Sunday, July 24, 2022
View Larger +
“It was a small comment, wasn’t it, about who they were
— that last year on the dunes when all the town talk
was of coyotes, prairie wolf in search of an ocean,
those footprints instead of rabbits surrounding the shack
or half-sunk in the cranberry bog
just off the path. They heard the howling somewhere
GET THE LATEST BREAKING NEWS HERE — SIGN UP FOR GOLOCAL FREE DAILY EBLAST
behind their backs as they walked out past midnight….’’
— From “Canis,’’ by Cleopatra Mathis (born 1947), American poet and teacher
“Every time a friend succeeds, something in me dies.’’
— Gore Vidal (1925-2012), American novelist, essayist and public intellectual
“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
― Mark Twain (1835-1910)
View Larger +
When I was a small boy living along Massachusetts Bay, we used to pick up and fling those brown, helmet-shaped and scary-looking, but harmless, arthropods on the lower beach called horseshoe crabs into the water and sometimes even at each other. Little did we know that this species, which goes back half a billion years, would become an important bio-medical resource, so much so that, along with habitat destruction, including ocean acidification caused by man-made global warming from burning fossil fuel, the species is endangered in many places.
Horseshoe crabs, by the way, are not crabs. Rather, they’re related to spiders and other arachnids.
For some years, drug companies have been harvesting the bluish blood of the creatures in New England and other places on the East Coast for a protein that’s used to identify dangerous bacteria during new-drug testing, including vaccines.
So important is horseshoe-crab blood that its value is estimated to be $15,000 a quart.
While pharm companies assert that most horseshoe crabs survive after they’re milked and then returned to the water, many die as a result, and over-harvesting is a distinct threat to the future of the species. Of course, everything in nature is connected and wiping out horseshoe crabs will imperil other species.
Consider that they play an important role in the food web for migrating shorebirds, finfish and Atlantic loggerhead turtles.
So let’s hope that environmental regulators pay close attention to the horseshoe-crab population.
They remind us that, with ever-developing scientific knowledge, some previously mostly ignored species turn out to be very important to people and to the wider web of life that humans depend on – a web that people are destroying at an accelerating rate. The more species we can save, the better for us.
Hit this link for an article on extinctions.
Decadence on the Porch
I love air conditioning, as I suspect most people do. We may be bankrupted by having so many cooling devices in our old house, but, hey, one is an environmentally friendly — relatively! — a heat pump. Of course, with most of our electricity still generated by fossil fuel, we help heat up the world with our air conditioners.
Still, from time to time, I look back fondly to those dog days of 60 years ago when we sat in a screened-in back porch with a cool slate floor reading and talking in a desultory way in the humid heat with the soft drone of the insects and the whisper of the southwest wind in the oak trees in the background. And how pleasant it was to bring our first (and surprisingly heavy) portable TV out to the porch so we could watch the likes of baseball, Perry Mason and political party conventions in the semi-outdoors, often with Popsicles slicking our hands, though my parents’ steady smoking reduced these pleasures a tad.
It was lovely, to a point, being languid. We lose something in being more and more cut off from the feel of the seasons. Now I’ll go back inside again from the front porch. Hot out here.
We need more housing, especially for lower-and-middle-income people, a lot more than bowling alleys, so it was good to learn of a plan to turn the current Legion Bowl and Billiards and Pub in Cranston into 69 apartments, some of them “affordable.’’ This may end up as a model for other high-density housing projects in urban/suburban Rhode Island.
Department of Idiotic Regulations, Rule #17rwqde8wew19
The Massachusetts Senate has voted for a bill banning discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or style.
Boston Democrat Lydia Edwards, the Senate’s only Black member said:
“You must understand what systemic racism does is not just prohibit economic opportunity and jobs. It diminishes the soul. It diminishes yourself of who you are because of something you cannot control. And it took me so long, so long, as a part of my life to ever say that my hair is long, that it is beautiful and that is natural.”
The Age of Me continues….
One problem with this sort of micro-anti-discrimination law is that it can be used to protect people who might be about to be fired for other things than their hair, such as incompetence. And do we need to establish yet another personal characteristic as a basis for another law promoting hyper-sensitivity? And can we please edge away from a society of endless individual aggrievement?
Can’t the Massachusetts legislators spend their time a bit more productively?
But speaking of racism, take a look at this rant, close to the belly of the beast:
View Larger +
It’s often bemused me how people going into political or other public life lie about things that their being in public life would probably eventually reveal.
Take Gonzalo Cuervo, who’s a candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary in Providence.
Mr. Cuervo received a bachelor’s degree from Springfield (Mass.) College in 2020, but in 2015 lied that he had already received that degree when he filled out application forms to work in Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office as a senior adviser/director of communications. (Ms. Gorbea is now running for governor.)
On a section of the forms titled “Type of Diploma or Degree Earned,” he wrote “B.S.” (Bachelor of Science), and he didn’t fill out an adjacent section titled “If no degree, # of credits.”
The form includes this wording:
“I certify that there are no willful misrepresentations and falsifications regarding the above statements and answers to questions. I understand that if the investigation found such misrepresentation and falsification is exposed, my application is liable to be rejected and if I am employed, my service may be terminated.’’
So are there other embellishments in his C.V.?
In any event, college degrees are often highly over-rated. Who cares if Mr. Cuervo got one?
It’s sad that Bishop’s Fourth Street Diner in Newport will indeed be replaced with a Shell gas station and a Seasons Market, part of a chain. Another “third place,’’ gone that has helped locals (far more than tourists and summer people) gain and maintain a sense of community in The City by the Sea while enjoying simple and tasty food.
View Larger +
Shouldn’t Have Taken This Long!
FINALLY, the Food and Drug Administration has approved for “emergency use” for the public the highly effective Novavax anti-COVID vaccine, a protein-based medication similar to those used against the flu. One of its big advantages over the mRNA vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer is that it can be stored in regular refrigerators for up to six months, making it easier to ship than mRNA vaccines, which generally must be kept at subzero (in Fahrenheit) temperatures. That storage is impossible in many poor communities without the equipment to produce extreme cold.
It’s too bad it has taken so long to approve Novavax. I’ve been in its U.S. critical trial since early 2021 and have followed its progress closely. I suspect the fact that it’s made by a small Maryland company without the financial and political clout of Moderna and Pfizer has held it back. Many other countries, with faster, more decisive regulatory regimes than America has, approved it long ago. Part of the problem with the FDA’s slowness in some drug reviews is inadequate staffing.
View Larger +
The Art of the Grift
Here’s a valuable article on American political grifters:
“There’s no denying that the 1957 movie A Face in the Crowd captures aspects of Trump’s character—… vulgarity, his volatile mixture of ego and insecurity, and his instinctive mastery of mass media are all eerily familiar. Yet the similarities go only so far. Like Trump’s,the central character Rhodes’s populism is a means to an end, but at least he comes by it more credibly, having walked the dusty byways of northeastern Arkansas and spent long nights in its drunk tanks.’’
Unlike Trump, he wasn’t a glitz-obsessed parasite of his very rich, crooked and bigoted New York real estate mogul father.
Hit this link:
The GOP/QAnon Party’s agents continue to destroy incriminating records. The latest example in the news is the destruction of Secret Service texts in and around Trump’s attempted coup, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Trump had assiduously corrupted into treason some key people in the Secret Service to have them serve his political/financial interests.) Then there are such pols as the global-warming denier and fascist Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s destruction of Facebook videos that, while they play well in the sewer of GOP/QAnon politics in which he won the GOP nomination, won’t play well in the general election campaign.
Hit this link:
And The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
“Mastriano’s Senate website has also been scrubbed of a plan he pitched during the early days of the pandemic to lift medical privacy restrictions so the government could disclose the names and locations of people infected with COVID-19.’’
One of several ways the Democrats can help ensure a GOP/QAnon victory in the mid-term elections and beyond: Encourage “reparations” for slavery, etc., instead of economic and other New Deal-style help for the middle class (regardless of race, sexual identity, etc., etc.). Most present-day Whites don’t feel guilty about past slavery since they haven’t owned any slaves, and the implication that they should feel guilty can drive some into the arms of the usual demagogues. And, fair or not, many voters are sick of hearing about the travails of “the LGBTQ Community,’’ though many are also rather fuzzy about what all the letters represent!
And if there’s a recession this fall, the Dems should be leery of seeming to bail out Wall Street. Many people are still bitter about how both parties did that in 2008-2009, however unavoidable it may have been in those world-economic-crisis years.
View Larger +
All Big CEO’s Are Geniuses?
CVS’s chief executive officer, Karen Lynch, made 458 times the company’s average employee’s wages in 2021, when her compensation exceeded $20 million while the average CVS worker made $45,010. Cut Ms. Lynch’s taxes some more!
An Economic Policy Institute report in 2021 showed that from 1978 to 2020, the pay of CEO’s of big public companies grew by 1,322 percent, far outstripping stock-market growth as measured by Standard & Poor’s (817 percent). It also exceeded corporate-earnings growth of 341 percent between 1978 and 2019, the latest data available. Meanwhile, the compensation of the typical worker grew by just 18 percent from 1978 to 2020.
Where’s the evidence that corporate execs are better these days than they were 40 years ago and thus deserve these gargantuan paydays?
Behind a lot of this extreme compensation is the simple fact that the boards of big companies consist mostly of other very rich corporate execs who serve on multiple boards and give each other huge pay packages with the expectation that they’ll be taken care of in return.
Another is the media creation of the CEO of a big company as a genius superstar worthy of extracting vast sums from the economy.
Of course, as they get richer and richer, they get more and more control of the political system, which they use to expand their wealth and power (especially via the GOP/QAnon Party) even further.
Hit this link:
Give Biden a break regarding his chilly meeting with Saudi Arabia’s creepy tyrant/murderer Mohammed Bin Salman. American presidents have to deal with corrupt dictators — much of the world is run by them. And Saudi Arabia is an important country for us, geopolitically and economically, as unsavory as it is. (But the less oil we use, the weaker it gets.) In any event, we shouldn’t suck up to dictators, as Trump did in such publicly fawning and repulsive ways.
Meanwhile, some current international economic context:
France has a major military, but in President Emmanuel Macron’s pathetic efforts to be a diplomatic superstar by being an interlocutor with war criminal Putin on Ukraine, France has given that ravaged country very little military help – about $160 million, about the same as tiny Denmark. This is deeply disappointing and will permanently stain Macron’s reputation in the history books. He sounds like a Hitler appeaser from the ‘30s.
Now if we’d only given Putin all of Ukraine and one or two of the Baltic Republics none of this would have happened. We’re such warmongers!
Trying to Explain the Moveable Past
Richard Cohen’s Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past is an astonishingly ambitious and hugely entertaining story of how history has been written and otherwise presented from ancient times to the present by great, rigorous historians as well as corrupt and incompetent ones. (Real historians must always be prepared to correct their work amidst changing evidence from primary – not secondary – documents and other verifiable sources.)
We read about how historians, and other writers, such as novelists and playwrights whose work is driven by history, have shaped our collective memory from, for example, Herodotus to the authors of The Gospels to Shakespeare to Leo Tolstoy, Ulysses S. Grant, Winston Churchill, Arnold Toynbee, and Ken Burns, and we read about how tyrants, from ancient times through the Tudors to Stalin, Mao, and Putin, have tried to distort and even expunge that memory in their power lust. But as Mr. Cohen quotes Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English statesman, philosopher, and a father of the scientific method:
“Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.’’
Along the way, there’s plenty of delicious stuff about the often quirky and even outrageous personal lives of major historians, both academic and popular.
Robert Whitcomb is a veteran editor and writer. Among his jobs, he has served as the finance editor of the International Herald Tribune, in Paris; as a vice president and the editorial-page editor of The Providence Journal; as an editor and writer in New York for The Wall Street Journal, and as a writer for the Boston Herald Traveler (RIP). He has written newspaper and magazine essays and news stories for many years on a very wide range of topics for numerous publications, has edited several books and movie scripts and is the co-author of among other things, Cape Wind.