Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

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.

It’s also National Biscotti Day (goes well with coffee), World School Milk Day, Confucius Day, Goose Day, National Mocha Day, and World Heart Day.

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).

*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”

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.

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:

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.

Carson McCullers in 1955. Credit: Bettmann Archive, via Getty Images
  • 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.
In Polish:
Hili: Mamy gościa.
Ja: Gdzie?
Hili: Tam, wiewiórka przyszła po orzechy laskowe.

From Fred: An emergency public service alert:

From Matthew:

A cat meme from Bruce:

From Simon: a different take on the “Doctor on the plane” scenario from yesterday’s tweet:

From Luana, who says she’s a Latina and not a “Latinx”:

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.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from the estimable Dr. Cobb, now an empty-nester:

Submitted for your approval:

A gorgeous cephalopod!

And another gorgeous invertebrate:


26 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. We have a past president who makes a very successful living by lying. And yes, Biden lied to the reporter based on the question. But so what? How many politicians do you know who have not lied? That generals advised leaving troops in Afghanistan should also be no surprise to anyone. That is what they do. They have been doing it for 20 years. That is what they always do.

    1. So it’s OK? Just because Trump dragged down expectations for Presidential behavior doesn’t mean we should just accept the new norms.

      1. You have that very strange habit that I see others doing here in comments and that is putting words and or thoughts into someone’s comments that are simply not there. Did I say lying was okay? No. Did I say lying was acceptable? No. Remarkable statements from you.

    2. I have no problem with the generals and/or Biden not telling the complete truth of who said what in a strategy meeting. Although I think most things should be transparent, revealing the details of recommendations by generals, how Biden responded, etc. is going too far. It might be fun for us to be a “fly on the wall” in such meetings but that would undermine the relationships. Next time, a general may feel unable to speak there mind for fear it will come back to bite him. It is hard enough for a general to present an unpopular opinion to the president without including public opinion.

  2. The cat meme is wrong…

    Friend: “does your cat bite?”

    [Cat bites]
    “Ow! I thought you said your cat does not bite!”
    “That is not my cat.”

  3. The map of the original Mandate for Palestine was drawn in 1919 and was an area that included all of Trans-Jordan as well as Jewish Palestine:

    Trans-Jordania, as well as western Palestine (cis-Jordania), was under British administration by 1920 and then Trans-Jordan was cut out of what was originally to be the Jewish state by 1922:

    The map shown in the Wednesday: Hili Dialogue was non controversial from 1922 until 1948. It shows the correct eastern border of Mandatory (Jewish) Palestine – what was always meant to be Israel – as the center of the Jordan river. That map is of crucial importance, as it was drawn by the last administrative entity – the British Mandate acting as Mandator for the Mandate for Palestine under the League of Nations. Under the principle of International law called uti possidetis juris, those borders would be the borders of the next administrative unit – the State of Israel created on May 14, 1948.

    So, contrary to the assertions of the Palestinians, Israel was created with actual borders and they were from river to sea. The fact that combined Arab armies illegally attacked and controlled some of that area from late 1948 until 1967 does not in any way change the valid sovereign borders of Israel as of May 14th, 1948. Israel has always maintained that its 1948 borders are its sovereign borders under still-valid International law. Which certainly makes the charge that Israel is “illegally occupying” areas (within its own sovereign borders) pretty darned absurd.

    1. Right! Wikipedia may be OK about some non-controversial things, but it is not authoritative about Israel by any stretch.

  4. I should think you’d find Greer Garson in her prime quite toothsome, Jerry. Actually she was gorgeous. Mrs Miniver is a splendid spirit-of-the-Blitz nostalgiafest for Brits of a certain age today, but might not appeal to those who don’t have that in their heritage. But it’s hard to resist ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ or a tear jerker like ‘Random Harvest’. Or try ‘Blossoms in the Dust’ for something more serious.

  5. I think the point of the flag re-design is to say that there is nothing about America which is worth saving. As such, it’s worse for the folks who don’t believe in America, because it gives the impression that there is more support for that idea than there actually is.

      1. The expression “believe in America” is totally meaningless and to accuse people of not believing in America is nothing more than a slur on them. If you ask 100 random people what the expression means, you would probably get 100 different answers.

      2. Everyone in America believes in America, though millions don’t believe in American Democracy, including an entire political party.

      1. The one you mention is certainly more flag-like than the others but they all seem to try too hard to capture the current political moment. They try to draw attention to flaws rather than be a timeless symbol of what the country should stand for and what it strives to achieve. The flag is one place where honest self-reflection is not the way to go.

    1. I thought an ironic (and political) “new” flag could be our extant flag, but with 52 stars (for DC and Puerto Rico). It just gave me a chuckle is all. At least it would have been better than any of the flags offered; I agree, they’re horrible.

  6. Strange how this didn’t make any headlines…I saw it as a blurb at the bottom of a NYT digital “Morning edition” under the header “Politics”. And I wonder why this is political? Maybe because Democrats will believe it and Republicans won’t?


    U.S. wildlife officials declared the extinction of 23 species: 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat and a plant.

    They ain’t coming back folks, and extinctions will continue at a more rapid pace. Great times!

  7. The “Barge Haulers” painting really took me back. When I was taking piano lessons as a first-grader in the early 1960s, my lesson book included “Song of the Volga Boatmen,” which had a sketch drawn from this painting at the top of the page. Only 60 years later have I learned the source of that sketch. You’ll immediately recognize the mournful song, and the video here features the painting.

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