Cultural & Literary, Social  Commentary and Opinion

Cultural & Literary, Social  Commentary and Opinion

Cultural & Literary, Social  Commentary and OpinionCultural & Literary, Social  Commentary and Opinion

THE WORD WHEEL; Literary Commentary

March 10 2020

This Issue: A Primary Solution and  Riders On The Storm


     A Primary Solution

     By post card I received the following notice from my county election board:  This election is a partisan primary election.  You must choose which type of ballot you would like to vote.  The party you select will become your political party on the record and cannot be changed until your next partisan primary election.  A party ballot only contains candidates from the party selected along with any general issues available to the voter.  If you do not wish to affiliate with a political party you can request a ballot with issues only. 

  Possibly the reason for this amended ballot system arose to prohibit the MAGA sect of the Republican Party (or in the future any political party) from succeeding with their proposed scheme to flood the Democratic Primary voting selection to favor the least favorable candidate to oppose POTUS.  That plot is not illegal but it certainly is duplicitous and can result in skewed election results.  The revised system in the primary is welcomed, but with reservations.  Voters will sometimes split their vote between the party candidates for future possible choices in the general election.  With the new ballot they will not be allowed to do that since they will be given a ballot which reflects the selections according to the party that they have declared prior to the election.  They will only be allowed to vote on a pre-chosen party affiliation and the general issues (taxes and referendums).  The available selections are Republican, Democrat or Libertarian which means that a political subdivision has forced three choices on the voter to declare although the voter may be a registered Independent or Socialist.   Voters will be allowed to split their ticket on the general election without declaring a party affiliation.  The compromise will prohibit slanted primary results originating from those voting to tilt election choices against candidates.  It would require a flood of dishonest people voting in an opposite party to significantly  skew the primary but we do know movements can gather steam quickly and some people will use any means to achieve their objective. 

    The revision to the primary ballot is indicative of the problems that can arise in a party system and it is further evidence that dishonest party factions will attempt to manipulate the election process.  it is akin to gerrymandering, closing polling stations in minority neighborhoods, buying votes, and erasing voters from registration rolls. 

 Riders On The Storm 

 Riders on the storm

 Into this house we're born

 Into this world we're thrown 

 Like a dog without a bone

 An actor out on loan

 Riders on the storm, Jim Morrison and The Doors

      Normally I don't engage with serial killer, mass murderer books and movies, or murder mysteries.  It is not my genre.  I did read Bugliosi"s account of the Manson clan years ago and that was sufficient.  I drew a portrait of Charlie to my satisfaction.  He was angry since he didn't have a father who claimed him and had a wayward mother who did not want him.  His anger boiled over and he transferred his hatred to all of us.  He killed his parents through us. Case dismissed...just another story in the storm.  Until last night.

     It debuted on the FX channel: The Most Dangerous Animal of All.  This caught my attention.  An orphaned adult in search of his biological father claimed to be the son of the Zodiac Killer.  The orphaned son is happily married with children, has a career and by any account a decent citizen.  How would he reconcile this psychological nightmare?  How would he learn to live with the stigma and would he have doubts as to his gene affiliation with something so debased?  He appeared to be a kind and considerate person in search of the truth.  Surely he would find redemption and a purpose to his life apart from the horror of his killer-father. No, not exactly.

     The author of the book, the orphan and the protagonist of this documentary, launches a seventeen year crusade to find out who his father was.  He reconciled with his biological mother who told him that it was his father who abandoned him over her protestations.  The beginning story of his father as told by many witnesses and newspaper accounts painted a portrait of a man given to obsessive and intemperate behavior.

     I was totally drawn into this compelling journey.  At every step the evidence was mounting and the pieces fit together perfectly.  There was circumstantial evidence, possibly somewhat suspect, but there was an abundance of circumstantial evidence which was beyond coincidence.  There was a sketch of the suspect that perfectly matched a photograph of his father.  The story culminates with a DNA test, finger print analysis and handwriting analysis. Everything appeared to point to an  ugly, soiled bow of macabre proof.  Not so fast.  He published his book to critical acclaim.  Then the curious and the doubters began their journey of investigation.  The DNA interpretation was compromised , fingerprint analysis and handwriting analysis did not stand up to scrutiny.  Most importantly the father, by his given name, did not live in the area of the crimes at the time of the killings.  The orphan's journey was headed for a cliff.

     There are several possibilities for motive.  The orphan could be a con artist with book sales in mind.  Given the fact that his father was inclined to criminality, it is possible that in sincere error he jumped too quickly to conclusions and ignored counterfactual evidence in a rush to a preconceived truth then fooled himself.  He could be one of those lonely people who concoct a lie to wrap themselves with because their true life is boring or not thrilling enough.  He may  have convinced himself that the lie was the truth to escape a less exciting life.  If fame eluded him perhaps he could have his infamy for public attention.

     We all can have our preferences for the story of this orphan.  But we should keep in mind that the truth is only what we care to believe  and that is the truth of our relationship with story and character; other people are what we need them to be at any point in time.  The following is what I prefer to be the story of this orphan.  He was abandoned by his father according to his biological mother.  He was left on the stairwell of a local church when only a few weeks old and later adopted by a caring couple.   For the remainder of his life he felt diametrically loved by his adoptive parents but also abandoned because he was not loved and tossed aside like the crumpled wrapper of a birthday present.  His resentment simmered beneath a blanket of security by a loving family, but too thin to abate the chill of truth, it was insufficient.  Who was this person who could be so uncaring of a young boy who could have loved his father unconditionally?  The stage was set, the father had the reputation didn't he?  He must have been an absolute monster of a person.  His investigation fit the premise so perfectly.  It was his truth....his story.  He had conned himself.  He was a rider on a storm with his killer father and his self serving imagination.

     We all have our demons and we tell stories to ourselves to explain what haunts us.  Sometime we wrap ourselves in another story.  We can find comfort and protection in the new story then everything fits so neatly and we journey on. Our journey is a book of stories.  So the orphan, for all his faults, is all too human.

     Recent advances in open source DNA evaluation may reveal the identity of the Zodiac killer.  The killer is either dead or a killer on the run.  The San Francisco Police Department has come under fire for possibly bungling the case.  The publishing house of The Most Dangerous Animal of All has been attacked for their lack of candor.  The mother and the orphan are at odds over personal testimony.  The coauthor of the book, a respected investigator, feels betrayed by the orphan.  But those are just more stories for another day.

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"Wine is sunlight held together by water", Galileo Galilei

    Previous Issues


    Iran and American Influence

    History.  It just goes on and on doesn't it?  That's what we said as students.  It can go on and on if one veers from the broad boulevard of a particular civilization into the side streets.    The following history of modern Iran and America's influence there is  as succinct as possible and does not veer from the subject significantly.

    Mohammad Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, assumed the constitutional monarchy of Iran when his father died in 1941,  The son proved to be more lenient and less autocratic than his father.  The oil reserves in Iran helped the Shah and his prime minister achieve a  progressive social policy.  Their aim was to pull Iran out of the past and into the future of a modern society.  He went on a spending spree with infrastructure development; dams, highways, airports, and power stations.  Libraries, schools, universities and postal services were built.  There was full employment, women were granted equal rights, there was little inflation and the currency was stable for the duration of his rule. In the  interim he extended more power to the parliament.

     The British had a significant presence in Iran before and after the first world war.  The British discovered oil in Iran in 1908 and in 1909 received a concession from Iran to explore and develop Iran's oil resources.  The London based company Anglo Persian Oil Company was formed and the British government purchased a majority of the company's shares in 1914.  Accordingly, the British government gained direct control of the Iranian oil industry. 

     The Prime Minster of Iran, Mosaddegh, became disillusioned with the British control of the oil industry and declared Britain an enemy in 1952 and cut all diplomatic relations with them.  Mosaddegh had long considered Britain an enemy since the Anglo-Persian Oil Co, held  exclusive rights to Iranian oil.  A free market would allow more revenue to flow to Iran.  Initially the U.S. had agreed with Iran's rejection of Britain's interest.   That position soon changed beginning in 1952.  Winston Churchill had convinced the Eisenhower administration that Mosaddegh would soon become dependent on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party and would increasingly turn to them to promote communism.  There was little evidence for this theory since Mosaddegh was  anti-socialist and anti-communist.  Why was Churchill promoting fear and attempting to influence the American government against Iran?  The loss of oil revenue was catastrophic to Britain.  Was Churchill hoping to reclaim its monopoly to Iranian oil?

     After the expulsion of Britain the remainder of the year was rife with public turmoil.  There were riots between those against and for Mosaddegh, the communist party and the pro-British.  To settle the turmoil the Shah granted Mosaddegh additional powers.  Mosaddegh was popular because of his progressive policies and his position against the British.  There were minority factions that were dissatisfied with the prime minister's further reach for authority.  In a political compromise the parliament elected Ayatollah Kashani as house speaker.   Kashani and his Islamic scholars along with the Tudeh Party proved to be at times uneasy allies of Mosaddegh.  In early 1953 the U.S. came around to Churchill's thinking that Mosaddegh was being heavily influenced by the pro-soviet arm of the Tudeh Party.  Apparently it was a very persuasive argument that the British gave the U.S, since the U.S. joined in the condemnation of Mosaddegh early that year.  The cold war fear had begun and the easy access of Russia's border to Iran presented a concern to the U.S.

     The plan to overthrow Mosaddegh began and the assignment was given to the CIA.  They chose Kermit Roosevelt to be the lead provocateur in Iran.  The plot began by attempting to convince the Shah to depose Mosaddegh.  The Shah was at first hesitant to depose Mosaddegh since he was a popular figure in Iran  and he thoroughly believed in Mosaddegh's progressive agenda. The CIA paid secret Iranian operatives to masquerade as  socialists and nationalists to threaten Muslim leaders with savage punishment if they opposed Mosaddegh and give them the impression that Mosaddegh was going to crack down on dissenters.  That stirred anti-Mosaddegh sentiments within the religious community.  Then the U.S. urged the Shah to dismiss Mosaddegh from his post.  Mosaddegh was certainly aware of the plot against him and relying on his popularity introduced a referendum to dissolve parliament and give the prime minister power to make law.  The referendum was submitted to the voters and it passed with a 99% approval.  There was a subtle bias in the voting procedure  since there were separate polling stations for yes and no votes.  The prejudice associated with that scheme gave the U.S. greater influence in branding the prime minister  a dictator.  In the summer of that year the Shah finally agreed to the overthrow of the prime minister after the U.S. threatened to proceed with or without the Shah's approval.  Donald Wilber, the CIA architect of the coup d' e'tat wrote two decrees for the Shah's signature.  The first decree dismissed Mosaddegh and the other decree nominated Gen. Zahedi as prime minister.  The Shah was firmly in control and the oil was flowing again. Zahedi's government reached an agreement with foreign oil companies to restore the flow of oil to world markets. Mosaddegh was arrested and held in house arrest for the remainder of his life while several of his supporters were executed.  Mosaddegh dare not be executed since he was still popular among many Iranians.

     In 1957 the U.S. and Israeli intelligence officers worked with the Shah to establish SAVAK, an Iranian Intel organization.  It was later responsible for the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners and violent suppression of dissidents.  Shortly thereafter the U.S. began selling significant military equipment to Iran to modernize their military.  During the 1960's the Shah implemented the White Revolution which was an aggressive campaign of social and economic westernization that was met with intense opposition.  Many of the Shah's growing number of critics saw his westernization move as anti-Islamic.   It was then that the Ayatollah Khomeini started his rise to prominence with a protest to the westernization plan. During this period the U.S. sold about eleven billion dollars worth of military equipment to Iran.  Did the dissenters view this increased relationship with the U.S. as further evidence of pro-western, anti-Islamic position?

     Iranians resort to rioting, mass demonstrations and strikes to protest the Shah's authoritarian rule and consequently the Shah enforced martial law. Early the following year the Shah fled Iran amid intensifying unrest.  The Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile and encourages the brewing revolution.  Under his guidance Iran declares itself a theocratic republic guided by Islamic principles and the country becomes officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Within months the 52 American employees are taken hostage.  

     This previous synopsis of contemporary history is primarily recorded history from several sources.  There are several conclusions and accusations to be drawn from the political actions of the United States in Iran. 

     The CIA released documents in 2017 confirming their plot to overthrow the prime minister and install the Shah of Iran.  Further the documents revealed their involvement in establishing SAVAK the organization that tortured and executed the dissenters of the Shah.

     The U.S. explicitly endorsed the Churchill program to ban all shipments and sales of Iranian oil after Mosaddegh terminated relations with Great Britain.  Iran certainly had the right to nationalize its oil reserves.  The result of the embargo threw Iran into near poverty.  It is doubtful that the U.S. had significant interest in oil production then.  It wasn't until 1961 that we  were faced with the probability that we would find it necessary to import oil in the future.  As the years passed the U.S. objective became twofold; Iran was a buffer to Russia and additionally, the oil. The oil shipments resumed after The Shah was installed.  It was then that the U.S. began its sale of armaments to the Shah.  That was a comfortable relationship; the oil, the Shah and the U.S. armament industry.

     It is lamentable that the U. S. sought to cripple Iran during the red scare era but it was common at the time to equate progressive politics with socialism and communism. The U.S. took the same action against Guatemala during this same period.  Could the U.S. have taken another approach with Mosaddegh?  Would it have been a workable scheme to establish a military presence in Iran as a buffer to Russia  with the permission of the Shah and the prime minister?  There is no evidence that either the Shah or Mosaddegh held any animosity toward the U.S.  The U.S. did have such an agreement with Turkey in 1959.

     The U.S. implementation  in SAVAK enraged the Iranians and gave them further evidence that the Shah would go to any extreme with American endorsement to advance absolute  rule.  There is no proof that Americans participated in torture or executions, but there was proof that the Americans promoted SAVAK.  Eventually the prisons were stormed and the  prisoners were set free.  Shortly thereafter the 52 Americans were taken hostage as retaliation.

     In conclusion, the United States succeeded in turning a sovereign state into a dictatorial regime and eventually created a comfortable relationship with the oil industry, the armaments industry and the Shah. The U.S. decision to install the Shah created an oppressive nation that further created an opening for the radical Islamic Republic. The American decisions eventually set in motion a series of unintended consequences that neither America or the Shah could control.  Those series of decisions culminated in political and social chaos and created an enemy.

Note: In Iran the name Shah Pahalvi is obviously treated with contempt while the name Mosaddegh is respected.

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"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change", Mary Shelley



Greta Has a Fever

     The same discussions will always follow the Time Person of The Year selection.  It will be said that another face should adorn the cover of Time Magazine, another story or another subject has greater historical significance.  It is understandable since the choice  is subjective and the options depend on anyone's focus as to what is a relevant issue.  We all have our individual hot button likes, favorite personalities and events.  Subjective...however the choice is intended to be a subject of current and historical significance and person or persons who most affected our lives for good or ill. Adolph Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi were previously selected and they made appropriate book ends for the range of ill to good on the Time bookshelf.     Greta Thunberg is  now referred to in headlines and conversation simply as Greta as are Hitler and Gandhi in terms of worldwide familiarity.

     Greta  is an appropriate choice since her message is the most popular and widely covered story of 2019.  Revised forecasts by climatologists strongly warn of a nearing climate disaster for our planet and this warning plays in the news on a daily basis.  The story is rife with anger, fear and regret since it is perceived that we have forsaken  our duty of stewardship of the earth.  Greta's message of man made damage resonated with the general public and ignited the masses to march on their governments and corporations and challenge them to change direction.  Her message is a poignant and revealing accusation.  It is an accusation that the older generation have been corrupt and self serving in their negligence and thus endangered the lives of the children of the world.  Those of the older generation will probably not see the full effect of their misdeeds but the children of the world will suffer the consequences of their actions.  She has struck the guilt chord in the older generation and pushed the youth of the world into action.  Beware when the youth grab a cause, it will become a movement.

     There is a unique characteristic of the person that accentuates the message.  She is a child, a teen, with the physical appearance of a preteen.  It may even be deemed a fascination with her. It is a reason that pulls at us, consciously or not.  We are all familiar with those passages in the bible, religious tracts or novels that refer to children: "and a child came forth and said..." or "a child  delivered the message..."  It is a  literary device intended to  sway the audience favorably. If a child of innocence brings a wise proclamation then certainly adults should be just as wise.  The child courageously appears at the United nations and strolls up to the podium to deliver her message. Shouldn't adults have such courage?  

     She is not the scientist, but she is the student who has taken the trend analysis of the climatologists as an absolute truth and developed her message accordingly. Her message is overly pessimistic by stating that we are experiencing massive species extinctions worldwide and her belief that alternative uses of energy and its immediate remedial effect are overly optimistic.  We cannot be certain that these embellished claims are intentional.  If so, she is an astute prophet by presenting the severest scenario of climate change and conversely proposing solutions that make it seem that change is easily in our grasp.  She  delivers this message in an authoritative voice, a stern expressionless face, and without hesitation as the solemn prophet who delivers the word to the masses. She expects us to follow her word or face the consequences of falling off the edge of the point of no return

     Her message is of historical significance since it is a seminal event of the youth's challenge to corporations and governments.  All generations are questioning politicians about their position on non-carbon based energy sources and they threaten with their votes if they don't get acceptable answers.  The movement is not new and not one that she started but she gave it a global force that it did not have previously.  Greta, the child messenger, will be remembered as the girl who caught a fever from our warming planet and spread the fever.

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An exclusive country club once asked me to be a member.  I  told them if they wanted someone like me as a member I wouldn't want to be in the club. Groucho Marx

Power Politics: Voting and Getting Religion

     Recently the Ohio legislature passed Ohio House Bill 164.  This bill advances or reaffirms vigorous religious rights to students such as the freedom to wear clothing that promotes religious slogans and ideals (walking billboards) and affords student's congregation time in additional school facilities like cafeterias, auditoriums and gymnasiums.  The act goes further and permits the students to incorporate religious beliefs in their science assignments and tests. The teacher must consider the student's answers as correct although the answers lack scientific validity. The basis for determining correctness must be judged according  to standard academic pedagogy.  We can presume that a student studying earth science may claim that the earth is ten thousand years old or in the science of biology may choose creation theory over Darwinian evolutionary theory and the answers will not be judged as incorrect.  The first two stipulations, slogans on clothing and expanded access, seem to be minor adjustments or affirmations to existing provisions.  One can only hope that denominational fiction doesn't arise from t-shirt proclamations and dissolve into a distraction and that conflicts don't arise from scheduling time in the auditorium.  The  sponsor of the bill  is Rep. Timothy Ginter a republican representing Youngstown, Oh. Rep Ginter says that this act is necessary since students face pressure over drug use, student violence, depression and suicide.  He claims that allowing religious self-expression would be positive.   The claim that school time religious study is a positive mechanism for  suicide, depression, drug addiction, and violence is certainly hopeful and some would remain neutral as to its efficacy.  Perhaps parental guidance at home or professional counseling would be a greater positive mechanisms. Though not to exclude religion but to give it a proper venue with adult mentoring.  Those issues causing pressure might be better addressed and solved through psychology, a science.  Buried in these legislative proposals of inclusion of religious belief is the ideal of some religious organizations that our country is in deep peril because we have lost our moral compass and the solution to this problem is that we need to become closer to our god though prayer and devotion.  To accomplish this end they propose that we legislate religious based morality.  There is little evidence that religious faith is a cure for immorality and often we do not concur with what is moral.

     The topic of deep  concern in the Ohio House Bill is the science test answers allowed in biblical scripture.  It is an encroachment of religion in a secular setting.  The time and locale for religious contemplation and slogans are simply moderate appeasements.  It is a redundancy in this age to proclaim that science and religion are separate fields of study....one would think.  A religious answer on a science test brings the two fields together to blur the lines  and compromise critical thinking.  It is necessary to warn students that the lack of scientific knowledge can lead to unfortunate conclusions.   It is disturbing that religious claims are made in lieu of scientific evidence and that basic science is not understood or ignored in the process.  Does the Ohio House Bill encourage students to conveniently ignore science not only in favor of a religious scripture but to embrace alternative explanations that are quick and easy observations that do not pass critical analysis?  It is wise for teachers and parents to explain that while many scientists are religious they recognize that it is necessary to differentiate the subjects in their professional pursuits.

     In recent years some religious organizations have tried to influence legislatures to promote their word in secular institutions and their efforts to do so are increasing.  How do politicians view this quest for influence by these organizations?  The sincerity of religious beliefs has been degraded to a marketing tool in the political campaign process.  Since it has been degraded to a marketing tool the religious community and institutions are summarily courted by politicians who know they can be an important voting block.  Religion begets power and vise versa in this relationship.  The political party that has been the most active in this relationship has been the republican party and the local example is Rep. Timothy Ginter, a republican.  Admittedly, the democratic party has courted favor also but not to the extent of the republicans given their close  (and some would claim slavish) relationship with the evangelical/fundamentalist movement.  Jerry Falwell Jr, Franklin Graham and various leaders of the tel-evangelical mega churches would be excellent examples of serious influence.  These leaders publicly support and comment on candidates in public and in their respective churches.   Voters can be courted effectively by hinting at further religious influence in government institutions. 

     The pressure has apparently increased with our current presidential choice, aka The Chosen One.  Pres. Trump has magnetized the evangelical core.  What would seem to be a satirical skit to have this president become a hero of any religious movement has become a perverse reality.  But the perversion is easily ignored when the religious extremists covet their message and call for further influence in our secular society  via our legislatures.  Apparently they are willing to sacrifice their integrity to anyone with power who will promote their ideals in this comfortable arrangement.  The influence for votes has now reached an extreme level with Pres. Trump's announcement that religious organizations and churches be allowed to make political campaign contributions.  Recently, Pres. Trump signed an executive order making it easier for churches to participate in politics.  The order, as claimed by Pres. Trump, removes the financial threat faced by tax exempt churches from the IRS when pastors speak out on behalf of political candidates.  It is unlikely that the IRS would change how the agency polices the issue as a result of this executive order.  Congress would have to enact new legislation to accomplish Pres. Trump's goal.  The existing law and the executive order aside, it is apparent that Pres. Trump is anxious to secure his religious voting block.  Although the executive order is lacking in power his supporters remain true since Pres. Trump is their best  chance.

     Roger Williams, Baptist theologian and Governor of the Province of Rhode Island,  proclaimed in the mid 17th century that his government would observe freedom of religion for the inclusion of all denominations and support a sharp division between religion and the government.  The Province would concern itself with the affairs between men and men were free to concern themselves in religious affairs apart from the government.  Thomas Jefferson was greatly influenced by this opinion on religious and state and that influence may have been instrumental in his proclamation that church and state should be separate.  Though not specific in the constitution as a  separation, but uses the term establishment, it has been referred to as a firewall in jurisprudence since the mid nineteenth century. Although many citizens are knowledgeable of the establishment article they may ask:  what could be the problem with these minor inclusions of religious themes in our institutions?  The innocence of the question deserves scrutiny. 

     The most minor inclusion is the first step. If an encroachment is allowed then to which denomination is favor allowed?  There are many choices to be considered and the only assumption to be made is that the political party in power will be the decision maker.  It would follow  that we would have two enormous duties to defend and promote the affairs of men and the affairs of any denomination. Then conflict would arise between that majority and the denomination not in power. Also, it is  true that we are a democracy and we should accordingly have the freedom to choose to be religious, atheist or agnostic.  We should be free to support any religion or none since we are a nation of immigrants and immigrants bring their religion or no religious belief with them.  There seems to be little doubt that many religions have the thirst for power and if granted the opportunity would inject a theocratic ideal into our republic.  To include religious dogma, ideals and scriptures into a democratic state via the courting of politicians is the first step for a theocratic republic.  The rejection of such, as the constitution reads is "no law respecting the establishment of religion."  These religious organizations or voting blocks would better serve their master and the principles of their faith if they would cease their attempts at compromising critical thinking in our school system and promoting religion as a cure for immorality.  They might focus on their duty to aid the poor, the hungry and the sick.  

     The Ohio Governor has yet to sign the house bill as of this writing.  Perhaps it will not be signed and never become law or severely amended and then signed into law.  If it remains law as written it will likely be struck down by the SCOTUS.  These proponents for religious influence in our secular institutions will wield their battering ram to insert their solutions into the political subdivision of the state legislatures knowing that it attracts votes even though their laws fail in the SCOTUS.  However, will the philosophical complexion of the SCOTUS change over time and lean in favor of the evangelical and fundamentalist movement?  There is concern given the political views of the party currently in power.  There is less attention given to the constitution and proper jurisprudence in choosing judges and more attention given to fundamentalist philosophy.

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"You can shock them and insult them, but don't  bore them." W.B Yeats ...on being an author

School Daze 


     A. Wayne Johnson, official of the Educational Department of Federal Loan Aid, has made some proposals  that may be the first step in resolving the financial crisis of the student loan system.  He first concedes the following facts: the system is broken, much of the outstanding debt will never be paid, the outstanding debt rides on the back of the recipient for decades with a low rate for paying down balances.  He has advised canceling most of the outstanding debt and forgiving fifty thousand dollars in debt for current students.  Thirty seven million students would have their entire debt cancelled in the total amount of 925 billion dollars. A fifty thousand dollar tax credit will be given to former students who have paid their loans.  The proposed plan will be financed with a 1% tax on corporate earnings.  The government would be effectively removed from the loan business.

     Recent polls indicate that most citizens are in favor of debt liquidation for students loans and free tuition for future students.  This proposal would place the United States in line with the majority of countries that offer free university education for their citizens.  The question is often asked: why can't we provide the same for our children if we are such a rich country?  It is a fair question but there are some elements to this proposal that need to be addressed. Does a student enrolled in a four-year university deserve a financial advantage over a student paying tuition for certification in a technical school? I don't see a proposal for technical school grants.  The proposal does not require the student to have any financial stake in their education.  It would not have to be a major stake, but could the program require a small payment after graduation?  Would the university be inclined to raise tuition rates if the student is receiving a fifty thousand dollar grant and if so would the student be forced to supplement the grant with a loan in the open market? 

     As well, there are obvious advantages to the proposed grant system.  The student would be better prepared to participate in the housing market, retail markets and investment markets earlier since they are not financially handicapped by debt.  Graduates would be more likely to advance to post graduate degrees by entering earlier and without debt.  Removing the government from the loan business has another benefit.  Universities would reduce their administrative costs since they would no longer be awash in the paper work and advisory requirements of the student loan system.  These are all financial benefits to the proposals but of equal importance is the distraction and stress that many of these students endure while debt hangs over them as they pursue their studies.  An education should be an enjoyable experience for the student and indebtedness is an unnecessary impediment to that end.

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Quote: Time is the reef upon which all our mystic ships are wrecked, Noel Coward

     Paper Straws

    Our call to arms worldwide today is Man Made Climate Change and our response is Declare War on Climate Change.  The answer has become a tidal wave of political action to reset the natural order of the climate for planet earth.  Alas, we are late with our enthusiasm.  It was a prediction and warning of scientists forty years ago.  However, while the empirical modeling was generally accepted as accurate there were few anomalies within the range of our senses to grab our attention.  If we could not see the results of our carbon based life style then it must not be urgent.  The climate was not changing before our eyes and consequently we continued to casually listen and not act.

    In the not so distant past we dealt with two critical environmental issues.  One was related to the climate and the other was related to our health.  CFCs were being dispersed into the atmosphere with deleterious effects on the ozone layer.  CFCs were eventually banned over a ten year period.  Lead molecules were belching from our automobiles and our health was at risk.  It took about fifteen years to reduce lead in gasoline.  These two issues were relatively easy to tackle since they were one dimensional environmental problems and the solutions did not interrupt our daily life style to any serious extent.  The problems could have been accomplished in a couple of years if it were not for political and corporate  resistance.  We can rally to relatively simple problems quickly and scientists can provide solutions. The immediate problem captures our attention and the problem that is distant avoids immediate attention.  The flu shot that you need next week is on your mind today, your annual physical in six months is only on your iphone calendar.

     Today man made climate change is accepted as fact by the scientific community and the populace has fallen in line with their predictions.  Plans for resetting  the climate are being promoted by politicians and it has become an election issue. The youth around the world are speaking up, demonstrating, and demanding action.  These are the usual criteria for a movement.  Not only is the climate changing, but it is progressing with a rapidity not previously predicted.  In the past five years we have increased fuel mileage for cars and trucks,sold electric cars and built an untold number of solar panels and windmills.  During this period the carbon emission count has increased and by the year it has increased exponentially (exponentially as a numeric expression to be raised  as opposed to a  verbal  expression).  The remedial influences that have been introduced have undoubtedly had some positive effect but scientists calculate that there is an increasing carbon foot print each year. Carbon usage  increased or accumulated beyond what was implemented to offset emissions.  There are compelling reasons for the exponential factor.  The worldwide population continues to increase and for the past ten years the economy around the world has been in an expansion phase.  With economic expansion came increased production since more durable and consumer goods are sold and with the expansion phase we use more energy in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas.   It appears that we cannot reach the break even point with our current efforts.  This problem is not about using paper straws.  The solution requires a 180 degree turn in our life style.

     Given the trend analysis we can expect severe changes in the climate which will bring more severe tornadoes, hurricanes and forest fires with greater frequency and accelerated polar melting leading to rising ocean levels.  The day has arrived when we can see these effects and many have personal experiences with recurring heat waves, frequent flooding and hurricanes.  The damage is apparent with decreasing fishing harvests , wildlife fleeing their natural habitats and dying coral reefs.  The solutions are wise and well intended.  The current movement demands more solar panels, electric batteries for cars and trains, thermal energy, wind and wave power, and biomass all of which are currently a minor portion of our total energy production.  However,  we are  using carbon based resources to manufacture solar panels, windmills, and  equipment for natural gas wells so as we produce carbon free products we are burning carbon to reduce our carbon foot print.  A better trade off assuredly, but we can see the unavoidable effect of adding more carbon to emit less carbon.  The  law of physics holds true that one consumes a source of energy to produce energy.  An additional problem arises from our inability to find a method to store energy produced from wind power, wave power, and solar.

     What will happen around the world while we strain to get past the exponential increase factor and then how many years will it take to actually reduce the carbon emissions by a significant amount?  The more ingenious solutions may be years away from fruition.  There are numerous designs for smaller, safer nuclear power units that could take considerable time for development. What is the possible cost?  Water to hydrogen is an intensive process that consumes energy and the  distribution of hydrogen is problematic for safety reasons.    The challenges are enormous and the effects on civilization in the interim phase of reducing carbon emissions significantly will be devastating.  There will be massive migrations out of already desperate countries.  Where will they locate?  There could be food shortages as extreme weather ravages farm land and fishing areas, there could be serious relocation issues in shoreline cities, taxes could rise to support energy efficient projects, there could be revolutions, riots, and people might be thrown out of work as resources contract and jobs in the old technologies evaporate.  All of these disasters are conceivable if the trend analysis is marginally accurate.  We will be racing to a continuously moving finish line.

     In spite of the odds we will continue the efforts for reduced carbon emissions as we should.  Our best efforts may only lead us to a bleak future of a mere existence but it will be an existence. It will be a dystopia of severely compromised living conditions with lower life expectancy, intermittent riots, rampant disease and little hope  for future generations . If our  best efforts fail our planet will

become a sister to Venus; burned out and uninhabitable.  The last tribe that survived will have left a tome behind for another species in the universe.  It will be a story of a voracious animal that consumed everything within easy reach without  consideration for future generations.  They were capable of great accomplishments and great ideas but they created a problem that they could not solve.  In their desperate journey of self-destruction they disproved a favorite human adage that was: it's never too late.  If the trend analysis holds true.

bye lines

Quote: I hate quotations. Tell me what you know., Ralph Waldo Emerson

Starry Nights

     I watched a program on NatGeo about two or three years ago that narrated the most arid places on earth.  Naturally most arid places are the deserts, but also included was the Antarctic region which receives less snowfall/moisture than some deserts.  Included in this program was an item describing the Atacama desert of Chile.  There is an observatory in the Atacama that was chosen for its extreme altitude and scarce cloud cover.  More or less this is a recent criteria for the location of observatories.  I was curious about the observatory and I down loaded a few photographs from the internet.  Was I amazed.  The celestial view with the naked eye was extraordinary.  There it was; a panoply of bright stars from horizon to horizon.  There was absolutely no obstruction in the view.

     As a youngster I vividly recall standing in the open pasture of our farm late in the evening gazing at the stars.  The stars stretched from horizon to horizon and fueled my youthful imagination. Would we ever set foot on the moon and what would we find there?  Were there other worlds populated with strange beings and would they descend someday to visit us?  It was not only in the distant farm lands where  the view was unobstructed.  You could find a location in the suburbs where the starry horizon met the ground and a person could have the same inspiring view of the night sky.

     The brightly lit universe from our eyesight has dimmed considerably over time.  The shimmering canopy has become a smudge obscured by flood lights, headlights of cars, street lights,security lights, twenty four hour stores fully lit from sundown to sunrise.  Adding to the obscurity are the particles of progress which are emissions from industry, autos, buses, and trucks.  Seldom can one have a clear view of the stars since the sky has become an opaque blur of commercial, industrial and residential man made light.  The night sky has become a soup speckled in faded white dots cleaved by shafts of a yellowish blur.  It is difficult to be aware of a degradation that evolves over an extended period of time.  The eye becomes accustomed to the  changes.  We certainly are not spending our idle time star gazing on a daily basis unless you are an astronomer.  Additionally, whose who are younger did not have a frame of reference for what the heavenly view was in the past.  The evolution occurred without our daily observations and the clarity faded without fanfare.

     Later I noticed the change when I drove past our former family farm.  It was a cloudless spring night, about nine o 'clock.  I pulled my car to the side of the road and walked  to  the barbed wire fence.  I looked in the direction of the creek which was the rear boundary line of the farm and I witnessed a broad band of light behind the tree line stretching over the entire horizon.  The horizon and part of the sky above had become blurred.  Since the days of my youth another community had sprung up beyond the tree line and their lights had captured the horizon and held the stars hostage.  The stars of my youth had vanished and I left there thinking of the former brilliance of my youthful starry nights that were similar to that photograph of the Atacama.  I thought of mankind taking a step forward with an eraser and sacrificing something wondrous from the past.  When we rush to the future it is possible that we may lose something of worth.  It does not have to be a destruction or burial of an artifact, but it can be something as simple as a natural wonder beyond our touch.