Friday, February 26, 2021

It Follows

If we believe that moral leadership can improve a country, it follows that immoral leadership can debase it.

-- Michael Gerson, syndicated columnist and former aide to President George W. Bush, There's nothing conservative about CPAC, Washington Post, 25 February 2021

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Obvious And Useful

But, perhaps, the excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the comprehension of some obvious and useful truth in few words.

-- Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), British author, linguist, and lexicographer, The Rambler (1750-1752), No. 175 (19 November 1751)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Ethics Is Disturbing

We hope for lives whose story leaves us looking admirable; we like our weaknesses to be hidden and deniable. ...  We want to enjoy our lives, and we want to enjoy them with a good conscience. ...  Ethics is disturbing.

-- Simon Blackburn (1944 -), British academic philosopher known for his work in quasi-realism and his efforts to popularise philosophy, Being Good (2001)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

More Americans

Each day, I receive a small card in my pocket that I carry with me in my schedule.  It shows the number of Americans who have been infected by or died from COVID-19.  Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead.  That's more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.  That's more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth. 

We often hear people described as "ordinary Americans."  There's no such thing; there's nothing ordinary about them.  The people we lost were extraordinary.  They spanned generations.  Born in America.  Immigrated to America.  But just like that, so many of them took their final breath alone in America.

So today, I ask all Americans to remember: Remember those we lost and those who are left behind.

This nation will smile again.  This nation will know sunny days again.  This nation will know joy again.  And as we do, we will remember each person we've lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind.  We will get through this, I promise you.  But my heart aches for you -- those of you who are going through it right now. 

-- President Biden, in remarks on the more than 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, 22 February 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021

Shade Of Retirement

Every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.

-- George Washington (22 February 1732 - 14 December 1799), American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who also served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797, Farewell Address (17 September 1796)

Friday, February 19, 2021

As Relentless

Chance is as relentless as necessity.

-- Simon Blackburn (1944 -), British academic philosopher known for his work in quasi-realism and his efforts to popularise philosophy, Think, Chapter Three, Free Will, p. 85 (1999)

Thursday, February 18, 2021


Touchdown confirmed.  Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars!

-- Swati Mohan, JPL engineer narrating the successful, autonomous landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars using a sky crane, at a distance of 127,000,000 miles from mission control, 3:55PM EST, 18 February 2021

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Herd Immunity

Today I did my bit to contribute to herd immunity.  I'm happy to report that I got my first dose of the covid vaccine today.  It was Moderna, administered by the department of public health in Piatt County, where I reside.  I qualified with Illinois' expanded criteria as a 61-year-old with a history of cancer.  They have what seems to be a very efficient operation, with 72 injections per hour, for 3.5 hours per day, for 3 days this week (just over 750).  We have a population of only 16,000, and this is one among many vaccine drives.  The inoculation itself was unremarkable.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

This Optimism Is Countered

Capitalism is a mode of socio-economic organization in which a class of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial institutions provide the capital with which businesses produce goods and services and employ workers.  In return the capitalist extracts profits from the goods created.  Capitalism is frequently seen as the embodiment of the market economy, and hence may result in the optimum distribution of scarce resources, with a resulting improvement for all; this optimism is countered by pointing to the opportunity for exploitation inherent in the system.

-- Simon Blackburn (1944 -), British academic philosopher known for his work in quasi-realism and his efforts to popularise philosophy, editor Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Lemma "Capitalism" (1996)

Monday, February 15, 2021

What You Choose

You are what you choose to defend.

-- Actor Don Cheadle, in the PBS series African-American Lives (2008)

Friday, February 12, 2021

No Successful Appeal

Our popular Government has often been called an experiment.  Two points in it our people have already settled -- the successful establishing and the successful administering of it.  One still remains -- its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it.  It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets, and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves at succeeding elections.  Such will be a great lesson of peace, teaching men that what they can not take by an election neither can they take it by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.

-- Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 - 15 April 1865), 16th President of the United States, Address to Congress (4 July 1861)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Frighteningly Confused

Notwithstanding that his beliefs were not rationally based; defendant was not acting out of criminal intent.  Defendant sought no personal nor pecuniary gain.  Rather defendant acted out of the delusional belief that he was a "patriot" protecting his country.  Defendant is former military who is sworn to protect his country.  He was responding to the entreaties of the then commander in chief, President Trump.  The President maintained that the election had been stolen and it was the duty of loyal citizens to "stop the steal."  Admittedly there was no rational basis for the claim, but it is apparent defendant was one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.  Defendant did not act out of criminal intent but out of conscience, albeit a frighteningly confused and distorted sense of conscience.  Hopefully, as a result of this experience he has learned not be so gullible and will not be so easily duped again.  

Press accounts of the underlying event are rampant with the universal claim by all protesters that they were acting at the behest of President Trump to save the country from a stolen election.  Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence.  Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege.

-- Defendant's Motion for Modification of Bond in the case of United States v Dominic Pezzola, 10 February 2021 (h/t Politico)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Rendered Himself Obnoxious

History furnishes one example only of a first Magistrate being formally brought to public Justice.  Every body cried out against this as unconstitutional.  What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious?  Why recourse was had to assassination in which he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.  It would be the best way therefore to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive when his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.

-- Benjamin Franklin, arguing in favor of an impeachment clause, Record of the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, at 65, edited by Max Farrand (h/t John Dickerson)

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Differently Right

Philosophical Aside 

In its OO [Object-Oriented] programming, Perl gives you a lot of freedom: the ability to do things more than one way (you can bless any data type to make an object), to inspect and modify classes you didn't write (adding functions to their packages), and to use these to write tangled pits of misery -- if that's really what you want to do.  

Less flexible programming languages are usually more restrictive.  Many are fanatically devoted to enforced privacy, compile-time type checking, complex function signatures, and a smorgasbord of other features.  Perl doesn't provide these things with objects because it doesn't provide them anywhere else, either.  Keep this in mind if you find Perl's object-oriented implementation weird.  You only think it's weird because you're used to another language's philosophy.  Perl's treatment of OO is perfectly sensible -- if you think in Perl.  For every problem that you can't solve by writing Perl as though it were Java or C++, there is a native Perl solution that works perfectly.  

Perl's objects are not wrong; they're differently right.

-- Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington in "Perl Cookbook", Chapter 13. "Classes, Objects, and Ties", O'Reilly (1998)

Monday, February 08, 2021

Dishonest Force

It strikes me that the mistake, the original sin for many in Washington, was in pretending that the Campaign Trump of 2016 was not the true Trump, when in reality they knew there was never going to be a governing Trump, never going to be a Presidential Trump.  What he said in all those rallies and tweets was his authentic self: foul-mouthed, bullying, self-obsessed, casually racist, and capable not only of breathtaking lies but of repeating them over and over until they became a strategy unto themselves. ...  The lies were the metastatic cancer of his Presidency. Many in his Republican base believed them; his party leadership succumbed to their dishonest force.

-- Susan B. Glasser, "Obituary for a Failed Presidency", The New Yorker, 20 January 2021

Friday, February 05, 2021


Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.  

-- Howard Rheingold (1947 -), American critic, writer, and teacher known for his specialties on the cultural, social, and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony, and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing), "The Virtual Community" (1993)

Thursday, February 04, 2021

An Invitation

Dear President Trump,

Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense. In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021. ... We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.

[T]he Supreme Court held just last year that you were not immune from legal process while serving as President -- so there is no doubt that you can testify in these proceedings. Indeed, whereas a sitting President might raise concerns about distraction from their official duties, that concern is obviously inapplicable here. We therefore anticipate your availability to testify.

If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.

-- Invitation from House impeachment managers for former President Trump to testify at his Senate trial, 4 February 2021

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Perfect Alignment

It's remarkable how fast science can happen when everyone is focused on the same problem.  This devastating pandemic, with all its worldwide chaos and horror, has at the same time created a perfect alignment of technology, science, need, and opportunity.  The global impact of Covid-19 could change science forever.

-- Jane Metcalfe, co-founder and former president of Wired Ventures, creator and original publisher of the magazine Wired, Covid-19 Is Accelerating Human Transformation -- Let's Not Waste It, Wired (5 July 2020)

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Student Pathway

We all have to be students, who are often wrong and always in doubt, while a professor is sometimes wrong and never in doubt.  Please join me on my student pathway.

-- Gerald Buckberg (1935 - 2018), Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Vol. 124, No. 5, "Basic science review: The helix and the heart" (November 2002)

Monday, February 01, 2021

Youthful Folly

It is not I who seek the young fool;
The young fool seeks me.

-- I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, a Chinese classical text believed to have been written by Fu Xi (c. 2800 BCE)