“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror …”
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When we moved to our Arkansas cattle farm, a friend lent us a book titled “A Straw in the Sun.” Published in 1945, Charlie May Simon’s beautifully written memoir of homesteading here in Perry County, Arkansas during the 1930s was long out of print — maybe because the hardscrabble life it depicts is too recent for nostalgia.
Tell your Mama
Long ago and far away, a woman we hardly knew presented herself bruised and weeping on our doorstep one night. She told a vivid tale of woe. An old friend of our family she’d been dating had supposedly beaten her and thrown her down the stairs. Why she’d come to our house instead of police headquarters wasn’t entirely clear.
I once knew a curmudgeonly physician whose wife practiced family therapy. In her off hours, she often counseled a small army of girlfriends through romantic entanglements. One evening at dinner, the grumpy doctor decided he’d heard enough secondhand tales of woe.
If one believes even a significant fraction of the horror stories in the national news media, beastly male behavior has become almost epidemic on American college campuses. Tales of drunken sexual assaults and worse multiply from sea to shining sea.
Remember the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush? It happened on Dec. 14, 2008, near the end of the president’s second term. Bush had traveled to Baghdad for a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two announced the signing of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement promising that all American soldiers would leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
Here’s an amazing fact that most of the Chicken Little rhetoric about the crisis in Iraq fails to take into account: The city of Mosul, population 1.5 million, fell to ISIL insurgents because two divisions of Iraq’s army (30,000 soldiers) shed their uniforms, abandoned their weapons, and fled from 800 Sunni religious extremists in pickup trucks.
Earth to Glenn Greenwald: If you write a book slamming the New York Times , it’s naive to expect favorable treatment in the New York Times Book Review. Been there, done that. Twice, as a matter of fact.
Another week, another disturbed young man, another mass killing spree. It’s come to where episodes like Elliot Rodger’s murder of four men and two women near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus have become so frequent in America that the crime scene tapes have hardly been removed before people turn them into political symbols.
Supposedly, students at some of our most prestigious universities find themselves confronted with existential challenges. Some are required to read books and watch films that could conceivably upset them emotionally. Hence many campuses are considering “trigger warnings” to alert the more delicate flowers against getting their little feelings hurt.
“Some of you may feel that the cormorant does not play an important part in the life of the school, but I would remind you that it was presented to us by the corporation of the Town of Sudbury to commemorate Empire Day, when we try to remember the names of all those from the Sudbury area who so gallantly gave their lives to keep China British.” — from Monty Python’s, “The Meaning of Life”
You like potato and I like potahto
First comes the melodrama, next comes the killing. Good vs. evil, suffering innocents vs. swaggering bullies, heroes vs. villains. The “Two Minutes Hate,” Orwell called it — the way of the world since the invention of mass media.
So it turns out that millions of people dealt with the Affordable Care Act enrollment cutoff pretty much the way they habitually deal with the April 15 income tax filing deadline: procrastinating until the last minute to ensure maximum stress and standing in line. Like mobbing shopping malls on the day after Thanksgiving, it’s the American way of life.
Let’s put it this way: If the Koch Brothers were Russians, we’d call them oligarchs: grasping barbarians exercising crude political power.
Reflections upon the recent holiday: The first time my wife saw tears in my eyes was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, at the tomb of Jonathan Swift. The brilliant 18th-century Irish satirist was my first and most enduring literary hero, a towering figure who Yeats thought “slept under the greatest epitaph in history” — composed by Swift himself.
Helicopter parents, start your engines.
Recently, I had the disconcerting experience of seeing Lady Mary Crawley on a Boeing 747. Costumed as a flight attendant, she was, and looking rather alarmed at the spectacle of that great Irish lout Liam Neeson heroically rampant in the passenger cabin with a pistol.
Politically speaking, here’s the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they’re as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast.
I said there was a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by words multiplied for the Purpose, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves.
Let’s cut to the chase: If Big Brother wants you, he’s got you, telephone metadata notwithstanding. This disconcerting fact of modern life has been true more or less since the invention of the camera, the microphone and the tape recorder.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, every successful small business shares the same traits. And they all begin with high-quality employees. I’m thinking of three local establishments where I’ve traded for years: an auto repair garage, a dentist’s office, and a one-size-fits-all country store where I buy cattle and horse feed.
Moscow has always been hard on idealists. So it’s no surprise to find the world-renowned civil libertarian Edward Snowden feeling shaky midway through his first Russian winter. In a televised Christmas message recorded by Britain’s Channel 4, Snowden waxed alternately as grandiose and apocalyptic as a Dostoyevsky character.
Somewhere in the midst of an avalanche of sickening revelations about child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, it occurred to me that if the Vatican sought an appropriate penance for its sins, it would go mute on issues of sexual morality for about 100 years.
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