Good morning on a Thursday, March 18, 2021: National Sloppy Joe Day. It’s also National Sloppy Joe Day, honoring a sandwich I haven’t had in years (it was supposedly invented in Iowa, where they still sell equivalents called “loosemeats”), National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day (?), Oranges and Lemons Day, Goddess of Fertility Day, and Forgive Mom and Dad Day.
News of the Day:
Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine died March 9 at age 77 in Palm Springs, California. It’s not clear why they waited 9 days to announce his death. As the New York Times reports early in its obituary, Levine left the Met under a cloud:
After investigating accounts of sexual improprieties by Mr. Levine with younger men stretching over decades, the Met first suspended and then fired him in 2018, a precipitous fall from grace at the age of 74. He fought back with a defamation lawsuit.
CNN and everybody else report that there’s been a dustup between Biden and Putin: after Biden announced that Russia would “pay a price” for interfering in the 2020 election, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. back to Moscow for consultations.
The President wouldn’t provide more details to ABC on what “price” Putin will pay, but the Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week, three US State Department officials have told CNN. The officials did not disclose any details related to the expected sanctions but said that they will target multiple countries including Russia, China and Iran.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment on Tuesday about foreign threats to the 2020 US federal elections. The assessment found that Russia pursued efforts aimed at “denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.
I don’t mind that, but this is wonky:
“Look, most important thing dealing with foreign leaders, and I’ve dealt with a lot of them over my career, is just know the other guy,” Biden told ABC.
When interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he thought Putin was “a killer,” the President said, “Mhmm. I do.”
Joe should not have agreed that Putin was a killer—not if he wants to keep diplomatic relations, and some form of peace, with this important country. It’s called “diplomacy” for a reason. Biden certainly did not call the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a “killer”, nor impose sanctions on his country. What’s up, Joe?
Behind on your taxes? The Internal Revenue Service is pushing back the April 15 deadline by about a month. But don’t procrastinate!
An editorial in the NYT by Thomas Edsall says that Biden has a canny strategy of ignoring the “culture wars”, downplaying wokeness and concentrating on his help for the working class. I disagree that Biden is completely ignoring the culture wars, as he’s catering to the Woke in non-trivial ways, but of course I pay more attention to that stuff than do most Americans. Edsall is, however, partly right. One caveat:
Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster with decades of experience in federal and state elections, is optimistic about Biden’s current prospects, but he warned that the administration will have to gain control of immigration: “The border matters,” he said, “and Republicans will use images from the border to sear into people’s consciousness. It is very important that they” — the Democrats — “are soon seen to be managing the border and immigration.”
Steve Pinker is quoted at length in the article about how to best counter Republican attacks on Dems.
This is what we all dream about: winning the lottery of life. As NPR reports, a blue and white bowl bought at a yard sale for $35 was discovered to be an extremely rare Ming Dynasty piece (early 15th century). It was auctioned off by Sotheby’s for $721,800! Only six other specimens are known. Here’s the lovely piece, and it’s a good thing the guy who bought it had it appraised:
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 537,649, an increase of 1,177 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,693,959, an increase of about about 10,300 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on March 18 includes:
- 1241 – First Mongol invasion of Poland: Mongols overwhelm Polish armies in Kraków in the Battle of Chmielnik and plunder the city.
- 1865 – American Civil War: The Congress of the Confederate States adjourns for the last time.
- 1871 – Declaration of the Paris Commune; President of the French Republic, Adolphe Thiers, orders the evacuation of Paris.
- 1915 – World War I: During the Battle of Gallipoli, three battleships are sunk during a failed British and French naval attack on the Dardanelles.
- 1922 – In India, Mohandas Gandhi is sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience, of which he serves only two.
Here’s Gandhi in jail:
- 1940 – World War II: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at the Brenner Pass in the Alps and agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.
Here’s a short video of that meeting, which took place in a railroad car:
- 1965 – Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, leaving his spacecraft Voskhod 2 for 12 minutes, becomes the first person to walk in space.
And here’s an image of that first spacewalk:
- 1967 – The supertanker Torrey Canyon runs aground off the Cornish coast.
- 1990 – Germans in the German Democratic Republic vote in the first democratic elections in the former communist dictatorship.
- 1990 – In the largest art theft in US history, 12 paintings, collectively worth around $500 million, are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
The 13 paintings were never recovered, and one of them, “The Concert” by Vermeer, is worth about $250 million—the most valuable unrecovered painting in the world. Here’s that Vermeer, and below that an empty frame still hanging to mark a stolen Rembrandt (if you go to the ISG, you’ll see 13 empty frames):
Where Rembrand’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee used to be:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1690 – Christian Goldbach, Prussian-German mathematician and academic (d. 1764)
- 1837 – Grover Cleveland, American lawyer and politician, 22nd and 24th President of the United States (d. 1908)
- 1844 – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian composer and academic (d. 1908)
- 1846 – Kicking Bear, Native American tribal leader (d. 1904)
Here’s Kicking Bear. Below that is a sculpture on Washington D.C.’s Q Street Bridge made from a life mask of the great warrior.
- 1869 – Neville Chamberlain, English businessman and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1940)
PEACE IN OUR TIME. LOL!
- 1877 – Edgar Cayce, American mystic and psychic (d. 1945)
- 1932 – John Updike, American novelist, short story writer, and critic (d. 2009)
- 1934 – Charley Pride, American country music singer and musician (d. 2020)
- 1941 – Wilson Pickett, American singer-songwriter (d. 2006)
- 1950 – Linda Partridge, English geneticist and academic
Linda is a friend of mine and has become a famous British geneticist. (She’s now “Dame Partridge’—or is it “Dame Linda”?) We even published together, though I haven’t seen her in a decade or more.
- 1970 – Queen Latifah, American rapper, producer, and actress
- 1979 – Adam Levine, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and television personality
Those who ceased respiring on March 18 include:
- 1845 – Johnny Appleseed, American gardener and missionary (b. 1774)
- 1965 – Farouk of Egypt (b. 1920)
- 2009 – Natasha Richardson, English-American actress (b. 1963)
The daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, the actress died in a tragic skiing accident at only 45. They dimmed the lights on both Broadway and London’s West End in her honour.
- 2010 – Fess Parker, American actor and businessman (b. 1924)
- 2017 – Chuck Berry, American guitarist, singer and songwriter (b. 1926)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is going to ask the returning starlings where they’ve been, as she proposed in yesterday’s dialogue.
A; What are you doing?Hili: I’m conducting a survey of public opinion.A: And?Hili: The respondents are refusing to cooperate.
Ja: Co robisz?Hili: Przeprowadzam sondaż opinii publicznej.Ja: I co?Hili: Respondenci odmawiają kooperacji.
Paulina took a lovely photo of Kulka, and you can clearly see her golden eyes:
We haven’t checked in with Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad in a while. It’s always heartening to see the feminist heroes she highlights, who go up against the theocracy/patriarchy of Iran. Here’s one:
1-Please don't miss a single video of Yasaman Aryani in this thread, an inspirational heroic woman of Iran.
See how many anti-women laws she broke for freedom
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 11, 2021
7-Today, both Yasaman & her mum are in jail, sentenced to 16 years. For this year’s International Women’s Day, Yasaman & her mum, Monireh, smuggled an audio message from inside jail, despite restrictions, full of hope, determination & commitment to fighting for freedom in Iran. pic.twitter.com/6tCEx9V8KA
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 11, 2021
Congressional testimony by Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage (h/t: Luana). There are two parts.
Part 2 of 2: @AbigailShrier testimony before Senate Judiciary Cmte.
this is what courage looks like👇 pic.twitter.com/IfPan874My
— andrea (@annndreeaaaaa) March 17, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Below: a man after my own heart (except for the kidney!). And he used “only” in the proper position, too!
Today, I have consumed only a Steak and Kidney Pie, a Sausage Roll, Steak and Chips and a bottle of Chardonnay.
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) March 17, 2021
Sound up on this one. Listen to how loud that whale song is, and yet you can’t see the singer. The song can apparently be heard hundreds of kilometers away by other whales.
Whalesong from directly below! I could feel the vibrations in my gut. The whale itself is too deep to be visible. pic.twitter.com/4weB2BmgHu
— Keishu Asada (@CephWarden) March 17, 2021
And I found this gorgeous lionfish while listening to whale song:
— John P. Friel, Ph.D. (@friel) March 17, 2021
Another lovely murmuration, favorites of Matthew and I:
It’s Monday so I think we all need to watch a Murmuration of migratory birds dance across the bay 😄 have a great Monday and week ahead everyone – stay safe – be kind – respect wildlife and please always put nature first 😊👍💚👊✨ #murmuration #birds #wildlife #nature #deltabc pic.twitter.com/exTA7vEyT7
— Pacificnorthwestkate (@pnwkate) March 15, 2021
Matthew said, “Darwin would love this.” And indeed he would, for you’ll remember that Darwin bred pigeons. He also said this in the Origin: “Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organization as something quite plastic, which they can model almost as they please.”
The Frillback is a breed of fancy pigeon developed over many years of selective breeding. Frillbacks, along with other varieties of domesticated pigeons, are all descendants from the rock pigeon (Columba livia). 🐦🦜🕊️🎵❤️ pic.twitter.com/g1hSPlcdOj
— World birds (@worldbirds32) March 15, 2021
Here’s the ancestor (from Wikipedia), so you can see how “plastic” the pigeon (rock dove) is: