Thursday, March 31, 2022


Sins which would terrify us if they were peculiar to ourselves alone cease to frighten us when they are shared. The sinner sleeps soundly when he finds himself surrounded by a multitude, as though God were obliged to spare him.

-- Pierre Nicole (1625 - 1695), French Jansenist, L'esprit de M. Nicole, ou: Instructions sur les vérités de la religion, p. 461, in The Bourgeois: Catholicism vs. Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century France (1968), p. 94

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Forces Of Emotion

Human history is not the product of the wise direction of human reason, but is shaped by the forces of emotion -- our dreams, our pride, our greed, our fears, and our desire for revenge.

-- Lin Yutang (1895 - 1976), Chinese writer and translator, Confucius Saw Nancy and Essays about Nothing (1936), p. 95

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Antilynching Act

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act”.

Section 249(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(5) LYNCHING.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

“(6) OTHER CONSPIRACIES.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, or if the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.”.

-- H.R.55 - Emmett Till Antilynching Act, signed into law by President Biden on 29 March 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022


Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight.

-- Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (1885 - 1966), fleet admiral of the United States Navy, as quoted in The Magnificent Mitscher by Theodore Taylor, p. 266

Friday, March 25, 2022

Mastery Through Adaptation

Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength.  What is more malleable is always superior over that which is immoveable.  This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation.

-- Lao Tzu, as quoted in "Zen In The Martial Arts" (1979) by Joe Hyams, p. 67

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Provisional Measures

Indicates the following provisional measures:

(1) The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine

(2) The Russian Federation shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control or direction, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations referred to in point (1) above

(3) Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.

-- Order of the International Court of Justice, in Ukraine v Russian Federation, Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 16 March 2022

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

RIP Madeleine Albright

In early 2000, I became the first senior U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin in his new capacity as acting president of Russia. ...  I have been reminded in recent months of that nearly three-hour session with Mr. Putin as he has massed troops on the border with neighboring Ukraine.  After calling Ukrainian statehood a fiction in a bizarre televised address, he issued a decree recognizing the independence of two separatist-held regions in Ukraine and sending troops there.

Mr. Putin's revisionist and absurd assertion that Ukraine was "entirely created by Russia" and effectively robbed from the Russian empire is fully in keeping with his warped worldview.  Most disturbing to me: It was his attempt to establish the pretext for a full-scale invasion.

Should he invade, it will be a historic error. ...  Instead of paving Russia's path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin's infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled, and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance. ...  Ukraine is entitled to its sovereignty, no matter who its neighbors happen to be.  In the modern era, great countries accept that, and so must Mr. Putin.

-- Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright (15 May 1937 - 23 March 2022), American politician and diplomat who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the 64th U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.  She was the first female secretary of state in U.S. history.  "Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake", New York Times, 23 February 2022

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Way Of Life

A man is born gentle and weak. 
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and the strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

-- Lao Tzu, as quoted in "Zen In The Martial Arts" (1979) by Joe Hyams, p. 123

Monday, March 21, 2022

Equal Justice Under Law

During this hearing, I hope that you will see how much I love our country and the Constitution, and the rights that make us free.  I stand on the shoulders of many who have come before me, including Judge Constance Baker Motley, who was the first African American woman to be appointed to the federal bench and with whom I share a birthday.  And like Judge Motley, I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building -- "Equal Justice Under Law" -- are a reality and not just an ideal.  Thank you for this historic chance to join the highest Court, to work with brilliant colleagues, to inspire future generations, and to ensure liberty and justice for all.

-- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's opening statement at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, as prepared for delivery, 21 March 2022

Friday, March 18, 2022

Cause And Effect

In the notice that our senses take on the constant vicissitude of things, we cannot but observe that several particular, both qualities and substances, begin to exist, and that they receive this their existence from the due application and operation of some other being.  From this observation we get our ideas of cause and effect.  That which produces any simple or complex idea we denote by the general name, cause, and that which is produced, effect.  Thus finding that in that substance which we call wax, fluidity, which is a simple idea that was not in it before, is constantly produced by the application of a certain degree of heat; we call the simple idea of heat, in relation to fluidity in wax, the cause of it, and fluidity the effect.

-- John Locke (1632 - 1704), English philosopher and social contract theorist, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Of Cause And Effect, And Other Relations

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Fight For Peace

We -- Russia -- want to be a nation of peace.  Alas, few people would call us that now.

But let's at least not become a nation of frightened silent people.  Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane czar.

I cannot, do not want and will not remain silent watching how pseudo-historical nonsense about the events of 100 years ago has become an excuse for Russians to kill Ukrainians, and for Ukrainians to kill Russians while defending themselves.

It's the third decade of the 21st century, and we are watching news about people burning down in tanks and bombed houses.  We are watching real threats to start a nuclear war on our TVs.

I am from the USSR myself.  I was born there.  And the main phrase from there -- from my childhood -- was "fight for peace."  I call on everyone to take to the streets and fight for peace.

-- Alexei Anatolievich Navalny (1976 -), Russian opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist, We - Russia - want to be a nation of peace, Twitter thread (2 March 2022)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Created Twice

Everything a person does is created twice -- once in the mind and once in its execution -- ideas and impulses are pre-incident indicators for action.

-- Gavin de Becker (1954 -), American author and security specialist, The Gift Of Fear -- Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence (1997)

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Adaptive Benefits

Making correct inferences about the imminent behavior of others has adaptive benefits, and misunderstanding what another individual intends can seriously impair survival.

-- H. Clark Barrett, et al., "Accurate Judgements of Intentions From Motion Cues Alone: A Cross-Cultural Study", Evolution and Behavior #26 (2005), p. 314

Monday, March 14, 2022

Human Universals

1) Humans are creatures of habit.  In a study conducted by Northeastern University network scientists, it was determined that human behavior, regarding patterns of movement and mobility, is 93% predictable.

2) Humans are lazy.  Humans are generally lazy, and will take the path of least resistance.

3) Humans are lousy liars.  Humans have significant cognitive limitations. 

4) Humans will run, fight, or freeze.  Humans are driven by fight-or-flight responses, which translate into certain autonomic responses and behaviors. 

5) Humans telegraph their intentions.  Emotions are difficult to control, and are often spontaneous responses to a situation. 

6) Humans are predictable.  Humans are not generally spontaneous or random. 

7) Humans are not good at multitasking.  In general, humans only look natural when naturally focused on doing one thing. 

8) Humans are generally clueless.  Humans in general lack situational awareness.

9) Humans can't do very many different things.  There are a limited number of dimensions in human behavior.

-- Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley, Left of Bang, How The Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life (2014)

Friday, March 11, 2022

Costs Are Understated

Projects coming down from the top are approved first, and the cost estimates are inflated to make sure that enough money is budgeted. And with projects coming up from the bottom, costs are understated to give the projects a better chance of being approved.  Later on, the costs go up -- the people involved say that they "forgot this, forgot that."

-- Arthur Y. Chen, Taiwanese politician, Minister of Public Construction Commission (PCC) 1995 - 1996, cited in "Constructive Criticism" on Taiwan Today, 1 May 1996

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Time And Leverage

The way the process of collective bargaining is designed to work under the statute, it's really driven by two things: time and economic leverage.  No agreement comes together before those two things play out in a way that you find common ground.  I think we made an agreement when it was possible to make an agreement.

I do believe -- I hope -- that the players will see the effort we made to address their concerns in this agreement as an olive branch in terms of building a better relationship.

-- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred at a press conference announcing the end of a 99-day, owner-imposed lockout that threatened the 2022 baseball season, 10 March 2022

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

When Things Are Quiet

There is a certain indolence in us, a wish not to be disturbed, which tempts us to think that when things are quiet, all is well.  Subconsciously, we tend to give the preference to "social peace," though it be only apparent, because our lives and possessions seem then secure.  Actually, human beings acquiesce too easily in evil conditions; they rebel far too little and too seldom.  There is nothing noble about acquiescence in a cramped life or mere submission to superior force.

-- A. J. Muste (1885 - 1967), Dutch-born American clergyman who eventually became a Quaker, Christian pacifist, socialist, and social activist involved in the U.S. labor and civil rights movements, "Pacifism and Class War" in The Essays of A. J. Muste (1967) edited by Nat Hentoff p. 179-85

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

The Sheer Scale

The United States reported more deaths from COVID-19 last Friday than deaths from Hurricane Katrina, more on any two recent weekdays than deaths during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more last month than deaths from flu in a bad season, and more in two years than deaths from HIV during the four decades of the AIDS epidemic.  At least 953,000 Americans have died from COVID, and the true toll is likely even higher because many deaths went uncounted.  COVID is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after only heart disease and cancer, which are both catchall terms for many distinct diseases.  The sheer scale of the tragedy strains the moral imagination.  On May 24, 2020, as the United States passed 100,000 recorded deaths, The New York Times filled its front page with the names of the dead, describing their loss as "incalculable." Now the nation hurtles toward a milestone of 1 million.  What is 10 times incalculable?

-- Ed Yong, "How Did This Many Deaths Become Normal?", The Atlantic, 8 March 2022

Monday, March 07, 2022

Part Angel

You never know, he thought.  You just never know.  You drift along, year after year, presuming certain values to be fixed; like being able to drive on a public thoroughfare without somebody trying to murder you.  You came to depend on that sort of thing.  Then something occurs and all bets are off.  One shocking incident and all the years of logic and acceptance are displaced and, suddenly, the jungle is in front of you again.  Man, part animal, part angel. 

-- Richard Burton Matheson (1926 - 2013), American author and screenwriter, typically of fantasy, horror, or science fiction, "Duel" (1971), a short story, which he later adapted into a screenplay for Duel (1971), Steven Spielberg's first feature-length film

Friday, March 04, 2022

Faith And Commitment

The more one accepts what is materially false to be really true, and the more one spends material resources in displays of such acceptance, the more others consider one's faith deep and one's commitment sincere.

-- Scott Atran (1952 -), American-French cultural anthropologist who is Emeritus Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, and Research Professor at the University of Michigan, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2002), Introduction: an evolutionary riddle, p. 5

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Serpent In The Ear

[T]he advice provided has, whether intended or not, functioned as a serpent in the ear of the President of the United States, the most powerful office in the entire world.  And here we are.

Respectfully, it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know we would lose before any judge who heard and decided the case.  And if the courts declined to hear it, I suppose it could only be decided in the streets.  The knowing amplification of that theory through numerous surrogates, whipping large numbers of people into a frenzy over something with no chance of ever attaining legal force through actual process of law, has led us to where we are.

-- Greg Jacob, lawyer for then-Vice President Mike Pence, to Trump lawyer John Eastman, in an email sent from a secure location at the US Capitol complex at 1:05PM on 6 January 2021, during the Capitol Insurrection

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Bad Novelist

Life is a very bad novelist.  It is chaotic and ludicrous.

-- Javier Marías (1951 -), Spanish novelist, translator, and columnist,  "Javier Marías, The Art of Fiction No. 190", interview with Sarah Fay, The Paris Review 179 (Winter 2006)

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

My Fellow Americans

Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President, our First Lady and Second Gentleman.  Members of Congress and the Cabinet.  Justices of the Supreme Court.  My fellow Americans.  

Last year COVID-19 kept us apart.  This year we are finally together again. 

Tonight, we meet as Democrats Republicans and Independents.  But most importantly as Americans. 

With a duty to one another, to the American people, to the Constitution. 

And with an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny. 

-- Opening remarks of President Joe Biden's State of the Union Address, 1 March 2022