Good morning on the cruelest day: Tuesday, November 16, 2021: National Fast Food Day.
Party with your bear! (More bears to come in the next post.)
News of the Day:
*Yesterday Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which must have passed the Senate quickly. I guess the Republicans were bipartian enough not oppose it unanimously, because they could have used the filibuster. Now I’ve often read that the filibuster can actually be bypassed by using the ‘”reconciliation” process, but I don’t know if that’s kosher—nor do I even know how it works. Someone please explain below. At any rate, the NYT touts this as not only helping the country, which it does, but also puts us more even with China, which is something I’m not hugely worried about. Here’s what the bill will do:
$73 billion for the electricity grid.
Upgrades to the country’s power systems that, among other things, will help the grid carry renewable energy.
$66 billion for rail.
A significant investment in Amtrak, which has a major maintenance backlog, as well as funding for new rail lines and upgrades to existing ones.
$65 billion for broadband.
Funding to provide high-speed internet access to hard-to-reach populations, including Native American communities.
$47 billion for climate resiliency.
New funding aimed at combating wildfires and preparing coastal regions for more frequent hurricanes and flooding.
$21 billion for environmental projects.
Increased funds for cleaning up abandoned mines, contaminated waterways and other polluted sites overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
$15 billion for removing lead service lines.
Modernizing water systems to address contaminated drinking water that has affected multiple large population centers.
$7.5 billion for electric vehicles.
Increasing the availability of charging stations across the country, which is part of Mr. Biden’s pledge to build 500,000 stations nationwide.
$2 billion for underserved rural areas.
A grant program aimed at expanding transportation projects in rural areas.
Now it’s time for the Dems have to worry about the Build Back Better bill, which wlll face considerably more opposition in both chambers of Congress. Representative are awaiting cost estimates from the nonpartison Congressional Budget Office, but things look a bit grim there:
The White House has begun bracing lawmakers for a disappointing estimate from the budget office, which is likely to find that the cost of the overall package will not be fully paid for with new tax revenue over the coming decade. Senior administration officials are urging lawmakers to disregard the budget office assessment, saying it is being overly conservative in its calculations, failing to properly credit the return on investment of additional I.R.S. resources and overlooking the deterrent effects that a more aggressive tax collection agency would have on tax cheats.
Catch more tax cheats? That’s not gonna do squat for raising the dosh, nor will raising taxes on billionaires. My own prediction is that most of us will have to ante up to pay for the bill. I don’t mind at all, so long as the poor don’t have to shoulder the burden.
*The NYT analyzes the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on death-penalty cases in an article depressingly called, “Supreme Court shows growing hostility to death row inmates.” An egregious example of this hostility is that the Court recently rejected an appeal in a case that even the prosecution thought deserved a new hearing:
Still, the case the court turned down two weeks ago was exceptional, providing a telling glimpse of the state of capital punishment in the United States. The court rejected the inmate’s petition even though the prosecution agreed that his case deserved a fresh look.
In an 11-page dissent, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan, said the majority had crossed a new bridge.
“To my knowledge, the court has never before denied” such relief “in a capital case where both parties have requested it, let alone where a new development has cast the decision below into such doubt,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.
If you think that Biden (who said he opposes the death penalty) can overrule the Supreme Court, the answer is “not usually”. BIden can pardon or commute the sentences of prisoners only if they were convicted of federal crimes, and the majority of those executed violated state laws and can be pardoned only by the governor or a parole board. I can’t tell if the condemned man described above was eligible for federal pardon, but I doubt it.
*Over at The Weekly Sift, Doug Muder asks the question “Does America Need an Anti-Cancel-Culture University?” He is of course referring to the newly created University of Austin, a venue and refuge for the anti-woke. So far enthusiastic endorsements for it have been few, even from liberals and free-speech advocates, and I too am dubious. So is Muder. One quote:
Which makes me wonder: Will Austin U really have more “free inquiry and discourse”, or will it just be a safe space for those who like to say things that are racist, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise offensive to people who didn’t previously complain because they didn’t previously have a voice? Kanelos’ essay may criticize institutions that “prioritize emotional comfort over the often-uncomfortable pursuit of truth”, but looking at his list of participants, I have to ask if the University of Austin will just prioritize the emotional comfort of a different set of people. (h/t Karl)
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 763,178, an increase of 1,129 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,124,727, an increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s total.
The first link above shows that Covid cases are no longer decreasing, but in fact have risen a bit in the U.S. We may have yet another “surge” in the winter as people congregate indoors. No matter what you think, it’s hard to quash Covid in the U.S., for we have too many people who won’t get vaccinated and love to congregate without masks.The data on new cases since February of 2020:
Stuff that happened on November 16 includes:
- 1532 – Francisco Pizarro and his men capture Inca Emperor Atahualpa at the Battle of Cajamarca.
- 1849 – A Russian court sentences writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky to death for anti-government activities linked to a radical intellectual group; his sentence is later commuted to hard labor.
Here’s Dostoevsky’s desk, where great literature was spawned. I took this in his apartment (now a museum, but most of the place is as it was in his time) in July 2011. He would often sleep during the night on the couch to the left:
- 1855 – David Livingstone becomes the first European to see the Victoria Falls in what is now Zambia–Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls (click to enlarge). The caption is from Wikipedia:
- 1904 – English engineer John Ambrose Fleming receives a patent for the thermionic valve (vacuum tube).
- 1933 – The United States and the Soviet Union establish formal diplomatic relations.
- 1938 – LSD is first synthesized by Albert Hofmann from ergotamine at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel.
Here’s Hofmann in 1993, “at the 50th Anniversary of LSD Conference sponsored by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and the Swiss Psycholitic Association of Analysts.” I saw him lecture at Harvard on his discovery of LSD, and he was the farthest thing from an acidhead you could imagine: laconic, formal, and strait-laced. He even wore a white lab coat while lecturing. Hoffman also isolated and synthesized psylocibin:
- 1940 – World War II: In response to the leveling of Coventry by the German Luftwaffe two days before, the Royal Air Force bombs Hamburg.
Here are the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, built in the 14th and 15th century, after the bombing:
And the ruins of Hamburg:
- 1940 – The Holocaust: In occupied Poland, the Nazis close off the Warsaw Ghetto from the outside world.
A tweet showing how the Jews were sealed off:
16 November 1940 | The Germans closed and isolated the Warsaw Ghetto from the rest of the city. It became the largest ghetto in occupied Europe. Over 450,000 Jews were crowded in the area of 307 hectares. https://t.co/9Rhs8wyz42 pic.twitter.com/EgNJdnN6ON
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 16, 2021
A child dying on the sidewalk in the ghetto. About 100,000 inhabitants died of starvation of disease before the deportations even began.
And a group of captured Jews being marched to the holding pens, later to get on the cattle cars and travel to the camps:
- 1988 – In the first open election in more than a decade, voters in Pakistan elect populist candidate Benazir Bhutto to be Prime Minister of Pakistan.
She was the first woman elected to head the government of a Muslim state. I was much smitten with her and was sad when she was assassinated. Here she is at Harvard (her nickname, given by her family was “pinkie”, as she was a pink baby) with her friend Peter Galbraith in the 1970s, and in a photo by Yousuf Karsh.
- 1990 – Pop group Milli Vanilli are stripped of their Grammy Award because the duo did not sing at all on the Girl You Know It’s True album. Session musicians had provided all the vocals.
Here’s their song “Girl you know it’s true” on video. The voices are not theirs:
Here’s a reconstruction of how the treasure was arranged when it was found in an oak box and fiber bags.
And the famous “Empress Pepper Pot,” part of the hoard:
- 2005 – Following a 31 year wait, Australia defeats Uruguay in a penalty shootout to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Here’s that shootout. Australia qualified, but Italy won the cup:
Notables born on this day include:
- 42 BC – Tiberius, Roman emperor (d. 37 AD)
- 1895 – Paul Hindemith, German violinist, composer, and conductor (d. 1963)
- 1896 – Oswald Mosley, English fascist leader and politician (d. 1980)
Mosley founded and was the head of the British Union of Fascists, and was interned by the British for a while during WWII. Here he is getting. . . well, a salute:
- 1922 – José Saramago, Portuguese novelist (d. 2010)
They don’t mention here that Saramago won the Nobel Prize for literature (1998).
Those who went six feet under on November 16 were few, and include:
- 1960 – Clark Gable, American actor and singer (b. 1901)
Gable’s great love was actress Carole Lombard, whom he married in 1939. In 1943 she died in a plane crash, devastating him. Here are the pair.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina greets Hili on the veranda and then snaps her picture:
Paulina: Here you are!Hili: And you are here. We are here together.(Photo: Paulina R.)
Paulina: Tu jesteś!Hili: Ty też tu jesteś. Razem tu jesteśmy.(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
From Facebook: How religions get started.
From Doc Bill, staff of Kink the Cat:
There’s a movie about Masih Alinejad’s campaign against the oppression of women in Iran. Here’s her publicity for it in a tweet:
Translation: “A film about my life and the campaigns I launched against the compulsory hijab, and my reports on Aban and Dadkhah’s mothers, will be screened at the New York Film Festival on November 16, the anniversary of Aban. The audience of the documentary “Be My Voice” is the politicians and media of the world to know the face of ISIS.”
Here are some scenes from the movie:
فیلمی از زندگیام و کمپینهایی که علیه حجاب اجباری راه انداختم و گزارشهایم از آبان و مادران دادخواه در سالگرد آبان، ۱۶نوامبر در فستیوال فیلم نیویورک اکران میشود. مخاطب مستند «صدای من باش» سیاستمداران و رسانههای دنیا هستند برای شناخت چهره داعشی ج. اسلامیpic.twitter.com/qsFBbEIwyd
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 7, 2021
From Barry: Yesterday in Kansas, now in Anchorage. The is the height of stupidity, comparing yourself to a Holocaust victim because you don’t want the jab. What about your kids who are required to get jabs in school? (I count ten different vaccinations required for kids to attend public school in the state.) Do they wear yellow stars, too?
In Anchorage, anti-maskers showed up to municipal meetings wearing yellow stars, portraying themselves as having equal footing with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. pic.twitter.com/HtJivWrpDN
— Chad Loder (they/them) (@chadloder) November 12, 2021
From Simon. I’m sure this is a setup, but also clever:
Pay young scientists! pic.twitter.com/Hj6S2E00Nn
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) November 15, 2021
From Ginger K., a lovely triple eclipse:
Triple lunar eclipse of Jupiter (Io, Callisto, and Europa) – only happens once every few years. pic.twitter.com/oXU8ItXy5p
— Andrew Rader (@marsrader) November 14, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a reminder that it wasn’t just Jews killed in the camp. Others who died include gays, Romani, political prisoners, criminals, Soviet prisoners of war, and others. Here’s a Catholic priest beaten to death.
A Polish man, Józef Gociek.
He was a Catholic priest (Augustinian, OSA) from Wędrynia. He perished in the German Nazi #Auschwitz camp on 16 November 1941 after receiving 125 blows with a stick.
He was 38 years old. pic.twitter.com/fJkRQKoHfM
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 16, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This first one’s a stunner:
In china's Zhongnan Mountains, every fall, a tree more than 1,400 years old turns its green leaves into bright yellow and covers the earth to look like gold.#archaeohistories pic.twitter.com/3ogq0XiuuH
— Archaeo – Histories (@archeohistories) November 14, 2021
A wonderful cat-based klezmer song. It should be called “Nom Nom” (or “Fress Fress”:
The internet is magic sometimes. pic.twitter.com/qeVdNIbo92
— Debbie Mia (@TheDebbieMia) November 14, 2021
This 4-month old Russian blue mix cat is Midas and she was born with an extra pair of ears on her head, she looks awesome! pic.twitter.com/zHV91d3W7B
— Rob N Roll (@thegallowboob) November 13, 2021