It’s the top o’ the work week: Monday, June 5, 2023, and National Ketchup Day. Once proposed by the Reagan administration as vegetable for school lunches, it was rejected. Now it’s a condiment, and the only acceptable brand (as my father taught me) is this one:
It’s also Apple II Day, World Environment Day, National Gingerbread Day, National Veggie Burger Day, its nemesis Sausage Roll Day, and World Day Against Speciesism. And the Black Dog has come for a visit.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 5 Wikipedia page.
*The NYT discusses the issue of Biden’s age in a piece called “The complicated reality of being America’s oldest President.” You’d think there would be nothing more to say about this, but I suppose Biden’s tripping over a sandbag last week reactivated concerns about his health.” Here’s that video:
The two Joe Bidens coexist in the same octogenarian president: Sharp and wise at critical moments, the product of decades of seasoning, able to rise to the occasion even in the dead of night to confront a dangerous world. Yet a little slower, a little softer, a little harder of hearing, a little more tentative in his walk, a little more prone to occasional lapses of memory in ways that feel familiar to anyone who has reached their ninth decade or has a parent who has.
The complicated reality of America’s oldest president was encapsulated on Thursday as Congress approved a bipartisan deal he brokered to avoid a national default. Even Speaker Kevin McCarthy testified that Mr. Biden had been “very professional, very smart, very tough” during their talks. Yet just before the voting got underway, Mr. Biden tripped over a sandbag at the Air Force Academy commencement, plunging to the ground. The video went viral, his supporters cringed and his critics pounced.
Anyone can trip at any age, but for an 80-year-old president, it inevitably raises unwelcome questions. If it were anyone else, the signs of age might not be notable. But Mr. Biden is the chief executive of the world’s most powerful nation and has just embarked on a campaign asking voters to keep him in the White House until age 86, drawing more attention to an issue that polls show troubles most Americans and is the source of enormous anxiety among party leaders.
The conclusion: he’s still copacetic
The portrait that emerges from months of interviews with dozens of current and former officials and others who have spent time with him lies somewhere between the partisan cartoon of an addled and easily manipulated fogy promoted by Republicans and the image spread by his staff of a president in aviator shades commanding the world stage and governing with vigor.
It is one of a man who has slowed with age in ways that are more pronounced than just the graying hair common to most recent presidents during their time in office. Mr. Biden sometimes mangles his words and looks older than he used to because of his stiff gait and thinning voice.
Yet people who deal with him regularly, including some of his adversaries, say he remains sharp and commanding in private meetings. Diplomats share stories of trips to places like Ukraine, Japan, Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia in which he often outlasts younger colleagues. Democratic lawmakers point to a long list of accomplishments as proof that he still gets the job done.
But Americans haven’t grasped it.
Polls indicate the president’s age is a top concern of Americans, including Democrats. During a recent New York Times focus group, several voters who supported Mr. Biden in 2020 expressed worry, with one saying: “I’ve just seen the blank stare at times, when he’s either giving a speech or addressing a crowd. It seems like he loses his train of thought.”
I have to say that I share their fears. I like Joe, and think he’s done a good job, but he’s an aging war horse. And, Ceiling Cat forbid, should anything happen to him, we’ll get Kamala Harris as President
*Speaking of politics, the Wall Street Journal news section analyzes why Biden’s poll numbers are still quite low for someone that, after all, has come through with bipartisan deals (and I add that he’s done a good job with the Ukrainian situation). The article praises him for the debt-ceiling deal, for reducing illegal immigration (this is yet to be seen!), and helped enact at least some restrictions on guns, not to mention the good job he’s done in Ukraine. So what’s the problem?
So far, voters don’t appear to be rewarding Biden for his deal-making prowess.
His approval ratings are hovering around 41%, according to the FiveThirtyEight.com poll average—and have barely budged despite those policy wins. Many voters have cited concerns about his performance at the age of 80, and they got a fresh reminder of that issue Thursday when he tripped and fell at the end of a commencement ceremony at the Air Force Academy.
“It disappoints me actually that those successes are not accruing to the president,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D., Minn.) Some factors are specific to this president, he said, pointing to Biden’s advanced age and the White House’s light domestic travel schedule.
Phillips said the White House faces structural problems in touting centrist wins, including what he called “multibillion-dollar entertainment machines” that have grown up on the left and the right to foment anger and resentment. The polarized political atmosphere, he said, makes it more complicated to generate respect for political leaders. “It’s one of the grave risks to American discourse and our system of self governance,” Phillips said.
This is true: politicians on both the Left and Right keep beefing about the deal and demonizing each other, and Biden’s successes are ignored. But I’m more scared of the public’s failure to appreciate his successes than I am of his advancing age, though both play into the hands of Trump.
*This has been a horrific season of climbing Mount Everest, with 12 climbers dying and five more missing. The prime climbing season is short—from March through May—and a record number of permits (478) were issued this year. They really need to cut back on the crowds, which themselves cause accidents, and institute some kind of lottery system. But the Nepali government gets a lot of dosh from Everest climbers:
There are two types of guiding services usually offered for Mount Everest expeditions: all-inclusive or logistics only.
Logistics-only guides offer the bare minimum and are best suited for experienced mountaineers who are willing to take on Everest on the mountain’s own terms. Very few people are cut out for this type of expedition. Most climbers who choose the logistics-only option to climb will spend between $32,000 and $60,000 depending on the types of expenses they incur along the way.
By law, every foreign climber in Nepal is required to hire a local Sherpa guide. A logistics-only option means that climbers must arrive at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on their own and would later hire a local company to provide all the necessary camping and cooking gear as well as support staff for the summit ascent.
However, most climbers will opt to avoid all the headaches and paperwork involved in a logistics-only climb and instead opt to pay for an all-inclusive expedition. These expeditions cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000, depending on the service.
The cost of the permit alone is $11,000.
Recently, however, a Sherpa pulled off what would seem to be an impossible rescue.
Gelje Sherpa was on his way to the top of the world’s highest mountain when he spotted the climber clinging to the rope.
They were in the “death zone,” an area near the summit of Mount Everest where temperatures are extremely low and where there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe unaided for more than a few minutes.
The climber, from Malaysia, had “nothing” and was “about to die,” the 30-year-old Nepali mountain guide told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Thursday. “No one was helping him, no friends, no oxygen, no sherpas with him, no guides – so this is quite dangerous for him.”
. . .Gelje – Nepali sherpas traditionally go by their first names – was guiding a client to the 8,849-meter (29,032 feet) summit when he made a decision: they would abandon their journey in a bid to save the Malaysian climber.
It was a near-impossible task: Gelje had to strap the climber to his back and carry him down 600 meters (1,900 feet) for about six hours before another guide joined the rescue, Reuters reported.
They then took turns carrying the climber, wrapped in a sleeping mat, sometimes having to drag him through the snow, before reaching a helicopter that carried them down to base camp.
The rescue, which took place on May 18, was “massively difficult,” Gelje told CNN. The sherpa has previously carried out more than 55 rescues, some very long operations, but said this was the “hardest in my life.”
But the climber is okay, and the Sherpa is a hero. There’s video of the rescue:
*I have my doubts about certain types of “gender-affirming care for adolescents,” but the state of Florida (yes, Florida, of course) has made some reprehensible laws about medical care for transsexual adults.
The new law that bans gender-affirming care for minors also mandates that adult patients seeking trans health care sign an informed consent form. It also requires a physician to oversee any health care related to transitioning, and for people to see that doctor in person. Those rules have proven particularly onerous because many people received care from nurse practitioners and used telehealth. The law also made it a crime to violate the new requirements.
Another new law that allows doctors and pharmacists to refuse to treat transgender people further limits their options.
“For trans adults, it’s devastating,” said Kate Steinle, chief clinical officer at FOLX Health, which provides gender-affirming care to trans adults through telemedicine. Her company decided to open in-person clinics and hire more physicians licensed in Florida in order to continue to provide care to patients who have already enrolled, even though that represents a major change to the company’s business model.
Eli has been seeing a physician for years and therefore still has access to care. But SPEKTRUM Health Inc., the Orlando clinic that prescribed Lucas hormone replacement therapy, has stopped providing gender-affirming care.
“There are a lot of people looking for care that we’re no longer legally able to provide,” said Lana Dunn, SPEKTRUM Health’s chief operating officer.
. . . The law also contains language that she said could scare off doctors who would be otherwise willing to treat trans patients, such as a 20-year statute of limitations to sue over care they provide.
Voluntary suspension of care, requirements to see physicians in person rather than nurse practitioners, the ban on tele-health, pharmacists no longer required to provide prescribed medication—I see no rationale for stopping these things for adults who have already transitioned. And Florida, with the second highest number of transgender adults in the U.S. (nearly 95,000 people), is also the only state in America that prohibits this kind of care. If anything is real transphobia, this is, for what’s the purpose except to punish people who have already transitioned?
*Finally, the Washington Post has a long history of attempts to catch a baseball thrown down from the top of the Washington Monument (the ball is thrown from a window 550 feet us, 5 feet below the Monument’s top). The first try was in 1885, and failed.
Success came 23 years later:
In 1908, D.C. socialite Preston Gibson bet Senators fan John Biddle $500 that Charles “Gabby” Street, Senators pitcher Walter Johnson’s personal catcher, could catch a baseball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument. Not wanting to risk a fine — or worse — Gibson secured a permit from the superintendent of public buildings and grounds, and he turned Street’s attempt into a public spectacle. Senators shortstop George McBride and outfielder Bob Ganley attended, along with a photographer from The Post.
On Aug. 21, with a crowd of spectators gathered below, Gibson rolled 10 balls down a wooden chute and out the window of the monument, but they all bounced off the obelisk’s side or landed too close to the base for Street to get in position to make a catch. Gibson ditched the chute and started throwing the baseballs instead.
“The thirteenth ball was the lucky number, for this Street got under and held tightly in his great mitt,” The Post reported. “… The speed at which it traveled was about an eighth as fast as a rifle bullet, and if it had not been for the very scientific way in which Street caught the ball it would undoubtedly have broken his arm. As it was, it almost carried him to the ground, so great was its impact, and those who stood in the window of the Monument heard a report like the shot of a pistol when it struck his glove.”
These appear to be the records:
On April 1, 1930, Chicago Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett caught a baseball dropped from a Goodyear blimp flying an estimated 800 feet above Los Angeles. In 1938, Cleveland Indians catchers Frankie Pytlak and Hank Helf each snagged a ball thrown by rookie third baseman Ken Keltner from the top of Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, about 708 feet above the city’s public square.
Don’t try this at home!
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again afflicted with Weltschmerz, and looks very sad:
Hili: The world is in a state of constant war.A: But it doesn’t concern you.Hili: How so? I’m fighting for peace and quiet and I’m constantly disturbed by somebody
Hili: Świat jest w stanie wiecznej wojny.Ja: Ale ciebie to nie dotyczy.Hili: Jak to nie? Walczę o święty spokój i ciągle mi przeszkadzają.
And a photo of Szaron:
A B. Kliban cartoon from Stash Krod (Kliban must have been a real character!):
From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy. This should be easily fixable:
From Masih. I believe these are scenes during the 1979 Iranian revolution when women were afraid that the hijab would become mandatory. Here’s the Google translation:
Khomeini’s first enemy from day one were women. That’s why he started suppressing them in the first step and enforced hijab. Women resisted but remained alone. Finally, the mandatory hijab became a law. Now, however, with women challenging it, the foundations of Khomeini’s government have been shaken. #Woman_Freedom_Life.
The group of women is shouting “Freedom.”
نخستین دشمن خمینی از روز نخست زنان بودند. برای همین در اولین قدم شروع به سرکوب آنان و اعمال حجاب اجباری کرد. زنان مقاومت کردند اما تنها ماندند. نهایتا حجاب اجباری تبدیل به قانون شد .حالا اما با به چالش کشیدن آن توسط زنان، پایههای حکومت خمینی به لرزه درآمده است.#زن_زندگى_آزادى pic.twitter.com/EIIunG9wai
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) June 4, 2023
I found this one: the world’s most beautiful duck. It looks a tad artificially colored to me but I don’t know if they do that to videos:
Behold the beautiful Mandarin duck. pic.twitter.com/8OnPVCuDnE
— why you should have an animal (@shouldhaveanima) June 3, 2023
From Malcolm, who calls them “The Queen of the Rodents”:
queen of the rodents pic.twitter.com/OPnAgpwwXA
— cats with pawerful aura (@catswithaura) May 30, 2023
Two animal-stroking videos from Barry, who gives the second one a big fat “nope!”:
— marat (@maratov) April 30, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial. a 13-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:
5 June 1931 | A French Jewish girl, Madeleine Driay, was born in Paris.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 4, 2023
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first one shows his atheist credentials:
Delete “always”. https://t.co/8M043GemQh
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) June 4, 2023
Somebody get this book!
I read this book recently and highly recommend it! It's great if you're interested in folklore, history, Japanese culture, Japanese language/writing, art, and/or cats. https://t.co/WGzgtlsZWx pic.twitter.com/cp1sveIini
— Cats of Yore (@CatsOfYore) June 3, 2023
Good job, Kate!
Had such a fun time painting my favorite local stream today!
Can you spot the painting? 😝 pic.twitter.com/DkG0AFFHZL
— Kate Avery (@tagsalegirl) June 3, 2023