The brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols

January 28, 2023 • 8:45 am

This case has not yet been tried, so we can’t yet say that the five police officers indicted for second-degree murder of Tyre Nichols, 29, were guilty. But if you look at the video linked to the NYT article below, it sure looks as if they were whaling on him without any valid cause.  In the video (click screenshot below), Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, forced to the ground by the cops, and then cried that he didn’t do anything and just wanted to go home. That was enough to make the cops pepper-spray him in the face repeatedly.

Nichols manages to get up and start running toward home, at which point they taze him, which doesn’t seem to be improper procedure.

He’s chased, taken down again, and then gets hit and repeatedly pepper-sprayed as he calls “Mom!” (This is heartbreaking.) Then he’s beaten with a baton, punched and kicked—all without appearing to offer any resistance. Even when he’s forced to stand up by the cops, and probably unconscious, they still keep beating him. Nichols is then dragged to the car and the cops stand around, not doing anything to assist Nichols until an ambulance arrives.

Nichols died three days later in the hospital. The autopsy said he died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” That’s no surprise given the video.

If you want to watch, and do so only if you can tolerate extreme brutality, I recommend the NYT video (be sure to turn the sound on), as it shows the entire event from Nichols being forced out of the car to being beaten and kicked until the ambulance arrives, but I’ve put the NBC News report on the event, which shows the apparent police brutality, at the bottom.

The video was released last night, and there have been demonstrations, but they were peaceful, as Nichols’s family requested.

To me it sure looks like manslaughter, and there is no obvious reason save police anger and desire for revenge that warrants such brutal treatment. Nichols put up no resistance except, before the beaten, when he broke free and tried to run home.  How a police officer can beat, kick, and pepper-spray someone who gave up and is calling for his mom is beyond belief—and it’s the police, not a personal altercation.

The indictment seems to be n the mark, and it’s a good thing there was a “skycam” nearby and the bodycams were turned on. Who knows what the cops might have made up had this not been the case? My heart goes out to Nichols’s family—especially his mom, for whom he called as he was beaten within an inch of his life. They had to watch their son’s slaughter before the video was release to the public yesteeray.

The NYT article below has more details, but you can read them for yourself. It’s unspeakably sad.

Here are details from the NYT if you can’t bear to watch:

Mr. Nichols was stopped on the evening of Jan. 7 in the southeastern corner of the city. Officers forced him out of his car and wrestled him to the ground, according to the videos. He dropped to the ground and laid on his side, imploring the officers to stop and saying, “I’m just trying to get home,” as they held down different parts of his body.

Though he appeared to show no resistance, the police threatened to hurt him further and continued to order him to get on the ground, apparently wanting him to roll onto his stomach. About two minutes into the encounter, an officer directed pepper spray at his face. At that point, Mr. Nichols got up from the ground and ran from the officers, one of whom fired a stun gun at him.

About eight minutes later, officers caught up with him again in a residential area near his family’s home. After tackling him, they beat him severely, as Mr. Nichols screamed in agony.

A body-worn camera and a surveillance camera captured police officers continuing their assault on Mr. Nichols, with one kicking him so hard in the face that the officer nearly fell down. Throughout the beating, which lasted about three minutes, Mr. Nichols did not appear to ever strike back. Several times, he moved his hands to cover his face, seeming to cower from the officers’ blows.

An independent autopsy commissioned by his family found that Mr. Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to preliminary findings released this week.

The video below (it’s here as well) shows the bit where Nichols is assaulted, and it’s narrated by the NBC broadcasters and analyzed after a few minutes of video. Click on the “Watch on YouTube” line.

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 28, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s batch of bird photos comes from reader Paul Edelman, an emeritus professor of law and mathematics at Vanderbilt. Paul’s narrative is indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

  We spent a couple of weeks at the beginning of January in and around Naples, Florida and had a great time birding.  I have two batches for you.  The first is birds that spend most of their time in the trees or air, the second will be on birds who inhabit marsh and shore.  [JAC: stay tuned.] All the photos were taken with my trusty Nikon D500 and Nikkor 500mm f5.6 lens.

On the drive down to Naples we stopped overnight in Ocala, FL and had a chance to do some birding at the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park.  Amazingly, we saw two new birds for us, the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (is there a more aptly named bird?) and the Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) (which is decidedly inaptly named, since the orange crown is almost never evident.)  Not a bad way to start the trip.

Red-headed Woodpecker:

Orange-crowned Warbler:

One of our favorite birding sites is the Audobon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located northeast of Naples. Here we saw the Black-and-White Warbler (Mniotilta varia), the Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius) and the White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus),  Even better we caught sight of the Short-tailed Hawk  (Buteo brachyurus). The only place in the US to see this hawk is  south Florida and it was another new bird for us.

Black-and-White Warbler:

Blue-headed Vireo:

White-eyed Vireo:

Short-tailed Hawk:

We drove up to another favorite spot, Harns Marsh, which is northeast of Fort Meyers. Mostly we saw shore and marsh birds there, but there is always an abundance of Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus).

Black Vulture:

Finally we went to a new location south of Naples, Eagle Lakes Community Park where we caught a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) hunting from the telephone wires.

Loggerhead Shrikes:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 28, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Cat shabbos: Saturday, January 28, 2023: National Blueberry Pancake Day, a fine breakfast. Not having a photo of these, I’ll show some cherry pancakes I ate in Gdansk, Poland. Note the sour cream on the side.

It’s also International LEGO Day, Daisy Day, National Seed Swap Day, and Data Privacy Day.

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

Da Nooz:

*The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is making a serious commitment to free expression. They not only passed a resolution adhering to Chicago’s own Free Expression and Institutional Neutrality (Kalven) Principles, but they’ve started an entire new academic unit devoted to free expression. I just hope that it won’t be constructed to be deliberately antiwoke and contrarian (like the University of Austin, which seems pretty ideological to me). Of all places, I found this information in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. But here’s just the facts, ma’am:

UNC will establish the School of Civic Life and Leadership and plans to hire professors from across the ideological spectrum to teach in such academic departments as history, literature, philosophy, political science and religion. These disciplines have become enforcers of ideological uniformity at most schools. Board Chair David Boliek and Vice Chair John Preyer tell us that the idea is to end “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes.”

Rather than replacing current professors or creating faculty turf battles, UNC plans to create a discrete program with its own dean and at least 20 new professors to build a syllabus free from ideological enforcers. Students will be able to choose the new classes to fulfill university core requirements. Those who aren’t interested can stay in the existing courses.

Of course the paper’s editorial board applaud this as a pushback against the fulminating wokeness in colleges, but I bet that UNC will not let itself become the University of Austin.

*From reader Ken:

Good news on the school library front: a Kentucky judge has dismissed a small-claims lawsuit brought by some bluenose against a school librarian for stocking a book the bluenose objected to.

The article, from Louisville Public Media’s “All things considered,” says this:

Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel should have been welcoming students back to school Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. Instead, she was in small claims court with school district attorneys, defending her decision to keep “All Boys Aren’t Blue” on the shelves.

The award-winning book of personal essays by George M. Johnson has become a target of book bans across the U.S., along with many other titles written by Black or LGBTQ authors. 2021 and 2022 were both record-setting years for attempts at censorship, according to the anti-censorship group Unite Against Book Bans. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is in the top ten most challenged books of 2021, alongside “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, a frequent flier on banned books lists over the last four decades. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, also made the 2021 list. Kobabe’s graphic memoir was the subject of another recent challenge in Jefferson County Public Schools.

A local man brought suit, but in the wrong court:

When [Kurt] Heckel refused to pull the titles Wallace objected to, he sued her in small claims court — a legal venue where individuals can settle disputes involving $2,500 or less in money or personal property. Other cases heard Tuesday included quarrels over car repairs and moving jobs.

Wallace’s claim was that the librarian owed him $2,300 in damages for her book selections.

In the courtroom Tuesday, District Court Judge Jennifer Leibson explained what cases could and could not be decided in Small Claims Division. Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.

He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.

“Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.

And here’s the best part: the judge’s aside to the defendant (my bolding):

After the judge dismissed Wallace, she turned to Heckel, who sat flanked by JCPS attorneys.

“I just want to say I’m so sorry you have to deal with this,” Leibson told Heckel. “I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”

*Andrew Sullivan’s latest Substack piece is called “The other black lives that matter,” and from the title I thought he was going to write about black-on-black crime, but that’s just half of it—the rest is about educational problems in the African-American community:

In my web-reading this week, I stumbled across two statistics that made me sit up straight. The first came from a devastating story last September about my home city’s public schools. I had just watched a slick new video from DC Public Schools about their new “equity” push, which aims to go “beyond students’ academics” and “call out inequities.” The video is full of vague-sounding pabulum — they never define what they mean by “equity,” for example, apart from invoking Ibram X Kendi’s term “antiracism” — but the message is very clear: “equity” is now the central focus of the school district. And it’s a bright new day!

Now check out the data on how the DC Public School system is faring. A key metric is what they call “proficiency rates” — a test of whether the kids are passing the essentials of reading and math at every stage of their education. Overall, only 31 percent of DC students have proficiency in reading and just 19 percent have proficiency in math. Drill down further in the racial demographics and the picture is even worse: among African-American kids, the numbers are 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Among black boys, it’s 15 percent and 9 percent. Which means to say that DC Public Schools graduate kids who are overwhelmingly unable to do the most basic reading and math that any employer would need.

This is not a function of money. In the most recent federal analysis: DC spends far more per student — $30,000 a year — than any other state, double the amount in many states across the country.

Let’s put it this way: if this were a corporation, it would be in liquidation. If it were a house, it would be condemned. But since it’s a public school system, it can avoid this catastrophic failure by emphasizing “equity”!

Call this the woke dodge. As they fail to educate kids in the very basics, they brandish a shiny object over there — “Diversity! Equity! Inclusion! ” — to distract us. Or they claim that these scores are caused by “white supremacy” or “systemic racism.” Or they argue that now, they are educating “the whole child.” From the DCPS video: “The racial equity lens is a critical component of ‘whole child’ for us because being a ‘whole child’ means thinking about all of your identities, but certainly the racial identity is a gap in what we’re discussing as a country.” Anything but do the basic job of teaching math and reading as they are supposed to do.

The truth is: they obviously can’t teach those subjects successfully. I’m sure many are good teachers doing their best, and some manage to rescue some of these kids, who often face terrible trauma in their homes and neighborhoods. But the data overall are damning. Imagine spending $30K a year on a student, any kid, in any country, and after 12 years, he still can’t spell or do basic math. It must be really hard to pull that off. And as a reward, you get a shitload of money from the city and the feds to keep it up. Criticize them? You’re a “white supremacist.”

I don’t understand why, and this is well known, throwing money at schools doesn’t help the kids. You’d think they could afford good teachers and teaching aids, but, I suppose, there’s the issue of stuff in the black community that may impede education, like no-father families and a view that educational striving is a “white” trait. I am no expert, but this is concerning. Here’s a bit on the crime:

Then there’s the other stat that blew my mind — on the post-BLM surge in murders of African-Americans, including many children. The rise in homicide has cooled off somewhat, as Robert Verbruggen notes. But check this out:

Between the 2018–2019 and 2020–2021 periods, the black homicide rate went up by about 40 percent and the white one by 15 percent — already a glaring disparity. But since the black homicide rate started out so much higher than the white one, this translated to an increase of just 0.4 per 100,000 for whites and 9.7 per 100,000 for blacks — nearly 25 times as large. The increase in the black homicide rate was greater than the total homicide rate for the nation as a whole.

Read that last sentence again.

I did, and it’s already clear from the first sentence. If the black homicide rate goes up by 40%, and the white homicide rate by 15%, then it’s clear that the rate for blacks will be higher than the national overall homicide rate. Am I misunderstanding something? At any rate, Sullivan’s point is on target: the D.C. city council, in going increasingly easier on crime, is ignoring a frightening statistic.

*Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day (the anniversary of the Russian Army liberating Auschwitz in 1945), but it was still marked by war and death. Since the Russians invaded Ukraine, the Poles did not invite them to the official ceremony at Auschwitz.

Piotr Cywinski, Auschwitz state museum director, compared Nazi crimes to those the Russians have committed in Ukrainian towns like Bucha and Mariupol. He said they were inspired by a “similar sick megalomania” and that free people must not remain indifferent.

“Being silent means giving voice to the perpetrators,” Cywinski said. “Remaining indifferent is tantamount to condoning murder.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended observances marking the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 2005. This year, no Russian official was invited due to the attack on Ukraine.

Valentina Matvienko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, deplored that as a “cynical” move.

“They refused to invite the liberators so that they could pay tribute to the memory of the victims,” she said. “Of course, this is very worrying.”

I see no hypocrisy there. It was the Germans who killed the inmates, and yes, the Russians freed them, but the modern Russian army also wantonly invaded a peaceful country without provocation. If you ever are in Poland, get yourself to Kraków and take the one-hour bus ride to Auschwitz. Then take a tour (don’t do it on your own; you’ll miss a lot as the guides are deeply invested in teaching). Unless you’re a Jew-hater, you will never be the same again, I guarantee.

Oh, and a Palestinian terrorist marked the day by attacking a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven civilians and injuring ten others before he was killed himself.

*Over at Bari Weiss’s Free Press site, Nellie Bowles tenders her patented and snarky weekly news summary, “TGIF: 90 seconds to midnight.” Here are three of the many items:

→ Thanks for the tanks: The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine. From us, it’ll be 31 70-ton Abrams battle tanks. “These tanks will burn just like the rest,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Not much to say on it except: This war is escalating. At the start of it, I assumed that Russia, looking at American military might, would back down and seek some resolution. Not happening. When Biden restarts the draft, at least there will be good content. We can have fun with stats on how many single young men suddenly self-ID as middle-aged moms?

Less fun when we realize that the draft will certainly be genderfluid, and I’ll be shipped out, forced to smuggle TGIF through from Sloviansk.

→ In other Twitter news: The company blocked users in India from watching a BBC documentary that’s critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s one thing for an Indian university to cut power before students could watch the documentary, but it’s another for Twitter to do Modi’s bidding and censor it. Annoyingly, the actor John Cusack, who is often a jerk online, is a victim of Modi-Twitter censorship, and so fine . . . we stand with John Cusack just this once. Anyway, you know what to do: Watch the BBC Modi documentary.

→ Moderna wants to make the vax a luxury: Moderna is looking to charge around $130 for its Covid vaccine. This has been rumbling for a few weeks now. Yes, American taxpayers paid $2.5 billion to develop that vaccine. Then Moderna turns around and decides to charge Americans $130 for the shot. Makes sense, right?

As I looked into this, I noticed something odd. The mainstream media and big tech companies have been laying the political groundwork to get Americans ready for a $130 vax price since the very beginning. They’ve done this by trying to deny that taxpayers funded the vaccine development.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants to be brought inside from her “nest” on the veranda, but also wants cuddles:

Hili: I’m asking for the last time: will you pick me up?
A: I will.
Hili: And do not put me down again anywhere later.
In Polish:
Hili: Po raz ostatni pytam, czy weźmiesz mnie na ręce?
Ja: Wezmę.
Hili: A potem nigdzie mnie nie odkładaj.


From Merilee: A cat and meerkat being BFFs:

From Stash Krod. This is cruelty to insects! “A riot of fun”, indeed. . .

From Malcolm: a FB video on transparent aluminum, a compound made from aluminum, nitrogen, and oxygen (“alum”):

Masih notes a new piece by Faisal on his Substack site in which he interviews a brave woman who runs an underground school for women and girls in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

From SImon: a Nature cover explaining missense (and nonsense) mutations:

From Malcolm: Someone gets pwned on Twitter:

From Barry, an insect whose condition would seem to be incompatible with life:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who survived only eight days, and a tweet by someone who colorized his photo:

Tweets from Matthew Cobb. First, a heartwarming story from DodoLand, where all is well.


Nicola White is a “mudlark”, someone who roams muddy river banks (usually on the Thames) looking for memorabilia and cool old stuff:

Just something to remember after Holocaust Memorial Day:

Don’t forget as well that although six million Jews died in the Holocaust, so did four million non-Jewish people.

Nick Cohen on the AP’s language recommendation

January 27, 2023 • 12:30 pm

It’s been a while since I posted about anything by Nick Cohen, whom I used to read (and admire) all the time. I guess he’s writing more often on his Substack site.  Checking that out, I found this on his Wikipedia bio:

Nicholas Cohen (born 1961) is a British journalist, author and political commentator. He was a columnist for The Observer and a blogger for The Spectator. Following accusations of sexual harassment, he left The Observer in 2022 and began publishing on the Substack platform.

The footnote for the accusations goes to a Guardian article. in which a woman accused Cohen of sexual assault via groping.  I was shocked, and the fact that Cohen left the Observer after an investigation is disturbing.  I found that out after I already drafted a post with this post from Cohen’s Facebook page. I thought the AP’s “retraction” (an Cohen’s remark) was hilarious, but it loses some humor in light of the above.

I put that first tweet by the AP in the Hili Dialogues the other day, but I guess it’s gone now. At least somebody saved it, and oy did it get pushback!

A little beef

January 27, 2023 • 11:15 am

Here’s a dilemma I face constantly. A lot of material on this site is devoted to opposing “progressive liberal” (i.e., “woke”) initiatives, particularly in science. And I’m pretty much of an absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech on campus, which isn’t exactly an attitude that’s au courant or ubiquitous among progressives.

Whenever another site links to a post on WEIT, which is fairly often, I get a “pingback” that lets me know that someplace has put up a link. Very often I go to see how my posts are being used, and very often—in fact at least 90% of the time—it’s a right-wing site like The College Fix, or The American Conservative, or someone like that, all of them decrying wokeness. Likewise, you’ll never see my criticisms of the incursion of wokeness into science appear in science journals—or in any left-wing media. In other words, my words are being uses to attack the Left, which happens to be the end of the political spectrum I’m on.

Now I could look at this situation in two ways.

1.) Since I go after what I see as irrational or harmful behaviors of “progressives”—and I do that to try to show that even liberals can call out their own, as well as to help purge the authoritarian and reflexively irrational elements on my own side of the aisle—I could regard these pingbacks as helping me in those efforts.


2.) The audience for these right-wing websites isn’t just interested in getting rid of “progressivism” or authoritarianism in the Left: they want to get rid of the entire Left. To the extent that my words are being construed as tarring the entire Left, I could be seen as hurting my own cause. Or even as helping the most dire Republicans around—the people like Trump who call out wokeness to go after Democrats in general.

Each time I see a pingback from one of these conservative sites, then, I am ambivalent. Am I helping or hurting my own cause? Like all people who take my point of view, I have of course been called “alt-right,” “racist”, and even a white supremacist. I brush off those names because they’re just slurs that progressives who lack arguments use to tar their opponents.

Now I’ve already my decision: I’m going to keep doing what I do (alternative 1) for several reasons. My motivations in calling out woke craziness is not to go after the Left as a whole, and thus I may, as someone with Leftist beliefs and a fairly activist track record, have more credibility than the right-wing sites who call out the same stuff. Further, I cannot bear it when the Left is associated with performative nonsense and general insanity. It’s like when someone in your family is acting badly: you call them out before others do, because, after all, they’re family. Finally, I still think that purging progressives from the Democratic side, or at least letting others know that we recognize the Follies of the Woke, will keep centrists from moving toward the Right. So long as people think all Leftists are “progressive”, they will shy away from the Left, and that would not be good.

I just wanted to air these thoughts. Readers are welcome to react, and you can tell me to dial down my criticisms of “progressivism,” but I’m not going to do it.  Oh, and please don’t lecture me about using the word “woke”. I have not found a good substitute and I’ve gotten plenty of blowback about that, which I’ve also rejected.

The kerfuffle over “Latinx”

January 27, 2023 • 9:20 am

Inside Higher Ed, the downmarket version of Chronicles of Higher Education, has published a piece by Bryan Betancur, assistant professor of Spanish at Furman University and a Colombian-American who writes about issues concerning Latinos.  But Betancur would not say “Latinos” as he argues in the following long op-ed, nor would he say “Latinx” which he (and a lot of genuine Latinos as well as yours truly) despises. Betancur’s article is twice as long as it should be, but he does make a couple of good points.

First, he notes, as we already know, that Americans of Latin-America ancestry generally dislike the term “Latinx”:

. . . U.S. politicians (primarily Democrats) continue using “Latinx” in social media posts despite growing evidence that only a small fraction of U.S. adults who identify as Latino or Hispanic (just 3 percent) refer to themselves as Latinx, while as many as four in 10 members of this heterogenous population find the term irksome or offensive.

Check out the links; he’s right.

As you may know, “Latinx” was a term developed by academics and promulgated mainly by the self-styled “in the know” progressive Democrats as the plural for people of Latin-American extraction. Since a male is a “Latino” and a female a “Latina”, it seemed to the wokerati a bit misogynistic to make the word for a group of people the same as the plural for “man”: “Latinos”. They therefore appended an “x” to “Latin,” creating an unpronounceable but ideologically acceptable term. (The same has been done to “women”, getting rid of the offensive “men” part by replacing the “e” with an “x”, creating the equally unpronounceable “womxn”. There’s also the alternative “womyn,” which is touted as less inclusive!

My own objection to “Latinx” is that you can’t pronounce it, and it’s also a performative and nearly useless change that was done to flaunt the virtue of the “progressive” people who confected and who use it. It’s especially bad because Hispanics (the term I use) do not like it or use it, either.

But apparently Betancur agrees with the objectionable nature of “Latinos” as a plural. But his objections aren’t quite the same as the ones given above, for he is woke.  He sees Latinx as non-inclusive.

a.) You can’t pronounce it, and that’s an issue for many Hispanics who don’t speak English (“Latinx” can’t be pronounced in Spanish), and who rely more on verbal rather than written communication.

My perspective on “Latinx” changed in 2019 when my mom, who only speaks to me in Spanish, asked me to explain the term’s significance. More accurately, she tried to reference the identifier but was unsure how to pronounce it. Her uncertainty granted me new insight into my discomfort with the term “Latinx.” I could explain gender-inclusive language to my mom but could only spell out terms like queridx, because these words cannot be pronounced in Spanish. The battle against grammatical gender was inaccessible to my mom, who did not attend college and was not about to read a jargony essay on the subject.

If this new linguistic practice did not lend itself to a simple oral explanation to my mom, it also excluded much of my family and the immigrant community in which I grew up. What’s more, the allegedly inclusive language also left out a significant portion of my students at Bronx Community College, many of whom come from backgrounds like mine. I finally understood that the knee-jerk aversion I felt toward “Latinx” stemmed from an unconscious recognition that this linguistic practice was not as inclusive as its many adherents, including myself, claimed.

Following that conversation, I scoured the internet for critiques of “Latinx” and found an edifying interview with Mexican linguist Concepción Company. Company asserts that using language in a manner that yields words such as amigx privileges writing over orality and excludes groups, such as some Indigenous communities, that lack formal writing systems These populations are thus denied equal opportunity to participate in activism via language. My family, my community and my students were not the only ones left out of the Latinx conversation.

b.) The term is therefore not inclusive but divisive:

My perspective on “Latinx” changed in 2019 when my mom, who only speaks to me in Spanish, asked me to explain the term’s significance. More accurately, she tried to reference the identifier but was unsure how to pronounce it. Her uncertainty granted me new insight into my discomfort with the term “Latinx.” I could explain gender-inclusive language to my mom but could only spell out terms like queridx, because these words cannot be pronounced in Spanish. The battle against grammatical gender was inaccessible to my mom, who did not attend college and was not about to read a jargony essay on the subject.

. . . If this new linguistic practice did not lend itself to a simple oral explanation to my mom, it also excluded much of my family and the immigrant community in which I grew up. What’s more, the allegedly inclusive language also left out a significant portion of my students at Bronx Community College, many of whom come from backgrounds like mine. I finally understood that the knee-jerk aversion I felt toward “Latinx” stemmed from an unconscious recognition that this linguistic practice was not as inclusive as its many adherents, including myself, claimed.

In other words, he’s using a woke argument against a woke term (my bolding):

Arguments that emphasize the use of “Latinx” among English speakers implicitly separate persons of Latin American descent into two groups: monolingual Spanish speakers and those who were born in the U.S. and primarily speak English. This de facto division runs counter to assertions that “Latinx” denotes inclusivity. Some descendants of Latin American immigrants might not feel a strong attachment to Spanish, but that does not mean the language in its spoken form ought to be dismissed. For the more than 460 million native speakers in the world, Spanish is not an abstract remnant of colonialism but a lived means of communication. Expecting a multinational ethnic group to tolerate language simply because it is acceptable to English speakers is linguistic imperialism under the guise of social progress.

Following that conversation, I scoured the internet for critiques of “Latinx” and found an edifying interview with Mexican linguist Concepción Company. Company asserts that using language in a manner that yields words such as amigx privileges writing over orality and excludes groups, such as some Indigenous communities, that lack formal writing systems These populations are thus denied equal opportunity to participate in activism via language. My family, my community and my students were not the only ones left out of the Latinx conversation.

So what term does the sweating professor want to use? I guess “Hispanic” isn’t good enough (I suppose you could make some kind of argument for geographical accuracy, but do we really care?) As the Pew Poll notes, most people of “Latino” extraction in the U.S. actually prefer “Hispanic”:

A majority (61%) say they prefer Hispanic to describe the Hispanic or Latino population in the U.S., and 29% say they prefer Latino. Meanwhile, just 4% say they prefer Latinx to describe the Hispanic or Latino population.

But Betancur likes the new term “Latine”, with the neutral “e” at the end, a usage that, he says, is gaining ground in Latin America in terms like “amigues” for “friends.” It is not only inclusive, but easy to pronounce:

But when it comes to “Latinx” and “Latine,” the question is not a matter of personal choice, as many claim. This assertion creates a false equivalence between the terms. I use “Latine” because inclusive language should not value literacy over orality, English over Spanish, or the ivory tower over the greater community.

But why not “Hispanic”?

This is, of course, a tempest in a teapot. I could just as well campaign for the elimination of “Jews” as a pejorative plural, and insist on using “Jewish people” to emphasize our status as human beings. But I can’t be bothered. (Of course, “Jewess” is no longer a viable word for a Jewish female (have they been erased?), so perhaps even “Jews”, construed as plural for the formerly male term “Jew”, should now be “Jewx”.)

From the Pew Poll:


h/t: Wayne

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 27, 2023 • 8:15 am

Reader Chris Schulte sent some photos from a trip to the Galápagos archipelago. (I was supposed to be there in about a week, but since the trip was combined with a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, and there are riots and unrest in that country, they canceled the whole deal. But I’ll be lecturing instead on a trip to the islands in August, and it will not be canceled because the Galápagos are part of Ecuador, not Peru).

Chris’s captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

My wife and I went to the Galápagos a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to send these to you for a while. I don’t know if everything is identified correctly, but perhaps someone who knows better can correct me.

Galápagos Tortoise – (Chelonoidis niger) at El Chato 2 ranch:

Lava Lizard, Microlophus spp.:

Large Ground FinchGeospiza magnirostris:

Woodpecker FinchCamarhynchus pallidus:

Marine IguanaAmblyrhynchus cristatus:
I’m not sure if this is a Striated Heron, Butorides striatus, or Galápagos Heron (also “Lava heron”), Butorides sundevali, at the fish market:

Galapagos Sea LionZolophus wolleboeki:

Galapágos MockingbirdNesomimus parvulus:

A Yellow warblerDendroica petechia, letting me get really close:

White-cheeked PintailAnas bahamensis:

We were able to go snorkeling at Kicker Rock. I think someone said that it was 800 ft. deep between the two islets. Of course that is where you splash in

The first thing I saw was… unexpected:

I saw something out of the corner of my eye and was able to take a quick snap of it:
And a couple of Nazca boobiesSula granti, on the rocks above:

Friday: Hili dialogue

January 27, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on Friday, January 27, 2023: National Chocolate Cake Day. It’s a good day to have a “cake shake” at the famed Chicago hot-dog chain Portillo’s. They put an entire piece of frosted chocolate cake into a milkshake. I’ve had their terrific dogs, but not a cake shake. My New Year’s resolution is to remedy that.

It’s also National Geographic Day (the organization was founded on this day in 1888), Thomas Crapper Day (he died on this day in 1910), and International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust, honoring the day in 1945 that Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army.  Here’s are photos of released inmates taken on or around the day of liberation (read more and see other photos at this History Channel site).

And a tweet:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 27 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*More rogue cops.  Five Memphis police officers have been charged with the murder of Tyre Nichols, a 29 year old black man, after they stopped him for reckless driving. The stop was captured on video, but it hasn’t yet been released (the family and head cops get to see it first.  I’ll reserve judgment, as usual, but since the police chief who has seen the video says that the beating the cops gave the man was “a failing of basic humanity,” I assume that the cops used excessive force. From the NYT:

Here are the details:

  • The officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were arrested on charges including second-degree murder. “The actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible,” Shelby County District Attorney Steven J. Mulroy said of the officers. All five officers, who are Black, were fired last week.

  • A lawyer for Mr. Nichols’s family said the family was encouraged by the charges. “That these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre,” the lawyer, Ben Crump, said in a statement. He added, “This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death.” Here is what we know about Mr. Nichols.

  • Video of the traffic stop will be released Friday, Mr. Mulroy said, as the city braced for any angry response to the footage. David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said he had watched the recordings. “In a word, it’s absolutely appalling,” he said. He added, “This was wrong, this was criminal.”

  • Mr. Nichols was stopped by officers on suspicion of reckless driving on the evening of Jan. 7. After what the police described in an initial statement as two confrontations with Mr. Nichols, an ambulance was called after he complained of shortness of breath.

  • Mr. Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to preliminary findings of an autopsy commissioned by his family. His family shared a photograph taken before he died on Jan. 10 that showed him in a hospital bed, apparently unconscious, his face bruised and swollen.

The D.A., who must have seen the video since he laid the charges, agreed with the police chief. What we might well have here are authoritarian and bloodthirsty cops. Really, a beating? I’d be curious to know what Nichols did that would deserve such an attack.

*Over at her Free Press site, Bari Weiss initiated a discussion among readers about why New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigned. Was it because of her low approval ratings (in the thirties) that came from her policies, or was she the victim of sexism?

Could there have been a more perfect avatar of Davos-progressivism than New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern? There she was—the youngest woman on the world stage, and pretty to boot. When she brought her three-month-old to the UN General Assembly, the press went wild.

Outside of New Zealand, the press loved everything Ardern. Her handsome fiance. Her fashion sense. The fact that she was the first Kiwi PM to march in a gay pride parade.

“Lady of the Rings: Jacinda Rules,” declared Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.

Vogue crowed her the “anti-Trump.”

But while the leader was beloved by elite Americans, the warm feeling didn’t extend to her own citizens. The most recent polls out of New Zealand saw Ardern’s Labor Party approval ratings in the low thirties.

Facing the prospect of a devastating election in October, Ardern pulled the plug. Last week, she resigned. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.”

The Washington Post chalked the whole thing up to sexism. “Sexism dogged Jacinda Ardern’s tenure. Battling it is part of her legacy.”

Never mind that New Zealand implemented some of the most draconian Covid policies in the world outside China. Or that there is growing gang violence in the country. Or that inflation there is at 7.2 percent.

“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called ‘real’ reason was,” said Ardern. “I can tell you that what I am sharing today is it.”

She said the reason is that she wanted to finally get married and needed time to plan the wedding.

So let’s discuss.

As of yesterday afternoon there were about 515 comments in the discussion, most of which ignored the question or talked about Canada. This answer, by Jill, seemed the most cogent of the batch I inspected. As for me, I had great hopes for Ardern but she was both too woke and too lax in carrying out the promises she made.

*The Associated Press has an intriguing article about gene therapy for brain diseases, which has promise for greatly improving conditions caused by mutations in single genes, but also for more complex maladies like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A genetically engineered virus containing a working version of a gene whose mutation has caused a disease is infused into the brain (preferably in a young person before much damage sets in), and the gene gets inserted into the brain cells. In some cases in can make a huge difference.

When Rylae-Ann Poulin was a year old, she didn’t crawl or babble like other kids her age. A rare genetic disorder kept her from even lifting her head. Her parents took turns holding her upright at night just so she could breathe comfortably and sleep.

Then, months later, doctors delivered gene therapy directly to her brain.

Now the 4-year-old is walking, running, swimming, reading and riding horses — “just doing so many amazing things that doctors once said were impossible,” said her mother, Judy Wei.

Rylae-Ann, who lives with her family in Bangkok, was among the first to benefit from a new way of delivering gene therapy — attacking diseases inside the brain — that experts believe holds great promise for treating a host of brain disorders.

Her treatment recently became the first brain-delivered gene therapy after its approval in Europe and the United Kingdom for AADC deficiency, a disorder that interferes with the way cells in the nervous system communicate. New Jersey drugmaker PTC Therapeutics plans to seek U.S. approval this year.

Meanwhile, about 30 U.S. studies testing gene therapy to the brain for various disorders are ongoing, according to the National Institutes of Health. One, led by Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz at Ohio State University, also targets AADC deficiency. Others test treatments for disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

. . .Challenges remain, especially with diseases caused by more than a single gene. But scientists say the evidence supporting this approach is mounting — opening a new frontier in the fight against disorders afflicting our most complex and mysterious organ.

“There’s a lot of exciting times ahead of us,” said Bankiewicz, a neurosurgeon. “We’re seeing some breakthroughs.”

The most dramatic of those breakthroughs involve Rylae-Ann’s disease, which is caused by mutations in a gene needed for an enzyme that helps make neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, the body’s chemical messengers. The one-time treatment delivers a working version of the gene.

Because our blood-brain barrier (read about it; it’s a wonderful evolved system) prevents pathogens in the body from getting into the brain, the engineered viruses are put into the brain through a tube that goes through a hole drilled in the skull.

*If you’re into red wine, and especially Italian red wine, I’d have a read of Lettie Teague’s Wall Street Journal column in which she enthusiastically recommends five Lange (a region) Nebbiolo wines that are all in the vicinity of $20. She calls them “the bargain Barolo, for they’re made from the same grapes as the great Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Although I haven’t tried one of these, you can bet that I will. They look to be widely available, too.

Just about every great wine has a “good” counterpart: a wine made from the same grape in the same place but in a more accessible and/or affordable style.

For lovers of Barolo and Barbaresco, the great wines from the Langhe region in Piedmont, Italy, that wine would likely be Langhe Nebbiolo. It’s made from the same grape in the same place, but unlike its superstar counterparts, it’s incredibly cheap. How much does a Langhe Nebbiolo actually resemble a Barolo or Barbaresco? I’d say it depends on where the grapes were sourced, how the wine was vinified and, perhaps most important, how much pride the producer takes in making a “lesser” wine.

Nebbiolo is considered one of the world’s greatest grapes, but unlike widely planted varietal superstars such as Cabernet and Merlot, Nebbiolo is really only great in one place: Italy’s Piedmont. It’s planted elsewhere in Italy (chiefly Valle d’Aosta and Lombardy) and in various places around the world, but the consensus among wine professionals is that truly world-class Nebbiolo only comes from Piedmont.

The Langhe hills of Piedmont are particularly well suited to this early-budding but late-ripening variety. In many ways, it’s a contradictory grape: light-bodied, almost translucent and marked by beguiling aromas of red fruit and spice that evoke comparisons to Pinot Noir; and yet, unlike Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo wines can be quite tannic, even astringent and high in acidity, particularly in their youth. I’ve had young Nebbiolos that could strip the enamel from your teeth.

Read the piece and then go to the wine store. If you’re loaded, you can even pick up a genuine Barolo, but it will require aging. Here are her recommended wines:

*And I’ll finish with a brief nomination for Tweet of the Year:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is adhering to Bart Erman’s conception of Jesus: a Jewish apocalyptic, messianic preacher:

Hili: If my eyes do not deceive me the world has gone crazy.
A: Nihil novi sub sole.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli mnie wzrok nie myli, to świat zwariował.
Ja: Nihil novi sub sole.

Lagniappe: Matthew sent a photo of the family cat Pepper (they have three moggies) watching a duck on YouTube. Matthew says, “This is a cat tv channel. 8 hours of birds.”


From the Facebook site Not Necessarily Stoned, but Beautiful: Hippies of the 60s and Beyond:

So true! From Pradeep:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih, a rude gesture surely inspired by religion. Look at the Queen’s expression when she’s blown off.

From Barry, who notes, “This is strange. Why would a bunch of lions not go in for the kill when they had the chance? It’s interesting that the roughhousing, if that’s what it is, got in the way”:

From Malcolm: a single brain neuron seeking a connection:

I like Gal Gadot more than Philomena Cunk, and that’s saying a lot!

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Two tweets today.

An eleven year old gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Herr Professor Cobb aus Manchester. First, a 3.5-minute rescue story, this time of a magpie who imprints on his rescuer. Sound up. (As usual, all ends well in DodoLand:

Poor rat! I hope it was all right. . .

. . . and a frightening horse:

Animals being rescued

January 26, 2023 • 1:38 pm

As does NBC News each evening, I’ll end today with another feel-good story: in this case a video of people helping animals in trouble. It’s this kind of stuff that I really go to Twitter and Facebook for.  Social media can show you the worst parts of humans, but also the best; and here’s some of the latter.

Yeah, it may be schlocky, but I don’t care. I like it. There’s a duck rescue, too.

The American Society of Human Genetics castigates itself for past eugenics, but engages in doublethink

January 26, 2023 • 11:45 am

As so many science organizations are doing, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) is taking a hard look at its past and castigating itself for its involvement in eugenics, discrimination, promotion of claims about genetic inequalities, and other activities considered insupportable in modern times. The ASHG was thorough, and published a 45-page report detailing the Facing Our History – Building an Equitable Future Initiative.

I looked through it, and like most of these things it’s a mixture of the good (e.g.,  recounting of the history of harmful political ideology in human genetics) and the not so good (eliminating the names of people willy-nilly from awards, the constant emphasis on “equity” instead of “equality”, etc.). Although the bad stuff is largely behind us, it’s still salubrious for people to know the history of their field. (By the way, eugenics is still being practiced in conjunction with genetic counseling. For example, every time a couple decides to abort a fetus with Down Syndrome or genetic disease, that’s eugenics.)

But the emphasis on equity, equity, and more equity is an ideological position because of its tacit assumption that all inequities (that is, unequal representation of groups compared to their proportion in a relevant population) are due to presently acting forms of institutionalized racism, to which human genetics has contributed. In constantly calling for equity as an important goal of the Society, the ASHG is taking an ideological position.

In the article above on his website, Noah Carl found one item I missed in the ASHG report. (Yes, I know of Carl’s infamy: he was fired from a position at Cambridge University for working on the connection between human race and intelligence: an ideologically taboo topic that was, in his case, also characterized as “poor scholarship”).

But I’ll just give Carl’s thoughts on one part of the ASHG statement, a part that shows the cluelessness of ideologues who don’t recognize when their own ideology is permeating science even though, like bloodhounds, they’re very able to sniff out ideologies that they don’t like.

Here’s Carl’s quote; the yellowing in the extract from the ASHG statement is his.

Anyway, one paragraph in the statement did catch my eye. It outlines some of the “challenges” facing human genetics, one of which is “denouncing the warping of science for advocacy agendas”. Here, they’re presumably referring to the misuse of science to justify racism and eugenics.

What’s remarkable, though, is that the very same paragraph includes this sentence: “ASHG encourages individual members, peer societies, academic centers, agencies, industry partners, and others to reflect on how everyone’s contributions will help foster inclusive equity agendas.”

Screenshot of the ASHG statement.

So on the one hand, we must denounce the “warping of science for advocacy agendas”. But on the other, we must “help foster inclusive equity agendas”. You can’t make it up! They even managed to use the same word “agenda” in both places.

The statement’s authors would no doubt assure us they’d never dream of warping science to foster an “inclusive equity agenda”. Only people with Bad agendas warp science! But this is what’s known in the technical jargon as a lie.

And the sentence I highlighted is far from the only place where the authors take an openly political stance. They begin by noting that ASHG has been “late in making explicit efforts to integrate equity, diversity, and inclusion into its values, programs, and voice”. And they further note that ASGH will continue “its recent actions to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion”.

Apparently, political agendas are okay in science so long as it’s your politics being promoted. The sad part is that so much of science is being damaged by the failure of advocates to understand that science is supposed to be largely free from political slants, and when a political viewpoint has permeated science, as in the Lysenko affair, it has always been harmful.  And make no mistake about it—the conception of DEI being promoted as the future pathway to “inclusive equity”, both here and in other science societies, is indeed an ideology, and one that can be rationally debated instead of being taken as a given that must be enforced.