Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 1, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a Thursday and the first day of July in 2021.  It’s finally stopped raining at last in Chicago, and we’ve been spared the extreme heat of the East and West coasts.

It’s also National Gingersnap Day (a cookie or, as you Brits say, a “biscuit”). It’s also these food months all at once:

National Baked Bean Month
National Culinary Arts Month
National Hot Dog Month
National Ice Cream Month
National Picnic Month
National Pickle Month

As for other “days,” it’s also Canada Day, (see below under 1980), International Chicken Wing Day, Zip Code Day, celebrating the introduction of these numbers on this day in 1963 (see below), National Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day, International Reggae Day, and Early Bird Day (I’ve always been one; ergo, my surfeit of worms).

News of the Day:

It’s been 161 days since Joe Biden took office, amidst promises that the First Family would acquire a cat.  In April, Jill Biden says that “she” (the cat) is “waiting in the wings”.  That means they knew the cat that they wanted to adopt, and they had even tested it for amiability with the Bidens’ only surviving dog, Major (see below). The cat passed. So is there now a FIRST CAT?  NOT ON YOUR LIFE! What kind of conspiracy is going on here; could someone ask Jen Psaki? #Whereisthefirstcat

The Big Lie:

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under Ford and W., died Tuesday at 88 in Taos, New Mexico. A snippet from his NYT obituary:

Encores are hardly rare in Washington, but Mr. Rumsfeld had the distinction of being the only defense chief to serve two nonconsecutive terms: 1975 to 1977 under Mr. Ford, and 2001 to 2006 under Mr. Bush. He also was the youngest, at 43, and the oldest, at 74, to hold the post — first in an era of Soviet-American nuclear perils, then in an age of subtler menace by terrorists and rogue states.

A staunch ally of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been his protégé and friend for years, Mr. Rumsfeld was a combative infighter who seemed to relish conflicts as he challenged cabinet rivals, members of Congress and military orthodoxies. And he was widely regarded in his second tour as the most powerful defense secretary since Robert S. McNamara during the Vietnam War.

A tweet from Matthew; people make fun of this statement, but it actually makes sense.

And this is surprising news: Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, for which he’s serving 3-10 years (he’s been in for two), was overturned yesterday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Given the circumstances, he is now a free man and won’t be retried. When I asked reader Ken, who sent me the news, if Cosby was now free to leave prison without retrial, he responded:

Yes. Part of the basis for the reversal is that the prior district attorney gave Cosby a quasi-immunity agreement, which induced him to waive his Fifth Amendment privilege and testify in a pending civil case. This bars a retrial.

Another part of the opinion faults the trial judge for allowing additional victims to testify at his retrial to Cosby’s similar, but uncharged, bad acts. Had this been the only ground for reversal, Cosby would be subject to retrial.
The court’s opinion is here. On the NBC News last night, they had a parade of furious women who said they were also victims of Cosby’s assaults, or were arguing that the Court’s decision would make women less likely to report sexual assault. They said they a “glitch” in the law should not allow a sexual predator to go free. While I sympathize with them and feel their anger (I did, after all, think that Cosby was indeed a sexual predator), if a legal agreement was violated, and the Court agrees, the man must go free. I would emphasize this: to keep people’s confidence in our legal system, these “glitches”, like Miranda warnings, search warrants, and the like, must be observed. And if they’re not, the result is that the guilty go free.

A C-SPAN informal poll of historians, conducted each time a Presidential administration ends, led to a list of U.S. Presidents ranked in order from best to worst in qualities of leadership. I bet you’re thinking that Trump was at rock bottom, but he wasn’t:

So who ranked worse than Trump? According to the historians, presidents Franklin “Bleeding Kansas” Pierce, Andrew “First to Be Impeached” Johnson and James “Failed to Stop the Civil War” Buchanan, who came in last.

And the best?:

Even with all the new historians participating, the top and bottom rankings remained unchanged. Since 2009, the top four presidents have been: 1) Abraham Lincoln 2) George Washington 3) Franklin D. Roosevelt and 4) Theodore Roosevelt. (Washington and FDR switched places in the 2000 survey.) The bottom three have been always been Pierce, Johnson and Buchanan, in that order.

You can see the overall rankings here. Note that while Obama is #10, he ranks a notch below Ronald Reagan. Lincoln and George Washington have held steady at #1 and #2 respectively since the 2000 survey.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 604,356, an increase of 256 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,963,895, an increase of about 9,000 over yesterday’s total.

Lots of stuff happened on July 1, including:

And you don’t think that morality, even within the Catholic Church, has improved?

  • 1770 – Lexell’s Comet is seen closer to the Earth than any other comet in recorded history, approaching to a distance of 0.0146 astronomical units (2,180,000 km; 1,360,000 mi).
  • 1846 – Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone.

A photo of Sax and one of his saxophones. Note how similar it is to the modern instrument (Sax also invented several other instruments like the saxotromba and saxtuba, which are extinct):


Here’s the typewriter as manufactured by Remington. I guess the pedal moves the carriage back.

  • 1898 – Spanish–American War: The Battle of San Juan Hill is fought in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
  • 1903 – Start of first Tour de France bicycle race.

The race was won by Maurice Garin, shown here after the race with his bike:

“SOS” does not really stand for anything like “save our souls,” but is used because the pattern is distinctive (and it was created by Germans).

  • 1916 – World War I: First day on the Somme: On the first day of the Battle of the Somme 19,000 soldiers of the British Army are killed and 40,000 wounded.

To compare, in the entire World War II, 291,000 Americans were killed.

Here’s that plane, the Winnie Mae, now displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It took Post and Gatty eight days and sixteen hours to make that flight.

  • 1963 – ZIP codes are introduced for United States mail. [See above]
  • 1972 – The first Gay pride march in England takes place.
  • 1979 – Sony introduces the Walkman.

The first Walkman:

  • 1980 – “O Canada” officially becomes the national anthem of Canada.
  • 1990 – German reunification: East Germany accepts the Deutsche Mark as its currency, thus uniting the economies of East and West Germany.
  • 2007 – Smoking in England is banned in all public indoor spaces.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1804 – George Sand, French author and playwright (d. 1876)

Sand was, of course, a woman, and named Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. She used a man’s name because a woman writer would be dismissed. Here’s a photo from 1864:

  • 1869 – William Strunk Jr., American author and educator (d. 1946)
  • 1899 – Thomas A. Dorsey, American pianist and composer (d. 1993)
  • 1912 – David Brower, American environmentalist, founded Sierra Club Foundation (d. 2000)
  • 1916 – Olivia de Havilland, British-American actress (d. 2020) 

Notice that de Havilland lived to be 104, and died just last year. Here’s a famous scene from Gone with the Wind with de Havilland as Melanie and Hattie McDaniel as Mammy:

  • 1929 – Gerald Edelman, American biologist and immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1941 – Twyla Tharp, American dancer and choreographer
  • 1952 – Dan Aykroyd, Canadian actor, producer and screenwriter
  • 1961 – Diana, Princess of Wales (d. 1997)

Those who croaked on the first of July include:

A weird tale (from Wikipedia):

(born Jemima Wilkinson; November 29, 1752 – July 1, 1819) was an American preacher born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, to Quaker parents. After suffering a severe illness in 1776, the Friend claimed to have died and been reanimated as a genderless evangelist named the Public Universal Friend, and afterward shunned both birth name and gendered pronouns. In androgynous clothes, the Friend preached throughout the northeastern United States, attracting many followers who became the Society of Universal Friends.

  • 1860 – Charles Goodyear, American chemist and engineer (b. 1800)
  • 1896 – Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author and activist (b. 1811)
  • 1925 – Erik Satie, French pianist and composer (b. 1866)
  • 1974 – Juan Perón, Argentinian general and politician, President of Argentina (b. 1895)
  • 1983 – Buckminster Fuller, American architect, designed the Montreal Biosphère (b. 1895)
  • 1995 – Wolfman Jack, American radio host (b. 1938)
  • 2000 – Walter Matthau, American actor (b. 1920)
  • 2004 – Marlon Brando, American actor and director (b. 1924)
  • 2009 – Karl Malden, American actor (b. 1912)

Here’s a clip from the documentary “Listen to me Marlon” in which Brando describes his own acting. (Can you name the movie in which Brando and Malden both appeared?)


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has malaise. Malgorzata explains: “Hili is looking at the world with reluctance and explains her feelings to Andrzej. She feels no enthusiasm for anything and that’s why the world and life seem boring. So how is she to look at it with anything but reluctance?

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m looking reluctant.
A: Why?
Hili: Because of the lack of enthusiasm.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Patrzę niechętnie.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Z braku entuzjazmu.

Found on Facebook. Could this be a Gary Larson cartoon? And look, I’m in there!

A cartoon by the late Leo Cullum sent by Jean:

From Nicole. Well, it’s a flying chicken with a kazoo:

Two political tweets from Ken, who says about the first one, “Paul Gosar is the wingnut Arizona congressman whose siblings all got together during the 2018 campaign to do a tv ad urging his constituents to vote against him. Nick Fuentes is a self-described white nationalist known (among other things) for his antisemitic statements.”

And Ken’s followup tweet, showing Fuentes denying the Holocaust flat out. And oy, his metaphors!

A tweet from Barry,

From Simon, who asks, “Where is WEIT on this list?” I don’t know, but Neil’s book is also #1 in Creationism, while I’m only #88. I’m jealous!

Tweets from Matthew. I suppose mine would be an extreme example of crypsis, like a moss frog. Or perhaps it would be the way parasites commandeer the brains of some of their insect hosts, making the insect behave in a way to facilitate the parasite’s transmission to the next host. You can see other peoples’ answers at Neo.Life.

There’s gonna be a prequel to The Sopranos! Here’s a trailer and the first two minutes of the film. But Matthew asks, as do I, “But will it have the complexity of the series, or will it be just another gangster film?”

Why is this mother duck behaving this way?

39 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. …or were arguing that the Court’s decision would make women less likely to report sexual assault.

    Maybe. My first thought was “well if bringing up prior unreported accusations is the legal problem, the lesson here is it’s really even more important than you thought to report your accusations.” Though on second thought I can see how this would stifle women from coming forward during a trial to talk about some past act they didn’t report.


    I had no idea “O Canada” was adopted so late. My learning for the day!

  2. The ranking of the first three presidents is correct and that list of three will likely never change. After that it is mostly a crap shoot and subject to lots of change and argument. Not placing Trump at rock bottom only tells me they did not really include him in the judgment. He is by far the worst president without question. George W. Bush is not that far behind.

    Confidence in our legal system will only be had when those who commit crimes are actually tried and properly sentenced by the system. We are a long way from that. We are also a long way from equal justice and that is highly unlikely.

    1. Not placing Trump at rock bottom only tells me they did not really include him in the judgment.

      … Which could be for one of several reasons –
      – The “Ho Chi Minh reason” – that it’s too soon to tell (about the French Revolution of 1792, or 1968)
      – A not unreasonable concern that in the event of Trump regaining power in 2024 – him or one of his hatchlings – then the knives would be out for people who had spoken out during the “hiatus”.
      – Trump only had one term – this time – and two-term presidents can do so much more.

      We are also a long way from equal justice and that is highly unlikely.

      “… to change”? Well, yes, while “the law” is an expensive skill to learn and gain certification in. Which it shouldn’t really be, since statute law and case law are, in theory, public domain information, so amenable to being incorporated into expert systems of computation.

  3. I have spent some time reviewing the C-Span presidential survey and its methodologies. I have concluded that it is fundamentally flawed, more a parlor game than anything else. I have three objections to it, with the third being most significant.

    1. As far as I can tell, the administrators of the survey do not tell us what the meaning or importance is of the overall ranking. Is it a measure of “greatness”, however that may be defined or simply overall competence?

    2. It is ludicrous to compare William Henry Harrison, who served a month, to FDR, who served twelve years.

    3. Now for my most fundamental objection. The survey is based on an assumption that I think most people would consider inaccurate, making it a logical fallacy. The assumption is that each of the ten categories should be assigned equal weight in evaluating the performance of a president. It is also an assumption that only the ten categories are sufficient to evaluate a president. There is no reason that this must necessarily be so. My guess is that each historian in his or her mind has ranked these ten categories by significance. For example, moral leadership could be considered much more important than administrative skills. Under the current system, presidents such as Nixon and Trump are ranked higher than they should be because moral leadership is only one of the ten categories. In my view, for example, the fact that both of them tried to subvert democracy would place them on the bottom of the list, even below Buchanan, no matter whatever “good” things they may have done. Of course, for Trump, the “good” things are hard to find.

    Here’s my proposal to at least partially correct this flawed system. Assuming that the ten categories remain unchanged, I would tell the survey takers that they are presented with a “bucket” of 100 points. They are to distribute the 100 points amongst the ten categories, based on whatever criteria they use for determining the relative importance of each category. Thus, for example, the historian may assign twelve points to moral leadership while only two to administrative skills. No matter how the points are assigned, they must add up to 100. If moral leadership is assigned twelve points then a president for that category would be evaluated on a twelve point scale. If administrative skills were assigned only two points then even the greatest president in this category could have only two points added to his overall score. Under this system, I would argue that we would come much closer to determining presidential greatness, if that is the intent of the survey. A weighted system is the way to go.

    1. Hmmm..I’m not sure your proposed system would change much. Assuming they normalize total scores between surveyees, it might yield very similar mathematical results as the current one. OTOH if they don’t normalize scores between surveyees, that’s another reason not to take the survey too seriously.

    2. Seems to me there may be a bit of a “recency effect” going on in the rankings, with seven of the presidents ranked in the top ten having served during or after WW2 (which is to say, during or shortly before the lifetimes of the historians being polled, in the era of mass media).

  4. While I sympathize with them and feel their anger (I did, after all, think that Cosby was indeed a sexual predator), if a legal agreement was violated, and the Court agrees, the man must go free.

    You did think Cosby was a sexual predator? Have you changed your mind as a result of this decision? I ask because I don’t see any reason to change my mind. His conviction has been quashed on two technicalities. The evidence hasn’t changed.

    I also don’t agree, in the general case, that a legal agreement with a prosecutor should make you immune to being tried and found guilty. The prosecutors and the courts are different organisations and I don’t see why the courts should be bound by agreements made by district attorneys. I accept that in this case the legal agreement induced Cosby to waive his constitutional rights and so he must go free.

    1. I don’t see why the courts should be bound by agreements made by district attorneys.

      Becuase if they don’t, far fewer people are going to make agreements with district attorneys, and deals DAs make will be much less in favor of the state and more in favor of the defendant. Which the state does not want.

      Given that something like >90% of court cases are pled out right now (and even so, public defenders still very overstretched), all these cases going to trial would cause either a massive disruption in our court system, or require a massive influx in public spending to keep them working the way they do now.

      Also, AIUI, a judge *can* reject a plea deal if they think it goes too far in favoring one side or another. But they have to reject it as part of normal court proceedings (i.e. before they rule). They can’t accept a deal, let the person plead guilty, and then say “ha! fooled you. I’m throwing out the plea deal you made and throwing the book at you instead.”

      1. I think it’s important to realize that the Cosby agreement was not signed off on by the courts. The previous DA argued that he could do it without needing a judge.
        So who was this genius, you might ask? None other than Bruce Castor, who was Trump’s impeachment lawyer…

        Not a rigged system. Clearly nothing to see here. Move along folks.

      2. I’m not talking about plea deals specifically. Plea deals are somewhat different in that the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge. The charge and the plea have to be made in the court so they are, by definition matters for the court.

        Cosby made a deal with prosecutors so that his case would not even get to a criminal court. Were it not for the fact that his side of the deal involved waiving his constitutional rights, I would see no legal issue with some other prosecutor and the courts ignoring the deal.

    1. Yes, I noticed that too. Moderately worrying, but we don’t have any cases (TTBOMK) of transmission from pet to human.
      But it is another reservoir in which the virus can lurk. That in itself probably puts another several percent (maybe 5%?) onto the level of vaccination that we – as a global society – will need to achieve in order to effectively suppress COVID-19. So if we don’t get to, say, 90% immunization in the human population, we might simply have too much circulating virus to consider the pandemic over. (That’s a global average, of course ; unless we’re going to return airfields to agriculture.)

      If it gets into – and starts spreading in – our agricultural animals, then the numbers of viron replications, and therefore opportunities to generate new variants is going to increase worryingly. Our conspicuous success at keeping food-animal disease within the food animals is terrifyingly encouraging.

      Anyone care to comment on the risk of the SARS-CoV2 virus swapping capabilities with farmyard infection viruses, and coming back with teeth? I know I don’t know enough to comment meaningfully, but it doesn’t trigger my “warm, happy feelings” centre.

  5. (Can you name the movie in which Brando and Malden both appeared?)

    Streetcar. Malden played “Mitch,” Stanley’s poker and bowling buddy, Blanche’s would-be beau.

    1. Weren’t they both in One-Eyed Jacks as well? It’s about 4-5 decades since I saw it so could be wrong.

      1. Indeed. They also costarred in On the Waterfront — which was, like Streetcar, directed by Elia Kazan.

        One-Eyed Jacks was originally set to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, but when he bowed out, Brando took over the directing duties himself, to my knowledge his only directorial effort.

  6. I believe you are correct in your assessment of Trump and Nixon. They are far and away at the bottom of any list. I think creating this criteria of judgement is not really the way to go. It looks more like judging diving at the olympics. Presidents and all politicians must be graded on what they did for the people and for the country. Or on the other hand what they did not do and list the damage they did. This type of judgement puts Trump so far below the rest there is no contest. Political corruption and a long list of bad appointments and actions that damaged the country will always put Trump on the floor of any list.

  7. Sad to say I am not up on my religious scandals of the Ancien Regime. Interestingly, the actual Wikipedia article on la Barre gives us different information: As part of an investigation into the vandalism of a cross, it was discovered that la Barre and two others hadn’t removed their hats for a Corpus Christi procession, “But numerous other blasphemies were alleged as well, including defecation on another crucifix, singing impious songs and spitting on religious images.” Nevertheless, it is outrageous that these were tried by a civil court, and that he should have been executed for them

  8. … will it [the Sopranos reboot] be just another gangster film?

    I’ve gotta think that Sopranos creator David Chase has deeper ambitions than that. I’ll be disappointed to find he’s made this movie unless he’s got something more to say.

    Then again, nobody really needed Mr. Coppola’s Godfather Part III.

      1. The casting of young Tony S. seems spot on.

        Yep. It’s James Gandolfini’s son Michael.

  9. >> 2007 – Smoking in England is banned in all public indoor spaces.

    Scotland, of course, made the same ban a full two years before that.


      1. Possibly – and a significant cause of that is alcohol consumption. However, Scotland has also introduced a minimum pricing scheme for alcohol, which is already showing benefits.

  10. It seems implausible that historians would think Trump gets a pass for attempting to overthrow democracy and install himself as fearless leader. Note that this danger has not passed. I wonder if Trump manages to get himself elected for life if the historians would change their minds.

    1. if the historians would change their minds.

      Historians still resident in Gilead, or extra-Gilead historians?
      I suspect you’d get different answers from the different groups.

  11. Re the photo of Gosar and Fuentes in the Resnik tweet – Gosar’s head has clearly been photoshopped into the image. There is no telling from the tweet itself which side of the issue is actually responsible for the image. While it is no stretch to imagine that the sort of idiots supporting him could be this incompetent, it’s not the sort of image that makes the poster look very reliable unless they include a link to a source connecting the image with Gosar’s team.

  12. If you’re ever in Brussels there is a great saxophone museum, housed in the most gorgeous building, with loads of different saxophones.

  13. An International Incident Recalled by the Mention of ‘International Chicken Wing Day’.

    Down here in southern Victoria, Australia, I once walked into a poulterer’s to purchase some chicken wings. I ordered a kilo, and for good measure, asked that they all be left wings. The other customer in the shop immediately looked at me and said, in a rich American accent, “That’s all you’ll get, because I have just bought all the right wings.”

    Hilarity ensued.

  14. “people make fun of this statement, but it actually makes sense.”
    Yeah, the notions of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” is quite useful when thinking about risk management. (I have at times used it in meetings, prefaced with “to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld”.) That people made fun of it and took it as incoherent because of who said it is a real shame. Moral monsters can use logical concepts too!

  15. He forgot “ignored knowns” – like knowing there are no WMD, or Iraqi terrorism since the 80s (which was Marxist, not Islamic anyway)…. and going to war all the same.
    I often wish I were religious in times like these to really believe he’s burning where he deserves to be.

    That Fuentes “cookie” guy was something else: you don’t see that kind of right out there stuff much these days (thankfully). He seems to have some kind of big profile, I catch his name often.


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