Good morning on Hump Day, or as they say in Malayalam, ഹമ്പ് ദിവസം: Wednesday, February 23, 2022: National Banana Bread Day, best eaten warm with a thin slathering of butter.
It’s also International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, Play Tennis Day, Curling is Cool Day, Diesel Engine Day (celebrating Rudolf Diesel’s patent granted on this day in 1893), and World Understanding and Peace Day, commemorating the founding of the Rotary Club in Chicago on this day in 1905 (as for “understanding”, women weren’t admitted until 1989).
“Happy Birthday, Mr. Em-per-or!”
News of the Day:
*It sure looks like war in Ukraine. First, Russia issued a series of untenable ultimatums last night, but made some audible noises that he wants not just the two eastern “independent provinces”, but all of Ukraine:
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia demanded Ukraine recognize Russia’s claim to Crimea and relinquish its advanced weapons, declaring what sounded like an ultimatum minutes after Russian state television showed Parliament authorizing the use of military force abroad.
The cascade of developments in Moscow on Tuesday evening offered the clearest signs yet that Mr. Putin was moving toward mounting a military operation against Ukraine. The goals of such an operation remained uncertain. But in setting out his demands on Tuesday, Mr. Putin made it clear that he was seeking to force a drastic political shift in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, as well as to win control of a large area of the country’s east.
Mr. Putin added that he had not decided to send troops into Ukraine “right at this moment.” But asked whether one could resolve issues by force and “remain on the side of the good,” Mr. Putin made it clear he saw military action as a morally defensible course.
“Why do you think that the good must always be powerless?” Mr. Putin said. “I don’t believe so. I think that the good implies the ability to protect oneself. We will proceed based on this.”
Putin isn’t at all good, but evil. I can’t believe that war in Europe is happening. I wonder if the average Russian approves of these actions.
In the meantime, the EU, standing together, has prepared a bundle of sanctions, and, back in the U.S.A., Biden announced two sanctions so far:
Biden said a “first tranche” of U.S. sanctions against Russia would target two financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members.
“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. He added that he still hopes diplomacy is possible.
And the U.S. Senate is working on a response package to help Ukraine:
Senators from both parties began working on Tuesday on a multipronged legislative response toward Russian aggression that would provide emergency funds for Ukraine’s defense, sanction Russia’s economy and create a task force to find ways to seize the wealth of Russian oligarchs, and possibly the riches of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told local reporters in his state that an emergency spending bill and bipartisan sanctions legislation — long delayed in Congress — could pass when lawmakers return from a Presidents’ Day recess.
“I want a sanctions regime from hell next week,” Mr. Graham said. He also had a warning for the broader Russian public: “You can expect bad things to come your way.”
An op-ed in the NYT from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “Putin is making a historic mistake.” What is the mistake?
Instead of paving Russia’s path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance.
Does he care? He knows all this already?
The Upshot: Putin’s won this one already. EU and U.S. sanctions are too little and ineffective when doled out in dribs and drabs. Putin will have Ukraine as either part of Russia or fully under its control, and thousands of Ukrainians will die. It’s the annexation of the Sudetenland all over again. Putin doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about sanctions, and he never did. I always hoped I was wrong, but it didn’t work out that way. There’s still a smidgen of hope, but not much.
*In a new federal trial with the charges of committing a hate crime, all three men convicted in the killing of Ahmad Arbery were found guilty, motivated by the fact that Arbery was black. Merrick Garland, who should be on the Supreme Court, spoke eloquently:
US Attorney General Merrick Garland — responding in Washington Tuesday to a reporter’s question about Cooper-Jones’ statement — appeared to choke up as he answered.
“I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down, and then gunned down, while taking a jog on a public street,” Garland said at a Justice Department news conference. “My heart goes out to her and to the family. That’s really all I can say about this.”
Before taking that question, Garland thanked prosecutors for their work on the case, and said “no one should fear that if they go out for a run, they will be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin.”
*A reporter for the Associated Press has created a flutter on Twitter by reporting verbally and fluently in six—count them, six—languages. The reporter is indeed Philip Crowther. But Luxembourgish? I didn’t even know that was a language!
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) February 21, 2022
*I love opals because of their fiery and fantastic colors, and always wanted one on a man’s ring, but never got one because I understand that they’re fragile stones, and I’m hard on the gold college ring I wear. But I didn’t know that opals also came in non-fiery versions. Now a very large one (11,800 carats!), but in white, has just sold for $144,000 in an auction at Alaska:
he opal, dubbed the “Americus Australis,” weighs more than 11,800 carats, according to the auction house Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals. It also has a long history.
Most recently, it was kept in a linen closet in a home in Big Lake, north of Anchorage, by Fred von Brandt, who mines for gold in Alaska and whose family has deep roots in the gem and rock business.
The opal is larger than a brick and is broken into two pieces, which von Brandt said was a practice used decades ago to prove gem quality.
. . . The auction house said the stone was discovered in the same field in Australia as the opal known as the “Olympic Australis,” which weighs 17,000 carats and is on permanent display in Altmann’s shop. The Olympic had been among the stones that John Altmann and partner Rudi Cherny acquired in 1956, according to Altmann’s company.
Although this has a bit of sparkle, I don’t think it’s as as a fire opal, but I also don’t think diamonds are very pretty:
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 937,380, an increase of 1960 deaths over yesterday’s figure. Remember when 200,000 was thought to be an unimaginable death toll? Now we’re approaching a million, and will be there in a few months. The reported world death toll is now 5,927,7812, an increase of about 16,000 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 23 include:
- 1455 – Traditionally the date of publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed with movable type.
There are 49 copies in existence, all priceless. Here’s the one at the New York Public Library:
Here’s where the Bibles are (from Wikipedia):
- 1836 – Texas Revolution: The Siege of the Alamo (prelude to the Battle of the Alamo) begins in San Antonio, Texas.
Here’s a photo of the remains of the Alamo that I took in March of last year:
- 1898 – Émile Zola is imprisoned in France after writing J’Accuse…!, a letter accusing the French government of antisemitism and wrongfully imprisoning Captain Alfred Dreyfus.
Here’s Zola’s letter printed in the newspaper “L’Aurore”, dated January 13, 1898:
- 1903 – Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity”.
- 1905 – Chicago attorney Paul Harris and three other businessmen meet for lunch to form the Rotary Club, the world’s first service club.
- 1917 – First demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The beginning of the February Revolution (March 8 in the Gregorian calendar).
Demonstrations in St. Petersburg in March, 1917:
Bomb-ready Pu; caption from Wikipedia. It isn’t a critical mass, for that reaction requires a spherical shape:
- 1942 – World War II: Japanese submarines fire artillery shells at the coastline near Santa Barbara, California.
- 1954 – The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine begins in Pittsburgh.
Jonas Salk injecting a patient. “Could you patent the sun?” (see below)
Salk’s famous staetment to Edward R. Murrow. Some people say that we shouldn’t have heroes, but Salk is one of mine:
- 1988 – Saddam Hussein begins the Anfal genocide against Kurds and Assyrians in northern Iraq.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1633 – Samuel Pepys, English diarist and politician (d. 1703)
- 1868 – W. E. B. Du Bois, American sociologist, historian, and activist (d. 1963)
Du Bois (1918):
- 1940 – Peter Fonda, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2019)
- 1950 – Rebecca Goldstein, American philosopher and author
Rebecca and her hubby:
Those who succumbed on February 23 include:
- 1792 – Joshua Reynolds, English painter and academic (b. 1723)
- 1821 – John Keats, English poet (b. 1795)
The life mask of Keats, who died at only 25 of tuberculosis:
Keats is buried in Rome; here’s his grave (I don’t see his name on the stone):
- 1848 – John Quincy Adams, American politician, 6th President of the United States (b. 1767)
- 1855 – Carl Friedrich Gauss, German mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (b. 1777)
- 1931 – Nellie Melba, Australian soprano and actress (b. 1861)
- 1965 – Stan Laurel, English actor and comedian (b. 1890)
The last photo of Laurel and Hardy together, taken in 1957:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the tabbies are playing hide and seek, but aren’t hiding very well:
Hili: I can see you.Kulka: And I can see you too, we both see each other.
Hili: Widzę cię.Kulka Ja też cię wiedzę, obie się widzimy.
From Divy, who says, “I have many questions”:
Matthew was in London yesterday giving the prestigious J.B.S Haldane lecture and talking about his new book on genetic engineering. He visited the British Museum before the talk, and sent this photo of a cat statue from ancient Egypt. It’s the Gayer-Anderson cat (ca 600 BC), depicting the goddess Bastet:
From Bruce: “Helga Stenzel makes art hanging laundry.” I love the dinosaur!
From Masih. You can read more about Homa Darabi here.
Homa Darabi, an Iranian pediatrician, academic & political activist burned herself in protest to compulsory hijab in Tehran 28 years ago, today. She died a day later.
She was fired from her job at the university because of “bad hijab” and later banned from teaching.#LetUsTalk pic.twitter.com/oiYKvS7OGh
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 21, 2022
From Simon: the Republican loon who’s running for governor of Georgia. Her motto: “Jesus, Guns, and Babies.” It doesn’t get much worse than this. (I am not making this up, though the beginning is interpolated):
BOOM! Let's take our government back pic.twitter.com/nCPDz9Kgnr
— Kandiss Taylor (@KandissTaylor) February 22, 2022
From Barry: Is there anything sadder looking than a wet owl?
Wet owl looks angry. 🤭🤭 pic.twitter.com/jLL1KlGEPi
— Critical Cripple 🌈 ♿ ⚛️ (@CriticalCripple) February 20, 2022
From Ginger K., a cat Valentine poem:
For the Prince of the station
As a token of love & affection
They gave me a heart
Which I shredded apart
Not because I’m mean or don’t care
I broke it up in bits to share
— George The Stourbridge Junction Station Cat (@TheStourbridge) February 14, 2022
From Matthew. This works but only if you write your “2”s the right way:
Tomorrow's date is one of those once in a lifetime, never happening again anomalies!
22.02.2022 – whether you read it left to right, right to left or upside down you get the exact same date!
I know I'm a geek but all teachers need to point this out in school tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/isLM7UmIJ7
— TJ Juttla (@QTSLondon) February 21, 2022
Some joker must have written these entries! Read the first one closely. And I wish the second one had continued.
I had the same reaction years ago to Merck Manual (16th ed) when I read this (I'm sure you're quite familiar with it): Flatulence pic.twitter.com/wsxLKaPCol
— Grͬaͣndͩрⷬaͣ Wrͬiͥnᴋⷦleͤs͛ (@grandpawrinkles) February 20, 2022
I think this is more like the 45 million year challenge:
— 😀 (@HouseholdWheel) February 18, 2022