Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Capital variation

with 16 comments

From the Latin noun caput, which meant ‘head,’ we get the adjective capital, which originally and literally meant ‘having to do with a head.’ Austin, where I live, is the capital—i.e. head—city of Texas. That’s one kind of metaphor. Another is calling the inflorescence of a plant in the composite botanical family (Asteraceae) a capitulum, or ‘little [flower] head.’ Even within a plant species one flower head can look rather different from another, both in shape and color, just as human heads can. You see that exemplified here with two Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) flower heads from Northwest Williamson County Regional Park on May 13th.



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In yesterday’s commentary I brought up the terrible May 14th mass murder in Buffalo, New York, in which an 18-year-old white supremacist and anti-Semite killed a bunch of supermarket shoppers, most of whom were targeted because they were black. I pointed out that some people in the media immediately claimed that the shooter was inspired by Republicans and conservatives, as well as conservative television news channel Fox News and in particular one of its commenters, Tucker Carlson. I showed you that, unfortunately for the people making those claims, a long manifesto left by the killer made clear he hated conservatives, and especially a Jewish conservative like Ben Shapiro. Nowhere in the manifesto did the killer mention Tucker Carlson.

In case anyone wants to accuse me of “cherry picking” evidence, let me add now that the killer did believe something that Tucker Carlson believes: the declining birth rate among white Americans, coupled with the American government’s allowing—even encouraging—high illegal immigration into the United States from non-European countries, has resulted in a declining ratio of white Americans. A check of the numbers confirms it. According to a Wikipedia article: “As of the 2020 Census, 61.6%, or 204,277,273 people, were white alone. This represented a national white demographic decline from a 72.4% share of the US’s population (white alone) in 2010.” You may look on the decline favorably, unfavorably, or neutrally, but the decrease in the portion of Americans who are white is real.

Now let me make a point about logic, or the lack of it. Just because two people share a certain belief or preference doesn’t mean they share all beliefs and preferences. I shouldn’t need to point out something so basic, but I feel that I have to, given the way some commenters quickly turned to guilt by association. Yes, the Buffalo killer and Tucker Carlson share a belief about the undesirability of unchecked illegal immigration. That doesn’t make Tucker Carlson in any way responsible for the mass shooting in Buffalo—any more than Senator Bernie Sanders and leftist talk-show host Rachel Maddow were responsible for the 2017 incident in which a man who admired those two public figures fired 60 shots at Republican members of Congress—one of whom almost died—who were playing baseball as practice for a game to raise money for charity.

Similarly, just because the Buffalo killer who disapproves of illegal immigration was a white racist and an anti-Semite doesn’t mean that everyone, or even most people, or even more than a smattering of the people who disapprove of illegal immigration, are white supremacists and anti-Semites. Take me, for example. As I revealed in greater detail in a commentary a year ago, I happen to be Jewish, the son of someone who fled the Soviet Union with his family in the 1920s to escape communism and anti-Semitism. I also happen to be married to someone of a different race who’s an immigrant to the United States from the other side of the world. And yet by the “logic” of some people in the media, because I don’t condone illegal immigration I must be a xenophobic anti-Semitic white supremacist. Crazy, isn’t it?


To be continued tomorrow.




© 2022 Steven Schwartzman








Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2022 at 4:33 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Thank you for the photos and the illustration of the word capital with the two flowers, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    May 19, 2022 at 8:56 AM

    • And the pictures come to you from the capital of Texas. They’re much prettier than what’s in Das Kapital.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 9:01 AM

  2. I don’t know anyone who condones illegal immigration and I’m considered pretty liberal by some standards. I also believe you can’t yell FIRE in a crowded theater (when there is no fire) and not have some guilt. That’s what folks like Tucker Carlson do every night but because they are on TV, they get away with it, citing 1st Amendment rights. I’ve seen Carlson’s show several times and his commentaries are riddled with lies and half-truths. He knows his audience will either believe him or just don’t care if he’s lying. And there are a lot of people like that and they vote. Thanks for letting me rant, Steve, and btw, beautiful photos today..


    May 19, 2022 at 9:14 AM

    • What I unfortunately can’t send you along with the pictures of the these Texas thistle flowers is their pleasant scent. I don’t know if all thistle flowers have a fragrance, but these sure do.

      With regard to condoning illegal immigration, I make a distinction between saying one is against illegal immigration while at the same time engaging in policies that fail to stop illegal immigration and thereby actually encourage it. I gave an example of that in a commentary on March 20, when I mentioned newsman Chris Wallace, who is on the political left:

      “Last year newsman Chris Wallace interviewed Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas about the problem with throngs of people illegally coming across the southern border. After various questions, Chris Wallace finally asked Alejandro Mayorkas point-blank: “Why don’t you stop them?” Mayorkas spoke words that didn’t answer the question. The American government could largely solve the problem by calling up tens of thousands of soldiers from the National Guard or the military and stationing them along the southern border with orders not to let anyone come in illegally. Of course the current administration is as likely to do that as you are to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.”

      I get the impression that most Americans are happy with our million-people-a-year legal immigration—the most of any country in the world—but are unhappy with illegal immigration, especially in the huge numbers we’ve been seeing since the current administration gained control (of power, not the border). I’ll have more specifically about illegal immigration in the conclusion of my three-part commentary tomorrow.

      As for Tucker Carlson, I’ve seen quite a few of his shows. In most cases I’ve agreed with what he and his guests have said; in some cases not. If you’d like to mention one or several things he has said that aren’t true, I’m certainly willing to hear them and see what I think about them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 10:01 AM

      • I’m not a Fox News regular but I became aware of Carlson’s show when he mentioned on his show that Tammy Duckworth hates America (back in 2020, I think). I know he likes to consider himself a shock-jock but I thought his comments were not only untrue but in the poorest of taste. Now he has pushed the racist “great replacement theory” on television more than 400 times (according to the NYT). I don’t think this kind of commentary is in any way helpful to a nation struggling with serious issues.


        May 19, 2022 at 10:34 AM

        • I’ll grant you that Tucker Carlson sometimes sensationalizes the documentaries he’s produced. I’d prefer a neutral approach that lets the facts—some of which, like overdose drug deaths and homeless encampments on city streets, are egregious—speak for themselves.

          As I mentioned in this post’s text, government statistics confirm that the portion of the American population that’s white has been declining. I don’t see how a statement of statistical fact can be considered racist. People with nefarious motives may want to spin that a certain way, but the truth is still the truth.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 19, 2022 at 7:01 PM

          • I somewhat agree, Steve. No one can argue about statistical facts. But the idea of CRT (that Fox promotes) is that non-white people are “replacing” white people in an effort to get their numbers high enough to control the country (through their votes). Yes, this can happen but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think the problem is that there are a lot of racially biased folks in this country and I feel that Fox incites them. Also, they cater to the misinformed and gullible people in their audience. I’ve said it before, we are living in the golden age of stupidity. The vaccines allow Bill Gates to track you or make you magnetic? Democrats eat babies? Trump won the 2020 election? Q?


            May 19, 2022 at 9:43 PM

            • Yes, there are plenty of people with crackpot ideas: vaccines track your location, Jews form a cabal secretly running the world, men can get pregnant and give birth. That’s why I keep emphasizing a reliance on facts, statistics, evidence.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 20, 2022 at 4:45 AM

  3. Lovely photos


    May 19, 2022 at 9:33 AM

  4. Your sensitive reminder of your lineage/family history as well as Eve’s is a nice punctuation. Yes, we all represent who we are – and hopefully all do our best to honor our families and our countries and set examples of ‘good people doing good things.’ Sometimes we address the not-so-pretty, which is a brave step – and we cannot heal as a country or world if we don’t discuss what is going wrong.

    You are tireless in sharing not only beautiful images of the flora/ and sometimes fauna of our natural world – but you also share interesting trivia – the mark of a good teacher. I’ve learned a lot from you, and also enjoy your subtle wit as well. Thank you, Profesor!

    • Gracias, Doña Lisa.
      Occasionally branching out in my posts from the world of nature to the world of words brought no objections. After the moral panic of 2020, with its months of destructive rioting and the rapidly increasing suppression of free speech, I felt like I had to say something. Not everyone has been happy with what I’ve pointed out. I’ve done my best to confirm that all the facts I’ve reported are accurate, and so far no one has claimed any of them are incorrect. I wanted to be on record warning about the illiberal turn our nation has been taking. I wish I could stick to nature and language, but world events have taken me to other places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 4:06 PM

  5. […] of illegal immigration into the United States, as I did last time, here are the official 2022 figures for the number of monthly encounters border patrol agents have […]

  6. I couldn’t help wondering if the word ‘kaput’ — used in a variety of ways — might be associated with ‘caput’ — in an “off with their heads” sort of way. At first I thought not, but when I read to the very end of the OED page for ‘kaput,’ I found the link to *kaput. Very interesting.

    I especially like that first photo, with the frowsy flower. It looks like it has a case of bed-head.


    May 20, 2022 at 7:30 AM

    • Speaking of frowsy and word origins, the latter of the former is apparently unknown. As for kaput, the American Heritage Dictionary suggests a possible connection to Late Latin cappa:


      Linguists have proposed, based on the semantics, that Late Latin cappa could have arisen from Classical Latin caput, which is related to all those words in your linked article, including native English head.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 20, 2022 at 10:02 AM

  7. […] a post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Latin word for ‘head,’ caput, led to the English word capital. A […]

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