Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’

In today’s Jesus and Mo, called “clever”, the barmaid floats Pascal Boyer’s theory for the origin of religion, applying it to conspiracy theories. But Mo has his own theory:

The author makes a pitch for his site, and do throw a few bucks his/her/hir/ way:

They don’t want you to know the truth!
Support J&M’s secret plan to take over the world by becoming a Patron:


Travel and wildlife photos

As I didn’t have much time to post travel and wildlife pics on my recent trip to California, I’ll try to post a few every day.

On the day after arrival, we visited Año Nuevo State Park near Santa Cruz, one of the protected sites where Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris) bask and breed. Thanks to reader and biologist Bruce Lyon, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California at Santa Cruz, we were given special access to a restricted beach where bachelor males and young seals were resting before going to see to feed.  On the drive to the beach from Santa Cruz, we saw tons of birds, especially brown pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis).

A young gull:

The trek to the beach over the dunes. Walking on loose sand, especially uphill, was pretty hard. We were accompanied by three naturalists who studied the sea lions, all arranged by Bruce, in the middle here with his big lens. We all had to wear “UCSC Research” jackets so the rangers wouldn’t mistake us for interlopers. It was a swell visit.

When we got there, there were tons of fat seals lazing on the sand. These are big ‘uns: as Wikipedia notes,

“The huge male northern elephant seal typically weighs 1,500–2,300 kg (3,300–5,100 lb) and measures 4–5 m (13–16 ft), although some males can weigh up to 3,700 kg (8,200 lb). Females are much smaller and can range from 400 to 900 kg (880 to 1,980 lb) in weight, or roughly a third of the male’s bulk, and measure from 2.5 to 3.6 m (8.2 to 11.8 ft).”

The males have long noses to help them vocalize (this is all about sex and female choice, of course, as males contribute nothing to offspring care). Here are some pictures:

A beach full o’ seals:

Two males engaging in mock combat (during real fights, they bloody each other’s necks with their sharp teeth, and can even kill each other):

But they are ineffably cute:

Most of them are tagged with markers like this one (I think it goes through the flipppers):

A piece of molted sea lion skin found by one of the naturalists:

Two videos. The lassitude of the colony is broken up only by mock fights and the constant flinging of sand over the seals’ backs with their flippers. That serves as both sunscreen and to cool the sea lions, as the whitish sand masks the dark, sun-absorbing coat:

The seals move with difficulty, humping their blubbery bodies along the beach. Despite that, they can move with surprising speed, though they can’t catch a fleeing human. (We weren’t allowed to get closer than 20 feet anyway, so we didn’t disturb them.)

Two out-of-focus brown pelicans:

After the seal viewing, Bruce afforded a tour of a nearby redwood trail in Butano State Park, which was lovely. Along the way he heard bird calls, and tried to call them in using a bluetooth box connected to bird songs on his smartphone. We didn’t manage to lure in birds, but apparently during the mating season you can get the birds to come right up to your face (the males respond to calls in a territorial way). Here is a big banana slug (Areiolimax columbianus), the official mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz:

And a Pacific Slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) nest inside a shattered tree:

Here’s a photo of that lovely bird from Wikipedia:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Hump Day: Wednesday, September 19, 2018, with three days of summer left (that includes today). It’s National Butterscotch Pudding Day, a dessert that I ate as a child, much debased since it came from a Jell-O box. It’s also International Talk Like a Pirate Day, about which Wikipedia says this:

An observer of this holiday would greet friends not with “Hello, everyone!” but with “Ahoy, maties!” or “Ahoy, me hearties!”. The holiday, and its observance, springs from a romanticized view of the Golden Age of Piracy.

So, ARRRRRRRR (kiss the black spot!)—on with the news that happened on this day:

On September 19, 1778, the Continental Congress passed the U.S.’s first federal budget. In 1881, President Garfield died of sepsis from wounds inflicted in an assassination attempt on July 2. Chester A. Arthur, the Vice President, took over at the helm. And here’s the story of a hero (click on the link): it was on this day in 1940 that Witold Pilecki was “voluntarily captured and sent to Auschwitz to smuggle out information and start a resistance movement”. A member of the Polish Resistance during the War, Pilecki was summarily executed by the goddam Soviets in 1948 (Russia didn’t like the Polish Underground).  On this day in 1952, accused of Communist sympathies, the U.S. government barred Charlie Chaplin from returning to the U.S. after Chaplin had made a trip to England.

It’s a day that will live in infamy: on September 19, 1982, Scott Fahlman posted the first documented emoticons,  🙂 and 😦 on the Carnegie Mellon University bulletin board system. Here is that original message:

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             :-)
From: Scott E  Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways.  Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use


On September 19, 1991, the frozen corpse of Ötzi the Iceman was discovered in the Italian/Austrian Alps.  Here he is, along with a reconstruction of his clothes. He’d eaten ibex meat a few hours before his death, and had an arrow embedded in his scapula—probably the cause of death.

Finally, it was on this day in 1995 that both The Washington Post and The New York Times published the Unabomber‘s manifesto.

Notables born on this day include Arthur Rackham (1867), Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (1907), William Golding (1911), Brian Epstein (1934), Cass Elliot (1941, died 1974, but not from eating a ham sandwich), and Twiggy (1949; my age). Here’s a rendition of Rip Van Winkle by Rackham, one of my favorite illustrators:

Those who expired on September 19 include James A. Garfield (see above), mountaineer Lionel Terray (1965, died on a rock climb), Gram Parsons (1973), Italo Calvino and Orville Redenbacher (both 1985), and photographer Eddie Adams and singer Skeeter Davis (both 2004). Here’s Skeeter Davis singing her immortal crossover hit from 1962, “The End of the World“. As Wikipedia reports (my emphasis):

In December 1962, “The End of the World” peaked in March 1963 at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby & the Romantics), No. 2 on the Billboard country singles, No. 1 on Billboard’s easy listening, and No. 4 on Billboard’s rhythm and blues It is the first, and, to date, only time that a song cracked the Top 10 on all four Billboard charts.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on a solipsistic hunt:

Here are some tweets from Grania. the first showing the kindness of humans:

. . and the preserved foal we mentioned the other day. Look at those hooves:

A flatulent d*g offends a cat (sound on, please):

This must be a tame bear. I’d love to give one a snow massage! (sound on):

Another video demonstrating the cleverness of cats. I would dearly love a cat-made pot:

From First Amendment lawyer Mark Randazza, who clearly has an adolescent streak:

Tweets from Matthew. Can you spot the caterpillar in the picture? It’s in plain view!

Saber-toothed cat tracks!!!

What is this? Matthew says, “It’s a spine on a spiny-backed spider I think.”

Orson Welles was a great filmmaker, but this ad, which is genuine, shows his pretentious side. Seriously: “mallow-based confection”? (I do love Peeps, though.)

NOTE: I’ve since found that this ad is a fake.


Mississippi flyway cam

Ducks in the central part of the U.S. migrate (when they do migrate) down the Mississippi Flyway, which is not only an obvious road South, but provides the wetlands and food that migrating ducks need. (Other birds of course also use this route, but for some reason I’m most concerned with ducks.) This map shows the four great flyways that migratory waterfowl use in North America; the one under discussion is in blue:

Reader Amy called my attention to a live Mississippi River flyway cam showing bunches of birds massing before they head south. The YouTube description says this:

The Raptor Resource Project has established a new bird cam on an island in the heart of the Mississippi River’s Driftless area. Located in the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge on Lake Onalaska, the Mississippi River Flyway Cam will offer an unparalleled look at migrating birds and river wildlife, including bald eagles, American white pelicans, sandhill cranes, Caspian terns, cormorants, and many species of ducks, gulls, and other waterfowl.

The cam is north of here, as shown in the map below, but the birds that fly south will undoubtedly be accompanied at some point by James and Honey—if they migrate. In the meantime, look at the live FlywayCam below and see what’s doing. I saw ducks earlier today, Amy saw some lovely sandhill cranes, and right now there’s a hawk and a bunch of pelicans. I saw some MALLARDS a few hours ago!


Pinker gets harassed on his birthday

As I mentioned in today’s Hili Dialogue, Steve Pinker was born in 1954. When I sent him birthday greetings, I had forgotten that that makes him 64, which accounted for his reply that he’ll “spend the day doing the garden, digging the weeds, and playing with Vera, Chuck, and Dave.” (If you don’t get the reference, go here.)

But all is not beer and skittles for Dr. Pinker, because once again he’s been subject to The Attack of the Woke, with The Woke arguing that we’re not really having the Enlightenment that Pinker described in his last two books. The piece, of course, is at Salon, which has become just another regressive Leftist rag like HuffPo. Click on the screenshot below to read the screed by Erika Schelby, described by Amazon as “an author with much experience in business.”

Despite Pinker’s hyper-documentation of how the world has improved in the last several centuries, and his persuasive argument that this improvement is due largely to reason, secularism, and science, The Woke don’t like him. I’m not quite sure why (see a suggestion below), but they’ve attacked—as this article does—both his claim that the world has improved as well as his analysis of why it’s happened.

Here are Schelby’s points:

a.) The world hasn’t improved that much. (Pinker argues that our increase in morality and well-being is to due more than just science, but we’ll leave that aside for now.) To refute Pinker’s massive documentation of the improvement, Schelby cites only two countering facts: that income inequality is higher than it’s been in decades, and that there’s a red tide in Florida. I quote:

In making his case for why everything is terrific and only getting better, Pinker provides dozens of graphs and statistics paired with short articles to document technological achievements and improvements for society. These exhibits for his case suggest that we are enjoying better health, greater safety, increased longevity, and more stable politics than ever before. This can bring some cheer to people drowning in depressing news from at home and abroad. Income inequality at the highest rate in decades? Not really, if you read Pinker. He can put it in perspective: it’s not that bad. But then you consult the 2018 World Inequality Report penned by Thomas Piketty and his 100 participating researchers, which finds inequality is getting worse (unquestionably in the U.S.) — and will, barring a major shift in course, continue to do so. The celebratory mood could also be soured by any of the latest examples of environmental devastation: for instance Florida’s state of emergency issued for its revolting red tide of toxic algae, and the 267 tons of dead fish, manatees, turtles, dolphins, etc. that washed up on its beaches.

And that’s her case for why Pinker may have been wrong about everything. Well, I don’t have his two fat books before me, so I can’t remark on whether Steve addressed these issues, but this seems irrelevant. If income inequality is higher, what about the average level of well being? That is, greater inequality (and I’ll accept Schelby’s claim here) may nonetheless be accompanied by greater average well being, and I know that Pinker makes a strong case for that based on data about health, wealth, longevity, happiness, and almost any index you can think of.

And what about all those other indices? Schelby ignores them. What kind of an argument is that?

As for the red tide, yes, that’s true, and Pinker does discuss global warming and other environmental threats to human well being. He argues, and you may take issue with it, that science can and most likely will solve those problems. But at least he doesn’t ignore them, though Schelby ignores virtually 99% of the data Pinker adduces for the moral and physical improvement of our species.

b. What improvement there has been of our species and our world can’t be ascribed largely to science.  Schelby really doesn’t give evidence for this claim, but simply makes the claim and adds that there are “several versions of the Enlightenment.” She then—for crying out loud—gives a quote about “scientism” from Werner Heisenberg, as if that proves anything:

That scientific and technological advances are not the same as progress in human affairs goes largely unnoticed by Pinker. For him, the present is rosy and the future only better. We are the fortunate children of the Enlightenment, our prosperity bestowed not by a benevolent God, but by the power of reason and its primacy in our society.

. . . At first glance, Pinker’s exultation of Enlightenment values may be seductive. Do we want to live in an unreasonable, anti-scientific world? Yet, it’s difficult to not see it as a bold defense of a status quo that is clearly not working. Its antiseptic version of the Enlightenment is one that admits no crucial anti-imperial and anti-colonial ideas. Scientific inquiry is a method, but it is not suitable as a dogmatic worldview. Theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg, Nobel laureate for his work in quantum mechanics, had little patience for the doctrine of “scientism” which only accepts strictly empirical evidence, “The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite,” Heisenberg wrote. “It will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth.”

In fact, as Pinker shows, whatever is going on with our species IS working, for it’s effected so many positive changes in the world and in society that very few of us, if any, would wish to be a random citizen in, say, the fifteenth century. And, contra Heisenberg, if you don’t accept empirical evidence, what kind of evidence will you accept? (Nobody, by the way, sees science as the sole buttress of a humanistic worldview.)

For it’s the empirical method—the use and testing of data we can observe and collect—that has largely brought about the improvements in the world that Pinker describes. Would Schelby like to be a woman in the fifteenth century, laboring away at home without the benefit of women’s equality, convenient appliances, or modern healthcare? If science didn’t bring about modern medicine, modern agriculture, and their attendant improvements in health and longevity, what did? Certainly not religion! Would Schelby even be alive without antibiotics?

Finally, Schelby makes seem to be her two Big Points:

c. The Enlightenment wasn’t what Pinker says it was. Nope, says Schelby: there were several versions and, moreover, some Enlightenment figures had doings with non-European countries, implying (wrongly) that the Enlightenment wasn’t a largely European phenomenon:

It’s a neat equation that Pinker lays out, but as is often the case, the reality is more complicated. First of all, there are several versions of the Enlightenment, each emerging from a particular political, geographical, and philosophical home complete with its own debates and disagreements. There was a British, French, Scottish, Polish, German, and—at least in the mind of Catherine II—Russian Enlightenment. She corresponded with Voltaire, and welcomed Denis Diderot to stay for five months at her court in St. Petersburg, where she met with him almost daily. In Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, just one of the appropriated areas not given back after 1928 as Pinker claims they all were), dashing young Russian officers attended Kant’s classes and listened, spellbound, to his lectures.

There was also a global component of the Enlightenment. It was possibly an early manifestation of globalization. American and European merchants, explorers, traders, conquerors, missionaries, diplomats and bureaucrats traveled with ideas and carried them to their foreign destinations. So the Enlightenment became known beyond the boundaries of the West. Several western thinkers took a serious interest in the languages and cultures of the East. For example, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German polymath, corresponded for years with Jesuits working in China. He was on a hunt for a non-decimal system of 0 and 1, and researching “I Ching” hexagrams, which were unmistakably binary. He came to regard Chinese culture as sophisticated and advanced.

My response to this is “so what”? Does that mean that the European Enlightenment required fertilization from Russia and China? Citing Catherine II and (for crying out loud) Chinese Jesuits and the “I Ching” are simply anecdotal observations. Of course Europeans interacted with Russians, and occasionally with Chinese, but again I say, “so what”? What point is Schelby making here, other than “Pinker’s history wasn’t complete” (and I can’t remember if it was, but I suspect he did deal with the geographical reach and origins of the Enlightenment)? What is the sweating author trying to say? At any rate, giving two lousy anecdotes does not serve to show that Pinker didn’t understand or correctly describe the Enlightenment. All it shows is that Schelby likes anecdotes and that two minor ones suffice for her as a refutation of Pinker.

But wait! There’s more!

d. The Enlightenment fostered colonialism and imperialism.  Here I suspect a conflation: yes, some Enlightenment figures were imperialists and jingoists, and probably racists, too. But that doesn’t show that these obnoxious and maladaptive traits were fostered by the Enlightenment. The two phenomena of imperialism and Enlightenment are historically coincidental, but the causality, if there is any, defies me.

More important, the Enlightenment is surely what helped bring an end to colonialism and imperialism, though this was late in history. After all, countries became free when colonizers became enlightened enough to realize that one country had no obvious right to subjugate and exploit another. And that comes from secular, moral reasoning: the result not of religion, but of humanism.

Indeed, Schelby admits that some Enlightenment figures were anti-colonialist, and squirms mightily to de-emphasize that:

The Enlightenment became an intellectual justification and framework for colonialism and imperialism. So much so that John Stuart Mill opined about British imperial rule in India, “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.”

But wait–there were exceptions! (My emphasis).

During the late 18th century, several thinkers launched a vigorous assault against imperialism, conquest, and appropriation on a global scale. Their arguments took aim at a hypocritical contradiction. Yes, the proponents of imperialism supported the concept of the universal “natural man,” who is seen as a generic example of all humans and entitled to his due rights, but they gave little thought to these rights when exercising their paternalistic and brutal political and economic domination. In the U.S., this mission of bringing light to the gloom was later parodied by Mark Twain in his 1901 essay, “To the Person Sitting in Darkness.

In contrast, the anti-imperialists, including Diderot, Kant, and Herder, championed the equal dignity of all humans on earth, their original right to freedom, and to a life as beings—not as something generic to be shaped at will by colonial masters. Constructs of superiority and inferiority were resolutely rejected. These major contributors to the Enlightenment condemned imperial ambitions as unjust, dangerous, and impractical.

But the views of these anti-imperialists were apparently rejected. Schelby implies, but doesn’t say, that this is somehow the fault of the Enlightenment itself:

Much of this original anti-imperialist material began to disappear shortly after it was written. By the mid-19th century, when the zeitgeist had turned zealously imperial, it was semi-invisible and eventually was pushed into the shadows altogether. But in recent decades it has been rediscovered. As Sankar Muthu writes in his superb book “Enlightenment Against Empire,” “A study of Enlightenment anti-imperialism offers a richer and more accurate portrait of eighteenth-century political thought and illuminates the underappreciated … interconnections between human unity and human diversity”.

Schelby waffles on about Johann Gottfried Herder, an obscure anti-imperialist of the eighteenth century, and how he’s been rediscovered, but all this just goes to show that the Enlightenment wasn’t as closely connected with colonialism and imperialism as Schelby claims. So history has shown her wrong.

In the end, it’s not at all clear what point there is to Schelby’s Birthday Critique. To me it looks like one more jealous intellectual trying unsuccessfully to poke holes in Pinker’s arguments.

Finally, I present this article from for your delectation, and give a couple of excerpts. It’s about why intellectuals are so driven to smear Pinker and denigrate his message of progress, humanism, science, and secularism.  The author’s analysis leads him to conclude that Pinker attracts critics because he presents ideologically inconvenient facts.

Two excerpts:

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker believes that men and women often have different interests and priorities, that violent crime rates vary among ethnic groups, and that the majority of suicide-terror acts worldwide are committed by Muslim extremists. While there’s ample evidence to support all of these claims, Pinker takes serious flak from the Regressive Left for stating them, as it offends their sensibilities. The punishment is being called a racist, sexist, Islamophobe, etc., a bullying tactic used as a silencing mechanism.

There have long been insinuations that Pinker, who’s Jewish and a liberal of the classical variety, is an alt-right sympathizer. Now that an edited video of a panel discussion he participated in at Harvard has gone viral, in which he refers to the “often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right,” the usual suspects are coming at him. Pinker’s sparked just the latest social media outrage, based on only shards of evidence, we’re now accustomed to seeing from progressives. P.Z. Myers, New Atheist blogger and biology professor at University of Minnesota, posted a screed on his blog entitled, “If you ever doubted that Steven Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right.” This would be unlikely, as the alt-right is fond of Holocaust jokes and Adolf Hitler. Plus, Pinker’s a big donor to the Democratic Party. Myers once scurrilously accused the late Christopher Hitchens of advocating the “wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world.”

And Beck’s conclusion?

If you present people like [CNN contributor] Sally Kohn the U.S. Department of Justice stats that show that blacks commit nearly eight times more homicides than whites, they call you a racist, which is what happens to Steven Pinker, even though he offers a non-racist, academic explanation for the numbers. It’s a societal problem, not a racial one. Much of the criticism aimed at the professor is done in bad faith by highly-politicized individuals, while some is the result of ignorance born of zealotry.

. . . Pinker’s trying to point out the downside to suppressing or distorting facts in the way Sally Kohn and many others on the Left do. It increases the chances that people, when exposed to certain data for the first time, are going to reach incorrect conclusions about various groups because they haven’t been allowed to hear well-reasoned interpretations of the facts. The result is an intellectual black market in which opinions get skewed towards extremism. The mistake the Left makes in basing its claim of moral parity for everyone on the contention that all groups are equal in every way is that such a premise is subject to invalidation by hard evidence.  

A good portion of the liberal/progressive movement is actively working towards creating an atmosphere where public intellectuals, and just regular people, shy away from addressing uncomfortable issues. Social media, where negativity thrives, aids them in helping to create the impression that people who oppose the alt-right, like Pinker, are actually alt-right apologists. Lies travel much faster than the truth on the Internet. The Left has been successful at creating an environment where self-censorship is commonplace. People are now afraid to speak their minds out of fear that the mob will come after them. Self-censorship is even more insidious than the government-mandated variety because it’s not tangible, making it harder to fight. Smearing people like Steven Pinker will, as so often happens on the Left, produce exactly the opposite of what’s intended.

The bold part is, to my mind, absolutely correct, and explains why the mild-mannered and kindly Pinker is so often the victim of vicious attacks. The attacks, as we see, aren’t based so much on his facts or analyses as on his ideology.

Happy birthday anyway, Steve!



Tuesday: Duck report

I haven’t yet looked to see if the mallard couple is still in Botany Pond, though when I came to work early today there were two ducklike shapes on the island that were barely visible in the dark. (They might have been cypress knees.) At any rate, they were there yesterday and had three good meals courtesy of Anna and me.

James continues to be very attentive toward Honey. In the first photo he’s guarding her while she sleeps (one eye closed: mallards sleep with one eye open and one half of their brain awake, alternating sides). In the second photo he’s watching her as she feeds.

Readers’ wildlife photographs

Stephen Barnard has returned with some lovely photos from his ranch in Idaho. His captions are indented:

First, a Rainbow Trout (the eye, Oncorhynchus mykiss) about to eat a Callibaetis mayfly, taken a few days ago. The mayfly is in the act of laying eggs, clearly seen in the photo. Callibaetis mayflies have the notable property that their eggs hatch almost immediately after being deposited. There’s a cool video of this, but I can’t find it.

Next, taken this morning, a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).

Finally, also this morning, a bull Elk (Cervus canadensis), with out-of-focus Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) in the background. This 6×6 antlered specimen would be considered a trophy because of symmetry of the rack. This time of year (the mating season) a large herd finds refuge on my place. This fellow was bugling enthusiastically before I shot the photo. I don’t allow hunting, even though they damage the crops and “depredation” permits are easy to come by  — I get LOTS of requests. I do allow hunters to track a wounded animal onto my property.

JAC: You can see a video of a loudly bugling elk here.

Reader James Thompson also had an Encounter of the Cervid Kind. He recounts:

Last week my wife and I were camping in the Timber Creek Campground on the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park. As you can see,  the elk like hanging out in the campground. At night, four elk cows were grazing and later bedded down near our tent.  I had to shoo two of them away to make my way to the outhouse.


Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Tuesday, September 18, 2018, and summer is drawing to a close (there are four days left after today). It’s National Cheeseburger Day (“no Coke—Pepsi!”) as well as World Water Monitoring Day. As for your host, PCC(E) is a happy man because his mallards have returned, and they’re together, clearly suggesting a romantic bond. I get to tend them for a short while until they migrate.

I have a dentist appointment this morning so posting may be light today.

On September 18, 1793, the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building was laid by George Washington. On this day in 1851, the first issue of the New-York Daily Times appeared; it was the precursor of the New York Times. Nineteen years later,  Henry D. Washburn, a retired U.S. Representative, observed and named the Old Faithful Geyser in what is now Yellowstone National Park. Here’s a short clip of one of its regular spoutings:

On this day in 1919, the Netherlands gave women the right to vote. Exactly two decades later, the Nazi propaganda show Germany Calling began transmitting in English from Berlin. Here’s its most famous announcer, William Joyce, announcing the invasion of Norway by Germany. Joyce broadcast under the name Lord Haw-Haw:

After the war, Joyce, a hybrid English/Irishman born in America, was captured, tried for high treason, and executed. Here he is as a prisoner before his hanging. He was a devout Nazi and Jew-hater until the end.

On September 18, 1948, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who was not completing the term of another Senator. On this day in 1977, the Voyager I spacecraft took the first photo from space of the Earth and Moon together. Here’s that photo:

Finally, it was four years ago today that Scotland voted against becoming independent from the UK; the vote was 55% against, 44% for.  We will not see this referendum again in our lifetimes.

Notables born on September 18 include Samuel Johnson (1709), Bun Cook (1904), Greta Garbo (1905), Harvey Haddix (1925; he pitched a perfect game for 12 innings against Milwaukee in 1959, but then lost it in the 13th), Frankie Avalon (1940), Ben Carson (1951), Steven Pinker (1954), James Gandolfini (1961), and Ronaldo (1976). Ronaldo was a great dribbler for Brazil, and here are some of his moves:

Notables who died on September 18 include Leonhard Euler (1783), Dag Hammarskjöld (1961; killed in a plane crash), Jimi Hendrix (1970) and Katherine Ann Porter (1980).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has been out on the tiles:

A: You were out for 24 hours. Where were you wandering?
Hili: Here and there.
In Polish:
Ja: Nie było cię w domu przez 24 godziny, gdzie ty łaziłaś?
Hili: Tu i tam.
Here’s a tweet I found on the great hashtag site #murmuration:

Tweets from Grania:

A thread about the typhoon that just hit Hong Kong:

Yes, a lonely narwhal has joined a pod of young beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River. They’ve apparently accepted the tusked one as a companion; you can read more about it here, and there’s a short drone video. (h/t: Michael for the site):

A cat who willingly brushes his teeth. That’s as unusual as a cat who likes to be vacuumed! But it doesn’t look here as if much actual brushing is going on.

Click on the tweet to see the full medication label:

A clever visualization of the wake of an airplane:

Ziya Tong posted this bouquet of insects:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one, also from Tong, shows the ferocity of fires in British Columbia:

Look at this communal bath of hummingbirds!

Matthew lent a big hand to David Attenborough in the writing of the new edition of Life on Earth, and Dr. Cobb is justifiably proud:

This has happened to me not just with paragraphs, but entire papers!

All paper titles should be this succinct:


Restoration of an artwork

Here’s a fascinating video of a work of art being restored: it’s a self-portrait by the Italian painter Emma Gaggiotti Richards (1825-1912). Three of her paintings were given to Queen Victoria by her husband Prince Albert, and Victoria reciprocated with another Richards painting. The YouTube notes include this:

ReMade in Chicago, Baumgartner Restoration is a second-generation art conservation studio in Chicago. Follow Julian as he completely restores a damaged painting.

Music – Evolving Dawn by Paul Mottram

I have no idea what exactly the guy is using, or how this works, but he certainly knows what he’s doing, and I find it mesmerizing.

h/t: Michael

Book claiming that Israel deliberately maims Palestinian civilians as a form of punishment wins award in women’s studies

According to the Algemeiner (yes, a Jewish site), a book by Jasbir Puar, Professor and Graduate Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, has won one of the two 2018 Alison Piepmeier Book Prizes awarded by the National Womens Studes Association (NWSA).  According to the Association, the prize is “for a groundbreaking monograph in women, gender, and sexuality studies that makes significant contributions to feminist disability studies scholarship.”

Puar’s book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, appears to be a postmodern work, with the main thesis, according to the Algemeiner article (click on link below) being that Israel maims rather than kills Palestinians as a way to keep them under control (see also Amazon summary below):

Published in November 2017 by Duke University Press — which has come under scrutiny for its editorial advisors’ ties to the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel — the book posits that the “Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have shown a demonstrable pattern over decades of sparing life, of shooting to maim rather than to kill.”

Yet it contends that this “purportedly humanitarian practice of sparing death by shooting to maim” is not rooted in a desire to minimize fatalities, but rather seeks to maintain “Palestinian populations as perpetually debilitated, and yet alive, in order to control them.”

The NWSA award’s review committee called The Right to Maim a “major milestone book,” which argues “that debilitation and the state production of disability are biopolitical projects both useful and productive for states under Neoliberal capitalism.”

This is the Amazon summary of the book (click on cover photo below to go there), so the Algemeiner apparently isn’t exaggerating the book’s thesis (my emphasis below):

In The Right to Maim Jasbir K. Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability. Drawing on a stunning array of theoretical and methodological frameworks, Puar uses the concept of “debility”—bodily injury and social exclusion brought on by economic and political factors—to disrupt the category of disability. She shows how debility, disability, and capacity together constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations. Puar’s analysis culminates in an interrogation of Israel’s policies toward Palestine, in which she outlines how Israel brings Palestinians into biopolitical being by designating them available for injury. Supplementing its right to kill with what Puar calls the right to maim, the Israeli state relies on liberal frameworks of disability to obscure and enable the mass debilitation of Palestinian bodies. Tracing disability’s interaction with debility and capacity, Puar offers a brilliant rethinking of Foucauldian biopolitics while showing how disability functions at the intersection of imperialism and racialized capital. [JAC: reread that last sentence.]

I won’t go into the other article describing the ties of the Duke University Press to the BDS movement, but you might have a look at the link, because the claims, if true, are disturbing. It’s all part of academia’s continual demonization of Israel, which in this case seems to be based on deliberate distortion and lying, in contrast to the academically-approved extolling the Palestinian government, one of the most repressive and mendacious regimes around (propagandizing kids with anti-Semitic messages, using human shields, and so on). [NOTE: I was referring here to the government, not the people themselves. Though a lot of Palestinians behave reprehensibly under the sway of religiously-born hatred, I did not mean to imply that all or most of them do.]

I’ve requested the book on interlibrary loan so I can have a look at it it, but apparently it’s all online, as the Algemeiner piece gives this link.  Given the last sentence of the H-Disability review below, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the book.


This is from a review in H-Disability by M. Lynn Rose (my emphasis):

Chapter 3, “Disabled Diaspora, Rehabilitating State: The Queer Politics of Reproduction in Palestine/Israel” takes up “pinkwashing,” which is, Puar claims, Israel’s use of gay rights propaganda to detract attention from its occupation of Palestine. The focus on inclusivity, she asserts, is limited to cisgender and gender conformity, and stands beside gender segregation in Orthodox Jewish communities. In establishing Israel as a rehabilitative act (rehabilitating the debilitations of statelessness and genocide), the model Jewish body was decidedly nondisabled, masculine, and heterosexual. Rehabilitation banished the “Oriental” in the European Jew, recreated Europe in Palestine, and conceptually separated the Jew from the Arab. The fear of maiming then becomes “a spectacular imperial tool, projecting the fear of maiming by Palestinians onto Palestinians through the debilitating effects of the occupation; this mechanism is the displacement necessary to secure able-bodied citizenry of Israel” (p. 107).

“Will Not Let Die: Debilitation and Inhuman Biopolitics in Palestine,” chapter 4, focuses on the population targeted for injury, moving on from the focus in previous chapters on the population that is available for injury. Israel maintains biopolitical control through maiming, not killing; maiming, Puar claims, poses as a humanitarian manifestation of a “let live” mentality, but is actually a manifestation of the mentality of “will not let die” (p. 139). The section “No Future” takes up the fate of Palestinian children, targeted for stunting, PTSD, gunshot wounds, and so on. Puar calls her analysis an “anti-Zionist hermeneutic” (p. 153). “The ultimate purpose of this analysis,” she writes, coming full circle from her opening statement, “is to labor in the service of a Free Palestine” (p. 154).

The postscript, “Treatment without Checkpoints,” looks at debility within disability among the disability service providers at the checkpoints in Palestine, then extends the concept to other populations. Debilitated disability as a result of collective punishment demands a complicated activism. The desire for mobility extends beyond the individual body to the collective displaced population. Progress in achieving a positive disability identity, Puar concludes, will not come about until the end of Palestinian occupation.

The Right to Maim is not written for a general audience. It is a theoretical investigation into the meanings of disability, debility, capacity, queerness, and race in global biopolitical contexts. As such, it is not for everyone. Readers who have never worked their way through Mitchell and Snyder’s Narrative Prosthesis, for example, will find this work slow going. I do not see its place in any undergraduate class, though it could be useful in theory-based graduate seminars. Readers who are fluent in theoretical scholarship, especially in disability theory, will find this to be a fulfilling read.

The “pinkwashing” canard, in which gay rights in Israel were supposedly allowed as a distraction from the country’s nefarious colonizing desires, is simply stupid. If the Orthodox Jews demonize gays, then that’s their right, but they aren’t allowed to violate the law. But beside that stands the arrant fact that Palestine, along with many other Muslim lands in the Middle East has no gay rights at all! Being gay in Palestine will put you perilously close to execution, as it will in Iran, Pakistan, and other places. It’s ridiculously but conventionally postmodern to raise the cry of pinkwashing—an accusation which there’s no evidence save anti-Semitism—while ignoring the blatant homophobia (indeed, making gay acts capital crimes) of Muslim countries. Puar’s emphasis on pinkwashing discredits her as an objective scholar. But of course she’s not objective, as you can see in the second paragraph of the H-Disability review.

Puar’s claim that Israel aims to maim the Palestinians as punishment and control, a ridiculous claim on the face of it, is clearly in the service of her agenda: “to labor in the service of a Free Palestine.” Can anyway take her lucubrations seriously when she so openly states her aim? Regardless, however, I’ll look very carefully for evidence that Israeli government policy is to maim Palestinians as a tool to subjugate them. Until now I always thought that BDS and anti-Zionist claim was that Israel simply wanted to kill noncombatant Palestinians (something I see no evidence for, either), but now it’s devolved to maiming them. And if Israel shoots to maim people rather than kill them if those people are attacking Israeli soliders or civilians, I’d find that admirable rather than detestable. Isn’t it better to shoot someone in the legs than to kill them? If you wanted to control a populace, wouldn’t it be better to kill them rather than maim them? Isn’t death a better deterrent than maiming?

But of course no matter what Israel does to defend itself, it’s going to be criticized. I’m simply waiting for people like Puar to call out the Palestinians for firing rockets at civilian populations, using small children to build tunnels for terrorism, using human shields, and demonizing homosexuals (after all, Puar is involved in queer studies.)

We’ll wait a long time for that, as Puar has not just a beam in her eye, but a whole truckload of them. And her goal, as she stated, is to “labor in the service of a free Palestine”, which may well mean the elimination of Israel as well.

And shame on Duke University Press, Rutgers, and the NWSA for giving awards for and taking so seriously the brand of ideologically-motivated “scholarship” practiced by people like Puar. (I will of course revise my opinion if I find any evidence for her thesis.) In the meantime, this looks like just another example of academia rewarding anti-Semitism. I suppose academic discourse and publishing has always been arcane and ideological, but never in my lifetime have I seen it be so tendentious—at least in the humanities.

If you want to listen to Puar yourself, here’s nearly two hours of her 2013 keynote address from CLAGS’ (The Center for LGBTQ Studies) conference on Homonationalism and Pinkwashing at The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York City. Her talk begins at 02:45.