Saturday: Hili dialogue

September 11, 2021 • 6:30 am

There is a tiny Google Doodle this morning honoring the dead of 9/11. It’s very understated; click the screenshot to see it in context .

Good morning on the Cat Sabbath, Saturday, September 11, 2021. Because it’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Foodimentary has named the day “National Hot Cross Buns Day/A ‘Day’ for Remembrance”. (They once again inserted erroneous scare quotes, not to mention combining the attack with hot cross buns.) Related to those attacks, it’s also National Day of Service and Remembrance, National Emergency Responders Day, and Patriot Day.

Other days today are National Iguana Awareness Day, Aunt’s Day, German Language Day, Women’s Baseball Day, World First Aid Day, and Make Your Bed Day (I scrupulously make my bed each morning, convinced that it’s the best way to start the day).

News of the Day:

Another two flights left Kabul carrying 21 American citizens and 22 American green-card holders. There still appear to be about 100 Americans (some say more) in Afghanistan. The fate of Afghan refugees still stalled at Hamid Karzai airport is unclear, but the U.S. put a hold on all flights of Afghan refugees headed to America after discovering several cases of measles aboard those who arrived.

You already know about the Republican pushback against Biden’s new vaccination mandate, with 19 Republican governors vowing to oppose the mandate (it requires all federal workers as well as employees of businesses with more than 100 workers to be either vaccinated or face weekly Covid testing). Mask mandates are being fought as well, with the Kentucky legislature overruling the governor’s order for such a mandate in public schools.

Robby Soave, a libertarian journalist and author who’s the senior editor of the equally libertarian magazine Reason, has a scathing op-ed in the NYT: “Biden’s vaccine mandate is a big mistake.” His beef? That Biden and his spokesperson Jen Psaki assured the country that there would be no vaccine mandate, and then two days ago he imposed a pretty strict one. I agree with the mandate, because people are dying and we need some pressure on the vaccine-resisting chowderheads, but Soave worries (as does Andrew Sullivan in his column this week) that the mandate is too authoritarian and autocratic and will have dire consequence. Soave:

But forcing vaccines on a minority contingent of unwilling people is a huge error that risks shredding the social fabric of a country already being pulled apart by political tribalism.

The president should not — and most likely does not — have the power to unilaterally compel millions of private-sector workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs: Mr. Biden is presiding over a vast expansion of federal authority, one that Democrats will certainly come to regret the next time a Republican takes power. Moreover, the mechanism of enforcement — a presidential decree smuggled into law by the Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration — is fundamentally undemocratic. Congress is supposed to make new laws, not an unaccountable bureaucratic agency.

I am concerned about the expansion of the executive branch’s reach that started with Trump and continues with extra-Congressional “executive orders,” but on the other hand I don’t want people to die, and Congress probably wouldn’t pass a mandate anyway. Biden is operating under an old OSHA regulation designed to protect workers in emergency situations, but the regulation has never been applied to vaccinations before. Do you think Biden has the authority to do what he did?

Steve Novella at Science-Based Medicine is clearly stung by his site’s Woke-ish removal of Harriet Hall’s article (a book review of Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage). Now he’s denying that sex is binary and making other wonky statements on Twitter. In 31 Tweets (Twitter is clearly not a good place for this kind of stuff, but it’s good enough if you lack a website), a person with the handle Le Canard Noir takes Novella’s claims apart. Click below to start following the thread. (h/t Matthew)

There have been a few hitches in the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial that has delayed its progress, so there was no courtroom action yesterday.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 658,865, an increase of 1642 deaths over yesterday’s figure. (Remember when 200,000 deaths was thought to be an unimaginable toll?) The reported world death toll is now 4,632,282, an increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 11 includes:

  • 9 – Battle of the Teutoburg Forest ends, where the Roman Empire suffers the greatest defeat of its history and the Rhine being established as the border between the Empire and the so-called barbarians for the next four hundred years
  • 1226 – The first recorded instance of the Catholic practice of perpetual Eucharistic adoration formally begins in Avignon, France.

When the adoration of the Eucharist (often a fancy displayed wafer) occurs 24 hours a day, it’s called “perpetual Eucharistic adoration.” It’s a very strange practice, but hey, it’s religion. Here’s one object of this adoration, labeled by Wikipedia: “A consecrated host placed in a monstrance for adoration”:

  • 1297 – Battle of Stirling Bridge: Scots jointly led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray defeat the English.


  • 1609 – Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan Island and the indigenous people living there.
  • 1789 – Alexander Hamilton is appointed the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.
  • 1792 – The Hope Diamond is stolen along with other French crown jewels when six men break into the house where they are stored.

This was during the time of the French Revolution, when the jewels were owned by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (it was called the “French blue” at the time, and was probably worn by the Queen). When they were imprisoned, the jewel was stolen from the Royal storehouse and recut from its original 68 to its present 45.5 carats. After a tortuous history, the fabulous blue diamond is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Here it is in its setting:

  • 1857 – The Mountain Meadows massacre: Mormon settlers and Paiutes massacre 120 pioneers at Mountain Meadows, Utah.
  • 1941 – Construction begins on The Pentagon.
  • 1941 – Charles Lindbergh’s Des Moines Speech accusing the British, Jews and FDR’s administration of pressing for war with Germany.

Lindbergh was a real anti-Semite, but that’s not grounds for cancellation these days.

Here’s part of his antiwar speech.

  • 1944 – World War II: The Western Allied invasion of Germany begins near the city of Aachen.
  • 1973 – A coup in Chile, headed by General Augusto Pinochet, topples the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Pinochet exercises dictatorial power until ousted in a referendum in 1988, staying in power until 1990.
  • 2001 – The September 11 attacks, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks killing 2,977 people using four aircraft hijacked by 19 members of al-Qaeda. Two aircraft crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, a third crashes into The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and a fourth into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Here’s a news report with video of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, followed by the collapse of the towers. I well remember this, as we watched much of this on live television at the time, for we had a small t.v. in the lab. We had a post on “where were you then?” yesterday, and there was a substantial response, with many answers quite interesting.

Here’s a video purporting to show the explosion of the bomb (CNN can’t verify it). It is not a nuclear bomb, but a conventional one, with the power of 44 tons of TNT—the force of a small tactical nuclear weapon. It explodes in mid-air like a nuclear bomb, though.

  • 2012 – The U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya is attacked, resulting in four deaths.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1816 – Carl Zeiss, German lens maker, created the Optical instrument (d. 1888)
  • 1862 – O. Henry, American short story writer (d. 1910)

His real name was William Sydney Porter, and he served three years for bank embezzlement, wrote great short stories, and died at 47 from alcoholism. Here he is:

  • 1885 – D. H. Lawrence, English novelist, poet, playwright, and critic (d. 1930)

This great writer also died young: of tuberculosis at 44.  Here’s a picture of Lawrence taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1915

by Lady Ottoline Morrell, vintage snapshot print, 29 November 1915
  • 1917 – Jessica Mitford, English-American journalist and author (d. 1996)
  • 1945 – Leo Kottke, American singer-songwriter and guitarist

I’m a big fan ot Leo Kottke, the spiritual heir of my favorite acoustic guitarist, John Fahey. Here’s Kottke reworking the old Byrds song, “Eight Miles High” (1977). Unlike Fahey, Kottke can sing.

  • 1965 – Moby, American singer-songwriter, musician, and DJ

Whatever happened to Moby? He was a big deal some years back, but we don’t hear about him any more.

Those who passed through death’s door on September 11 include:

It was Jinnah (below) who was the force behind the partition of India into a Muslim state (Pakistan) and a Hindu state, and was the first leader of Pakistan, but died of TB a year after he took office. Here’s Jinnah with Gandhi in 1944:

  • 1950 – Jan Smuts, South African field marshal and politician, 2nd Prime Minister of South Africa (b. 1870)
  • 1971 – Nikita Khrushchev, Russian general and politician (b. 1894)
  • 1973 – Salvador Allende, Chilean physician and politician, 29th President of Chile (b. 1908)

Allende, a Marxist, was deemed a disaster by the U.S. because he was the first democratically elected Marxist head of state in Latin America. And, of course, in one of the many black moments in the life of Henry Kissinger and the CIA, the U.S. helped overthrow him. He committed suicide by shooting himself with an AK-47 as the troops closed in on the Presidential Palace.  Here’s Allende in 1972:

  • 1987 – Lorne Greene, Canadian actor (b. 1915)
  • 1987 – Peter Tosh, Jamaican singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1944)
  • 2002 – Johnny Unitas, American football player and sportscaster (b. 1933)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is thinking about whether to chase little Kulka away from the food bowl. Malgorzata tells me they’re getting along much better now.

Hili: To chase away or to accept?
Kulka: If she is thinking it means she is not sure.
In Polish:
Hili: Przegonić, czy zaakceptować?
Kulka: Jeśli myśli, to nie jest pewna.

From Not Another Science Cat Page, we have a cat burglar:

A shaman cat from Jesus of the Day:

From Facebook:


From Titania, who’s upset at the competition here:

From the Auschwitz Memorial. 596 out of 598 arriving prisoners were gassed on the spot.


From Simon, who asks me, “Was this your moment of truth pre-WEIT?”

From Barry, who’s sent me several very weird tweets from Maajid Nawaz this week about Covid. He sent this one noting: “It seems unlikely to me that a large number of military people would go AWOL. Anyway, Nawaz presumably thinks this idiot is delivering an important message. What a shame.”

UPDATE: Apparently Nawaz has deleted this tweet from his site, so you’ll miss the military guy ranting about the vaccine mandate. I don’t know why it was deleted.

Tweets from Matthew, with several for Caturday:


And from Larry the Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office of the UK. This isn’t Larry, but it’s a chill kitty!

Nice ice crystals!

Matthew tweeted a video of vampire bats in action:

33 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

      1. That group size is for the collared peccary. Groups of the white-lipped peccary may range up to several hundred individuals.

  1. The question should be, do I think Biden should have the authority to make the vaccine mandatory? Yes he should. I think most of the people working in hospitals in Idaho, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and other very red states are for it. The health care systems in these states is in chaos or critical shape. Why, because people are not getting vaccinated. We are sending groups of federal and military medical people into these states to help with the chaos. More kids are getting the virus as well. The old saying, you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink does not apply to people. They are not suppose to be this stupid. When people are this stupid you have to take stronger measures. The name for the republican party should be changed to stupid party. Does Biden have the authority to do that?

    1. I agree. Using OSHA is appropriate here, if businesses want to produce, they need to protect the producers on the front line even if the executives are working remotely.

      The thing is, the longer that the pandemic drags on, the longer it will take to restore the economy. I sometimes wonder if the anti-vax mantle that the Republicans have taken is an attempt to slow they recovery so that they win more congressional seats (and senatorial seats) in the mid-term elections. I don’t put it past them. They’re cynical enough to let people die in service to the oligarchs.

  2. I see no rebuttal to Soave’s argument: Biden is a dangerous authoritarian because he is trying to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Beyond doubt, Biden is a clear and present danger to the freedom of those who reserve the right to infect and kill others. It’s better to do nothing than impinge on freedom. Never mind the costs we all pay when the unvaccinated end up in the hospital. Soave fears that a vaccine mandate will tear apart the social fabric. Apparently, he doesn’t realize that it is already torn apart. Never mind, individual freedom is all that counts. The promotion of the general welfare, as declared in the preamble to the Constitution, is invidious. Only individual freedom counts.

    Who could argue with the basic premise of libertarianism: individual freedom (or more accurately, selfishness) is all that counts? Screw anyone that gets in the way. The next and noble step for libertarianism is get rid of all those tyrannical vaccine mandates for school kids. After that is accomplished, there are countless other laws that restrict freedom that need to be gotten rid of. The mandatory wearing of seat belts is a good place to start. Yes, folks, Biden doesn’t realize it, but he has opened the door that leads to the road that ends at the libertarian paradise. Now, let’s all chant together: FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM!!

      1. “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”—John Kenneth Galbraith

    1. We’ve managed to somehow work between these positions for almost 250 years. The goal of our government is not absolute personal safety. The government could put each of us a in a personal plexiglass cage, give us food and water, filter the air, make sure we exercise, and that would be about as safe as we can be (that is assuming, of course, an unrealistically efficient government). Freedom DOES count, and the President’s saying it doesn’t is both untrue and dictatorial. The President has not authority as a Constitutioal officer to decide that; no one does. He says he wants to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. If the vaccinated aren’t safe now, it’s unclear how more vaccinations will make them safe. (And once that’s done, what about all the rest of the world’s unvaccinated? Disease is not a respecter of borders.) And what is the danger from unvaccinated? No one has quantified that. Coming into contact with an unvaccinated persons is not a death sentence, and it doesn’t even mean you’ll get Covid, the mortality rate of which decrease every day. We’re stopping Afghans with measles from coming to the US, but the government is doing nothing to hinder Afghans or illegal aliens coming from Mexico with regard to Covid (something he definitely does have authority to do). Is he doing anything to make sure non-working Americans, on welfare, get their shots? No, he’s target working, productive Americans, the true danger. For 60 years the goal of the Democratic party has been to reduce Americans to subservience by making sure that more and more of their incomes is filtered through the government, so it can do things like say, get a jab or lose your job.

      I am amazed that in this very liberal audience there are not more people expressing concern about the language used to attack the unvaccinated. With its echoes of diseased and unclean, it is so clearly genocidal. Liberal commentators practically drool when they talk about the punishments that should be meted out to them, like losing their “privilege” of having a job. It’s the old, old story. Impoverish, then damn them for being parasites. If the police were to paint Stars of David on shop windows to warn customers away, it could not be more clear.

      If we accept that disease is a sufficient cause to abandon our liberties, then we are done. There will always be another disease. Like climate change, it is the never-ending crisis. We might beat climate change (we won’t, just ask the Chinese), but will the government and the press tell us? Every storm, every flood, every untoward event will still be caused by climate change, and the answer will always be less commerce, less individuality.

      People should not be wondering how the Nazis came to power. Too many good Germans concerned about safety. Boy, were they wrong. What should persist and be important is freedom.

      1. I disagree with almost every paragraph you wrote. But, I will make just one general comment. It appears you are now showcasing the right-wing response to Biden’s proposals: he is a genocidal Nazi, the leader of a political party that for 60 years has tried to suppress the freedom of Americans. Trump, not so much. We’ll see how this ploy flies.

        As a good libertarian, I imagine you loathe Lincoln. Many libertarians do because Abe actually did suppress civil liberties to a high degree during the Civil War. So did Wilson during World War I. Yup, government is a tyrant. Unfettered freedom is all that counts.

      2. Disease is a sufficient cause to abandon these particular liberties. If disease isn’t enough, then try death.

        These laments inevitably downplay the actual “liberties” being lost as that’s just not a good look. We can forget about mask-wearing as that is obviously no hardship at all. And, as for the vaccination, what’s the big deal? Don’t they get their shots for other diseases? Finally, are they really not interested in stopping the spread of disease? Seems they simply don’t want to tackle those questions.

      3. My advice would be move to Kentucky and joint the Paul Rand train. Rip out those freedom hating highway signs and seat belts while you are at it.

      4. Apartheid? You don’t vaccinate to change race. There is nothing one can do to change their race. It’s an ascribed status, vaccination is an achieved status. If people choose not to be vaccinated then they need to take responsibility for that choice rather than impose their choice on the immunocompromised, and even those who may get breakthrough infections. It’s part of the social contract, just like I don’t give anyone permission to shit on my lawn if they choose not to find a toilet in time.

        The longer people wait to get vaccinated, the more likely a new variant is to evolve that will render my vaccine moot. By doing this ONE SIMPLE THING, or at least wearing masksi, they can help put an end to this pandemic. But, no. They all want to be like that woman in Lincoln and sneeze and cough all over everyone else because to cover their mouths or get a vaccine would make them traitors to William Wallace.

        The Nazis came to power for a good many reasons, but one of those was they promised Freedom for the good Germans, not safety.

      5. ‘Genocide’ has a meaning. Your usage in reference to treatment of the poor, beleaguered freedom-loving unvaccinated is not only wildly hyperbolic but effectively trivializes both the ‘geno-‘ and the ‘-cide’. You should be ashamed.

      6. You don’t get vaccinated to save yourself. You get vaccinated to save everybody. People are dying at the rate of about 1500 a day in the USA because of idiots expressing their freedumb. People who have died of COVID19 have no liberties at all and (if we compare death rates in the USA and the UK as an example) about seven hundred people in the USA die every day from COVID19 because of the selfish pricks who won’t get vaccinated.

        You have a health crisis. You are not going to fix it by yelling “fuck you” to your neighbours.

        1. Jeremy, you can’t protect everyone. People are going to die. People who are vaccinated are going to die. We can’t pretend that there isn’t a real trade off between trying to protect people from disease and trying to protect them from the government. That’s a conversation that has to be happening.

      7. If the police were to paint Stars of David on shop windows to warn customers away, it could not be more clear. … People should not be wondering how the Nazis came to power. Too many good Germans concerned about safety.

        Whoa, dude, sit in the shade a spell.

        I suppose you think the vaccination scars that several generations of us Americans bear on our shoulders are equivalent to the numbers tattooed on the arms of prisoners at Auschwitz? Just think, generations of Americans denied their inalienable right to contract and spread smallpox, pertussis, and diphtheria. Never again!

      1. No edit function: DUI is my freedom, innit? The Nanny State want to rob me of this right.

        What Dr Brydon does not appear to realize is that a large reservoir of unvaccinated, where the virus is raging freely, is much more likely than a smaller reservoir to stumble upon a mutation that is causes a strain that is more virulent and/or contagious.
        I consider the refuseniks feeble minded ( 🙂 ) or sociopaths.

  3. Love Leo Kottke. If you can see him in concert, do. He is also very droll. I remember playing his first album (back in the ‘70’s) over and over. And I believe that on the slip cover he described his voice as sounding “like goose farts on a muggy day.”

  4. Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday specifically, and around Easter generally. Moving their “day” to September smacks of calendar appropriation.

  5. I wonder why those who have swallowed the sex is a spectrum Kool Aid always rattle on about intersex when trying to defend their ideology? Novella goes straight to XX testicular disorder as an example of the spectral nature of sex in the linked Twatter thread. Picking on a single gene disorder as a way of defending a blank slate social construct view of sex just doesn’t work. Intersex conditions are nothing to do with the wider trans issue, and cannot be used to tell us anything or justify anything about the unusual view of biology that trans activists hold.

    1. The sad thing is that Novella is using motivated reasoning to stick to his guns and he knows that this is damaging to a skeptic because he writes about it in the SGU book (which I wish I could return and get my money back from him directly.)

      I have unsubscribed from the SGU podcast, from the SBM blog, and anything else that is affiliated to Novella. I know it won’t hurt him, but I am very disappointed that he is deliberately doing something that is contrary to his own skeptical standards. I don’t demand perfection, and I know many skeptics who will argue the same way, but ethically this is a very bad thing that he is doing.

      I am also no longer a fan of Gorsky, but had given up on him long ago.

      I think that’s the problem with the skeptical environment of today – even the best skeptics are not willing to admit when they have clung to their personal beliefs when presented with contrary evidence and misuse use facts in order to support their positions.

      Secondary sexual characteristics may be on a “spectrum,” but we all know how conception happens even still. Sex itself in mammals is binary. And further, that spectrum argument makes no sense, because there can be no “trans” without binary sex. If it’s all a spectrum, then there can be no “wrong body.”

      1. I unsubscribed from Novella’s podcast (and site) in 2013 after repeated examples of what I call “convenient skepticism”, meaning, applying different skeptic standards depending on the subject.

        But, yes, it won’t affect him or the podcast.

        There’s an argument to be made about listening so as to be aware of the sometime faulty reasoning du jour regarding this or that topic, but for my own peace of mind (and blood pressure) it was best that I stop listening.

      2. Good point.
        I really liked how ‘the black duck’ systematically dismantled, point by point, Novella’s argument.

  6. After Allende was deposed by Chile’s right-wing Pinochet (without reprisals from the US) imprisoned leftist activists, about 3200 of whom, without legal proceedings, were either executed outright (many thrown still living from helicopters over the Pacific Ocean), or simply disappeared. Pinochet also seems to have personally ordered the Sept. 21, 1976 terrorist bombing in Washington, D.C. that killed Allende associate Orlando Letelier and his American co-worker Ronni Moffitt. A student of mine was made a widow by Pinochet.

  7. I read with interest the opposing arguments.

    For the record, I’m on the side of science and medicine. Meaning, get me the vaccine. Also, TDAP boosters, the yearly flu vaccine, the shingles vaccine (old and the newer two-shot version). And, of course, the COVID-19 vaccine.

    “Good for you, you sheeple! Me? I want MY FREEDOM!”

    Let me take a side road here . . . I worked as an automotive engineer for about 30 years, and then another 10 as an aerospace engineer, both stints related to structural performance.

    At the end of 1984 is when the first law making the use of seat belts mandatory went into effect (New York, followed by pretty much every other state except for New Hampshire). Seat belts themselves were mandated in cars since 1964, but even before working for the auto industry, I wore a seat belt if the car I was in had one available . . . because I’m not stupid, not math-challenged, and fairly rational.

    I remember the arguments people had when seat belt laws started to take effect …

    “I heard from a friend that one of the people their aunt knew was in an accident and the car caught fire and they burned to death because they couldn’t unlatch the seat belt! No way I’m wearing one!”

    First of all, they obviously forgot Rule #11 … Never go anywhere without a knife.

    But, second, they are incredibly ignorant about what happens in a crash. If you are not belted, a 5 mph crash is enough to cause serious injury (about 6.5g, and 1,146 pound-force for a 180 pound individual — which these days is considered skinny).

    Their main worry is being trapped, where the actually worry is that they’ll be knocked unconscious and burn to death while unconscious . . . if they don’t get ejected and die from those injuries (you should see what a windshield does to a face as your head slices through it . . . frankly, you might not want to survive).

    The point is, those people relied (and many still do) on faulty reasoning and massive ignorance to arrive at a decision and only then claim “MY FREEDOM!”

    But, their ignorance is even deeper. If you are in a car and don’t want to wear a seat belt, you’re a danger to the other persons in the car (how do you feel about having a 180 lb person thrown at you at 20 mph? how about 50mph?) By the way, that’s also why you’re “forced” to wear a seat belt on a plane.

    Now let’s talk about freedom . . . you do know that your freedom stops at my nose, right?

    Take another example . . . speed. There are two reasons car accidents happen (beside stupidity or alcohol, or both) . . . the driver overestimating their ability to control a car at high speed (typically, drivers don’t take performance driving courses) and the speed differential between cars.

    So, when some idiot is doing 80mph in a 55mph zone, he’s increasing the chances of a crash . . . unless he’s alone on the road. But, if he’s not, not only is he risking his life, but also mine as he weaves around other cars. Is that a right bestowed to him by FREEDOM?

    Because, one of the consideration for mandates is the safety of others.

    There’s also the consideration of cost to the society (i.e. if you’re an idiot that causes a crash and the highway or street is closed for a few hours, it’s a major inconvenience to others. It’s a good thing if you die, but the bad thing is that you usually take others with you). If you don’t want a vaccine, don’t wear masks, and don’t follow good practices, I frankly don’t care one iota if you die . . . but I might care about others around you (unless they’re your friends, in which case they obviously have a history of poor life choices).

    Because that’s the point . . . we live among others. The least one can do is be considerate and think of others, and maybe not work so hard at being a dick.

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