Saturday: Hili dialogue

July 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Cat Sabbath: Saturday: July 24, 2021: National Tequila Day. It’s also National Drive-Thru Day, National Day of the American Cowboy, Amelia Earhart Day, celebrating her birth on this day in 1897, Cousins Day,  and International Save the Vaquita Day. What is a vaquita? It’s a critically endangered small porpoise ((Phocoena sinus; the smallest of all cetaceans) that’s endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California off Baja California. Gill-netting has reduced the population to fewer than 19 individuals. Here’s a photo of a calf and its adult size relative to a human:

And it’s Simón Bolívar Day in Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, and Bolivia.

News of the Day:

It’s now 185 days—more than half a year—since the Bidens took residency in the White House.  WHERE IS THE FEMALE CAT THEY PROMISED?

The Washington Post reports that only 83% of U.S. athletes at the Olympics have been vaccinated against coronavirus. That’s higher than the American public, but goes to show only that athletes aren’t all that savvy when it comes to their health. Given the high rate of infection in Tokyo, I’m not sure why the Olympic Commission didn’t require vaccination for all athletes who don’t have a condition that prevents it.

In the NYT, David Brooks has a strange column, “How racist is America?” As I said yesterday, Brooks

. . . answers “yes” but adds that America is not “white supremacist” towards black people. This seems to me a contradiction, since racism is based on the idea that the oppressor is superior to the oppressed. Maybe I’m wrong, but what’s with Brooks, anyway?

And there are two other intriguing op-eds in the NYT, one by Jamelle Bouie called “The Supreme Court needs to be cut down to size.” I admit that the GOP’s machinations in court-stacking are reprehensible, but what does Bouie recommend? Circumscribing what the Court can do!:

Put a little differently, the public and its representatives can and should extend its authority over the Supreme Court, not by “packing” the court or imposing term limits, but by marking the boundaries of its autonomy. Using their broad power under the Constitution to shape and structure the judiciary, federal lawmakers can strip jurisdiction from the court, require a supermajority for decisions that would invalidate an act of Congress or, as Moyn writes, Congress

could also reassign finality of decision to itself through a jurisdictional statute that makes Supreme Court invalidations of federal law provisional unless and until Congress passes on the result (or fails to exercise its option to do so in some time frame).

The point of all this is both to disempower the court and to make it less central to our politics and our constitutional order.

Of course, if the court were more liberal, Bouie wouldn’t be beefing. The issue, of course, is who will do the circumscribing? A Democratic Congress now could be a Republican Congress in two or four years.

The other, by Michael Wolff, who’s written several books about Trump, and is no fan, is called “Why I’m sure Trump will run for President in 2024.” The argument is that without a claim on the White House, Trump would lose his reason for existing, and so he’s compelled to run:

But perhaps most important, there is his classic hucksterism, and his synoptic U.S.P. — unique selling proposition. In 2016 it was “the wall.” For 2022 and 2024 he will have another proposition available: “the steal,” a rallying cry of rage and simplicity.

For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his key social media platforms and facing determined prosecutors, his future seems risible if not pathetic. But this is Donald Trump, always ready to strike back harder than he has been struck, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubts with the sound of his own voice, to take what he believes is his and, most of all, to seize all available attention. Sound the alarm.

I think he’ll run, though he may be defeated in the Republican primary. Yet I see a primary defeat as unlikely, for who can best Trump when half of America still worships the moron and a huge percentage of people really think he won the last election? If the GOP were smart, they’d start looking beyond Trump now, and grooming a candidate. Or perhaps they are smart, and know that Trump can beat either Biden or his successor.

Cultural inheritance in Australian cockatoos: researchers have documented that sulfur-crested cockatoos around Sydney have learned how to open wheelie bins with their beaks and feet to plunder the food scraps. Other cockatoos learn by watching. This is not the first example of birds learning to access human food by watching other birds, but we’ll learn more about that tomorrow in a science post.    (h/t: Jez & Phil)

Ward Branch, a Vancouver Supreme Court judge with a funny bone mentioned Monty Python while adjudicating a suit by a woman against several pharmaceutical companies. As CBC News reports  (h/t: GInger K.):

The woman leading the legal charge — Uttra Kumari Krishnan — claimed she spent years buying glucosamine sulfate products that allegedly contained no glucosamine sulfate.

In giving Krishnan the go-ahead to sue, Branch compared her to “Mr. Praline” — the customer in the decades-old skit who confronts a shopkeeper with a “Norwegian Blue” parrot that turns out to have been nailed to its perch — an “ex-parrot” in the words of Mr. Praline, “expired and gone to meet his maker!”

Much like the poor Mr. Praline, [Krishnan] complains that she was sold a health product that did not contain what it said on the bottle,” Branch wrote.

“[She] admits that she does not know for certain what is in the bottles, but argues that what is important is that it was not glucosamine sulfate.”

Last night listened to Bari Weiss’s 70-minute conversation with Iranian journalist and human-rights activist Masih Alinejad, who has effectively been exiled from her home country.  You have heard that Iran plotted to kidnap Alinejad and take her back to Iran, where she would have faced a dire fate. Fortunately, the FBI foiled the plot. Through all the travails Masih has faced, she “keeps her pecker up”, as the Brits say, and is more determined than ever to call out the perfidies of her homeland.

It’s well worth listening to, and Bari has now posted it on Facebook for all to see and hear. Voilà: the conversation.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 610,356, an increase of 271 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,161,408, an increase of about 8,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 24 includes:

  • 1304 – Wars of Scottish Independence: Fall of Stirling Castle: King Edward I of England takes the stronghold using the War Wolf.
  • 1567 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is forced to abdicate and replaced by her 1-year-old son James VI.
  • 1847 – After 17 months of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, resulting in the establishment of Salt Lake City.
  • 1901 – O. Henry is released from prison in Columbus, Ohio, after serving three years for embezzlement from a bank.

The great short story writer (below) died at only 47 from the writer’s disease: alcoholism. His real name was William Sydney Porter:


Here’s Machu Picchu, photographed by Bingham in 1912, after it was cleaned up but before it was reconstructed:

And how it looks now (Wikipedia notes that “Modern archaeological research has since determined that the site was not a religious center but a royal estate to which Inca leaders and their entourage repaired during the Andean summer.”)

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu
  • 1929 – The Kellogg–Briand Pact, renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy, goes into effect (it is first signed in Paris on August 27, 1928, by most leading world powers).

Well, that was a joke!

The Scottsboro Boys (below) were nine African-Americans falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931 (shades of Emmett Till!).  The accusers finally admitted they made up the story, and eventually the boys were pardoned, but for several their pardons were posthumous and they all spent substantial time in jail. This is one of the great racist miscarriages of justice of the twentieth century.

This was named because Nixon had an acrimonious debate with Khrushchev in a model American kitchen in an American exhibit in Moscow. Here’s a short video from the debate:

The splashdown: home from the Moon!

  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.
  • 1987 – Hulda Crooks, at 91 years of age, climbed Mt. Fuji. Crooks became the oldest person to climb Japan’s highest peak.

Crooks also climbed the continental U.S.’s highest peak, Mt. Whitney, 23 times between the ages of 65 and 91, as well as 97 other mountains in that period. Here’s a video of Hulda climbing Whitney at 85:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1783 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan commander and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (d. 1830)
  • 1802 – Alexandre Dumas, [JAC: père] French novelist and playwright (d. 1870)
  • 1860 – Alphonse Mucha, Czech painter and illustrator (d. 1939)

Mucha posters are worth a fortune, and rightly so. Here’s one for Monte Carlo:

  • 1895 – Robert Graves, English poet, novelist, critic (d. 1985)
  • 1897 – Amelia Earhart, American pilot and author (d. 1937)

Remember: it’s Amelia Earhart Day:

Zelda (Sayre) at 17. Three years later, she was engaged to F. Scott Fitzgerald:

  • 1964 – Barry Bonds, American baseball player
  • 1969 – Jennifer Lopez, American actress, singer, and dancer

Those whose existence lapsed on July 24 include:

  • 1862 – Martin Van Buren, American lawyer and politician, 8th President of the United States (b. 1782)
  • 1962 – Wilfrid Noyce, English mountaineer and author (b. 1917)
  • 1986 – Fritz Albert Lipmann, German-American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899)
  • 1991 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the editor insists on sleeping on her employees’ desks. Well, she is a cat!

Hili: I have a feeling that you are disturbing me.
A: I’m so sorry.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam wrażenie, że mi przeszkadzasz.
Ja: Ogromnie przepraszam.

From Facebook:

A meme from Bruce:

And another superfluous sign from David:

Titania McGrath has been very quiet lately, and there are no new tweets from “her” in nearly a week.

From Luana: a sign (or cup) of the times:

From Barry, a metaphor for Brexit:

From Simon; the end times:

Tweets from Matthew. First, an astronomer and his cat (look hard):

I can’t deny the caption:

Look at the size of this tooth!

Here’s the size of Rhizodu , a lobe-finned fish, compared to other creatures and a modern human (image from Prehistoric Wildlife):

Matthew says this kind of deportation is legal, and in fact has been done, but in this case it’s especially cruel and inhumane. Jendrycha never left the UK after she arrived decades ago.

And a lovely astronomy photo: a moon-forming annulus around a planet!

38 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. Whether or not Trump or any republicans have any chance in the next election depends completely upon the Democrats and success or failure in killing all the anti-voting laws currently being passed in the various states. These laws do more than make voting more difficult, they also put control of the outcome in the hands of the republican legislatures. This effectively leaves the outcome in the hands of the corrupt republicans. On this effort our democracy will continue or fall. It is simple as this. If they, the democrats, cannot accomplish this at the federal level the game is over. Nothing else really matters. The circus going on currently in Arizona by the republicans must be prohibited in this federal effort. The republicans are currently attempting to take this circus to other states as well. This alone can and will destroy democracy.

      1. You can add Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, Florida and others to the list. One by one all the republican controlled states are passing voter laws as fast as they can getting ready for the next election or lack thereof.

    1. The question is, how to kill these anti-voting laws? To an outsider it appears a close to impossible task.

      1. The first hurdle is to ditch the filibuster, or modify it so it can’t be used for BIG constitutional issues like voting rights. Mitch modified the filibuster so it can’t be used for SCOTUS appointees; Schumer needs to modify it for voting rights issues. Then it’s about pressuring greedy/spineless-democrats like Manchin, Sinema, Feinstein and other fence sitters into doing the (obvious) right thing.

        Biden hasn’t done enough on this issue. He’s had some impassioned speeches, but he hasn’t mentioned the only real solution that’s staring Dems in the face.

  2. Andrew Doyle / Titania McGrath has been busy with a show on the recently launched TV channel GB News – I’ve no idea if that is behind Titania’s recent absence from Twitter, but it’s a more likely explanation than her running out of stupid things to parody.

    As it happens, GB News itself has been the subject of ridicule. Private Eye noted:

    Andrew Neill promised in his monologue on launch day last month that GB News would “expose the growing promotion of cancel culture for the threat to free speech and democracy that it is”. Last week, facing the threat of losing its own customer base, the channel suddenly embraced cancel culture wholeheartedly. After presenter Guto Harri took the knee during his show, GB News viewers tweeted their fury, with many threatening to switch off. At 5pm on the day after the incident, the channel’s audience dropped so low that it was recorded as zero – and by the end of the week GB News had decided Harri’s stunt was “an unacceptable breach of our standards” and he was taken off air, while a senior executive resigned.

    Harri has since resigned and a report giving his take on events is here:

    1. Could it be that people are hoping that GB News P45s are going to become collectable one day?
      (For the USian readership, a P45 is a form summarising your earnings, tax paid etc issued at the end of one’s employment. This means that you’ve been fired from the company named.)

      1. The way the audience viewing figures are going, GB News will be lucky if all its staff don’t have their P45s by this time next year. From Private Eyeagain:

        Even before the boycott, [about Harri taking a knee] however, thousands of other viewers had already reached for the off button […] In its fourth week of broadcasting, an average of only 28,000 viewers were watching in peak time, compared to 70,000 in its first full week on air. […] For comparison, Shed and Buried, a programme on the Quest channel about poking around people’s sheds, got 332,600 viewers.

        1. They are proceeding from “can we raise the burn rate” to “selling the desks” pretty quickly.

        1. So you’d want to get an early-dated one. By getting sacked early, Harri (have I spelled that right?) has probably rescued his career from the poison of having worked for GB News. None of the remaining staff will get that chance.

  3. BASE jumping has now been banned from El Cap.

    Well, that’s going to work really well. They might succeed in driving it … well, “underground” maybe not the best word. “Out of the light”, may be better, because the first obvious thing to try is BASEing it by night, when all good park keepers are tucked up in their beds. Or at least, getting time-and-a-half on the doughnut QC patrol.

    Here’s the size of Rhizodu , a lobe-finned fish, compared to other creatures and a modern human (image from Prehistoric Wildlife):

    If you like this, you’re going to love Dunkelosteus, which pops up every few weeks on geology Twitter. Should that be “swims out of the surrounding gloom” every [whenever]. Cello theme from Jaws entirely not optional. 6 tons of bite force (from the muscle attachment scars) and up to 8m long.
    Maybe … I should spread a rumour that Nessie isn’t a plesiosaur, but a Dunkelosteus – with pictures. That would have the swimmers running out of the water … oh. Loch Ness. Waste of effort. No swimmers to terrorise. Well, no vaguely sane swimmers. No remotely sane swimmers.

    The argument is that without a claim on the White House, Trump would lose his reason for existing, and so he’s compelled to run:

    So, it’s the Tangerine Shitgibbon himself, whose inner demons will be driving him to run again, in a purple-faced apoplexy-looming wobbly octagenarian way. I’m going to have to set up a production line for worlds-tiniest-violins – they’re going to remain in demand.

    1. Yosemite has 24 hour patrols by Park Rangers. People try to base jump and do other illegal activites there, and sometimes get away with. Others are caught and can face significant fines. A few end up being scraped off the rocks and placed into body bags. If it was not illegal there would be many who try it and many more in body bags.

      1. [SHRUG] Base jumping is dangerous. I haven’t met anyone who does it, who doesn’t acknowledge that they might die doing it. Ditto, rock climbing, caving, and a large variety of other sports. As long as you don’t try to mix the two (I’ve not heard of anyone being knocked to screaming death from El Cap by a base jumper, but it’s possible. One rock climber getting hit by another falling – particularly if the pro rips – does happen though – which is one reason for not following another team (or soloist) too closely.
        It’s upsetting to have to deal with someone who meets death unexpectedly because they didn’t know what they were getting into. But someone who takes the risks knowing what they’re getting into is just one of those things.
        (When I started cave diving, I was strongly encouraged to write a will, and give it to my next of kin along with an open letter covering that I recognised the sport was highly dangerous and didn’t want any pursuit of anyone associated with an incident in which I died. So I had that conversation with Dad. Some years later, he took up caving himself, and dragged his Dad into it too.)

    1. Well, to be fair, Chernobyl is the second thing I think of when you say Ukraine. The first thing I think of is Russian tanks, but I don’t think they’d be happy with that image either.

  4. I do not want Trump to run again, but I believe he will if his health permits it. As Joe Biden showed, a few years can have a terrible impact.

  5. Chernobyl for Ukraine

    How unimaginative. Why not the glorious “Museum of The Heroic Defence of Sevastopol during the Crimean War” in, of course, Sevastopol.

    Ooops, reply to Jez @ 4

  6. For clarity’s sake. The companies being sued for the dead parrot nailed to the…I mean….the absence of glucosamine sulfate in the bottles of glucosamine sulfate can call themselves “pharmaceutical” companies if they wish, but that’s giving them scientific cred they don’t really deserve. The two defendants in the case are WN Pharmaceuticals and Natural Factors Nutritional Products. They sell vitamins and supplements; essentially expensive urine.

    See for yourself https :// & ://

    1. Why take glucosamine sulphate in the first place? IIRC it’s effects in pain relief in osteoarthritis are no better than placebo. I wonder if these companies could use that as a defense 🙂

  7. If the GOP were smart, they’d start looking beyond Trump now, and grooming a candidate. Or perhaps they are smart, and know that Trump can beat either Biden or his successor.

    If the GOP were smart, it would have strangled Trump’s candidacy in its cradle in 2015. But it didn’t, because the more-mainstream Republicans knew he excited the hardcore Republican base they’d long been nurturing. They thought Trump would take himself out of the race with his numerous gaffes or outrageous statements (such as that John McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese), and candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were licking their chops at the prospect of picking up the Trump excitement in Trump’s absence.

    Fact is, it was probably already too late to purge Trump from the Party by the time he rode down his gilded Trump Tower escalator into our presidential politics in June 2015. The time to do it would have been when Trump was getting his toehold in national politics by spouting his arrant, lie-ridden Birther bullshit in 2010. But establishment Republicans simply shrugged their shoulders and looked the other way because they knew that also excited the stone-cold crazies they’d been welcoming into their base for years.

    Republicans have to be pretty goddamn stupid if they think Trump would be their strongest candidate in 2024. This is a guy who lost the popular vote in the last two elections by a combined total of over 10 million votes, a guy who couldn’t manage to muster even 47% of the vote in either try, a guy who in four years in the White House never had an approval rating that approached 50%, a guy who fomented an insurrection, a twice-impeached former president whose administration was a sinkhole of corruption most foul.

    Congressional Republicans know this, most of them anyway, all but the wingnut Freedom Caucus types and their fellow travelers. Indeed, most of them detest Trump on a personal level. If Trump went missing tomorrow, you couldn’t raise enough senate Republicans to form a search party to go look for him. The best thing that could happen to the GOP is for Trump to be indicted and convicted and imprisoned and thereby taken out of the next presidential race. Congressional Republicans know this, too, but none dare speak its truth for fear of incurring the wrath (political certainly and perhaps even physical) of Trump’s hardcore, dead-end supporters.

    1. Trump’s ever-present threat to take his supporters and form a third party will keep the GOP from opposing him. They remember 1992 when Perot siphoned off a big chunk of their yahoo vote leading to the defeat of Bush I.

      1. Trump’s popularity among GOP voters is what stops most of the GOP politicians from opposing him. Although his base may be shrinking, it’s not likely to fall below 50% anytime soon. While Trump has control of the party, no one can get very far in opposing him. Ron DeSantis comes closest but he’s very careful to avoid any semblance of going up against Trump. His only chance is if Trump doesn’t run and that will only happen if he’s not physically able to.

        1. Trump’s support among Republicans has shrunk some, but it seems to have distilled itself into an evermore rabid residuum in the process.

        2. US politics being what it is, Trump is still dangerous if he commands even 10% of the Republican vote. If 10% of Republicans refuse to vote or vote for the new Trumplican party, they lose the presidency to the Dems every time.

        1. Good point. I can imagine the progressive wing in the Dem party breaking off and running their own candidate in 2024 if they don’t get their way, ensuring a Trump victory.

    2. I’ve always hoped he would run again. I believe he could destroy the Republican party. I’m not sure what would take its place but it might be two parties: one of traditional conservatives and one of MAGA wing nuts.

      1. I’ve been waiting for precisely that great divide ever since Trump took the lead in the polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. I simply never envisioned what inveterate invertebrates establishment Republicans could be.

        I sometimes think there are more of us on the center left who believe in the existence of responsible Republicans and principled conservatives than there are either of those things who actually exist.

  8. The great short story writer [O. Henry] died at only 47 from the writer’s disease: alcoholism.

    Seems a pedestrian ending for a writer famous for wrapping things up with an ironic twist.

    1. I had an English teacher in my HS senior year who said O. Henry was “sentimental to a fault and grossly over-rated.” I haven’t read enough of him to find out for myself, but for whatever reason, I’ve never forgot that critique.

      1. I dunno, Mark. I don’t have any strong feelings about think O. Henry one way or the other. I just think his short stories are something with which one ought to have a passing familiarity, if one is to maintain the façade of culturally literate poser. 🙂

  9. Trump will run in 2024, assuming he’s physically able, simply because he couldn’t bring himself to back anyone else. He might back a son or daughter but none seem like they want to run. Even if they did, Trump knows they’d have zero chance of winning. This also means that even if the GOP pushed someone else forward, Trump would only destroy them in the eyes of his base. This is all good news for Dems in 2024 for the presidential race but down ballot races are another thing entirely.

    1. I think the greatest danger is 2022. The Democrats risk losing the Senate or even the House.
      I think the powers of the Senate, the most undemocratic body of the excecutive, should be curtailed a bit. But I guess that is not on the cards.

  10. “Crooks also climbed the continental U.S.’s highest peak, Mt. Whitney…” Maybe not; depends on your definition of “Continental U.S.” Wikipedia says that the lower 48 are “The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United States.” “Continental U.S.” includes Alaska.
    [Personal note: There is a Baden-Powell monument on the peak. (Why, I don’t know.) My late uncle Stanton McClish made several trips up the mountain carrying a sack of cement that was used to build the monument (he was a big Boy Scout supporter.) So either that was quite a feat by my uncle, or it can’t be that hard to climb.]

  11. I think the Baiji or Yangtze river dolphin is even more threatened than the Vaquita. In the ’90s there were only an estimated dozen left and we are more than 20 years later. Some think it is already extinct

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