As the Portuguese say, “Bom dia em um dia de corcunda”, for it’s Wednesday November 10, 2021: National Vanilla Cupcake Day, celebrating the blandest cake I can think of.
News of the Day:
*The New York Times reports that 13 of Trump’s former senior staff, including Jared Kushner (his son-in-law) and a former chief of staff stand accused of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits all government employees save the President and Vice President from engaging in partisan political activities. The violations at issue are more serious than minor transgressions that often occur, for the Trumpish ones involve accusations that there was collusion to engage in political activities to contest the election during the final days of the administration, in the knowledge that the government wouldn’t have time to investigate their activities.
Henry Kerner, who heads the Office of Special Counsel, made the assertion in a withering report that followed a nearly yearlong investigation into “myriad” violations of the law, known as the Hatch Act.
“Senior Trump administration officials chose to use their official authority not for the legitimate functions of the government, but to promote the re-election of President Trump in violation of the law,” the report concluded.
Violations of the Hatch Act are not uncommon for any presidential administration. In October, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, apologized after an outside group accused her of violating the law by commenting in the White House press room on the pending governor’s race in Virginia.
But the Kerner report describes something more rare: a concerted, willful effort to violate the law by the most senior officials in the White House. The Washington Post disclosed the report’s release earlier on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, although these people committed illegal acts, they won’t be charges because it was up to President Trump to discipline them. What a world!
*Speaking of Trump, yesterday’s Washington Post had this clickbait headline, and of course I bit (click on screenshot):
This was an eighth-grade teacher (her students about 14 years old) in a California middle school. The teacher’s words were recorded. Get a load of what she “taught”:
The Anacapa Middle School teacher on Oct. 18 delivered several conservative talking points to her students, including on vaccines.
“If you have a baby in the hospital, they don’t want to give it back if you’re not vaccinated. This is a complete power control threat,” the teacher said in the recording, echoing debunked anti-vaccine talking points that went viral. A New York hospital announced in September that it would stop delivering babies because several employees quit instead of getting vaccinated, which led people to falsely claim online that unvaccinated parents wouldn’t be permitted to bring home their newborns, USA Today reports.
More broadly, the history teacher warned of general government overreach.
“People need to wake up and see the government has way too much power right now,” she told her students.
Now that is a good reason for students to have phones that can record classes.
*The NYT also has an article on the “new un-woke university”, the University of Austin, whose advisory board comprises many prominent people. Its founding was announced on Bari Weiss’s Substack site in a piece by Pano Kanelos, the former President of St. John’s College: “We can’t wait till universities to fix themselves. So we’re starting a new one.” Here’s the tweet announcing it:
A new university dedicated to the pursuit of truth. pic.twitter.com/8mQRFPK53B
— The University of Austin (UATX) (@uaustinorg) November 8, 2021
A fair number of readers told me about this and probably expected me to weigh in. But I can’t, not at any length, as I don’t have much of an opinion. The concept behind it is good: absolute freedom of speech and no university indoctrination, with discussion of many controversial ideas. But whether it will materialize I have no idea, for I doubt that many of the busy founders will teach courses there (Steve Pinker, an advisor, has already said he wouldn’t), classes will have to be online if they’re having all the über-professors that they tout, the college doesn’t yet grant degrees, and it hasn’t been accredited. I’ll just wait and see how it shakes out.
*If you’re looking for something to read, the Wall Street Journal has a list of 12 books that it reviewed highly in October. They include McWhorter’s new book (this is the WSJ, after all), a new biography of E. O. WIlson (Scientist) by Richard Rhodes, a biography of B. B. King, another of Robert E. Lee, and The Baseball 100, a subjective ranking of the game’s greatest players by Joe Posnanski. (My late friend Kenny always insisted that Babe Ruth was the greatest player of all time, but Posnanski’s rating puts Willie Mays at the top.)
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 756,951, an increase of 1,251 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,082,839, an increase of about 8,900 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on November 10 includes:
- 1775 – The United States Marine Corps is founded at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia by Samuel Nicholas. [see above]
- 1793 – A Goddess of Reason is proclaimed by the French Convention at the suggestion of Pierre Gaspard Chaumette.
- 1871 – Henry Morton Stanley locates missing explorer and missionary, Dr David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, famously greeting him with the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.
But as Wikipedia notes, this greeting may well have been a post facto fabrication.
A reconstruction of the famous meeting:
- 1951 – With the rollout of the North American Numbering Plan, direct-dial coast-to-coast telephone service begins in the United States.
- 1958 – The Hope Diamond is donated to the Smithsonian Institution by New York diamond merchant Harry Winston.
This rare blue diamond, found in India, is 45.52 carats, and you can see it in the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D. C. Here it is, surrounded by mundane colorless diamonds:
- 1975 – The 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.
Here’s the ship in 1971, four years before its sinking. As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most.
Memorialized in a Gordon Lightfoot song:
- 1983 – Bill Gates introduces Windows 1.0.
- 1989 – Germans begin to tear down the Berlin Wall.
The Wall begins to fall.
Notables born on this day include:
Luther was a rabid anti-Semite, as the quote from Wikipedia below shows. Because of this, he, and the entire religion he founded, should be canceled.
Tovia Singer, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, remarking about Luther’s attitude toward Jews, put it thusly: “Among all the Church Fathers and Reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no tongue that uttered more vulgar curses against the Children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation.”
- 1759 – Friedrich Schiller, German poet, playwright, and historian (d. 1805)
- 1871 – Winston Churchill, American author and painter (d. 1947)
Ooops; I didn’t read ‘American author and painter’ so I assumed that this was THE Winston Churchill, who did paint as PM. Anyway, here’s a work by the REAL Churchill: the British one, and as you can see, he wasn’t a bad painter. He was a good bricklayer, too.
- 1949 – Ann Reinking, American actress, dancer, and choreographer (d. 2020)
Reinking, a collaborator with Bob Fosse, choreographed the musical “Chicago” and played Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival. Here she is singing and dancing “Me and My Baby”.
Those who said their last farewells on November 10 include:
- 1891 – Arthur Rimbaud, French poet and educator (b. 1854)
- 1938 – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkish field marshal and statesman, 1st President of Turkey (b. 1881)
What a Turk! He’s one of my heroes, for he secularized and modernized Turkey. Here’s the great reformer “introducing the new Turkish alphabet (the old one was written in Arabic script) to the people of Kayseri on 20 September 1928.” Sadly,Erdoğan is undoing a lot of the secularization.
- 1982 – Leonid Brezhnev, Ukrainian-Russian general and politician, 4th Head of State of the Soviet Union (b. 1906)
- 2001 – Ken Kesey, American novelist, essayist, and poet (b. 1935)
Kesey is the “missing link” between the beats and the hippies. Here he is discussing his life and his book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Charlie Rose in 1992.
- 2007 – Norman Mailer, American novelist and essayist (b. 1923)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili discusses her main interest:
A: What are you thinking about?Hili: I’m wondering what you are going to take out of the refrigerator?
Ja: Nad czym myślisz?Hili: Zastanawiam się, co wyjmiesz z lodówki.
Szaron and Kulka having a rest on the windowsill (note Szaron’s blanket):
From Facebook, and ’tis true:
This has me stymied: Yesterday my website got a lovely and unexpected endorsement from Richard Dawkins. Seeing that, Hemant Mehta made a rude and misleading comment. Why I’m surprised is that I thought I was friends with Hemant, have never done anything (that I know of) to offend him, and I thought he was the FRIENDLY Atheist! I won’t reply on Twitter as I don’t get into Twitter fights, but I have to say that I found this hurtful.
Coyne’s website just reposts everything written on anti-“woke” Substacks. https://t.co/2r3u6tfZxz
— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) November 9, 2021
From God (he forgot to mention the anteater):
I was high when I created the platypus.
— God (@god) September 21, 2021
From Ricky Gervais. I hate to inject a note of negativity into this love-fest, but Ricky apparently hasn’t read Wilson’s frequent and erroneous attacks on kin selection. In every other respect Ed is a brilliant scientist and writer, but he’s gone off the scientific rails a bit in the last decade.
He does have a nice face.
As twitter descends more and more into a nasty cesspool of negativity, vitriol, and tribalism, I think we should try to say one nice thing per day about someone. I'll start. I love Edward O. Wilson. He is a brilliant scientist and has a nice face. pic.twitter.com/xFIAB4e1mS
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 9, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
9 November 1935 | A Dutch Jewish boy, Johnny van Voolen, was born in Haarlem.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 9, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Here is paradise on Earth!
Lap full of duckings. Trying to keep them warm while they dry. pic.twitter.com/kiLHUBGC6M
— diva ex machina (@diva_ex_machina) November 9, 2021
What did the common ancestor look like, though?
All organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor. pic.twitter.com/5O4BRJbZFO
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) November 9, 2021
I could answer this guy’s question. (By the way, that wouldn’t be me. . . )
Made a meme for the taxonomists😉 pic.twitter.com/BWGDgF3IkV
— Jente Ottenburghs | Avian Hybrids (@Jente_O) September 29, 2021
All is well in Dodo World:
— The Dodo (@dodo) September 23, 2021
This is a swimming and leaping PIG! I’m not sure about the ethics of this. . . .
Look at the amount of air Swifty gets with that first leap. Unreal pic.twitter.com/2h3ozPFMTh
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) September 16, 2021