Welcome to the Sabbath for humans and d*gs: Sunday, December 19, 2021, with 6 shopping days until Coynezaa. It’s National Oatmeal Muffin Day. But if you want oatmeal, eat it as cereal—there’s no need to pollute a good muffin with grains. As Julia Child might have said: “Muffins are not medicine.”
Emo (from Latin words “to buy, purchase“, pronounced eeee-moe) is a type of subculture (rather distinctly from the 21st Century) loosely rooted around punk rock with its own distinct style of music, fashion, argot and other trappings in a desperate, though ultimately hopeless attempt to pronounce their uniqueness. As a rule of thumb, a person described as “emo” (falling under certain behavior mannerisms and attire correlating with the subculture) will often be from a comfortable, middle-class background with liberal parents. All of this is irrelevant to an emo who will consider themselves misunderstood and repressed regardless of reality. Any urologist would say that these very emotional people need to be encouraged by the rest of society to help them jump off a bridge and stop taking up our public benches.
You can see more images of Emos here; I’ll show two. (Was anybody here an Emo?)
News of the Day:
*The New York Times’s big headline story is a two-part exposé derived from examination of confidential Pentagon documents. And the bottom line is that, since 2014, bungled American bombings, missile attacks, and drone strikes in the Middle East created thousands of civilian casualties, including small children:
The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.
The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.
. . . To understand how this happened, The Times did what military officials admit they have not done: analyzed the casualty assessments in aggregate to discern patterns of failed intelligence, decision-making and execution. It also visited more than 100 casualty sites and interviewed scores of surviving residents and current and former American officials. In the coming days, the second part of this series will trace those journeys through the war zones of Iraq and Syria.
Part 2 will presumably be published soon, and the investigation doesn’t make the vaunted American military look good.
*Is this good news? A report at the National Institutes of Health site gives an unexpected result: taking Viagra appears to ward off Alzheimer’s disease, and in a big way. They used a clever gene-mapping approach, looking for loci associated with the development of amyloid plaques and other Alzheimer’s symptoms, and then looked at drugs affecting those genes. One turned out to be Viagra (now it’s a generic: sildenafil). This was followed by a survey of the relationship between Viagra-taking and Alzheimer’s onset (my emphasis):
The team identified 66 drugs with the closest relationships to AD-associated genes. Many are already being tested in ongoing AD clinical trials, proving the soundness of the approach. After considering other factors, the top candidate was sildenafil, also known by the brand names Viagra and Revatio. Sildenafil is FDA-approved to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension.
Next, the team analyzed insurance claims data from more than 7 million Americans. They found that the people (mostly men) who took sildenafil were 69% less likely to develop AD over 6 years than those who did not take the drug. This association between sildenafil and AD held after adjusting for sex, age, and other diseases and conditions.
To understand how sildenafil might affect AD, the researchers grew neurons from stem cells derived from AD patients. Exposing the cells to sildenafil led to increased growth of neurites, which connect neurons to each other, and decreased tau phosphorylation, an early biomarker of AD.
Taken together, these results show an association between sildenafil use and reduced AD risk. But the researchers emphasize that they haven’t shown that sildenafil prevents or reverses AD. There may be other factors responsible for the association.
If this effect is real (remember, they looked at only 6 years—still a significant period of dementia-free life), then you might think that they should prescribing prophylactic Viagra for women and men. But while there are drugs to restore sexual dysfunction in women, they don’t include Viagra, which has some deleterious side effects in both sexes. Will we see such prescriptions in the future?
*Friday’s column by Andrew Sullivan, “Biden’s Annus Horribilis“, is free for the reading (though I subscribe), and is especially thoughtful—but depressing. He highlights what he sees as Biden’s failures, which has driven his approval ratings to the ground, and bemoans the lack of a viable Democratic replacement in 2024 (Harris is obviously not a good choice). An excerpt:
And all along, Biden has shown himself unable to sell what he was proposing even to his own party, let alone the country. He even stepped on his sole bipartisan triumph. At the very moment he could have declared he’d done what Trump couldn’t on infrastructure — Trump’s core issue — Biden bungled it. I’ve never witnessed a president announce a breakthrough in a major bill and then, in the presser for it, swear he wouldn’t sign it any time soon.
The source of this drift, in my view, is that the administration made a huge miscalculation at the very beginning. They somehow interpreted a modest victory in the Electoral College, shocking losses in the House, and a fluke tie in the Senate as a remit for a big government revolution. And in their media cocoon, no one was going to tell them otherwise. Over-promising and under-delivering is bad politics. That may be one reason support for Biden among the young has plummeted 13 percent since the spring to below 50, and his support among Independents has cratered as well. He has the lowest ratings of any new president since polling began — apart from Trump.
*From NPR we learn that because of J.K. Rowling’s reputation for “transphobia” (not at all deserved), the official Quidditch leagues (the game played at Hogwarts) are going to change their names.
The sport started growing beyond the Harry Potter books years ago, when college students first translated it into a real-world game. But now two large leagues plan to drop the famous name, citing author J.K. Rowling’s “anti-trans positions.”
The two leagues put out a joint statement this week announcing the looming name change.
And from that joint statement:
. . . the leagues are hoping a name change can help them continue to distance themselves from the works of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, who has increasingly come under scrutiny for her anti-trans positions in recent years. Our sport has developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity, in part thanks to its gender maximum rule, which stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time. Both organizations feel it is imperative to live up to this reputation in all aspects of their operations, and believe this move is a step in that direction.
Reader Divy, who sent me the above, link, says “How ridiculous and infantile. This is when you can say the wokies have won.”
*Speaking of wokeness, I found a Guardian article from last month in which seven writers discuss the meaning of the word “woke”, which of course was once laudatory but is now pejorative. I found the best definition in the latter (the usual) category to be that of Zaid Jilani:
The word woke loosely refers to a social media-fueled, leftwing political ideology that emerged in the English-speaking world in the early 2010s. The term is derived from the state of being awake to or conscious of structural inequalities in society and being hyper-aware of one’s own role in those inequalities. Someone who is woke is constantly inspecting every institution in society, looking for the presence of racism, sexism, and other forms of pervasive prejudice.
What separates someone who is woke from someone who is merely progressive is not only this vigilance and awareness but a fervent belief that everyone must be enlisted into their social causes at all times and that the end justifies the means when battling injustice.
Unlike traditional liberals, woke Americans place very little stake in value-neutral norms like freedom of speech and non-discrimination. As the antiracist activist Ibram Kendi says, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” Kendi also informs us that you can only be racist or anti-racist, there is no middle ground, echoing former president George W Bush’s instruction that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.
**Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 804,1798, an increase of 1,296 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,368,410, an increase of about 4,900 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 19 includes:
- 1606 – The ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery depart England carrying settlers who founded, at Jamestown, Virginia, the first of the thirteen colonies that became the United States.
Here’s a replica of the Godspeed (clearly a modern one!):
- 1776 – Thomas Paine publishes one of a series of pamphlets in The Pennsylvania Journal entitled “The American Crisis“.
A first edition in French, bound in hardcover, will run you about $2000:
- 1777 – American Revolutionary War: George Washington‘s Continental Army goes into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
It was hard times then: 11,000 soldiers in small huts along with 500 men and women, with food running short. Lafayette was there to help, but due to disease and starvation, 2,000 soldiers died. Here’s a painting of Washington and Lafayette inspecting the troops, and below that a replica of one of the soldiers’ huts:
- 1900 – French parliament votes amnesty for all involved in scandalous army treason trial known as Dreyfus affair.
- 1924 – The last Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is sold in London, England.
And here’s a 1920 Silver Ghost 40FW tourer by Labourdette. It’s worth millions.
Let’s take one for a 4-minute spin:
- 1924 – German serial killer Fritz Haarmann is sentenced to death for a series of murders.
Haarmann was a nasty character, who usually killed his victims by biting their necks and Adam’s apple, often going through the trachea, and often while strangling them at the same time (one of his nicknames was “the Wolf Man”). He then dismembered them and disposed of the bodies. He was guillotined. A photo:
- 1972 – Apollo program: The last manned lunar flight, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt, returns to Earth.
- 1983 – The original FIFA World Cup trophy, the Jules Rimet Trophy, is stolen from the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
the original (named the Jules Rimet Trophy) has never been recovered, but here’s what it looked like (caption from Wikipedia):
- 1986 – Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, releases Andrei Sakharov and his wife from exile in Gorky.
- 1998 – President Bill Clinton is impeached by the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second President of the United States to be impeached.
- 2001 – A record high barometric pressure of 1,085.6 hectopascals (32.06 inHg) is recorded at Tosontsengel, Khövsgöl, Mongolia.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1888 – Fritz Reiner, Hungarian-American conductor (d. 1963)
- 1906 – Leonid Brezhnev, Ukrainian-Russian marshal, engineer, and politician, 4th Head of State of the Soviet Union (d. 1982)
- 1910 – Jean Genet, French novelist, playwright, and poet (d. 1986)
Genet was a petty criminal early in life, and after ten convictions was threatened with a life sentence, but through the intercession of luminaries like Sartre and Picasso was left alone, and never committed a crime again. His photo:
- 1915 – Édith Piaf, French singer-songwriter and actress (d. 1963)
Here’s La Môme (her nickname, meaning “the little sparrow”), singing one of her most famous songs, “Milord” in 1959 (she was born Édith Giovanna Gassion, and took “Piaf”—slang for “sparrow”—as her last name). I love the way she rolls her “r”s. About the song (from Wikipedia):
It is a chanson that recounts the feelings of a lower-class “girl of the port” (fille du port, perhaps a prostitute) who develops a crush on an elegantly attired apparent upper-class British traveller (or “milord”), whom she has seen walking the streets of the town several times (with a beautiful young woman on his arm), but who has not even noticed her. The singer feels that she is nothing more than a “shadow of the street” (ombre de la rue). Nonetheless, when she talks to him of love, she breaks through his shell; he begins to cry, and she has the job of cheering him up again. She succeeds, and the song ends with her shouting “Bravo! Milord” and “Encore, Milord”.
Ochs’s song “I ain’t marching anymore” (1966) was one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam movement. Here’s a live version:
- 1944 – Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleontologist and politician
- 1963 – Jennifer Beals, American model and actress
Who remember this?
- 1980 – Jake Gyllenhaal, American actor and producer
- 1987 – Ronan Farrow, American activist, journalist, and lawyer
Those who gave Charon his coin on December 19 were few, and include:
A first edition of her classic Wuthering Heights, written under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”, will set you back about $160,000:
- 1953 – Robert Andrews Millikan, American physicist and eugenicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
- 2012 – Robert Bork, American lawyer, judge, and scholar, United States Attorney General (b. 1927)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej have a high-level conversation:
Hili: There are so many questions we don’t know the answers to.A: It’s true and that’s why I’m irritated by this know-it-all crowd of journalists.
Hili: Jest tak wiele pytań, na które nie znamy odpowiedzi.
Ja: To prawda, dlatego tak irytuje mnie to całe wszystkowiedzące towarzystwo dziennikarskie.
And greetings from Mietek in nearby Wloclawek!
From reader Simon, who sent this, calls it a “McVariant”:
And holiday greetings to us all from reader Jacques Hausser, who lives in Switzerland and works on shrews:
From reader Barry, who says “I love it when the cat turns to the camera.”
This is Luna. In her defense, that is her bed. 14/10 she did nothing wrong pic.twitter.com/09C4znnauJ
— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) October 23, 2021
From Ginger K., who sent the first tweet with a note: “The hypocrite!” It was actually $43,500 paid out to the anti-capitalist, which works out to be $207 per minute or about $3.30 per second
I found the second tweet myself; it give a relevant quote from Ibram $45Kendi, whose anti-racism book is full of rants about capitalism, which he equates with racism:
Speaking fee $15,000 per hour. pic.twitter.com/V58VEmyMqh
— The Woke Temple (@WokeTemple) December 9, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This one shows an embryonic trait suggesting (as we already know) that parrots evolved from toothed reptiles. Embryonic (but not adult) parrots have “pseudoteeth” whose development resembles that of reptilian teeth and whose proteins are largely similar to tooth proteins of mammals. Now why would God give embryonic parrots teeth that they can’t use, but are similar in many ways to the teeth of their relatives? Could it be. . . EVOLUTION? Yes, these are a remnant of genes that were expressed in ancestors.
— Alberta Claw (@albertonykus) December 15, 2021
Pig butt porn!
Here's something you didn't know you needed in your life: teeny tiny pig porn.
Made in the early 20th century, this little gold-painted pig charm hides a tiny erotic photo viewed by peering into the pig's butthole.
[A thread] pic.twitter.com/YIBaKClv7T
— Dr Chelsea Nichols (@museumweirdo) December 17, 2021
But humans be humans and it didn't take long for someone to figure out this was also a great way of hiding porn. pic.twitter.com/L3YxXAtX28
— Dr Chelsea Nichols (@museumweirdo) December 17, 2021
Look how politely Ms./Mr. Bear closes the door:
Bear says no thank you. Very polite. Please wish him well. pic.twitter.com/ed9z6MG2Lj
— The King Formerly Known As Arthur (@PunishedWelshm1) December 16, 2021
Matthew sent this from the Auschwitz Memorial:
19 December 1941 | A Hungarian Jewish girl, Marta Weisz, was born in Sárköz. During the war, she lived in Szatmárnémeti.
On 31 May 1944, she was murdered in a gas chamber of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. pic.twitter.com/BmU7nzqJT3
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 19, 2021
A wolf in the Netherlands—not part of the natural range of Canis lupus! But Matthew says that wolves are expanding through northern Europe.
— JW Goedhart (@Jwgoedhart) December 18, 2021