential 2007 article where he argued that certain interventions — including ones geared at fighting youth substance use, youth delinquency and PTSD — likely fell into that category. In the case of D.E.I., Dr. Dobbin and Dr. Kalev warn that diversity trainings that are mandatory, or that threaten dominant groups’ sense of belonging or make them feel blamed, may elicit negative backlash or exacerbate pre-existing biases.

Many popular contemporary D.E.I. approaches meet these criteria. They often seem geared more toward sparking a revolutionary re-understanding of race relations than solving organizations’ specific problems. . .

But it doesn’t matter whether they work, does it? All that matters is that universities look like they’re doing something—just to show that they’re taking the DEI movement seriously If this training doesn’t work—and an enormous amount of money is being spent implementing it—it will be America’s most expensive form of virtue signaling.  Singal does have a solution: focus on an organization’s specific diversity problems rather than on race itself, including problems with employee retention, employee relationships, treatment of customers, and so on. I’ve heard for a long time that DEI trainings in general aren’t what they are cracked up to be, and it’s appalling to think of the millions of dollars that universities like Yale spend on them (they are a major function of DEI units, and that means permanent hires) The University of Michigan’s DEI programs, for instance, are estimated to cost $18 million this year.

*Will the Elgin Marbles, part of the Parthenon frieze, go to Greece? A NYT article reports that the Greek Prime Minister and the British Museum (who has custody of a large number of them) are discussing their return. They should go back to join their friends in Athens, as they were taken by Lord Elgin under dubious circumstances. And it looks as though they might, though I’ll miss seeing them on the first floor of the British Museum:

Now there are hopeful signals that perhaps a resolution between the British Museum and Greece could be in sight as officials on both sides have acknowledged that secret talks have taken place. But even as those disclosures have flowered into optimism that real progress will soon be made, both sides have made it clear that no deal is yet imminent.

Indeed, they remain far apart on some key questions.

Some suggest that the deal is almost done, but it doesn’t sound like it:

But a deal remains much further away than those reports suggest, according to the two people with knowledge of the negotiations who spoke to The New York Times. And, in fact, in recent days officials from both sides have spoken publicly to pump the brakes on the soaring expectations that any deal was imminent.

For his part, Mitsotakis has asked the British Museum to return all of the frieze in its collection, some 250 feet of carved stone that once wrapped around the Parthenon, the person with knowledge of the Greek position said. Mitsotakis wanted an agreement that those panels would stay in Greece for at least 20 years, the person added. There, they would be reunited with other parts of the frieze already on display in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

. . . The Greek side hoped to negotiate the return of the remaining sculptures at a later date, the person with knowledge of its position added. In return for the frieze, Greek museums would supply the British Museum with a rotating selection of priceless artifacts, some of which had never left Greece, the person added.

There’s no doubt that the marbles should be given back, but I would hope that some of them could be loaned to the British Museum on a rotating basis, as it’s a big draw there, and many people wouldn’t be able to see them if they had to go to Greece.

*At the WaPo, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, argues persuasively that “The time for incremental in Ukraine is over. Send in the tanks.” Germany is in talks to send tanks to Ukraine, and if they do it, then there’s no excuse for us not to.  O’Hanlon argues that while we’ve helped Ukraine a lot, most of the help has been reactive, while tanks will help Ukraine win the war in a major way:

What one might call the “the Goldilocks policy” will continue to work only if we recognize its risks — most importantly, that it is fundamentally reactive, thus hindering the development of a strategy to end the war. (And by the way, I’m in favor of sending hundreds of Western tanks as soon as possible — for reasons I will explain below.)

. . . Yet the debate over tanks has also revealed the biggest weakness of the incrementalist approach — namely, that it is always reacting to events on the battlefield rather than trying to shape them. Going step by step has helped Ukraine patch up vulnerabilities, to be sure, but it hasn’t furthered the goal of formulating a strategy to end the war or defining the capacity that will be ultimately needed to do so. Tactically, we have been very good, but strategically our planning is somewhat lacking.

As for the tanks, I think it’s time we provide them. That’s not because doing so will necessarily help Ukraine win the war decisively. Rather, Kyiv deserves a fair chance to win back as much territory as possible. Until it has that chance, neither Russia nor Ukraine is likely to negotiate with the kind of sober realism needed to end this war on reasonable and sustainable terms. Sending tanks will also show Moscow that American resolve remains firm even with war-skeptical Republicans in charge in the House of Representatives — another factor crucial to productive talks.

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

*Finally, Greta was lugged away by the Polizei during a protest.

Police in western Germany carried Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and other protesters away Tuesday from the edge of an open coal pit mine where they demonstrated against the ongoing destruction of a village to make way for the mine’s expansion, German news agency dpa reported.

Thunberg was among hundreds of people who resumed anti-mining protests at multiple locations in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia a day after the last two climate activists holed up in a tunnel beneath the village of Luetzerath left the site.

The German government reached a deal with energy company RWE last year allowing it to destroy the village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038. Both argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security that’s squeezed by the cut in supply of Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine.

. . .Thunberg had traveled to western Germany to participate in weekend demonstrations against the expanded mine and also took part in Tuesday’s protest near Luetzerath. Police in nearby Aachen said a group of around 50 protesters got dangerously close to the rim of the mine and did not want to leave despite being asked to do so.

All the people in that group had to be carried away from the edge of the mine and were then temporarily held to determine their identities, police said. Photos from the scene showed Thunberg was one of those whom officers took away.

She looks very satisfied:

Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is hopeful for once:

Hili: I see new prospects.
A: What prospects?
Hili: A return home and a warm bed.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę nowe perspektywy.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Powrotu do domu i ciepłego łóżka.
And Paulina took a lovely picture of Szaron:

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Two from FB:

 

From Bruce:

And a biology lesson from Bizarre and Wonderful World:

This is the cyclosmis, and its incredible abdomen looks like an ancient coin! This genus of spider lives in burrows, and it uses the hardened disc at the end of its abdomen to clog the entrance when it’s threatened.

From Frits. Translation (his asterisk): “”Brave little sheep d*g still has to learn the trade a bit, but gets some tips whispered.”

From Barry, a helpful pinniped:

From Malcolm: a population-density map of India:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed upon arrival; he was 1½ years old:

Tweets from Matthew.  The backstory for the first one is here.

Stoats run free! (Matthew and I love stoats, who eat stoatmeal for breakfast):

Okay, there are a lot of passes here but I can show only a handful:

 

Monday: Hili dialogue

January 16, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Monday, January 16, 2023, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For comestibles, it’s National Hot and Spicy Food Day.

As in every year, I present the heart of Dr. King’s 17-minute “I Have a Dream” speech, presented at the Washington Monument on August 28, 1963. A brilliant piece of rhetoric and a great boost to civil rights. Listen to it again. (This video dissects the rhetoric and source of his words.)

Today’s Google Doodle, showing the Washington, D.C. mall during the speech above, celebrates Martin Luther King Day (click to see where it goes):

It’s also National Fig Newton Day (a favorite cookie of mine), Appreciate a Dragon Day, Book Publishers Day, National Pothole Day, and National Religious Freedom Day, commemorating Jefferson’s  Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, adopted by the Virginia Assembly on January 16, 1786. It was the forerunner of our First Amendment, and was one of three things he wished to be remembered for on his tombstone (his Presidency was not one of them):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 16 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: This high-class Burgundy, well above my psychological price barrier, was able to enter my gullet through the generosity of a kind reader, who sent the bottle as a Coynezaa gift. In fact, the 2011 is no longer available, and i can find the ratings (and price) only back to 2012.

Since I rarely get to sample great Burgundy, much less not-so-great Burgundy, I have not much to compare this to, but one sip tells you that you’re in the presence of greatness. This is a gutsy Burgundy, redolent of red berries and, yes, licorice. (I definitely smelled licorice and was happy to see that a wine expert also detected the flavor.) It was hefty enough to go with my weekly t-bone, and although I can find no ratings or notes on the 2011, here are Robert Parker’s note from the 2019 vintage:

The 2019 Corton Le Rognet et Corton Grand Cru has also turned out very nicely, mingling aromas of cherries, berries and plums with hints of woodsmoke and coniferous forest floor. Medium to full-bodied, deep and sapid, with lively acids, superb depth of fruit and refined tannins, it’s long and penetrating. It was with sadness that I learned of Pierre Guillemot’s passing, at the age of 93, while this report was going to press. Having enjoyed Pierre’s inaugural vintage of Serpentières, the striking 1947, on a number of occasions, it is evident that he hit the ground running as a formidable winemaker, and he was always spoken of with the greatest warmth along the Côte d’Or. Guillemot grandpère must, however, have been satisfied that the domaine he founded is in good hands, ably directed by his grandsons. As I’ve written before, winemaking at this seven-hectare estate is rather classical, the reds fermenting in wooden tanks with temperature control, followed by élevage with modest percentages of new wood. The wines are remarkably consistent, surpassing expectations in challenging years and fully delivering in more propitious vintages. The 2018s, revisited here in bottle, have fulfilled the promise they showed from barrel, and the 2019s are even more vibrant and charming. So, it bears repeating that readers bemoaning the lack of fine, affordable Burgundy from the Côte d’Or should beat a path to the Guillemot family’s door. [JAC: this is “affordable” only if you’re Elon Musk![

There was no sediment to this wine, and no sign of aging. It could improve for another 5 years or more, though this is my last bottle. If you want to drink Burgundy at this level, take a second mortgage on your house or have a friend with a good cellar.  It improved the second day, and I drank the last sip with the greatest regret.

Da Nooz:

*At last the MSM (mainstream media) are starting to realize that affirmative action, because of the conservative Supreme Court, will soon be an ex-parrot. Have a look at the NYT article, “If affirmative action ends, college may be changed forever.” The operant word, however, is not “may” but “will.”

If the court rules as expected, the class admitted for the fall of 2024 will look quite different, education officials said.

“We will see a decline in students of color attending college before we see an increase again,” said Angel B. Pérez, the chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “We will be missing an entire generation.”

That sounds a bit hyperbolic, as there are a gazillion colleges in America besides Harvard. An entire generation of students is 20 years’ worth: five college turnovers. But I’m sure elite colleges will find workarounds, though they may be challenged. There’s more:

The institutions most likely to be dramatically affected are the 200 colleges and universities regarded as “selective” — meaning they admit 50 percent or fewer of their applicants. And for smaller, highly selective liberal arts colleges, like Wesleyan, the impact on college culture could be particularly noticeable, as professors on these tightly knit campuses say their small classes thrive on interactions by a diverse group of students.

There are about 5300 colleges and universities in America: 200 represent only 4% of the total. But the impact is far-reaching:

Some schools, including Wesleyan, said they hope increased outreach to underserved communities would offset some of the impact of a Supreme Court ruling. But they may be limited in what they can do.

The court could prevent colleges from purchasing lists of potential applicants that focus on race and ethnicity, a common practice used in recruitment, Dr. Pérez said.

“Fly-ins,” in which certain students are provided expense-paid visits to campuses, could also be on the chopping block. So could scholarship programs designated for students of color, which many rely on to afford tuition.

“Fly-in programs, scholarship programs, partnerships with churches and community-based organizations, where does it end?” Dr. Pérez asked.

My own solution, if you see diversity as an innate good, as the Bakke case did, would be more widespread recruiting. But if it’s targeted at minorities, that may be illegal. The solution would then be to lower the admissions bar for everyone, so that the elite schools would no longer be so elite. And that seems to be what they’re doing, but under the radar:

Colleges are planning behind the scenes for the court ruling, though they are reluctant to release plans, worried about potentially opening themselves up to legal action.

“We don’t want to get ahead of the court, and we don’t want to give the court any ideas,” Dr. Pérez said.

But some have made pre-emptive moves. Standardized tests, for instance, have long been criticized for handicapping poor students and students of color, partly because they may not have access to expensive test preparation classes.

But what do you use without standardized tests? To boost minority enrollment, you still have to use something that’s race-targeted. That’s what Harvard tried to do by lowering the “personality scores” of Asian-American applicants. And it won’t work, at least if the Court rules as we think they will. There’s no doubt how the Supreme Court will rule, and affirmative action will certainly go into the dumper, probably by a vote of 6-3.

*The Wall Street Journal is still predicting a recession this year. I do, too, though I hoped I was wrong. When eggs are $6 a dozen, as I saw in the store an hour ago, things aren’t going well.

Despite signs that inflation has started to recede, economists still expect higher interest rates to push the U.S. economy into a recession in the coming year, according to The Wall Street Journal’s latest quarterly survey.

On average, business and academic economists polled by the Journal put the probability of a recession in the next 12 months at 61%, little changed from 63% in October’s survey. Both figures are historically high outside actual recessions.

The Federal Reserve had initially hoped it could bring down inflation with only a slowing in economic growth rather than an outright contraction, an outcome dubbed a “soft landing.” But three-quarters of respondents said the Fed wouldn’t achieve a soft landing this year.

*Columnist David von Drehle of the Washington Post, who despises Trump, is nevertheless glad that Biden was caught with classified documents, even though his case is not all that similar to Trump’s. Nevertheless, it’s similar enough that, argues Drehle, it guarantees that Trump will not be indicted in the strongest criminal case against him, and Drehle thinks that’s good. His reasoning:

Illegal possession of classified documents and repeated attempts to avoid surrendering them to the proper authorities constituted a case that bordered on open-and-shut. Trump’s defense — that as president he could declassify material simply by entertaining the notion — was obviously unsustainable. By that logic, a future president could lawfully cart away all the secrets of the U.S. government in a convoy of tractor trailers.

But now that case will probably not be brought, no matter how many side-by-side charts are created to distinguish between the known allegations against Trump and the (so far unknown) culpability of Biden. According to the latest Gallup data, 45 percent of Americans identify as Republicans or leaning toward the Republicans; 44 percent are Democrats or lean in that direction. The Justice Department serves them all, and its credibility rests on being perceived to play fair.

. . . Before continuing, let me be clear: I believe Trump is a bad person of low character, selfish and dishonest, intellectually lazy, childish and shameless, and that his presidency has been a terrible thing for the country I love. For this reason, I’m relieved by the likely collapse of the classified documents case against him. Because it was the strongest case against Trump, in terms of trial strategy, it was the most likely to produce an indictment — and indicting Trump is a terrible idea for those who genuinely hope to be rid of him.

Politically, Trump is a dead man walking. He has lost the ability to drive the news cycle. His outlandish social media posts fall as silently as unheard forest trees. His declaration of his next campaign produced a yawn worthy of another run by Ralph Nader. As drum major of a wackadoodle parade, he marched through the Republican primaries last year, delivering candidates who bombed in the general election. Now no one marches to his tune. When he tried to influence the election of a House speaker, even the surviving zealots ignored his instructions.
In other words, a criminal case against Trump but not Biden would be perceived as unfair, and would revive considerable interest in Trump. And we do not want that!

To be indicted and hauled into court for history’s most heavily publicized trial would invigorate Trump, and the spectacle would galvanize his dwindling base of support. He’d go from grumbling irrelevance in the gilded prison of his Mar-a-Lago mausoleum to ring master of a circus trial that would dominate every news outlet.

*Two tragedies yesterday. First, a Russian missile destroyed a Ukrainian apartment building in the city of Dnipro, killing at least 30. Russia keeps targeting civilians, which is a war crime, but denying it:

Emergency crews worked through the frigid night and all day at the multi-story residential building, where officials said about 1,700 people lived before Saturday’s strike. The reported death toll made it the deadliest attack in one place since a Sept. 30 strike in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, according to The Associated Press-Frontline War Crimes Watch project.

Russia also targeted the capital, Kyiv, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv during a widespread barrage the same day, ending a two-week lull in the airstrikes it has launched against Ukraine’s power infrastructure and urban centers almost weekly since October.

Russia on Sunday acknowledged the missile strikes but did not mention the Dnipro apartment building. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the war.

And in Nepal, a Yeti Airlines plane crashed while attempting to land at Pokhara (a famous tourist town because it’s the jumping-off point for treks to the Annapurna region). At least 68 of the 72 people aboard were killed.

Hours after dark, scores of onlookers crowded around the crash site near the airport in the resort town of Pokhara as rescue workers combed the wreckage on the edge of the cliff and in the ravine below. Officials suspended the search for the four missing people overnight and planned to resume looking Monday.

Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire.

“The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” Tiwari said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said.

A witness said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began descending to land, watching from the terrace of his house. Finally, Gaurav Gurung said, the plane fell nose-first towards its left and crashed into the gorge.

I’ve made that short (27-minute) flight the other way, from Pokhara to Katmandu, and it’s not nearly as difficult as landing at Lukla, in the Everest region. I suspect it’s an aircraft malfunction, and my sympathies go out to the Nepalese who died in that crash, and to their families.

*Over at The Free Press, Bari Weiss’s expanding attempt to create a centrist New York Times, Martin Clarke, former editor-in-chief of the Mail Online, dissects the new “royals bio,”, Spare, in a piece called “Prince Harry proves one thing: the tabloids were right“. But how were they right? By being factually correct in their claims:

Ironically, the great revelation at the heart of Spare is that so much of the reporting Harry has objected to over the years turns out to be substantially true.

The press was right about the drug use that started in Harry’s teens. He cheerfully admits to smoking large amounts of cannabis in the years up to and following his escape to California. He even cops to sampling chocolate-covered magic mushrooms from Courteney Cox’s fridge in Montecito.

The press was right about allegations that Meghan bullied Palace staff (though Harry maintains it never happened).

We were especially—and tragically—right about the friction among “The Fab Four.”

In fact, by the time we got around to reporting about the tensions between the Cambridges (William and Kate) and the Sussexes (Harry and Meghan), they had been simmering for some time.

As an editor for 27 years, I can assure Harry that nobody sits around in editorial conferences plotting how they can screw over the Sussexes today. In my experience, senior journalists are much more likely to be plotting how they can screw over each other.

But, above all else, the main gripe Harry has with the press is the way the media—the tabloid media in particular—allegedly hounded, smeared and demeaned his wife. So much so, he says, they ultimately had to flee for North America.

According to Clarke, that just ain’t so:

But I went back and reviewed what the UK papers wrote about the then-Ms. Markle in the days following that report. And while there was plenty of comment about her biracial background, it was almost entirely in the context of how it showed Britain had become a color-blind society (yup, that was still a good thing back then)—even if some of it was clumsily worded.

Most pieces lauded her for her beauty, style and acting career. In fact, several female columnists wondered why on earth she’d want to marry Harry.

But what struck me most was how little coverage there was. Meghan was barely on the front pages and some days didn’t appear in most outlets at all.

. . .But all this goes to the heart of Harry’s delusion. Uncomfortable facts can never be allowed to intrude. He ignores the yards of hysterical, gushing coverage that surrounded his wedding. He fails to mention the UK press’s treatment of him as a hero for fighting the Taliban. He doesn’t mention all the ludicrously dumb articles we wrote lauding the so-called “Fab Four” when they were actually at each other’s throats.

It’s why he won’t subject himself to anything tougher than fawning interviews, which allow him to pile nonsense upon nonsense.

It goes on, but I’m glad to see the press, for once, not fawning all over Harry’s new memoir, as they seem to be doing. Nobody I’ve read has had the guts to call it what it is: a self-serving attempt to settle scores, burnish his reputation, and make a ton of money. Although he wants to reconcile with his family, this book guarantees that it won’t happen. But ten million bucks trumps that.  I’m not sure why the public is so interested in this pair of married narcissists, but here I am writing about it, too! I’m done now.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is going a’ hunting:

Hili: I’m going for a night hunt, I have to sharpen my claws.
A: Maybe it would be better to return home because you can freeze.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę na nocne łowy, muszę naostrzyć pazurki.
Ja: Może lepiej wróć do domu, bo zmarzniesz.
And a photo of Szaron by Paulina:

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

From the FB page America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy. How many errors can you find? There are at least three.

And from the same site, which is a gold mine of LOLZ. It looks as if midgets (is that an improper word now?) were picketing the store.

From Jesus of the Day. This must be from either Denmark, Sweden, or Norway:

A Muslim version of Titania McGrath!

 

Ricky Gervais on God:

From Luana. This is a newly unveiled sculpture of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King in Boston. But it looks a bit salacious to me!

This guy got what he deserved (I assume this wasn’t a setup):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, we have two photos today. First, a mother and four-year-old child murdered on arrival:

A woman who survived saved SS photos of the killing process, beginning with head shaving:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, why aren’t these sharks moving?

What is this frog doing?

Dirt fight!

Wednesday: Hili Dialogue

January 11, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a Hump Day (“Dia de gepa” in Basque): January 11, 2023. It’s National Hot Toddy Day, celebrating the hot whisky drink, usually with honey, lemon, and spices. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the name is Indian:

The word toddy comes from the toddy drink in India, produced by fermenting the sap of palm trees. Its earliest known use to mean “a beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices”  is from 1786. It is often referred to as a ‘Hot Toady’ However, a few other sources credit Robert Bentley Todd for his prescription of a hot drink of brandy, canella (white cinnamon), sugar syrup, and water.

It’s also National Milk Day, Girl Hug Boy Day, and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

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

Da Nooz:

*Reader Enrico is surprised that the NYT didn’t find this piece newsworthy (I haven’t been able to find it there, either), but it certainly is newsworthy, especially since a federal appellate court ruled that Title IX protects people on the basis of biological sex, not gender. That has all kinds of ramifications, most obviously for women’s sports in schools, and note that the next step up if there’s an appeal will be the Supreme Court, which would uphold the appellate decision.  From the Independent Women’s Forum:

A federal court of appeals has held that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination “on the basis of sex” refers to biological sex, not gender identity. The year-end ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit calls into question the legality of the Biden administration’s proposed Title IX rules, which equate “gender identity” with “sex” and would require schools to open up women’s sports and other spaces to males who identify as women.

The case, Adams v. Sch. Bd. of St. Johns Cty., involved a challenge to a Florida school district’s bathroom policy. The Florida school district separates bathrooms based on biological sex while providing sex-neutral bathroom accommodations for students who identify as trans or gender fluid.

The 11th Circuit ruled 7-4 on December 30 that the bathroom policy violates neither Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 nor the U.S. Constitution. The court rejected the claim that the school board’s actions discriminated against trans-identifying students.

. . .But the decision has implications far beyond the bathroom context, as Title IX prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in all aspects of education.

In determining whether the policy at issue violated Title IX, the court of appeals was forced to consider whether the word “sex”, as used in the statute, includes “gender identity.” The court held that it does not, noting that if Congress wants to prohibit discrimination against trans-identifying students, it must say so explicitly.

It seems that Congress would have to make a new law modifying Title IX to get around this decision, and I don’t see how, given that the House is Republican, this would happen in the next two years. And although I don’t think transsexual people should be subject to discrimination in nearly all cases, in a couple of cases, including sports, prisons, and rape counseling, there’s a case to be made for a meaningful difference between sex and gender.

*The NYT published five letters from readers about the Hamline University/Muhammad’s Face controversy. Three are properly critical of Hamline’s hamhanded approach, which involved firing the instructor who showed the two pictures that outraged the fragile, while two other letters are ambiguous in that they say that it’s not a clearcut case. But it is. I’ll give excerpts from those two.

This is part of a letter from one Catherine DeLazzero, described as an “educational researcher”:

During class, Dr. López Prater could have provided a link to the painting, offering options to participate by viewing or listening (as it’s unfair to ask students to leave the class). Before offering such options, educators can seek guidance from experts with different perspectives as well as from students themselves, through one-to-one conversations, written reflections, anonymous surveys or dialogues with student organizations.

Ultimately what matters most is the students’ right to a quality education, which requires taking their needs into account and not forcing them to adopt an educator’s choice of whether or how to perceive an object.

First, did DeLazzero read the NYT article? For it says this:

In the syllabus, she warned that images of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, would be shown in the course. She asked students to contact her with any concerns, and she said no one did.

In class, she prepped students, telling them that in a few minutes, the painting would be displayed, in case anyone wanted to leave.

It wasn’t that they had to leave the class, for they could have contacted the instructor López Prater in advance, and could thus have received advance warning. Further, a “quality education” doesn’t mean catering to the fragilities of every single student. In my view, those who complained might have been offended, but given the advance warning, they wanted to be offended. What they need is not teachers who cater to them, but therapists to work on their hypersensivity.

Here’s part of a letter from one Michael Rigsby from Connecticut:

There are many disturbing aspects of this sad story, but what concerns me most is the apparent inability to acknowledge that more than one truth can exist simultaneously, even when they are not in complete alignment.

In the rush to identify villains and heroes, we lose sight of the complicated possibility that a) the professor was justified and well intentioned and b) the student was nevertheless genuinely offended by the professor’s decision to show the image.

Or that a) the professor gave opt-out options in advance but b) the student didn’t feel empowered to exercise them fully.

If the university had begun with a presumption that all of these things were simultaneously true and had attempted to find a better conflict resolution process along the lines of restorative justice, both the student and the professor might have felt that they had benefited from the conflict.

This is absurd. Of course truths can be in conflict: one person can genuinely love Hitler and his ideas, while another can teach in class that they were reprehensible. This isn’t complicated. The professor was justified and perhaps  the student was offended, but the solution was for the student not to have come to class or looked at the image. The claim that the student didn’t feel empowered is equally ludicrous. Students are adults, and shouldn’t be treated as if their every need should be catered to. They’re getting an education, and that involves challenging their ideas. As for “restorative justice,” Mr. Rigsby can pick a number, get in line, and. . .

*From reader Ken:

Donald Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN. If ultimately successful, it would gut the Free Press protections established by SCOTUS in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964).

You can read the complaint here.

First, this is what the Sullivan decision said:

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of speech protections limit the ability of American public officials to sue for defamation. The decision held that if a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit is a public official or candidate for public office, not only must they prove the normal elements of defamation—publication of a false defamatory statement to a third party—they must also prove that the statement was made with “actual malice”, meaning the defendant either knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded whether it might be false.

And the AP’s description of the lawsuit, which asks for $475 million (almost half a billion dollars!):

Former President Donald Trump on Monday sued CNN, seeking $475 million in damages, saying the network had defamed him in an effort to short-circuit any future political campaign.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focuses primarily on the term “The Big Lie” about Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud that he says cost him the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

CNN said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

Trump repeatedly attacked CNN as president, which resonated with his conservative followers. He has similarly filed lawsuits against big tech companies with little success. His case against Twitter for knocking him off its platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection was thrown out by a California judge earlier this year.

Numerous federal and local election officials in both parties, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even Trump’s own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the election fraud he alleges.

Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie,” a phrase with Nazi connotations, has been used in reference to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January 2021.

“It is intended to aggravate, scare and trigger people,” he said.

Trump ain’t going to win this one. His claims are not only bogus, but the standard of defamation is simply too high. He’ll have to prove that CNN was trying to keep him from running for political office again. Regardless, the AP notes that Trump intends to fire similar lawsuits against other media companies.

*The Washington Post reports that there is an online science journal edited by kids, and they are very demanding—in a good way. For instance, they send papers back to authors if the writing isn’t understandable to an 11 year old:

Such is the stringent editing process at the online science journal Frontiers for Young Minds, where top scientists, some of them Nobel Prize winners, submit papers on gene-editinggravitational waves and other topics — to demanding reviewers ages 8 through 15.

Launched in 2013, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based publication is coming of age at a moment when skeptical members of the public look to scientists for clear guidance on the coronavirus and on potentially catastrophic climate change, among other issues. At Frontiers for Young Minds, the goal is not just to publish science papers but also to make them accessible to young readers like the reviewers. In doing so, it takes direct aim at a long-standing problem in science — poor communication between professionals and the public.

“Scientists tend to default to their own jargon and don’t think carefully about whether this is a word that the public actually knows,” said Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “Sometimes to actually explain something you need a sentence as opposed to the one word scientists are using.”

. .  Frontiers for Young Minds, which has drawn nearly 30 million online page views in its nine years, offers a different message on its homepage: “Science for kids, edited by kids.”

I think this is a terrific way to get kids interested in science, and if the journal can attract reputable authors, so much the better. Of course, it’s not going to be a place for primary research papers (or so I think), but it could be a good replacement for the rapidly-degenerating Scientific American. 

*This is Unfair Department. Reader Barry reports that a Vermont cat has been deemed unsuitable to run for the post of mayor of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Spooky Bones’ political dreams came crashing down Friday, after Attleboro election officials deemed the mayoral hopeful ineligible to run.

After all, Spooky isn’t a registered voter and doesn’t meet the 18-year minimum age requirement.

Oh, and he’s also a cat.

In a Facebook post, the mascot for local game store Spooky Games addressed his failed bid to succeed former Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, who began his new role as Bristol County sheriff last week.

“Dear supporters, it is with great disappointment that I concede the race for Mayor of Attleboro,” Spooky’s post read. “Apparently, you must be be a ‘registered voter.’”

He also vowed to continue fighting for “control of the town’s rat problem, funds for a cat park, and lower tuna prices for all.”

The city responded on Facebook:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, both Hili and Andrzej have become quite pessimistic and cynical.

Hili: Is the New Year a milestone?
A: Yes, on the road to oblivion.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy Nowy Rok to kamień milowy?
Ja: Tak, na drodze do nicości.

. . . and a picture of Szaron:

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

From Facebook:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Facebook:

From Masih, another impending execution of a protestor in Iran:

From Simon, who agrees with both of these sentiments, as he used to have to wait for long periods behind chatty customers.

From Ken. Here’s Rudy Giuliana, of all people, teaching us about kangaroo reproduction. The thing is, he’s right!

From Barry, who’s worried that I’ve committed  ton of crimes:

From Malcolm. I think I’ve posted it before, but it’s adorable, so here it is again:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a family wiped out:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a new lecture by Richard Dawkins, and it sounds interesting. Go here to register and watch the event live online, which is this Thursday at 5 pm (Israel time, I guess, which is 9 a.m. Chicago time and 3 p.m. London time. Or, if you’re in Israel, you can register for in-person attendance.

Matthew’s word for this is unprintable, and I share his sentiments. Will the new variant going around make us get a new booster?

You can casually drop this information about manatees at your next social gathering to become the hit of the party!

Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 8, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Sabbath for all kristlekh kats: It’s Sunday, January 8, 2023, and National Toffee Day. My favorite used to be the British Callard and Bowser’s Licorice or Butterscotch toffees; I see that these wonderful confections are no longer made and the company has been bought by Yanks. Here was what the best one looke like:

 

It’s also Typing Day (International observance), National Man Watcher’s Day, Argyle Day (for socks and sweaters), Bubble Bath Day, and Earth’s Rotation Day, explained below:

On January 8, 1851, Foucault performed an experiment in the cellar of his home, in which he swung a five-kilogram weight attached to a two-meter-long pendulum. He put sand underneath it to mark the pendulum’s path, allowing him to see any changes in it. He observed a slight clockwise movement in the plane—the floor, and thus the earth, were slowly rotating; the pendulum kept its position. His experiment showed that the earth rotated on its axis. No longer was it just a hypothesis.

And it’s Alfred Russel Wallace‘s 200thj birthday: he was born on January 8, 1823, and died November 7, 1913. You’ll know him as the man who not only conceived of evolution and natural selection independently of Darwin (thus compelling Darwin to rush publication of The Origin in 1859, but also a man who made huge contributions to biogeography. A photo and announcement of a symposium about him are below (h/t: Matthew):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 8 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Yes, Democrats like me are vastly amused by the shenanigans that culminated in Kevin McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House, but we all know in our hearts that what happened is not a good thing for the U.S. In an op-ed in the WaPo called “To save himself, McCarthy just destroyed the House,” columnist Dana Milkbank lays out what the fracas portends:

This is what happens when a political party, year after year, systematically destroys the norms and institutions of democracy. This is what happens when those expert at tearing things down are put in charge of governing. The dysfunction has been building over years of government shutdowns, debt-default showdowns and other fabricated crises, and now anti-government Republicans used their new majority to bring the House itself to a halt.

This is insurrection by other means: Two years to the day since the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, Republicans are still attacking the functioning of government. McCarthy opened the door to the chaos by excusing Donald Trump’s fomenting of the attack and welcoming a new class of election deniers to his caucus. Now he’s trying to save his own political ambitions by agreeing to institutionalize the chaos — not just for the next two years but for future congresses as well.

. . ..On Thursday, the day McCarthy failed on an 11th consecutive ballot to secure the speakership, he formally surrendered to the 21 GOP extremists denying him the job. He agreed to allow any member of the House to force a vote at will to “vacate” his speakership — essentially agreeing to be in permanent jeopardy of losing his job. He agreed to put rebels on the Rules Committee, giving them sway over what gets a vote on the House floor, and in key committee leadership posts. He agreed to unlimited amendments to spending bills, inviting two years of mayhem. He agreed to other changes that make future government shutdowns and a default on the national debt more likely, if not probable.

Perhaps worst of all, the McCarthy-aligned super PAC, the Conservative Leadership Fund, agreed that it would no longer work against far-right extremists in the vast majority of Republican primaries — a move sure to increase the number of bomb throwers in Congress. Essentially, McCarthy placated the crazies in his caucus bygiving up every tool he (or anybody) had to maintain order in the House.

Finally, on the 15th ballot early Saturday morning, McCarthy’s abject surrender secured him the speakership, at least temporarily. But it was the most pyrrhic of victories. To save himself, he sacrificed the Congress itself. The saboteurs won.
This is all true, but I’m not sure why Milbank says this will wreck future Congresses. That assumes that this particular situation, and this particular deal, will apply in the future, at least for majority-Republican Congresses.  But there’s no guarantee of that, or that the crazies who held the Speakership hostage will be around in the future. While we Democrats can chuckle at the nonsense going on this week, we should remember that what happened is at the expense of the governance of our country.

*Similar warnings are issued in a Wall Street Journal article called, “Speaker fight could preview months of turmoil in Congress.” (The subtitle is “Kevin McCarthy’s concessions show how GOP fractiousness in a narrowly divided House could threaten some significant bills. ‘You’re going to have a sword of Damocles above any speaker.’”) Here the issues are more specific.

. . .But the struggle to pick a House leader, typically a perfunctory process, previewed what could well be months of turmoil over spending issues in a narrowly divided House.

Hanging in the balance is the ability of the U.S. government to stay open and pay its debts. Many of Mr. McCarthy’s initial foes are adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling or cutting spending deals with Democrats, and could move to oust him from his job if he tries to do so.

Also at risk are other high-profile measures that would require agreement between House Republicans and the Democrats who control the Senate and White House: funding the Pentagon and other agencies, sending aid to Ukraine as it battles an invasion and approving food stamps for low-income people as part of the farm bill, which is typically reauthorized every five years.

“I’m more worried than I was before,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, the lead economist at advisory firm Oxford Economics. “Maybe the majority of Republicans in the House don’t want any kind of debt-limit crisis, but there is this small group that we’ve learned in the last week seems to have a fair amount of power.”

. . . “You’re going to have a sword of Damocles above any speaker over any actual or perceived dalliance with bipartisanship,” said Stewart Verdery, a former GOP Senate aide and chief executive of Monument Advocacy, a bipartisan lobbying group. The next speaker “is going to think long and hard: ‘If I put a bill on the floor that has Democratic support, is this the end for me?’ ”

*I don’t get all the interest in the royals, and I suppose I’m just fueling it by writing about it, but somehow it bothers me that “Prince” Harry has published a memoir (co-authored with a ghostwriter) about how badly he and Meghan Markle were treated by the royal family. For sure I’ll take it with a grain of salt, but what bothers me is the endless self-promotion and self-aggrandizing of Harry and Meghan. It lacks, well, dignity. But it will also make them rich. As the NYT notes, Harry + ghostwriter’s book, called Spare in the U.S. and In the Shade in Spain, is selling like hotcakes:

. . . Will readers still be curious enough to buy the book?

So far, it looks like the answer is yes. The media frenzy seems to be driving interest in the memoir, which is due out Tuesday. “Spare” held the No. 1 spot on Amazon in the United States and Britain on Friday, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Booksellers and distributors said that preorders are enormous and growing with the avalanche of press coverage.

. . . Despite the risk that blanket coverage could lead to Harry and Meghan fatigue, many booksellers expect the memoir to be an unmitigated success. Random House has said it is printing 2.5 million hardcover copies for North America alone. Ingram, the book wholesaler, has 90,000 copies in its warehouses to restock stores that run out. ReaderLink, which distributes books to chain stores like Target and Walmart, said it had ordered about 300,000 copies. Barnes & Noble has also ordered hundreds of thousands of copies.

James Daunt, who heads Barnes & Noble and the British bookstore chain Waterstones, said that even the negative leaks have been driving up customer interest in “Spare,” and that he expects to see “the most extraordinary” first-day and first-week sales.

After The Guardian obtained a copy of the book and revealed some of its biggest bombshells, reservations for in-store purchases of the book shot up in Britain, he said.

Assuming Harry + Meghan get $1 per hardcover copy (a very low estimate), they stand to make millions off their professed victimhood. But, also in the NYT, Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter who wrote a tell-all memoir of her dysfunctional family, has a warning for the newly American royals:

Prince William has, I’m sure, his own take on the physical fight that Harry has described. To really understand the dynamic between the brothers, to broaden the story and make it more complete, William’s truth has to be considered as well. Harry has written that, after William hit him, William told Harry to hit him back, which he declined to do. But by writing about the fight, he’s done exactly that.

Harry has also expressed a wish that his relationship with William, and with his father, heals. Maybe that will happen, but they’ll have to walk a long distance across a battlefield that he has now expanded.

Years ago, someone asked me what I would say to my younger self if I could. Without hesitating I answered: “That’s easy. I’d have said, ‘Be quiet.’” Not forever. But until I could stand back and look at things through a wider lens. Until I understood that words have consequences, and they last a really long time.

Harry has called William not only his “beloved brother” but his “arch nemesis.” He chose words that cut deep, that leave a scar; perhaps if he had taken time to be quiet, to reflect on the enduring power of his words, he’d have chosen differently.

Silence gives you room, it gives you distance, and it lets you look at your experiences more completely, without the temptation to even the score. Sometime in the years ahead, Harry may look back as I did and wish he could unspeak what he has said.

*A formal count shows that there are 49 sub-Saharan countries in Africa. Now, as Zambia has just abolished the death penalty, most of them—25—prohibit executions of prisoners.

Fulfilling a pledge made while campaigning for office, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on December 23, 2022 signed legislation abolishing the nation’s death penalty (pictured). Zambia’s repeal of its colonial-era capital punishment law made it the 25th sub-Saharan nation in Africa to abolish the death penalty. The new law also removed the offense of criminal defamation of the President from Zambia’s penal code.

In announcing the repeals, President Hichilema tweeted: “Promised to amend laws that inhibit democracy, human rights, good governance & basic freedoms. #PromisesDelivered.”

Hichilema submitted the bill to end capital punishment to parliament on May 25, 2022, in commemoration of Africa Freedom Day. He also commuted the sentences of 30 death-row prisoners that day.

Zambian human rights activist Brebner Changala called the action a “huge milestone in the removal of colonial laws that do not fit in the democratic dispensation of the country.” Amnesty International issued a statement welcoming the repeal. Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa praised Zambia for “a good and progressive move that shows the country’s commitment to protecting the right to life.”

“Zambia’s decision to ban the death penalty should serve as an example to countries in the region that still use the death penalty and compel them to take immediate steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment,” Chagutah said.

These are usually called “Third World’ countries, and it should be an embarrassment that so many of them have prohibited the barbarity still allowed in the U.S., a so-called “First World” country. (h/t Brian)

*This is the school shooting that’s hard to top: a six-year-old student at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, brought a handgun to school and critically wounded his 30-year-old teacher. It wasn’t an accident either, but part of an ongoing conflict that wasn’t described in the AP article:

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said the condition of the teacher, a woman in her 30s, is “trending in a positive direction” as she remains hospitalized. Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family Saturday morning. “She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition,” police said in a news release.

The boy shot and wounded the teacher with a handgun in a first-grade classroom on Friday at Richneck Elementary School, according to authorities. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.

Police on Saturday declined to describe what led to the altercation or any other details about what happened in the classroom, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jones also declined to reveal details of the shooting, or say how the boy got access to the gun or who owns the weapon.

“This is a red flag for the country,” Jones said.

“I do think that after this event, there is going to be a nationwide discussion on how these sorts of things can be prevented.”

Give me a break! The nationwide discussion lasts a few days, there’s no resolution, and then the next school shooting occurs. A good start would be to ban private ownership of handguns; how about THAT for a discussion.

As for the kid, well, he won’t be in much trouble, but I want to know where he got the gun:

Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty.

A juvenile judge would have authority, though, to revoke a parent’s custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.

Jones would not say where the boy is being held.

“We are ensuring he has all the services that he currently needs right now,” Jones said.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a cat

A: Are you coming in?
Hili: It’s one of the options to consider.
In Polish:
Ja: Wchodzisz?
Hili: To jest jedna z opcji do rozważenia.
. . . and a picture of a pensive Szaron:

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Can you see the animal in this photo (seen on FB)? Excellent camouflage!

Also from FB:

A groaner from Bruce:

From Ricky Gervais, who finally adopted Pickle. Fostering should always lead to adoption!

From Masih. Three more hangings of protestors in Iran this week:

From Simon; the header is an essential part of this tweet. God, I’m sick of hearing about William and Harry and Kate and Meghan. . .

From Luana: the invasion of “queer theory” into organic chemistry. Is there any area of science that can’t be turned into an ideological statement?

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a priest who gave his life for another:

And a survivor celebrates her birthday today:

Tweets from Doctor Cobb; this one just because Harper is a handsome cat:

 

The geese are clearly enjoying this (sound up to hear their appreciation; watch till the end):

This cat is ready for any storm!

Thursday: Hili dialogue

January 5, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the first Thursday in 2023: it’s January 5, 2023, and National Whipped Cream Day.

I believe Mr. Zappa was saying that the sound of a giraffe full of whipped cream being squeezed was the note he was looking for.

It’s also National Keto Day, National George Washington Carver Day (he died on January 5, 1943), National Bird Day, and the Twelfth day of Christmas and the Twelfth Night of Christmas.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 5 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*All hell is breaking loose in the House of Representatives, and I love it. Republicans are set against Republicans, and even pro-Trump Republicans are set against other pro-Trump Republicans! After a half dozen votes, the chamber appears deadlocked, with Republicans unable to decide who should be their Speaker. Kevin McCarthy, the favorite, has now failed to win after SIX successive votes. The longer the delay, the less the Republican House can do anything, for without a speaker no business can be done. From the NYT:

After three defeats on Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy and his allies were grasping to win over defectors, but his efforts were falling flat, even after former President Donald J. Trump made a direct appeal for Republican lawmakers to vote for Mr. McCarthy, saying he “will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB.”

Here’s what to know:

  • The thin Republican majority in the chamber means almost all of the party’s members must agree on a speaker. If all members of the House are voting and participating, the winner needs 218 votes. Republicans control 222 seats. On Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy drew at most 203 votes. On Wednesday, his total slipped to 201. [JAC: He’s a long way from election!]

  • The nation’s legislative process is at a standstill: Members cannot be sworn in, adopt rules or vote on bills until a speaker is chosen.

  • Far-right Republicans have lined up by turns behind candidates including, on Tuesday, Jim Jordan, who voted for Mr. McCarthy; and, on Wednesday, Byron Donalds, the party’s first Black nominee for speaker. Mr. Donalds, of Florida, drew 20 votes. The lawmakers do not expect their candidates to win but wish to register their displeasure with Mr. McCarthy.

  • The Democrats are united behind their leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who earned the most votes, 212, on all five ballots but will almost certainly not win because his party controls only 212 seats, short of the majority required.

  • Until Tuesday, the House had not failed to elect a speaker on the first roll call vote since 1923, when the election stretched for nine ballots. House precedent dictates that members continue to take successive votes until someone — Mr. McCarthy or a different nominee — secures the majority needed to prevail.

Either the hard-right Republicans are going to keep holding out, which is against the interests of their party, or they’re going to have to realize that in the end they’ll look really stupid if they keep delaying things. Of course holdouts like Boebert already look stupid for having  rock-filled craniums, but no other Republican save McCarthy is a viable Speaker.

The Washington Post adds this yesterday evening:

We’re about to find out whether the Republican Party can find someone — anyone — who can get the requisite votes, in a much more tenuous situation. It now has a mere 10-seat majority, and if all members vote, the speaker can shed only four from their party and still squeak by.

. . . All of the readily apparent alternatives have drawbacks that could forfeit five or many more votes.

. . . McCarthy’s hopes appear to be dwindling. Not only did 19 Republicans vote against him on the first and second ballots, but the number grew slightly on the third, with rising star Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) becoming the 20th vote against McCarthy and making a pragmatic case for trying to find an alternative. Things are trending in the wrong direction for McCarthy. (All elected members of the House keep the “elect” on their title for now, since no one has been sworn in.)

Big fun!  Congress is like a huge clown car.

*Meanwhile, serial liar and wannabee Jew George Santos is sitting with his thumb up his bum, waiting to be sworn in. . . if he is sworn in.

On Tuesday, looking very much like a freshman at a prep school in hell, congressman-elect George Santos wore a black backpack, a periwinkle sweater underneath his navy jacket, and a sullen face with darting, evasive eyes, as if looking to see if anyone on Capitol Hill was going to accuse him of yet another lie about the basic facts of his existence.

A posse of journalists assembled before 9 a.m. Tuesday to stake out Santos’s new office on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building. The accused serial fabulist is now being investigated by the attorney general of New York, the district attorneys of Nassau County and Queens, and the government of Brazil.

“I only found out that he was my next-door neighbor about 20 minutes ago,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said around 9 a.m. “It’s a surprise and delight.

Santos, 34, was elected in November to represent the third district of New York, which includes the Gold-Coast enclaves on Long Island used by F. Scott Fitzgerald to stage “The Great Gatsby,” whose titular character’s background was mysterious at best, shady at worst. The North Shore Leader, a local newspaper, reported that Santos listed no property on his financial disclosures despite claiming repeatedly to own mansions in Oyster Bay Cove and the Hamptons. The newspaper’s editorial board, keen to support a Republican, instead endorsed Democrat Robert Zimmerman, calling Santos a “bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy” man who “boasts like an insecure child.” Voters elected Santos anyway, flipping a crucial seat for the Republican Party, which barely eked out a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last month the New York Times delineated apparent fabrications in Santos’s work and educational backgrounds: He apparently did not work at Goldman Sachs or Citigroup; he apparently did not go to Baruch College or New York University. (“It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” Santos’s attorney, Joseph Murray, said in a written statement at the time.)

But why is Beyer delighted? Is he being sarcastic? Anyway, the smart money is that Santos, even if he’s seated, will have to resign after the multiple investigations about not just his lying, but his fraudulent behavior.

*Remember the college scandal in which Rick Singer masterminded a scheme in which he and others would be paid big bucks confect fake admissions data for the children of celebrities like Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman(both of whom did short time in jail for complicity)? Well, Singer himself just got a longer sentence in the federal pen:

William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the sprawling college admissions scam aptly known as Operation Varsity Blues, is set to be sentenced in a federal courthouse in Boston on Wednesday, nearly four years after the scandal was publicly exposed.

Singer was the central figure in the scam in which wealthy parents, desperate to get their children into elite universities, paid huge sums to cheat on standardized tests, bribe university coaches who had influence over admissions and then lie about it to authorities.

Singer pleaded guilty at the time to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice, and he agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.

Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence him to six years in prison and pay over $19 million in fines and asset forfeitures. Singer’s attorneys have asked for probation with home detention and community service.

The sentencing represents the culmination of an extensive criminal case first made public in March 2019, when authorities arrested and charged over 50 people, including coaches, test administrators, prominent CEOs, and the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

With only a few exceptions, almost all of them pleaded guilty and served prison terms generally measured in weeks or months. For example, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days and Loughlin received two months behind bars. The longest sentence in the case, for former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, was for 2.5 years in prison.

I was especially exercised by this one because it gets my knickers in knots when people buy their way into college. (Of course, that’s sort of what the children of rich donor alumni do, and I’m opposed to that, too.)

*I’m not sure that the execution of the first transgender inmate in America counts as a “first” worth noting, but since the whole press is noting it, I’ll join in briefly. All it shows is that being transgender doesn’t eliminate all possibility of your being a heinous criminal.

A Missouri inmate was put to death Tuesday for a 2003 killing, in what is believed to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the U.S.

Amber McLaughlin, 49, was convicted of stalking and killing a former girlfriend, then dumping the body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis. McLaughlin’s fate was sealed earlier Tuesday when Republican Gov. Mike Parson declined a clemency request.

McLaughlin spoke quietly with a spiritual adviser at her side as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected. McLaughlin breathed heavily a couple of times, then shut her eyes. She was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

“I am sorry for what I did,” McLaughlin said in a final, written, statement. “I am a loving and caring person.”

A database on the website for the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center shows that 1,558 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s. All but 17 of those put to death were men. The center said there are no known previous cases of an openly transgender inmate being executed. McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi.

Note the paucity of women murderers? I don’t think the excess of men is due entirely to their being socialized to kill.  But at least they used pentobarbital instead of the gruesome three-drug cocktail.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is going a-hunting:

Hili: I will be back soon.
A: Where are you going?
Hili: I’m going to check whether the mice need anything.
In Polish:
Hili: Zaraz wracam.
Ja: A gdzie idziesz?
Hili: Sprawdzić, czy myszy czegoś nie potrzebują.

And a photo of Szaron:

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From Facebook. DO NOT LEAVE EDWIN!

From Stash Krod:

From Malcolm: Is this animal altruism?

Titania tweeted for the first time in a month (second tweet):

From Masih: another protestor killed in Iran.

From Malcolm, a very large d*g:

Malcolm wonders what this is, but it appears to be a very poorly looked-after silvery marmoset (Mico argentatus). Poor thing!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 7 year old girl killed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb:

A picture says 9 words: “Cat goes out, steps in snow, comes back in.”

Lists of lists:

The cat has to push the lever and then stand on it with its rear foot!

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 24, 2022 • 6:45 am

It’s positively tropical in Chicago today: Here’s the temperature in Fahrenheit, which is -17° C. With the wind, the temperature equivalent is -24° F, or -31° C.  The flight out of Chicago have largely been canceled or delayed, but what do I care? I ain’t going nowhere.

Welcome to a special Christmas Eve CatSaturday, December 24, 2022: National Eggnog Day. I cannot fathom why anybody drinks this stuff, for I’ve never had one I could stomach. But to each their own. . .

Here’s a guy who drank a GALLON of eggnog. It made him very ill.

It’s also Last-Minute Shopper’s Day (who is the one person implied by the apostrophe?), as well as Christmas Eve and its related observances: Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. (Iceland) Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian Americans), Juleaften (Denmark)/Julaften (Norway)/Julafton (Sweden) Nittel Nacht (certain Orthodox Jewish denominations), Nochebuena (Spain and Spanish-speaking countries), the Declaration of Christmas Peace (Old Great Square of Turku, Finland’s official Christmas City), and Wigilia (Poland).

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

Da Nooz:

*The NYT has a quiz on whether which of 26 “problematic” terms you’d use (terms like “master bedroom” or “chestfeeding”). Take the quiz and then scroll down the article to see how you compare with other Americans. It turns out that Americans are far less fascistic about language than I supposed, once again giving us heart that wokeness is not as widespread as we think.

*The House’s January 6 panel just issued its final report, which I can’t be arsed to read, but it pins the lion’s share of the blame on the Orange Man. Just in time, too: another couple of weeks and there would be no committee:

Declaring that the central cause of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was “one man,” the House committee investigating the assault delivered its final report on Thursday, describing in extensive detail how former President Donald J. Trump had carried out what it called “a multipart plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election” and offering recommendations for steps to assure nothing like it could happen again.

It revealed new evidence about Mr. Trump’s conduct, and recommended that Congress consider whether to bar Mr. Trump and his allies from holding office in the future under the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists.

“The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report said. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”

The release of the full report was the culmination of the panel’s 18-month inquiry and came three days after the committee voted to formally accuse Mr. Trump of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress and one other federal crime as it referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. While the referrals do not compel federal prosecutors to take any action, they sent a powerful signal that a select committee of Congress believes the former president committed crimes.

The link above will take you to the full report, which is 814 pages long.  I wasn’t aware that Congress could in fact bar Trump from another run for the Presidency, but the vote for that won’t go given that the next Congress will have a Republican-majority House, and unless there are Republicans willing to disenfranchise Trump as an insurrectionist, fuggedaboudit.

*The Washington Post has a list of 7 key findings of the report plus one list of issues unresolved.  Here are two:

One of the most striking new revelations is a text message from a Trump aide, Robert Gabriel. At 2:49 p.m., as the Capitol was under siege, Gabriel texted, “Potus im sure is loving this.”

The text builds upon previously known evidence.

Shortly after Jan. 6, 2021, and amid Trump’s impeachment, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) relayed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had said Trump told McCarthy during the riot, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

White House aide Sarah Matthews has said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told her that Trump resisted calling on the rioters to be “peaceful” in a tweet. (In texts from the time and in later testimony to the committee, Trump aide Hope Hicks also said that, before Jan. 6, both she and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann called for Trump to preemptively urge peacefulness, but that Trump “refused.”)

White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has also testified that, amid a frantic effort to get Trump to act, she overheard chief of staff Mark Meadows telling White House counsel Pat Cipollone, “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.”

and

We’ve known that Trump and his allies pressured lawmakers and officials far and wide to help overturn the election results in key states. But the report lays out the vast scale of this effort.

It says, “President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation, targeting either State legislators or State or local election administrators, to overturn State election results.”

What qualifies as “targeting” an official is, of course, subjective. But several officials indicate they felt the pressure.

*But there’s good news today, too! Reader Brian sent me a link to a BBC article that reports a swell advance in genetics that will prevent the deaths of millions of baby roosters: animals usually ground up alive when young because what the industry wants is chickens. 

Israeli researchers say they have developed gene-edited hens that lay eggs from which only female chicks hatch.

The breakthrough could prevent the slaughter of billions of male chickens each year, which are culled because they don’t lay eggs.

The female chicks, and the eggs they lay when they mature, have no trace of the original genetic alteration

Animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, has backed the research.

Dr Yuval Cinnamon from the Volcani institute near Tel Aviv, who is the project’s chief scientist, told BBC News that the development of what he calls the ”Golda hen” will have a huge impact on animal welfare in the poultry industry.

“I am very happy that we have developed a system that I think can truly revolutionise the industry, first of all for the benefit of the chickens but also for all of us, because this is an issue that affects every person on the planet,” he said.

The scientists have gene edited DNA into the Golda hens that can stop the development of any male embryos in eggs that they lay. The DNA is activated when the eggs are exposed to blue light for several hours.

Female chick embryos are unaffected by the blue light and develop normally. The chicks have no additional genetic material inside them nor do the eggs they lay, according to Dr Cinnamon.

The way they do this is clever:  since female chickens are ZW and males ZZ (in birds ,the heterogametic sex is female), they gene-edited the Z chromosome in a way that if blue light is shown on the embryo, it aborts. You then cross a ZZ male that has no modified Zs with a WZ* female with the modified Z.  The offspring will be either Z*Z males or WZ females. Blue light shined on the eggs kill the males, leaving only the WZ females, which are female and don’t have the genetically modified Z, since they get their Z from the fathers. Ergo, the chickens are not genetically modified so that the pusillanious people afraid of GMO foods can eat the chicken with impunity. And they don’t have to grind up newborn roosters, as they just don’t get born.

*The NYT is still touting religious fiction in its op-ed column, this time a piece called “Why Jesus loved friendship,” by Peter Wehner, a conservative whom Wikipedia describes as “He is a vice president and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank, and a fellow at the Trinity Forum, a nonprofit Christian organization.” Here’s what he tells us, all of course based on what the New Testament says:

The humanity of Jesus manifests itself in his moments of grief, agony, anger, frustration, joy and compassion. But one particular aspect of that humanity that has long intrigued me is his professed friendship with the rest of us.

In the New Testament, this point is made emphatically in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John. The context is Jesus’ discourse with his disciples, in which he tells them that as God the father has loved him, so he loves them. His command to his disciples is that they love one another. Jesus then says this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you.”

. . .The concept of a vulnerable God, meek and lowly in heart, was almost unfathomable to many at the time, and for many people it still is. But a vulnerable God is an essential part of the Christian story. We see it in Jesus’ life, from his birth in a manger to his weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus to the anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was betrayed on the night before his crucifixion. Jesus was accompanied by three of his closest friends — Peter, John and James — whom he asked to stay awake and pray with him. (They failed, with Jesus finding them sleeping, “exhausted from sorrow.”)

Renée Notkin, a co-pastor of Union Church in Seattle, in explaining the friendship verses in John, told me that Jesus’ words “Love one another as I have loved you” are essential to understanding what Jesus meant. Among other things, a proper understanding of friendship radically changes our perspective on how we are to live in community.

Of course this is all exegesis of a single book that we know to be wrong, and Wehner has no more evidence for God or a divine Jesus than we do for Bigfoot. But there will never be an end to this kind of Biblical exegesis, and once again we see a guy, purportedly possessed of neurons, spouting complete nonsense because it makes him feel good.

John Swinton, an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a professor at the University of Aberdeen, calls this shift from servant to friend a “profound act of renaming.”

*And there’s a new survey of 2,000 Americans (by Motel 6, for crying out loud) whose results are summarized here. It turns out that the idea of a wonderful family holiday reunion isn’t as great as we thought:

survey of 2,000 Americans who are traveling to visit family for the holidays found respondents can spend an average of three hours and 54 minutes with their family before needing a moment to themselves.

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents will hit a point where they need time away from the crowd. They can be creative in their ways of escaping — 1 in 4 has hidden in a relative’s house to take a moment alone, while 37 percent have gone so far as to make an excuse and leave the house altogether.

The survey was commissioned by Motel 6 and conducted by OnePoll. It examined the delicate balance between wanting to spend time with family and also needing a bit of space.

The average respondent is staying with family for 3 1/2 days this holiday season –- but the sleeping arrangements might be one reason they’re not staying longer. When hosting family, nearly 40 percent say finding sleeping arrangements is one of the most stressful parts of preparing for guests.

Respondents report an average of two people will end up sleeping on something other than a bed this holiday season.

When staying with family, the top concerns were found to be a lack of privacy (22 percent), family getting on your nerves (20 percent), and drama between family members (20 percent). That’s in addition to feeling like they’re imposing (19 percent) and having the house be too loud or busy (18 percent).

I guess I should be grateful to Ceiling Cat that I’m spending Coynezaa alone (not by choice), but it’s still a bummer.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cats are squabbling over food again:

Szaron: She is going to eat from my bowl again.
A: Usually you are eating from her bowl.
Szaron: And so it should be.
In Polish:
Szaron: Znowu będzie jadła z mojej miski.
Ja: Zazwyczaj to ty wyjadasz jej jedzenie.
Szaron: I tak powinno być.

Here’s a photo of Hili as a baby (she’s now a dowager of ten):

And Christmas wishes from Mietek:

Mietek: Let’s be merry and rejoice!

In Polish: Weselmy się i radujmy się!

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From The Catspotting Society:

From FB:

A Mark Parisi cartoon:

Lagniappe from FB:

A tweet of God on Mastodon:

Masih hasn’t added a new tweet in English, but here’s a substitute:

From Barry, who adds, “Just so you know, Pastor Alex’ isn’t a religious guy. That’s just a nom de plume, and he’s always finding stuff ‘that atheists want.'”

From Malcolm: Zelensky at Bahmut:

Dan Dennett doesn’t tweet much, but here he notes his appearance on the show “Closer to Truth” on “What is Philosophy of Science?” with other philosophers.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man shot after a month in the camp:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first is the weather done by a sports reporter:

Crikey, didn’t medieval artists ever LOOK at the animals they drew? This bat has 12 hands, when in fact each wing is one hand with five fingers. Oy!

I wish I had a dollar for every turtle hatching here!

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 23, 2022 • 6:45 am

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

BUT. . .  I’ve seen colder here!

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

Pfeffernüße

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

Festivus!

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

Da Nooz:

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

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

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

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

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

There’s more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, how many languages do you speak?”

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

“Eight?” Kelly marvels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Nicole:

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

From Recreational Meowstafarian:

A toot of God from Mastodon:

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

From Barry: This cat is aping Maru!

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

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

From Matthew: Merry Catmas!

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

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

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

November 23, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Wednesday, November 23, 2022, a Hump Day, or “Maalinta Hump”, as they say in Somali. It’s also National Espresso Day, in honor of which I’ll post my own machine. Turning it on is the first act I do every day when I arrive at the office. I could not function without it:

It’s also National Cashew Day (AGAIN?), Eat a Cranberry Day (remember, just one), Blackout Wednesday, when many people get hammered the night before Thanksgiving, and Fibonacci Day (the date, 11/23, is also the first four numbers in the Fibonacci sequence).

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Myrtle Gonzalez (1891-1918), described in Wikipedia as “an American actress. She starred in at least 78 silent era motion pictures from 1913 to 1917, of which 66 were one and two-reel shorts. She is regarded as Hollywood’s first Latin and Hispanic movie star actress.”  She died at only 27 of the Spanish flu.

Here’s a short bio from Google:

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

Da Nooz:

*Sometimes, like yesterday, the Supreme Court surprises me.  They ruled Tuesday that the Treasury Department had to hand over Trump’s tax returns to a House committee investigating him (I don’t think this is the “January 6 committee” but the House Ways and Means Committee). Remember when The Donald promised during the last campaign that he’d turn over his returns tout suite? What a crock! From the NYT:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a House committee to receive former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, refusing his request to block their release in the waning weeks of Democratic control of the chamber.

The court’s order, which was unsigned and did not note any dissents, is the most recent instance in which it has sided against Mr. Trump, who appointed three justices to the bench. The decision means that the Treasury Department is likely to soon turn over Mr. Trump’s financial documents to the House, which has been seeking them since 2019.

Mr. Trump’s legal team had urged the justices to extend a lower court’s stay as it pursued an appeal before the Supreme Court, saying the House’s request raised issues that were too important to let the Treasury Department turn over his files before they were resolved.

But Douglas N. Letter, the chief lawyer for the House, urged the Supreme Court not to intervene, pointing to a new Congress in January. Any further delay “would leave the committee and Congress as a whole little or no time to complete their legislative work,” he wrote in a brief earlier this month.

In a terse order, the Supreme Court said it was denying Mr. Trump’s application for a stay. It did not include any legal reasoning for the decision.

Trump will surely be ranting on TruthSocial about this, but when I tried to see, I found that you have to joint the platform to see Trump’s emissions there, and I couldn’t be arsed to join.

*Now that Russia has bombed or missiled much of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, the country, not known for its temperate climate, is preparing for a long, cold winter. The AP’s story is called “‘Stock up on blankets’: Ukrainians brace for a horrific winter.

Ukrainians could face rolling blackouts from now through March amid frigid, snowy weather because Russian airstrikes have caused “colossal” damage to Ukraine’s power grid, officials said. To cope, authorities are urging people to stock up on supplies and evacuate hard-hit areas.

Sergey Kovalenko, the CEO of private energy provider DTEK Yasno, said the company is under instructions from Ukraine’s state grid operator to resume emergency blackouts in the areas it covers, including the capital Kyiv and the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region.

“Although there are fewer blackouts now, I want everyone to understand: Most likely, Ukrainians will have to live with blackouts until at least the end of March,” Kovalenko warned on Facebook.

“We need to be prepared for different options, even the worst ones. Stock up on warm clothes and blankets. Think about what will help you wait out a long shutdown,” he told Ukrainian residents.

Russia has launched six massive aerial attacks against Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure since Oct. 10, as the war approaches its nine-month milestone. That targeted onslaught has caused widespread blackouts and deprived millions of Ukrainians of electricity, heat and water.

. . . Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian missile strikes have damaged more than half of the country’s energy facilities.

Temperatures commonly stay below freezing in Ukraine in the winter, and snow has already fallen in many areas, including Kyiv. Ukrainian authorities have started evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the southern Kherson and Mykolaiv regions out of fear that the winter will be too hard to survive.

Now’s the time for NATO to chip in and buy a gazillion warm sleeping bags for Ukraine.

*It’s World Cup time, and though I’m not nearly as excited about it as about previous ones, I was stunned to hear today that Saudi Arabia, which had played only a handful of games in the World Cup in its history, beat Argentina, one of the favored teams, by a score of 2-1.

Many had expected the South American team, ranked third in the world, unbeaten for three years and among the favorites to win the tournament, to sweep aside its opponent, ranked 48 places below it in the world rankings.

All the pre-match talk focused on Messi, one of the greatest players ever who is playing in what is likely to be his last World Cup. The Argentina captain scored an early penalty to put his side in the lead, but two second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari turned the game on its head.

The thousands of Saudi fans inside the Lusail Stadium couldn’t believe what they were watching as they celebrated their unexpected victory.

Such a comeback hadn’t looked remotely possible for much of the match. Argentina controlled the game after taking the lead but whatever Saudi manger Hervé Renard said at halftime worked. His team came out with a new-found belief and stood toe-to-toe with Argentina’s world-class team.

. . .Both sets of players sunk to their knees, from disbelief and exhaustion. Messi, who so many had come see play, looked distraught as he walked off with Saudi fans cheering his name ironically.

According to sports data group Gracenote, which is a Nielsen company, Tuesday’s result was the biggest upset in the history of the competition.

“The most surprising World Cup win ever according to Gracenote was USA’s victory over England in 1950 with a 9.5% chance of victory for the US team but Saudi Arabia’s chance of victory today was estimated at 8.7% so takes over at number one,” it said in a statement.

Here are five minutes of highlights: note that Argentina scored three DISALLOWED goals, with its only point scored by Messi on a penalty kick. The Saudi Arabia keeper played great, saving the victory for his team. This is surely one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

Poor Messi!  The Washington Post has an article listing the biggest upsets in World Cup history

From EPSN; Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

*According to the Wall Street Journal, the Iranian theocratic regime, after two months of widespread protests that began with a woman beaten to death for a badly-worn hijab, is at the same time brutally putting down the protests but appealing to moderates to use their influence.

As antigovernment protests swept across Iran last month, its top leaders made a secret appeal to two of the Islamic Republic’s founding families, the moderate Rafsanjani and Khomeini clans that hard-liners had pushed out of power, said people familiar with the talks.

Iran’s national-security chief, Ali Shamkhani, asked representatives of the families to speak out publicly to calm the unrest. If that happened, he said, liberalizing measures sought by demonstrators could follow, the people said.

The families refused, the people said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his inner circle face a quandary after two months of nationwide protests. Their purges of prominent rivals and reformists from the government in recent years have narrowed their options for putting down one of the most serious internal challenges to their rule in the clerical regime’s 43-year history.

Support for the protests has been fueled by anger at an economy racked by sanctions and inflation, at laws requiring women to cover their heads in public, and at a government that has excluded moderates from its ranks, senior Iranian reformists have said. Moderates were once an integral part of Iran’s Islamic system of governance, and are now growing more aligned with protesters’ calls for the system to be tor down.

I hope the whole corrupt, oppressive, misogynistic and homophobic theocracy crumbles into ruins, and I hope that happens without too many Iranians being killed. This has gone far further than I imagined, or hoped, but I don’t think the protests will stop. The Iranian people are thirsty for freedom.

*More World Cup news from Lou Jost, who writes:

Did you see the very first game of the World Cup? Ecuador beat Qatar, the very first time in history that a host country lost the opening match. The Ecuadorian fans held their own little anti-theocracy protest….They all chanted in unison  “We want beer! We want beer”. It was pretty funny. See 0:19 here:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s waiting patiently:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m waiting for the fall of Putin and others.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Czekam na upadek Putina i innych.

. . . and a photo of Szaron by the slippers:

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

From Facebook:

From Merilee:

I was sent this as an identified cartoon, but it looks like an xkcd cartoon by Randall Munroe:

God is busy on Mastodon today, so we’ll have two tweets about Iran from Masih:

 

From Malcolm: four videos in one  showing Kurds protesting the Iranian regime. Click on screenshot to go to tweet:

From Barry. I know I’ve shown this before, but you can’t see “dreaming cat crashes his bike” too often!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy dead at 14

Tweets from Matthew. I happen to know that this first one is absolutely true! (See below.)

See?

Did they train the monkey to snap the beans? And yes, look at its expression during each snap!

Something hard to see in nature: a platypus doing its thing:

 

Monday: Hili dialogue

October 24, 2022 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Monday, October 24, 2022, and National Bologna Day. (I prefer “Baloney”). It is tolerable on a sandwich, and can be fried, as it often is in the southern U.S.:

It’s also the start of Diwali, an important Hindu holiday that lasts five days, World Tripe Day, National Good & Plenty Day (a candy I used to eat in the movies as a child), Food Day, International Day of Diplomats, United Nations Day, the anniversary of the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, and World Polio Day.

Remember this Good & Plenty commercial?  If you do, you’re a geezer!

 

Readers are invited to add in the comments notable events that happened on this day; to do so, look at the October 24 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Da Nooz is not so good this week, unless you’re a Republican. But let’s start with something that seems a bit good. FIRE has forced the University of Minnesota Medical School to stop requiring a ludicrous ideological “white coat” pledge seen in the tweet-video below (I wrote about it here; FIRE writes about it here). But they didn’t do away with that batty pledge: no, the University only assured FIRE that no student would be punished for refusing to say it. I doubt, though, that they were punished before.  From FIRE’s report:

Thankfully, the senior associate general counsel at UMMS assured FIRE that students “who decline to participate in the oath are free to do so without pressure or repercussion.” We’re glad to hear the university clarify that “[f]irst-year medical students are not required to recite the oath or participate in it in any way, and their progress in medical school does not depend on the recitation of the oath.”

But were there “repercussions” before?

*The midterm elections are drawing nigh, and the closer we get, the better the prognostication for the GOP.  Here are some data from Five Thirty Eight, and if you’ve been following along in the past several months, you can see that the probability that the Republicans will win the Senate have increased (though still less than 50 out of 100 simulations), while the House seems more likely than ever to go to the GOP (80 out of 100 simulations).

In a three-minute video on the site addressing this shift, Galen Duke expatiates on”Why Republicans’ odds of controlling Congress have improved.” The answer is, as you expect, “it’s the economy, stupid!” Polling voters revealed that inflation and the economy were by far the most important issues: 44% of voters considered this the most important issue, while all other issues (including abortion) were in the single digits. The Republican party is viewed by American voters as being more “reliable” on the economy—by a long shot.

And the Master himself, Nate Silver, wrote a piece called “Why I’m telling my friends that the Senate is a toss-up.

But let’s get real. If a friend asked me to characterize the Senate race, I’d say “it’s pretty fucking close,” and emphasize that neither party has much of an advantage. Here’s why.

For one thing, as of Thursday afternoon, Republicans realized a slight lead (of 0.1 percentage points) in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot average for the first time since Aug. 2.

Obviously, a lead of a tenth of a percentage point isn’t much. The advantage may have flipped back by the time that you’re reading this. But the tied generic ballot overstates the case for Democrats. That’s because our polling average takes generic ballot polls as they come, which are a combination of polls of likely voters, registered voters and all adults. Our model, however, takes an additional step and adjusts polls of registered voters and adults to make them more similar to polls of likely voters, which this year have been more favorable to Republicans. So a tie on the generic ballot among all polls translates to a slight GOP lead with the likely voter adjustment.

. . . But the main reason why I think of the race for control of the Senate as a toss-up — rather than slightly favoring Democrats — is because there’s been steady movement toward the GOP in our model over the past few weeks. In principle, past movement shouldn’t predict future movement in our forecast and it should instead resemble a random walk. (We put a lot of effort in our modeling into trying to minimize autocorrelation.) This year, though, the forecast has moved in a predictable-seeming way, with a long, slow and steady climb toward Democrats over the summer, and now a consistent shift back toward Republicans.

. . . But the bottom line is this: If you’d asked me a month ago — or really even a week ago — which party’s position I’d rather be in, I would have said the Democrats. Now, I honestly don’t know.

*I suppose this is good news for Brits, though I really know nothing about Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who’s the overwhelmingly favored candidate to succeed the ephemeral Liz Truss for Prime Minister now that Boris Johnson’s stated that he’s not having another go at the job.

In a statement, Mr. Johnson said he believed he had a path to victory in the contest to replace Ms. Truss. But he said, “I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do.”

Mr. Johnson said he did not believe he could govern effectively without a unified party in Parliament. Despite what he said were his efforts to reach out to Mr. Sunak and his other rival, Penny Mordaunt, “we have sadly not been able to work out a way to do this.”

Mr. Johnson’s decision ends a feverish couple of days in which he mounted a lively bid to reclaim the job he gave up three months ago amid a cascade of scandals. The former prime minister’s campaign never gained momentum, however, as prominent members of the Conservative Party threw their support to Mr. Sunak as a better option to try to reunite a deeply divided party.

Mr. Sunak, who formally declared his candidacy with a promise to “fix our economy,” had lined up at least 146 votes by late Sunday afternoon, according to a tally by the BBC, more than double the 57 votes pledged to Mr. Johnson.

Sunak is only 42, and previously lost to Truss in a contest for the Tory party leadership. I’m woefully ignorant of British politics, but I’m guessing he’d be the first Prime Minister of Indian ancestry.

*Over at the NYT, conservative columnist Ross Douthat analyzes what he sees as “The three blunders of Joe Biden.” Two of them involve his unexpected adherence to what the “progressive” wing of his party favors, the other one, according to Douthat, a failure to compromise with Republicans.

The first fateful course began, as Matthew Continetti noted recently in The Washington Free Beacon, in the initial days of the administration, when Biden made critical decisions on energy and immigration that his party’s activists demanded: for environmentalists, a moratorium on new oil-and-gas leases on public lands and, for immigration advocates, a partial rollback of key Trump administration border policies.

What followed, in both arenas, was a crisis: first a surge of migration to the southern border, then the surge in gas prices driven by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

. . .The second key failure also belongs to the administration’s early days. In February 2021, when congressional Democrats were preparing a $1.9 trillion stimulus, a group of Republican senators counteroffered with a roughly $600 billion proposal. Flush with overconfidence, the White House spurned the offer and pushed three times as much money into the economy on a party-line vote.

What followed was what a few dissenting center-left economists, led by Larry Summers, had predicted: the worst acceleration of inflation in decades, almost certainly exacerbated by the sheer scale of the relief bill. Whereas had Biden taken the Republicans up on their proposal or even simply counteroffered and begun negotiations, he could have started his administration off on the bipartisan footing his campaign had promised while‌ hedging against the inflationary dangers that ultimately arrived.

. . .The third failure is likewise a failure to hedge and triangulate, but this time on culture rather than economic policy. Part of Biden’s appeal as a candidate was his longstanding record as a social moderate — an old-school, center-left Catholic rather than a zealous progressive.

His presidency has offered multiple opportunities to actually inhabit the moderate persona. On transgender issues, for instance, the increasing qualms of European countries about puberty blockers offered potential cover for Biden to call for greater caution around the use of medical interventions for gender-dysphoric teenagers. Instead, his White House has chosen to effectively deny that any real debate exists, positioning the administration to the left of Sweden.

Then there is the Dobbs decision, whose unpopularity turned abortion into a likely political winner for Democrats — provided, that is, that they could cast themselves as moderates and Republicans as zealots.

Biden could have led that effort, presenting positions he himself held in the past — support for Roe v. Wade but also for late-term restrictions and the Hyde Amendment — as the natural national consensus, against the pro-life absolutism of first-trimester bans. Instead, he’s receded and left Democratic candidates carrying the activist line that absolutely no restrictions are permissible, an unpopular position perfectly designed to squander the party’s post-Roe advantage.

. . . A strong president, by definition, should be able to pull his party toward the center when politics demands it. So if Biden feels he can’t do that, it suggests that he’s internalized his own weakness and accepted in advance what probably awaits the Democrats next month: defeat.

There would probably be general Democratic defeats regardless of this, of course, because it’s the mid-term elections.

*I’d almost forgotten about the knife attack on Salman Rushdie that happened last August at a New York literary festival. For a long time many of us thought he wouldn’t make it. But he did, and lives on—minus one eye and the use of a hand.

Literary agent Andrew Wylie told the Spanish language newspaper El Pais in an article published Saturday that Rushdie suffered three serious wounds to his neck and 15 more wounds to his chest and torso in the attack that took away sight in an eye and left a hand incapacitated.

. . . Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, has been incarcerated after pleading not guilty to attempted murder and assault in the Aug. 12 attack on Rushdie as he was being introduced at the Chautauqua Institution, a rurally located center 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Buffalo that is known for its summertime lecture series.

fter the attack, Rushdie was treated at a Pennsylvania hospital, where he was briefly put on a ventilator to recover from what Wylie told El Pais was a “brutal attack” that cut nerves to one arm.

 . .  Wylie told the newspaper he could not say whether Rushdie remained in a hospital or discuss his whereabouts.

“He’s going to live … That’s the important thing,” Wylie said.

. . . The attack was along the lines of what Rushie and his agent have thought was the “principal danger … a random person coming out of nowhere and attacking,” Wylie told El Pais.

In a jailhouse interview with The New York Post, Matar said he disliked Rushdie and praised Khomeini. Iran has denied involvement in the attack.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on her own:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I delight in solitude.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Rozkoszuję się samotnością.
And Szaron having a nosh:

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A Leigh Rubin cartoon from Jesus of the Day:

An excellent Scott Metzger cartoon from Merilee:

From the B. Kliban Appreciation Society:

The Tweet of God. I don’t quite understand this one:

From Masih, showing another act prohibited by the Islamic Republic:

wish this were me!

From Gravelinspector: a tweet from the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who inhabits 10 Downing Street:

From Malcom. Yes, this is the face of an ant, and it would make a good horror movie were it the size of Godzilla:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a family gasse:

 

Tweets from Matthew: A lovely stag:

Two Cats of Yore held by disgruntled women. There are more in the thread.

No wonder the Ukrainians are holding back the Russians!