Welcome to the Sabbath for all kristlekh kats: It’s Sunday, January 8, 2023, and National Toffee Day. My favorite used to be the British Callard and Bowser’s Licorice or Butterscotch toffees; I see that these wonderful confections are no longer made and the company has been bought by Yanks. Here was what the best one looke like:
On January 8, 1851, Foucault performed an experiment in the cellar of his home, in which he swung a five-kilogram weight attached to a two-meter-long pendulum. He put sand underneath it to mark the pendulum’s path, allowing him to see any changes in it. He observed a slight clockwise movement in the plane—the floor, and thus the earth, were slowly rotating; the pendulum kept its position. His experiment showed that the earth rotated on its axis. No longer was it just a hypothesis.
And it’s Alfred Russel Wallace‘s 200thj birthday: he was born on January 8, 1823, and died November 7, 1913. You’ll know him as the man who not only conceived of evolution and natural selection independently of Darwin (thus compelling Darwin to rush publication of The Origin in 1859, but also a man who made huge contributions to biogeography. A photo and announcement of a symposium about him are below (h/t: Matthew):
HAPPY WALLACE YEAR! Join me and fellow Wallaceophiles in celebrating Alfred Russel Wallace's 200th birthday at this one-day WALLACE SYMPOSIUM, @morethanadodo, Monday 9 January 2023! Registration is free for this hybrid symposium: https://t.co/fUozSXbkhd pic.twitter.com/FqKqjRfJ1p
— James T. Costa (@JimCostaHBS) January 7, 2023
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 8 Wikipedia page.
*Yes, Democrats like me are vastly amused by the shenanigans that culminated in Kevin McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House, but we all know in our hearts that what happened is not a good thing for the U.S. In an op-ed in the WaPo called “To save himself, McCarthy just destroyed the House,” columnist Dana Milkbank lays out what the fracas portends:
This is what happens when a political party, year after year, systematically destroys the norms and institutions of democracy. This is what happens when those expert at tearing things down are put in charge of governing. The dysfunction has been building over years of government shutdowns, debt-default showdowns and other fabricated crises, and now anti-government Republicans used their new majority to bring the House itself to a halt.
This is insurrection by other means: Two years to the day since the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, Republicans are still attacking the functioning of government. McCarthy opened the door to the chaos by excusing Donald Trump’s fomenting of the attack and welcoming a new class of election deniers to his caucus. Now he’s trying to save his own political ambitions by agreeing to institutionalize the chaos — not just for the next two years but for future congresses as well.
. . ..On Thursday, the day McCarthy failed on an 11th consecutive ballot to secure the speakership, he formally surrendered to the 21 GOP extremists denying him the job. He agreed to allow any member of the House to force a vote at will to “vacate” his speakership — essentially agreeing to be in permanent jeopardy of losing his job. He agreed to put rebels on the Rules Committee, giving them sway over what gets a vote on the House floor, and in key committee leadership posts. He agreed to unlimited amendments to spending bills, inviting two years of mayhem. He agreed to other changes that make future government shutdowns and a default on the national debt more likely, if not probable.
Perhaps worst of all, the McCarthy-aligned super PAC, the Conservative Leadership Fund, agreed that it would no longer work against far-right extremists in the vast majority of Republican primaries — a move sure to increase the number of bomb throwers in Congress. Essentially, McCarthy placated the crazies in his caucus bygiving up every tool he (or anybody) had to maintain order in the House.Finally, on the 15th ballot early Saturday morning, McCarthy’s abject surrender secured him the speakership, at least temporarily. But it was the most pyrrhic of victories. To save himself, he sacrificed the Congress itself. The saboteurs won.
*Similar warnings are issued in a Wall Street Journal article called, “Speaker fight could preview months of turmoil in Congress.” (The subtitle is “Kevin McCarthy’s concessions show how GOP fractiousness in a narrowly divided House could threaten some significant bills. ‘You’re going to have a sword of Damocles above any speaker.’”) Here the issues are more specific.
. . .But the struggle to pick a House leader, typically a perfunctory process, previewed what could well be months of turmoil over spending issues in a narrowly divided House.
Hanging in the balance is the ability of the U.S. government to stay open and pay its debts. Many of Mr. McCarthy’s initial foes are adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling or cutting spending deals with Democrats, and could move to oust him from his job if he tries to do so.
Also at risk are other high-profile measures that would require agreement between House Republicans and the Democrats who control the Senate and White House: funding the Pentagon and other agencies, sending aid to Ukraine as it battles an invasion and approving food stamps for low-income people as part of the farm bill, which is typically reauthorized every five years.
“I’m more worried than I was before,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, the lead economist at advisory firm Oxford Economics. “Maybe the majority of Republicans in the House don’t want any kind of debt-limit crisis, but there is this small group that we’ve learned in the last week seems to have a fair amount of power.”
. . . “You’re going to have a sword of Damocles above any speaker over any actual or perceived dalliance with bipartisanship,” said Stewart Verdery, a former GOP Senate aide and chief executive of Monument Advocacy, a bipartisan lobbying group. The next speaker “is going to think long and hard: ‘If I put a bill on the floor that has Democratic support, is this the end for me?’ ”
*I don’t get all the interest in the royals, and I suppose I’m just fueling it by writing about it, but somehow it bothers me that “Prince” Harry has published a memoir (co-authored with a ghostwriter) about how badly he and Meghan Markle were treated by the royal family. For sure I’ll take it with a grain of salt, but what bothers me is the endless self-promotion and self-aggrandizing of Harry and Meghan. It lacks, well, dignity. But it will also make them rich. As the NYT notes, Harry + ghostwriter’s book, called Spare in the U.S. and In the Shade in Spain, is selling like hotcakes:
. . . Will readers still be curious enough to buy the book?
So far, it looks like the answer is yes. The media frenzy seems to be driving interest in the memoir, which is due out Tuesday. “Spare” held the No. 1 spot on Amazon in the United States and Britain on Friday, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Booksellers and distributors said that preorders are enormous and growing with the avalanche of press coverage.
. . . Despite the risk that blanket coverage could lead to Harry and Meghan fatigue, many booksellers expect the memoir to be an unmitigated success. Random House has said it is printing 2.5 million hardcover copies for North America alone. Ingram, the book wholesaler, has 90,000 copies in its warehouses to restock stores that run out. ReaderLink, which distributes books to chain stores like Target and Walmart, said it had ordered about 300,000 copies. Barnes & Noble has also ordered hundreds of thousands of copies.
James Daunt, who heads Barnes & Noble and the British bookstore chain Waterstones, said that even the negative leaks have been driving up customer interest in “Spare,” and that he expects to see “the most extraordinary” first-day and first-week sales.
After The Guardian obtained a copy of the book and revealed some of its biggest bombshells, reservations for in-store purchases of the book shot up in Britain, he said.
Assuming Harry + Meghan get $1 per hardcover copy (a very low estimate), they stand to make millions off their professed victimhood. But, also in the NYT, Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter who wrote a tell-all memoir of her dysfunctional family, has a warning for the newly American royals:
Prince William has, I’m sure, his own take on the physical fight that Harry has described. To really understand the dynamic between the brothers, to broaden the story and make it more complete, William’s truth has to be considered as well. Harry has written that, after William hit him, William told Harry to hit him back, which he declined to do. But by writing about the fight, he’s done exactly that.
Harry has also expressed a wish that his relationship with William, and with his father, heals. Maybe that will happen, but they’ll have to walk a long distance across a battlefield that he has now expanded.
Years ago, someone asked me what I would say to my younger self if I could. Without hesitating I answered: “That’s easy. I’d have said, ‘Be quiet.’” Not forever. But until I could stand back and look at things through a wider lens. Until I understood that words have consequences, and they last a really long time.
Harry has called William not only his “beloved brother” but his “arch nemesis.” He chose words that cut deep, that leave a scar; perhaps if he had taken time to be quiet, to reflect on the enduring power of his words, he’d have chosen differently.
Silence gives you room, it gives you distance, and it lets you look at your experiences more completely, without the temptation to even the score. Sometime in the years ahead, Harry may look back as I did and wish he could unspeak what he has said.
*A formal count shows that there are 49 sub-Saharan countries in Africa. Now, as Zambia has just abolished the death penalty, most of them—25—prohibit executions of prisoners.
Fulfilling a pledge made while campaigning for office, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on December 23, 2022 signed legislation abolishing the nation’s death penalty (pictured). Zambia’s repeal of its colonial-era capital punishment law made it the 25th sub-Saharan nation in Africa to abolish the death penalty. The new law also removed the offense of criminal defamation of the President from Zambia’s penal code.
In announcing the repeals, President Hichilema tweeted: “Promised to amend laws that inhibit democracy, human rights, good governance & basic freedoms. #PromisesDelivered.”
Hichilema submitted the bill to end capital punishment to parliament on May 25, 2022, in commemoration of Africa Freedom Day. He also commuted the sentences of 30 death-row prisoners that day.
Zambian human rights activist Brebner Changala called the action a “huge milestone in the removal of colonial laws that do not fit in the democratic dispensation of the country.” Amnesty International issued a statement welcoming the repeal. Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa praised Zambia for “a good and progressive move that shows the country’s commitment to protecting the right to life.”
“Zambia’s decision to ban the death penalty should serve as an example to countries in the region that still use the death penalty and compel them to take immediate steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment,” Chagutah said.
These are usually called “Third World’ countries, and it should be an embarrassment that so many of them have prohibited the barbarity still allowed in the U.S., a so-called “First World” country. (h/t Brian)
*This is the school shooting that’s hard to top: a six-year-old student at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, brought a handgun to school and critically wounded his 30-year-old teacher. It wasn’t an accident either, but part of an ongoing conflict that wasn’t described in the AP article:
Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said the condition of the teacher, a woman in her 30s, is “trending in a positive direction” as she remains hospitalized. Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family Saturday morning. “She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition,” police said in a news release.
The boy shot and wounded the teacher with a handgun in a first-grade classroom on Friday at Richneck Elementary School, according to authorities. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.
Police on Saturday declined to describe what led to the altercation or any other details about what happened in the classroom, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jones also declined to reveal details of the shooting, or say how the boy got access to the gun or who owns the weapon.
“This is a red flag for the country,” Jones said.
“I do think that after this event, there is going to be a nationwide discussion on how these sorts of things can be prevented.”
Give me a break! The nationwide discussion lasts a few days, there’s no resolution, and then the next school shooting occurs. A good start would be to ban private ownership of handguns; how about THAT for a discussion.
As for the kid, well, he won’t be in much trouble, but I want to know where he got the gun:
Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty.
A juvenile judge would have authority, though, to revoke a parent’s custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.
Jones would not say where the boy is being held.
“We are ensuring he has all the services that he currently needs right now,” Jones said.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a cat
A: Are you coming in?Hili: It’s one of the options to consider.
Ja: Wchodzisz?Hili: To jest jedna z opcji do rozważenia.
Can you see the animal in this photo (seen on FB)? Excellent camouflage!
Also from FB:
A groaner from Bruce:
From Ricky Gervais, who finally adopted Pickle. Fostering should always lead to adoption!
— The Dodo (@dodo) January 5, 2023
From Masih. Three more hangings of protestors in Iran this week:
Just before morning prayers, the security guards woke him in his cell and told him to get ready “we want to hang you”. Islamic Republic executed him for the crime of peacefully protesting and demanding freedom.#MohammadMehdiKarami was only 22 Yrs old. His parents were peddlers. pic.twitter.com/RGk0C8wvKf
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 7, 2023
From Simon; the header is an essential part of this tweet. God, I’m sick of hearing about William and Harry and Kate and Meghan. . .
Others had the chicken https://t.co/3aZjWqPWH4
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) January 5, 2023
From Luana: the invasion of “queer theory” into organic chemistry. Is there any area of science that can’t be turned into an ideological statement?
In the medieval academy, scholars were riven by fierce debates concerning how many angels could fit on the head of a pin. This is the modern day equivalent. All areas of study must buttress the faith. https://t.co/SpB5vxw2He
— Michael Wells (@mwellshalophile) January 7, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial: a priest who gave his life for another:
8 January 1894 | Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM, was born in Zduńska Wola.
As a prisoner of #Auschwitz at the end of July 1941, he sacrificed his life to save a person selected for starvation death after an escape. On 14 August 1941, he was murdered with a phenol injection. pic.twitter.com/9OMOl7vmJr
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 8, 2023
And a survivor celebrates her birthday today:
8 January 1924 | A Polish woman, Janina Balbina Gardias, was born in Gliniska.
In Auschwitz from 5 February 1943.
In 1944 she was transferred to the Natzweiler camp and liberated there. Today she celebrates her 98th birthday. (Photo: @Hallandsposten) pic.twitter.com/UgxbakyZ84
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 8, 2023
Tweets from Doctor Cobb; this one just because Harper is a handsome cat:
Happy 2023 from Harper pic.twitter.com/NeSSVZGl9z
— Mike Henry (@OnlyVeesAz) January 1, 2023
The geese are clearly enjoying this (sound up to hear their appreciation; watch till the end):
Start 2023 right – with a harmonica concert for geese that is also enjoyable for humans. pic.twitter.com/0BJLCqzTyz
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) January 1, 2023
This cat is ready for any storm!
Cat in the rain..🐈🐾☔ pic.twitter.com/2NlsRyfQWH
— 𝕐o̴g̴ (@Yoda4ever) December 17, 2022