Saturday: Hili dialogue

September 30, 2023 • 6:45 am

This is post number 28,001: lots of writing in the last 14 years!

Welcome to CaturSaturday, September 30, 2023—the last day of the month. It’s National Mulled Cider Day, an appropriate harbinger of nippy weather to come.

It’s also Chewing Gum Day, the Time for Yoga, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day, National Love People Day, International Blasphemy DayNational Day for Truth and Reconciliation or Orange Shirt Day (in Canada), and International Translation Day

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 30 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Guess what? The odds are that we’re gonna have a government shutdown starting Sunday. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy threw a legislative Hail Mary today, in the form of a rescue bill, and conservative members of his own party, rejected it. Things look grim, as the shutdown begins when the bell tolls midnight on Saturday night.

Hard-line conservatives on Friday tanked Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-shot bid to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown, in an extraordinary display of defiance that made it clear that Congress would almost certainly miss a midnight deadline on Saturday to keep federal funding flowing.

It appeared evident even before the vote that the stopgap bill was bound to fail, as several hard-right Republicans had declared that they would not back a temporary spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, under any circumstances. And the measure — which would slash spending and impose severe immigration restrictions — never had a chance of preventing a shutdown, since it was regarded as a nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Not everyone would be damaged or salary deprived, for example, me:

A government shutdown would disrupt operations for many federal agencies and leave thousands of workers furloughed, but that does not mean all programs would stop providing benefits.

Funding for Social Security, for instance, is considered mandatory and financed through a payroll tax, meaning a shutdown would not interrupt payments. Recipients of other programs, such as those providing food assistance to women and young children, would see a more immediate reduction of benefits.

Several federal programs would still provide benefits:

  • Social Security checks would continue to be sent out. The Social Security Administration could also issue new and replacement Social Security cards.

  • Medicare and Medicaid benefits would mostly be unaffected, although the Social Security Administration would not be able to issue replacement Medicare cards. There is sufficient funding for Medicaid through the end of December, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

  • Veterans would still be provided medical care, pension benefits and housing services. The Department of Veterans Affairs has said, however, that some activities, such as benefit adjustments and insurance, have been delayed during previous shutdowns.

But a lot of programs that help people, like food stamps, would be curtailed. And, distressingly, Fat Bear Week could be curtailed! (See below.)

Given the divisions within the House GOP as well as the fact that the Senate is Democratic and the House is Republican, this might well take a long time to resolve. Remember, any resolution has to be bipartisan. And the Democratic Senate won’t vote for immigration reform.

*Nellie Bowles’s weekly news summary at The Free Press yesterday is called “TGIF: The Book of Revelations“, and I’ll steal three items from it.

→ Philly Gone Wild: The city of Philadelphia saw a rampage of shoplifting this week. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez [JAC: it looks like we’re going to be stuck with this ambitious doofus forever] famously said that shoplifting is done by people who need to feed their families, but it’s really hard to reconcile that with the clips of folks having what looks like a really, really fun time tearing through department stores grabbing shoes and bags. Zaid has the best take on this:

That last line is hilarious, and oh so true!

→ Dept. of academic absurdia: At the big annual U.S.–Canada academic anthropology conference, there was a planned panel called “Let’s Talk About Sex Baby: Why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in anthropology.” It was, of course, deemed too controversial. The American Anthropological Association and Canadian Anthropology Society cancelled the talk, writing: “The reason the session deserved further scrutiny was that the ideas were advanced in such a way as to cause harm to members represented by the Trans and LGBTQI of the anthropological community as well as the community at large.” It was about “safety,” the academic groups said. The deplatformed professors, all women, wrote an open letter you can read here. The message is clear over and over: you cannot talk about gender-based violence or explore specific issues women face in other countries. Which is totally fine because the world treats women beautifully everywhere and the only existing oppression happens to be in Berkeley and New Haven, specifically of PhD students, who live in constant danger. Honestly, those anthropologists don’t need to travel anymore. The greatest victims and also the most interesting people in the world are right there, sitting around that very conference room table.

In London, the big Comic Con festival cancelled a random Harry Potter panel, set to be hosted by the team behind a new Harry Potter play in town. Activists said they would protest anything that had any reference to J.K. Rowling’s IP, and event organizers cited the need to keep everyone “safe.” As much as I hate that safe has become a byword for just the thing you personally want to happen, I think it’s time I embrace it. Why do I need a glass of wine at noon? For safety reasons. In-home massage on Friday mornings? Safety, heard of it?

. . . and a new book by Abigail Shrier, surely worth reading (remember how she was demonized for her last one).

→ Shameless plugs corner: Preorder Abigail Shrier’s new book Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up. It’s going to be amazing. I have mixed feelings about this one because, you see, we share a book editor. But Abigail is much faster and more productive, so in the small classroom that is the two of us, I’m the bad one. Also on my preorder list is a new futurism book by James Pethokoukis.

*Andrew Sullivan’s latest weekly column, a good one, is called “Could MLK give a TED talk today?” It is, of course, largely about the shameful way TED treated Coleman Hughes (see my piece here), an incident that’s become far bigger news than I imagined. (I’m on Hughes’s side, which is also Sully’s side, and you should also read Jesse Singal’s excoriation of TED if you can. But I have nothing to add to what I’ve said, or what Singal and Sullivan say. I want to highlight one bit of Sullivan’s column:

 Why has the left focused on shifting educational curricula away from liberal concepts toward critical, neo-Marxist ones in general? Paolo Freire: “The solution is not to ‘integrate’ [students] into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become ‘beings for themselves’.” Revolution starts with indoctrination of the young.

. . .And it couldn’t have achieved this mastery of American society without other contingent factors: the astonishing weakness of the leaders of liberal institutions and foundations, more terrified of being called a racist or a transphobe by a teenager than committed to liberal values. And Donald Trump empowered the fanatics more than anyone else in our polity, by further tribalizing and polarizing our culture. And the dominant therapeutic paradigm has supplemented all of it — enforcing ideological orthodoxy via personal emotional blackmail.

There is also an end-of-history boredom to it all. Now that full civil rights are well established, what is a progressive gonna do? They seem less interested in the economic policies that could win multi-racial majorities than in zero-sum narratives of racial and sexual oppression. They need to invent new vistas of discrimination — even unconscious ones — to sustain themselves. Look at the rump of the gay rights movement, now pushing so far into leftist insanity it has abolished the whole concept of homosexuality as same-sex attraction, and targeted mostly gay children for irreversible bodily mutilation. Anything to keep the pulse racing and the donations coming in.

Sullivan is pretty hard on Biden, but I have to say that his criticisms below ring pretty true:

The re-election of Trump — which is at least 50-50 proposition at this point — would further crazy up the left and reduce what tiny amount of oxygen is left for the liberal project to stay alive. But the re-election of Biden would, alas, do much the same. His administration is committed to this neo-Marxism all the way down. It practices race and sex discrimination in all its employment practices; it endorses critical race, gender and queer theory in every area of life; it has adopted wholesale the lingo of the new orthodoxy — “white supremacy”; “equity”;  “LGBTQI+ people”; “systemic racism”; “antiracism”; “LatinX”; and on and on. The vice president — openly picked by Biden, like his Supreme Court nominee, because she has the right sex and skin color — is in the vanguard of this revolution, and is Biden’s promise that the regime change will be permanent. There are no liberals left who resist it. They privately bemoan it and publicly mouth its pomo verbiage. In some ways, they are more contemptible than the extremists.

I resist it, Andrew!  And the ending:

For those who tell me to chill out, I have to repeat: ideas really do matter. You cannot graft deeply illiberal practices and neo-Marxist ideology onto a liberal polity for very long, before the contradictions force a resolution. A House divided so profoundly cannot stand. But the surrender of the Democratic liberals and the insane radicalization of the GOP almost certainly means that peaceful, liberal politics may well not be capable of resolving this contradiction. Which means that something much darker and more violent will.

I wonder what “resolution” he’s envisioning her. Surely he doesn’t mean civil war!?

*Matthew reports, via The Guardian, that an 82-year-old tortoise in Cornwall has had successful surgery, but OY! what a problem!:

Joey, an 82-year-old tortoise in Cornwall, is recovering from surgery after the removal of a bladder stone the size of a cricket ball.

Two veterinary surgeons had to cut through Joey’s shell to remove the growth, which at 150g was almost three times the weight of a tennis ball.

One of the vets, Viliam Hoferica, said the bladder stone was the largest he had ever seen. “Given the size of the stone, it was very unique. If Joey was a human, it would be like having a bladder stone the size of a basketball,” he said.

Hoferica said it may take up to a year for Joey’s shell to heal. Explaining the procedure, he said the vets had to create a fibreglass and resin glue to hold together her shell after the surgery.

Hoferica, a surgeon at the Rosevean veterinary practice in Penzance, said Joey’s condition was only discovered by accident. He speculated that the bladder stone may have been growing for months or even years.

He said: “Tortoises are a very tough species. They don’t let you know what is wrong until it’s really bad. Joey had only been acting unusually in the last few weeks before the surgery, and even then she was just eating less and moving less.

Here’s the photo of the poor beast and the stone they removed (caption from the Guardian).  What nice vets, even gluing the shell together! Matthew told me that when he was a kid he also had a tortoise named Joey, and loved to watch it eat lettuce.

*Now you want bad news about the impending government shutdown? Here’s some REALLY bad news (you can click on the headline, too)

Fat Bear Week is in jeopardy.

If Washington gridlock pushes the country into a government shutdown on Saturday night, the people who run the popular online contest celebrating the burly Alaskan brown bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve will be among the federal employees furloughed.

In a call with reporters Thursday night, the Department of Interior said the workers who monitor the contest are not exempt from a lapse in appropriations. The majority of national parks will close to the public in the event of a shutdown.

In a call with reporters Thursday night, the Department of Interior said the workers who monitor the contest are not exempt from a lapse in appropriations. The majority of national parks will close to the public in the event of a shutdown.

. . .According to a news release from the National Park Service, rangers are responsible for creating the bracket-style tournament.

Rangers begin work on Fat Bear Week long before the competition begins. As soon as employees arrive at Katmai National Park at the beginning of the season, they are tasked with capturing photos of the bears at their lowest weight. They keep track of the bears throughout the summer, then come September must capture the bears at their fattest.

“The pictures we use for Fat Bear Week are not the kind of pictures that as a photographer, you normally want to take,” said Naomi Boak, the park’s media ranger.

Unlike the visitors hoping to get photos of the bears in action, Boak says rangers look for “boring profile shots” that give the online voters an idea of the bear’s size.

The job is easier said than done. With bears constantly submerged in the water fishing and appearing in the Brooks Corridor at inconsistent times, “the picture taking gets intense,” Boak said.

For me, Fat Bear Week is a highlight of the year. I love to see those overstuffed grizzlies, nearly as wide as they are long, laden with fat from salmon. The fatter they are, the better their chance of doing well during hibernation. If we don’t have Fat Bear Week this year, I’m going to stuff marbles up my nose and scream.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems to be meditating:

A: Are you asleep?
Hili: No, I’m trying to regain my mental balance.
In Polish:
Ja: Śpisz?
Hili: Nie, próbuję odzyskać równowagę ducha.

And a picture of Szaron, the world’s most affectionate cat. He loves everyone!


From Mark (is this real?):

From Merilee:

From Stash Krod; the wonders of AI, which turns the Beatles into four Mr. Naturals:

Mr. Natural drawn by R. Crumb. If you remember him, you’re old:

From Masih, the Iranian regime wounds a child while shooting at protestors:

From Simon, who calls it “direct and to the point.” Sure ’nuff!

From Barry; I’m not sure whether the original claim is real:

From Jez: Trump interviews for a job:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a 48-year-old woman gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a salmon saves itself (sound up):

. . . and it didn’t even have to pay!:

A lovely bird! Sound up:

Friday: Hili dialogue

September 29, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Friday, September 29, 2023, and It’s also National Coffee Day. What if coffee had never evolved? We’d be walking around every morning like zombies, not knowing that there was a hypothetical plant that could restore us! We wouldn’t even be able to imagine coffee!

Here’s my Joe this morning: a large latte with three shots of espresso, as I’m tired. I made it on my office espresso machine: There’s a sprinkling of cinnamon on top.

It’s also Goose Day, Save the Koala Day, National Biscotti Day, German Butterbrot Day (celebrating bread and butter, but also sandwiches made with butter), National Mocha Day, World Heart Day. and yes, the start of another Jewish holiday, the weeklong Sukkot. Lots of noms, as all Jewish holidays, as I said, can be characterized this way: “They tried to kill us; we survived; let’s eat.”
Today’s Google Doodle (below; click to go to sites) celebrates the 89th birthday (he died in 2021) of “Dr. Flow,” Mihaly Robert Csikszentmihalyi.  He worked here as head of the Department of Psychology.  The Doodle, for once, is actually attractive. 

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 29 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Trump’s efforts to delay his civil fraud trial for inflating the value of his real estate has failed (the judge has already found him guilty; only the fine is at stake. The trial for damages could start next week.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

Mr. Trump is not entirely out of options in blocking the trial from moving forward. He can still appeal Justice Engoron’s Tuesday order, but it is unclear whether the appeals court would consider that.

Again, the most Trump would have to pay in this trial (which is before the judge) is $250 million—chump change (or Trump change). And it’s a civil trial, so he’ll suffer virtually no reputational damage among his supporters no matter how much he’s fined. After all, he’s already been found culpable, and his ratings haven’t plummeted.

*If you don’t think that the immigration problem needs fixing, read this WSJ article (not an op-ed) about thousands of migrants being simply let loose on the streets of San Diego.

SAN DIEGO—An unmarked white bus pulled up to a park here Monday morning, where it dropped off about 50 recently arrived migrants with little idea where they were and no place to sleep that night.

It wasn’t part of a nefarious operation. The bus was driven by the U.S. government, which is dropping off thousands of migrants in communities along the border as a new wave of illegal immigration strains the resources of the Border Patrol.

Local shelters are hitting capacity, including the roughly 950 beds in San Diego that are typically adequate for recently arrived migrants who need a place to sleep for a night or two. As a result, immigration agents are dropping people off on the streets, at bus stops and in train stations, angering local officials and worrying aid groups.

In San Diego, an estimated 7,800 migrants have been released in the past two weeks, according to county officials, who on Tuesday declared the situation to be a humanitarian crisis.

. . . “We see people being released to the streets with in some cases a little more than the clothes on their back,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director for the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Her organization set up a makeshift aid center for migrants at the park, and the Border Patrol has been dropping off people there.

. . . Federal border agents have released migrants onto the streets of communities during past surges in illegal immigration, but San Diego officials say the numbers now are among the highest ever. Record numbers of people are fleeing poverty, corruption and crime in countries such as Venezuela to seek asylum in the U.S. Many are traveling as families, which makes it harder for authorities to detain and deport them because of legal limits on how long children can be held.

Most of these migrants are not only entering illegally, but are doing so not because of fear of persecution, but to seek economic benefits in America, which is not a legal rationale for immigration.  Biden could stop this if he wanted to (or so I think), but he doesn’t seem to want to. And it’s going to count against him in next year’s election.

*As I said earlier today, I bailed on the GOP Presidential debate, but Frank Bruni of the NYT didn’t, and wrote a column called “The only shot those seven Republicans have to stop Trump.”  Now what shot could that be? This one, which is only a “shot” if you’re talking about a cap gun:

The point is that Trump has zero respect for democracy and has aspirations for autocracy. The point is that he keeps scaling new pinnacles of unhinged. The point is that he needs to win the presidency so that he doesn’t have to worry about living out his days where he belongs: behind bars.

And perhaps the only shot that any of those seven candidates have to stop him and prevent the irreversible damage he’d do to the United States with four more years is to call a tyrant a tyrant, a liar a liar, an arsonist an arsonist. None of them did.

They’re too frightened of his and his followers’ wrath. So forgive me if I chortled every time they talked about leadership, which they talked about often on Wednesday night. They’re not leaders. They’re opportunists who are letting an opportunity slip away from them.

. . .Instead of taking Trump sufficiently to task, instead of explaining in full why just about any one of them would be preferable to the madman of Mar-a-Loco, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott quarreled about drapes. Yes, drapes. He said she squandered $50,000 of federal money on them when she was the United Nations ambassador, she said she didn’t, and they both grew very exercised about it. Where was that passion on the subject of Trump?

Instead of savaging him, the seven candidates tore into one another, seemingly vying not to catch up to Trump but to be declared the No. 1 alternative, like a beauty pageant runner-up poised to fulfill the winner’s duties and wear the winner’s tiara should the need arise.

Well, I suppose Bruni has a point, but his advice isn’t going to make a dent in Trump’s lead. You can call him a criminal, an insurrectionist, a rapist, or all the other things he might be convicted of, but all it will do is hurt the standing of the critic. That’s why they didn’t do it. Let’s face it: none of them can make the slight dent in Trump’s chance of being the GOP nominee.

*The “books” section of the WaPo has a piece by Tyler Austin Harper (not a book review) called “Ibram X. Kendi’s fall is a cautionary tale—so was his rise.”  I knew Kendi’s antiracism institute at Boston University had lost employees and was plagued by allegations of mismanagement, but I wasn’t aware he’d “fallen.” So I read on.

Perhaps the leading figure of the contemporary “anti-racism” movement, Kendi has faced new scrutiny after he recently laid off more than half of the staff at his Center for Antiracist Research. Boston University, where the center is housed, has now opened an inquiry into how it was run. Allegations include poor pay, employee exploitation, the failure to produce any significant research and the mismanagement of $43 million in donations.

As one of a number of left-wing commentators who have been critical of mainstream anti-racism — and who believe the movement is little more than self-help for White people that runs interference for corporations and wealthy universities — I’ve watched the Kendi crisis unfold with a touch of schadenfreude. Yet though this public reckoning feels long overdue, I can’t help but also have a smidgen of empathy for the embattled anti-racism guru. Kendi was transformed from a respected historian — winner of the National Book Award for his 2016 tome, “Stamped From the Beginning,” but hardly a household name — to the head sage of a global progressive movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. No longer a mere ambassador for academic anti-racism, Kendi became a brand.

The prospect of Kendi’s unraveling is not — or at least, is not only — the story of a huckster who was happy to cash in on America’s racial trauma, slapping his name on strange children’s books, including “Antiracist Baby” and “Goodnight Racism,” while raking in hundreds of dollars a minute to give short talks at American universities. Instead, the Kendi affair is yet another example of an age-old truism: White American elites on both sides of the political spectrum — academics, publishers, members of the media, corporate leaders — are always waiting in the wings to turn a shiny new Black intellectual into a mouthpiece for their political agenda.

Kendi’s work has always courted acclaim and controversy in equal measure. “Stamped,” a more-than-500-page doorstop that charts a conceptual history of American racism, published during the halcyon final year of the Obama presidency, has a provocative and even ingenious thesis: Racist ideas don’t generate racist policies; instead, racist policies — defined as policies that produce disparities — give birth to racist ideas that serve to explain those inequalities after the fact. “Time and again, racist ideas have not been cooked up from the boiling pot of ignorance and hate,” Kendi declares. “Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.”

By reversing the causal flow of racial inequality — insisting that the bad laws come first, the bigoted ideas later — Kendi mounted a frontal assault on the anemic liberal moralizing at the heart of mainstream American race discourse. He set out to dismantle the comforting assumption that racism is a problem of individual mental attitudes — the thoughtcrimes of mustache-twirling scoundrels who live in red states and rural places — and instead emphasized that racism is a systemic problem baked into our public and private institutions.

Harper then criticizes Kendi’s huge bestseller, the flawed and curiously incoherent How to be an Antiracist, but here’s his money accusation:

Once reserved for the gravest of racial trespasses, thanks to the influence of Kendi and other charlatans like Robin DiAngelo, “racism” is now routinely employed to describe anything from workplace microaggressions to terrorist attacks. The march on Charlottesville was white supremacy, but so too is asking Black people to show up to Zoom meetings on time. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss called such terms “floating signifiers”: bits of phraseology that are “void of meaning and thus apt to receive any meaning.” The mainstreaming of Kendi’s brand of anti-racism has made “racism” into a word so plastic as to have lost all descriptive power — and with it all moral magnitude. At a moment when actual white supremacy is on the rise, the loss of “racist” as a condemnation with real ethical and political power is of grave consequence and may ironically be Kendi’s most significant contribution to American politics.

And this, says the author, is Kendi’s grift (yes, he calls him a “grifter”). I do have a feeling that Kendi’s best days are behind him, but I can’t say for sure.




*Reader David tells us that, according to the Guardian, the world’s most valuable wine collection is on sale, and its estimate is (wait for it) £41 million!

These are no ordinary tipples. When the largest and most valuable collection of rare wines ever sold comes to market, aficionados are going to need deep pockets: some could go for almost $200,000 (£165,000) apiece.

The 25,000 bottles of wine, including many mythical vintages and names, are just part of the collection of Taiwanese billionaire Pierre Chen. They are expected to be fetch up to $50m (£41m) at separate auctions in Paris, London, New York, Hong Kong and Beaune, considered the Burgundy region’s wine capital.

“This is the ultimate wine collection, which comes to the market at a time when global interest in fine wine has arguably never been greater,” said Nick Pegna, the global head of wine and spirits at Sotheby’s, which is organising the sale. “This is a cellar in which every bottle has a story, and in which every wine is the best you could wish to own and enjoy.”

The auction house said Chen’s collection, acquired over 40 years, was “the most broad-ranging, valuable cellar ever formed”.

Here are some of the highlights, and my mouth is watering as I post this!

Among the highlights are two six-litre Methuselahs of Domaine de la Romaneé-Conti La Tâche 1985 estimated at up to $190,000 (£156,000) each, one from 1999 ($130,000), and a three-litre 1971 Jeroboam of the same “iconic” red burgundy ($140,000).

Two magnums of 1985 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin are expected to go for up to $32,000 each, and six magnums of 2001 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1er Cru produced by Henri Jayer, known as the “Godfather of burgundy”, for up to $70,000 each.

Among the white burgundies, 12 bottles of 2014 Bâtard-Montrachet are estimated at up to $22,000 each, while the red Bordeaux on offer include a 1959 Château Lafite Rothschild, a 1961 Château Latour and the “seminal” 1947 Château Cheval Blanc.

But this is the one I’d want:

A single, exceptionally rare six-litre imperial of 1982 Pétrus, widely considered one of the greatest of all Bordeaux wines, is set to go for up to $65,000 . . .

1982 was a great year for Bordeaux in general and Petrus in particular. And I could have afforded at least a few 750-ml bottles on future had I dug deep back then.  As David said, “I’d have to sell my house to afford just a single bottle!”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron have taken over the staff’s workspace during an absence:

Szaron: They will be back soon.
Hili: They will not move me.
In Polish:
Szaron: Oni zaraz tu wrócą.
Hili: Mnie nie ruszą.
And here are the stairs that Paulina and Mariusz and had built so Kulka and the other cats (Hili is getting too old to climb vines to the veranda) could get to the second floor (Hili is getting too old and plump to climb vines to the veranda) :


From Divy:

From Seth Andrews, who says, “Guess the country.”  Them’s bullets, Jed!

From The Absurd Sign Project 2.0:

From Masih; protestors mutilating pages showing Khomeini.  This would have been a capital crime in Russia if the picture was Stalin, and is likely a serious crime in Iran:

From gravelinspector, who calls this “The luckiest (and stupidest) pigeon in the world.”  Indeed! And I guess it did survive!

This cat was obviously pissed off that its kitten had strayed:

David Bowie writes a song about a depressed Ricky Gervais:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed upon arrival. She was 12.

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a lovely woman saving a stuck skunk! And she didn’t even get squirted.

I can’t get my head around this one:

Puppy and ducks:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

September 26, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Tuesday, the Cruelest Day: it’s, September 26, 2023, and National Key Lime Pie Day. Don’t be fooled by pies made with “regular” (i.e., Persian) limes, for Key limes are a different fruit with a different flavor, and better for pies.  Here’s the size difference, but there’s a flavor difference, too. If you see “Key Lime Pie” on the menus, ask if it’s made from real Key limes.

It’s also National Better Breakfast Day, Shamu the Whale Day, Johnny Appleseed Day (his birthday in 1774), National Dumpling Day, European Day of Languages, National Good Neighbor Day, Dominion Day in New Zealand  and Lumberjack Day, which recalls this:

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

Da Nooz:

*My 2022 post on “The ice cream scams” proved to be the most viewed post I’ve ever done on this site, probably because the shrinkage of not just ice cream, but many products, struck home with many consumers. Now the BBC has a related post on “shrinkflation” showing that it’s not only irreversible, but ubiquitous.  (h/t N0rm)

Shrinkflation’ – reducing a product’s size or quantity while keeping its price stable – is rampant. As the global economy grapples with issues including rising raw material costs, supply chain backlogs and higher post-pandemic labourer wages, consumers are bearing the brunt of spiking production expenses.

Whether it’s toilet roll or a bag of crisps, the practice, which mostly happens during times of inflation, is showing up in shops around the world. Last week, French supermarket Carrefour put stickers on products to warn consumers when a packet’s contents have gotten smaller without a corresponding price decrease.

ALL supermarkets should do this!

Consumers are taking note of the shift to smaller packaging and – and, naturally, they aren’t happy, especially as their purchasing power is already falling amid inflation. Yet as uncomfortable as the sticker shock is now, a longer-term problem looms large: past manifestations of the phenomenon show the story of shrinkflation doesn’t end when inflation does.

In terms of consumer frustrations, “they notice price increases more than they notice size decreases”, says US-based Mark Stiving, the chief pricing educator at Impact Pricing, an organisation that educates companies on pricing. As a result, he says, companies use shrinkflation to raise prices “less painfully”.

. . .Consumers do not always see the changes right away; often, they are incremental. For instance, a favourite drink that may have come in a 12oz (340g) bottle a year earlier may now be offered for the same price, yet downsized to 10oz (283g) now.

And experts say that once the new sizes are on the shelf, they are likely to stay that way. Phil Lempert, food industry analyst and editor of SupermarketGuru adds that, since shoppers don’t have a choice, they have to adapt to the changes.

. . . et even as shrinkflation largely corresponds with inflation, Crolic says consumers usually don’t see product sizes rebound even after economic challenges abate. There are rare exceptions, but companies generally seize the opportunity to use less product and make the same amount – or more.

Instead, a new phenomenon often takes hold. “After products are repeatedly reduced in size, the manufacturer will come out with a new, larger version of it – sometimes with a fanciful new name,” agrees Edgar Dworsky, a former US consumer rights lawyer and founder of resource guide Consumer World. And with it, shoppers pay a higher cost for the upgrade.

Toilet paper and potato chips are particularly subject to this name change. But I have to say that the entire phenomenon was anticipated by none other than Stephen Jay Gould in one of his great essays, “Phyletic size decrease in Hershey bars.” (Read it!)

*A NYT op-ed by Brian Beutler is called “The Democratic Party has an old problem and won’t admit it.” The problem is in the double-entendre “old”: Democrats are unwilling to lean on the older members of their party to retire when it’s time, and not doing that can create big problems. Some examples:

The party’s leaders seem to believe implicitly in the inalienable right of their aging icons to remain in positions of high power unquestioned, long after it becomes reasonable to ask whether they’re risking intolerable harm.

The party has come to operate more like a machine, in which lengthy, loyal service must be rewarded with deference. It is why Mr. Biden has not drawn a credible primary challenger, when polling and reporting alike suggest that Democrats are deeply anxious about his ability to mount a vigorous campaign and serve another full term.

. . .If defeating Republicans is a matter of existential urgency for the country, why is the Democratic Party so blasé about elevating leaders who are oblivious to the views of the young people who stand to inherit it?

I peg the beginning of this recurring nightmare to the year 2009, when Senator Ted Kennedy’s death nearly derailed President Obama’s signature health care reform and ultimately deprived Democrats of their Senate supermajority, which they might have used to pass more sweeping legislation than they did. Eleven years later, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also died in office. Her death was a hinge point where history turned and swept much of her substantive legacy into the dustbin; worse, it left living Americans to toil indefinitely under the legacy that replaced hers.

There were gentle behind-the-scenes efforts and a robust public persuasion campaign meant to convince Justice Ginsburg to retire when Democrats still controlled the Senate and President Obama could have appointed her replacement, but there were plenty of liberals urging her to stick it out. Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, who was then the House minority leader, cheered Justice Ginsburg for ignoring the calls for her to step down. “You Go Ginsburg! Resist that sexist Ageism,” she wrote.

Despite all of this terrible history, we face a similar challenge today: an aging party, and a Democratic establishment not just unwilling to take decisive action to stave off disaster but also reluctant to even acknowledge the problem.

Dianne Feinstein, 90, is another example.  But the GOP does better, despite the “freezing” episodes of Mitch McConnell:

Although the Republican base is older, it does a better job insulating itself from gerontocracy than Democrats do. Republicans are obviously far from perfect champions of their own self-interest. Their penchant for personality cults has wedded them to Donald Trump, who also happens to be old, but they are vulnerable to charlatans of all ages. That’s in part because they take steps to reduce the risk that they lose power by the attrition of elderly leaders. Justice Anthony Kennedy timed his retirement so a Republican president could replace him; the House G.O.P. has cycled through several leaders over the past decade and a half, none of them terribly old. When Kentucky’s Democratic governor Andy Beshear defeated the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, encouraged his allies in the Kentucky Legislature to circumscribe Mr. Beshear’s appointment power — to ensure partisan continuity in Washington, should a Senate seat become vacant. So although Mr. McConnell seems committed to serving out his term, he has a succession plan.

It looks as if Biden will run, and of course I’ll vote for him over any Republican I know, but it’s really time for him to step down. His speeches become more incoherent, and he’s started using the shorter stairs on Air Force One (there are two sets) so he won’t trip as much. And if he dies in office, what do we have? President Kamala Harris. The mind boggles.  I offer up Peter Buttigieg, young, vigorous, and smart. But he doesn’t stand a chance—not next year.

*Speaking of aging Democrats, Max Boot in the WaPo would prefer a Democrat younger than Biden (Boot despises Trump), but it ain’t gonna happen. And he muses how we can stop Trump from winning given that he’s running neck and neck with Biden in the polls and may have an electoral-college advantage. Well, the VP is not a solution, even though there are better candidates:

So how do we stop Trump? Biden is a feeble vessel at best, but he’s the only realistic option we have. It’s true that he is 80 years old (and would be 82 at the start of a new term), and he often stumbles rhetorically and sometimes physically. But his successful performance in office belies his doddering image.

He has managed to pass big, bipartisan bills, including infrastructure legislation that Trump only talked about. He has been even more impressive internationally, assembling a large coalition to oppose Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and another coalition in East Asia to deter China from aggression of its own. The economy — the ultimate barometer of a president’s performance — has been doing much better than expected, with low unemployment, declining inflation and no recession in sight. That’s a record any president can be proud of. Yet the polls haven’t been giving Biden the credit he is due, possibly because perceptions of the economy still lag the reality.

In an ideal world, Biden would head off to a well-deserved retirement and a younger, more vigorous successor — someone such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo — would run in his place.

But we don’t live in that ideal world. In the world as it is, we’re just a few months before the start of the primaries, so if Biden were to step down now, the almost certain Democratic nominee would be Vice President Harris. (The last sitting vice president who sought but failed to secure a party’s presidential nomination was Alben Barkley in 1952.) And I have yet to meet a Democrat who has any confidence in Harris’s ability to beat Trump.

Harris has a poor track record in national politics. She exited the 2020 Democratic race before a single vote was cast and has done little to elevate herself as vice president (admittedly a difficult task in a low-profile post with few fixed responsibilities). Moreover, unfair as it is, there is good cause to worry that Trump would run a sexist and racist campaign that could hurt Harris among working-class White voters in industrial states. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows that, while Trump is beating Biden by just 0.5 points, he leads Harris by 4 points — and that’s before he has begun to focus his fire and fury on her.

.  . . At the same time, any move to challenge Biden in the primaries or to replace Harris on the ticket would lead to Democratic fratricide which would likely ease Trump’s path back to power. Anyone who believes in preserving American democracy and the U.S.-led world order, therefore, has no choice but to back Biden in 2024, however uninspiring that might be.

Yes, as long as Joe wants to be President, nobody is going to challenge him, but I don’t get the fealty to Harris. Why should it alienate Democrats to replace her her with someone who could actually be a good President should Biden die or be debilitated? Is it because she’s a woman? Or a person of color (half Indian, half African-American)? I don’t quite get this, but Whitmer, Buttigieg, and other Democrats should be our VP insurance policy should Biden die, not Harris, a politician for whom I have little respect.

*LiveScience reports that the world’s oldest aquarium fish, a lungfish, is likely to be older than previously thought. Maybe even a century!

The world’s oldest aquarium fish, a lungfish named Methuselah, may actually be decades older than researchers originally thought and may even be over 100 years old, a new study finds.

Methuselah is a female Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) that resides at Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, California. She first arrived at the aquarium in 1938 after being sent to the U.S. along with more than 200 other fish from Fiji and Australia.

Aquarium staff have never been sure how old Methuselah is, but until now the best guess was that she is 84 years old, which makes her the oldest known fish in captivity. (In the Bible, Methuselah was a man who reputedly lived to be 969 years old.)

The elderly fish, who loves belly rubs and is hand-fed figs by her doting keepers, shows no signs of slowing down, which has added to the confusion about her age. So researchers decided to work out exactly how old she is using a “DNA age clock.”

In the study, researchers compared Methuselah’s DNA to the genetic material of other Australian lungfish to work out how much wear and tear her DNA had accumulated. The results suggest that she is most likely age 92, but the level of uncertainty with this type of experiment means she could be up to 101 years old. The study will be published later this year.

I didn’t know that “wear and tear on DNA” studies could be this accurate, but what do I know.  Here’s how they do it:

The researchers compared the DNA of 30 Australian lungfish from captivity and the wild, including two other lungfish at the Steinhart Aquarium. The team analyzed the amount of methylation in the fishes’ genetic material. Methylation is a biological process by which methyl groups —a carbon atom bound to three hydrogen atoms — are added to the DNA molecule. From this, they were able to work out how long it would have taken for Methuselah to build up the number of methyl groups found in her DNA.

At any rate, here’s Methuselah:

HOWEVER, Wikipedia mentions Hanako, a captive koi in Japan that died at what seems to be age 225. This is, however, disputed.

*Lettie Teague, the WSJ’s wine columnist, is pretty good, and her column this week is called “Is this the best time ever to be drinking wine? 4 compelling reasons?” Yes, it is a pretty good time, though I fondly recall the cheap ’82 Bordeaux, whose quality/price ratio hasn’t been matched since, or the absurdly inexpensive high-quality German wines of the mid to late eighties; you won’t see those prices again. However, here are Teague’s reasons that now is the BEST time to be drinking wine? (I don’t necessarily agree, but she has some points.

1.) Ciao to corked bottles (more good wines are dispensing with corks).

Although I’ve uncorked plenty of corked bottles over the years, happily, I rarely encounter one these days. And I’m hardly alone. Katja Scharnagl, beverage director of Koloman restaurant in New York, and Caroline Styne, co-owner and wine director of the Los Angeles-based Lucques restaurant group, both told me they are coming across far fewer corked bottles tableside, and both cited increased use of cork alternatives as a factor.

2.) Screw caps ascendant (not really different from #1):

Today, screw caps are employed by winemakers all over the world. And why shouldn’t they be? Screw-capped bottles reliably deliver wine that is fresh and contaminant-free (see cork taint, above). They are also easy to open and close. And in my experience, an open bottle of wine outfitted with a screw cap will stay fresh a bit longer than one closed with a cork.

Indeed, I’d be hard pressed today to find a forward-thinking winemaker—or, for that matter, wine drinker—who thinks there’s anything cheap or less than incredibly handy about a bottle closed with an easy-to-open, (practically) airtight metal cap.

She’s right here. I’ve dealt with too many crumbling corks in old wines to disagree with her.

3.) Embrace the unfamiliar.

Certain grapes have long dominated the wine world. But while Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet and other international superstars remain widely planted, well-known and very popular among wine drinkers, these varieties are far from the only game in town.

Today, I see open-minded wine drinkers—many of them younger and perhaps less fettered by convention—embracing grapes whose names they might be unsure how to pronounce. They are crazy for Carricante from the Etna region of Sicily and Alvarinho from Portugal’s far western edge; for Mencia, that fragrant red grape from Galicia, or Torrontes, the quixotic white grape grown in the same high-elevation vineyards of Argentina that produce that country’s more-famous red grape, Malbec.

Again, she’s right. If there’s one problem with wine lovers, it’s that they often hesitate to try wines that either aren’t made from wel known grapes or are otherwise obscure. Try the little-known reds of Southern France or Spanish whites!

4.) High regard for low alcohol. 

More and more of the emails I get from WSJ readers about a wine I’ve mentioned in my column ask: “What’s the alcohol content?” The wines these readers are looking for are those with low numbers—by which I mean somewhere between 11 and 13% alcohol.

These readers are over the bombastically big Cabernets and Zins and over-oaked Chardonnays whose alcohol content hovers between 15 and 16%. While these alcohol bombs were once hotly pursued by wine lovers and won high critical scores, they have lost some of their luster.

Perhaps it’s because wine drinkers are exhausted by their efforts to pair high-alcohol wines with food—always a challenge. When the alcohol is high, it becomes the dominant feature of the wine, like a loud talker dominating an otherwise silent room.

I don’t fully agree. Those high-alcohol fruit bombs can be great either with the right food or on their own. I suspect many of these people are just assuming that low alcohol wines are healthier, or perhaps they don’t want to get tipsy. There’s a time and place for wines of all alcohol levels, including those lovely vintage ports that are 19% alcohol or more!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is fantasizing about clouds:

Hili: A lion?
A: Where?
Hili: In the cloud, it is riding on a skateboard.
In Polish:
Hili: Lew.
Ja: Gdzie?
Hili: Na chmurze, jedzie na deskorolce.
And a somewhat blurry picture of Szaron:


From Divy:

From Barry:

From Laurie Ann:

From Masih, another protestor harassed in Iran (sound up):

From Titania:


Good news from Simon: Larry is okay! There were rumors that he was very ill.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a post that I retweeted:

From Dr. Cobb, a lion who wants to drink alone:

Matthew said, “You know this one but still . .  ” But no, I didn’t:


Dylan plays three days ago!

Friday: Hili dialogue

September 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Friday, September 22, 2023, and National Ice Cream Cone Day (I presume they mean that ice cream is included). My flight to Chicago leaves a bit after midnight tonight, and as I have to make my way to Ben-Gurion Airport, posting may be light. The autumnal equinox begins in Israel at 2:50 a.m. Saturday morning and at 4:24 a.m. Chicago time. Thus I’ll leave Israel in the summer and arrive in Chicago in the fall (5:30 a.m.).

It’s also Astronomy Day, Hobbit Day (the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in the book), National White Chocolate Day, Native American Day,National Elephant Appreciation Day, National Bakery Day, World Rhino Day, and Love Note Day (send one to your paramour).

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

Da Nooz:

*The apparent reluctance of Democrats (particularly “progressives”) to enact legislation dealing with immigration is one of the Achilles heels that will damage them in next year’s elections. (There are two other heels: the economy—not Biden’s fault—and pervasive wokeness—partly his fault.) Right now, according to the NYT, immigration is playing a role in eroding the President’s clout during the fracas about governmental shutdown. Biden’s response has been to allow nearly a half million Venezuelan immigrants to remain in the US to work for 18 months, though we all really know that they’re here for good.

Administration officials say the decision was made, as required by law, because of the worsening conditions in Venezuela, not the situation in New York or other cities. But for Mr. Biden, the move is sure to inflame the already charged political debate, both inside his own party and with Republicans, about how to confront the surge of migration from South and Central America.

The situation at the border, where officials on Monday arrested 8,000 migrants — close to record highs in May — is providing ammunition to conservative Republicans who are vowing to shut down the government unless Congress agrees to new anti-immigration measures. They argue that protecting recent Venezuelan migrants from deportation will only encourage more to head north, hoping for similar treatment after they arrive.

Advocates for the policy say Venezuelans and other migrants decide to flee because they fear persecution, starvation and violence, not because of a policy change thousands of miles away in Washington. Mr. Biden singled out Venezuelans for the program because of their sheer numbers — they make up the largest mass migration in the hemisphere in decades.

Does anybody doubt that many of the migrants who legally must assert that they are fleeing persecution and violence are in reality seeking economic benefits—not considered  a legal reason for crossing the border? This is one of the Big Lies that has hampered legislation about immigration, a task originally given to Kamala Harris. (She’s done nothing.) One more excerpt:

But the dramatic move by Mr. Biden is evidence of the human dimensions and political power of an issue that has hounded him since he became president. How to deal with the border is at the heart of the funding debate in Congress, and is certain to be central to the debate between Mr. Biden and his Republican opponent in the 2024 campaign next year.

*Nooz from reader Ken:

A Texas teacher has been fired for assigning a portion of Anne Frank’s Diary: the Graphic Adaptation to eighth grade students (which is to say, students about the same age Anne Frank was when she wrote her diary).

The story is in The Washington Post. An excerpt:

A Texas teacher has been fired after a middle school class was assigned to read a graphic novel adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that officials say had not been approved by the school district.

The Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District announced that a teacher had assigned an eighth-grade class to read a passage from “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” which includes passages Frank wrote about female and male genitalia, and a possible attraction to women. The unabridged version of Frank’s diary has been removed from schools in Texas and Florida this year after complaints from parents over the book’s sexual content.

The teacher, who has not been publicly identified, was sent home on Sept. 13 after “concerns regarding curricular selections in your student’s reading class,” district spokesman Mike Canizales said in a letter sent to eighth-grade parents at Hamshire-Fannett Middle School in Beaumont, Tex., east of Houston. Canizales did not specify the reason for the termination but said a substitute has been teaching the class since Sept. 13.

. . . The 2018 graphic novel, adapted by Ari Folman from the unabridged version of Frank’s diary and illustrated by David Polonsky, was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “so engaging and effective that it’s easy to imagine it replacing the Diary in classrooms and among younger readers.” The version by Folman, whose parents survived the Holocaust, illustrates the hope and despair that Frank felt during her time hiding from the Nazis inside a tiny annex. The graphic adaptation is fully authorized by the Anne Frank Fonds, the Switzerland-based foundation that oversees the copyright to Frank’s diary.

Well, I’ve had enough of this censorship. The novel is widely praised, authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation, and is certainly age-appropriate. It is of course mostly Pecksniffian Republicans who get these books removed, and some might be age INappropriate, but this is not one of them. Don’t 14-year-olds know about genitalia and same-sex attraction?

*The Daily Free Press at Boston University has written a pretty damning exposé of Ibram Kendi’s management of his highly funded Center for Antiracist Research at BU. Note that some of the report is based on two disgruntled employees who left, reported mismanagement, and whose complaints were ignored. An excerpt:

Boston University hired Ibram X. Kendi to lead its new Center for Antiracist Research in 2020, a year marked by a global pandemic and nationwide racial tension.

Three years later, after at least $43 million in grants and gifts and what sources say has been an underwhelming output of research, the Center for Antiracist Research laid off almost all of its staff last week.

Multiple former staff members allege that a mismanagement of funds, high turnover rate and general disorganization have plagued the Center since its inception.

The $43 million, according to 2021 budget records obtained by The Daily Free Press, includes general support, such as the $10 million from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, as well as donations for specific projects.

The document, which is not an all-inclusive list of donors, also lists TJ Maxx’s foundation, Stop & Shop and Peloton as donating over a million dollars.

But there’s enough independent information to suggest an investigation is warranted, and that is now happening. If the allegations are true, then Kendi is a species of grifter. At any rate, when the antiracist tsunami happened, the first thing I did was read Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist, and I was appalled at how incoherent and superficial it was. But he’s made his nut, and is widely worshiped.

*According to the AP, an appeals court is taking up a case about transgender health care, in which North Carolina and West Virginia are denying transgender people “affirmative” medical care (surgery, hormone treatment) on the grounds that gender dysphoria is not an illness. I suppose this interpretation makes it close to a forme of plastic surgery, which one could consider “body dysphoria”. But whatever th appellate court does, the AP says this case is ultimately headed to the Supreme Court:

A federal appeals court is considering cases out of North Carolina and West Virginia that could have significant implications on whether individual states are required to cover health care for transgender people with government-sponsored insurance.

The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in cases Thursday involving the coverage of gender-affirming care by North Carolina’s state employee health plan and the coverage of gender-affirming surgery by West Virginia Medicaid.

During the proceedings, at least two judges said it’s likely the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Both states appealed separate lower court rulings that found the denial of gender-affirming care to be discriminatory and unconstitutional. Two panels of three Fourth Circuit judges heard arguments in both cases earlier this year before deciding to intertwine the two cases and see them presented before the full court of 15.

. . .“The exclusion here is actually quite targeted, it’s quite specific,” Borelli said in court, arguing that a faithful interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the equal protection clause ensures transgender people coverage.

Borelli is “Tara Borelli, senior attorney at Lambda Legal — the organization representing transgender people denied services in both states.”

“One of the most important things that a court can do is to uphold those values to protect minority rights who are not able to protect themselves against majoritarian processes,” she said.

Attorneys for the state of North Carolina said the state-sponsored plan is not required to cover gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgery because being transgender is not an illness. Attorney John Knepper claimed only a subset of transgender people suffer from gender dysphoria, a diagnosis of distress over gender identity that doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex.

Knepper said North Carolina’s insurance plan does not discriminate because it does not allow people to use state health insurance to “detransition,” either.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one. Gender dysphoria does seem to be a psychological malady, and if other psychological maladies require medical intervention, and that intervention is provided by the states, why not hormone or surgery treatment? But one must take precautions that the diagnosis is dead serious and not made lightly.

*Self-aggrandizement department: Point of Order in New Zealand has reprinted my recent analysis of an official “let’s-have-two-ways-of-knowing” post, but I added a long comment to the original if you follow Kiwi science. This is from an anonymous New Zealand scientist. Referring to the proposal to use both science and indigenous knowledge, each of which has ways of knowing not used by the other, this scientist commented:

This is not an improvement in epistemic terms. Arguably it’s even worse than integrating MM into science, as social constructivism/epistemic relativism are antithetical to science.
I think it does make it easier for us to criticise what’s going on, however, as the postmodernist ideology is more evident. It’s pretty hard to argue that criticism of postmodernist ideology is racist!
You ask: how are they going to teach MM [Mātauranga Māori] now? The answer is they’re not – to do so would be “recolonisation”. This was never really about teaching MM. It was always a political project designed to promote an ideological agenda. Here’s a relevant quote from Doug Stokes’ book “Against decolonisation”:
“[A]ctivists impose decolonisation as part of a counter-power move to push back against what they claim is knowledge power plays of historically tainted thinkers and institutions. In short, if all knowledge is relative, it becomes politically acceptable to impose your agenda in the name of social justice and a form of restorative activism. Decolonisation is thus an explicitly political power play.
This, in turn, transforms the academic social contract. It moves from a process whereby the sum of human knowledge improves in terms of its capacity to explain the world to a form of radical political deconstruction underpinned by an ethical claim that this is justified to compensate for the legacy effects of the alleged perfidiousness of Western civilisation. The assertion that all human knowledge is equally valid and the university is a site of power contestation makes it easier to understand the abandonment of fundamental academic principles, not least that of academic freedom; Itself often portrayed as a conspiracy on the part of bigots to justify discrimination and ideas that may run contrary to those of the progressive ‘woke’ Left. Aside from the obvious fact that if all knowledge is relative, why should we subscribe to the assertions of the decolonisation critique itself, [when] this form of unbounded judgmental relativism abandons any notion of reality or truth for a seeming endless play on meaning, identity and power that is transforming the university system.” (p. 83-84)
In short, the inherent attack on science is a feature, not a bug, and we’re replaying the science wars of the 1990s. People here in New Zealand should be asking themselves the following questions: if any of the MM proponents actually had a commitment to science, why are they all engaging with MM instead, and why to they consistently seek to caricature modern science?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili isn’t drinking coffee, but is curious about it for obvious reasons:

Hili: Do you make this coffee with milk or with cream?
A: Why do you ask?
Hili: I prefer cream.
(Photo: Sarah Lawson)
Hili: Czy tę kawę robisz sobie z mlekiem, czy ze śmietanką? Ja: Dlaczego pytasz?Hili: Wolę śmietankę.
(Zdjęcie S.L.)

And a photo of Szaron yawning taken by Sarah:


From Divy:

From Merilee:

From Bad Cat Clothing:

From Masih. Here “promoting” means “publicizing”:

Some crazy creationism sent in by Barry:

What does one expect when Jacinda Ardern, whom I once admired greatly as New Zealand’s PM (she no longer is), turns super woke and then gives her opinions on free speech?  I reposted this segment of her speech and added a comment:

And words from Elizabeth Warren, who apparently will say anything to demonstrate her ideological purity. No, I never voted for her.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Herr Professor Cobb. First, weird behavior of kingfishers. Could it be mating behavior (not so if both birds below are males):

Duckling rush hour (muscovies). 28 of them!

How lovely! Good thing the youngsters have great balance! Sound up to hear the hooves.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 20, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a Hump Day (“હમ્પ ડે” in Gujurati), Wednesday, September 20, 2023, and National Rum Punch Day. What a perfect followup to “Talk Like a Pirate Day”!

It’s also National Pepperoni Pizza Day, National Fried Rice Day (cultural appropriation), National Gibberish Day, National String Cheese DayConstitution Day in Nepal, and Universal Children’s Day in Germany.

Here’s how they make string cheese, which I like (it’s the texture, Jake):

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 20 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The U.S. is trying to make nice with Iran, a move Masih Alinejad (and I) consider hypocritical and unconscionable. But Iran apparently isn’t having it.

A day after the United States and Iran exchanged prisoners and Washington released $6 billion of Tehran’s frozen assets, Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, gave no sign of seeking further reconciliation with the United States, threatening to retaliate for the killing of an Iranian general.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Raisi called the U.S. assassination of Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, “a terrorist act.” He then repeated Iran’s threats to take revenge on those who had ordered and carried out the killing.

General Suleimani was killed in Iraq in 2020, when Donald J. Trump was president, in an American drone strike targeted against him. Iran retaliated by launching a ballistic missile attack on American military bases in Iraq, and more than 100 U.S. soldiers suffered concussions as a result, the military has said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, through all tools and capacities in order to bring to justice the perpetrators and all those who had a hand in this government sanctioned act of terror, will not sit until that is done,” Mr. Raisi said on Tuesday. “The blood of the oppressed will not be forgotten.”

Iranian officials have made similar threats in the past, but this one may take on added weight coming from the president of the country repeating it in one of the most prominent international forums, with world leaders in attendance.

. . . Law enforcement officials have said in the past that they have detected serious threats from Iran against former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton. As Mr. Raisi vowed revenge on Tuesday, a lone U.S. representative in the assembly hall took notes.

The sooner the protestors bring down the Iranian theocracy, the better, and I hope they will!

*The GOP fracas over funding the government continues, and we may be facing a government shutdown—again!

The prospect of a government shutdown escalated significantly Tuesday as House Republicans’ intraparty tensions again came to a head in a dramatic floor vote amid negotiations on a nascent plan to keep the government open.

House Republicans’ inability to find agreement on even a stopgap funding bill that is destined to fail in the Senate again puts into focus the challenge before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as he tries to unite his party and avoid a government shutdown. Though Republicans largely agree on the need to significantly curb federal spending, divisions mostly over process have given any five lawmakers enormous power in the razor-thin majority.

But there’s hope, for even Republicans realize that a government shutdown is a bad thing, especially when it can be blamed on them:

But as hard-liners dug in on their opposition, their more moderate counterparts began to firm up contingency plans for a bipartisan effort to keep the government open, publicly condemning their colleagues’ obstinance.

Some Republicans are seriously considering getting behind a shell bill that could, as soon as next week, serve as the vehicle that allows moderates to supersede McCarthy’s control of the House floor and force a vote to keep the government open, according to three people familiar with the plan who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to outline preliminary and private conversations. What exactly gets included in such a discharge petition remains unknown, but those familiar with the planning said it would include a short-term funding plan to avert a shutdown that could garner enough support from House Democrats and the Senate.

Part of the Republican bill includes provisions to restrict immigration.  Unless the GOP comes up with a plan that can pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, we’re in for a shutdown. This is what happens when both houses of Congress are controlled by different parties.

*The WSJ reviews the new versions of the iPhone 15, made with a titanium case, and likes them all, despite their higher prices:

  • iPhone 15 ($799 and up) and iPhone 15 Plus ($899 and up):
  • iPhone 15 Pro ($999 and up) and iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,199 and up)

Most of us don’t change our phones as often as our Brita filters. (You’re welcome for the reminder!) Will iPhone 14 owners notice a big difference if they upgrade? Heck no. But when I went back to the iPhone 12 and 13 models, the improvements were more noticeable. And even for a big-screen hater like me, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has become a contender.

Sadly, Apple axed the smallest “mini” phone after the 13; I liked the small versions you can slip into your pocket.  The author likes the lighter, stronger, titanium case and the improved camera of the 15. It also has the new USB-C port that you can charge off almost everything.

As for me, I don’t understand the urge to buy each new iPhone as it comes to market, and I’ll keep using my 13 as long as it’s compatible.

*Michelle Goldberg at the NYT decries the waning of donations by the Left to liberal causes in a column called “Where has all the left-wing money gone?” (h/t David)

As we stumble toward another existential election, panic is setting in among some progressive groups because the donors who buoyed them throughout the Trump years are disengaging. “Donations to progressive organizations are way down in 2023 across the board,” said a recent memo from Billy Wimsatt, executive director of the Movement Voter Project, an organization founded in 2016 that channels funds to community organizers, mostly in swing states, who engage and galvanize voters. He added, “Groups need money to make sure we have a good outcome next November. But. People. Are. Not. Donating.” [JAC: I really dislike these sentences made up of single words separated by periods.]

As both big and small donors pull back, there have been layoffs across the progressive ecosystem, from behemoths like the Sierra Club to insurgent outfits like Justice Democrats, the group that first recruited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to challenge the Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in 2018. According to a July analysis by Middle Seat, a Democratic strategy and consulting firm, in the first half of this year, grass-roots donations to Democratic House and Senate campaigns were down almost 50 percent compared to the same point in 2021. Wimsatt, who had to lay off 15 people from a 55-person staff in June, told me, “I haven’t experienced a situation like this before when there’s been such a sense of scarcity.”

Both organizations mentioned above are woke. Could the public rejection of wokeness account for this phenomenon? I’d like to think so, but it seems unlikely. Goldberg mentions two reasons. The first doesn’t make sense to me:

One small, characteristic piece of this problem — and perhaps the easiest part to solve — involves the way Democrats use email. If you’re on any progressive mailing lists, you surely know what I’m talking about: the endless appeals, sometimes in bold all caps, warning of imminent Democratic implosion. (Recent subject lines in my inbox include, “We can kiss our Senate majority goodbye” and “This is not looking good.”)

In the short term, these emails are effective, which is why campaigns use them. Over time, they encourage a mix of cynicism and helplessness — precisely the feelings leading too many people to withdraw from political involvement.

But this one makes more sense:

But this is just a symptom of a bigger problem, which is that, right now, progressive politics are necessarily organized around preventing imminent catastrophe rather than offering up a vision of a transformed world. Joe Biden has an impressive legislative record, but because of the counter-majoritarian roadblocks in our system, the case for his re-election is largely about staving off disaster rather than the promise of new accomplishments. “It’s really hard to get people to give money when you do not have a coherent theory of change,” said Berger.

That one, at least, rings true. But revulsion at wokeness still may play a role. And fear of Trump may be a powerful motivator to donate.

*Finally, this story, in the “oddity” section of the AP’s site, is both heartening and sad. Click screenshot to read, and I’ve put in a photo:

The tale:

A Florida reptile park has taken in an alligator that lost its nose and upper jaw to a fight or boat propeller.

Gatorland Orlando said over the weekend that the injured alligator came from a lake in nearby Sanford, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of Orlando.

“She had basically no chance of surviving in the wild with such a severe injury,” the park said in a social media post.

Over the next few days, the park’s veterinarian staff will be monitoring the gator in an effort to make sure it is eating in a stress-free environment, the park said.

To get the gator to eat, the staff is cutting up small pieces of food that they will toss in the back of its throat, believing it had survived in the wild doing the same thing on its own with snails, slugs and frogs, Kathy Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the park, said in an email.

Here’s a photo. I wish this little gator the best, and applaud the humans who are taking care of it:

Photo credit: via AP

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is cadging noms

Hili: Are you washing plates after every dinner or only those less tasty?
A: After every dinner,
Hili: That’s not smart.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy zmywasz talerze po każdym obiedzie, czy tylko po tych mniej smacznych?Ja: Po każdym.Hili: To nie jest mądre.

And a lovely picture of sweet Szaron:


From Irena:

From Seth Andrews:

And Philomena is back, and making trumpet noises! This is a melange from “Cunk on Earth”.

From Masih, calling out the hypocrisy of the administration’s worship of “human rights.” A few words from the long tweet:

When I criticize the US government for its dealings with Islamic Republic, I often get told by some analysts in the media, “the US government have sanctioned the Islamic Republic, what more do you want?”

I want the hypocrisy to end.

President Biden owes an explanation to all Iranians and Americans that how a sanctioned Meraj Air flight landed in New York, carrying sanctioned president of the Islamic Republic Ebrahim Raisi, and whose regime is actively attempting to assassinate Americans. Raisi will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service while in New York. Are the American taxpayers happy about it?

Titania’s still tweeting!

I find it hard to believe that even Colin Kaepernick made this first video (h/t Luana) comparing the NFL draft to slavery. But yes, it’s true, and from his Netflix documentary (see here). There is one HUGE difference between the NFL and slavery, and it’s green.

From Malcom: parrots doing tricks:

From the Auschwitz Memorial; I retweeted this one after I looked up the patch:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. At first I thought that both snails would go after the green bean:

Matthew says that these are all correct:

Yes, fascinating!

Friday: Hili Dialogue

September 8, 2023 • 6:45 am

As you read this, I’ll either be in Tel Aviv or on my way there. I’ll be staying in Israel’s “second city” for a week, and then, saying farewell to Anna and Jay, who are going back to he U.S., I’ll be returning to Jerusalem for another week.  I may even get some beach time in, as our hotel is across from the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron discuss rationality:

Szaron: Are cats rational?
Hili: Yes, occasionally.
When I asked whether Hili thought she was rational, Malgorzata replied:

She thinks of herself as way over any normal cat. Of course, she is always rational. She is telling Szaron how it is with other cats.

In Polish:
Szaron: Czy koty są racjnalne?Hili: Chwilami tak.

Lagniappe: Here’s FIRE’s new ad for the upcoming football season. It’s long, so I wonder if it will air, but I like it (h/t Luana):

Sunday: Hili dialogue

September 3, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Sunday, September 3, and greetings from Jerusalem, site of all kinds of mythical miracles. But it’s still ancient and beautiful, even if Jesus didn’t get resurrected here. Today I’ll do a bit of touring and get taken for lunch (hummus, I hope!).  The sightseeing, however, will begin in earnest tomorrow.  My jet lag enabled me to sleep 9 hours last night: a paradise.

It’s National Baby Back Ribs Day, a Chicago speciality. There are many famous places to get rib tips (pork, of course), often accompanied by hot links (big fat sausages). But the best, Uncle J’s on 47th Street, is now closed. No other place, including the reputed Lem’s and Leon’s, comes close. Here: mourn what is no more. Its closing broke my heart.

My usual order was a large tips with mild sauce; it was good for two meals.

It’s also National Skyscraper Day, National Welsh Rarebit Day, Merchant Navy Day Min the UK, and the Feast of San Marino and the Republic, celebrates the foundation of the Republic of San Marino in 301.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 3 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first: Jimmy Buffett, the original Parrothead, died on Friday at only 76.  It was announced on his website this way:

From the NYT:

Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter, author, sailor and entrepreneur whose roguish brand of island escapism on hits like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” made him something of a latter-day folk hero, especially among his devoted following of so-called Parrot Heads, died on Friday. He was 76.

His death was announced in a statement on his website. The statement did not say where he died or specify a cause. Mr. Buffett had rescheduled a series of concerts this spring, saying that he had been hospitalized, although he offered no details.

Peopled with pirates, smugglers, beach bums and barflies, Mr. Buffett’s genial, self-deprecating songs conjured a world of sun, salt water and nonstop parties animated by the calypso country-rock of his limber Coral Reefer Band. His live shows abounded with singalong anthems and festive tropical iconography, making him a perennial draw on the summer concert circuit, where he built an ardent fan base akin to the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads.

But my favorite song of his—by far—isn’t mentioned until later in the article, and although it was his first big hit (1974), who remembers it now. Here’s the original video, which I believe shows Buffett’s wife and his own pickup truck.

Although he had only one top-ten single (“Margaritaville, which I’m not that keen on), he was wildly popular, and his net worth this year, according to Forbes (in the article) was a billion dollars!

*A sad but true headline from the WSJ: “Trump is top choice for nearly 60% of GOP voters, WSJ poll shows.” Oy, my kishkes!

Donald Trump has expanded his dominating lead for the Republican presidential nomination, a new Wall Street Journal poll shows, as GOP primary voters overwhelmingly see his four criminal prosecutions as lacking merit and about half say the indictments fuel their support for him.

The new survey finds that what was once a two-man race for the nomination has collapsed into a lopsided contest in which Trump, for now, has no formidable challenger. The former president is the top choice of 59% of GOP primary voters, up 11 percentage points since April, when the Journal tested a slightly different field of potential and declared candidates.

Trump’s lead over his top rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has nearly doubled since April to 46 percentage points. At 13% support, DeSantis is barely ahead of the rest of the field, none of whom has broken out of single-digit support.

Look and weep:

. . . and here’s the sick part:

The poll highlights one of the remarkable features of the 2024 primary race: Criminal prosecutions that in past eras might have sunk a candidate have only strengthened the leading contender. Two of Trump’s indictments involve his efforts to remain in power after his 2020 loss, which included repeated false claims of widespread election irregularities.

Asked about the indictments of Trump, more than 60% of Republican primary voters said each was politically motivated and without merit. Some 78% said Trump’s actions after the 2020 election were legitimate efforts to ensure an accurate vote, while 16% said Trump had illegally tried to block Congress from certifying an election he had lost. About half, or 48%, said the indictments made them more likely to vote for Trump in 2024, while 16% said they made them less likely to support him for a second term.

*My Chicago colleague, political scientist John Mearsheimer, who’s well known but heterodox, has written a Substack post called “Bound to lose: Ukraine’s 2023 offensive.” He thinks Ukraine will lose the war, as I recall, but here’s some of what he said in his recent essay (I’ve omitted the footnotes, and h/t: cesar):

It is now clear that Ukraine’s eagerly anticipated counteroffensive has been a colossal failure.  After three months, the Ukrainian army has made little progress pushing back the Russians. Indeed, it has yet to get beyond the so-called “grey zone,” the heavily contested strip of land that lies in front of the first main line of Russian defenses. The New York Times reports that “In the first two weeks of the counteroffensive, as much as 20 percent of the weaponry Ukraine sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed, according to U.S. and European officials. The toll included some of the formidable Western fighting machines — tanks and armored personnel carriers — that the Ukrainians were counting on to beat back the Russians.” According to virtually all accounts of the fighting, Ukrainian troops have suffered enormous casualties. All nine of the vaunted brigades that NATO armed and trained for the counteroffensive have been badly chewed up on the battlefield.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive was doomed to fail from the start. A look at the lineup of forces on both sides and what the Ukrainian army was trying to do, coupled with an understanding of the history of conventional land war, make it clear that there was virtually no chance the attacking Ukrainian forces could defeat Russia’s defending forces and achieve their political goals.

Read the piece if you want to get depressed. A bit more:

. . . many in the West will argue that the time is now ripe for diplomacy. The failed counteroffensive shows that Ukraine cannot prevail on the battlefield, so the argument will go, and thus it makes sense to reach a peace agreement with Russia, even if Kyiv and the West must make concessions. After all, the situation will only get worse for Ukraine if the war continues.

Regrettably, there is no diplomatic solution in sight. There are irreconcilable differences between the two sides over security guarantees for Ukraine and territory, which stand in the way of a meaningful peace agreement. For understandable reasons, Ukraine is deeply committed to getting back all the land it has lost to Russia, which includes Crimea and the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. But Moscow has already annexed those territories and made it clear that it has no intention of returning them to Kyiv.

The other unresolvable issue concerns Ukraine’s relationship with the West. For understandable reasons, Ukraine insists that it needs a security guarantee, which can only come from the US and NATO. Russia, on the other hand, insists that Ukraine must be neutral and must end its security relationship with the West. In fact, that issue was the main cause of the present war, even if American and European foreign policy elites refuse to believe it.[62] Moscow was unwilling to tolerate Ukraine joining NATO. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see how both sides can be satisfied on either the territorial or neutrality issue.

*A guest essay in the NYT by two physicists shows us that no, it’s not “the end of science” (regardless of what the chest-thumping John Horgan maintains): “The story of our universe may be starting to unravel.” Whaaaa?

Not long after the James Webb Space Telescope began beaming back from outer space its stunning images of planets and nebulae last year, astronomers, though dazzled, had to admit that something was amiss. Eight months later, based in part on what the telescope has revealed, it’s beginning to look as if we may need to rethink key features of the origin and development of the universe.

Launched at the end of 2021 as a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb, a tool with unmatched powers of observation, is on an exciting mission to look back in time, in effect, at the first stars and galaxies. But one of the Webb’s first major findings was exciting in an uncomfortable sense: It discovered the existence of fully formed galaxies far earlier than should have been possible according to the so-called standard model of cosmology.

According to the standard model, which is the basis for essentially all research in the field, there is a fixed and precise sequence of events that followed the Big Bang: First, the force of gravity pulled together denser regions in the cooling cosmic gas, which grew to become stars and black holes; then, the force of gravity pulled together the stars into galaxies.

. . . The Webb data, though, revealed that some very large galaxies formed really fast, in too short a time, at least according to the standard model. This was no minor discrepancy. The finding is akin to parents and their children appearing in a story when the grandparents are still children themselves.

Take the matter of how fast the universe is expanding. This is a foundational fact in cosmological science — the so-called Hubble constant — yet scientists have not been able to settle on a number. There are two main ways to calculate it: One involves measurements of the early universe (such as the sort that the Webb is providing); the other involves measurements of nearby stars in the modern universe. Despite decades of effort, these two methods continue to yield different answers.

At first, scientists expected this discrepancy to resolve as the data got better. But the problem has stubbornly persisted even as the data have gotten far more precise. And now new data from the Webb have exacerbated the problem. This trend suggests a flaw in the model, not in the data.

Two serious issues with the standard model of cosmology would be concerning enough. But the model has already been patched up numerous times over the past half century to better conform with the best available data — alterations that may well be necessary and correct, but which, in light of the problems we are now confronting, could strike a skeptic as a bit too convenient.

And we still don’t know what dark matter or dark energy is. I’m not a physicist, and so can’t judge how serious these problems are. Physicists should weigh in below.

*Finally, you’ve surely read about the Nebraska man who was given a ticket for transporting a huge Watusi bull with giant horns (named Howdy Doody)in the front seat of his car.  Here’s a video:

Now the WaPo defends this, as will all right-thinking people, in a piece called, “The Watusi bull riding shotgun is what makes America great.” (I hope Trump doesn’t coopt this MAGA trope!” An excerpt:

The nation’s unseemly recent obsession with politics and cultural strife has been an unhappy distraction from the great American pastime of wacky undertakings. Policy brings out the worst in us. The mystic chords of our better angels are strummed by episodes of loony brilliance: a man who takes flight in a lawn chair lifted by balloons; another who makes a modern Stonehenge from half-buried Cadillacs; some person who paints a monumental likeness of the Mona Lisa on the side of an isolated barn. As a boy, I was entranced by billboards advertising the World’s Largest Prairie Dog on the remote plains of western Kansas, and felt mixed disappointment and admiration when, old enough to drive at last, I pulled off to discover a weather-beaten statue some eight or 10 feet high.

In this grand tradition comes Lee Meyer. By now, there’s a good chance you’ve met him on the internet. “Full grown bull riding shotgun” is what you call clickbait, but unlike most things fitting that description, the bull in the car is even better than the tease. He is an adult male of the Watusi breed, known for their almost comically enormous horns. In the viral video, the bull appears blissful riding down the highway in the retired police cruiser that his human friend has modified to contain his tonnage. The license plate reads: “Boy & Dog.”

. . . A sedan with half the roof and windshield sliced away to make space for a large animal stall, containing a monstrous beast with a cheerful disposition, is exactly the sort of parade feature that keeps America daffy and great. Let other nations goose-step. We’ll take the shiny fire engine with little kids tossing candy from it, and the girls in braces twirling batons, and the grown men driving figure eights in tiny cars, and the eccentric neighbor who enjoys taking his pet bull for a ride.

There are, as of this writing, 1485 comments on this piece!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are on the prowl:

Szaron: We have to check the northern part of the orchard.
Hili: Try to convince me because my motivation is weak.
In Polish:
Szaron: Trzeba sprawdzić północne krańce sadu.
Hili: Spróbuj mnie przekonać, bo mam słabą motywację.

First, see this Facebook video on Jesus of the Day.

And another from that site:

Two examples of confusing English from The Absurd Sign Project 2.0:

And another:

Three from Masih. First, a hijabless Iranian woman gets tear gas sprayed in her face by the cops.  We need to hear more about this from Western feminist vehicles like Teen Vogue, a shamless apologetic for Islamist oppression of women.

Sound up:

Two more. Dancing in the streets in Iran could be a capital crime. Sound up.

In hospital before he died.  There is no excuse for treating protestors this way, but it’s not rare:

From Malcolm. I wouldn’t think a McDonald’s sign would be tasteless, but this one is. McCrispy!

From Luana, whose humor is always political:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, an entire family extirpated:

From Matthew: a cat brings presents to its girlfriend (sound up):

Look at the snout on this mole!:

A BBC reporter gives a lousy simulacrum of the supermoon!

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

August 29, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, August 29, 2023, and oy, it’s National Chop Suey Day. This vile dish, often made with canned crispy noodles, stir-fried celery, and a cornstarch-infused goo poured over the whole odious mess, may be the worst example of cultural foor appropriation I know. It’s okay if you’re hungry (everything is), but is bland and flavorless.


It’s also Lemon Juice Day, More Herbs, Less Salt Day (brought to you by the Leisure Fascists), National Swiss Wine Growers DayInternational Day against Nuclear Tests, and, in Ukraine, both Miners’ Day and Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of Ukraine. In India it’s both National Sports Day and Telugu Language Day.(tomorrow, “Hump Day”, would be translated as మూపురం రోజు in Telugu.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the August 29 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Crikey, Trump’s lawyers tried to postpone his “insurrection” trial for conspiracy to overturn the election results until 2026, but a federal judge set the trial to begin two years earlier: on March 4 of next year.

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election set a trial date on Monday for early March, rebuffing Mr. Trump’s proposal to push it off until 2026.

The decision by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to start the trial on March 4 amounted to an early victory for prosecutors, who had asked for Jan. 2. But it potentially brought the proceeding into conflict with the three other trials that Mr. Trump is facing, underscoring the extraordinary complexities of his legal situation and the intersection of the prosecutions with his campaign to return to the White House.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has proposed taking Mr. Trump to trial on charges of tampering with the election in that state on March 4 as well. Another case, in Manhattan, in which Mr. Trump has been accused of more than 30 felonies connected to hush-money payments to a porn actress in the run-up the 2016 election, has been scheduled to go to trial on March 25.

And if the trial in Washington lasts more than 11 weeks, it could bump up against Mr. Trump’s other federal trial, on charges of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. That trial is scheduled to begin in Florida in late May.

The March 4 date set by Judge Chutkan for the federal election case at a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington is the day before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses.

Judge Chutkan said that while she understood Mr. Trump had both other trial dates scheduled next year and, at the same time, was running for the country’s highest office, she was not going to let the intersection of his legal troubles and his political campaign get in the way of setting a date.

“Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule,” Judge Chutkan said, adding that “there is a societal interest to a speedy trial.”

The article notes that Trump is plotting to delay the outcome of the federal trials until after the election, for if he wins he can pardon himself. But he cannot pardon himself if convicted for state crimes. And, of course, there are legal issues with a President pardoning himself.

*The AP has an article about how data-driven approaches may help curb gun violence (they don’t consider my solution: using the UK solution of severely restricting access to guns).

In recent years, research reviews have begun to conclude there’s enough evidence to say which public health interventions prevent shootings, which do not, and which need more study. Knoxville is one of a growing number of cities teaming with researchers to develop an evidence-based plan to stop the bleeding.

Though some big questions remain, there is a growing consensus about what programs and policies make a difference — and which don’t.

According to an assessment by the Rand Corp., measures that work include laws that permit charging adults who let children have unsupervised access to guns, well-enforced background checks and policies that ban guns from people subject to domestic violence restraining orders.

Measures that don’t: stand-your-ground and concealed carry laws, which studies consistently show increase gun homicides, and gun buyback programs, which have been shown to have little, if any, effect on crime.

I don’t get the concealed-carry stuff; if those laws increase gun homicides, then repealing them should be a recipe for reducing deaths.

. . .As shootings accelerated, Kincannon turned to Thomas Abt, whose book, “Bleeding Out,” offers a plan for cities that includes having police and community organizations work together.

Crucially, Abt’s program doesn’t count on policymakers to take action to restrict gun access. That was appealing, because Tennessee’s state government has been moving in the opposite direction.

Kincannon supports expanded background checks and other gun control measures, but said Knoxville’s efforts are designed to make a difference “no matter what happens legislatively.”

But the stuff above all involves the legislature, and the solutions suggested for the test city of Knoxville seem like weak beer. Here’s one:

The research also supported police data showing most gun violence happened in a few “hot spots,” mostly in East Knoxville, leading to a plan initially focusing police and community outreach to a nine-block area there.

The effort involves church leaders and a range of community organizations. There were also changes at the police department, including a new police chief, a detective unit focused only on homicides and shootings, and officers dedicated to patrolling in areas with many shootings.

A goal is to increase public trust in law enforcement, which had been low and sometimes abysmal. A particular low point occurred in 2021, when a police officer killed a student in a high school bathroom in East Knoxville.

There are other things one can do (programs for kids, more outreach), but the article says that so far there’s been no palpable effect on homicides in Knoxville. I really don’t think you can make inroads on the American issue of gun violence without restricting access to guns—and that will take legislatures and, more than that, a change in morality equivalent to that which lead to the civil rights laws of the Sixties.

*Here’s a clickbait WaPo headline for me, “This is the most glamorous book you’ll read this year. Or any year.” What’s a “glamorous” book? And what is reviewer Jacob Brogan recommending? It turns out to be the memoir Better than Sane: Tales from a Dangling Girl by “model, actress, and New Yorker writer [now writing for Vogue] Alison Rose.” The book review is glowing, though other reviews haven’t been. I’ve requested the book from our library, though. A few words:

On one of those early June afternoons when the weather in Washington is like a kettle recently off the stove, I found myself on the covered terrace of a cafe, almost involuntarily proselytizing to a friend about the book I was reading. “It is the only memoir that really needed to be written,” I told her. I was speaking about “Better Than Sane: Tales From a Dangling Girl,” by the model-turned-actress-turned-New Yorker-writer Alison Rose, which was published to little notice in 2004, soon fell out of print and is now, thankfully, being reissued by Godine.

“She is incredible,” I said, volume rising, words speeding up. “When she’s a child, she has a crush on Gardner McKay, the handsomest actor who ever lived. Then she meets him when she’s grown up. They become best friends! He casts her in a play that he wrote where she plays a mentally disabled boy. They screened it on PBS! Things like that just keep happening to her. She’s the hottest person you’ve never heard of.”

.  .  . “Better Than Sane” is the most glamorous book you will read this year. If you read it next year, that will still be true. If you were one of the few who read it in 2004, read it again. Rose’s natural glamour is of the slightly sorrowful kind Lana Del Rey aspires, sometimes successfully, to convey. But in her memoir, Rose also exudes aglamour of the kind some fairies in folklore possess: a beguiling but slightly illusory beauty that perhaps disguises a still more compelling ugliness, after which we can only ever wonder.

There are, of course, many affairs and a lot of sex, but I’ll skip that part and go to the reviewer’s conclusion:

. . . It is, however, a perfect book; not in the way that gemstones are, but in the way that a Saturday can be. This is the rare sort of memoir that invites you into a world beneath our own, a secret commonwealth made possible by Rose’s spiky genius and irresistible magnetism. It deserves to be reveled in, returned to and, if you are anything like me, enthusiastically and loudly shared. There are treasures here on every page, sometimes an unforgettable quip and sometimes just a joyful little encounter with a pet. Above it all there is Rose herself, as adventurous and unhinged as Titania, friend to movie stars and poets, glamorous precisely because she is possibly unreal.

Them’s very positive words! Well, this is a challenge for me. Will I find this a “perfect Saturday-like book”? Stay tuned.

*The conservative WSJ op-ed section has a piece on Nikki Haley, my second favorite Republican candidate after Chris Christie (I won’t, of course, vote for a Republican in the next Presidential election, but I’m not happy about voting for Biden, potentially turning Kamala “Do Nothing” Harris into President. The article, “Nikki Haley’s debate truths“, says this:

If Nikki Haley gets a bump in the polls from Wednesday’s presidential debate, one reason will be that she respected viewers by telling them the truth. Ms. Haley said, accurately, that passing a national abortion ban at 15 weeks is politically off the table, since it would require 60 votes in the Senate. She has argued this before, but many Republicans might be hearing it for the first time.

The former South Carolina Governor instead suggested—brace yourself—consensus policy-making. “Can’t we all agree that we should ban late-term abortions?” she asked. “Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available?” At the same time, Ms. Haley called herself “unapologetically pro-life.”

The contrast to Ms. Haley came from her fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, and especially former Vice President Mike Pence, who have endorsed a national abortion ban at 15 weeks. “A 15-week ban is an idea whose time has come,” Mr. Pence said. “It’s supported by 70% of the American people. But it’s going to take unapologetic leadership.”

Mr. Pence is principled, and he’s right that the Democratic Party’s abortion absolutists are far from the center of public opinion. In a recent Gallup survey, 55% of Americans (including 52% of women) said abortion should be generally illegal in the second three months of pregnancy, versus 37% who said legal.

Yet Ms. Haley is right that Mr. Pence’s idea would get zero support from Democrats in the Senate. Breaking a filibuster would take a supermajority that Republicans haven’t enjoyed in living memory, and if Mr. Pence has a plan to flip another 11 seats, he isn’t sharing it.

. . .Ms. Haley’s honesty didn’t stop there. “Donald Trump added $8 trillion to our debt,” she said. “You look at the 2024 budget: Republicans asked for $7.4 billion in earmarks. Democrats asked for $2.8 billion. So you tell me who are the big spenders.” Those figures are backed by a Roll Call story last month: “House Republicans have so thoroughly stacked the earmarking deck in their favor in appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year that the top Democratic recipient doesn’t even appear in the top 60.”

Then there was the elephant not in the room, as Fox News host Bret Baier put it, meaning former President Trump. “Three-quarters of Americans don’t want a rematch between Trump and Biden,” Ms. Haley said. “And we have to face the fact that Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We can’t win a general election that way.”

Haley’s foreign policy, made evident when she was ambassador to the UN, isn’t bad, either. As I said, I wouldn’t vote for her, but she and Christie are way, way better than Trump as Republican candidates.

*Gross news: reader Pyers informs me that an Australian woman who was having bouts of “abdominal pain and diarrhoea, followed by a constant dry cough, fever and night sweats,” graduating to “forgetfulness and depression”, was diagnosed with harboring a live roundworm in her brain!

It was a fairly regular day on the ward for Canberra hospital infectious diseases physician Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, until a neurosurgeon colleague called him and said: “Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe what I just found in this lady’s brain – and it’s alive and wriggling.”

The neurosurgeon, Dr Hari Priya Bandi, had pulled an 8cm-long parasitic roundworm from her patient, prompting her to call on Senanayake and other hospital colleagues for advice about what to do next.

The patient, a 64-year-old woman from south-eastern New South Wales, was first admitted to her local hospital in late January 2021 after suffering three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhoea, followed by a constant dry cough, fever and night sweats.

By 2022, her symptoms also included forgetfulness and depression, prompting a referral to Canberra hospital. An MRI scan of her brain revealed abnormalities requiring surgery.

“But the neurosurgeon certainly didn’t go in there thinking they would find a wriggling worm,” Senanayake said. “Neurosurgeons regularly deal with infections in the brain, but this was a once-in-a-career finding. No one was expecting to find that.”

The surprising discovery prompted a team at the hospital to quickly come together to uncover what kind of roundworm it was and, most importantly, decide on any further treatment the patient might require.

. . .“Canberra is a small place, so we sent the worm, which was still alive, straight to the laboratory of a CSIRO scientist who is very experienced with parasites,” Senanayake said. “He just looked at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is Ophidascaris robertsi’.”

Ophidascaris robertsi is a roundworm usually found in pythons. The Canberra hospital patient marks the world-first case of the parasite being found in humans.

She’s okay after the worm was removed, though she’s being tested for any sign of  being immunocompromised, She may have gotten infected by coming into contact with python feces, as snakes live in her area. Here are two pictures from the article:

Caption from the Guardian article:

The roundworm specimen after being pulled out of the woman’s brain. Photograph: Canberra Health

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej gives Hili some bird-catching lessons:

Hili: What is the probability that this bird will not fly away when I come close to it?
A: Close to zero.
Hili: That’s just a theory.
In Polish:
Hili: Jakie jest prawdopodobieństwo, że ten ptak nie odfrunie, kiedy do niego podejdę?
Ja: Bliskie zera.
Hili: To tylko teoria.
The roses are in focus, but Szaron is not:


From David, a Tundra cartoon by Chad Carpenter:

From Barry, a figure he found on reddit about the decline of religion in America (I can’t vouch for the data):

From Facebook, but I can’t find the artist:



From Masih. This really is a chilling video, showing several guys removing a woman not wearing a hijab from a taxi and beating her up. (Sound on.) Taxi drivers don’t have to accept women without hijabs, but beating them up for going unveiled is beyond the pale. Such is life for women in the Iranian theocracy.

A good scene from the first season of Ricky Gervais’s “After Life” (highly recommended show):

From Jez, the BEST personal trainer. But don’t squash the kitten!

From Malcolm, a lovely blanket octopus (there are four species), so named because of the webbing between their arms,

From the Auschwitz Memorial, two sisters gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, the first showing an amazing fossil and then a tweet with a reference:

Duck therapists have a hard job:

Live and learn: I had no idea! My batteries are always scattered in the drawer:

Monday: Hili dialogue

August 28, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greeting at the beginning of the “work” week: Monday, August 28 2023. In one week I’ll be in Israel! (Posting will be light for three weeks after Friday, but I do my best.)  It’s National Cherry Turnover Day, second only to the strawberry turnover as a tasty species in this genus of pastries. 

It’s also National Bow Tie Day, International Read Comics in Public Day, National Thoughtful Day, Red Wine Day (I have mine for tonight), and the Christian feast day of Augustine the Hippo. (Yes, I know the right name.) I had to read tons of Augustine when I was writing Faith Versus Fact, and I have to laugh when he’s signled out as a great Church Father who did not take the Bible literally.  “A great thinker” about theology is like a great thinker about the Loch Ness Monster. And yes, Augustine did take the Bible literally, allowing a metaphorical dimension, too. But he was bonkers as well, writing at great length about the types of angels that existed and their nature. He was obsessed with angels!

Here’s Augustine the Hippo:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the August 28 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Shooting of the day: It’s in Chicago again: three people were found wounded in a car yesterday morning in the Little Village area of Chicago’s West Side. All the victims will survive, but the shooter hasn’t yet been found. It’s the Second Amendment, folks: the shooter was part of a well regulated militia!

*FINALLY Russia has confirmed that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin died in the plane crash last week.

The Russian authorities have officially confirmed the death of the Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, with investigators saying on Sunday that genetic testing showed that the victims of a plane crash last week matched all the names on the jet’s manifest.

The announcement put an end to several days of speculation over the fate of the mercenary chief, who was presumed to have died in the plane crash on Wednesday, just two months after he launched a failed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. U.S. and Western officials believe the crash was the result of an explosion on board and several have said they think that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia may have had Mr. Prigozhin killed in retaliation for his mutiny — suggestions the Kremlin on Friday dismissed as an “absolute lie.”

Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for Russia’s investigative committee, said in a statement on Sunday that “the identities of all 10 victims have been established” and that “they correspond to the list stated in the flight manifest.”

. . .Tearful mourners gathered in Moscow over the weekend to pay muted respect to the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, and nine other people whom the Russian authorities said were killed in a plane crash last week.

Hundreds of people have placed flowers, photographs, candles and flags — including some bearing the private military group’s skull design — at a small sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow.

Many wept openly, expressing shock over the death of a man they said they respected, and sadness at the loss of life. Almost all expressed their support for the invasion of Ukraine.

Pity they can’t be mourning Prigozhin for standing up to Putin and starting to instigate a mutiny. But of course they wouldn’t publicly criticize the invasion of Ukraine to a Western reporter.

*The AP documents how Trump continues to lie about the 2020 election. Here are a few choice highlights:

With Donald Trump facing felony charges over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the former president is flooding the airwaves and his social media platform with distortions, misinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories about his defeat.

It’s part of a multiyear effort to undermine public confidence in the American electoral process as he seeks to chart a return to the White House in 2024. There is evidence that his lies are resonating: New polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 57% of Republicans believe Democrat Joe Biden was not legitimately elected as president.


Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was not particularly close. He won the Electoral College with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, and the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots.

Because the Electoral College ultimately determines the presidency, the race was decided by a few battleground states. Many of those states conducted recounts or thorough reviews of the results, all of which confirmed Biden’s victory.

. . . Trump was repeatedly advised by members of his own administration that there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

Nine days after the 2020 election, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a statement saying, “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” The statement was co-written by the groups representing the top elections officials in every state.

. . . The Trump campaign and its backers pursued numerous legal challenges to the election in court and alleged a variety of voter fraud and misconduct. The cases were heard and roundly rejected by dozens of courts at both state and federal levels, including by judges whom Trump appointed.

. . . An exhaustive AP investigation in 2021 found fewer than 475 instances of confirmed voter fraud across six battleground states — nowhere near the magnitude required to sway the outcome of the presidential election.

The review of ballots and records from more than 300 local elections offices found that almost every instance of voter fraud was committed by individuals acting alone and not the result of a massive, coordinated conspiracy to rig the election. The cases involved both registered Democrats and Republicans, and the culprits were almost always caught before the fraudulent ballot was counted.

. . . Many of the claims Trump and his team advanced about a stolen election dealt with the equipment voters used to cast their ballots.

At various times, Trump and his legal team falsely alleged that voting machines were built in Venezuela at the direction of President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013; that machines were designed to delete or flip votes cast for Trump; and that the U.S. Army had seized a computer server in Germany that held secrets to U.S. voting irregularities.

None of those claims was ever substantiated or corroborated. CISA’s joint statement released after the election said, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

It goes on, but you’re familiar with the lies. As I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist, I violate no professional dictum when I say that the man is an arrant sociopath.

*Speaking of the Trumpster, Mark Meadows’ request to move his Georgia racketeering trial from Georgia state court to federal court (there are 18 defendants in total, including The Donald, and many of these may file similar motions), could provide an instructive preview of the prosecutors’ evidence against Trump. From CNN:

Why is Meadows doing this?

US law allows defendants in state civil suits or criminal cases to seek to move those proceedings to federal court if those defendants face charges based on conduct they carried out “under color” of the federal government.

While such proceedings are not uncommon in civil lawsuits against current and former federal officials, they are extremely rare in criminal cases, legal experts told CNN, meaning Jones will be navigating in uncertain legal territory.

“This is just that rare case where there is just not a lot of law,” Vladeck said.

Meadows is arguing that under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, the federal court should dismiss the charges against him, because the conduct underlying the charges was conducted as part of his duties as a close White House adviser to Trump.

Back to the juicy details:

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will lay out the first details of her sprawling anti-racketeering case against former President Donald Trump, his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and 17 other co-defendants at a federal court hearing on Monday morning.

This will be the first time that substantive arguments will be made in court about the four criminal cases brought against Trump this year.

The subject of the hearing, set to begin at 10 a.m., is Meadows’ motion to move his case to federal court and possibly have it thrown out, but it’s much more than that – it could end up acting as a mini-trial that determines the future of Fulton County’s case against the former president.

Willis is expected to preview the case that she is planning to bring against the 19 co-defendants, getting on the public record some of her evidence and legal arguments for why Trump and his allies broke the law when pressuring Georgia election officials to meddle with the 2020 results.

. . .Beyond Meadows’ participation on the Raffensperger call, Willis has also highlighted as alleged acts in the racketeering conspiracy his surprise visit to an Atlanta election audit and a request Meadows and Trump are said to have made to a White House official to compile a memo on how to disrupt the January 6, 2021, election certification vote in Congress.

“In order to prevail, Meadows has to convince the court that when he was banging on the audit door he wasn’t representing the private interests of Donald Trump,” said Lee Kovarsky, a University of Texas law professor and expert in the removal statute.

Willis, in her response to Meadows’ filings, is leaning on a federal law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their federal office to engage in political activity, including campaign-oriented conduct. She argues Meadows’ involvement in the pressure campaign on Georgia election officials is clearly conduct he was not allowed to engage in as a federal officer, and therefore he is not entitled to the federal immunity defense.

The Hatch Act framing is a “nice way of illustrating that he was acting outside the scope of his official duties,” Kovarsky said, adding that Willis will not have to prove that Meadows violated the federal statute to be successful in the argument.

Willis’ filings in the dispute also appear to be a shot across the bow at Trump and any attempt he could make with similar claims.

Several key witnesses may take the stand at Meadows’ hearing, and these could tell us some of the evidence that could be used against Tr*mp.

*Obsessed with mortality as I am, I’m a sucker for stories like this one in the WaPo: “I am dying at age 49. Here’s why I have no regrets.” Actually, she does have regrets, but also gratitude for the good things that happened to her (“She” is Amy Ettinger, who has stage 4 4 uterine leiomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer that, doctors says, gives her just a few months to live.)

The good stuff she mentions is this:

  • I learned that lasting love is about finding someone who will show up for you [she wed a good man and they’ve never been apart for a day, even after 25 years of marriage]
  • I pursued my dream career with passion [she was a writer and published a guide to America’s best ice cream, a worthy endeavor]
  • I have never had a bucket list; instead I said ‘yes’ to life [she took a lot of trips on the spur of the moment]
  • I found people in my life who can accept me as I am [although she’s an introvert, she has some very close friends]
  • I live where I want even though the numbers never add up [she lives in hyper-expensive but beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

Her ending:

I am dying around people who love me and are bringing me meals when I need them. These are people who are willing to show up for me no matter what. And I know they will show up for my husband and daughter, even after I am gone.

The end of my life is coming much too soon, and my diagnosis can at times feel too difficult to bear. But I’ve learned that life is all about a series of moments, and I plan to spend as much remaining time as I can savoring each one, surrounded by the beauty of nature and my family and friends. Thankfully, this is the way I’ve always tried to live my life.

*And more clickbait (at least for me): a NYT op-ed called “We asked 16 writers to tell us about the immoral, indulgent things they do, and they confessed.” Oh dear, I had to read on. Here are three answers:

Chick-fil-A has historically been a very anti-gay company. It has donated to charities with anti-L.G.B.T.Q. stances, and its chairman, Dan Cathy, was once quoted saying he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Yet, traitorous and masochistic though it may be, I, a gay man, regularly consume its homophobic chicken.

What can I say? I know it’s wrong, but McDonald’s simply can’t compete, Burger King and Jack in the Box don’t compare, and while Popeyes and Wendy’s might come close, they’re not the same. And none of them offer what I find most appealing about Chick-fil-A anyway: the Southern charm of its employees.

It reminds me of home. And while that doesn’t make me any less guilty for pulling up to the drive-thru, I won’t apologize for the pleasure I feel driving away, crispy sandwich in hand.

I don’t think the company is still anti-gay, and I have to say that I partake of one of their delicious sandwiches once in a while.

This guy STEALS!

Whenever I’m at the airport, I like to do a little shopping at the Free Store. The Free Store is any establishment that leaves its permanently price-gouged wares unsecured on shelves unattended by underpaid and overharried employees. I stroll in, select my items, then suddenly “receive a phone call” that “my flight is almost done boarding.” I’ve known people who get a rush from the act of stealing. Not me. What I love is having and using things I didn’t pay for.

I sleep with my friends, and I befriend the people I sleep with. As a result, my social life mostly consists of a sort of merry traveling band of fellows with whom I have happily porous and shifting relationships. This is what we all used to do when we were young and then grew out of when we moved into the serious part of life. Except I just didn’t.

I know this sounds like hell to most people — the lack of boundaries and the mess and the logistics — and it certainly can be. I’ve been hurt and I have hurt people. It’s icky and embarrassing and kind of a pain in the ass.

When it works, though, it feels like a vindication that the worth men and women can hold for one another is beyond sexual and romantic and also that it can continuously change, like everything else. When it doesn’t, it’s still pretty hot.

Oh, and I have to add Paul Bloom:

Saint Augustine, in his “Confessions,” describes going into an orchard with his friends to steal some pears and writes: “I had no motive for wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it.”

As a psychologist who has spent my career studying transgression, I’m particularly attuned to my own Augustinian impulses. My most regular one is hate-reading. I can spend hours on end consuming the words of people whose views I find repugnant and unhinged, becoming inflamed in both anger and self-righteousness.

You can, of course, learn things from awful people. But there is also a simple evil pleasure in indulging in their wrongness.

Indeed, and there are certain websites that I can’t resist hate-reading.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is getting older and a bit chunky:

A: It’s been a long time since you jumped up on this shelf.
Hili: Unfortunately, it has begun to be difficult.
In Polish:
Ja: Dawno nie wskakiwałaś na tę półkę.
Hili: Niestety, to zaczyna być trudne.
And a picture of the loving Szaron:


From Barry. I think I’ve posted this one before, but I love the bit about theology:

From David, a Hilary Price cartoon:

From Harry:

From Masih, more Iranian women defying the hijab dictates of the theocracy big time. They could get into serious trouble for this.

From Malcolm, a cat discovers in the mirror that it has EARS!

Here’s a groaner from Barry:

And from Simon:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a survivor still alive—and it’s her birthday!

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s beavering away on his biography of Crick:

Matthew says, “This is worth 10 mins of your time, with a cracking reveal that made me laugh out loud.”  It’s a (free) New Yorker piece:

Sound up to learn some biology (satellite flies lay live larvae on the bee’s prey, and the larvae consume the hard-won food):

Friday: Hili dialogue

August 25, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the tail end o’ the week, Friday, August, 25, 2023, and National Whiskey Sour Day, an estimable drink if you can’t handle a straight whiskey (or “whisky”).  Here’s one with ice cubes and a lemon slice from Wikipedia:

It’s also Kiss and Make Up Day, National Banana Split Day, National Park Service Founders Day, and Day of Songun inNorth Korea), celebrating (?) the beginning of Kim Jong Il’s leadership in 1960.

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

Reader Rick notes that it’s the birthday of the late Martin Amis, who died in May of this year, and gives a quote from him:

“Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented. But they can be taken out of the gun.” -Martin Amis, novelist (25 Aug 1949-2023)

Da Nooz:

First, what we’ve all been waiting for: Trump’s mugshot, taken as he surrendered in Georgia. He’s back on Twitter and tweeted it:

*The NYT reports that the plane supposedly carrying Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was apparently downed by an explosion, and adds that Putin has hinted that Prigozhin, whose death hasn’t been confirmed, was killed in the crash.  A bomb, eh?

U.S. and other Western officials said that preliminary intelligence reports led them to believe that an explosion on board a plane linked to the Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin likely brought down the aircraft on Wednesday, killing all the passengers aboard.

Although there has been no official confirmation that Mr. Prigozhin was killed, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday, in his first comments on the crash, spoke obliquely of his death, referring to him in the past tense. “He made some serious mistakes in life, but he also achieved necessary results,” Mr. Putin said in a televised meeting.

. . . Mr. Putin’s comments followed a growing drumbeat of reports that Mr. Prigozhin was dead, with at least one Western intelligence official, several Russian military bloggers and a Telegram account linked to his organization all saying he had been killed. However, Mr. Prigozhin’s mercenary force, Wagner, has not officially confirmed his death.

The U.S. and Western officials who said an explosion was the leading theory behind the crash said the blast could have been caused by a bomb or other device planted on the aircraft, though other possibilities, like adulterated fuel, were also being explored.

. . .The Legacy 600 business jet believed to be carrying Mr. Prigozhin was flying at a constant speed and altitude until it plummeted suddenly, flight-tracking data shows. Embraer, the Brazilian maker of the jet, said that it had stopped providing any support for the aircraft in 2019 because of sanctions. Typically that support is largely related to maintenance.

I wonder what happened? (LOL).  Prigozhin should have been savvy enough to NOT gotten on airplanes in Russia, but his life was forfeit anyway.

*Once again, and I think this is the fourth time, Trump has had to turn himself into law authorities (in Georgia) to get fingerprinted and booked. According to Politico’s useful and updated guide to these cases, Trump now faces 91 felony counts in total. (The Politico guide is quite handy as a summary of what’s going on and of the strengths and weaknesses of each case.)  Here’s an update from The Washington Post:

Former president Donald Trump departed Atlanta after surrendering at the Fulton County Jail on charges connected to his attempts to reverse the 2020 election results in Georgia. A mug shot of Trump was later released by the sheriff’s office. Trump, who was released on bond, was charged earlier this month with violating the state’s anti-racketeering act and other felonies. Before leaving the airport, Trump told reporters that he had done nothing wrong and has “every single right to challenge an election.”

Former president Donald Trump has returned to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, posting an image of his mug shot from Thursday’s surrender at the Fulton County Jail and linking to his campaign website. Trump last tweeted on Jan. 8, 2021 — the day he was banned from the platform following the Capitol insurrection. His account was restored by Elon Musk last November.

Donald Trump’s plane is still in the air, but the former president’s reelection campaign is already trying to capitalize on his recent surrender in Fulton County. The campaign is leaning into fundraising off the booking in a variety of ways, including selling a $34 T-shirt emblazoned with Trump’s mug shot above the words “NEVER SURRENDER.”

And his mugshot again, with caption from the WaPo (you can’t see this too many times).  Look at the expression he put on!

*I haven’t read much about the Republican primary debate last night, but apparently the candidates, far outweighed by Trump’s numbers, decided to avoid the subject. But that made the debate even more boring: none of the candidates stands a chance unless Trump is somehow ineligible to run because of his indictments or dies from eating hamburgers:

In the first primary debate of the 2024 race, the eight Republican participants tried to create a Trump-free zone — an alternative political universe where the G.O.P. race turned on issues, ideology and biography.

. . . Yet the former president’s absence created an opening, if an illusory one, for a broader array of conservative positions. Republicans have long discussed the far-off notion of what Trumpism without Mr. Trump would look like. For fleeting moments in Milwaukee, that possibility felt almost like a reality.

The Fox News hosts waited nearly an hour to ask only two questions in the entire two-hour debate on Mr. Trump, or, as Brett Baier, one of the moderators, called him, “the elephant not in the room.” Asked whether they would back the former president if he was convicted, all but Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, and Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, indicated that they would.

The Trump-free spell, it seemed, was broken.

. . .But without Mr. Trump dominating the stage, the face-off signaled that the race to emerge as Mr. Trump’s chief rival remains far from set.

Mr. DeSantis failed to cement his place as Mr. Trump’s central foe, finding himself often relegated to the sidelines of the debate. Senator Tim Scott, a rising figure in Iowa, struggled to cut through the fray with his positive, future-forward message. And without the foil of Mr. Trump, Mr. Christie’s case against him — his central campaign argument — fell flatter.

Here are the internecine targets of most of the attacks in the debate (from the WaPo):

Do I care? Nope. We already know who the GOP is going to run.

*But the WSJ’s editors pronounced it “A very good Republican Presidential debate.”

Donald Trump ducked the first Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, and his absence did the party and country a favor. Voters were able to hear eight other candidates and size up their policies, sparring abilities and differences. GOP voters who want to nominate someone who can defeat a highly vulnerable President Biden have more than one capable non-Trump to choose from.

A few assessments:

Ron DeSantis had to counter the perception that his campaign is in free-fall, and he did a good job of explaining his greatest hits as Florida Governor on Covid and fighting progressive prosecutors. He said he would have sacked Anthony Fauci, a nice contrast with Mr. Trump’s Covid delegation to the doctor.

But the Governor also ducked more than one question, such as whether he’d support a national ban of 15 weeks on abortion. He didn’t raise his hand at first on whether he’d vote for Mr. Trump if he’s convicted of a felony, but then did raise it when he saw others do it. He had to be coaxed into saying Mike Pence did the right thing by counting the electoral votes on Jan. 6.


Vivek Ramaswamy is close to Mr. DeSantis in the polls, and he has the gift of energy and verbal facility. He can sling appealing phrases, and his line that Americans are hungry for purpose will resonate with many voters. But he can also sound like a young man in too much of a hurry, and his rapid-fire one-liners and insults (“I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for”) give him the air of a supercilious grad student.

He seems to have made a calculation that he can prosper by running as Mr. Trump’s biggest defender, almost as if he wouldn’t have to defeat Mr. Trump to get the nomination. But he would be more credible if he weren’t so slavish in his defense. He left himself open for Chris Christie’s roundhouse that landed about being the candidate from ChatGPT.

two more:

Former Vice President Mike Pence often seemed like the adult in the room, especially on foreign policy. He and Nikki Haley pounded Mr. Ramaswamy for his willingness to withdraw support for Ukraine. Mr. Pence was especially good in eviscerating the glib false choice between aiding Ukraine or controlling the southern U.S. border. And Ms. Haley, the former South Carolina Governor, made the moral case against Vladimir Putin’s depredations.

But again, all of these people will be as passé as t.v. dinners after next summer, so this is news only for newshounds.

*Did you know that octopuses were so smart that they use thermal vents in the ocean to help their eggs hatch faster? (Octopus moms incubate their eggs for a long time, and then die immediately after they hatch.) If you can reduce the time to hatching, it gives your offspring a significant survival advantage given that predators sometimes eat the eggs. It also means you have to protect them for less time. From the AP

Most octopuses lead solitary lives. So scientists were startled to find thousands of octopus huddled together, protecting their eggs at the bottom of the ocean off the central California coast.

Now researchers may have solved the mystery of why these pearl octopus congregate: Heat seeping up from the base of an extinct underwater volcano helps their eggs hatch faster.

“There are clear advantages of basically sitting in this natural hot tub,” said Janet Voight, an octopus biologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and co-author of the study, which was published Wednesday in Science Advances.

The researchers calculated that the heated nest location more than halved the time it took for eggs laid there to hatch — reducing the risk of being munched by snails, shrimp and other predators.

The nesting site, which the scientists dubbed an “octopus garden,” was first discovered in 2018 by researchers from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other institutions. The team used an underwater remote vehicle to film the throng of nearly 6,000 octopus nesting 2 miles deep.

The octopus — about the size of a grapefruit — perched over their eggs laid on rocks heated by water seeping up from the sea floor.

“It was completely incredible – we suddenly saw thousands of pearly-colored octopus, all upside down, with their legs up in the air and moving around. They were pushing away potential predators and turning over their eggs,” for an even flow of water and oxygen, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine biologist Andrew DeVogelaere, a study co-author.

Only the hazy shimmer of escaping hot water meeting the frigid sea alerted the researchers to the hydrothermal seep. But they still didn’t know exactly why the octopus had gathered there.

. . .The researchers found that eggs at this site hatch after about 21 months — far shorter than the four years or more it takes for other known deep-sea octopus eggs.

Here’s a photo of the octopus’s garden, with caption from the AP:

This 2019 image from video provided by MBARI shows female pearl octopuses nesting at the “octopus garden” near the Davidson Seamount off the California coast at a depth of approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). Research published Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Science Advance shows heat seeping up from the base of an extinct underwater volcano helps the octopus’s eggs hatch faster. (MBARI via AP).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m mortifying myself for a cause.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Umartwiam się dla dobra sprawy.
And a photo of the loving Szaron:


From Merilee, hearkening back to Bill Clinton:

From Andrew (click to enlarge): a Matt Groening favorite:

From Bad Cat Clothing:

From Masih. Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police on September 13 of last year for not wearing her hijab as well as “tight pants”. She died in hospital three days later, with witnesses saying she’d been beaten and tortured in the police van. She was 22. (The Iranians claim Mahsa died of the effects of a previous brain operation, which she never had.)  It’s a certainty that she was beaten to death for not adhering to Muslim dress codes, and this touched off the protests against the Iranian theocracy that continue today.

Going around the Internet. There are several more slides in the thread.

From Malcolm; two men rescue a feral cat caught in a trap.  Traps should be outlawed!

From Barry, who says it’s “a bird doing finger guns”. Why? Who knows?

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who died in the camp at age 20:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. The first is a good memoriam for Michael Ashburner, a lovely fellow who was concerned more with compiling genetic knowledge (in particular, his magisterial edited 12-volume series of The Genetics and Biology of Drosophila, all of which I own) than advancing his own career by writing research papers. As author Gerry Rubin says,

Many scientists are motivated by ‘how will this help me’ or ‘how will this get me another high-profile paper’, not by ‘how is this going to advance the field or help the progress of science’. Michael was different. He was a tremendous force for good in the scientific community through his efforts in research, writing, establishing databases of genetic and genomic information, and teaching. He brought individuals — who otherwise would not have chosen to collaborate — together for the common good. Michael, more than anyone else of his generation, practised and inspired others to continue the great traditions of the Drosophila community established 100 years ago by Bridges, Morgan and Sturtevant.

The human Y chromosome has finally been completely sequenced, and it’s very complex: full of inverted regions and repeated sequences, with some regions able to recombine with its X-chromosome partner but most of it not. The new Nature paper is a link in the following tweet:

As Matthew says, “These are lovely things.” They are, but what is a tayra? Go here to see that it’s a mustelid native to Central and South America, and a mammal I’d never heard of.