From Derb's Email Bag: Brainteasers, Malice Or Stupidity?, Ed Biz Scandal(?)  And Hemingway Suicides, Etc.
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Just a few. 

 Brainteasers. Solutions to those in my December Diary ”Math notes” segment are here.

 Malice or Stupidity?  Some interesting reader/listener opinions on my ponderings about whether our nation’s current problems are the consequences of malice or stupidity on the part of our ruling class.

An emailer from the Southwest offers a third possibility: avarice.

Hi, Derb.  You may be overlooking a third possibility—that seemingly idiotic policies are merely cover for grift, and malice or incompetence don’t enter into the matter.  For example, even Obama acknowledged we have no interest in Ukraine. However, the defense contractors surely do.  Transgender “affirmative care”? Armies of social service and medical providers are cashing in. The border? Huge amounts of money are flowing to NGOs to service the illegal aliens.  I could go on.

Hmm.  I’m loath to believe people are that selfish, public spirit and sense of duty that far gone. Malicious actors might easily convince themselves they are acting in the public good; stupid people might just have a stupidly wrong-headed notion of what constitutes the public good; but for naked avarice there can be no excuses.

 Ed Biz Scandal(?)  My January 6th podcast included a segment on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) in Fairfax County, Virginia. The VDARE editors adapted the segment for a written article here

Asra Nomani, a conservative pundit who is herself the parent of a TJ scholar, had claimed that TJ administrators were withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college-admission prospects and earn scholarships. Those administrators were of course acting in the interests of ”equity.”

Ms. Nomani detailed her charges in a December 21st article at City JournalA slightly edited version of that article appeared in the Fairfax County Times on December 29th. Those were my sources for the podcast segment.

There were, however, even before I podcasted, allegations that Ms. Nomani was, to put the kindest possible interpretation on it, exaggerating. The most credible case for this can be found in two posts by longtime education blogger (and Tweeter and anti-woke conservative) Education Realist, dated December 28th and January 1st.  Opening paragraph from the latter post:

The two parents driving this story, Asra Nomani, a former reporter and academic, and Shawnna Yashar, a lawyer, would have probably successfully grabbed the media cycle even if TJ’s administration had been error free. They are passionately committed to challenging the admissions changes at the school as leading members of [an] organization challenging the school’s new admission policy  Both were heavily involved in the election controversy that nearly got the school’s PTSA organization expelled from the national chapter, while Yashar spearheaded the lawsuit against Fairfax County School Board for keeping the schools closed.  I support their right to advocate; my point here is simply that this entire issue didn’t occur as an organic parent movement but a focused, target effort to criticize the school.

Education Realist knows Ed Biz inside and out. Her two blog posts together are more than 3,000 words and go deep into the educational weeds—a lot deeper, plainly, than I had gone when researching my podcast segment. 

There’s some to-ing and fro-ing going on over this and I don’t know who’s getting the better of it. I just want to record my own apology for not having thought to check with Education Realist before podcasting, which I should have, and in future shall. Sorry! 

 Hemingway SuicidesI mentioned in my December Diary, in the context of a genetic basis for suicidal tendencies, the fact that Ernest Hemingway and his father both committed suicide.

A reader offers me this link, according to which I didn’t know the half of it. Sample:

Seven members of [the] Hemingway family have died by taking their own lives, including Ernest and Mariel Hemingway’s older sister, Margaux, she [Mariel] said. Hemingway had denied her sister’s death was a suicide until an event hosted by the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide in 2003.

Interesting. Is the number really seven, though? Googling around, I came up with only three others, for a total—I mean, with Ernest and his Dad—of five. The three were: Leicester (Ernest’s brother, 1982), Ursula (sister, 1966) and Margaux (granddaughter, 1996). 

I did also turn up this one:

”One of Leicester’s Grandfathers also tried to shoot himself, but had the gun taken away from him before he pulled the trigger.” 

So maybe 5½, but seven?

 Usage and Euphemism.

Dear Mr. Derbyshire,

I was surprised in your latest podcast to hear you say, “That’s how I found out that Hal had passed away.” 

There is a perfectly good English word for what happened last June 2: Hal Bynum died. 

“Passed away” is a foolish euphemism that serious people should eschew. We want to avoid death so much that we don’t even want to say the word. It’s childish nonsense, as if not saying “die” somehow keeps death away. 

Similarly, a few sentences earlier, you referred to “the passing of American songwriter Hal Bynum.” You should have said his “death,” not his “passing.”

Another ”Hmm.”  This is tricky territory.

In a general way I’m with my listener here, in favor of plain speech and against euphemism. Euphemisms do soften the hard edges of life, though, and I wouldn’t eschew them in every situation.

Definitely not in this one. As I said in the podcast, I learned about Hal’s passing in a Christmas message from his wife Rebecca. She used the euphemism, telling me that: ”Hal passed away in June.” I thought it proper and considerate to copy her usage, and I still think I was correct to do so.

 Mongolophiles Speak In the December 9th podcast I suggested that

It seems to me there is money to be made in Mongolia by marketing yard signs saying: ETHNOMASOCHISM HAS NO HOME HERE.

The signs would of course need to be in the Mongolian language. The dictionaries of that language that I’ve consulted have no entries for ”ethnomasochism” and Google Translate offers only a transliteration, which won’t do. So some research will be required; but I’m sure there’s a dollar to be made here… or at least a törög.

That stirred my mongolophile listeners to action, or at any rate to emailing.

Mongolophile Listener A: I researched the phrase ”ethnic masochism” in Mongolian here. For ”ethnic” I got  undesniy, for ”masochism,” mazokhizm—obviously Russian loan words like taksi for ”taxi” and avtobus for bus.

It appears that Mongolia, according to their population pyramid entry, which resembles a temple of some sort, reached 3,333,333 in the last year, more or less.

I looked up the 1980 population pyramid for the USA and noted that the male female ratio for the age 15-19 cohort was 4.8% male - 4.4% female, a difference of 779,202, what the hell caused that? I was born in November 1962 so I am a member of that group, born 800 years after the great Genghis Khan.

Maybe younger Americans should consider migrating to Mongolia to save their children from the woke educational establishment. Mongolia requires immigrants to exceed an income threshold, to learn their language and culture, dual nationality is not allowed. A sensible nation indeed.

However, Mongophile Listener A continues:

The people of Mongolia are very p***ed at their government, they have been protesting government corruption and inflation daily in front of the Parliament building for a week. The protesters are demanding that the Parliament be dissolved due to corrupt members associated with the coal industry benefiting from untaxed export of coal to China.  The Chinese government has reportedly executed its citizens that were involved.

And then:

Mongolophile Listener B: Perhaps the entrepreneurs you mentioned a few episodes ago would be interested in this new extension for the LibreOffice (alternative to MicroSoft Word)—a Mongolian dictionary for the spellchecker.  You can find the description here.  I haven’t installed it so I don’t know if you’ll have any luck with ”ethnomasochism.”

Thank you, Sir. I shall be sure to install it before my next venture into the Mongolian language. (Which, by the way, seems to favor the Cyrillic alphabet over the Latin one. Mongolophile Listener A sent me those Mongolian words in Cyrillic; I have transliterated.)

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