THE PUBLIC EYE:The U.S. Reaches the Tipping Point

Bob Burnett
Friday May 15, 2020 - 04:27:00 PM

The United States has reached a critical juncture in the 2020 battle against COVID-19, a "tipping point." This is epitomized by a small but hugely symbolic action: Donald Trump's refusal to wear a protective mask.

In his 2000 book, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," Malcolm Gladwell defines a "tipping point" as a moment when there's a critical change of social perspective because a key determinant has reached critical mass. Donald Trump's refusal to wear a protective mask symbolizes his attitude about the pandemic: he's quit fighting it.

1.Trump doesn't take the pandemic seriously. During the COVID-19 crisis, Trump has been inconsistent about many things -- for example, the role of the Federal Government -- but steadfast in his refusal to wear a mask. On May 5, Donald toured an Arizona facility making N-95 protective masks but refused to don one. (The factory had multiple signs, "masks required.") On May 11, when Trump announced that all White House staff would wear a mask, he remarked that he would not. -more-


Conn Hallinan
Saturday May 09, 2020 - 11:27:00 AM

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet plagues and wars take people equally by surprise”

--Albert Camus, “The Plague”

Camus’ novel of a lethal contagion in the North African city of Oran is filled with characters all too recognizable today: indifferent or incompetent officials, short sighted and selfish citizens, and lots of great courage. What not even Camus could imagine, however, is a society in the midst of a deadly epidemic pouring vast amounts of wealth into instruments of death.

Welcome to the world of the hypersonic weapons, devices that are not only superfluous, but which will almost certainly not work, They will, however, cost enormous amounts of money. At a time when countries across the globe are facing economic chaos, financial deficits and unemployment at Great Depression levels, arms manufacturers are set to cash in big.

Hypersonic weapons are missiles that go five times faster than sound—3,800 mph—although some reportedly can reach speeds of Mach 20—15,000 mph. They come in two basic varieties, one powered by a high-speed scramjet, the other –launched from a plane or missile—glides to its target. The idea behind the weapons is that their speed and maneuverability will make them virtually invulnerable to anti-missile systems.

Currently there is a hypersonic arms race going on among China, Russia and the US, and, according to the Pentagon, the Americans are desperately trying to catch up with its two adversaries.

Truth is the first casualty in an arms race. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT:U.S.: Hands Off Venezuela

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday May 14, 2020 - 05:32:00 PM

I’m sure everyone would agree that Venezuelans deserve a better government. Let’s face it, the late Hugo Chávez's vision of a modern day “Bolivarian revolution” — a Latin American political block with a socialist bent as an alternative to U.S. hegemony. — has descended into repression and economic decline under Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. About 5 million Venezuelans have migrated elsewhere. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Causes and Effects of Brain Fatigue

Jack Bragen
Friday May 15, 2020 - 03:59:00 PM

Brain fatigue can be caused by a number of things. It can limit how much a person can handle, and it can affect numerous areas of one's life. When the brain is fatigued, it should be rested. If you do not give your brain some time off, you will not be able to rebuild capacity following a mental exertion.

Brain-intensive activities are affected by brain fatigue. Reading dense material or writing can be highly brain intensive. Many things are potentially brain intensive, including some that might surprise you.

Strong emotions seem to affect mental capacity. I know that following an episode of nervousness, it is harder to concentrate on something neutral.

I know that I am more subject to brain fatigue than most people, and it takes me longer to recover. This is a factor that limits my ability to handle anything that resembles professional employment. When my brain needs rest, it needs rest. In many "thinking jobs" a worker doesn't have that opportunity--they are expected to maintain an acceptable pace for eight hours or more, five days a week. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday May 15, 2020 - 04:19:00 PM

What's in a Name? Flowers and Rocks

Recently, I found myself wondering: How many ladies have been named after flowers? In the English language alone, we have Lily, Daisy, Rose, Rosemary, Ivy, Holly, Poppy, Violet, Jasmine, Willow, Iris, Juniper, Petunia, Ayana, Heather, Dahlia, Magnolia, Azalea, Marigold and Myrtle.

And then there's my Goth cousin, Hydrangea.

But what floral names come to mind when we're talking about guys? I could only think of one: Bud.

According to Google lore, there are only a few floral options for boys. "Ren," in Japanese, means "lotus." (Kevin Bacon's character in the film Footloose was named Ren.) "Jared," is the Hebrew word for "rose." And there's a flower called "Sweet William" but that's more a case of a flower being named after a boy. It's more likely that a boy would bear the name of a tree (as in: Alder, Cedar, Clem, Elm/Elmore, Oak, or Sequoia) than a flower. ("Elon" is also a tree-name for boys but, according to, the name's popularity planked 50% after Elon Musk illegally re-opened his Tesla auto assembly plant.) "Trevor" comes from Shatrevar, the Persian word for "flower" but when's the last time you met a fellow named Arnit, Cypress, Florent, Indigo, Moss, Oleander, Saffron, Sage, Sorrel, or Yarrow (all present on a list of potential "baby names for boys")?

It's more likely that boys are going to be named after a mineral than a flower. I'm thinking of Rocky, Stoney, Cliff, Clay, Claude (pronounced "clod"), Flint, Diamond, Garnet, Granite, Jasper, Mica, Slate, Steel, and Sterling. (The ladies garner the following hard-rock titles: Amber, Crystal, Emerald, Jade, Jewel, Opal, Ruby, Sapphire, and Zirconia.)

Charles Manson's Greatest Hits

In his May 10 Chronicle column, film critic Mick LaSalle responded to a letter from a reader who challenged LaSalle's statement that people like Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Charles Manson were incapable of accomplishing anything "humane or beautiful." While stipulating his belief that Manson should have been "executed," the reader noted that the murder-cult leader—unlike Hitler or bin Laden—had written and recorded a number of serviceable ballads and he invited LaSalle to audition Manson's "Look at Your Game, Girl."

LaSalle gave a listen and conceded: "I've heard worse on the radio—and he was a good singer." However, LaSalle added: "If we're talking about good songs by evil people, you could also make the case that The Horst Wessel Song has a good beat and you can dance to it." (Note: this Nazi anthem has been banned from YouTube.)

Many of Manson's songs bore appropriately dark titles including ""Cease to Exist," "People Say I'm No Good," "Love's Death," and "Don't Do Anything Illegal."

There's even a full-length album titled "The Manson Family Sings the Songs of Charles Manson." Among the 12 songs on the LP are: "No Wrong," "I'll Never Say Never to Always," "Goin' to the Churchyard," and "I'm Scratching Peace Symbols On Your Tombstone." -more-