WE HAVE POWER!

It actually took us a little while to realize that power had been restored: we have to disconnect from the grid when we connect the generator.  Given what you saw in the video in this post from yesterday, I am very impressed with Duke Energy.  It seems many of us learned a lot from the Year of the Hurricanes (2004).  The infrastruction is more robust, and better response systems are in place.  It's hard to believe we were little more than 24 hours without power.  We've now entered that blissful and blessed period when we have heightened awareness of and gratitude for the amenities we rarely otherwise contemplate.

Speaking of blessings:  We had been anticipating three days, perhaps much more, of miserable, hot, humid weather, with no air conditioning, non-working fans, and un-functional pools.  Instead, Ian brought with it a most amazing respite from the temperatures-still-in-the-90's weather of last week.  It was 63 degrees when we awoke this morning!  Now that the storm is gone, the temperatures are expected to rise again, but only to the 80's for this week and with much lower humidity, they way.

Time to get on to other work.  We're still without internet, and I don't want to overdo the phone wi-fi hotspot usage.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 30, 2022 at 11:38 am | Edit
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Having watched the sensationalized devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, and seen too much of it even in our own neighborhood, it's time for some good news.

What I love best about hurricanes is that neighbors come out and talk to each other! They're walking around, assessing the situation, they're outside cleaning up, they check in on people, they help each other ... and we re-discover that most people are really nice.

Guess what? Not one person of all those we met on our walks asked us about politics. And absolutely no one asked if we were vaccinated.

I wonder why one kind of emergency (pandemic) makes people nasty, suspicious, and exclusionary, while another (hurricane) brings out the best in us.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 7:21 pm | Edit
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We lost power just after I published the last post. Here you can see why we are not expecting restoration any time soon. This is one street downhill from us, houses that back up against the Little Wekiva River, which in this storm shattered by 12 inches its previous crest record of 30'.

You can see how these people will not be expecting mail delivery today. (In theory the mail is being delivered to our zip code, but I'm not holding my breath for it.) You can see that the electrical box is not in any shape for carrying current. And if you look on both sides of the house, you can see where the Little Wekiva River is pouring into the street, aptly named Little Wekiva Road. In a previous update I was hard on the engineers who designed the expensive improvements that were supposed to fix the Little Wekiva Road problem, and I still fault them, since this road floods even during normal storms. But no road construction, no drainage improvements, can handle the sudden influx of a river that overflows its banks. I heard an official on television blaming past developers who built houses in a flood zone, and past governments that allowed it. But we've been here more than 35 years, and although the low-lying parts of the road always flooded some, it was never anything like this. The kids used to ride their bikes through the flood waters without getting wet (if they were clever), and the houses themselves never flooded. My own suspicion is that it is not past, but recent construction that has made the difference, by paving the fields that used to absorb the rainwater.

Be that as it may, a few people in our neighborhood made out badly with Ian. We are without power and internet for an indeterminant period; we have a pool enclosure screen panel to replace; and we haven't had a chance to inspect the roof for damage, but all in all we have nothing to complain about.

I had been looking forward to an enforced time when we wouldn't have much to do but sit around and read—I have just finished Brian Jacques' Martin the Warrior and am eager to devour Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying's A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century—but that time came in the middle of the night when we were trying to sleep. Now it is (almost) life-as-usual. Except a bit darker, and we both reflexively flick on the lights as we enter each room.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 2:12 pm | Edit
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Ian is now officially a tropical storm. It has passed southeast of us, but still hasn't reached the coast; it's creeping along at 7 mph. "Passed" is perhaps not the right word, because this morning we are experiencing the same winds and rain we had all night. We are officially under a "tropical storm warning" instead of a "hurricane warning," but only the name has changed.

It wasn't the most peaceful of nights, but that doesn't stop us from being grateful for what sleep we had. Quick checks in the middle of the night and this morning revealed no obvious damage inside, and what little we could see of the outside (in the dark, from inside) looked pretty good. All night we heard the sounds of small branches landing on our roof; we learned long ago that they sound a lot bigger than they really are. Waving tree branches frequently set off our neighbors' motion-sensor floodlight, waking us up to let us know we still had power—not altogether a bad thing. And we received full assurance that our weather radio works just fine, producing a sound piercing enough to wake us thoroughly.

I would, however like to make a few suggestions for the service's software. (1) It is not really necessary to wake us at 3:17 to inform us of a flash flood warning until 6:15 a.m., then again at 3:25 to extend the warning to 6:30, then at 4:50 to let us know it's now in place until 6:45, and at 5:42 extend it to 8:15, and at 5:51 to tell us that the endpoint is still 8:15. We know it's going to be like that all morning; why not just say "till noon" and be done with it? (2) We want to know upgraded warnings (e.g. tropical storm to hurricane, or watch to warning) right away. Feel free to wake us up. But if you're downgrading the warning (e.g. hurricane to tropical storm), that news can wait till most people are awake. 

At the moment, we still have power, for which we are beyond thankful. There are a lot of people nearby who don't, however, and we remember that with previous hurricanes, the outages have come after the storm has passed. So we remain hopeful, but cautious.

What we don't have is internet. I'm posting this while using my phone as a mobile hotspot. Spectrum says, "An outage is affecting your Spectrum services. We're working quickly to restore your service." That notice hasn't been updated since eight o'clock last night, however.

We did get an update last night about our Cape Coral folks: significant damage to yard and porch, but the house was okay and so were they.

One of the newscasters we heard yesterday emphasized the importance of helping children feel a sense of adventure during events like this, rather than overwhelming them with adult concerns. He's right. It's up to the adults to model the calm reactions and coping skills that build resilience in children. When I was growing up, blizzards and winter power outages were fun! Clearly not for my parents, who had to deal with keeping the family safe and warm, cooking on a camp stove, worrying about frozen water pipes, and cleaning dirty cloth diapers. But they made it an adventure for us.

We remain grateful for your prayers, and to all those who expressed concern for our well-being. So far, so good.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 6:20 am | Edit
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I normally don't like watching TV coverage of hurricanes, because it is always sensationalized and apparently calculated to evoke panic.

But today was different.

We watched quite a bit of news of various channels, and I was actually impressed by the coverage I saw on our local ABC affiliate, WFTV Channel 9.  Maybe they've learned that in an era when hype and panic are in the air we breathe, the only way to get people's attention is to be calm and reasonable.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 8:18 pm | Edit
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The winds are picking up a bit, though the rain is still light (at least for Florida). We both made a point of getting a shower in while we still have hot water; similarly a wash and a dishwasher load are in progress. Not that either machine is full, but it's a good instinct to keep more than normally current with cleaning at such times. The lights did flicker once while I was in the shower, so it is none too soon to get those done.

Mostly we're puttering around now; there are always things that a hurricane (like a pandemic) is a good excuse to work on. Our neighborhood was on the 6:00 news, not for what has yet happened, but for what is anticipated. There are a couple of sections that flood badly in ordinary Florida storms, and were a major disaster last hurricane. The really annoying part is that the city spent an incredible amount of money to fix the problem, and as far as I can tell it is worse than ever. As Bret Weinstein said about his beloved city of Portland, Oregon (rough paraphrase): Taxes are not theft. Taxes are the price we pay for services that we want from our government. But collecting the taxes and withholding the services—that's theft.

Anyway, so far, so good, but the eye of Ian is still far away. I keep hearing small branches fall onto our roof—may they stay small!

The other concern is tornadoes, which are often spawned by hurricanes. We've been under a Tornado Watch since 5 a.m.—may it never turn into a warning!

I just learned that we are now considered to be in the "27-inch zone" for rainfall! May it never ... you get the picture. Ian is moving s-o s-l-o-w-l-y—just 7 mph at the moment—and is expected to take eight hours to go from Kissimmee to Daytona Beach (about 75 miles). That is the crux of the problem.

We have no news about our folks in Cape Coral; we're not close enough to be on an update list, and so must get news second- or third-hand.

Unless something noteworthy happens, My next update will be in the morning.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 6:56 pm | Edit
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I have been negligent in posting Hurricane Ian updates, perhaps because our preparations have been slow and methodical over time, and perhaps most of all because until recently it didn't seem to be that much of a threat to us. Now that is changed, and I find people looking here to keep an eye on us, so here we go.

This is the past and predicted path as of noon today.

It doesn't pay to fret too much about a hurricane when it's still days away, because the models always change. We thought we would be mostly in the clear because it was predicted to hit land far north of us, and at nothing worse than a Category 1. How things change over time! Now it's about to hit Cape Coral as very nearly a CAT 5, and follow Interstate 4 right across the state. Very much like Hurricane Charley, which was a CAT 1 by the time it got to us, though Charley was much smaller and moved much faster. Ian is HUGE.

We're pretty much ready, having prepared, as I said, over time. Thanks to COVID, we didn't need to make any panicked grocery store trips. We even have toilet paper. The generator works. We have gasoline for the generator and in our cars. The freezers are organized and filled with both food and frozen jugs of water. We've brought in "flight risk" items from outside and our back porch, including the picnic table—you never know. Porter climbed on the roof to bring down our wind chimes. We have batteries; our phones, power blocks, and computers are charged. We've lowered the water level of the pool to accommodate the coming rain. Oh, yes, I still have to make my customary walk through the house taking pre-hurricane pictures. As soon as I post this.

Did I mention rain? We have had light rain off and on all day; we started feeling Ian's effects yesterday, well before landfall. We've had weeks of rain, so the ground is already totally saturated, leaving little room for the "up to 24 inches" expected before Ian is done with us. I'm grateful that our big trees are live oaks, which have deep and sturdy roots! They also tend to protect us by breaking up the wind. On the other hand, they have branches that may or may not stand up to the winds that we are expecting. I'd much rather have the trees than not; we're also counting on our abundant foliage to help protect our windows from flying debris.

Flooding is a big concern here, but not for us, as long as we don't want to go anywhere. We live on what passes for a hill in this part of Florida, though the rest of you might not even notice the elevation change.

That's about it for us, for now. I'll try to check in here occasionally, to keep loved ones updated and for my own records. The center of Ian is expected to arrive mid-morning tomorrow, but the serious effects will begin much sooner; indeed they have already started not far from here. As I said, just light rain for us, but some places in Central Florida are already without power, having seen some significant winds.

Right now I'm more concerned for our friends in Cape Coral. The first predicted path I saw showed the then-unnamed storm coming ashore there as a hurricane, but after that the forecast changed radically to the north. Turns out the original prognosticator was the better one.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 9:31 am | Edit
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A liberal Democrat Constitutional lawyer speaks on why everyone should be concerned about illegal behavior on the part of the FBI, and why he's involved in a lawsuit against "his own" party's actions. The video is long (26 minutes), and more relevant at the beginning than the end. You can get a good summary at about minutes 13-17. Or just this:

The Constitution is not only for people you agree with; it's primarily designed to protect people you disagree with, people whose views are out of fashion, people who everybody wants to see prosecuted.... I'm going to especially, especially, focus on people who are having their Constitutional rights violated by my political party, by my people who I voted for ... that's the special obligation that every citizen has to hold to account those who are on your side.

Also, look at about minutes 5-10, covering search warrants, and the dangers of having our whole lives on our cell phones. One day, out of the blue, we may find government officials seizing our phones, and our computers, and our external drives, ruining our businesses and even our lives in ways that cannot be redressed, even if we are eventually vindicated in court. So it behooves us to be grateful for those lawyers and politicians who seek to enforce strict Constitutional limits on when and how that is allowed—even against the most heinous people. (Cue the A Man for All Seasons devil and the law speech.)

Also, who knew (about 8:30-9:15) that it's safer—from the point of view of privacy—to store medications in a medicine cabinet rather than in a drawer?

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 26, 2022 at 8:21 am | Edit
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Hubris: Exaggerated pride or self-confidence

The original of this article by George Friedman, entitled "John F. Kennedy and the Origin of Wars Without End," is at Geopolitical Futures and is currently behind a pay wall. I was able to read it because Porter is a subscriber. A few quotes won't do it justice (though you'll get them anyway), but I was able to find the same article here at PressReader.com, so you can check it out for yourself, at least for now.

Friedman's basic idea is that John F. Kennedy sealed the fate of future American military action in his inaugural address:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

This view of America as the the world's police force, making the world safe for democracy, was not new, of course. It was President Woodrow Wilson who led us into World War I with that phrase about democracy. In World War II, President Roosevelt considered the United States as the world's savior, but "carefully calculated the cost." Eisenhower calculated the risks and benefits and wisely refused to send American troops to Indochina.

Kennedy wrote a blank check from his country. ... In assuming the burden, he assumed the cost of war if needed, and he did not ask the question of whether our hardships would bring success or failure, and at such a price that the nation might not be able to bear it militarily, financially or morally.

There were three wars following Kennedy’s stated principles that lasted for many years and were unsuccessful: Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. But they were only the long and agonizing cases. The United States used military force in Iran during the hostage crisis but failed to achieve its desired outcome. The United States invaded Grenada. It succeeded, I suppose. The United States sent troops to Beirut and withdrew when hundreds of Marines were killed by explosives. The United States succeeded in Desert Storm. It conducted an extended bombing campaign in defense of Kosovo. And it has sent troops into Libya, Syria, Chad and northern Africa.

I am no pacifist, but the tempo of operations imposed on the U.S. military and the widely varying environments it went into, frequently with a mission that was opaque, made little sense. In World War II, there was a clear moral and geopolitical reason for combat, a clear if flexible strategy that would withstand reversals. Most important, the military was configured for this war. Training a force takes time, and a force cannot be trained for “whatever comes up.” Having been trained to face the Soviets in Germany, the U.S. military was then unreasonably asked to fight limited wars in the jungle, the desert and so forth. In other words, it was asked to go anywhere to fight any foe and protect any friend. So that’s what it did.

If you go into combat without an appropriate force, and with a sense of invincibility, you may not lose, but you won’t win. And if you go in unprepared for the terrain, weather and horrors of the battlefield, the failures will mount, the politicians will deny any failures, the machine will pump more soldiers into the war, and the public will rightly determine that the war was a horrible failure. And then the soldiers who broke their hearts trying to win will feel betrayed by their nation.

Kennedy’s doctrine, then, should be expunged from our minds. That doctrine leads to endless war and continual defeat. War is not an action designed to do good. It is the use of overwhelming force against an opponent that threatens your nation’s fundamental interest. War is not an act of charity for deserving friends, not even an act of vengeance for a vicious enemy.

A fundamental foundation for peace is an unsentimental understanding of geopolitics, the discipline that distinguishes sentiment from necessity, capability from boast, and the enemy who matters from the one who doesn’t. ... Kennedy assumed that the U.S. could afford to fight any enemy anywhere. It can’t. And Washington better be certain that the next war it fights can be won, and that the next enemy is actually an enemy.

Note that this article was written in September 2021, almost six months before the United States became involved in yet another, very costly, war to make the world safe for democracy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 7:54 am | Edit
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It's time for another in my series of YouTube channel discoveries. I resent the amount of time it takes to get information out of the video/podcast format, but it's so popular these days that it has become a major source for interesting and helpful information. So I'm unapologetically recommending another video channel: Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying's DarkHorse Podcast. That link is to their podcast website, but I watch it via their two YouTube channels: Full Podcasts, and Clips. Full podcasts are long. Very long. They would be great on a car journey, not so much in everyday life, unless you have a lot of work to do that doesn't require much thinking. I can fix dinner while listening to a podcast, but I sure can't write a blog post. Clips, on the other hand, are much shorter (maybe five to twenty minutes). Focussing on clips means I miss good insights, but giving in to Fear of Missing Out is a pathway to madness.

I've mentioned Bret and Heather before, in my Independence Hall Speech post, so it's about time I gave them their due. I must also give due credit to the good friend who introduced me to DarkHorse, as well as to Viva Frei, and remained patient with me even though it was least a year later before I finally got around to checking them out.  Thank you, wise friend.  (There's but an infinitesimal chance he'll actually see that, but still, credit where credit is due.)

By way of introduction, the following quotes are from their DarkHorse Podcast website:

In weekly livestreams of the DarkHorse podcast, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying explore a wide range of topics, all investigated with an evolutionary lens. From the evolution of consciousness to the evolution of disease, from cultural critique to the virtues of spending time outside, we have open-ended conversations that reveal not just how to think scientifically, but how to disagree with respect and love.

We are scientists who hope to bring scientific thinking, and its insights, to everyone. Too often, the trappings of science are used to exclude those without credentials, degrees, or authority. But science belongs to us all, and its tools should be shared as widely as possible. DarkHorse is a place where scientific concepts, and a scientific way of thinking, are made accessible, without diminishing their power.

We are politically liberal, former college professors, and evolutionary biologists. Among our audience are conservatives, people without college educations, and religious folk. We treat everyone with respect, and do not look down on those with whom we disagree.

Needless to say, I often disagree with them—sometimes strongly—but more often I find their insights at least reasonable. And it is always interesting to listen in on their conversations. I take great pleasure in hearing smart people interact with each other—assuming they're polite, which Bret and Heather always are. It's also particularly satisfying in the rare circumstances when I find I know something that these highly intelligent people, with much greater knowledge than I, don't. I love living in Florida, at least in its current free-state situation, but I've never gotten over the loss of the intellectual stimulation that came with having the University of Rochester within walking distance.

I find DarkHorse so diverse and absorbing that it's really hard to limit myself to three examples here. But you can always check it out for yourself. Here are a couple of hints: Bret and Heather's speech is measured enough that I can hear it at 1.5x speed, and Porter can manage 2x. I prefer not to speed it up, but it is a time saver. An ever greater help with the full podcasts is that, once the livestream is over and the video is set on YouTube, you can hover your mouse over places along the progress bar and see where a particular subject begins and ends. I sure wish more long videos would provide that information.

Warning: Objectionable language occurs, though rarely, in the DarkHorse Podcasts.

Multi-age education (11 minutes)

 

When science is not science (9 minutes) 

 

Wikipedia redefines recession (19 minutes)

 

I'll close with some advice from their website, which makes me smile every time I read it.

Be good to the ones you love,
Eat good food, and
Get outside.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 5:32 am | Edit
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Some people are fascinated by large numbers; others just tune out when they see them.

Many people don't trust the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Me? I don't trust their proofreaders. How else to explain this, from one of their vaccine safety updates:

CDC has verified 131 myocarditis case reports to VAERS in people ages ≥5 years after 123,362,627 million mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccinations

In case you are one of those whose minds go on strike in the presence of large numbers, that's over 123 trillion vaccine boosters. More than 15,000 boosters for every person on the planet. Put another way, if, instead of getting a shot, each person boosted "according to the CDC" contributed twenty-five cents, a mere quarter, the entire national debt of the United States would be paid off.

Foolish speculations over an "obvious" error? I don't think so. If we don't pay attention to numbers, we will make mistakes, some of them fatal. Bridges will collapse. People will be killed by medications that should be life-saving. Bombs will land in the wrong places. Citizens will be misled. Disastrous policy decisions will be made.

If I can't trust the "123,362,627 million" part of the sentence, what makes me think I can trust the "131" part?

Numbers matter. Accuracy matters.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 6:03 am | Edit
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It takes a lot to get me to watch a 2+ hour movie I'm pretty sure I will not like. One thing I can say about watching V for Vendetta—it was almost as negative an experience as I expected it to be. I put myself through the agony because Brett and Heather, among others, have made the connection between the movie and President Biden's recent Independence Hall speech.

I think we need to take very seriously the fact that not only is there the evidence that these people have fascist inclinations ... but they are now actively playing with the symbolism ... that blood-red background ... the ranting demagogue. What does it allude to? It alludes to V for Vendetta, which is a movie adored by the Left.

I thought it might be worth checking out.

Was it worth two hours of my time? I'm not sure. I'll say flatly: It was an awful movie. As a film, I see nothing to commend it. On the other hand, to know that it was made in 2005 and see the parallels to recent years (including the deadly virus and government—pharmaceutical business—media collusion) does make it somewhat interesting. As dystopias go, however, I think Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was also an unpleasant experience, is more important.

What I find most confusing, however, is why the president's speech writers and stage designers would want his audience to make a connection between the speech and the movie. V for Vendetta can only be "adored by the Left" if you see the demagoge and the tyrannical government as being of the Right—those President Biden insists on calling "MAGA Republicans." Coming to the movie only after having seen the speech, however, I had an entirely different view.

The invocation of V for Vendetta is not accidental, of that I am sure. It's manipulative, certainly. It may also be brilliant. Whether one sees the speech as hateful or hopeful, diabolical or innocent, President Biden's supporters, reminded of the movie, will of course see themselves in the heroic role, and—this is the brilliant part—so will his stated enemies. This is a movie that might have been designed to foment anger, hatred, insurrection, chaos, and above all self-righteousness.

Qui bono? Who profits from anger and fear? Who benefits from chaos and division irrespective of party, partisanship, values, and goals? Do you ever feel that someone is pulling our strings and doesn't care a bit whether it's Black Lives Matter or the Ku Klux Klan, as long as hatred and violence reign? What are the odds that this is unrelated to the design of the setting and text of Biden's speech?

Qui bono?

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at 4:30 pm | Edit
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I couldn't bring myself to watch the speech that President Biden recently gave at my home-town Philadelphia's Independence Hall. That's not a partisan reaction; I generally try to avoid such events, and treated President Trump the same way. I prefer to judge presidents by their actions; their talk always makes me queasy.

But I heard so much about this one that I had to check it out for myself. Instead of watching, I read a transcript, which allowed me to leave behind the freaky red lights and odd Marine guard, leaving only the content to interfere with my blood pressure. Since many of my readers will not have seen the speech, and I don't want to have to deal with copyrighted photos, I'll attempt a brief description of the backdrop that sent me flying to the transcript.

The Independence Hall building was decorated in an ostensibly patriotic scheme: the middle red, the top white, and the sides blue. Unfortunately, the word that came to my mind was not patriotic, but garish. Angry, even. This was the long-distance view, which some have called more benign; the close-up shot, when President Biden was speaking, with his two Marine guards behind and to the sides, was a wrathful and intimidating red. If you question how a lighting scheme can look angry, you can find plenty of images online and judge for yourself.

I thought I'd walked into a dystopian movie scene. All I could think of was, "What are they trying to convey to the audience?" Every public encounter these days is theater, and I don't believe it was accidental. But I certainly don't understand it, especially for a speech that tried to invoke light and angels and the "willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans." The only angel brought to my mind by the lighting was a fallen one. As one of my friends commented, "To what constituency was the eerie, hellish setting supposed to appeal?"

The speech, even extracted from the setting, left me with the same question.

As I said, there seemed to be an attempt to invoke something positive, with phrases like these: sacred ground; our better angels; all created equal; a beacon to the world; prosperous, free, and just; a nation of hope and unity and optimism; courage; free and fair elections; come together; unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy; unlimited future; we can see the light; America’s economy is faster, stronger than any other advanced nation in the world; there is not a single thing America cannot do; I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future.

Despite the attempt at portraying goodness and light, however, the impression left in my mind by the speech was very, very dark. The angry red color perfectly presaged the color of the speech, which even when the president was speaking of positive things used images of fire and burning.

"I’m an American President," Mr. Biden said, "not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America." That sounded hopeful. So did "The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God. That all are entitled to be treated with decency, dignity, and respect."

Unless you happen to be a "MAGA Republican."

Who are MAGA Republicans the president referred to so often in his speech? Despite his efforts to fit his opponents into some dark, backwoods corner of "extremism," the president has flung the tent of disfavor so wide as to cover half the country, including not a few Democrats like myself. I have never been a fan of former President Trump, but the further I went into this speech, the more I knew that neither he nor his supporters deserved the words President Biden tarred them with: equality and democracy are under assault; threatens the very foundations of our republic; extreme ideology; dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans; a threat to this country; do not respect the Constitution; do not believe in the rule of law; working ... to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies; promote authoritarian leaders; fan the flames of political violence; a threat to our personal rights; a “clear and present danger”; embrace anger; thrive on chaos; live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies; will put their own pursuit of power above all else; inflammatory; dangerous; look at America and see carnage and darkness and despair; spread fear and lies; white supremacists; calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets; believe that for them to succeed, everyone else has to fail.

Having found the scapegoats, he urges the faithful to join him in stopping the evildoers: it is within our power, it’s in our hands—yours and mine—to stop the assault on American democracy; we have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it—each and every one of us; there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail; I will not stand by and watch—I will not—the will of the American people be overturned; I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I’m asking every American to join me.

A call to arms? An incitement to violence? Despite words against violence (we do not encourage violence; we each have to reject political violence), it's hard to see the speech as benign. From the inflammatory lighting to the verbiage, the speech felt to me like an intentional threat. The president used the word "violence" ten times, "threat" nine times, and "MAGA" thirteen. In the midst of all this, his attempts at evoking light were, like the lighting behind him, garish rather than illuminating.

Whatever the intent was, whoever the constituency it was expected to appeal to, my own reaction was disgust at the hateful and harmful lies my president was willing to tell about his political opponents. And so of course I had to take action, to do something socially and politically significant.

I designed a t-shirt.

It was inspired by a comment of Porter's, and by stories of non-Jews who chose to don their own yellow stars when the Nazis began separating and demonizing their Jewish neighbors. I can't call myself a MAGA Republican, so....

The best commentary I've heard about the speech is by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, about whom I'll have more to say in a subsequent post. Suffice it to say now merely that they are evolutionary biologists who tend to relate everything in life to their field, classical liberal academics whose observations often run afoul of modern academic dogma. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I disagree—but I always enjoy listening in on their discussions. Perhaps I like what they say here because they agree with me on some key points. :) I discovered their commentary only after I'd drawn my own conclusions.

The clip below is the one relevant here, from 1:06:41 to 1:24:05. If I've done it right, that's the part you'll see if you click on the embedded video.

I'll leave you with my favorite part of President Biden's speech, which may stand out as the single most truthful statement any president ever made:

Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.

How do we return to normal—or to something better? My own suggestion—possibly more helpful than donning a t-shirt—is that we need to get to know each other better on the ground level. It's easy to hate groups of strangers, not so easy to hate the person of polar-opposite political views who sings next to you in choir. There's also little as eye-opening as travel—what a tragedy it is that pandemic and inflation have crushed that impulse for so many. I can think of no better antidote to this speech than the experience of a good friend of ours, as liberal a Democrat as President Biden could wish for, who was in need of major assistance far from home, and was aided by the kindest and most helpful people—in a hotbed of "MAGA Republicans." I wouldn't wish her troubles on anyone, but if we all had more boots-on-the-ground experiences with our diverse fellow Americans, we'd find ourselves much less willing to demonize them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 6:39 am | Edit
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Sometimes, you just have to make a meme.  It's so much more fun than getting angry about the relentless and ubiquitous anti-meat propaganda these days.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 8, 2022 at 9:03 pm | Edit
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I'm told that someone found this ad for Governor Ron DeSantis objectionable, and that it has disappeared from television. I wouldn't know; I saw it because it still shows up as an ad on some of the YouTube channels we follow. (I haven't figured out how to block ads on either my phone or our Roku—any ideas?)

I love it; it is so DeSantis, and so Florida. I had to go to Australia to find a good copy to post, but here it is, one minute of fun:

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 5, 2022 at 8:27 am | Edit
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