Amy Alkon: Did a TSA agent commit sexual assault?

My friend Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess who writes books and a website about how to behave civilly (and is a big critic of the Ctrl-Left), once became uncivil, but properly so. As happened to me, she was groped by a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agent at LAX, the big airport in Los Angeles. But her groping was worse than mine, and bordered on sexual assault. It happened in 2011, but this kind of stuff is still happening, and we need to keep it in our thoughts. Amy described it in an article at the Orange County Register:

On March 31, 2011, at the TSA checkpoint in LAX’s Terminal 6, I found that I had no choice but to get the pat-down. Tears welled in my eyes – for how we’ve allowed the Constitution to be torn up at the airport door and because I was powerless to stop a total stranger from groping my breasts and genitals as a condition of normal, ordinary business travel.

I can hold back the tears … hang tough … but as I was made to “assume the position” on a rubber mat like a criminal, I thought fast. I decided that these TSA “officers” violating our Fourth Amendment rights, searching us without reasonable suspicion we’ve committed a crime, do not deserve our quiet compliance. I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out as the agent groped me. And then it happened: She jammed the side of her latex-gloved hand up into my genitals. Four times, with only the fabric of my pants as a barrier. I was shocked – utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there.

There are more details on her website (her emphasis):

Basically, I felt it important to make a spectacle of what they are doing to us, to make it uncomfortable for them to violate us and our rights, so I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out. Loudly. Very loudly. The entire time the woman was searching me.

Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault.

Upon leaving, still sobbing, I yelled to the woman, “YOU RAPED ME.” And I took her name to see if I could file sexual assault charges on my return. This woman, and all of those who support this system deserve no less than this sort of unpleasant experience, and from all of us.

Amy calls for every woman violated in this way—and yes, it was a violation—to protest and sob, hoping that tears would arouse the empathy latent in most human beings. But I suspect the TSA is biased against hiring human beings, since very rarely have I encountered an agent who, not drunk with their power, treated me civilly and kindly. I suspect, too, that they are looking for authoritarian personalities who enjoy bossing other people around.

Amy published what she recalled of name of the agent who searched her, but didn’t know for sure. This is, of course, public information: there’s no prohibition about accusing a TSA agent by name:

I forgot to post the TSA woman’s name when I wrote this last night. I think it might have been Thedala Magee. Or Magee Thedala. I was really upset, and neither name sounds like a typical American first name or last name, so I can’t remember if I wrote it down in the right order.

It turned down that the woman’s name was indeed Thedala Magee, and when Alkon’s column appeared, Magee promptly threatened Alkon with a lawsuit for telling her story and giving her name. Magee’s lawyer demanded $500,000 in damages! Alkon got Marc Randazza, a well known lawyer specializing in civil rights violations to write back, and, I guess, the threatened suit finally sputtered out. The story of the threat and Randazza’s response was is techdirt:

Your client aggressively pushed her fingers into my client’s vulva. I am certain that she did not expect to find a bomb there. She did this to humiliate my client, to punish her for exercising her rights, and to send a message to others who might do the same. It was absolutely a sexual assault, perpetrated in order to exercise power over the victim. We agree with Ms. Alkon’s characterization of this crime as “rape,” and so would any reasonable juror.

Furthermore, even if your client did not actually sexually assault my client, Ms. Alkon’s statements to and about Ms. Magee would still be protected by the First Amendment. The word “rape” itself has been the subject of defamation cases by far more sympathetic Plaintiffs than your client. In Gold v. Harrison, 962 P.2d 353 (Haw. 1998), cert denied, 526 U.S. 1018 (1999), the Hawaii Supreme Court held that a defendant’s characterization of his neighbors seeking an easement in his backyard as “raping [the defendant]”was not defamatory. This speech was protected as rhetorical hyperbole. Of course, we need not seek out Hawaii case law in order to debunk your unsupportable claims. Rhetorical hyperbole has a strong history of favorable treatment in defamation actions. See Greenbelt Cooperative Pub. Ass’n v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6, 14 (1970). This doctrine acknowledges our First Amendment right to express ourselves, even when employing literary license. Accordingly, even if your client’s actions were not “rape,”Ms. Alkon had every right to characterize them as such.

No free woman should endure what your client did to Ms. Alkon. Fortunately, Ms. Alkon is capable of recognizing injustice, and for the good of us all, she had the courage to speak out on this matter of public concern of the highest order. After Magee’s assault on Ms. Alkon’s vagina and dignity, Ms. Alkon exercised her First Amendment right to recount this incident to others in person and through her blog. This was not only her right — it was her responsibility.

It’s now six years later, and what has the TSA done? Have they foiled any terrorist plots with their screening, or detected any weapons or bombs that terrorists were trying to smuggle onto planes? Not that I know of; for there is not a single report of this. Now the TSA might respond that this is because they are so good at detecting bombs and weapons that no terrorist would even try. But that’s bogus, as TSA has failed test after test when the government did undercover operations seeing if TSA agents could detect planted bombs and weapons in luggage. As CNN reported two years ago, TSA screeners failed to detect 95% of undercover bombs and weapons: 67 out of 70. That record surely wouldn’t deter a committed terrorist. And, as KTRK Houston reported in April of this year, many of the agents are likely to be high:

Nationwide, 858 TSA workers tested positive for drugs or alcohol between 2010 and 2016, according to federal records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

What do we do about this? Well, the reactive stance of the TSA is just dumb: first it was liquids, then shoes off (which doesn’t occur in many countries), and now they’re proposing to ban carryon laptops, which angers me as I use mine to work on planes. And it angers me, too, to see old ladies in wheelchairs getting patdowns and full inspections.  Plus there’s the general groping: as I’ve reported here, I’ve had my rump palpated several times by the TSA, and I don’t like it one bit. But if you object, they simply treat you more roughly. These people aren’t professionals; they’re authoritarian bullies.

In the absence of any way to judge the effectiveness of this “security theater”, the TSA can do any damn thing it wants, making it more and more onerous to fly. Now I don’t mind a little security, but isn’t there some way to empirically test whether all these draconian measures and gropings actually work?

h/t: Grania

Readers’ wildlife photos (and a video)

Bruce Lyon, a biologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, always has wonderful bird photos and natural history tidbits based on his work. Today we have A Tale of Coots or Coot Fight Club. We even have one video! Bruce’s words are indented:

I have studied American coots (Fulica americana) on and off over the past three decades in central British Columbia, Canada and thought I would share some photos and biology. Coots look a bit like ducks but they are actually rails. Dirt common (in western North America) and even considered pests (e.g., when hundreds live on a golf course and poop all over the greens), coots are the Rodney Dangerfields of the bird world—like the comedian, they don’t get no respect! Their name is even an insult. Reputation aside, coots are really interesting in terms of their family life and reproductive tactics.

Below: An American coot swimming on its territory. Note the demonic red eye. A couple of other unrelated groups of diving birds have red eyes (loons, many grebes)—I have no idea if this signifies something interesting.

Below: Ideal coot breeding habitat: one of several wetlands where I studied coots near Williams Lake and Riske Creek BC. Coots need bulrushes (reeds) for nesting cover but happily use the dead stems from the previous year, like the ones shown here, so they do not have to delay nesting to wait for new growth. These wetlands have extremely high densities of coots—ten times higher than predicted for a bird of this body size, based on a comparative study of territory size for birds generally.

Below: Coots are fiercely territorial and have ferocious fights with each other. Interestingly, most fights involve immediate neighbors rather than territorial birds trying to keep birds without territories from usurping their territory. Coots apparently forgot to read the textbooks and do not heed the ‘dear enemy effect’, whereby two neighboring territorial animals become less aggressive to each other once territorial borders are well-established. These fights are frequent and occur throughout the breeding season. With all of these fights it’s kind of like watching a hockey game.

Below: The fights are serious and not just ritualized displays—coot talons are large and very sharp and their strong legs result in kicks with a punch. Check out the talons on the birds below. Fights to the death have been reported in the literature. I have never seen a lethal fight but saw a few fights where I thought one bird might drown another. We sometimes find blood on eggs when we check nests and suspect that birds have returned from a fight and bled on the eggs when they incubate. The first time I removed a coot from one of my traps I made the mistake of using my bare hands and paid for this dearly with very badly raked hands.

Below: Both members of the pair fight and it seems that males mostly fight males, and females fight females. Sometimes the whole family gets involved. I recall a memorable scene where the four adults from two adjacent territories were fighting while the kids from the two families sat on the sidelines peeping away (which I anthropomorphically interpreted as cheering their parents on).

Below: When coots are done fighting, they almost always have a little peace ceremony that seems to signal that the fighting is over for the time being. Hockey has its face-offs—coots have their ass-offs™ (not the official name but ‘paired display’ seems boring). [JAC: LOL!] In the display the birds show each other their rear ends, which are adorned with two distinctive white patches (white flags?) and they raise their wings up as well, perhaps to accentuate the white patches. These displays were really helpful for our study because they occur precisely at the territory border—in the photo below the territory border threads the two pairs. The displays allow us to mark the territory borders (with flagging tape on nearest reeds) and later estimate territory size. Most territories hug the shoreline and we measured territory size as the length of shoreline defended. Of all the numerous things we measured about the birds, territory size is the only measure that reliably correlates with reproductive success—the bigger the territory, the more kids produced. This makes sense because the families get all of their food from their territories and bigger territories means more food. This pattern may also explain why coots fight so much—they are fighting to maintain their territory size and ultimately maximize their reproductive success.

Below: A video clip showing the display at the end of a fight (I missed the fight itself). The display often involves a fair amount of pirouetting—repeated spinning around to display the butt and then turning away. The particularly interaction in the video involved two pairs that had their broods close to the territory border. Note the chick begging while its parent interacts with its neighbor.

Below: A coot with a neck collar engraved with a unique number for identifying this individual bird—meet Lucky the coot. I needed to be able to follow known individuals and since coot legs are mostly hidden in the water because they swim so much colored leg bands were not an option so I went with collars. I trapped birds at their nests at night to measure them and attach their collars.

I made the collars myself and I believe I am the only person who ever used them on coots (they are normally used on waterfowl). Therefore, when I walked into the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge in California a few years ago and saw a stuffed coot with a yellow neck collar sitting on the refuge biologist’s desk I instantly recognized one of ‘my’ birds. I had banded the bird in BC and after the breeding season it migrated to the Central Valley of California where it was promptly shot, stuffed and given as a gift to the refuge biologist. Not the happy animal reunion one is used to in the movies. I guess that coot should be named Unlucky.

Below: We use floating blinds resembling muskrat houses to observe coot families. A plywood disk (table) attached to a truck inner tube forms the base, PVC piping makes a dome frame that is covered with a camo fabric cover and then the entire contraption is covered with dried marsh-like vegetation (Cabelas sells panels of dried vegetation for duck hunters to make blinds). We sit on a seat in the blind and sometimes spend 8-10 hours a day sitting in the blinds making observations. The blinds work well and we are sometimes just a few feet from a coot family. In fact, the camouflage is so good that a bald eagle once perched on a blind with a person inside. The blinds are also great for photography and I am often able to get close to various nice marsh birds (a future posting!). The blinds are also great for the occasional practical joke. A cyclist drove by one of wetlands and stopped and stared at the blind I was in. I rocked the blind back and forth and his eyes just about popped out of his head. I repeated the rocking several times and he looked increasingly puzzled and eventually rode off. Perhaps he thought the muskrats were going crazy inside the house.

Below: A typical coot nest hidden in the reeds. Coot nests typically have a ramp down to the water, shown here coming off the front of the nest. The ramps make it easier for the birds to walk up to the nest.

Below: Coot chick are cute and fluffy at hatch. They leave the nest within a day of hatching and follow their parents around the territory while the parents forage. We give each chick a ‘nape tag’ with a unique color combination that allows us to tell the chicks within the brood apart. Nape tags consist of colored beads on a tiny safety pin that is attached to a tiny flap of skin on the back of neck. When we attach the tags the chicks show no signs of distress and there is never any blood so we do not have concerns about the tags harming the chicks.

Below: Coot chicks are fed by their parents: here a parent offers an aquatic insect to its chick. Parental food is essential for the first ten days of life—without it, a chick will perish. The chicks are fed mostly aquatic insect larvae—damselflies, dragonflies and caddisflies, which have to be shaken out of their protective houses before they can be fed to the chick. Note the extraordinary appearance of this newly hatched chick—orange plumes, modified facial plumes that look like beads of wax, blue eyebrows that reflect mostly in the ultraviolet wavelengths, and a bald top of the head (pate) that can change color fairly quickly. Much more to follow on these colors in a later post.

Below: A parent goes below to look for food while its chicks bob on the surface. I suspect that the reason the chicks do not feed themselves is that they are too buoyant to swim under water to search for the food, and they may also lack the experience. When the chicks get a bit older they start to feed themselves by pecking small bits of food off the surface and reeds.


In which the University of Chicago becomes Evergreen State College

I can’t even. . . . 

More information is here.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning! As I type this, it’s the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m., Tuesday June 27, 2017 (I suppose for atheists it’s always an ungodly hour!) Foodimentary tells me it’s National Orange Blossom Day, without explanation, though they could have mentioned that an Orange Blossom is the name of a cocktail made with gin, orange liqueur, orange juice, grenadine, and lime juice. I’ve never had one. In Germany it’s Seven Sleepers’ Day, which is sort of like Groundhog Day without the groundhog.

On this day in 1844, Joseph Smith, the charlatan and con man who founded the Mormon Church, was killed by an angry mob at Carthage, Illinois. On June 28, 1905, the famous mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin occurred—one of the events in the run-up to the Russian Revolution. In 1950, America decided to send troops to fight in the Korean War, a war that never officially ended (there’s a “truce”). Will Trump start Korean War II? Finally, on this day in 2007, Tony Blair resigned as the Britsh Prime Minister, a position he’d held for a decade.

Notables born on this day include Emma Goldman (1869), Helen Keller (1890; it’s Helen Keller Day in the U.S.), and Isabelle Adjani (1955). Those who died on this day include the great mountaineer Hermann Buhl (1957, the first man to summit Nanga Parbat after standing alone and upright all night on a ledge 8000 meters high; he died in an avalanche on Chogolisa four years later), and Jack Lemmon (2001). It was not a banner day for the death of famous people, but here’s a famous photo of Hermann Buhl right after his ascent of Nanga Parbat, showing the first stages of frostbite on his face:

and here is Nanga Parbat in Pakistan (8126 m). You can see a 90-minute German film of that expedition here.

 Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is referring to my piece on this site about the origin of domestic cats, which Malgorzata translated into Polish at Listy,

Hili: My ancestors lived in Egypt.
A: How do you know?
Hili: New research says so.
In Polish
Hili: Moi przodkowie mieszkali w Egipcie.
Ja: Skąd wiesz?
Hili: Najnowsze badania na to wskazują.

And on the site of his future home near Dobrzyn, tabby Leon is plotting his adventures:

Hmm, where have not I been yet today?

Finally, Matthew found a tw**t purporting to show the world’s first cat video. It’s BOXING CATS, pummeling each other at Thomas Edison’s studio. Why did the harbinger of all cat videos have to involve pugnacious felines?

Amazing whale breach

by Matthew Cobb

Astonishing – and scary – footage…

I have never seen a whale (or indeed any cetacean) outside of a zoo (and I feel bad about seeing them, because they shouldn’t be there). Post your encounters with your favourite cetaceans in the comments!

Boomer the skateboarding cat

Boomer is the new companion of Didga, an awesome Aussie cat that can skateboard and follow all kinds of commands. Boomer, a Bengal, has learned how to not just ride a skateboard, but to propel it. Here he is:

Here’s a video of Boomer, adorable at 11 weeks old.  By the way, “Didga” is a shortening of “didgeridoo”, and you can guess what Aussie instrument “Boomer” stands for.

Sexual abuse coverup by Anglican Church includes the former Archbishop of Canterbury

Religious coverups of sexual abuse of children aren’t limited to the Roman Catholic Church. As the Guardian (Andrew Brown!) reported Friday, the Church of England engaged in this kind of coverup in the 1990s, and it extended all the way up to a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The abuser was Peter Ball (born 1932),and he was a sexual predator while both Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester—a period of 15 years. The story is familiar: exploitation of boys who were impressed with Ball’s position and apparent empathy. A few things he did (from the Guardian):

At Lewes:

[Ball] had connections with numerous public schools, and at least one of them offered counselling for boys who were suffering from homesickness. Those who were especially spiritually favoured would be invited to shower with him, pray with him naked, massage his legs for phlebitis (he wore nothing under his habit) and occasionally be beaten by him. One of his victims was the chaplain of a neighbouring bishop, but this was not what brought him down.

What caused a “problem” was that one of Ball’s victims tried to commit suicide three times, succeeding on the last attempt. Ball’s fellow bishops knew about much of this, but kept silent. That led ultimately to complaints and Ball’s arrest, but only after he’d been moved to a position as Bishop of Gloucester. More of his misdeeds:

Both Ball and the evangelical QC John Smyth would get their victims to admit to masturbation and then beat them – though Ball made one of his roll around naked in the snow first. But the outward absurdity, and the elaborate justifications for the violence, can only have increased the humiliation and the sense of powerlessness of the victims. The spiritual abuser is in a unique position to manipulate the emotions of the victims, and to promote their own self-hatred.

It’s hard to imagine that a human can be so sadistic and horrible, but easier to imagine how his position of power, and the availability of trusting boys, gave him room to abuse.

Altogether there were many victims, but in 2015 Ball was charged only with misconduct in public office and indecent assault on one man and one boy. After a reported secret deal involving the Church, Ball was sentenced in October, 2015 to only 32 months in prison. He was released this February after having served only half his sentence. A year and a half in jail for a decade and a half of sexual abuse! Even to a determinist like me that sounds like a lenient sentence, since the man drove a child to suicide and several of his victims have claimed lifelong harm. It’s not much of a deterrent, and was there any attempt at reformation?

In the Guardian article, Brown links to an independent report commissioned by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. You can find that report here, and though I’ve not read all of it, it’s sickening in both the details of the abuse Ball inflicted and the many Church officials who tried to cover it up. One of these was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who resigned any connection with the Church after the report came out (he was “honorary assistant bishop of Oxford”). As the report states, Carey (now a Lord), was complicit in the Ball affair on several ways:

Lord Carey was significantly involved in:

  • The events leading to Ball’s resignation;
  • The way in which the Church treated Neil Todd in 1992/93;
  • The failure to ensure that complaints about Ball’s conduct were adequately followed up or passed to police;
  • The failure to take action under the Measure after Ball’s resignation;
  • The decision not to include Ball’s name on the List;
  • The provision of funds to assist Ball;

Wikipedia characterizes the report further:

An independent review in 2017 found that the Church hierarchy, notably former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, colluded in concealing abuse by Peter Ball over a 20 year period. Carey had seven letters from individuals and relatives after Ball was cautioned by police in 1992 but passed only one (of least concern) on to the police. Carey did not put Peter Ball on the ‘Lambeth List’ of clergy whose suitability for the ministry is questioned. Concealing abuse was given higher priority than helping victims. The review claims, “The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself.” The report stated further, “progress [towards dealing satisfactorily with claims of abuse in the Church of England] has been slow and continuing, faster improvement is still required”. Current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the C of E, “colluded and concealed” instead of trying to help, “those brave enough to come forward”. Welby has asked Carey to step down from his role assisting the Bishop of Oxford. Rowan Williams was also criticised.

Abuse survivor, Graham Sawyer, said the C of E treated him and others with contempt. Sawyer said, “The church continues to use highly aggressive legal firms to bully, frighten and discredit victims … In my own case, I continue to endure cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church”. Sawyer wants the police to investigate Carey’s part in the Ball case.

One can’t exculpate religion here, for it gave Ball the power and cachet to abuse young men, and also the access to them. It further provided a powerful and respected institution, to which secular authorities deferred, that could help cover up Ball’s abuse.

Kudos to Justin Welby for commissioning the independent report. I wonder if Lord Carey, though, will suffer any repercussions beyond resigning as a titular official.

The predator: former Bishop Peter Ball, who often dressed as a monk

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

h/t: Paul

Is just quoting Beyoncé a form of cultural appropriation?

You know the answer to the question above. According to Black Lives Matter, it’s a strong “YES!”, although nobody would have batted an eyelash about this five years ago. What happened in March is that Niki Ashton, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament, emitted a tweet announcing that she was going to liberalize the NDP. Here it is (it’s since been deleted):

I’m not a huge fan of Beyoncé, but I do like the song from which this phrase came, “Irreplaceable“. Here it is to explain and to pep up your morning; it’s about a woman sending away her cheating man, noting that “I could have another you in a minute.”

The relevant lyrics:

To the left, to the left
Everything you own in the box to the left
In the closet that’s my stuff
Yes, if I bought it, please don’t touch
And keep talking that mess that’s fine
But could you walk and talk at the same time
And, it’s my name that’s on that jag
So come move your bags, let me call you a cab

Now a lot of people, including even me, recognize that song phrase. And I saw nothing wrong with using it as a campaign slogan. After all, lyrics are lifted all the time in various causes. Think of Dylan’s “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”, or Hillary Clinton’s use of Tammy Wynette’s song “Stand by your man”. I’m sure you can think of many more.

The problem for some is that Beyoncé is black, or rather, half black and half Creole. And a white politician can’t just go around quoting songs from a black woman: that’s “cultural appropriation”, tantamount to racism. Never mind that Beyoncé’s song is not specifically about the black experience, as it refers to anyone who dumps a cheating partner; the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter called Ashton out and demanded that she delete her tweet and stop saying “To the Left”. Canada’s National Post story about this tempest in a plate of poutine shows their tw**t:

Since when does the video above, showing a rich woman with a mansion and a Jaguar kicking out her man, represent “black culture”? But Ashton, a feminist concerned with social justice, capitulated and groveled.

The Post goes on to blacksplain why Ashton failed the ideological purity test:

Some experts in race, music and culture say Ashton’s post exemplifies a theme in politics: leaders use black songs and culture to make themselves seem cool while not actually doing much for the black community.

“Politicians don’t have the same kind of clout they once did … and they have to go to pop culture to be relevant,” said Mark Campbell, senior research associate at the Ryerson University Faculty of Communication and Design’s forum for cultural strategies. “The piece around appropriation is really about flexing a certain kind of white power and privilege and co-opting the social capital” of performers like Beyoncé, he said.

. . . “The difficulty for some black community members might (be that) … for some politicians, their only engagement (with black culture) is in music and food or entertainment,” said Dalton Higgins, a publicist and author of six books about race, culture and music. He called Ashton’s effort an “awkward” reference that didn’t really reflect the spirit of the song, which is about a break-up. It reminded Higgins of Toronto Coun. Norm Kelly’s Twitter feed, which is full of references to Drake and other rappers.

Well, you know, if someone used Beyoncé’s lyrics for financial gain, or regularly appropriated the lyrics of black musicians for their own gain without giving due credit, I would see that as a problem. But that’s not the case here. We have a phrase about a breakup—an event not unique to black people—used in a clever way for political purposes. And it was a one-off.  What happened was that Vancouver Black Lives Matter simply bullied Ashton, and she gave in. Perhaps she was conscious of getting black votes, or, more likely, the BLM movement played on her sense of racial justice in a way that made her ashamed.

But she shouldn’t have been. I doubt that I would have capitulated, since I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the phrase, nor do I see it as “cultural appropriation,” which is a pejorative term that is widely used but rarely comes from genuine bigotry. This is no more cultural appropriation than was Hillary Clinton’s “stand by your man” phrase (emphasizing that, as an independent woman, she wasn’t going to follow it) appropriation of the culture of poor whites in the American South.

This kind of accusation will keep being made, but we should keep calling it out rather than capitulating. In general, “cultural appropriation” is a good thing, and I can’t think of any culture that hasn’t borrowed from others. As they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And I admit that sometimes appropriation is not particularly savory. But it’s not unsavory just because you’re “borrowing up”, as BLM implies. They’d presumably have no problem with blacks or Hispanics borrowing from “white culture”, whatever that is. What makes the world more interesting, and better, is each group using what if finds appealing from other groups. Tomatoes and chili peppers both originated in the New World, yet one of my favorite dishes is something you find all over north India, butter chicken, or murgh makhani, made with both ingredients. Is that cultural appropriation? Even if it is, is it okay because the Indians “borrowed up”? (And don’t forget how Italians also culturally appropriated tomatoes from the indigenous peoples of Central America.)

Sop this sucker up with a pile of fresh, warm chappatis.

Would you have withdrawn a tweet like Ashton’s if you were called out?

h/t: Charleen

Readers’ (and writer’s) wildlife photos: Ducks ‘n’ stuff

Although I have a fair number of wildlife photos from various readers, I can always use more, so please think of this site if you have good wildlife photos. I’m showing some of my ducks today, so I thought I’d post Stephen Barnard’s latest photos, which also include a brood of ducks he’s following. First, some other pictures, with his captions indented:

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). One of a pair feeding in a Russian Olive tree. I can’t tell what it’s holding in its beak. (Males and females look similar.)

Yellow-headed Blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus):

And his ducks:

I’m pretty sure this is a Gadwall (Anas strepera) hen with eleven ducklings. It’s difficult to tell female Gadwalls in summer plumage from Mallards, but the opinion of my local birder group is Gadwall.

Of course I asked for pictures of the brood as it got older, and worried about attrition, as Stephen thought, with good reason, that some would succumb. But I got this photo yesterday with the title “Still eleven gadwall ducklings.” Yay!

And this morning: “Still at eleven”.  Huzzah!

My own brood of four mallard ducklings (plus Mom; all Anas platyrhynchos) is doing well; the four have lost all their down, are starting to flap their wings, and yesterday I heard one of them quack for the first time (they’d been making peeps). It won’t be long till they abandon me. In the meantime, they’ve learned a new behavior to forage off the shallow cement floor: bottoms up! While in this position, they paddle backwards with their feet to remain inverted:

Finally, we had a visitor to the pond about two weeks ago. It’s a small pond, so imagine my surprise when I saw this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) there, probably stopping on its way north. This is a zoomed iPhone photo, so it’s lousy:

Monday: Hili dialogue

Good morning! We’re into another week, for it’s Monday, June 26, 2017: National Chocolate Pudding Day. I haven’t had any of that stuff for years. but i do like it. It’s also Ratcatcher’s Day in Hamelin, and you know what’s reputed to have happened there.

PCC(E) is tired today, having slept poorly due to a tummy ache (now gone) and Life in General, so don’t expect substantive postings today. On this day in 1483, Richard III became king of England. He was killed in battle two years later at the age of only 32, and, as documented on this site, his remains were discovered in 2012 under a Leicester car park and verified by physical examination and DNA tests; (see here and here). On July 26, 1917, the American Expeditionary Forces (the Yanks, or “doughboys) landed in France to fight the Germans; their first combat experience was to come four months later. And here’s a boxing match that I actually remember happening, though I can’t be sure I saw it on t.v.: on this day in 1959, Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson became the world heavyweight champion, defeating American Floyd Patterson by a technical knockout in round three; the fight was held at Yankee Stadium. On this day in 1963, John F. Kennedy gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in support of West Germany after the Berlin Wall had been built. As someone who speaks a bit of Deutsch, I find his German pronunciation not so great, lacking any gutterals fir “ich”, which came out as “ish”. Nevertheless, the speech was a great one, as you can see from even this short excerpt (the whole 10-minute speech is here):

On this day in 2000, The Human Genome Project announced its completion of a “rough draft” DNA sequence; perhaps many of you will remember that. And on this day in 2013 and 2015, there were two landmarks for gay rights. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, by a  5–4 vote in the case of United States v. Windsor, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (prohibiting same-sex marriages for federal purposes) was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. And exactly two years later the Court ruled, by the same margin, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage under the 14th Amendment (the “equal protection” Amendment) to the United States Constitution.

Notables born on this day include Pearl S. Buck (1892), Peter Lorre (1904), and Derek Jeter (1974). Those who died on this day include conquistador Francisco Pizarro (1541), Malcolm Lowry (1957), Roy Campanella (1993), Strom Thurmond (2003) and Nora Ephron (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is frustrated; as Malgorzata explained, “Hili cannot fly which she regards as an injustice and an invisible ceiling hampering her in her pursuit of her freedom.”

A: Are you looking at birds?
Hili: Yes, but I’m restricted by a glass ceiling.
In Polish:
Ja: Patrzysz na ptaszki?
Hili: Tak, ale ogranicza mnie szklany sufit.

From Winnipeg we have a photo of Gus in the setting sun:

Reader John sent a cartoon depicting a cat “snooze alarm” (Grania said it wouldn’t work):

And a picture of Hili drinking from a Hili mug I made on which you can see a picture of Hili drinking from another mug on which there’s a picture of Hili as a kitten. This is the famous “triple Hili” picture which I will put on another mug some day, possibly then achieving, with another photo, the Quadruple Hili Mug: