Nice People Explained: Bertrand Russel

I first read Bertrand Russell’s essay collection Why I am not a Christian In the early 70’s. One essay that affected me in particular, and that still intrigues me is Russell’s “Nice People.”

Skeptics Guide to the Universe Forum excerpt:

— Quote from: “Mike Foster” —I’ve been reading Why I Am Not A Christian, And Other Essays by Bertrand Russell. In it, he launches a fairly sarcastic – even scathing – attack on ‘nice people’ in a c1931 essay called . . .’Nice People’! He talks about people who think they are nice as often indirectly selfish, unappreciative, aloof, deceptive and inclined to exercise power indirectly through gossip etc.

It’s been a few years since this essay was published, but I am quite humbled at its timeliness. A great touchstone indeed.

Bertrand Russell

“Nice People” rather reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s bombastic apologist in Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s finely pompous character is merrily describing the land of his birth. His pride at its prowess is figuratively exceptional: sufficient to pop his vest buttons, had he been wearing a vest. Let’s imagine they are gold buttons to polish the metaphor. So he extols the virtue of his beloved British Empire at considerable length. Russell waits, as did Swift, until the very end of his writing before telling us the salient distinguishing feature of these very nicely described Nice People. Unfortunately they have nasty minds.

Nice people may also be found among those affecting membership in “The Silent Majority.”

Inexplicable Discrimination

مرحبا (Hallo),

The word for today’s class is “inexplicable.” Let’s get some قهوة عربية (arabischen Kaffee) and try to understand why news stories should be read with discrimination and not with discrimination.

Hey man, look at this crazy crap. There’s a cow on the news right now and it’s walking down the expressway. Is that like something you’ve ever seen ever? It’s like a North Korean spotted anywhere outside North Korea: an escapee from an authentically horrible place. A possible location of said cow using Google Maps: buildings densely populated by bovines. You are responsible for finding two (2) similarly inexplicable matters.

Doctors make house calls in Cuba, infant mortality is low, education is free, something about literacy rates and a cartoon character. What do my fellow Americans know about Cuba, its culture, its history?

Time for a Google search, exact phrase: “most moral army in the world”. Find a sentence that incorporates all six (6) words. For example, here is one such result from Haaretz (March 3, 2014): “The most moral army in the world fired an anti-tank missile at the house in which a wanted young Palestinian was hiding. The most moral army in the world ran a bulldozer over the top of the house and destroyed it.” I subscribe to Haaretz, so this article may not be available to you. Now, to stay on task, consider usage: inexplicable or explicable.

Class assignment: clip stories from your local newspaper about police officer heroes. Compare to episodes of The Wire. Consult this database maintained continuously and meticulously by The Guardian:

People killed by Police in 2015

You may also view the following video from Australian journalists that might pique your interest and provide examples of the “inexplicable.” It’s 53 minutes long. Remember that my quiz questions may come from anywhere in the video. If you are not a member of this class you do not have to view it. It’s here for its value; however images of gross child mistreatment are always disturbing:

Stone Cold Justice

The following link is provided as extra credit or for students majoring in the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1948 to present):

Electronic Intifada



Menschheit (Humanity)

Today’s topic is humanity and crimes against humanity. As I was putting this together, Jimmy Carter was being interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show. What a Mensch! More tomorrow..

Hamza Namira is an Egyptian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Namira sings on Arabic modern culture, discussing relevant social and humanitarian issues through his songs.

Egypt radio bans popular singer Hamza Namira for ‘critical’ songs

Here is one of those ‘critical’ songs:


And now a visit to Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces by Jewish Voice for Peace, first, from July 2014, a video:

JVP Protest at Friends of the IDF

Then a memory from Ferguson, MO. In the likely event of a possible misreading, the Nixon referred to below is Governor Jay Nixon. My excerpt is from the August 24, 2014 issue of the online article in original article on Ferguson is in Mother Jones.

Stay Human
Humane T-shirt


النكبة al-Nakba The Catastrophe

Israelis celebrate Independence Day with abandon on the 14th of each May. Remembering Nakba occurs the following day, but be aware: it is not permitted to mourn in Israel on Nakba Day, so it is forbidden to grieve ancestral family roots past, present and future. Many Palestinians lived on the Mediterranean coast. Certainly this would be my choice too, since the climate is that of Southern California. Californians also seem to prefer the coast, some prefer Sacramento. 700,000 Palestinians exiled in 1948. They left homes and lives rooted in many generations, many family trees. There is yet no legal option in Israeli law to a right to return. In the following video you’ll see a skeleton key on a sign: it signifies all the house-keys carried into the West Bank, Gaza or wherever a diaspora may take you.

Caution: This Video Contains Strong Language:

Mourning is Prohibited

Nittha Siam Kitchen in Highland Heights

When you Nittha find a great Thai Restaurant


Nittha Siam Kitchen FaceBook Page

Lisa and I spent several hours at the eye doctor yesterday to discover the origin of an eye ailment brought on by concussion. You may find yourself reading about this concussion while blog-surfing here. But we’re talking about how several hours at an eye doctor’s office before breakfast can bring on hunger pangs best addressed with Thai food.

Those readers familiar with the Fort Thomas Highland Heights metropolitan area may remember a rather nondescript Chinese restaurant near Lowes that would open, close, and open: the likely fortune of newly opening restaurants is failure in the first year. Readers, we need to act within the next nine months. Read on.

Nittha Siam Kitchen Interior

The Nittha Siam Kitchen has been open for a couple months now. The building evokes a decaying Chinese cookie-cutter restaurant. Please let me inform you. The NSK is a smartly decorated, clean, restful surprise. You’ll find a sushi bar, lovely native-Thai speakers who do not put on any phony yes-we-Asian schtick. They are friendly, genuine and warm fellow citizens of this particular planet. The unobtrusive TV features neither ESPN-NKU nor Fox BFF.

We talked to the owner-cook: a modest soft-spoken woman with the skills of a four-star chef. Delicate attention in the, let me repeat it, Nittha Siam Kitchen, is spent on subtle choices of herbs, sauces and spices that are never slammed at each other in world of warcraft skillets. A food-bot-generated price index would arrive at $$.

Lisa asked me to explain my fidgeting and my nervous appearance. I responded. “It’s 5:15, where are the diners? I’m going to lose it here. They’re going to lose it here.” Then the balloon floating above me started to fill with the words you have just read.

Please go there and report back.

2415 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights, KY 41076



Let’s see how the 3 Owls on the Bedspread are doing.

Those three friends are still there. Here is how we may find them today. Yes, these guys are nocturnal: this picture taken around 3:30 in the afternoon, so they are at rest, napping or standing on each other.
3 vertical owls
Vertical Owls












But tomorrow they may find another way to catch the eye.








Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad

Me and the Grandmas
Martha Stephens’ New Book

Martha Stephens has presented us a gift: Me and the Grandmas of Baghdad. March 2015 from Peace Works Publishing. I am conflicted when approaching due to their treatment of workers, but I patronize Amazon for their community rewards, and I like their look inside feature. After looking inside you can learn about Martha’s other trail-blazing books and read reviews. The Grandmas includes “a garden of hope and repose.” Here you meet fellow denizens of an old golf path, sapiens and otherwise as the memoir taps wars of the writer’s childhood past and shows her compassion for victims of perpetual war. She gives the victims a voice. We are all complicit in this business, and yes it is a business. Then Martha returns to a regard for magnificent teachers who sustain us.

Kindle tells me that I have now read 40%: 60% remain to read, so I jump back in…”Shelley was returning the next day to Cold Spring, Kentucky, so we caught just that one glimpse…” Part II when Kindle tells me 0% remaining.

(Edited June 27 17:00)



Jewish Voice for Peace

Full disclosure: I am a card-carrying member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a soft-spoken person. I aspire to stand on the side of peace and social justice.  I am also not antisemitic. To repeat, Jewish Voice for Peace consists of Jewish people and their friends and relations. It also does not imply that I question Israel’s right to exist.

Criticism of Israel is an exercise in free speech, it is not antisemitism.

Israel and Palestine: an animated Introduction

I’ve just read an appeal by Rabbi Margaret Holub on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace: “The Wisdom To Love Well.”

When she talks about JVP she is often countered with questions: What about China in Tibet? Minorities in other Arab countries? Congo?

Rabbi Holub:

“Of course I want justice everywhere. And, also, I care personally and heartfully about Israel and Palestine because I love Judaism and I love Jews. I care about what is being done in our names…Love is not always easy, and the love JVP calls for is a difficult love. I wish it weren’t necessary. But since it is, I am so grateful that there is a Jewish Voice for Peace to provide community, the structure and the wisdom to love well.”

Updated 17 July 2015

German Grammar: Strong and Weak

Why is German easier to read than English? And why am I writing this post in English? Those are the questions for today’s class. First, let’s take a break and read about the Mann family residences during the Exile Period. This time in Manhattan: 1938. Read the text and then watch the video at the end of the web page.




Thomas Manns zweites Zuhause im Exil

You can mark, highlight, underline and pronounce strong and weak endings as you encounter them.

Again, you might want to grab some discarded envelopes from the waste basket and jot down the strong and weak endings you hear. If there is room on the back of the envelope you could note the occurence of weak endings as follows, since they can only be ‘e’ or ‘en’


e – IIII

en – III

Of course, an adverb is distinguished from an adjective by its lack of an ending, an adjective is distinguished from an adverb by the presence of an ending.

Now back to our first question: Why is German easier to read than English?

Since case is a signal for function the first or second word in a German sentence often signals that function. Try doing that with ‘the’. So, Let us say that a sentence begins with ‘dem’. It has to be dative and it could be either masculine or neuter. We also know that it signals an indirect object or a prepositional object that takes dative only or a preposition that indicates all action occuring within a bounded area for those prepositions of relative position. All that by reading only one or two words.

Now, on to the second question: And why am I writing this post in English? By seeing ‘dem’ we immediately know all those things discussed in the previous paragraph. I first really learned German in 1971. Reading ‘the’ in English conveys nothing of that panoply of information conveyed by ‘dem’. Unless you are a young person learning German from a parent or a playmate you are unlikely to determine the meaning of ‘dem’ on your first encounter with the language.

The bell is about to ring, ending this class. Let me end with a metaphor. A German noun looks to its left for a strong ending that signals a function. By seeing that strong ending it knows its function or at least it narrows the number of functions. The adjective to the right of the strong ending sees that strength and relaxes, knowing that it can now become weak (e or en). If that same adjective does not see strength it cannot relax: it has to take on the strength itself. No chance for weakness. If that noun sees an ein word to the left without an ending (ein, mein, dein, sein, unser, euer, etc.) it says to itself “An ein is certainly not an einem or an eines or an einen, so it looks like I am on my own, so the adjective to the right of ‘ein’ will just have to take on the strong ending.

For homework grab any German text and think about nervous nouns looking to the left for support.