Thursday: Hili dialogue

January 21, 2021 • 6:30 am

Doesn’t this make you tear up?

We’re breezing through the week: it’s already Thursday, January 21, 2021:  National New England Clam Chowder Day (the only acceptable style of this chowder).  It’s also National Granola Bar Day, International Sweatpants Day (make that a whole year), National Hugging Day (only for those in your bubble) and National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  I’ve started feeding the tree rats again, and here’s a photo of one to whom I gave a walnut a few years ago. He couldn’t believe his luck!

Reader Andrée sent a link to the history of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, which includes recommended activities (feed them!) and this note:

Here’s the thing about squirrels: some people hate them and say that they’re “invasive species.” But can those people leap across a space ten times the length of their body? Didn’t think so.

Quiz of the Day: Name a popular folk/rock song that came out between 1960 and 1970 that contains the word “verdant.” No prizes, but no Googling, either.

News of the Day:

The big news, of course, is that we have a new administration, and I was far more moved than I expected by the Inauguration. I turned it on just to check in, and wound up watching the whole schmear until Biden became President.  It was touching and hopeful to see a woman taking the oath of office as Vice President, with Sonia Sotomayor administering the oath of office.

Although Biden’s speech wasn’t elegant, it was Biden: a straight-talking and decent man. Still, I fear for his “dream” of reconciliation given the polarization of the country and the deep disagreement on big issues, but it was just what he said: a vision. I wish him the best.

I’ve just listened to the first press briefing by Jen Psaki, and it was further refreshing to hear someone who wasn’t committed to putting a good spin on a dreadful administration like Trump’s. Biden has hit the ground running, overturning the Keystone Pipeline deal and Trump’s decision to allow oil and gas exploration in national wildlife monuments, reversing the U.S.’s withdrawal from WHO, putting a federal mask mandate in place, reversing the “Muslim ban,” and so on. You can see what he did—and his plans for the first 100 days in office—here.

You can guess who these women are. I like to think that the colorful clothes worn by many women were meant to symbolize a bright new era.

But out in Portland, a crowd in black attacked the Democratic National Headquarters, smashing windows and lighting fires. From the NYT:

In a city that has seen months of demonstrations over racial injustice, economic inequality, federal law enforcement and corporate power, protesters have vowed to continue their actions no matter who is president. Those who took to the streets on Wednesday said they were a mix of anarchists, antifa and racial justice protesters.

The group marched to the local Democratic headquarters, where some people broke windows and tipped over dumpsters, lighting the garbage inside one of them on fire.

A prediction, which is mine: wokeness won’t abate under Biden, but will actually increase. Wokeness wasn’t a reaction to Trump, I think, but simply the Zeitgeist, and Biden will not criticize it. And Portland is hopeless.

NYT photo: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

And Bernie wore a non-fancy coat and MITTENS to the Inauguration, giving rise to much merriment on Facebook and Twitter. (Matthew says, “The mittens are made of recycled wool, with a lining made from ground up plastic water bottles. He was given them on the campaign trail a couple of years ago.”)

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 406,180, a very large increase of about 4,400 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We have just surpassed the total number of Americans killed—combatants or others—in World War II, (405,399). It took four years of war to reach that figure, but less than a year of Covid-19. The world death toll now stands at 2,085,507, a big increase of about 18,000 deaths over yesterday’s total—about 12.5 deaths per minute (more than one every five seconds).

Stuff that happened on January 21 includes:

Here’s the first edition; it must be rare, as I can’t find one for sale. Has anyone here read it?

  • 1861 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.
  • 1908 – New York City passes the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor.
  • 1950 – American lawyer and government official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury.

Hiss could not be convicted of spying for the Soviets as the statute of limitations had expired, but served 3 years and eight months for perjury. It’s still not clear whether Hiss, who admitted he was a Communist, actually spied. His trial and conviction are emblematic of the Red Scare era. Here’s Hiss in his mugshot at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary:

The Nautilus served until 1980, when it was retired; it now resides at a sea museum in Groton, Connecticut. Here she be:

It’s still working, but is also a historical monument, and remains the tallest free-standing structure in the UK: 330.4 meters (1,084 feet)

This novel stainless-steel car with its famous gull-wing doors hasn’t aged well: you can pick up specimens in pretty good condition for about $40,000. It was made for only two years.

  • 1997 – The U.S. House of Representatives votes 395–28 to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethics violations, making him the first Speaker of the House to be so disciplined.
  • 1999 – War on Drugs: In one of the largest drug busts in American history, the United States Coast Guard intercepts a ship with over 4,300 kilograms (9,500 lb) of cocaine on board.
  • 2009 – Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, officially ending a three-week war it had with Hamas. However, intermittent fire by both sides continues in the weeks to follow.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1738 – Ethan Allen, American general (d. 1789)
  • 1741 – Chaim of Volozhin, Orthodox rabbi (d. 1821)
  • 1824 – Stonewall Jackson, American general (d. 1863)
  • 1869 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian Mystic (d. 1916)

Here’s Rasputin with his kids:

Wallenda fell to his death, plunging ten stories to the street (no net or safety wire) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. You can see a video of the news report and of his fall here.

  • 1912 – Konrad Emil Bloch, German-American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2000)
  • 1940 – Jack Nicklaus, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1941 – Richie Havens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2013)

Those who succumbed on January 21 include:

If you haven’t read Strachey’s two famous books, Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria, do so. He pioneered a new style of biography—psychological biography. The ending of Queen Victoria, imagining what went through her mind as she was dying, is justly famous.

Strachey was gay, but had a long platonic relationship with artist and writer Dora Carrington. They lived together in the country (Wiltshire) until Strachey died of stomach cancer at 51. Carrington committed suicide six weeks later.

Dora Carrington; Stephen Tomlin; Walter John Herbert (‘Sebastian’) Sprott; Lytton Strachey, June 1926. Photo by Lady Ottoline Morrell, June 1926

Here’s a well known painting of Strachey by Carrington. The 1995 movie about their relationship, with Emma Thompson as Carrington, is well worth watching.

  • 1950 – George Orwell, British novelist, essayist, and critic (b. 1903)
  • 1959 – Cecil B. DeMille, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1881)
  • 1984 – Jackie Wilson, American singer (b. 1934)
  • 1985 – James Beard, American chef and author (b. 1903)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has gone offline:

A: Are you hiding in the wardrobe again?
Hili: Yes, there is no social media here.
In Polish:
Ja: znowu schowałaś się w szafie?
Hili: Tak, tu nie ma mediów społecznościowych.

Little Kulka is out gamboling in the snow:

From Su:

From United Humanists (I believe Archie Bunker once used this malapropism; he also once said that the Pope was “inflammable”):

From Jesus of the Day:

And an extra meme from Marie, because we now have a new President:

I tweeted this, and a wag responded:


I found this one, too: Don’t let the door hit you on the tuches!

From Luana. Apparently “privilege” isn’t even used for white folks, just the Jews. You can check for yourself (I haven’t).

From Ginger K., who considers this apple beautiful. I agree, but I’d like to taste it. You can read more about this rare breed here; its color is due to high exposure to UV light. It’s also expensive: one apple is said to cost about 50 yuan, which is close to eight U.S. dollars.

Tweets from Matthew.  First, physicist Sean Carroll’s weird cat:

This is a longish thread (part of which is below) about all the dumb stuff Trump did as President. Go here to see it all.


37 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

    1. and destroying women’s and girls’ sport?

      I read the article that Jerry linked and didn’t find anything about destroying women’s sports. I may have missed it, of course, but there didn’t seem to be anything about transgender issues in it at all. I’m actually coming round to the view that we have got to let it happen in order for people to understand that the issues are real and not just transphobia.

      As for the Andrew Doyle story, I agree. Twitter is a private company and therefore not subject to the First Amendment but that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that practically the only public forum that matters is completely controlled by a private company.

      The same can be said about practically the only online retailer that matters, practically the only video site that matters, practically the only online auction site that matters, practically the only search engine that matters.

    2. Doyle tells us how we should be scare of big tech and Amazon but, of course, at end of his article is this paragraph:
      “Andrew Doyle is a comedian and spiked columnist. His new book, Free Speech and Why It Matters, will be published in February. PRE-ORDER IT ON AMAZON.”

      I doubt that spiked did it on purpose but this is best anti-tech argument that I have ever seen.

  1. “I’ve just listened to the first press briefing by Jen Psaki, and it was further refreshing to hear someone who wasn’t committed to putting a good spin on a dreadful administration like Trump’s.” – Absolutely, the difference is incredible – not least the fact that it ended with Psaki saying “Thank you, everyone. Let’s do this again tomorrow.”

    (I read somewhere that the most recent White House press briefing had been on 15th December.)

    1. It was nice that Biden could sign documents with a normal-sized signature and without the need to hold it up and mug for the camera. Like a toddler proud of learning to write his name, “I made that!”

    2. I’m a big Jen Psaki fan from even before yesterday’s press conference. She’s always talked intelligently in her many TV appearances. Someone pointed out that her performance yesterday was like C. J. Cregg, the WH Press Secretary in “The West Wing”. Psaki’s dialog was almost at an Aaron Sorkin level.

      It really ticked me off when CNN’s John King referred to Psaki “punting” on a few questions, a word which sounded negative like “dodging”. When asked if Cristopher Wray, FBI Director, had the “confidence of the President” (POTUS-speak for “Is he going to be replaced?”), she didn’t give a substantive answer. Could it be that she doesn’t know the answer yet and/or doesn’t want to pre-announce it either way?

      1. She was asked a few stupid questions, but managed to answer them with humor and without patronizing the reporters. Psaki is a great choice for press secretary. Think of her compared to Sean Spicer…gag. Though I thought Trump’s last, McEnany, was the worst.

  2. Biden has hit the ground running, overturning the Keystone Pipeline deal and Trump’s decision to allow oil and gas exploration in national wildlife monuments, reversing the U.S.’s withdrawal from WHO

    And rejoining the Paris accord.

    things are already looking up.

    ETA: For those in the UK, the BBC ran a four part “behind the scenes” documentary about the Trump presidency. I’ve only watched episode 1 so far, and I had forgotten much of the awfulness that occurred even back in his first year.

  3. Re Squirrels being ‘invasive species ‘ I though that was just used where the more hardy/wider food source Grey Squirrel out-competed the Red Squirrel (in the UK) but I suppose it could also be where squirrels were out competing marsupials in a similar eco-niche.

    I like squirrels but I can see why those cases might be viewed as a ‘bad thing’ without having to hate the cute tree-rats!

    1. The eastern grey and eastern fox squirrels (S. carolinensis and S. niger) are both introduced species and considered invasive in California. Both are native to where I live so I feel no remorse is feeding and encouraging their presence.

  4. The photo of PCC(E) feeding the squirrel reminded me that WEIT reader Dom issued a membership card (complete with photo) to a squirrel that regularly visited his specialist library – sadly, its borrowing rights were rescinded when it peed on the head librarian’s office chair…

  5. Hiss certainly was a spy. This was uncovered in the late 40s by eyewitness testimony only after the statute of limitations for espionage had expired. Hiss then sued his accuser, Whitaker Chambers, for libel, and as part of pre-trial discovery Chambers produced documents he had received from Hiss, include notes in his own handwriting. At that point he was indicted from perjury. Aside from eyewitness testimony at the time, subsequent researches in Soviet archives and in the collection of Venona decrypts of Soviet messages make his activities as a spy unquestionable. I would recommend reading Haynes and Klehr’s Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America.

  6. The purple raiment at the inauguration was supposed to represent the melding of the blue and red factions in politics.

  7. A prediction, which is mine: wokeness won’t abate under Biden, but will actually increase. Wokeness wasn’t a reaction to Trump, I think, but simply the Zeitgeist, and Biden will not criticize it. And Portland is hopeless.

    I agree that it has roots other than a reaction to Trump, Hopefully Biden won’t fall for the the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend fallacy. Both mobs should be hit with the full force of the law. Hitting only one is hypocritical; hitting none is inviting civil war.

  8. I did not know that the submarine Nautilus had survived demolition and is now in a museum. I once appeared (1958) in an episode of the TV series The Silent Service titled The Story of the Nautilus which is posted on YouTube.

  9. I did not know that the submarine Nautilus had survived demolition and in now in a museum.
    I once appeared (1958) in an episode of the TV series The Silent Service, The Story of the Nautilus which is posted on YouTube.

  10. I once had an apple very similar looking to the Black Diamond apple. We were visiting family in North Carolina and my wife stopped at a roadside apple stand. The woman at the stand would ask what characteristics each person liked in an apple and then select a type of apple for them.

    I wasn’t there, but my wife told the woman what I like and she selected an Arkansas Black apple for me. I remember it as the best apple I’ve ever had and have ever since looked for it whenever I see produce, to no avail.

    Here it is, Arkansas Black Apple Tree

    From the description . . .

    “Its unique, dark red-purple apples are filled with delicious tart and sweet flavors that are irresistible. Once you bite into a crisp Arkansas Black Apple you’ll know why it’s the baker’s favorite apple: Their sharp flavor has a sweet aftertaste with nodes of sugar and cinnamon.”

    That description fits very well with my memory of it.

  11. The far left hates Biden as much as they hate Trump. This is because anyone who supports capitalism is an enemy. They believe that capitalism, regardless of how it may be regulated, is by its unchangeable nature a promoter of inequality, oppression, racism and imperialism.

    However, the far left in American society, in terms of its critiques of the country’s economic system, is nothing more than a minor irritant. Even in its more benign form, such as the socialism of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, socialism was never able to mount any serious challenge to capitalism. Debs came closest (but not very close) in the early 20th century. There isn’t the slightest indication that this will happen any time soon.

    What this means is that any person who seriously tries to equate the far left with the far right as a danger to America’s economic and social system may as well become a contributor on Sean Hannity’s show. It is nothing more than a right-wing delusion. While I do not hesitate to criticize the excesses of the far left, I try to make it clear where the real danger rests.

    1. “The far left hates Biden as much as they hate Trump.”

      If so, the Far Left is stupid.

      The socialism charge is also lame. The current situation is a good time for the Dems to come up with a compelling story that explains to voters what socialism really means and draw a line between good socialism and bad. They should then get their entire party to repeat it.

    2. I agree that the threats from the far right outweigh anything coming from the far left. As I see it, there is no serious threat from the far left. Even the nuisances from wokeism pale in comparison to the violent and illiberal tendencies we see on the right, but fearmongering about socialism has reliably animated right and right-leaning voters for years. My hope is that with Trump out of power, the anger that fuels wokeism will subside and more reasonable discussions can take place. A naive hope, perhaps, but there it is.

    3. I think you’re right Historian, though the far left seems to be a more-than-minor irritant in Portland, and might spread to similarly left-of-center towns and colleges. However, leftist crazies are still far less of a threat than right-wing extremists. There are far more of the latter and they’re the ones who attacked the Capitol building.

      Lots of young people are dissatisfied with Capitalism because they are leaving college in massive debt and cannot find good jobs. The costs of education, medicine, and health care have risen massively in the past 30 to 40 years, to the detriment of all but the wealthiest Americans. Where the young go wrong is thinking that Capitalism is discredited and Socialism is the cure-all. As Germany and the Scandinavian/Nordic countries show, Capitalism can be tamed to allow a thriving welfare state and society. If American conservatives wish to save Capitalism from further discredit among the young, they need to agree that big changes must be made.

  12. RE more deaths than US in WW2: If only we could get the Covid19 viruses to wave tiny Imperial Japanese flags, then Americans might take them seriously. Only just over half say they want to get the new vaccines.

  13. On the Portland bashing front:

    The vandals who broke the windows passed about a block from my house on their way to the Dem headquarters. It was a small group and honestly no one I saw gave them much attention until they vandalized that building. No doubt they should be punished for the damage. But the national media blew it way out of proportion probably because most of the expected alt-right reactions fizzled elsewhere and they needed copy.

    But one point I’d like to make in defense of PDX: Many of the challenges we face as a city are because we have the most liberal legal stance on free speech in the country. A position which many here vigorously support. We are a living lab for the discussion of the double-edged nature of free speech. Embattled – a bit, hopeless, no.

  14. and here’s a photo of one to whom I gave a walnut a few years ago. He couldn’t believe his luck!

    “All this nut, and there’s no opener! You expect me to get my teeth around that?”

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