Good morning as we near the end of the week and of the month; it’s Thursday, October 28, 2021 and National Chocolate Day (a good day; can you imagine the world without the cacao tree?)
The source of all chocolate:
News of the Day:
*More trouble for the Democrats and Biden’s two spending bills, as reported by the Associated Press:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Wednesday that Democrats are in “pretty good shape” on President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic plan, but hopes for a breakthrough quickly faded when a pivotal Democratic senator panned a new billionaires’ tax to help pay for the $1.75 trillion package.
Guess who the Senator was? You’ll know for sure when I tell you the “billionaire tax” was proposed to win over renegade Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who objected to an earlier fundraising proposal to abolish tax breaks on corporations and the rich, i.e., people earning more than $400,000. We’re going to need lots of dosh for Biden’s two bills, even if the social safety-net bill gets cut in half, and I’m curious where it will come from.
*A WaPo editorial by a former Russian journalist is called “Why should we care about Putin’s love life?” Good question. The answer involves money, power, and censorship, but see for yourself.
*Comedian Mort Sahl died on Tuesday at 94. His obituary/memoriam in the New York Times, however, is pretty critical, deeming him irrelevant after his prime but a forerunner of Dave Chappelle, which author Jason Zinoman does not consider a compliment.
*In a long article, the BBC describes a phenomenon I call “bonk shaming”: a lesbian who wants to have sex only with cisgender (natal) women (alternatively, a gay male wants biological rather than trans males). A variant is the straight person who wants to have sex only with cisgender people of the opposite sex, and is not attracted to trans people of the opposite gender. You can’t really control to whom you’re attracted, but these people are increasingly derided as transphobic. This is not uncommon:
Jennie is a lesbian woman. She says she is only sexually attracted to women who are biologically female and have vaginas. She therefore only has sex and relationships with women who are biologically female.
Jennie doesn’t think this should be controversial, but not everyone agrees. She has been described as transphobic, a genital fetishist, a pervert and a “terf” – a trans exclusionary radical feminist.
One of the lesbian women I spoke to, 24-year-old Amy*, told me she experienced verbal abuse from her own girlfriend, a bisexual woman who wanted them to have a threesome with a trans woman.
When Amy explained her reasons for not wanting to, her girlfriend became angry.
“The first thing she called me was transphobic,” Amy said. “She immediately jumped to make me feel guilty about not wanting to sleep with someone.”
She said the trans woman in question had not undergone genital surgery, so still had a penis.
“I know there is zero possibility for me to be attracted to this person,” said Amy, who lives in the south west of England and works in a small print and design studio.
“I can hear their male vocal cords. I can see their male jawline. I know, under their clothes, there is male genitalia. These are physical realities, that, as a woman who likes women, you can’t just ignore.”
*CNBC News reports that Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was soaked by Elizabeth Holmes into investing $100 million (!) in Theranos. (h/t Thomas). Things aren’t looking good for Holmes, but the defense hasn’t put on its case yet:
A representative for Betsy DeVos’s family office told jurors in the Elizabeth Holmes criminal trial that the former Theranos CEO provided misleading financials and details about the company’s technology in soliciting an investment.
. . . [Lisa Peterson, DeVos’s representative] told jurors that Theranos shared financial projections, showing the company would have revenue of $140 million in 2014 and $990 million in 2015. Peterson said she didn’t know that Theranos had no revenue in 2012 and 2013.
Holmes also said that the blood tests were being processed on Theranos’ homegrown technology, when in reality the company was using third-party systems.
The prosecution has now proffered lots of evidence that Holmes lied about her firm, Theranos. Will her lawyers plead mental problems due to abuse from Sunny Balwani, the other alleged fraudster?
*Hacker attacks candy corn factory! Food & Wine magazine reports that Ferrara Candy in Chicago, the biggest maker of this vile sweet, was attacked by hackers in October. But it was too late—the candy has been on the shelves for months already—and that’s where it should stay. (I suspect candy corn will last for decades.) I feel about this the way I feel about Elizabeth Holmes and Betsy DeVos: in each both sides acted badly and should suffer. (The manufacture of candy corn should be a felony.)
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 741,277, an increase of 1,395 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,990,013, an increase of about 8,700 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on October 28 includes:
- 312 – Constantine I defeats Maxentius, becoming the sole Roman emperor in the West.
- 1492 – Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba on his first voyage to the New World, surmissing [SIC!!!] that it is Japan.
- 1520 – Ferdinand Magellan reaches the Pacific Ocean. (Note the date below when he discovered the Strait.)
He reached it by rounding the Strait of Magellan (soon to be renamed) at the tip of South America. Here’s a map of his voyage. (Magellan was killed by indigenous people in the Philippines, and only one of his five ships made it back to Spain.
- 1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony votes to establish a theological college, which would later become Harvard University.
- 1726 – The novel Gulliver’s Travels is published.
A first edition of this puppy will cost you $98,000 (two volumes):
- 1919 – The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto, paving the way for Prohibition to begin the following January.
This ranks among the worst ideas ever turned into law.
- 1922 – Italian fascists led by Benito Mussolini march on Rome and take over the Italian government.
Here’s Mussolini with his blackshirts parading into Rome. He’s the guy with the sash on his shoulder:
- 1948 – Paul Hermann Müller is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT.
- 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: Premier Nikita Khrushchev orders the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.
And so the crisis ended. My dad told us he didn’t have to go away (he was in the Army), and we were all relieved.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1466 – Erasmus, Dutch philosopher (d. 1536)
This portrait of Erasmus, by Hans Holbein the Younger, was almost certainly painted from life; they lived in the same place and were contemporaries.
- 1903 – Evelyn Waugh, English journalist, author, and critic (d. 1966)
- 1909 – Francis Bacon, Irish painter and illustrator (d. 1992)
I like Bacon’s paintings but many people don’t. One, the famous “screaming pope” is below. On the right is Bacon’s “Study after Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953), on the left is Velazquez’s original.
Here are the contents of Bacon’s London studio as they were when he died. They were moved in their entirety to Dublin (where he was born), with every item placed exactly where it had been in London:
- 1914 – Jonas Salk, American biologist and physician (d. 1995)
Salk is my hero. Unlike the acquisitive biologists today who seek to profit financially from every discovery, Salk refused to patent his polio vaccine. Here’s his famous response to Edward R. Murrow asking Salk, “Who owns the patent on this vaccine?”
- 1949 – Caitlyn Jenner, American decathlete and actress
- 1955 – Bill Gates, American businessman and philanthropist, co-founded Microsoft
- 1964 – Peter Coyne, Australian rugby league player
Another Coyne whom I don’t know. Could he be related?
Drudge seems to have largely dropped out of sight, and I couldn’t find a recent picture. Here’s one from 1996:
- 1967 – Julia Roberts, American actress and producer
Who can’t love Julia Roberts, who, along with Sandra Bullock, ranks to me as “America’s Sweetheart”. Here are some scenes from her first big hit, “Pretty Woman” with Richard Gere. The original ending was not a happy one, showing Gere tossing money at her and driving off, but fortunately they changed it for the final version. Her best movie? Erin Brockovich, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar.
Those who flatlined on October 28 include:
- 1627 – Jahangir, Mughal Emperor of India (b. 1569)
- 1818 – Abigail Adams, American writer and second First Lady of the United States (b. 1744)
- 1998 – Ted Hughes, English poet and playwright (b. 1930)
- 2007 – Porter Wagoner, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1927)
Dolly Parton was part of the Porter Wagoner show from 1967 to 1974, and eventually left under difficult circumstances to start a solo career. She’s written over 3,000 songs, and this is one of the best, “I will always love you.” It was her farewell to Porter Wagoner when she left his show, and here’s her first public rendition on that show, ca. 1974. Wagoner, as always, wears a flashy country suit from Nudie’s of Hollywood.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Kulka is being sneaky. When I asked Malgorzata what Hili meant by “show her,” she replied, “Well, Hili says to Andrzej that if Kulka dares to come closer she will do something not nice to her.” Oy!
Hili: I will show her!A: Who?Hili: Kulka, she is sneaking up on me.
Hili: Ja jej pokażę!Ja: Komu?Hili: Kulce, ona tu się skrada.
From Bruce. They’ve been trying to reach you!
I’ll slip in a Gary Larson cartoon here, though I try to use them sparsely. But they’re all over the Internet now, and perhaps he doesn’t mind:
A loon says the liberal media wants to kill her:
Marjorie Taylor Greene says "January 6 was just a riot at the Capitol" and media outlets "would do anything to cause someone like me to be killed." pic.twitter.com/YSUqRAnEy4
— David Edwards (@DavidEdwards) October 26, 2021
From Masih, more trouble in Iran. These hackers are risking their lives.
Going viral in Iran.
A group of hackers have hacked into billboards and gas stations in the country as the second anniversary of #BloodyNovember approaches. The regime had killed more than 1500 protesters in Nov 2019.
This hacked billboard says "Khamenei, where's our gas"? pic.twitter.com/Lnznlv9qPp
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 26, 2021
From Simon: A very good reason to get your jabs (Simon works on prostate cancer).
Urologists United For Vaccination Education #SaveTheFutureBoners — Home https://t.co/6EXQDHCR8w @UU4VE @AshleyGWinter @drrachelrubin @ranjithramamd @DrMohitKhera @SexMedLA @RenaMalikMD @alextatem @justindubinmd
— Amy Pearlman, MD (@AmyPearlman1) October 26, 2021
From Ken. This is so unbelievable that I had to check, but it seems to be true.
If you’re wondering why this ad never mentions what the scary book was that she wanted to ban or what course it was used in, well, it was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved and the class was senior-year AP English. https://t.co/UVRH7my7Fb
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) October 25, 2021
Tweets from Matthew, the first linking to a cool article about aposematic (warning) sounds produced by toxic moths to avoid bat predators. The bat predator, of course, has to kill at least one moth with a new mutant sound to learn that it’s associated with toxicity, but then will subsequently avoid moths making that sound. This might have evolved by kin selection: the relatives of the eaten moth, who are toxic and may share genes making the warning sound, could be nearby and their genes benefit from predator learning. (As you might expect, natural selection has acted on some edible moths to make them produce the warning sounds; the latter are Batesian mimics. From the article:
Here, the researchers show that most moths use ultrasound to communicate with their bat predators, advertising their toxicity. The researchers found that the majority of the moths that produce ultrasound were indeed toxic, suggesting that ultrasound production has evolved as a means of aposematism: that is, the moths are signally distastefulness to the bats, warning them not to eat them. Several other moths have also converged on this acoustic signal, yet are not toxic, indicating that these moths are faking to the bats that they are toxic, despite being perfectly edible, in an evolutionary process known as Batesian mimicry.
Screaming your toxicity: ultrasound production in moths as a warning to bats massively more prevalent than previously thought By @drtomneil @BaheerathanM https://t.co/UKFyvJc2pS pic.twitter.com/oZt6c1gPJd
— preLights (@preLights) October 27, 2021
Matthew and I are softies:
Tiny tabby kitten befriends the wild deer who visit her yard — and ends up snuggling with them 💗 pic.twitter.com/0ZaLgnVHgW
— The Dodo (@dodo) October 27, 2021
Haven’t I maintained that foxes are Honorary Cats®?
For being a Canid, Fox are an awful lot like Cats. They have vertical slanted pupils, They walk like Cats, grey fox can retract their claws and climb trees ;-). Fox also have sensory whiskers, stalk and pounce like a Cat. pic.twitter.com/tGxjM2ncz7
— AltYellowstoneNatPar (@AltYelloNatPark) October 27, 2021
Matthew said it took him a while to get the joke, but I got it instantly. That is, unless the bottom sentence is also part of the joke:
Sorry/you’re welcome. pic.twitter.com/qwailyNJha
— Sarah Bernstein, MD, MHA, FAAP (@sbernsteinmd) October 26, 2021