Wednesday: Hili dialogue

August 28, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s hump day: August 28, 2019, and National Cherry Turnover Day (I prefer strawberry). It’s also Red Wine Day (I’ll be having a Patricia Green pinot noir tonight), as well as International Read Comics in Public Day (I’d prefer International Read James Joyce in Public Day), and National Bow Tie Day (I must admit that I can’t abide those ties).

Today’s big news is that Boris Johnson has shut down Parliament in a weaselly move to get the Brexit initiative (which he favors) through. This development hasn’t yet made the headlines in the U.S., so I asked Matthew Cobb to give us a brief summary of what’s going on in London. His report:

The Johnson government has announced it will suspend parliament until the middle of October, thereby removing its actions from parliamentary scrutiny. This is widely described as a coup or a constitutional outrage. The aim is to enable the government to drive through its policy of No Deal Brexit (opposed by the majority of MPs in a series of votes).

This is a major constitutional crisis, and if the government does not back down the consequences could be dramatic and hard to predict, but at the very least would lead to the break-up of the UK as Scotland would undoubtedly secede, through a vote or who knows what.  Here is a statement from the Speaker so you can see I am not exaggerating

There is a live feed of political developments at The Guardian.

Stuff that happened on August 28 includes:

  • 632 – Fatimah, daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad dies, with her cause of death being a controversial topic among the Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.

The sects differ about her death, but of course also about the rightful heirs of Muhammad. Fatimah’s husband, and Muhammad’s son in law, was Ali ibn Abi Talib, regarded as the heir of Muhammad by Shia Muslims. In contrast, Sunni Muslims regard Muhammad’s father in law, Abu Bakr, as the Caliph that would succeed him. On such differences the world spills oceans of blood.

  • 1789 – William Herschel discovers a new moon of Saturn: Enceladus.

As the Cassini Project showed, Enceladus is unusual among moons because it has “geysers”, described by Wikipedia this way:

 . . . . plumes venting from the south polar region. Cryovolcanoes near the south pole shoot geyser-like jets of water vapor, molecular hydrogen, other volatiles, and solid material, including sodium chloride crystals and ice particles, into space, totaling about 200 kg (440 lb) per second. Over 100 geysers have been identified. Some of the water vapor falls back as “snow”; the rest escapes, and supplies most of the material making up Saturn’s E ring. According to NASA scientists, the plumes are similar in composition to comets. In 2014, NASA reported that Cassini found evidence for a large south polar subsurface ocean of liquid water with a thickness of around 10 km (6 mi).

Here are two photos of the plumes:

  • 1845 – The first issue of Scientific American magazine is published.
  • 1898 – Caleb Bradham’s beverage “Brad’s Drink” is renamed “Pepsi-Cola”.
  • 1955 – Black teenager Emmett Till is brutally murdered in Mississippi, galvanizing the nascent civil rights movement.

Till’s mother, of course, insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago, and the local black paper, the Chicago Defender, published a photo of his brutally beaten body. This helped galvanize support for the nascent civil rights movement (you can see the photo here, but be warned that the photo is gruesome). Here’s Emmett’s mother at the funeral, looking at the carnage (you can read more about the funeral here). His eye was missing, his teeth were gone, and his ear was severed. All that identified him was his ring.

Mamie Till-Mobley weeps at her son’s funeral on Sept. 6, 1955, in Chicago. (Chicago Sun-Times/AP)

Speaking of segregationists,

  • 1957 – U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond begins a filibuster to prevent the Senate from voting on Civil Rights Act of 1957; he stopped speaking 24 hours and 18 minutes later, the longest filibuster ever conducted by a single Senator.
  • 1968 – The police rioted during the Democratic National Convention, beating up anti-war protesters, peaceful demonstrators, innocent bystanders, and members of the press.
  • 1990 – Iraq declares Kuwait to be its newest province.
  • 2003 – In “one of the most complicated and bizarre crimes in the annals of the FBI”, Brian Wells dies after becoming involved in a complex plot involving a bank robbery, a scavenger hunt, and a homemade explosive device.

Read the story at the link; it truly is one of the most bizarre crimes ever committed. Wells died when an explosive collar put around his neck by his fellow robbers was detonated.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1749 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German novelist, poet, playwright, and diplomat (d. 1832)
  • 1833 – Edward Burne-Jones, English artist of the Pre-Raphaelite movement (d. 1898)
  • 1903 – Bruno Bettelheim, Austrian-American psychologist and author (d. 1990)
  • 1908 – Roger Tory Peterson, American ornithologist and author (d. 1996)
  • 1925 – Donald O’Connor, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 2003)
  • 1954 – George M. Church, American geneticist, chemist, and engineer
  • 1965 – Shania Twain, Canadian singer-songwriter
  • 1969 – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Founder of
  • 1982 – LeAnn Rimes, American singer-songwriter and actress

Burne-Jones was perhaps the most famous of the pre-Raphaelite artists; here’s one of his paintings, “Love Among the Ruins”:

Those who bought the farm on August 28 include:

  • 632 – Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad (b. 605)
  • 1784 – Junípero Serra, Spanish priest and missionary (b. 1713)
  • 1903 – Frederick Law Olmsted, American journalist and architect, co-designed Central Park (b. 1822)
  • 1955 – Emmett Till, American murder victim (b. 1941)
  • 1987 – John Huston, Irish actor, director, and screenwriter (b. 1906)
  • 2012 – Shulamith Firestone, Canadian-American activist and author (b. 1945)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is confused. Malgorzata explains: “There is an old mattress on the floor upstairs with a strange pattern. Hili doesn’t understand this pattern.”

Hili: There are things which are difficult to explain.
A: Yes, sometimes we have too little data and sometimes we have a wrong method to analyze the data.
In Polish:
Hili: Są rzeczy trudne do wyjaśnienia.
Ja: Tak, czasami mamy zbyt mało danych, a czasami złą metodę analizy dostępnych danych.

A cat meme from Stephen Muth:

Two from Mark Sturtevant. The first show obscene cruelty to ducks!

Progressive evolution:

A tweet sent to me by Grania on January 22 of this year with her comment, “cool effect.”

I found this and at first was going to say: “At last, a useful cat!”, but it turns out the cat isn’t doing any work at all.

And when I found this one, I thought, “But how’s he gonna land?” It turns out that that isn’t a problem.

From Orli. What do you make of this map?

From Nilou: The Tower of London’s Ravenmaster makes fun of the current “Rabbit or raven” conundrum:

From gravelinspector: Synchronized cat attention:

From Heather Hastie (via Ann German), a great idea:

From Matthew: this is about as viral as a video tweet gets, and I may have posted it before (but wait until you see the camels tomorrow!):

52 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Can the U.K. be far behind the U.S. in destroying the economy? Here is another unconfirmed piece of news for all the Trump followers. Could be the big loans that only one bank would give to Trump were cosigned by Russians and this is shown on the loan documents.

    1. If you are talking about the UK economy, we are well ahead of the USA. We started the process of destroying it in June 2016. It looks like the finishing touches will be completed on November 1st 2019.

  2. Today’s big news is that Boris Johnson has shut down Parliament in a weaselly move to get the Brexit initiative (which he favors) through.

    Slight correction: BoJo hasn’t shut down Parliament, he will shut down parliament soon after it reopens from the summer recess.

    In fact, as long as I am in pedantic mode, I might as well point out that, actually, he will ask the Queen to shut down parliament. She has the power to refuse his request, but the British monarchy nowadays bends over backwards to avoid being seen to take part in British politics, so it is unlikely.

    I’m in a somewhat difficult position. It has always been my position that having a constitutional head of state as we do means it doesn’t matter if that head of state is elected or is hereditary. However, we are in a situation where the prime minister is about to subvert our parliamentary democracy and the one person who can stop him won’t because she was not elected.

    1. Well, how about we borrow her over here and pretend it is pre 1775. I think we are ready for a redo.

      1. I am in a position to offer the whole Saxe-Coberg -Gotha firm for a once in a lifetime offer of £100,000 ,for that you get the complete clan ,but their goods and channels will not be part of the deal .

    2. Wasn’t Oliver Cromwell the last person to shut down parliament ?

      I voted to remain ,nothing has happened to change my mind ,the whole sorry mess was a balls up from the start .I think the only thing is to revoke article 50 .
      Then to keep the leavers happy hold a proper referendum along the lines of wot them Swiss do .Is it 70% wins ?The last one was 52/48 which is too close ,plus the leavers lied their tits off ,£350 million for the NHS was the bestest lie ever .

      1. Moreover, if I understood correctly it was a ‘non-binding’ referendum.
        I also understood that that is part of the problem, if it had been a binding referendum, a 2/3 majority would have been required (please correct me if I’m wrong there).
        I really do not see why the British, now that it becomes clear what a disaster Brexit will be, do not just revoke article 50. And hold a new (binding?) referendum, with a detailed Brexit policy, later.

        1. Agreed. We need to know the full deal before we can make an informed decision, and on such a momentous change, at least a 60% majority should be required. Same applies to any future referendum regarding the break up of the Union.

      2. Looks like “closing” parliament is a normal action. It’s just the timing that seems suspicious. It seems Johnson wants to make some arrangement with the EU and parliament will only have time to vote it up or down. It’s a reasonable tactic if the system is deadlocked.

      3. I would certainly revoke article 50, but we can only do that if it is in good faith. Revoking article 50 just to have another referendum with possibly (but unlikely, I think) the same result would not be good faith.

        The time scale for “good faith” is apparently at least five years. So my plan would be revoke article 50 and then give the Brexiteers 10 years (say) to come up with a proper Brexit plan acceptable to both the UK and the EU and then have a vote on it. If there fail to come up with such a plan in 10 years, we tell them to fuck off.

    3. Jeremy, I have a lot of sympathy with your viewpoint, but it is not quite correct that HMtheQ won’t intervene because she “bends over backwards to avoid being seen to take part in politics”. The long-established convention is that she acts on the advice of her Prime Minister and/or the Privy Council. That’s all she’s done. But I bet she’s fuming inside.

  3. 1987 – John Huston, Irish actor, director, and screenwriter (b. 1906)

    Huston moved to Ireland in 1952, at the height of the Red Scare, to protest the abuses by the House Un-American Activities Committee, but he was as thoroughly a Yank filmmaker as could be imagined.

    Hell, the whole Huston clan — from his father Walter to his kids Angelica and Danny — constitute about as close to Hollywood royalty as they come.

  4. Somehow “away on holiday and will make no further comment at this time” doesn’t seem quite the appropriate conclusion for the Speaker’s response.

  5. Matthew: “but at the very least would lead to the break-up of the UK as Scotland would undoubtedly secede” – and possibly the re-unification of Ireland. And about time too!

      1. Scotland leaving the UK will be a momentous wrench. It will be a huge expensive move. However, the UK leaving the EU is even worse and will do worse damage to Scotland. If we have to put up with that then we may as well leave the UK as well, it won’t be anymore damaging.

        At least after leaving the UK Scotland will be in charge of its own destiny and won’t be forced to accept Westminster ordering it around.

    1. Re-unification of Ireland??? What, d’you want to restart the Troubles again? I don’t think Eire would want a bar of it. Not with Ulster full of pig-headed Protestants.


      1. It is Brexit that is restarting the Troubles. Signs of it are already beginning.

        Boris will crash the UK out which will reconstitute a controlled border. English Nationalists don’t give a hoot about what happens in Ireland, north or south. Nor do they care if Scotland leaves the Union.

        Sovereignty, doncha know.

        1. I agree, Brexit is the root cause at the moment. But I was just thinking how much (or little) the Republic would welcome the addition of Ulster full of die-hard Catholics and even more die-hard Protestants. The sort of embarrassing present nobody wants.

          I can’t help thinking that if there was a massive earthquake and the whole six counties was to sink into the Irish Sea with all occupants, Eire would heave a quiet but heartfelt sigh of relief…

          But I’m not Irish, anybody from the Republic care to comment…?


  6. The Netflix documentary series on the Brian Wells story is a good one. The principals are a truly odd bunch.

  7. The prancing millipede is very cool and quite humorous. It seems almost like something from a very old cartoon.

    If I found one, how would I light it to replicate the effect? However, I haven’t seen a big one since my kitty brought a live one to me on my bed one morning some years ago. Thank goodness it was alive and seemingly not injured, so back out to the garden it went.

  8. This coup by the Tory high command is just the logical end-point of Brexit populism. We’ve had to put up with a handful of people(many of them politicians themselves) telling half the country that politicians are useless and politics is pointless and the whole idea of parliamentary democracy is pointless.
    This is what happens when you use referendums to dictate changes this huge: the winning side begins questioning the need for representative democracy in the first place and we end up with Boris trying to cut out the heart of our political system. Why bother with politicians at all? The ‘public’ wants something, they get it even if it means the PM behaving like a dictator.

    This is genuinely outrageous, and typically ‘poor man’s Trump’ behaviour from the most morally bankrupt politician in Britain, and it’s all come because a handful of influential people have spent the last three years demeaning and diminishing the idea of politicians and politics itself. If this goes through it will be a rupture in our political system the likes of which I haven’t seen in my life. I am genuinely worried that the country cannot hold together if Johnson pushes this through. It reduces the crux, the bedrock, of British politics to a flimsy, throwaway joke – we vote in representatives to represent us, all of us, from both sides of the political aisle. They are there to do that job in parliament even if they are not in government; that’s what protects the country from the party in power doing whatever they want. Get rid of that…and I don’t know what happens.

    I would swap America-with-Trump for Britain-with-Brexit, all things considered. Your system is alive and functioning, its checks and balances are still hanging in there – the contamination should be significantly weakened when/if you get rid of Trump.

    But we are systemically fucked. The whole British political framework is collapsing. There are no leaders, even among the leaders. There is an authority vacuum on both sides and dangerous elements are flooding in to fill it. People have no trust in the political system and are getting less tolerant and willing to put up with reason, and less willing to hear politicians come out with anything but blood-chillingly ignorant certainties and fascistic populist rhetoric.

    It is a nightmare, a bad dream, with all the accompanying illogic and confusion. Help.

    1. That’s the way it looks to me, too, from over here in the US and A. As screwed as we are, we have at least one functioning political party and a ray of hope for escaping the madness. I don’t see how the UK survives this but I do hope it does.

      1. Goes to show how much easier it is to destroy something than to painstakingly build it up in the first place. Months of creative effort, years of practice, goes into a painting, and all it takes is some sufficiently ill-willed person with a knife and the canvas can be shredded in seconds. That’s what is happening; the canvas is getting ripped to pieces in slow motion and we’re just watching it through plate glass, helpless.

        Thanks for the despondent best wishes. Yes, you guys have a clear and intelligible solution to your political crisis. Everyone knows what it is, and they can spend the next year or so preparing to enact it.
        We OTOH don’t have a solution, mainly, I think, because there ISN’T one. This whole moronic Brexit manoeuvre was always going to be impossible to pull off in a way that didn’t crack the country in two.

        The best course would be a soft-Brexit, as much as it kills me to accept that we have to leave. But even that’s not good enough for these fucking lunatics.
        They are the exact same kind of ‘pwn the libs’ people who hear Trump propose something moronic and only become enthusiastic when liberals are outraged. Even if they know perfectly well it’s moronic.
        Their desire for some kind of abstract, power-fantasy revenge against all the people they’ve always resented, the ‘liberal elites’ or whatever, has driven them mad. They would hurl themselves into the gears of some giant machine if it meant that liberals would be denied something as a result.
        What can you do when people like that are being actively encouraged to get angrier and angrier by the government? When their infantile motivations are shaping the government? It’s terrifying. It’s like living in a Terry Gilliam film.

    2. I do not argue how bad it is in the U.K. but would caution trading the mess we have here. Most Americans do not have a clue just how bad we do have it because they tuned out and pay little attention to what is going on. Our federal system has been gutted and does not really exist any longer. There has been no responsible legislation passed in the whole of congress for several years. We just move from crisis to crisis with a debt so large, no one cares. Big time economic probems are just around the corner and the informed in the market are bailing out.

      If they manage to get the documents out of Deutche Bank on Trump he may be finished but I really think it is too late to fix.

      1. I did say ‘on balance’. It’d be close, because Trump really is that bad. But you at least have some kind of visible off-ramp. That won’t solve the problems but it will at least allow you to pull away from them, and put some distance between you.

        We have no such off-ramp. Even if this insane coup doesn’t go through, even if it fails, we’ll still sink back into the same purgatorial groundhog day.

        Some inside info: my fearsomely efficient little sister has been working directly on Brexit, in Whitehall, for the last two years. She was working for a particular department which I won’t name, but which was dealing with the logistics of leaving.
        She was not particularly happy, nor was anyone else, and the staff turnover rate was absurd. People left all the time. It was depressing. She’d have to draw up detailed plans for particular scenarios of(to me) mind-numbing complexity…and a day later the situation had changed and it wasn’t needed.

        She left a month or so ago, entirely voluntarily and now works for a different(highly prestigious) department of the government. She is a force of nature; exactly the kind of person who should be in the thick of it, but they could not keep her.

        History is being made, but the process is so static and unenjoyable no-one wants to be involved in making it.

        1. Yes well, please take note of all the rats already having jumped ship in this administration in two years. Almost none left but the most corrupt. Many from the near past in jail or indicted and more to come. Parts of some major departments totally gone, such as EPA and Agriculture. Declarations of nonexistent emergencies to put tariffs on other countries because he really has no authority to do it. Now stealing money from the military budget, the FEMA budget to build his pathetic wall. I will stop only because I’m out of fuel for the moment. Oh yes, if you are a G7 country coming to the summit next year, be sure to send in your money and get reservations at Doral Country Club.

          1. Yes you have a completely weaponised GOP administration and party, bent entirely to one man’s purpose. Thankfully we don’t have that. There are plenty of Tories who are willing to call Boris out for the moral pygmy that he is. So there’s that.

            But I don’t want to go too far in this direction lest it becomes a game of who-has-the-most-depressing-politics. And no-one wins that.

            1. One the kind of “positive” side, at least one could initially have voted for leaving the EU with some reasoned thinking about ways it could be worth it. Whereas, no one, absolutely no one, had any decent reason to vote for Trump.

              1. Not sure I agree with that. Similarly insane promises were made in both Trump’s campaign and the Brexit campaign. And the reasons commonly given by Leavers for departing the EU are contradictory if they’re specific and meaningless if they’re not.

                Neither side really understood what leaving the EU meant, or what it would involve. I certainly didn’t, which is why I voted remain.

              2. I confess I’m not sure I’d want to try go into specifics of what I meant by a “reasoned argument”… I guess I could imagine an economist listing reasons why Britain would be better off out, and me being too drunk to ask “What about Ireland, what about Gibraltar, wouldn’t you have to comply with the same regulations anyway to trade with the EU?”

                But I can’t even imagine a scenario where I’d accept any possible reason for voting for Trump.

  9. That must be the only glider that has not got a short length of wool stuck on the outside of the windscreen .

  10. The plane that looks like fun is just an ultralight glider with a hole in the floor. Why didn’t I think of that?

    1. You probably did, back when you were seven or eight. It’s the kind of idea you have as a kid, then you suggest it to an adult who laughs in your face, and you just shelve it.

      …And then decades later someone does it for real. I’ll be very pissed off if someone likewise invents that plastic-shopping-bag parachute that I tested out as a kid by jumping off the greenhouse roof.

      1. How long were you in plaster ,lol.
        The glider does seem to have a small wheel at the back of the cockpit ,having posted that, it might just be for wheeling it around .

        The guy who invented it saw how hang gliders land and just copied it.

        1. That glider is brilliant! The ultimate development of a hang glider, I guess, but with vastly better aerodynamics – which is why it can land so much slower.

          And I did notice the little wheel at the back and, I think, a skid at the front, which means on a smooth surface like a runway, I guess it could make a wheeled landing as an alternative.

          It also looks to be extremely light weight – obviously modern composites play a large part in its construction.


      1. Yes, exactly. But, I don’t remember anything in the Flintstones that was ultralight. Mostly everything carved out of rock. 😎

  11. The national anthems mentioning God: I think the older the anthem, the greater the chances of a God reference. I think it has not much to do with the present state of atheism in these countries.

  12. With regard to filibusters, how are basic biological requirements managed? Are they allowed breaks to go to the loo? or do they keep talking while doing so?

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