Wednesday: Hili dialogue

August 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a Hump Day: Wednesday, August 25, 2021: National Whiskey Sour Day. It’s also National Banana Split Day and Kiss and Make Up Day.

It was a hot one in Chicago yesterday, with a high of 95°F (35°C ), which felt like 103°F (39.4°C) with the humidity. It was brutal

News of the Day:

Things are really heating up in Kabul. The Taliban has now made clear that they will not countenance extending Biden’s August 31 deadline for the complete egress of American troops, and added that, as of now, no more Afghans will be allowed to leave. This puts Biden in a huge bind, as he said he’d keep his pledge to get not only every American out, but also those Afghans who aided the American military. He won’t be able to keep this promise, and the “optics” on this one re very bad. Fearing attacks by the Taliban, and despite pressure from our allies to extend the deadline, Biden says he’ll stick to the August 31 date, but that means he’ll break his pledge. Is there more fighting in the offing?

Nancy Pelosi got her way: the House, by a vote of 220-212, passed Biden’s $3.5 billion budget bill yesterday. This paves the way for passage of his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and prevented an embarrassing holdup in enacting Biden’s program. Whether these bills can get past the Senate, which could call up a filibuster, is another issue, but once again the Dems hope to avoid a filibuster by the arcane process of “reconciliation,” which is above my pay grade. The Dems say taxes on the rich will raise the necessary dosh for both bills, but I wouldn’t count on that.

Another slap at Biden came, this time from the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled yesterday that Trump’s “remain in Mexico” immigration policy, which mandated that applicants for asylum in the U.S. must remain in Mexico while awaiting their hearings, must be resumed despite Biden’s determination to dump that policy and allow people in. The vote, of course, was 6-3, with the three liberal justices dissenting. Reuters notes that immigrants arrests of immigrants crossing the border from Mexico illegally “have reached 20-year highs in recent months.”

Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, died yesterday at 80. The cause was undisclosed, but he’d been treated for throat cancer in 2004. Here’s a memorial tweet by another drummer:

Watts had been with the Stones for fifty seven years.

Over at the UnHerd site, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a poignant lament for the fate of Afghan women, “Biden’t most heartless betrayal.”

Do you seriously expect anyone to believe that American diplomacy will make the Taliban treat women fairly? Is “rallying the world” remotely likely to keep Afghan girls in schools, or allow women to walk down the streets of Kabul with their faces uncovered? Do you take us all for fools?

. . .In today’s perverse American culture, however, more attention is devoted to the use of preferred gender pronouns than to the plight of women whose most basic rights — to education, personal autonomy, the right to be present in a public space — are either removed or under serious threat.

What we’ve witnessed this week in Afghanistan is a watershed moment in Western decline. American culture today tells us not to be proud of our country; not to believe in the superiority of American values; not to promote the rights we are afforded by our Constitution so that they can be enjoyed by people around the world.

A NYT article asks “Is coffee good for you?” In general yes, but it depends on whether you’re pregnant, on how the coffee is roasted and prepared, and, of course, on further research. Right now, java seems to be akin to a medicine:

In moderation, coffee seems to be good for most people — that’s 3 to 5 cups daily, or up to 400 milligrams of caffeine.

“The evidence is pretty consistent that coffee is associated with a lower risk of mortality,” said Erikka Loftfield, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute who has studied the beverage.

But before you start swilling the joe, read the rest of the piece.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 631,050, an increase of 1,116 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,466.733, an increase of about 11,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 25 includes:

  • 1270 – Philip III, although suffering from dysentery, becomes King of France following the death of his father Louis IX, during the Eighth Crusade. His uncle, Charles I of Naples, is forced to begin peace negotiations with Muhammad I al-Mustansir, Hafsid Sultan of Tunis.
  • 1814 – War of 1812: On the second day of the Burning of Washington, British troops torch the Library of Congress, United States Treasury, Department of War, and other public buildings.
  • 1823 – American fur trapper Hugh Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear while on an expedition in South Dakota.

Here’s a sculpture of the attack at the Grand River Museum in Lemmon, South Dakota

This story, highly fictionalized, is the basis for the recent film “The Revenant.” But the true story (here from Wikipedia) is fantastic enough:

Despite his injuries Glass regained consciousness, but found himself abandoned without weapons or equipment. He had festering wounds, a broken leg, and deep cuts on his back that exposed his bare ribs. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa, on the Missouri River. Glass set the bone of his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling back to Fort Kiowa. To prevent gangrene, Glass allowed maggots to eat the dead infected flesh in his wounds.

Using Thunder Butte as a navigational landmark, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River where he fashioned a crude raft and floated downstream to Fort Kiowa. The journey took him six weeks. He survived mostly on wild berries and roots.

This story attributed all manner of bizarre creatures on the Moon to the observations of astronomer Sir William Herschel. But the six stories were of course complete fiction.  Here’s some of what they described:

The articles described animals on the Moon, including bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-like winged humanoids (“Vespertilio-homo“) who built temples. There were trees, oceans and beaches. These discoveries were supposedly made with “an immense telescope of an entirely new principle”.

No paper would ever publish stuff like this today. (Well, maybe the Onion).  And a drawing of these creatures from the paper


  • 1875 – Captain Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim across the English Channel, traveling from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

As Wikipedia adds: “[Webb] died trying to swim the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls, a feat declared impossible.  Here’s a headline about his Channel swim:

Our friend Matthew wrote a very good book about the liberation; click on the screenshot to see the Amazon site:

  • 1967 – George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, is assassinated by a former member of his group.
  • 2017 – Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Texas as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2004. Over the next few days, the storm causes catastrophic flooding throughout much of eastern Texas, killing 106 people and causing $125 billion in damage.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1530 – Ivan the Terrible, Russian ruler (d. 1584)
  • 1540 – Lady Catherine Grey, English noblewoman (d. 1568)
  • 1836 – Bret Harte, American short story writer and poet (d. 1902)
  • 1900 – Hans Adolf Krebs, German physician and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)

Krebs’s paper describing one of his Nobel-garner achievements, the discovery of the biochemistry of cellular respiration (the “Krebs Cycle”), was initially rejected by Nature. Here he is with his wife in 1953 in Stockholm to pick up his Nobel:

  • 1918 – Leonard Bernstein, American pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1990)
  • 1919 – George Wallace, American sergeant, lawyer, and politician, 45th Governor of Alabama (d. 1998)

Here’s the old segregationist himself, unsuccessfully trying to prevent the enrollment of black students at the University of Alabama.

(from Wikipedia): Wallace standing against desegregation while being confronted by U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach at the University of Alabama in 1963
  • 1921 – Monty Hall, Canadian-American television personality and game show host (d. 2017)
  • 1930 – Sean Connery, Scottish actor and producer (d. 2020)

Did you know that Connery won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor? Here’s the movie that did it for him, “The Untouchables”. “The Chicago Way”!

  • 1949 – Gene Simmons, Israeli-American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
  • 1954 – Elvis Costello, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer

Those who were bereft of life on August 25 include:

  • 1776 – David Hume, Scottish economist, historian, and philosopher (b. 1711)
  • 1819 – James Watt, Scottish-English engineer and instrument maker (b. 1736)
  • 1900 – Friedrich Nietzsche, German philologist, philosopher, and critic (b. 1844)
  • 1956 – Alfred Kinsey, American biologist and academic (b. 1894)

It’s not well known that Kinsey started his academic career as an entomologist, studying with William Morton Wheeler and Harvard and getting his Ph.D. for work on gall wasps. Then he became a pervert, as you can see from the photo below.

  • 1984 – Truman Capote, American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter (b. 1924)

His most famous popular work is In Cold Blood, but I’m partial to his short story A Christmas Memorywhich you can’t read online. The beautiful and sad ending always makes me tear up.  Here’s Capote reading his work:

  • 2009 – Ted Kennedy, American politician (b. 1932)
  • 2012 – Neil Armstrong, American pilot, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1930)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili produces a bon mot:

A: What are you thinking about?
Hili: About where to lead my shadow.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym myślisz?
Hili: Gdzie zaprowadzić mój cień.

From Stash Krod.  This sign looks real, but I wonder if it is. The “YouTube” bit makes me think it’s a fake:

From reader Pliny the In Between’s Far Corner Cafe (enlarge please):

From Science Humor: Again, I wonder if this really happened.

Masih has been posting tweets of horrific videos of prisoner mistreatment inside Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, where many have died or been tortured. It houses mostly political prisoners. Apparently opponents of the Iranian regime have hacked into the prison’s video system and released what they found. Iranian officials acknowledge that these videos are indeed real, and from Evin.

Today’s tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial:

And from Titania:

Speaking of Titania, a reader tells me that this individual may be a “persona whelped by Titania”. Well, I don’t know but Dame Katie is on about transsexual animals:

A tweet sent by Ginger K.

Tweets from Matthew. First, proof that monkeys are smarter than many Americans:

This is indeed a proper gaggle!

This famous painting by Vermeer has been restored, revealing a rather ugly picture of Cupid on the wall. It was thought that Vermeer himself painted over the painting, but dating of the paint showed that it was covered up much later, and not by Vermeer. No, Johannes intended that picture to be part of the painting. Frankly, I like the original painting in restoration, but NOT with the damn Cupid!

30 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. It will feel like 103 in Chicago but it will be 103 in Wichita. I wonder what that will feel like. Lots of hyperventilating about Afghanistan but I wonder where all that was over the past 20 years? Guess how many got out of Vietnam after the last helicopter left in 1975. None. The loser does no get to have a nice orderly retreat from half way round the world. My advice to all who are out of shape about Afghanistan, go protest in front of George W. Bush’s house or suit up and get over there.

  2. Bad news about the SCOTUS ruling. With Pelosi passing the budget on the same day, it seems like we just barely missed an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Had the ruling come a bit earlier, Congress could’ve simply zeroed out the budget for the MPP program and rendered the question moot. “Sorry folks, but the ‘remain in Mexico’ process is temporarily unfunded. You’ll have to go back to using the old “go to the US” process, which – hey look, it just got a big budget increase! What amazing serendipity!

  3. That’s not really fair to those of us who are appalled at what’s happening. Do you seriously think that we should join the military (at my age) or protest in front of W.’s house? I don’t think so. The remaining Americans should be stuck, but your message is “live with it and shut up.”

    I think that is mean spirited.

    1. I am sure that is meant for me and that is fine. Not meaning to be toward you specifically and I do not say shut up. Heavy disagreement seems to be taken offense but disagreement is all it is. I do find it odd that people and media seem to be so worked up about this never ending war. I lived through Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and I am sick of all of it. Hardly anyone has questioned this 20 year conflict until now. Suddenly now it is terrible how or that we are getting out. I ask anyone to explain how you get out of these wars, losing them and do so to everyone’s satisfaction? It has never been done that I know about.

      1. There are good reasons to stay, and good reasons to go. But of course what really is distressful at this time is that Biden promised multiple times that he’d get Afghan allies out, but now he looks like Lucy who pulled the football away.
        What we have to look forward to now are public executions of people who were promised they would be taken out.

        1. There may have been “good reasons to stay” but that would have also meant another all-out war with the Taliban after Trump made the deal that we’d leave and the Taliban drew a red line. You really want that wound opened up again? I’m with Randy, there is no easy solution after losing a war, we didn’t learn from past mistakes, W. Bush are the true culprits of this crisis and what’s happening now shouldn’t surprise anyone. We’re dealing with the Taliban for christ sakes. The media is loving the bleeding lead though, and they’ll bleed it for as long as they can. In general, I don’t think the American public cares for the Afghanistan plight, and once the media gets bored and moves on, so will everyone else. Did the media ever give any cautionary tales after Trump set-up this deal? No. They just follow it now as the deal becomes reality, relishing it as “Biden’s Disaster”.

  4. One of my lecturers (Lyndon Rogers) at university did his PhD under Krebs whilst they were at Sheffield University. Krebs used to say “That is a very interesting idea” when confronted with a proposal from Lyndon at which point it was back to the drawing board….

  5. A: What are you thinking about?
    Hili: About where to lead my shadow.

    Sounds like Hili is sampling Frank & Sammy:

  6. I am really impressed that the military has been able to put together this very complex heavy lift capability in the middle of a combat zone, involving dozens of transports, including their refueling, maintenance, and crews, air traffic control, logistics of off-loading at destination airports and rapid turn around, achieving safe weight and balance for the very unusual mission of maximizing number of passengers, and finally achieving (so far) safe approach, landings, and take-offs by these very large aircraft. And of course they seem to be able to mix in additional aircraft and crews from non-military fleets. It only took a couple of days to go from zero to pretty well oiled machine. Thousands of people who have been saved must be very grateful for this competence that shows the U.S. military can create and not just “break things”. As for the public posturing and dates, hopefully the backchannel communications will resolve most of the issues in a way that both sides save face and a great deal of the rescue mission can be safely completed. But of course there is no certainty.

  7. Yes, according to the BBC “Evacuations from Kabul airport in Afghanistan pick up pace, with the total number leaving since the Taliban takeover reaching 82,300”. Although the evacuations will probably end sooner than 31st as getting the military gear out so the Taliban don’t get hold of any more of it will probably take a couple of days, and things will get very tricky once the numbers of helicopters and troops start to dwindle.

      1. Yep Jez. Figured so. Agree that the final closing of the door, turning off the lights with last military plane out is scary. I do not have any idea regarding how disciplined the Taliban troops will continue to be.

    1. I also agree that the painting is much nicer without the cupid. Whoever did that was a genius. The composition is much cleaner and more interesting and elegant without it. Of course, the rest of the restoriation is beautifully done.

      1. i sometimes wonder what sort of quandary art restorers would be in if they found that alterations had been made by an equally famous artist. If Rembrandt, or Van Gogh, or Picasso had painted over the cupid, would they leave it be, or still return it to Vermeer’s original vision?

      2. Thought so too at first, but now have to admit the picture looks more complete and more balanced with the cupid. the rectangles of the window and the picture complement each other.

    2. I read this in the Seattle times this morning. Oh brother, he said it was child pornography. Really? Is there anything sexually suggestive in the photo? No. When did naked babies become sexual objects? I doubt this will go anywhere, and no one would even recognize the adult from the child, so how can he be exploited? IMO, he’s just a money grubber; in America, everyone sees this kind of litigation as ‘easy money’.

      And I reminded myself of the King Crimson song with that title ‘Easy Money’- love that song.

  8. I find Hirsi Ali’s accusation of Biden’s callousness toward Afghani women who will suffer under the Taliban’s oppressive theocracy unfair and illegitimate. What’s her solution? So America’s standing in the world has been tarnished? OK but well-intentioned, interminable wars with no mission objective don’t help polish it. And her critique misplaces the burden of responsibility which is with the Afghan government and the men of that country vs the Taliban. The truth is that Afghanistan is a destitute, failed state with antiquated, tribal cultural mores that is lost in spite trillions of US dollars spent.

    I have huge respect for Hirsi Ali and she is a brave champion for womens’ freedom in the Muslim world which is a noble cause. I would be fine if she was just to publicly mourn its loss in Afghanistan, but laying the blame of their suffering at our feet is unfair and frankly arrogant. The fight for freedom requires blood to be spilled and evidently, Hirsi Ali thinks ours will continue to do on behalf of theirs to which I say “no more.”

    1. I have to keep reminding myself of this other perspective. Right now its hard b/c it looks like a lot of Afghan allies will be murdered as collaborators, but Biden promised they’d be taken out. I’m really wringing my hands over that broken promise now.

      1. I think Biden would like to keep that promise but also believes it can’t (and shouldn’t) be fully met if the price is restarting a war with the Taliban and re-engaging US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban agreed to let the US evacuate in peace because it was assured the evacuation was definite. If Biden delays to evacuate more, he risks restarting the war he wanted to end.

  9. Re. art restoration, I have an unsigned portrait with no provenance of a Victorian gentleman. Absolutely no possibility of telling who he was. The only facet of interest is that he vaguely resembles a young Teddy Roosevelt, and I thought that it could be cool to get someone to transform him into a young TR.

    But I figured that the first step for that would be cleaning, and that would involve inflated $, so why not try it myself if there seemed to be any agreement on a simple approach.

    Looking online, some say vinegar & water, while others counter OMG no! You’ll get mold! (Um, H20 and CH3COOH are both volatile.)

    But there was another camp that promoted the mechanic’s hand cleaner GoJo (GoJo Industries, Akron, since 1946, who have now cashed in big time on their Purel hand sanitizer)! There were no dissenting voices, and I happened to have a supply of the stuff.

    At first working very cautiously at a corner, dabbing a bit on, gently smoothing it around with my finger, and then gently wiping it off with a white towel, the towel got black, the painting got lighter, and I kept going, wiping with a damp towel until no further darkness was evident on the towel.

    It worked great! It doesn’t take much, either. I had a big $23 container of the stuff and I figure I used about $0.50 worth. No progress yet on the TR conversion, but the portrait itself is respectable-looking.

    Also, as to why GoJo doesn’t remove the paint. It seems that the oil that oil paint pigments are suspended in are chemically unsaturated (C=C double bonds). Those unsaturated bonds cross-link, so what originally went on as a soft material is now like concrete.

  10. Without wanting to sound as if i’m derailing the news around Charlie Watts, can i point out that he was one of many superstar alumni of Alexis Korner’s Blues incorporated? If you look at the list of names who were in that band, and Alexis introduced to one another, and try to imagine how modern musical culture would look without his presence and help, i think we’d be much poorer.
    Alexis Korner doesn’t seem to get half the recognition he deserves.

    1. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was another Brit band that a lot of future rock’n’roll stars passed through.

  11. Outside of his first three Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger), Sean Connery’s best films are:
    Marnie (1964, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
    The Hill (1965, Sidney Lumet)
    The Offence (1973, Lumet)
    Zardoz (1974, John Boorman)
    The Wind and the Lion (1975, John Milius)
    The Man Who Would be King (1975, John Huston)
    Robin and Marian (1976, Richard Lester)
    The Russia House (1990, Fred Schepisi)

    Lion, King, and Robin constitute a sort of trilogy, with Connery playing mythic, larger-than-life but flawed heroes. Audrey Hepburn is Maid Marian to his Robin, and they’re a fantastic couple. Zardoz is a completely insane movie but has more ideas than most sane ones. Connery’s very best performance might be in The Offence, a brutal, draining film.

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