Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 5, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the first Tuesday of 2021: January 5: National Whipped Cream Day. If you go to the Foodimentary page that describes the day, there are five facts about whipped cream. Here’s the first:

1.) Mainly the heavy cream that make whipped cream out of is in reality a milk product.

What? Who’s writing these things?

For those who think that food is medicine, it’s also National Keto Day, and for animal lovers it’s National Bird Day.  Finally, it’s the Twelfth Day of Christmas and the Twelfth Night.

News of the Day:

This is heartening, at least in principle. In a new op-ed at the NYT, four former Senators, two Republican (Jack Danforth and John Hagel) and two Democrats (Chris Dodd and Paul Kirk) endorse a stronger bipartisanship in the Senate. Of course these are ex-Senators,  pining for the Floor, and in light of the now 12 Republican Senators who want to re-examine the election results, I’m not hopeful. I’d rather have both Democrats win in Georgia.

On the news last evening, it was revealed that the impetus behind the letter to the Washington Post from all living (10) Secretaries of Defense, a letter calling for recognizing that the Presidential election was over, was—get this—Dick Cheney! That surprised me.

On that same topic, can Trump be charged with a crime for phoning the Georgia Secretary of State and asking him to change the vote?  Editorial-page editor Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post says, “perhaps,” but I say, “no”, because all the relevant statutes assume that Trump KNEW that he was trying to commit fraud—that the election results were correct and he was trying to overturn them. It would be a hard row to hoe for a prosecutor to prove what Trump “knew”. Although there are Georgia state statues involved here, for which Trump cannot pardon himself, I don’t think he’s going to get in trouble for his horrifying call. He will be in trouble for tax evasion, a New York state crime.

There’s at least one silver lining in Brexit: the UK just abolished its tax on menstrual products like tampons. Before Brexit, there was an Eu-mandated tax on these products of at least 5%, as they were considered—wait for it—”nonessential luxury items.” Luxury? If men had periods, this issue wouldn’t have existed.

Yesterday’s poll on how many of the two Senate seats the Democrats will win in Georgia today gave these results:

Like the pundits, we have not much of a consensus here. This week will tell the tale.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S 353,729, an increase of about 2,100 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,862,758, a big increase of about 10,700 over yesterday’s total, a death rate of about 7.4 people per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 5 include:

  • 1757 – Louis XV of France survives an assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens, the last person to be executed in France by drawing and quartering, the traditional and gruesome form of capital punishment used for regicides.
  • 1875 – The Palais Garnier, one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is inaugurated in Paris.

Here’s a photo of the opera I took in February of last year, on my last trip before the pandemic hit.  Believe me, Paris is one of the first places I’ll return to when travel is safe.

Dreyfus spent five years on Devil’s Island (illustration below) before he was retried and exonerated, then serving in World War I. He died in 1935.

  • 1914 – The Ford Motor Company announces an eight-hour workday and minimum daily wage of $5 in salary plus bonuses.
  • 1919 – The German Workers’ Party, which would become the Nazi Party, is founded in Munich.
  • 1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becomes the first female governor in the United States.

Ross succeeded her husband as governor when he died (after a special election). She wasn’t re-elected but did serve as director of the U.S. Mint. Here’s a photo:

  • 1933 – Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins in San Francisco Bay.
  • 1953 – The play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett receives its première in Paris.
  • 1974 – The warmest reliably measured temperature within the Antarctic Circle, of +59 °F (+15 °C), is recorded at Vanda Station.

Vanda Base was closed in 1995 but did have a unique rule:

Vanda Station was well known for The Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club. Visitors to Lake Vanda Station could dip into the high salinity waterswhen the icecap edge melted out during summer to form a “moat”, and receive a Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club shoulder patch. Vanda staff would assist the melt by hacking out a “pool”. Many dignitaries and politicians were inducted into the club, The dip had to be naked (Rule 1), complete immersion (Rule 4), witnessed by a “Vandal” (Vanda Station staffer) and with no restrictions on photography (Rule 6) to qualify.  Rule 10 allowed a natural figleaf, but it had to be natural and also naturally green without artificial aid.

Here are some poor saps trying to get into the club:

Notables born on this day were, as usual this time of year, few (I think copulations are scarce in April and May):

  • 1900 – Yves Tanguy, French-American painter (d. 1955)
  • 1931 – Alvin Ailey, American dancer and choreographer, founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (d. 1989)
  • 1946 – Diane Keaton, American actress, director, and businesswoman

Keaton is 75 today. Here she is with Warren Beatty when they were involved.

  • 1969 – Marilyn Manson, American singer-songwriter, actor, and director

Those who went West on this day include:

  • 1589 – Catherine de’ Medici, queen of Henry II of France (b. 1519)
  • 1922 – Ernest Shackleton, Anglo-Irish sailor and explorer (b. 1874)
  • 1942 –  Tina Modotti, Italian photographer, model, actress, and activist (b. 1896)

Modotti, an excellent photographer as well as the lover of both Edward Weston and—so it’s rumored—Frida Kahlo, had a colorful but short life, dying of a heart attack at 45. Here’s a fairly well known film about Kahlo and Modotti made by avant-garde filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen. There’s some rare video footage of Kahlo and Diego Rivera being lovey-dovey in their Mexico City home.

Here’s a short video about the life and work of Carver:

  • 1970 – Max Born, German physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1893)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is touting herself:

Hili: I have to give myself a bonus.
A: What for?
Hili: For lifetime achievement.
In Polish:
Hili: Muszę sobie przyznać premię.
Ja: Za co?
Hili: Za całokształt.

Shhhh! Little Kulka and Szaron and sleeping and cuddling. . .

From Stash Krod (a college classmate):

From Divy, who surmises that before lying down, the cat kneaded the guy’s back.

And another Kliban classic from Stash Krod:


Trump calls his own administration’s statistics for Covid-19 deaths “fake news.” But his tweet doesn’t make any sense:

Titania’s got a point here (sarcastically, of course). It’s one thing, and a civil thing, not to call attention to someone’s extra weight. But it’s a different thing, and dangerous, to tell them that they’re healthy when they’re way overweight. Best to say nothing (unless your a doctor) rather than lie.

From Barry. If I don’t miss my guess, this is the famous piano-playing cat Nora. Barry notes this:

I do like 0:33 to 0:36. There’s something fetching about that not-quite-atonal move there. I like it. With some more lessons under her paws, I believe this cat could be going places.

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is wokeness gone mad.

Below: Some breeds of mallards (white “Pekin ducks” are simply artificially selected mallards) that have mutations that give them pompoms. Crested ducks are carriers of a dominant mutation that produce the pompom; in homozygous form it’s lethal and kills the embryos before they hatch. Breed two crested ducks together and you get in the offspring 1/3 normal ducks and 2/3 crested ducks (actually, among eggs it’s 1/4 normal, 1/2 crested, and 1/4 crested homozygotes that don’t hatch; this gives 1/3: 2/3 among adults).

Anybody home? Anybody home?  What a chill cat!

Look at that ostrich run!

And yes, this is amazing:

54 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

    1. Furthermore, a 5% cannot be considered as being a luxury product tax. The normal value added tax in the EU is 15% or more and the reduced tax (on essential products like food) is 5% or more. EU citizens correct me of I am wrong.

      1. 5% is the minimum reduced rate an EU country may apply. Standard VAT must be at least 15%. EU countries may have some rates below 5% but these are only on things that were historically at low rates. For example, Britain applies a zero rate to some food and children’s clothing. We were allowed these dates while in the EU because they had been zero rated before the current rules came in.


        So Jerry is actually correct that we can zero rate tampons only because of Brexit. This is the first material benefit of Brexit I have heard of despite constantly asking Brexiteers what they might be since the vote. Although, of course, the saving might not be passed on to the customers. Retailers will probably keep the price the same and pocket the extra as profit.

        1. Yep. The EU will plans to remove the tax in 2022. Though there was nothing stopping British MEPs in the EU from introducing a bill to remove the tax. In fact, that might have been the easier path rather than quitting the entire EU!

    2. That article only says Germany is lowering the tax. In fact, it is from 2019 and on 1st January 2020 they did lower it from 19% to 7%. It was still higher than the then current UK rate which was 5%. The UK has now reduced VAT on tampons to zero, which cannot be done in EU countries that didn’t exempt tampons historically.

        1. You need to read your link properly. It does not say we could scrap it in 2016, it says we won a promise from the EU to scrap it in the future. Your link says it was scheduled to come into effect in 2017 but, unfortunately, we had the referendum and they stopped listening to us.

          It’s true to say that Brexit has allowed us to zero rate tampons but it is also true to say that, if we had stayed in the EU, all EU countries would now be able to zero rate tampons and could have done so in 2017.

          This is an example of the hing that I really hate about the Brexit fiasco. Brexiteers moaned that the EU kept telling us what to do but they forgot that we were one of the most powerful members and much of what they told us to do was endorsed by our own government or even shaped by our own government.

          1. Ireland charges 0% vat on tampons, so membership of the EU was not a restriction on it’s removal. Or at least they could’ve changed it without problems after rule change within the EU

            1. Eire already had the zero rate when they joined the EU so they could keep it – like the UK with books, children’s clothes etc.

      1. But, regarding tampons, isn’t basically every good you’d find in a pharmacy (besides prescription drugs) subject to VAT, regardless of whether or not it’s something essential? According to the EU’s website, “Supplies that must be exempt include certain activities in the public interest (such as medical and dental care, social services, education etc.) as well as most financial and insurance services and certain supplies of land and buildings. Exemptions also exist for intra-EU supplies and exports of goods outside the EU.”

        In fact, according to their website, basically every good and service has VAT applied to it — even food, which is pretty essential — so, unless I’m mistaken and there’s some exception carved out for all goods that could be deemed “essential,” the EU has given countries the option to reduce or eliminate VAT on tampons in response to political pressure.

        Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m just trying to figure this out by doing my own research and do not live in Europe.

    1. I would add that it is more than a little ironic for a Republican to criticise progressives for finding facts irrelevant!

      1. And to be a persnickety language policeman, I would point out that amen is not a Latin word but a Hebrew (Semitic) word. There is also some thought among etymologists that the ancient Hebrews based the word on the ancient Egyptian word for the sun god, Amun.

      1. What strikes me far more than the “A-woman” prayer ending, is the fact that prayers are said at the opening of Congress. I am always shocked by this, and would be horrified if it happened in our House of Commons in Ottawa.

        1. There’s no way public prayer from the rostrum of the House of Representatives should pass constitutional scrutiny under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The courts pass it off with some mumbo-jumbo about “ceremonial deism.” I’m surprised they’ve gotten away with it this long, but eventually, it’s gotta go.

    2. I am outraged! But that’s only because he didn’t match plural with plural; it should have been “A-women”!

  1. Birthdays: according to The (London) Times, pianist Alfred Brendel and actor Robert Duvall are 90 today, and ex-VP Walter Mondale is 93.

  2. … the impetus behind the letter to the Washington Post from all living (10) Secretaries of Defense, a letter calling for recognizing that the Presidential election was over, was—get this—Dick Cheney! That surprised me.

    Throughout his political career, and particularly as vice president, Dick Cheney was a font of bad ideas — the “unitary” executive, enhanced interrogation techniques, and the 2003 Iraq invasion itself, perhaps foremost among them. But I don’t believe anyone ever questioned that Cheney did what he did because he thought it to be in the best interests of the United States. as misguided as he almost always was. He never put fealty to an individual over loyalty to country, as these repugnant Republican congresspersons are prepared to do with their floor votes tomorrow. And I imagine that a professional like Dick Cheney has been appalled from the jump that the leadership of his Republican Party, and of this nation itself, ever fell into the hands of a buffoonish, unfit reality tv entertainer.

    1. “But I don’t believe anyone ever questioned that Cheney did what he did because he thought it to be in the best interests of the United States. as misguided as he almost always was.”

      I agree for the most part, though I question that when it comes to how military contracts were handled under the W. Bush administration, with Haliburton receiving enormous amounts of money for often shoddy and even dangerously incompetent work.

      1. Oh, Cheney made sure Haliburton got greased during the Iraq War as long as he was veep. And he was an oil & gas man to the foundation of his being, so always looked out for that industry’s interests, too, though I think this was all justified, to his way of thinking at least, as being in the national interest.

        But no way would ol’ Dick have ever gone for undermining American democracy on behalf of some second-rate caudillo.

        1. “But no way would ol’ Dick have ever gone for undermining American democracy on behalf of some second-rate caudillo.”

          I agree. Ol’ Dick and I have something in common: we both believe in American hegemonry. We both believe that, overall, the world is a safer place with the US as the most powerful nation than it would be if that void were suddenly filled by another country (or, more likely, coalition of countries, like China/Russia).

  3. When I was the Treasurer of the Students’ Union at my (less than illustrious) English university we effectively abolished the tampon tax (from the customers’ point of view) by reducing the price paid for tampons in the Union’s shop and paying the VAT (then 17.5%, if I recall correctly) ourselves from the profits from the Union’s bars. (We also sold beer at the lowest price of any Students’ Union in the country, but that’s another story…)

  4. Trump’s tweet is insane. First he says that we’ve counted too many deaths as COVID-related, but then seems to imply that we really just need to make our count “very inaccurately and low” because that’s what other countries are (supposedly) doing.

    I think Trump is suffering from a complete mental breakdown that’s getting worse every day. His completely ego-driven brain simply cannot handle the ideas that (1) he lost, and (2) he completely screwed up with his response to COVID. His mind can’t fathom the idea of him losing or not being considered amazing at anything, ever. We can only hope that the people around him can keep him from doing too much damage before he gets the hell out of the White House for good.

    1. The edit button didn’t show up on this post for some reason (it only does about 25% of the time), so I’ll have to add the following with a new comment:

      Has anyone seen Polanski’s new film about the Dreyfus Affair, An Officer and a Spy? I can’t get it here in the US, as nobody is willing to take the heat from distributing a new movie directed by him.

  5. I doubt the Georgia races will be decided this week. Both parties have too much at stake, and I think the results will be challenged. However, unlike the Presidential election, there are no constitutional milestones requiring certification and seating, and so this can go on as long as necessary. If the Republicans come up short, and there is any suspected chicanery, then they will go all out to prove that election fraud happens.

    1. Yes, if the Dems win, cue up another round of Republican frivolous lawsuits contending voter fraud, and complaining that mail-in voting is fraudulent.

      I’m very pessimistic, however, and think that might not happen for the simple reason that the GOP will win both seats. Will keep my fingers crossed that a full GOP win doesn’t happen, but if I had to bet one way or the other, that’s the way I’d bet.

    2. I doubt this. Raffensberger has put his stake in the ground for running a good election. He’s not going to want any issue to arise in this election as it would undermine his position that the November election was run without significant issue. He’s going to try his hardest to make this runoff go smoothly. There may be people who contest it anyway, of course, but they have to bring their evidence to court and I suspect it will evaporate as with Trump’s cases.

  6. If men had periods, this issue wouldn’t have existed.

    Reminds of a quote I read once, don’t recall the source:

    If men could get pregnant there would be drive through abortion clinics.

  7. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is touting herself:

    Hili: I have to give myself a bonus.
    A: What for?
    Hili: For lifetime achievement.

    Better reason was there none.

    On the “deceased list”,

    1981 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1893)

    The name may ring some bells, as one half – the supervisor’s half – of the “Miller-Urey Experiment” whereby an analogue of the early Earth’s atmosphere was steamed and sparked for weeks, and produced a (then surprising) mixture including most of the terrestrially-common amino acids, and a lot of other interesting chemistry.
    That still infuriates the creationist clade of the Metazoa (I admit no closer relationship), for puncturing a significant hole in their “improbability of life” argument.
    What is less well known is that Urey had already received the Nobel prize in 1934 for the discovery of deuterium (hydrogen with an extra neutron per nucleus), and had done significant work on the Manhattan Project, which seemingly troubled him greatly and led to his move from high-energy physics to less explosive biology. So Miller was a very big wig. And when his student came through with significant results from a thesis experiment, Urey insisted on the work being published solely under the student’s name, as having a Nobel laureate on the authors list would have blinded Miller into relative oblivion.
    Miller & Urey’s conception of the Earth’s early atmosphere is considerably more reducing than more modern ideas (but was mainstream for the time). Variations on the experiment with various atmosphere yield generally similar results – lots of medium-weight complex organic molecules. Availability of amino acids etc on the early Earth isn’t a major problem for Origins of Life research (sound of distant spitting of feathers from the Slough of Creationist’s Despair). But debate on the early history of the Earth (and other planets) remains vigorous. An interesting idea which I heard recently has the Earth forming a synestia (wiki link) after the Moon-forming impact – which would have “interesting” consequences on the chemistry of the remains. Now there’s a target for the astronomers to get their mirrors into!

  8. Keaton is 75 today. Here she is with Warren Beatty when they were involved.

    I read an interview a while back with Ms. Keaton in which she said that the thing with Beatty was more of a fling than a bona fide love affair. In any event, it didn’t survive the rugged shoot for Reds (for which Beatty won the best directing Oscar) — five countries over the course of a year, including Finland during the winter, standing in for Russian during the October 1917 Revolution.

    I also read an interview with Beatty once where he said the key to making a movie with chemistry between the leads was to find out who wanted to shag whom in Hollywood and then put them together on the screen. 🙂

  9. “It would be a hard row to hoe for a prosecutor to prove what Trump “knew”. ”

    I’m not so sure. For one thing, there may be White House witnesses willing to attest to conversations with Trump before and after the call. But I would say that the main evidence we know about is that he used so many different strategies to try to convince the Georgia Secretary of State to change the election. Also, these strategies were often NOT tied to election fraud or mistakes but a bald request to change the vote. Seems pretty convincing to me that Trump knew that he hadn’t won. Also, the states have announced the results of their elections and he’s seen them. It isn’t plausible that he hasn’t seen the official results of the election or the results of his own court cases.

    1. He knew exactly how many votes to ask for, as well. He knew what he was doing. He should be prosecuted for attempted fraud and for threatening an elected official.

    1. Just think, once Biden’s been sworn in, Republicans can go back to pretending that budget deficits and the national debt are big deals again.

      1. Yes, I’m sure it won’t take long for the hypocritical, hyperbolic Republican faux outrage to erupt. Hope Biden doesn’t don a tan suit any time soon. 😉

  10. Nice nutrino sun pic.

    Did you HEAR the Trump goes down to Georgia call in its entirety? It goes for an hour and it is sooo bonkers: the ravings of an old, demented man in an insane asylum. Intellectually, he’s so lame and his narcissism just eats all logic. It really is a window into our “president’s” psychology. You’ll shout at your computer, you’ll yell, laugh, scream and never worry about Joe Biden again because we narrowly dodged a terrible, deranged bullet there.
    It is here



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