Fourth of July Quiz: Can You Answer the Hardest Citizenship Test Questions? – The New York Times

A naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles last year. Mario Tama/Getty Images

With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question? Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

You need to get 6 out of 10 questions to become an American citizen. Here are some of the very hardest. I got 7, Kathleen got a 8. Warning, It is hard. Take away, researchers find that testers can make any random set of questions ridiculously hard for an immigrant.

Opinion | My Father- Out to Sea – By Jaed Coffin – The New York Times

By Jaed Coffin

Mr. Coffin is a writer.

CreditIleana Soon

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s favorite expression has always been “out to sea.” As in, “Well, I used to see that guy around, but then he got divorced, quit his job, and he just went out to sea.” Like many of my father’s expressions, “out to sea” is based on a vague and maybe misunderstood historical allusion; in this case, to the original men of Nantucket, who, my father claims, are my direct male ancestors. These brave souls would regularly leave their families for years on end, to slaughter sperm whales in distant oceans thousands of miles from home. “That’s just how it was back then,” my father often told me, in a whimsical tone laced with longing and nostalgia. “The men in our family, they just went out to sea.”

I’ve never been to Nantucket, and, raised by my single Thai mother, have never had much interest in my father’s heritage. But as a boy, something about my father’s use of the expression “out to sea” always intrigued me. For my father, going “out to sea” carried a mystical connotation, charged with rebellion and renunciation. Men (always men) seemed to reach a point in their lives when the burdens of domestic life — spouse, kids, job, community, whatever — grew too heavy, and the only path to spiritual freedom required that we drift into the mists of existence, never to be seen again.

We make strange heroes out of those who go “out to sea”: Don Draper is one of the newest members of the club. Jack Nicholson’s character in “Five Easy Pieces” (one of my father’s favorite movies), who abandons his girlfriend at a gas station by hitching a ride to Alaska in a logging truck, definitely belongs, too. Even Siddhartha Gautama, auspicious figure of my faith, who left behind his newborn son “Rahula” (Pali for “shackle”) for a life of meditation in the forest, might be the most famous man to ever go “out to sea.” How can I argue with the Buddha?

But my affection for men who go “out to sea” gets complicated when I locate it within the context of my relationship with my father, who met my mother on a military base during the Vietnam War. After the war, my parents came back to the United States, to New England, to start a family. Shortly after I was born, my father got involved with another woman, an American woman, wandered around for a few years, then moved in with her and her five children in Vermont. This left my mother, who worked the night shift as a psychiatric nurse at the local hospital, to raise my older sister and me on her own back in Maine. Throughout my boyhood, it never occurred to me how carefully my mother — who’d been raised in a stilt house, in a dusty village in Central Thailand — had to both scrutinize and adopt the strange customs of New England culture, how learning to navigate these foreign waters became, by necessity, the great project of her adult life.”

The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day – The New York Times

By David Chrisinger

“Most of the men in the first wave never stood a chance. In the predawn darkness of June 6, 1944, thousands of American soldiers crawled down swaying cargo nets and thudded into steel landing craft bound for the Normandy coast. Their senses were soon choked with the smells of wet canvas gear, seawater and acrid clouds of powder from the huge naval guns firing just over their heads. As the landing craft drew close to shore, the deafening roar stopped, quickly replaced by German artillery rounds crashing into the water all around them. The flesh under the men’s sea-soaked uniforms prickled. They waited, like trapped mice, barely daring to breathe.

A blanket of smoke hid the heavily defended bluffs above the strip of sand code-named Omaha Beach. Concentrated in concrete pill boxes, nearly 2,000 German defenders lay in wait. The landing ramps slapped down into the surf, and a catastrophic hail of gunfire erupted from the bluffs. The ensuing slaughter was merciless.

But Allied troops kept landing, wave after wave, and by midday they had crossed the 300 yards of sandy killing ground, scaled the bluffs and overpowered the German defenses. By the end of the day, the beaches had been secured and the heaviest fighting had moved at least a mile inland. In the biggest and most complicated amphibious operation in military history, it wasn’t bombs, artillery or tanks that overwhelmed the Germans; it was men — many of them boys, really — slogging up the beaches and crawling over the corpses of their friends that won the Allies a toehold at the western edge of Europe.

Pyle was beloved by readers and service members alike for his coverage of the war through the eyes of the regular infantrymen on the front lines.”
CreditBettmann Archive/Getty Images
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments
Thank you David Chrisinger. I loved this piece. I must find a book by Ernie Pyle. My favorite story about the invasion of Normandy is the story of Hobart’s Funnies. This Englishman saw the slaughter which occurred attacking entrenched Germans, and invented weird tanks and vehicles, to save the lives of the attackers on the beach. The vehicles looked like they were from a cartoon, and the Americans laughed at their looks and the novelty of their idea. They worked. The British causalties using these bizarre vehicals was a small fraction of the Americans.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net and sings about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | The Comeback of the Century – The New York Times

“In the digital age, the printed book has experienced more than its share of obituaries. Among the most dismissive was one from Steve Jobs, who said in 2008, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”

True, nearly one in four adults in this country has not read a book in the last year. But the book — with a spine, a unique scent, crisp pages and a typeface that may date to Shakespeare’s day — is back. Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining.

Nearly three times as many Americans read a book of history in 2017 as watched the first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones.” The share of young adults who read poetry in that year more than doubled from five years earlier. A typical rage tweet by President Trump, misspelled and grammatically sad, may get him 100,000 “likes.” Compare that with the 28 million Americans who read a book of verse in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the highest share of the population in 15 years.”

Opinion | The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight – By David Brooks – The New York Times

Quote

By David Brooks,  Nov. 12, 2018     446
I watched Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “Paths of Glory” last weekend, prompted by all the World War I centenary tributes. Set in the trenches near the end of the war, it’s a movie about a man who tries to maintain his integrity and his faith in humanity amid the stupidity, futility, cruelty and cynicism of war. It’s weirdly relevant today.

Kirk Douglas plays a French colonel named Dax who lives in the trenches and leads his men in battle. Far away in the palaces, pampered French generals order his exhausted men to take a nearly impregnable German position. One general hopes the assault will help him score political points. Another is promised a promotion. Something like 4,000 men are expected to die or be wounded for these objectives.

When the assault catastrophically fails, the generals look for scapegoats and decide to execute three enlisted men, more or less chosen at random, for alleged cowardice.

Colonel Dax is finally overcome with disgust and explodes at one of the generals: “You’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. You can go to hell!”

The general — cynical, crafty, bureaucratic, incapable of emotion — replies: “You’ve spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. … You are an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We are fighting a war, Dax, a war that we’ve got to win.”

It’s the eternal argument. When you are fighting a repulsive foe, the ends justify any means and serve as rationale for any selfishness.

Dax’s struggle is not to change the war or to save lives. That’s impossible. The war has won. The struggle is simply to remain a human being, to maintain some contact with goodness in circumstances that are inhumane.

via Opinion | The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight – The New York Times

Opinion | What Did the Romans Ever Do for Us? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

Quote

“But I find myself thinking, not about the fall of the Republic, but about the Pax Romana that came after — the two-plus centuries of stability that followed Augustus. Believe it or not, I think that era does have some lessons for us; this may be a sign of mental infirmity, but I’m gonna let it all hang out.

Not long ago, I would have said that very little about the Roman Empire was relevant to anything modern. It may have fascinated early modern Europeans like Edward Gibbon, but in the end it was a pre-industrial society, incredibly poor by modern standards, and sharing few modern values. True, the Roman Empire was bigger than most pre-industrial empires, and lasted a lot longer. But was it really different in any important way from, say, Assyria?

But I read a lot of history in my spare time, and as best I can tell modern scholarship is telling us that Rome really was something special.

What I learned first from Peter Temin, and at greater length from Kyle Harper, was that Rome wasn’t your ordinary pre-industrial economy. Of course it didn’t have a technological takeoff; but peace, interregional trade, and a sophisticated business and financial system made it surprisingly productive, with an overall standard of living probably not equaled until the 17th century Dutch Republic. Harper notes that Rome was held back in some ways by a heavy burden of disease, an unintentional byproduct of urbanization and trade that a society lacking the germ theory had no way to alleviate. But still, the Romans really did achieve remarkable things on the economic front.

They also achieved remarkable things on the political front. The Romans were not nice guys; they weren’t Edwardian gentlemen in togas. They had no qualms about slavery, were often casually cruel, and had no compunctions at all about using extreme force to put down any challenges to imperial rule. But while the threat of violence always lurked in the background, the Roman Empire wasn’t held together by a reign of terror. For the most part the Pax Romana was maintained through the willing cooperation of local elites. “

 

via Opinion | What Did the Romans Ever Do for Us? – The New York Times

 

David Lindsay Jr.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Lovely piece Paul Krugman, thank you. This essay connects profoundly with any number of set backs recently. The TPP. the Trans Pacific Partnership, was one example of exemplary leadership by the Obama administration, and our allies, to continue free trade and respect for the rule of law and intellectual property rights in the Pacific rim. It was designed brilliantly to help the US and its allies coax China into more fair and legal trade practices. I hope and pray that the pro science wave will wash the no-nothings and sycophants of the 1% oil and gas crowd into the corner with a dunce cap on where they belong. Meanwhile, populist concerns need to be addressed. There is so much work to do. How do we keep out illegal immigrants for instance, without forcing the separation of parents and children, or their repatriation to death by gang warfare and terror? It might not be the Roman way, but we might have to consider requiring family planning in exchange for military help in controlling gang violence in Central and South America. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Opinion | How to Serve a Deranged Tyrant-Stoically – by Ryan Holiday – NYT

“In the ancient world, as is true today, navigating political chaos was a pressing dilemma. Philosophers were forced to decide whether to participate in, resist or simply endure the political rulers of their time. Socrates, the incorrigible free spirit, was a soldier in the Peloponnesian War and a citizen who lived through Athens of the Thirty Tyrants. Aristotle, who wrote brilliant works on justice, happiness and government, worked for Alexander the Great, a murderous warmonger.

Or consider the case of Seneca, a man whose political life mirrors much of the chaos of the Trump administration. In A.D. 49, the well-known writer and Stoic philosopher was recalled from exile to tutor the successor of the emperor Claudius, a promising teenager named Nero. Like many people today, Seneca entered public service with ideals mitigated by a pragmatic understanding of the reality of the politics of his time.

Although just a few generations earlier, the Stoics had been ardent defenders of the republican ideals (Cato, Seneca’s hero, famously disemboweled himself rather than live under Julius Caesar), by Seneca’s time most of these objections had become futile. As Emily Wilson, a translator and biographer of Seneca, writes: “Cicero hoped that he really could bring down Caesar and Mark Antony. Seneca, by contrast, had no hope that he could achieve anything by direct opposition to any of the emperors under whom he lived. His best hope was to moderate some of Nero’s worst tendencies and to maximize his own sense of autonomy.”We can imagine, too, that he saw the inexperienced Nero as an opportunity to advance his own interests and influence. Only time would reveal that fusing his fate to Nero was a Faustian bargain.”

Fascinating. Here are two of many good comments, I particularly valued.

Stephen Hoffman
Harlem

Roman Stoics like Seneca gave a characteristically Roman public spin to the academic writings of their Greek masters like Epictetus. Seneca had a writer’s vanity and high literary ambitions with which he inspired his star pupil, Nero. He made himself monstrously rich by profiteering in military contracts in the Roman colony of Britain. When the political entanglements in which he had ensnared himself finally exacted their fatal dues, he died in the messy, non-Stoic way all people die (read Tacitus’ gruesome account) ) but not without preparing his own “dignified” version of his death to leave to posterity as a literary testament.

B
BobMeinetz
Los Angeles

Unmentioned here is Marcus Aurelius’s classic Meditations, the Roman emperor’s treatise on Stoicism considered by many one of the finest works of philosophy.

When my teenage daughter was undergoing teenage-daughter-type problems I recommended Meditations to her, thinking it might provide some non-religious insight on personal values. Years later she admitted she had read it three times, and it’s since become somewhat of a secular Bible in our family.

Highly recommended to Times readers unfamiliar with Stoicism and unaccepting of theistic religion.

The Movie Dunkirk is gripping- excellent- homework. by David Lindsay

Kathleen Schomaker and I went to see the movie Dunkirk, because after some research I discovered that it got a score of 94 at Metacric.com, and got some rave reviews, and it was not criticized for tampering with the history.

It was criticized for not saying more about the heroism of the French, who held the perimeter, keeping the Germans at bay for the 8 needed days, or the 2.5 million Indian soldiers that were in that British army, but, we thought the the film was excellent. It wasn’t fun, but gripping, and exhilarating. Not to be missed by anyone who loves small luxury yatchs. Think of it as valuable, unpleasant homework.

What Was Lenin Thinking? – The New York Times

“LONDON — What was Vladimir Lenin thinking on the long journey to Petrograd’s Finland Station in 1917?Like everyone else, he had been taken by surprise at the speed with which the February Revolution had succeeded. As he traveled from Zurich across Europe to Russia, on board a sealed train courtesy of Germany’s kaiser, he must have reflected that this was an opportunity not to be missed.

That the weak liberal parties dominated the new government was to be expected. What worried him were the reports he was receiving that his own Bolsheviks were vacillating over the way forward. Theory had bound them, together with most of the left, to the Marxist orthodoxy that, at this stage, the revolution in Russia could be only bourgeois-democratic. Socialism was possible only in advanced economies like Germany, France or even the United States, but not in peasant Russia. (Leon Trotsky and his band of intellectuals were among the few dissenters from that view.)”

Where History Is Being Made – by David Brooks – NYT

InconvenientNews.Net

“James and Deborah Fallows have always moved to where history is being made. In the 1980s, when the Japanese economic model seemed like the wave of the future, the husband and wife team moved to Japan with their school-age children. Then, after 9/11, they were back in Washington, with James writing a series of essays for The Atlantic about what might go wrong if the U.S. invaded Iraq.

In 2006, they moved to China and both wrote books about China’s re-emergence. Over the past few years they have been flying around the U.S. (James is a pilot), writing about the American social fabric — where it’s in tatters and where it’s in renewal. That was pretty prescient in the lead-up to the age of Trump.”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Love this op-ed piece “Where is History Being Made,” David Brooks. Thank you. I tuned into the Fallows in…

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