Ruth Bader Ginsburg treated for pancreatic cancer

She’s about as tough as they come, but this doesn’t sound good (click on screenshot).

Washington (CNN)Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been treated for pancreatic cancer in New York City, the Supreme Court announced Friday

“The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” the court said.

This is the 86-year-old liberal icon’s fourth bout with cancer. In 1999, she successfully underwent surgery to treat colon cancer. She was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer in 2009. Last December, Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her left lung.

Ginsburg, who inspired the meme ‘Notorious RBG’ and was the subject of a documentary and feature film in recent years, missed oral arguments for the first time earlier this year while recovering, but participated in rulings via court transcripts and in writing.

Ginsburg’s health has long been an issue. The oldest Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg leads the liberal wing on the court which is currently outnumbered 5-4 by conservatives.

A three-week course of stereotactic ablative radiation therapy began on August 5, the court said. A tumor was first detected after a blood test in July and a biopsy was performed as well.

“The Justice tolerated treatment well,” the court said. “No further treatment is needed at this time.”

Four bouts with cancer, including in the lung and pancreas (where cancers are almost always fatal). I do hope she makes it through again, for the sake of herself, her family, and of course our country. And you know what I mean by that.

I survived surgery!

In short, I was operated on by THE ROBOT, a big device with arms that went into me laparoscopically. (The surgeon sits behind the robot, facing a video screen, and operates the arms and the camera; it’s amazing!) They made three incisions: one for the camera, and two to fix the inguinal hernia (a double, it turns out) as well as to see if there was a hernia on the other side (there wasn’t).

The “AT” marked on my stomach was pre-surgery, and I don’t know what it means except to single out the affected region.

And they shaved my belly while I was under, so now I have unsightly NAVEL STUBBLE (see below)!  Anyway, everything went well, and I’m recovering and taking pain meds (as few as possible). Here’s my post-op belly with the three incisions. You can see what an improvement laparoscopic surgery is over the normal procedure, which for hernias is highly invasive—and leaves a big scar as well as inflicting a long period of healing. (I’ll be able to work within a day and do all my normal activities save lifting more than ten pounds. )

I should be posting normally by Sunday.

An interrupted romance

Here’s a lovely story from the New York Times (yes, it has some nice stuff, especially if it’s not editorialized news). It’s about a man and woman who had a romance, but then agreed to part and meet five years later on the steps of New York’s Public Library, next to the “uptown lion”. Time passed, there were other relationships and obstacles, but the meeting finally took place. I’ll let you read about it yourself, but it’s a heartwarmer, and very well written.

Have a good weekend.

Another New York Times editor with a history of bigoted tweets

Tom Wright-Piersanti is a senior staff editor at the New York Times, and, according to many sources, including the Washington Examiner, The Hill, the New York Post, and so on, it was found that he had a long history of pretty blatant anti-Asian and anti-Semitic remarks in his Twitter feed. Granted, this was about nine years ago, but that history shows someone who, at least then, wasn’t exactly open-minded about certain issues. (Oh hell, let’s just say he was a “bigot”.)

Now the Times fired Quinn Norton as a tech writer over her history of questionable tweets, but decided to retain tech editor Sarah Jeong, who had an equally questionable history of bigoted postings on Twitter (see all my posts on Jeong here). Jeong was allowed to keep her prestigious position at the Times after issuing an apology and saying that her offensive tweets were really just hyperbolic satire of the abuse she had received as an Asian “woman of color” who wrote for other venues. And, of course, she was making fun of white people, which is an offense that can be written off.

But Wright-Piersanti doesn’t have either of those defenses. And so I think it would be hard for the Times to excuse stuff like the following:

Jews, Indians, and other Asians as well:

Here’s his comment on a police car that looked like it had a menorah on the roof:

These don’t seem to constitute retaliatory humor of the Jeong-ian stripe.

As the New York Post reports, Wright-Piersanti has a long history of being what he called other people:

At the time of most of the objectionable tweets, Wright-Piersanti was working at the Star-Ledger in Newark. But he apparently had no love for some of his colleagues there.

“I am a ball of f–king rage. I HATE being talked down to by my peers. Fat, frog-looking bitch,” he tweeted in November 2010.

Wright-Piersanti’s Twitter page suggests he adores the word “douche,” which crops up more than a dozen times.

“He looks like a douche. His facebook page was totally open, I could have used a photo of him posing in front of a mirror like a girl,” he wrote on Feb. 18, 2011.

Wright-Piersanti joined the Times in 2014. But before he got there, he often blasted his future employer.

“What the NYTimes does is take your story, spice it up with a dash of *douche zest* and then a million people read it,” he tweeted on Oct. 13, 2010.

On Oct. 10, 2013, he was at it again, venting against a Times reporter who was dispatched to do a story from Montclair, NJ. “Maybe NYT was right to send a douche,” he tweeted before apparently quoting a line from an NYT story that offended him: “Montclair likes to think of itself as having more of a mix of races and classes than other suburbs.”

And on the Amish, he tweeted in August 2010, “I’m working on a tell-all expose of the Amish; calling it, ‘more like Pennsylvania Douche.’ ”

This morning I discovered that he’d made his Twitter page private, which is a shame because it was funny to see everyone calling him out, many with humor, for his history of bigotry. Before he made his page private he wrote this apology, which has also vanished:

I have deleted tweets from a decade ago that are offensive. I am deeply sorry.

— Tom Wright-Piersanti (@tomwp) August 22, 2019

And now what you see when you go there is this:

I’m not going to say that Wright-Piersanti should be fired. That would be up to his employer, the New York Times, and I have no strong feelings one way or the other. Perhaps he’s rehabilitated, though I think it’s awfully hard to root out this kind of bigotry.

But surely employees should be treated equally for equal transgressions, and it still rankles me that Jeong was given a pass while similar miscreants were fired or demoted (the Times just demoted another editor this week for past tweets that were seen as racist or insulting characterizations of four Democratic Representatives: Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Lloyd Doggett, and John Lewis).

h/t: cesar

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s photos are from the Aussie Tony Eales, who gives all the notes we need:

A bunch of flowers today.

First is a weird member of the Showy Mistletoe family, Loranthaceae, called Amyema cambagei or the She-oak Mistletoe. Mistletoes including this species often display host-mimicry that is often so good that were it not flowering, it would be difficult to notice the plant. The long needle-shaped leaves of the mistletoe is a near perfect match for those of the Casuarina and Allocasuarina trees that it parasitises.

Next are three mangroves but the first mangrove isn’t a mangrove. Aegiceras corniculatum is called the River Mangrove and is in the Primrose family.

The next two are actually members of the mangrove family Rhizophoraceae. Bruguiera gymnorrhiza is called the Orange Mangrove and Ceriops australis the Smooth-fruited Yellow Mangrove [JAC: in order below]. All these trees have amazing adaptations to the dynamic and saline habitat that they help create along the shorelines.

Next is Persoonia virgata; I just love its flowers, as they look a bit like tiny bananas as they open. On the eastern side of Australia where I live, the genus is known as Geebungs, but in the weird west they are known as Snottygobbles. Yuck. I’ve never tried the fruit; I seem to only find unripe fruit in the bush but I suspect it’s quickly snapped up by birds when it ripens.

The last three photos are of Triggerplants. Triggerplants are a mainly Australian genus with an amazing method of pollination. When an insect lands on the flower a trigger that was bent back behind the plane of the flower, springs up and covers the insect in pollen. They are also unusual in the floral spikes and sepals often being covered in sticky trichomes similar to those of a sundew which can trap insects. This has led some to conclude that they are proto-carnivorous but that is disputed. The bright pink ones are Stylidium graminifolium, which grow in a grassy rosette of leaves from which a tall spike  that can be up to 60cm or longer. You can see some with sprung and unsprung triggers and make out the trichomes in one of the photos.

The other is photo shows two flowers of Stylidium repens from Western Australia, on a tiny plant only about 5cm tall. In this photo the flower on the left has been triggered and the one on the right is still set.


Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, August 23, surgery day and National Cuban Sandwich Day (more cultural appropriation). It’s also Buttered Corn Day, Daffodil Day, and International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition, as well as European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

I’ll be under the knife (or the drill, or whatever they use) when you read this, having some minor surgery (as a friend said, “minor surgery” is defined as “surgery on other people”). If there’s are posts tomorrow (I’ve written a few in advance for today), you’ll know I survived. At any rate, posting over the weekend will probably be very light.  As always, I do my best.

A lot of stuff happened on August 23, including:

  • 30 BC – After the successful invasion of Egypt, Octavian executes Marcus Antonius Antyllus, eldest son of Mark Antony, and Caesarion, the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and only child of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.
  • AD 79 – Mount Vesuvius begins stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

Here’s Vesuvius today, looming over Naples. It could erupt again, and the city has an emergency evacuation plan that assumes 2-20 days’ notice of an eruption:

This was, of course the eruption that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. The only eyewitness account we have comes from two letters written by Pliny the Younger.

More stuff that happened on this day:

  • 1305 – Sir William Wallace is executed for high treason at Smithfield, London.
  • 1572 – French Wars of Religion: Mob violence against thousands of Huguenots in Paris results in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.
  • 1831 – Nat Turner’s slave rebellion is suppressed.
  • 1927 – Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti are executed after a lengthy, controversial trial.
  • 1942 – World War II: Beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad.
  • 1966 – Lunar Orbiter 1 takes the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon.

Here’s that photo:

But wait! There’s more:

  • 1970 – Organized by Mexican American labor union leader César Chávez, the Salad Bowl strike, the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history, begins.
  • 1973 – A bank robbery gone wrong in Stockholm, Sweden, turns into a hostage crisis; over the next five days the hostages begin to sympathise with their captors, leading to the term “Stockholm syndrome”.

Of the two people who held hostages, one spent ten years in jail, while the other, a friend of the perp, was acquitted as he did not take part in the robbery but was brought in at the request of the robber.

  • 1990 – West and East Germany announce that they will reunite on October 3.
  • 1991 – The World Wide Web is opened to the public.
  • 2007 – The skeletal remains of Russia’s last royal family members Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, and his sister Grand Duchess Anastasia are discovered near Yekaterinburg, Russia.
  • 2011 – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is overthrown after the National Transitional Council forces take control of Bab al-Azizia compound during the Libyan Civil War.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1769 – Georges Cuvier, French biologist and academic (d. 1832)
  • 1849 – William Ernest Henley, English poet and critic (d. 1903)
  • 1852 – Arnold Toynbee, English economist and historian (d. 1883)
  • 1905 – Ernie Bushmiller, American cartoonist (d. 1982)

Can you name the comic strip for which Bushmiller is famous? Answer is here.

  • 1912 – Gene Kelly, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1996)

Here’s one of Kelly’s greatest onscreen dances, a tap-and-glide performance on roller skates—and the old-fashioned metal kind with four wheels in a 2X2 arrangement. The song is “I Like Myself” from the 1955 MGM musical It’s Always Fair Weather.  This is truly a stunning performance.

  • 1931 – Barbara Eden, American actress and singer
  • 1977 – Jared Fogle, former spokesperson for chain restaurant Subway

Fogle, whom you may remember from the sandwich ads, did not come to a good end. As Wikipedia reports:

Fogle’s tenure with Subway ended after he was investigated for paying for sex with minors and receiving child pornography in 2015. On August 19, 2015, he agreed to plead guilty in federal court to possessing child pornography and traveling to pay for sex with minors. Fogle formally pleaded guilty to the charges on November 19, 2015, and was sentenced to serve 15 years, 8 months in federal prison, with a minimum of 13 years before becoming eligible for early release.

and. . . .

  • 1978 – Kobe Bryant, American basketball player and businessman

Those who “fell asleep” on August 23 include:

  • 1305 – William Wallace, Scottish rebel commander (b. 1272)
  • 1813 – Alexander Wilson (ornithologist), Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, and illustrator (b. 1766)
  • 1926 – Rudolph Valentino, Italian actor (b. 1895)
  • 1927 – Nicola Sacco, Italian anarchist convicted of murder (b. 1891)
  • 1927 – Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian anarchist convicted of murder (b. 1888)

Sacco and Vanzetti, whose trial was a cause celebre, were both electrocuted after numerous protests and a botched trial process. Here they are, with Vanzetti on the left:

Others who died on this day include:

  • 1960 – Oscar Hammerstein II, American director, producer, and composer (b. 1895)
  • 1982 – Stanford Moore, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1913)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is checking out the walnut crop:

Hili: There will be plenty of walnuts this year.
A: So it seems.
In Polish:
Hili: Będzie dużo orzechów.
Ja: Na to wygląda.

A meme from reader Gethyn. The cat is working!

A timely New Yorker cat cartoon first sent by Merilee (and later by several other readers). The cartoon is by Tim Hamilton and I’ve put the caption below it

“I thought I was the chosen one.”

Grania sent me this tweet on December 5 of last year:

Here’s a rare tweet I found. Lucky sheep!

From reader Jiten.  The six-word description is close to perfect.

From reader gravelinspector. It’s long been known that crabs make hats out of real marine sponges, and here one does it in the lab. But why? Camouflage? Protection from predation? Both? Or is it a sexually alluring feature, in which case one might expect the sponge hats to adorn mostly male crabs. These questions are above my pay grade.

From Nilou; more evidence that Trump has a comedy writer on his Twitter team (not a good one in this case):

Tweets from Matthew. Here Trump discusses the Bible, showing his abysmal ignorance of the whole book. Sound up. He can’t even name a favorite verse! OY!

Another specimen of Matthew’s favorite genre: optical illusions:

Yes, there’s a Denver mattress cinema, equivalent to the drive-in movies of my youth. But it doesn’t behave well in high winds:



Photos of readers

Well, we haven’t yet run out of readers with fancy sports cars. Here’s reader Randy Schenck, who apparently had a young-life crisis. Randy’s words are indented:

Since old photos with cars is the fashion, I can give you one about 48 years ago.  This was my first new auto and something I would remind all of us older types: if you are going to go through a second childhood, do it while you are still young.

I was in England at the time so it would be considered a local purchase: a 1971 MGB, built for this side of the pond since it would later be shipped back.  Old film, eventually transferred to digital, is not always the best.

Note that lovely thatched roof in the background.

Never read Twitter comments

The header above is sound advice for anyone who posts anything more controversial than cat pictures, and I almost never read comments under my tweets, which I usually don’t see anyway as most of them go directly to Twitter from my website.

But I made an exception for this one, which just confirmed the wisdom of the header.

I suppose the degree of incivility below is par for the course. But yet that very same day I’d tweeted TWICE about Trump’s stupidity, and yet people still say, “Go after Trump instead of getting those brown girls.” As if their being brown has anything to do with the issue, except for the benighted who feel that pigmentation is directly correlated with virtue.

“Now do Trump” says one person who doesn’t read. And of course I’m an Islamophobe, and quick to accuse those who merely criticize Israel of being anti-Semitic. (I’ve pointed out the difference many times.)

Note too the use of the word “tribe”, which is a real tell in this game. While one person defends me (“hypnotize” is the word Omar used to refer to Israel’s effect on the world), the degree of hatred of Israel—particularly by the Left—still amazes me. Why Israel rather than Syria or North Korea? You know why. And you can see the same sentiment in the comments on any article about Israel on HuffPost.

At any rate, all this does is confirm the wisdom of ignoring Twitter comments. For some reason, those comments form the epicenter of the Internet cesspool.

Oh, and no, I’m not upset at all; I’m used to this. It used to sting, but now it just makes me shake my head and utter the immortal words of the Wicked Witch of the West: “What a world. . . what a world!”

The weak laws against female genital mutilation in America

I wasn’t aware that Ayaan Hirsi Ali had started a foundation, the “AHA Foundation“, one of whose goals is to ban female genital mutilation (FGM) in the U.S. You may not be aware that although FGM is illegal in one form or another in 35 states, there’s no ban on it in fifteen states. Here are the offending states:

Washington (state)
New Mexico
Massachusetts (!!)
Connecticut, and

For two decades there was a federal law against the practice, but a 2018 federal trial of several people accused of practicing FGM wound up with a judge ruling that FGM was a “local criminal activity”: therefore the states and not the government should regulate it. Thereby the judge overturned a 20-year-old law.

But even the nature of the state laws against FGM vary widely. If you look at the article below at the AHA Foundation, you’ll see the various kinds of FGM that are practiced, a map of which states have laws (and what kind of laws) against FGM, and what you can do about it. I’ve added the map, the “surgeries”, and how the laws differ. To get the pdf, click on the first screenshot below:

The various forms of FGM:

And here are the laws graded in terms of severity (and desirability):



The provisions that correspond to the “grades” are based on things like whether “vacation cutting” is illegal (i.e., parents can’t go to another country or state to get their daughters mutilated), whether practitioners and guardians can be prosecuted, whether or not “ethnic/religious culture” can be used as a defense, and whether there are education and outreach programs for at-risk communities. To get an “A” grade, all of these provisions have to be in place in the right direction, and only three states—Arkansas, Utah, and Michigan—get that “A”.

This is unconscionable. Why should it be legal for a parent to horribly mutilate the genitals of their daughters when their daughters can’t give permission?

In case you want to know, I’ve come around to the view that circumcision should also be illegal until a male is old enough to ask for it. I don’t think that asking, however, should allow you to get FGM, as it has but one nefarious purpose: to reduce the sexual pleasure of females. And it has a number of horrible side effects: infection, incontinence, infertility, and the like, and also has led to lifelong trauma. You probably know that Hirsi Ali herself was a victim of FGM.

My only beef is that Hirsi Ali’s pamphlet barely mentions Islam as a promoter of FGM. As it notes:

. . . FGM is not particular to any religious group, nor prescribed by any faith. It is actually a culturally-based practice, a harmful tradition passed on through families and communities that pre-dates all major religions. FGM has been co-opted by some religious sects, but there is no major religion that requires FGM.

Well, this is technically true, but FGM is most prominent in Islam, and, as I understand it, several sects of Islam do promote it strongly. I think the de-emphasis on Islam is a tactic adopted by the Foundation as a way to reduce the harm of FGM without being accused of “Islamophobia” if you oppose FGM.

And indeed, you should oppose it. If you live in one of the many states with no laws against FGM, or deficient laws, write your Senators and Congresspeople.

You can donate here, and I already have.

Although Hirsi Ali has been demonized, threatened, and put on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of “anti-Muslim extremists”, she’s been engaged in positive activity her whole political career, including writing her last book, Heretic, on how to reform Islam. And now she’s largely putting Islam aside to fight against a horrible form of anti-woman violence.

Note too that Maajid Nawaz was also on the SPLC’s list, which no longer exists (he sued them), and on the first page of the pdf the AHA Foundation thanks Nawaz’s foundation, Quilliam, for partnering on the FGM report.

These are people who are not keyboard warriors, but activists who take direct action to reduce palpable harm. I admire them and urge you to support them.

Here’s a list of the Foundation’s general goals:

Established by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to put the ideas she writes into practice, the AHA Foundation works to protect women from honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. Our programs advocate for freedom of speech on campuses and in public debate, and amplify the voices of Muslim reformers and ex-Muslims.

Worth supporting, no?

The increasing wokeness of the New York Times

Not long ago I finally broke down and subscribed to the New York Times, hoping at last to have full access to at least one good newspaper. Now I find that “good” is a relative term, as the Times (as you can see from this transcribed editorial conference) seems to be becoming more Woke, converging on Salon and constantly emphasizing identity and grievance politics. It’s become increasingly sensitive to backlash from the Left, which means it’s losing its independence.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to unsubscribe (yet), and there is some good, solid journalism in there. Plus it’s got the best science reporting of any paper going—and good fine, wine, and travel sections.

But I felt weird when they famously changed a headline in response to readers’ backlash. Here’s the original one, referring to Trump’s statement after the two recent mass shootings:

Which, though I despise Trump and think he’s bigoted and divisive, seemed to me an accurate account of what he actually said. But after some furious backlash from people who couldn’t stand that headline, they changed the words so that the banner became more of an indictment of Trump:

What bothered me about this was that the replacement headline reported what Trump didn’t say, and that isn’t news but editorializing. After all, Trump didn’t say a lot of things in that statement, and why mention what he left out, namely guns?

Why? Because the NYT has an explicitly anti-Trump agenda (which I share), but they’re starting to let their editorial views bleed into the news. As one staffer said in the editorial meeting:

And the issue with last week’s headline was not really about Trump per se. It was really more broadly about what kind of credulousness we want to reflect in terms of an administration—any administration. Or about other cases where we’re sort of shying away from the real content of the story to put a milder spin on it in the headline, which is sometimes actively misleading.

In other words, they needed to put a more critical spin on that headline, and somehow stick the needle into Trump, which they did. But they already do that every day on their editorial page, and that’s fine. The “real content of the story”, of course, is purely subjective, and you know what it is in this case.

Historically, the Times famously kept news and editorial apart, but now they’re increasingly merging, and you can see it every day in the news.  Here’s the very first headline I saw when I opened the website this morning:

Now you can argue whether this is even worth noting (I don’t think it is), but it’s a piece in the “Critic’s Notebook”: Poniewozik is the Times‘s chief television critic. But instead of criticizing a television show, he goes off on a polemic about how they shouldn’t let Sean Spicer (a lying and oleaginous creature, to be sure) appear on that show, because it effaces how evil he was:

. . .it isn’t cool to get mad about things like this. It’s so strident. It’s so earnest. If you high-mindedly wrestle with a goofy sideshow like “Dancing With the Stars,” you just get glitter all over you, and the show gets ratings.

But this is one time when we should get uptight. “Dancing With the Stars” is just a silly, innocuous reality show, that’s true. And that’s exactly why it shouldn’t be helping Sean Spicer dry-clean his reputation.

. . .Now, look: It’s not as if reality shows cast only paragons of honesty. But this is not simply a matter of Sean Spicer’s having lied. It’s a matter of Sean Spicer’s being a liar, professionally.

That is, he’s not a famous person who happened to do something dishonest. He is a person who is famous — singularly, even in an era of “alternative facts” — for spreading disinformation, about the inauguration, about the president’s claims that he was wiretapped by the previous administration, about Michael Flynn’s resignation. At least publicly, dishonesty is his brand.

But that’s just the point. To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did, which was to say things so absurdly false that he invited his political side to join him in denying their own eyeballs, to encourage people to believe that facts don’t matter if they hurt your team.

To put him on a silly reality show is to say that he committed a silly offense and that you’re silly if you still make a big deal about it — everybody lies, everybody does what they’ve got to do to get by, everything’s a joke, just stop being such a fussbudget and enjoy the show.

Letting Sean Spicer tango onto prime time this fall is not the largest disgrace of all time. But it’s still a disgrace. Period.