“Pillar of Fire”: Dr. King Could Perhaps Have Had No Better A Biographer Than Taylor Branch…

April 3, 2018 - Leave a Response

I will probably add no more to the blog — until the date has passed, but please, I implore you — do not collapse his life into a. . . cartoonish mythology.

He was a far more complex, and nuanced thinker than most of the press accounts being churned out for this 50th commemoration would suggest. . . . do not lose him, in a sound bite.

If you really want to know the King that his fellow marchers knew (and cannot afford the time to interview them all, yourself) — you must go read all of Taylor Branch’s volumes, on his life. Throughout each volume, Branch’s narrative is meticulous and poetic American history — yet not watered down into the sound-bites so many today traffic glibly to and fro, as an excuse for analytical thinking. I’ll quote just a bit of an older interview of Mr. Branch, to give you a sense:

. . . . “King had crossed over as a patriarch like Moses into a land less bounded by race. To keep going, he became a pillar of fire. . . .”

In an interview in his Mount Washington home, Mr. Branch said he found it striking how Dr. King, in the years before his assassination in April 1968, again and again chose a course that many around him considered wrong, foolhardy and even dangerous.

“To go from winning the Nobel Prize to Selma, to force yourself to do that against the wishes of not only your white allies but also of some of your own movement people — you’re really fighting to take yourself down,” Mr. Branch said. “That ‘downward King’ is really full of passion and difficulty.

“In the early times, King is fighting for success, both for himself and his cause — that is, for recognition. And, finally, it happens. He becomes famous, wins the Nobel Peace Prize, and so forth. Lots of people wanted to celebrate him for that. And the natural tendency is to not jeopardize all that, but that’s precisely what he did. You get the picture of someone who is besieged on almost every side, and is willing himself downward to greater risk because he is driven by his conscience.”

He cited several examples: Dr. King’s involvement in the Selma voting rights campaign, his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War, his decision to move the civil rights campaign north in 1966, and his belief that an ambitious program was needed to end poverty in America.

“It was a revelation to me how controversial the poverty program was among his own people,” Mr. Branch said. “His determination to make that an issue bothered them because it went against their status. It meant associating with the poorest of the poor. The leadership class — the coat-and-tie set, whether they were ministers or NAACP types — had to go out and make common cause with illiterate sharecroppers and the equivalent of the underclass. That was not popular among the movement, and it sure as heck was not popular among white liberals. They thought he was getting out of his element, talking about economic issues instead of morality and how to treat people.

“And, of course, the same was true about Vietnam. There he was altogether out of his element, and not only was he out of his element, but many people who had never shared his cause of civil rights repudiated him, reproached him for damaging his cause by getting out into an area where he didn’t belong.”

As for King’s decision to lead civil rights marches in the Chicago area in 1966, Mr. Branch said: “You’d be surprised at the number of people who didn’t think racism existed in the North and saw it as a peculiarly Southern phenomenon. But after those marches through Gage Park and the Chicago suburbs, they were too vivid for people to ever deny that there was something primordial about race in the North, too. . . .

It is with both joy — and profound sadness — that I will mark the day. Obviously the sadness, for a life stolen by an assassin — far too short of King’s own ambitions. The joy though — that so much of what he hoped for, and dreamed of — has just even in the last few weeks, been rekindled — in a new generation:

They (in body and spirit) have crossed over, into a land less bounded by race — and now, to keep going, they must become. . . pillars of fire. . . and a good Tuesday morning, to all of like-minded good will.



The Day After Tomorrow — Fifty Years On…

April 2, 2018 - Leave a Response

At The Academy Awards, Forty-Six Years Ago Tonight…

April 2, 2018 - 5 Responses

. . .Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (after whom one of my sons is named) received an Honorary Life-Time Achievement Award. It was richly deserved; and well-overdue.

It was also the first time Sir Charles had set foot on American soil in over 20 years. In 1952, after being wrongly accused of un-American activities, in a witch hunt, he left for a London premiere of “Limelight,” a largely autobiographical film, and never returned.

Actually though, the morning after he left for London in 1952, then US Attorney General James P. McGranery declared he would be denied entry upon his return (on “moral” grounds). [Sound familiar, Messrs. Sessions, and Trump?] Subsequent independent reviews of the FBI files that were released in the 1980s — clearly demonstrate the government had no real evidence to prevent Chaplin’s re-entry.

In any event, I wanted to give this fine artist (and British knight) his due and proper. His return in 1972 — during the Vietnam War protests — earned him a 12 minute standing ovation from the Academy.

Any and all real patriots in America owe him a debt of gratitude, for both his film-making/social commentary — and his solid refusal to be intimidated by J. Edgar Hoover — his chief detractor.

Now you know. And yes — his story rings a relevant bell on this morning, as 45 threatens the DACA kids anew. . . disgusting.

[And now. . . go Villanova!]


[U] Troubling News Concerns NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: Delayed To 2020…

March 27, 2018 - One Response

UPDATED @ 8 PM EDT: NASA has put ot a press release, in which it reassures the space science community that the project will continue. Even so, I must say it is disconcerting to see an IRB established — to address the repeated cost overruns — and delays. I still think Webb will launch (eventually, in 2020), so I’ve softened my headline significantly. End update.

I will resolve, earnestly — to try to remain upbeat — but the second delay, in as many years. . . is rather ominous (especially given the vast sums we are spending on it).

As with all spacecraft, the longer one goes before hearing a ping — the greater the probability that it is. . . lost, to the eternal night skies. . . .

Here is Sky & Telescope‘s write up, from about an hour ago:

. . . .This is about a year after the last delay that was announced, which had put the launch date between March and June of 2019. The delay had been foreshadowed in an independent government report issued earlier this month.

The exact launch window isn’t definite yet, though. NASA has heard from its own standing review board, whose report indicated additional time is needed, and now NASA is establishing an additional, independent review, which will assess the mission’s chance for success and nail down changes in cost and schedule. . . .

Webb is a top science priority within the astronomical community — many is the science paper that concludes with the necessity of obtaining Webb observations. The mission also represents NASA’s largest international space science project in U.S. history, including partnerships with the European and Canadian space agencies.

Once it’s finally launched, the 6.5-meter near-infrared telescope will orbit the Sun at the L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million km farther out than Earth, a vantage point that will enable it to explore the cosmos as we’ve never seen it before. The telescope will peer back to the universe’s first stars and galaxies, seeing farther than the Hubble Space Telescope ever could. Astronomers will also use Webb to study nearby exoplanets, following up on planets discovered by the TESS mission, among others, characterizing their atmospheres, and looking for potential signs of life. . . .

Now you know — and in empathy, I must admit: I think of lost Cassini, silent Voyager and increasingly quiet New Horizons. . . . and feel pangs of loss — but usually now, only late at night.

Twisty darkened amber-colored goddesses all, now silent, in eternity, it seems. It is only at night, late. . . that I sense the loneliness of the lost pings. Truly. But it is real, nonetheless. And here I am, mourning this one — not yet even launched. Smile. . . .


It Will Be A Very Quiet Evening, Here — As We Send Off Meditations, And Heart-Felt Thanks, For The Life Linda Brown Lived…

March 26, 2018 - 6 Responses

I am headed upstairs now, padding quietly — in soft socks, to sit on the floor, and ping the ringing bowl three times — and then. . . just sit quietly, mindfully — until my consciousness, and all that I am. . . . reaches out, beyond this small blue speck, this galaxy, this universe. . . . until it crosses the void, and. . .

Until it reaches out, to a now ever so lightly-traveling Linda Brown. We all owe her. Every American alive today — every one of us — we owe her our undying gratitude — for what she endured, into 1954, and well-beyond — in order to establish the principles in Brown v. Board, for all of us: white, black, red, yellow and brown alike. Per CNN, then:

. . . .Linda Brown was 9 years old in 1951 when her father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her at Sumner Elementary School, then an all-white school in Topeka, Kansas, near her home.

When the school blocked her enrollment her father sued the Topeka Board of Education. Four similar cases were combined with Brown’s complaint and presented to the Supreme Court as Oliver L. Brown et al v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al.

The court ruled in May 1954 that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” a violation of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that no citizen can be denied equal protection under the law.

Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s special counsel and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, argued the case before the Supreme Court. . . .

She has flown — and flown past every copper colored, twisty long-legged shepherd moon-lette I’ve ever known, now. . . So, I will fall silent. And say thanks. Thanks. . . .


And On This Day, The Edmund G. Pettus Bridge In Selma, Was Crossed — 53 Years Ago…

March 25, 2018 - Leave a Response

Dr. King, Coretta Scott King and about 25,000 others finally crossed into Selma on this their third try, March 25, 1965.

. . .At times history and fate meet at a single time — in a single place — to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox.So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem. Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult.

But about this there can and should be no argument: Every American citizen must have the right to vote. . . Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes. . . No law that we now have on the books. . . can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. . . There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong — deadly wrong — to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States’ rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. . . .

— President Lyndon B. Johnson

Introducing the Voting Rights Act to Congress

I congratulate and support the young people who have taken on America’s tolerance of gun violence — as the issue of their times. These are this generation’s Bloody Sunday marchers (in many, many non-trivial ways).

Let us help them find clear voices — for a human right to be free of automatic weapon induced killing sprees, in and around their schools (despite the text of the Second Amendment — in a reading that is. . . tolerant, that the founders could have had no idea such exquisitely efficient human-killing machines would ever be in the hands of often deranged private citizens).

Now you know — and now, go be the fire that “sets the world ablaze” — for betterment: locally, nationally and globallythank you, Naomi Wadler. I could scarcely breathe, as tears rolled down my cheeks, listening to you:


The Scourge Of Felony Convict Shkreli’s Daraprim Price Gouging, As Explained By Judge Matsumoto…

March 24, 2018 - Leave a Response

[This is (largely) cross posted (with a different intro) from another of my properties.]

I’ve seen many people on Twitter say, this past week (including some MSM journalists), that old Marty was treated unfairly, compared to Elizabeth Holmes’ SEC “no additional charges” deal, from her deplorable conduct while heading Theranos. Just a few observations then, if I may. . . .

First, she is cooperating — and diming out Sunny. She is not forcing the government to spend the enormous resources required to try her, for what it can already establish: fraud.

Second, and perhaps more provocatively, her fake blood test on a chip never reached a mass market — FDA rightly stopped that. Finally, there is no evidence that any patient was harmed — let alone died — from her clearly mendacious and greedy decisions (investors were harmed, of course). Mr. Shkreli? Just about the opposite, on all the relevant dimensions. . . .

So, as we await the unsolicited letters’ release, by the court — as I promised, since Friday has come and gone, without them. . .

Here are Judge Matsumoto’s remarks — in full — at sentencing, about at least one of those letters.

To be clear, the able judge indicated the letter did not play any role in the analysis that led to the length of his sentence, or his facility placement — but she wanted to acknowledge the author, and the real harm Marty caused — since people literally died as a direct result of his disgusting, inhumane price gouging. [It may also properly count toward the amount of cash and property he ultimately forfeits.] On the record, then, in a US District Courtroom sentencing proceeding, the able Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said the following:

. . . .On the other hand, I have received some letters from individuals and organizations that describe the negative impact of Mr. Shkreli’s actions regarding pharmaceutical drug pricing. . . .

Most notably, I received a set of letters from. . . charitable organizations that work with individuals with HIV/AIDS in which they advocate for the Government’s proposed order of forfeiture in this case. . . .

One letter, from Dr. Philip Bolduc of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, states that due to Mr. Shkreli’s decision to sell the drug Daraprim for an exorbitant price, the drug is not covered by some insurance plans. Dr. Bolduc writes that they lost a patient to septic shock because of the unavailability of Daraprim due to what Dr. Bolduc characterized as Mr. Shkreli’s mendacity and greed. . . .

Indeed. Me?

I personally hope that during his long nights in prison, while unable to sleep, and awaiting dawn, Mr. Shkreli will be visited by the drawn, gaunt, agonized faces — of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world, living through the end stages of a battle with HIV, and AIDS — and that those who lose that battle, while in a sepsis-induced state, will speak to him, and regularly so — of the needless agony they endured, as they died —  without access to Daraprim. And let them do it — directly into Marty’s ear. All night long — without interruption.

That my friends, is his true karma. And it is a wheel. It is coming back ’round — for him.

[Unrelated Update: I should mention that 45’s latest letter, purporting to stop transgender enlistment in the military, is of no lawful force or authority. The matter will be decided in the federal courts, where, at present, his earlier pronouncements have been. . . that’s right — enjoined. He’s dead stick. Literally. GO OUT, march for our lives, now, one and all!]


“The Fire, This Time” — Right To Try Passes House; Awaits Senate/House Harmonization

March 22, 2018 - Leave a Response

UPDATED @ 2:40 PM EDT: Fine comment by an erstwhile Anon., here:

“When I was a post-doc, I helped run a pediatric cancer trial with children who relapsed while they were receiving chemotherapy. The prognosis for every child affected was death within several months. Parents were then offered a chance at the experimental drug/protocol I was involved with. I questioned the theory behind the study and why standard animal toxicology studies had not been run but was ignored. The parents were then lied to when “informed” consent was obtained, and the untested drug combination resulted in an interaction (which likely would have been seen if the appropriate animal toxicology studies had been performed). The reaction was absolutely horrific and instead children wound up dying absolutely horrific painful deaths.

While this is an extreme case, in my opinion this proposal may actually harm rather than help as in the scenario I describe, and may delay or inhibit the development of truly effective drugs when people insist on something that may actually not work and as a consequence not enroll in studies with drugs that may actually help.

March 22, 2018 at 1:41 PM. . . .” [Do go read these comments, on the main site. End, update.]

The Senate earlier passed a similar bill. As I said about a week and a half ago, neither version contains an adequate definition of what triggers the right to try — that is simply. . . irresponsible.

Yesterday, the House passed another version of the national right to try legislation, which Mr. Pence claims is saving lives in Indiana — at the state level. Of course, his claim is entirely without any actual evidence. The idea that someone only has two options — take an unapproved drug candidate out of Phase I, or die — is simply a classic false dilemma, in logic. There will never be any way to prove whether the patient was harmed or helped by the Phase I drug candidate.

I suppose, if I were a truly-jaundiced skeptic, I might suggest that the failure to define what triggers the right to try, with precision, is intentional — to allow wide latitude to (unapproved) drug makers — in selling their wares, to often quite-desperate patients and their anguished families. But I am not such a skeptic (cough). . . .

In any event, it will be entertaining to watch what Scott Gottlieb does (he opposes the idea — and had earlier also asked for a definition) — once the House/Senate reconciliation measure arrives.

I’ll likely be off-grid until tomorrow, now. And. . . “Go Ramblers“! Keep it spinning in good karma, down south. . . . smile.


53 Years Ago This Morning: The Kings Began A Third, And Successful, March To Selma — From Montgomery…

March 21, 2018 - Leave a Response

There were about 3,200 people, poor and wealthy, black and white — women and men — who rose early, and left, on foot with Dr. King and Coretta 53 years ago this morning. . .

They slept in the fields at night, under cover of federal military troops, as the Alabama state troopers were instructed to make the march as difficult as they possibly could. As they marched, day by day, their numbers swelled to over 25,000 — with nearly two thirds of those being whites who joined along the way, having read of this, the third attempt.

Then, after a federal court judge ruled that SCLC had the right to march over the Selma bridge, to protest for civil and human rights — a few days from now, in 1965. . . they did just that.

. . . .Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe. . . .

— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965)

I needed to shift the Universe’s energy, here — we have an end (albeit a violently awful one) to the white terrorist’s bombings in Austin — and now we must move forward. We must march onward. And so we will — as “yes, we can. . .” And yes, I will. Smile. . . .


Allergan’s Reply Brief (Restasis®/Mohawk Patent Invalidity) — In The Federal Circuit, Is Now Available…

March 21, 2018 - 5 Responses

Honestly, I’ll just post a link to the 39 pager.

I’m not really feeling it, today.

Out — into the clear cold sunshine, now.