Thursday, April 30, 2020

It Was Miraculous

It was miraculous.  It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice.  Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all.  It merely required no character.

-- Joseph Heller (1 May 1923 - 12 December 1999), American novelist and playwright, Catch-22 (1961)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Test Yourself

Once you have acquired the skills, you must test them on an opponent, but in no way should you consider victory or submission to be a cause for shame or pride.  Rather, you ought to think, "By what means did I defeat him?"  Or, "By what means could I have defeated him?"  Then you exert and test yourself for a while.

-- Qi Jiguang (1528 - 1588), Ming dynasty Chinese military general who defended China against wokou pirates and reinforced the Great Wall against Mongol incursions; author of several military manuals which have been widely read in China, Korea, and Japan; Jixiao Xinshu (1560; 1584) Chapter 14: The Chapter on the Fist Canon and the Essentials of Nimbleness

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tell Me What They Require

From all evil against which the law bars you, you should be barred, at an infinite distance, by honour, by conscience, and nobility.  Does the law require patriotism, philanthropy, self-abnegation, public service, purity of purpose, devotion to the needs of others who have been placed in the world below you?  The law is a great thing, -- because men are poor and weak, and bad.  And it is great, because where it exists in its strength, no tyrant can be above it.  But between you and me there should be no mention of law as the guide of conduct.  Speak to me of honour, of duty, and of nobility; and tell me what they require of you.

-- Anthony Trollope (1815 - 1882), one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era, The Duke's Children, Ch. 61 (1879)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Unexpected Emergencies

It seems to me that unexpected emergencies are among the reasons we shouldn't be running trillion-dollar budget deficits in a time of full employment.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sahm Dan

Tonight I was awarded my third-degree black belt (Sahm Dan) in Tae Kwon Do after testing earlier this  month.

Usually it takes about a month to get an embroidered black belt. This year, due to covid-19, most martial arts academies are closed. As a result, the belt makers haven't seen much demand, and the belts were ready in just a week.

I spent six months training to prepare for this test, five days per week with an average of a couple of hours each day. It will likely be a few years before I test again, and I'm happy that this test is behind me.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Light The Candle

But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack.  The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high -- to permit the customary passions of political debate.  We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.  As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.  Today our concern must be with that future.  For the world is changing.  The old era is ending.  The old ways will not do.

-- John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 - 1963), 35th President of the United States, Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (15 July 1960)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day At 50 Years

I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children; whose work serves the earth he lives on and from and with, and is therefore pleasurable and meaningful and unending; whose rewards are not deferred until "retirement," but arrive daily and seasonally out of the details of the life of their place; whose goal is the continuance of the life of the world, which for a while animates and contains them, and which they know they can never compass with their understanding or desire.

-- Wendell Berry (5 August 1934 -), American philosopher, poet, essayist, farmer, novelist and social activist, The Unforeseen Wilderness : An Essay on Kentucky's Red River Gorge (1971), p. 33; what is likely a paraphrase of a portion of this has existed since at least 1997, and has sometimes become misattributed to John James Audubon: A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Mind-Bending Distortion

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a series of mind-bending distortions across world financial markets, but Monday featured the most bizarre one yet: The benchmark price for crude oil in the United States fell to negative $37.63.

That means that if you happened to be in a position to take delivery of 1,000 barrels of oil in Cushing, Okla., in the month of May -- the quantity quoted in the relevant futures contract -- you could have been paid a cool $37,630 to do so. (That is about five tanker trucks' worth, so any joke about storing the oil in your basement will have to remain just that.)

-- Neil Irwin, "What the Negative Price of Oil is Telling Us", New York Times, 21 April 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

When Bad Fortune Occurs

When bad fortune occurs, the unresourceful, unimaginative man looks about him to attach the blame to someone else; the resolute accepts misfortune and endeavors to survive, mature, and improve because of it.

-- Anne Inez McCaffrey (1926 - 2011), American-Irish writer, first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction (Best Novella, "Weyr Search", 1968) and the first to win a Nebula Award (Best Novella, "Dragonrider", 1969), Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (1983)

Friday, April 17, 2020

This Is Not COVID-1, Folks

Some of the scientists and doctors say there could be other strains later on, this could come back in the fall in a limited way.  This is COVID-19, not COVID-1, folks.  And so you would think that people charged with the World Health Organization facts and figures would be on top of that.  People should know the facts.

-- White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview on "Fox & Friends", 15 April 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

New Normal

[President Trump] wants to reopen the country.  It's essential to our economic health, it's true.  But the president refuses to concede there's a testing problem, and absent testing, it may be hard to get many people to go back outside.  Before, no one wanted to be the only chump to avoid crowds; now many will be reluctant to be the chump who rushes toward them.  Because that's the new normal.

-- Jennifer Senior writing for the New York Times, 16 April 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

National Security Issue

[W]e should recognize that U.S. national security is put at risk by our inadequate health care system. ... [I]t's now clear that universal health care is a national security issue.  Americans are at risk of dying at higher numbers in this pandemic than in any war since the Civil War.  Some Americans may have delayed seeking care in the early days of the pandemic by worries that they could not afford health care.  And now that millions have lost their jobs in the midst of the pandemic, our employment-based health care system seems more obviously unjust and dangerous.

-- Oona A. Hathaway, Professor of International Law and director of the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School, "COVID-19 Shows How the U.S. Got National Security Wrong",, 7 April 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

That Kind Of Leadership

I have been amazed at the incredible bravery of our medical professionals who are putting their lives on the line to save others; the public servants and health officials battling this disease; the workers taking risks every day to keep our economy running and everyone who is making their own sacrifice at home with their families all for the greater good.  But if there is one thing we have learned as a country from moments of great crisis, it is that the spirit of looking out for one another can't be restricted to our homes or our workplaces or our neighborhoods or our houses of worship -- it also has to be reflected in our national government.  The kind of leadership that is guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace.

That kind of leadership doesn't just belong in our state capitals and mayor's offices, it belongs in the White House.

-- Former President Barack Obama in a statement endorsing the presidential candidacy of Obama's vice president, Joe Biden, 14 April 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

Anyone Left Over There?

Friday, Jan. 13, 2017: The joint Obama-Trump transition teams run an exercise for pandemic preparedness.

Key takeaways from the exercise include: (1) a collective understanding of the science and the disease must drive response decisions; (2) days and even hours are paramount in order to build as much lead time as possible; (3) a coordinated and unified national response and message is necessary; and (4) "medical countermeasure strategy is key for success," including social distancing and addressing shortages in ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Trump administration attendees include: Steven Mnuchin, Rep. Mike Pompeo, Wilbur Ross, Betsy DeVos, Dr. Ben Carson, Elaine Chao, Stephen Miller, Marc Short, Reince Priebus (resigned), Rex Tillerson (fired), Gen. James Mattis (fired), Rep. Ryan Zinke (resigned), Sen. Jeff Sessions (resigned), Sen. Dan Coats (fired), Andrew Puzder (not confirmed), Dr. Tom Price (resigned), Gov. Rick Perry (resigned), Dr. David Shulkin (fired), Gen. John Kelly (resigned), Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Linda McMahon (resigned), Sean Spicer (fired), Joe Hagin (resigned), Joshua Pitcock (resigned), Tom Bossert (resigned), KT McFarland (resigned), Gen. Michael Flynn (awaiting criminal sentencing), Gary Cohn (resigned), Katie Walsh (resigned), and Rick Dearborn (resigned).

-- Excerpt from a Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic and US Response,, 13 April 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020


The failures of the White House, of the president, have visited greater illness and greater number of deaths across the country.  Republicans and Democrats all acknowledge that the federal government has fallen down on the job.

I mean, for me to go out and compete against California, New York, and countries outside of the United States to get the lifesaving equipment that we need -- and, oh, by the way, I'm also competing against FEMA and the federal government -- it's outrageous.  It's outrageous.

We've had to just finally say, "Well then, we're not going to rely upon any promises that are made, and we're just going to act as if we're an independent nation here," which isn't the way this ought to work.

-- Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on Inside the Hive with Nick Bilton, as quoted in Vanity Fair, 10 April 2020

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Ineluctable Tension

Political realism is aware of the moral significance of political action.  It is also aware of the ineluctable tension between the moral command and the requirements of successful political action.  And it is unwilling to gloss over and obliterate that tension and thus to obfuscate both the moral and the political issue by making it appear as though the stark facts of politics were morally more satisfying than they actually are, and the moral law less exacting than it actually is.

-- Hans Morgenthau (1904 - 1980), leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international politics, Politics Among Nations (1948), Six Principles of Political Realism, Section 4

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

RIP John Prine

When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain't the afterlife grand?

-- John Prine (10 October 1946 - 7 April 2020), American country folk singer-songwriter, "When I Get to Heaven", live performance on Austin City Limits, 13 October 2018

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Essential Workers

You'll be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers.  As you can imagine, at this time, of course, they are going to be particularly quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies.  I say to the children of New Zealand, if the Easter bunny doesn't make it to your household, then we have to understand that it's a bit difficult at the moment for the Bunny to get everywhere.

But, I have a bit of an idea.  Maybe in lieu of the Bunny being able to make it to your home, you can create your own Easter hunt for the children in your neighborhood.  Maybe draw an Easter egg and pop it into your front window and help children in your neighborhood with their own Easter egg hunt, because the Easter Bunny may not get everywhere this year.

-- New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern in a statement directed to the children of her country, 6 April 2020

Monday, April 06, 2020

We Will Succeed

And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.

It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister.  We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.  Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones.  But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.

While we have faced challenges before, this one is different.  This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.  We will succeed -- and that success will belong to every one of us.

-- Elizabeth II (1926 -), Queen of the United Kingdom, in only the fifth special address of her 68-year reign, 5 April 2020

Friday, April 03, 2020

Victory In Spite Of All Terror

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind.  We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.  You ask, what is our policy?  I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.  That is our policy.  You ask, what is our aim?  I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

-- Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG OM CH TD FRS PC (1874 - 1965), British politician and statesman, best known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II, Speech in the House of Commons, after taking office as Prime Minister (13 May 1940)

Thursday, April 02, 2020


The greatest danger to our future is apathy.

-- Jane Goodall DBE (3 April 1934 -), English UN Messenger of Peace, primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, best-known for her study of chimpanzee social and family life in Gombe Stream National Park for 45 years, and for founding the Jane Goodall Institute, "The Power of One", TIME Magazine (26 August 2002)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

All The Duties

No government can long endure unless its citizens are willing to make some sacrifice for its existence.  In this, our land, we are called upon to give but little in return for the advantages which we receive.  Shall we give that little grudgingly?  Our definition of patriotism is often too narrow.  Shall the lover of his country measure his loyalty only by his service as a soldier?  No!  Patriotism calls for the faithful and conscientious performance of all of the duties of citizenship, in small matters as well as great, at home as well as upon the tented field.

-- William Jennings Bryan (1860 - 1925), American lawyer, statesman, and politician, "The Jury System", delivered in response to a toast at a bar association banquet in Lincoln, Nebraska (February 1890)