Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Egg On Their Faces

This bit of news from the Washington Post made me smile a lot.

Eggs. Many, many eggs. That is what greeted a trucker convoy protesting outside the home of a Democratic state lawmaker in Oakland, Calif., last week.

It turns out that residents of the East Bay neighborhood, including the younger ones, were not happy with the hulking rigs disrupting their lives.

Video shows people pelting the trucks with eggs and shouting, “Get out of our town!” Many youths are seen celebrating after emptying several cartons and launching a barrage of eggs.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” one of the egg-throwers is heard yelling in the video.

Drivers had been blasting their horns and crowding the roadway outside the East Bay home of State Assembly member Buffy Wicks on Friday. The truckers said on a live stream that they were targeting the Democrat because she had proposed a bill preventing coroners from investigating stillbirths and other lost pregnancies. Another bill she proposed, which has since been put on hold, calls for employers to mandate that workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The California Highway Patrol and Oakland police told the San Francisco Chronicle that no arrests or citations were issued and that the demonstrations, which congested roads outside the lawmaker’s home for about an hour, were peaceful. Those departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Erin Ivie, a spokeswoman for Wicks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ivie told the Mercury News that the lawmaker would not be intimidated by the protests over her support of the abortion rights bill.

“Bullhorns and loud trucks lend no legitimacy to baseless conspiracy theories, and Asm. Wicks will not indulge any attempts to influence her legislative work through harassment and intimidation tactics — especially when it’s directed at one’s home and one’s family,” Ivie said.


Video shows people holding out egg cartons for others to grab and chuck at the vehicles. In one instance, an egg hit a man’s face as he was driving.

More than a dozen children hurled eggs at trucks near the intersection of 63rd Street and College Avenue. One member of the People’s Convoy tried persuading the teens not to throw the eggs — to no avail.

“We’re fighting for your freedoms too,” a convoy participant yelled, according to SFGATE.

At one point, some young people told a convoy member to roll his window down. When he didn’t, they launched at least six eggs at the truck and then scurried away, according to video.

At least one protester conceded on a live stream that the egg-throwing children had forced the convoy to leave the neighborhood.

Many future generations of chickens gave their all to humiliate those losers.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Friday, April 16, 2021

Happy Friday

Charlie Pierce on empathy.

One of my good high school friends buried both my parents. His father buried three of my four grandparents and his grandfather buried mine. They are the third and fourth generations of their family burying other members of other families. (The Irish way of death is nothing if not a family business at both ends.) A good undertaker is someone who can be there without getting in the way. The undertaker is omnipresent and yet nearly invisible, never present until needed. Then, their presence is nearly spectral. Their only job is to make sure things run in as efficient a manner as possible, and to do so with quiet humanity, so the family can go through the formal ritual of mourning without being swamped with extraneous details.

I was thinking on Tuesday that the president would be a terrific undertaker. First of all, he’s been proven to be very good at wakes and funerals. Second, he looks the part; I can envision him in the long black cashmere coat, wrangling cars into line for the drive to the cemetery. And last, and most important, he has a deep and abiding empathy. He carries his personal tragedies with great dignity, and employs them only when it is absolutely called for. On Tuesday, as they conducted a memorial service for Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans in the Rotunda, he deployed it in the gentlest way possible.

One of Evans’s daughters was fidgety, playing with a small replica of the Capitol dome. Fidgety kids are one of those extraneous details that great undertakers discreetly handle for The Family. The little girl dropped the toy on the floor. It bounced a little ways away from where she was sitting. The president instantly popped out of his chair, picked up the child’s toy, and handed it back to her, stopping to talk to her, too,

To compare this moment of humble humanity to anything having to do with the president’s predecessor is to cheapen it unforgivably. These are different species of homo sapiens, as different from each other as swans are from vultures. Kindness towards a child would seem to be a baseline indicator of civility and grace but, nonetheless, there it was, in front of god and the world. That it seemed so powerful is not just because of what it was, but because of all that it was not.

Friday Catblogging: “Can Sombra come out and play?”

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Class Act

Good for you, Bill.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a statement Monday that he had turned down the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump because of the “tragic events of last week,” a reference to the rampage at the Capitol.

You’re way ahead of Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Mattis Denounces Trump

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis on his former boss’s reaction to protestors.

In Union There Is Strength

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

I don’t know Sec. Mattis personally, of course, but what I’ve read of his background made me wonder why he accepted the job as Trump’s SecDef in the first place.  I suppose he thought he might be able to control his fascistic urges but soon learned that it was not going to happen.  Whatever the reason, he was fired and has, like a good soldier, kept his mouth shut.  That may fit in with his discipline, but I think he needed to speak up sooner.  But better late than never.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thank You

To the generous reader and friend who made the donation, I am both grateful and challenged: grateful for your support and challenged to keep up to your expectations, both of which I gladly accept.  It will go to a good cause, believe me.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

In Charge

After Tuesday’s meeting in which Nancy Pelosi basically ran the table, why would there be any doubt from anyone — Democrat or Republican — that she has the power and the smarts to be the leader of her party and Speaker of the House?

In contrast to Trump, she knows how to lead, she knows what she’s doing, and most importantly, she knows how to negotiate.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi clinched the votes for a second stint as House speaker on Wednesday after agreeing to serve no more than four years in a deal with a group of Democratic rebels — a significant concession to their demands for generational change.

The group of insurgents wanted new blood in the top Democratic ranks and maneuvered for months to deny Pelosi (D-Calif.) the votes she would need. After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiating, Pelosi backed off her resistance to setting a date for her departure but avoided becoming an immediate lame duck.

“Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Almost immediately, seven Democratic holdouts said they would back Pelosi. Their support would be enough to secure the House majority that she needs for her election to speaker on Jan. 3 — 218 votes if all members are present and voting for an individual.

That’s true leadership and confidence in your abilities and knowing when to leave.

And the way things are going with Trump, by 2022, she might be in the middle of her first term as president.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Seventy Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

From an earlier time: December 1950 in St. Louis at my aunt’s deb party.

The years have been good to us.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Reading

Craven — Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the firing of Andrew McCabe.

If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.

Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.

The President has crusaded for months against McCabe, who is a crucial corroborating witness to Trump’s attempts to stymie the F.B.I.’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. McCabe had first earned Trump’s enmity for supervising, for a time, the F.B.I.’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices, which ended without charges being filed against her. In these roles, McCabe behaved with the dignity and the ethics consistent with decades of distinguished service in law enforcement. He played by the rules. He honored his badge as a special agent. But his service threatened the President—both because of the past exoneration of Clinton and the incrimination of Trump, and for that, in our current environment, he had to be punished. Trump’s instrument in stifling McCabe was the President’s hapless Attorney General, who has been demeaning himself in various ways to try to save his own job. Sessions’s crime, in the President’s eyes, was recusing himself in the Russia investigation. (Doing the right thing, as Sessions did on that matter, is often a route to trouble with Trump.)

Sessions’s apparent ground for firing McCabe, on the eve of his retirement from the Bureau, thus perhaps depriving him of some or all of his retirement benefits, involves improper contacts with the news media. As an initial matter, this is rich, coming from an Administration that has leaked to the media with abandon. Still, the charges seem unfair on their face. After McCabe was dismissed, on Friday night, he said in a statement that the “investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week.” The idea that this alleged misdeed justifies such vindictive action against a distinguished public servant is laughable.

In his statement, McCabe spoke with bracing directness. “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” he said. In other words, McCabe was fired because he is a crucial witness in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. The firing of Comey is the central pillar of a possible obstruction-of-justice case against the President, either in a criminal prosecution or in an impeachment proceeding. By firing McCabe, Trump (through Sessions) has attempted to neuter an important witness; if and when McCabe testifies against Trump, he will now be dismissed by the President’s supporters as an ex-employee embittered by his firing. How this kind of attack on McCabe plays out in a courtroom, or just in the court of public opinion, remains to be seen.

What’s clear, though, is the depth of the President’s determination to prevent Mueller from taking his inquiries to their conclusion, as his personal attorney, John Dowd, made clear. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Dowd said, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.” Of course, notwithstanding Dowd’s caveat that he was speaking only for himself, Rosenstein is on notice that his failure to fire Mueller might lead to his own departure. And Sessions, too, must know that his craven act in firing McCabe will guarantee him nothing. Trump believes that loyalty goes only one way; the Attorney General may still be fired at any moment.

To spin matters out further, Sessions could be replaced with someone already confirmed by the Senate—perhaps Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the E.P.A.—who could take office in an acting capacity. At the moment, Mueller’s investigation is supervised by Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General, but presumably a new Attorney General, without Sessions’s conflict of interest, would take over that role. And that new Attorney General could fire Mueller. Such scenarios once seemed like the stuff of conspiracy theories. Now they look like the stuff of tomorrow’s news.

Andrew McCabe, who turns fifty on Sunday, will be fine as he moves to the next stop in his career. The demeaning and unfair act that ended his law-enforcement career will be seen, properly, as a badge of honor. Still, this is far from a great day for the men and women of the F.B.I., who now know that they serve at the sufferance of unethical men who think that telling the truth amounts to “sanctimony.” The lies in this story are about the F.B.I., not from the F.B.I. The firing of McCabe, and Trump’s reaction to it, has moved even such ordinarily restrained figures as John O. Brennan, the former director of Central Intelligence, to remarkable heights of outrage. Brennan tweeted on Saturday:

The haunting question, still very much unresolved, is whether Brennan’s confidence in America’s ultimate triumph is justified.

Look For The Union Label — John Nichols in The Nation on Conor Lamb’s message to Democrats.

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are running scared. After the Republican candidate who ran with the ardent backing of the Republican Speaker of the House and the Republican president lost a special election for a Pennsylvania congressional seat in a district that was so Republican-friendly that Donald Trump won it by 20 points and the former GOP congressman regularly ran without opposition, the men who define the Republican Party as it now exists had to explain their loss.

So they announced that the Democrat who beat them was, more or less, a Republican. Ryan claimed that the victor in Tuesday’s special election, Conor Lamb, ran as a “conservative.” Trump claimed that Lamb leaned so far to the right that, the president mused, “Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.”

This is the carefully crafted spin that politicians peddle after they have suffered a setback.

Lamb’s narrow victory, which could still be challenged with a recount demand, unsettled top Republicans for good reason. It suggests, as the 2018 midterm-election season takes off, that Democrats could win almost anywhere. According to the Cook Political Report, there are 118 Republican-held seats in the US House that are less Republican-friendly than Pennsylvania’s District 18. This vulnerability explains why Ryan and Trump want pundits and pols to imagine that Lamb embraced their policies and simply ran with a “D” after his name. They want that to be the “lesson” that pundits and pols take away from Tuesday’s election result.

The real lesson, the one that Democrats need to recognize, is precisely the opposite. Lamb isn’t exactly a progressive Democrat. But Ryan’s being absurd when he tries to identify the Pennsylvanian as a conservative. Lamb campaigned as a sharp critic of corporate influence on American politics, someone who criticized Trump’s tax policies and aggressively defended the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs that Ryan seeks to dismantle. Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, says: “Lamb’s victory is a repudiation of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan’s plans to gut the American people’s earned benefits.”

There’s no question that Lamb adopted cautious language—and cautious stances—on several issues of consequence. Even as he supported abortion rights, the Democrat described himself as “personally pro-life.” Though he backed background checks for gun purchases and was explicitly opposed by the National Rifle Association, Lamb’s response to gun-violence issues was disappointingly tepid. The same goes for his vapid statements on immigration. And Lamb’s digs at House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi were political gimmickry at its most drab.

But on the essential issue of labor rights, Lamb ran a far more militant campaign than most prominent Democrats have in recent decades. The candidate sought labor endorsements, as Democrats usually do, and he called his Republican rival out for taking anti-labor positions. But Lamb went much further than that. Instead of treating organized labor as a special-interest group, he embraced unions like the Pennsylvania-based United Steelworkers as a vital piece of the infrastructure for a healthy civil society.

On the short list of priorities that he made the focus of his campaign, Lamb listed “Unions” and declared: “I support unions, and I’m proud to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO. I believe that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions. And I know that when unions do the work, it gets done on time and on budget. Union members in our district can count on me to be the most effective ally they have in fighting to protect their rights, support prevailing wages and Project Labor Agreements, and defeat the ideological extremists who want to put unions out of existence.”

Go search the websites of prominent Democrats for similar sentiments. Rarely, if ever, will you find this sort of explicit pro-labor message. Listen to the speeches of Democratic winners (and losers) in recent races for lines like these from Lamb’s election-night address:

Side by side with us at each step of the way were the men and women in organized labor.

Organized labor built Western Pennsylvania. Let me tell you something: Tonight, they have reasserted their right to have a major part in our future. These unions have fought for decades for wages, benefits, working conditions, basic dignity, and social justice. Thank you! Thank you!

You have brought me into your ranks to fight with you. Let me tell you something else: I am proud to be right there with you.

National media outlets have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the reality of what Americans think about unions and labor rights. They have, for the most part, failed to communicate the significance of Conor Lamb’s bold embrace of a labor movement that has been the target of a brutal assault by billionaire donors like the Koch brothers and political tools like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Lamb put organized labor at the center of his campaign. That was smart politics. As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka explained: “Conor Lamb won this race because he proudly stood with unions, shared our agenda and spoke out for our members.” That is the lesson Democrats should take from this special election. And it’s not just a lesson about western Pennsylvania or the embattled Great Lakes states.

Americans like unions. The Gallup polling organization has for 80 years asked voters: “Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?” The current approval rating, 61 percent, rivals the high rates of 50 years ago—when leaders of both major parties pledged their allegiance to organized labor.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps because unions were so popular, even Republicans were supportive of them. There was an understanding that former Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was on to something when he explained: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt [a wealthy political donor of the era], a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Ronald Reagan, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, ran for governor of California in 1966 as a foe of Republican assaults on labor rights. “Reagan recalled with pride his years as a labor-union president,” Time magazine reported at the time. “As a result of that experience, he has taken a strong pro-labor position on right-to-work laws.” Several years earlier, Richard Nixon was an outspoken opponent of an attempt to undermine labor rights in California and make it a so-called right-to-work state.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans turned hard against labor, and too many top Democrats imagined that unions were a thing of the past.

That was always false, and it remains so to this day.

At precisely the point when strong unions are needed to address mounting inequality and injustice, Republicans like Ryan and Walker have positioned their party on the side of the virulently anti-labor extremism of the Koch brothers. Unfortunately, too many Democrats have continued to mount only lukewarm defenses of unions. That’s a mistake that has cost the party politically.

Americans of all backgrounds have experienced jarring economic and social shifts— globalization, a digital revolution, a revolution in automation and robotics—that are making them feel insecure about their future. Just as unions addressed the insecurities of the past, they are needed to address the insecurities of our own time.

Conor Lamb recognized this reality, made common cause with the labor movement, and won. His fellow Democrats would be wise to do the same.

Stephen Hawking Lived Beyond His Body — An appreciation by Héléne Mialet.

Midnight. As I was browsing the internet, I saw, like shooting stars, emails suddenly appear and disappear from the right-hand corner of my computer screen. The first from CNN announcing the death of Stephen Hawking, the second from an editor at TheAtlantic asking me to write about him.

I had written about the man for 10 years—as a biographer of some sort, or an anthropologist of science to be more precise, studying the traces of Hawking’s presence. But now I felt a powerless inertia, unable to write anything. I didn’t think I would be affected by his death, but it touched me deeply. I was overwhelmed by the numerous articles that started to appear all over the world doing precisely what I had studied for so long and so carefully: recycling over and over again the same stories about him. Born 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei, holder of Cambridge’s Lucasian Chair of Mathematics (once held by Isaac Newton), and now … died on the same day Albert Einstein was born. The life paths of history’s most iconic scientists intersected in weird ways. The puzzle seemed complete: Hawking had fully entered the pantheon of the great.

Because of him, I too had been in the eyes of the press. After I wrote an article in Wired magazine about his reliance on technology, I received an incendiary message on my answering machine accusing me of desacralizing his iconic status by transforming him into a robot. My picture circulated in the Daily Mail with Darth Vader at my side. I even received death threats. But I was arguing not that he was more machine than human, but rather that he was like all of us: all too human, and always dependent on others, whether humans or machines.Hawking fascinates. He has always done and he will always do. He fascinated me as an anthropologist curious to understand the ins and outs of modernity: science, technology, and, at its core, the central role of genius and individuality. Hawking was at once a “beautiful mind” in the public eye, and a beautiful counter-example to those like me who argue that science is socially, collectively and materially made.

So what to make of Hawking then—this iconic genius, who had lost the capacity to talk, and the use of his hands, and seemed to live only in his head? Was it really “all in his head”? This is the question I explored in my book: incredulous, but curious; interested in the myth, but thinking like a social scientist; respectful of the man, but ready to understand what allows him to think and produce theoretical work as a cosmologist. It is then that I started to reconstruct, one by one, what I call his “extended bodies.”

Unable to do anything by himself, Hawking had to delegate his competences to machines and humans who were doing for him what he couldn’t do alone. His disability was thus making visible what we normally don’t see and take for granted: the complex support without which not only Hawking—but anyone—would not be able to be and to think. The question was becoming then, not who he was, but where he was in these multiple collectives, in his extended bodies. And he was definitely there.Someone who can walk, when asked to give a lecture, can just jump on a train and go. For Hawking it typically took months of preparation before he could travel from one point of the planet to another. Even the questions that he would be asked had to be prepared in advance. Despite this orchestration, made possible by his many human and mechanical assistants—the people and things which in a sense choreographed his genius—the man would always surprise his audiences, making them, for example, wait for 15 minutes, only to respond to an elaborate question with a simple “yes” or “no”.

Writing an article for him was often the product of a close collaboration with his students. But more than once, though his students had spent months doing complex calculations, they would often underplay their own contributions and give credit instead to Hawking’s amazing intuition. Intuition? Thinking, you mean? Yes, of course, he was a master at thinking, but his thinking was aided by intellectual tools, such as diagrams, that were carefully crafted by his students who had learned his diagrammatic way of thinking. He would learn these diagrams, memorize them and think with them, as he couldn’t draw them by himself.

Yes, he was definitely there, resisting his entourage when they tried to convince him to change his software, his old program, Equalizer, that was painfully slow, but had become an extension of himself; or to change his American accent, which had become, as he liked to recall, part of his identity.

There was the Hawking who played with his audience by making them wait for 15 minutes to only say “yes” or “no.” The one who surprised me the first time I met him by telling me he would print our interviews directly from his computer, no need to record. The one who protested the white studio used in the documentary called TheHawking Paradox, because he thought it made him look dead.

But more than all of this, the image that will remain forever in my memory is Berlin. Hawking had flown from Cambridge with his assistants and a few students for an international gathering on string theory. The last night, after the meeting, we went to a fancy restaurant in Potsdam, where Churchill, Stalin, and Truman met to establish order on the world after the war. Stephen decided we should all go to a nightclub after dinner. Nobody really wanted to go; we were all tired. He was not, and so we went, dancing together till late in the night.

 Doonesbury — Dress for success.

Monday, March 5, 2018

They Might Have A Chance

David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, founders of Never Again MSD, on Real Time with Bill Maher.

I admire them for more than just their compelling drive to make something happen. Their vision goes beyond just getting bills passed and people elected; they’ve sparked a visceral response that might actually get some things done. Maybe not today — the Florida legislature is deeply embedded with NRA cronies and deeply in debt to them — but soon, hopefully before more guns take more lives.

And speaking as one of those in the generation that fucked it up, thank you for your gracious acceptance of our apology. We too had dreams of a better world when we were seventeen. I hope yours turn out better.

Monday, January 8, 2018

And The Winner Is

Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is making news.

You can read the transcript here.

This is what leadership looks like, and while there’s all sorts of chatter about running her for president — I mean, come on; who ever said a TV star could do that? — there are those who lead by inspiration, who call forth our better nature, and who can make us look to ourselves to do good and improve the lives of others without running for office.

There are going to be those who will dismiss Ms. Winfrey as just another Hollywood celebrity who is out of touch with “real America,” who have so much that they’re hardly in a position to tell us or show us the right way or any way to solve our problems and heal the abyss between various factions.  Or there will be those who say that we’ve already tried having a dynamic and inspirational leader, and all we got from that was backlash from a base that never accepted the idea that a black man could be president.  They will say, “Do we really want to go through all of that again?”

It doesn’t matter if Oprah Winfrey runs for president.  She’s reaching out to those who might or who will run and is trying to turn us away from anger and venting.

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.

I hear you.  As I’ve said many times myself, hope is my greatest weakness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2017 Pulitzers

Here’s the list of the winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes.  The Miami Herald picked up two: Jim Morin for his editorial cartoons, and for their work with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and McClatchy on the Panama Papers story.

In drama, it went to Lynn Nottage for her play “Sweat,” which is currently running on Broadway.

Congratulations to all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thank You, Friend

I received a very pleasant surprise today from a friend of this blog: a donation to the BBWW coffers.

I won’t embarrass my friend by mentioning any names, but let me take this opportunity to say a heartfelt and humble thank you for your support and encouragement.  It is a vote of confidence and an inspiration to keep on going.

Two weeks from today will not only be the election, but it will also mark BBWW’s thirteenth anniversary.  I’ll have more to say about that at the time, but having your support — financially or otherwise — is one of the reasons I keep doing this.

Thank you.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Great Scots

Remind me never to get in a Twitter war with the Scots.

You’re free to choose your favorite, but mine is “you tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Post Haste

Last Saturday morning I took nine play scripts, three books, two shirts (one Inge t-shirt and one Inge corduroy), and two Inge Festival wine glasses (boxed) to the Post Office on Laurel Street in Independence, Kansas, to mail them home because I barely had room in my carry-on for what I’d already packed. (Yeah, I need a bigger vulture for my carry-on…) Tom, the clerk at the counter, got a box and he neatly packed it all in and sealed it up. The price of postage back to Florida — the box was free — was $13.45.

The receipt says the package was accepted at 9:48 a.m. on Saturday. At 5:30 p.m. on Monday there was a knock on the front door from my postal carrier (a nice lady; she comes to our car shows) and she handed me the box. Everything was intact, barely a mark on the box, and less than 72 hours after I sent it from Kansas.

A lot of people knock the Postal Service — ah, it’s slow, it’s typical government bureaucracy, blah, blah. Except the USPS has been an independent self-supporting agency since 1972, and more importantly, can UPS or Fed Ex pick up a package on Saturday in the middle of rural Kansas and get it to South Florida in less than three days for less than $15? YMMV, but I’m impressed.

As the carrier was dropping off the box, a Fed Ex truck zoomed by. I wanted to holler “Neener, neener!”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Reading

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2015 — The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves

Welcome to a tradition started by the late Jon Swift/Al Weisel, who left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As Lance Mannion put it in 2010:

Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the “reasonable conservative” blogger Modest Jon Swift, was a champion of the lesser known and little known bloggers working tirelessly in the shadows . . .One of his projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up. Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog. His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

It may not have been the most heroic endeavor, but it was kind and generous and a lot of us owe our continued presence in the blogging biz to Al.

Here’s Jon/Al’s 2007 and 2008 editions. Meanwhile, here are the revivals from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

This post, Gay Day At The Supreme Court, was my submission.  But take a stroll and a scroll through the list of all the others and see some very good writing by some familiar names, and take a look at those you might not have yet met.

Doonesbury — The Kool Kidz Table.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Standing Ovation

One of the best things a playwright can say about seeing his work performed is “That’s what I meant.” The actors understand the characters and convey them authentically to the audience.

That was what I felt last night as I watched the reading of my new play “All Together Now” at Mina’s Mediterraneo in Miami, sponsored by New Theatre. Thank you, Kenneth Averett-Clark, Carlos Alayeto, Jonathan Mitzenmacher, Joel Kolker, Joanne Marsic, and Nicole Quintana for bringing Paul, Adam, Fox, Jim, Dorothy, and Julie to life, and thank you, Steven A. Chambers and Erik Rodriguez for guiding the play with love and care.

Also thank you to Ricky J. Martinez and Eileen Suarez for making it all happen. I am very grateful for such strong support and genuine love for theatre and making new works happen, and I look forward to going forward with you all.