Welcome to December 15, 2021. It is a Hump Day, or as the Albanians would say, një ditë me gunga. It’s National Gingerbread Latte Day, but before shooting me lest I drink one, do realize that this verifies Coyne’s Fourth Dictum: “All beverages evolve into confections over time.” The Fifth Dictum is that “All granola bars evolve into candy bars over time.”
It’s also National Cupcake Day, National Lemon Cupcake Day, International Tea Day, Bill of Rights Day (it was on December 15, 1791, that Virginia, by ratifying the Bill of Rights, made them part of the Constitution), National Wear Your Pearls Day, and Cat Herder’s Day. Here is my favorite commercial of all time, and it’s about Cat Herders:
Finally, it’s Zamenhof Day , the birthday of the creator of Esperanto, L. L. Zamenhof. I tried to teach it to myself as a teenager (it’s much like Spanish) but gave up when I realized that nobody actually uses what was designed to be a universal language. Google will translate English into Esperanto for you. For example, my sentence “This afternoon I will feed the ducks” is, in Esperanto, “Hodiaŭ posttagmeze mi manĝigos la anasojn.”
There are only ten shopping day left until Coynezaa.
News of the Day:
A settlement has been reached in the case of convicted child molester Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of female gymnasts during the 18 years when he was team doctor of the United States women’s national gymnastics team. Nassar is now serving life without parole, and on Monday, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee agreed to pay $380 million to over 500 of his victims. As the NYT reports:
The settlement, announced on Monday during U.S.A. Gymnastics’ bankruptcy proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is among the largest ever for a sexual abuse case. The funds would seek to compensate more than 500 abuse victims, including Olympic gold medalists like Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. A number of those victims were abused by their coaches or others in the sport.
This is on top of $500 million paid by Michigan State University to the survivors of Nassar’s abuse (he worked there as while while treating people), “the largest settlement reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university.” Money won’t efface the trauma of which some of these women have spoken eloquently, but perhaps it will act as a deterrent.
Nassar could have been stopped earlier. Among others who could have halted it was the FBI. As the Wikipedia article on Nassar reports:
Four elite American gymnasts, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman, testified before the U.S. Senate on September 15, 2021, regarding the mishandling by FBI agents of abuse allegations brought against Nassar and how the agents made false statements regarding their reports and misinformation about the botched investigation. Maroney testified that she was met with silence by an FBI agent after telling the agent of Nassar’s “… molestations in extreme detail.” She further stated that the FBI falsified her statement, said the agents involved should be indicted, and criticized Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for not appearing at the hearing.
*Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff, has defied a subpoena to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. By today the committee, which is bipartisan, may vote to hold him in criminal contempt.
Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000; further action rests with the Justice Department.
It’s up to the Attorney General to decide whether to bring charges against Meadows, but the refusal of several people to testify suggests that something is rotten in Mar-A-Lago.
UPDATE: Last night the House voted to refer Meadows’s case to the Justice Department, recommending criminal contempt charges. (I write most of the Hili stuff the evening before it goes up.)
The vote was 222-208. Two Republicans who sit on the select committee, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted with Democrats in favor of the referral.
*The “producer-price” index—the price that wholesalers charge retailers or regular customers—jumped 9.6% in the last year, the highest yearly increase on record. I noticed that when I went to buy milk today, it was about $4.50 per gallon, over a dollar more than I’ve been paying (I need my lattes!). Gas is nearly $4 per gallon here, and my groceries are costing more. I can afford this level of inflation, but many can’t, and if it doesn’t go down, Biden will be in deeper doo-doo. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
The higher-than-expected producer-price numbers suggest that consumer inflation, which hit a nearly four-decade high of 6.8% last month, will stay elevated into 2022 as price pressures persist.
The index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, rose 0.8% from October, an acceleration from the 0.6% gain in each of the previous three months. Higher prices for energy, wholesale food, and transportation and warehousing contributed to the pickup in inflation.
“This is a testament to the fact that inflation continues to broaden out,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont.
*For the first time, a human spacecraft has penetrated the Sun’s corona. The AP reports:
A NASA spacecraft has officially “touched” the sun, plunging through the unexplored solar atmosphere known as the corona.
Scientists announced the news Tuesday during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
The Parker Solar Probe actually flew through the corona in April during the spacecraft’s eighth close approach to the sun. Scientists said it took a few months to get the data back and then several more months to confirm.
“Fascinatingly exciting,” said project scientist Nour Raouafi of Johns Hopkins University.
Now the corona’s farthest point is still 8 milliion miles from the Sun’s center, but that’s close enough to get data we don’t have:
The corona appeared dustier than expected, according to Raouafi. Future coronal excursions will help scientist better understand the origin of the solar wind, he said, and how it is heated and accelerated out into space. Because the sun lacks a solid surface, the corona is where the action is; exploring this magnetically intense region up close can help scientists better understand solar outbursts that can interfere with life here on Earth.
The probe will keep dipping deeper and deeper into the corona for several years until, in 2025, it plunges to a fiery extinction. Here’s “an artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins APL/NASA via AP).”
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 798,945 an increase of 1,285 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,440,016, an increase of about 8,700 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 15 includes:
This is an original copy of the proposed 12 amendments, though only ten of them were ratified and added to the Constitution:
- 1869 – The short-lived Republic of Ezo is proclaimed in the Ezo area of Japan. It is the first attempt to establish a democracy in Japan.
Ezo (on the island now called Hokkaido) lasted only six months. Here’s a photo of some of its military:
- 1890 – Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is killed on Standing Rock Indian Reservation, leading to the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Here he is, and he looks tough!
Around 300 Lakota men, women, and children were killed in the Wounded Knee massacre. Here’s a photo of soldiers standing around a mass grave of the victims, who were frozen (it was cold). The U.S. soldiers won because they had machine guns, and the Lakota had largely been disarmed.
- 1893 – Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World” a.k.a. the “New World Symphony”) by Antonín Dvořák premieres in a public afternoon rehearsal at Carnegie Hall in New York City, followed by a concert premiere on the evening of December 16.
- 1903 – Italian American food cart vendor Italo Marchiony receives a U.S. patent for inventing a machine that makes ice cream cones.
There is in fact substantial dispute about who invented the cone.
- 1939 – Gone with the Wind (highest inflation adjusted grossing film) receives its premiere at Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
Scarlett meets Rhett:
- 1941 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: German troops murder over 15,000 Jews at Drobytsky Yar, a ravine southeast of the city of Kharkiv.
I am reading a book, Bloodlands, about the Soviet and German war crimes during WWII, which details many such killings as well as the fluctuating relationship between the two countries. I believe a reader recommended this book, and I too recommend it.
Wikipedia notes this:
Notably on 15 December 1941, when the temperature was −15 °C (5 °F), around 15,000 Jews were shot. Children were thrown into pits alive, to save bullets, in the expectation that they would quickly freeze to death.
- 1961 – Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death after being found guilty by an Israeli court of 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.
Eichmann in the dock. He was kidnapped from Buenos Aires by the Mossad in 1960 and taken to Israel for his trial. He was hanged.
Here’s the fake passport with which Eichmann entered Argentina (as “Ricardo Klement”) in 1950:
- 1970 – Soviet spacecraft Venera 7 successfully lands on Venus. It is the first successful soft landing on another planet.
- 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association votes 13–0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- 1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that the United States will recognize the People’s Republic of China and sever diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- 1981 – A suicide car bombing targeting the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, levels the embassy and kills 61 people, including Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon. The attack is considered the first modern suicide bombing.
- 2001 – The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.
Here it is. Now tell me how many degrees from the vertical it’s tilted (answer at bottom):
Notables born on this day include:
- AD 37 – Nero, Roman emperor (d. 68)
- 1610 – David Teniers the Younger, Flemish painter (d. 1690)
Teniers the younger painted this famous work, “Katzenkonzert” (“Cat Concert”). Isn’t it great? There is a monkey on the horn and an owl turns the pages.
- 1832 – Gustave Eiffel, French architect and engineer, co-designed the Eiffel Tower (d. 1923)
- 1852 – Henri Becquerel, French physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1908)
- 1859 – L. L. Zamenhof, Polish linguist and ophthalmologist, created Esperanto (d. 1917)
Here’s Zamenhof speaking Esperanto at an International Esperanto Conference.
- 1892 – J. Paul Getty, American-English businessman and art collector, founded Getty Oil (d. 1976)
- 1910 – John Hammond, American record producer and critic (d. 1987)
- 1911 – Stan Kenton, American pianist and composer (d. 1979)
- 1916 – Maurice Wilkins, New Zealand-English physicist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2004)
Here’s Wilkins, who, thinks Dr. Cobb, would have been co-winner of the Chemistry Prize with Rosalind Franklin had she lived:
- 1923 – Freeman Dyson, English-American physicist and mathematician (d. 2020)
Those who popped their clogs on December 15 include:
- 1675 – Johannes Vermeer, Dutch painter and educator (b. 1632) [He did have clogs!]
By universal acclamation, Vermeer was of the greatest painters of all time, but only 36 of his estimated 60 paintings survive. This one, which I’ve seen, is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Vermeer was only 43 when he died, and had the laws of physics not determined that, we’d have a lot more wonderful paintings:
- 1943 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1904)
Waller mugged a lot, but he was a fantastic jazz pianist. Here’s his most famous song, “Ain’t Misbehaving” from the movie “Stormy Weather.” Waller helped write the tune:
- 1944 – Glenn Miller, American bandleader and composer (b. 1904)
- 1950 – Vallabhbhai Patel, Indian lawyer and politician, 1st Deputy Prime Minister of India (b. 1875)
People often forget Patel (given the honorific “Sardar”) and his big role in Indian Independence. Here’s a photo:
- 1958 – Wolfgang Pauli, Austrian-Swiss physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1900)
- 1966 – Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (b. 1901)
- 2009 – Oral Roberts, American evangelist, founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (b. 1918)
- 2011 – Christopher Hitchens, English-American essayist, literary critic, and journalist (b. 1949)
It’s the tenth anniversary of Hitchens’s death. Let’s have a moment of silence for the great man.
Here’s what I consider the best bit of oratory by Hitchens, given by Hitchens at the University of Toronto on November 15, 2006. It is of course about freedom of speech.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, there’s a complicated dialogue. Malgorzata explains:
Andrzej is in an aggressively anti-religious mood and he presents to HIli an imagined dialogue between Jesus and one of the thieves on the cross. Hili thinks that he is too aggressive and that he had overdone it. [Look at Hili’s expression!]
A: “Humanity doesn’t realise how I suffer”, said Jesus to the one who was hanging on his right.“My Lord, with one word you could end my agony”, wheezed out the thief.“No way, man”, answered Jesus.Hili: Oh, Jesus, now you’ve overdone it.
Ja: Ludzkość nie zdaje sobie sprawy z tego jak ja cierpię – powiedział Jezus do tego, który wisiał po jego prawicy.– Panie, jednym słowem mógłbyś skrócić moją mękę – wycharczał łotr.– No way, man – odpowiedział Jezus.Hili: O Jezu, teraz ty przesadziłeś.
A cat meme from Bruce:
From the Cute Duck FB site. Sound up.
Masih once again highlights the brave women of Iran, a country that regularly violates human rights but with whom we’re negotiating, oblivious to the government’s perfidy:
This is Qom, one of the most conservative cities of Iran but watch how an ordinary woman takes a stand against a pro hijab man who wants to arrest her for not covering her hair. This is the mindset that Iranian women have to fight every day.#MyCameraIsMyWeapon pic.twitter.com/Np0RL7L1h9
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 14, 2021
WordPress has always acted as an arm of the Indian and Pakistani governments, enforcing their censorship laws and deleting my posts if they’re offensive. Now Twitter is doing it, too! This is the chilling of speech.
Seriously? This is what the police in Mumbai are focusing on? pic.twitter.com/fn8g5TLvnm
— God (@god) December 14, 2021
From Simon. This movie was originally retweeted by someone else with the heading “Endless forms most beautiful” (that’s from the last line of Darwin’s The Origin). Well, that tweet is gone, but think of those words when you see the original video.
A seagull straight-up eating a rat timeline cleanser pic.twitter.com/sLTB2WIVzv
— SPENCE, TODD (@Todd_Spence) December 14, 2021
From Ginger K. This is an ineffably adorable video:
When you see your best friend.. 😊 pic.twitter.com/cbghiIeJCi
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden_) December 9, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lasted about three months.
14 December 1905 | Jewish man Daniel Claes was born in Rēzekne (today Latvia). In 1913 he emigrated to Norway.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 14, 2021
Tweets from Professor Cobb, who, knowing I just sent in my spit to 23 And Me, sent me this saying, “You won’t find anything alarming out I guess, but it isn’t neutral.” The comic linked to the tweet tells the tale:
I never thought I would submit my DNA to 23andMe. That changed one day in 2017.
— Kjerstin Johnson (@kajerstin) December 13, 2021
With this you can truly say “endless forms most beautiful”:
The beauty of caterpillar variability. Source: The Caterpillar Lab pic.twitter.com/0HtGCRm3yl
— BC Europe (@europebutterfly) December 13, 2021
I’m just passing this along and am not giving it a cachet of truth, but if it IS true, well, it’s your tax money at work!
In 1992, Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates, later Secretary of Defense, ordered the CIA to search Mt. Ararat photos for Noah's Ark. The fruitless search continued after he left office, until termination by the acting DCI in 1993. https://t.co/ptIlrc1ElQ
— Jason Colavito (@JasonColavito) December 13, 2021
Answer to Pisa question: The tilt is only 3.97 degrees from the vertical. You thought it was more, didn’t you?