Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, December 13, also known as National Cocoa Day. Here’s a list of store-bought cocoa mixes to try.  It’s also Ice Cream Day, National Day of the Horse, and National Violin Day. 

It’s a tropical 38° F (3° C) in Chicago this morning, so all I needed to wear was a fleece, and the ice in Botany Pond has largely melted. A pair of ducks were floating in the open water for a while yesterday, but most of our beloved waterfowl seem to have departed for good.

Note that are only 11 shopping days until Coynezaa.

News of the Day: Well, it looks like Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won big time yesterday, gaining a unexpectedly large majority in Parliament and indicating that Boris’s Brexit plan will pass handily and soon. I’ll let you UK readers discuss this debacle in the comments below. I for one don’t understand it, as I thought the sentiments for Brexit were more evenly decided. But perhaps this had to do a lot more than with Brexit. Matthew has emitted an appropriate tweet with a link:

Titania has an explanation, which has to do with Corbyn’s wokeness:

And Andrew Sullivan’s explanation converges on Titania’s (h/t: Simon):

It’s a pretty thin day for events, births, and deaths, as you’ll see below.

Stuff that happened on December 13 includes:

  • 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.

Drake returned, so he was the first English person to circumnavigate the globe.  Not the first person, though: Magellan get the credit even though he was killed halfway through his voyage. Ergo Magellan’s replacement captain, Juan Sebastián Elcano, gets the credit for the first person to entirely circumnavigate the globe, returning to Spain in 1522.

  • 1642 – Abel Tasman is the first recorded European to sight New Zealand.
  • 1937 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking: The city of Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese. This is followed by the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops rape and slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians.
  • 1972 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or “Moonwalk” of Apollo 17. To date they are the last humans to set foot on the Moon.
  • 2003 – Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.

Here’s a 5-minute clip from 60 Minutes on the capture of Saddam Hussein and the hole in which he was hiding:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Heinrich Heine, German journalist, poet, and critic (d. 1856)
  • 1818 – Mary Todd Lincoln, 16th First Lady of the United States (d. 1882)
  • 1887 – Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
  • 1918 – Bill Vukovich, Serbian-American race car driver (d. 1955)
  • 1925 – Dick Van Dyke, American actor, singer, and dancer
  • 1989 – Taylor Swift, American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress

Notables who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on December 13 were few, and include:

  • 1466 – Donatello, Italian painter and sculptor (b. 1386)
  • 1945 – Irma Grese, German concentration camp guard (b. 1923)
  • 1961 – Grandma Moses, American painter (b. 1860)
  • 2016 – Alan Thicke, Canadian-American actor and composer (b. 1947)

Heres a photo of Grandma Moses (real name Anna Mary Robertson Moses), who lived to be 101. Note the cute kitten!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is not humble, and laughs at the thought. What a great picture of our girl; it was taken by Paulina, the upstairs lodger, who loves the Princess.

A: Humility is the most important virtue.
Hili: You must be joking.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Ja: Pokora jest najważniejszą cnotą.
Hili: Chyba żartujesz.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

Here’s a recent photo I took in a tall building in Chicago. Note that the 13th floor is missing; this is the one concession to superstition you see almost everywhere. (I’m not sure if some airplanes eliminate seat row #13.)

From Moto: This is me. I’m still traumatized by my parents removing one gift from my Christmas presents and giving it to me on my birthday five days later. What a ripoff! It’s worse if you’re born in late December!

A comic submitted from reader Paul: it’s “Speed Bump” by Dave Coverly:

Two tweets from reader Barry. Am I mistaken or did this chameleon snatch a moth right out of the air?

Speaking of a stretch, I had no idea that herons could do this:

And two tweets from Heather Hastie. First, we are stardust, as Joni Mitchell wrote—except for hydrogen, helium, beryllium, and boron (did you know that?). And did you know that we come from different kinds of stars?

And a full-body cat massage (sound up):

Four tweets from Matthew, beginning with this morning’s quotidian egress at Marsh Farm, where the animals have their breakfast but the staff has their Brexit. The animals don’t seem concerned, bless them:

This serval doesn’t want anybody near its chicken. Be sure to turn the sound up!

This amazing fish is Polypterus sp., and it’s the only vertebrate to have lungs but no trachea (it exhales through the pharynx).

Now this is a professor with spunk, Ceiling Cat bless him!

 

111 Comments

  1. David Coxill
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Talk about turkeys vote for xmas ,this time they have helped peel the potatoes ,mix the stuffing ,and help sharpen the farmers axe .

    F”” the great british voting public ,never been more ashamed to be british .

    As i posted earlier on the Guardian

    • Dominic
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      That is such an undemocratic view.

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        The way we do things in gb has got sod all to do with democracy .

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        It’s not undemocratic to disagree with the majority.

        You are surely not suggesting that you obediently align your views with the majority outcome of every election however divergent they were before the votes were cast?

        • Dominic
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          No. But surely having had a process we have to accept the results of an election? Clearly David thinks the system is not valid – so many think & have thought for a generation or more. I have never aligned with a majority, but this is the system we have & I see no chance of changing it. The Liberal Democrats cocked that opportunity up when they went into government with Cameron.

          • David Coxill
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            Correct ,i don’t think the system is valid or fair ,the Greens get more votes than the SNP and the SNP get more MP’s .

            The French chappie who’s name begins with a C ,French leadr at the end of WW1 said “War is too important to be left to soldiers “.well i think the reform of the voting system in GB is too important to be left to politicians .

            What % did those bas, tories get this time ,around 46% ,more people voted against them than for them .

            Off to finish Tropical Nature .

    • Frank Bath
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      I really don’t understand the sentiment in your second sentence. For goodness sake cheer up.

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:30 am | Permalink

        You cheer up .

      • Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        There isn’t anything to be cheerful about.

        • David Coxill
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

          You never said a truer word .
          Disabled people have been dying because of tory cuts ,women have been reduced to walking the streets because of delays in getting their benefits .
          The homeless have increased over 150%,some of them dying on the streets .

          The great British public are a bunch of selfish bastards .

          I have to admit Corbyn should have resigned two years ago ,but he got move votes than that nice Mr Blair did when he won the 2005 GE .

          I wish i did hard drugs ,feel like getting higher than the ISS .

        • Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          Jeremy Corbyn is not PM?

    • Derec Avery
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      “F”” the great british voting public ,never been more ashamed to be british .”

      And it was this attitude on the part of the Labour party that lost them the election bigly. Perhaps you’ll have learned a valuable lesson the next time around. If there is a next time around. But I doubt it.

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Bullshit ,the great british public had a choice ,a decent party with good ideas ,or a butch of greedy slimy spivs ,they chose the latter ,in a way i think they deserve everything that happens to them in the next five years ,get britshit done .Going to sound rather silly if and when it happens.

  2. Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Ah – there is a big shift towards a break-up of the UK – I think this has deep roots. Let Northern Ireland go for a start. Then, just imagine a Scotland wanting to re-join the EU trying to negotiate an ‘English backstop’…

    We should recognize that we are a piddling bunch of islands of no particular merit.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      I would certainly not wish to overplay the importance of the UK but you are perhaps underplaying it? The UK has the World’s fifth largest economy so its not exactly of zero consequence.

      There are various factors involved in the election results but one that should not be ignored is our first past the post voting systems which massively benefits some parties and penalises others. The Tories got 56% of the seats (and hence their majority in Parliament) with only 43% of the votes. In Scotland it is even more extreme – the SNP received 45% of the vote there but gained an overwhelming 81% of the Scottish seats.

      • Dominic
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Yes. I have never had the person I voted for get elected. I recall the old Liberal Party/SDP getting 25% of the vote in 1983, & 23 seats – rather pathetic.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      This is the Brexit equivalent of ‘own the libs’ – ‘let’s break up the United Kingdom, after all what’s it ever done for us? Then we’ll see how those moaning Scots do’. The pointless, bestial anarchy of it. The monumental, galaxy-swallowing hypocrisy of conservatives banging on about the ‘importance of the union’ for decade after decade, only to turn around and treat it with criminal contempt.

      And this is meant to be small c conservatism? The preservation of tradition, the rejection of momentous, wholesale change without extremely good reason? The number of times I’ve been told ‘you might not like them but those are our principles’….what a sham.

      • Dominic
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        You could well be right.

      • Mark Jones
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        +1

    • Dominic
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      This is the discussion for the ‘optimists’ v the ‘miserable-ists’ https://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/theres-not-much-great-about-britain/?mc_cid=d34a895b09&mc_eid=f7078d034e

  3. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous photo of Hili. As for superstitions, in Japan there tend to be no fourth floors or rooms with 4 in the number, especially in hospitals since the word pronounced ‘shi’ (although with different Japanese characters [kanji]) mean death.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I guess England really does like being an Island.

    Andrew Sullivan – Sullivan? Sounds like a name that immigrated in the past. So good to hear he got his.

    Saddam Hussein? Oh yeah, he’s that guy who got the last laugh.

    • EdwardM
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Whatever else you may find wrong with Sullivan’s views, he is not anti-immigrant. In the tweet cited he’s sounding an alarm for the Democrats. They should listen.

  5. KD
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Both the UK and the United States are liberal nation-states, and there are large bodies of works discussing liberal ideology in its various dimensions at lengths in libraries in both those countries.

    But if you look at the globe, you see a system of nation-states, and all those states have nationalistic political movements (whether they call themselves nationalist or not). They care about sovereignty, they resent foreign interference in their domestic politics, etc. (The outrage over allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election is, of course, predicated on implicit nationalism.)

    Brexit was a question of English sovereignty. It hit people’s nationalistic consciousness the same way allegations of Russian interference did in the U.S. (and if the Mueller report had found credible evidence of collusion, Trump would have been out of office).

    The bottom line is that no matter how much liberal ideology is present, at the end of the day, people are nationalistic, and nationalism will always trump liberalism, no matter how formally liberal the ideology of the ruling class. [People are not individuals carved out of prime matter, they are born from women, integrated into families, languages, cultures, and nations, and their “individuality” presupposes the existence of the former.]

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      It is always interesting to see how distorted conservatives can do history. The outrage with Soviet intervention in our elections is coming from the liberals not the conservative and nationalists who are in bed with Putin. Such a twisted take on even current history.

      England refused to share sovereignty back in 1775 as well. How did that one turn out?

      • KD
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        If you pay attention to what people do, and not what they say, it is clear that Madeleine Albright was a hard-core chauvanistic nationalist ready to invade the world to remake it in America’s image (“American exceptionalism” is what they call it, which is English functional equivalent of “lebenstraum”).

        Trump, for all his rhetoric, is not a hard-core chauvanistic nationalist and that is the main problem he poses for the American foreign policy establishment. [Which does not mean there aren’t good reasons to oppose or fear Trump.]

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          Yes, let’s blame it on a secretary of state from years ago. Not George W. Bush or any number of the neo-cons. I suppose she got us into Vietnam as well.

          Trump is hard core Putin. That is much better. Let Russia do the evasions from now on.

        • Posted December 14, 2019 at 3:17 am | Permalink

          “lebenstraum”

          Is that “living the dream” 😉

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 14, 2019 at 3:40 am | Permalink

            I LOL’d 🙂

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      That’s a very definitive statement given that liberal democracy has been the most popular form of government for many decades now.

      Eddies and currents are not the river itself. Of course shifts occur, realignments; but they do not necessarily represent anything beyond that.

      Stand back from the last few years of nationalist populism and your claim that people will always choose it over liberalism falls apart.

      • KD
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Liberal democracy is not a majority form of government in the world, and has been declining since 2006.

        Not that I am against liberal democracy (happy to live in one and hope it stays that way), but it is very unpopular in certain quarters, and the belief prevalent at the end of the Cold War that it would triumph on Earth is delusional.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Tell it to Francis Fukuyama.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t say it was the majority, I said it was the most popular, which it is. When people are given the choice they tend to embrace it. And GB hasn’t suddenly stopped being a liberal democracy just because Bozo the clown was voted PM – you know that ‘liberal democracy’ doesn’t just mean a democracy with a liberal party leading it right? Countries don’t stop being liberal democracies just because the native conservative party comes into power.

          “(it)has been declining since 2006”

          I’d like to see the evidence for that – liberal democracies specifically.

          “but it is very unpopular in certain quarters and the belief prevalent at the end of the Cold War that it would triumph on Earth is delusional.”

          It’s no less delusional than your claim that “nationalism will always trump liberalism”.

    • KD
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      The point of this comment is not to rag on liberals. Its to provide a political description.

      Cameron didn’t want Brexit, but he held a vote which got framed as Nationalism vs. Liberalism, and surprise, nationalism won. All the dithering around Brexit didn’t stop Brexit, it just energized the Nationalist side more because they were pissed that the government was ignoring the voters.

      The lesson here is when you have Nationalism v. Liberalism, stick it in the Supreme Court or the WTO or anywhere but a voting booth.

      This is all the culmination of Cameron’s strategic political error. He didn’t have to keep his campaign promise, and now a lot of people will suffer.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        You keep repeating that claim but repetition doesn’t make it any more convincing. This wasn’t ‘nationalism vs liberalism’ any more than Brexit was ‘political correctness versus populism’ or ‘politicians versus the people’ or ‘elites vs the proles’…or any number of different descriptions.

        Besides which, you keep making the claim that nationalism always wins versus liberalism. Which is a. unevidenced, not supported by anything you’ve said, and b. requires you to shape the entire narrative of Brexit to suit your own argument, flattening out all the many complications and contradictions that arise when you frame it as ‘nationalism vs liberalism’, instead of myriad other ways.

  6. Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    About the formation of atoms bit (stellar nucleosynthesis). What puzzles me about this illustration is that it does not clearly show where atoms are formed in heavier and heavier stars. The lesson I read about frequently is that larger stars fuse lighter atoms –> heavier atoms, and that the heaviest stars (blue supergiants) later can start making iron toward the end of their time span before the die.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Not an expert but from what I understand iron is the heaviest element formed in stars prior to / except for, catastrophic short lived events like novae, supernovae and mergers.

      If I recall correctly the formation of iron does indeed occur near the end of the life of the star and poisons the fusion processes thereby hastening the end of the stars life dramatically once iron begins to form.

    • Charles Sawicki
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Elements heavier than iron can’t form by normal fusion because they require an added external source of energy to form.For example, supernova explosions. In normal fusion, energy is released when lighter nuclei fuse.This only works up to iron formation.

      • Posted December 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        darrell and Charles: Yes, that is how i understand it too. But the chart does not clearly identify elements being made in stars. Only contributions by other processes are indicated, as far as I can tell.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          Mark, you are right. The table below gives a better idea what elements came about in the wild [outside stars] – it distinguishes between elements that require supernovas for their creation [red & blue] & those that were spewed out from stars without requiring supernovas to create them [I believe the origins of copper may still be disputed!]:

          table

          And here’s Ethan Siegel [Starts With A Bang! blog & astrophysicist] on THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF HOW EACH ELEMENT WAS MADE. It’s good & probably mostly still up-to-date.

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I’ll post my question here since this is the first thread I found commenting on the periodic table.

      Question: There are 10 elements that are a green-brown color, but this color doesn’t appear in the legend. Would these be man-made elements, or?

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Mark R. That colour in the chart represents elements not known to be made in nature. The key for that colour reads: “Human synthesis. No stable isotopes.” Here’s the proper table image:

        2560px-Nucleosynthesis_periodic_table.svg

        I’m sure that they are made in nature [& other exotic atoms way higher up than our table], but they don’t live long & except for the rare “islands of stability” that exist beyond the periodic table elements, but if nature makes those elements & they survive the supernova [or whatever] they are vanishingly rare elements. Perhaps they exist in our solar system, but very hard to pan for these [especially as we haveno idea what properties they might have other than being more massive than anything we know]. 🙂

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        There’s a table that goes up to ELEMENT 166 [click link] & WIKI QUOTE:

        it has also been posited that in the region beyond A > 300, an entire “continent of stability” consisting of a hypothetical phase of stable quark matter, comprising freely flowing up and down quarks rather than quarks bound into protons and neutrons, may exist. Such a form of matter is theorized to be a ground state of baryonic matter with a greater binding energy per baryon than nuclear matter, favoring the decay of nuclear matter beyond this mass threshold into quark matter. If this state of matter exists, it could possibly be synthesized in the same fusion reactions leading to normal superheavy nuclei, and would be stabilized against fission as a consequence of its stronger binding that is enough to overcome Coulomb repulsion.

        Then of course there’s the material of which Neutron stars are said to be made of – which might be a quite complex stuff with pasta shapes in it or some such… 🙂

        • Mark R.
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Aha, thanks for all the added information Michael. I should have clicked on the table, I didn’t realize that part of the legend was hidden.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            Thanks Mark. Actually that part of the legend doesn’t appear if you click on the tweet image – its entirely missing for some reason. I had to hunt out the proper version. 🙂

            • Mark R.
              Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

              As the kids around here say: You da man. 🙂

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

                Ouch! 🙂

  7. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Googling ‘properties to let on moon’

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Stiff upper lip, old boy; it’s not like Gerry’s coming across the channel every night in Junkers and Messerschmitts, while corporal Adolf is having his pic taken in front of the Eiffel Tower.

      Days are dark, I know, but not quite so. 🙂

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        It’s Jerry’s not Gerry’s .Talking of Jerry’s ,I read the chapter in Tropical Nature where the good Dr gets infested by a Bot Fly ,i laughed my socks off when doc is described as running round in circles screaming “Get it out ,Get it out “.

        • Posted December 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          I think the ‘Gerry’ Ken means is the other name for ‘Kraut’, not our own Jerry.

          • chrism
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

            Even that Jerry – the Hun – is spelled with a ‘J’.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        My sister just bought me ‘How Democracies Die’. I’m currently reading the bit where it talks about how authoritarians use crises(like Brexit) to cement their authority, gain some kind of spectacularly large mandate, corner the referees and trample over norms. Before you know it we’re not in a democracy any more.

        No-one has any idea what Johnson is really capable of. In his unguarded moments he strikes me as edging quite close to the clinical definition of psychopathy. To gamble on him being a decent human being is deeply dangerous.

        Best to expect the worst and hope for the best.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

          Understood. If the Donald backs his way into another “win” in the electoral college, I may join you in seeking lodging on the lunar surface.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

            I’ll keep an eye out for an extra plot. Dark side or light side? Any preference?

            • EdwardM
              Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

              “There is no dark side of the moon. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

              Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

              You lot over there have our sympathies and support.

          • Mark R.
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            How about a secret hide-out in Antarctica…at least there are penguins!

  8. chrism
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Looks like we got our second referendum/People’s Vote after all!

    I’m agnostic about whether Brexit will turn out to be for the best or not, but I remain sanguine about the whole mess as it has underlined what seems to me to be an important principle. Democracy is the freedom to make your own mistakes, and the freedom part is far more important than the mistakes in the long run. Mistakes, democratically made, can be corrected in future elections, but without the freedom, you rely on an unelected few to make the mistakes and you can do nothing about them. I’m pretty sure this is what WSC meant by “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” remark.

    The truly fascinating thing is how shall history textbooks distill and describe this period to schoolkids in the future? One imagines it as being as fertile a ground for disagreement as Reform Laws, Corn Laws and appeasement.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      I would say that democracy relies on structural consistency. You can’t just switch from representational democracy – where people vote in people who make the tough, technical, hugely complicated decisions on their behalf – to a one-off, binary referendum on one of the most important, complex, multi-faceted decisions ever, decided by a general public which doesn’t really have a clue what it’s voting for.
      That’s not really democracy; that’s making it up as you go along.

      • chrism
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        “…decided by a general public which doesn’t really have a clue what it’s voting for. That’s not really democracy; that’s making it up as you go along.”

        I think that is exactly what democracy is, and ought to be. Imperfect, error-prone, bumbling along from one thing to the next, but in the long term getting things right eventually. I have far more trust in this un-directed form of political evolution than in the ability of a few technocrats to make successful tweaks on our behalf. Just as the invisible hand of market forces works in the narrow purview of capitalism, the trial and error process of mass democracy self-corrects its way to successful solutions, whilst avoiding the disasters of Voltaire’s Bastards.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          There is a distinction between representative and direct democracy. The latter is more susceptible to the passions of the day (which, if taken to an extreme, can devolve into mob rule). A version of that danger presents itself whenever a polity puts issues directly to the people via propositions and referenda (as the people of California and some other states on this side of the pond have discovered).

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          Tell me, when has “mass democracy” ever worked? When has simply handing over the political decision-making to the general public on matters of seismic national importance worked?

          “the trial and error process of mass democracy self-corrects its way to successful solutions”

          Again, when has this happened?

          • chrism
            Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

            Do tell us about your preferred alternative and how it will improve all our lives. It’s not an easy sell when you have to convince people that they will be better off with, at best, a few oligarchs ruling them, at worst, a dictator, but I’m willing to listen (for entertainment purposes only, as they say in the psychic small ads).

            • darrelle
              Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

              Where did he say anything about a few oligarchs or a dictator running things would be better off? You are being disingenuous.

              • chrism
                Posted December 13, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

                Oh, hardly (and I do hope you imply my naivety rather than dishonesty). He feels mass democracy doesn’t work and never has. Alternatives lie somewhere between oligarchy and dictatorship. He’s made his bed and he must lie in it. We are truly in a sorry state if I must defend the concept of democracy, especially if it is against the attacks of those who I presume like to feel they are on the right side of history.

              • darrelle
                Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps it is naivety, I really couldn’t guess. But either your interpretation of what he (and I) have said is quite wrong and your knowledge of democracy past and present is lacking or you are pretending to misunderstand so that you can signal your virtue. Or something.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted December 13, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

              I have no idea what you’re talking about, sorry.

      • Al
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        People vote for party manifestos in British elections. The “representative” BS has been dredged up by remainer MPs as justification for imposing their own wishes on the electorate by claiming that they are there to make decisons on behalf of their constituency. The British parliamentary system can only work when the government sets the agenda, by the authority of it’s majority, and ruling party MPs respect the major manifesto promises made to the electorate.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          “The “representative” BS has been dredged up by remainer MPs as justification for imposing their own wishes on the electorate by claiming that they are there to make decisons on behalf of their constituency.”

          Yes, that IS what they are there for. They wouldn’t fucking exist otherwise would they?And it’s not been “dredged up” either, what with it being in place as our system of government for centuries now. I hate accusing people of outright ignorance but do you even know what representative democracy is?

          Your comment is a perfect example of what we end up with when demagogic lying shitbags trick a majority of the country into thinking that they instinctively know better than politicians about everything, and that the latter just get in the way.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      “Democracy is the freedom to make your own mistakes, and the freedom part is far more important than the mistakes in the long run.”

      But the freedom for who to make their own mistakes? This seems a bit over romantic to me. Perhaps I’m just feeling cynical but “Democracy is the freedom to carry the burden and consequences of other people’s mistakes” seems more realistic to me.

      “Mistakes, democratically made, can be corrected in future elections, . . .

      I really don’t think this is necessarily true at all. Some things can not be corrected, can’t be undone. Perhaps after enough time has gone by the pain and disruption is forgotten and life does indeed go on, but that isn’t the same thing. Perhaps sometime in the future the society even manages to reach a better place than before, but even then that does nothing for the people that lived through the shitty times in between.

      • chrism
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        It’s entirely possible to believe (correctly, I think) that the democratic process works well in the long term, whilst having little or no respect for the individual wisdom of your fellows! It’s just as well you and I have only one vote each, for we might be wrong, and this is true for all. When finding oneself on the losing side of any vote, it is perfectly understandable to want to argue, to ‘do something about it’ – but that’s the thin end of a very nasty wedge that ends up in tyranny and dictatorship at the thick end. Best thing to do is to start marshalling your arguments and working on the next vote where we may have better luck. Ultimately we have to remember we may each not succeed, not be able to influence things or convince others, nor even live long enough to see the correction (I’ll be very lucky if I see the end of Boris’s government). Humility is generally better than hubris, no?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        “Mistakes, democratically made, can be corrected in future elections . . .”

        Yeah, might wanna check with the Weimar Republic and the election of 1933 on that one.

  9. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    …And Corbyn is still hanging around. Probably in order to ensure someone equally unelectable and far-left will be his successor.

    This charmless, stubborn, undemocratic, humourless dogmatist should have resigned after he lost the last election. He could’ve made his first positive contribution to the Labour Party by doing so. But no, for some reason he’s still here.

    Already his apologists are making excuses for him, which boggles my mind. There aren’t any. Even if you take into account the significant right-wing bias of the British media he still remains a disastrous candidate and if the LP is to survive it needs to divest itself of all connections to Corbyn. Because you know he will be a stick that opposition parties will use to beat Labour for years to come if they don’t make serious, wholesale changes to personnel.

    • Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I would go so far as to say that Corbyn is the worst thing to happen to British politics in the last five years.

      Since 2015, the British government has been systematically fucking everything up and Corbyn has failed to hold them to account. He’s now screwed up two opportunities to get rid of them. The government has been bad but they wouldn’t still be there if the opposition had been doing its job.

      I’ll not be unhappy to see the back of Corbyn.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        He has led the most utterly pathetic opposition in my lifetime. They have not fulfilled their basic duty of holding the Tories’ feet to the fire and providing a voice for the rest of the country. Because of his intransigence and adolescent hostility to the EU 48% of the country have been essentially voiceless in the Brexit debate. It’s effectively been a one-party state for the last couple of years. He will go down as one of the worst party leaders in modern political history.

        • JezGrove
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          Sadly, as someone who voted Labour as a first-time voter in 1979 I couldn’t agree more. The only positive is that Labour will hopefully replace Corbyn with someone electable and remove the coterie of extremist control freaks that he has surrounded himself with. But I’m not holding my breath – and in the meantime Brexit will have trashed everything and the UK will be splitting up.

  10. Historian
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    The Andrew Sullivan tweet cited in the post regarding his warning that the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party will make them toast in the next election, I think is overblown, but should not be blithely dismissed. This is because Trump has discovered that playing white identity politics has been a political winner for him and he stokes it at every opportunity, particularly in the area of immigration. He understands tribalism. Those on the far left do not, which is why that in the United States at least they have been political nonentities. Blinded by their ideology, as are all ideologues whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, they are clueless as to where they have gone wrong.

    In yet another incisive op-ed, NYT columnist Tom Edsall has discussed with many academics the growth of white tribalism and its fear of diversity. It should be no surprise that Democratic primary voters are not as far to the left as the “woke” generation, although they are more to the left than white America as a whole. Thus, if the academics are correct, should the Democrats nominate a leftist candidate such as Warren or Sanders, the election will be much closer than if a more centrist Democrat were nominated. This is particularly true because of the Electoral College and the importance of the crucial swing states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania), which contain a greater proportion of white working class voters than most other areas of the country. For the moment the next presidential election looks like a nail biter with democracy at stake. It seems to me that Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would be the best Democratic candidate to tamp down rampant white anxiety about diversity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look she has much of a chance of winning the nomination. Biden is a centrist within the Democratic Party, but he is simply too old.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      I have to butt in if only to make a point. Many here seem to jump on the band wagon of constantly going after the far left until it is almost the only thing in politics that matters. I wonder if they do this because it is easy or because they think they can change minds. Either way, it does get old.

      I recall not long ago I was considered the odd person out because I promoted impeachment. Everyone here said no no, that is not going to happen. You do not know what you are talking about and the polls, which we go by religiously, says we should give this crook another chance and the republicans will never go along. Again, most of you missed the important point and I guess still do today. If all we can do is go after the far left when we have a slimy dictator in charge.

      • Historian
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        The point is that the far left has a disproportionate influence in the Democratic Party as compared to the views of the party members as a whole. This is because of their activism. In regard to the presidential election, the nomination of a candidate perceived by the nation as a radical leftist (rightly or wrongly) enhances the likelihood of Trump being re-elected. Nothing is more important than getting Trump out office. As has been oft said, the electability of the Democratic candidate should determine who gets the nomination.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          Well, if we just waited and let the primaries make the determination we would all be better off. But for some reason today we force this pathetic debate system on television for many months to determine what. Who has enough money to stay in until we finally see the first votes. It is all a scam. Lets spend two years running each other down while Trump just keeps on doing whatever he wants. It is sickening and this action is sure to defeat. So keep on going after those far left democrats because that is the key to success, just like last election.

          By the way, Trump sent out 120 tweets yesterday, so you think he and the republican cult might be watching the impeachment.

    • pablo
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t think Sullivan’s concern is overblown at all. That 4 hour summit the Dems had with LGBT activists will provide Trump with all the material he needs for his political ads next year. I wish the Dems would just ignore us until after the election.

  11. Jim batterson
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    And a you tube video of appollo 17 astronauts’ lift off from moon’s surface to return to the orbiter is at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9HQfauGJaTs
    I can still recall watching this live on a small black and white tv in the physics dept basement at william and mary. It was very odd to have a tv in our labs in those days. I think that this is the only such video of real time blast from the surface of the moon.

  12. Simon Hayward
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Here are my 6.30 am comments (with some typo correction) to Jerry on the subject of the UK election. From a Brit who hasn’t lived there since 1991 – but with my whole extended family and a bunch of friends still there.

    Always hard to tell from this distance but:

    Corbyn’s popularity rating was ridiculously low. Much worse than Trump

    He represented a step back to the Labour policies of the 1970s that brought the country to its knees and Thatcher to power. Anyone in, or over, their mid 50s would remember that. Anyone younger with a modicum of study, ditto (a nephew in his mid 20s noted that they have gone through several years of austerity to pay down the debt from the last labour govt, and don’t want to have to repeat the process)

    People dislike his support of the IRA against Britain, support for the PLO and other terrorist groups

    People dislike his anti semitism

    Sullivan made a good case a few weeks back that Corbyn was the Trumpian figure in this election. Boris is in many ways a more recognizably traditional British conservative P.M., Eton, Oxford etc, good sense of humor and self mocking – which goes much further there than here. A loose relationship with the truth is a downer but he is a politician. Does he represent the Joe Biden equivalent in a certain way? Certainly the lack of political correctness is refreshing, per Titania

    On the brexit issue i get the feeling that many people just want something sorted out and to move on. [Post hoc – I note a sense of pure exhaustion on the subject, almost a “shoot me now and get it over” feeling] Even a lot of remain voters seem resigned to the fact that they lost in a democratic vote that should be respected. I happen to think it was a bad idea to leave, but I’m not the target audience. Ultimately it might strengthen democracy in the EU by defining what people will tolerate from unelected faceless officials. The idea that a country might up and leave didn’t seem plausible until now, so now it must be recognized

    So people went for the better (or less bad) option

    Now – having woken up and drunk my coffee:
    I think the potential breakup of the UK may be overplayed here. There is no mechanism for an independent Scotland to join the EU in the short to medium term, and there are strong incentives for the EU to resist such a move (don’t want to encourage the Catalans or Basques, etc). I don’t know how Scotland exists as a stand alone state without the support of either the rest of the UK or the EU (but I’m not an economist)

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      “Sullivan made a good case a few weeks back that Corbyn was the Trumpian figure in this election. Boris is in many ways a more recognizably traditional British conservative P.M., Eton, Oxford etc, good sense of humor and self mocking – which goes much further there than here. A loose relationship with the truth is a downer but he is a politician. Does he represent the Joe Biden equivalent in a certain way? Certainly the lack of political correctness is refreshing, per Titania”

      Let me just say that pretty much everything you’ve written here is…debatable to say the least.

    • Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Labour lost this election because Corbyn is useless.

      That’s the bottom line. Also, the fact that the Tories were the only ones unequivocally promising Brexit led a lot of people to vote for them that maybe wouldn’t otherwise. Half the electorate voted for Brexit in 2016. If all of them voted Tory this time round that would be enough fore them to win.

      As for the break up of the UK: I think it is now inevitable. It won’t happen while Boris is PM, but as soon as a government gets into power that is willing to let Scotland have Indyref 2, that will be the end.

    • David Coxill
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “have gone through several years of austerity to pay down the debt from the last labour govt, and don’t want to have to repeat the process)”

      FFS ,not this crap again .And if your nephew believes that ,well he deserves everything the tories are going to do to the young .

  13. E.A. Blair
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    The answer is “Hemoglobin”. What’s the question?

  14. Roger Lambert
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    “One lesson from the UK: if the Democrats don’t stop their hard-left slide, they’ll suffer the same fate as Labour. “

    Because Americans are just like Britons, and decades of polling data (which show overwhelming support for the liberal social agenda) are false?

    This is particularly rich when comparing Britain vs the US. We on the political left in the US are simply trying to attain the basic goods and services Britons have been enjoying for their tax dollars for many decades.

    Programs like national health care, college tuition remission, etc are precious to Britons and were definitely not sacrificed at the ballot box yesterday. This is sophistry from Sullivan.

    • Mark Jones
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Yes, I really don’t understand this talk of a hard-left slide, unless Sullivan’s only comparing Corbyn with the Blairites.

      I’m not a Labour supporter, but I don’t think my political compass has changed much in my 58 years. The Labour manifesto, to my (previously) centrist mind, wasn’t hard left in quality (although maybe in quantity – they pledged a lot more spending than in 2017). If we look at the left-right score Labour’s 2017 manifesto was more right wing than 1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1974a, 1974b, 1979, 1983 and 1992 (bold=winning). Blair’s manifestos were right wing on the left-right scale! (source https://tinyurl.com/w6lmlhv)

      One of the great successes of neo-liberalism is the moving of the Overton window to the right, which causes even liberals to cast fairly moderate left wing policies as hard left, and right wingers to cast them as Marxist! We see it going on all the time in the press (eg https://tinyurl.com/vj5tdz3), and frankly it’s ridiculous. Establishment of the NHS, something which benefits millions of working people, would now be cast as Marxist.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Very good points. The battle within the democratic party always comes down to degree. Many like Sullivan want the plain, do nothing extreme, like ask for some equality and a fair shake for more people and stop raising the rich with nothing left for the middle and poor. This is exactly what caused the democrats to lose it that last two times.

      Don’t rock the boat or offend grandma and we can win again. Don’t demand that the people take back this government.

    • pablo
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      At least 2 of the current candidates have backed decriminalizing illegal immigration. That’s the leftward slide that will give us Trump’s second term. We keep thinking that Hispanic voters will save us, but most are socially conservative and welcoming illegal immigrants is not a hot button issue with them. While most people don’t like the way it’s being done, I think most are secretly grateful that something is being done about illegal immigration.

  15. Posted December 13, 2019 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Hopefully the duck duo will move on when the pond runs out of herbaceous scraps.

  16. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Very good points here with you and Ken. Many do not know that during our own Constitutional times back in 1787 you would never hear the word democracy. It was considered kind of a dirty word by the founders. And they were not even thinking about anyone voting except white males and they trusted few of them. People want to believe that they just created this Constitution thing and full blown democracy took off. Hardly and it was not something any of the founders were proposing.

  17. David Coxill
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    And ,and the very worse thing ,is that we Brits can no longer point the finger at you Americans for electing the snatch snatcher in 2016 .

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      No, I think you can still point the finger at us for electing the snatch snatcher. No election of a foreign leader, even if they’re “worse” than Trump, can water-down the mistake of electing this American clown.

  18. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    PCCE:

    “Drake returned, so he was the first English person to circumnavigate the globe. Not the first person, though: Magellan get the credit even though he was killed halfway through his voyage. Ergo Magellan’s replacement captain, Juan Sebastián Elcano, gets the credit for the first person to entirely circumnavigate the globe, returning to Spain in 1522”

    The first person to circumnavigate the globe may not be European.

    There is an outside chance it might have been Enrique of Malacca although we will never know.

    Enrique was bought by Ferdinand Magellan in Melaka [Malacca, Malay Peninsula] & he was Magellan’s personal slave on all his voyages from that point, including the voyage that circumnavigated the world between 1519 & 1521. On 1 May 1521, around a week after Magellan’s death, he ‘left’ [an interesting story!] the expedition in Cebu [the Philippines] – IF he succeeded in returning to Melaka, 2,500 km by sea to the south west of Cebu, he would have been the first person to circumnavigate the world, returning to his starting point.

  19. rickflick
    Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    It’s worse if you’re born in late December!

    I can identify with that. The only birthday party I can remember was my 5th, which was celebrated in August. 😒

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Why was your 5th b/day celebrated in August when you were around 4 2/3? [I hope it’s not a sad story, now I consider the possibilities!]

      • rickflick
        Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        My mother felt sorry for me. All the other kids in the neighborhood had birthday parties. She decided, since I was born so close to Christmas, I’d never have one unless she held it away from the winter holidays. She must have felt I should have one at the best possible time of year – when we could hold it outside in the yard. She was an emotional genius.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

          Lovely, smart Mum!

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 13, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Mums are great.

  20. Posted December 13, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    That Hili picture and conversation should really be turned into a meme.


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