Thursday: Hili dialogue

May 26, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, May 26, 2022, National Blueberry Cheesecake Day. (Not bad, but if you must have sugary fruit on your cheesecake, go with cherries.) It’s also National Paper Airplane Day in the U.S. and  National Sorry Day in Australia. The latter day, first started in 1998, constitutes a yearly formal apology to the way the settlers treated the indigenous people. I hope they help them out with more than just a holiday or land acknowledgment!

Stuff that happened on May 26 include:

  • 1868 – The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson ends with his acquittal by one vote.
  • 1896 – Nicholas II is crowned as the last Tsar of Imperial Russia.
  • 1897 – Dracula, a Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, is published.

How much will a first edition, first printing of this novel cost you? Around $50,000.

Here’s the 15 millionth Model T driven off the assembly line (three cars per minute) by Henry Ford and his son Edsel; note that the caption below doesn’t jibe with the number actually produced.

Edsel Ford drives his father, Henry, out of the Ford Highland Park Plant in the very last Model T ever made.
  • 1942 — A true story but a bad experiment from 1942. Brinkley claimed that goat testicle implants would cure not only male impotence, but was a virtual panacea for everything. He even had his own radio station, XER, right over the Mexican border. He died impoverished and debunked, perhaps America’s most famous quack. (h/t: Matthew, and see the thread).

This album holds a special place in my heart because I was listening to it when I became an atheist–all over a period of ten minutes or so in 1968. Don’t ask me what spurred my rejection of faith; I can’t even what song I was listening to. Here’s a photo of me holding the very album that effaced my faith (along with my high-school letter in wrestling of which I was very proud at the time). These are among the souvenirs I retrieved when I visited my sister, who rescued our belongings when my mother died.

  • 1998 – The first “National Sorry Day” is held in Australia. Reconciliation events are held nationally, and attended by over a million people.
  • 2020 – Protests triggered by the murder of George Floyd erupt in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, before becoming widespread across the United States and around the world.


*This Washington Post headline made me almost chortle: “After Texas tragedy, [Democrat Chuck] Schumer says that Democrate will negotiate on guns.” First of all, why weren’t they doing it already? And if they didn’t because it would be futile (after all, they’re negotiating with Republicans), why start now? Is this just a performance? The Dems have the House votes, the Senate votes, and the President, so why can’t they do something (see NRA tweet below)?

In his first extended remarks on the horror in Uvalde, Tex. — where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults in an elementary school — Schumer (D-N.Y.) castigated Republicans for their repeated inaction after mass shootings dating back more than a decade, but said Democrats had no choice but to try again.

“I know this is a slim prospect — very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burned so many times before. But this is so important,” he said on the Senate floor. “If you do the right thing and persist, justice will eventually prevail. … And for that reason alone, we must pursue it.”

*From Ken:

FYI, Beto O’Rourke just confronted Texas governor Greg Abbott about this issue, live on national tv, at a press conference regarding the Texas school shootings. Abbott called O’Rourke “a sick son of a bitch” for doing so.

Abbott is facing O’Rourke in the Texas gubernatorial election this fall.

Ken backed off whether Abbott uttered the opprobrium, but this shows the level of heat the issue has fanned. In my view, NOW is the time to make it a political issue, without of course forgetting the grief of family and friends. That grief is what politics should be aimed at preventing

The video:

There’s more on this incident in the New York Times:

Former Representative Beto O’Rourke interrupted a news conference hosted by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Wednesday to accuse Republicans of “doing nothing” to address gun violence in the aftermath of a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Mr. O’Rourke, an unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate who is now running for governor, stood in front of a stage at the civic center in Uvalde, 20 minutes into the news conference held by Mr. Abbott and officials, and shouted that the killings were a “totally predictable” result of lax state and federal gun laws.

When Mr. Abbott’s allies saw Mr. O’Rourke step forward, they began shouting at him, with the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, hurling an obscenity, another ordering the El Paso native to “Shut up!” and the state’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, demanding that he sit down.

Mr. O’Rourke, dressed in his signature powder blue dress shirt, did not comply. Moments later, uniformed security guards grabbed Mr. O’Rourke and pulled him away.

Do you think it was okay, given the political situation, for O’Rourke to interrupt the speaker? This person thinks it’s not only fine, but admirable:

*Don’t try to fix your iPhone yourself unless you absolutely, positively know what you’re doing, in which case you’d be an Apple repairperson.  The NYT details the horrors of Apple’s new “self-repair kits”, which one critic deems are “set up for failure.” If you need a new battery (and it’s a LOT cheaper than buying a new iPhone), let the Apple people put it in for you. These kits are a rip-off unless you are a technical expert.

*On the way to the store after work, I heard someone bloviate on NPR that “only someone who is mentally ill would shoot someone else.” Well, if you define “shooting someone” as a sufficient criterion for mental illness, this claim would be tautologically true, but the fact is that sane people do kill people. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the mass shooter in Texas, 18-year old Salvador Ramos, had no history of mental illness, and thus could buy a guy even in states where such a history prohibits gun purchases. The only notice that Ramos was about to kill was on social media:

The gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers Tuesday in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, wasn’t well known to law enforcement ahead of time and had no documented mental-health issues and no known arrests, state officials said Wednesday.

The first warnings of violence came in the form of Facebook messages shortly before Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his grandmother and proceeded to Robb Elementary, where the mass shooting took place. Ramos wrote on Facebook “I’m going to shoot my grandma” and then, after doing so, posted, “I shot my grandma,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference. Less than 15 minutes before arriving at Robb Elementary School, he wrote, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”

A spokesman for Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., said on Twitter that the communications were private messages sent to another individual, not public posts.

. . .Shortly after turning 18 last Monday, Ramos bought two semiautomatic AR-15 rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition at a local sporting goods shop, said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face before using her car to drive to attack the school, Mr. McCraw said. His grandmother was able to contact police as Ramos fled, Mr. McCraw said. She remains in a hospital in San Antonio.

It still took the cops an hour to get to Ramos, and finally got a key to the classroom from the principal. There they killed the suspect amidst “piles” of dead student bodies.

*I’m hoping that Trump’s 15 minutes of political fame are ending, and we get hope from the fact that candidates he backed in this week’s elections have not fared well.

Donald Trump opened May by lifting a trailing Senate candidate in Ohio to the Republican nomination, seemingly cementing the former president’s kingmaker status before another possible White House run. He’s ending the month, however, stinging from a string of defeats that suggests a diminishing stature.

Trump faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primary elections as voters rejected his efforts to unseat two top targets for retribution: Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state, both of whom had rebuffed Trump’s extraordinary pressure to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of defeat in the governor’s race — more than 50 percentage points — was especially stunning and raised questions about whether Republican voters are beginning to move on from Trump.

Nearly six years after the onetime reality television star launched what seemed to be an improbable campaign for the White House, the “Make America Great Again” movement Trump helmed isn’t going anywhere. But voters are increasingly vocal in saying that the party’s future is about more than Trump.

I’m not a pundit (I just play one in these pages), but I don’t think Trump will be the GOP’s candidate for President in two years. People will lose interest in him.

There are two pieces up on the firing of Joshua Katz from Princeton, possibly for opposing University DEI policy: one in Quillette and one from his wife Solveig on Bari Weiss’s site.  The truth, one hopes, will eventually come out in court.


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants some conversation:

A: Will you allow me to reach for a book?
Hili: You can do it later, we are talking now.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy pozwolisz mi sięgnąć po książkę?
Hili: Możesz to zrobić później, teraz przecież rozmawiamy.

And Kulka at the printer.

Caption:  Kulka loves the printer which purrs, growls and spews out paper.

In Polish: Kulka uwielbia drukarkę, która mruczy, warczy i wypluwa papier.

From Stash Krod:

From Bruce:

From Tom: a cartoon by Wiley Miller of Non Sequitur. 

Titania seems to have stopped posting. Well, to hell with her (him)!

Below: Bad Idea of the Year Nominee: “AG” is the Attorney General of the state.  His solution: give teachers more guns to defend themselves  Nothing can go wrong with that, can it?

See when you spot the anomaly, but be sure to watch the whole thing:

Okay, you tell me how part of it hangs in the air briefly before falling, like Wile E. Coyote:

From Ken, whose caption is this:

Herschel Walker, the mentally unstable, spouse-abusing, prevaricating, non-Georgia resident who is poised to become the Republican US senatorial candidate from Georgia demonstrates how on top of current events he is:

From Barry: a parrot flummoxed by its owner’s disappearance:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: rare photos of “arrival and the selection”:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. Here’s the front page of The Onion yesterday, at once both humorous and dead(ly) serious:

This is some kind of torrent-dwelling waterfowl, but I don’t think it’s a goose. Does anybody know the species?

Look at those NRA donations, which explains why a Senate in a position to pass gun-control legislation can’t do it! If you go to the link in the tweet, you’ll see that NO Senator has refused all NRA donations; the least-donated-to is Kevin Cramer of North Dakota (a Democrat, of course), who got only $13,255.

I didn’t correlate gun deaths per year (or $ donated by the NRA per death), but I’m sure there’s something there.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

May 25, 2022 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Hump Day (known as Dia de Gepa in Catalan), May 25, 2022:  an excellent day for food and drink because it’s National Wine Day , and I’ll celebrate by introducing you to one of the world’ finest sweet sherries (below). In the U.S. it’s also National Missing Children’s Day, National Tap Dance Day, and Towel Day in honour of the work of the writer Douglas Adams.

Here’s the best tap dance routine I know of, with a fantastic performance by the Nicholas Brothers beginning about 1:32. It has lagniappe: a starting bit by Cab Calloway singing in his usual “jive” style. Don’t miss this if you haven’t seen it:


Stuff that happened on May 25 include:

  • 240 BC – First recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
  • 1521 – The Diet of Worms ends when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Here’s a reconstruction of that meeting. Everyone was much relieved when the DIet ended.

  • 1787 – After a delay of 11 days, the United States Constitutional Convention formally convenes in Philadelphia after a quorum of seven states is secured.
  • 1895 – Playwright, poet and novelist Oscar Wilde is convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.

That broke his health, and then he went to Paris, where he died. Here’s Wilde (from the Oscar Wilde Site):

I always show this photo when I mention Scopes because the Discovery Institute hates it, and made it into an entire column. The issue: Scopes taught from a textbook that, they say, had eugenics in it. The response: Scopes taught biology for only one day as a substitute teacher, and didn’t teach eugenics. Here I am at his and his wife’s gravesite in Paducah, Kentucky (2013). It was hard to find that gravestone!

One of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Kangchenjunga is best viewed from Darjeeling, 75 km away. I went there especially to see the mountain, but the view is usually socked in by clouds. Finally, on my fifth and last day, clouds lifted to reveal a view like this from atop Tiger Hill (not my photo; from Wikipedia):


As I recall, they didn’t form a continuous line of people across the U.S. holding each other’s hands, but they did pretty well, and raised $15 million for charity

Weihenmayer, who had a rare disease that rendered him totally blind at 14, made it to the top with the help of voice commands, from his co-climbers. Not only that, but he climbed the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on every continent). Here’s a brief video and interview with him.

Wine of the Day:  I’ve been touting sherries for a long time as one of the world’s best wine values. (They’re not for everyone, but the quality/price ratio is extraordinarily high. My favorites are at the driest end (finos; the ideal aperitif drink) and at the sweetest end. The wine below, made entirely from the Pedo Ximénez grape, a white grape that’s dried in the sun to concentrate the sugars and then pressed for its fantastic nectar. If you are not a sherry maven, you’ll want to look for wines by Lustau: I’ve never had a bad one. And the Lustau sherries tend to come in the cheaper (but still good) versions without a name, and then the top-of-the-line versions usually labeled “Almencista”.

For example, this wine (aged eight years in a solera [stack of barrels of various age] before bottling) is thecheaper “San Emilio” version of Pedro Ximénez sherry, but there’s one I haven’t had (“VORS,” or “very old rare sherry”) that was aged 30 years before bottling and comes in 500 cl bottles.

San Emilio PX is simply luscious. Thick, sweet, and intensely flavored with dried fruits: figs, raisins, and prunes. A little goes a long way, so this $23 bottle (a great bargain) will provide at least ten glasses. It’s best drunk on its own, either as dessert or after dessert. The flavor lasts minutes in your mouth, and it’s the ideal wine to sip while reading a good book. I’ve never seen a bad review of a Lustau PX; you can see a few here.

Though made from a white grape, the drying and aging process turns the wine dark brown. Here’s a glass held up to the light, an even then you can barely see through it. Note the “legs”: the glycerin drops left on the side of the glass when you swirl it. Only thick sweet lines will leave these markings.

I can’t recommend this wine highly enough if you like sweet wines. It’s not a cloying sweet wines like the junk I used to buy for 99¢ a bottle in college (“Sly Fox” or “Boone’s Farm Apple Wine”); this is a serious, world-class tipple. And because all sherries are fortified, with alcohol added to stop the fermentation, it’s also very alcoholic: 17.3%.  But you won’t get drunk, for just a third of a very small glass will do for you.

Da Nooz:

*I hate leading off this way, but once again there’s another mass shooting in America, at another school, that apparently has killed several people (as I write this on Tuesday night only two are reported dead. According to the New York Times, and 18 year old man with a handgun and possibly a rifle entered an elementary school in Ulvalde, Texas yesterday afternoon and started firing. The toll, as I said, is two dead with 14 others wounded, and the assailant is reported to be in police custody.

This is the 212th mass shooting in America just since the beginning of the year. 

UPDATE: Half an hour later (5 p.m. Chicago time), the toll has risen to 14 children and one teacher dead. The suspect is also dead. And I’ve just listened to Lester Holt, anchor of the NBC Evening News end his broadcast saying that we need a solution, but all he could suggest is to “hold your love ones close.” That, of course, is no solution at all. If you could make one technical change to prevent these shootings, just enact gun laws as strict as there are in England and Scotland. That, of course, is politically impossible in our Wild West Society, but how many deaths will it take till they know that too many people have died? Now, listening to the Illinois gubernatorial debate, the three candidates have nothing better to offer than “enforce existing gun laws.” It makes me sick. (The killer, Salvador Ramos, bought his guns legally.)

And now another update: today’s NYT relates that 19 children and 2 adults were killed, the greatest toll since the Sandy Hook massacre ten years ago (that one killed 20 children and six adults. I keep imagining a parent at home getting an unexpected call with the horrible news that their child was dead. The pain is unimaginable, and then multiply it by the number of victims (as for the adults, they have loved ones who also grieve.  No motive has yet been revealed.

Guns are the leading cause of death for children in America.

*Henry Kissinger, soon to turn 99, is regarded as some kind of god in Foreign Affairs, and I won’t doubt the man is canny. But neither can I worship his latest pronouncement, a declaration that Ukraine should simply surrender territory to Russia to end the war.

Former U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger said Monday that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion, suggesting a position that a vast majority of Ukrainians are against as the war enters its fourth month.

Speaking at a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger urged the United States and the West to not seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, warning it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability.

After saying that Western countries should remember Russia’s importance to Europe and not get swept up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger also pushed for the West to force Ukraine into accepting negotiations with a “status quo ante,” which means the previous state of affairs.

By “status quo ante”, Kissinger means a return to the situation in which Russia formally controlled Crimea and informally controlled the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. Ukrainian President Zelensky is unlikely to agree to the second bit, and I doubt that Putin will agree to this at all. After all, if he agrees, he’s gone to war and achieved nothing. Not only that, but there may be two new countries in NATO.

*President Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki (a William & Mary alum), has finally given up her position at the White House to accept an undoubtedly more lucrative position at MSNBC. Her new job will apparently involve appearances on the network’s streaming and cable shows, as well as her own show. She lasted a bit more than two years.

*John McWhorter’s latest column in the NYT is called, “Constantly updating terminology isn’t going to achieve progressive aims,” and I cheered when I read it. On some level progressives have to realize that this is true, but they keep updating anyway. The latest was “Latine”, a supposedly improved version of “Latinx” (rejected by Hispanics), which itself was an upgrade from “Latina” or “Latino”, which could be best replaced by “Hispanice”. But changing lingo is a cost-free way of demonstrating virtue, and so it goes. An excerpt:

I’m certainly not arguing for intolerance toward those who can become pregnant but don’t identify as women. I’m saying that even if we’re not being forced to use the new terms, the way they’re introduced, almost as if by fiat, can make it seem as if sticking with the old ones is a kind of thought crime. But it isn’t that those on the left have some weird, childish yen for control. Rather, they seem to be operating under an attractive but shaky idea that language channels thought: Change how people say things and you change how they think about things and then the world changes.

That’s not how it works, though. Good intentions frequently don’t translate into efficacy. So, the question is, how much does changing terminology really accomplish?

His answer is “not much, and research supports that”, but he uses some almost humorous examples of what Steve Pinker calls the “euphemism treadmill.” This is one of McWhorter’s better columns, and I recommend reading it. It also has a good ending:

Far better to teach people what you think they should think about something, and why, instead of classifying the way they express themselves about it as a form of disrespect or backwardness. After a while, if you teach well, they won’t be saying what you don’t want them to say. Mind you, you may not be around to see the fruits of the endeavor — a frustrating aspect of change is that it tends to happen slowly. But “Change words!” is no watchcry for a serious progressivism.

*If you’ve studied biology, you probably know what is considered the paradigmatic case of natural selection in action: the evolutionary change in color of the peppered moth, Biston betularia.  During and after the Industrial revolution in Britain, the black-and-white speckled moth evolved into a largely black form because of predation by visually-hunting birds. If you want to be considered at least partly educated in evolutionary biology, read Current Biology‘s (free) quick guide to what we know about this rapid change. (There’s also a free pdf.)

The study of industrial melanism in the British peppered moth population has produced one of the most complete examples of adaptation through natural selection. The melanic carbonaria form was first discovered in Britain in the mid-19th century. Over the next 50 years, it rapidly increased in frequency to make up over 90% of the population in some industrial and smoke-blackened regions. This was followed by a decline in melanic frequency in these areas after smoke control was introduced in the mid-1970s. A number of experiments have demonstrated that selective predation by insectivorous birds is the major factor driving these frequency changes. Light morphs are better camouflaged against light backgrounds, such as lichen-covered trees, whereas black morphs are better camouflaged against dark backgrounds, such as tree barks darkened by coal pollution. Crucially, the rapidity of the phenotypic change in populations of the adult moths provided the first evidence that natural selection could be very strong, challenging the prevailing view of early evolutionary biologists that evolutionary change was invariably slow.

Here’s the change in color that occurred in most populations in the mid-19th century when soot covered the trees, making the darker forms to the right (the “carbonaria” morph) more camouflaged from birds. What’s equally remarkable is that a similar change occurred independently in the northern industrial parts of the U.S. some time later (this is the work of my undergraduate advisor Bruce Grant). And to up the ante, when pollution abated in both countries, the lighter form (“typica”) began increasing in frequency again.

That info will make you an instant hit at parties.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili declares herself not guilty of avicide:

A: What are those feathers on the verandah?
Hili: I don’t know, ask Kulka.
In Polish:
Ja: Co to za piórka na werandzie?
Hili: Nie wiem, zapytaj Kulki.

From Ginger K.:

From Peter: a cat hopelessly addicted to ‘nip: (click the arrow):

The most intense catnip experience from MadeMeSmile

Contributed to Facebook by Manar Al-Ahmed.  Remember, animals get hot, too. 

Richard Dawkins’s mother Jean, who wrote poetry, died not long ago at 102.  Richard reproduces his poems read by his former wife, actress Lalla Ward. Richard also notes that the poems are reproduced on his website.

A photo of Jean Dawkins:



From Al:

From Barry: Duck 1, Cats 0 (I refer to the second tweet, which I can’t separate from the first; can some reader help me separate linked tweets?)

From Ginger K: Cats teach biology:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew: This one’s called “play the flute at feeding time”:

Well, I hope you got the pun. Somebody else didn’t and the tweeter toyed witg them (to me it seems a bit cruel):

How tall was Wadlow? How about nearly nine feet: to be exact, 8 feet 11 inches (2.72 m), and he weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death. Sadly, he died at just 22, for he had abnormal levels of growth hormone, and was in fact still growing when he died.

Such a condition doomed him to an early death, and here is its cause:

On July 4, 1940, during a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, leading to infection. He was treated with a blood transfusion and surgery, but his condition worsened due to an autoimmune disorder; he died in his sleep on July 15.

I wonder if today’s antibiotics could have saved his life, at least for a while.

Wikipedia shows one of Wadlow’s shoes with the caption: “Wadlow’s shoe (US size 37 AA; UK size 36 or approximately European size 75) compared to a US size 12.  Us size 12 is still a large shoe!


“The On Being Project is located on Dakota Land”

May 22, 2022 • 12:15 pm

I may have written on this topic a while back, but it came to mind again today. I do my grocery shopping a little after 7 a.m. on Sundays, as the store opens at 6 and they’ve had time to restock before I shop. The downside of this habit is that Krista Tippett‘s NPR show, “On Being”—formerly called “On Faith” until “faith” was no longer such a virtue—starts at 7 a.m.  Ergo, I have to listen to Tippett and her numinous/spiritual guests blather on, often with the host verging on tears about, well, “being”.

Fortunately, my drive back and forth to the store takes about 15 minutes total, so I’m not tortured too much. But as I was coming back, I heard the very last words of Tippett’s broadcast: “The ‘On Being’ Proect is located on Dakota land.” That was it.

Searching a bit online, I found that there’s a whole page on Tippett’s land acknowledgment.

The Dakota people comprise largely what were called the Sioux people, who actually include both Dakota and Lakota. But never mind, just remember that these were Native Americans.

Here’s most of the acknowledgment:

About 12 miles away from The On Being Project’s central office, the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi River at a place called Bdote.

In Dakota, one translation of “bdote” is “where two waters come together,” and the bdote where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers concur is an especially sacred site — the center of the world to the Dakota.

Bdote is a place that carries a complicated and layered history, in the thousands of years the Dakota people have been in relationship and kinship with the land here, and in the several hundred years since European settlers colonized the land that the state of Minnesota now occupies. The United States’ land seizures were a project of spiritual destruction that denied the Dakota free and unhindered access to the land that fundamentally shapes their identity and spirituality.

Today, 11 reservations are located within the state of Minnesota: four Dakota communities in the southern portion of the state and seven Ojibwe communities in the north. The On Being Project pays tribute to the Dakota and Ojibwe.

We invite you to consider the land on which you live and the confluence of legacies that bring you to stand where you are — particularly through critical reflection and conversation with your own community. We encourage you to use the resources below to assist in your exploration.

They then give a list of “resources” for investigating history, including “Honor Native Land: A Guide — a step-by-step guide for writing a land acknowledgment.”

We all know that there are some issues with land acknowledgments: some lands changed hands many times over history, “ownership” was not always considered the same thing as it is today, and so on. But we also know that Native Americans were pretty much the victims of settler displacement and generally got a raw deal.

Yet when I hear a land acknowledgment like Tippett’s, I hear this:

“Our people stole land from the Dakota, and that’s where our business is located. But aren’t I a good person for saying it?”

Somehow I think that the Dakota, if their land was indeed stolen, would prefer to get the damn land back, or some monetary reparations. Do you think that they care whether Tippett’s upper-class listeners “critcially reflect and explore”? They don’t want to be paid “tribute”; they want to be paid MONEY.

To me, “land acknowledgments” are the height of wokeness. They are addressed not to Native Americans, but to well-fed academics; they accomplish nothing save trumpeting the virtues of the speakers; and they don’t offer any reparations for a theft that is explicitly acknowledged. (I couldn’t find anything in the “On Being” page about giving reparations to the Dakota.)

If “wokeness” is in some sense equivalent to “making useless performative gestures that at the same time show what a good person you are,” then land acknowledgments are its apogee. They are performances not for Native Americans, but for others who were also complicit in the theft.

Put up or shut up. And if you really think you’re responsible for stealing land, give it back—or pay for it.

Where should I go next?

May 22, 2022 • 9:00 am

The travel itch is beginning again, and of course part of my Life Plan was to devote more time after retirement to traveling. After all, I’m no spring chicken, and want to travel before they wheel me, drooling, into the nursing home. The only issue is that there are covid restrictions to traveling, including a mandatory test before returning to the U.S.

I am crowdsourcing ideas from readers. The question is this:

Where should I go?

The restrictions are these: trip should be 2-3 weeks, not take place at a time when the putative destination is crowded with summer tourists (I tend to avoid touristy place as well as beaches, since I use vacations to see the world’s diversity, not a strip of sand).  The food must be good and the place interesting. I tend to avoid places with high prices, like Scandinavia.

Paris and Dobrzyn are always there, and will always be on my list, but I count that as a regular place to visit, not a “vacation destination”.

The places that have crossed my mind so far are Mexico (particularly Oaxaca and the Yucatan), Israel (just to see what’s going on there), Africa (to see the famous animals), and Southeast Asia (e.g., Vietnam). I love the idea of going to Pacific Islands, though I understand that some that were once my goals, like Bali, have become overcrowded with tourists. (Yes, I know that I am asking for destinations as a tourist!)

If you have any ideas that fit these criteria, especially based on your personal experience, I’d be glad to hear them.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

May 21, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good day on Cat Sabbath, Saturday, May 21, 2022—the day when dogs have to turn on the lights and the oven for the cats. It’s National Strawberries and Cream Day, which is kosher, but cats don’t like it. It’s also International Tea DaySaint Helena Day (celebrating the discovery of Saint Helena in 1502), and  World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  

Saint Helena is remote, small (about 6 miles across) and used to be accessible only by an infrequent mailboat from Capetown. Now, however, it has an airport and flights from Joberg in December and April. Here’s how small the populated part is:

Stuff that happened on May 21 includes:

If you don’t know about this case, which involved two University of Chicago students killing a young boy just to see if they could get away with it, at least read the Wikipedia entry. It’s full of twists and turns, and involved local lawyer Clarence Darrow (whose place was a few blocks from where I live now), talking for over a day straight (and emphasizing determinism) to get the judge to sentence Leopold and Loeb to life in prison instead of execution.

Left to right: Loeb, Darrow, and Leopold:

  • 1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1936 – Sada Abe is arrested after wandering the streets of Tokyo for days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag. Her story soon becomes one of Japan’s most notorious scandals.

If you saw the 1976 Japanese movie 1976  In the Realm of the Sense, you’ll have sen a dramatization of Abe’s life as a prostitute. She served five years for strangling her lover and the ancillary snippings, but then became famous and sought-after. She finally wound up as a nun. Here’s a photo from 1935:

The “demon core” ultimately killed two men in accidents that made it go critical. It’s a long and painful way to die.

Here’s the sculpture with the damaged hand, nose, and eye.

The Pietà is also the only work Michelangelo ever signed. Here’s the signature, on Mary’s sash:

Here’s Williams on the last show with guests:

  • 2011 – Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on this date.

Da Nooz:

*Yesterday a federal judge in Louisiana, ruling on behalf of a passel of Republican state attorneys, decided not to end Biden’s Title 42 bill that substantially restricted immigration at the U.S. southern border on the grounds of the pandemic. This restriction was set to expire Monday, but the judge decided that suspending the order would. . .

result in “immediate and irreparable harm” because of a projected increase in border crossings, overcrowded processing facilities and, in turn, greater costs to provide health care and education services.”

“The record reflects that – based on the government’s own predictions – that the Termination Order will result in an increase in daily border crossings and that this increase could be as large as a three-fold increase to 18,000 daily border crossings,” the judge wrote. “Moreover, the CDC’s own Termination Order acknowledges that the order ‘will lead to an increase in a number of non-citizens being processed in DHS facilities which could result in overcrowding in congregate settings.”

Regardless of whether you think extending the bill was wrong, there’s no doubt that immigration is out of control at the border. A substantial percentage of migrants enter illegally, for economic reasons rather than as refugees, and many simply disappear into the U.S. and never show up for their court dates. In April, over 234,000 migrants tried to cross the border, a figure not seen for 22 years. Democrats need a credible immigration policy, but what we hear are crickets. If they want open borders, which is what their actions seem to say, they should just say so, but that would be political suicide.

*It’s way, way too early to think about the death of Wokeism, much less its senescence, but there’s a heartening harbinger reported in both Variety and The Daily Fail. I’ll take Nellie Bowles’s summary from Bari Weiss’s TGIF column (also h/t Bill):

At the end of last week, Netflix updated its corporate culture memo, which now includes a jab at the company’s increasingly agitated Red Guard: “Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful. If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” And this week Netflix made that decision for 150 people. The company framed the firings as “layoffs”—but 150 people doesn’t really make a dent for a company of 11,000 people. Those 150 happen to include, just by chance, some of the most Twitter-active social justice workers in the place. Netflix also announced it would cancel the upcoming animated film “Antiracist Baby,” based on the Ibram X. Kendi book.

Now, I am personally conflicted on this news. Of course I salute Netflix and Ted Sarandos for ousting anyone who tried to come between me and Dave Chapelle. On the other hand, the home screening of “Antiracist Baby: The Movie” was going to be the best party I’ve ever thrown, and Netflix stole that joy. So for TGIF, this news is a wash.

*In a Washington Post op-ed, columnist J. J. McCullough argues that “If Queen Elizabeth can’t do her job, she should abdicate.” Now you’re probably thinking, “But she doesn’t have a job!” Not so. McCullough says this:

These days, she barely even travels the grounds of her home at Windsor Castle, having abstained from two back-to-back ceremonies last month at the palace chapel. Though she did make a 10-minute cameo at the opening of a new London subway line this week, she was a no-show at the state opening of the British Parliament a few days earlier — one of her most important duties and one she’s previously only skipped when pregnant.

It may seem cruel to be too judgmental of the queen’s increasingly rare and brief appearances — by my count, the tube thing is her first attendance at a public ceremony in about seven months (unless you count her presence at Westminster Abbey in March for her late husband’s memorial service) — given she recently celebrated her 96th birthday and is said to have the sort of limited capacities common among people of that age.

Yet the queen is not merely a kindly old lady whose decline we can passively observe with a mixture of sympathy and pity. She is a paid employee of the British state with a specific job to do, and if that job is now beyond her capacities, she should do what the rest of us are expected to when our employment becomes too onerous: retire.

I’m sure Prince Charles is thinking the same thing!

*The NYT shares a group of 13 text messages from dying covid patients to their loved ones. They’re hard to read (there’s also interpolated text and explanation), but I found them moving and ineffably sad.

*There is no end of advice from NYT columnists about how Democrats need to change their behavior if they’re to hold on to the Congress and the Presidency. From David Brooks, “How Democrats can win the morality wars.” It’s based on the arguable premise that Leftist morality is based on the Manichean view that their opponents are bad people and obdurate racists, while the Rightist morality adheres to norms: “American values.” What to do? Brooks’s advice involves:

  1. Give religion a bigger break insofar as “people of faith” should be exempt from some issues involving LGBTQ issues
  2. Become less vociferous on moral issues, such as ones involving transgender rights
  3. And this:

America needs institutions built on the “you are not your own” ethos to create social bonds that are more permanent than individual choice. It needs that ethos to counter the me-centric, narcissistic tendencies in our culture. It needs that ethos to preserve a sense of the sacred, the idea that there are some truths so transcendentally right that they are absolutely true in all circumstances.

Brooks is a bloviator. Does that make any sense to you? Well, I can understand the words, but it doesn’t seem like a great panacea to save the Democratic Party. Plus the editorial is boring. 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is checking out the appetizers:

Hili: Starlings have colonized our garden.
A: They are feeding their nestlings now.
Hili: I know, I tried to take a closer look.
In Polish:
Hili: Szpaki skolonizowały nasz ogród.
Ja: Karmią teraz pisklęta.
Hili: Wiem, próbowałam to obejrzeć z bliska.

From Not Another Science Cat Page:


From Merilee. I hope you get this:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Ricky Gervais; a short take on believers:

Red pandas stand up when they fight to make themselves look larger:

From Ginger K.:

From Dom: the spider is parasitized itself and is thus doomed:

From Barry, who asks, “Is this any way to treat a Trump doll?” I think the answer is obvious:

Tweets from Matthew, who, like me, loves DodoLand because everything turns out fine. This rescue cat looks a lot like my late cat Teddy. Sound up.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

A mesmerizing video:

What are these pelicans up to? Often murmurations of starlings are thought to be anti-predator formations, but I don’t think pelicans have any avian predators.

I want one of these, and also one of those cups!

Failed duck rescue

May 18, 2022 • 12:30 pm

NOTE: If you are at Botany Pond, PLEASE to not disturb or, above all, try to catch this duckling. It’s a tricky job, you have to know what to do and, above all, you need to know how to get the duckling into rehab. We will try again tomorrow. So far the tenacious little rascal is surviving and even eating.


Today I did what I didn’t think I’d have to do this season: go into to the pond to rescue the orphan mallard. I failed–twice. Once I got stuck in the mud in the big pond and had to be pulled out. (It’s cold and was raining hard.)

The second time I had the little bugger trapped in the channel but it managed to get away. I was SO close with my net!  I fell down and went underwater in that attempt. The duckling escaped and went back into the big pond. I have to hand it to this baby: it’s very stalwart, but also keeps following hens, hoping that one is its mother. The hens reject it and peck at it.  It’s ineffably sad.

It will be a miracle if this duckling survives. And the only way it will is if I can catch it, which means going back in the pond soon and trapping it in the channel. I am letting it rest now, and have put some newborn duck food on the duck islands, where it seems to hang out.

Right now I am at home after a long hot shower to wash off the mud and schistosome larvae. I doubt I’ll be posting more today. Both the duckling and I are traumatized, but the difference is that I will survive. Unless I take the plunge again, the duckling won’t.

Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins: In defense of E. O. Wilson

May 18, 2022 • 10:00 am

If you’ve been following the fracas about biologist E. O. Wilson and the intimations that he was a racist or at least friendly with racists, you’ll know that there are at least three articles accusing him either explicitly or implicitly of racism (see here, here, and here).  Wilson’s also been defended by many of his colleagues and associates (see here, here, here, here, and here). The latest defense is by Michael Shermer, which you can see by clicking on the first screenshot below. But it may almost be too late. The anti-Wilson rot has spread so far that, without even a thorough checking of Wilson’s correspondence and history, several societies are considering de-naming awards bearing his name.

The entirety of the recent allegations that Wilson was either a racist or sympathetic to racists comes from his association with J. Philippe Rushton, whom I have no difficulty imagining as a bigot (or racist, as you will). Wilson himself, though, has no other history of racist remarks or behavior, and so the whole set of accusations come down to Wilson’s association with Rushton.

This association consists of several actions taken by Wilson, including defending Rushton when he was in danger of being being disciplined by his university job for his incendiary work on race differences, Wilson’s enthusiasm for a paper written by Rushton and one of Wilson’s students, Charles Lumsden, and Wilson’s defense of a paper in which Rushton claimed that, as Michael Shermer notes, blacks and whites were seen as the product to different forms of demographic selection.

From Shermer:

Again, to oversimplify, Rushton argued that while all humans are K-selected, some are more K-selected than others, suggesting that Blacks lean more toward r-selection compared to Whites and especially to Asians. This is why he called it “Differential K theory.” The implications were that Blacks are more promiscuous, have more babies, allocate fewer parental resources in each, develop sexual maturity earlier and, as if that wasn’t enough to ignite a radioactive cultural China Syndrome, are less intelligent and have longer penises, compared to Whites in the middle and Asians at the top (with, again, correspondingly higher intelligence and shorter penises).

But Wilson also declined to review a paper Ruston submitted to Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, as he didn’t want to be drawn into further controversy (Wilson was already being denigrated by the anti-sociobiology crowd.)

Ruston’s paper above really does seem to be invidious speculation (see below), and, as Wilson’s closest colleague Bert Hölldobler (co-author of the Pulitzer-winning book The Ants) observed:

In the recent New York Review of Books article, “Ideology as Biology,” by the historians of science Mark Borrello and David Sepkoski, I feel the authors make too much out of Wilson’s encouragement of Rushton which, as I said, was probably motivated more by his own painful experiences with politically provoked distortions of his work and unfair attacks, than by in depth scrutiny of his correspondent’s views. Looking at Rushton’s work today, when most experts agree that these kinds of IQ tests are biased and have to be taken with a grain of salt, Wilson’s positive response to Rushton’s pleas appears to me naive. I assume that he realized this later too, because to my knowledge he never cited Rushton’s work nor mentioned it in conversations I had with [Wilson].

. . . Having now looked at the work by Rushton with greater attention, it is clear to me that Ed could not have paid much scrutiny to Rushton’s work but rather was motivated by the impression he got from Rushton’s own description of his plight, namely, that he was being persecuted by far-left wing ideologues, as Wilson himself had been after publication of Sociobiology. Note too that Rushton had strong academic credentials as a former John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the Canadian Psychological Society. Nevertheless, Ed’s recommendation of a manuscript submitted by Rushton to the journal Ethology and Sociobiology, in which Rushton wrongly applied Wilson’s r-K selection model, was in my opinion a serious misjudgment. When Wilson encouraged Rushton to pursue this line of investigation and advised him not to be discouraged, at one point warning him “the whole issue would be clouded by personal charges of racism to the point that rational discussion would be almost impossible,” my guess is that Wilson’s response was colored by his own and painful experience and decision to continue with his work despite vicious attacks from Science for the People, rather than an in-depth examination of the of Rushton’s paper. If we could ask Ed today, I am sure he would say: “I made a mistake, I was wrong.” But a misjudgment made when reviewing a paper for a journal does not make Ed Wilson a racist or a promoter of race science!

Indeed. And Wilson’s behavior with respect to Rushton is mitigated by several considerations. As Greg Mayer argued in these pages, one of these was the likelihood that he was trying to help his student Charles Lumsden, who co-authored a paper with Rushton. Another was Wilson’s repeatedly expressed desire to promote academic freedom. Much of his defense of Rushton, as Shermer shows using Wilson’s letters, likely comes from Wilson himself having been repeatedly attacked by people like Steve Gould and Dick Lewontin (my own Ph.D. advisor) for his work on sociobiology—the field now called “evolutionary psychology”.  Wilson didn’t like the idea that—as he was himself accused of for studying the evolution of human behavior—some academic subjects could be deemed off limits. Finally, there is Wilson’s naiveté: he didn’t seem to realize that speculation by Rushton on differences between races—speculation unsupported by substantial data—was invidious and could be harmful.  I’m not trying to totally exculpate Wilson here, but given his entire career and history, naiveté seems more parsimonious than racism to explain l’affaire Rushton. This doesn’t excuse Wilson for bad judgment, but, as Bert notes, it doesn’t indict him for racism, either.

In the post below, Michael Shermer actually does what Wilson’s other critics didn’t: reproduces entire letters from Wilson to and about Rushton taken from Wilson’s archives. And what Shermer turns up is small beer: Wilson supporting a fellow harangued academic, and being naive about doing so. Click to read:

I’m not going to go through Shermer’s defense as a whole, as it would take pages and I assume readers here have either followed this saga or can read the references I’ve given for themselves. After reproducing Wilson’s entire relevant correspondence, Shermer concludes this, quoting two people who knew Wilson well (though not as well as did Bert). I quote at some length from Shermer (quotes from others are doubly indented):

Ed Wilson believed that science should be conducted honestly and without fear. And, as the April 1990 letter reveals, Wilson well knew the consequences of being labeled a racist, so here another hypothesis presents itself: Wilson supported Rushton not out of heretofore hidden or implicit racist proclivities or eugenical propensities, but out of sympathy for a fellow academic whose freedom to conduct scientific research was being threatened. Still, the hostile climate of such an association challenged even Wilson’s good will. When Rushton asked Wilson to sponsor an article he wrote for publication in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), for example, which at the time required membership support for such submissions, Wilson demurred, explaining:

You will recall that I’ve been called a racist (incorrectly, and unjustly) simply because of genetical arguments in Sociobiology, and on one occasion was physically attacked by a group of leftist brownshirts, the International Committee Against Racism. I have a couple of colleagues here, Gould and Lewontin, who would use any excuse to raise the charge again. So I’m the wrong person to sponsor the article, although I’d be glad to referee it for another, less vulnerable member of the National Academy if you locate one as a possible sponsor.

That’s it. That’s the worst of the Wilson-Rushton affiliation. Far from indicting Wilson as a racist, a properly contextualized reading of this correspondence—which responsible journalists and historians of science normally practice when unencumbered by ideology—exonerates Wilson from these calumnies hurled against his posthumous reputation. That is the assessment also made by the distinguished science writer Richard Rhodes, whose biography, Scientist: E.O. Wilson: A Life in Nature, required years of detailed research on Wilson. Here is what Rhodes told me when I queried him on this matter:

Ed wasn’t racist. More than most people, because he grew up in a racist society, he was aware of what that word means. He was, however, someone who encouraged people to pursue lines of research that might lead to breakthroughs, however unexpected or politically incorrect. He was especially eager to see research that might support his work on sociobiology. I suspect that’s why he encouraged Rushton—very carefully, if the NYRB quotes are accurate. He was as well, in those days, to use his own words, “politically naive.”

I also queried the University of California, Berkeley historian of science Frank Sulloway, who studied under and worked with Ed Wilson, and who penned a tribute to Wilson in Skeptic. Here is Sulloway’s assessment on L’affaire Wilson-Rushton:

It is exceedingly easy, without taking in the full historical and interpersonal context (Ed’s vision of applying evolutionary theory to human behavior, which was under attack) and the numerous attacks that Ed experienced personally (which essentially alleged that the mere application of evolutionary theory to human behavior was racist), to see all this new information as being very damning. But Ed was clearly coming to the defense of someone he thought had the right to consider where theory can take one in the study of human behavior, and the right to at least propose and test hypotheses whether they are socially acceptable or not.

Ed may be guilty of being rather naive in how far to go in supporting someone like Rushton, but this was part of Ed’s personality and nature—he was a very generous and enthusiastic person. Hence, I too don’t see any real racism here, unless something more concrete emerges, which—having spoken to people who knew Ed Wilson well—I doubt could possibly be the case. I also don’t think one can expect Ed to have understood in the 1990s the various research flaws that have been revealed in some of Rushton’s work during the three decades since that time. It is the nature of science that many theories, seemingly having strong support to begin with, later turn out to have been mistaken.

Because the scientific study of race differences has a history of being fueled by pseudoscientific bias in a search for justifying claims of white superiority, it may seem axiomatic that science should never touch the topic. But it is the objective study of the question of differences that has actually found biological unity among the human family, no basis for claims of racial superiority, and no justification for oppression. Science is what provides the most irrefutable biological bedrock evidence for rejecting racism. Ed Wilson knew this—and wrote of this—long before he supported Rushton.

Wilson himself said that the scientific study of human behavior gave no support for racism. I’ve put Wilson’s quote to that effect below the fold:

So what we have are several people engaged in the common attempt to tear down someone’s reputation by either calling him a racist or implying, based solely on his association with Rushton, that Wilson was sympathetic to racism. Neither claim will stand. Wilson wasn’t perfect, but one must balance his association with Rushton (which has substantial mitigating factors) against the enormous number of scientific advances Wilson made during his life. I conclude that, when it comes to Wilson’s “racist tendencies or associations,” there is no there there. Nobody who knew the man well can point to any racist statements or behaviors in him. I knew him, too (not intimately), and never saw any inkling of racism or bigotry. The correspondence reproduced by Shermer does almost nothing to impugn Ed Wilson as one of the greatest biologists of our era.  It’s time for people to lay off Wilson—especially people who know well what kind of attention unfounded accusations of bigotry get in an age that seems to despise heroes and delight in their destruction and deplatforming. But I’m afraid the knife is already in, and will be twisted further.

As Richard Dawkins notes in his short appreciation of the life of Ed Wilson below, Wilson was a giant among organismal biologists. Wilson and Dawkins had their differences. Richard, like me, criticized Ed strongly for his late-life conversion to group selection as a general explanation of human traits and differences: our extremely critical reviews of one of Wilson’s books about this are here and here. But some scientific differences are no reason to rip apart a man with Wilson’s accomplishments.  Dawkins’s take is a respectful and measured evaluation of a man no longer able to answer his critics.

Click to read; I’ll give a few short quotes below:

Edward O. Wilson was a gentleman— a humane, humanist gentleman. He was also human, capable of being wrong, as we all are. I believe he was profoundly wrong in his latter-day disagreement with virtually everyone else in the field over kin selection and inclusive fitness (a purely scientific disagreement having no connection with the political pre-occupations of the Washington water-throwers or the wetly incoherent Scientific American author).

It would be hypocritical of me not to acknowledge the existence of my highly critical review of The Social Conquest of Earth, which explains the nature of the disagreement. I stand by it and do not regret its outspoken tone (it is reprinted in my 2021 book Books Do Furnish a Life). But I also stand by my profound admiration for Professor Wilson and his life work.

Edward O. Wilson was a biologist of immense distinction. In addition to his unmatched expertise in the fascinatingly alien world of ants, he was one of the world’s leading ecologists. Together with Robert MacArthur, he invented the modern science of island biogeography. If he didn’t invent biophilia and consilience, his name will remain linked with those noble philosophies as their most articulate advocate. He was an astonishingly prolific and hard-working author. Having finished a book as substantial as The Insect Societies, one might have expected him to take a well-earned rest. Comfortable laurels would have beckoned to a lesser man. But no: “Because … there was some momentum left from writing The Insect Societies, I decided to learn enough about vertebrates to attempt a general synthesis.” The result was Sociobiology. Some momentum! And even Sociobiology, which might be thought sufficiently magnum for any normal lifetime, is dwarfed by The Ants, his later opus written jointly with Bert Hölldobler.

Not many scientists can boast two Pulitzer Prizes. Even more distinguished, he won the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, widely regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for disciplines “chosen so as to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded.” A great scientist and a great man.

From my acquaintance with Ed (he got me into Harvard, and I twice taught Bio 1 as his t.a.), I side with Richard and Michael on this one.

h/t: David

Click “continue reading”” to see Wilson’s statement on the study of human behavior and how it applies to racism:

Continue reading “Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins: In defense of E. O. Wilson”

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

May 17, 2022 • 6:30 am

Greetings on The Cruelest Day: a Tuesday, and this one is May 17, 2022: National Cherry Cobbler Day. Wouldn’t you like some right now, preferably warm and topped with vanilla ice cream?



Posting may be a little light today as I have to drive a LONG way to get my car emissions-tested, something required every few years to get the registration renewed. Of course there are no emissions-testing stations in all of Chicago, so I have to drive to Bedford Park,a fairly long haul.  These tests always make me anxious. What if I fail?

*The Ukrainian fighters holed up the the Maiupol steel plant have finally surrendered, eliminating the last pocket of resistance in the city. It’s very sad. As the NYT reports:

Ukraine says it has given up fighting at the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol, allowing hundreds of its fighters who had been taking a last stand there to be moved to Russian-controlled territories, securing for Russia a hard-fought and costly victory to seize a swath of the country’s south.

The steel plant had been the final pocket of resistance to Russia’s bid to create a land bridge between the Crimean Peninsula and areas it controls in the east. Mariupol and its residents had sustained some of the worst and most brutal attacks since it was surrounded in early March because the city stood squarely in the way.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that 265 fighters who had been holding out in the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol had “laid down their arms and surrendered.” Earlier on Monday, the Ukrainian authorities said that the fighters’ combat mission had ended and that they would be eventually exchanged for Russian prisoners of war.

*Sweden’s official bid to become a member of NATO, ending aeons of neutrality, is now supported by its “Nordic neighbors.” As the Washington Post reports:

Sweden’s parliament “broadly affirmed” the nation’s application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday. The leaders of Norway, Denmark and Iceland said they would assist Sweden and Finland, which signaled it would seek NATO membership last week, “by all means necessary” if Russia carried out retaliatory attacks. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to downplay the development, saying he had “no problems” with the alliance’s possible expansion.

*I don’t know if you’ve followed the covid-19 situation in North Korea, but a bad outbreak was inevitable given that the regime has simply refused all offers of vaccine (the politically powerful, of course, are surely vaccinated). At first the DPRK denied there was a problem, but now they’re up Merde Creek without a paddle—yet still refusing an offer of vaccine from South Korea:

North Korea reported its biggest daily surge in fever cases during a nationwide outbreak of Covid-19 but didn’t respond to a South Korean offer of vaccines even as the North’s leader Kim Jong Un berated officials for failing to contain the disease.

. . . Over 390,000 people came down with fever in the 24 hours through Sunday evening, Pyongyang’s state media said, bringing the official total to over 1.2 million since the first fever cases were reported a week ago. North Korea, which lacks Covid testing equipment, has only confirmed one person tested positive for the Omicron variant of the virus.

Health experts say that without vaccines and testing capacity, North Korea risks being overwhelmed by a health crisis not seen since the country suffered a famine that killed over a million people in the 1990s. North Korea rejected offers of vaccines before the current outbreak and its population is particularly vulnerable because of widespread malnutrition and the decrepit state of the medical system.

What kind of madman would kill off his people rather than accept medical help from several sources? Kim Jong-un, that’s who.

*The mass shooting at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, California, which killed one brave doctor and wounded five, has now (along with the Buffalo shooting) been branded as a hate crime. This one is a bit out of the ordinary, though, as the shooter was an older native-born Chinese man (now a U.S. citizen) apparently exacting revenge against Taiwanese.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, identified as a Chinese immigrant and U.S. citizen, and the Taiwanese community. China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule.

The suspect was identified as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas. He has been booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder and is being held on $1 million bail.

. . . Chou’s family was among many that were apparently forcibly removed from China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Chou’s hatred toward the island, documented in hand-written notes that authorities found, seems like it began when he felt he wasn’t treated well while living there.

*The Jewish News Service has what I consider a good and pretty objective article on the death of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.  The upshot: despite the press concluding almost immediately that she was shot by the Israeli Defense Forces, there’s also a compelling case to be made that she was shot in the crossfire between the IDF and Palestinian shooters. This is one example where the rush to judgment always damns the Israelis. My take? I don’t know how she was shot, but even the Palestinians who did the autopsy could come to no conclusion.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is occupied:

Hili: I’m very busy.
A: What are you doing?
Hili: Now I’m lying down.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem bardzo zajęta.
Ja: A co robisz?
Hili: Teraz leżę.

From Heather Hastie:

From Unique Birds and Animals:

From Doc Bill:

Tweets from God.  He regrets d*gs more, though:

Why d*gs should induce more regret:

Sarah Haider on AOC:

From Barry: Roadblock in Tanzania:

From Simon; an elephant playing a game:

Tweets from Matthew:  Remember Astro Samantha, on whom I had a crush. She’s apparently back on the ISS!

Look at those clouds? Anybody know what they are? Could they be. . . mammalus clouds?

I believe the one at upper right is the famous “Nessie” fake photo:

I’m not sure what this means, but perhaps Matthew knows:


In a California case, ACLU and co-litigants claim that there are no biological differences between men and women

May 16, 2022 • 10:45 am

Here we have three articles about a suit filed against the State of California by four female prison inmates who claim violation of their rights by transgender women who were moved to women’s prison’s by a recent California law, SB-132.  The first article is by the ACLU, the second by the feminist organization WoLF (“Women’s Liberation Front”) which opposes transsexual women in women’s prisons, and the third by USSA News, a right-wing organization. Read for yourself; the story is pretty much the same, though spun in different ways by different organizations.

Click on the three screenshots to read:

SB-132, the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act, has been in force in California for sixteen months; it permits male inmates who identify as women to seek transfer into women’s prisons. There is no requirement that the men have had surgery or hormonal treatment, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or any legal documents supporting their identification as women. All that’s required for such a request is that a biological male in a men’s prison assert that they identify as a woman.

According to WoLF, 300 biological men who identify as women have requested such transfers:

The ACLU objects to the state’s choice to slow the transfer of the more than 300 men who have sought transfer to women’s facilities, one-third of whom are sex offenders (though the ACLU denies this documented, material fact in its court pleadings). One of WoLF’s plaintiffs was sexually assaulted by one of the dozens of men who have already been transferred, and she suffers ongoing trauma as the state refuses to admit that her attacker is a man. So much for “this never happens.” (It has also happened in New Jersey, Washington, New York, and everywhere else that women are inhumanely locked in cages with men.)

Apparently SB-132 is quite lax about its requirements. As stated in the lawsuit against California, the suit quotes the original law and how it is to be implemented:

S.B. 132 (at Cal. Pen. Code § 2606(a)(3)) acknowledges that in California, correctional facilities are designated either for men, or for women. However, S.B. 132 requires Defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) to (1) ask each individual entering CDCR custody the individual’s “gender identity of female, male, or nonbinary” and ask “Whether the individual identifies as transgender, nonbinary, or intersex” (Cal. Pen. Code § 2605(a)(1)-(2)) and then requires Defendant CDCR to (among other things) house the individual “at a correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference[.]” Cal. Pen. Code § 2606(a)(3).

3. S.B. 132 limits Defendant CDCR’s ability to deny an individual’s “preferred housing placement” only to situations where CDCR “has management or security concerns with an incarcerated individual’s…preferred housing placement preference” and certifies “in writing a specific and articulable basis why the department is unable to accommodate that…housing preference” and CDCR “shall not deny…a housing placement…based on any discriminatory reason, including, but not limited to…The anatomy, including, but not limited to, the genitalia or other physical characteristics, of the incarcerated person” or the “sexual orientation of the incarcerated person” or for “a factor present among other people incarcerated at the preferred type of facility.” Cal. Pen. Code § 2606(b)-(c).

The suit asks for these provisions of SB-132 to be suspended on Constitution grounds involving privacy and safety.  The ACLU  and its co-litigants, however (a group of pro-transgender and LGBTQ+ organizations) object to the WoLF filing and on May 9 filed a motion to intervene, apparently on the grounds that the ACLU does not trust the state of California to take seriously the interest of its clients (the transgender omen who want to be moved into women’s prisons).

The ACLU, in the article above, rejects the WoLF lawsuit.

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), an anti-trans organization based in Washington, DC, filed Chandler v. CDCR in November in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. WoLF filed the lawsuit on behalf of three incarcerated women and Woman II Woman, a California-based nonprofit. The filing was replete with intentional and serial misgendering, and rehashed sensationalist and debunked claims about transgender women supposedly perpetrating violence.

This is one of the few cases in which transsexual people have to be judged differently from “cis” people, especially given the provision that all that’s required to request such a transfer is to claim that your gender is a women. No other proof need be adduced. This is clearly unfair and dangerous to women, especially if the transgender women are biological men who were convicte of sex crimes like rape.

This is clearly not one of the larger problems afflicting America, but I do think that one must do more than take a biological male’s word that they are female when the only evidence for that is self-identification. What bother’s me is the ACLU + co-litigant’s claim below, on page 3 of the motion:

16. Proposed Intervenors deny the implied allegation that “those who selfidentify as ‘transgender, nonbinary, or intersex” are cisgender men. The remaining allegations in Paragraph 16 consist of legal arguments and conclusions to which no response is required. To the extent a response is required, Proposed Intervenors deny the allegations in Paragraph 16.

17. Proposed Intervenors deny that “men as a class” are defined and differentiated from “women as a class” by their “anatomy, genitalia, physical characteristics, and physiology.” The remaining allegations in Paragraph 17 consist of legal arguments and conclusions to which no response is required. To the extent a response is required, Proposed Intervenors deny the allegations in Paragraph 17. To the extent that Plaintiffs purport to quote from and characterize S.B. 132, that document is the best evidence of its own contents.

The bit in bold is what I really object to, and show how the ACLU has gone off the rails with respect to sex. In a well-motivated attempt to protect the rights of transgender people, in this case they may (as with the ACLU’s stand on transgender women competing in women’s sports), be committing fundamental unfairness. And, at any rate, they are biologically wrong. I’ve already indicated that to biologists, human “men as a class” are defined and differentiated from “women as a class” because the former have the ability to make sperm and the latter eggs. To deny this, even in the service of ideology, is to deny biological truth.

And so the ACLU once again dissimulates in the interest of ideology. As for the danger to cis-women from trans-women in prison, I’m not an expert on that but there are some cases in which the latter have endangered the former. Because genuinely transgender women in men’s prison’s also face dangers like rape or sexual assault, we need some rules about this, but those rules must clearly involve the transgender person offering more than an opinion that they’re not of the biological sex into which they were born. All of this, of course, comes from the unassailable mantra that “trans women are women” (and the same for men).

h/t: Enrico

Rescued ducklings

May 14, 2022 • 9:02 am

There were ten, and one unhatched egg that we’re keeping an eye on (if it hatches, I’ll get it to rehab as well). All hatchlings were in good condition, and the mother was NOT happy at me removing them all from the nest (they’re all in good condition). But it makes me ineffably sad that I had to do this; the alternative was to risk the lives of mother and ducklings by putting them in a pond with four hyperaggressive males who would have driven the mother away within minutes.

Still, I’m up in the lab stifling sobs, distraught that the mother was so upset at me purloining her ducklings and that the babies are motherless . But please don’t tell me I should have done something else, as made a decision that I thought was the best one to keep everyone alive. The mother will survive, and the babies will get superb care at Willowbrook.