Good morning on Friday, August 20, 2021: National “Bacon Lover’s” Day. There are issues with that name. First the scare quotes around “Bacon Lover’s”? Are these people who only pretend to love bacon? And is there only one bacon lover being celebrated? It should be either “Bacon Lovers'” or “Bacon Lovers”. It’s also National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day (you don’t need the chocolate), National Lemonade Day, National Radio Day, National Men’s Grooming Day, and World Mosquito Day.
News of the Day:
The big news is Afghanistan, of course, and a lot is going on there. First, the Afghans will not go gentle into Islamist oppression. The people, used to more peace and a lot more freedom, have begun protesting against the Taliban, and it’s a miracle that only a handful of protestors have been killed. It may be that the Taliban have bitten off more than they can chew, and if they want to govern Afghans used to freedom, they’ll have to learn to allow them more freedom. While I’m hoping mightily that they do, I don’t believe the Taliban are willing to relax their religious strictures. Whether burqas are required, and women can go to school—these things will tell the tale.
In the meantime, behaving as I expected they would, the Taliban are looking for collaborators, conducting what the BBC describes as a “door-to-door manhunt” for those who collaborated with American forces and NATO. That doesn’t bode well for what will happen. In the meantime, Afghans are fighting their way to Kabul airport, desperately hoping to get out. If the Taliban let everyone leave who wanted to, they would have no country to govern. It is chaos, it is heartbreaking, and I doubt Biden’s claim that this kind of chaos was simply unavoidable. But perhaps it was given the inhuman speed at which the Islamofascists took over the country.
I am pinning my hopes on this: that the countries of the world will financially squeeze the Taliban into granting freedom. This squeeze has already begun:
As they struggle with the immediate crisis, the Taliban is facing threats to the long-term stability of the state. The new regime is finding itself frozen out financially.
The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that it would block Afghanistan’s access to about $460 million in emergency reserves, a decision that followed pressure from the Biden administration. An agreement reached in November among more than 60 countries to send Afghanistan $12 billion over the next four years is also in doubt.
This is a double-edged sword, of course, because it also hurts the Afghan people. But what recourse do we have? If we do nothing, a gazillion people, who simply want to live their lives, are turned into slaves to medieval theocracy.
Although Americans are in favor of a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new YouGov/Economist poll also shows they don’t like the way Biden did it. In April, of Biden’s handling of this crisis was 41%, with 35% disapproval. Now the figures are reversed: 32% approval, 42% disapproval. Well, that too shall pass, but Biden’s total job approval rating has fallen to 44%, the same figure as his disapproval rating. Here’s the graph since he took office (h/t: Enrico).
Will the lines cross? Do I look like a pundit? Approval could go down as the immigration crisis deepens, or go up if the infrastructure and budget bills pass. But one thing’s for sure: he’s still a damn sight better than Trump.
The other big topic is covid, with hospitalizations rising nearly everywhere. Those of us who have been “fully” vaccinated are now told by the administration that we’ll need a booster shot—ideally eight months after the second jab. But now there’s pushback—from the WHO, for one thing, and it’s not just a matter of priorities in allocating the vials. The data on the efficacy of boosters in preventing hospitalizations isn’t crystal clear, for one thing. Further, as WHO has emphasized, every booster an American gets is one less vaccination for someone who hasn’t been vaccinated, and that means in countries with low amounts of vaccine. On television they analogized getting a booster shot to giving a lifejacket to someone who already has one, while ignoring someone who’s drowning. There’s a point to that, but the White House says we don’t have to make that choice—we can do both. Can we, though?
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 626,099, an increase of 911 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,418,199, an increase of about 11,000 over yesterday’s total.
Here’s the new surge in U.S. cases from the first link in the preceding paragraph:
Stuff that happened on August 20 includes:
- 1858 – Charles Darwin first publishes his theory of evolution through natural selection in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace‘s same theory.
Here’s the joint paper; note that it was communicated by Lyell and Hooker, two of Darwin’s colleagues and friends.
- 1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares the American Civil War over.
- 1882 – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuts in Moscow, Russia.
- 1920 – The first commercial radio station, 8MK (now WWJ), begins operations in Detroit.
- 1938 – Lou Gehrig hits his 23rd career grand slam, a record that stood for 75 years until it was broken by Alex Rodriguez.
It was in that season that Gehrig first started developing the symptoms of ALS that killed him 3 years later. Here’s a video about that (By the way, Rodriguez, who was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, wound up with 25 grand slams (a home run with the bases loaded).
- 1940 – In Mexico City, exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramón Mercader. He dies the next day.
In 2012 I visited Trotsky’s house in Mexico City (it’s just two blocks from Frida Kahlo’s house), and took a self-tour (it was empty). It’s just as he left it, and here’s the desk at which Trotsky was sitting when he was bludgeoned with the axe. I was told that it’s just as it was when he was attacked.
- 1940 – World War II: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes the fourth of his famous wartime speeches, containing the line “Never was so much owed by so many to so few“.
Her is a recording of that speech, with the immortal words coming at 3:04. Do you know the other three speeches and their famous lines?
- 1986 – In Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S. Postal employee Patrick Sherrill guns down 14 of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
This is the attack that gave rise to the phrase “going postal”. And here’s Sherrill:
- 1991 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union, August Coup: More than 100,000 people rally outside the Soviet Union’s parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.
- 1993 – After rounds of secret negotiations in Norway, the Oslo Accords are signed, followed by a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. the following month.
- 1998 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Quebec cannot legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.
I guess this means that if one day Quebec votes for independence, the federal government has to say it’s okay before there’s a new country.
- 2020 – Joe Biden gives his acceptance speech virtually for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1833 – Benjamin Harrison, American general, lawyer, and politician, 23rd President of the United States (d. 1901)
- 1881 – Edgar Guest, English-American poet and author (d. 1959)
- 1886 – Paul Tillich, German-American philosopher and theologian (d. 1965)
- 1890 – H. P. Lovecraft, American short story writer, editor, novelist (d. 1937)
Doesn’t he look like the guy who wrote that stuff?
- 1905 – Jack Teagarden, American singer-songwriter and trombonist (d. 1964)
Here’s a pair of pals—Teagarden on the trombone and Louis Armstrong on trumpet—playing “Jeepers Creepers”. Armstrong’s humor and clownish behavior later in life distracted from the fact, which you can discern in his playing here, that he, like Teagarden, was a fantastic musician.
- 1941 – Slobodan Milošević, Serbian lawyer and politician, 1st President of Serbia (d. 2006)
- 1948 – Robert Plant, English singer-songwriter
From Wikipedia. And this is NOT EVEN WRONG!
A powerful and wide vocal range (particularly evident in his high-registered vocals) has given Plant a successful singing career spanning more than 50 years. In 2008, Rolling Stone editors ranked him number 15 on their list of the 100 best singers of all time. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked Plant the greatest of all lead singers. In 2006, Hit Parader magazine named Plant the “Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time”. In 2009, Plant was voted “the greatest voice in rock” in a poll conducted by Planet Rock.
A very good singer but “the greatest voice in rock”. I don’t think so. . . .
Those who kicked the bucket on August 20 include:
Two great scientists become friends; this is a lovely story in Wikipedia:
On 24 March 1882, Ehrlich was present when Robert Koch, working since 1880 at the Imperial Public Health Office (Kaiserliches Gesundheitsamt) in Berlin, presented the lecture in which he reported how he was able to identify the tuberculosis pathogen. Ehrlich later described this lecture as his “greatest experience in science.” The day after Koch’s lecture, Ehrlich had already made an improvement to Koch’s staining method, which Koch unreservedly welcomed. From this date on, the two men were bound in friendship.
Here’s Ehrlich in his office in Frankfurt, ca. 1900. What a mess!
- 1917 – Adolf von Baeyer, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1835)
- 2001 – Fred Hoyle, English astronomer and author (b. 1915)
- 2012 – Phyllis Diller, American actress and comedian (b. 1917)
- 2017 – Jerry Lewis, American actor and comedian (b. 1926)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili is not at all pleased (Kulka, in Paulina’s arms, looks on):
Paulina: Do you see Szaron?Hili: I do, he is lying on my blanket.
Paulina: Widzisz Szarona?Hili: Widzę, leży na moim kocu.
From the NY Daily News Facebook page:
From Jesus of the Day:
Masih has an op-ed in the Washington Post about the Taliban’s pledge to “respect women’s rights”. You can imagine what she says about that.
My article in Washington post about how the world must not believe the lies of the Taliban. They are already covering up pictures of women on billboards and posters. Soon, women will be erased from the public sphere. We Iranians have seen this movie before https://t.co/eiM6gZkutr
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 19, 2021
A quote or two:
Women understand Islamist groups better than most because they suffer the harshest consequences. The Islamist war is first and foremost directed against women. Mujahid’s statements bear an eerie resemblance to the assurances given by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, to the Western press before he came to power in Iran.
On Wednesday, one of the most popular Afghan pop singers, Aryana Sayeed, was seen crammed into a military airplane leaving Kabul. She has divided her time in recent years between Kabul and Istanbul — but now she fears that she will never able to return to her true home in the Afghan capital. She told me she was devastated about by the uncertainty of her future. She incarnated the hopes of many Afghans. She broke so many taboos: perhaps most famously in September 2015, when she sang in a stadium in Kabul filled with men. Back when the Taliban was in power, it banned women from even entering stadiums — much less singing in them, proudly unveiled.
And so here’s that:
This is Aryana Sayeed, famous Afghan pop singer who fled Kabul. In 2015, when she sang at a stadium, she broke 3 taboos: 1-Singing as a woman 2-Not wearing hijab. 3-Entering a stadium as woman , which was forbidden under Taliban.
Now, all of those have turned into a pipe dream pic.twitter.com/XCosumhBKW
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 18, 2021
A tweet from Barry, who asks, “How is this even a real bird”?, for he’s amazed by the colors. But yes, it’s a real bird (Andigena laminirostris), and if you look at photos, the colors below don’t appear to have been manipulated. It lives in Ecuador and Colombia, so perhaps reader Lou Jost has seen one.
Can you see where the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan gets its name? The species’ distinguishing trait is the raised rectangular yellow “plate” near the base of the bill. It lives in humid montane forests along parts of the western Andes Mountains. pic.twitter.com/W929KEUgDl
— American Museum of Natural History (@AMNH) August 19, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Well, maybe bats babble, but I can’t hear it at the link in the tweet. I hear nothing!
bat pups do it too!
Text and video are in this amazing article 🦇✨https://t.co/y2tYnmBgXG
— Give Bats A Break (@GiveBatsABreak) August 19, 2021
Speaking of bats, here’s Richard Dawkins doing so. And yes, Carnivora and Chiroptera (bats) are both orders of mammals. But I don’t think the diversity of lifestyle and morphology among bats is as profound as that among carnivores.
Richard Dawkins on the vast diversity among bats:
"It is misleading to speak of bats as though they were all the same. It is as though we were to speak of dogs, lions, weasels, bears, hyenas, pandas and otters all in one breath, just because they are all carnivores."
— Give Bats A Break (@GiveBatsABreak) August 19, 2021
This question will show how risk averse you are. The expectation under the coin flip is $50,000—five times the guaranteed sum. But perhaps you need the dosh and don’t want to risk losing.
Would you rather have $10,000 guaranteed or a coin flip chance of $100,000?
— MrBeast (@MrBeast) August 19, 2021
if you are unfamiliar with the glorious pipefish just think of them as seahorses but unrolled pic.twitter.com/PG8jgimSlV
— Gina Zwicky (@GinaGoesOutside) August 18, 2021
A bittersweet story of a ceiling cat, but with a happy ending:
A good lovely cry: https://t.co/Zv4KPEJ0IQ
— your classic quantum trashhole (@jaimealyse) August 19, 2021