All posts by Philip Waring

Am retired. With my wife Josée I Iive in Tampa, and go often to Paris. There's not yet a bridge between the two cities and we have to fly. These two cities are far apart, but I'm working hard at finding real connections between them. Tampa is America, the best and the worst of it. Paris, well, Paris is Paris.

herodotus and thucycides

Each of these subject areas or stories that I mention in the previous post could be told by our own historians in hundreds, thousands of different ways, while always leaving much more still to be said. For as I would say the information available to us today online may be infinite and the historians among us who would describe what is happening would have to at least consider the infinite quantity of material available to them, without ever being able to take into account more than a tiny fraction of what’s our there. So what does the historian do? They write their own histories, and they compete with the hundreds of others writing no less their own histories often of the same controversy or war time battle for the reader’s attention.

Imagine now the existence of thousands of world voyagers much like Herodotus, writing about what they are observing in their travels. You don’t have to imagine it for it is happening right now. Why the New York Times and so many of the other Fake News publications do this every day. They have amazing writers and reporters that go out there into the world, much like Herodotus, to come back and tell us what they’ve seen. And I never tire of reading them, for reading them there is always more to learn about the world, more I did not know.

Imagine a thousand or more individuals with the intelligence and sensitivity of Thucydides looking closely at our own wars, giving us full descriptions of what happened, and more important what was going on underneath the surface disagreements and battles. Herodotus and Thucydides where are you now? Well you may very well be here with us but in multiple copies, and that’s good.

And I haven’t even mentioned Homer. But I’m sure he’s here too, somewhere. When you have thousands of us looking about us and writing about what we see it’s inevitable that there will be some of them who will have as much to tell us about our world, more actually, than the ancients, when there were only a very few, writing, about their own compared to ours, tiny world. Because today’s historians, and perhaps poets also, will have read the ancients and incorporated the ancient wisdom into their own works. Or something like that… I often think that we live in the best of times, assuming that we will have a decent guy as our president in January of 2021.

Life in hong kong has always been impossible

Now in the era of Donald Trump and Covid-19 life does also seem to be impossible, almost as if time were standing still. And in particular all the Trump twitter about restoring the past, making America great again, moving full speed ahead as Trump likes to say, if that were ever to happen, that would be the height of standing still, no movement at all. Trump doesn’t understand that In this country it’s never been about going back, always about lessening present inequalities, shoring up present inadequacies, addressing if not correcting some of the country’s flaws and deficiencies and only then moving incrementally on.

In Hong Kong life seems to be at a stand still, where it’s been, it seems, forever. The neighboring Chinese authorities do from time to time get anxious about all this freedom so close to their imprisoned millions and decide within the freedom of their own freedom what to do about the freedom of others, usually taking it away.

But there’s nothing new here, is there? In Hong Kong Life Has Always Been Impossible and now with the coming of Donald Trump and his lying, servile minions (aka Republican Senators) life here also is becoming no less impossible.


“Take care tonight/ Things might not look like this tomorrow.”

By Karen Cheung

Ms. Cheung is a writer in Hong Kong.


阅读简体中文版閱讀繁體中文版

Last year, in July, a month after the protests over an extradition bill began in Hong Kong, I renewed the lease on my flat. For the first time since I turned 18, I would be living in the same apartment for more than two years. It felt like an accomplishment, like I was a real adult.

My place is almost 300 square feet, and it has a view of trees and steps, which is such an improvement from my last flat that sometimes just looking out the window makes me emotional. I ordered a cheap Ikea carpet and put up old posters. I started buying vinyl records and physical books again. I could be here for a while. It began to feel like home.

There are so many reasons Hong Kong is not a particularly habitable city, so many reasons you might want to leave, even without the Chinese Communist Party threatening to throw dissidents in jail.

Windowless apartments, subdivided flats, bunk beds. If you have children, your choice is either to send them to local schools, where they face an unforgiving education system, or international schools, which can cost as much as $13,000 a year. The high rents or archaic land regulations and bureaucracy can force out anyone trying to run an independent space for music, art and expression. Rates of depression have recently reached a 10-year high, but quality mental health care is too expensive for ordinary people.

I am 27 now, and when I was younger, I desperately wanted to leave Hong Kong. I grew up in a neighborhood that, at the time, felt like a cultural backwater. There were no bookstores, no art, no record shops. I attended a conservative Christian school and never really fit in. I went to concerts alone. I wrote fan fiction and spent all my time on Tumblr.

I thought I wanted to go to school in London or New York, where I’d finally find “my people.” The longest I’ve ever managed to be away from the city was four months, for an exchange semester in Scotland. I never really ended up going anywhere.

But that was OK, because eventually I did find my people. I met community activists and other young creative types who showed me an alternative way of living in Hong Kong. I became a regular at the cha chaan tengdiners in my neighborhood, where I’d be given a second bowl of soup at dinner once the staff found out that I didn’t live with my family. There were local musicians whose shows I’d never miss. In university, I began going to protests.

The poet Maggie Smith writes, “Any decent realtor,/ walking you through a real shithole,/ chirps on/ about good bones: This place could be beautiful,/ right? You could make this place beautiful.”

There is an annual march on July 1, the anniversary of the British “handover” of Hong Kong to the Chinese, and soon I took it for granted that about this time every year, I would be marching through the streets in the sticky heat. I belonged, and I was proud to be here and not anywhere else. Hong Kong was still unforgiving, but we could expand the space for what is possible here.

This year, on the evening of June 30, the condolences started coming in. Earlier that day, China had passed the new national security law, which took effect within hours. The sky had cracked with a coral sunset that seeped into the horizon like a warning.

Friends living abroad sent me texts: I’m so sorry, hope you’re OK, thinking of you. Restaurants started peeling protest stickers off their glass windows. Some writers I know have been trying to scrub their work from the internet and deleting their chat records. The law is broad and gives China new ways to punish protesters and silence dissent.

Former classmates are discussing immigration plans or getting married, so that if they need to, they can flee with their partners. Others are figuring out how to renew their British National Overseas passports, the documents issued to Hong Kongers born before 1997, which could allow them to stay in Britain for five years.

Before the new law made the chant “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” possibly illegal, my favorite place to hear it was at tiny music clubs, “livehouses” that stink of beer and sweat at the end of the night. After the encores, the last guitar note still reverberating, someone would yell the first half of the slogan, and others would answer in unison. At the end of December, I celebrated New Year’s Eve at a small pro-protest cafe where a friend played the unofficial protest anthem, “Glory to Hong Kong,” and everyone sang along.

After six months of street protests and police violence, we were all exhausted, but it still felt like we were on the cusp of change.

I was 10 when the Hong Kong government tried to introduce a national security law in 2003, and it was quickly withdrawn after half a million people took to the streets in protest. That proposal was a sword that hung over us for nearly two decades, a threat to what Hong Kongers hold most dear — a culture of protest, the rule of law, freedom. We’ve been fighting for “freedom,” that abstract concept, for so long, with no idea of what losing it would look like. It was delivered with devastating speed — the whole process took less than two months — in the form of a 66-article piece of legislation that we had no say in. Hong Kongers, academics and overseas commentators say this is the endgame, that after this law, Hong Kong will be “dead.”

Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

But I don’t really know what that means. Seven and a half million people still live here. On July 1, some protesters unfurled a banner with an obscenely worded message professing love for Hong Kong, and soon that phrase became a hashtag. The subtext is that we might not have a place to love anymore. I have a law degree, and I am a former reporter, so I am conditioned to have an almost religious belief that legal processes are fair, that the annual protests penciled into the calendar are allowed to take place. That version of Hong Kong is now a relic.

But not everything has disappeared. The bookshop near my flat posted a message on social media: “Life goes on, resist fear.” A reporter I know tweeted, “I’ll just try my best to pretend this law doesn’t exist, keep calm, and carry on.”

I don’t want to downplay how terrifying the national security law is. People were arrested under that law on the first day, some of them just for carrying a flag bearing suddenly “outlawed” slogans. Courts can deny bail and hold secret trials. No one knows how to navigate this new reality.

Yet people are already coming up with cheeky, humorous ways of circumventing the new rules, resisting the temptation to be too obedient and give in to the chilling effect. We will continue to find defiance in unexpected places.

Over the past week, I have read report after report about how there would be an exodus of Hong Kongers from the city after the law was passed. But leaving is not an option for the young people who don’t already have British or B.N.O. passports or whose families don’t have the means to send them abroad to study.

Ahkok Wong, a musician-social activist I know, actually moved back to Hong Kong recently, telling me, “I think it’s an important time to be here.” Life in Hong Kong has always been about demanding the impossible, trying to make seeds blossom in cement, he says.

After the law went into effect on July 1, I tried to write. But what I wanted was to walk around the city, and then go to the seaside where the breeze reeks of salt and summer, where couples make out and uncles jog near the pallets unloaded from cargo ships at the Western District pier. To see the city through the eyes of someone who’s just moved here and think, “I want to stay here forever.”

A view from a hilltop in the Shek Kip Mei area of Hong Kong.
A view from a hilltop in the Shek Kip Mei area of Hong Kong. Credit…Lam Yik Fei , The New York Times

I used to see leaving as abandonment, but the cost of staying could now potentially be life imprisonment. When Nathan Law announced that he had left the city, I thought about the last time I saw him, a month ago, canvassing for an upcoming election at Hill Road. I wish I had stayed longer to thank him for trying to make this city more habitable. Four years ago, when elections still seemed to matter, I had voted for him, to make him the youngest legislator ever elected in Hong Kong, before he was disqualified. There will be new forms of resistance, here or elsewhere, and I know he will be a part of them.

I remember the night before July 1, it seemed like all my friends were posting the same song on social media, a cover by the Hong Kong band My Little Airport. It goes, “Take care tonight/ Things might not look like this tomorrow.” In between the verses, there is an archival recording of Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, saying, “Now Hong Kong people are to run Hong Kong, that is the promise and that is the unshakable destiny.”

That promise has been broken, but this is not the end. We will continue to make a home out of an imperfect place. To wipe down the mold, repaint the walls. One day we could be forcibly evicted, or this could all burn to the ground. But for now, we’re still here. Maybe we can still try to make this place beautiful.


Not to forget, Journal notes

There are things that go right for me, things that could have gone right for me. There were things that were somehow meant to be. But I have almost never stopped for them. And if it does happen that I do stop I leave behind almost no record of them, of my experience with them. These things were for the most part beginnings, things I did start but never finished. And in fact my life is made up much more of beginnings than of ends

We begin things in life, oh don’t we, oh how much the things we begin do we ever bring to a satisfactory end? At the moment I can’t think of even one, not a great time for me is it, for where I am today is old age.

In far too many cases too many things pass me by, I don’t stop for them, but mostly they don’t stop for me. These things, as I now realize represent, all the things I might have been. For we are not, most of us at all what we could of been, are we?

What then does that make us? Frustrated, dissatisfied not to have gone down our bucket list and finished. This frustration and dissatisfaction, especially in times of state and national elections, leads us on looking for someone who will promise us a greatness we have never known for ourselves. We haven’t lost that dream, to make something of ourselves, and alone that is why we admire so much those who unlike us do start and finish things. I think of all those mathematicians, musicians,  athletes, artists, scientists… and the few of them I have known. And by the nature of things there can never be more than a few of them at the top .

Now this fact alone, that there are only a few at the top, lays bare the underlying inequalities among us and is probably more to be blamed that racism, bigotry, authoritarianism, etc. for the inequalities that we observe among us. Whereas we are learning painfully what to do about racism and authoritarianism we really have no idea what to do about the gifts and talents that are so poorly distributed among us, separating the few inexorably from the many.

But reading over what I’ve just written, while correcting the typos, or better in my case, les fautes de frappe because of my age, I think about what I wanted to write about in my 88th year. For that’s more or less the real subject of my blog. I do have a blog which I call My Journal, but as things go, as you start things, much as I started My Journal, you very quickly find yourself paying little or no attention to your first idea for writing and you end up writing another blog much the same as my earlier Quatrevingtans.

So back to where I was going with this blog before I started writing. What I find hardest to live with at my age of 88 are not my considerably diminished powers of seeing, hearing, and tasting, perhaps less, feeling and touching (what have I left out? well smelling, which was never a big part of my life anyway). I find hardest to live with the fact that when my life is over (it’s over already in respect to the people who measure this kind of thing)  and I don’t remember the name of these people, as I don’t remember the names of the flowering plants in our front yard here in Tampa, Florida. So another power I’m losing, the memory of proper names. If you don’t think this is a serious handicap try living without being able while speaking to recall this or that proper name on which your entire story or argument is probably based.

Also, there is (and this is what I really wanted to write about, but now I ‘ll have to put it off to the next time) the fact that when my life has ended there will be almost nothing that remains of me. Certainly no more beginnings, although I am still learning a few words of Arabic from my wife, as well as learning by heart the “Bénissez nous seigneur, bénissez ce repas,,” that we say at table in admiration of the Catholic family members giving thanks at the table in Blue Bloods.

I’m not just talking about the thousands of books, papers, those things all of which made up during my now long life a good part of me, perhaps the best part.

From where I’m sitting at my desk in front of my recently purchased Apple 27 inch display I look across at some of my book shelves (there are shelves of books, and there always have been in all of our rooms and all of our houses and apartments over the years, and from here I see my math library, from here most of what I see are my many versions of the calculus because there really was a time when I really wanted to learn the calculus and didn’t hesitate to buy one edition after the other, beginning of course with For Dummies.

Now my blog is not at all commercial. On the contrary it has no purpose beyond my own personal wishes and dreams. But there may be a reader out there who might want to purchase my math library, or my Russian library, or my biological sciences, in particular evolution library? Many excellent books in all three collections. And there are other collections too, corresponding to moments, to years in my life, The Greek years, the Great Books years, the Italian and Spanish, and German years…

But there were three very special moments in my learning years, not moments in school but personal times when I sensed almost from first encountering them their special importance, and not just to me. These encounters, with the calculus, the Russian language, and evolution, were made probably too late for me to obtain a kind of fluency in any one of the three, without which they will or have already died.

And now in my life the three of them are hanging by threads close to disappearing even before I do myself. You might be saying, why just these three? No good answer to your question. Calculus is important, as is evolution, as are foreign languages, but so are any number of other subject matters. But a good part of my own life has been taken up by these three, at least in respect to time spent and purchases made…

journal notes

The better worlds once imagined have never been realized, whether it be those of 18th. century France, 19th century Russia, or 20th century United States. But still the consensus today is that things are getting better. If nothing else in proof of this there is Bill Gates’ favorite book, Enlightenment Now, or The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker.

But there is also the fact, not in favor of this conclusion, that we have an ignorant, lying buffoon as president of the United States. Things are getting better? Well maybe after November 3rd of this year when the president is ejected by the people.

However, we, that is humanity, has clearly progressed, Pinker is right. But not just because there are more of us, more Homo Sapiens, on the earth than ever before. Rather because we understand better our own role on this earth which is two fold, to protect the earth, and to protect yes ourselves, but more important those most in need of our help. One might even say that man’s principal role on the earth. is not just to feed himself, but to feed the hungry (wasn’t this what Jesus Christ tried to tell us, his message being now mostly lost in the machinations and prevarications of the millions of Evangelicals and their ilk). And if we have made progress it’s because, in spite of the Evangelicals, more and more of us realize that’s why we’re here.

We are called the exceptional nation. What does that mean? Maybe something like this? To what other nation on earth have those most in need, those who still want a better life, run in such numbers? The so-called successes of other nations have always been counted in terms of great men and women. While that too our successes have always been counted by the numbers of people who have come here looking for a better life. That’s why it”s us, first among the world’s nations, who have been labeled the nation of immigrants.

Now wouldn’t you think that this being our greatness we would seek to preserve it? But no, today, and on any number of past occasions, our government authorities would by a wall yes, “Build that Wall!” but much more often and more insidious by administrative actions, by rule after rule, until finally the refugee has had enough of our land and turns about and goes back. “Home”? that which was no more when he left, weeks, months and years before. And the rational for the actions of our immigration officers in every case if always the same, that immigrants, the refugees, of whom we are told that there are 70 million of them today, will by coming here take our wealth, our jobs, and destroy us a nation. Whereas the immigrants themselves have shown us over and over again they bring with them new wealth, new jobs and most of all a new ability to build where there was nothing before.

If you want to understand what I mean by a wall of rules read Rachel Morris’ article (really the modern history of immigration to our country) in the Huffington Post of July 18th. It’s a long article, and will take some time to read, but more than worth it. Here below from the article are her final words:

Back in 1924, Johnson-Reed’s (who would bring to an end the Jewish flight to our country from Hitler’s Germany) supporters never anticipated the Holocaust, and yet they expanded its horrors. We don’t know where our own future is headed, but we live in a time of metastasizing instability. Last year, the United Nations’ official tally of refugees passed 70 million, the highest since World War II. Mass migrations, whether because of violence or inequality or environmental calamity or some murky blend of factors that don’t conveniently fit existing laws, are the reality and challenge of our era. There aren’t any easy solutions. But already, what started as a series of small, obscure administrative changes is resulting in unthinkable cruelty. If left to continue, it will, in every sense, redefine what it means to be American.

I conclude with this too (From the Prologue to Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, or The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress).
The common sense of the eighteenth century, its grasp of the obvious facts of human suffering, and of the obvious demands of human nature, acted on the world like a bath of moral cleansing. —Alfred North Whitehead

herd immunity

There are a couple (probably many more) expressions emerging from the Coronavirus pandemic presently spiking in most states of the United States that I greatly appreciate, these two being, one, social distancing and two, herd immunity. I’ve probably never used either expression up until now but I’m sure I will in the future. They so well summarize two well entrenched, if not until now well recognized, characteristics of our lives.

For example, we’ve always avoided for whatever reason close contact with others, usually those a bit different from ourselves, that being a kind of social distancing (before Dr. Fauci), and we’re constantly benefiting from the other, that being herd immunity, or being somehow protected by the numbers of others about us who are immune to this or that bug or disease. In important respects social distancing and herd immunity are in some respects opposite solutions to successfully combatting the virus.

Now what is herd immunity? I take the following text from an article in the Atlantic of July 13, by James Hamblin, A New Understanding of Herd Immunity.

Based on the U.S. response since February, we’re still likely to see the virus spread to the point of becoming endemic. That would mean it is with us indefinitely, and the current pandemic would end when we reach levels of “herd immunity.”

This being traditionally defined as the threshold at which enough people in a group have immune protection so the virus can no longer cause huge spikes in disease.

But a coronavirus vaccine is still far off, and last month, Anthony Fauci, th head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that, because of a “general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling,” the U.S. is “unlikely” to achieve herd immunity even after a vaccine is available.

The concept of herd immunity comes from vaccination policy, in which it’s used to calculate the number of people who need to be vaccinated in order to ensure the safety of the population.

All well and good. Cool terms social distancing and herd immunity. In the few words that follow I’m not able to restrain myself.

When Anthony Fauci said “because of a “general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling,” the U.S. is unlikely…” What he really meant, or means is because of Donald Trump, who doesn’t read, doesn’t know the history of our country, let alone the world, doesn’t respect the discoveries of modern science, who is someone who listens only to himself, and who is still for another four months or so, alas! our president.

Of what are perhaps our two most important allies in the war against the virus, distancing and herd immunity, Trump has done nothing to make them more effective. Has even sought to undo them. Almost from the beginning when both Covid-19 infections and deaths were growing at exponential rates Trump pushed constantly to get people back to work and back to school, that is undo social distancing, almost as if the virus wasn’t there. And of course the numbers of new infections spiked.

And when achieving herd immunity depends of testing everybody and making the appropriate measurements Trump did nothing on the Federal level, to bring this about, where joint efforts might have had a chance to succeed. And what was he doing, playing golf. With the result that we now see.

on trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison,

Charles Sykes (at the Bulwark) spoke of “a revelation” that he has experienced, courtesy of Trump. “The heart of politics is not about the policy,” he told me. “It’s about the values. I can disagree with you on eight out of 10 issues, but if you’re an honorable, honest, empathetic human being, we can do business.” Trump is none of those things. Joe Biden is most or all of them — and will get Sykes’s vote in November.

But real conversation happily is still possible among us, that which Donald Trump is not capable of. I take the following example of a real conversation from Dostoevsky’s The Possessed. You might say, in the manner of Charles Sykes, that if you are an honorable, honest, empathetic human being, you can have a real conversation. Our President can’t. And for four years I’ve missed it, our country’s president as a man talking with men. He’s not a man, and there are no men about him, only sycophants pulling his strings and leading him on.

From Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, Part One, Chapter Two. Prince Harry—

Varvara Petrovna: Listen, Stepan Trofimovitch, of course I’m ignorant compared with you on all learned subjects, but as I was travelling here I thought a great deal about you. I’ve come to one conclusion.”

Stepan Trofimovitch: “What conclusion?”

VP: ”That you and I are not the wisest people in the world, but that there are people wiser than we are.”

SP: “Witty and apt. If there are people wiser than we are, then there are people more right than we are, and we may be mistaken, you mean? Mais, ma bonne amie, granted that I may make a mistake, yet have I not the common, human, eternal, supreme right of freedom of conscience? I have the right not to be bigoted or superstitious if I don’t wish to, and for that I shall naturally be hated by certain persons to the end of time. Et puis, comme on trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison, and as I thoroughly agree with that…”

VP:“What, what did you say?”

SP: I said, on trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison, and as I thoroughly…”

VP: “I’m sure that’s not your saying. You must have taken it from somewhere.”

SP” “It was Pascal said that.”

VP: “Just as I thought…it’s not your own. Why don’t you ever say anything like that yourself, so shortly and to the point, instead of dragging things out to such a length?

“My personal belief is, I have faith in God,” he said. “If God wants me to get Covid, I’ll get Covid. And if God doesn’t want me to get Covid, I won’t.”

Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Caseshe virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps. More than 650 cases have been linked to reopened religious facilities.

By Kate Conger, Jack Healy and Lucy Tompkins, The New York Times, July 8, 2020

Pastor Ron Arbaugh of Calvary Chapel of San Antonio said that he did not know how the virus had spread in his church but that he regretted announcing after several weeks of resumed services that congregants could hug one another again.

PENDLETON, Ore. — Weeks after President Trump demanded that America’s shuttered houses of worship be allowed to reopen, new outbreaks of the coronavirus are surging through churches across the country where services have resumed.

The virus has infiltrated Sunday sermons, meetings of ministers and Christian youth camps in Colorado and Missouri. It has struck churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.

Pastors and their families have tested positive, as have church ushers, front-door greeters and hundreds of churchgoers. In Texas, about 50 people contracted the virus after a pastor told congregants they could once again hug one another. In Florida, a teenage girl died last month after attending a youth party at her church.

More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database.

“There’s a very fine line between protecting the health and safety of people, and protecting the right to worship,” said George Murdock, a county commissioner in northeastern Oregon, where the largest outbreak in the state has been traced to a Pentecostal church in a neighboring county. “It’s one we’ve been walking very nervously all along.”

While thousands of churches, synagogues and mosques across the country have been meeting virtually or outside on lawns and in parking lots to protect their members from the virus, the right to hold services within houses of worship became a political battleground as the country crawled out of lockdown this spring. In May, the president declared places of worship part of an “essential service” and threatened, though it was uncertain he had the power to do so, to override any governor’s orders keeping them closed.

Continue reading “My personal belief is, I have faith in God,” he said. “If God wants me to get Covid, I’ll get Covid. And if God doesn’t want me to get Covid, I won’t.”

Joe Biden, please take Tom Friedman’s advice

Thomas Friedman:

Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless Trump Meets Two Conditions

• The New York Times, July 7, 2020

First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. Biden has already done so, and they are on his website. Trump must, too. No more gifting Trump something he can attack while hiding his own questionable finances.

And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.

Debates always have ground rules. Why can’t telling the truth and equal transparency on taxes be conditions for this one?

Yes, the fact that we have to make truth-telling an explicit condition is an incredibly sad statement about our time; normally such things are unspoken and understood. But if the past teaches us anything, Trump might very well lie and mislead for the entire debate, forcing Biden to have to spend a majority of his time correcting Trump before making his own points.

Biden should not go into such a high-stakes moment ceding any advantages to Trump. Trump is badly trailing in the polls, and he needs these debates much more than Biden does to win over undecided voters. So Biden needs to make Trump pay for them in the currency of transparency and fact-checking — universal principles that will level the playing field for him and illuminate and enrich the de im, stay in his hotel in Washington or use it for corporate entertaining.

Debating Trump is unlike debating any other human being. Trump literally lies as he breathes, and because he has absolutely no shame, there are no guardrails. According to the Fact Checker team at The Washington Post, between Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, and May 29, 2020, he made 19,127 false or misleading claims.

Biden has been dogged by bone-headed issues of plagiarism in his career, but nothing compared to Trump’s daily fire hose of dishonesty, which has no rival in U.S. presidential history. That’s why it’s so important to insist that the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates hire independent fact-checkers who, after the two candidates give their closing arguments — but before the debate goes off the air — would present a rundown of any statements that were false or only partly true.

Only if leading into the debate, American voters have a clear picture of Trump’s tax returns alongside Biden’s, and only if, coming out of the debate, they have a clear picture of who was telling the truth and who was not, will they be able to make a fair judgment between the two candidates.

That kind of debate and only that kind of debate would be worthy of voters’ consideration and Biden’s participation.

Otherwise, Joe, stay in your basement

Journal Notes, It’s Sunday, july 4th,

Hello, Today is the 185 th day of the year. Here in Tampa, FL where I am sunrise is at 6:39am, Moonrise at 8.13pm.

What’s your lattitude and longitude? Mine are latitude 27.9193357, and longitude: -82.506322 for this address: W Santiago St, Tampa, FL 33629, USA

Now there was a period, of a few days or weeks, when I did know when the sun rose. Not any more. Only that it rose in the East and brought the morning with it was about all that I could say. I never knew the time of the moonrise.

Now I notice that there are today about 14 hours, almost, between sunrise and moonrise. The moon follows the sun? Is that always true? But wait a minute neither the sun nor the moon rises. Isn’t the earth turning, and turning around the sun, not around the moon. I would point out that we don’t know, at least most of us, 99.9 percent of us don’t know at any time the time of sunrise or moonrise. Not the school’s fault.

There are things we’ve always known about things that ought to bring us together. But instead even as we grow ever more intertwined, we stay ever more resolutely separate from one another, group from group, individual from individual.

We live on the same planet but on that same planet we live in thousands, tens of thousands of different worlds. You might say that’s the way it is, that it’s always been this way, but that’s not true. Things change, and more important, beliefs change and we change with them. Some different worlds do get together, as the contries in 1945 after the war.


Thoughts on Education. Now it can’t really be done, take away a child’s ignorance, even our own ignorance. Also most of what is known is known only in part by specialists of the parts.

So what is it that we try to teach children in the schools? When I was in school, in public high school and later at an independent private educational institution, education was most of all having to memorize , and then giving this back at test time.

Things are better now, now we teach children to think, or to understand, knowing whole lines, whole stories rather than bits and pieces here and there. And I suppose that’s an improvement.

Yet when we look closely at our graduates they know no more how how to think than they did when they had to memorize the Krebs cycle in organic chemistry class (I had to do that, but I’ve long forgotten what it is). Do students still have to do that now?

Why is it so hard for us to see that education can never be having kids learn this or that, because the this or that are infinite and nothing within that infinity of things and ideas is more valuable than anything else in that infinity.

Like at MHS, public school, my having to learn vocabulary lists in English, and Spanish classes, and the lists say of the major wars fought in Europe in modern times, and any number of other such lists.

Education has to be something other than acquiring information and our school systems haven’t yet learned what that is.

While it’s really all very simple, isn’t it. Education has to proceed from what’s already there in the mind and heart of the learner, has to be what interests him or her, what corresponds to what he or she might like to do with their lives, not all about what we want them to do with their lives. The latter doesn’t work and more than anything else has accounted for the failure of our schools. Why isn’t this cried out from a bully pulpit so that everyone can hear it?

Why is this so hard to understand, that learning can’t be imposed on the learner, but that the learner has to seek himself, what and how to learn. The best we can do is to make suggestions, and to share, perhaps, when appropriate what we are doing.

Lessons drawn from Donald Trump at Mount Rushmore.on July 4? Are there any lessons to be drawn?

He certainly made us aware of the divisions that separate us.

Isn’t what any one of us humans see as the whole world is only what those same “any one of us” happened to have encountered, whatever belief we happen to have adopted as our own, the result of this being that it’s really, happenstance, chance that principally drives us. Why don’t we walk away from the separations, join up with others who are always in fact more alike us than different?

Now in Trump USA there are those, perhaps more than ever before who want to hold onto the differences between us, for they like being different, being rich rather than poor, white skinned rather than dark or colored. And who can argue with them, that rich is not better than poor, that white skin is not better than dark because if nothing else your chances of becoming rich are greater.

You could say that those who are white and rich understandably want to keep the country that way, and not share the country’s land and riches with those who come here often as refugees and mostly poor.

And you could say also that the Donald, The President, if he understands anything at all understands that those coming here from what he calls the “shit-holes” of the world, the tens of thousands of Central Americans for example who came here looking for better lives are in Trump’s eyes a foreign invasion and have to be stopped. And if not by a wall, by soldiers with guns. Trump would keep these people out, and if they were somehow already here Trump would deport them, often having separated the children from their parents.

And Trump’s actions would seek to assure his gun toting base that they, his base, white and rich, would never have their guns taken away from them.

While many are against Donald Trump’s ideas, see him as a major threat to our democracy there are very few who would stand up against him. Certainly not the Republican Senators, also known as Trump’s enablers.

Am I just one? There have been a very few others on the world stage, one in particular being Angela Merkel who in 2015 allowed millions of fleeing Syrians into her own country Germany.

Might we encounter another one, a Jimmy Carter redux perhaps?


Back to education talk and notes. Why is it so hard to understand that learning can’t be imposed on the learner, that instead the learner has to learn by his own efforts powered by his own interests. The best we can do is to make suggestions to him and when appropriate to share with him what we are doing ourselves.

Varvara et stepan part 1

OK. Why below my three columns with the three identical passages taken from English, French, and Russian versions of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Demons, or the Possessed? I’ve probably just incorrectly used the word version, because the Russian version is Dostoevsky’s original novel and the two others are just translations. Although I suppose nothing prevents an author having more than one version of the same novel, and in fact most authors probably do, and it’s even possible that the one that gets published is not the best of them.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ok, but what’s in a name?

A lot evidently, given the Wikipedia response below to my what’s in a name question. Also according to many readers including myself Весы is Dostoevsky’s greatest novel (you are probably asking how that can be given the Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and the Idiot). I think it’s because of the central place in the novel of two very credible stories, one that of an allegory of the potentially catastrophic consequences of the political and moral nihilism, and two that of a friendship, that between between Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Verkhovensky, friendship always being perhaps the very best answer to nihilism,

The original Russian title is Bésy (Russian: Бесы, singular Бес, bés), which means “demons”. There are three English translations: The Possessed, The Devils, and Demons. Constance Garnett‘s 1916 translation popularized the novel and gained it notoriety as The Possessed, but this title has been disputed by later translators. They argue that “The Possessed” points in the wrong direction because Bésy refers to active subjects rather than passive objects—”possessors” rather than “the possessed”.[3][4] However, ‘Demons’ refers not to individuals who act in various immoral or criminal ways, but rather to the ideas that possess them: non-material but living forces that subordinate the individual (and collective) consciousness, distorting it and impelling it toward catastrophe.[5]


Варвара Петровна и Степан Трофимович

from Dostoevsky’s Demons,
Part One, Chapts. 2 and 3

But there was nothing Varvara Petrovna dreaded so much as a humorous tone.

She was a woman of the classic type, a female Mæcenas, invariably guided only by the highest considerations.



The influence of this exalted lady over her poor friend for twenty years is a fact of the first importance.

I shall need to speak of her more particularly, which I now proceed to do.

There are strange friendships. The two friends are always ready to fly at one another, and go on like that all their lives, and yet they cannot separate. Parting, in fact, is utterly impossible.


The one who has begun the quarrel and separated will be the first to fall ill and even die, perhaps, if the separation comes off.

I know for a positive fact that several times Stepan Trofimovitch has jumped up from the sofa and beaten the wall with his fists after the most intimate and emotional tête-à-tête with Varvara Petrovna.





This proceeding was by no means an empty symbol; indeed, on one occasion, he broke some plaster off the wall. It may be asked how I come to know such delicate details.


What if I were myself a witness of it? What if Stepan Trofimovitch himself has, on more than one occasion, sobbed on my shoulder while he described to me in lurid colours all his most secret feelings. (And what was there he did not say at such times!)


But what almost always happened after these tearful outbreaks was that next day he was ready to crucify himself for his ingratitude. He would send for me in a hurry or run over to see me simply to assure me that Varvara Petrovna was “an angel of honour and delicacy, while he was very much the opposite.”




He did not only run to confide in me, but, on more than one occasion, described it all to her in the most eloquent letter, and wrote a full signed confession that no longer ago than the day before he had told an outsider that she kept him out of vanity, that she was envious of his talents and erudition, that she hated him and was only afraid to express her hatred openly, dreading that he would leave her and so damage her literary reputation, that this drove him to self-contempt, and he was resolved to die a violent death, and that he was waiting for the final word.)







You can fancy after this what an hysterical pitch the nervous outbreaks of this most innocent of all fifty-year-old infants sometimes reached!






I once read one of these letters after some quarrel between them, arising from a trivial matter, but growing venomous as it went on.




I was horrified and besought him not to send it.

“I must… more honourable… duty… I shall die if I don’t confess everything, everything! “He answered almost in delirium, and he did send the letter.

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« Varvara Petrovna ne craignait rien tant que le sens de l’humour.


C’était une femme d’esprit classique, une femme mécène qui n’agissait qu’au nom de considérations élevées.


‘L’influence qu’elle exerça sur Stepan Trofimovitch fut capitale.



Il faudrait parler un peu d’elle, c’est ce que je vais faire.


Il est des amitiés étranges : ces deux amis qui avaient la plus haute estime l’un pour l’autre, passèrent toute leur vie en ayant presque envie de s’entre-dévorer, et cependant, ils ne purent se séparer.

Il leur était même tout à fait impossible de se séparer : l’ami qui, pris d’un caprice aurait rompu le lien tomberait le premier malade, et en mourrait peut-être.

Et pourtant, j’ai vu à plusieurs reprises qu’après les effusions les plus enthousiastes entre Varvara Petrovna et Stepan Trofimovitch, une fois celle-ci partie, mon ami Stepan bondit soudain de son divan et se prit à marteler le mur à coup de poings. »

Je n’exagère rien : un jour même, dans un de ces transports furieux, il déplâtra la muraille. On me demandera peut-être comment un semblable détail est parvenu à ma connaissance.

Je pourrais répondre que la chose s’est passée sous mes yeux, je pourrais dire que, nombre de fois, Stépan Trophimovitch a sangloté sur mon épaule, tandis qu’avec de vives couleurs . ll me peignait tous les dessous de son existence.


Mais voici ce qui arrivait d’ordinaire après ces sanglots : le lendemain il se fût volontiers crucifié de ses propres mains pour expier son ingratitude ; il se hâtait de me faire appeler ou accourait lui-même chez moi, à seule fin de m’apprendre que Barbara Pétrovna était « un ange d’honneur et de délicatesse, et lui tout opposé ».



Non content de verser ces confidences dans mon sein, il en faisait part à l’intéressée elle-même, et ce dans des épîtres fort éloquentes signées de son nom en toutes lettres. « Pas plus tard qu’hier, confessait-il, j’ai raconté à un étranger que vous me gardiez par vanité, que vous étiez jalouse de mon savoir et de mes talents, que vous me haïssiez, mais que vous n’osiez manifester ouvertement cette haine de peur d’être quittée par moi, ce qui nuirait à votre réputation littéraire.
En conséquence, je me méprise, et j’ai résolu de me donner la mort ; j’attends de vous un dernier mot qui décidera de tout », etc., etc.





On peut se figurer, d’après cela, où en arrivait parfois dans ses accès de nervosisme ce quinquagénaire d’une innocence enfantine.






Je lus moi-même un jour une de ces lettres. Il l’avait écrite à la suite d’une querelle fort vive, quoique née d’une cause futile.





Je fus épouvanté et je le conjurai de ne pas envoyer ce pli.

— Il le faut… c’est plus honnête… c’est un devoir… je mourrai, si je ne lui avoue pas tout, tout ! répondit-il avec exaltation, et il resta sourd à toutes mes instances.


Но ничего так не боялась Варвара Петровна, как юмористического смысла.

Это была женщина-классик, женщина-меценатка, действовавшая в видах одних лишь высших соображений.

Капитально было двадцатилетнее влияние этой высшей дамы на ее бедного друга.


О ней надо бы поговорить особенно, что я и делаю.

Есть дружбы странные: оба друга один другого почти съесть хотят, всю жизнь так живут, а между тем расстаться не могут.




Расстаться даже никак нельзя: раскапризившийся и разорвавший связь друг первый же заболеет и, пожалуй, умрет, если это случится.

Я положительно знаю, что Степан Трофимович несколько раз, и иногда после самых интимных излияний глаз на глаз с Варварой Петровной, по уходе ее вдруг вскакивал с дивана и начинал колотить кулаками в стену.

Происходило это без малейшей аллегории, так даже, что однажды отбил от стены штукатурку.



Что, если сам Степан Трофимович неоднократно рыдал на моем плече, в ярких красках рисуя предо мной всю свою подноготную?
(И уж чего-чего при этом не говорил!)




Но вот что случалось почти всегда после этих рыданий: назавтра он уже готов был распять самого себя за неблагодарность; поспешно призывал меня к себе или прибегал ко мне сам, единственно чтобы возвестить мне, что Варвара Петровна «ангел чести и деликатности, а он совершенно противоположное».

Он не только ко мне прибегал, но неоднократно описывал всё это ей самой в красноречивейших письмах и признавался ей, за своею полною подписью, что не далее как, например, вчера он рассказывал постороннему лицу, что она держит его из тщеславия, завидует его учености и талантам; ненавидит его и боится только выказать свою ненависть явно, в страхе, чтоб он не ушел от нее и тем не повредил ее литературной репутации; что вследстви этого он себя презирает и решился погибнуть насильственною смертью, а от нее ждет последнего слова, которое всё решит, и пр., и пр., всё в этом роде.

Можно представить после этого, до какой истерики доходили иногда нервные взрывы этого невиннейшего из всех пятидесятилетних младенцев!

Я сам однажды читал одно из таковых его писем, после какой-то между ними ссоры, из-за ничтожной причины, но ядовитой по выполнению.

Я ужаснулся и умолял не посылать письма.

— Нельзя… честнее… долг… я умру, если не признаюсь ей во всем, во всем! — отвечал он чуть не в горячке и послал-таки письмо.

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