Summer, 2024

 

Think of these “quarterly / seasonal” blog posts as kind of like a “blog within a blog.” It provides an easy-breezy format for periodically adding new material (of a miscellaneous nature). These will be subject to editing right up to when the next one begins. Don’t necessarily expect much in terms of ‘saving the planet’-type stuff, however, since I hardly ever see anything that’s anywhere near in the ballpark of where our thinking needs to be, if ‘saving the planet’ is to become a real possibility (that’s why I’m seeking funding, to change that situation).

 

###  Raising the bar on raising boys is definitely not a bad idea. This article is limited in scope, but worth a read:  ” ‘BoyMom’ Tackles Stereotypes,” Casey Schwartz, The New York Times, June 9, 2024. This piece, in the Styles section, uses Ruth Whippman’s memoir BoyMom: Reimagining Boyhood in the Age of Impossible Masculinity as the backdrop for exploring this topic. In the Sunday Review section of this same (June 9) issue, Whippman has an opinion piece of her own (“Boyhood’s Biggest Struggle? Loneliness.”) in which she cites this statistic:  “Over a quarter of men under 30 say they have no close friends.” Isn’t that fascinating, considering we live on a planet with over 8 billion people.

###  And speaking of the fact that “we live on a planet with over 8 billion people,” here’s something else that surprises me. In an article appearing in yesterday’s Sunday edition of The New York Times (“In Japan, 5 Women Sue for Right to Ensure They Won’t Become Mothers,” June 23), it states that women in Japan “who seek sterilization procedures like tubal ligation or hysterectomies must meet conditions that are among the most onerous in the world. They must already have children and prove that pregnancy would endanger their health, and they are required to obtain the consent of their spouses.”

###  Here’s a little factoid I ran across reading an article in the Times (though not recently). The Philippines is the only country in the world — besides Vatican City (which is officially a sovereign country) — where divorce is not legal. Can you believe it? But it’s true.

###  Here’s another factoid. You’ve probably seen this in the news recently. Louisiana recently signed into law a requirement that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom. Religious schools aren’t being required to display the Ten Commandments, only public schools — which is also a bit ironic. Another irony:  every time I ask someone who identifies as being a Christian if they can name the first four Commandments, they often can’t name even one. They’ll say something like “Thou shalt not kill,” and I’ll say “No, that’s not one of the first four.” This is a slap in the face to anyone who is atheist, agnostic, non-religious, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, etc.

###  Here’s another thing that gets my goat. I see this infrequently but sometimes it happens. A homeowner trying to do the right thing decides to replace their monoculture, high-maintenance lawn with something better for the planet. Clover, for example. Or some other native species indigenous to the area. Something that doesn’t need watering or cutting. Or they’re interested in rewilding their property. Giving it a more natural look. And what happens? They’re fined or taken to court. Here’s one such example I read about recently:  “The gardener who took a Canadian city to court for the right to not mow his lawn,” Campbell MacDiarmid, June 21, 2024, TheGuardian.com.

###  I’m using three number signs, instead of bullet points, to separate each section added to this page.. Bullet points have created formatting problems for me in the past. This should make it simpler.

###  Don’t expect everything appearing on this page to be in chronological order. Long story short, my reading material often gets shuffled around quite a bit (like a deck of cards). What I grab to read often happens to be whatever is most accessible at that moment. I particularly love the Sunday The New York Times. I buy it every week. (Don’t get me wrong, I know they’ve dropped the ball where saving the planet is concerned. But what newspaper hasn’t?) The Book Review might be my favorite section. In the issue I’m currently making my way through (November 5, 2023), Jeff Tweedy (singer-songwriter and frontman for Wilco) was the chosen guest for their “By the Book” interview. It states Tweedy has a memoir out, titled World Within a Song. I enjoy these interviews. This one’s no exception. The first question is always “What books are on your night stand?” Tom Comitta’s The Nature Book.is one of the books he mentions in answering that question. It sounds like an unusual book. Interesting concept. Another regular question is “What was the last great book you read?” His answer: An Immense World, by Ed Yong. This also sounds like an unusual book. According to Tweedy, “It’s basically a book talking about all the different ways that animals perceive the world.” And that book has given him lots of ideas for songs. The last question — “What kind of reader were you as a kid? What childhood books and authors stick with you most?” — elicits a response that includes the World Book Encyclopedia, which I remember fondly myself. My sister won a complete set through a national coloring contest sponsored by Cappy Dick. It was wonderful having access to something like that while growing up.

 

###  In case you missed it, now it’s Oklahoma that’s doing it. Last week, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public schools, Ryan Walters, announced at a state board meeting that every teacher will be required to have a Bible in the classroom and start teaching “from the Bible” to ensure historical understanding is there for every student. Walters stated that the Bible is “one of the most foundational documents used for the constitution and the birth of our country.” He added:  “The Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country, to have a complete understanding of western civilization, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system.”

(See “Oklahoma state superintendent orders public schools to teach the Bible  /  Ryan Walters calls Bible ‘necessary document to teach kids’ and says Ten Commandments will also be required learning.”  The Guardian, June 27, 2024.)

Something I’d wager they’re probably not going to teach in Oklahoma’s classrooms is that Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s 3rd president, in a letter to John Adams (our 2nd president), wrote:  “And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian. He also owned a copy of the Quran in his personal library. And several other prominent figures back at the time of our nation’s founding were also Deists — or might have been — including perhaps George Washington.

James Madison, our 4th president, said this:  “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise  (…)  During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy;  ignorance and servility in the laity;  in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

John Adams, serving as our 2nd president, signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, and that treaty states unequivocally that “the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

Ethan Allen — best known for helping capture Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War — was also a Deist:  “the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian.”

Thomas Paine, one of America’s founding fathers, had this to say:  “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind, and for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.”

I hope no one found any of this offensive;  but since it’s often stated as fact this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, I thought some might find a mini history lesson enlightening.

Wanting to improve the educational system is a worthwhile goal. And much can be said about how to go about doing that. But briefly, here’s something to chew on. Someone can graduate from college in this country and not have had a single class in all of K-12 and college that was devoted to Philosophy. Does that make sense? Here’s something you might want to read which speaks to that (“Into the garden of good and evil, Oct. 13, 1999, The Guardian). I reference this on my Solutions page (this interview with philosopher Jonathan Glover also appeared in a weekly publication put out by The Guardian, but with an alternative title).

 

###  (Thursday, July 4, 2024)  This is a funny coincidence. I happened to reference a Thomas Jefferson letter (above) and a couple or so days later I now see there’s an article in The Guardian titled “A newly discovered letter by Thomas Jefferson shows ‘a regular guy with financial burdens.’ ” I wonder where that letter’s been hidden all these years? It looks like it’s for sale for $40,000. The article contains a link to a site which says “Purchase $40,000.” I’m surprised it’s not being sold at auction.

Anyhow, the way in which that was brought to my attention is I happened to notice at the bottom of The Guardian’s home page it looks like it has something new . I think it usually has the top ten most viewed pieces — I’m not sure, I never paid much attention to it before. But now there are two lists in that bottom “Most popular” section:  a top ten “Most viewed / What readers are clicking on”) list on the left, and a top ten “Deeply read / What readers are spending time with (Learn more)” list on the right. This is a smart new feature, and interestingly, there are no duplicates! That is, nothing that appears on that “Most viewed list,” also appears on the “Deeply read” list.

Over the past few days and past few weeks there have been numerous articles I’ve been wanting to mention in this “blog within a blog” quarterly feature I’ve created. But I just haven’t had the time. Still, it might be worth noting that the only piece currently appearing on these two “top ten” lists, which I had been wanting to mention here, is the one titled “Greece introduces ‘growth-oriented’ six-day working week.” That one was published July 1st.

 

###  This might be one of the strangest covers of Science News I’ve ever seen. It’s the current issue. “Does Social Status Shape Height?” is the cover story. I have to squint to read the subtitle. I hate when publications do this. It’s small white lettering against a yellow background:  Anyhow, “Growing tall may depend on more than just genetics and nutrition” is the subheading. This leaves me scratching my head. I can’t wait to take a peek. But it’s low on my priorities list. So it could be weeks before I get to it. By the way, I’m tall and my siblings are tall. I always ascribed it to the fact we had so much milk growing up. But I’m sure genetics also plays a role. And bioavailability of other nutrients also plays a role.

###  “No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving.”  Ugh!  Evidently that is what Biden was heard saying while on a call with campaign staff.  I guess he’s the only one who didn’t get the memo.  Voters will likely be pushing him out, and then he will be leaving.  This isn’t pretty, but it’s pretty awful, this situation we’re in.  I’m not sure if there are authors out there who can make stuff like this up.  Are there?

One remedy to this nightmare that’s unfolding is this:  it is time for Biden’s aides to start quitting — stepping down, “effective immediately” — one by one; including his top aides.  Only then might he get the message that he needs to release his delegates.  He needs to set them free and let them vote for whomever they think can win in November.  What’s the use in staying, anyway, if he’s likely to lose?  And lose he might.  I’ve yet to meet a single person in the past five years who is enthusiastic and excited about Biden.  Not one!   And yet look at all the people who  love and adore Trump.  If you can’t read the writing on the wall, you’re blind.  Biden and Harris, both individually or collectively, are weak, weak, weak!

Here’s another possible way out of this mess:  if hundreds of thousands of people show up to peacefully demonstrate in Chicago, Illinois, at the site where the Democratic convention is set to begin on August 19th, maybe then the message will get through that the only way to beat Trump is to (a) have an open convention, and (b) choose candidates that will energize the base in a big way.  Demonstrators can kill two birds with one stone:  they can voice the need for an open convention;  while also carrying placards reflecting who they think would be the best candidate(s) to nominate for the ticket.  By doing that not only could they help get Biden off the ticket, they can effectively serve as something of a massive focus group sharing who they think can win.  But time is running out.  (Note: there are probably laws pertaining to where demonstrators are allowed to be and where they are not allowed to be, and it’s possible a permit may be required for something large, but I’m not too knowledgeable about stuff like that.)

 

###  (Wednesday, July 10, 2024)  It’s hot and sticky and thoroughly yucky. No air conditioning in the room I rent — the window’s too narrow to fit one. And I have no car air conditioning either. I’m not paying $600 for a new compressor. So it’s a perfect storm. Or should I say a perfect heat wave. But I do have a couple days off. So now might be a good time to add some things here. I’ll try to move along at a swift pace, since so many things have piled up.

I think one major Achilles’ heel of The New York Times is their op-ed columnists. If you care about saving the planet and you own the Times, these are not the people you should be hiring to help humanity succeed in that goal. But it is what it is. David Brooks is a perfect example. I see him as generally useless in terms of saving the planet. Anyhow, that said, I do recommend reading his recent interview with Steve Bannon from this past Sunday’s Times (“How Steve Bannon Sees the Future, July 7, 2023). However, Brooks’ question “Well, how about you have a conversation with the Biden administration? (…)” was quite surreal. Biden won’t even listen to his fellow Democrats as they beg and plead for him to release his delegates! But he might listen to Steve Bannon?

I wanted to keep this short so I’ll just say this:  read the interview. It’s a revealing glimpse into one thing they (the right and people like Bannon) have going for them. They think big. Brooks doesn’t think big. The Times doesn’t think big. They’re basically centrists, no? And Biden and Harris don’t think big. But Trump and his followers think big (e.g., reversing Roe v. Wade). What’s also revealing is that Bannon (who previously served as chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign and later served as the Trump administration’s chief strategist), in answer to the question “What do you think a second Trump administration would look like?,” answers “Project 25 and others are working on it.” This is worth noting because it’s been reported recently in the news that Trump was asked about Project 25 and claimed he knew nothing about it. Obviously, he was lying. But this reminds me, The Guardian online published a piece about Project 25 that I’ve yet to get to:  “The force behind Project 2025:  Kevin Roberts has the roadmap for a second term / The ‘cowboy Catholic’ head of the Heritage Foundation is on a mission to align the right behind Trumpism, and has a plan in place to overturn the American government as it exists if Trump returns to power” (July 1).

Thinking big is one thing I have in common with Bannon. But not the only thing. I do think we need to curtail spending. And we need to get a handle on the situation with the borders. (Republicans never seem to mention it, but our northern border with Canada also provides a convenient means for slipping into this country illegally.) I’ve never listened to Bannon’s podcast — and have no desire to do so — but the fact it’s named “War Room” says something to the fact he thinks big. And indeed, while I haven’t ever mentioned it, having something of a “Command Center” is something I’ve long sought to achieve myself. (Though obviously, the focus and goals would be quite different than what Bannon is trying to achieve.) I’ve never talked about this, for at least two reasons. First, as the saying goes, “you have to walk before you can run.” Getting that relatively small amount of initial funding, that is the first step. Then I can begin getting my ideas out there and building an audience. Second, it’s not even clear in my mind what this “command center” would actually look like, or how exactly it would function. I just see it as one possible way of helping to bring focus to a movement that is wholly lacking focus.

###  Here’s something else in the pile of stuff I put aside to possibly include here. I briefly glanced over an article in The Guardian titled “Scientists find desert moss ‘that can survive on Mars’ ” (June 30). This article relates to Mars, not Earth’s moon, but I jotted down on notepaper “How might creating some sort of Earth-like atmosphere on the moon negatively impact the Earth?” What would we even call that new type of pollution (threat to Earth’s biosphere)? Anyhow, if anything, that’s a long way off. But maybe not.

###  Here’s more bad news. In fact, maybe that might make a fitting name for a newspaper:  The Daily Bad News.  Anyhow, this was a cover story featured on page 1 of The New York Times (“Justices’ Rulings Sharply Curtail E.P.A. Authority,” June 30). Not only did the court reverse the so-called “Chevron doctrine” — “a cornerstone of administrative law for 40 years” — but also, as the article points out, perhaps even “more remarkable have been several decisions by the court to intervene to stop environmental regulations before [my italics] they were decided by lower courts or even before [my italics] they were implemented by the executive branch.” Translation: they are completely out of control and this does not portend well for the planet. As a sidebar concerning the Supreme Court, it’s also worth noting that regarding their recent landmark ruling, granting presidents (Trump) immunity from criminal prosecution for exercising core constitutional powers or for other official acts, that case would have ended in a 3:3 tie, had those three judges Trump appointed recused themselves.

###  I saw this headline in The Guardian (” ‘Surely we are smarter than mowing down 1,000-year-old trees to make T-shirts’ — the complex rise of viscose,” July 1);  but I was afraid to look. Are we really still chain-sawing 1,000-year-old trees? I think I know the answer. But I’m afraid to look. Anyhow, this is a perfect example of the fact that ever since I put this website up (it’s been over a decade now), I don’t think a week has ever gone by in which I haven’t seen in the news additional things I could add to the Nowhere On Our Radar, Problems or Philanthropy pages of my website. This is just one example.

###  Now, on a lighter side, I’ll mention an opinion piece from the Times by Maureen Dowd (“The Truth Hurts, Especially if Bill Maher Dishes It,” May 19, 2024). It’s a fun piece about Bill Maher the comedian. Which now makes me think of a joke:  how come no comedian ever started a joke with “So, two comedians walk into a bar.” I guess it wouldn’t be funny. But isn’t that ironic. Anyhow, I’ll share this gem. Dowd writes that Maher’s liberal friends in Hollywood “pester him to shut up about President Biden’s age and gait.” Then Dowd adds (and this sentence is in parenthesis): “Maher kids that Biden should lean into it and say, ‘I walk like a toddler with a full diaper, but I believe in democracy.’ ” I read this weeks ago. It’s still funny. But now less so. Given the seriousness concerning what’s at stake if Biden maintains his death grip hold on his delegates and refuses to bow out of the

###  This was an interesting article. Imagine introducing the internet to tribes living deep within the Amazon rain forest. “The Internet’s Final Frontier:  Remote Amazon Tribes of Brazil,” June 2, The New York Times.

###  I love reading. I love sharing my love of reading. And I love sharing things I’ve learned from reading. Here’s an interesting quotation I came across while reading a book review in the Times (“Player One, June 2). Dwight Garner is reviewing Glenn Loury’s Late Admissions:  Confessions of a Black Conservative. The quotation is from Orwell:  “A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” I’m not sure I would agree with that sentiment, but it’s certainly an interesting quotation. And it reminds me, something I jotted down that I would like to do is find a good reading of Orwell’s Animal Farm on YouTube. A few popped up. But I haven’t yet had a chance to try listening to any of them. With the Russian-Ukraine war being in the news so regularly, I thought it might be interesting to give this novel another “read.”

###  (Thursday, July 11, 2024)  Being an avid reader I never cease seeing things that interest me, in one way or another. I don’t really have time for books. But I read every day!  Articles, news, opinion pieces, book reviews, and so forth. This you might find interesting. I remember seeing a quotation once from the author and teacher Frank McCourt. He wrote “Before you read a Faulkner sentence, wave goodbye to your family.” One sentence Faulkner wrote, a 1,288-word run-on sentence which William Faulkner included in one of his novels, got him into the Guinness Book of World Records. But that was child’s play. Lucy Ellmann’s book Ducks, Newburyport — 1,030 pages long — is written entirely as one sentence. And apparently it makes for a good audiobook. In the June 16, issue of The New York Times Book Review, Alexander Nazaryan, who writes about politics, culture and science for the Times, put together a list of some of his favorite “supersized listens.” In this piece titled “Long-Haul Listening,” he breaks these down into four sections starting with those listed as “50+ Hours,” and works his way down to a “20+ Hours” list. Unsurprisingly, Tolstoy’s War and Peace is listed in the “50+ Hours” grouping. In the “40+ Hours” category he has Ducks, Newburyport.

###  (Friday, July 12, 2024)  You’ve probably read how with hunter-gatherers during Paleolithic and Mesolithic times and even with the early American Indians and such, when they killed an animal for food, they tried to make use of as much of the animal as possible, so that none of it would go to waste. The fur, bones, teeth, whatever, might be useful in some way. For crafts, jewelry, tools, weapons, costumes, for warmth, whatever. That’s kind of like how I am with my Sunday New York Times. I don’t like to see any part of it go to waste. Even something like The New York Times Style Magazine (simply known as “T“) I can’t simply toss into the recycling pile without first peeking inside. Usually, most of it is of no interest to me. But once in a while I see something interesting. For example, once I came across an image of a building that was a truly amazing piece of architectural design. It was very ambitious, with a lot going on all at once. I enjoyed just looking at it. More recently, while going through the September 20, 2020 issue, I came across an article about artist Tehching Hsieh (“When the Only Thing Left Is Time,” Andrew Russeth). I didn’t read all of it, but it begins by stating that on the last day of September in 1978, Hsieh “began one of the century’s most harrowing art pieces.” After constructing a roughly 10-by-10-by-10-foot wooden cage inside of his Manhattan studio, he locked himself inside, and stayed there for one full year. A friend brought food and disposed of his waste. The plan was that for one year “he would do pretty much nothing:  not read, write, talk or otherwise engage himself in any activities.” According to Russeth, about six months after this “durational performance” or “endurance art” concluded, “he began the second of what would be five such works, each titled “One Year Performance.” One entailed punching a clock every hour. That one required “confining himself within a roughly one-mile radius of his home so that he could make it back in time” to punch the clock. It also meant he “had to give up deep sleep,” since he had to wake up every hour to punch the clock. The article includes a picture of the aforementioned cage he lived in for one solid year. It looks just like a jail cell. To be honest, I’m not too interested in a story like this. Maybe that’s why I didn’t read all of it. But it stimulates thinking. For example, why would someone do that? What’s the purpose? What might his message (or goal) be (if there is one)? Etc. You can even turn this into a game. Who can come  up with the most (nonredundant) questions pertaining to this.

###  You’ve probably seen this in the news. China appears poised to start including robotic dogs with mounted machine guns as part of it’s armed forces within just a couple years or so. Imagine if Russia had them now. Or Ukraine. It’s crazy the senseless killing going on in the world. And the constant competition to see who’s best at it.

###  And here’s something you might find infinitely more scary than robotic dogs with mounted machine guns. I saw this article in The Guardian online the other day:  “Meet Tim Dunn:  The ultraconservative billionaire pastor spending millions to protect his oil — and elect Trump”  (July 11).  Dunn has poured nearly $30m into his effort to drive the Texas state legislature to the far right, has donated $5 million to help Trump get re-elected, and has also poured money into far right thinktanks. Fellow oil billionaire and evangelical Farris Wilks is described as “a frequent collaborator.”

One book that’s mentioned in the article is Darren Dochuk’s Anointed with Oil:  How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America. One of the Amazon-posted reviews (by “Joan N.”) gives the book four stars and shares interesting information about the book. She writes in her review that the book helped her “understand the influential role oil barons played in the evangelical movement,” and made her aware of the belief “that oil was a natural resource God had given to America.”

This article is just one in a series The Guardian is publishing to “profile figures playing a key role in boosting” Trump’s chances of being re-elected. Other articles in this series include:

(1)  Steve Bannon:  his War Room podcast is shaping the Republican narrative.

(2)  Charlie Kirk:  Republicans are turning on the former youth guru

(3)  Kevin Roberts:  the force behind Project 2025.

(4)  Cleta Mitchell:  the ex-Democratic firebrand turned election denier.

(5)  Hans von Spakovsky:  the man who cries voter fraud.

###  One thing I’ll point out, in light of what’s mentioned above, is in order for ‘saving the planet’ to become something achievable, major funding is required. Don’t think the other side can spend billions to get their message out, while all we have to do is come waltzing down the street with a nickel in our pocket and that’s enough to take them on. It’s not. So if you’re a billionaire, or even just someone up there in that 1% class, and want to help save the planet, you know where to reach me.