Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning: it’s Thursday, November 16, 2017, and by the time you read this, I’ll be on the way to O’Hare. I will arrrive early, so I can sit in the United Rich People’s Lounge and eat and drink and get free wireless . It’s National Almond Day, of no importance whatsoever, but clearly created by Big Almond. It’s also a UNESCO holiday: the International Day for Tolerance.

As I said, the website may be quiet until Tuesday or so, so bear with me. I will have photos but may not be able to post them until I return.

There’s a Google Doodle today (below) which celebrates the 1930 birthday of Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian writer I don’t know much about, but who won the Booker Prize and accrued other honors. He died in 2013, and his most famous work is the novel Things Fall Apart (1958). Has anyone read it?

On this day in 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his army captured the Inca emperor Atahulpa at the Battle of Cajamarca. After being held prisoner, and offering gold and jewels in a vain attempt to save his life, Atahulpa was strangled in July of 1533, ending the Inca empire. On November 16, 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death for anti-government agitation (he was part of a circle that read books critical of the Tsar). His sentence was commuted to four years of hard labor in a Siberian camp, and then six years of military service.  On this day in 1855, David Livingstone, after having met Stanley, became the first European to see Victoria Falls.

On November 16, 1938, the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann first synthesized LSD; I once heard him lecture on this discovery in Richard Schultes’s Economic Botany class at Harvard.  On this day in 1940, the Nazis closed off the Warsaw Ghetto and soon began deportation of the Jews to camps. It’s estimated that 400,000 of the residents died from extermination or starvation in the ghetto, which was destroyed after the 1943 Uprising. Here’s a picture of the wall separating the Jews (right) from the rest of Warsaw (left):

On this day in 1988, voters in Pakistan, in the first free election for over a decade, chose Benazir Bhutto to be Prime Minister of Pakistan. She served as PM for two years, and then again from 1993 to 1996. After exile, she returned to Pakistan to run for election again, and was assassinated in 2007. Finally, on November 16, 1990—and some of you will remember this—the pop duo Milli Vanilli was stripped of its Grammy award for not singing on their albums (the session musicians did the vocals and the pair lip-synched in concert). I wonder what happened to them.

Notables born on November 16 include W. C. Handy (1873), Oswald Mosley (1896), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (1977). Those who fell asleep on this day include Clark Cable (1960), Sam Rayburn (1961), Alan Watts (1973), and Chicago economist Milton Friedman (2006).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is preparing for mousing:

A: Why are you sharpening your claws?
Hili: I’m going out to hunt tonight.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu ostrzysz pazurki?
Hili: Wybieram się na nocne łowy.

Out in Winnipeg, Gus gets to lick the can when his staff has tuna fish for lunch. So, here is Tuna Time from yesterday. Gus has requested that you watch the video on YouTube because he thinks that if there are many views the likelihood will rise that he gets more tuna.

Here’s a tw**t from Matthew. What an adorable kitten! He wrote me, “This will cheer you up”—and it did.

And here is the final tweet of Paddles, the polydactylous First Cat of New Zealand, staffed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner. Only a year old, Paddles was hit by a car and killed last week. This tweet appeared a few days ago (Ardern is a nonbeliever). Paddles, a rescue cat, was the only living thing I followed on Twitter, and now she’s gone. I hope the PM gets a new First Cat, for nothing improves the image of the Labour Party than an adorable cat who tweets—preferably one with extra toes.

Farewell animals

Tomorrow there will be a quick Hili post, but don’t expect much more. I am, however, flying business class, so maybe we’ll have some documentation from the lounge (especially the food). To send myself off, and bid readers a farewell, here are three videos.

First, a CATerpillar that looks remarkably catlike. It’s the caterpillar of the Pachmarhi bushbrown (Mycalesis perseoides), which as an adult is a nondescript brown job with eyespots. Isn’t it adorable? (h/t: Aaron)

A real cat, stupefied by red dot. Look at those eyes!

and a raccoon eating popcorn while watching television:

Baby Sausage Jesus causes uproar in England

Matthew sent me an article from the Guardian (click headline below) with the note, “Greggs is a cheap and cheerful UK bakery chain known for its pasties, pies and – praise the Lord! – sausage rolls”.

Unfortunately, they substituted a sausage roll for Jesus in a nativity scene. BAD move!


Greggs’s £24 Advent calendar (that’s an expensive calendar, but it contains discount coupons) shows the three Wise Men worshiping a sausage roll:

Gold, frankincense and … pastry: the three wise men visit Greggs’ representation of the baby Jesus. Photograph: Taylor Herring/Greggs/PA

Christians complained:

The Rev Mark Edwards, of St Matthew’s church in Dinnington and St Cuthbert’s church in Brunswick, said Greggs had been disrespectful. He told the Newcastle-based Chronicle: “It goes beyond just commercialism, it’s showing a total disregard and disrespect towards one of the greatest stories ever told, and I think people of all faiths will be offended by this.”

Daniel Webster, a spokesperson for the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Putting a sausage roll in the manger of a nativity scene seems to be manufacturing a scandal to sell baked goods and neglecting the real scandal of Christmas. Every year some company creates a Christmas controversy for commercial gain; it seems to get earlier each year.”

But #NotAllPeople:

The advert also triggered debate on the Greggs Facebook page, though most posts welcomed the product.

The comedian Bob Mortimer tweeted: “Come on KFC … show Greggs the way … put a miniature Jesus in all your Christmas buckets.”

The agony aunt and therapist Philippa Perry joked in a tweet: “ANYWAY who cheated and opened 24th Dec BEFORE 24th Dec to find this out?”

Greggs apologized, saying that they were “really sorry to have caused any offense, this was never our intention,” but they didn’t withdraw the calendar. Good for them! I’d rather worship a sausage roll than Jesus any day. At least sausage rolls are real!

Must we have a god? The Beeb says yes

I guess I’ve known for a while about the BBC’s softness on religion, seen most obviously in its daily moment of faith (I can’t remember the name of that segment or find it on the Internet, but I’ve heard it many times), and the fact that the moment of faith never includes any secularists. (I believe Dawkins did it once—and that was the end of that.)  But now, according to the Economist (click on screenshot below), the BBC is broadcasting a bunch of new radio talks about religion and “religious culture” by Neil MacGregor, former head of the National Gallery and the British Museum. And those talks seem to be very very soft on faith, to the point that they apparently assert that humans need religion, for that society falls apart without it.


After doing a successful BBC series of twenty talks on “A history of the world in 100 objects”, MacGregor is about to do 30 new 15 minute BBC shows on “Living with gods,” based on the new eponymous exhibit at the British Museum.  Thirty!

I haven’t heard this show (there’s no way I know of to listen to the BBC from America), but here’s what the Economist says, and it doesn’t sound all that encouraging (emphases are mine):

It takes a deft communicator to pull off such verbal pirouettes. What holds the material together, though, is Mr MacGregor’s interest in the role of religion and ritual in human society. He speaks compellingly of the human mind’s need to find patterns in the universe and to situate itself within those giant matrices.

Jill Cook, who curated an important show at the British Museum in 2013 that explained how the Ice Age made the modern mind, is also the curator of this new exhibition. She shares Mr MacGregor’s desire to present religion as a social phenomenon that has been present in every age of history, cementing and expressing social bonds, and also violently dividing people. By including exhibits related to the communist cult of atheism, she shows that attempts to squeeze religion out of society have sometimes dramatically misfired: anti-religion can easily become a cult.

The “communist cult of atheism”? What about the Scandinavian PRACTICE of atheism, which is neither Communist nor a cult? Are Denmark and Sweden dysfunctional? If not, will MacGregor and Cook tell us? I don’t think so. Yes, there’s an admission that religion can divide people, but when coupled with the claim that without religion you get Godless Communism, the lesson is clear. And then there’s this (from the Economist):

Mr MacGregor is a social anthropologist on a vast plane, whereas Ms Cook leans more to the neuroscience of religion. By including sounds, such as softly heard bells and flutes, she draws attention to the aural stimuli that can arouse people’s spiritual antennae.

However, they have a common purpose: to bring home the ubiquity, and the social character, of religion to a mainly secular public. To the modern mind, speculating about moral and philosophical questions is something people engage in individually. In most eras of history, and in many parts of the world today, such freedom would be inconceivable. [JAC: But isn’t this a criticism of religion?]

As the exhibition and the radio series both proclaim, religion has generally been an activity, not a set of true-or-false propositions, and above all a collective activity in which the tribe or nation finds meaning.

Well, this “proclamation” is dead wrong. Religion of course is more than a set of true-or-false propositions, but virtually all religions are founded on such propositions and lose force and meaning unless one assents to them. What is Christianity without a divine and resurrected Christ? Or Islam without Allah dictating to Muhammed through an angel? I deal with the issue of religious truth claims in Faith Versus Fact, giving quote after quote from religious people who are honest enough to admit that religion is based on assertions of how the world is.  Here are four quotes from five believers:

Richard Swinburne:

For the practices of the Christian religion (and of any other theistic religion) only have a point if there is a God—there is no point in worshipping a non-existent creator or asking him to do something on earth or take us to heaven if he does not exist; or trying to live our lives in accord with his will, if he has no will. If someone is trying to be rational in practicing the Christian (or Islamic or Jewish) religion, she needs to believe (to some degree) the creedal claims that underlie the practice.

John Polkinghorne:

The question of truth is as central to [religion’s] concern as it is in science. Religious belief can guide one in life or strengthen one at the approach of death, but unless it is actually true it can do neither of these things and so would amount to no more than an illusionary exercise in comforting fantasy.

Ian Barbour:

A religious tradition is indeed a way of life and not a set of abstract ideas. But a way of life presupposes beliefs about the nature of reality and cannot be sustained if those beliefs are no longer credible.

Karl Giberson and Francis Collins (writing together):

Likewise, religion in almost all of its manifestations is more than just a collection of value judgments and moral directives. Religion often makes claims about “the way things are.”

By claiming that religion is not at all about truth claims, but only a form of refined social glue, both the British Museum and the BBC are not only adhering to Gould’s false “Non-overlapping Magisteria” dichotomy, but lying to the public.

Irony of the year: sexual misconduct ignored at HuffPo, harasser simply transferred to India by Arianna

This report is all over the place, including, of course, right-wing sites, but I think it was first broken by Gizmodo in the following piece (click on screenshot to see the piece). One place it hasn’t been reported (as of this morning) is of course HuffPo itself, which lately is devoting half its space to accusations of sexual harassment and assault in other places. I’m wondering whether they’ll check out the beam in their own eye.

I can’t say that this causes me Schadenfreude, as it’s not pleasurable to hear about sexual misconduct and those who ignore it, but it does seem ironic, and if HuffPo doesn’t report it, they’ll be big-time hypocrites.

Remember that HuffPo was sold to AOL in 2011, but Arianna remained as editor-in-chief of the HuffPo media group until last year. The conduct reported took place when she was still in charge.

After briefly recounting Arianna’s crusade against sexism at Uber, reporter Ehrenkranz reports that one of her “lieutenants”, Jimmy Soni (the managing editor of HuffPo) was suddenly assigned to New Delhi to launch HuffPost India. A Gawker investigation revealed that the Human Resources office of HuffPo got reports that Soni was sexually harassing women employees who were his subordinates.  Instead of being punished (and believe me, HuffPo today would be issuing loud calls for his resignation were he somewhere else), he was simply transferred—much as the Catholic Church transferred sexual-predator priests among parishes to cover up their misdeeds.  Did Arianna know? Gizmodo says, “yes”:

In May of 2014, Huffington sent a laudatory memo to her then staff at the Huffington Post about the promotion of one of her most trusted lieutenants Jimmy Soni, the then-managing editor at the Huffington Post and widely seen as her favorite among the editorial leadership team. Huffington announced to her employees that Soni would be leaving to launch HuffPost India in New Delhi, a surprising move since he had been promoted to managing editor in January 2012 with no direct background in editorial and after serving as Huffington’s chief of staff for just nine months.

. . . Given Huffington’s new role as Uber’s toxic culture clean-up consultant, Gizmodo spoke with nine Huffington Post employees, current and former, who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they continue to work in media and fear retaliation from Huffington. A former employee with direct knowledge of the investigation not only independently confirmed that the investigation was indeed the reason for Soni’s transfer, but that Huffington “100 percent knew” about Soni’s actions before they were reported to HR. Another employee in a senior leadership role at that time also confirmed Huffington’s direct knowledge of Soni’s harassing behavior before she sent out the memo, in which Huffington called it a “dream of Jimmy’s, as both his parents were born and raised there.” Huffington also noted in the memo that it was great for the company that Soni would be the one spearheading such a significant launch.

There are several examples given of the harassment, which is equal in severity and nature (unequal power dynamics) to other cases reported by HuffPo. Here’s one:

Gizmodo has also independently confirmed just what Huffington would likely have known regarding Soni’s reputation in the newsroom and the ensuing allegations against him. Soni selected the individuals for HuffPost’s Editorial Fellows program, and reportedly saw this program as a way to find a romantic partner. According to Gawker, when an editor reportedly pointed out to Soni that the group of fellows was predominantly white, blonde women, Soni reportedly responded in a semi-joking manner, “Yeah, I’m using it to find myself a wife.”

One former staffer said that on one or two occasions while Soni was managing editor, he tried to kiss or make-out with her. She also added that when Soni took over as managing editor, “shit hit the fan,” and that he created a toxic work environment, enforcing unrealistic goals and working everyone tirelessly. “Allies became enemies, enemies became allies. It was a mess.” She described Huffington as someone who may value portraying herself as a feminist, but ultimately prioritizes a ruthless work ethic over issues of sexual harassment, or what she believed Huffington viewed as “the softer side of things.” She added that Huffington “thinks those things can be swept under the rug, but earnings can’t be,” noting that “everything for her is about the optics.” In response to Huffington’s recent Uber tour, she called Huffington “a major hypocrite.”

There are other examples of harassment as well. When Soni’s behavior was reported to Human Resources, their response was to “protect Arianna and the company”. Their way of doing this was simply to transfer Soni, which is no way to guarantee that his behavior would stop, nor give redress to the victims. Imagine what HuffPo would have said had Uber simply sent its own harassers to another city! At any rate, Ehrenkranz’s article ends with this simple note:

Huffington declined to comment on the record and Soni could not be reached for comment.

I will, of course, be watching HuffPo to see if they write about this. Given their history of reporting, they’d better, or they’ll be major hypocrites. But Arianna already is one—for acting like the Vatican towards an accused sexual harasser.

h/t: Orli

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Xmas

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “adopt”, came with the note, “Is it just me, or does the War Against Christmas start earlier every year?” Go here to read about the dubious (and uncertain) origins of the December 25 date.


Readers’ wildlife photos

I suspect this will be the last RWP post until Tuesday of next week—unless somebody sends me photos from tomorrow till Monday (I leave my photo folder on my office computer). And today we have cranes photographed by reader Karen Bartelt, whose notes and IDs are indented:

In October my husband and I visited the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI.  This could be dismissed as just a “crane zoo”, but the foundation does important work, not only bringing wild whooping cranes back from the brink of extinction (down to 22 when I was a kid to over 600 today) but also working to ensure wetland habitat preservation in Africa and Asia.  All 15 species of cranes are on site.  Here is a selection of some of the cranes.  In a separate submission, I’ll send photos of the wild cranes we saw later on in Wisconsin.

Grey-crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum) from southern and eastern Africa.  This particular crane imprinted on humans, and was especially fond of Asian men, as her first caretaker was of Japanese descent, or so they said.

Black-crowned crane (Balearica pavonina); south of the Sahara from the Atlantic to the upper Nile.
Blue cranes (Grus paradisea); southern Africa.
Sarus crane (Antigone antigone); India, SE Asia, and Australia.  Nonmigratory.
White-naped crane (Antigone vipio);  one population breeds in Mongolia and northern China and winters in southern China.  A second population breeds in NE China, and some winter in Japan, but some actually winter in the Korean DMZ.  You can read more here.
My personal favorite, the Wattled crane (Grus carunculata); Ethiopia and southern Africa.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Wednesday, November 15 and we’re already almost halfway thorough the month. Tomorrow I’m off to Mexico, so here’s a farewell song from JT, performed in 1979 with Lee Sklar (aka Mr. Natural) on bass:

It’s National Raisin Bran Day (a cereal I don’t mind), and The King’s Feast: a holiday in Belgium. As we approach the end of the year, it seems as if famous events, as well as births and deaths, grow sparser. I have no explanation except that people don’t want to do stuff when it’s cold, but births that occurred in November would have reflected activity in February.

On this day in 1533, Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cuzco, then the capital of the Inca Empire. In a battle the next day, Pizarro defeated the Incan army. On this day in 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman began his famous and destructive March to the Sea, ending in Savannah on December 21. I heard this morning that NPR will do a piece on the March today.  On November 15, 1943, Heinrich Himmler decided to start putting Gypsies (Romanis) into the concentration camps, treating them like the Jews.  While everyone know the figure “6 million killed,” that reflects only the Jews exterminated in the Holocaust. If you include everyone else, it nearly doubles. Here are some estimates of those killed taken from Wikipedia:

On this day in 1949, two of the plotters in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were executed by hanging. Exactly ten years later, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith murdered four members of the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas, giving rise to Truman Capote’s deservedly famous book In Cold Blood(This is a PCC[E] Book Recommendation.) Finally, on this day in 1988, the Palestinian National Council proclaimed the existence of an independent State of Palestine.

Notables born on this day include William Pitt (1708), William Herschel (1738), Marianne Moore and Georgia O’Keeffe (both 1887), Ed Asner (1929), Petula Clark (1932), Sophisticated Theologian™ and Sophist Alvin Plantinga (1932), and Daniel Barenboim (1942). Here’s a picture of O’Keeffe with her moggie (for some reason, artists tend to favor Siamese cats):

Those who fell asleep on this day include Johannes Kepler (1630), Émile Durkheim (1917), Lionel Barryore (1954), Tyrone Power (1958), Margaret Mead (1978) and Stokley Carmichael (1998).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili at last utters something we can understand:

Hili: The expedition to the river is cancelled pending further notice.
A: Why?
Hili: I’ve forgotten to eat my breakfast.
 In Polish:
Hili: Odraczam wyprawę nad rzekę.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Zapomniałam zjeść śniadanie.
Here are a few tweets stolen from Heather Hastie:
For all progressives it’s a day to celebrate in Australia, for a national referendum on same-sex marriage gave a resounding 61.6% of people in favor, with only 38.5 opposed.  Here are the results broken down by electorate; perhaps a reader can explain that light blue patch in the northeast:

This reminds me of my parents:

And two cat tweets, beginning with an Eyebrowed Cat:

Is this interspecies appropriation?

Predation by a modern theropod

I’m pretty sure I put this up before, but if you’ve seen it, just take a pass.

I’m told by a chicken owner that this kind of behavior is not at all uncommon, and that the speed with which this pullet chases down her prey is also typical. But OY!

One more for the road: the impossibility of raising a non-sexist male

From PuffHo, which is converging with Everyday Feminism (click on the screenshot to see)

I’ll just give quotes:

Of course, we all want to raise feminist sons. I wrote an article a few months ago detailing the ways I try to do just that. But my efforts are starting to seem like grains of sand against a steady wave-crash of misogyny and rape culture.

In my previous article, I wrote, “In my sweat-soaked, sit-straight-up-in-bed feminist nightmares, I can imagine a future in which my own spawn makes some woman feel as voiceless as the boys in my high school once did, a world in which he blithely argues against the existence of male privilege and shit-talks the latest all-female remake on Twitter.“  Lately, I can imagine it even more clearly.


Children never fully belong to their parents. I started losing mine to the world of men years ago. My voice is strong, but what chance does it have against the chorus of voices ready to drown me out every time he steps out the front door or turns on the TV? Being told to “raise a good man” is starting to feel like the devil is telling me to keep cool while steadily raising the thermostat in hell.

and the kicker (my emphasis):

Worse, when I look around at the adult men I know, I’m not sure exactly who I’m supposed to be raising him to emulate. Even the men whom I love and trust seem tied up in knots about this gender business ― one gets the impression they are constantly fighting against their instincts, carefully choosing their words while I carefully arrange my face to receive them so that we can all feel good about remaining friends. To be intimate with these men is to always be waiting, a little, for the microaggression that may or may not come.

The author seems to believe that there really aren’t any good men out there. But if she can find one—just one—that’s who she should use as a role model. I guess most of us don’t qualify.

She hasn’t considered that perhaps she’s looking for offense or, worse, wanting it so she can confirm her biases.

It’s not, of course, that I object to a woman trying to raise a non-sexist son. That’s a great thing to do. It’s that Ms. McCombs sees all men as sexists, and so has no good goal for her childrearing. Chalk one up for #YesAllMen.  The attitude that all men are misogynists, with the “good ones” simply better at hiding it is, of course, sexism.