Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 19, 2021 • 6:45 am

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.”

It’s also National Hard Candy Day Holly Day, (not “holiday”), and National Emo Day. What are Emos? This sarcastic site says:

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.”

A new name hasn’t been chosen yet. Both U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch say they’ll use a series of surveys in the next few months to reach a decision.

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:

Here’s a replica of the Godspeed (clearly a modern one!):

A first edition in French, bound in hardcover, will run you about $2000:

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:

the original (named the Jules Rimet Trophy) has never been recovered, but here’s what it looked like (caption from Wikipedia):

Queen Elizabeth II presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to 1966 World Cup winning England captain Bobby Moore
  • 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”.

  • 1940 – Phil Ochs, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1976)

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.
In Polish:
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”:

From Bruce:

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.”

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:

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.

Pig butt porn!

Look how politely Ms./Mr. Bear closes the door:

Matthew sent this from the Auschwitz Memorial:

A wolf in the Netherlands—not part of the natural range of Canis lupus! But Matthew says that wolves are expanding through northern Europe.

37 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. “Our sport”

    Talk about drowning in two inches of water – if they want to invent a sport that they apparently own, then what’s stopping them? Go ahead!

    And Quidditch is 100% owned (if at all) and invented (if so) by J. K. Rowling, in the way basketball was invented by James Naismith.

    1. Actually, i believe the ownership of the name is part of the problem. Warner Brothers owns the rights to the name, at least in the USA and therefore public advertising campaigns for the sport might be problematic.

      US Quidditch and quidditch as depicted in the books are not the same sport in any case: in real quidditch, participants are all mounted on broomsticks that can actually fly.

      I think the sport will die once it is renamed because who wants to play or watch an ersatz version of quidditch? Harry Potter fans. Which Harry Potter fans want to play or watch an ersatz version of quidditch that distances itself from the sport in the books they love? None of them.

      1. Yes, that’s it. Fantasy v. reality, rights and so on.

        But I think a sport might develop from Quidditch, so it can easily just be some new stand-alone sport. Why not? I see nothing stopping anyone from doing it. So why drag J. K. Rowling and identity politics into a grandstanding virtue parade over it?

        Invent your (the Royal “your”, not Jeremy Pereira) new sport and get on with it already! Oh, no body CARES about it unless you (royal “you”) make noise?

  2. “A team may not have more than four players who identify as the same gender in play at any point during the game. The addition of seekers will not change the gender maximum allowed on the field. The gender that a player identifies as is considered to be that player’s gender.”

    Seems pretty pointless to me then, as new genders are invented every minute.

    But it gets even better:

    “Quidditch takes those benefits a step further by promoting a sport that is truly free of gender-based restrictions, rather than evenly segregated between men and women”

    I’m confused, Do the rules restrict more than four players identifying as the same gender to play at any point during the game, or do the sport impose no gender based restrictions at all?

    1. If you can identify as any gender you like, there are effectively no gender based rules in quidditch. All you need to do is make sure your players all identify as something different when the referee asks them.

  3. This is the key quote from Jilani’s discussion of the word Woke:

    “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.”

    He makes a sharp distinction between being Woke and being merely progressive. Progressives embrace such traditional norms as freedom of speech; the Woke rejects them. However, the right wing’s propaganda has aimed to conflate the two groups into the Democratic Party, even though the Woke makes up only a small part of it. The right has had a great deal of success in this effort. As has become apparent this year, the Democratic Party has failed once again in its political messaging, allowing Republicans to make significant gains in the polls. The Democrats have failed to convey to the public that by most of them calling themselves progressives, they are following in the footsteps of past progressives such as FDR and LBJ (although they have been often referred to as liberals, which is largely a synonym for progressive). That is, they believe in civil rights for all, including the right to vote, but not a society divided by race or ethnicity. They will not hesitate to call out racists, bigots, and fascists, but will not deny their freedom of speech. Finally, they will stress that their domestic agenda is based on the same principles of FDR and LBJ: that government could and should play an active role in improving the lives of all people, regardless of race or ethnicity. FDR and LBJ (at least until he made the fatal error of getting the country into the Vietnam War) were masters of political messaging. The current Democratic Party mystifies me at how they are such political bunglers.

    1. I honestly do not pay that much attention to the privileged white class but I do see the pattern of their criticism. They are usually living in their own world and silos and have little time for the lower class or even time to go after the other side. That is just boring and who cares. It is much more sport to beat up on the democrats, you know the ones elected this last time around. They will stay fashionable but do almost nothing to improve the poor condition or damage being done to our society.

    1. You’re probably thinking of Brian Eno, the musician, composer, and record producer who’s collaborated with David Bowie and David Byrne (of the Talking Heads) among many others.

      1. Brian Eno is a genius – IMHO. He made a lot of “ambient”* (almost invented it) music in the 70s and 80s, all the time being a 100% weirdo. And he was in Roxy Music with Brian Ferry (I’m dating myself). He’s a kind guy, quite left of center but not bonkers and very, VERY creative.
        D.A.
        NYC
        * Eno, New Space Music

      1. Emo is derived from the word emotional. Actually the term Emotional Hardcore, which is a genre of music. Some good music, some bad, and nope, I was never remotely associated with Emo.

  4. A Union Jack on a ship from 1606,even if it is a replica?

    Schouwen is an island connected to the mainland by dams and bridges with main roads. A wolf on Schouwen had to come by a motorway or swim quite a distance. The settled wolves in the Netherlands are in the wooded area tot the east.

    1. The flag is correct for a ship. Upon his ascension to the English throne in 1603, King James VI of Scotland became also King James I of England. To indicate that the King’s ships now sailed under a single royal command, he had commissioned, in 1606, a new union flag combining the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew. This predated by nearly a century the formal union of the two countries as a single state.

    2. I’m not sure about Schouwen (in Old Zealand) specifically, but the historic range of the wolf included the whole of Wester Europe, up to Ireland.
      The last Irish wolf is thought to have been killed in 1700.

  5. “Unlike traditional liberals, woke Americans place very little stake in value-neutral norms like freedom of speech”.

    Things are no better in the UK. Here are some views from our neo-liberals:

    Free speech is a fundamental foundation of a free and fair society. But let’s be honest and have the guts to unpick who gets to speak, where, and why.
    Reni Eddo-Lodge, author

    The phrase ‘free speech’ is nothing more than a political ploy, a ruse, a term the far right wilfully abuse to spread hatred.
    Owen Jones, The Guardian

    We must not fetishise ‘debate’ as thought debate is itself an innocuous, neutral act. The very act of debate in these cases is an effective rollback of assumed equality and a foot in the door for doubt and hatred.
    Nadia Whittome, Member of Parliament, Labour Party

  6. It really should be noted Andrew Sullivan is a staunch conservative and is armed with great wring and arguing abilities. Please play one or more discussions he had with the Great Christopher Hitchens.

  7. The opening of Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, the first lines of which my father quoted to me before I knew who Tom Paine was:

    These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.

    As for J.K. Rowling, she is also being excluded from the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the movies of her books. It is sad that the actors chose to participate in light of that. Bad show.

    1. IIRC, the first line of Paine’s pamphlet was held up by EB White in The Elements of Style as an example of a sentence the syntax of which could not be improved.

  8. 2012 – Robert Bork, American lawyer, judge, and scholar, United States Attorney General (b. 1927)

    Bork was never the US Attorney General (though he briefly acted in that capacity, during Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”). Bork was the one who fired Watergate special counsel Archibald Cox after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus refused to do so and resigned. At the time, Bork was the US Solicitor General — the Justice Department’s main advocate before SCOTUS, and the fourth highest ranking official on DoJ’s organizational chart.

    While serving on the DC circuit court of appeals bench, Bork was nominated to SCOTUS by Ronald Reagan, in 1987. But during his hearings before the senate judiciary committee he got, well, “borked,” and lost his senate floor vote 58-42 (with six Republicans joining 52 Democrats in voting against his confirmation).

    1. And IIRC the main reason for his being “borked” was that the Senators weren’t comfortable with his “Originalism”. At the time, interpreting the Constitution in this way was seen as radical. Now, we essentially have 5 justices who interpret the Constitution like the “radical” Bork.

      1. I’m far from sn expert, but was the official reason not that he was ‘economical with the truth’ when asked about his role in firing Cox?
        Or am I gravely mistaken?

        1. That was part of it. Plus, there was some old score-settling involved. But the main reason Bork got borked was that, during his judiciary committee hearings, he came off as an arrogant jerk — and it didn’t help his cause that, with the hearings being carried on live tv, he was far from telegenic.

  9. “Matthew says that wolves are expanding through northern Europe.”

    Either that or lycanthropy is on the rise.

  10. I’m surprised that WEIT didn’t comment that today Chile had its runoff presidential election that pitted a far left candidate against an even more extreme rightwing candidate [one whose father was actually a card-carrying Nazi in Hitler’s Germany]. Well, the left-winger, Gabriel Boric, has been declared winner, with a victory margin approaching 10%, so Chile will join the other leftist governments of the southern tip of South America: Argentina and Bolivia, and we hope shortly, Brazil.

  11. That Uncyclopedia article desperately needs updating to point out that the contemporary iteration = enbies & other genderspecials.

    Since almost none of the bands categorized as “Emo” actually identify as such, tho, the very use of the term is a micro-agression, an act of misgenre-ing. So, obviously, the entire article should be deleted & its author(s) shipped off to the gulag.

  12. The Sullivan article ‘ Biden’s Annus Horribilis’ is for ‘Paid Subscribers ‘ only.
    Alas, they don’t mention how I can get paid.

    From the excerpts posted, I think Sullivan’s analysis is pretty good.

  13. Polirisation and wokism have gone so far, that I caught myself asking: ” How reliable will that big investigation into ‘droning’ by the NYT be?”
    I hate to admit it, but I guess that means the NYT is not considered an objective source anymore?

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