Another week at an end: it’s a cold Chicago Friday, January 28, 2022, National Blueberry Pancake Day. Those are some good pancakes, but don’t forget the pure maple syrup (darkest grade possible):
News of the Day:
*From UN Watch, we have an amazingly stupid act of the United Nations, the dumbest among many dumb actions of that body. The screenshot tells the tale, but you can click on it if you want to read more.
The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts. The UN-backed body calls itself “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”
“Having the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un preside over global nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the United Nations.
“This is a country that threatens to attack other UN member states with missiles, and that commits atrocities against its own people. Torture and starvation are routine in North Korean political prison camps where an estimated 100,000 people are held in what is one of the world’s most dire human-rights situations,” said Neuer.
According to the article, the good news is that the post is “largely formal”, but seriously, what about the optic? The UN is already becoming a joke, and this won’t help:
“At a time when China, Russia, Libya, Kazakhstan and Venezuela are sitting on the UN’s human rights council, this won’t help.”
*Stephen Breyer handed Biden his own letter of resignation from the Supreme Court today, and the President gave him the due plaudits. However, even appointing a black woman Justice, as Biden promises, will do absolutely nothing to change the court’s move to the Right. (She had better be young!). The villain in all this, as usual, is Senator Mitch “666” McConnell, who, according to the NYT,
issued a warning to Mr. Biden against making an overly ideological choice to succeed Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who formally announced his retirement on Thursday.
“The American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50,” Mr. McConnell said in his first statement since word of the retirement leaked. “To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions and unite America. The president must not outsource this important decision to the radical left. The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”
As if his hero Trump didn’t make ideological choices for Justices. Jebus, Amy Coney Barrett is about as far right as you can get. That sad part is that the next oldest justice after Breyer is Clarence Thomas, a decade younger. And you just know that Thomas will be sitting on the bench until they carry him out in a box. It will be amusing seeing the Republican Senators try to do down every one of Biden’s nominees.
*From FIRE we learn that Jason Kilborn, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School who used two redacted slurs on a law school exam question about a hypothetical discrimination case (see guest post here) has not only been punished by UIC, but the university also reneged on its agreement with him. For doing exactly nothing wrong, Kilborn now must to undergo months of “training” and write “reflection papers”. This is about the most Stalinesque bit of performative wokeness I’ve seen in a public university. An excerpt from FIRE’s article:
UIC suspended and launched an investigation into Kilborn after he posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called “a ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women)” as evidence of discrimination. But even redacting the terms didn’t save Kilborn from discipline by university administrators.
Kilborn reached a resolution with UIC in July, in which he agreed to alert the dean before responding to student complaints about racial issues and to audio-record his classes. Kilborn welcomed both of these stipulations in order to protect himself against spurious complaints, and had already decided to take those actions independently. As part of that resolution, Kilborn and UIC ultimately reached an understanding that Kilborn would not have to attend sensitivity training.
However, in November, under pressure from UIC’s Black Law Students Association and Jesse Jackson, UIC reneged on its agreement with Kilborn and is now requiring him to participate in months-long “training on classroom conversations that address racism” and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.
With legal help from FIRE, Kilborn is suing UIC, a public college, for infringement of speech. I hope that UIC loses the case and has to pay tons of money in damages and attorneys’ fees. Their punishment is stupid; their reneging on the agreement is reprehensible.
In an op-ed at the Washington Post, author Dora Horn, who wrote the best-selling book with the provocative title, People Love Dead Jews, muses on why anti-Semitism in America still seems focused on the Holocaust. And the answer is the same as her book’s thesis: people love dead Jews like Anne Frank (who was much in the news last week), but don’t care so much about the ones who don’t die (like the hostages in Texas):
Unfortunately, as critical as teaching about the Holocaust is, it’s not the same as teaching about antisemitism. Instead, people mostly seem to think that antisemitism consists exclusively of the murders of 6 million Jews. Anything short of that is all in our heads. The feel-good stories people tell themselves about dead Jews make it easy to dismiss the here-and-now targeting of live ones.
The FBI eventually walked back its clumsy statement that the Texas attack was “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” But a reporter who spoke to two dozen residents of the synagogue’s neighborhood found they unanimously agreed. In fact, they were convinced their church down the street was equally at risk. “If it happens over there, it could happen over here, too,” one churchgoer said.
Clueless comments such as these reveal the warped funhouse American Jews now live in. After synagogue shootings in Pennsylvania and California, a kosher market attack in New Jersey, a Hanukkah attack in Upstate New York, a rabbi’s stabbing in Boston, street attacks in New York City and Los Angeles, and countless other vicious assaults on American Jews, this kind of plausible deniability has become a public ritual.
But everyone knows about the Holocaust. Holocaust education is now its own ritual, where middle-schoolers and public figures piously announce that Nazis are bad. The problem is that this a rather low bar to clear. We can all pat ourselves on the back for not murdering 6 million Jews. This absurd standard allows people to ignore a pervasive and very current hatred while feeling well-informed. Why should those nice neighbors, or the FBI for that matter, believe antisemitism is a problem if there aren’t millions of bodies?
Because Jews see things well-meaning neighbors don’t. . .
This is an unusually concise, powerful, and well written op-ed.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 877,815, an increase of 2,530 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,658,539, an increase of about 9,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 28 include:
- 814 – The death of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, brings about the accession of his son Louis the Pious as ruler of the Frankish Empire.
- 1521 – The Diet of Worms begins, lasting until May 25.
That is a LONG time to eat worms!
- 1547 – Edward VI, the nine-year-old son of Henry VIII, becomes King of England on his father’s death.
- 1724 – The Russian Academy of Sciences is founded in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Peter the Great, and implemented by Senate decree. It is called the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences until 1917.
- 1754 – Sir Horace Walpole coins the word serendipity in a letter to a friend.
But Wikipedia, doesn’t mention the word itself.
[On 28 January 1754], inn a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a lost painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The name comes from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders. It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island).
However, as always, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the first usage, and it was indeed by Walpole:
1754 H. Walpole Let. to H. Mann 28 Jan. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity.
Here’s a video showing the first edition of this classic, which will cost you around $30,000 these days.
- 1855 – A locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
- 1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined one shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thereby exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h).
The usual walking speed is about 3 mph, so cars had to go slower than pedestrians!
- 1909 – United States troops leave Cuba, with the exception of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, after being there since the Spanish–American War.
Gitmo is on a yearly lease, but Cuba has refused to accept the payments. Here’s a diagram of the base. The outdoor movie theater is at lower right (circled) and I’ve put an arrow by McDonald’s (yep, there is one!):
And McD’s, surrounded by razor wire!
- 1933 – The name Pakistan is coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali Khan and is accepted by Indian Muslims who then thereby adopted it further for the Pakistan Movement seeking independence.
- 1935 – Iceland becomes the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion.
- 1956 – Elvis Presley makes his first national television appearance.
. . . here’s a very rare color film (without sound) of Elvis singing April 25, 1955 at a Texas outdoor venue, a year before he was on television. It’s the first time Elvis was ever filmed anywhere.
- 1958 – The Lego company patents the design of its Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today.
- 1965 – The current design of the Flag of Canada is chosen by an act of Parliament.
- 1985 – Supergroup USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) records the hit single We Are the World, to help raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief.
Here’s the official video of “We Are the World”. It was good to see all these people together in a common cause; I failed to recognize only two of the soloists. And where else will you see Willie Nelson singing with Dionne Warwick? Try listening to it first with your eyes closed to see how many voices you can recognize. Dylan! Diana Ross! Stevei Wonder! The Boss! Kim Carnes! Ray Charles! Tina Turner! Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper! Paul Simon! Willie Nelson! It goes on and on and on. . . My favorite part is when Michael Jackson sings harmony with Diana Ross (1:35), who gives him the “okay” sign.
- 1986 – Space Shuttle program: STS-51-L mission: Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board. Here’s CNN’s broadcast of the launch and disintegration. The commentators are remarkably calm:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1873 – Colette, French novelist and journalist (d. 1954)
- 1912 – Jackson Pollock, American painter (d. 1956)
- 1936 – Alan Alda, American actor, director, and writer
- 1968 – Sarah McLachlan, Canadian singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer.
Although this isn’t her own song, it’s my favorite performance by McLachlan. I believe it’s Luke Doucet on guitar. I can’t decide whether I like this version better than McCartney’s.
Those who said their last farewells on January 28 include:
- 814 – Charlemagne, Holy Roman emperor
- 1547 – Henry VIII, king of England (b. 1491)
- 1939 – W. B. Yeats, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)
Here’s Yeats in 1903. Below him, his “muse” Maud Gonne, an Irish nationalist. Yeats proposed to her four times, and was rejected every time. He was completely infatuated.
Maude Gonne in 1900. They “did it” only once—in Paris in 1908—and then, despite Yeat’s ardor, the relationship became platonic again:
- 1960 – Zora Neale Hurston, American novelist, short story writer, and folklorist (b. 1891)
- 1986 – Space Shuttle Challenger crew
- Gregory Jarvis, American captain, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1944)
- Christa McAuliffe, American educator and astronaut (b. 1948)
- Ronald McNair, American physicist and astronaut (b. 1950)
- Ellison Onizuka, American engineer and astronaut (b. 1946)
- Judith Resnik, American colonel, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1949)
- Dick Scobee, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1939)
- Michael J. Smith, American captain, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1945)
- 1988 – Klaus Fuchs, German physicist and politician (b. 1911)
- 2021 – Cicely Tyson, American actress (b. 1924)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making the Cat Decision, which usually goes only one way:
Hili: I’m thinking.A: What about?Hili: Whether to push it off or leave it alone.
Hili: Myślę.Ja: Nad czym?Hili: Czy to zrzucić, czy zostawić?
And here’s Leon in nearby Wloclawek. I don’t understand why cats are so eager for Friday. Is it because the staff can attend to them more over the next two days?
Leon: Waiting for Friday.
A meme from Bruce:
From Not Another Science Cat Page: This is only a misdemeanor!
And a special feature from reader Pliny the in Between: Korean Wedding Ducks:
When my brother was in the service he brought home a pair of Korean wedding ducks from Seoul as a wedding gift for me and my partner. By tradition, as long as the ducks are beak-to-beak it symbolizes harmony in the relationship. In a couple of weeks, ours will have been holding that position for 30 years.
I hope they don’t have a cat! You know what would happen, and then the relationship would be kaput. . . (in fact, I’ve since learned that a cat did chew the bll off one duck, but the relationship survived).
From Ginger K. This must be for an OnlyFans cat group:
SUBSCRIBERS ONLY 🔞 pic.twitter.com/J3rpXPAJnG
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) January 22, 2022
A tweet by one friend directing you to an article by another friend (and co-author on my one philosophy paper). The title is certainly provocative; I haven’t yet read Maarten’s article but will; in the meantime go see what he means:
— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) January 27, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. He says this first one is an “old one”, but it’s also wonky. Who on earth would make cheesecake and cookes sister groups? Cheesecake is closer to a pie or even a “true cake” than to a cookie, for crying out loud!
Dunno if this will pass review but here’s the most parsimonious phylogeny of baked goods I made for some reason. pic.twitter.com/qJfpcRVAP6
— Jawad Sakarchi (@sakarchi_) November 17, 2019
I might have shown this before, but I can’t see it too often: it’s one of Nature’ most remarkable cases of mimicry:
Look at this moth from the genus Phalera
It looks like a fragment of twig complete with chipped bark and even the layering of wood tissue at the “cut” ends…
perfectly resembling a broken piece of wood to avoid predation.
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) December 21, 2021
Facial diversity in foxes, which are Honorary Cats®:
A #Montage of 64 #Portraits Reveals the Wildly Diverse Characteristics of #Foxes. Back in 2009, Dutch wildlife photographer #RoeselienRaimond snapped a portrait of a fox that always seemed to be squinting her eyes in contemplation. https://t.co/T3NXJdR39I cc. @AnneLouiseAvery 🦊 pic.twitter.com/vGtjkPaWuH
— MIX (@mixdevil66) December 22, 2021
Adam Rutherford thinks this is the best letter ever written!
— Dr Adam Rutherford (@AdamRutherford) December 22, 2021
Holy cow! A Picasso?
Care to hazard a guess as to the artist of this social realist painting? He was 15 at the time & used his father as model for the doctor. The artist’s name?….
(Picasso, Science and Charity, 1897, Picasso Museum, Barcelona) pic.twitter.com/ZrjRznzMk0
— Journal of Art in Society (@artinsociety) December 22, 2021
Runner ducks crossing! This person will have to wait a while . . .
Google translation from the Dutch: “Hi boss I’m a little late…. uhm I have to wait for some ducks crossing.”
Hi baas ik ben wat later….
uhm ik moet even wachten op wat overstekende eenden pic.twitter.com/A0eGNJFqwX
— Natura Notitia (@Naturanotitia) January 18, 2022