Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on October 20, 2016: a day that promises to be overcast but not too cold (highs of 14°C, 58°F in Chicago). It’s National Brandied Fruit Day, but we can ignore that. For on this day in 1803, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson’s Big Buy from France. At a cool 828,000 square miles, the purchase nearly doubling the size of the U.S., and at a bargain price of only 4¢ per acre! It also included bits of what are now two provinces of Canada:


In 1973, this date saw an event I remember well, Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which he fired U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus as punishment for their own refusal to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork, who was later rejected by the Senate after Ronald Reagan proposed Bork as a nominee for the Supreme Court. Things didn’t look good for Nixon, then, and of course he eventually resigned.

Those born on this day include Patrick Mathew (1790), who came up with a rudimentary but largely ignored version of natural selection in the appendix of his book Naval Timber and Arboriculture; Arthur Rimbaud (1854); John Dewey (1859); Jelly Roll Morton (1885); Joyce Brothers (1927); Bobby Seale (1936); and Ken “Ark Park” Ham (1951). Those who died on this day include Eugene V. Debs (1926), Herbert Hoover (1964), Paul Dirac (1984, you can see one of his lectures on quantum mechanics here), and Paul Kurtz (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Crooked Hili is once again lying about her motivations:

A: Hili, you are on my desk chair again.
Hili: I’m guarding it so Cyrus will not lie down here.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, znowu jesteś na moim fotelu!
Hili: Pilnuję, żeby Cyrus się tu nie położył.

Reader Ed Suominen sent a photo titled “Who says cats are worthless?” This one, Ed’s own, is serving as an iPad stand:


And reader Taskin from Winnipeg sent a lovely picture of an imperious Gus with the caption:
“I have the most beautifully trained staff of any cat I know.”
Either that or Gus smells Autumn in the air…



  1. Posted October 20, 2016 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Jerry, typo for Dirace, the surname of course is Dirac.

    Hard not to admire Dirac (I have named our cat after him) and the following link is precious in its revelation of his well-known taciturnity:

    • Christopher
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      “What do you like best in America?”


      • Dominic
        Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        Baked Alaska!

    • Posted October 20, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Fixed the “Dirace”, thanks. (oy!)

    • Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Have you read the biography, _The Strangest Man_? I found it enjoyable, but I don’t know anything about Dirac beyond the usual boilerplate remarks from physics books.

  2. steve oberski
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Looks like Winnipeg is polar bear and snow free, for the moment.

  3. KIA
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that no one asked the then native inhabitants of the land involved in the Louisiana Purchase whether they agreed to the deal between a foreign country that said they owned it, France, and the country that said they bought it fair and square, the US.
    What would we say if Russia mad a similar deal with Saudi Arabia to ‘purchase’ sections of Arizona up thru Washington and Oregon today?
    We’d say they didn’t own it to sell it, and that the ‘deal’ was robbery

    • Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Ah, the obligatory virtue-signaling comment. I knew someone would say this. Note, though, that I was just marking the day.
      Now go away.

      • Dominic
        Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        I almost did! 😉

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Would those be the same Russians that sold Alaska to the US in 1867 ?

      What I find striking is that pretty much all of the US territory acquired by purchase from foreign powers votes Republican/Drumph.

      Perhaps not such a good deal after all …

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    The interesting thing about Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana from the French was, he was a republican, the party dedicated to limiting the size of government and the power of the presidency. But when the chance to make the deal of a lifetime came up, Jefferson realized that there were higher priorities than republican principles. He bought the land and only afterword went to congress for approval – thus setting a precedent that began the shift to a more centralized government. This event occurred in his first months in office and made him an immediate national hero and made his election to a second term almost a lock.

    • Christopher
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      France needed the money for wars, decided that the little-used Indian lands and wilderness was not nearly as important as the heavily used and extremely lucrative Caribbean sugar-producing islands full of African brought in as sugar plantation slaves. Considering that much of the Louisiana Purchase was modern states like Kansas, Oklahoma, N. & S. Dakota, Nebraska…I’m not sure it was a good deal after all! Perhaps we can trade KS governor Sam Brownback and OK senator Jim Inhofe for some rum instead.

      • rickflick
        Posted October 20, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        I’ll drink to that.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      he was a republican, the party dedicated to limiting the size of government and the power of the presidency

      Well it is now but was it back then? Who was the other party dedicated to increasing the size of government, considering that the Democratic Party didn’t exist them.

      The above are genuine questions seeking knowledge: I’m British so my American history is patchy, although I like to think it is better than average for over here. Ask most British people what party Abraham Lincoln was in, and they’ll say “Democrat” because they would be extrapolating the values of the two parties back then from their values today.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 21, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

        Re Lincoln’s party, would the average ‘Murican know any better?


        • jeremy pereira
          Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          I kind of assumed it would be taught in American history classes. In Britain, even quite educated people would get the answer wrong because they aren’t taught US history and they would reason Lincoln was against slavery and the Democrats are “the good guys” therefore Lincoln was a Democrat.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            I agree with your reasoning, that is to say I think you’re probably right about how people would guess.

            I really can’t say which way I would have guessed since thinking more about it would make me question whether the Dems were around then.

            As to what is taught in US history classes, I have no knowledge. History – in all countries – tends to be a very insular subject.


  5. somer
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Who wouldn’t want to worship emperor Gus?

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Love those cats. Such a odd comment made above concerning the Purchase. Actually made by Robert Livingston told to Jefferson after the fact. The French actually held title/ownership of the property so what the hell the Russia and Saudi thing was about?

    The Saturday Night Massacre by Nixon was kind of his Trump hour. Lets fire everyone and maybe it will go away. There is a similar juvenile comparison between the two that seems to resonate.

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    During his last years, Herbert Hoover’s popularity had risen considerably. When asked how he had managed that, the reply was the same, “I outlived the bastards.”

  8. Dominic
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Christopher Wren’s birthday –
    “A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth.”
    Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Astronomy, Gresham College

    How prophetic!

  9. Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you mean of cause Paul Dirac and not Dirace.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Re the Saturday Night Massacre, as a technical matter I believe Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned from the Justice Department rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Archibald Cox.

    Funny that this anniversary comes now, since I’ve found myself brooding on Richard Nixon in light of recent events. Nixon was the most pernicious national politician of my lifetime, an awful human being who did much evil. But he also had been a naval officer during the War (albeit one who never served close enough to the front to hear a shot fired in battle) as well as a US congressman and senator and Ike’s veep for eight years. As such, I never questioned his patriotism or commitment to country. Nor have I ever questioned the patriotism of any of the other Republicans who’ve served as or run to be the US president during my lifetime — Romney, McCain, the two Bushes, Reagan, Ford, dating back to Eisenhower (during whose administration I was born) — even though I was often vehemently opposed to their policies and politics.

    Not so Donald Trump. He has done nothing in his life to suggest he has a patriotic bone in his flabby orange body. He avoided service in the armed forces during wartime, but unlike so many others of his generation, he did not do so honorably by taking a principled stand against the war. Instead, he dodged service like a typical privileged white boy, obtaining a series of college deferments, then having his family physician issue a bogus letter to the Selective Service claiming a spurious physical disability (one that never kept him off the golf course) — as opposed, say, to the way a certain bright Ozark hillbilly with a Rhodes scholarship outsmarted his draft board. Since that time, Trump has performed no public service, has held no public office, has championed no cause other than the self-aggrandizement of Donald J. Trump.

    Now he has revealed himself willing to imperil American democracy simply to spare himself the label “loser” (which is what he most assuredly is). Since his recent nosedive in the polls, he has been demagoguing this ridiculous claim of his that the U.S. election system is rigged against him, without offering a shred of evidence to support it. And in last night’s debate, he refused to pledge that he would abide by this election’s results. His crazy claims risk fomenting violence by his dimwitted followers and plunging this nation into a constitutional crises.

    Donald Trump is far and away the worst person ever to pretend to high office in our nation’s history.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I left Bob Dole off the list of patriotic Republicans who’ve run for the presidency. Gotta give props to Liddy’s husband. Barry Goldwater, too.

      Both veterans of War 2 and longtime public servants.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Well said. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but (as someone born during the Truman administration) I completely agree.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 20, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Give ’em hell, Diane.

        (I was conceived during the Truman administration. My first trip into a voting booth was in utero, when my mom pulled the lever for Adlai Stevenson, Ike’s Democratic oppoenent.)

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 20, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

          Sadly, my Mom was a lifelong Republican! Which meant that I was one too, until I got half a brain in my head.

          (Happily my Dad was a Dem until very late in life.)

  11. Kevin
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Great picture of Gus.

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    For those who make a ‘hobby’ of astrology (in the sense that P.Z. Myers would like to see religion become a hobby) today is exactly 6 months away from Adolf Hitler’s birthday, both later and before- the furthest you can get in either direction.

  13. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    The Louisiana Purchase seems to be almost bizarrely misnamed, or at least very misleading. Since it includes most of the Midwest including seven entire states and almost all of two more, but not, rather paradoxically, all of Louisiana.

    (I never knew that till I saw the map)


    • rickflick
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Another interesting fact…the region was owned by Spain originally who passed it on the France in a negotiation with Napoleon. Jefferson was extremely apprehensive of having the French on the Western boarder and immediately began thinking of ways to counter the possibility. Luckily, Napoleon was engaged in war with the Brits and decided to sell the whole thing. Jefferson acted fast and sealed the deal.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        “the region was owned by Spain originally”

        Now that somehow seems a bit more likely, historically speaking.


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