Andrew Sullivan on the New York Times’s wokeness

I told you! I told you! I told you that the New York Times was becoming woke, and few believed me. Maybe more will now that Andrew Sullivan, in his latest New York Magazine “Interesting Times” piece (click on screenshot below) has decided that the NYT has decided to engage in social engineering more than in journalism. You can see this every day by simply looking at the front page of the paper online.

Yes, lots of people told me, when I posted at length about the increasing wokeness of American colleges and universities, that this was a temporary phenomenon confined to campus, and that as students entered the real world they’d shed their juvenile preoccupations with offense culture. Well, that’s not true, for those students are becoming the real world—in journalism, in business, and in the media. The worst part is that they’ve infected the liberal media I used to enjoy, media like the New Yorker, New York Magazine (Sullivan’s own home; if you have an issue of the rag, look at the last page), and, especially, the Washington Post and the New York Times, once bastions of journalistic greatness.

Well, both of those papers are still good, but they’re no longer great. The Times, in fact, is starting to look like an upscale version of The Evergreen State College’s student newspaper.  In the first part of Sullivan’s usual tripartite column (the other two parts are about drag queens, which he sees as nonthreatening clowns, and Brexit, which he doesn’t favor but is sympathetic to those who voted “leave”), he uses the “1619 Project” of the Times to make his point. I’ll have to quote at length, which will save me time rephrasing somebody else’s words.

Let me add, though, that the 1619 Project is a long-running presentation of the Times’s view that racism has infected and infested every aspect of American life (not just some of them). Some of the reporting is good, but the point is to shame America by confecting a “project” which, while containing a fair amount of truth, proposes an overarching and unconvincing explanation for the character of every bit of American life.

Sullivan:

“Our democracy’s ideals were false when they were written.”

I’ve been struggling with that sentence — the opening statement of the introductory essay to the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project on the legacy of slavery in America — for a few weeks now.

It’s a very strange formulation. How can an enduring “ideal” — like, say, freedom or equality — be “false” at one point in history and true in another? You could of course say that the ideals of universal equality and individual liberty in the Declaration of Independence were belied and contradicted in 1776 by the unconscionable fact of widespread slavery, but that’s very different than saying that the ideals themselves were false. (They were, in fact, the most revolutionary leap forward for human freedom in history.) You could say the ideals, though admirable and true, were not realized fully in fact at the time, and that it took centuries and an insanely bloody civil war to bring about their fruition. But that would be conventional wisdom — or simply the central theme of President Barack Obama’s vision of the arc of justice in the unfolding of the United States.

No, in its ambitious and often excellent 1619 Project, the New York Times wants to do more than that. So it insists that the very ideals were false from the get-go — and tells us this before anything else. Even though those ideals eventually led to the emancipation of slaves and the slow, uneven and incomplete attempt to realize racial equality over the succeeding centuries, they were still “false when they were written.” America was not founded in defense of liberty and equality against monarchy, while hypocritically ignoring the massive question of slavery. It was founded in defense of slavery and white supremacy, which was masked by highfalutin’ rhetoric about universal freedom. That’s the subtext of the entire project, and often, also, the actual text.

Hence the replacing of 1776 (or even 1620 when the pilgrims first showed up) with 1619 as the “true” founding. “True” is a strong word. 1776, the authors imply, is a smoke-screen to distract you from the overwhelming reality of white supremacy as America’s “true” identity. “We may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy,” Hannah-Jones writes. That’s a nice little displacement there: “some might argue.” In fact, Nikole Hannah-Jones is arguing it, almost every essay in the project assumes it — and the New York Times is emphatically and institutionally endorsing it.

I’ll quote a bit more, as I think Sullivan’s take—and his beef—is absolutely accurate. While, like me, he realizes that in the past the brutal slavery-ridden history of America was whitewashed (I learned almost nothing about it in school), and that we need to be educated about it, the Project is neither education nor journalism: it’s largely advocacy of an ideological view about structural racism, born of critical race theory. Sullivan argues that the Times view doesn’t deserve “to be incarnated as the only way to understand our collective history, let alone be presented as the authoritative truth, in a newspaper people rely on for some gesture toward objectivity.”

More:

The New York Times, by its executive editor’s own admission, is increasingly engaged in a project of reporting everything through the prism of white supremacy and critical race theory, in order to “teach” its readers to think in these crudely reductionist and racial terms. That’s why this issue wasn’t called, say, “special issue”, but a “project”. It’s as much activism as journalism. And that’s the reason I’m dwelling on this a few weeks later. I’m constantly told that critical race theory is secluded on college campuses, and has no impact outside of them … and yet the newspaper of record, in a dizzyingly short space of time, is now captive to it. Its magazine covers the legacy of slavery not with a variety of scholars, or a diversity of views, but with critical race theory, espoused almost exclusively by black writers, as its sole interpretative mechanism.

. . . This is therefore, in its over-reach, ideology masquerading as neutral scholarship. Take a simple claim: no aspect of our society is unaffected by the legacy of slavery. Sure. Absolutely. Of course. But, when you consider this statement a little more, you realize this is either banal or meaningless. The complexity of history in a country of such size and diversity means that everything we do now has roots in many, many things that came before us.

, , ,the NYT chose a neo-Marxist rather than liberal path to make a very specific claim: that slavery is not one of many things that describe America’s founding and culture, it is the definitive one. Arguing that the “true founding” was the arrival of African slaves on the continent, period, is a bitter rebuke to the actual founders and Lincoln. America is not a messy, evolving, multicultural, religiously infused, Enlightenment-based, racist, liberating, wealth-generating kaleidoscope of a society. It’s white supremacy, which started in 1619, and that’s the key to understand all of it. America’s only virtue, in this telling, belongs to those who have attempted and still attempt to end this malign manifestation of white supremacy.

. . .  But it is extremely telling that this is not merely aired in the paper of record (as it should be), but that it is aggressively presented as objective reality. That’s propaganda, directed, as we now know, from the very top — and now being marched through the entire educational system to achieve a specific end. To present a truth as the truth is, in fact, a deception. And it is hard to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.

Sullivan refers to this Slate article (click on screenshot) that gives a transcript from a 75-minute New York Times town hall meeting involving the staff and executive editor Dean Baquet.

Sullivan:

In a NYT town hall recently leaked to the press, a reporter asked the executive editor, Dean Baquet, why the Times doesn’t integrate the message of the 1619 Project into every single subject the paper covers: “I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting … I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country.”

It’s a good point, isn’t it? If you don’t believe in a liberal view of the world, if you hold the doctrines of critical race theory, and believe that “all of the systems in the country” whatever they may be, are defined by a belief in the sub-humanity of black Americans, why isn’t every issue covered that way? Baquet had no answer to this contradiction, except to say that the 1619 Project was a good start: “One reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that.” In other words, the objective was to get liberal readers to think a little bit more like neo-Marxists.

Well, if they start infusing this ideology deeply into their science reporting, I’m gone (I have a subscription). I’ve already canceled my paper subscription to The New Yorker, and won’t renew my subscription to New York Magazine. (Those are the only three subscriptions I have.) I’d be pretty conflicted if I had to ditch the Times because of their fulminating wokeness. But I have no confidence that it will straighten up, even if (fingers crossed), Trump loses next year’s election. It’s too late. The papers have already hired a staff of young students steeped in collegiate “progressive” Leftism. We can expect more of the above, as well as more biased coverage of Israel, in which the Times, along with most “mainstream media” has been engaging for years (see also here and here). I look forward to The New York and Oberlin College Times (not!).

Readers’ wildlife photos

Although I have a few more batches of wildlife photos to post, I’m running low, and may have to put up photos more sporadically. If you have good photos to send, by all means submit them.

Today we have some diverse photos by regular Mark Sturtevant, whose flickr photo site is here. Mark’s notes are indented.

Here are some photos from about a year ago. Enjoy!

The first picture features a male Phalangid (aka ‘harvest-person’), possibly belonging to the genus Leiobunum. A feature of males is their rather elaborate pedipalps that are used in a precise way to hold on to females during mating. I have pictures of that to show later.

Next are several ‘candy-striped’ leafhoppers (Graphocephala coccinea) that were in my back yard. People are sometimes surprised when seeing pictures of them, but actually these diminutive insects are quite common. Most are red and blue, but some are red and green.

The butterfly in the next two pictures is the red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis). This one was missing most of one of its wings, so I had fun digitally replacing it with the ‘good’ wing. Hard to tell which one it is now.

I had long been curious about these tall, thistle-like weeds that are also shown, so I showed them to my Botanist-wife and she told me the plant is called teasel. This is an invasive species, and now I see it everywhere. I feel conflicted about that since it is interesting in its own right while also being a magnet for insects.

At the shore of a lake I came across a giant swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) that was ‘puddling’ on the wet sand to get nutrients like salt and amino acids. This was a nice surprise since these very large butterflies (the largest in North America) seem to always be flying non-stop. ALL of my other pictures of them are rather blurry as I have never quite figured out how to freeze motion with shutter speed and/or flash.

Next is an odd little moth that I always called an ‘airplane moth’. But the internet does not seem to recognize that name and there it is a plume moth. It looks to be the grape plume mothGeina periscelidactylus.

We seem to be having a ‘run’ on Lepidopterans. The lovely Saturniid moth in the next picture is the tulip-tree silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera). I do recommend that readers double click on this, for she is spectacular. Tulip tree silk moth larvae are almost exclusively found on tulip trees.

The story here is that I had come across a dead and leafless tree that someone had dumped in a local park (no idea why), and it had several pendulous cocoons on it. Most were empty, but two were still occupied. These were brought home to see what might emerge. The first that emerged revealed the identity of the mystery cocoons, but the moth had badly deformed wings. Fortunately, the second was this perfect female! Before she was completely hardened and so unlikely to fly, I managed to get this picture by hanging her in the opening of our garage. From there I could sit back in a chair, with the camera on a tripod, and poke her (gently) with a thin stick to get her to raise her wings before I snapped a picture. She was of course released that evening.

Next are some lace bugs, and the reason for their name is obvious with the winged adult. Different species of these plant-sucking insects are found to favor different host plants. I can get a couple pg different species when sweeping with a net, but without host plant information it would be difficult to identify them to species. Not so for this one, which is found on the leaves of linden trees. This is the ‘linden lacebug’ (Gargaphia tiliae).

In the final picture we have a very young gray tree frogHyla versicolor. Youngsters are green, and many are gray when mature. This little cutie would barely cover a nickel.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, September 15, 2019, and National Linguine Day (I favor it with clam sauce, olive oil, garlic, and parsley). It’s also Batman Day, National Cheese Toast Day (rarebit!), National Double Cheeseburger Day, and, as a palliative, International Eat an Apple Day. Finally, it’s a UN holiday: International Day of Democracy.

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of Ynes Mexia (1870-1938), a renowned botanist and plant collector who collected over 150,000 specimens in her lifetime. Clicking on the screenshot below will give you more information.

Stuff that happened on September 15 includes:

  • 1440 – Gilles de Rais, one of the earliest known serial killers, is taken into custody upon an accusation brought against him by Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes.

de Rais was a serial rapist and murderer of children, and an adept of the occult. He was ultimately tried and hanged for his crimes (the account at Wikipedia is horrendous.

  • 1812 – The French army under Napoleon reaches the Kremlin in Moscow.
  • 1835 – HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, reaches the Galápagos Islands. The ship lands at Chatham or San Cristobal, the easternmost of the archipelago.
  • 1916 – World War I: Tanks are used for the first time in battle, at the Battle of the Somme.

The British were the first to develop tanks, and fielded 1000 to Germany’s 20 during World War I. Here’s the first model: the British Mark ` tank:

  • 1935 – The Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship.
  • 1940 – World War II: The climax of the Battle of Britain, when the Royal Air Force shoots down large numbers of Luftwaffe aircraft.
  • 1959 – Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the United States.
  • 1963 – Baptist Church bombing: Four children killed in the bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, United States.

The four victims (from Wikipedia): “Clockwise from top left: Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), Carole Robertson (aged 14) and Denise McNair (aged 11). Three men were convicted of the bombing years later; two died in prison, and one remains alive. The bombing helped spur the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

  • 1967 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, responding to a sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin, writes a letter to Congress urging the enactment of gun control legislation.
  • 2008 – Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.
  • 2017 – End of mission for Cassini–Huygens, a space probe built by a NASA, ESA and ASI collaboration, sent to study Saturn, its rings and its moons.

Here’s the last picture taken by the probe before plunging into the atmosphere and burning up:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1830 – Porfirio Díaz, Mexican general and politician, 29th President of Mexico (d. 1915)v
  • 1857 – William Howard Taft, American lawyer, jurist, and politician, 27th President of the United States (d. 1930)
  • 1876 – Bruno Walter, German-American pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1962)
  • 1918 – Nipsey Russell, American comedian and actor (d. 2005)
  • 1929 – Murray Gell-Mann, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)

Those who snuffed it on September 15 include

Thomas Wolfe is one of my favorite writers, despite all my literary friends telling me his writing was puerile and overblown. Well, sometimes, but read “Child By Tiger”. Here’s the man, who died at 37 of tuberculosis of the brain:

Others who died on September 15 include

  • 1985 – Cootie Williams, American trumpet player (b. 1910)
  • 2003 – Garner Ted Armstrong, American evangelist and author (b. 1930)
  • 2004 – Johnny Ramone, American guitarist and songwriter (b. 1948)
  • 2017 – Harry Dean Stanton, American actor (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili feels the onset of Fall:

Hili: I think the summer is starting to end.
A: So it seems.
Hili: This is a huge injustice.
In Polish:
Hili: Chyba lato zaczyna się kończyć.
Ja: Na to wygląda.
Hili: To jest ogromna niesprawiedliwość.

Reader Kit found this brilliant set of instructions, and they were passed on by a black Leftist feminist. My thesis title: Imaging Bodies: Shaping the Queer Future. They all make sense!

Reader Beth posted this on Facebook. I don’t feel like this (at least today), but maybe someone will find it appropriate:

I’d go for the mime. . .

A tweet sent by Grania on April 9 (I’m running out of tweets she sent me):

Two tweets from Nilou. The first one is stunning:

A lot of men aren’t going to like this shirt, because when they see it they may “feel something”:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. This poor owl! But his eyes look like the stars. . .

An adventure cat takes a snooze:

Three tweets from Matthew. The second explains the first (I guess a manhole cover is “sensitive material”!)

A two minute lesson on how the Greeks knew the world was round, demonstrating Carl Sagan’s skill as a science communicator.

One of nature’s most spectacular displays of the male end of sexual selection:

Why Grania died

Every day I feel keenly the loss of Grania from my life—and from this site. She wasn’t quite 50 when she collapsed in front of the clinic in Ireland and died; CPR didn’t help. Several days before that, she had passed out in her apartment after vomiting, but didn’t remember the vomiting. Then, for several days thereafter, she was in terrific pain, but wouldn’t go to the doctor. When she finally did, it was too late. I was in communication with her right until she took the cab to the clinic.

The initial autopsy yielded no definite cause of death, but now Grania’s sister Gisela reports the final diagnosis:

“haemopericardium, rupture of a dissecting thoracic aneurysm”.

You can read the medical explanation of this condition here; it is, my doctor tells me, consistent with her symptoms. The dissection must have began several days before when she got ill, and the aorta must have ruptured when she was at the clinic, filling her pericardium (the membrane around her heart) with blood. She bled to death internally, and the only mercy is that it was quick.

Could she have been saved had she gone to the doctor when she first had pain? It’s not clear: arterial dissections are hard to diagnose, and even so, can persist for months or even years without progressing. She might have been scheduled for surgery, but that might have required a long waiting period, and she would have died anyway.

There’s no use pondering the “what ifs” now, as what happened was fated to happen. But I suppose the diagnosis does help give us some closure, though for me there will never be “closure” (whatever that may be) with respect to Grania.

This week’s Bill Maher show, featuring Bari Weiss

Bari Weiss was on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” show last night, and I have two clips (and, temporarily, the full show). The first clip was part of “Overtime” discussion, including, along with Maher, Michael Moore, Weiss, Krystal Ball, Michael Steele, and Fernand Amandi. Ball goes after MSNBC for damaging the Left through its slanted coverage, the candidates discuss how the Democrats should take Florida, and people muse about what a “never-Trumper” Republican should do were Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to become a Presidential candidate. Moore asserts, at the end, that the Democrats need to put up a “street-fightin’ woman or a street-fightin’ man” if they want to defeat Trump.

And here’s Bari Weiss in an 8-minute discussion about her new book on anti-Semitism. There’s not much new compared to her longer discussion I posted a week ago, but if you didn’t watch that hour-long conversation, this is a decent summary. Weiss makes the point that although she doesn’t support Netanyahu, and thinks Israel needs to return much of the West Bank, that’s no rationale for demanding the elimination of Israel—an implicit goal of the BDS movement. She says, “You would never make that argument that because we have a terrible President right now [Trump], you should dismantle America.”

She also explains why if every journalist in America got off Twitter (i.e., stopped watching it) for six months, journalism in America would “wildly improve.” This is because journalists have gotten lazy, and simply go to Twitter for the story, and on Twitter it’s largely the enraged who weigh in. Truly, HuffPo would disappear if it could base nearly all its stories on Twitter.

Finally, someone put up the whole show, and reader Michael called it to my attention, adding: “A ‘pirate’ has put up the full episode, which will no doubt disappear in a day or two. Not that high a resolution, but sufficient for a table convo. Covers the Houston 3rd Democratic Debate. A couple of interesting points, but overall not enjoyable due to people cutting across each other.” I haven’t watched it, but if you’re having a lazy Caturday Sabbath, you might do so.

Caturday felid trifecta: Young jaguars practice hunting; photos of cats standing up; a $500,000,000 nuclear disaster involving kitty litter

Here’s a nice video from BBC Earth of three orphan jaguar cubs getting hunting practice with the help of their human caretakers. Note that they eat their prey with relish, so they may be from Chicago.

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From My Modern Met we have: “20+ Purrfect Portraits of Fabulous Felines Standing on Two Legs“. A bit about the series:

Photographer Alexis Reynaud was inspired by these oddities. It led him to create the series Standing Cats, in which glamorous felines are seen posing upright on two feet.

Standing Cats is an instance of life imitating art. “This idea came about while watching my cat’s movements,” Reynaud tells My Modern Met. “At that very moment, I thought that he was the reincarnation of Puss-in-Boots.” Reynaud’s portraits feature a stage setting that gives fluffy felines the spotlight to act their true selves. “[It’s] an otherworldly catwalk,” the photographer explains. “Meet a dancer, an imp, and even a movie star.” Regardless of who the feline is, they transcend their primal nature and become more human.

Standing Cats is both a display of feline behavior as well as an homage to their innate beauty—such as fluff and unique coloration. Scroll down to see these kitties in all their upright glory.

Well, art is art, and here’s a bit of it:

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Finally, I call your attention to the passage below taken from the Vanity Fair article, which you can get by clicking on the screenshot:

The article is about the dysfunctionality about a very important cabinet-level department: the Department of Energy (DOE). “MacWilliams” is John MacWilliams, the Associate Deputy Secretary of the DOE. This shows the importance of understanding verbal communication. This was a half billion dollar mistake!

Ernie Moniz had wanted MacWilliams to evaluate the D.O.E.’s financial risks—after all, that’s what he’d done for most of his career—but also, as Moniz put it, to “go beyond financial risks to all the other risks that weren’t being properly evaluated.” To that end Moniz eventually created a position for MacWilliams that had never existed: chief risk officer. As the D.O.E.’s first-ever chief risk officer, MacWilliams had access to everything that went on inside of it and a bird’s-eye view of it all. “With a very complex mission and 115,000 people spread out across the country, shit happens every day,” said MacWilliams. Take the project to carve football-field-length caverns inside New Mexico salt beds to store radioactive waste, at the so-called WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) facility. The waste would go into barrels and the barrels would go into the caverns, where the salt would eventually entomb them. The contents of the barrels were volatile and so needed to be seasoned with, believe it or not, kitty litter. Three years ago, according to a former D.O.E. official, a federal contractor in Los Alamos, having been told to pack the barrels with “inorganic kitty litter,” had scribbled down “an organic kitty litter.” The barrel with organic kitty litter in it had burst and spread waste inside the cavern. The site was closed for three years, significantly backing up nuclear-waste disposal in the United States and costing $500 million to clean, while the contractor claimed the company was merely following procedures given to it by Los Alamos.

A nuclear kitty:

h/t: Michael

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Caturday, September 14, 2019, and I trust all of us got past Friday the 13th without trouble. It’s National Cream-Filled Donut Day (make the “Creme”, because hardly any donuts use real cream), Eat a Hoagie Day, German Language Day, and, in the UK, National Quiet Day (but every day is quiet day there!)

In honor of German Language Day, here’s a German proverb I made up when I was learning German; it’s very profound. (I hope I can still write German):

“Ein Kind mit einer Brezel findet schnell Freunde.”

(A child with a pretzel quickly makes friends.)

Stuff that happened on September 14 include:

  • 1741 – George Frideric Handel completes his oratorio Messiah.
  • 1752 – The British Empire adopts the Gregorian calendar, skipping eleven days (the previous day was September 2).
  • 1812 – Napoleonic Wars: The French Grande Armée enters Moscow. The Fire of Moscow begins as soon as Russian troops leave the city.
  • 1901 – U.S. President William McKinley dies after an assassination attempt on September 6, and is succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

McKinley was shot on September 6 by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz, but it took the President a week to die. Here’s the hospital room in Buffalo where he was operated on. There were no antibiotics in those days, which would have saved him, and so he died of gangrene.

  • 1944 – World War II: Maastricht becomes the first Dutch city to be liberated by allied forces.
  • 1969 – The US Selective Service selects September 14 as the First Draft Lottery date.

I was number 3, which began the long tale of my service as a conscientious objector and then my freedom after I took the government to court for drafting me and several thousand other guys in violation of the law.

Here’s one of the miracles for which she was canonized. (They’re always remissions of diseases that can have spontaneous remission.)

  • 1994 – The Major League Baseball season is canceled because of a strike.
  • 2007 – Financial crisis of 2007–2008: The Northern Rock bank experiences the first bank run in the United Kingdom in 150 years.

Matt Ridley was in charge!

  • 2015 – The first observation of gravitational waves was made, announced by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations on 11 February 2016.

Three Nobel Prizes were awarded for this achievement, and only two years afterwards. Nobody has gotten a Nobel Prize for the Human Genome Project or for the use of CRISPR in genetic engineering.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1804 – John Gould, English ornithologist and illustrator (d. 1881)

Gould played an important role in Darwin’s evolutionary thinking, for he identified the birds that Darwin had collected in the Galapagos, and about whose identity Darwin was confused, as a group of finches. (Darwin thought they were wrens and mockingbirds.) Here’s Gould:

John Gould. Studio photograph, 1860s.

Sanger founded the first birth control clinic in America, and founded the groups that became Planned Parenthood. She was, however, opposed to abortion (she favored contraception), and also was big on eugenics, saying that the unfit should be either sterilized or prevented from procreating. Her legacy was mixed, but overall on the positive side. Here she is:

  • 1930 – Allan Bloom, American philosopher and academic (d. 1992)
  • 1934 – Kate Millett, American author and activist (d. 2017)
  • 1983 – Amy Winehouse, English singer-songwriter (d. 2011)

Reader Simon and I share an admiration for Amy (well, at least her music). Here are two of her most famous songs, “Rehab” and “Back to Black”, performed live at the Isle of Wight in 2007. I don’t know who her backup singers/dancers are, but they’re terrific:

Those who expired on September 14 include:

  • 1638 – John Harvard, English-American minister and philanthropist (b. 1607)
  • 1715 – Dom Pérignon, French monk and priest (b. 1638)
  • 1836 – Aaron Burr, American colonel and politician, 3rd Vice President of the United States (b. 1756)
  • 1851 – James Fenimore Cooper, American novelist, short story writer, and historian (b. 1789)
  • 1901 – William McKinley, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 25th President of the United States (b. 1843)
  • 1927 – Isadora Duncan, American-Russian dancer and choreographer (b. 1877)
  • 1982 – Grace Kelly, American-Monacan actress; Princess of Monaco (b. 1929)
  • 2003 – Garrett Hardin, American ecologist and author (b. 1915)
  • 2009 – Patrick Swayze, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1952)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a joke:

Hili: A mouse was running around here yesterday.
A: And?
Hili: It escaped into the burrow.
A: That’s good.
Hili: That depends on who it’s good for.
In Polish:
Hili: Wczoraj biegła tu mysz.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Uciekła do nory.
Ja: To dobrze.
Hili: Jak dla kogo.

And nearby, Leon, the Dark Tabby Leon has found himself a fine perch:

Leon: One should always aim high!

In Polish: Zawsze należy mierzyć wysoko!

Here’s are two panoramic photos of downtown Chicago taken yesterday on a Chicago Architecture Foundation cruise. Here’s a view from just out in the harbor. I highly recommend the Architecture Foundation cruise if you love nice buildings, for Chicago is the world’s epicenter for skyscrapers and massive buildings.

This was taken on the State Street bridge across the Chicago River:

My friend Moto (a retired vet) posted this on his Facebook page:

From Amazing Things, enjoy some Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), one of the most stupendous biological sights on the planet. If you live in the U.S. (or elsewhere), you must see these. The biggest one known has a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 8.8 meters (nearly 29 feet)!

From Jesus of the Day. According to Sean Carroll’s new book, the cat is already both inside and outside.

Grania sent me this tweet on April 7. I may have posted it before, but so what?

From Gethyn, a great combination of the single- and double-slit experiments and Schrödinger’s cat:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. First, the world’s laziest d*g:

. . . via lawyer Ann German, with Ann’s response:

Four tweets from Matthew. Look at this beautiful octopus!

I’m not sure whether the cat likes this relationship, but it’s still sweet:

I’m not sure what the bottom of this poster means, but perhaps a reader can enlighten us:

Last but not least, I LOVE this firefighter:

Felicity Huffman given prison sentence (a light one)

Actor Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty in the college-admissions scandal, was sentenced today to 14 days in jail beginning October 25, along with a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and one year supervised release.

Although this was a compromise between the jail time her own lawyers wanted (none) and what the prosecution requested (a month in stir), the fine is actually $10,000 higher than the $20K asked for by both sides. The prosecution had also asked for a year’s probation, while her lawyers asked for 250 hours of community service.  It looks as if the prosecution got more of what it wanted than did the defense. And I think the sentence is about right, for it shows that nobody, now matter how rich and famous, is above the law.

As CNN reports,

Federal court Judge Indira Talwani said she thinks Felicity Huffman’s punishment is “the right sentence here.”

She also spoke directly to Huffman, saying, “I think you take your sentence and you move forward.”

“You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues,” the judge added.

Fellow actor Lori Laughlin must be shaking in her Blahniks, as Laughlin pleaded not guilty to more serious charges, which include mail fraud. If Loughlin is convicted, there’s little doubt that her sentence will be far more serious than Huffman’s, for there’s the “plea tax”.  I wonder if she will change her plea.

As for the other 33 parents and mastermind William Singer, well, American doesn’t care about them as they’re not famous.

This is one case where the reason for incarceration is neither removal from society to prevent danger, or reform  of the guilty party (you can be sure that neither woman will ever do this again). The only valid reasons are to deter others and to reassure Americans that fame and money can’t always buy you a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court with her husband William H. Macy for sentencing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

 

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prizes

Several readers informed me that the 2019 Ig Nobel Prizes, for research that is supposed to make you “LAUGH and then THINK”, were awarded yesterday at a ceremony at Harvard University. While yesterday’s ten awards aren’t yet summarized on the official website. Most of the publicity in the press was about the anatomy prize, which went to research that tried to determine, using sensors placed on French postmen, whether one testicle is consistently warmer than the other (answer: yes, but only with clothes on).

Here are the prizes with references (the research must be published). Some of the awardees attended the ceremony. There was even a two-time winner!

MEDICINE PRIZE [ITALY, THE NETHERLANDS]
Silvano Gallus, for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy.
REFERENCE: “Does Pizza Protect Against Cancer?“, Silvano Gallus, Cristina Bosetti, Eva Negri, Renato Talamini, Maurizio Montella, Ettore Conti, Silvia Franceschi, and Carlo La Vecchia, International Journal of Cancer, vol. 107, no. 2, November 1, 2003, pp. 283-284.

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [USA]
Karen Pryor and Theresa McKeon, for using a simple animal-training technique— called “clicker training” —to train surgeons to perform orthopedic surgery.
REFERENCE: “Is Teaching Simple Surgical Skills Using an Operant Learning Program More Effective Than Teaching by Demonstration,” I. Martin Levy, Karen W. Pryor, and Theresa R. McKeon, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, vol. 474, no. 4, April 2016, pp. 945–955.

BIOLOGY PRIZE [SINGAPORE, CHINA, AUSTRALIA, POLAND, USA, BULGARIA]
Ling-Jun Kong, Herbert Crepaz, Agnieszka Górecka, Aleksandra Urbanek, Rainer Dumke, and Tomasz Paterek, for discovering that dead magnetized cockroaches behave differently than living magnetized cockroaches.
REFERENCE: “In-Vivo Biomagnetic Characterisation of the American Cockroach,” Ling-Jun Kong, Herbert Crepaz, Agnieszka Górecka, Aleksandra Urbanek, Rainer Dumke, Tomasz Paterek, Scientific Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018: 5140.

ANATOMY PRIZE [FRANCE]
Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa, for measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France.
REFERENCE: “Thermal Asymmetry of the Human Scrotum,” Bourras Bengoudifa and Roger Mieusset, Human Reproduction, vol. 22, no. 8, 2007, pp. 2178-2182.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE [JAPAN]
Shigeru Watanabe, Mineko Ohnishi, Kaori Imai, Eiji Kawano, and Seiji Igarashi, for estimating the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child
REFERENCE: “Estimation of the Total Saliva Volume Produced Per Day in Five-Year-Old Children,” Shigeru Watanabe, M. Ohnishi, K. Imai, E. Kawano, and S. Igarashi, Archives of Oral Biology, vol. 40, no. 8, August 1995, pp. 781-782.

ENGINEERING PRIZE [IRAN]
Iman Farahbakhsh, for inventing a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.
REFERENCE: “Infant Washer and Diaper-Changer Apparatus and Method,” US patent 10034582, granted to Iman Farahbakhsh, July 31, 2018.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [TURKEY, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY]
Habip Gedik, Timothy A. Voss, and Andreas Voss, for testing which country’s paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.
REFERENCE: “Money and Transmission of Bacteria,” Habip Gedik, Timothy A. Voss, and Andreas Voss, Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013.

PEACE PRIZE [UK, SAUDI ARABIA, SINGAPORE, USA]
Ghada A. bin Saif, Alexandru Papoiu, Liliana Banari, Francis McGlone, Shawn G. Kwatra, Yiong-Huak Chan, and Gil Yosipovitch, for trying to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.
REFERENCE: “The Pleasurability of Scratching an Itch: A Psychophysical and Topographical Assessment,” G.A. bin Saif, A.D.P. Papoiu, L. Banari, F. McGlone, S.G. Kwatra, Y.-H. Chan and G. Yosipovitch, British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 166, no. 5, 2012, pp. 981-985.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [GERMANY]
Fritz Strack, for discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier — and for then discovering that it does not.
REFERENCE: “Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: a nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis,” Fritz Strack, Leonard L. Martin, and Sabine Stepper, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 54, no. 5, 1988, pp. 768-777.

PHYSICS PRIZE [USA, TAIWAN, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, SWEDEN, UK]
Patricia Yang, Alexander Lee, Miles Chan, Alynn Martin, Ashley Edwards, Scott Carver, and David Hu, for studying how, and why, wombats make cube-shaped poo.
REFERENCE: “How Do Wombats Make Cubed Poo?” Patricia J. Yang, Miles Chan, Scott Carver, and David L. Hu, paper presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, Abstract: E19.0000, November 18–20, 2018.

Yang and Hu won for the second time. The Guardian reports:

Patricia Yang and David Hu, both engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, celebrated their second Ig Nobel prize at the ceremony. The researchers bagged their first in 2015 for discovering the “law of urination”, which states that all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds. This year, as part of a larger team, the two share the physics prize for working out how wombats make cube-shaped faeces. The feat, thought to be unique in the animal world, helps them construct stable piles of dung to mark their territory. Contacted about the prize, Yang said: “It solidifies my belief that curiosity brings joy and surprise in science.”

Here’s a video of the two-hour ceremony, which is always hilarious:

The Democratic debate redux

Eleven op-ed columnists for the New York Times weighed in on last night’s debate, giving their take (and 1-10 rating) on how the ten candidates did. I stopped watching after about an hour and a half; I didn’t realize it was three hours long. Oy!

I don’t like rating debate performances, and I didn’t watch the last half, but here are the average ratings, in decreasing order, of the eleven columnists (their brief comments are also in the article):

Elizabeth Warren: 7.5

Kamala Harris: 6.2

Cory Booker: 6.1

Pete Buttigieg: 6.0

Beto O’Rourke: 6.0

Joe Biden: 5.9

Bernie Sanders: 5.7

Amy Klobuchar: 5.2

Julián Castro: 4.6

Andrew Yang 3.0

My take on the ratings: I would put Cory Booker, who impressed me, above Harris, and move her substantially down on the list, with Harris below Buttigieg. Warren belongs at the top, and Bernie and Biden occupy appropriate positions. And yes, Castro and Yang are at the bottom.  O’Rourke seemed a bit patrician and pompous to me, but of course those are personality traits, or what derives from them in a debate.

You might read Frank Bruni’s take on Warren, which is that she was the winner as well, but he thinks she’s slick and a bit mendacious. I for one agree that she was clearly evasive on the Medicare-For-All issue, something that I still oppose (I think everyone needs to be enrolled in a healtcare plan, with a government option available at low cost, but I don’t yet favor elimination of private insurance).

I guess we have many more of these to watch (or miss) in the next year, but I’m betting the final candidates will be Biden and Warren. But of course it’s early days.

Your take?