If Balboa Could Find the Pacific Ocean, Why Can’t You?


Pacific Ocean map

I mentioned in class today that 30 percent of Americans age 18 to 24 cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map . . .

(This was in the context of income diversity — or “income inequality,” take your pick — i.e., I can’t find the Pacific Ocean on a map but I’d like to be paid the same as a Harvard MBA.)

Students absolutely could not believe this so I Googled the link to this National Geographic article.

Not only was I proved correct on my Pacific Ocean assertion, 58 percent of respondents could not find Japan on a map, 65 percent couldn’t find France, 69 percent couldn’t find the United Kingdom, and 11 percent could not find the United States.

The survey is a bit old now — it was taken in 2002 — but if anything, I’m sure the current situation is worse.

If my kid could not find Japan on a map, I hope someone would give me a good hard kick in the nuts because that definitely indicates a problem in the home.

Gore Vidal has speculated that geography has not really been taught since World War II so as to keep people in the dark as to where we are blowing things up.

(On a related note, only 17 percent of young adults in the U.S. can locate Afghanistan.)


You know who’s really good with geography? My dad. Not only does he know where everything is, he knows which large countries own which tiny island groupings, etc. When it comes to geography, he knows it all.

Does this command a great deal of respect from anyone?

Well, I remember once during a family discussion, my mom named three members of our extended family whom she considers to be “nuts.”

My sister added two more people to the list, including my dad.

“No, Dad is not nuts,” my mom said, “although he gets along well with the nuts.”

My dad said to me, “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever had from this family.”

“That you’re not nuts?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

Steve Martin Caro, 1948-2020


He was the lead singer on one of my favorite 1960s songs . . .

RIP Steve Martin Caro


    There are a lot of things about us women
    That sadden me, considering how men
    See us as rascals.
                        As indeed we are!
— Aristophanes, Lysistrata

Jack Sheldon, 1931-2019


RIP Jack Sheldon

When Is a Mass Shooting Not a Mass Shooting?


Chicago shooting: 13 people were shot at a house party honoring a man killed earlier this yearCNN.com

This is a wild story . . .

First of all, the shootings took place at a gathering honoring a man slain earlier this year.

According to police, shots were fired within the residence, which caused everyone to start to leave.

As partygoers fled the home, police believe one of them opened fire outside.

Then a vehicle was driving down the street and one of the people who left the residence, not the same person who was randomly firing at people leaving the house, fired on the vehicle.

So we had one person firing inside the house, one person firing at people leaving the house, and a third person firing at a vehicle driving down the street, for a grand total of 13 victims.

Because no one involved can be labelled a white supremacist, CNN refrains from calling this a “mass shooting” and the story is of local interest only.

Things Seem To Be Proceeding at a Dizzy Rate

Gustave Flaubert

I wouldn’t have thought from reading Madame Bovary that Flaubert had much of a sense of humor, but here’s something he said in 1850 that’s not only quite funny but, except for the centuries count, will probably never go out of date:

From time to time, I open a newspaper. Things seem to be proceeding at a dizzy rate. We are dancing not on the edge of a volcano, but on the wooden seat of a latrine, and it seems to me more than a touch rotten. Soon society will go plummeting down and drown in nineteen centuries of shit. There’ll be quite a lot of shouting.

Would You Eat Them With a Goat?


My breakfast sandwich at Subway . . .

Green eggs and ham

Long have I longed, till I am tired
  Of longing and desire;
Farewell my points in vain desired,
  My dying fire;
Farewell all things that die and fail and tire.
— Christina Rossetti, “Till Tomorrow”

Keys to Marital Longevity



  1. Both partners should drink heavily and/or watch a lot of television.
  2. Get a dog.

It’s Hard to Remember Which Side the Intolerant Bigots Are Really On


“One thing I’ve noticed about online dating profiles is that a lot of people will say something like ‘No Trump Supporters,’ but I’ve never seen one profile where someone says ‘No Trump Haters’ or ‘Trump Supporters Only.'”

“That’s interesting. I mean, Trump is a polarizing figure but I’d expect it to split about 50-50 between ‘No Trump Supporters’ and ‘No Trump Haters.'”

“No, that’s not the case. It’s not 50-50, it’s 100-0. Nor are there specific exclusions mentioned for other polarizing figures, i.e., ‘No Bernie Bros’ or ‘No Socialists.’ I’ve never seen ‘No Atheists’ or ‘No Christians.’ But I see a lot of ‘No Trumpsters.’

“Ironically, the main beef about Trump and his supporters, as I understand it, is they are intolerant bigots. It makes you wonder, you know, which side the intolerant bigots are really on.”

There’s So Much Loneliness in the World



“I had a coffee date yesterday. My first date in over 25 years.”

“You met online?”


“How did it go?”

“It was heartbreaking. She was 39 years old, still lives with her mother and uncle, has a personality that explains why she still lives with her mother and uncle at the age of 39 . . . and yet she dressed up, drove out to meet me hoping I suppose that maybe I was the person who would save her from being alone the rest of her life.

“And of course I was hoping something similar about her. But I couldn’t save her and she couldn’t save me. There’s so much loneliness in the world. I wish I could save everyone but I can’t save anyone. Including myself.”

Ilhan Omar Forcibly Separating Children From Parents?


Ilhan Omar files for divorce from husband Ahmed Hirsi amid affair allegationsNew York Post

Why aren’t we hearing more about the Ilhan Omar extramarital affair and divorce?

I remember when it was reported that Donald Trump had an extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels . . . that was a national news story for MONTHS! There was a period of time when her attorney, Michael Avenatti, was getting more airtime on CNN than the actual CNN hosts, for no reason other than to make derisive remarks about Trump.

Unlike the Trump case though, where there was no divorce and everyone went on with their lives, Omar has filed for divorce, as has the wife of the man she had the affair with.

Both families have minor children, who will be forcibly separated from their parents, and if there’s one thing the progressive left hates, it’s children being forcibly separated from their parents.

“For Estefani, Third Grade, Who Made Me A Card” by Aracelis Girmay


Neon Glory


My Soul


Oh feed to the golden fish his egg
Where he floats in his captive bowl,
To the cat his kind from the womb born blind,
And to the Lord my soul.

— Stevie Smith, “My Soul”

Greta Thunberg


I don’t like being lectured by children . . . because they’re dumber than I am, less experienced than I am, and have nothing interesting to say. (With rare exceptions. John Stuart Mill, for example.)

You might not object to Greta Thunberg being terrified and programmed for political advantage because you like the positions she’s espousing, but it would be just as easy to program a child to espouse positions that you find abhorrent and then what would you have to say? Whoever is doing this does not have the child’s best interests at heart, in my opinion.

President Trump responded to the Thunberg speech via Twitter and was widely condemned for mocking a child.

If you put a 16-year-old girl in front of the UN to espouse provocative opinions, I think you forfeit the option of responding to pushback by saying “Oh my god, he’s criticizing a 16-year-old girl! It’s beyond the pale! Is there nothing these people won’t stoop to?”

Again, someone (or a collection of someones) seems to have genuinely terrified this girl for no reason at all other than political theater.

AR-15s and AK-47s


Here’s a phrase I’m hearing a lot of lately: “AR-15s and AK-47s.” As in “We’re going to take away your AR-15s and AK-47s.”

It really doesn’t make sense to talk about those two weapons together. I’m not a gun expert but among media people reporting on gun issues and especially among politicians presuming to legislate gun issues, the level of ignorance is really appalling.

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. It’s a semi-automatic rifle, meaning the action will automatically cycle a new round after each shot, but the shooter must release the trigger and pull it again to fire another shot


Granted, the AR-15 looks a lot scarier than older rifles favored by Buffalo Bill and George Armstrong Custer, but the principle is the same: only one round is discharged with each pull of the trigger.

In fact, the AR-15 looks like an M16, the military version of the AR-15 that is capable of fully automatic operation. This leads to AR-15s being called “military style” weapons. But a “military style” weapon is not a military weapon. It’s a deceptive term meant to suggest that an AR-15 is a battlefield weapon capable of fully automatic operation, which it isn’t.

The AK-47 is a fully automatic assault rifle capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute. You can’t in the US own a fully automatic weapon manufactured after 1986, so supply is low and prices are prohibitively expensive.

The mention of AK-47s together with AR-15s is again intended to suggest that the AR-15 is some kind of fully automatic machine gun.

Anyone using the phrase “AR-15s and AK-47s” is either incredibly ignorant about guns, or presumes that you are incredibly ignorant about guns, or both.

Not Waving But Drowning


Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

— Stevie Smith, “Not Waving But Drowning”

How Many White Supremacists Are There in the US?


I see and hear “white supremacists” and “white nationalists” being tossed around every day but I never see any reporting on how many Americans actually identify as white supremacists or white nationalists.

Why is that? Wouldn’t it be important to know that in order to have an informed opinion on the topic?

I’ve always assumed it’s because the actual number is too small to be taken seriously so it’s just omitted.

“White nationalism” is the political term of choice because it sounds a lot scarier than “an extremely small, poorly organized group of confused losers.”

Do you actually try to read anything outside of material pandering to your narrow mindset? I’ll make it easy for you. Here you go: https://sites.duke.edu/tcths/files/2013/06/Kurzman_Schanzer_Law_Enforcement_Assessment_of_the_Violent_Extremist_Threat_final.pdf

Could you just give me the number?

I could, but I’d rather you do the work of reading it yourself. It’s only 12 pages long, with lots of graphs, so it should be a quick read!

Couldn’t find it … that was a waste of two minutes. I just want “out of 327 million Americans, X identify as white supremacists.” I would guess between 10,000 and 50,000, basically a rounding error.

I think the numbers that actually matter are about violence perpetrated, and those numbers show that white/right wing extremists are more dangerous than any other terrorist group…it’s not like these folks are checking “Nazi” on their voter registration cards, so we’ll have to rely on (cold) body count, instead.

No I think we’re all opposed to mass murder no matter who is perpetrating it … my point was that I have never heard or read an estimate of how many Americans identify as white supremacists. You are an informed person and you don’t know either. Why are we not given that number? Because it would turn out that 99.99% of Americans are *not* white supremacists. We hate white supremacists. But as long as people are uninformed about the actual numbers, they can be worked into a useful state of panic and fury completely out of proportion to reality.

I don’t think it’s exactly something we can track. I mean, it’s not like there’s a question on the census or anything…

I think the “panic and fury” is a result of the mass murders, which are on the rise, and people are right to be upset and scared. There have been warnings and attempts to stem the violence and antagonism of those who do identify this way, but these measures have been retired because of the racist lies perpetuated by the Republicans, especially Mitch McConnell and this current administration. It’s scary because we have the facts about the violent activity of these folks, but refuse to do anything to remedy the situation. The “actual” numbers that matter and are trackable are disheartening and terrifying.

To insist that we need to know the exact numbers of card-carrying racists seems to me like an inane attempt to downplay the very real evils we are facing.

I’m surprised that a data-driven person like you would just shrug that off. OK, let’s use the murder numbers in the link you sent. Average of 25 fatalities per year due to right-wing extremists (however that is determined). For context, that’s about half the number of annual deaths from lightning strikes. Why do we not hear round-the-clock coverage of lightning strikes, and warnings to stay indoors during storms, given that they are twice as dangerous as right-wing extremists? Because lightning strikes cant be blamed on Trump. If you think 25 deaths a year in a country of 320 million supports a terrifying, evil white nationalism narrative, we will have to agree to disagree.

Comparing murder to weather might be one of the most callous things I’ve read, yet, so with that, I’m signing off this debate.

It was already over.

Fake Populism


I have no objection to populist rhetoric and no more objection to wealthy politicians than non-wealthy politicians, but phony populist rhetoric from wealthy politicians is too much to bear.