Friday, October 30, 2020

I Can't Hear It

If someone says, "Democracy is a sham, those people don't speak for me... the system's rigged," you say, "Vote."  Someone says, "I was making a statement by not voting," and then you say, "Well I can't hear it." 

-- Jesse Williams, American actor, director, producer, and activist, in an election PSA posted by super PAC Save the Day on YouTube, 27 September 2016

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Every Vote Counts

The first lesson is this: take it from me -- every vote counts.  In our Democracy, every vote has power.  And never forget: that power is yours.  Don't let anyone take it away or talk you into throwing it away.  And let's make sure that this time every vote is counted.

-- Former Vice President Al Gore, at the Democratic National Convention, 27 July 2004

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

We Are Not Enemies

We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

-- Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865), 16th President of the United States, First Inaugural Address (4 March 1861)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Really Disloyal?

Who are those who are really disloyal?  -- Those who inflame racial hatreds, who sow religious and class dissensions.  Those who subvert the Constitution by violating the freedom of the ballot box.  Those who make a mockery of majority rule by the use of the filibuster.  Those who impair democracy by denying equal educational facilities.  Those who frustrate justice by lynch law or by making a farce of jury trials.  Those who deny freedom of speech and of the press and of assembly.  Those who press for special favors against the interest of the commonwealth.  Those who regard public office as a source of private gain.  Those who would exalt the military over the civil.  Those who for selfish and private purposes stir up national antagonisms and expose the world to the ruin of war.

-- Henry Steele Commager (1902 - 1998), American historian and teacher, Who is Loyal to America? (1947)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Burnt Norton

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

-- Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 - 1965), American-born English poet, dramatist, and literary critic, The Four Quartets, Burnt Norton (I), Collected Poems 1909–1935 (1936)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Doubling The Value

If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day.  By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting.  In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.

-- David Foster Wallace (1962 - 2008), American novelist, essayist, and short story writer, "Up, Simba" (2000)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

An Exchange

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.

-- Verni Robert Quillen (1887 - 1948), American humorist, as quoted in The School Day Begins : A Guide to Opening Exercises, Grades Kindergarten - 12 (1967) by Agnes Krarup

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


NASA scientists confirmed Wednesday that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully made contact with an asteroid a day earlier, touching the surface for six seconds and collecting dust and pebbles from its surface.

The spacecraft's performance at the asteroid Bennu, which is only about as wide as the Empire State Building is tall, was remarkable. Because the asteroid is so small, its gravity is negligible, which complicates orbital maneuvering by the spacecraft around what is, essentially, a rubble pile.

Despite these challenges, at a distance of 320 million kilometers on Tuesday, NASA engineers and scientists programmed a spacecraft to autonomously touch down within a single meter of its target area.

[T]he mission team does not yet know how much material the spacecraft collected. As much as 2kg of dust and rocks will be studied back on Earth when a capsule lands in Utah in 2023.

-- Ars Technica, "NASA reaches out and touches an asteroid 320 million kilometers away", 21 October 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

More Truth

New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth.  The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

Intellectual Myopia

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.  Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason.  But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. 

-- John Kenneth Galbraith (1908 – 2006), Canadian-American economist and author, The Age of Uncertainty, Chapter 1, p. 22 (1977)

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Same Enthusiasm

The people of the United States have made their choice, and, of course, I accept that decision but, I have to admit, not with the same enthusiasm that I accepted the decision 4 years ago. I have a deep appreciation of the system, however, that lets people make the free choice about who will lead them for the next 4 years.

About an hour ago I called Governor Reagan in California, and I told him that I congratulated him for a fine victory. I look forward to working closely with him during the next few weeks. We'll have a very fine transition period. I told him I wanted the best one in history. And I then sent him this telegram, and I'll read it to you. "It's now apparent that the American people have chosen you as the next President. I congratulate you and pledge to you our fullest support and cooperation in bringing about an orderly transition of government in the weeks ahead. My best wishes are with you and your family as you undertake the responsibilities that lie before you." And I signed it Jimmy Carter.

This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, as you well know. But we must now come together as a united and a unified people to solve the problems that are still before us, to meet the challenges of a new decade. And I urge all of you to join in with me in a sincere and fruitful effort to support my successor when he undertakes this great responsibility as President of the greatest nation on Earth.

-- President Jimmy Carter, 1980 Presidential Election Remarks on the Outcome of the Election, 4 November 1980

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Light Ahead

I know it's difficult for so many of us to feel hope in this moment, which seems so incomprehensibly dark.  We are a nation deeply wounded from a liberated virus.  We're struggling with systemic racism.  And we've endured lashing mental abuse, time and again, from the president of the United States.  But it is not a darker moment than what Ike saw when he looked across the English Channel on June 6, 1944 at the continent of Europe, dominated by the Nazis.

So I see a light ahead.  Just days away, a unified and electrified coalition of Americans, coming together like our country did in World War II, standing united to send a message that will be heard around the world to all those who look with expectant hope to the America that led the crusade more than half a century ago: That America has not succumbed to a demagogue and would-be autocrat.  That we have overcome.  And that Donald J. Trump is not who we are.

In just a short time, America will go from its darkest hour to its finest hour.

-- Democratic strategist James Carville, "A Crusade for Something Noble",, 15 October 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Vote To End Attacks On Science

Instead of thinking about whether to vote Democratic or Republican in the upcoming U.S. election, think about voting to protect science instead of destroying it.

Undercutting science has dangerous repercussions.  New York Times contributor David Leonhardt, analyzing COVID-19 data from the World Bank and Johns Hopkins University, found that as of September 1, if the U.S. had the same rate of COVID-19 deaths as the world average, 145,000 fewer Americans would have died from the disease.

Science, built on facts and evidence-based analysis, is fundamental to a safe and fair America.  Upholding science is not a Democratic or Republican issue.  There are plenty of people in red and blue states across the country who respect and need science.  Industrial innovation, profitable farming, homeland security, a competitive economy and therefore good jobs, all depend on it.  But politicians of different stripes have to get on board to protect science from further demise.

On an individual basis, the most powerful action you can take to protect science is to vote out of office a president who is trying to gut it -- and to encourage people you know to do likewise, especially in the battleground states.  The same applies to the November elections for key U.S. Senate races.  Most senators and representatives do prize facts and evidence-based thinking, yet too many of them remain silent about Trump’s abuse of science.  Their silence is complicity.  For that reason, the November 3 election should be a day of reckoning.

-- The Editors of Scientific American, "On November 3, Vote to End Attacks on Science", 9 October 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Vital Responsibility

[Justice Scalia's] judicial philosophy was straightforward.  A judge must apply the law as it is written, not as she wishes it were.  Sometimes that approach meant reaching results that he did not like, but as he put it in one of his best known opinions, that is what it means to say that we have a government of laws and not of men.

Courts have a vital responsibility to the rule of law, which is critical to a free society, but courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.  The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches, elected by and accountable to the people.  The public should not expect courts to do so and courts should not try.  

-- Amy Coney Barrett, in her opening statement at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, 12 October 2020

Friday, October 09, 2020

People Will Vote

In times of stress and strain, people will vote.

-- Author unknown.  Attributed to parliamentary debates, Great Britain (1857)

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Impostor Syndrome

Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things.  And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn't qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.  On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name.  And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, "I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here?  They've made amazing things.  I just went where I was sent." And I said, "Yes.  But you were the first man on the moon.  I think that counts for something." And I felt a bit better.  Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did.

-- Neil Gaiman (10 November 1960 -), English author of science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels, graphic novels, and comics, remarks on "Imposter syndrome" on Tumblr (12 May 2017)

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Leadership Vacuum

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world.  This crisis has produced a test of leadership.  With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond.  Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test.  They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy. ...

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences.  Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions.  But this election gives us the power to render judgment.  Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates.  But truth is neither liberal nor conservative.  When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent.  We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

-- Editorial signed by 34 editors of The New England Journal of Medicine who are United States citizens (one editor is not), "Dying in a Leadership Vacuum", 7 October 2020

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

RIP Eddie Van Halen

I can't believe I'm having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning.

He was the best father I could ever ask for.  Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift.

My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss.

I love you so much, Pop.

-- Wolf Van Halen, posting on Twitter as @WolfVanHalen, announcing the death of his father, Guitar God Eddie Van Halen (26 January 1955 - 6 October 2020).  I'm so glad to have seen Eddie in concert, and I still remember listening for the first time to the first song ("Runnin' with the Devil") of the first side of the debut Van Halen album.  Love at first listen (h/t Steve Gray for playing that album that day).

[I am not enjoying posting so many trvth obituaries.]

Monday, October 05, 2020

RIP Bob Gibson

[Bob Gibson] won both the National League's Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award, as the league's best pitcher, in 1968, when he won 22 games, struck out 268 batters, pitched 13 shutouts and posted an earned run average of 1.12, still the lowest since the advent of the lively ball in 1920 and the fourth-lowest in major league history.  The next year, even though Major League Baseball lowered the pitchers' mounds to give batters a break, Gibson won 20 games and struck out 269.

He won at least 20 games five times and struck out 3,117 batters.  He threw 56 career shutouts and captured a second Cy Young Award in 1970.  He was an eight-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove award for fielding nine times and pitched a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971.

Pitching for three pennant-winning Cardinal teams, Gibson won seven World Series games in a row, losing only in his first and last Series starts.  [H]e holds the records for most strikeouts in a World Series game, 17, and in a single World Series, 35, both against the Detroit Tigers in 1968.

He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility.

-- New York Times recap of the career of St Louis Cardinals pitching legend Bob Gibson (9 November 1935 - 2 October 2020), on the occasion of his passing

Friday, October 02, 2020

I Voted

I voted.

I parked my car in front of the courthouse and went in to vote in person.  It was just like voting on election day, except I was at the courthouse instead of my local precinct, and there were no other citizens there, so no lines and no waiting.

Eight minutes after parking I was back in my car, sending a text to my kids telling them how easy it was to vote.

Opportunities and methods of voting vary, mostly by state.  Illinois has early voting from 24 September through Monday 2 November.  My Louisiana daughter tells me they have an early voting window of one weekend, Thursday through Tuesday.  Find out the rules in your area, and plan your vote today.  You can literally google "How to vote".  Then vote today, if you can and you're ready.

Don't forget to vote.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Embrace This

I am going to comment as the CDC director, that face masks, these face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have.  And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings.  I've said it, if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control.

These actually, we have clear, scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense.  I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%.  And if I don't get an immune response to vaccine, it's not going to protect me.  This face mask will.  So, I do want to keep asking the American public to take the responsibility, particularly the 18 to 25 year olds, where we're seeing the outbreak in America continue to go like this.  Because we haven't got the acceptance to personal responsibility that we need for all Americans to embrace this face mask.

-- CDC Director Robert Redfield testifying before the Senate on the coronavirus response, 16 September 2020