Good morning on the humpiest day of the week, Wednesday, September 29, 2021: National Coffee Day (it’s always that day!) Posting will be light today as I’m suffering with insomnia again and it’s very hard to work.
News of the Day:
*The U.S. Secretary of Defense and two top generals have flatly contradicted Joe Biden’s claim that nobody in the military advised him to keep a residual force of Americans in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban taking over. General Mark Milley and General Frank McKenzie, as well as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, testified yesterday before the Senate’s armed services committee, asserting or implying that they had communicated this message to Biden, and that he had received it. As the BBC reported:
Gen McKenzie, who as head of US Central Command oversaw the withdrawal from Afghanistan, said under questioning from Republican senators that he recommended keeping a small force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
This appears to contradict President Joe Biden’s assertion to an ABC journalist on 19 August that he did not recall anyone giving him such advice.
Gen Milley said that he agreed with the recommendation, but when asked by Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan whether Mr Biden’s comments were “a false statement”, he refused to give a direct answer.
Milley also called the chaotic withdrawal “a logistical success but a strategic disaster.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who’s starting to irritate me, responded by ignoring the issue at hand:
Later White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki addressed the issue.
“The president values the candid advice of… the joint chiefs and the military,” she said. “That doesn’t mean he always agrees with it.”
But that was not the question; the issue was that Biden either lied or forgot. And if he forgot, we should start worrying.
*The New York Times asked six artists to redesign the U.S. flag. You can see their designs here, none of which are very flaglike. I’m not sure what the point of this exercise is, except you can see that a couple of the flags have an exceptionally ideological point to them.
*Ground was broken today for the future Obama Presidential Center, not a presidential library—his papers will be digitized, so I suppose there will be no library—but a center for social activism. It has been the subject of controversy for years, as it’s occupying valuable real estate along the lake shore, which is supposed to be kept unsullied, will take over a lovely area, Jackson Park, and many residents on the South Side have beefed about its effects on their neighborhood. Obama won, of course, and the $500 million dollar center will be only a few blocks away from my crib. This is what it’s supposed to look like, with an unusual tower.
*According to the Guardian, antiracist Ibram X. Kendi has just been awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant. (h/t David). One of 25 awardees, he nets a tidy $625,000, with the award given for
. . . his “dynamic and unusual constellation of scholarship, social entrepreneurship, and public engagement”, with which he is “transforming how many people understand, discuss and attempt to redress America’s longstanding racial challenges”.
*Will the government shut down? Senate Democrats are squabbling hard over the $3.5 trillion social-welfare package proposed by Biden, with centrist Dems like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, as well as all Republicans, opposed to the full bill. If there’s no agreement among Dems on that, then more liberal Democrats have vowed to scupper the $1 trillion infrastructure bill in the House. On top of all this, the government may shut down very soon as it runs out of money unless the debt ceiling is raised. Stay tuned.
*Matthew is driving his youngest daughter off to University today and since his oldest is already gone, today he becomes a permanent empty nester. Here’s his sad tweet (click to see the full picture).
To Cambridge with youngest… pic.twitter.com/H3jfvcWBNn
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) September 29, 2021
*Just for fun, here are the “top searches” that got to this website yesterday. They never make any sense!
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 692,737, an increase of 2,026 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,780,634, an increase of about 9,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on September 29 includes:
- 1011 – Danes capture Canterbury after a siege, taking Ælfheah, archbishop of Canterbury, as a prisoner.
Ælfheah was killed by the Vikings the next year when he refused to be ransomed. (I hope they didn’t give him the “Blood Eagle”!)
- 1789 – The 1st United States Congress adjourns.
- 1885 – The first practical public electric tramway in the world is opened in Blackpool, England.
They had a sense of humor. Here’s what Wikipedia notes is “Illuminated tram No. 633, rebuilt in the shape of a fishing trawler”
- 1918 – Germany’s Supreme Army Command tells the Kaiser and the Chancellor to open negotiations for an armistice.
- 1923 – The British Mandate for Palestine takes effect, creating Mandatory Palestine.
Here’s Mandatory (not Optional) Palestine, whose early history is explained by Wikipedia:
After the failure of the Arab population to accept the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, the 1947–1949 Palestine war ended with the territory of Mandatory Palestine divided among the State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which annexed territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Kingdom of Egypt, which established the “All-Palestine Protectorate” in the Gaza Strip.
- 1923 – The First American Track & Field championships for women are held.
- 1941 – World War II: German forces, with the aid of local Ukrainian collaborators, begin the two-day Babi Yar massacre.
Nearly 34,000 Jews were shot in two days in a ravine. That works out to 708 killings per hour, or about 12 a minute. Killings in the ravine continued throughout the war in that location, with estimates of from 70,000 to 120,000 killed. Here’s a photo captioned “This a 1944 file photo of part of the Babi Yar ravine at the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine where the advancing Red Army unearthed the bodies of 14,000 civilians killed by fleeing Nazis, 1944. AP.”
- 1990 – The YF-22, which would later become the F-22 Raptor, flies for the first time. Here’s one of those single-seater fighters at the U.S. Air Force Museum:
- 2011 – The special court in India convicted all 269 accused officials for atrocity on Dalits and 17 for rape in the Vachathi case.
Notables born on this day include:
- 106 BC – Pompey, Roman general and politician (d. 48 BC)
- 1758 – Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, English admiral (d. 1805)
- 1898 – Trofim Lysenko, Ukrainian-Russian biologist and agronomist (d. 1976)
Here’s Lysenko, whose name is synonymous with “charlatan” and is an example of what happens when ideology determines what science should discover rather than what it does discover. Adoption of his phony agricultural techniques led to famines in China and the USSR that, according to Wikipedia, killed 30 million people.
- 1899 – Billy Butlin, South African-English businessman, founded Butlins (d. 1980)
- 1901 – Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1954)
Fermi was the head of the team that created the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. He persuaded the University of Chicago to build it on the squash courts under the stands of Stagg Field, our old football stadium. Here’s the pile, captioned by Wikipedia, “Diagram of Chicago Pile-1, the first nuclear reactor to achieve a self-sustaining chain reaction. Designed by Fermi, it consisted of uranium and uranium oxide in a cubic lattice embedded in graphite.” It went critical on December 2, 1942. Less than two years later, the U.S. had a nuclear bomb that it dropped on two cities in Japan.
- 1904 – Greer Garson, English-American actress (d. 1996)
Garson was nominated for an Oscar 7 times, winning for her portrayal of a British housewife in the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver, which I haven’t seen. Here’s the trailer:
- 1907 – Gene Autry, American singer, actor, and businessman (d. 1998)
- 1912 – Michelangelo Antonioni, Italian director and screenwriter (d. 2007)
- 1935 – Jerry Lee Lewis, American singer-songwriter and pianist
- 1943 – Lech Wałęsa, Polish electrician and politician, 2nd President of Poland, Nobel Prize laureate
- 1955 – Ann Bancroft, American explorer and author
Those who became permanently quiescent on September 29 include:
- 1902 – William McGonagall, Scottish poet and actor (b. 1825)
McGonagall was the best bad poet in history; you can read some examples here.
- 1902 – Émile Zola, French journalist, author, and playwright (b. 1840)
Here’s Zola, looking like he should:
- 1910 – Winslow Homer, American painter, illustrator, and engraver (b. 1836)
Homer’s one of my favorite American painters. Though his watercolor below, “Boys and a Kitten” (with a black adult cat as well) is not my favorite, it does show cats:
- 1913 – Rudolf Diesel, German engineer, invented the diesel engine (b. 1858)
- 1930 – Ilya Repin, Ukrainian-Russian painter and illustrator (b. 1844)
Repin was a realist painter, quite famous in his time but now largely unknown. I was dumbstruck when I saw one of his paintings, “Barge Haulers on the Volga” (below: 1870-1873) in The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg (below). I looked at it for what must have been half an hour. I had never heard of the artist but the painting was heartbreaking. Look at those faces! You can also see ten of his most famous paintings here.
Click to enlarge:
- 1967 – Carson McCullers, American novelist, playwright, essayist, and poet (b. 1917)
Author of two of my favorite novels, The Member of the Wedding, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers (below) was a terrific writer. She died at only 50.
- 1973 – W. H. Auden, English-American poet, playwright, and critic (b. 1907)
- 1975 – Casey Stengel, American baseball player and manager (b. 1890)
- 1997 – Roy Lichtenstein, American painter and sculptor (b. 1923)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili sees a “guest”, but she’s never chased squirrels.
Hili: We have a guest.A: Where?Hili: Over there, a squirrel came for hazelnuts.
Hili: Mamy gościa.Ja: Gdzie?Hili: Tam, wiewiórka przyszła po orzechy laskowe.
From Fred: An emergency public service alert:
A cat meme from Bruce:
From Simon: a different take on the “Doctor on the plane” scenario from yesterday’s tweet:
Flight Attendant: Is there a doctor on the plane?
Me: Tries to be invisible cause every time I’ve been in this situation it’s a man with chest pain
Flight Attendant: Someone says her baby’s coming!
Me: Jumps up and runs down the aisle hollering like it’s Price Is Right.
— Michele Quinn, MD, FACOG (@drquinngyn) September 26, 2021
From Luana, who says she’s a Latina and not a “Latinx”:
Celebrate the 5% 🥳 pic.twitter.com/HA2sPLujEz
— Kelly Smith (@K311yS) September 15, 2021
Also from Luana; a recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Ed about the ineffectiveness of trigger warnings. A quote from the piece, which has DATA
The consensus, based on 17 studies using a range of media, including literature passages, photographs, and film clips: Trigger warnings do not alleviate emotional distress.
@JeffreyASnyder & I:"trigger warnings to any material that elicits an 'uncomfortable emotional response' makes a mockery of the real challenges faced by those suffering from PTSD." cc: @sbkaufman @PsychRabble https://t.co/d6AbWxuDm3
— Amna Khalid (@AmnaUncensored) September 15, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
29 September 1930 | A Belgian Jewish girl, Hilda Weinberger, was born in Antwerp.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 29, 2021
Tweets from the estimable Dr. Cobb, now an empty-nester:
Correlation Vs. Causation pic.twitter.com/nGuSgFaZ1T
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) September 28, 2021
Submitted for your approval:
A big reason why FFP2/FFP3 work so effectively at preventing transmission while cloth masks don’t is because they have an electrostatic charge that can attract/trap virus particles & they seal to your face so air doesn’t leak through the sides or top. https://t.co/tyTVSVHjpH
— Nicolas Smit (@PPEtoheros) September 26, 2021
A gorgeous cephalopod!
The stunning display of a rare female blanket octopus, changing her color from orange to pink to white, while traveling through the warm water off the Philippines.
(open pic for full display)
📷 Andrey Shpatak https://t.co/5Zwuyohx3H#HighSeas pic.twitter.com/ZqapLb1KQi
— Open Ocean Exploration (@RebeccaRHelm) September 27, 2021
And another gorgeous invertebrate:
Polytela gloriosae – Indian lily moth.
Sri Lanka,Inde et Indonésie.
(Arinadam S) pic.twitter.com/ZrPq1Db723
— André Arcadio Fuster (@AAFuster) September 27, 2021