RIP Uffe Ellemann-Jensen (1941-2022)

Former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen has died, 80 years old. He was an often controversial foreign minister for Denmark in the period 1982-1993, serving during some of the most important years of post-war European history. Back when he was a minister, he changed the Danish foreign policy from being nationalistic, or at most Nordic, to be European and international, and by doing that, he helped shape not only Danish foreign policy ever since, but even the path of Europe.

As a foreign minister he often split the nation – a lot of people, especially on the political left, found him arrogant and even undemocratic, while for many other people, he was the very picture of a statesman, making such that Denmark punched way above its weight in international matters. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin wall, Ellemann-Jensen led the Nordic countries in playing a key role in recognizing the emerging Eastern countries, and he ensured that Denmark was among first countries in the world to re-start diplomatic relationships with the Baltic countries in 1991, helping speeding up the process of the world recognizing them as independent countries. To read more about the role of Denmark regarding the freedom of the Baltic countries, I recommend reading The Role of Denmark in the Renewal of Latvian Independence (pdf), which is on the website of the Latvian embassy in Denmark, or Danish Support for the Baltic Struggle for Independence 1988-1991: A Hawk-Dove Domestic Confrontation (pdf), which also explains the pressure Ellemann-Jensen faced in Danish politics.

I think it is fairly safe to say that history has shown Ellemann-Jensen to be right, and that very few politicians would today try to roll back the changes he brought to Danish foreign policy. Denmark still punches above its weight, and Denmark is still explicitly pro-EU and pro-NATO.

After the Social Democratic government took over in 1993, he became leader of the opposition, and continued to be so, until 1998, which his side lost by one mandate – he needed just 85 more votes. Thus he is often referred to as the best Danish Prime Minister we never had. After that he retired from politics, but not from the occasional political opinion. In his post-politics years, he became a strong voice against the increasingly xenophobic Danish refugee and immigration policy, and until the end, he was as strong voice in support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

Goodbye Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, thank you for everything you have done, not only for Denmark, but also for Europe and globally

Let’s mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I woke up to the horrible news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, 87 years old.

As probably was the case for most of you, I immediately start thinking about the consequences of her death – i.e. what horrible candidate Trump would think up, how the Democrats could fight that, and what the consequences would be of that. This is of course, important, and if you want to hear some good thoughts about that, I recommend listening to the Opening Arguments podcast special episode, made just after the hosts learned about her death.

But I also think it is important that we pay proper respect to Ruth Bader Gindburg, or Notorious R.B.G. as she was often referred to on the internet. She was a icon of feminism and civil rights, and should be remembered for her role in fighting gender inequality in the US.

Before becoming a judge, she worked at the ACLU, and they have released an obituary of her.

In Memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice who first rose to national prominence as an ACLU lawyer fighting for equal rights for women, has died at 87 years old.

She began Harvard Law School as a young mother and one of only nine women in her class, and became the architect of a legal strategy to eradicate gender discrimination in the United States. She modeled her approach after that of Thurgood Marshall on race discrimination, planning for a series of cases at the Supreme Court, each precedent paving the way for the next that would further expand rights and protections. In 1993, she joined the court as an associate justice, and over the decades became a cultural icon beloved for her vision and passion in defending the rights of women.

As the obituary makes clear, RBG’s impact came from not just her work as a justice on the US Supreme Court, but also from her work before becoming a justice.

This is also the point of the obituary of the Guardian

Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed America long before she joined the supreme court

The most important feminist lawyer in the history of the American republic has died. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a supreme court justice and singularly influential legal mind, was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993, the court’s second-ever female justice, and served for nearly 30 years. She passed away due to complications from cancer on Friday. She was 87.

Strategic, contemplative and disciplined, but with a passion for the feminist cause that is rarely admitted into the halls of power, Ginsburg established an impressive legal legacy long before she became a judge. Over the course of a two-decade career as a lawyer before her appointment to the DC circuit court of appeals, she successfully argued cases that expanded civil rights law and 14th amendment protections to women, undoing a dense network of laws that had codified sex discrimination in all areas of American life. After she was elevated to the nation’s highest court, she found her own views moving left as the institution was pushed to the right. Her career was defined by courageous dissents that stood up for the principle of equal justice and kept alive the promise of a more free and fair America.

In the coming days, where the death of Ginsburg undoubtedly will expose the hypocrisy of McConnell, it will be all too easy to forget to mourn Gindburg the person, and not just mourn and feel angry at the consequences of her death. She doesn’t deserve that. She deserve to be remembered as the force of good that she has been through her life.

Rest in power Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A couple of great ones are gone: Katherine Johnson and Freeman Dyson

Just under a week ago, we lost Katherine Johnson:

Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA (NY Times link)

She was one of a group of black women mathematicians at NASA and its predecessor who were celebrated in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”

PZ has written more about her here.

Today, we have lost another important figure – this one more well know and celebrated through his working life.

Freeman Dyson, quantum physicist who imagined alien megastructures, has died at 96 (livescience link)

Freeman Dyson, Math Genius Turned Visionary Technologist, Dies at 96 (NY Times link)

Freeman Dyson, like so many scientists before him, did some brilliant work, and the turned towards less scientific ideas. This shouldn’t make you dismiss his importance, just make you weary of his later works.

 

Goodbye Rutger Hauer

I know I am a couple of days late, but as most of you probably know by now, Rutger Hauer passed away a few days ago, 75 years old.

Rutger Hauer is most well known for his role as the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner, which he played masterfully. One of his many great scenes in the movie, and perhaps the most famous, was his death scene.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/NoAzpa1x7jU” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

The most amazing part of that monologue at the end, is that Hauer wrote it himself, apparently not being happy with the scene as it was written in the script.

While his role as Roy Batty was incredible, and well worth remembering, I also remember him from many other movies:

The Hitcher, Escape from Sobibor, Ladyhawke, the Blood of Heroes, Wedlock, Split Second, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fatherland, and Sin City. While most of these movies aren’t great movies (Ladyhawke very much the exception), Rutger Hauer gave his all, and made his roles memorable, and the movies entertaining.

Oh, as an aside, it should be mentioned, that Blade Runner was set in 2019, so Roy Batty died that year. Something fans obviously noticed straight away when Rutger Hauer died.

RIP Joe Armstrong, the author of Erlang

Sad news from the world of programming, Joe Armstrong, one of the authors of the Erlang language has died

I never worked much with Erlang, and have never met Joe Armstrong, but from everything I hear, he was a genuinely nice man.

If you want to know more about Erlang, and how it was used, you can watch Erlang the Movie.

To be honest, I highly doubt anyone outside the world of programming will get much out of that clip, but it is interesting to watch, since it shows what type of problems Erlang was developed to solve. It gives a view into the early days of digitizing telephony, which wasn’t that long ago, considered how long telephones and other forms of telecommunication has been around.