Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

Well, we got through Wednesday, and now there’s only one day to the weekend (but does it mean anything any more?). Welcome to Thursday, August 20, 2020: National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. While that’s an estimable pie, I prefer the version sans chocolate.

And I’ll be damned if it isn’t National Bacon Lover’s Dayagain (it was also that day on August 18). The apostrophe, however, implies that only a single Bacon Lover is being feted, so perhaps there are “Bacon Lover’s Days” scattered throughout the year.  It’s also National Lemonade Day, National Radio Day, and World Mosquito Day, celebrating the day in 1897 when Ronald Ross discovered that malaria was transmitted from bird to bird via the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes (he extrapolated the work to humans). It was in fact Ross who declared this day World Mosquito Day.  For this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in 1902—the first Brit to win a Nobel Prize of any sort.

And it’s a Darwin Anniversary Day (see below).

News of the Day: Last night at the Democratic National Convention,  Kamala Harris accepted the nomination as Vice President, and Obama made an important speech, flagellating Trump not only to help Biden win but to reclaim Obama’s own legacy. A transcript of his 20-minute speech is here; I haven’t yet listened to it, but I’ve put the video below. (I’m at work now and listening to it. It’s great to hear a sane President again!) “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job—because he can’t.”

I’ve now heard it, and it was very good, hitting all the right notes. If ever anyone made a calm and rational case for dumping the idiot who sits in the White House, it’s Obama in this speech.

I’m now listening to Kamala Harris’s speech, which you can find here.

The protests continue against dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s apparently bogus election in Belarus. The EU, fed up, has rejected Lukashenko’s election and imposed financial sanctions on government officials deemed guilty of mistreating protestors and rigging the election.

Postalgate continues, despite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s assurance that mail sorting machines were not being removed from post offices. Yet there are lots of photos of disassembled high-speed sorters being warehoused. On the news last night, some post office employees averred that the machines were in perfect working order when they were removed. This, to me, is a criminal offense and an attempt to subvert the upcoming election.

Speaking of subversion, NYT writer Thomas Friedman seriously worries that November’s election will spell the end of American democracy. I think he’s over the top here, but here’s what he says:

Here is a sentence I never in a million years thought that I would ever write or read: This November, for the first time in our history, the United States of America may not be able to conduct a free and fair election and, should President Trump be defeated by Joe Biden, have a legitimate and peaceful transfer of power.

Because if half the country thinks their votes were not fully counted due to deliberate sabotaging of the U.S. Postal Service by this administration, and if the other half are made to believe by the president that any mail-in vote for Biden was fraudulent, that would not result in just a disputed election — not another Bush v. Gore for the Supreme Court to sort out — that would be the end of American democracy as we know it. It also isn’t hyperbole to say it could sow the seeds of another Civil War.

The threat is real.

Perhaps, but not as real, in my view, as Friedman thinks it is.

There are two values for the length of a foot: the old foot,  the “international foot” defined as exactly 0.3048 of a meter, and the “survey foot”, an older length that’s used almost exclusively by surveyors. They differ by two parts in a million, but surveyors’ use of the old one has caused trouble. Now, as of January 1, 2023, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has decreed that only the international foot will be used.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 173,094, an increase of about 1,200 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 786,916, a big increase of about 6,600 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on August 20 includes:

Here’s the title page of that joint paper, whose publication prompted Darwin to assemble his data and publish The Origin a year later. You can read the entire paper here.

  • 1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares the American Civil War over.
  • 1882 – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuts in Moscow, Russia.
  • 1920 – The first commercial radio station, 8MK (now WWJ), begins operations in Detroit.
  • 1938 – Lou Gehrig hits his 23rd career grand slam, a record that stood for 75 years until it was broken by Alex Rodriguez.

It’s not clear that, given Rodriguez admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs, that his record should hold.

  • 1940 – In Mexico City, exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramón Mercader. He dies the next day.

Here’s a picture of the desk at which Trotsky was sitting when his assassin struck. I took the photo in November, 2012. You should visit Trotsky’s compound if you’re in Mexico City, and also visit Frida Kahlo’s house and studio, just a few blocks away (rumor has it that Kahlo and Trotsky were lovers at one time).  The desk is said to be exactly as it was when Trotsky was attacked.

Here’s a 4-minute excerpt of that speech:

  • 1986 – In Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S. Postal employee Patrick Sherrill guns down 14 of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
  • 1988 – Iran–Iraq War: A ceasefire is agreed after almost eight years of war.
  • 1998 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Quebec cannot legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1886 – Paul Tillich, German-American philosopher and theologian (d. 1965)
  • 1905 – Jack Teagarden, American singer-songwriter and trombonist (d. 1964)

Teagarden was one of only a handful of great jazz trombonists. Here’s he is with Satchmo in a great duet, “Old Rocking Chair”. Below are the YouTube notes, with the grocer’s apostrophe on “cats”:

These Cat’s knew the business they were in, entertainment. Here is Louis Armstrong on trumpet & vocal, Bobby Hackett, one of the best cornet players in the world, Jack Teagarden on trombone & vocals, Peanuts Hucko on clarinet with Marty Napoleon, piano, Arvell Shaw on bass & Cozy Cole on drums in New York,on December 30, 1957.This is the meaning of fun.

Want more of this great duo? Go here.

  • 1910 – Eero Saarinen, Finnish-American architect and furniture designer, designed the Gateway Arch (d. 1961)
  • 1941 – Slobodan Milošević, Serbian lawyer and politician, 1st President of Serbia (d. 2006)
  • 1944 – Rajiv Gandhi, Indian lawyer and politician, 6th Prime Minister of India (d. 1991)
  • 1974 – Amy Adams, American actress and singer

Those who conked out on August 20 include:

  • 1915 – Paul Ehrlich, German physician and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1854)
  • 1917 – Adolf von Baeyer, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1835)
  • 1961 – Percy Williams Bridgman, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1882)
  • 2007 – Leona Helmsley, American businesswoman (b. 1920)
  • 2017 – Jerry Lewis, American actor and comedian (b. 1926)


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is hunting for “alien mice”. My query about this to Malgorzata met with this answer: “Not our mice from the garden. Our readers have two guesses: 1) she is saving our own mice; 2) she ate all our mice and needs some new ones.”

A: Where are you going?
Hili: I’m going to have a look to see whether some alien mice are hanging around.

In Polish:
Ja: Gdzie idziesz?
Hili: Zobaczę, czy nie kręcą się tu jakieś obce myszy.

Look! Kitten Mietek is all grown up, and helping drive the car!

Mietek: Now we will turn left.

In Polish: Teraz będziemy skręcać w lewo.

A cartoon by Tom Cheney from Nicole:

From Steve Pruett-Jones. The sign is real (I bet you’ve seen it before.)

A pygmy possum. It’s a real species, but the photo appears to have been doctored:

I tweeted (h/t to Luana for the Sarsour tweet):

From reader Barry, a slime mold overwhelms a plant. This is a plasmodial slime mold, which will reproduce by forming spores. They are considered protists, a paraphyletic group.

From Simon. I’ve long puzzled about how this video relates to science, but have come up dry. Readers are welcome to explain. But the cats are probably trained “circus cats”:

Tweets from Matthew. Hira Javaid is an oncology student at Oxford, and clearly is into cultural appropriation (which is a good thing):

Sound up to hear this crazy kitten:

Fox in the library!  How cool!

Barack is becoming more outspoken as November draws nigh. . .

Another lovely old picture that was originally in color:

48 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. Last night Obama warned that Trump is a threat to democracy. The speech was rather dire. But, because the speech was delivered in his typical low-key manner and didn’t go much into specifics, I fear that many listeners may not have grasped the import of what he was saying. My concern is that those people sitting on the political fence may not like Trump because he is crude and they don’t like some of his policies but still may vote for him because they don’t realize he is an authoritarian trying to undermine democratic institutions.

    1. I saw in the paper today that Trump loves the Qanon conspirators because “they like me”.
      Trump is truly foraging in the scum of politics now.

    2. If Obama had gotten into the details of Trump’s crimes, he would have needed many hours. I think the purpose of his speech was to rally those who aren’t sufficiently amped-up to vote, to encourage people working on the Biden/Harris campaign and fighting voter suppression, and to bait Trump into tweet-reminding everyone how bad a president he is. Trump was listening, of course, and instantly responded with all-caps tweets.

  2. I’m certainly no fan of Ms. Sarsour’s. But in fairness, I think her tweet merely omits the definite article before “[o]pposite,” rather than confuses that word with “opposed.”

    1. Her tweet implies that Antifa and anti-fascism are one and the same thing whereas the former is a subset of the latter. It is possible to be opposed to Antifa without being opposed to the general notion of anti-fascism. Her logic is faulty.

      1. Or to put it another way (and perhaps more fairly respond to your comment) you don’t have to be Antifa to be opposed to fascism and not aligning with Antifa certainly does not make you the opposite of anti-fascist.

      2. Absolutely, Jonathan. My point went only to her grammar and usage, not the substance of her argument.

  3. Wednesday 24th June 1914 – 4 weeks before the start of The Great War …

    Four days before the Archduke got clipped in Sarajevo. The Parisian family in that tableau vivant had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down.

  4. I don’t fully buy into the catastrophe that Mr. Friedman is suggesting, because I don’t see how voters on both sides will feel overly aggrieved. The side who wins, even in a messy election count with stacks of unrecorded mail in ballots, will be able to protest without getting violent about it. The losing side may still become violent, however.

    Interestingly, the conventional wisdom had been that mail in voting will benefit Dems more than Repubs. And that is perhaps why Trump is crapping all over mail in voting. But there are more recent analyses that suggest that mail in voting is used pretty equally by both sides.

    1. From what I understand the argument that mail in voting favors the Democratic nominee is not because a higher percentage of Democrat voters use mail in voting but because mail in voting will increase voting in general and that there are more people among the group of all eligible voters that will vote Democrat than Republican. Basically, there are more Democrats than Republicans and if you can get them to actually vote the Democrats will win.

      Supposedly it has been a known thing among experts for a while now that more of the population leans Democrat than Republican and that if everyone voted and elections were fair the RP could never win. Hence all the cheating by the RP for decades at the state and national level, from gerrymandering to a large variety of voter suppression tactics. Evidence does seem to support the claim. For one example, even with abysmal voter turn-outs on the Democratic side and all the cheating by the RP neither Bush Jr or Trump won the popular vote.

      1. I think the idea is that many voters will want to use mail-in voting this November to avoid the long lines and COVID exposure of in-person voting. Since Dem voters believe the virus is real and GOP voters don’t, and the poor traditionally make more use of in-person voting, the increase of mail-in voters may well be biased towards Dems. In addition, by stoking fears of mail-in voting fraud Trump is trying to maintain the option of declaring it an invalid election. This works for him regardless of the Dem/GOP mix of mail-in voters.

      2. I cannot claim to fully understand the depths of the scheming on all sides of the election, but there are some possibilities that come to mind. One interesting source of analysis is the 2005 Report on of the Commission on Election Reform

        If Biden is actually experiencing cognitive issues, getting people to mail in their votes prior to any debates or unscripted interviews might be an advantage. From the above-referenced report- “early voting allows a significant portion of voters to cast their ballots before they have all of the information that will become available to the rest of the electorate”

        Another issue not getting much coverage is privacy. When the DOD abandoned their experiments with the “SERVE” internet voting system, one primary concern was the likelihood that ballot secrecy would not be maintained. When we discussed the reliability of polls the other day, this was on my mind. No matter how someone tries to pressure or even threaten me, once I am alone in the voting booth, I can vote any way I want. I could see how an effort to organize people to “help” some citizens fill out and mail their ballots could be corrupted.

        I understand that it is dogma that ballot fraud is not and has never been an issue, but the stakes are pretty high, and the sort of people who run for office these days tend to be morally retarded. By that, I mean that if they had a cheating scheme in mind and thought that they could get away with it, they would try. I think the most important aspect is people’s perception that the ballot system is fair and secure. Even if it really is not, most people are willing to come to peaceful terms with the idea that even if their candidate lost, everyone was playing by the same rules.

        1. First, there’s no evidence of any serious cognitive decline of Biden. Sure, he’s an older guy and has had a life of making statements that he’s probably regretted but that’s not grounds for making cognitive decline an issue.

          Second, the idea that the outcome of the election could be swayed significantly by voter coaching is ridiculous. How could such an effort “turn” more than a very few votes without having someone blow the whistle? To be effective, it would have to be organized on a huge scale. The effort to sign up coaches would be huge. It also may be indistinguishable from campaigning unless carried to extreme. After all, people go from house to house telling people how they should vote, right? Is explaining how a ballot works really out of line? If coercion was done on a mass scale, some of those coerced would likely tell someone and spark an investigation. Giving a speech is probably a far more effective way to convince people to vote for one’s candidate.

        2. If Biden is actually experiencing cognitive issues – we’ll all find out tonight at the “convention”. Tonight’s his big speech.

          Note too, we are already aware of tRump’s cognitive issue, he’s a psychopath, and it really hasn’t held him back that much.

        3. A snippet from Hannity interviewing Trump on his Fox News show the other night

          “Hannity: “ To get in the building. My question to you then is, are you going to have poll watchers, are you going to have an ability to monitor uh to avoid fraud and cross check whether or not these are registered voters whether or not there’s been identification to know if it’s a real vote from a real American?”

          Trump: “ “We’re going to have everything. We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement. And we’re going to have hopefully U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals. But it’s very hard. You have some of these states sending them out like Nevada where they don’t even have to check the signatures so anybody can sign it. New Jersey just send it out, the Governor, as I understand it, just signed an executive order didn’t even go through the legislature to get it done! And nobody’s ever heard of anything like this. So they’re going to be sending out 51 million ballots to people, they have no idea why it’s coming, who it’s going to… Unfortunately they may have a very good idea the people sending them. They may send them to all Democrat areas not to Republican areas as an example. Could be the other way too but I doubt it! So it’s a very serious problem.””

          Reading that, do you really think there is any legitimacy to any of the possible fears about voter fraud you mentioned? You want to see unethical tampering with an election, there it is right there. The president of the United States is, has been, lying to the public, from office, to prepare his supporters to not accept a vote in which Trump is the loser. You really think anything Trump said there is accurate?

          Do you have any concerns about any of the cases of actual voter fraud in recent history? All perpetrated by Republicans? Do you have any concerns about any of the cases of voter suppression in recent history? Again, all by Republicans. Or, do you disbelieve what the perpetrators’ alleged intentions were? Do you have no concerns about foreign tampering in our election process such as we know happened in 2016? No concerns about the fact that the Republican Party and Trump have fought tooth and nail to prevent the federal government from taking any measures to prevent such foreign interference in the future, namely this election? You don’t believe the Republican claim that all that is a DP hoax do you? I mean, there is plenty of documentation available via the internet to show that none of it is a hoax. Have you read the Mueller Report? Have you read the Senate Intelligence report (Republican controlled no less!), especially the volume just released?

          I don’t understand how someone as smart and decent as your commentary here on WEIT show you to be can, gently, politely, support the Trump / Republican party line. As a former Republican (though it has been a long time), I don’t understand how the facts about things that the RP / Trump have actually done weigh, in your estimation, less than hypothetical fears about what the DP could, possibly, in some future, maybe happen.

          1. And what’s so maddening is than any one of the hundreds of fraudulent and hypocritical acts committed by tRump and McConnell would have had any other president out on his ass in no time flat. Can you imagine if Obama had committed a single one of the sordid list of crimes, he would have been finished as a politician in the US. And yet there is a daily barrage of lies and crimes spewing from tRump and the RP that doesn’t even move the needle.

          2. I don’t support Trump. I voted Sanders last time. I also disagree strongly with some of the primary points of the republican party line.

            “Do you have any concerns about any of the cases of actual voter fraud in recent history? All perpetrated by Republicans?”

            If those are questions, the answers are yes, I have concerns, and no, not all were perpetrated by republicans. But it does not matter to me who is committing election fraud, I just want it prevented.

            I agree with the FBI that acts that “threaten the public’s trust in the process” are the primary danger.

            People here get very angry at the suggestion that ID should be required for voting, although that requirement is considered essential for fair elections almost everywhere else in the world.
            There are even a number of federal lawsuits working through the courts right now challenging the requirement for signature verification in mailed ballots.
            Every safeguard that I can think of to keep voting secure is being opposed by some group or other.
            I understand how these issues are being framed, that requiring some form of ID is a barrier for minorities for whom the process is an unbreachable boundary, unlike the people of places like Bangladesh, Mexico, or Zimbabwe.

            No matter what we do, people will try to game the system. Some will likely succeed. But there is a threshold below which system loses the public trust. When voting requirements are relaxed to the point where the average person can come up with two or three ways to cheat the system with a few minutes of thought, public trust is going to be eroded.

            A large part of my regular job is looking for security vulnerabilities in facilities and procedures used by my company in places where the potential for attack is high. Certainly that helps to produce a certain mindset, which I cannot really just shut off. I think with the stakes of the voting system as high as they are, it is worth looking at the system from that perspective.

            1. “People here get very angry at the suggestion that ID should be required for voting, although that requirement is considered essential for fair elections almost everywhere else in the world.”

              This sounds reasonable but, of course, this is not the whole story. First, it seems like it is only Republicans who are pushing voter id. If their hearts were pure, they would seek to solve this problem in a bi-partisan manner but they don’t. Second, they prefer some forms of id over others, gun license but not student id for example. Third, they are working very hard to solve a non-problem. As it has been pointed out numerous times, fraudulent voting is not a big problem. Finally, they can’t even outline a plausible scenario where large numbers of people could fraudulently sway an election. Something about dead people or pets voting. Or mass ballots being printed by a foreign entity. How would that work exactly? These scenarios are easily shot down so they don’t bother telling explaining this since it would detract from their argument.

              What could their motive be? It’s not hard to figure out. And if you still don’t believe, several have said it out loud, including Trump. They want to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

  5. I dunno about that pygmy possum photo being doctored, I’ve handled a lot of possums & I’ve seen that expression many times.

    1. I think its muzzle is that of a felid (probably a young cheetah or a cat). Over the picture, Jerry gives a link to a page where you can see the undoctored photo. The pigmy possum has a small pink snout.

  6. With Obama speaking from historic Philadelphia, maybe appropriate to mention a book on the event that established this mess called – The Summer of 1787, The Men Who invented The Constitution. By David O. Stewart, it is a more recent review and I think, a more realistic look at the event and people as it took place that summer. The book is full of information, including all the major difficulties to overcome. 55 delegates made the trip to this meet but only 39 signed the finished document. What became of many who attended is a most surprising finish.

  7. IMO tRump’s greatest fault is that he has brought out the worst in people, and did so intentionally. I hope Biden and Harris will do what leaders are supposed to do and bring out the best in people. But perhaps the tRump destruction has gone too far.

  8. The difference between the two “feet” used in the U.S. can certainly have consequences in the land survey business. As a civil engineer I have worked closely with surveyors for many years and have witnessed this debate on numerous occasions. At my last place of employment one survey tech was fired for using the international foot instead of the U.S. survey foot.

  9. Paraphrasing what Louis Armstrong said about and to Jack Teagarden:

    “I’m a spade and you’re an ofay, but we both have the same soul, so let’s blow.”

  10. I don’t know how anyone could observe Obama and not see him as the best president they’ve had in their lifetime. And to compare Obama to Trump – just listen to Obama speak and it’s so clear to me!

  11. If you have not read it, the time travel novel “Blackout” by Connie Willis is very good. It is based (for the most part) in England and the Battle of Britain. It has some very good scenes showing the terror of the citizens weathering that terrible storm.

  12. Normally I would decry Obama making such a harsh speech against his Republican successor. But let’s face it, tRump does not deserve the courtesy normally shown by former presidents. tRump has attacked and lied about Obama regularly as he overturns any and every Obama policy he can with E.O.s.

          1. Yeah, Trump’s even a worse Decider than Dubya- with hands on hips: “You are not the boss of me; I’m the Decider!” (Effing moron)

      1. I didn’t say it wasn’t true. As Truman said about the 80th Congress. “I didn’t give them hell. I told them the truth and it sounded like hell.”

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