Sunday: Hili dialogue

June 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Sunday (Ceiling Cat’s Day), June 28, 2020, National Tapioca Day, best consumed as the large pearls in Bubble Tea. It’s also International Body Piercing Day, and Tau Day, a bizarre day to celebrate the constant τ, which is equal to 2π (see also here). Tau was suggested by mathematician Bob Palais as more natural than pi, since tau is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius. Well, I have no dog in that kerfuffle.

News of the Day:

A big deal: the New York Times was the first to report that Russia apparently offered soldiers of the Taliban a bounty for killing American soldiers. This is an unthinkable breach in the already fraught relations between the US and Russia. Further, the White House has known about this for several months, but has neither mentioned it nor taken any action. Is Trump even capable of responding to this provocation by his “great friend” Putin?

More erasure: Princeton has decided to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from its school of public policy and a residential college. To be sure, Wilson, President of Princeton for 8 years before becoming president, was a pretty hard-core racist.

The Washington Post has a new short piece on “Five Myths About Policing” that’s worth reading.

Today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 125,545, 125,033, an increase of about 500 over yesterday’s report.  The world death toll now stands at 498,271, an increase of about 4800 from yesterday.

Dorothy’s brood (still seven) has reached an uneasy detente with Honey’s Flotilla, so for the time being things are tolerable on Botany Pond, though I’m stressed out a lot. Yesterday, Dorothy’s babies finally learned to use the duck ramp to go ashore. Here are a few snaps:

Resting in the grass:

One of Dorothy’s new ducklings:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina (the upstairs lodger and formal owner of Szaron) helps weigh Hili. The tubby tabby gives some helpful advice. (Note that Szaron is watching; though he’s smaller than Hili, he’s apparently denser as they weigh about the same.

Hili: Stand more on your right foot.
Paulina: Why?
Hili: We will weigh less.
In Polish:
Hili: Podeprzyj się mocniej tą drugą nogą.
Paulina: Dlaczego?
Hili: Będziemy mniej ważyć.

From Ginger K., a duck makes the police blotter:

Another Mike Lukovich cartoon from reader Charles. Remember the old tuna commercial slogan, which is also appropriate here: “Sorry, Charlie!”  (Or is that Linus?)

A tweet from reader Alon, with the latest Sarah Cooper Trump-synch. Listen to the Lying Big Liar Lying about attendance at his Oklahoma rally!

A beautiful “ambiguous object” found by reader Simon:

Tweets from Matthew. I hate these mask-denialists, but I also dislike the word “Karen” being used to designate “privileged white women.” It’s bigotry as well as a slur on people named Karen. Anyway, she’s a jerk, whatever you call her. It’s just bizarre that a public health measure has become a sign of political tribalism.

A clever way of sorting round objects by size. Each bin holds the range of sizes delimited by the width of the rods at each edge of a bin.

. . . and a classic religious joke. In this case the rabbi is absolutely right:

Matthew tweeted this lockdown cartoon himself, and sent it to me saying, “This is the truth.”

A 400-mile lightning flash in South America, plus one that lasted 16.7 seconds!


50 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. Trump’s excuse for doing nothing about the Russian finding reported in the Times is that he and Pence were never told about it back in March. And yet still he does nothing, not even mentioning Russia. Imagine if this had been Obama.

    1. “nothing is being done publicly” is not necessarily the same as “nothing is being done”.

      Sometimes actions taken outside of the public view are the most effective. In most cases that involve covert military actions, public statements are only made when the publicity itself presents an advantage. I think most of us with military backgrounds are comfortable that actions are already being taken.

      If this had been Obama, there is no telling what he might do. Perhaps he would arrange to relocate tens or hundreds of thousands of Afghan tribal insurgents to some city in the Midwest US.

      Afghanistan was largely a proxy war. My participation was limited to strikes on the Taliban and Al-Queda after 9/11, and I feel pretty good about those particular actions. I don’t feel the same way about US efforts to counter the Soviet occupation in the mid 80s, or later US efforts to westernize the country. I am also not at all shocked that special forces troops supporting an insurgency do things like offering rewards for successful attacks.

      I expect that this information was released now, and framed as it is, to provoke Trump to take some action for which he can be condemned. War with Russia might kill millions and spread horror and violence across the world, but it would almost certainly give Biden a considerable edge in the election.

      1. That’s a good idea, give us that conspiracy idea, as I am sure the NYT’s is sitting in the basement creating these stories.

        Just in case you did not catch it, Trump has already tweeted out denial that he or Pence was not aware of these rewards. In other words, lets believe the guy who gets all the intelligence info every day does not know about it, end of story. And then, being told, says nothing else. I suspect you need to come out of the basement.

        1. It appears at this point that every party involved has now denied any knowledge, except for the NYT anonymous source, who provided few details.

          And we are, of course, talking about the NYT, who published the following gem:
          “Village markets are flowing with eggs, fruit, poultry, vegetables, milk and butter at prices lower than Moscow. A child can see that this is not famine but abundance”

      2. If this had been Obama …

        If this had been Obama, imagine the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth that would be going on right now by the national-security hawks in the Republican Party — the Lindsey Grahams and the Marco Rubios and the Tom Cottons. The double standard they apply to Trump is worthy of the fealty paid Dear Leader by the apparatchiks of the DPRK.

        This segment of the GOP still hasn’t returned from the low-earth orbit it was catapulted into when Obama was picked up on a hot mic telling Russia’s then-president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election.

        I guess Trump (who had the gall to waddle onto the podium to deliver the commencement address to West Point cadets) really showed Putin how seriously he takes this by since fulfilling one of the top priorities on Putin’s wish-list — the surprise announcement (even to the Pentagon) that Trump would be drawing down US troops in Germany.

      3. It’s an old argument. But riddle me this, Batman. How would Trump’s administration be dealing with this behind the scenes without Trump taking credit for it?

      4. My participation was limited to strikes on the Taliban and Al-Queda after 9/11, and I feel pretty good about those particular actions.

        Does it matter whether you “feel pretty good” about these strikes, or not? You were just following orders, so whether you felt good or not is meaningless.

        1. I think we are allowed, in retrospect, to look back at conflicts we were involved in and evaluate whether the sacrifices were worth it, and if the conflict accomplished anything.
          Certainly the experience of seeing the events first-hand does not detract from the ability to later see the larger context, as opposed to someone who only reads about them.
          You are right in that at the time, you follow orders.

      5. Maybe action has been taken “outside the public view”, but Trump is denying he was even old about this.

        Think about that for a minute. Why would Trump lie about this? If he knew about these attacks and did something, why did he claim not to know anything about them? He either knew but failed to do anything and is now covering his considerable arse, or he didn’t know, which means members of his own administration decided to keep attacks on American soldiers secret from their own commander in chief.

        Either way, it’s not a good look.

        1. The only way that Trump doesn’t look terrible here is if the whole story is wrong from the start. In other words, the Russians didn’t offer bounties to the Taliban for killing American soldiers. This seems unlikely to be the case. Trump’s “we just found out” excuse doesn’t pass the smell test. So he’s goes golfing on finally hearing the news? IMHO, his best play would have been to claim that they had been discussing how to handle this Russian aggression for months and had yet to take action. I wouldn’t have believed him but it sounds more plausible. I suppose he couldn’t go that way as it would have created the expectation of future action against the Russians and, for some reason, that is something Trump will never do.

        2. Maybe if the dimwitted sonuvabitch could be arsed to read his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), he’d know about what was going on in the world. (Hell, the intelligence community even sends over a briefer to deliver the PDB, so there’s some there to try to help the reading-impaired bastard sound out the syllables.)

          I’m not sure which is worse and more foreboding: that Trump knew of this and did nothing — or that, as claimed, he’s so ill-informed on national security, he knew nothing of it.

    2. Since US intelligence discovered that Russia has been putting a bounty on US soldiers in Afghanistan, not only has Donald Trump abjectly failed to take any retaliatory measures, but he alone among the members has renewed his call for Russia be re-admitted to the G-7 conference (from which it was turfed for its illegal annexation of Crimea).

      Like his recent firing of SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, if there’s an innocent explanation for Donald Trump’s constant kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, neither Trump nor any of his supporters has yet to put forward a plausible case for it.

  2. Sarah Cooper is a great antidote to crazy. I am always looking forward to the next installment. She’s national therapy.

    1. I love her videos. She used to work at Google and wrote the book “How to Look Smart in Meetings”. I’ll never forget the “can you go back a slide?” because people used to do that to me when I presented and I’d always think “why? Am I going too fast?” No, it wasn’t me.

      1. I would never have asked anyone to “go back a slide”. I was usually eager to get to the end so I could get back to work.
        Sarah definitely seems like someone who has the experience and observational skills.

      2. I think being asked to go back a slide is a good thing. It shows that someone is listening. Even if they are asking because they were distracted by something on their phone, it still means they care about what you have to say.

        I have often had to ask to go back a slide during a presentation. Sometimes it takes a while to formulate a question and, by the time I have, the presenter has moved on. Of course, this depends a lot on the size of the group, whether I’m a key person in the audience, etc.

  3. At least three presidents, who were previously held in high esteem by historians and the general public, have had in recent years seen their approval ratings fall precipitously: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson. Other presidents can fall into this category, but these three are the most well-known. Jefferson was known as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the champion of the yeoman farmer against the aristocrat (or which he was one himself). Jackson was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and in his presidency the country become more democratic (at least for white men). Wilson, a progressive, supported legislation during his presidency to tame the excesses of capitalism, led the nation through World War I, and gallantly attempted but failed to bring the United States into the League of Nations. Of course, they are now out of favor because they were all racists.

    The current emphasis on their racism over their accomplishments reflect the mood of the times. As racism and the ways to get rid of it now dominate public discourse, what they did to make America better is largely forgotten, if ever known. Thus, their honoring through statues and memorials is being reversed. This is not surprising because whom a society honors reflect its values at any moment. But, memorials do not teach history. And, despite Andrew Sullivan’s hysteria in a recent column in which he fears he we are entering an Orwellian world, one can make the argument that the removal of the memorials is a sign that we are leaving the Orwellian world in which some honored people no longer deserve to be such. While one can argue the merits of dishonoring these presidents, the pervasiveness of Confederate statues and military bases named after Confederate generals, to me borders on what Orwell warned against.

    As I have argued before, there is no “true” history. For many decades, the accomplishments of these presidents were emphasized, now their negative qualities are. Indeed, one can say that for many decades the “unwoke” controlled the historical narrative in schools and elsewhere; now, perhaps the woke is doing that. However, during these many decades, minority voices were not suppressed; they were ignored. Today, those people that still admire these presidents are free to express their views since the woke are still in a distinct minority. Curiously, Sullivan is frightened by the woke, but also abhors Trump, who represents the real threat to free thought through his governmental ministries of propaganda. In contrast to Sullivan, I worry much more about the latter than the former. This is because authoritarian governments have and use the power to suppress free thought in all aspects of society (including education). College sophomores and a few professors do not.

    1. To the common argument that “these statues are history”, someone online somewhere clarified the obvious by saying in effect: ‘No, they are not history. They are simply someones’ ideation of a historical figure.’
      That said, the energy spent on this subject is really a distraction of the more important work that needs to be done.

      1. I don’t think Trump’s presidency will merit too many statues, but his visage ought to be immortalized on the three-dollar bill.

    2. We are in agreement on this. I do wonder where the young exhaust their wokyness and who would be spared. They will soon go after George Washington and after that nothing is left. He was one of the many slave holders, owning about 300 in all, with many coming by marriage, just like Jefferson. The property moved with death. Washington also went after escaped slaves and used trickery to avoid legal problems during his presidency in Philly where that pesky 6 month rule applied. It is likely that many of his teeth came from slaves. That is true ownership. Removal of statues, erase from the dollar bill and then who was first in war, first in peace and not in the hearts of us all.

    3. “a sign that we are leaving the Orwellian world in which some honored people no longer deserve to be such.”

      Yes. And the whole act of raising people to icon-status is by its nature to leave a hostage to fortune, as well as belonging more to the “great man of history” approach than to reality. The automatic near-deifying of presidents in the US is (in my non-US) opinion almost as stupid as having a “royal” family. (In fact since Trump, it is much stupider than that.)

    4. No historian here, but I would say Jefferson’s biggest accomplishment (as President) was the Louisiana Purchase. And to accomplish it he had to go against all anti-Federalist rhetoric he had been spouting for years.

      1. I agree that the Louisiana Purchase by Jefferson was a major accomplishment. I should have included it. Perhaps his views on religion in society should have been included as well.

    5. Someday soon there will be a detailed study on how Trump’s presidency has brought closer scrutiny of all past presidents and generally reduced their public esteem. He clearly has brought the country down in the eyes of the rest of the world. We might beg them to consider this merely an exception that proves the rule but they’re equally justified in considering it as the beginning of the end of the American era. Biden will have a lot of work to do.

    6. “The current emphasis on their racism over their accomplishments reflect the mood of the times”

      It also should remind us to cut our founding fathers a bit of slack, since they were born into the system. Nearly all around them would have had similar views on slavery.
      If Jefferson, for example, had freed all his slaves early on, he likely would never have achieved the contributions he did. He seems to have feared this consequence. Perhaps Adams would have prevailed in the debate of the times and had a monarchy installed. All would be different. How can we be a judge of what they took as an unalterable given? Not to excuse, just to put it all into perspective.

  4. Whatever Trump’s story, it will hold no water for me.

    First of all, he and his administration are compulsive liars. No credibility.

    Second, if it is as John Ratcliffe says that the president wasn’t briefed then the admission of this failure should have come with a letter of resignation attached. Where’s the outrage from the Whitehouse that they were left in the dark? There is none, which is telling.

    That was a carefully worded denial issued by Ratcliffe, BTW. They could be using weasel words. And they only deny Trump was briefed, not that they have knowledge of the underlying issue I.E. that Russia is paying bounties for American kills and that the intelligence knows about it.

    It’s possible Trump failed to read briefs or failed to understand the significance. He is incompetent, after all.

    However, I think the most likely thing is that Putin has some leverage over Trump.

  5. If any one has the audacity to tell me to wear a mask in public, it will be the WORST day of their lives.

        1. So far pretty much like yesterday. Not all that bad, to be honest. Wonderful weather. I’ve had worse days by far, so I’m guessing things are due to go downhill awful fast in the next few hours to make it into WORST territory.

    1. Do you not wonder why numbers of both infections and deaths are so much lower in East Asian countries? It’s because everyone wears masks in public. Why the stupid stubbornness?

      1. No, we don’t know that yet. It will take lots of research to see what has worked in some cases – if we can even know that, epidemic modeling is hard and the data is shaky – see how shaky the research on masks is in my longish comment below.

        In general, East Asians do follow the societal rules. That means for example that social distancing and hand washing likely is rigorously applied. We will eventually see what has been effective, and what has not.

        1. Yes, we know it enough to do it. Lots of research is one thing, anecdotal evidence is also a path that humans have used for millennia. For now, wear your fucking mask in public! What’s the downside???

  6. Ducks always look like they’re smiling to me. But in the pix of all the kids on the ramp? I bet she is.

  7. Prior to this rash of entitled, race-baiting white women being called “Karen,” I didn’t see the term as restricted to white women in particular or specifically, white women asserting their white privilege. I associated the meme with the general sense of entitlement exhibited by some women, which is certainly sexist but not racist: “Before the Karen meme, there was the “speak to the manager haircut.”

    As I mentioned in another comment on WEIT, pity the poor black women named Karen. Here’s Washington Post global opinions editor Karen Attiah giving her opinion on the use of her first name as a term of opprobrium used against white women Black women engaging in “speak to the manager” behavior used to be called “Sapphire.” Now they’re just plain old “N* bitches.”

    In a curious twist the hard right has also begun using the term “Karen” to deprecate white women on the left. Case in point from a seriously confused QAnon follower “How did we get from Thomas Jefferson type of educated men, defending with their lives the God given right to be free, to cities full of low IQ Karens who not only willingly give up their freedoms but deny the existence of the GIVER of those freedoms in 245 years?” This isn’t the first instance of the hard right attempting to “repurpose” such terms.

    1. Oh, the irony of religious right folk using Jefferson as the epitome of standing up for “the GIVER of those freedoms”.

      1. Sapphire has become a metonym for black women who behave like Sapphire in Amos ‘n’ Andy.

        Then the Greeks had Xanthippe.

  8. I hate these mask-denialists

    Maybe not the best choice of terms and their juxtaposition. It isn’t until recently that epidemic modeling has started to imply that masks that stop drops are also somewhat effective in stopping epidemic pathways – but you may want to make more initiatives to have masks being effective [ ].

    Right now, we just don’t know enough about SARS-CoV-2 and protective gear to evaluate which of these models best reflects reality. But the models do set some reasonable bounds about what we might aim for. For example, they indicate that masks don’t need to be especially good if we get enough people wearing them and couple their use to other policy initiatives.

    A few indications that mask use is working in the real world are starting to crop up. For example, an economics institute in Germany looked at the implementation of mask rules in the city of Jena, comparing it to other areas in Germany. It concluded that the rules reduced the growth of the infection rate by 40 percent. (Note that’s the growth rate, not the overall rate of infection.) A non-peer-reviewed study published by PNAS found that mask use made a difference in China, Italy, and the US, although some of the data isn’t entirely compelling. (Looking specifically at Figure 3A, face mask rules seem to have been put in place after infections were already trending downward.) There’s nothing conclusive yet, but there’s some suggestive evidence, and no signs that face mask use is making matters worse.

    Seeing how this is two weeks old material and the science likely not generally known, I don’t think “denialist” is applicable. [Disclaimer: I live where we don’t have to enforce lockdowns and/or masks, except in some few local flare ups.]

    1. I also wanted to add that going after individuals for what they do has the feelings of “a purity test”. But maybe it was illegal to go out without mask where the incidence happened?

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