Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

August 15, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Sunday, August 15, 2021: National Lemon Meringue Pie Day, a pie that can be ethereal if its made with lots of butter and lemon but not too much gelatin.

It’s also National Failures Day, Chant at the Moon Day, National Best Friends Day, God’s Preeminence Day, in which you’re supposed to contemplate the existence of the Posited Deity without Evidence, and National Relaxation Day, here demonstrated by Jango:

Finally, in India it’s Independence Day, marking the independence of India from the United Kingdom in 1947. Here are some Indians making the national flag.

News of the Day: It’s all bad: pandemics surging, earthquakes, tropical storms, Islamists advancing on Kabul, and, of course global warming.

First, a week earlier than I predicted, the Taliban have reached Kabul and have surrounded it. The U.S. Embassy is being evacuated, and diplomats who were going to stay there have been moved to the Kabul airport. It’s the evacuation of Saigon all over again, except with planes instead of helicopters.  Within a week there will be unspeakable horrors and many deaths.

First, Haiti can’t catch a break. In 2010 there was a terrible earthquake that killed thousands of people—perhaps hundreds of thousands. Then there are repeated tropical storms, and in July the country’s President was assassinated and things became chaotic. Now, yesterday morning, the country suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed over 300 people, and probably many more.  And to top it all off, Haiti is in the path of tropical storm Grace, which could compound the damage.

The New York Times, in a report on Afghanistan called “Afghanistan’s unraveling may strike another blow to U.S. credibility,” starts off by getting a slap in at Trump, though Biden continued, when he could have stopped, the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan. (For the record, I think it was the right thing to do.) But here’s how it begins:

Afghanistan’s rapid unraveling is already raising grumblings about American credibility, compounding the wounds of the Trump years and reinforcing the idea that America’s backing for its allies is not unlimited.

Compounding the wounds of the Trump years? What does that have to do with Afghanistan? To my mind, it’s this kind of NYT-ian gratuitous slap at Trump that makes its news seem more like opinion. And I think Biden will go a long way toward restoring American credibility, especially with other Western nations. We can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely: it’s already been America’s longest war, and we can’t “win” it, whatever that would mean.

Is an anti-Obama pushback beginning? If so, why? Later today we’ll have a vitriolic critique of Obama’s presidency by Matt Taibbi, but yesterday Maureen Dowd took the increasingly wealthy (and flaunting it) ex-President apart in a column called “Behold Barack Antoinette“. It’s about his lavish 60th birthday party held at his very fancy Martha’s Vineyard mansion, which he scaled back after being warned about hosting a superspreader event. A slice of Dowd’s trademarked snark, riffing on Jay Gatsby’s parties:

One difference is that Gatsby opened his house to the uninvited. Obama closed his house to many of the invited after getting flak for hosting “a celebrity mosh pit,” as Stephen Colbert called it, while officials were telling people to mask back up.

It’s hard to stop thinking about the over-the-top fete the former president held at his Martha’s Vineyard manse for his 60th birthday. It is such a perfect taxonomy of the Obama arc.

As president, he didn’t try hard enough on things we needed. He was a diffident debutante with a distaste for politics. Post-presidency, he is trying too hard on things we don’t need. The culture is already swimming in Netflix deals, celebrity worship, ostentatious displays of wealth, not to mention podcasts. Did the world really need “Renegades,” his duet with Bruce Springsteen?

We already knew Obama gravitated to stars but it was disillusioning to see it on such a grand scale last weekend.

“I think the nouveaux riches Obamas are seriously tone-deaf,” said the authority on opulence, André Leon Talley. “We all love Beyoncé. But people have so many things to worry about with Covid, voting rights, climate warming. People are afraid of being evicted from their homes. And the Obamas are in Marie-Antoinette, tacky, let-them-eat-cake mode. They need to remember their humble roots.”

Now of course Obama’s rich, and why shouldn’t he buy a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. But wouldn’t you admire him more if he lived in a modest house like Jimmy Carter, and still hammered nails for Habitat for Humanity? Wouldn’t it be better if he weren’t charging $400,000 for a speech and trying to make money hand over fist? Well, read my post on Taibbi later today.

I thought Brown v. Board of Education had already settled that segregated education is illegal in public schools. But according to Atlanta station WSB-TV, by order of its principal Sharyn Briscoe, Mary Lin Elementary school put all its black students into two classes with black teachers, while the white students went into six classes with six white teachers. A parent found out when the principal wouldn’t place her black child in a class because it was a white class. The parent, thank Ceiling Cat, has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Thanks to the racialization of America, we’re returning to segregation!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 621,051, an increase of 655 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,368,529, an increase of about 9,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 15 includes:

  • 1057 – King Macbeth is killed at the Battle of Lumphanan by the forces of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada.

Yes, that Macbeth, though Shakespeare’s king is far from being historically accurate!

  • 1096 – Starting date of the First Crusade as set by Pope Urban II.
  • 1248 – The foundation stone of Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men, is laid. (Construction is eventually completed in 1880.)
  • 1534 – Ignatius of Loyola and six classmates take initial vows, leading to the creation of the Society of Jesus in September 1540.
  • 1843 – Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest still intact amusement parks in the world, opens in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Time Magazine rated Tivoli (below) one of the “World’s 100 greatest places” in 2018. I’ve never been to Tivoli, much less to Denmark, but I’d like to visit the country:

So perished a great pilot and a great comedian, and we don’t know what caused the wreck. Here they are beforehand, and the wreck after:

One of the movie’s great scenes. What a world!

Here is the broadcast, most likely the first time in Japanese history that the Emperor had spoken to the “common people”. He didn’t speak directly on the radio, but they played a recording of his surrender announcement. His speech begins at 1:06:

  • 1947 – India gains Independence from British rule after near 190 years of British company and crown rule, and joins the Commonwealth of Nations.

Freedom was declared at midnight on August 14, and Nehru gave a stirring speech (in English). Here’s the famous speech:

This was captured on film; here’s Schumann’s “jump to freedom”:

  • 1963 – Execution of Henry John Burnett, the last man to be hanged in Scotland.
  • 1965 – The Beatles play to nearly 60,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City, an event later regarded as the birth of stadium rock.
  • 1969 – The Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in upstate New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era.
  • 1998 – Northern Ireland: Omagh bombing takes place; 29 people (including a woman pregnant with twins) killed and some 220 others injured.

The bomb was sequestered in a car, which was photographed before the explosion. The Wikipedia caption: “This red Vauxhall Cavalier saloon contained the explosive during the Omagh bombing. This photo itself was taken shortly before the explosion and the camera was found afterwards in the rubble. The man and child in the photo both survived.”

  • 2013 – The Smithsonian announces the discovery of the olinguito, the first new carnivorous species found in the Americas in 35 years.  It was identified from DNA taken from specimens in Chicago’s Field Museum. A frugivorous member of the Procyonidae (relatives of the raccoon), it lives in the Andean cloud forest of Peru and Ecuador. Here’s a living one:

A video with footage of live ones:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1717 – Blind Jack, English engineer (d. 1810)
  • 1769 – Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and emperor (d. 1821)
  • 1771 – Walter Scott, Scottish novelist, playwright, and poet (d. 1832)
  • 1912 – Julia Child, American chef and author (d. 2004)

Here’s Julia messing up when she’s flipping potatoes because she “lacked the courage”:

Here’s the great Peterson in the Netherlands in 1965, playing with his trio: Ray Brown on bass (also a giant) and Ed Thigpen on drums:

  • 1946 – Jimmy Webb, American singer-songwriter and pianist
  • 1964 – Melinda Gates, American businesswoman and philanthropist, co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • 1972 – Ben Affleck, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter

Those who ceased respiring  on August 15 include:

  • 1057 – Macbeth, King of Scotland
  • 1935 – Wiley Post, American pilot (b. 1898) [see above]
  • 1935 – Will Rogers, American actor, comedian, and screenwriter (b. 1879)
  • 1967 – René Magritte, Belgian painter (b. 1898)
Ceci n’est pas Renée Magritte

They could have added that he was a civil rights activist!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are being friendly, and today’s dialogue has a title:


Hili: Is something there?
Szaron: Nothing.
Hili: I thought so.
In Polish:


Hili: Jest tam coś?
Szaron: Nie ma.
Hili: Tak myślałam.

And a monologue from Mietek, who is all grown up—and traveling in the car.

Mietek: Is it far?

In Polish: Daleko jeszcze?

Another song inspired by cat yowls. This is a good one (h/t Stephen):

From Facebook:

Matthew is on hols again, and he sent me this photo he took and labeled “A grumpy Haworth cat”. Everyone Yorkshire, including the beasts, is grumpy and kvetches. (See Monty Python sketch.)

From Masih, one of the women of Afghanistan. As the Taliban takes over, they could be raped, they could be made into sex slaves, they could be forced to marry a much older man, or they could be killed; but all of them will have their lives taken away

Tracy Ullman on a wokeness help group from the BBC:

Yes indeed, this is a real Arby’s ad, though in the chain it’s called “fish”.

. . . and some snark:

Two cat tweets from Ginger K. Nobody’s putting on those sandals till the kitten finishes its nap:

The form leaves a little to be desired:

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is fantastic.

A vivid comparison

Here’s a photo of a male from the NYT article. The males use their snouts to joust with each other, but there’s also another advantage to being a big male. Read the article to see what it is:

28 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. “2015 – Julian Bond, American academic and politician (b. 1940)
    They could have added that he was a civil rights activist!” – Indeed – fixed now.

  2. I’m happy to see Matt Taibbi making it into the roster.

    As for Biden “restoring American credibility”: as a disappointed Atlanticist, I don’t see that happening. The EU has taken over America’s former throne of “western values” and the US is not willing or able to challenge it. The economic leadership will go towards China. The main thing of the US is now just warfare. The US has 800 military bases everywhere, compared to about 30 from all other nations combined.

    The biggest challenge now and until the end of humankind will be climate change. We must slow it as much as possible so that organised human life can shrink gracefully to sustainable levels (or science-technology comes up with a miracle). The role of the USA in the history books will be that of the greediest contributor to climate change, amounting to a good third of the entire world by the 1990s, and always leading pollution charts by every measure up until five years ago. China overtook the USA in total emission (with 1.4 billion pop), but the US is still pumping out most on a per person base (one American creates about twice the pollution than any other individual).

    The sad leadership contribution of the USA was to water down the Paris Agreement in 2015, making it less binding. The USA also never ratified the Kyoto Protocol — the only country that didn’t. One day that will be as shameful as having committed genocides, because it looks like that’s the probable direction we are heading right now.

    If the USA wants credibility and leadership (other than in wars and “regime changes”) it must get ahead of this. I’m rooting for that it will, but let’s be honest, it’s entirely incredible that it will even try.

  3. Not going to say much about Afghanistan as there is no point. Twenty years ago would have been much better. I just hope all of my fellow exchange employees got out already. There are tons of books and things out there on Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan available if anyone is interested. I would recommend Clausewitz, On War as a process for learning and anyone of a number of books by Andrew Bacevich to learn about more current events.

  4. Afghanistan is quite an own-goal for Biden. If the Resistance hadn’t lied to Trump, and thwarted his efforts to bring the troops home, this would have been his debacle. Instead, Biden has done it, and it will be another couple points off his approval rating, which Trafalgar Group has at 46.5% (with 47.5% disapproval, 41.6% strongly disapproving, and only 26.7% strongly approving). Maybe he should send his ace trouble-shooter Kamala over, once she’s done curing Central America’s ills to stem the border crisis. (You know, because when a levee breaks in Louisiana, you send someone to Minnesota to investigate the headwaters of the Mississippi.)

  5. The opening lyrics to a single out of that same cat-yowl clip, I Don’t Wanna Be Touched by Meredith Bull

    I don’t wanna be touched
    But you be trying way too much
    You keep on pointing fingers at me
    You’re gonna lose a finger or three
    No I don’t wanna be touched

    1. That is excellent information. I did not know any of that. Post was in effect, flying an experimental airplane and it would not have been air worthy. Likely the FAA did not have much in the way of rules back then but he would never get away with it today. He certainly would not be about to use it for commercial flying which is what he was doing with Rogers. If Rogers was aware of any of this he never should have been getting into the airplane with Post. Another accident waiting to happen.

      1. Glad you found it interesting, Randall. Rogers apparently visited Post several times during the modifications to the plane(s!), but I assume he would have trusted that his air ace buddy knew what he was doing.

  6. The history of British and Russian travails in Afghanistan should have resonated with us 20 years ago, but sadly it did not. The Great Game, the Khyber Pass, the retreat from Kabul, the failures of the British army and the East India Company as well as the Russian debacle should have taught us a valuable lesson. Unfortunately these historic events taught us nothing and we are now paying the price. No one wins in Afghanistan. In fact, if twenty years wasn’t enough time to train a capable Afghan army, then it most likely would never happen at all regardless of our efforts. We should have been smarter and learned from at least the last two hundred years of history in central Asia. Yes, this is a tragedy, but so is an unending war.

    1. We learned rien from the French experience in Indochina, so these similar failures should come as no surprise.

      As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure as hell rhymes.

      1. We always seem to think that we can do it better than the other guy.
        Someday we might realize that we really can’t. Afghanistan has been called both the “Graveyard of Empires” and “where Empires go to die”… both apt comments.

        1. Fareed Zakaria gave his “take” at the beginning of his GPS show on CNN. He started with dismissing the theory that Afghanistan could be held against the Taliban with a few thousand troops. He mentioned that this had only been possible in the last few years because of a deal where the US promised to leave in exchange for the Taliban not attacking. So Biden’s choice was essentially between leaving and a massive escalation. Not much of a choice in other words.

  7. “We can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely: it’s already been America’s longest war, and we can’t “win” it, whatever that would mean” – True, but I seem to recall that the US currently has almost 30,000 military personnel based in South Korea and the fighting stopped in 1953 (albeit without the war officially ending).

    1. I would think that it would be worthwhile to stay in Afghanistan if the only benefit was to give girls and women there a chance at real lives. And why aren’t the UN and other countries interested in this? This is a total black eye for Biden and, by extension, for Americans.

      1. The UN has been active in the region since 1946 when Afghanistan joined the General Council – the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had its mandate extended to 17 September 2021 by Security Council Resolution 2543 just last year. But with no credible armed forces to back up the Mission, not least because the permanent members of the Security Council wouldn’t dream of allowing the UN to have real teeth, doubtless the international members of UNAMA will be fleeing Kabul already. Tragically, their local colleagues won’t be so lucky, of course.

      2. I seem to recall that it was the Trump administration that negotiated and agreed on a September 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan. I believe that Biden is only honoring an agreement signed by the previous administration obligating our withdrawal.

        1. Yes, but Biden could have ignored the Trump agreement as it wasn’t done with the Afghan government and the Taliban had arguably violated the agreement anyway. Even if the decision is to pull out, the execution has been bungled badly. Clearly the Afghan military’s ability to stand up to the Taliban was an open question and getting the Americans and their Afghan helpers out of the country demanded a more gradual exit.

    2. The US still has 40,000 troops (and 15,000 civilian employees) in Germany, 86 years after VE Day, and has about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries around the world. We’re not big on leaving when we win, or (as on the Korean peninsula) even when we fight to a draw, only when we lose.

  8. Compounding the wounds of the Trump years? What does that have to do with Afghanistan? To my mind, it’s this kind of NYT-ian gratuitous slap at Trump that makes its news seem more like opinion.

    Mebbe so, but I don’t see how one could write a lede about Afghanistan being another blow to US credibility around the world without placing it in the context of the uneasy relationship the US has had with its allies since 2017.

    Trump made all our staunchest allies queasy — especially those from NATO — all the while becoming butt buddies forever with autocrats like Duterte, Erdoğan. Putin, Kim Jong-un, MbZ and MbS.

  9. It gives me no pleasure to remember my personal opposition to the entire Afghanistan operation 20 years ago. And that was at a time when we in Manhattan, when the winds were right, could still smell the pyre burning. Working, as I did some months previously in the WTC, gave me no special vote on disastrous foreign policy – except I note it set the stage for an even bigger fuck up and the biggest mistake we’ve made since the war on drugs: Iraq.
    All courtesy (like just about all American aggression since WW2) of the GoP.

  10. I speak/write and understand Japanese pretty well but I can barely get a word of The Emperor’s famous speech. I felt bad about this for awhile until I learned apparently most Japanese could barely understand it either as he used an ancient, weird, courtly vocab.
    According to the Dpt of State Japanese is The Hardest foreign language to learn for an English speaker and I believe them. It has taken me 30+ years, some of them lived there and I’m still not entirely fluent.
    NYC (formerly Tokyo)

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