Friday, November 29, 2019

A Thanksgiving

Lord, for the erring thought
  Not into evil wrought:
Lord, for the wicked will
  Betrayed and baffled still:
For the heart from itself kept,
  Our thanksgiving accept.

For ignorant hopes that were
  Broken to our blind prayer:
For pain, death, sorrow, sent
  Unto our chastisement:
For all loss of seeming good,
  Quicken our gratitude.

-- William Dean Howells (1837 - 1920), American realist author and literary critic, A Thanksgiving

[I had 17 family members at the house today (Friday) for Thanksgiving, because my kids are all grown up and have their own Thanksgivings on Thursday. The above is a little much of a downer to use as a prayer before a Thanksgiving meal, but he's got good points. I can relate.]

Thursday, November 28, 2019

My Choice

I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection.  For me, I'm going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others.  This is my choice.

-- Mike Ericksen, American author and musician, Upon Destiny's Song (2013)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Primary Takeaway

Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.  To make the point as plain as possible, it is clear to this Court for the reasons explained above that, with respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist.

[T]his Court holds that individuals who have been subpoenaed for testimony by an authorized committee of Congress must appear for testimony in response to that subpoena -- i.e., they cannot ignore or defy congressional compulsory process, by order of the President or otherwise.

-- United States District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruling in "Committee on the Judiciary, United States House Of Representatives, Plaintiff, v. Donald F. McGahn II, Defendant", repudiating the concept of "absolute immunity", 25 November 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

My Family, My Flag And My Faith

The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries.  Good order and discipline is what has enabled our victory against foreign tyranny time and again ....  The Constitution, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, are the shields that set us apart, and the beacons that protect us all.

Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.  I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I hereby acknowledge my termination as United States Secretary of the Navy, to be effective immediately.

-- Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, in his resignation letter resulting from a dispute over his handling of the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whose demotion had been reversed by President Donald Trump, 25 November 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Propaganda Machine

Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts.  Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream.  It's as if the Age of Reason -- the era of evidential argument -- is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed.  Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march.  Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

What do all these dangerous trends have in common?  I'm just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar.  But one thing is pretty clear to me.  All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

The greatest propaganda machine in history.

-- Sacha Baron Cohen in his Keynote Address ascribing antisocial behaviors to Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others, at the Anti-Defamation League's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate, 21 November 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.

-- Edith Clara Summerskill, Baroness Summerskill CH PC (1901 - 1980), British physician, feminist, Labour politician and writer, appointed to the Privy Council in 1949, speech to the Married Women's Association in the House of Commons (14 July 1960)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Respectable People

If you talk to gangsters long enough, you'll find out they're just as bad as respectable people.

-- James Murray Kempton (1917 - 1997), American journalist who won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, as quoted by Ron Rosenbaum in The Secret Parts of Fortune (2000)

Monday, November 18, 2019


For the Commander-in-Chief to reach into the military system and provide a pardon, especially in a preemptive way before a trial and appeal process, is a mistake.  It will undermine our own standards, as junior enlisted personnel try to understand a pardon for doing something we constantly train to avoid.  It strengthens enemy propaganda, as they will correctly say that we do not hold ourselves accountable for our own standards.  It undercuts our relations with allies who have strong systems in place to prevent these kinds of actions.  And it spurs our enemies on to even more barbaric behavior as the battlefield descends into moral chaos on both sides of the line of combat.  This kind of pardon disrespects every single one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who follow the strict standards of the Code of Conduct.  They do not abuse captives who have surrendered, use torture to interrogate, cause needless casualties to civilians through collateral damage or desecrate corpses.

-- Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and Operating Executive at The Carlyle Group, Time Magazine, "I Commanded Several of the Servicemen Trump May Pardon.  Letting Them Off Will Undermine the Military", 22 May 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019

More Often

Consciences keep silent more often than they should, that's why laws were created.

-- José de Sousa Saramago, GColSE (1922 - 2010), Portuguese novelist, poet, playwright and journalist, 1998 Nobel Laureate in Literature, All the Names (1997)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Pride vs Humility

Pride looks back upon its past deeds, and calculating with nicety what it has done, it commits itself to rest; whereas humility looks to that which is before, and discovering how much ground remains to be trodden, it is active and vigilant. Having gained one height, pride looks down with complacency on that which is beneath it; humility looks up to a higher and yet higher elevation. The one keeps us on this earth, which is congenial to its nature; the other directs our eye, and tends to lift us up to heaven.

-- James McCosh (1811 - 1894), prominent philosopher of the Scottish School of Common Sense,  president of Princeton University (1868 - 1888), Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) p. 485

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Harder Matter

[A] lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1st Baron Tennyson) (1809 - 1892), Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, "The Grandmother", st. 8 (1864)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Unchanged On Tuesday

You wouldn't have known the stock market was open on Tuesday just by looking at the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The 30-stock average closed flat going out to at least six decimal places.  It's rare for trading to be this futile.  The last time the Dow closed perfectly unchanged was April 24, 2014.  It's the third time the Dow has closed perfectly unchanged since 2000.

The unchanged close came despite some action during the trading day.  The Dow flirted with a record high, rising as much as 79.37 points to trade about 4 points below its all-time high of 27,774.67.  President Donald Trump gave a big economic speech in New York but traders by the end of the day determined they had heard most of what he said on trade and the Federal Reserve before.

-- Fred Imbert, "The Dow was perfectly unchanged on Tuesday", CNBC, 12 November 2019

Monday, November 11, 2019

Armistice Day

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day.  When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another.  I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute.  They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God.  So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

-- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (11 November 1922 - 11 April 2007), American novelist known for works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, Breakfast of Champions (1973)

Friday, November 08, 2019

Officium Officialium

Officium officialium, quorum te numero aggregasti, hodie est, jura confundere, suscitare lites, transactiones rescindere, innectere dilationes, suprimere veritatem, fovere mendacium, quaestum sequi, aeqitatem vendere, inhiare exactionibus, versutias concinnare.

The role of officials today is to upset the laws, to stir up lawsuits, to annul agreements, to devise delays, to suppress the truth, to encourage falsehood, to follow profit, to sell justice, to attend closely to exacting money, to practise cunning.

-- Peter of Blois or Petrus Blesensis, Archdeacon of Bath (c. 1130 - 1211 or 1212), French theologian, diplomat and poet, Letter 25, to the Judicial Vicar of the Bishop of Chartres, in J. A. Giles (ed.) Petri blesensis bathoniensis archidiaconi opera omnia (Oxonii: J. H. Parker, 1846-7) vol. 1, p. 91

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Favorite Hobby

Not everyone enjoys baseball or even fishing, but every person is obsessed with himself.  You're your own favorite hobby.

-- Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk (1962 -), American satirical novelist and freelance journalist, Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey (2007)

Monday, November 04, 2019

Sip Only Little

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.

-- Denis Diderot (1713 - 1784), French philosopher and chief editor of the historic project to produce L'Encyclopédie, Rameau's Nephew (1762)

Friday, November 01, 2019

Nirmal Purja

14 highest peaks in 189 days

I often feel bad about how I don't exercise enough, but Nirmal Purja's ambition was clearly a little bit higher.  He smashed the record for climbing the world's 14 highest peaks in 189 days, or a little over six months.  The Nepalese former British army soldier's speedy itinerary included climbing Everest, Lhotse and Makalu back-to-back in only 48 hours and summiting Shishapangma, his last climb, at 8:58 a.m. local time on Tuesday.  South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho held the previous record of seven years, 11 months, and 14 days.

-- From Significant Digits, 30 October 2019, based on an article in The Guardian