Discussion thread

January 2, 2023 • 9:45 am

I’m not feeling very well today, so I’ll let readers contribute instead of me.  I suppose the most obvious question is this: What are your predictions for 2023?

And there are many subquestions:

Where will the war in Ukraine be at the end of the year?

Will Uncle Joe announce he’s running for reelection? (This seems a clear “yes”.)

Will Honey the duck drop by after October?

Alternatively, did you have a good year or a crappy one? I’d rate this among the lower half of years I’ve had, but I did get to travel some (in a month I’ll be heading to the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, and Cuzco, lecturing on an alumni trip).

What do you hope to accomplish in 2023? (Me: more travel, and get my damn children’s book published.)

Best book you’ve read this year? Best movie you’ve seen? Best meal?

Or talk about anything you want. If there aren’t at least fifty comments, I’ll feel worse.

118 thoughts on “Discussion thread

  1. Get ready for the next bank phishing expeditions as scammers pretending to be Southwest Airlines come for your banking information so they can direct deposit “your refund.” Lots of people will fall for this one.

    1. We have spent the past month haranguing friends and family to get the latest boosters and there will surely be many questions asked of us about this article!

      1. Even if new variants are coming, it is still better to be vaccinated against the ones you can be. There is no reason to stay vulnerable to all of the variants.

    2. I can’t read it, and I don’t know enough on the subject to be certain. But it does seem reasonable that antibodies from both both prior infections and from vaccines would favor selection toward variants that evade those protections. If so, then one would predict to see that the evasive variants are spreading faster in populations with high infection rates and/or high vaccination rates.

        1. Oops, meant to add that I, too, lack the knowledge to comment on the article, but it certainly raises some worrying questions.

    3. Just an amateur (at best) opinion, so grain of salt and all that.

      To some probably extremely difficult, if not impossible, to quantify extent, sure. They almost certainly are. The vaccines are one of the innumerable factors in the environment that the vaccines exist in. And the environment is what acts as a selection filter that results in evolution. In this case some might quibble and say artificial selection rather than natural selection.

      However, I’m not sure this is an important issue. Without the vaccines the virus would still mutate, there would still be waves caused by new strains. The real question is, are the vaccines helping to prevent illnesses, injuries and deaths caused by the virus compared to if we don’t use the vaccines? It seems pretty clear that the answer is “Yes, yes they are.” In the general case of vaccine efficacy there’s no real doubt that vaccines are of great benefit.

    4. Way back when the mRNA vaccines were first made available there was a discussion on Youtube between Brett Weinstein and Robert Malone, who was one of the first developers of the mRNA methodology – but not the vaccines. The conversation concerned the dangers of introducing a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic. In that, since there is an enormous amount of virus around, many mutants/ variants will inevitably arise and those that can evade the immune response, especially a narrowly targeted response, will inevitably be rapidly selected for.
      Been trying to find the discussion on Youtube where it first appeared. And will keep trying. Maybe someone else can find it.

      1. From what I understand one of the advantages of the mRNA vaccine technology is that the vaccine can be targeted fairly specifically, and that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were specifically targeted at a feature of the virus that is likely to remain susceptible to the vaccine through more generations than traditional vaccines would be. In other words it’s likely for the mRNA vaccines to still be effective for many strains.

        And that seems to have been the case. Though efficacy did trend down a bit the mRNA vaccines have been effective for several years and several strains with only 1 new vaccine released so far. In comparison note that new flu vaccines are issued every year.

        1. It is the narrow targeting that is a problem, as I see it. The new variants, as you say, are still susceptible but less so.
          If, on the other hand you have a broad range response then the virus requires many variations in any particle to evade it. If all antibodies are targeted at a single or few sites then the selection pressure for particles that evade that response is immense. And the likelihood that particles carrying multiple relevant mutations is much lower. so when a large number of hosts ie sick people are harbouring and manufacturing the virus and only one( or few)relevant mutations are necessary to evade immune attack it provides an ideal environment to select/develop immune evasion.

          1. I don’t see that as a major issue. The same arguments apply to vaccines produced by older methods as well. The difference with these new mRNA vaccines is that you can design them specifically, which doesn’t mean the same thing as narrowly.

            Other key advantages are the speed with which they can be designed, created and mass produced, compared to older types of vaccines. Which makes it much easier to respond effectively to new variants.

            The people working on mRNA vaccines are aware of the possibilities. There are no indications so far that the mRNA vaccines have unexpectedly become ineffective. In fact they have been and still are significantly more effective than the other types of COVID-19 vaccines. It has been known since before COVID-19 that this family of viruses mutate relatively rapidly, similar to flu. Having to come up with new vaccines routinely, like flu, is well within expectations.

            1. As far as I know only bits and pieces of the spike protein are coded for in the mRNA anti covid vaccines? And the uridines are altered to make the scrap of mRNA more stable and less susceptible to breakdown in the body.
              Most older vaccines are either whole killed viruses or whole attenuated viruses grown in culture. The annual flu virus is reselected each year but it is still a whole virus. Granted much of the anticipated response is to one or two sites or epitopes within those sites. – maybe someone has a lot more recent knowledge about how flu virus is selected for and grown each year.

      2. This doesn’t seem to have happened. The mRNA vaccines remain highly effective.

        They target the spike protein which the virus’s key to entry into human cells. To change this significantly seems extremely likely to make that key useless.

    5. I hope Nicholas Christakis will address this on his Twitter feed. I used to keep a closer eye on that for Covid info, but got lazy of late. As some here will know, he’s a Yale prof and doctor who wrote a book on epidemics with Covid as a focus. He did post articles about how probably ineffective this latest booster was, and only tested on mice. I almost didn’t bother with this booster at all but finally got it just before Christmas. Just in case. Not qualified for sure to analyze this article and know how seriously to take it. WSJ is obviously conservative, but it’s not Fox News. So this deserves attention. I’ll be looking at Christakis on Twitter most closely for a likely comment or link to more info on this.

    6. It appears the claims in that WSJ article are contrary to the CDC’s established science. Well, if any of those experts the author quotes practice medicine here in California they will face disciplinary actions for the “misinformation” they’re spreading.

      On Jan 1 this new law took effect… AB2098, COVID misinformation:

      “This bill would designate the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or “COVID-19,” as unprofessional conduct. Existing law requires the applicable board to take action against any licensed physician and surgeon who is charged with unprofessional conduct, as provided.”

      In other words, doctors who spread incorrect claims about COVID-19, including about the effectiveness of vaccines and untested treatments for people who get infected, will face discipline.

  2. As I am ever the optimist, I’m going to echo some predictions made by David Rothkopf (https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1609922833949380608.html):

    Trump will be indicted.
    DeSantis will flame out.
    The US economy will emerge healthy.
    Appreciation of Vice President Harris will grow.
    Biden will run and win, but if he doesn’t, Harris will be the successful heir apparent,
    Ukraine will continue to make slow progress against Russia. Ceasfire talks may begin, but likely won’t produce an end to the conflict.

    And one of my own: A Nobel Prize will be awarded for mRNA vaccines.

    1. These are happy. You are much more sanguine than I am!

      I don’t see Kamala Harris as electable. She has been invisible. Making the jump from VP to POTUS has always been tough.

      1. I’ve heard that one of the reasons Harris has been “invisible” is that she’s had to stay in DC to make sure she’s the tie breaking vote in the Senate. There has been a lot of legislation passed this past year. There was some hope that she’d be able to do more things this coming year with a larger majority in the Senate but with Sinema changing to Independent, she may still need to stay close to DC.

        1. Re. Harris, that was my understanding as well. Though I doubt Sinema’s party change signaled she would vote with the GQP. She’ll still caucuses with the Dems, like Sanders. I hope Harris gets out more the next two years. I am ambivalent towards her at this point.

          1. I feel the same–many had high hopes for her but have been disappointed. But when I consider most VPs, they’re usually pretty invisible. Maybe we’ve been too optimistic because of who she is. Time will tell, I suppose. 🙂

      2. I agree. What has Harris DONE? She was supposed to be in charge of fixing the immigration crisis, but has been totally invisible on that (and nearly everything else). And I worry that if she’s the nominee, the Republicans will beat her.

      3. Were Baba Wawa still doing her thing Harris’s visibility probably would markedly increase. But the latter might not want to have to bear up under the nosy personal questions of the former.

  3. Sorry Jerry isn’t feeling well! I’d like be a one-person social movement to get all WEIT readers to watch “Severance.” If you don’t have Apple TV plus, get the free 7-day trial or whatever, or maybe even pay for a month. But if you have time to watch an episode an evening, you can and I believe will finish the show in a week. It’s incredible. Keep in mind this show includes John Turtorro and Christopher Walken, and they aren’t even the main characters. Every actor perfectly cast. It’s really impossible to pick just one as being the best.

    The premise, in case you’re unfamiliar: A giant corporation has invented a method to insert a thing in your brain that allows them to partition off part of your brain to be a worker in the basement offices of their giant headquarters. When you descend the elevator to work, they flip a switch and you have only memories of your life there. When you leave, they flip the switch and you have no knowledge of your life at work. They’ve mined this concept at every possible level, and in the most creative ways possible via character and plot. It’s one of those rare shows that can really go from hilarious to moving and deeply disturbing in a natural way. I won’t say more in order to avoid any spoilers.

    This show automatically comes to mind if somebody asks me for a 2022 recommendation. No searching, it’s just there. I put this show on the same level as “Breaking Bad” or “The Wire.”

    Talk about a perfect show to binge if you’re not feeling well.

  4. I think that Putin is losing too many troops and tanks etc to last another year in Ukraine. On the other hand, he can’t lose face by withdrawing. So there is likely to be some sort of armistice, possibly allowing for a referendum in one or more disputed territories as to which country the people want to join. A military coup against Putin has been suggested but I think that is less likely.

    1. It may not be a question of Putin being unable to withdraw for fear of losing face. If his soldiers are left on Ukrainian soil they may simply be killed, starved, or captured when they run out of fuel and ammunition, with Putin’s face not entering into the equation.

      President Zelenskyy would have an incentive to negotiate an armistice, or agree to a proposal to do so, only if he believes he can’t win either. If he can’t force a Russian withdrawal even as he exhausts his people’s ability to fight, then he might have to accept half a loaf. But if he thinks he can win, he should go for victory. Which means, as he said during his New Year’s Eve address twice, getting Crimea back, too. Germany proposed, at the sub-Hitler level, some kind of armistice terms to the Allies earlier in 1945. We said No, and hung on to our stated war aims: unconditional surrender and the destruction of the Third Reich. So will Zelenskyy hang onto his while they remain achievable. Of course, if western aid is made contingent on an armistice with the Russian Army still in Ukraine then Zelenskyy is betrayed and the Russians get what they wanted. The post-1945 concept of inviolable international state borders is tossed aside and everyone’s land is subject to Right of Conquest again.

      Remember, Mr. Zelenskyy is already agreeing in effect to an armistice if Russia withdraws to its previous borders and stops bombing Ukraine from outside. With that, he needs some kind of agreement that Russia will not try again when they rebuild and repopulate their armed forces. If he could, he should march on Moscow and occupy the Kremlin to get it.

  5. I am always hopelessly behind in my reading, rarely able to read a book the year it is published. But I wasn’t too late in getting to Rebecca Solnit’s book Orwell’s Roses, which came out in 2021. That’s because of both her reputation as an author and George Orwell’s being as close to a hero as I (skeptical of exalting anyone) permit myself these days.

  6. I am 96 years old. So I just hope to get through another year. I am commenting only to fulfill your request.

    1. I’m less than half your age, but that’s about as hopeful as I can be as well. Humanity inspires mostly the feelings of despair in me. But I will look forward to the same things I do every year; a big, beautiful snow when I can sit home and enjoy it, the first flowers in spring, birds migrating to and fro, the box turtles waking from their winter slumber, a warm wind and soft rain with the trill of toads in the nighttime, followed later by the first thunderstorm, the hum and buzz of summer insects, the late summer blooms of Silphium, and the later sunflowers and goldenrod, the first blush of autumn in the trees, the first frost (assuming I brought the houseplants in) and the return of the juncos, aka the snowbirds, and we will have come full circle yet again. Hope you have something to look forward to as well, even something as simple and common as a cat sleeping in a sunbeam.

  7. Science has taken a beating this year. Too many scientists have shown that being perceived as a good leftist is more important to them than seeking the truth.

    1. However without the left science would suffer a worse beating. The right is simply not interested in science, and their understanding of what science is is not much better than Trump’s understanding of reality.

  8. Books to read. I am part way through Natalia Ginsburg’s novel, “All our Yesterdays”. She has a wonderfully distinctive voice, in this story of an Italian family during 1939-1944. I also recommend George Saunders “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (in which Four Russians give a Master Class on Writing, Reading and Life)”. This comes out of Saunders’s classes for students of short story writing, but focuses in detail on 7 great Russian stories. It is a great book for thinking about life in the company of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev and Gogol—-and Saunders.

  9. Hi Jerry, I hope you feel better very soon.

    Uncle Joe will not run but will wait until the last second to announce (this may be my wish-thinking). But: Who amongst the Dems will be the candidate? I see no clear person. But who knows, Obama came out of nowhere.

    Ukraine, it will still be grinding away, with Putin continuing to attack Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure.

    Honey: Yes.

    Books. One surprise: I started re-reading John McPhee’s Basin and Range which I loved in the 1980s as a young man. Now, I got about 1/3 of the way through and stopped, surprising myself. I found the “new journalism” style turned me off. I usually love his books and he the Pulizter for his compilation of all four geology books, Annals of the Former World.

    Best book? No single one really stands out. Here are some I enjoyed:

    Taste, My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
    Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (took me a long time to get to this!)
    The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
    Twenty Million Tons Under the Sea: The Daring Capture of the U-505 by Daniel V. Gallery (U-505 is right in your neighborhood)
    All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West by David Gessner (I was surprised how much I enjoyed this.)
    Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins, his memoir of the Apollo Program
    The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

    1. Thanks for the tip on All the Wild. Love Stegner and Abbey.
      PS: Here’s to Mayor Pete for Prez, or Jamie Raskin, though he’s just had a cancer diagnosis😿

      1. Mayor Pete: I’d be very happy with him. And his time as Transportation Secretary makes him seem more “serious” at the national level. Can he beat Voldemort or DeSantis? I’m not sanguine there.

        1. The recent Southwest debacle will be used as a cudgel against Buttigieg. We would also see just how much anti-gay bigotry, both overt and otherwise, is out there. In godz-besotted America, I’m hardly sanguine about that.

          Of course, for the same reasons, one can’t feel much more secure about Harris. Not just because she’s black, but because she’s a she. Hard to believe, but: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/majority-voters-ready-woman-president-poll/story?id=65548887

  10. My hopeful predictions:
    1. Rising discontent in both Russia and Iran topples the rulers of both countries. Governance in both countries move toward considerably less authoritarian forms. The Ukraine, with considerable help from the West, begins to slowly rebuild while the Russian population learns to their horror the true extent of the destruction the former leadership had caused.
    2. President Biden announces he will not seek a second term. Into this vacuum Pete Buttiegieg steps in and announces he is running. Meanwhile, the Republicans run into difficulties as both Trump and DeSantis begin a highly disorganized fight for the Republican nomination. In true Trumpian form, the former president announces he is breaking away from the Republican party to run solo in his own party. This effectively splits Republican voters.
    3. Honey returns, and our kind host creates a temporary swimming habitat out of a kiddie pool. The 2023 duck season is successful and there is even coverage of the many wholesome events on CNN and MSNBC.

    1. Re Ukraine and, especially, Iran: from your keyboard to Ceiling Cat’s sensitive ears. I cannot praise enough the tremendous courage and resolution shown by Iranian women, and a great many men. Medieval theocrats have poisoned, as is the wont of medieval theocrats, a potentially fine country.

  11. 2023 can be an amazing year. But, most probably, unfortunately, it is not going to be. And this is the sad part. Somehow, we, human beings, make it too hard to have a truly good life, although it is quite simple, albeit not easy, to have one.

    I don’t recall many of the movies I watched, despite the fact they were not many. Drive comes to my mind, with Ryan Gosling. At that moment, for some reason, I did enjoy it, as well as its soundtrack, Synthwave.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray was a book I (re)read quite recently. It was a while ever since I read it for the first time. Interesting book!

    As to what I would like to accomplish, or better see accomplished in 2023, is pretty simple: socialism. It will not happen, of course. But still 🙂

  12. No predictions. Last year was a weird one for all the common reasons, but to me it seemed to have gone extraordinarily quickly. It was April and then it was November. Here’s hoping this is a more sane year.

  13. This has been a very good year for “Why Evolution is True”. Wonderful wildlife photos and greatly stimulating things to read every day! Thank you!

  14. A hot topic in recent years has been the degree to which free speech and the free press have been attacked by the left and right. This subject has come to my mind as I am reading “American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis, “ by Adam Hochschild. The book is aimed towards the general public and chronicles how during World War I the Wilson administration unleashed its minions to repress any criticism of the war. Publications that were critical were denied access to the U.S. mail, anti-war speakers were jailed on flimsy charges, and strikes were crushed under the pretext that they hindered the war effort. At least since the Vietnam War, government has declined or been incapable of banning anti-war sentiments or speech about just about anything. So, compared to the World War I era, today we can say that free speech is flourishing, although we must always be vigilant to deter those that want to repress it.

    The Hochschild book has made me think of how presidential reputations can go up and down. Until a decade or so ago, Wilson was a hero of mainstream liberals. He got through Congress progressive economic legislation, led the nation to victory in World War I, and was noble in his failed effort to get the country to join the League of Nations. Now, the liberals view him as odious. He had the nation enter World War I under the pretext of German submarine warfare, attempted to crush dissent and unions, and, of course, he was a segregationist and racist. Interestingly, the right also despises him because he supposedly was the architect of the administrative state. The Wilson saga illustrates that how historical events are analyzed is usually determined by the “climate of the times” that the historian is writing and the historian’s personal biases. That is why I have said many time that there is no “true” history. It is not inconceivable that in a future era Wilson’s reputation may rebound upward once again.

    1. It’s been said that history is nothing more than the currently accepted set of lies. I wouldn’t go that far, but as truth is the first casuality of war, so it is with history; it is constructed primarily with an inconstant truthiness.

  15. Four points on Ukraine.
    * Almost certainly Putin has demanded of the two ‘gatekeeper’ committees the right to use nuclear weapons and has been rejected.
    * Hitler was very much younger than Putin when he succumbed to Parkinsons owing to the severe stress of running a one-man war. Churchill was clever enough to work with an argumentative team, which reduced the strain. Putin will become very ill as the full impact of losing hits him.
    * Putin has revived the idea that he is fighting Nazis. There is somebody, – maybe a small group, – who are feeding extraordinary lies to Putin.
    * It is doubtful that Putin knows that the Russians have lost over a hundred thousand dead, quarter of a million wounded, 3100 tanks destroyed (including so many tank-crews), and stands with a badly depleted army.

    Putin’s ill-health ‘retirement’ will come suddenly… I hope by Spring.

    George Rumens in France.

    1. If Putin retires or dies soon, what difference will it make?
      John Mearsheimer (professor of political science at the University of Chicago) says it will make hardly any difference:
      No Peace With Ukraine. Wall Street Journal, Nov 5, 2022

      1. Putin’s death, perhaps due to mysterious circumstances, might allow the generals and other high-ranking scum to end the attempted invasion and lay the blame squarely upon his dead shoulders in an attempt at saving face (while secretly rebuilding their military might). Or Putin could die in a bloody coup, bringing even more vile, violent, and unstable psychopaths into government. There’s probably lots of horrible ways, and even a few good ways, that his death could change things.

  16. I certainly want to do my part to make our host feel better:

    I just finished watching the best ‘limited’ TV series I’ve seen in a long time: Bad Sisters. It’s a black comedy set in Ireland. The episodes are very entertaining, and the ending was very satisfying. But if for no other reason, you should watch it in order to enjoy one of the most detestable villains ever seen on stage. Almost everyone who has seen the show agrees that the actor who plays the role deserves an award. (Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZUrhfCl0Xc)

    I’ll have more to say, I’m sure.

    1. I’m back already to add:

      Best science fiction novel I’ve read for a long time: Project Hail Mary by Andrew Weir. It’s not a perfect book, by any means. Even though I love hard SF, I found my eyes sometimes glazing over when the author was, for example, geeking out about orbital mechanics. But aside from that, the book was incredibly creative in a scientifically plausible way. And the ending was just delightful.

      1. I too enjoyed Project Hail Mary – all of Andy Weir’s books have been good.
        But my favorite SF for 2022 has to be Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock: how can you not be enjoy a book that has global warming, a Texas billionaire firing reusable sulfur-powered rockets into the stratosphere to slow it, the Indo-Chinese hand-to-hand fighting in the Himalayas (as depicted in social media), and so on.

      2. My youngest daughter just chose Project Hail Mary using a book voucher that she got for Christmas. I’ll have to remember to read it when she’s finished it!

  17. 1) I will continue to come to WEIT multiple times a day. The science posts sometimes/often go way over my head, but I try. I do better on music posts. I won’t say Dr. Coyne is *wrong* in certain assessments of music, only that I sometimes *disagree*.

    2) My heart will break every damn day with the Auschwitz Memorial tweets. (I dislike the word “tweet” in this context, it seems flippant.) Everyday I do the math, and wonder what I was doing at that age. In my opinion, these daily reminders are the most important regualr feature, (again, a lousy word), on this site. Seriously….. it physically hurts to read them, but I make it a point. WEIT is my first website everyday.

    3) Every year my goal is to record an average of 1 hour/day of exercise. As of right now, I am still on track.

    4) Can anyone explain why hearing aids are so f’n much money? I know folks that are paying $10,000.00 CDN, (that’s $7,400.00 freedom dollars).

    5) I will continue to mask in public, as a +ive C19 test means no visitors to my father in law in long term care.

    6) More BBQ. Actually, I don’t BBQ, I hot smoke with a pellet grill. Not quite a proper charcoal BBQ, but an easy to use option.

  18. 1. Trump will be indicted. This might either extinguish him once and for all, or turn him into a martyr. I strongly hope for the former, but I am unsure
    2. DeSantis will continue to rise in popularity. However, I doubt that his obviously unconstitutional (as least where higher education is concerned; the other parts of the law involve K-12 schools and workplaces where people have no control over what they are taught whereas prevents people from voluntarily learning about these concepts) STOP WOKE act will be upheld by higher courts. There have been other times when the Court has unanimously struck down popular but clearly unconstitutional legislation that drastically restricts free speech such as in Reno v. ACLU (https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/531/reno-v-american-civil-liberties-union). I think that the same will happen here.
    2. The Supreme Court will strike down affirmative action and continue weakening the Voting Rights Act, but will not embrace a broad version of the “Independent State Legislature” doctrine in Moore v. Harper (Thank god!)
    3. The Republicans in the house will launch lots of pointless investigations, especially into Hunter Biden,
    4. Heterodox democrats who deviate from the woke orthodoxy and focus on economic isssues such as Ro Khanna and John Fetterman will continue to rise in popularity (I would put Jared Polis in this category, were it not for his support for McCarthyite sexual assault laws-https://www.thefire.org/news/colorado-enacts-one-sided-campus-sexual-assault-bill).
    5. Joe Biden will run again, but will encounter stiff resistance. I am unsure if he will secure the nomination (next year).

  19. Didn’t expect to be making the first comment, and a bit apprehensive, mainly because I’ve been feeling pretty sick myself the last couple of days. But I’m far more apprehensive about what a Republican-controlled House of Representatives will do or try to do over the next two years, as well as what further damage the ultra-right wing dominated U.S. Supreme Court will do to our nation. There is some cause for cheer in that the Democrats still (barely) control the Senate and that the chances that the orange-hued demagogue who was oh-so-deservedly dumped from the White House about two years ago will retake residency there about two years from now appear increasingly unlikely, albeit not yet impossible. As to how Russia’s war of aggression and murder against Ukraine will ultimately playout, I haven’t the foggiest because I don’t regard Putin as entirely rational and wouldn’t put it past him to resort to extreme measures – cough, cough, nukes, cough – to try to avoid losing face and having to back down or face consequences for his crimes.
    I recently read The Oppermanns, by Lion Feuchtwanger, written in 1933 about a prosperous German-Jewish family living in Berlin in late 1932, early 1933, just before and after Hitler came to power. Feuchtwanger based his book on what he had read about and observed and experienced himself during that same period, with his characters showing various outlooks on The Leader and his bully boys, in 1932 most regarding it absurd to even consider that he could take over the nation, then after he was named Chancellor, thinking he would be held on a tight leash and that anyhow he was more bark than bite. But then, after the Reichstag fire, things started getting even worse. Feuchtwanger probably didn’t imagine just how much worse things would get under Hitler, and he seemed overly enamored of Stalin, apparently willfully ignorant of the crimes against humanity Stalin perpetrated during his reign. Still, a fascinating book, even more so from a perspective long after World War II and the Holocaust. From the perspective of 1933, for a Jew in Germany, particularly one living in relatively good middle-class life or even a well-to-do life, and who took pride in being German and a good citizen, what would it take to convince them that staying in Germany was becoming increasingly dangerous and that options to escape to a country that would accept them, were becoming ever more narrow, especially as the Nazis wouldn’t let them take their money with them and most other nations, including the U.S., wouldn’t accept them if they didn’t have money. And in 1933, who could’ve guessed that by late 1940 Hitler’s domain would include France, among several other formerly sovereign European nations, that places that seemed like safe havens in 1933 would not remain so? In 2023, we know how things turned out and while at least a few people likely had some notion of the horrors to come, I don’t believe anyone predicted how things would play out, with so many people slaughtered, such incredible destruction, and the ultimately double-whammy of nuclear bombs. In 1913, H. G. Wells wrote a work first published in serial format in 1914 and eventually published as a book titled either The World Set Free or The Last War, anticipating nuclear war and the aftermath. In one chapter he wrote, “The absurdities of courts and the indignities of representative parliamentary government, coupled with the opening of vast fields of opportunity in other directions, had withdrawn the best intelligences more and more from public affairs. The ostensible governments of the world in the twentieth century were following in the wake of the ostensible religions. They were ceasing to command the services of any but second-rate men.”
    Alas, Wells’ bleak assessment of governments around the world pretty much holds true nearly a century and a decade after he wrote those words, except in too many cases politics is becoming dominated by third and fourth-rate men and women attempting to drag everyone down to their depths of idiocy and disregard of reality.
    That there are plenty of people working against those morons is great, but that the morons have as much power and political influence as they currently do is very alarming.

  20. I have come at the command of the PCC to make my comment: I promise to make it further than ever before than just a few pages in Finnegan’s Wake !

    Also, I feel that the anticlimactic financial indictment of the former President will happen and it will be further deflated by a desultory sentence (yay Justice™).

    The whiplash in the weather will continue but eventually stabilize as the climate finds it’s new medium because carbon dioxide emissions are finally under con…oh wait.

    Ukraine will an independent nation and a great friend to the United States in particular and the world in general.

    Please feel better Professor.

  21. Movie review: A strong NO to the proposed Trump vBiden 2024 sequel.
    They’re both too old, into their own schtick, and already are tweeting/phoning it in, yet we’re only halfway through!

    Besides, a plot with an unscrupulous candidate saying he will run again, but only if he wins, and he never lost in the first place? How would that even work? Farfetched.

    But! Adapt “Insurrection,” the Jan 6th book, as a musical comedy:.
    Sara Cooper as Trump, reviving her interpretive acting of his own words.
    • Only Nancy Pelosi plays herself.
    Antonio Banderas, as narrator, speaking as Willow, the White House First Cat.
    Randy Rainbow . doing all the songs and choreography.

    Naturally, would need other actors to “sell” the story, but other movies have been made with less thought.

  22. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but was surrounded over the holidays by friends and relatives who do. Based on this small sample, I’ve severely underestimated how much TV people consume…and how much of a cultural driver and conversation starter it still is.

    So, I don’t want to risk being left behind the zeitgeist, but at the same time I still regard TV overall as a waste of time. So I’m willing to (slightly) increase my TV consumption…but I only want to watch good shows. Unfortunately, when I ask for recommendations from people, the shows they suggest are usually not that appealing to me when I try to watch them.

    So, reaching out the WEIT group….what shows would you recommend?

    1. I found the miniseries Gallipoli entrancing if superficiale (definitely top marks for production). It’s a fragment (like an incomplete Kafka novel), but Ascension was very interesting.

    2. Joe (#25) Would recommend that you don’t start watching TV now and if you do, pay for any kind of service that removes commercials.

    3. It depends of if you have any streaming services, and which ones. Many will carry various highly regarded films and shows besides the main-stream entertainment.

  23. Ukraine will defeat Russia. But I won’t predict exactly when having already paid PCCE $50 over the question.

  24. Books: I really enjoyed PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke. And then got extra enjoyment out of it when I gave it to my 22 year old son and he really liked it as well. He’s since shared it with a friend of his, who read it in one sitting… so the gift keeps giving. (It’s by no means one of the long books our host favours.)

  25. Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers. Actually, I reread it after some dozen years. It’s the funniest writing this side of Wodehouse. I would avoid anyone who doesn’t love it.

    1. I also reread The Pickwick Papers last year and readily agree. I am now rereading or, for most of the works, rereading all of Dicken’s novels in the order in which they were written. Presently near the end of #6 (Dombey and Son). I am amazed at how relevant to modern times his novels are.

    1. 🤣 How can they live a completely delusional existence like that? The first moron literally said God above, dragon Satan below, and humans in the middle. Does he think Satan lives in the middle of the earth or something? Drink bleach…

      1. It’s beyond my understanding 🙂. I have to some relatives that live in that world, and it’s both fascinating and scary. Their focus on the end of times often lessens their attention on caring for the here and now.

  26. Best movies I saw last year:
    1. Jane Eyre (2011, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga)
    2. Silence of the lambs (1991, directed by Jonathan Demme) [this was a re-watch, but still a great movie]
    3. Remains of the day (1993, directed by James Ivory)
    4. Tár (2022, directed by Todd Field)

  27. I don’t place much confidence in my own predictions, but here’s a few anyway.

    1) Putin won’t see another New Year celebration.
    2) Within the next year Iran’s current government will fall.
    3) The Republican Party in the US will lose big in the 2024 elections. Congress, Senate and the White House.
    4) I will not win the lottery.
    5) Nearly all of my predictions will not come true.

    I haven’t been to a theater all year and only have Netflix and Prime, so I have not seen many 2022 movies. I took a look at several “Best Movies of 2022” lists and here’s a few I’ve seen.

    1) Top Gun: Maverick – I expected to have a hard time liking it because I don’t care for Tom Cruise’s acting in general, but I thought it might be entertaining. I was wrong. After watching it I think it is a much better movie than the original in just about every way. Still some silly over-the-top stuff that stresses your ability to gracefully maintain a willing suspension of disbelief, but that goes with the genre. Good movie, but not a best of year candidate.

    2) The Batman – I’m not a comics fan, or a Batman fan, but I do enjoy fantastical entertainment stories, and I’ve seen pretty much all of the Batman films over the past 20+ years(Holy crap, make that 30.). I think this is a contender for Best Batman film, but not for film of the year.

    3) The Gray Man – Not sure how this ended up on anyone’s best of list. I thought it was entertaining, but not even outstanding in its genre let alone a contender for best of the year.

    4) Nope – I really wanted this movie to be outstanding, but I did not find it so. I’d say its worth watching, but it fell short of what I was hoping for. Definitely not best of material.

    Going through Rotten Tomatoes list 2 movies I haven’t seen stuck out to me. The first is Prey. Everything I’ve heard about it, and the trailer I’ve seen, make me think it may be quite good, especially considering the genre. It was 49 on their list with a Critics score of 93% and Audience score of 73%.

    The other was BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE. It stood out because it was #14 on their list! Critics score of 97%(!1!) , Audience score of 84%. Never would have guessed that. I can only guess that the positive critical acclaim is a nostalgia thing. Back in the day I did find the original amusing, but 97% score? #14 Best of the Year? WTF?

    Favorite book I’ve read this year? Nothing stands out enough to really warrant being “best.” I’ve probably read fewer books this year than any year since I was about 7 years old.

    1. For Amazon Prime I recommend you watch The Boys. There are plenty shows about societies with dysfunctional superheroes, but of that oeuvre, that is probably the best of them. It pokes a lot of fun about various things going on today (woke activism, toxic social media, etc).

  28. I have just seen a cat-oriented nature documentary and I give it a very strong recommendation. Its called WildCat. It can be seen in some theaters, but it also is streaming on Amazon Prime. It is about a British Afghanistan war vet, struggling with PTSD, and his attempts to raise and release an orphaned ocelot. There are parts that are difficult to watch (I got pretty emotional, at least), but it is wonderful.

  29. If you get to Machu Picchu make arrangements to climb the adjacent and much photographed peak Huayna Picchu. Tickets are necessary and the climb starts early. About a 1k climb. It’s magnificent.

    1. Can you describe the difficulty of the walk to Huayna Picchu more fully?

      Distance (miles or km)?
      Elevation gain (feet or meters)?
      General condition of the trail?


  30. No predictions. Life continues to surprise me. Good things, bad things.

    I loved the movie My Policeman. I beautiful and sad love story. David Dawson was a wonderful actor in this. I think all the acting was very good.

    I loved the book, Five Days Gone by Laura Cummings. A mystery told very lovingly and poetically.

  31. Another good book I have not seen mentioned yet: An Immense World by Ed Yong (he also wrote I Contain Multitudes)
    It is a new, well researched dive into what types and ranges of senses animals have, and how we compare. It is like a book of WEIT lessons.

  32. A sketchy list:

    Happiest/proudest event: my daughter starting at UC Berkeley and loving it (as did I)

    Best book:
    Fiction: American Pastoral (Roth)
    2nd place: Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro)
    Nonfiction: Enlightenment Now (Pinker), the closest thing to a personal manifesto

    Biggest surprise: how much I like Biden
    2nd place: smackdown of the deniers

    Favorite online discovery: Sabine Hossenfelder’s YT channel

  33. Emily St John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility was an interesting read; it revisits some of the characters from her previous book The Glass Hotel but doesn’t require knowledge of the earlier book. The Grauniad describes Sea of Tranquillity as:

    [A] cunning time-travel narrative from four main strands. Young Edwin St Andrew is crossing the Atlantic by steamship in 1912, leaving polite society for the desolate beauty of the Canadian wilderness; in the 23rd century, Olive Llewellyn travels from her moonbase home for a book tour on Earth promoting her latest novel, about a global pandemic; in 2020 a teenage girl called Vincent goes into the Vancouver woodland with a video camera. And in another century, detective Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, hired to investigate a mystery in the North American wilderness, begins to uncover how these timelines interconnect. The novel starts slowly, but builds an inexorable, unputdownable momentum as the various elements cohere: life and counterlife, reality and illusion, love and memory. Distinctive, remarkable work from one of the genre’s major voices.

    It was recommended to me by WEIT reader Dom a few weeks ago, when the Kindle version was just 99p in the UK (I’ve no idea if it is still such a bargain now, I’m afraid).

  34. During the holidays, my cousin sent me a strange text message. He’s deeply religious, and thinks he’s a prophet from G*d (yes, the Abrahamic one.) Thing is, G*d only speaks to him when he’s high (I mean really high…3 grams high) on psychedelic mushrooms. He knows I’m a staunch atheist, and likes to tell me he fears for my immortal soul; but he hasn’t brought religious stuff up for a while. I thought he was done trying to convince me, but then I got this:

    Hey I’ve got a prophecy from God by which you can tell if He exists: I was told in no uncertain terms that “if America doesn’t change its tune – we will be at war (WWIII) with China and Russia by December 24th 2023” Scary sh*t!

    So, everybody, if America goes to war with China and Russia by 12/24/23 G*d exists! You can’t make this shit up. And why would a god tell my cousin, who is absolutely powerless to stop anything like WWIII, “that America needs to change its tune (what does that even mean?) or else, WAR!” I think he may believe Putin’s propaganda that Russia is the victim in all this. It also proves that G*d is incompetent, or else wants WWIII to happen. Needless to say, I didn’t respond.

    Anyway, since Jerry brought up predictions, I couldn’t resist posting this one from a religiously addled mind on strong psychedelics. I once asked him if he might be a prophet of Satan’s. He actually had an answer for that, but I forget what it was…I’m 99% sure it was dumb.

    I don’t consider it my favorite, but the most memorable book I read this year was Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Nightmares dwell within those pages.

    My favorite this year was Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, followed by Gibson’s <The Peripheral.

    There weren’t a lot of memorable movies in 2022…or none that I can think of right now. I enjoyed the 2nd season of The White Lotus. Andor was also cool- very unlike your typical gooey Star Wars spinoff. I’m starting to watch The Peripheral since I just finished the book, and so far I like it, but it’s not following the book. No surprise, the book is convoluted (in a good way). On the comedy side of things, I found Derry Girls surprisingly funny and poignant. Brilliant, really.

    Happy 2023 y’all.

    1. Thanks to your cousin, imo you win the thread!
      I tried Derry Girls, but soon had to quit as I simply could not get past the thick accents.

  35. I’m excited for the next observing run of the LIGO collaboration. With three or four separate detectors operating, the chances of gravitational/visual/x-ray co-detection increases, along with the amount of information content of the detections.

  36. The best book I read last year was Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cockoo Land. I’d rate it as good as the much acclaimed All the Light We Cannot See.
    Hope you soon feel better Jerry.

  37. I have wishes instead of predictions:

    1. I wish the U.S. could move from a two-party to a multiple-party political system, to downplay the extreme division. During Canada’s last federal election in 2021, we had 5 final candidates on stage for the big debate night and to vote for. It sent a completely different message than the Biden/Trump gong show. I also hope there are two new and more-qualified choices for both Dems and Repubs in the 2024 election. 

    2. I wish nuclear (fission) energy could be approved faster, and be built on a smaller scale for all nations. Wind and solar don’t produce enough and the upkeep is too high.
    3. I wish God would give an instant heart attack to all the sex-traffickers, malaria-carrying mosquitos, and maybe even Putin.  But God doesn’t seem to be willing or able. Maybe if we all pray really hard with our fingers crossed and tongues sticking out a bit…

    4. I wish there was a breakthrough in the desalination process. 

    5. I wish we could figure out a workaround to bring back some cool extinct creatures. It seems that the egg cell is the major missing piece, as long as we have the DNA.

    6. I wish all the best to Dr. Coyne and all the readers here. 

  38. Video of the Texas Mid-Coast cold stunned turtle rescue in the works. I will forward it as soon as I receive it, for your animal photo series.

  39. 2024 might actually turn out to be one of the most interesting elections in American history.

    On the Republican side if Trump’s popularity slide continues and he doesn’t win the nomination he is of course going to cry fraud(he did it in the 2016 primary too). What does the GOP do then? They could try and appease a man who is in a sense calling them all crooks and liars, without actually giving any. credence to his rhetoric. Or they could tell him to get lost and risk alienating his base forever and destroying the party.

    On the Democrat side if Old Man Joe tries to run again, or he abdicates and tries to name Kamala his successor, there will undoubtedly be others who’ll run in the same way Kennedy did to Carter, but probably on a larger scale. The Democrats will go from having an incumbent to having a free for all trying to tear down the incumbents.

  40. I think fretting about the pandemic and self-isolating too much in 2022 messed up my brain a little or perhaps I fell into bad habit of watching too much TV, and ended up not being able to read as much as I used to. I resorted to reading short stories and doing Sudoku, as well as reading Jerry’s posts everyday. For Xmas, I treated myself to buying two good books that Jerry and other readers recommended – Klara and the Sun, and All the Light I Cannot See. They’ll be my amusement this Winter, along with various audiobooks.

    I watched a lot of movies or mini-series and I can’t remember their names, off the top of my head. Some were good and some were just light distractions for me. I liked Tick, Tick, Boom, In Bruges, and Where the Crawdads Sing, especially the artwork in the latter. I enjoyed the miniseries The Sinner, as well as various biopics including Blonde which I thought was fairly good, unlike the critics.

    I don’t think Biden should run again.

    The depth of this year’s economic recession will be unpredictable.

    Scientists will find/disclose proof that the novel coronavirus did not originate in an animal but from the Wuhan Lab.

    The War on Ukraine will continue till the end of the year. (I hope I’m wrong.)

  41. Best book I’ve read this year, no, for a very long time is “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. Couldn’t put it down, quirky and beautifully told. I think we are well past 50 comments now. Best site on the entire internet and first one I visit each morning.

  42. Honey will be back. Just make sure there’s food available! I hope there’s a nice body of water not too far away where the ducks can gather safely.

    There’ll be no pardon for Trump.

  43. Prediction: Ducks will be back, though probably a little later in the season. Basing this on having recently removed two overgrown, sickly evergreens from the front yards, that used to have bird feeders. Replaced with a smaller versions, which they are starting to accept.

    But there are lots of trees in my neighborhood. There is only one Botany Pond®! Word will get around.

  44. It is clear now that the Russians will not break the will of the Ukranian people and hopefully Russians themselves will rebel against Putin – remember that in 1989 nobody believed the Berlin Wall would com down, and then it did.

    From here (Ireland), it is hard to see any democratic candidate except Biden. But then again in 2008, Obama seemed to come from nowhere….

    2022 was a good year for me with good projects to work on and a book published (Towards a Global Core Value System in Doctoral Education: Nerad, Bogle, Kohl, O’Carroll, Peters and Scholz). Lots of travel in Spain, Belgium, Czechia and of course around Ireland.

    2023 looking good as am about to start project on a common European Policy for Academic Freedom – stuff here not as bad as in the US (apart from UK) but could go pear shaped. I really appreciate all of your posts on this topic and will be mindful of the US experience.

    I am being unashamedly nationalistic in my reading and viewing.

    Best book for me was April in Spain by John Banville. A very serious author who writes crime novels under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black although with this book he has now reverted to his own name on all. In contrast to many crime novels the protagonist is a pathologist.

    Best films for me were both Irish films An Cailín Ciúin (Irish language film roughly translated as The Quiet Girl – very different from The Quiet Man!!!!). A nine-year-old girl from a dysfunctional family goes to live with distant relatives for the summer. Living with a middle-aged farm couple, she discovers a new way of living.
    Other very close contender is the Banshees of Inisherin. Very strange story even for an Irish film but great. Must say that Top Gun Maverick was mindless fun.

    Have a great 2023 and thanks for your posts and thoughts.

  45. Here are my ratings of films I watched over the holidays.

    Movies that are now streaming that you should avoid:

    White Noise (2022)– an adaptation of a book by Don DeLillo. Like the book, which I had the misfortune to read a few years ago, the movie has no idea what it’s about or what it wants to be. Don Cheadle, who delivers a deft parody of a college professor in a small role, is the only bright spot. As Ryan Jay would say, “Skip it.”*

    Ava (2020)– An all-star cast headed by Jessica Chastain can’t save this spy thriller. I was expecting much more given her star turn as a CIA agent in Zero Dark Thirty (2012), but the movie is full of over the top, cartoonish, super-hero style violence which can’t hide the meager plot. As Ryan Jay would say, “Skip it.”*

    A movie that is now streaming that need not be avoided:

    Glass Onion (2022)– More of a disappointment than a disaster, this sequel to Knives Out (2019) just can’t measure up to the original. The array of suspects is an unlikely concatenation of internet-age failures and con-men that doesn’t gel, unlike the quirky family of parasites that starred in the original. Edward Norton is modestly amusing as an Elon Musk/Elizabeth Holmes hybrid who runs a company, Alpha (think Meta), that has made him rich beyond the dreams of avarice for no apparent reason. The critique of the cult of the billionaire is muted, however, by the failure of the chemistry among the cast.

    Movies that are now streaming that you might want to see:

    Belleville Cop (2018)– A tri-lingual buddy cop comedy starring Omar Sy and Luis Guzman, as a French consular officer and a Miami detective, respectively. Parts of the plot are unexplained or unmotivated, but Sy and Guzman’s good humor pull it through.

    All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)– A gritty and realistic look at the horrors of war as revealed in the trench warfare of World War I. The young German protagonists eagerly enlist in 1917, which seems too late in the war for such youthful enthusiasm, and subplots about the armistice negotiations and a deranged German commander detract a bit from the overall depiction of life and death in the trenches. The latter are probably intended to give emphasis to the futility of the final days of the war, but this could have been done without devoting so much of the film to these subplots. As Ryan Jay would say, “See it.”*

    * These are not necessarily Ryan Jay’s evaluations of these films, I am just using his “See it, stream it, skip it” rating system.


  46. My predictions for 2023:

    Tr*mp will not be indicted on any criminal charges

    Putin will have an accident involving an upstairs window, but his eventual replacement will not finish the war

    Ukraine will push Russia out of the whole country except Crimea

    I will continue to disagree with Jerry on:
    – who the greatest ever football player is (it’s Pelé)
    – the state of modern music
    – whether broccoli tastes nice or not

    Rishi Sunak will survive as British PM (any set of predictions should have a long shot)

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