Andrew Sullivan excoriates Trump, repudiates the GOP

January 9, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Andrew Sullivan’s latest column (click on screenshot below) won’t surprise anyone who has seen him diagnose Trump as mentally ill over the last few months, a diagnosis only confirmed with this week’s insanity. But I haven’t seen Sullivan go after the Republican Party in such strong terms as the ones below. I guess you might still call him a conservative, but there’s no way he’ll tolerate the label “Republican”:

Fur hat Viking Man will carry that stigma with him the rest of his life:

An excerpt:

There is a temptation to believe that this is finally over. But for as long as this man exercises the powers of the presidency, it isn’t. He has used the power of the pardon these past few years to obstruct justice, to prevent vital testimony in a legitimate investigation, and to reward friends and relatives. In recent weeks, we’ve been told, he has also discussed the possibility of a proactive pardon for himself and his own family that will only cement his legacy of a presidency beyond the reach of any checks and balances. The next ten days, as he is cornered, are among the most dangerous. He could do anything. I favor a second impeachment, swiftly executed. The goal at this point is to get him out of there before he does even more damage, to keep him on the defensive, and to bar him from running for office ever again. This is where we are.

It pains me to say it, but this week was, in many ways, the essence of American “conservatism” in 2021. It has morphed from a politics to a theological movement to a personality cult. It is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracy. It is nihilist, performative, incoherent and bristling with the certainty of fundamentalists and the corruption of grifters. It has destroyed this country’s fiscal standing, wrecked this country’s international reputation, trashed the norms and practices of liberal democracy, perverted the rule of law, accelerated climate change, and now physically vandalized the most sacred civil place in America.

And for what? Ratings? Soaring and destabilizing inequality? A national debt previously unthinkable in peacetime? Thousands and thousands of viral deaths that might have been prevented by the simple act of a president wearing a mask in public and urging others to do the same? The eradication of a shared concept of truth? The embrace of Kim Jong Un? The delegitimization of the entire press? The rehabilitation of Putin? The wet dreams of Netanyahu? Or the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear bomb? Pick one or all of them. The last two Republican presidents have ended their terms with the country in ruins. We cannot afford another one until the GOP is razed and rebuilt as a viable, democratic party.

“Remember this day!” Trump declared even after the disgrace had happened. And we will, we will. It exposed the GOP for what it is. These were not fringe loonies. Even after the sacking of the Capitol, a majority of House Republicans voted to endorse the insane conspiracy theories of the seditionists and not to certify a legitimate and fair election. In a snap YouGov poll, a plurality of Republicans backed a violent assault to reverse an election result. A party that does this is not fit to exist in a liberal democracy.

Unfortunately, Sullivan, whose gone farther than any self-styled conservative to call out Trump as deranged, has himself been excoriated for accusing the Left of driving people towards Trump, an accusation that in fact has some merit. Of course the Democrats are not responsible for Trump’s insanity and his foul deeds, but they may have swelled the ranks of his minions, (though probably not the ones who invaded the Capitol).

Here’s the paragraph that got Sullivan in trouble with the Left. But he’s been saying this for a long time, and I’ve expounded a somewhat tamer version. Perhaps it’s a sign of the suddenly unleashed nastiness among some on the Left that something like the two sentences I’ve put in bold would be controversial:

My first desperate hope with this administration was that it would plummet so far in popularity so quickly it would cause a revolt within the GOP. Trump’s demagogic genius, the left’s radicalization, and the pull of tribalism soon put an end to that delusional hope. My second was a thorough repudiation of the GOP as well as Trump this past political cycle in what I hoped would be a landslide Democratic victory. The rhetoric of the far left and the burning of American cities last summer scotched that one, as the Congressional tally shows. So my third is simply that we will soon begin to treat these past four years as the quintessential cautionary tale in the narrative of America. In the future, if a president refuses to be accountable to Congress in any way, or obstructs justice or tells massive lies, or refuses to concede an election, he or she will be instantly stigmatized as being a version of Trump.

Finally, Sullivan has a gold mine of quotes this week. Here are but a few. The first one makes me gag every time I hear it.

“We love you. You are very special,” – Trump, in a taped statement addressing the seditionists who attacked the Capitol.

“It turns out telling voters the election is rigged is not a good way to turn out your voters,” – Mitt Romney, on the Democratic triumph in Georgia.

“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” – George W. Bush.

“Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution,” – Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,” – Nikole Hannah-Jones, on the rioting and looting this past summer.

“Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America,” – Barack Obama.

And I love this one:

“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” – Raphael Warnock, the first black senator from Georgia.

I’m still hopeful that Republicans can choose America, but I don’t really expect it. But look: we have a Democratic House, Senate, President, and Vice-President. We have several effective vaccines against Covid-19. Things are a hell of a lot better than they were 9 months ago. Will there be any more monkey business from Trump before January 20?  A lot of people say “of course,” but I’ll stick my neck out and aver that he’s has been thoroughly chastened, and, demented as he is, will keep a low profile until he’s out of the White House.

What’s the order of vaccination?: A discussion featuring ethicists, scientists and epidemiologists

December 28, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Last week we had a little “accident” at my university. Due to a misstep somewhere, some biology graduate students got their Covid-19 vaccinations before healthcare workers at the hospital. These students had nothing to do with clinical research, but apparently got their jab tickets because they are, like me, part of the Biological Science Division, which includes the University hospital that is currently scheduling shots for its own workers. I suspect that someone messed up the scheduling.

This distressed me quite a bit, as I’m waiting patiently in line for my jab, and feel that healthcare workers should certainly get the first shots (they haven’t finished yet). But some of the students, surely knowing this was an error, ran over immediately and got their shots. (Others realized the potential error and made inquiries.) That, of course, means that a second dose had to be reserved for their second shot, and that some essential healthcare workers had to wait.  I’ve let the powers-that-be know about the error so this won’t happen again. (It was surely a mistake, and these things will happen.)

In fact, this kind of error happened in another U.S. hospital last week (it was on the news; I can’t remember where), and caused a huge furor. Those people who want the shots—and thankfully their numbers are growing—are rightfully incensed by “line jumping”. I suspect that if rich people could pay to get vaccinated early, it would create huge turmoil, and rightly so. After all, is a rich person’s life worth more than a poor one’s? Not in my book. But according to LA Magazine, the wealthy are already angling to get early jabs.

But regardless of existing ordering, the question of whose lives are worth more is the real topic of this discussion, moderated by the New York Times‘s Emily Bazelon with a good lineup of participants. As I discussed the other day, the CDC originally wanted to vaccinate essential non-healthcare workers before older people—even though their models showed that this ordering would lead to more deaths than the reverse ordering—because the second group was “whiter”. That’s been changed, but race is also a central issue in this discussion. Click on the screenshot to read it:

Here’s the lineup, which is a good group:

The Panelists

Ngozi Ezike, an internist and pediatrician, is the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. She previously worked for 15 years in the Cook County health system, where she delivered inpatient and outpatient care and directed medical services at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

Gregg Gonsalves is a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and an AIDS and global health activist. He is also a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

Juliette Kayyem is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she is the faculty chairwoman of the Security and Global Health program, and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. She is advising a number of public and private entities on pandemic response and vaccine distribution.

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. He is the author of “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” which was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. He is a founder of a vaccine-delivery platform called Othena.

Peter Singer is a bioethics professor at Princeton, author of “The Life You Can Save” and founder of the charity of the same name. His most recent book is “Why Vegan?”

Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, moderated the discussion, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, with material added from follow-up interviews.

I’m not going to reprise the whole long exchange, but just mention a few high points.

What surprised me is that race, though the first thing Bazelon brought up (this is, of course, the NYT), wasn’t an element of dissent. Everyone agreed that since people of color have a higher risk of dying from the virus, they should, as Singer said get the first jabs, though he notes the unethicality of the CDC’s original recommendation:

Peter Singer: It makes sense to protect those who are most vulnerable, whether the vulnerability is social or health-related. So if the evidence indicates that Black, Latino or Native American people have a higher risk of dying from the virus, they should be offered the vaccine ahead of others of the same age who are at lower risk because they are white or Asian. But a document that was circulated in November to A.C.I.P., the C.D.C. panel, suggested that the fact that racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented among those older than 65 is a reason for giving lower priority to that age group as a whole and instead vaccinating more than 100 million “essential workers” ahead of them. The effect would be that more people over all would die — and also that more members of racial and ethnic minorities would die, because the higher fatality rate in older people would outweigh their lower share of representation in that age group. That’s absurd. Equity for disadvantaged minorities can’t tell us to distribute vaccines in a manner that will mean more deaths in those communities themselves.

In fact, I found the whole discussion much less engaging than I thought it would be—except for Singer’s comments. He’s always provocative, and though I’m initially shocked by some of his views about ethics, like recommending euthanasia for terminally deformed or sick newborns, I usually come around to his way of thinking. And so he makes a statement that may shock people, but has some merit:

Singer: The objective that we should aim for is to reduce years of life lost. I know a lot of people are talking just about saving lives. But I do think that it’s different whether somebody dies at 90 or 50 or a younger age still. So, in my view, that’s what we should be looking at.

. . . The basis for the British government’s plan is, of course, to treat those who are at the highest risk of dying and thus to minimize the number of deaths. But it is also important to consider what your life would be like if you don’t die.

It might still be that we should protect 90-year-olds first, based on data suggesting that 90-plus are at eight times the risk of dying from the virus as people around 70, whereas their life-expectancy difference is roughly something like four and a half years as against 15 years for 70-year-olds. If that’s correct, then the higher risk to the 90-year-olds outweighs the difference in life expectancy.

He also suggests that older people without the ability to give consent, like those with dementia, might not be vaccinated, arguing that “many doctors tell me that when patients have severe dementia, they do not treat conditions like pneumonia. Even though you could treat it with antibiotics relatively simply, they say, there’s a time to let a patient go.” (He also says that families should of course be consulted.)

Mukherjee seems to spend a fair amount of his discussion promoting his vaccine-delivery platform (see description above). If he doesn’t profit from the platform, that’s fine, but if he does (and the platform’s website and this interview suggest that it’s part of his own company, Cura), statements like the following seem self-promoting:

Mukherjee: When you talk about trucks breaking down, that’s one problem. There’s a second, equally important but I think neglected logistical problem, which a company I co-founded, Othena, is trying to solve. The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines require booster shots. They need to be tracked, and they need monitoring and auditing. What’s the reminder system for telling you to come back for your second dose and for tracking which populations are getting the vaccine? This is a data-management challenge. We are piloting Othena software to address this issue in Orange County and other places in the country.

Current software systems are not patient-based, and vaccination will only be scalable if patients can manage their own vaccination.

He repeats this emphasis, but I’ll move on.

Two other matters in the exchange are worth considering. First, there’s the fact that areas like the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Europe are clearly getting priority for the vaccines, even though places like Brazil are severely afflicted, and African countries might soon be in the same situation. (I heard on the news last night that New Zealand has ordered enough vaccine to do its entire population more than four times over!) Is that ethical? Why should any countries get priority over others, much less reserve excess vaccine? I haven’t thought much about this, but offer it for your consideration.

And there’s the issue of patent-breaking—of poorer countries stealing the patents on vaccines to help their residents, as (says Mukherjee) India did with anti-retroviral drugs during the AIDS crisis. To me, if it saves lives, it’s worth considering, and perhaps companies shouldn’t go after patent-breakers so long as the stolen vaccines are good ones.

As for the ordering, I’m happy with where it is, and if they decide to vaccinate bartenders or truck drivers before me, well, so be it. This is a complicated process, and different states will have different priorities. It turns out that American states do have considerable leeway about the order of vaccination, and I haven’t paid much attention to the variation: I just watch the news and have registered at the hospital here to be informed when my number is up.

And about jumping the queue with money, here’s part of that discussion:

Mukherjee: Peter, what if you could jump the queue, and get 10 doses of vaccine for your friends and family, if you contribute 5,000 or 10,000 or 500,000 doses for the Global South. Would you be open to such an option?

Singer: Yes, I would be, I think. Clearly, for a utilitarian like me, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.

Gonsalves: It won’t happen. But there will be huge numbers of rich people who will jump the line for the vaccine and not give anything back.

I don’t see how rich people can jump the line given the guidelines, but Gonsalves is sure that will happen. If it does, it will really piss people off. After all, this isn’t a queue to get into the movies or buy toilet paper, but one that can affect your chance of dying.

The Guardian touts astrology

December 27, 2020 • 12:45 pm

It’s bad enough that venues like NBC News and the New York Times publish news—without caveats—stating that Jesus was not only a real person, but did the deeds and said the words described in Scripture. Now The Guardian has published a longish piece in which five astrologers predict what will happen after the pandemic begins to abate. Not only that, but they add no caveats about astrology being bogus, and in fact make statements that there might be something to it.  Is this the kind of “post-truth” journalism that we can expect now? Click on the screenshot to read:

I’ll give a few “predictions” from the astrologers, which of course are so bland and anodyne that anybody could make them, but first I want to show the statements made by the author, freelance journalist Deborah Linton.  These might lead the reader to believe that there’s something meaningful in telling the future using stars and planets, crystals, or tarot cards.  Linton’s own quotes are indented (emphases are mine):

This age of uncertainty has been a boon for crystal ball gazers. From New York to New Delhi, fortune-tellers have seen spikes in business; in the US, Forbes magazine reported a 136% rise in people seeking supernatural readings. In societies where religious belief is dwindling, and trust in the establishment under threat, the idea of looking elsewhere for guidance – to the stars or beyond, if you believe in a beyond – has made a kind of sense.

Millennials and Gen Z-ers are increasingly likely to livestream YouTube mediums, receive daily tarot readings via their Instagram feeds, or consume online horoscopes. The logic of astrology appeals to a modern desire for answers, while the magic of tarot is now available in “hip hop”, “modern love” and “bad bitches” themed card decks for sale online. In the US, the psychic services industry as a whole – which includes astrology, mediumship, palmistry, aura-reading and tarot – was valued at $2.2bn in 2018 (a 52% rise on 2005). Some celebrities consult spiritual healers just as they do therapists or nutritionists.

LOGIC OF ASTROLOGY? What does that mean?

When introducing psychic Dale Spencer Weeks, Linton says this:

Dale Spencer Weeks has practised as a psychic numerologist and seer for nine years, reading the numerical energy of people and events by studying patterns between numbers and physical or emotional states. He is clairvoyant and clairaudient. Requests for his readings have increased by two-thirds this year, including 30-40% more men than usual; most are looking for guidance with jobs or relationships.

“Clairvoyance” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary in this sense is “Having or exercising the faculty of clairvoyance; pertaining to clairvoyance.” And “clairvoyance” means ” A supposed faculty attributed to certain persons, or to persons under certain mesmeric conditions, consisting in the mental perception of objects at a distance or concealed from sight.”

At least the OED says it’s a supposed faculty, implying doubt. Linton implies no doubt, either, when introducing Champion Psychic June Field, winner of the International Battle of the Psychics):

June Field was voted the world’s greatest psychic medium, beating 70,000 others in International Battle Of The Psychics, a European X-Factor style TV show, in 2013. Based in Dundee, she has been clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsentient (seeing, hearing and feeling spirits) since childhood and makes predictions based on psychic intuition.

Balderdash! Where’s James Randi when we need him?  He’d be good at judging a Battle of the Psychics!  Anyway, Linton’s piece is not just one of those short newspaper columns that people peruse for amusement, though I suspect most are looking for a teeny hint about the future. No, Linton wrote a long article full of predictions from psychics. Here are just three. Really prescient, these charlatans! And if you think it’s all just fun, remember what Linton said above: Americans spend $2.2 billion per year trying to suss out the future from frauds.

June Field:

These next 12 months are a stepping stone to something better. We’ve done a lot of transitioning and 2021 is a time for re-educating and adjusting to a new reality. It is a year of healing and rebuilding.

People are in denial about the virus and that causes friction. People will continue to be afraid, and the return to normality will run into 2022.

That’s not hard to guess!

Here’s Dale Spencer-Weeks, a “psychic numerologist”:

I get different feelings or vibrations from each number. In 2020, the earth has been walking through a four vibration – the number of shelter, rules, law and governments. It is the number of determination, reassessing, cause and effect, so the solid, pure vibrations of 2+0+2+0 were going to be intense.

We are entering a solid “five” year (2+0+2+1). If 2020 has been about building a rocket ship, I liken 2021 to that ship taking off. Five’s energy is mercurial, like pumping 1,000 vaults through 100-vault wires. It’s going to be a huge year of change.

Weather events will be intense: storms and hurricanes. There will also be political unrest and missiles will fly. The world is going through a period of transformation and the vibe of 2021 is about expression and looking for freedom.

And some hope from Tarot reader Tatianna Morales, who answers some questions:

2. What does the energy of 2021 hold for the collective?

Card: The Page of Swords. This card brings innovative solutions and ideas. It also asks you to think intellectually, not emotionally. It speaks about radical truths being revealed in society – the kind that rock the boat. It brings an energy of busyness, of research and strategy in 2021. It asks that if you are inspired to take up new studies, hobbies or find new income streams, you take action. It talks about unexpected assistance from government. It speaks to the economy, where communication, virtually, and in the arts, will take the lead.

3. Do we see the solution to Covid-19 arriving in the first quarter of 2021?

Card: The Magician. This speaks of commanding solutions. It is the energy of those who are relentless in their pursuit of solutions, of resourcefulness, cleverness. The answer is, “Absolutely, yes.”

Wow—that last one was hard, especially since we already know there are two vaccines going into people’s arms. As for #2, well, that’s just nebulously dumb.

If you want to test these people, ask them to pick stocks and then compare their records to those of brokers. Ten to one they don’t do any better.

Why is the Guardian publishing this drivel? I stopped paying attention to the British version of HuffPost a while back, though sometimes a reader calls my attention to a half-decent article. But it’s really no surprise that they’re publishing this stuff in light of the paper’s penurious state.  As reader Barry wrote when sending me this link,

When I clicked on the article, this appeared at the bottom as an enticement to subscribe: “Our journalism fights for truth and holds power to account.” Sounds great. So why is the paper publishing tripe like this?

It’s because they’re fighting not for truth, but for clicks.

NYT op-ed: Jesus was not only real, but a radical social-justice warrior

December 26, 2020 • 2:00 pm

Christmas is a good time for us to note that the mainstream media still buys the existence of Jesus as real and divine: it’s just a given, often presented as lock, stock, and barrel. In an age of increasing disbelief, the media still has no shame in presenting the Christmas Story not as a mere metaphor, but literally true.  The stuff about the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter being, perhaps, that ancient “star of Bethlehem” was one example of this palaver.

How else can one understand a New York Times op-ed claiming that Jesus was a radical who cared for the marginalized—a piece lacking any caveats from the paper? If the piece came from the pen of Trump instead of a Christian journalist (unlikely, of course), there would surely be a note underneath saying something like, “The events recounted in this editorial have no basis in fact.”

But read the following for yourself, and if you find it paywalled, a judicious inquiry will yield the piece.  The author, Peter Wehner, is a writer (he wrote speeches for three Presidents), and also a religionist, for, as Wikipedia says, he’s also “a vice president and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank, and a fellow at the Trinity Forum, a non-profit Christian organization.

 

Jesus was not only radical, says Wehner, but was inclusive as well:

First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly radical and radically inclusive figure Jesus was, and neither are today’s Christians. We want to tame and domesticate who he was, but Jesus’ life and ministry don’t really allow for it. He shattered barrier after barrier.

This kind of Social Justice Jesus is, of course, right in line with the New York Times‘s woke philosophy (which is why they printed it), but the big question is Did Jesus really exist? And are the stories that Wehner uses to demonstrate Jesus’s inclusivity and concern for the marginalized really true, or were they made up, like much of scripture? This distinction is important for two reasons.

First, we have no extra-Biblical evidence that Jesus really existed as a person. I have found arguments to the contrary inconclusive, and so am agnostic (so to speak) on that point.

Second, even if the Jesus depicted in the New Testament was modeled on some itinerant rabbi, can we take Scripture as, well, scripture, and assume that the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well—a big part of Wehner’s argument for Jesus’s “radical inclusivity”—is literally true? Or does it represent the imaginings of a later writer who wanted to make Jesus appear that way? The difference is important, for billions of people accept Jesus as real, and if he was really inclusive in this way, then he can be a real role model for today’s SJWs. But if Gospel is just the imagining of someone trying to depict a caring Jesus, then that’s just more fiction. Heartening fiction, perhaps, but not real.  A role model who didn’t exist, or didn’t do what he was said to do, is not as good as a real role model.

And so Wehner takes the Biblical stories as real, including healing of lepers and blindness:

This story is a striking example of Jesus’ rejection of conventional religious and cultural thinking — in this case because Jesus, a man, was talking earnestly to a woman in a world in which women were often demeaned and treated as second-class citizens; and because Jesus, a Jew, was talking to a Samaritan, who were despised by the Jews for reasons going back centuries. According to Professor Bailey, “A Samaritan woman and her community are sought out and welcomed by Jesus. In the process, ancient racial, theological and historical barriers are breached. His message and his community are for all.”

This happened time and again with Jesus. He touched lepers and healed a woman who had a constant flow of menstrual blood, both of whom were considered impure; forgave a woman “who lived a sinful life” and told her to “go in peace,” healed a paralytic and a blind man, people thought to be worthless and useless. And as Jesus was being crucified, he told the penitent thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

. . . Over the course of my faith journey, I have wondered: Why was a hallmark of Jesus’s ministry intimacy with and the inclusion of the unwanted and the outcast, men and women living in the shadow of society, more likely to be dismissed than noticed, more likely to be mocked than revered?

Part of the explanation surely has to do with the belief in the imago Dei, that Jesus sees indelible dignity and inestimable worth in every person, even “the least of these.” If no one else would esteem them, Jesus would.

All that, of course, assumed that Jesus lived, was the son of God, and healed the blind, the sick, and the lame.

But is this the same Jesus who had himself rubbed with expensive ointment at the expense of the poor? (Matthew 26):

6And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

10But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

And is this the same Jesus that said that people should forsake their families to follow him, and if they didn’t follow him, then they lost the road to the Father? The same Jesus who said that in the final judgment the sheep would be separated from the goats, and woe to the goats? (Matthew 25):

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ . . . . 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

That’s not very inclusive. The sheep should be with the goats! The sheep gambol on clouds but the goats get barbecued!

We have a number of Bible experts in this audience, so I won’t go on showing that you can interpret Jesus in ways different from Wehner.  I just want to point out that it’s taken for granted in the mainstream media that Jesus not only lived, but lived exactly as Scripture recounts. Why else wouldn’t the paper give a caveat about the possibly fictional nature of Wehner’s stories? We need to stop accepting this stuff as okay, and keep pointing out that the Jesus myth has no empirical support.

Second, it’s a sign of the times—both the literal times and The New York Times—that Wehner recasts Jesus as a social-justice warrior, emphasizing his “inclusivity”.  But surely there is a Jesus For Every Season, one whose words and deeds can be interpreted according to the Zeitgeist. What we have in Wehner’s piece is a Jesus of Portland.

Writer at The Nation suggests that, as reparations, each vote from a black person should be counted twice

December 23, 2020 • 1:00 pm

Even given the crazy things protestors these days are demanding in the name of social justice, this one stood out as especially bizarre. In fact, when I saw the headline I thought it was some kind of Onion parody. But no, it’s in The Nation, and it’s by an academic and writer named Brandon Hasbrouck, who is not a Titania McGrath clone but an assistant professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. (Curiously, and unlike most other professors in his school, he doesn’t have a webpage of his own, but you can get more info about him here.)

Hasbrouck is black, and suggests in this article, well, you can read the thesis for yourself (click on the screenshot):

 

Hasbrouck sees the electoral college as racist, an institution whose structure disenfranchises black people, ergo making “black votes in this country worth less than white votes”:

Black votes in this country are worth less than white votes. Joe Biden won the Electoral College because Black voters in Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia turned out in significant numbers. But even with overwhelming Black support—94 percent of Detroit voted for Biden!—the outcomes in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were worryingly close.

I think his view is that if black votes counted twice, Biden (and all Democrats) would win more often, and racial justice would be imminent. He doesn’t say that explicitly, but his claim that black people gave Joe Biden the Presidency is a little extreme. In fact, Phil Zuckerman, in another piece I’ll discuss this week, argues that it’s the “nones” (the nonreligious) who may have handed the presidency to Biden. Actually, any group who would have changed the election had they voted the other way could be deemed responsible (or “praiseworthy,” in the case of Biden).

But back to the Electoral College. I do oppose it, for there’s simply no good reason to retain an antiquated system designed to effect a compromise between the popular vote and the Congressional vote (i.e., the “smart folk” in Congress should have more of a say) . Those days are gone now, and everyone’s vote should count the same as everyone else’s. Governmental elections on every level should be determined by majority vote. That said, I’m not sure Hasbrouck is right when he says this:

One core problem is the Electoral College. Wyoming, which has just 580,000 residents and is 93 percent white, gets three electors because of its two senators and one representative in the House. By comparison, Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District—which includes Atlanta, has 710,000 residents, and is 58 percent Black—has no dedicated electors or senators and can only occasionally overcome the mostly white and conservative votes from elsewhere in the state. This devaluation of Black votes allows our political system to ignore Black lives, and the consequences are devastating. Unequal representation has led to unequal health care outcomes, which the Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened. Without sufficient voting power, Black communities receive substandard education, and politicians are free to appoint judges who sanction mass incarcerationabusive policing, and electoral disenfranchisement.

And the statement below is certainly contentious, with only one reference to back it up, with that reference not really backing Hasbrouck’s implication that the Electoral College was set solely to favor slave states. Many would argue that, as I said, the Electoral College was set up by the Founders to allow Congress to have a say in the election along with the people.

This is all by design. The Constitution’s framers set up the Electoral College to protect the interests of slave states. Along with the Senate, the Electoral College was critical in the endurance of slavery and its continuation by other means. Abolishing this system would mean that ballots cast by Black voters—or any voters, for that matter—would count the same.

Yes, the system should be abolished because it no longer makes sense; we’re a democracy, and privileging “electors” is wrong. But in fact ballots cast by black voters do count the same as ballots cast by white voters: nobody knows the race of anybody who voted when those votes are counted.

At any rate, Hasbrouck wants the ballots of black people to count double, as a form of reparations:

But there’s another way to undo the damage of the Electoral College and other structurally racist political institutions: We can implement vote reparations by double-counting ballots cast by all Black residents. The poisonous legacy of slavery applies to Black people regardless of when we or our ancestors arrived in this country. Vote reparations should also extend to Native Americans.

. . . . One of the largest objections to monetary reparations is the impracticality of implementing them on a scale that would meaningfully address the injustices. Vote reparations, in contrast, would be a simple, low-cost way to begin to make amends.

The salutary results—racial justice:

Vote reparations would create possibilities to build what W.E.B. Du Bois called “abolition democracy,” or the practice of achieving a racially just society. Abolition democracy invites us to engage with abolition not as a finite goal but as a radical process of challenging injustices wherever and in whatever form they might appear. Vote reparations would empower us to replace oppressive institutions with life-affirming structures of economic, social, and political equality. And if our elected representatives did not prioritize this transformational work, we could vote them out.

Again, I deny the contention that white votes currently count more than black ones. A black resident of Chicago or Atlanta or Detroit has a vote that counts as much as a white one. The Electoral College, as we saw in the penultimate election, can allow someone to be elected President who hasn’t won the popular vote, but that doesn’t mean that black votes count less than white ones. It means the Electoral College needs to be abolished.

But this suggestion brings up far, far more problems than it solves, even if it did solve any:

1.) Having some people’s votes count more than others is fundamentally inimical to a democracy, and people wouldn’t stand for it. This is especially true when you count black and Native American votes twice as much as “white” votes. That is a huge differential between people who are supposed to be equal.  If you want to exacerbate friction between races, this is the way to do it. But you want to fix the problem of representation, get rid of the Electoral College, which is much easier.

2.) How long are these “vote reparations” supposed to last? Forever, or for a finite time? If the latter, what criteria do we use to determine when to stop counting votes differentially on a racial basis?

3.) What about Hispanic votes? I suppose you can make the same case for these, so should their votes count twice?

4.) Most people counted as “black” in America have an average of 20% genes from whites, and many are half black or have an even a smaller fraction of African ancestry. How do you determine who counts as “black” under this system so that they get two votes instead of one? And, to be a bit snarky, does Elizabeth Warren get two votes?

I suspect that what Hasbrouck really wants is what Titania McGrath suggested when she put up the tweet that called this ludicrous proposal to my attention:

There are good ways and bad ways to make reparations for the shameful history of blacks in America. Affirmative action is one, and, even better, we should invest a lot of money and effort in the infrastructure of black communities, in particular schools. Although I favor affirmative action, it’s a deeply imperfect way to make up for inequalities that begin a long time before students ever get to college. And it does nothing to fix the problem of unequal starting lines.

Giving out checks as reparations, as some have suggested, won’t do squat to bring equality. But the worst suggestion of all is counting votes differently based on the voter’s race. I’m actually surprised that The Nation published this piece. Quite frankly, it’s not only unworkable, but unhinged.

Obama on The Daily Show

December 16, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Here’s a 32-minute interview that Barack Obama gave to Trevor Noah on yesterday’s “The Daily Show”.  I’m not a big fan of Noah as a comedian, but he asks Obama some pretty good questions. The main subject, of course, is Obama’s new book (volume 1) and its contents. As I’ve commented before, one reason several reviewers liked the book is because it portrays (as Obama notes here), what it’s like for a more-or-less average Joe to become President. This may be humblebrag, but the part of the book I read, excerpted in the New Woker, does give the sense of what it would feel for one of us—with the chops and experience, of course—to deal with the quotidian duties of the Chief Executive.

Noah asks Obama whether America should fear the loss of our position as the “world’s leader”, and what it was like to deal with terrorism (the apparent subject here is Osama bin Laden, but his name isn’t spoken).

The part that led me to this interview was an article which describes how Obama, responding to Noah, addresses claims that the ex-President misspoke when he said that the “Defund the police” slogan of the Left may have help squelch the hoped-for “blue wave” last month. Obama’s claim came in this video segment below, and one can make a good case that arguments to reduce or even eliminate the cops could indeed turn off centrist Democrats or centrists proper.

Noah calls 2020 a “year of racial reckoning,” and at 18:13 Obama says he’s been misunderstood when people say he was against the race-related protests because he criticized the slogan “defund the police”: that he was indeed a fan of the racial protests of the summer. As he says, his source of optimism about the future of race relations was “the activism that we saw in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter”.

Then, exactly 21 minutes into the interview, Obama is asked about that criticism of “defund the police.” I quote him:

“I was making a very particular point around that, if we want to translate the very legitimate belief that how we do policing needs to change and that if there is, for example, a homeless guy ranting and railing in the middle of the street, sending a mental health worker, rather than an armed untrained police officer to deal with that person might be a better outcome for all of us and make us safer, right?

[JAC note: you need to send a cop AND a mental health worker; that’s what’s done in this form of collaborative policing.]

“That, if we describe that to not just white folks, but let’s say Michelle’s mom, that makes sense to them. But if we say ‘defund the police,’ not just white folks, but Michelle’s mom might say, ‘If I’m getting robbed, who am I going to call and is somebody going to show up?’

” The issue here becomes ‘how are we translating and using language?’— not to make people more comfortable. . . The issue to me is not making them comfortable; it is ‘Can we be precise with our language enough that people who might be persuaded around that particular issue to make a particular change to get a particular result that we want—what’s the best way for us to describe that?'”

I think he’s right, and he has nothing to apologize for. It’s pragmatism, Jake. I can’t prove it, but I think the kind of extremism that prompted the Left’s “Defund the police” slogan (and in many cases defunding actually meant “abolishing”) did reduce the vote for non-Presidential Democratic candidates.

Finally, Obama talks about the “built-in advantages of the Republican party,” even though he says they’re definitely the “minority party.” He finishes off by asserting that he doesn’t miss the big stage and is simply satisfied with the job he did as President. There’s a moment in which he good-naturedly puts down Noah, and then finishes by describing what he’d consider his true legacy.

It’s a decent interview, and great to see a President with intelligence, humanity, and no need to bloviate and brag that he’s a “stable genius.” Let’s hope Biden can recapture at least a soupçon of Obama’s panache.

More improvements at this site

December 15, 2020 • 7:15 am

Just to keep you up to date about new features on the site, I’ll call your attention to the latest tweaks made by the Official Web Designer—nearly all suggested by readers:

  • “Next” and “Previous” post links are now at the top (and still at the bottom) of each post.
  • The Favicon (icon in the browser tab), has been updated to what it was before. It is of course Ceiling Cat.
  • A Home button has been added at the top of the left sidebar. This will return you to the main page if you’re anywhere on the site.
  • The time of posting has been added to the date at the bottom of each post. So far the time appears at the bottom of each individual post when you click on it, but not yet on the main page. We’re working on that.

I’ll keep you updated so you’ll know how things are changing.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 15, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a chilly Tuesday, December 15, 2020: National Lemon Cupcake Day as well as National Gingerbread Latte Day, a drink that, like anchovy pizza, has degraded the human palate. It’s also National Cupcake Day, International Tea Day, Zamenhof Day for the (International Esperanto Community), and Bill of Rights Day, celebrating the day in 1791 when Virginia ratified the first ten amendments to the Constitution, meeting the quorum that made them law. But it’s also Cat Herders’ Day, giving me the chance to show once again the very best commercial ever made (this was shown during a Superbowl):

It’s the ninth anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens, too (see below).

Wine of the day:  Yesterday I cooked myself a small strip steak (very rare, of course) and had it with rice,  fresh tomatoes and green peppers, washing it all down with this Coteaux du Languedoc. a little-known red wine that, like this bottle, can be excellent and not too expensive.  At ten years old, this one showed very well and, I expect, could improve for another few years.

News of the day:

Letter of the day: I awoke this morning to find this email from “Chaos G”, as well as several other emails of this ilk. You can’t win with science and religion, for this chowderhead tells me that everyone knew all along they were incompatible:

Hey Dumb Ass,

Just saw your article regarding war between science and Religion.  Of course, there is a war between the 2, there always has been.  Where has your dumb ass been?  You need to find something better to do…

Kvetch of the week: As the New Woke Times converges to Huffington Post, we see its editorial pages increasingly filled with personal “feels” like this ridiculous animation, floating the idea that the writer, longing mightily for the pre-covid times, nevertheless suggests that maybe our pandemic lockdown is the more desirable state. Oy! (click on screenshot). And get the bit in the title, “Also, I think I’m losing my mind.” That is ripped right from the pages of HuffPost.

Yesterday the Electoral College officially made Joe Biden the next President of the U.S., and Kamala Harris the next Vice-President. The electoral vote for Biden was, as I predicted before anyone else, 306, well over the 270 needed to win. Where is my kudos?

Will Trump now concede? In late November he said he’d leave office if Biden won the Electoral College vote, as did a lot of his advisors, but some Trump administration officials are now backing off. The Washington Post writes about one of them:

By Monday morning, [yesterday] White House senior adviser Stephen Miller suggested the challenges could continue until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“The only date in the Constitution is Jan. 20,” Miller told Fox News. “So we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election.”

Right the wrong my furry tuchas! Trump is toast. But he keeps beating the drum, as he did yesterday:

The coronavirus vaccine has made its way across the country, and shots are already being administered. New York got the first one yesterday, and Illinois will see the jabs begin tomorrow. What’s sad is to think about all those people in the ICU, dying at a rate of one a minute, who can’t be helped as, elsewhere in the same hospitals, people are being immunized. Still, I tweeted this:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 301,006, an increase of about 1,700 from yesterday’s figure. America passed 300,000 total dead yesterday, and the deaths occurred at a rate of 1.2 per minute. The world death toll is 1,630,029, an increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s report—about 6.8 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 15 includes:

This may be Sitting Bull, but there’s some controversy about the identity of the subject:

Here’s a video of the jubilation at the time:

Here’s the list of the highest-grossing films adjusted to 2019 dollars (from Wikipedia):

  • 1941 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: German troops murder over 15,000 Jews at Drobytsky Yar, a ravine southeast of the city of Kharkiv.
  • 1944 – World War II: a single-engine UC-64A Norseman aeroplane carrying United States Army Air Forces Major Glenn Miller is lost in a flight over the English Channel.
  • 1961 – Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death after being found guilty by an Israeli court of 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Here’s the phony passport that Eichmann, under the name “Ricardo Klement”, entered Argentina in 1950. The Mossad, in a daring operation, nabbed him ten years later and brought him to Israel:

  • 1965 – Project Gemini: Gemini 6A, crewed by Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford, is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. Four orbits later, it achieves the first space rendezvous, with Gemini 7.
  • 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association votes 13–0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders, the DSM-II.
  • 1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that the United States will recognize the People’s Republic of China and sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
  • 1981 – A suicide car bombing targeting the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, levels the embassy and kills 61 people, including Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon. The attack is considered the first modern suicide bombing.
  • 2001 – The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.

It’s now supposed to be stable for another 300 years. The angle of lean is only 4 degrees, but it looks bigger, doesn’t it?

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 37 – Nero, Roman emperor (d. 68)
  • 1859 – L. L. Zamenhof, Polish linguist and ophthalmologist, created Esperanto (d. 1917) [see above]
  • 1860 – Niels Ryberg Finsen, Faroese-Danish physician and educator, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1904
  • 1892 – J. Paul Getty, American-English businessman and art collector, founded Getty Oil (d. 1976)
  • 1916 – Maurice Wilkins, New Zealand-English physicist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2004)
  • 1919 – Max Yasgur, American dairy farmer and host of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (d. 1973)

Here’s Yasgur with the debris of Woodstock:

Max and Miriam Yasgur on their land after the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. (Photo By Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
  • 1923 – Freeman Dyson, English-American physicist and mathematician (d. 2020)
  • 1981 – Michelle Dockery, English actress

Who doesn’t love Lady Mary?

Credit: Carnival Films

Those who entered oblivion on December 15 include:

Vermeer of course drew no cats, but he was one of the greatest painters of all time. Here’s “The Geographer” (1668-69):

  • 1683 – Izaak Walton, English author (b. 1593)
  • 1890 – Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota tribal chief (b. 1831)
  • 1943 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1904)
  • 1944 – Glenn Miller, American bandleader and composer (b. 1904)
  • 1958 – Wolfgang Pauli, Austrian-Swiss physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1900)
  • 1966 – Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (b. 1901)
  • 2009 – Oral Roberts, American evangelist, founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (b. 1918)
  • 2011 – Christopher Hitchens, English-American essayist, literary critic, and journalist (b. 1949)

This is my favorite Hitchens video, and you must watch it if you haven’t. It’s his 2006 defense of free speech at the University of Toronto’s Hart House Debating Club. The topic? “Be it resolved: Freedom of speech includes the freedom to hate.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili insults Andrzej:

Hili: People are ignoramuses.
A: That’s true, but why are you saying this?
Hili: Exactly: even you didn’t know this.
In Polish:
Hili: Ludzie są ignorantami.
Ja: To prawda, ale dlaczego to mówisz?
Hili: No właśnie, nawet tego nie wiesz.

And in nearby Wloclawek, teenager Mietek faces the week:

Mietek: A busy Monday.

In Polish: Pracowity poniedziałek

From Bruce. This is a most excellent meme, because I have this problem constantly. I finally put my spatula in a deeper drawer:

From Michael, some really, really bad ancient pictures of cats. When will they ever learn?

And a Christmas cat meme from Barb:

A tweet from Titania. Et tu, Hogarth? Hogarth??

From cesar. Why did the cat swat the horse?

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up for sure on this one, as their disputation is hilarious.

And another tweet from the same source:

like some of these names!

All right; now I have to go to Switzerland and take this ride:

SpaceX plans launch today of Starship rocket designed for long-distance space travel; watch live here

December 8, 2020 • 12:45 pm

I forgot about an email I got earlier from reader Jon about SpaceX’s planned launch today of its “Starship”, the rocket that Elon Musk has planned will take humans to Mars. The launch was scheduled for 10 a.m. Chicago time, and it’s past that, but now I see they company has delayed the launch, as they’re “working through additional test preparations.”

Some explanation from Vox’s “The Verge”:

Sometime today, SpaceX hopes to conduct a pivotal test flight of its next-generation Starship rocket, flying a prototype of the vehicle to its highest altitude yet. The company plans to launch the massive rocket to a height of nearly 8 miles, or 12.5 kilometers, up above SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, before landing the vehicle back down on the ground again.

The test is meant to prove out Starship’s capability of launching and landing upright, something the spacecraft will be expected to do both on Earth and on other worlds. SpaceX aims to use Starship to send cargo and people to deep-space destinations like the Moon and Mars. A test like this will help demonstrate Starship’s ability to perform a controlled flight and see if the rocket’s hardware — particularly the three main Raptor engines — functions as expected.

Launch and landing are just part of today’s test. On its website, SpaceX claims the Starship prototype will actually perform “a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.” There aren’t many details about the maneuver publicly available, but it’s a risky test that could easily go wrong, with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk only giving the flight a “1/3 chance” of success. SpaceX itself is also deemphasizing the possibility that the test will pull off a perfect launch and landing.

I don’t know if the launch will proceed today, but if it does you can watch it below. I’ll post this again if the launch preparations are resumed tomorrow.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 20, 2020 • 8:00 am

Doug Hayes is back with another installment of the avian theater that occurs in his backyard. Voilà: Part 9 of “The Breakfast Club”. Doug’s notes and IDs are indented:

Here’s the ninth installment of the Breakfast Crew, here in Richmond, Virginia.  The weather has been cool and rainy for the past few weeks. We had a couple of nights of near freezing temperatures. Bird activity has increased as food becomes scarcer in the wooded area surrounding the Forest Hill neighborhood.
The house sparrows (Passer domesticus) spend a lot of their time hanging out in the azalea bush in our front yard, especially if traffic at the feeders is heavy. Gradually, they head to our neighbor’s yard across the street (she has a pair of feeders that are less busy than ours). Eventually they do turn up in our yard after morning traffic dies down.
Another house sparrow (Passer domesticus) in the azalea bush.
A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) and a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) at the feeder.
The nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) have been showing up in greater numbers since the weather has started to cool. It is not unusual to see five or more darting around the feeders and chasing each other away from the food.
A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) gets a choice seed.  They use their tongue and beak to remove the husk to get at the kernel inside the seed.
A white throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). These guys have made their appearance with the arrival of cooler weather. I haven’t seen them at the feeders—just scavenging seeds from the ground.
One of the northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) that hatched late in the spring. This one and her three siblings still hang out in the yard and are the only cardinals that will perch and eat from both the seed and suet feeders. All of the adult cardinals gather seeds from the ground.
The young female cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and a female red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) at the feeder.
The blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) have been out in the more wooded areas around Forest Hill for the past couple of months. As the weather has turned cooler, they are now making their way back into the neighborhood for some easy meals.  So far, they are keeping to the far side of the yard which has more trees and bushes. Occasionally, one will make its way to the feeders to grab a few seeds.
A female red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). One of three regulars that hang out in the trees overlooking the backyard.
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), looking spiffy with his bright red head feathers.
A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). These birds are the most numerous in the yard. The tend to sit at the feeders for extended periods, cracking seeds and just hanging out until driven away by other birds that want to eat.
I decided to go down to the lake for the first time in over a month. The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is still there, looking remarkably like Big Bird. The last time I saw the heron, it had molted and was looking quite scruffy. Its feathers are coming back in quite nicely.
This is a new eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) who has been visiting the yard for the past week.  This guy is bigger than the other three regulars and has a scar on its face. I have seen chipmunks fighting and I have seen squirrels attack them while scavenging seeds. Not exactly a peaceful, Disney-type lifestyle. BTW, I clean up the spilled seeds and husks with a shop vac a couple of times a week to avoid mold and having some of them sprout.
This shot was taken just a few seconds after the photo of the chipmunk. This eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) came out of nowhere and jumped on the chipmunk, driving it away from the seeds birds have scattered on the ground.
Camera info:  Sony A7R4 and A7S3 DSLR bodies, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens plus 1.4X teleconverter. All shots hand held using the camera IBIS (In body image stabilization) and the lens’ optical stabilization. ISO 5000 at f/11, variable shutter speed depending on light condition.