NEWS, EVENTS, AND A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS
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A woman who had been living in a quiet Pontiac-Michigan neighborhood was recently found dead in her garage. Her body had mummified. She had been dead for six years! In other words, for six years this woman had not been seen or even glimpsed of and no one had taken
The teacher in one of my graduate-school English classes, a Maine Yankee self-exiled to the Midwest, once declared, with a twinkle in his eye, that there was no irony in Iowa. In hindsight, I think Professor Huntress made this statement largely because he liked the alliterative aspect of it. Even
Half-Time at the Super-Bowel
A host of near-naked aborigines, their faces smeared with ash and blood, are dancing and whooping against the backdrop of a crackling fire. The night sky is moonless; the ambient darkness featureless. The very ground seems to resonate to a heavy beating of drums. Several attendants begin to prod and
The Problem with Men
As has become increasingly difficult to deny, human males have been in charge of pretty much everything over the past 200 millennia and have pretty much screwed everything up. Let us count the ways – Lusting after political and economic power Wielding such power over the weak and the vulnerable
To Big to Give a Damn
In 2009, the U.S. suffered one of its worst financial crises in its history. Thousands of people were complicit in selling subprime mortgages to people who could not afford them but were assured they could. Thousands of people were complicit in falsifying the documentation and assurances used to support the
Not One of Us
Human beings are probably as tribal in instinct as any species could ever be. At any particular moment, any particular one of us can identify ourselves as being a member of not one, not a dozen, but likely several dozen tribes of one sort or another. For example, we might
Greed Is Good
Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe-banging braggadocio to the contrary, capitalism has pretty much vanquished communism and established itself as the world’s most successful economic ideology. When you think about it, though, how could it have turned out otherwise? In the cause of creating material wealth, which, to the human psyche, represents survival
In the eyes of the IRS and U.S. law, a corporation is a ‘person.’ While this view may be a convenience to the IRS and the courts, not to mention a lawyer or two, the rest of us cannot escape the fact that, in order for a corporation to be
Why are we so fixated on celebrities? Why do we seek them out? Why do we beg for their autographs? Why do we shoot selfies outside their rumored places of residence? Why do we monitor their tweets? Why do we hang on their very public word? Why do we try
Friends for Life
We are massively connected in our time in one sense; massively dis-connected in another. We are massively connected primarily by way of modern communications systems: Internet, iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, et al. Within seconds, we can be in lingual contact with almost any other human being on the
The Gander-ites vs. the Goose-ites
Have we balkanized ourselves out of any meaningful notion of nationhood (‘from sea to shining sea’)? Is what is good for the gander-ites in New York State today likely to be what is good for the goose-ites in Wyoming? Is a young man packing heat in the first-mentioned venue, for
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were gassed or starved to death, oaths of moral outrage could be heard around the globe. Never again! The entire world would rise up as one and crush the monsters into oblivion We humans appear to be far better
Why the Catholic Church Will Not Change
There are two types of religion in the world: Respectful (we don’t know all the answers), and coercive (we know all the answers). Catholicism is of the coercive type. It survives (even thrives) through flagrant use of fear and intimidation. One example is all that’s needed to bring home the
More on Retirement
In regard to financing retirement in our culture today, what about the possibility of implementing the concept of a guaranteed minimum income for all, birth to death, to eliminate need for any piecemeal safety-net programs, including social security? I believe this concept is active in one or more of the
My father built a marina in Cape Vincent, NY, back in the early sixties. Cape Vincent, a tiny village of 795, sits where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, about three hours north and east of Rochester. At the time, Rochester was home to such mega-employers as Kodak, Xerox,
A Valentine 4 Tommie
When I get a little good news these days, I find myself needing to share it, as if to make it real. Please bear with me. The following review of Poor Richard's (Gluten Free) Food 4 Thought was received this Valentine's Day from Kirkus Reviews – As its title suggests, Fitzgerald’s
Did Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia , a primary slave state in the day, really think he was going to get away with referring to Negro slaves as 'indentured servants?' Indentured servants! I'm beginning to think this guy is a lot dumber than racist. Anybody want to weigh in on
The ‘Real’ Problem
Global climate change is not the problem. Wealth disparity is not the problem. Degradation of the natural world is not the problem. Soil erosion is not the problem. Political instability is not the problem. Depletion of fresh water and other natural resources is not the problem. Ocean pollution and acidification is
A few words about Governor Northam
First, I feel sorry for Governor Northam. He's not another Trumpite, or anything resembling such. He may in fact be a racist, but, if he is, he's likely no more racist than the rest of us lily-white folks. Question: You're white and your 4-year-old daughter has been hit by a
Why I Didn’t Do Xmas This Year
No, it’s not because I’m Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Confucian. I’m a French-Irish ex-Catholic. And, no, it’s not because of any need to ‘put Christ back into Christ-mas. (There’s no doubt in my mind that if Jesus had any say in the matter, he’d opt out of not
Two predictions: The Donald will not finish his first (and only) term. The Democrats will once again shoot themselves in the foot by moving well to the left, as they did in 1972, 1984, and 1988, Remember McGovern? Mondale? Dukakis? How could we forget Dukakis?
[In honor of Ben Franklin's 313th birthday, 17 January 2019] As the author of a novel featuring Ben Franklin, I am often asked which political party Ben would affiliate with if he were to come back. The answer of course is ‘neither.’ Ben Franklin was a child of the Enlightenment.
Rain, rain, go away…
I was struck during a recent government shutdown by how few of the affected families appeared to have a rainy-day or emergency fund. I couldn’t help but ask myself: Wouldn’t the instinctual impulse toward self-preservation we all share tend to prevent the average family from spending to the limit of
Not only can’t Johnny read; it turns out he can’t write, spell, punctuate, cipher, think, infer, or find Kanzus on a map, either. How did this happen? Let us count the ways: 1. Johnny was forged in a culture in which learning for learning’s sake, knowing for knowing’s sake, understanding
Fifth Graders to the Rescue?
Something Will Rogers might have said (to a much larger audience): “I would rather have a room full of fifth-graders in charge of all the important stuff than a chamber (pot) full of politicians.” Where’s Will Rogers when you need him?
Student-Athletes and the Second Amendment
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world in which its schools, from the secondary level through the university level, sponsor what amounts to professional athletics. This reality reflects a set of values that has long placed physical skills in America above cognitive skills; winning over learning. The
A Sad Note
When JFK was assassinated, the whole world went into mourning. For the first time ever, the bell on Westminster Abbey tolled for a non-royal. The larger-than-life figure who had given us so many reasons to be hopeful, and proud, had been ripped away from us, like a mother from her
Where have all the leaders gone?
We can’t legitimately venture an answer this question, of course, without first defining what we mean by the term 'leader,’ at least in our own eyes. There is more than one way to do this, but, for simplicity’s sake, let’s use free association to identify some of the traits we
What if JFK’s Inauguration Speech Had Taken a Bit of a Turn?
“Ladies and Gentlemen, if you must believe that pleasure and happiness are two faces on the same Eve – that when we experience pleasure we are ‘happy,’ then do not follow me. For I see pleasure as fleeting and insubstantial, derived from making ourselves comfortable; happiness as enduring and cumulative,
Michael Bloomberg et al
What if Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and a host of other billionaires who would be king were to back bank loans to those federal workers who are no longer receiving paychecks because of Donald Trump’s childish behavior? What does it say about America today that we can barely imagine any
The Wild Dogs of Africa
Nature equips the African wild dog female with 16 ‘feeding stations’ for suckling a typical litter of 12 pups. In other words, for any given litter, nature typically provides a surplus of up to four teats. The strategy here is plain to see: (1) Make the typical wild dog litter
The Two Score and Twelve Indelible Don’ts
We can view morality in terms of particles, as in the case of the Two Score and Twelve Indelible Don’ts, where each Indelible Don’t is a distinct rule or law. Or we can view morality in terms of waves, that is, as an infinite number of moral conundrums, with each
The Power of Scale
Many things that are workable in small numbers – that is, on a small scale – are not workable in large numbers – that is, on a large scale. Take, for example, the practice of using the world’s lakes and streams as sewers and dumping grounds. As long as the
Insanity by Way of Complexity
Does complexity, too much complexity, lead to (or at least contribute toward) insanity? How much complexity can humans deal with without suffering a breakdown of some kind? Is there a limit? Are we currently pushing the envelope on that limit? How would we know? What would be the symptoms? I
Litany of Shame
As is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, human males have been in charge of pretty much everything over the past 400 millennia, and have pretty much made a mess of things. Let us count a few of the ways: Lusting after political and economic power Waging endless war Wielding such
Fit for Life
Human males are finding it increasingly difficult in the modern world to manifest their masculinity in the ways of yore –that is, with conspicuous displays of courage, command, and cunning – so they have taken to doing it in a more-indirect way, specifically by associating themselves with various symbols and
According to a 2017 Louis Harris survey, two-thirds of American adults are unhappy. This is an astounding figure when you stop and think about it. If the goal of life is to achieve and maintain a certain level of happiness (as Thomas Jefferson would seem to imply in his famous
Boys Must Be Boys
Male children are no sooner able to hold objects in their hands, and make percussive sounds with their lips, than they are locked in fierce battles with all manner of villains and evil-doers. If their well-meaning parents should refuse to give their little angels a toy version of the traditional
Civilization as we know it was imagined and constructed largely by males. Arks and supertankers, lynching ropes and gas chambers, cave drawings and renaissance paintings, hovels and skyscrapers, kites and jets, Olympian gods and celestial monarchs, arithmetic and calculus, battering rams and ballistic missiles, on and on, are almost exclusively
The Agony of Aloneness
Over the past 400 millennia, human beings have imagined into reality a variety of supernatural beings to assume a variety of roles, including creator, covenant-maker, savior, rule-maker, judge, parent, tribal champion, and benefactor. If you were to ascribe primary importance to a particular one of these roles, or a similar
Yin & Yang
In his famous Autobiography, Ben Franklin proffers the following 13 virtues as ‘necessary or desirable:’ Industry Justice Frugality Moderation Order Cleanliness Resolution Tranquility Temperance Chastity Silence Humility Sincerity He does not explicitly tell us ‘necessary or desirable’ toward what end, but it is apparent from context he means ‘necessary or
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Over the years, I have had occasion to pick up one or another of my three sons at the local airport. I would park in the short-term lot, meet my son in the arrival lobby, and escort him and his carry-on to my car. I would ask my son, who
A two-party system of governance has prevailed in America for nearly as long as there has been a system of governance. It seems to be the natural order of things, set in stone by God Himself. Who, then, in his right mind, would even think of messing with it? Well,
The Magic of Plants
In the house I grew up in, a built-in cabinet stood at the very end of the hallway that passed by my bedroom. On top of this cabinet, I kept several potted plants as well as, in the spring, a few starter boxes containing mostly tomato and zinnia seedlings. A
Although our mystery man was heavily involved in the founding of our nation, he never sought elected office. He was elected to various offices anyway, but on each of those occasions he was essentially conscripted into office by people who knew what an authentic leader was and what a faux
Leadership by Example
True leaders being the agents of all true leadership, here arguably are a few such, off the top of me ‘ead, roughly in chronological order: Eve (versus her feckless 'husband') Confucius Socrates Buddha Jesus (the man, not the myth) Joan of Arc Martin Luther Roger Williams Ben Franklin James Wilson
Barack Obama arguably gave up his moral authority (ability to lead by example) the moment he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with little more to recommend him than he had little to nothing in common with his immediate predecessor. So badly, one senses, did the Nobel committee want to stick
The Blue States of America
Considering the deep divides that exist today between the Blue States and the Red States, might it be time for the former to separate from the latter? If so, might the following principles be used to knit the Blue States into an alternative union? Every citizen benefits from every other
When We Were Children
When we were children, many of us took great comfort in knowing that no matter how bad the scary things in our lives got, someone in authority – the U.S. Government, the Church, some of those really smart people out there – would step in and make everything all right.
Panel of Our Peers
Our system of justice is based on the theory that we have a fundamental right to be judged by a panel of our peers versus by the king’s (or state’s) representatives. To field a panel of our peers, we use random selection (conscription). (Once upon a time, we employed this
Many Americans are still asking – almost two years after the fact – how so many beneficiaries of the best-funded public-school system in the world could have voted for the likes of Donald Trump in the last general election. Did not all those well-schooled voters at least suspect
The Power of Juxtaposition
Here are the first two paragraphs of an article that appeared in USAToday on 9/18/218: “Jamarria Hall’s Detroit high school reminded him of a state prison: chains on the doors, disgusting food and dirty water, bathroom stalls without doors. No computers, tablets, or SMART Boards. The few books he
Lincoln: Man of Principle or Just Another Pol?
In a letter published in the New York Tribune on August 22, 1862, President Lincoln declared that his “paramount object in the struggle [Civil War] is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.” In fact, Lincoln did not enact the Emancipation Proclamation until January
A Question for You (There’ll Be a Lot More)
A question for you: Why did so many millions of ‘hillbillies,’ rednecks,’ and other such ‘deplorables’ choose to elevate to the seat of Washington and Lincoln one of most shamelessly-incompetent, morally-corrupt, intellectually-vacuous, self-absorbed ‘leaders’ ever to desecrate the sacred ground of the American democracy? Could the answer possibly be that
On Building a Better Mousetrap
The distribution of most human traits can be represented by a bell curve, where the two ends of the curve represent the extreme occurrences of a particular trait, and the summit of the curve represents the mean between the extremes. Take, for example, the distribution of height in the adult
The Liberal Arts: How Do I Love Thee.
Thanks to you indeed – to my exposure to you, and the exposure of others to you – I was able just now, with a single reference to a passionate 19th century poet, to communicate a body of meaning and feeling to you without need on my part to go
We the people of the Blue States of America, in seeking to form a mutually beneficial affiliation, are prepared to take all necessary measures, save the taking up of arms, to remove ourselves from the reach and peril of the following tyrannies: The Tyranny of Ignorance The Tyranny of Arrogance
What Good Are the Liberal Arts?
The most important question any of us can ask is : “What constitutes a life worth all the considerable bother?” To help us answer this question, we have generally had the liberal arts to turn to. So why then are the liberal arts disappearing from the academic landscape?