The Long And Winding Road Ends

 

Fifty years ago, on May 11, 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long And Winding Road (for you kids, singles once had a physical manifestation). Like most of its predecessors, it became #1 in the United States. It’s one of my least favorite Beatles songs, suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation and much preferring the more stripped-down original version recorded (below) in early 1969 during the abortive Get Back recording sessions. The prior release, the classic Let It Be, should have been their farewell.

The hold and influence the Beatles had on pop music over a more than six-year period was phenomenal. The first six months of 1964 saw Beatlemania explode across the U.S. – on April, 13 of the top 100 singles were by the band and 65% of all records sold were by The Beatles. They had four #1’s in that time frame (She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do) along with two at #2 (Twist & Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret) and Please, Please, Me reached Number 3. After that initial flurry of releases, things calmed down to a more steady pace for the singles.

Though I’d seen their Ed Sullivan appearances in February and March of 1964 and occasionally heard them on our car radio, it was only in February 1965 when sick at home, that my parents gave me a radio to have next to my bed, I became an avid listener, so the first single I distinctly remember debuting was Eight Days A Week, released on the 15th of that month. From then through the release of Get Back in April 1969 I still have memories attached to most of the singles, though by the time Abbey Road was released that fall I was in college and my taste had turned to the rougher sound of the Stones who were reaching their peak (on December 5, Let It Bleed was released).

Of fifteen Beatles albums released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1970, thirteen topped the charts, the others being Something New (1964) which got to #2 but was blocked from the top spot by the soundtrack album for A Hard Day’s Night, and the soundtrack for the movie Yellow Submarine, which also reached #2 in early 1969, blocked by the White Album, released only seven weeks earlier and which topped the charts for 9 weeks (going on to spend 186 weeks on the Billboard 200). The Beatles still hold the record for most cumulative weeks at #1 on the album chart with 132 weeks (second is Garth Brooks with 52). Since the beginning of the Billboard charts in the early 1950s, the Beatles have more #1 albums than any other artist.

From July 13, 1964, with the release of A Hard Day’s Night, through May 11, 1970, The Beatles released twenty U.S. singles of which 16 (including the final three) hit #1. The only exceptions were Nowhere Man (#3), Yellow Submarine (#2, though its B-side, Eleanor Rigby reached #11, so probably a #1 if you counted both sides), Lady Madonna (#4), and The Ballad of John & Yoko (#8) – released while Get Back was still #1, with only John and Paul appearing on the song.

The B-sides of four #1 singles were also hits – She’s A Woman, the flip side of I Feel Fine, which was #4; Day Tripper, flip of We Can Work It Out, reaching #5; Strawberry Fields Forever, the #8 flip of Penny Lane; and Revolution, hitting #12 as the flip of Hey Jude, The Beatles’ best-ever selling single which topped the charts for eight weeks in the fall of 1968.

The longest intervals between single releases were the 7 1/2 months between Hey Jude (8/26/68) and Get Back (4/11/69) and six months from Yellow Submarine (8/5/66) to Penny Lane (2/13/67). As teenagers we were well aware of both gaps, wondering what was up with the boys, and if Paul was dead.

During the 32 months between Yellow Submarine’s release and that of Get Back, The Beatles released only five singles but finished with a flourish, releasing five more singles from April 1969 through May 1970.

As for staying power, 1, the Beatles album released in 2000 and containing all of the group’s #1 singles in either the U.S. or U.K. was the best selling album of the first decade of the 21st century worldwide and the 4th best selling album in the U.S. over the past thirty years, with 31 million copies purchased to date.

And now our daughter plays lullaby versions of Beatles songs to help our 5-month-old grandson fall asleep.

Letter to the Paper

 

I have been very impressed with the Coronavirus in One State series written by Powerline’s Scott Johnson. It has made me search for the same diligence in the Virginia press. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it. I finally ended up writing two of the reporters at The Daily Press/Virginian Pilot (they are both owned by the same company) asking them about it. Here’s what I wrote:

Mr. Coutu and Ms. Matrey:

I am writing to you since you are listed on the byline for the last two reports in The Daily Press covering reported COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth. I am concerned with a lack of granularity in the information that’s being reported. We have a number of deaths: twelve reported today and fifteen yesterday. What I haven’t seen reported is the demographics of who is dying. We don’t know if those who have died are terminally ill patients or 20-year-olds struck down in their prime. Below is an excerpt from a report today by Scott Johnson of Powerline. He’s been covering the response in Minnesota:

“[Minnesota] reported 20 new deaths that they attributed to the virus, bringing the total to 578. Sixteen of the 20 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities [LTC], bringing the total of LTC deaths attributed to the virus to 464 and keeping the share of all such deaths at slightly in excess of 80 percent. The median age of all decedents remains 83.

“The state authorities do not regularly update us on the share of deaths attributable to residents of long-term facilities and those with significant underlying conditions. When asked recently, Infectious Diseases Division Director Kris Ehresmann provided the answer to two decimal places: 99.24 percent…”

This is the level of detail that I wish we had in Virginia.

  1. How many of the new deaths occurred in LTC facilities?
  2. The median age of those who have died.
  3. Deaths were attributable to LTC residents and those with significant underlying conditions.

I went on the Virginia Department of Health website today and tried to get those three numbers. The best that I can do is find the number of deaths associated with outbreaks in LTC. I have to assume that all the LTC deaths occurred in an outbreak. If so, then 57% of all deaths occurred in LTC (503 out of 880). I cannot determine the median age. The VDH only breaks the ages down by decades. Using that information, it comes out to 75% of all deaths occurred in those 70 and older.

The third statistic is not available at all. Last week, I emailed the VDH and asked about it. Lauren Yerkes told me that they do not have information on underlying conditions. Why don’t they have that information? I feel that it is vital for that to be reported.

We are currently experiencing an economic shutdown mandated by Richmond. We are under a stay at home order until early June. We need to know the full picture of whom this virus is the greatest threat. We need to hear Richmond justify exactly why this is necessary. We need more than just vague apocalyptic predictions used to scare us into complying. We need the press to ask the uncomfortable questions to our elected leaders who are imposing these restrictions.

Thank you for your time.

People Will Die

 

As the country starts to breathe a sigh of relief and emerges from the lockdown that is devastating our economy, people will use this opportunity to attack those who have supported the country’s efforts to re-open. They will cry out that people are dying. And they are right.

Whether the country began to re-open this month, or next month or in September, in other words, no matter when we strive to return to normal lives, people will die. Some will die from heart attacks, or pneumonia, or simply old age. And some will have contacted COVID-19. We will probably never know how the virus actually contributed to their deaths, but even now it has been implicated as the source of many deaths. And people who supported opening up will be called out for conspiring with those who are greedy, those who lack compassion and concern for other human beings.

In all fairness, some of those who are determined to assign blame will not necessarily be politically motivated; their fear, grief, and a desire to make meaning of the last few months will distort their ability to think clearly. They will feel compelled to incriminate anyone remotely connected to the disease because otherwise the thousands of deaths will have no meaning. Or so they think.

Others who find fault with the decision to open up the country will be politically motivated. Deaths that happen over the next several months will lie at the feet of anyone who is even remotely connected to the Trump administration, according to his enemies. A version of, “Bush lied, people died,” will be shouted from the rooftops. The drumbeats of outrage will resonate across the country, even the world. And you can be certain that it will be a prime 2020 election issue.

We need to anticipate these reactions and consider ways to deal with them as constructively as possible. For those who are not political, but are suffering painful grief for the lives lost and that will continue to be lost, rational arguments will likely be unsuccessful. A way to let those people know we can relate to their pain and also know that life is unpredictable, as was the virus, will be key. You will not be able to talk people out of their misery and sense of loss. But you can be a compassionate ear, a consoling voice. And plan with them ways that you both can move on.

I find discussing death with people who are determined to make them a political cause even more difficult. Maybe asking them open-ended questions: “How long would you have waited?” “What do we do if the economy collapses?” I suggest you ask these, not as rhetorical questions, but as curious inquiries about their answers. You would need to ask them sincerely, not sarcastically. If they try to dodge the questions, gently draw them back. And try to keep in mind that although they may have the worst motivations for criticizing the decision-makers, they are probably frightened, too. And that is where we all have something in common.

The last suggestion is that for those people who are religious, you can try to relate to them through their faith. This response might be the most challenging because trite, heartless comments are often made out of our discomfort regarding the topic of death. I’d be open to your thoughts regarding spiritual and religious support for those who are in pain.

We are all grieving. And we are all, to some degree, afraid.

Those reactions can be our unifying cause. We are not alone.

Obama Is Back

 
Barack Obama

Photo Credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis that the Left in America, its experts in Academia, and enthusiasts in the Press cannot waste. And it is also yet one more opportunity to serially skewer DJT, Republicans, and conservative Americans. Let’s face it: when you are President, there is no causation required in this calculus; you hold the office, you get the credit, or bear the blame. There is only the Obama exception to this; if you are Obama, the previous president is responsible for all ills that occur on your watch. Likewise, if things improve subsequent to your presidency, you can justifiably take credit because, well, your positive influence was sustaining.

Forget the noble idea that ex-presidents rise above retail politics when they leave office. Barack Obama stepped back into the political spotlight yesterday. Perhaps he must preserve his legacy. It is obvious that Barr and Durham are tarnishing and even threatening that legacy. So he tossed a massive Obama stink bomb at Trump for his alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that it has been chaotic, ineffective, and incompetent. The fact that Trump has led an unprecedented response to a deadly, unknown pathogen thrust upon us by an irresponsible, totalitarian adversary, is completely lost in this criticism. The object here is not to help determine the next course of action, or to critique the possible missteps taken over the last few months to bring clarity to an otherwise untenable situation. The object here is not to help. Far from it. The object is to vilify and to sever Trump from his support.

Obama and the Democrats are perfectly willing to step away at this point and simply toss bombs at the Trump administration. Whatever the Trump administration does will result in another rocket directed over the wall. Facts be damned, Trump bears responsibility. Boom. BOOM. BOOM!

To his credit, Trump has been incredibly transparent during this crisis; even blue state governors took lessons from him in this regard. A federal task force was enlisted, including both political and expert members. Daily briefings were held. The data was released as compiled. Models were released, modified, and exposed for all to see, even as they turned out to be completely wrong or foolishly pessimistic. As Trump learned and the crisis unfolded, we were invited to watch; it was not pretty, but Trump trusted us to pay attention and sort it all out. Trump even pointed out the federal government’s limitations in this response. He rallied the governors and helped them, but let them take their constitutional responsibility. They even lauded him for it, even those from the hardest-hit blue states.

Was this all chaotic? Yes, but that is an apt description of war, which is what this is, a war against an unseen foe which we still, and may never, truly understand. Keep in mind, 20% of all common colds are caused by coronaviruses and to date, we have no answer for those pathogens either.

So what is really going on? With respect to COVID-19, no one really knows. We shut down the economy and sent everyone home. The expectation, according to the experts, was that our health care system would be overwhelmed and perhaps as many as two million citizens would die. We would run out of hospital beds and ventilators. Then we learned that ventilators were not really that effective, even, dare we say, harmful. Our hospitals were not overwhelmed. Ventilator requirements were vastly overestimated. In fact, our health care system likely contributed negatively to the spread of the disease among the most vulnerable by concentrating infection. Now we learn that an overwhelming number of newly infected patients in NY were sheltering at home. What does one make of this information? Florida, on the other hand, a state with a very high concentration of “vulnerable” citizens, took a different approach to the virus, one centered on limiting exposure among the elderly, and this has resulted in far fewer infections and deaths. What does this mean? Could it point to sunlight, vitamin D or warm temperatures as protective?

No one knows the answer to that question. The only thing that we have learned from this ordeal is that SARS Cov 2 is a nasty contagion and can be fatal to those with other severe, underlying health problems. This is really all we need to know in dealing with this disease. We need to protect the most vulnerable and the rest of the population can make their own judgments regarding movement, work, masks, homeschooling, etc. COVID-19 is not a threat to healthy citizens. Unemployment and destitution are a threat to healthy citizens. I think President Trump has come to this conclusion as well, but he cannot order governors to open their states. He can, and should, however, refuse to bail out states whose financial failure was largely written in policy long before COVID-19 arrived.

In the meantime, I expect that Obama will continue to step further into the limelight, but not because of COVID-19. He hears the footsteps of Barr and Durham. He can only stop them if the Democrats take control in November. Expect the bombings to accelerate as we get closer and closer to indictments. The corruption did not end with the IRS scandal, with Fast and Furious, with Ukraine’s prosecutor, with Benghazi, with Uranium One, with Hillary’s emails or with Weiner’s Laptop. Those were just warm-ups to the insurance policy that was operation Crossfire Hurricane. This one will punctuate Obama’s legacy and its effect will be sustaining.

I’m Shaking My Head…

 

I get mailed a couple of alumni magazines from NC State: one from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (Physics undergrad) and one from the College of Engineering (Nuclear Engineering grad). It’s interesting to see what’s going on at the school, and with other alumni (astronaut Christina Koch did that all-woman spacewalk a while back). I was enjoying reading until I got to the end, when I saw this:

Now, if students really need to play with puppies to relieve final exam stress, what’s gonna happen with stress in the real world?

Jumbo Jet Pilot: Looks like our engines have failed! We’re going to crash unless I do something — but what?

Co-Pilot: Sir! How can I help?

Pilot: Go down in the cargo hold and fetch me that puppy I saw the baggage handlers load earlier. I think it’ll help.

Co-Pilot: Roger that, Sir!

When I was in school, I relieved the stress of taking a final exam by studying for the next one. Heck, I studied so much during the semester, studying for the final was really a recap to keep my memory fresh. When the last final exam was completed, I got together with friends and grabbed some pizza and beer.

Oh, I tried to provide a link to the article but the online magazine didn’t have one. However, I downloaded the PDF and the article was still there. I took a screen pic, and that’s what you see.

While We’re at It….

 

The talking heads agree on one thing—the country will be vastly different on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. While there’s a consensus to embrace the changes, I say—while we’re at it—let’s implement the following:

  1. Death Penalty for any lawyer who advertises on television/radio for any car wreck, mass tort, malpractice, or pharmaceutical lawsuits.
  2. Deficit Spending by any local, state, or federal government will result in the seizure of the enabling legislators’ assets to offset excess spending.
  3. Mandatory Lie Detectors and IQ Tests for every reporter or pundit before publication of any story. Third lying offense or IQ under 85 results in total laryngectomy and surgical removal of all fingers.
  4. Party Affiliation disclosure by any judge at any level or any person talking or writing about any event occurring in the universe, e.g., “story by Chris Wallace (Dem. Fox News);” or “opinion by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Radical Leftist Dem. SCOTUS).
  5. Lobbyists Banned from contacting anyone about anything.
  6. Mandatory Gun-Toting to make everyone a bit more careful about what they say or do.

I’ve got plenty more, but right now I’ve got to go to the bathroom. It may take a while, so feel free to add whatever changes you think are necessary to improve our country post-Coronavirus.

By the way, nice talking to you again.

Day 112: COVID-19 Missing Correlations?

 

“We know everything about Sars-CoV-2 and nothing about it. We can read every one of the (on average) 29,903 letters in its genome and know exactly how its 15 genes are transcribed into instructions to make which proteins. But we cannot figure out how it is spreading in enough detail to tell which parts of the lockdown of society are necessary and which are futile. Several months into the crisis we are still groping through a fog of ignorance and making mistakes. There is no such thing as ‘the science.’” — Matt Ridley

Hat tip to Al French of Damascus for directing my attention to the Matt Ridley piece from which the quote starts the entire discussion of where we are in this epidemic.

Ridley introduces a new word into my vocabulary: nosocomial. That is the word that medical personnel use to refer to infections acquired within a medical facility or place where one receives medical care. Another quote from Ridley’s piece:

The horrible truth is that it now looks like in many of the early cases, the disease was probably caught in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. That is where the virus kept returning, in the lungs of sick people, and that is where the next person often caught it, including plenty of healthcare workers. Many of these may not have realised they had it, or thought they had a mild cold. They then gave it to yet more elderly patients who were in hospital for other reasons, some of whom were sent back to care homes when the National Health Service made space on the wards for the expected wave of coronavirus patients.

The evidence from both Wuhan and Italy suggests that it was in healthcare settings, among the elderly and frail, that the epidemic was first amplified. But the Chinese authorities were then careful to quarantine those who tested positive in special facilities, keeping them away from the hospitals, and this may have been crucial. In Britain, the data shows that the vast majority of people in hospital with Covid-19 at every stage have been ‘inpatients newly diagnosed’; relatively few were ‘confirmed at the time of admission’. The assumption has been that most of the first group had been admitted on an earlier day with Covid symptoms. But maybe a lot of them had come to hospital with something else and then got the virus.

When we think of the nosocomial phenomena we tend to think of hospitals. But nursing homes and any form of group elderly care would also qualify. Are we missing some correlations?

The other day Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York issued a report citing 66% of those hospitalized in New York had been “staying at home” before they became ill. How many of these patients’ “home” was a nursing home or other form of group care for the elderly? They did not say.

There is another report back on April 13 that 2,400 of the deaths in New York from COVID-19 occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities — not at hospitals. That was about 25% of recorded deaths from COVID-19 at the time. Did that pace continue? If those deaths are counted as “hospitalizations” before death and those nursing home and assisted living residents who were actually hospitalized are segregated out of the “home” statistics for the hospitalized in that report, what percentage of total COVID-19 illness is attributable to nursing homes, assisted living, and hospital care as opposed to all other infections?

A final note from the Ridley article:

Once the epidemic is under control in hospitals and care homes, the disease might die out anyway, even without lockdown.

Could it be that simple? If not simple, could it at least conform to the 80-20 rule — focus our attention on these facilities and gain most of the benefit?

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

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“But judge of my surprise, on arriving, to see poor dear Mrs. Hornem with her arms half round the loins of a huge hussar-looking gentleman I never set eyes on before, and his, to say truth, rather more than half round her waist, turning round, and round, and round, to a d—d see-saw up and […]

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Why the Left Thinks We’re Evil

 

I think that it’s easier for people on the right to understand that leftists mean well than it is for leftists to understand that people on the right also mean well. In his book, Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt wrote:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

In Thomas Sowell’s phrase, a good economist must go beyond “stage one” thinking.

Unfortunately, people on the left tend to get stuck at stage one. They see, for example, that a high minimum wage will make minimum-wage workers better off. Additional thought is needed to understand that increasing the cost of low-skilled labor will reduce the demand for that labor.

Even more thought is required to see that the people helped by the increase – those who keep their jobs or can still find jobs after the increase – are likely to be the most employable. That is, they have the most knowledge and experience and they are the least discriminated against. Those hurt by the laws will be the least employable – the least educated, least skilled, and the most discriminated against. In other words, minimum wages help those who need help the least and hurt those who need help the most.

To someone who can’t, or won’t, go beyond stage one thinking, it’s so blindingly obvious that an increased minimum wage will help the poor that they believe that anyone who disagrees must hate poor people – that is, they must be evil. Someone who can see to stage two or three also understands stage one and is unlikely to believe that someone who can’t get beyond stage one is evil.

Moreover, people who truly believe that an election brought evil people into power are more likely to take to the streets than are those who believe that an election merely put stage one thinkers in office.

Call It the Great Panic of 2020

 

In the last 100+ years we had The Great War (later “World War I”), the Great Depression, and the Great Recession. I think it’s time to give a name to the first self-inflicted worldwide depression: the Great Panic of 2020. Getting the right name for the current crisis could frame the public debate on the policy solution. Other suggestions for a name are welcome in the comments section.

Financial depressions in the 19th Century were known as “panics.” The Panic of 1837 was one of the worst with bank failures, bankruptcies, and 25% unemployment. Some historians believe it lasted almost seven years.

Reporters and talking heads on TV are constantly attributing the current depression to the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t agree. It’s the reaction of governments all over the world to the COVID-19 pandemic that has destroyed millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of wealth. Dennis Prager in a recent column made the case for “why the worldwide lockdown is not only a mistake but also, possibly, the worst mistake the world has ever made.”

The body’s auto-immune system’s reaction to the COVID-19 virus can cause a cytokine storm which fatally attacks the lungs and other major organs. Similarly, the lockdown policies to the COVID-19 are a reaction that affects public health.

Many people are dying, or will die, because of the body politic’s overreaction to the virus. They are the patients who are not receiving medical tests, treatment, and care because of the shutdown of “non-essential” medical care at hospitals all over the western world.

The Great Panic of 2020 is harming the economy directly. Opinion polls indicate that people are afraid to return to their normal routines. If 75% of the public refuse to eat at a restaurant, go to a movie theater, fly in an airliner, or go on a cruise, how can the economy start any recovery?

The sad fact is that the COVID-19 virus is fatally afflicting a small segment of the population, (e.g. the elderly, especially people in nursing homes). For example in Minnesota, about 80% of the deaths associated with COVID-19 are in nursing homes and the victims have a median age of 83 years.

A sane policy would revive the economy for everyone else while protecting those vulnerable people from infection.

The Merry Month of May: My First Beatles Album

 

Bach Meets the BeatlesSomehow, even as a child of the sixties, I survived to adulthood without a single Beatles album to my name.  My mother, whose musical tastes were quite eclectic, never cottoned to the Lads from Liverpool, and they didn’t “send” me much, either.  We came to the United States in October of 1963 thinking that perhaps we’d escaped the phenomenon–but, No!  They followed us here, making their first stateside appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9 of the following year.  But I never traveled hundreds of miles, or stood in line for hours or days, to buy tickets to a Beatles performance.  I never formed part of a hysterical mob of screaming young women greeting them at the airport, or at the arena or concert hall.  I never howled, or fainted, or threw my panties at the stage while watching them perform.  I never even bought one of their records, not 45, or 33 1/3, single, or long-playing, ever.

Mr. She, although growing up in earlier times, likes The Beatles, and I discovered when we took up together, that he did have a few of their albums.  “Oh, well,” I said to myself.  “Can’t win ’em all.  He’s really fond of jazz, too.  Argh.”  So our home was occasionally graced by what I considered some caterwauling, in between my playing what amused me–early twentieth-century music hall songs and ballads, eighteenth-century Scottish music, old fashioned country-and-western, some African composers, Flanders and Swann.  And Bach.  You know, the stuff every girl plays on the gramophone when she has a chance.  Still no Beatles for me.

Somewhere, after a few years of marriage, that changed.  Mr. She gave me a birthday present of… a Beatles album!  And I loved it.

Its title is Bach Meets the Beatles, and it’s a series of improvisations on Beatles tunes in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Here’s John Bayless, playing Michelle:

Today is Mr. She’s birthday, so in the spirit of sharing, I’m re-gifting something I love, from someone I love.  Enjoy. (Lord, it used to annoy me so much when a rather smug little waitperson would say that to me at a restaurant as I was about to start my meal.  Now, I’d quite like to hear it again, in person, even from a social distance . . . )

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The Flynn matter may not be settled by James Comey in an orange jumpsuit, but Comey isn’t the Big Fish. Others better-informed than I have said the corruption of the FBI, the Department of Justice, and other powerful government agencies under the Obama administration dwarfs Watergate by orders of magnitude. Indeed, the rule of law […]

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https://therulingclassobserver.com/2020/05/09/stop-the-unconstitutional-illegal-trace-act-hr-6666/ “When human laws contradict or discountenance the means which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and so become null and void.” — Alexander Hamilton House proposal HR 6666, “The TRACE Act,” “To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award […]

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Happy Mother’s Day

 

Today, I want to salute all of my sister moms who didn’t throw in the towel when they realized that motherhood wasn’t exactly what they thought and stayed. You see, I left. I could easily make all kinds of excuses for having left. I was young and stupid. I was unequipped for the task of raising three kids having been raised an only child. I let pride get in the way of forgiveness and restoration.

But the main reason I walked out on my kids in August of 1992 was that I was so very, very selfish. As a consequence of my own actions, I had very limited access to my kids for about 15 years and, in a lot of ways, it was a good thing. As much as I hate to admit how bad of an influence I would have been in their lives, I still hate just how very much I missed. There were recitals, proms, school plays and musicals, fundraisers, sporting events, and holidays that I missed and have absolutely no hope of getting the chance to go back and have those memories that I missed out of my own selfishness.

And my children would have every right, and I would completely understand it if they chose to turn me away as that woman they once knew but no more. But instead, they invite me just so lovingly into their lives and I can only thank God for this immeasurable gift of a second chance to become what I could have been all along … Mom. And now, every time my kids call, each time they send me a card extending love and wishes, each time they think of me and smile … I know with all of my heart that I am witnessing yet another miracle that I do not deserve.

Everyone, have an amazing Mother’s Day.

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What was the best advice your mom gave you? I know you’ve all heard some of my mom’s pearls of wisdom before. But too bad! Here they are again: -Today is not “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.” It’s Thursday. -Women say, “What would Miss Manners do?” Men say, “What would Curly […]

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Even though I’m a politician and a policy wonk, I hope it doesn’t disqualify me from getting into the mix. This is a great idea, and if it can’t be discussed rationally and civilly on Ricochet, where can it be? I recently wrote a letter to Governor Pritzker asking him to reconsider his plan to […]

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Karen and I are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary today. A quiet celebration, but we did get to see our grandchildren today. Two boys, one is six, and the other is nine. Our daughter-in-law is a Japanese citizen so the boys are bilingual. That means that they have selective hearing in two different languages. We […]

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An Inquisitive Look at Naming Species: ‘Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider’

 

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contains ideas worth reading.

People like order, especially scientists. The naming of living things has even become a science called taxonomy.

“Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels,” by Stephen B. Heard, looks at the naming of things, specifically the hows and why of naming living creatures for individuals.

Heard explains it started with Carl Von Linne, a man known as Carolus Linnaeus. (In the eighteenth century it was customary for scientists to Latinize their names.)  He invented binomial nomenclature and scientific classification of living creatures.

Binomial nomenclature is a fancy term for two-part name. The scientific name for human beings has two parts: homo sapiens (wise man).  Our species is homo (man); our genus sapiens (wise). Sorting creatures into species and genus is scientific classification. The names are Latin, bestowed by discoverers, the individuals who first bring attention to new creatures or plants by publishing a paper about them.

There is plenty to name. While names sometimes describe the characteristics of the item named (sapiens in homo sapiens as a debatable example) often discoverers name them for people. As Heard shows, therein lies a story.

A fascinating story. Heard starts by describing how naming works. The rules lack the force of law but are followed regardless. He then plunges into the bizarre world of eponymous naming: naming things for individuals.

He starts with basics. Forsythia and magnolia were named for individuals. Heard tells us who and why. He next presents more interesting examples of eponymous naming, starting with a chapter on a louse named for cartoonist Gary Larson.

Heard examines different types of names. While many species named to honor an individual (including Gary Larson’ louse), other names are intended to insult the honoree. Heard discusses that. He shows the sometimes whimsical nature of naming, naming things for celebrities, fictional characters, or oneself (a no-no according to tradition). He discusses the practice of selling names, often done to finance research.

“Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider” is weird and wonderful. It examines an important corner of science with a lighthearted look.

“Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels,” by Stephen B. Heard, Yale University Press, 2020, 256 pages, $28.00 (Hardcover)

A Higher Education Apocalypse? I Hope So.

 

Darling Daughter tells me the scuttlebutt among her college friends is that, if the school doesn’t reopen for business as usual in the fall, most of them intend to take a gap semester rather than doing the courses online. I’m sure that would be devastating for a great many of our colleges and universities, with their bloated administrations full of well-paid yet academically superfluous employees.

I’m not one to wish ill on businesses: I want the economy to come roaring back, businesses to reopen yesterday, everyone back at work as soon as possible. I’m pro-market, pro-business, pro-capitalism, pro-employer, pro-worker.

But I won’t mind at all if a bunch of colleges and universities fail, because I think our institutions of higher learning have become, in far too many cases, destructive of young minds and the ideas that made America great.

It’s hard to overstate how foolish and trivial America’s liberal arts programs have become. The obsession with identity, with victimization, and with fanciful sexuality has transformed what were once competent classes about literature and history and art and philosophy into soapboxes from which self-righteous intellectual mediocrities prattle on about imagined oppression and nonexistent genders. The young people who survive this incomprehensibly woke environment emerge debt-ridden and misinformed, unprepared for a world that can bend only so far in accommodation of their newly acquired intellectual confusion.

So, while it almost pains me to hope for the failure of any institution in these troubled times, I’m going to give a little cheer for every one of the nests of censorship and social justice and self-indulgent outrage that closes its doors. We can start with Middlebury and Evergreen.

I do hope STEM programs rebound. We need people who actually know something.

53 Transcripts: The Forrest Gump of Campaigns

 

A few days ago, the House Intelligence Committee finally released transcripts of 53 interviews it conducted in 2017-18 regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Though the Committee had voted in November 2018 to release the transcripts after national security reviews for classified information were completed, new chairman Adam Schiff refused to do so until now because he had repeatedly lied to the media and public about what was said in those interviews and releasing the transcripts would show he was lying.

Under pressure from Acting DNI Richard Grenell, who publicly announced release was fine from a national security perspective and threatened to release the transcripts himself, Schiff finally relented.

I’ve now read 19 of the 53 interviews and will write at more length when finished but wanted to pass along some fascinating quotes. And, by the way, it’ll come as no surprise there is absolutely no evidence, direct or indirect, in what I’ve read so far of any collusion between the Trump campaign or Trump personally with the Russians.

The first quote is from the February 27, 2018, interview with Hope Hicks, Trump’s press secretary during the campaign and then communications director for the first couple of years of his presidency, given in response to questions about collusion with the Russians by the Trump campaign:

“Not to say that Russia’s interference wasn’t something to be taken seriously, but that our involvement in that was sort of laughable, given that we were like the Forrest Gump of campaigns. We couldn’t spell the address to our Iowa field office right and yet we colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the election. It was sort of a hilarious narrative to us.” (p.155)

In the interviews with Hicks and others, like Corey Lewandowski, the ramshackle, improvised nature of the Trump campaign comes through over and over again. They made amateurish mistakes and were incapable of pulling off a coordinated campaign of collusion. The Democrats on the panel must have been thinking, “how did we lose to these bozos?”.

Earlier in her interview, Hicks was asked about Trump’s private comments about Russia and she responded, “his private comments echo his public comments.” I think we all now know this to be true, for better and for worse. The President talks the same to us as he does with his staff.

On June 22, 2017, Dan Coats, then Director National Intelligence and former Senator, was interviewed by the committee. Coats was not personally close to Trump before or after his nomination to become DNI, but he recounted an extraordinary moment when meeting with the President a couple of days after his inauguration and an upset Trump suddenly started talking about Comey’s briefing on January 6, during which he was informed of the dossier and his alleged romp with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. According to Coats, the President said;

“I want to — I swear to you on the soul of my son, I had nothing to do with the prostitution. And for them to take me aside and raise this issue and then have it leaked, he said, how would you like it if — how do you go home and talk to your wife when it is plastered all over the place that you were using prostitutes in Russia and you are having your family hear that and having your son hear that?”. (p.13)

Given what we know now about the collusion hoax and the frame-up by Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Mueller, and the media, you can really understand how Trump must have felt at the time.

Quote of the Day: Dear Mrs. Mattie Forrester

 

Here are the exact words that my grandmother, Mattie Forrester, received in a Western Union Telegram on December 1, 1944.

The Secretary of War
Desires me to express
His deep regret
That your son Walter
Was killed in action.
Letter to follow.

Reading that telegram must have been like a blow to grandma’s heart. A devout woman, Grandma must have prayed at night that her son Walter would survive the war and return to his hometown of Wanette, OK. But not even his remains would return. Walter was buried in a military cemetery in Italy.

My dad, who once rode horses bareback with his brother Walter on the dirt streets of the small town of Wanette, was 53 years old when he tracked down his brother’s gravestone in Italy and wept over it.

Postscript: That is a photo of Walter’s actual Purple Heart, which, along with the telegram mentioned in my post, is framed and hangs in our living room.

Walter was a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 (the Flying Fortress) on a mission to bomb a munitions factory in Austria when his plane was shot down by heavy artillery fire. Curled up in the ball turret attached to the belly of the plane, he must have known he was going to die as he watched a curtain of anti-aircraft shells rise from the ground and explode into flak all about him

I never knew Walter Forrester but I am terribly proud that he was a part of our family. He won’t be forgotten soon. I will pass on to my son Uncle Walter’s Purple Heart and the Western Union telegraph that my grandmother received.