Here’s the garter snake!

March 15, 2023 • 11:45 am

Did you spot the garter snake in this morning’s photo, sent by reader Pradeep?  Here it is, along with an enlargement of the photo. Click photos to enlarge.

I think this may be the hardest “spot the” photo we’ve ever had.

The stripes are one clue, but they’re very hard to see in the big photo:

Audubon Society decides to keep its name

March 15, 2023 • 10:00 am

My criteria for deciding whether a name should be kept, or a statue left up, are twofold: the good that the person’s life did outweighs the bad, and the name or statue is in honor of the good.

Although there have been calls for John James Audubon’s name to be taken off everything (including his Society), I’ve decided his name is worth keeping. Yes, he was a slaveholder, with nine humans as his possessions, and of course that’s immoral. (He also held white supremacist views.) But George Washington and Jefferson each had many more slaves, yet we’re not hearing calls to rename Washington, D.C. or tear down the Jefferson Memorial.

How does one balance being an enslaver against being one of the founders of ornithology, a naturalist who named many species, and an inspiration for conservation? You can’t. They’re apples and oranges. So you make a judgment call, and my own call was that Audubon still deserves to be honored. Yes, by all means call attention to the slaves he held, but I never favored (as some did) renaming the Audubon Society.

Neither did the Society itself, as the Washington Post just announced (click screenshot to read):

From the article:

The move comes even as about half-a-dozen of the organization’s regional chapters have pledged to scrub his name from their titles, part of a broader reckoning over the U.S. environmental movement’s history of entrenched racism.

The National Audubon Society’s 27-person board of directors voted to retain its current name during a Zoom meeting on Monday after more than a year of deliberating and gathering feedback from both members and outsiders. Susan Bell, chair of the board, declined to provide a breakdown of the final vote.

“The name has come to represent not one person, but a broader love of birds and nature,” Bell said in a phone interview. “And yet we must reckon with the racist legacy of John James Audubon, the man.”

Keeping the name does not of course mean that the Audubon Society endorses slavery. In fact, they reckon it correctly: as a blot on the man’s name. But the Society decided that the name represents a lot of good things, and I won’t criticize them for keeping it. Neither will I criticize those who say the name has to go, for they’ve made a judgement call the other way, though Jefferson and Washington have not (yet) been erased.

h/t: Steve

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ shooting the satans

March 15, 2023 • 9:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “flare”, comes from Koran 37:6-10 and 67:5. (The artist adds, “So it must be true.”) What we have here is Muhammad’s Iron Dome:

Here are the bits:

6. We have adorned the lower heaven with the beauty of the planets.

7. And guarded it against every defiant devil.

8. They cannot eavesdrop on the Supernal Elite, for they get bombarded from every side.

9. Repelled—they will have a lingering torment.

10. Except for him who snatches a fragment—he gets pursued by a piercing projectile.

and (67:5)

We have adorned the lower heaven with lamps, and have made them a means to drive away the satans. We have prepared for them the chastisement of the Blazing Fire.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 15, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Wednesday, a hump day (“puckel dag” in Swedish): March 15, 2023—and the Ides of March. It is my last full day in Poland, and the time has gone by very quickly! It’s also National Peanut Lover’s Day, and again I point out that the position of the apostrophe indicates that only a single peanut lover is being fêted. Who is this person?

It’s also National Pears Hélène Day, National Egg Cream Day (it contains neither eggs nor cream), as well as Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ Birthday (Liberia) and World Consumer Rights Day

Roberts (1809-1876) was a black American who migrated to Liberia and became its first–and seventh–president.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 15 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*In the first direct military contact between U.S. and Russian forces in the Ukraine war, Russian jets brought down an American drone.  I doubt that this presages more serious fighting, but it’s still worrisome, as it was over international waters:

Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on and collided with an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. military officials said, forcing it down and marking the first direct military clash between Russia and the United States since the beginning of the Ukraine war.

The incident, occurring around 7 a.m. local time, left Air Force personnel remotely operating the MQ-9 Reaper with no choice but to crash the aircraft in international waters, U.S. officials said. They characterized the encounter as part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots” while interacting with American and allied aircraft in international airspace, and warned that such provocations could lead to “miscalculation and unintended escalation” between the two powers.

Russia denied responsibility and faulted the American side for breaching what it called a “temporary” boundary.

What? What is a “temporary boundary”?

A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, told reporters that the two Russian Su-27s were first seen in the vicinity of the MQ-9 about 30 to 40 minutes before American pilots brought it down. He declined to say whether the drone was armed, what its mission was or where in the Black Sea it splashed down. Video of the incident recorded by the MQ-9 must go through a declassification process before officials determine whether to release it publicly, he said. It’s unclear how long that will take.

And the Russian version:

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that, “as a result of sharp maneuvering,” the drone was observed by Russian pilots in “uncontrolled flight” before losing altitude and crashing into the sea. Jets were scrambled, officials said, when the American aircraft was detected flying “in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation” with its transponders turned off, what they characterized as a violation of “temporary”boundaries established by Moscow for its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

So now Putin gets to extend the air borders of Russia during the Ukraine war? Apparently. It would be nice if they told everyone where those borders were.

*According to CNN and other outlets, Jimmy Carter, now nearing the end of his life, asked Joe Biden to deliver his eulogy. But Biden wasn’t supposed to let that out.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who remains in hospice care, has asked Joe Biden to deliver his eulogy following his death, the president said Monday.

“He asked me to do his eulogy – excuse me, I shouldn’t say that,” Biden told supporters during remarks at a fundraiser in Rancho Santa Fe, California, according to a pool report.

“I spent time with Jimmy Carter, and it’s finally caught up with him. But they found a way to keep him going for a lot longer than they anticipated, because they found a breakthrough,” the president continued.

I presume they’re referring to keeping him going after the diagnosis but before Carter when into hospice care, because no breakthrough that I know of will keep him alive when he has metastasized cancer and only palliative care.

CNN reported last month that Biden had been advised of the former president’s declining health and his decision to seek hospice care. The fellow Democrat and longtime Carter admirer was staying in close contact with the Carter family and the former president’s close circle of advisers.

Biden last saw Carter during a visit to Plains in 2021.

Carter, who turned 98 last year, became the oldest living US president in history after the passing of George H.W. Bush, who died in late 2018 at 94. The nation’s 39th president has kept a low public profile in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic but has continued to speak out about risks to democracy around the world, a longtime cause of his.

I hope Biden doesn’t commit one of his frequent gaffes and get Carter’s name wrong or anything. Barring that, he’s capable of giving a good eulogy.

*Oy vey! As if Chat-GPT didn’t cause enough trouble for colleges (but fun for web-surfers), the company that produced it has just released the technology underlying it, presumably for free. And it presages more trouble, since it’s reported to be better than Chat-GPT.

. . . . the company [OpenAI] is back with a new version of the technology that powers its chatbots. The system will up the ante in Silicon Valley’s race to embrace artificial intelligence and decide who will be the next generation of leaders in the technology industry.

OpenAI, which has around 375 employees but has been backed with billions of dollars of investment from Microsoft and industry celebrities, said on Tuesday that it had released a technology that it calls GPT-4. It was designed to be the underlying engine that powers chatbots and all sorts of other systems, from search engines to personal online tutors.

Most people will use this technology through a new version of the company’s ChatGPT chatbot, while businesses will incorporate it into a wide variety of systems, including business software and e-commerce websites. The technology already drives the chatbot available to a limited number of people using Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

GPT-4, which learns its skills by analyzing huge amounts of data culled from the internet, improves on what powered the original ChatGPT in several ways. It is more precise. It can, for example, ace the Uniform Bar Exam, instantly calculate someone’s tax liability and provide detailed descriptions of images.

But OpenAI’s new technology still has some of the strangely humanlike shortcomings that have vexed industry insiders and unnerved people who have worked with the newest chatbots. It is an expert on some subjects and a dilettante on others. It can do better on standardized tests than most people and offer precise medical advice to doctors, but it can also mess up basic arithmetic.

Well, we shall see. I predict that companies and even universities will use it to write official communications, further eroding the ability of human beings to write. But this of course will also lead to full-scale fraud among college students who have to write essays or DEI statements for college admissions, and since writing and interpreting reading is no longer necessary for applicants since standardized tests are being eliminated, everyone will revert to illiteracy save professional writers.

From Facebook; how the new bot scores on various standardized tests, along with the percentile of the score (I can’t vouch for this):

*The Stanford Law School (SLS) students who shut down the speech of conservative appellate Judge Kyle Duncan aren’t through yet. They apparently are making life hell for their own dean, Jenny Martinez, who apologized to the University for the disruption and, along with Stanford’s President, to Judge Duncan himself. Apologizing for student behavior was to much for the entitled students, who continued their protest—against Dean Martinez (h/r cesar):

Hundreds of Stanford student activists on Monday lined the hallways to protest the law school’s dean, Jenny Martinez, for apologizing to Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan, whom the activists shouted down last week.

See below: the protestors were wearing black and also face masks.

The embattled dean arrived to the classroom where she teaches constitutional law to find a whiteboard covered inch to inch in fliers attacking Duncan and defending those who disrupted him, according to photos of the room and multiple eyewitness accounts. The fliers parroted the argument, made by student activists, that the heckler’s veto is a form of free speech.

“We, the students in your constitutional law class, are sorry for exercising our 1st Amendment rights,” some fliers read. As a private law school, Stanford is not bound by the First Amendment.

Here’s a picture of the whiteboard:

The protest followed a flurry of open letters from student activists, who spent much of the weekend berating Martinez after she and Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne issued a formal apology to Duncan condemning the students who disrupted his talk and the administrators who stood by silently and watched them do so.

. . .When Martinez’s class adjourned on Monday, the protesters, dressed in black and wearing face masks that read “counter-speech is free speech,” stared silently at Martinez as she exited her first-year constitutional law class at 11:00 a.m., according to five students who witnessed the episode. The student protesters, who formed a human corridor from Martinez’s classroom to the building’s exit, comprised nearly a third of the law school, the students told the Washington Free Beacon.

The majority of Martinez’s class—approximately 50 students out of the 60 enrolled—participated in the protest themselves, two students in the class said. The few who didn’t join the protesters received the same stare down as their professor as they hurried through the makeshift walk of shame.

This protest was even larger than the one that disrupted Duncan’s talk, and came on the heels of statements from at least three student groups rebuking Martinez’s apology.

. . . The groups argued that the students who disrupted Duncan, in violation of Stanford’s free speech policies, were merely exercising their own free speech rights.

These privileged little brats are LAW STUDENTS, and apparently have no notion about what free speech really means, or how it’s supposed to be exercised. Stanford continues to pretty much ignore the juvenile behavior of its students, and if they don’t take serious action (Martinez said they would), this will just keep happening over and over again. There is no contrition on the students’ part—none at all. At the end, the article quotes a first-year student in Martinez’s class:

After Martinez left the building, Schumacher said, the protesters began to cheer, cry, and hug. “We are creating a hostile environment at this law school,” Schumacher said—”hostile for anyone who thinks an Article III judge should be able to speak without heckling.”

In other words, free speech for me but not for thee. How obscene.

And for those readers who blamed the disruption largely on the judge, I have a question: how do you explain this? Does it change your mind? Did Martinez set up the rebellion of the students against her, too?

Addendum: Dean Martinez has written a letter to SLS alumni, similar to the one she and the university President wrote to Judge Duncan, but vowing more strongly that similar incidents would never happen again.

*Did you know that most “boneless chicken wings” sold in restaurants or grocery stores aren’t wings at all? They’re cut-up chicken breasts trimmed and fried to look like wings, and are used because, due to the high demand for real wings, breast meat is cheaper than wings. So, as the Washington Post reports, this has led to the inevitable lawsuit, for America is a litigious land.  And it’s in my town!

A new lawsuit has a bone to pick with Buffalo Wild Wings: A Chicago man is suing the popular chain for false advertising, claiming its “boneless wings” aren’t really wings at all.

Aimen Halim says he purchased the “boneless wings” in January only to discover that they were, in fact, composed of chicken breast. “Unbeknown to Plaintiff and other consumers, the Products are not wings at all, but instead, slices of chicken breast meat deep-fried like wings,” says the lawsuit, which also names parent company Inspire Brands. “Indeed, the Products are more akin, in composition, to a chicken nugget rather than a chicken wing.”

The nomenclature of “boneless wings” has long irked poultry purists. In 2020, Ander Christensen of Lincoln, Neb., stirred the nation with an impassioned speech to his city council on the subject, pleading “that we as a city remove the name ‘boneless wings’ from our menus and from our hearts.”

An Associated Press story last month called the boneless wing a “culinary lie” and one example of a category of “gentle impostors” that includes imitation crab meat and baby carrots (which are actually adult carrots, whittled down to an adorable size). Cookbook author and TV personality Christopher Kimball told the news service that most consumers have “no idea where any of this stuff comes from.”

I hate that imitation crab (I believe it’s fish), always called “krab”.  The “wing” company responded thusly:

This is a class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of hundreds of duped consumers, and if the company doesn’t say on the restaurant that “these are not real wings,” they’ll have to pay up, probably in the form of certificates good for free wings breasts at Buffalo Wild Wings. Here’s what the faux wings look like:

(From the WaPo): Boneless wings photographed at Buffalo Wild Wings in Arlington, Va., in Nov. 2017. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I appear with the Queen!

Jerry: Here you are.
Hili: Yes, I’m often hiding here.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Jerry: Tu jesteś?
Hili: Tak, ja się tu często chowam.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

********************

Down in Florida, Jango (whose staff is Divy and Ivan) is a happy cat because Hili has finally reciprocated his love. In the photo she’s saying, “Jango, my love!”. Look how gobsmacked he is!

A B. Kliban cartoon:

I can’t post the whole thing here, but go see this strip of Tom the Dancing Bug on Intelligent Design (h/t John).

From Anna via Our Kindred Cats, a Scott Metzger cartoon:

From Things with Faces:

From Titania, a woke letter from her niece:

From Masih, another hijab goes up in smoke. Google translation from the Farsi:

Received message and video: “I burn this log in memory of our beloved Nika.” Today, Nika is the daughter of all Iran. Zina, Hadith, Sarina are the daughters of this land. They inspire millions of young fighters. How simple and stupid were the mercenaries who listened to Khamenei’s orders when they imagined that they would kill Nika, Gina and Sarina and gather the mob. But the story will not end until Khamenei and his mercenaries are seen behind bars.

unitil that day #WomanLifeFreedom, #FireworksWednesday, #Mehsa Amini

From Barry, who says, “These two need to get a room. I can’t believe this happened in broad daylight!”

I can’t believe this: even I don’t get video calls!

From Malcolm, a mother cat cleans up after her kitten:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a whole family—mother, father, and six-year-old son—gassed upon arrival.

Tweets from Matthew. First, the Marathon Duck (note his athletic shoes). He didn’t run the whole thing, but he does get a refreshing drink at the end.

An eagle and four hapless cats (watch the videos in the second tweet):

A clever one:

More calls for not naming species after people

March 14, 2023 • 9:30 am

I am so weary of people trying to change both the common and Latin names of species because doing so will magically render biology more inclusive. But I have yet to find a single person who left the field, or refused to enter it, because species were named after people, odious or otherwise.

In the case at hand, apparently all white people and men are odious, for the Nature Ecology & Evolution paper below, as well as a summary from Oxford University (click screenshot), are calling for the end of the practice of naming species after people, and mention whiteness and maleness several times—not as desirable traits! (Usually eponyms are meant as honorifics, taken from a famous biologist or a donor to research.)

For animals, you can change the common names of species if they’re found offensive (e.g., “gypsy moth” or “Bachman’s warbler”, which have been deemed offensive), but what you cannot do is change the Latin binomial of animals (e.g., Vermivora bachmanii has to stay), for doing so would play hob with the literature and with international scientific communication. (The botanical body for nomeclature has yet to weigh in on this issue.)

Clicking below, you’ll find the fourth or fifth article I’ve read that says exactly the same thing. I’m not going to critique these pieces in detail as I’ve done so previously. I’ll just excerpt some of the reasons why the authors think that animals shouldn’t be named after people, and add a few brief remarks. Click the screenshots read, though the first one is paywalled. (Judicious inquiry may yield a pdf.)

From the article:

Eponyms typically reflect benefactors, dignitaries, officials, the author’s family members and colleagues, or well-known cultural figures (Fig. 1) — a practice that persists today. From a contemporary perspective this is potentially problematic, as many of those honoured are strongly associated with the social ills and negative legacy of imperialism, racism and slavery. Moreover, 19th-century and early 20th-century taxonomy was largely dominated by white men who, by and large, honoured other men (funders, colleagues, collectors and so on) of their own nationality, ethnicity, race and social status. For example, a recent study has documented that over 60% of the eponyms given to the flora of New Caledonia have honoured French citizens and that 94% of the eponyms were named after a man.

. . . Attributing eponyms to species extends beyond the act of naming; it attaches the societal value system to which these individuals belong. It stakes a claim as to which knowledge system provides legitimacy to the existence of the species, while simultaneously diminishing the value and knowledge of the species within the context of those who may have interacted with it the most.

Any call for exceptional changes in how we name nature requires an exceptional rationale. In this respect, it is important to highlight that taxonomy provides the backbone for the study and conservation of biodiversity. There is already a common perception in many post-colonial nations that ecology and biodiversity conservation are Western constructs that are shaped by and for Europeans and that privilege Western perspectives over others. This perception is undoubtedly reinforced in many countries of the Global South by the existence of numerous species — some of which may be endemic or have local cultural value — that are named in honour of colonizers or people of colonial descent. In Africa alone, 1,565 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals (which represent a quarter of vertebrate endemics) are eponyms. Researchers from former colonies might feel justifiably uncomfortable, resentful or even angry at the constant reminders of imperial and/or political regimes that are reflected in the names of native and endemic species.

I will note here only three things. First, the fact that using eponyms would make people feel terribly uncomfortable (in a minority of case) is mere speculation by the entitled authors. I see this view as somewhat patronizing, as if Africans, for example, are too fragile to bear having beetles named after Cecil Rhodes. And really, how many people in any country would be offended by the common names of species, which of course differ from place to place? And NOBODY knows the Latin binomials: I doubt whether more than 2% of Americans, for example, could give the Latin binomial for more than one species (Homo sapiens, if they even know that one).

Second, changing the common names of species would involve having to go back through the literature and somehow add the new name, or publish a big list that people need to consult for translation. Renaming the Latin binomial, which is what scientists use when referring to a species, is prohibited by the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature, and for good reason. So all you can do is get rid of the thousands and thousands of animal common names derived from humans.

At least you don’t have to determine whether a human was good or bad; you just efface the name, regardless of their sex, race, or accomplishments.

It’s likely that botanists will follow zoologists in prohibiting changes of Latin binomials, and for the same reason: to avoid messing up the literature and scientific communication.

Finally, if people want to eliminate all common eponyms, fine: let them go about doing it, but making sure that each animal (or plant) gets a name appropriate to its nature (appearance, location, etc.). In the end, though, wouldn’t that time (which would be considerable) be better spent actually doing something substantive to make science more inclusive?

Here’s the Oxford University p.r. piece on the above, which is free. Click to read:

An excerpt:

However, the reality is that the use of eponyms in the naming of species poses a wider, more problematic nature. Traditionally, eponyms typically reflect benefactors, academics  and officials affiliated with the individual who discovered a species – which is a practice that continues today. With science of the 19th and 20th century largely dominated by white men from colonising European nations, this meant many of those honoured are strongly associated with the negative legacy of imperialism, racism and slavery.

Another striking example of the dangers of overtly politicizing biological names is Anophthalmus hitleri, a cave beetle named after Adolf Hitler in 1933 that is currently threatened due to high demand from collectors of Nazi memorabilia. Due to codes around renaming species, whereby the first name given to a species is deemed its correct one known as the “Principle of Priority”, proposals to rename this species were rejected.

Now I’m not sure whether the author of this piece sees the extinction of the beetle as a good or bad thing, but I’ll show the beetle below.

TRIGGER WARNING: THE DEPICTION OF THIS BEETLE NAMED AFTER HITLER DOES NOT IMPLY ANY APPROBATION FOR ADOLF HITLER OR HIS GENOCIDAL POLICIES!!!! (And, after all, the Oxford piece showed it, so blame it on them.)

(From Oxford): Ophthalmus hitleri, a cave beetle named after Adolf Hitler that became a popular Nazi memorabilia collectors itemI have to say that although I’m a Jew and should be very very upset by seeing this beetle, it doesn’t bother me in the least. Some misguided people who admired der Führer named an insect after him, that’s all. The Oxford piece continues:

In a recent commentary published in Nature Ecology & Evolution researchers from various global Universities assessed the scientific names of all African vertebrates currently listed on the IUCN Red List. This revealed that 1,565 species of bird, reptiles, amphibians and mammals – around 24% of their sample – were eponyms, notably of white, male Europeans from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The authors argue that it is time to rethink the use of eponyms, and emphasise that whilst there currently isn’t a standard for changing species names, with technical and administrative barriers to doing so, renaming eponyms to better connect with local geography and culture could provide wonderful opportunities to highlight the importance of biodiversity conservation and to reinforce the deep links between nature and local societies.

Here are three photos and captions showing species that will have to be renamed; the captions presumably give some indication why. Note that what has to be changed is the Linnean binomial, which cannot be changed.

You can have your own say below; I’m too tired of performative ideology to repeat what I’ve said before.

h/t: Martim

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 14, 2023 • 8:15 am

Athayde Tonhasca Júnior sent another text-and-photo lesson, which is indented below. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Tiny killers’ gigantic army

The bark louse Echmepteryx hageni (order Psocodea), an obscure fungus-eater from North America, is no more than 10 mm in length. Unsurprisingly, its eggs are miniscule. But these small dollops of nutrients are plenty for the egg parasite Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, a wasp in the family Mymaridae, which are known as fairyflies or fairy wasps. We have little information about this parasitic wasp, but we do know that males are blind, wingless and phoretic, that is, they need to cling to another organism to move about; in this case, females are their ride. Males also have no mouthparts, so they cannot feed.

A bark louse E. hageni; its eggs are parasitized by D. echmepterygis © Katja Schulz, Wikimedia Commons:

If you suspect that a male D. echmepterygis shouldn’t expect a long and prosperous life, you are right. He lives off the nutrients taken as a larva from one of his host’s eggs, and those reserves won’t last long. But that’s of no consequence for the male; his only purpose during his short existence is to impregnate a female, which, conveniently, is his means of transportation. He only needs to crawl to the appropriate spot on her body to do the deed. This lifestyle is by no means unusual; many other parasitic wasps have similar traits. But D. echmepterygis males have a unique claim to fame: they are the smallest adult insects on Earth, measuring 139 µm in length (Mockford, 1997). [JAC: that’s a little more than a tenth of a millimeter!]

Male D. echmepterygis ventral view (scale line = 50 μm) and head (scale line = 20 μm) © Huber et al., Wikimedia Commons:

To have wings and be able to fly, other fairyflies have to be bigger, but not by much: the winged and marvellously named Tinkerbella nana is 250 µm long. We can have a better appreciation of these fragile fairy creatures by considering the hardships of being small:  the risk of desiccation and barriers unknown to larger animals such as surface tension and fluid viscosity. Michael LaBarbera’s The Biology of B-Movie Monsters is a highly entertaining and illuminating discussion on the physical limitations of body sizes. For a deeper exploration, D’Arcy Thompson’s underappreciated classic On Growth and Form is a tour de force of the physical properties acting on biology.

L: The fairyfly Tinkerbella nana (scale line = 100 μm) © Huber & Noyes, 2013. (CONTENT WARNING to University of Aberdeen’ students: the following refers to J.M. Barrie’s emotionally challenging Peter Pan). The genus Tinkerbella was named after Tinker Bell, while the nana epithet was inspired by the Darlings’ dog Nana – which is also a derivation from nanos, the Greek word for dwarf. R: A micrometre scale for comparing the sizes of D. echmepterygis and T. nana © Zeiss Microscopy, Wikimedia Commons:

There are many fairyflies besides D. echmepterygis and T. nana: over 1,400 of them. And these are the known species; certainly the true number is much higher. All described species are egg parasitoids (their young develop on or inside another organism, eventually killing it) of a range of insects, and they are good at finding their victims: some fairyflies parasitize eggs embedded in plant tissue, buried in the soil and even submerged in water.

Fairyflies belong to one of the many families of Chalcid wasps or chalcidoids (superfamily Chalcidoidea). This is an enormous group of about 22,500 known species, although the total could reach over 500,000 (Noyes, 2019). Most of them are small (less than 3 mm) parasitoids of different life stages of many insects and arachnids (spiders, mites, scorpions and others).

L: A female Richteria ara justifies the fairyfly epithet. Scale line = 1000 μm (1 mm) © Huber, J.T. R: A much larger chalcidoid: Conura sp. © Judy Gallagher, Wikimedia Commons:

A great number of insects and other arthropods have to live with the high probability of bumping into a chalcidoid wasp, but that’s not the half of their problems. Around 25,000 species of Darwin wasps, or ichneumonids (family Ichneumonidae), and some 17,000 species of braconids (family Braconidae) join forces in a vast army of parasitic wasps – and again, these figures are likely to  grossly underestimate the real number of species.

As the story goes, J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964), British/Indian geneticist, evolutionary biologist, mathematician and more, found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what one could learn about The Creator from studying his creation, the atheist Haldane is said to have answered ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles.’ Haldane may have said something of the sort, and indeed a Celestial Big Cheese would be seen as partial to the order Coleoptera. With nearly 400,000 known species, beetles lead the biodiversity table, comprising about 25% of all animal species (excluding Bacteria and bacteria-like Archaea). But there is strong bias here: beetles are popular and relatively easy to find, while most parasitic wasps are very small, hard to identify, and tricky to handle and preserve in collections. It’s a lot of work, and there are not many specialists in the area. But the more they look for parasitic wasps, the more beetles’ predominance is challenged. Most holometabolous insects (those with four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult) are attacked by one or more hymenopteran parasitoid, sometimes five or even ten, although we may not know their identities. By modelling parasitoid-to-host ratios for some groups of insects, Forbes et al. (2018) estimated that hymenopterans easily beat beetles in the biodiversity league. Some coleopterists may not like to hear that.

Number of named species as of 2022 © Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data. “To a rough approximation and setting aside vertebrate chauvinism, it can be said that essentially all organisms are insects” (May, 1988). Parasitic wasps may be greatly responsible for that:

Parasitic wasps are practically everywhere. In just one suburban garden in Leicester, England, Owen et al. (1991) collected 455 species of Darwin wasps, some new to the British list, in a two-year period. These wasps have an enormous sway in the structure and composition of biological communities. They limit the numbers of insects and spiders, and, by keeping herbivores in check, they have an indirect but vital influence on the diversity and abundance of plants.

Trioxys complanatusovipositing into the body of a spotted alfalfa aphid (Therioaphis maculata) © CSIRO, Wikimedia Commons. ‘Insects. . . in all likelihood exert a greater impact on terrestrial ecosystems than any other type of animal. They are the glue holding an ecosystem together: in their millions they consume plants, and in their millions they are consumed by other organisms’ (LaSalle & Gauld, 1991). And in their millions they are killed by parasitoids:

We can gauge the regulatory power of parasitic wasps by their efficacy as commercial biological control agents. For example, Encarsia formosa is one of the most efficient weapons against whiteflies in greenhouses, while Anagyrus lopezi saved cassava crops from the ravages of mealybugs in Africa and Asia.

L: Cards containing E. formosa eggs to be placed in glasshouses © Dekayem. R: A. lopezi, a scourge of mealybugs © CIAT, Wikimedia Commons:

LaSalle & Gauld (1993) estimated that at least 50% of the 150,000 or so species of Hymenoptera are parasitoids. They all have the alarming habit of eating their hosts from inside their innards while they’re still alive, which seems execrable and cruel. Darwin was dismayed by it, as he expressed in a letter to his friend Asa Gray in 1860:

‘I am bewildered.— I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.’

Despite Darwin’s misgivings, parasitic wasps are not particularly shocking, considering that approximately 40% of all known species are parasitic (Dobson et al., 2008). And these tiny, fragile agents of doom are just a fraction of many others such as viruses, fungi, protozoa and worms, who have an array of imaginative ways to cause sickness, suffering and ghastly deaths. Haldane’s god, so fond of beetles, also has a kinky sense of humour.

Relative abundance of different taxa, and the proportion of parasitic species in those taxa. The area of a circle corresponds to the natural log of the total number of species in a taxon © Dobson et al., 2008:

But such anthropomorphic considerations are misguided. Parasitoids, parasites and predators are regulators of the natural world. They prevent excessive population growth, including of agricultural pests and disease vectors, and remove the old and sick from the general population. Parasitism helps shape biodiversity and ecosystems, so it is not intrinsically bad or good. It is a characteristic of life on our planet. It is as it is.

‘Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner’ (Gould, 1982).

‘We entomologists, who have no charismatic elephants to hide behind, no cuddly panda bears to hug before the public, no aesthetic whooping cranes, no passion-inducing spotted owls, no thousand-year old forest giants – we entomologists are at the forefront of the biodiversity battle with only our bugs for a shield’ (Grissell, 1999):

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 14, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest Day, March 14, 2023, and in two days I head back to Warsaw to catch a late-afternoon flight to Chicago. It’s National Potato Chip Day, celebrating my favorite snack food. I can never buy them because I’ll eat so many (usually with a PB&J sandwich) that I’ll get a stomach ache. But I do love the ruffled ones.

It’s also Pi Day (3/14), Science Education Day, Celebrate Scientists Day (Einstein was born on this day in 1879), Genius Day (same reason), Learn About Butterflies Day, Moth-er Day (another celebration of Lepidoptera) National Save a Spider Day, and, in Japan and other Asian countries, White Day when men give gifts to women; complementary to Valentine’s Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 14 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first: Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, everyone’s favorite House feminist, died yesterday at 82 from complications of a stroke.

Mrs. Schroeder, who grew up in a household where her father assumed women could do anything, earned a pilot’s license at 15, weathered sexism to become a Harvard-trained lawyer and was a 32-year-old mother of two when she was first elected to Congress from Colorado in 1972. “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both,” she quipped when one male lawmaker questioned how she could be a wife, mother and congresswoman.

When she arrived in Washington, there were only 14 women in the House, several of whom were widows filling out the terms of their deceased husbands. She described the institution as “an overaged frat house.”

During her 12 terms in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Schroeder was outspoken on issues that ranged from women’s rights and family matters to military policy. She was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and then fought vigorously to be heard and respected.

. . . She was the primary sponsor of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, which established procedures for national criminal background checks for child-care providers, and she played a pivotal role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which was intended to help law enforcement and victim services organizations fight rape and other forms of violent crime against women.

I don’t know any Democrat who didn’t like her.

*According to the NYT, the International Criminal Court in the Hague has opened two cases against Russia for violation of international law.

The International Criminal Court intends to open two war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will seek arrest warrants for several people, according to current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The cases represent the first international charges to be brought forward since the start of the conflict and come after months of work by special investigation teams. They allege that Russia abducted Ukrainian children and teenagers and sent them to Russian re-education camps, and that the Kremlin deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure.

The chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, must first present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges who will decide whether the legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants, or whether investigators need more evidence.

It was not clear whom the court planned to charge in each case. Asked to confirm the requests for arrest warrants, the prosecutor’s office said, “We do not publicly discuss specifics related to ongoing investigations.”

Some outside diplomats and experts said it was possible that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could be charged, as the court does not recognize immunity for a head of state in cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

As the article notes, though, it’s very improbable that we’ll see Russians in the dock at the Hague. And that’s for two reasons: Russia (along with the U.S., Israel, and Sudan) have declared themselves non-signatoreis of the treaty that empowered the court, and, for any criminal action to take place, these nations (including Russia) would have to surrender their accused to the Court, which has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.

*More bad news: is it going to be like 1929 all over again? The failure of two banks in California has led to a loss in consumer confidence so that runs on other banks throughout the U.S. are happening and bank stocks are slipping badly. Things haven’t yet melted down big time, but don’t think that they can’t. It’s so worrisome that the President has hasn’t to reassure worried Americans:

The unexpected seizure of two banks in three days by regulators intensified fears of a broader financial crisis, sending the stocks of more than two dozen banks into free fall on Monday, even as President Biden reassured Americans that the banking system was resilient and that customers’ money was safe.

Banks of various sizes in different parts of the country — from San Francisco-based First Republic Bank to Salt Lake City-based Zions Bank — found themselves battling market turmoil as customers rushed to withdraw their deposits and investors, worried about more runs, dumped bank stocks.

In a brief televised statement from the White House shortly before the U.S. markets opened, Mr. Biden said that the government was responding decisively to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in ways that would protect depositors without rewarding risk-taking executives and investors.

“Americans can rest assured that our banking system is safe — your deposits are safe,” the president said. “Let me also assure you we will not stop at this; we’ll do whatever is needed.”

Mr. Biden’s comments didn’t immediately appear to assuage investors, as shares of banks large and small closed the day in the red, with the KBW Bank Index, a proxy for the industry, down nearly 12 percent. On a day when the S&P 500 stock index ended up flat, shares of First Republic tumbled 60 percent and Western Alliance slumped 45 percent.

Despite the echoes of the 2008 financial crisis, when 465 banks failed within four years, sometimes dozens in a month, regulators and banking officials were quick to insist that the current panic is far more contained, and that the banks whose stocks tanked had enough funds to meet their obligations.

I’m not that worried—yet—but you can never predict whether people who keep their money in banks could panic and then everything would melt down. That’s what caused the Great Depression to begin in 1929. If people keep their heads this would blow over, but there are no guarantees.

*I noted before that a bill that would permit the teaching of creationism had passed the Senate in West Virginia, but didn’t know there was one in Minnesota as well. But there’s good news today: reader Steve notes that The Sensuous Cumudgeon reports the demise of both bills.

Two more crazy creationist bills have gone down in defeat. The news comes from our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), written by Glenn Branch, their Deputy Director. Let’s take them one at a time.

When the first bill was proposed a month ago, we wrote about it in New Minnesota Bill — Creationist, or Just Crazy? The thing was proposed by Glenn H. Gruenhagen, an insurance agent. His bill required teachers to explain “how sickness, disease, pain, suffering, and death are a consequence imposed by the Creator of complex living organisms.”

Impressive, huh? But according to NCSE: Minnesota’s bill requiring instruction about “the Creator” dies.

. . .The last time we wrote about it was West Virginia Senate Passes Creationism Bill. That piece of junk was Senate Bill 619, which would allow teachers in public schools to teach intelligent design, described in the bill as “a theory of how the universe and/or humanity came to exist.”

The crazy thing had passed the Senate with a 27 to 6 vote, and it looked like it might go all the way — but it didn’t. NCSE just posted West Virginia’s “intelligent design” bill dies.

I was more than a little worried about this given the unbalanced vote for the West Virginia bill. If it passed, teachers and parents would surely appeal to the Supreme Court, which has previously ruled out teaching creationism on First Amendment grounds (and a federal district judge rule out teaching Intelligent Design on the same grounds). But today’s Supreme Court cannot be trusted to distinguish science from religion, and might well have ruled that both bills were Constitutional

*Although this is an op-ed (by Helaine Olen), it’s not really “opinion” but news: consumers are mad as hell about the long waits for service while calling companies on the telephone. But whether we will “not take it anymore” seems to be up to the companies themselves, who claim, unbelievably, that customers like the robots and endless attempts to connect with a real human being.

It shouldn’t be this hard to speak to a human. But, increasingly, companies large and small are making it difficult to access a real, live person when help is needed. Contact numbers are hard to find. Wait times to speak to an operator are long — one industry analyst estimated the average wait tripled from 2020 to 2022 and says he believes they still are a third worse than before the pandemic. Some phone lines are seemingly staffed entirely by robots, forcing you to go through menu after menu in quest of a live, real person. Or, increasingly, companies don’t offer a telephone option at all.

This is not simply inconvenient. It’s contemptuous. And consumers pay the price in emotional aggravation, in precious time and in literal money, as people give up on legitimate financial claims because they are unable to surmount the barriers in their way.

Companies say they are reducing options for human contact by popular demand. They claim customers often prefer a virtual option — so said Frontier Airlines after it recently ceased offering customers access to live phone agents, directing them to text, chatbot or email instead. But as the Wall Street Journal noted late last year, Frontier is simultaneously telling its investors that call centers are “expensive,” while use of chatbots eliminates the customer’s ability to negotiate.

A survey by OnePoll in 2021 found that more than two-thirds of respondents ranked speaking to a human representative as one of their preferred methods of interacting with a company, while 55 percent identified the ability to reach a human as the most important attribute a customer service department can possess. “When people are anxious or have problems, they really, really want to talk,” says Michelle Shell, a visiting assistant professor also at the Questrom school. “You need human contact.”

The reason?

What’s really going on here is a question of power. Increasingly, leverage belongs not to the customer paying the bills but to the company offering the needed service — sometimes one for which there is no competition. Foisting the work onto the consumer is a bet that the customer has no other options or won’t choose to exercise them. And often, that bet is a good one.

Don’t take it anymore! Write to the companies (don’t call them!) or put out a tweet. Rage, rage against the dying of the right to speak to a human.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Editor Hili liked my piece on language and sickle-cell anemia, which was translated into Polish on Listy (and I took her photo!)

Hili: I read your article about sickle cell anemia.
Jerry: Did you like it?
Hili: Yes, it’s very inclusive.
(Photo: JAC)
In Polish:
Hili: Czytałam twój artykuł o anemii sierpowatej.
Jerry: Podobał ci się?
Hili: Tak, jest bardzo inkluzywny.
(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)

********************

From The Cat House on the Kings:

From Malcolm: Maps turned into portaits:

From Cats That Have Had Enough of Your Shit, a Mark Parisi Cartoon:

 

From Masih: Five Iranian women were forced to publicly apologize for the crimes of uncovering their hair and (god forbid) dancing. Note the difference between the way they’d like to dress and the way the Iranian theocracy forces them to dress.

Two from Malcolm. By clicking, you can put the hand anywhere in the world and then see how many people are within a radius of that point varying between 10 and 100 km. Click here to get started. I found places in Tibet where there are no people within a 100-km radius.

And another—biker d*g. I love the goggles:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed at eight:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. Blessed be the people who save the animals:

Nah, it’s not what the bat “wants”: the feet are up because the claws evolved pointed down but the bat has to use them to catch fish:

Best bird mimicry ever!

Stanford Law School tries to succor Federalist Society by sending its members into the jaws of lions

March 13, 2023 • 12:00 pm

Get a load of this. Although Stanford University Law School is trying to make amends for the shameful display put on by its students last week, they continue to stick their feet deeper into the mud.

Yesterday I reported on the execrable deplatforming of Fifth Circuit federal appellate Judge Kyle Duncan during his scheduled talk at Stanford Law School (SLS). Students, outraged that a conservative judge should be given any platform, interrupted the Judge so persistently and loudly that he was forced to stop his speech. (His topic was the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court.)

The students had been egged on by Tirien Steinbach, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Before Judge Duncan’s talk, she sent an email to the students explaining why Duncan was an oppressor And then when Duncan asked for faculty help in quelling the in-class demonstration, Steinbach stood up and read nine minutes of prepared remarks to Duncan explaining how awful and hurtful he was and how,  perhaps, Stanford’s policy of free speech wasn’t so great after all because it caused “harm”. As she suggested, perhaps the “juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.” Steinbach’s method of promoting harmony apparently involves setting groups against each other.

In a “mistakes-were-made” brand of email to the Stanford community, SLS Dean Jenny Martinez apologized for the incident without placing blame on anyone. But the next day, Martinez and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne sent a joint apology to Judge Duncan promising that an incident like this would never happen again. Here’s that email:

Dear Judge Duncan,

We write to apologize for the disruption of your recent speech at Stanford Law School. As has already been communicated to our community, what happened was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus.

We are very clear with our students that, given our commitment to free expression, if there are speakers they disagree with, they are welcome to exercise their right to protest but not to disrupt the proceedings. Our disruption policy states that students are not allowed to “prevent the effective carrying out” of a “public event” whether by heckling or other forms of interruption.

In addition, staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.

We are taking steps to ensure that something like this does not happen again. Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle for the law school, the university, and a democratic society, and we can and must do better to ensure that it continues even in polarized times.

With our sincerest apologies again,
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D.[,] President and Bing Presidential Professor
Jenny Martinez[,] Richard E. Lang Professor of Law & Dean of Stanford Law School

In the penultimate paragraph, they clearly place some of the blame on diversity dean Steinbach for inciting the disruption.  Will they discipline her, or at least tell her to lay off the incitement; and will Stanford discipline any of the disruptive students?  I’d bet money they won’t. And, of course, a policy that isn’t enforced is not a policy at all.

If Stanford were real mensches, they would invite Duncan back to deliver the talk he prepared, and ensure that the event would be peaceful. That won’t happen, either.

But in a really hamhanded gesture, Jeanne Merino, the SLS Associate Acting Dean of Students, “reached out” to the Federalist Society, which had invited Duncan, and offered them University sources of succor. What’s unbelievable is that one of the sources suggested was Steinbach, the diversity dean who escalated the whole affair.  They also offered help from the other two deans (and Merino herself), all of whom had been in the classroom and did nothing to stop the demonstration. You can read Merino’s email here. 

Here’s part of it (second bolding is mine)

2. Connection with OSA, DEI, Levin Center: Please reach out to any of us here at SLS if you would like support or would like to process last week’s events: a. OSA (Jeanne Merino, jmerino@law.stanford.edu, Holly Parrish, hparrish@law.stanford.edu, John Dalton jwdalton@law.stanford.edu, and Megan Brown, mybrown@law.stanford.edu), b. DEI (Tirien Steinbach, tsteinbach@law.stanford.edu) c. Levin Center (Diane Chin, dchin@law.stanford.edu; Anna Wang, annawang@law.stanford.edu).

Apparently, besides Conflagator Steinbach herself, Merino, as well as Associate Director of Student Affairs Holly Parrish and Student Affairs Program Coordinator Megan Brown, were all in the room—and did nothing— as the demonstration unfolded.  But to suggest that the Federalist Society should reach out to Dean Steinbach for comfort (not to mention to the other three as well) is like suggesting that the Roadrunner reach out for help to Wile E. Coyote.

Stanford has affirmed in writing that the juice (a climate conducive to learning) is indeed worth the squeeze (the school’s free-speech policy).  The real question is whether the juice is worth the squeeze of having a diversity dean who’s out of control.

These days, Stanford Law School (and its East Coast counterpart Yale Law School) are like a pair of cross-country soap operas. But it’s important to see that this kind of thing is inevitable so long as you claim that DEI programs are in complete harmony with free speech policies. As Steely Dan sang, “Only a fool would say that.”

Equality vs. equity

March 13, 2023 • 9:45 am

Does anybody know the difference between “equality” and “equity” any more? Until recently, the difference, as used in politics and sociology, was clear: “equality” meant “equal treatment of everyone regardless of what group they belong to”, while “equity” meant “representation of groups in government, business, academia, and other organizations in proportion to their existence in the general population.”

These are not the same thing, of course. People can be treated equally now but there can still be inequities for a variety of reasons: the residuum of historical discrimination, difference in preferences due to culture, socialization, or different propensities due to biological differences. The conflation of the two terms has led to a lot of mischief and confusion, the most prominent being that the observation of inequities means the current existence of unequal treatment (“structural racism or sexism”).

The confusion was compounded in President Biden’s February “Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” a far-reaching plan to ensure “equity” in the federal government.

That document uses the word “equity” 63 times and “equality” only four. One would think, then, that the plan is designed to ensure proportional representation of groups in the federal government.

But if you look in section 10, you find “equity” defined this way:

  Sec. 10.  Definitions.  For purposes of this order:

(a)  The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic treatment of all individuals in a fair, just, and impartial manner, including individuals who belong to communities that often have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander persons and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; women and girls; LGBTQI+ persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; persons who live in United States Territories; persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality; and individuals who belong to multiple such communities.

If you used this as a goal in your DEI statement, you’d never get a job!

In other words, Biden’s plan defines “equity” as “equal treatment before the law”. That isn’t equity but “equality,” and one wonders not only whether Biden apprehends the difference, and, crucially, which one he’s affirming as the goal of his administration’s policy. In such cases, the definition of the term is crucial in how the government will act.

This difference is the subject of Peter Boghassian’s Substack column this week. The “gaslighting” to which Peter refers is seemingly an attempt to make us forget that “equality” means “equal treatment”, or to sow confusion in minds about whether there’s any difference between “equity” and “equality.”

Click on screenshot to read the article; it’s very short.

Peter reproduces a tweet from Cenk Uygur (whatever happened to him?) that’s badly misleading:

No, Cenk is dead wrong here: progressives want equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity, and they’re always pointing to the former, not the latter, as evidence for bigotry. The same day I found a similar tweet by Cenk:

No, it’s Cenk, the big blustering self-assured newsman, who is wrong, at least in how “equity” is currently used. It’s true that if you look at the Oxford English Dictionary, you’ll find that “equity” means this:

 1. The quality of being equal or fair; fairness, impartiality; even-handed dealing.

but also this:

2. What is fair and right; something that is fair and right.

If you parse that with a “progressive” frame of mind, you can (barely) construe that proportional representation is indeed the result of fairness and equality of treatment. But it need not be: not if groups have different preferences or cultural backgrounds.

And it’s also not necessarily true that “equal opportunity” means “equal opportunity at the present time.” If you’re born poor in an environment that doesn’t provide equal opportunity, then you’ll get inequities as a result.  But I can tell you one thing: when Ibram Kendi says “equity”, he doesn’t mean “equality of treatment”.

Bernie Sanders, when pressed by Bill Maher, does seem to appreciate the difference, and he comes down on the classical definition of equality as “equality of opportunity”.

But I think it’s clear that the extreme Left, which I and others call “progressives” (though they’re actually illiberal), clearly construe equity as meaning equality of outcome. Here’s the reason I think why.

There are ways of measuring equity, of course: determining whether there’s proportionality in outcomes: women, for example should be half of all CEOs (they’re not). But it’s easy to measure.

Equality of opportunity is harder to measure, but for some things it can be guaranteed. The most obvious case is determining who belongs in an orchestra: simply audition prospective players behind a screen so that the only thing that can be judged is their playing. Their sex, race, or ethnicity cannot be discerned.  And to me that seems eminently fair.

It’s a procedure employed by many symphony orchestras. But it didn’t produce the diversity of sex and race that people envisioned when they put this procedure in place! There was equality but no equity.

Ergo, the New York Times‘s classical music critic switched gears and wrote a piece called, “To make orchestras diverse, end blind auditions” (subtitle: “If ensembles are to reflect the community they serve, the audition process should take into account race, gender, and other factors”).

Here the critic, Anthony Tommasini, clearly knew the difference between equity and equality of opportunity, and favored ditching the latter to get more of the former.  (Another way he could achieve more equity in orchestras, if he thinks that disproportional representation reflects historically unequal opportunities—an orchestra “pipeline”—is to provide equal opportunities for people of all groups to both hear music and have a chance to play an instrument.)

I’m not going to judge whether orchestras should reflect merit or demographics; my point is that your goal will determine the methods you use to achieve it.  And that is why it’s critical that people understand the difference between “equity” and “equality.”

Here’s how Peter ends his post:

Almost overnight, equity has become the North Star of public and private intuitions. One would think that someone of Sander’s stature and experience would know the difference, and if Sanders has to think about it, imagine the average American trying to make sense of these terms. I have long asserted that confusion over the meanings of words is one of the primary ways people have been hoodwinked by Social Justice ideology—they do not understand the policies they are institutionalizing.

If you want a 60-second explanation of equity, go here. If you want a 60-second explanation of other words in the woke lexicon, go here.

h/t: Steve