Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, and it’s September 22, 2020: the day of the autumnal equinox, otherwise known as the first day of Fall. It starts at 8:30 a.m. Chicago time, just two hours from this posting. In the southern hemisphere, of course, it’s the vernal equinox.

Yes, summer is over here, and it was a pretty lousy one as summers go. 200,000 dead in America, nearly a million dead in the world, we had to endure Trump as President (and the Brits Boris Johnson as PM), the Senatorial shenanigans continue after RBG’s death, the western US is on fire and the Southeast is buffeted by hurricanes. The world is locked down. Could there be a worse year?

Well, it’s also National Ice Cream Cone Day, National White Chocolate Day, National Hobbit Day, National Elephant Appreciation Day, and World Rhino Day.

Today Mr. Google Doodle says “Register to Vote”. If you don’t know how, click on the screenshot. But I hope you’re all registered now.  Perhaps we’ll have a contest with a prize for those who take a photo showing proof that they voted (be creative, and consider the photo in advance).

News of the Day: Yesterday the “President” said he would name a (female) replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the end of the week. Two women, both hyperconservatives, are leading the pack of candidates. I’m most afraid of Amy Coney Barrett, who has this record:

A former law professor at Notre Dame, Barrett is a devout Catholic whose published writings would come under great scrutiny if she were to be nominated. In 2013, she wrote that life begins at conception and that Supreme Court justices should overturn precedent that is “clearly in conflict” with their Constitutional views—which some observers interpret as a signal that she may be open to overturning the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade.

Interpret as a signal? Give me a break. During her previous confirmation, she said she’d follow the law and not her religion, but if she think the Constitution forbids abortion, well, that’s the law.

Trump pretended to honor Ginsburg:

“I think it’ll be on Friday or Saturday and we want to pay respect, it looks like we will have probably services on Thursday or Friday, as I understand it, and I think in all due respect we should wait until the services are over for Justice Ginsburg,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox & Friends.”

Somebody told him to say this, as the man doesn’t even have enough empathy to make his own decision about the delay.

Speaking of Trump, the s.o.b. is claiming that RBG’s statement wishing that she’d be replaced after the next election was a fiction, perhaps written by a Democrat like Chuck Shumer. That is an arrant lie.

And here’s a new Lincoln Project ad featuring hypocritical Republicans (h/t Ken):

The New York Times has a nice memoriam and remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by two of her former clerks.

And here’s Washington Post columnist E. L. Dionne, Jr. on why the upcoming Supreme Court battle is not just about the balance of the Court, but about democracy itself:

Allowing President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complete a judicial coup and install a 6-to-3 conservative majority will be, in both form and substance, a triumph for anti-democratic forces and anti-democratic thinking.

This is why we must reject the fake moderation of those who pretend that both sides in this fight are equally partisan, equally stubborn and equally at fault. No. It’s the American Right that has been willing to abuse power again and again to achieve its goal of imposing a radical approach to jurisprudence that would undercut democracy itself.

There is no liberal analogue to the Shelby County and Citizens United decisions, which changed the rules of the game in anti-democratic ways; no liberal analogue to the Merrick Garland blockade; and no liberal analogue to the lawlessness of Bush v. Gore.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 199,789, an increase of about 400 deaths over yesterday’s report. We’ll surely pass 200,000 deaths tomorrow. The world death toll now stands at 963,737, an increase of about 3,500 deaths from yesterday. And we’re approaching a million deaths worldwide., which might happen in a week. 

Stuff that happened on September 22 include:

  • 1692 – The last hanging of those convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials; others are all eventually released.
  • 1761 – George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz are crowned King and Queen, respectively, of the Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • 1776 – Nathan Hale is hanged for spying during the American Revolution.
  • 1823 – Joseph Smith claims to have found the golden plates after being directed by God through the Angel Moroni to the place where they were buried.

Lest you think Joseph Smith made this up, the Book of Mormon begins with two sets of testimonies by people who said they saw the Golden Plates. Here’s one of them.  How can you doubt this sworn statement? It’s better evidence than we have for the life of Jesus (no genuine human witnesses) or of the dictation of the Qur’an to Muhammad:

This incident is bizarre, but fortunately nobody was hurt; the engineer jumped before the train went into the hole. And it lies underground still, at an unknown depth (could be as much as 60 feet), covered with earth. Here’s the big hole:

From Wikipedia: The hole at the Lindal sidings

  • 1896 – Queen Victoria surpasses her grandfather King George III as the longest reigning monarch in British history.
  • 1941 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: On the Jewish New Year Day, the German SS murders 6,000 Jews in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. Those are the survivors of the previous killings that took place a few days earlier in which about 24,000 Jews were executed.

Here’s one of them: a famous photograph that I’ve shown recently. From Wikipedia:

One infamous photo, The Last Jew of Vinnytsia, shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D about to execute a Jewish man kneeling before a mass grave. The text The Last Jew of Vinnytsia was written on the back of the photograph, which was found in a photo album belonging to a German soldier. It was captured by the Red Army on 20 March 1944. . .  Some features are unusual among well-known Holocaust pictures: it was taken during the Holocaust rather than after its end, and presumably by someone complicit in the killing; it depicts Einsatzgruppen rather than concentration or extermination camps; the focus is on a solitary victim rather than a multitude.

  • 1975 – Sara Jane Moore tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford, but is foiled by the Secret Service.

Moore served 32 years in prison and was paroled in 2007.  Wikipedia reports that she was re-arrested last year after violating her parole, but I don’t know where she is now.

  • 1980 – Iraq invades Iran.
  • 1991 – The Dead Sea Scrolls are made available to the public for the first time.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1791 – Michael Faraday, English physicist and chemist (d. 1867)
  • 1902 – John Houseman, Romanian-American actor and producer (d. 1988)

Many of us know Houseman from his performance as the curmudgeonly Harvard Law professor in the 1973 movie The Paper Chase. Here’s my favorite scene from the film:

  • 1918 – Hans Scholl, German activist (d. 1943)
  • 1958 – Andrea Bocelli, Italian singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1958 – Joan Jett, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actress
  • 1959 – Saul Perlmutter, American astrophysicist, astronomer, and academic, Nobel Prize Laureate

Those who kicked off on September 22 include:

  • 1539 – Guru Nanak, Sikh religious leader, founded Sikhism (b. 1469)
  • 1828 – Shaka Zulu, Zulu chieftain and monarch of the Zulu Kingdom (b. 1787)
  • 1934 – Cecil Chubb, English barrister and one time owner of Stonehenge (b. 1876)
  • 1961 – Marion Davies, American actress and comedian (b. 1897)
  • 1989 – Irving Berlin, Russian-born American composer and songwriter (b. 1888)
  • 1999 – George C. Scott, American actor, director, and producer (b. 1927)

And I can’t resist putting up Scott’s speech as he played George Patton in the eponymous movie. (He won the Best Actor Oscar in 1970 for his performance, but refused it on the grounds that acting performances could not be compared with each other). I know much of this speech by heart and recite snippets at opportune times.

  • 2007 – Marcel Marceau, French mime and actor (b. 1923)
  • 2010 – Eddie Fisher, American singer (b. 1928)
  • 2015 – Yogi Berra, American baseball player, coach, and manager (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili spills the beans about cat predation:

Hili: We cats, big and small, have two hunting strategies – we either seek out the game or we wait for it to come by itself.
A: And are you now waiting?
Hili: Yes, but it’s very boring.
In Polish
Hili: My, koty małe i duże, mam dwie strategie myśliwskie – albo szukamy zwierzyny, albo czekamy aż sama przyjdzie.
Ja: A ty teraz czekasz?
Hili: Tak, ale to strasznie nudne.

Here’s a sweet picture, taken by Paulina, showing Szaron and Kitten Kulka snuggling together:

From Paul:

From Charles, who adds, “At least these tRumpletts are honestly telling everyone that they don’t give a damn about others.”

A groaner from Jesus of the Day:


Tweets from Barry: A “salty” (saltwater crocodile) just wants to play:

Below is the sequel, filmed a few minutes later. Sound up for both.

Two from Simon. First, the power of Lego:

. . . and a kitten clever beyond its years:

Tweets from Matthew. This looks quite modern, but stone with crinoid fossils in it has been around a long time, and has been used for tabletops and other decorative items (see here, for example):

Look at these gorgeous muscovy ducklings (muscovies, Cairina moschata, is the other big breed of duck that’s been domesticated. Jews have been arguing for decades about whether they’re kosher, and there’s no good answer.)

A lovely autochrome portrait in original hues. It makes me sad to think that this guy is dead:

Matthew thinks I should read this book. I think he’s just trying to pull my chain.


  1. A C Harper
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    As I understand it the thrust of “The WEIRDest people in the world” is not that Christianity is ‘true’ but that the byproduct of Christianity was the breakdown of clan/tribal loyalties and the banning of cousin marriage. This led to a more individualistic culture and innovation, and one not so constrained by conformity to tradition.

    Maybe yes, maybe no. But at 1,600 years into the experiment perhaps it is too early to tell.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Maybe the cousin part, but now there are more clans than ever.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        There are folks north of the Ohio River who’ll tell you that the cousin part still hasn’t caught on in Kentucky (though I’ve got distant kin in the Bluegrass state, so I’m not one who’d make that claim myself).

    • Lorna Salzman
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      The separation of church and state plus the Enlightenment and science which provided facts about life and its origins inevitably lead to improvement in human health and welfare as well as social justice advances.
      Today the poorest and most deprived countries are religious states, where science has faded and religion dominates. They still live in the Dark Ages or earlier.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    LEGO robot on YouTube with credits : https://youtu.be/Vekgmr8u0Q0

    A kid named Oliver – something or other David Gilday?… check it out! There’s actually a scanner! It starts from a scrambled cube. This is really cool if it’s in a pack you can buy – LEGO EV3.

    The “Rubik’s cube” in the Tw1773r link is actually a modern update called a Speed Cube – they’re way nicer to use.

    Nice pick!

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Many believe the republican’s mission to control the federal judicial system is just their plan. However, according to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, he says it is backed by a small group of very wealthy that have financed this since citizen’s united.

  4. Historian
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It pisses me off seeing people wearing masks over their mouths, but not their noses. How ignorant are they?

  5. Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Around my neck of the woods the summer of 1940 was fairly bad. It remained pretty hairy we’ll into autumn.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    1975 – Sara Jane Moore tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford, but is foiled by the Secret Service.

    A little over two weeks after Charlie Manson’s gal Squeaky tried to put a cap in Gerry’s ass. Ms. Fromme was paroled two years later than Ms. Moore, but only because she bolted from a federal prison camp for a couple days in ’87. As far as I know, Squeaky’s done her time on paper clean since being paroled in 2009.

    • sugould
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      You’d think the Secret Service would have been extra-cautious after Squeaky’s attempt. (‘A woman! Now we gotta watch women, too?’) But no.

      The Secret Service didn’t save Ford, it wasOliver Sipple. Sara’s first shot missed, and as she fired again, Sipple grabbed her arm, deflecting the second shot.

      Sadly, Sipple, former marine and disabled veteran, was also gay, and was outed by fellow activist Harvey Milk and the press. It was a secret Sipple had kept from his family, who then disowned him. The incident ruined his life.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        I’m disappointed to learn that Harvey Milk did that.

        I should think that the only responsible basis for “outing” someone, especially in those days, was that the closeted individual had taken a public stand inimical to the interests of gay people (such as a congressperson who voted for DOMA or a public proponent of California’s Briggs Initiative or Prop 8).

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    1902 – John Houseman, Romanian-American actor and producer (d. 1988)

    I watched the Robin Williams documentary Jerry recommended a couple days ago last night. Houseman was running the acting program at Julliard when Williams and the late actor Christopher Reeve attended there in the Seventies. I knew about Williams and Reeve’s having been classmates at Julliard, but I didn’t know about the influence Houseman had had on them until seeing the doc last night.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Since ducks mentioned a couple times here, I have a duck botany question… about duckweed.

    On my masonry project, I have lots of 5gal buckets sitting around. Most are for collecting rainwater as an easy alternative vs. hauling water from the house.

    For two summers in a row now, duckweed appears in the buckets. Where the hell does it come from?? I’ve never seen a bird visiting a bucket for a drink – the levels areusually too low for that to be an option for them. Only thing I can figure is that the “seeds” arrive as single-cells on insect legs. A quick search suggests that nobody has ever looked at this since the stuff ordinarily propagates so readily, and also apparently hibernates somehow in pond bottoms.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I read a piece the other day that pointed out that a large percentage (43%?) of Americans do not follow politics, and do not care about them. I suspect this is true, but I have no feeling for the numbers involved. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, after all?

    • rickflick
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Pew says 1 in 10 don’t give a hoot.


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      44.3% of eligible voters didn’t show up at the polls in the 2016 presidential election (and turnout is always even lower in off-year elections), so that sounds about right.

      • Posted September 23, 2020 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        I think a lot of people WANT to vote but can’t afford the time, lining up (1/3rd longer time waiting in black neighborhoods I read somewhere lately), missing work, etc
        The system is slanted against poor people – of course. Tuesday is an insane day to do it.

        As usual I’ll be postal voting this year – which in NY you need an “excuse” for. Mine is that “I might not be here then”. And indeed I might not! You never know. (that’s some lawyerly parsing there).

        If we can’t get compulsory voting (I grew up Australian and it WORKS!) – the best option – at least more access to the polls would make our government more representative and, well, better.

        D.A., J.D., NYC

  10. David Harper
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “1896 – Queen Victoria surpasses her grandfather King George III as the longest reigning monarch in British history.”

    A record that she held until her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II took it from her a little over five years ago.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    1961 – Marion Davies, American actress and comedian (b. 1897)

    Orson Welles done poor Ms. Davies wrong in Citizen Kane, with the portrayal of the protagonist’s second wife, Susan. Admitted as much himself, though Welles always maintained the character wasn’t actually based on WR Hearst’s mistress, nor Kane on Hearst either.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I know much of this speech [George C. Scott’s opening monologue from Patton] by heart and recite snippets at opportune times.

    I do the same with the War Room speech by the other general Scott played, “Buck” Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove. The line “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed” slays every time.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Kubrick made probably the best anti-war film ever made. Scott was upset by Kubrick’s directing him to be so over-the-top in this and the next scene, but I think he got it right.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, the way I heard the story, Stanley convinced George C to go over the top in the early takes as sort of a warm-up for later takes where he could ratchet it down a notch or two. But those early takes were the ones that made the film’s final cut — originally to Scott’s displeasure, from what I understand, though he came to appreciate the performance Kubrick had coaxed from him.

  13. Blue
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Interestingly and in re the Ms Google Doodle,
    it is, t o d a y, y2020’s ” National Register
    to VOTE Day. ” Here = a request posted
    yesterday from former President Barack Obama:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ2bbEOwI88 so please
    do and tell ’em that R U T H sent you to do so.


    • rickflick
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      I miss the guy more and more as the corruption at the GOP intensifies.

  14. Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    the part i find amusing about the two Trumpanzeses marching with the sign is that it could at least become a tad more intelligence if they moved the quotes from the word ‘freedom’ to the word ‘safety.’

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      It IS appropriate, though, since their actual, political freedom is not being infringed, while public safety IS. Is is possible this is satire?

  15. rickflick
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Lindal railway incident – The cause is uncertain, but several hypotheses have been suggested.

    1. There were two levels of mine workings beneath the railway. The vast volume of water which is pumped from the mines has caused percolation through the rock and left cavities in the upper strata.

    2. A sink-hole. It is known that there is a subterranean stream below this causing the subsidence.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 23, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      It stinks of mining-related subsidence to me. With the obvious caveat that the owners of any mines in the area would have worked long and hard to come up with alternative explanations, if only to “get their defence in first” against charges of culpability – and the associated damages.
      There is halokinesis (salt movement) in the region – well, 30-odd miles away and a half-mile and more stratigraphically below this level. I’d not bother looking there, though I’ve had “interesting times” with salt-movement induced fracturing out in the Irish Sea.
      I didn’t know of this event until now. Interesting – I’ll keep the eyes peeled if I’m ever back in the area.
      BTW : Carnforth station (where the halted passenger train came from) is familiar to B&W movie fans who saw “Brief Encounter”.

  16. Posted September 22, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    El Capitan Shenanigans and his posse are utterly without class or integrity.

  17. Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, be damned, I made it this far.
    A bit about the Mormon story and it’s my birthday today.
    Jerry, you are in your mid-70’s, correct? I’ve made it to number 85. Hang in there, everyone!
    The Mormon thing. I grew up in Mormon country and no one ever mentioned the coincidence of my birthday with Joe Smith’s visitation. In fact, I didn’t learn about it until a few years ago when I turned militant nonbeliever and did some research.
    Another thing I learned was my ancestral connection with the Mormons. You may have heard about the Mormon’s practice of baptizing for dead people? The “revelation” for this practice/ritual was announced in August 1840 by Joseph at the funeral of a relative of mine, who was an early victim of the scam, joining Joe’s cult in 1831, the year following its inception.
    He (his name was Seymour) had caught a sudden illness, and for some reason was being tended to at Joe’s place in Nauvoo, where he died. Seymour’s widowed wife, my great-great-grandma, wagon trained it west with family in 1851, ending up in a place (later to be) called Fillmore, Utah. Her son, William, became a Mormon bishop (at that time like the mayor) of Fillmore and was such when the wagon train involved in the Mountain Meadow Massacre passed by in the summer of 1857. No one ever talked about that.
    The photo in this post of Jews being shot in the back of the head…frightening and insane! It made me think of how those Mormons, who slaughtered the men, women and children at Mountain Meadow, could have done such a heinous thing. I’m sure it is still a part of (though never talked about) the family histories of those involved. For good people to do such heinous things, you need religion and the belief that God is on your side.
    Oh, and my great grandpa had three wives No one ever talked about that back then either!
    Happy autumnal equinox to everyone. GROG

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      happy birthday.

  18. Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    The last jew of Vinnytsia is a horrifying photograph. I have seen it before, but every time it is just as horrifying. His expression is haunting.

  19. Susan Davies
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    i distinctly remember seeing and hearing der Drumpenfuehrer saying “…if we have only between 100,000 and 200,000 dead we will have been doing a great job”. Is any reporter going to ask him now “It’s over 200,000 now, do you still think it’s a great job?”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 23, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      “Bigger numbers are better”
      DJTrump, Sept 25, 2020.

  20. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    “Staffordshire teapot at The Metropolitan Museum of Art”. I thought that construction of this interesting teapot from limestone was very unlikely, so I checked into the image.
    No fossils in rock in this teapot, it’s just decorated ceramic it’s at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
    Article about it is at link below and quotes
    “What I am really interested in is why potters decided to decorate their teapots in imitation of crinoidal limestone in the 1760s. Why this design? Why was it popular?”
    “For instance, think about the strangeness of depicting solid rock on a delicate object made from clay. By exploring the complicated nature of this pot, I want to show how socially difficult objects could be in certain contexts. Objects such as the teapot created a social minefield in the seemingly gentle space of the tea table.”

  21. Posted September 23, 2020 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    You definitely should read the book “The WEIRDest people in the world” by Joseph Henrich. Its thesis is that Catholicism, and even more so Protestantism, contained the seeds of the Enlightenment and individualism. Not by design, but unwittingly by unintended consequences. It does *not* say that Christianity is therefore good. I have only started reading it, so I cannot proclaim on it, but Henrich’s previous book “The Secret of Our Success” is brilliant.

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