Convincing evidence for human evolution

November 2, 2023 • 11:30 am

I occasionally get questions like this one: “What do you consider the most convincing evidence for evolution?”  My answer is usually “the fossil record combined with dating methods,” but I often add that “the evidence from biogeography is so convincing that I’ve never seen a creationist even try to rebut it.” (You can see some of the biogeographic evidence in chapter 4 of Why Evolution is True, and I give the fossil evidence in Chapter 2.)

And if someone asks me, “What’s the most convincing evidence for human evolution?”, I’d also give the first answer above. That’s because the temporally ordered record of human evolution shows a fairly clear progression from the morphology of an ape somewhat like a chimp (i.e., our common ancestor with the chimp and bonobo that lived about 6.4 million years ago).  It’s not a straight line pathway, and we don’t know all the details, for human evolution, like all evolution, is a branching bush, and some branches went extinct.

When I was on a BBC Three show, “Conspiracy Road Trip,” with each of us assigned to convince a group of British creationists of the truth of one bit of evolution (mine was to dispel Noah’s Ark and the great flood scenario), the most convincing evidence to the creationists was the presentation of an evolutionary series of hominin skulls by Tim at White at Berkeley. That bit begins at 42:26 in the video below (I appear earlier).

This week I got a note from an upset parent whose child attended a religious school where the kid was told that humans could not possibly have descended from apes. I responded that humans were apes, and we descended from a common ancestor with chimps (and from other ancestors with other primates)—an ancestor that, I suspect, looked rather chimplike. (It is of course a misconception that we descended from living chimps.)

I tried to help the parent by giving him evidence for human evolution, and that included this photo from the Smithsonian, posted on Talk Origins, Doug Theobald’s site), showing (with the exception of the skull at the top left corner), various hominin skulls laid out in temporal order.  

The key:

Figure 1.4.4. Fossil hominid skulls. Some of the figures have been modified for ease of comparison (only left-right mirroring or removal of a jawbone). (Images © 2000 Smithsonian Institution.)

Note that the skull at upper left is the skull of a modern chimp, so it doesn’t really belong with the others. It’s just there for comparison. But look how things change over time: the face gets pulled back, the teeth get smaller, the brow ridges shrink, and most evident, the braincase gets larger.

Creationists have big trouble with this because they don’t know where to draw the line between “apes” and “humans”. Some maintain that every fossil earlier than some arbitrary one (say a Homo habilis) is an “ape”, while everything after that is simply a human (they might even say “a malformed human”!) But that tactic is so arbitrary and capricious that it’s not convincing even to some of the British creationists above.

I like the photo simply because it’s a wonderful piece of evidence for human evolution, with the skulls laid out in temporal order. (Now they’ve eliminated the “robust” hominins, and that would confuse things a bit though it would be more accurate, for the robust hominins are still hominins. It also leaves out more recently discovered fossils such as Homo floresiensis, the tiny “hobbit” hominin that went extinct about 50,000 years ago.

Also, we don’t know that this is the line of evolution to modern humans (and it probably isn’t), but it does show gradual change over time that’s undoubtedly genetic, and that is what evolution means.  We do not see fossils resembling modern humans 3 million years ago, but we see them now. The earliest hominin skulls we see resemble the skulls of early apes, and gradually evolve into skulls that look like those those of modern humans.  What better evidence of human evolution could we wish for? I’m always amazed that fossils really exist, and also that human fossils are especially rare—yet there are enough of them to provide convincing evidence that our species evolved from a common ancestor with other apes.

Putting the chimp skull in the figure does cause some confusion, as described at  by Kambiz Kamrani:

I have some slight problems with this image, though. The biggest problem, and a common misconception I see in regards to understanding human evolution, is the whole we descended from chimpanzees train of thought. This image compounds it. The lineage of primates that have become the chimpanzees have been evolving independently of the human lineage. And because the non-human primate fossil record is rather spotty — it is hard to see these types of trends and transitions that we see in the above image happen along in chimpanzees.

Working on that note, this composition implies that our ancestral form was a chimp and once the chimp and human lines diverged then humans went through many natural selection events while chimps just remained stagnant as chimps. That’s wrong. Chimps and humans share a common ape ancestor.

But if you point out that the modern chimp skull is simply there for comparison, and that in all likelihood is fairly similar to the skull of our common ancestor with modern chimps, the problem disappears. Still, many people think that we evolved from modern chimps, and it takes some doing to dispel that idea by explaining the branching pattern of evolution and the idea of common ancestry. Those are a bit harder.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

October 26, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Thursday, October 26, 2023, and National Pumpkin Day.  This is a bit indecent, but I still think this carved pumpkin, found on reddit, is the best I’ve ever seen.

It’s also National Chicken-Fried Steak Day (an American treat!), National Mule Day, National Mincemeat Day, National Tennessee Day, Austrian National Day (celebrating the day Austraia accepted its Constitution in 1968, and Intersex Awareness Day.

Here’s a huge chicken-fried steak that I devoured in Texas in 2005 (I can’t remember where). The best chicken-fried steaks are big, and note the quart Mason jar of sweet tea on the the side. This is a perfect meal:


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

Da Nooz:

*Another day, another mass shooting in America. A gunman in Lewiston, Maine killed at least seven people in at least two shootings.  The death toll has dropped from yesterday’s NYT report, which was 22, as I recall, but it’s still horrible. (I suspect the total will grow.) The city is on lockdown, and they have a suspect, who is still at large.

Residents of multiple towns in southern Maine were under shelter-in-place orders early Thursday as the police continued an overnight hunt for a man suspected of killing at least seven people in shootings at a bowling alley and a bar.

The gunman walked into the bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday evening and fatally shot at least seven people before moving on to a nearby bar, according to Sheriff Eric Samson of Androscoggin County. The total number of people killed and wounded was unclear. Mr. Samson said he did not know the number of casualties from the shooting at the bar.

Law enforcement officials said early Thursday that the gunman was still at large, and they released information about a man they described as a “person of interest.” They said they were searching for Robert R. Card, 40, of Bowdoin, Maine. On social media, law enforcement agencies said Mr. Card “should be considered armed and dangerous” and posted a photo of a man in a brown, hooded sweatshirt carrying a military-style semiautomatic rifle.

Of course no gun control legislation is in the offing. . . . . More from the article:

Maine’s gun laws are relatively lenient, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group founded by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Maine, the group said, has no independent background check system, no red flag law to identify those at extreme risk for gun violence, no requirement that convicted domestic abusers turn in their guns and no permit requirements for concealed weapons.

*Every day I report on a new Republican candidate for Speaker of the House, which I write during the previous evening, only to find when these posts to up that that candidate has been ditched. So all I’ll say is that as of Wednesday evening, the latest candidate appears to actually have been elected speaker. 

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana won election on Wednesday as the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives, putting an end to three weeks of chaos that left the chamber without a leader and put Republican divisions on display.

Republicans elevated Mr. Johnson, 51, a little-known and deeply conservative lawmaker after a tumultuous fight that began after the hard right ousted then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and raged on as the divided House G.O.P. nominated and then quickly discarded three other candidates to succeed him.

Worn down by a brutal stretch of infighting that unleashed a barrage of recriminations and violent threats against lawmakers, both the hard-right flank of the party and mainstream Republicans united to elect Mr. Johnson in a 220-209 vote. Republicans jumped to their feet and applauded when after Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, the interim speaker, declared Mr. Johnson the “duly elected speaker of the House of Representatives.”

The vote put a socially conservative lawyer who opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and who played a leading role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election, second in line to the presidency.

In a statement released just minutes after he was elected, Mr. Johnson acknowledged “an arduous few weeks,” calling the brutal stretch “a reminder that the House is as complicated and diverse as the people we represent.”

“We will restore trust in this body,” Mr. Johnson said. “We will advance a comprehensive conservative policy agenda, combat the harmful policies of the Biden administration, and support our allies abroad.”

Restore trust? A “socially conservative” and “deeply conservative” Republican? How will that work? Check out his political positions. He doesn’t even approve of standing law on same-sex marriage, which has been declared law by the Supreme Court:

Johnson is a strong supporter of traditional Christian views on marriage and an opponent of LGBT rights. He has compared same-sex sexual conduct to bestiality and pedophilia, and has also argued that its toleration would lead to these things.

In 2003, he argued in favor of criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships through sodomy laws and was a self-described advocate of “discrimination” by the state, saying:

Proscriptions against sodomy have deep roots in religion, politics and law.

And he’s a young-earth creationist to boot! Shoot me now!

*In an “exclusive” story, the Wall Street Journal reports that, before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Hamas soldiers had trained in Iran.

In the weeks leading up to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, hundreds of the Palestinian Islamist militant group’s fighters received specialized combat training in Iran, according to people familiar with intelligence related to the assault.

Roughly 500 militants from Hamas and an allied group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, participated in the exercises in September, which were led by officers of the Quds Force, the foreign-operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the people said.

Senior Palestinian officials and Iranian Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, the head of Quds Force, also attended, they said.

. . . U.S. officials said Iran has regularly trained militants in Iran and elsewhere, but they have no indications of a mass training right before the attack. U.S. officials and the people familiar with the intelligence said they had no information to suggest Iran conducted training specifically to prepare for the events of Oct. 7.

. . . But, with the specter of a wider war looming, the U.S. has said it has no evidence that Iran was directly involved in planning or approving the Oct. 7 attack.

The Wall Street Journal, citing senior Hamas and Hezbollah officials, has reported that the Quds Force helped plan the attack and agreed that it could go ahead at a meeting in Beirut on Oct. 2 with leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah. An adviser to the Syrian government and a European official gave the same account of Iran’s involvement.

The evidence, then, suggests that while Iran supports, funds, and trains Hamas terrorists, it didn’t train those involved in the October 7 attack in Israel, and didn’t even seem to know it was going to happen. But what’s important is that Hamas (and Hezbollah) are supported and funded by Iran, and we should not be making nice with a country that not only fosters terrorism in the Middle East, but is building a nuclear weapon with the intent of threatening Israel.  In this sense Biden and Obama have both made big mistakes in foreign policy. Iran should be regarded as our enemy–not a country to fight with, but not a country to make nice with, either.

*Out of respect for the families of those killed and kidnapped by Hamas, the IDF didn’t broadcast the Hamas videos that the terrorists took themselves. But the IDF, saying that they want to level the moral playing field, broadcast the videos to a group of about 100 journalists. Here’s Graeme Wood of the Atlantic, who saw the 43-minute comparison. Here’s an 8½-minute video of Wood’s reaction. The YouTube notes are below (the IDF video was 43 minutes long):

Israeli Defence Forces held a special briefing for foreign journalists, which included never-before-seen footage from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Graeme Wood, a Canadian journalist with The Atlantic, witnessed the briefing and said the videos show ‘pure predatory sadism, and no effort to spare those who pose no threat.’

I have heard that BBC reporters wouldn’t attend the showing, but it was on a website I can’t recall and can’t find it again. If anyone can confirm or deny this claim, let me know.

*Unlike the befuddled Nick Kristof, whose moral compass is fogged by his desperate attempt to be “nice” and “evenhanded,” Bret Stephens tells it as it is, at least with respect to the war. See his latest NYT column, “The Palestinian Republic of fear and misinformation“.  Stephens begins with an anecdote about his Palestinian “fixer”: a local journalist who would help him get information and meetings when Stephens worked for the WSJ. But the Palestinian Authority (not Hamas) wanted Stephens to take down a story he wrote about Palestine, and Stephens wouldn’t do it. The result:”It was never safe for us to work together again. This part was sparked by the media’s misreporting of the explosion at the Gazan hospital, misreporting that, he says, “sparked violent protests throughout the Middle East.” Stephens:

I’ll leave the media criticism to others. But Western audiences will never grasp the nature of the current conflict until they internalize one central fact. In Israel, as in every other democracy, political and military officials sometimes lie — but journalists hold them to account, tell the stories they want to tell, and don’t live in fear of midnight knocks on the door.

The Palestinian territories, by contrast, are republics of fear — fear of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and of Hamas in Gaza. Palestinians are neither more nor less honest than people elsewhere. But, as in any tyrannical or fanatical regime, those who stray from the approved line put themselves at serious risk.

This is a truth that only rarely slips out — but when it does, it’s revealing.

. . .During the first major Israel-Hamas war, in 2008 and 2009, Palestinian groups claimed the death toll was mostly civilian, with roughly 1,400 people killed. But a Palestinian doctor working in Gaza’s Shifa hospital told a different story. “The number of deceased stands at no more than 500 to 600,” he said. “Most of them are youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter,” he said. Tellingly, according to the Israeli news site YNet, “the doctor wished to remain unidentified, out of fear for his life.”

. . . Human rights organizations occasionally take a break from their incessant criticism of Israel to pay attention to this kind of atrocious repression. But only rarely do Western audiences understand the full extent to which information emerging from Gaza is suspect — at least until it has been extensively and independently corroborated by journalists who aren’t living in fear of Hamas, and don’t need to protect someone who is. Readers who wouldn’t normally be inclined to believe man-in-the-street interviews in, say, Pyongyang, or regime pronouncements coming out of the Kremlin, should be equally skeptical about the phrase “Palestinian officials say.”

That is all ye need to know about the truthiness of Hamas reports. But despite that, “progressive” leftists believe what Hamas says (of course other Arab countries do, too). It’s one more instance of “head in the sand syndrome” that afflicts so many progressives. I am still amazed that feminist organizations support repressive Middle Eastern countries like Palestine and Afghanistan. (Or at least they don’t criticize them.)

*John McWhorter writes an essay at the Free Press:The ultimate condescension toward the Palestinians“.  He makes an argument similar to ones he’s used about “the soft bigotry of low expectations” towards African Americans:

Some leftists are framing Hamas’s killing of 1,400 Israelis and abduction of 222 more as “decolonization,” believing they’re championing the cause of oppressed Palestinians. In reality, these leftists are condescending to them.

Mass murder, these leftists suggest, is the understandable consequence of Jewish “colonization.” Such a perspective is deeply insulting to Palestinian humanity. It implies that Palestinians are so controlled by circumstance that they lack agency. It implies that Palestinians cannot be expected to behave according to the same ethical standards of those who refrain from mass murder.

The argument that terrorism is an understandable or justifiable reaction to an insidious root cause is nothing new. Just days after 9/11, Susan Sontag infamously criticized public figures and TV commentators for feeding the American people “self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions” about the terrorist attacks. Far from a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty,” she argued that the attack that killed nearly 3,000 civilians was in fact a strike against “the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions.”

The implication, not unique to Sontag but prevalent among some on the left, is that the act of killing thousands of civilians en masse and unawares is “understandable” if the perpetrators are Arab. There is a kind of patronizing racism in the idea that slaughtering innocent people equates to noble freedom fighting, as if this were the only way to respond to oppression.

. . .The “root cause” reasoning we learn in sociology class has, or should have, limits. Barbarism is not progress.

Few of those who celebrate savagery in theory would do so when faced with its reality. How many of the people cheering on Hamas as noble freedom fighters could seriously imagine pumping their fists while watching the men on their way to murder Jewish teenagers at a music festival? The abstract, scholarly, Latinate air of the word decolonization is a kind of fig leaf, functioning to—in the parlance of the hard left—distract from actions that are inexcusable in any sane person’s mind.

I wish the videos taken by Hamas could be more widely available because McWhorter is right. Just see the video of Graeme Wood above. I know the IDF is withholding them out of respect for the families, but there’s a case to be made that the families don’t have to watch them, but they should be available for everyone else. I truly agree with McWhorter that you can’t fully grasp this kind of behavior unless you see it in action.

*The Writer’s Guild of America, a labor organization representing “writers in film, television, radio, and online media,” has been widely criticized for remaining silent in the Gaza war, especially Hamas’s butchery on October 7. Now it has explained this silence, but the explanation is unconvincing and, to me, a bit offensive.

Facing mounting pressure from more than 300 Hollywood screenwriters questioning why it had not publicly condemned the Hamas attack on Israel this month, the Writers Guild of America West sent a letter to its members on Tuesday that sought to explain its silence while also calling the attack “an abomination.”

The letter, signed by the guild’s leadership and viewed by The New York Times, said the reason the union had not issued a statement after the attack on Oct. 7 was not “because we are paralyzed by factionalism or masking hateful views” but rather because “we are American labor leaders, aware of our limitations and humbled by the magnitude of this conflict.”

This would be okay (in fact, preferable) if the guild was institutionally neutral, as it should be. But if it makes other political statements, then they’re more or less obliged (if they have any moral bone in their body) to condemn Hamas. And, indeed, they’ve made political statements before:

On Oct. 15, a group of screenwriters sent an open letter to the guild asking why it had not publicly denounced the attack on Israel, noting the union had made public statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the #MeToo reckoning. They also noted that other major Hollywood unions had issued statements condemning the attack.

Uh oh. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t look good if you habitually make pubic political, ideological, or moral statements, but suddenly decide to become politically “neutral” just when it looks as if you should defend the Jews!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej is seeking refuge from all the bad news in the world:

Hili: Are you going to read a detective novel?
A: Whatever, just to forget for a moment about reality.”
In Polish:
Hili: Będziesz czytał kryminał?
Ja: Cokolwiek, byle oderwać się na chwilę od rzeczywistości.



Catshaming from Divy:

From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe:

From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0. I guess they mean “no wings.”

From Masih, a protestor, was captured and tortured (see her thread here). Another woman was also captured and hurt, has fled to Turkey, and Iran is trying to extradite her (see that tweet here).

Ricky Gervais displays his beloved cat Pickle:

From Jez, who adds, “A powerful guest, despite the presenter’s attempts to interrupt”:

From Barry, a cat keeps its cool:

I haven’t read this paper yet, but it may be worth a look:

From Simon, who comments, “Another one bites the dust.”

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a survival story that I retweeted:

Only one tweet from Dr. Cobb today, and soon we’ll be down to none. Oy vey!

But this one is a rare sight indeed:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

October 24, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, October 24, 2023, and National Bologna Day (I spell it “baloney”).

It’s also World Tripe Day (I can’t abide it; have you tried it?), National Jamaican Jerk Day, United Nations Day, Food DayInternational Day of Diplomats, InternationalWorld Development Information Day, and  World Polio Day, commemorating the birthday of Jonas Salk, who was actually born on October 28. Salk was born without a middle name, but was forced to give himself one:

The day after his graduation from medical school in 1939, Salk married Donna Lindsay, a master’s candidate at the New York College of Social Work. David Oshinsky writes that Donna’s father, Elmer Lindsay, “a wealthy Manhattan dentist, viewed Salk as a social inferior, several cuts below Donna’s former suitors.” Eventually, her father agreed to the marriage on two conditions: first, Salk must wait until he could be listed as an official M.D. on the wedding invitations, and second, he must improve his “rather pedestrian status” by giving himself a middle name.”

So he gave himself the middle name “Edward.”

And here’s the menu at 3 Dives Jerk Center, rated one of the 7 best jerk places in Jamaica. One U.S. dollar is about 155 Jamaican dollars. I’ll have the curry goat with rice & veg ($7.75).

So he gave himself the middle name “Edward.”

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

Da Nooz:

*The latest news on the war from the NYT:

The death toll in Gaza rose sharply on Monday, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, after Israel said it had struck hundreds of targets in the territory in one of the biggest barrages of airstrikes in recent days.

The Israeli military also said it had attacked Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, even as President Biden led an international diplomatic effort to try to ensure the conflict does not ensnare other nations in the region.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Mr. Biden and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy urged Israel to protect civilians as it defended itself, and called for the release of all hostages believed to be held in Gaza. The Gaza health ministry said Monday that Israeli airstrikes had killed at least 436 people “in the past hours,” bringing the death toll to more than 5,000 since Oct. 7, when Israel began launching airstrikes in retaliation for an attack by the Hamas militant group that killed 1,400 people.

U.S. officials said that the Biden administration had advised Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza, a move that would allow more time for negotiations to release the more than 200 people being held hostage by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, and for more humanitarian aid to reach the territory. There have been glimmers of hope on both fronts — two convoys of aid entered Gaza over the weekend, and Hamas released two American hostages on Friday.

On Sunday, Mr. Biden also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. The two leaders, according to a White House statement, affirmed that “there will now be continued flow” of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

It remained unclear when or if Israel will invade Gaza, but senior Israeli commanders increasingly have been making public references to preparations for a ground assault, which is crucial to its goal of eliminating Hamas — an objective the United States still supports. For days, Israel has been telling residents of Gaza to move southward for their own safety, even as its airstrikes hit the southern part of the territory.

I predict that what will happen is that the world, and increasingly the U.S., will call on Israel to have a cease fire and then negotiations. That is a recipe for “business as usual”, for it’s a call for either negotiations for a two-state solution, which are no longer feasible, or for negotiations to free the hostages, which Hamas won’t do without substantial concession. A cease-fire is really a call for Israel to stop bombing, don’t invade Israel, and withdraw back to its borders.  If that happens, Hamas will actually have profited from its butchery.

*Hamas has now freed two Israeli hostages, not because they’re trying to make up for their butchery, but because this puts pressure on the U.S. and the world to pause the hostilities while there are negotiations (for either hostages, goodies for Hamas, or both). I’m glad that four hostages have now been released, but there are about 196 more, and you can be assured that Hamas doesn’t care whether they live or die; they are merely tools to keep Israel at bay. We are dealing with monsters here, but they’re canny monsters.

Hamas released two elderly Israeli women held hostage in Gaza on Monday, as the United States expressed increasing concern that the escalating Israel-Hamas war will spark a wider conflict in the region, including attacks on American troops.

The death toll in Gaza was rising rapidly as Israel ramped up airstrikes, flattening residential buildings in what it says was preparation for an eventual ground assault. The United States advised Israel to delay an expected ground invasion to allow time to negotiate the release of more hostages..

. . .The release of the two hostages, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, was confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The two women, along with their husbands, were snatched from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border in Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage through towns of southern Israel. Their husbands were not released.

In a statement, Hamas said it had released them for humanitarian reasons. Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken roughly 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals. Hamas released an American woman and her teenage daughter last week.

Humanitarian reasons my tuchas! This is the same group that merilessly slaughtered, tortured, and raped babies, young people, and old people–even people who were very sick. Hamas doesn’t know from humanitarianism; they even use their own people as human shields, and their main headquarters are underneath Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, which of course Israel can’t bomb. (Remember that when you read in the papers today that medical supplies couldn’t get to Al-Shifa because of a lack of security guarantees.

And you know those hostages aren’t going to come without a price. Israel’s goal is to destroy Hamas, while Hamas’s goal now is to keep the terrorists alive. Either Israel has to go in on the ground, or it will fail in its avowed mission to get rid of Hamas.

*A prestigious Vietnamese-American author, one of whose books won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, had a big book event canceled because he signed an open letter criticizing Israel. Viet Thanh Nguyen, who also nabbed a MacArthur prize is also the Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. But that didn’t help him avoid cancellation:

Nguyen was set to speak about his new book, “A Man of Two Faces,” on Friday with novelist Min Jin Lee at 92NY, a Jewish organization formerly called 92nd Street Y. The center said it postponed the event to an unspecified time in the future.

“We are a Jewish institution that has always welcomed people with diverse viewpoints to our stage,” 92NY said in a statement. “The brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the continued holding of hostages, including senior citizens and young children, has absolutely devastated the community. Given the public comments by the invited author on Israel and this moment, we felt the responsible course of action was to postpone the event while we take some time to determine how best to use our platform and support the entire 92NY community.

The change came days after Nguyen, who declined to comment, was one of 750 writers and artists who signed an open letter critical of Israel. The letter, which was published on Oct. 18 in the London Review of Books, called for “an end to the violence and destruction in Palestine.”

“We plead for an end to all violence, an end to all oppression and denial of human rights,

Nguyen said in a Facebook post Saturday that “no reason was given, no other date was offered, and I was never asked” about the change, which, he said, means the event was canceled. People on social media suggested a bomb threat had been made, he said, but he “heard no such thing from 92Y staff.”

He said on Instagram that the event’s organizer, Bernard Schwartz, who directs 92NY’s poetry center, moved the talk to McNally Jackson Books at Seaport in New York out of “principled refusal to agree to postponing.”

“I have no regrets about anything I have said or done in regards to Palestine, Israel, or the occupation and war. I only regret that Bernard and other staff at the Y have been so deeply and negatively affected by standing up for art and writers,” Nguyen said.

As you might predict, I disagree strongly with this action, which is punishing Ngyuen for his speech—and he was going to talk about his book, not the Israel/Gaza situation.  This is “cancel culture” at its apogee: a man is silenced because his political views are odious to some. Yes, the Y has the right to deplatform him, but it’s wrong of them to do so.

*A number of prominent Brits have signed “The October Declaration” that is unapologetically pro-Israel (h/t Jez). Here are some bits of it, but go to the link to see it all (it’s not long; emphasis is theirs);

We are a group of concerned British citizens and residents from a wide range of backgrounds and professions who stand in solidarity with British Jews and condemn all forms of antisemitism, whether in Britain or elsewhere.

We unequivocally condemn all acts of terrorism against civilians in Israel, especially the massacre on 7 October 2023. 

. . .We stand in support of British Jews and condemn acts of antisemitism

We ask the media, members of all political parties and everyone in public life to call out Hamas for what it is: a terrorist organisation. 

Some of the signers I recognized include Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE, playwright; Professor Richard Dawkins, University of Oxford; Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP; Professor Niall Ferguson, historian; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author and campaigner; Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP and broadcaster; Andrew Doyle, writer and broadcaster; Helen Joyce, author; Professor David Deutsch, University of Oxford. Mostly Tories, I suppose, but that’s what you get when you ask for support for Israel. The petition appears to have been organized by free-speech groups.

*Politico has a profile of FIRE president and free-speech advocate Greg Lukianoff, who, along with Rikki Schlott wrote this new book (click cover to order; h/t Barry):

As president of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Lukianoff has been either in front of the camera or behind the scenes of almost every major free speech controversy over the past 25 years. A near sui generis figure in American legal history, he’s the rarest of creatures in modern public life: someone dedicated to elevating principle over tribalism, a progressive who’s willing to ally himself with anyone — even the Koch brothers — who supports his larger cause.

That cause is a near absolute commitment to the First Amendment and civil liberties. It’s premised upon a faith in the human capacity to tolerate complexity, hearkening to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” That Americans can recognize the importance of the due process rights of a likely criminal or the speech rights of someone with extreme or loathsome views.

Lukianoff’s philosophy — civil libertarianism — is arguably the very core of the American project. And yet it now faces intense threats from the left and the right, which Lukianoff chronicles in a new book on cancel culture. The book also offers some prescriptions, a new approach to politics and culture that could help bridge our poisonous divide, if given the chance.

Lukianoff doesn’t have all the answers, but as he recounted his own struggles with severe depression, it’s clear that his approach is a healing one. Whether Americans are willing to listen — and whether civil libertarianism can survive — is far less certain.

I knew Lukianoff had been depressed, but I didn’t know that he was suicidally depressed, and it’s heartening that he’s licked most of it and is now busy defending the Constitution.

In 2001, Lukianoff signed on as legal director. At the time, FIRE, as it’s universally known, had a budget of just over $500,000 and five employees. When he took over as president five years later, FIRE had a staff of only 12. Today, the organization employs 109 people, including 42 lawyers, and has an annual budget of nearly $37 million. Its work includes student and faculty outreach, public education, litigation on individual cases, legislative policy advocacy and reform of campus speech codes. FIRE claims more than 500 victories for students and faculty members and a nearly equal number of campus policy changes. Lukianoff’s career would have been notable for these accomplishments alone.

But his project really got going only after he got serious about killing himself.

Well that’s a provocative last line.  As I said, he’s mostly licked it, and, given the quality of his first book with Jon Haidt, I’ll certainly be reading the new one written with Schlott.

*The oldest known dog in recorded history has died–at 31.

A 31-year-old dog in Portugal that had been ranked as the world’s oldest dog ever has died, his owner said Monday.

The guard dog, called Bobi, died over the weekend in a veterinary hospital, Leonel Costa told The Associated Press.

Bobi lived on a farm in the village of Conqueiros in Portugal with Costa and four cats. He was born on May 11, 1992, when his owner was just 8 years old.

In an interview earlier this year, Costa told the Associated Press that Bobi’s secret to a long life was good food, fresh air and lots of love.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is unable to think:

Hili: I don’t know what to think about all this.
A: All this is too complicated.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie wiem, co o tym wszystkim myśleć.
Ja: To wszystko jest zbyt skomplikowane.


A sign from Buzzfeed with an unfortunate graphic:

An inventive Halloween costume posted by Seth Andrews. If you don’t know what it’s about, you’re too young:

From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0, a misplaced sticker (perhaps moved by a wag photographer):

From Masih, who was here and I didn’t even know it! Oy gewalt!  Read her statement:


Read the thread connected to the second tweet. I have seen some of the video, including #1 below:

Is Trudeau showing his true colors? (Note, he did write about the other side, though a bit tepid; see tweet right below this one). Trudeau’s moral compass seems fixed exactly in between the two poles.

From Barry: natural selection (in this case, kin selection) for attentiveness:

From Malcolm: crazy cats:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 24 year-old woman murdered (“murdered” is synonymous with “died at Auschwitz”):

And we’re down to one tweet per day from Dr. Cobb, this one showing a worker in a cat suit:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

October 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the formal beginning of another week: it’s Sunday, October 22, 2023, and National Nut Day. (I won’t name humans who fit this category, but simply say that cashews and macadamia nuts are the best species in the genus).

It’s also Clean Up the Earth Day, Eat a Pretzel Day, INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAYFechner Day, celebrating the German philosopher, physicist, and psychologist who was neither born nor died on October 22, International Stuttering Awareness Day, and, in Australia, Wombat Day.  In case you haven’t learned this yet, wombats are the only animal that makes cubic poop. Here’s a 6½-minute video on this phenomenon, as well as on other aspects of wombat biology:

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

Oh, I recorded an hour conversation with Richard Dawkins yesterday for his Substack site. It will be on YouTube soon or later, and I’ll let you know. I thought it went well, but we’ll see.

Da Nooz:

*Breaking news: The president of a synagogue in Detroit was found stabbed to death yesterday morning:

Police are investigating after a Detroit synagogue board president was found dead outside her home early Saturday.

Detroit police have not released the victim’s name, but the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue announced the death of synagogue Board President Samantha Woll just after 2 p.m. Saturday on Facebook.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Samantha Woll, our Board President. At this point we do not have more information, but will share more when it becomes available. …

“May her memory be a blessing,” synagogue officials said.

She was stabbed multiple times.  There’s no suspect nor a motive yet.  A photo of Wolf:

*All sources report that humanitarian aid is now flowing into Gaza, albeit at a trickle for the present. The WSJ reports on the situation:

A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza for the first time since the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas militants.

Egyptian officials said 20 trucks filled with medical supplies and some food and bottled water crossed into Gaza on Saturday morning before Egypt closed the border again. Citizens of the U.S. and other foreign countries stuck in Gaza weren’t able to enter Egypt, the officials said.

Humanitarian agencies warned that Saturday’s aid deliveries fell far short of what is needed to sustain Gaza’s more than two million residents, about half of whom have been displaced from their homes since the Israeli military began striking the enclave by air two weeks ago. Airstrikes continued on Saturday, including in southern Gaza, where civilians in the north had been told to move by the Israeli military.

The convoy that entered Gaza included four trucks from the World Health Organization, which the agency said carried trauma medicine and kits to treat as many as 1,200 injured people, as well as medication for 1,500 patients with chronic illnesses. The WHO said it also provided basic essential medicine and health supplies for 300,000 people for three months.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said the agency supplied some 44,000 bottles of water, enough for 22,000 people for one day. An inventory of the aid deliveries viewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter showed that the WHO shipments also included fabric used to wrap the dead for burial. Other trucks were filled with aid from the Egyptian Red Crescent and from Qatar.

I approve of this, but only if the supplies are guaranteed not to go to Hamas. Remember, the Hamas butchers who killed 200 Jews on October 7 were carrying UNICEF First Aid kits with them. Hamas may well have first dibs on medicine, and certainly on fuel. I don’t know how to police this, but it should be done given Hamas’s past expropriation of “humanitarian aid.”

*Al-Jazeera (yes, Al-Jazeera) reports that “French intel says Palestinian rocket likely cause of Gaza hospital blast.” (h/t Reese)

France’s military intelligence agency has concluded that a misfiring Palestinian rocket was the likely cause of the deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, as Israel and Palestinian officials trade blame over the blast.

The Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) said on Friday that an errant Palestinian rocket with an explosive charge of about 5kg was the likely cause of the blast and none of its intelligence pointed to an Israeli missile strike.

In a briefing to multiple news agencies, a senior French military official said the size of the explosion was consistent with rockets used by Palestinians and the impact crater was too small to have been caused by an Israeli missile.

The DRM did not offer an estimated death toll but said it was likely lower than the 471 fatalities reported by Palestinian officials, the news agencies reported.

The assessment was based on classified information, satellite imagery, intelligence shared by other countries and open-source information, including images showing light structural damage at the hospital and relatively few civilian belongings at the blast site.

French President Emmanuel Macron directed the DRM, which does not typically make its work public, to share its findings amid conflicting accounts of who carried out the attack.

Each independent assessment that it was a misfired terrorist rocket increases the Bayesian probability that that was indeed the case and that Israel was not responsible. But try getting the Arab states to believe that, or the Palestinians in the West Bank. They already have their minds made up. You can’t change the mind of a creationist or a flat-earther, and you can’t change the minds of Palestinians who blame Israel for the “attack.” They are impervious to facts.

*Nick Kristof shows his ignorance with an article in today’s NYT: “We must not kill Gazan children to try to protect Israel’s children.”

The acceptance of large-scale bombing of Gaza and of a ground invasion likely to begin soon suggests that Palestinian children are lesser victims, devalued by their association with Hamas and its history of terrorism. Consider that more than 1,500 children in Gaza have been killed, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and around one-third of Gaza homes have been destroyed or damaged in just two weeks — and this is merely the softening-up before what is expected to be a much bloodier ground invasion.

Not a good start. First of all, he takes the Gaza Ministry of Health’s word, not mentioning that they are notorious liars. Second, the IDF does not consdier Palestinian children “lesser victims” than either Palestinian adults or Israeli children. The IDF operates by far more moral rules of war than does Hamas, and does what it can to save civilian lives, especially children. (For one thing, they know that their image depends on avoiding civilian deaths.) Here Kristof is being a dupe for Palestinian propaganda. But he goes on:

The United States speaks a good deal about principles, but I fear that President Biden has embedded a hierarchy of human life in official American policy. He expressed outrage at the massacres of Jews by Hamas, as he should have, but he has struggled to be equally clear about valuing Gazan lives. And it’s not always evident whether he is standing four-square with Israel as a country or with its failed prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime obstacle to peace.

He says he stands with ISRAEL, for crying out loud, and he has said that many times. In order to stand with Israel, Biden has to deal with Netanyahu.  More fail from Kristof.

Here in Israel, because the Hamas attacks were so brutal and fit into a history of pogroms and Holocaust, they led to a resolve to wipe out Hamas even if this means a large human toll. “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist,” declared Giora Eiland, a former head of the Israeli National Security Council. “There is no other option for ensuring the security of the State of Israel.”

I think that view reflects a practical and moral miscalculation. While I would love to see the end of Hamas, it’s not feasible to eliminate radicalism in Gaza, and a ground invasion is more likely to feed extremism than to squelch it — at an unbearable cost in civilian lives.

Kristof needs to realize that this is a war, and children and adult civilians will die in the effort to wipe out Hamas. Given that Hamas isn’t like the Russian forces attacking Ukraine (something that Kristof doesn’t seem to know), Russian forces who do not use human shields, there will be civilian casualties in Gaza.  Now Kristof may have a point in his second paragraph; I myself wonder whether Hamas can be wiped out by ANY action of Israel.  But what is Kristof’s solution. He has none, but says this again:

The best answer to this test is to try even in the face of provocation to cling to our values. That means that despite our biases, we try to uphold all lives as having equal value. If your ethics see some children as invaluable and others as disposable, that’s not moral clarity but moral myopia. We must not kill Gazan children to try to protect Israeli children.

Umm. . . trying not to kill civilians IS holding to our values, and Israel’s.  But if Hamas puts children and civilians in harm’s way (doesn’t Kristof know that?), then children will be killed. All Israel can do is minimize that killing, and I hope and expect that they’ll do so. . But he has to realize two things. First, nobody is valuing Palestinian children’s lives less than Israeli children’s lives. Second, Hamas doesn’t value its own children’s lives very much, either. Why else would they put terrorists and bombs near schools, and tell Gazans not to flee to the south? Everyone knows that that advice was to guarantee that more civilians, including Palestinian children, will be killed. 

*Women’s Voices reports that a trans male musician in California self-named “Precious Child” is calling for the murder of “women critical of gender ideology” (h/t Ann).

A trans-identified male musician in California is currently touring and performing songs calling for the murder of women critical of gender identity ideology. Precious Child, who previously involved himself in the Wi Spa controversy, utilizes graphic sexual and violent threats against “TERFs” in his music.

During his most recent performance at the Knockout Bar in San Francisco, Precious Child performed his song “TERF Killer,” riling the audience into chanting “kill a TERF today.”

TERF, an acronym standing for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist,” is often broadly applied to all women who oppose the belief that males should be able to self-identify as female for the purposes of access to women’s spaces.

In a video of the performance shared to his YouTube account, Precious Child can be seen chanting “kill a TERF today” while the accompanying music video is shown on a screen behind him. The video features images of bullets and of a knife stabbing into the air as the words “kill a TERF today” flash repeatedly across the screen.

Precious Child has a history of repeatedly threatening critics of gender ideology, with a particular focus reserved for females who oppose gender self-identification law.

Earlier this year, he released a music video for Pride month titled “VILENCE” [sic] which depicts masked trans activists posing threateningly with a variety of weapons – a sword, baseball bats, an axe, and Molotov cocktails – as he sings the refrain, “Show ’em the violence, or they will silence.”

I was asked what I thought of this. My response is that this tests the limits of free speech, but if speech like this isn’t defended, then no speech can be defended. Given that Precious Child didn’t threaten any specific people, nor (as far as I can see) create predictable and imminent violence, his speech is legal. But if violence does occur at one of his concerts, all bets are off for him, now and into the future.

*Finally, the Language Police are still here, though they’re waning since the Zeitgeist is that all previous “errors” are okay. The WaPo describes some of the holdouts in its article, “Meet some people willing to fight for correct grammar usage.”  There are some examples—people after my own heart:

Matt LeBlanc of Fort Wayne, Ind., fights a different battle. “From your space there on Mount Apostrophe, it’s my hope that you can see me entrenched on a nearby embankment: Mount Fewer,” he wrote.

Matt described Mount Fewer as a “shady, leafy place that in recent years has been overrun with Less vermin. The Less threaten to make extinct the Fewer who for eons have lived simple, earnest lives dedicated to accurate portrayals of amounts and counts that are not absolute.

“Like the humble apostrophe, use of ‘fewer’ and ‘less’ is not that hard — and that is why incorrect use of either makes me cringe.”

The District’s Peggy Robin is a brave warrior in the “I/me” army, trying to stamp out the usage of “for so-and-so and I” when it should instead be “for so-and-so and me.”

Peggy insists it shouldn’t be hard.

“You don’t need to know a thing about the nominative case vs. the objective case,” she wrote. “You discover which one is right simply by removing the other person and listening to what it sounds like. Example: ‘It’s good for you and I to speak up.’ Remove the ‘you,’ and now listen: You would never say ‘It’s good for I.’”

And here’s a grammar Pecksniff who WON1

As far as I know, Kathy Dean isn’t a Cockney. She lives in Daphne, Ala., where, several years ago, she passed a property company billboard on her afternoon commute. She can’t recall the exact wording, but the text included an “it’s” that should have been an “its.”

Wrote Kathy: “I tried to ignore it, but it’s like trying to ignore the car wreck along the side of the road. I wouldn’t — I couldn’t — let it go. I had to take action.”

Kathy called the company and left a message on its answering machine along the lines of: “How can I trust your real estate firm to handle the details of a home sale when you can’t even get your billboard right?”

She included a long-winded lesson on proper “its” usage.

Wrote Kathy: “A few weeks later, the billboard had been updated with the correct ‘its.’ This is my grammar victory story. It’s a win for its, one billboard at a time.”

Of course the implicit threat involving the firm’s competence might have helped!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej had insomnia last night (so did I!):

Hili: You got up late today.
A: Because I had a sleepless night.
In Polish:
Hili: Późno dziś wstałeś.
Ja: Bo miałem bezsenną noc.


From Merilee, bullknitters:

From Jesus of the Day:

From The Absurd Sign Project, food for cats!

From Masih, a note about the Sakharov Prize, awarded for “individuals or groups who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.” It went to Mahsa Amini, but, sadly, it’s a postmortem award, for last year she was beaten to death by the Iranian “morality police” for not wearing her hijab properly.

From Anna, an 8-minute bit by Bill Maher about why going to college “make you stupid”:

From Barry. First, one I think I showed recently, but you’ll have to see again because the second tweet is linked to it (I haven’t learned how to separate linked tweets yet.)

As for the second, why is momma duckling doing this? Is she teaching her brood how to evade predators (this is how they do it):

From Jez, a tender moment:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman, age 43, was gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb (we’re down to two per day now that he’s gone off Twitter. Soon there will be one, and then none. . . .

A game try (and perhaps a try for game):

Friday: Hili dialogue

October 20, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Friday, October 20, 2023, with cat shabbos beginning at sundown; all moggies must have their tails home then. It’s National Brandied Fruit Day, something I used to make during my Canning Period in Davis, California, when I had access to tons of fresh produce. Yes, I had a cupboard full of jams, canned fruit, brandied fruit, and so on.

It’s also National Mammorgraphy Day, Office Chocolate Day, The International Day of the Air Traffic Controller (which one?), International Chefs Day, National Chicken and Waffles Day (I’ve still never had this dish), National Day on Writing, World Osteoporosis Day, and World Statistics Day.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the 122nd birthday of Adelaide Hall (1901-1993) described by Wikipedia as:

an American-born UK-based jazz singer and entertainer. Her long career spanned more than 70 years from 1921 until her death and she was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Hall entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 as the world’s most enduring recording artist, having released material over eight consecutive decades.She performed with major artists such as Art TatumEthel WatersJosephine BakerLouis ArmstrongLena HorneCab CallowayFela SowandeRudy Vallee,and Jools Holland, and recorded as a jazz singer with Duke Ellington (with whom she made her most famous recording, “Creole Love Call” in 1927) and with Fats Waller.

Here’s the famous recording of “Creole Love Call” (1927), with an early Duke Ellington Band.  Bubber Miley, who died of tuberculosis at 29, is on the trumpet. It’s an amazingly advanced song for that era of jazz, with scat singing and no lyrics that I can discern:

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

Da Nooz:

*Here’s Biden’s speech about the war, Israel, and Ukraine given last night from the Oval Office. He also asked for more aid for Ukraine.  From the NYT:

In the days ahead, Mr. Biden is sure to face questions about whether the United States can afford to be financing two foreign wars. Although the U.S. economy has proved remarkably resilient this year, new data is expected to show on Friday that the deficit approached $2 trillion this fiscal year, and inflation remains uncomfortably high.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden described his request for aid as “a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations.” But he faces skepticism among members of both parties: progressive Democrats who fiercely oppose sending arms to Israel and conservative Republicans who have questioned the need to add to the more than $100 billion already approved in military and economic aid already sent to Ukraine.

*At last it looks as if humanitarian aid will start flowing into Gaza, but Israeli troops will be flowing into Gaza as well. The WSJ says this:

The United Nations and world leaders were pushing Thursday to get immediate aid flowing into the Gaza Strip as the humanitarian crisis worsened for two million Palestinians who are trying to flee deadly Israeli airstrikes and struggling to find food, water and fuel during a near-total siege.

President Biden said early Thursday that the U.S. had secured a deal with Egypt and Israel to send 20 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza as soon as Friday.

The U.N. warned that the situation is growing increasingly desperate. A spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry said the thousands of wounded exceeds what Gazan hospitals can handle.

“I fear that we are at the brink of a deep and dangerous abyss that could change the trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Tor Wennesland, the U.N.’s special coordinator for Middle East peace, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

The push to get aid into Gaza comes as Israel’s defense minister said a ground assault on the enclave could be imminent. The Israeli military has directed residents in the northern Gaza Strip to flee south as it prepares for what is expected to be a difficult ground assault designed to end the rule of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group.

“You now see Gaza from afar, soon you will see it from the inside. The order will come,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops on the Gaza border.

I’m beginning to wonder if the ground invasion by Israel will ever happen. Is it just a big ruse? I don’t think so, as bombing alone can’t destroy Hamas, but we’ll know soon. Still, I’m glad the humanitarian aid is about to flow to the Palestinians, even though Malgorzata thinks that Hamas will siphon off most of it. Biden will address the nation tonight (I’m writing this Thursday evening), and I’ll post his speech here if it’s embeddable.

*The search for a Speaker of the House goes on, but it’s not going to be Jim Jordan. The search goes on, but perhaps Patrick McHenry will nab the position until at least the next election.

The path forward for House Republicans on choosing a speaker was uncertain Thursday after members emerged from a lengthy, heated meeting. Earlier Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the embattled GOP speaker nominee, told his conference that he would back a plan to temporarily expand the powers of Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), the temporary speaker, and delay a third ballot for speaker. Jordan later suggested to reporters that the plan won’t move forward as of now. He said he would seek a third ballot for speaker, though the timing was unclear.

*Democrats are reacting in a predictable way to Biden’s speech supporting Israel: some far left-wing Democrats are criticizing him, while the centrist like what he’s done. I’m with the centrists, and abhor the anti-Semites who constitute some of the “progressive” Democrats:

Mr. Biden’s speech comes as his political coalition has begun to fray over the Israeli conflict. Progressives and young Democrats are demanding that he press Israel to stop its incursion on Gaza, while more centrist Democrats who make up the core of his political base were nearly unanimous in their praise of his Tel Aviv speech.

“I am grateful to have @POTUS thoughtful leadership in this moment,” Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri wrote on social media. “As we continue working save the lives of hostages and hold Hamas accountable, I encourage him to continue using his platform to call for restraint and the protection of innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

. . .Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Mr. Biden “speaks for me and speaks for all of America” on Israel. And Richard Haass, the former chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, called the Wednesday speech “nothing less than masterful.”

And while Biden campaign officials insist they aren’t planning to use the Israel trip as campaign fodder, Representative Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts forecast what could become the sort of contrast the president’s aides and allies make with former President Donald J. Trump should he win the Republican presidential nomination.

“Joe Biden flew into a war zone to stand with Israel,” Mr. Auchincloss said late Wednesday. “Trump wouldn’t even visit a cemetery of American war dead.” (Mr. Trump, in 2018, canceled a planned trip to a French cemetery, and his aides cited the rainy weather.)

. . . and the others, who know that their calling for a cease fire could only affect Israel’s engaging in a cease fire (which it won’t); their bleatings won’t affect Hamas at all, and of course they don’t care:

“We cannot bomb our way to peace,” wrote Representative Cori Bush of Missouri. “We need a cease-fire,” said Representative André Carson of Indiana. And several left-wing members of Congress reposted a message from Pope Francis in which he called the situation in Gaza “desperate” and pleaded that “the weapons be silenced; let the cry for peace be heard from the poor, from the people, from the children!”

Some used especially heated language: Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, speaking outside the Capitol, said, “We are literally watching people commit genocide and killing a vast majority, just like this, and we still stand by and say nothing.”

I fervently hope Tlaib will be defeated, but I think her constituents (and those of Ilhan Omar) share her hatred of Israel.  I stand with Hoyer!

*Another American journalist (well, she’s Russian-American, with dual citizenship) has been arrested in Russia.

Russian authorities have arrested an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American news outlet based in Prague and financed by the U.S. government, accusing her of collecting information about the Russia military that could damage the nation’s security.

The editor, Alsu Kurmasheva, holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship and had traveled to Russia for family reasons. Her detention Wednesday in Kazan, southwestern Russia, follows the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, who was seized by agents of the Federal Security Service in March and charged with spying — an accusation that his newspaper and the State Department strongly deny.

Kurmasheva’s arrest highlights the continuing dangers for journalists traveling in wartime Russia and operating in an environment in which senior officials have described their work as part of an “information war” against Moscow.

Kurmasheva, who is based in Prague, also was charged with failing to register as a “foreign agent,” although she does not reside in Russia. She was initially detained in June, as she was waiting to fly out of Russia, after visiting the country for family reasons. Her employer, RFE/RL, has been designated a foreign agent by Russian authorities.

She’s going to get a long sentence in a labor camp, like Brittney Griner, and then will be traded for some real spy or Russian bad buy in an American prison. If I were an American journalist, I wouldn’t set foot in Russia. The danger of being arrested is too great.

*I greatly enjoyed this hour of Bari Weiss conversing about Israel with Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster. She does most of the talking, which is fine because she gives a thoughtful and eloquent take. Of course you know where she stands: strongly pro-Israel. But listen for a few minutes and you might get hooked–as I was (h/t Rosemary):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili appears to have temporarily found peace.

A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m looking at the world with a stoic calm.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Patrzę na świat ze stoickim spokojem.

And a picture of the loving Szaron:


From Divy, a trenchant meme:

A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon from Merilee:

A demonstration of Shrinkflation from BuzzFeed:

From Masih, some Iranian booing:

What a paradise is Iran! They kill their protestors (or blind them), and start the legislative day like this!  See this post on the Elder of Ziyon for a huge collection of tweets (most of them anti-Semitic) relating to the war.  (Trigger warning: pervasive hatred.)

J. K. Rowling doesn’t pull any punches:

These nice people helped the octopus go back home:

I’m not sure the dog likes this:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a two-year-old boy gassed upon arrival:

We’re down to two tweets a day from Matthew, taken from my stockpile, as the boy has left Twitter. First, a runner duck and then a gazillion other ducks:

A life-and-death chase:

NYT “explains” changing headlines about hospital bombings as a result of taking what Hamas says as “news”

October 19, 2023 • 10:45 am

The other day I reproduced the montage of headlines below from The Free Press, a montage showing how New York Times headlines about the Gazan hospital “explosion” changed from day to day. First it was an “Israeli strike” that killed hundreds in the hospital, then just a “strike” (there must have been some doubt then about Israel being the striker), and then “strike” was changed to “blast”.  Now everyone knows that Hamas isn’t exactly a purveyor of the truth, so even the NYT had to qualify all three headlines with “Palestinians say”.

But to reprint assertions, even with the qualifier “Palestinians say” (does every reader know that the Palestinian media is full of lies?), seems to me like bad journalism. Why not, for the first headline, at least, say “Palestinians claim that strike on hospital kills hundreds”?  That still has a lie in it (the death toll), but leaves out the “Israeli strike”, which is simply an assertion made up by Hamas for propaganda purposes. And “strike” in the second headline implies an Israeli strike, not an errant terrorist missile, which of course wasn’t a possibility mentioned in any of the headlines but was eminently possible.

As we see below, even the NYT had to issue an “explanation” for its revolving-door headlines, and they admit that this kind of journalism was damaging.

The article below  in today’s NYT (click to read) is an apologia of sorts for the changing headlines. If they think they were doing good journalism, why would they have to go into depth to explain it? And they admit that already after the first headline, taken solely from the mouth of Hamas, the damage had been done:

You see below that they keep emphasizing, tediously, how hard it is to report accurately during war, and yet they NEVER mention in the piece above that the Palestinian spokespeople are known for repeated and ubiquitous lies. Isn’t that something we should know, and something that they should have highlighted. Where is the vaunted “context” of these reports?

Here are some excepts. I’ve put in bold the bit that shows the damage of instantaneous and unverified reporting, and of taking the word of liars for truth:

The shifting coverage about a deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza highlighted the difficulties of reporting on a fast-moving war in which few journalists remain on the ground while claims fly freely on social media.

The first reports of a strike at the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City came early Tuesday afternoon Eastern time. A spokeswoman for the Gaza health ministry said an Israeli airstrike had caused the explosion, killing at least 200 people. In a televised interview, a health ministry spokesman later said the death toll exceeded 500 — which the ministry later changed to “hundreds.”

The news changed quickly over a couple of hours. Many Western news organizations, including The New York Times, reported the Gazan claims in prominent headlines and articles. They adjusted the coverage after the Israeli military issued a statement urging “caution” about the Gazan allegation. The news organizations then reported the Israeli military’s assertion that the blast was the result of a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group aligned with Hamas.

On Wednesday, American officials agreed with Israel, saying early intelligence indicated that the launch did not come from Israel and instead was caused by the armed Palestinian group. Most of the coverage about the blast on Wednesday focused on the U.S. analysis.

But many supporters of each side had already made up their minds in the ensuing hours. Much of the Arab world united in support of Palestinians, with thousands of protesters marching in cities across the Middle East on Tuesday night and Wednesday, blaming Israel for the deaths of civilians at the hospital.

Yep, the entire Middle East now thinks that the strike came from Israel. There’s rioting all over the West Bank, and they’ve canceled the summit in Jordan that Biden was supposed to attend—solely because of Hamas’s lies.

Now you can say that the NYT (the most influential newspaper in the English-speaking world) played no role in the turmoil all over the world involving Israel’s supposed “strike” on the hospital, which turned out to be a lie, but I say that the paper abjured its responsibility.

Here are more excuses:

Kathleen Carroll, a former executive editor of The Associated Press, said the situation in Gaza was tough for news organizations to handle because they could not always get firsthand or verified accounts. As Israel prepares for a ground assault in Gaza, most Western journalists have evacuated the area, and reporters that remain face shellings and shortages of water, food and electricity.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday that at least 19 journalists had been killed during the conflict, 15 of them Palestinian.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Ms. Carroll said. “In Gaza, there are so few news organizations able to be on the ground and getting the kind of eyewitness reporting that helps.”

Here the paper is implying, “Well, we had to reproduce what Hamas told us because we weren’t there and WE COULD GET KILLED IF WE WERE.”  I am playing the world’s smallest violin for the paper.

Finally, here’s another excuse: “Everybody else did it, too.”  

The coverage of this week’s hospital blast generally represented what had been said about the explosion at the time of publication. The BBC’s initial breaking news report said, “Hundreds feared dead or injured in Israeli airstrike on hospital in Gaza, Palestinian officials say.” A later headline was “Israel denies airstrike on hospital in Gaza, saying failed militant rocket to blame.”

Excuse me, but that’s not a reason for shoddy journalism. Isn’t the NYT supposed to try harder than these other papers?

Now some readers will disagree with me and consider this responsible journalism, even though it had to be “explained”.  That’s fine, for viewpoints differ. But I can’t help but think that the NYT is trying to justify its rapidly-changing headlines after their initial irresponsible report, which did all the damage, had been taken from the donkey’s mouth. They didn’t even mention that the death count may also be inaccurate because Hamas lies and also includes terrorists in “civilian” death tolls.

Now, how did the paper deal with the increasing evidence that the hospital wasn’t seriously damaged, that it was a misfired rocket, that it fell in a parking lot, and that certainly 500 people were NOT killed? How do they deal with this text from the article above?:

On Wednesday, American officials agreed with Israel, saying early intelligence indicated that the launch did not come from Israel and instead was caused by the armed Palestinian group. Most of the coverage about the blast on Wednesday focused on the U.S. analysis.

Did they give it a big headline? Not that I can see. What I found is below (click to read), is inconspicuous on the page, and is one of those patronizing “here’s what we know” pieces, saying nothing in the headline about a terrorist rocket likely being responsible:

Here’s what we really know: the NYT is biased in its news coverage against Israel and towards Palestine, they get their news from the mouths of terrorists without adding that those terrorists are known liars (“Palestinians say” is what they write, and no, it was HAMAS, not “Palestinians”), and they are loath to correct misreporting, especially when that correction would exculpate Israel.

I’ll add a relevant tweet; expand to read, and watch the video of a terrorist rocket misfiring (and embarrassing the announcer):

Thursday: Hili dialogue

October 19, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Thursday, October 19, 2023, and National Seafood Bisque Day (I’d prefer lobster stew or clam chowder).

It’s also the days I said yesterday  (I screwed up and gave today’s days yesterday as well):

It’s also Dress Like A Dork DayInternational Gin and Tonic DayNational Seafood Bisque DayEvaluate Your Life Day (!), Rainforest DayWorld Menopause DayPersons Day in Canada (look it up), Oxfordshire Day, and, in Croatia, Necktie Day.

Croatia is the Home of the Necktie! (check the link above).

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

Da Nooz:

*According to the Wall Street Journal, both the U.S. and independent security experts are coming around to the view that the hospital “explosion” in Gaza was caused not by Israeli bombing but by terrorists themselves.

Israel, the U.S. government and independent security experts cast doubt Wednesday on Palestinian claims that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for a deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital compound, saying the preliminary evidence pointed to a local militant group.

Independent analysts poring over publicly available images of Tuesday’s explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza and its aftermath say the blast site doesn’t bear the hallmarks of a strike with a bomb or missile of the types usually used by Israel.

The amount of damage also appears inconsistent with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry’s assertion that 471 people were killed, experts said.

“We have none of the indicators of an airstrike—none,” said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an expert on military and security issues.

The U.S. has collected “high confidence” signals intelligence indicating that the blast at the hospital in Gaza was caused by the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, U.S. officials said, buttressing Israel’s contention that it wasn’t responsible for the blast.

A video verified by The Wall Street Journal recorded a shrieking sound and the explosion that followed.

The U.S. assessment that Israel wasn’t behind the blast at the hospital drew, in part, on communications intercepts and other intelligence gathered by the U.S., defense officials said.

“Our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said, adding that the U.S. continues to collect information on the incident.

There you go. Here are two more videos showing a largely undamaged hospital but some cars burned in the arking lot (h/t cesar)

Reader Linda Calhoun also recommends this article from Talking Points Memo as being objective and relying on unbiased sources  (h/t Linda)

I’m so glad that the loss of life is much smaller than reported by Hamas, and also that I don’t have to condemn Israel for violating the rules of war. But despite the mounting evidence, the Jordan summit is still canceled and Palestinians are still rioting in the West Bank because of the hospital hoax. It’s as if some people, like diehard creationists and flat-earthers, are so brainwashed that they reject any evidence counter to their narrative (you can put the New York Times as having a bit of that character, too).

*Biden is, as you know, in Israel. Here’s some news about his visit. I’ve also embedded a video of his 16-minute speech, which is as good as his speech on the topic in Washington (there is some repetition).

Making a rare wartime visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Biden firmly backed the Israeli government’s assertion that it had nothing to do with the hospital’s destruction. “Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” he said, appearing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Tel Aviv.

And I’m delighted with this part, as I thought the siege was a bad thing, taking Israel away from the moral high ground. You musn’t punish civilians in this way if you’ve a mensch, even though a siege isn’t against the rules of war.

. . .Mr. Biden also said he had secured Israel’s agreement to allow some international humanitarian aid into the besieged strip, offering the first hint of relief to a humanitarian crisis that has left the strip’s two million residents facing acute shortages of basic necessities. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said Israel would not block the provision of food, water and medicine from Egypt to civilians in southern Gaza, but warned, “Any provisions that reach Hamas will be thwarted.”

There was no immediate comment from the government in Egypt, where emergency supplies are waiting to cross through a key land border with Gaza.

More—a bullet point:

  • President Biden also announced $100 million in U.S. aid to help civilians in Gaza and the West Bank and said he had secured a commitment from Israel’s government to allow food, water and medicine to be delivered to Palestinians in Gaza from Egypt in a humanitarian effort overseen by the United Nations and others.

And then there’s Lebanon and Hezbollah to worry about:

. . . Amid Hezbollah’s call for a “day of rage,” sirens sounded out in northern Israel on Wednesday as cross-border clashes appeared to intensify. The Israeli military reported several missile launches at army positions and border towns throughout the day, and said it had responded with tank and artillery fire, according to a statement. Hezbollah claimed to have inflicted casualties. “Your tanks are your graves,” the militant group said in a video released Wednesday that, with text in Hebrew and Arabic, appeared to be directed at Israeli soldiers.

This is an excellent speech, though delivered in Biden’s low-key manner. He’s handling this situation very well, but not pulling his punches about his feelings and what the U.S. is going to do. The last bit is particularly good.

*In a NYT column called “A chill has been cast over the book world,” columnist Pamela Paul reports on the cancellation  (via not giving a prize) to a writer whose book was much applauded, simply because it contained some episodes that could be seen as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.  First, the demonization of the author:

Last week the literary association Litprom canceled a celebration for the Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s book “Minor Detail” at the Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the publishing world’s biggest international book fairs. The novel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and was longlisted for the International Booker Prize, was to be honored for having won the 2023 LiBeraturpreis, a German literary prize awarded annually to a woman from the developing world. A panel that Shibli, who splits her time between Jerusalem and Berlin, was to be on with her German translator, Günther Orth, was likewise canceled.

In a statement defending the decision, Juergen Boos, the director of the book fair, distanced the organization from the award, saying the prize came from another group, which was now looking for “a suitable format and setting” to honor Shibli elsewhere. He also said that “we strongly condemn Hamas’s barbaric terror war against Israel” and that the fair “has always been about humanity; its focus has always been on peaceful and democratic discourse.” Furthermore, Boos said, the Frankfurt Book Fair “stands with complete solidarity on the side of Israel.”

And the reason for the cancellation and attempt to find another venue? The author wrote about Palestine and Israel in a way unpalatable to some:

“Minor Detail” undoubtedly offers sympathies to the Palestinian cause — a perspective that surely won’t be embraced by all readers. It includes the story of a Bedouin girl who was gang raped and murdered by an Israeli Army unit in 1949, an atrocity that has been well documented. One German judge of the prize, Ulrich Noller, resigned from the jury that determined the award last summer, saying the novel serves “anti-Israel and antisemitic narratives” and claiming it not only allowed such readings but also opened up space for them.

If a book is thoughtful and acclaimed, as this one seems to be, there is NO justification for damning it.  And other authors recognize it:

More than 600 publishers, editors, translators, writers and others in the industry, including Ian McEwan, Colm Toibin, Anne Enright and the Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, have signed an open letter on the ArabLit website.

“The Frankfurt Book Fair has a responsibility,” the letter explains, “to be creating spaces for Palestinian writers to share their thoughts, feelings, reflections on literature through these terrible, cruel times, not shutting them down.”

I stand with those 600+ signers.

*The House of Representatives is still lacking a speaker as we move towards another government default deadline (June 1).

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) failed to reach a majority on the House floor Wednesday, drawing one less vote for speaker than on the first ballot Tuesday. He told reporters late Wednesday afternoon that there would be no further votes Wednesday, but he expects another floor vote to be held Thursday. Jordan, a conservative firebrand allied with former president Donald Trump, is seeking to succeed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was ousted as speaker two weeks ago. Twenty-two Republicans voted against Jordan on the second ballot. He can afford to lose only four.

. . .Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.), a staunch supporter of former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said he thinks Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) would probably lose more support in another round of speakership votes.

“I suspect that if we go to a third round, I think we’ll probably end up with more people voting for somebody else,” Gimenez told CNN.

And polls show that this Speaker mess, which shows no sign of ending, is going to hurt the Republicans more than the Democrats, as Americans don’t like this squabbling and think it’s hurting the country:

there is an obvious way in which the lack of a speaker is negatively impacting governance: The House is spending a lot of time figuring out who should have this particularly thankless job instead of passing bills that aren’t considered in the Senate.

Presumably, thanks to a less cynical view of Congress, YouGov’s new polling for the Economist indicates most Americans — including most Democrats and Republicans — think the lack of a speaker is hurting the ability of the government to function. (Some fraction of each party thinks the lack of speaker is helping; that might be the most cynical view possible.)

Finally, reader Steve called my attention to this msn story, taken from Chicago’s NBC News, reporting on a Time Out article on the “40 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World”. Mine—Hyde Park—was one of them! Click screenshot below to read:

An excerpt:

Do you live in Chicago? If so, you might just be living in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago on the city’s south side, has been named to Time Out’s new list of “40 Coolest neighborhoods in the world” for 2023, editors said.

The list, Time Out said, is based on input from local experts and thousands of reader surveys from around the globe. It also incorporated factors like community and social ventures, access to green space and more.

“Hyde Park exemplifies the best of Chicago, with the spirit of a small town, yet the many amenities of a bustling metropolis,” Hyde Park’s entry on the list said. “You can dine at the neighborhood’s top restaurants and enjoy everything from award-winning Southern fare and po’ boys to mouthwatering burgers and amazing Italian cuisine.”

Hyde Park’s ranking on the list came in at No. 19. It’s one of only four U.S. cities to make the report’s top 20, with New Orleans, Los Angeles’ Arts District and Fort Greene in New York ranking above.

Well, I think they’re overrating the cuisine here, and I’m not sure we should be in the top 40 in the entire world, but this is a delightful place to live: a hybrid between urban and suburban environments, with dead-easy access to downtown Chicago but also lots of green space. I think we still need better restaurants, though, even if the food scene is much better than when I arrived in 1986.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Szaron is protected from toxic ladybugs by a window.

Hili: A ladybird.
Szaron: On your side.
In Polish:
Hili: Biedronka.
Szaron: Po twojej stronie.


A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon from Tom:

From Homer Blind WonderCat:

From Buzzfeed, postal duplicity:

From Masih, a longer video of a tweet she posted about the other day. Google translation:

The citizen who sent this new video from #دختر_تبریز says: The police officers took this girl with them, while she injured her leg and fell to the ground after being physically attacked by the hijab activists. The police announced that [s]he had a mental problem and became delusional. The lives of Iranian girls are in danger.

The girl apparently was attacked and taken away by the dreaded Morality Police for not wearing her hijab. I can’t translate what she’s saying, except the earlier tweet said part of it was  “Death to Khamenei.”

A Hamas apostate, from commenter Kurt:

From Jez, who says, “One to file under “‘You couldn’t make it up’.”  A trans-Hamas alliance seems a little, well, misguided:

I couldn’t resist this one from the Babylon Bee:

A kindly cyclist encounters a skunk family. See how lovely and kindly they are? They squirt only when disturbed.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a girl gassed upon arrival at age nine.  This is what they want to copy when they cried “Gas the Jews!” in Sydney:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. He’s off Twitter, he says, so readers should send me good Tweets (please!). Speaking of skunks, the first one is a skunk gallivanting on a trailcam:

Life imitates science!

A cartoon by Ellis Rosen:

Another big-time donor cuts ties with Harvard over its pussyfooting on the war

October 17, 2023 • 11:30 am

Despite Harvard President Claudine Gay having “clarified”—twice—an earlier weaselly stand on the war sent out by many administrators, it’s still losing donors. (Gay assured Harvard in an email and a video that yes, the University really did oppose the barbaric acts of Hamas in Israel.)  Donor withdrawal hits the school where it hurts.

The latest donor to cut ties with the school was a foundation: the Wexner Foundation, started by two Victoria’s Secret billionaires. But read today’s CNN article for the details (click on headline below):

A precis:

A nonprofit founded by former Victoria’s Secret billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail is breaking off ties with Harvard University, alleging the school has been “tiptoeing” over Hamas’ terror attacks against Israel.

The Wexner Foundation’s decision to end its relationship and financial support for Harvard is the latest fallout amid criticism from donors who were alarmed by the university’s initial response to the attacks and to an anti-Israel statement issued by student groups.

The end of Wexner’s support comes as college campuses across the United States are in turmoil over responses from students, professors and administrations to Hamas’ attack on Israel and the ensuing war. Big donors have pulled money from a number of high-profile universities. Students have protested and some have been publicly shamed for their views. A handful of faculty have been lambasted by students and administrations for sharing controversial views. And university leaders are clinging onto diminishing support as some fight for survival.

“We are stunned and sickened by the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians,” the Wexner Foundation’s leaders wrote in a Monday letter to the Harvard board of overseers.

The Wexners, whose fortune is estimated to be $6 billion, according to Forbes, specifically cite the statement released by a coalition of student groups that blamed solely Israel for the terror attacks by Hamas.

, . .“Harvard’s leaders were indeed tiptoeing, equivocating, and we, like former Harvard President Larry Summers cannot ‘fathom the administration’s failure to disassociate the university and condemn the statement’ swiftly issued by 34 student groups holding Israel entirely responsible for the violent terror attack on its own citizens,” the Wexner Foundation letter reads. “That should not have been that hard.”

Summers, a former economic official in the Obama and Clinton administrations, drew attention last week to the “morally unconscionable” student statement and slammed Harvard leaders for their response.

Citing the “absence of this clear moral standard,” the Wexner Foundation said it has determined the Harvard Kennedy School is no longer a “compatible” partner for its organization.

Last week, Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife Batia quit a Harvard executive board in protest of how university leaders responded to the Hamas terror attack on Israel.

Finally, Wexner faulted Harvard for not promoting viewpoint diversity. It’s guilty as charged! (Bolding is mine.)

The Wexner Foundation says its mission is to develop and inspire leaders in the North American Jewish community and Israel through programs and investments in promising professionals. The foundation has deep ties to Harvard supporting a fellowship program at the Kennedy School of Government that allows government and public service professionals in Israel to study at Harvard for a year.

Beyond Harvard’s response to the terror attacks and anti-Israel letter, the Wexner Foundation cited a broader problem where “tolerance for diverse perspectives has slowly but perceptibly narrowed over the years.”

That feeling was amplified by recent events, the letter said.

“Many of our Israel Fellows no longer feel marginalized at HKS. They feel abandoned,” the Wexner Foundation said.

Money talks, especially to rich colleges like Harvard, though it hardly needs the dosh (its endowment was, in 2021, $53.2 billion).

I wouldn’t give money to Harvard, even though I’m an alumnus, as there are more deserving schools out there (my will earmarks money for medical and food assistance for poor children throughout the world, for buying up land for conserving natural habitat, and for animal welfare—three causes I see as more pressing than enriching my undergrad and grad schools). But if a school to which I donated did weasel about the war, I might consider breaking ties with it.

But I doubt that this will spread since President Gay did issue two statements condemning Hamas, but one wonders if at least part of the motivation for those statements was fear of losing donors.

We all know that the main job of a college president is not managing college affairs (that usually goes to the Provost or a big dean), but raising money.  And not raising money is a sure way to hasten your “resignation.”

I want to add that if Harvard, like Chicago, had a written policy on political neutrality, stuff like this wouldn’t happen, for if you vow not to take explicit political, ideological, or moral stands, you can’t be faulted for not taking them!  So far I haven’t heard of any donors to the University of Chicago cutting ties with us for not damning Hamas.

Here are the Wexners, no longer donors:

(from CNN): Leslie Wexner, right, and his wife Abigail. Photo credit: Jay LaPrete/AP/FILE

h/t: Gregory