Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Control the Border

You want fairness? Control the border.

An open borders policy is unfair on a number of levels.

Is it fair to push the undocumented, the “refugees”, to the front of the line, when countless numbers have followed and are following the longer, safer, legal process?

Is it fair to depress the job opportunities and wages of low-skilled workers already here (and this affects the black community to a greater extent than any other) with a massive influx of immigrants?

Is it fair to force those here legally to pay for the social services that will be required to aid a massive influx of immigrants?

Is it fair to allow large numbers of immigrants from countries that sponsor terrorism, that preach hatred for our country, that are in the midst of internal civil war, into America when we lack the ability to thoroughly vet them? (Say, the way the media vets a Republican candidate for the presidency?)

It seems to me an open borders policy is unfair on a number of levels.

Control the border.

It also seems to me a 90-day moratorium on immigration is a sensible measure, and not the beginning of a new holocaust, an un-American persecution, or a fourth reich.

And I’m not even a Trump supporter.

Be guided by the heart, but frame the heart with the head.

Friday, January 27, 2017

All-Powerful Beings Exist

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BHO Book Recommendations

Saw this a few days or a week ago. Can’t remember where, exactly, as I cut and pasted it into an email to myself for a future blog post. Normally I include the link but this time I didn’t. So apologies for that. But this is the list that accompanied a short article detailing the book recommendations from our most recent ex-President over the past eight years.

Immediately suspecting the worst, I saved the list for future perusal. I expected a lot of ultra-left-wing nonsense. There are a few to be sure, but I was really surprised (and contest the authenticity of it, but I have neither the energy nor inclination to research that angle) about what I found: how many of his recommendations I have read, though not through his endorsement.

Anyway, here’s the list, and I don’t recall how it was ordered:

1. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
2. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
3. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
4. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
5. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
6. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
7. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin
8. The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson
9. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
10. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande
11. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
12. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
13. Redwall series, Brian Jacques
14. Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park
15. Nuts To You, Lynn Rae Perkins
16. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan
17. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
18. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
19. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
20. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
21. All That Is, James Salter
22. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
23. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
24. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
25. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow
26. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
27. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
28. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
29. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
30. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
31. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
32. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
33. Song Of Solomon, Toni Morrison
34. Parting The Waters, Taylor Branch
35. Gilead, Marylinne Robinson
36. Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam
37. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton
38. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
39. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
40. The Quiet American, Graham Greene
41. Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
42. Gandhi’s autobiography
43. Working, Studs Terkel
44. Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
45. Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
46. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
47. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
48. To the End of the Land, David Grossman
49. Purity, Jonathan Franzen
50. A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipau
51. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
52. Lush Life, Richard Price
53. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
54. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie
55. Redeployment, Phil Klay
56. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
57. Plainsong, Kent Haruf
58. The Way Home, George Pelecanos
59. What Is the What, Dave Eggers
60. Philosophy & Literature, Peter S. Thompson
61. Collected Poems, Derek Walcott
62. In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
63. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
64. The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin
65. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
66. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
67. John Adams, David McCullough
68. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan
69. Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alte
70. FDR, Jean Edward Smith
71. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin
72. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
73. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Thomas L. Friedman
74. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Steve Coll
75. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels
76. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro
77. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Evan Osnos
78. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
79. Moral Man And Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
80. A Kind And Just Parent, William Ayers
81. The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
82. Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
83. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
84. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
85. Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
86. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I’ve read eight out of eighty-six, or about one out of eleven. From Barrack Obama! Shocking! For the record, those books are:

Heart of Darkness (never got it, despite two valiant attempts)

Of Mice and Men (read it in high school; deserves a re-read)

Moby Dick (Yay! Best Book re-read of 2016!)

Self-Reliance (I call bullshit on this one – Obama didn’t read it)

The Power and the Glory (meh … read back in 2007)

In Dubious Battle (loved it in high school and again in 2002 or so, despite the inherent leftism)

Harry Potter (just read the first one, in 2000, way before the phenomenon exploded)

Where the Wild Things Are (as a kid, and again with my daughters)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I would like to read the following books off the list:

Seveneves (a possible Round Three of my love/hate with Stephenson)

Treasure Island (loved Kidnapped – see Hopper Best-Ofs to the left)

Gandhi’s autobiography (if I had all the time in the world …)

Team of Rivals (I have it on the book shelf behind me – maybe this summer!)

Washington: A Life (to be put on the Acquisitions List)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

My daughters have both read, and were quite fond of, the Junie B. Jones books, recommendation number 14. The movie version a few years ago was great, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Books I would not touch, books I would keep several feet at bay as if they were venomous ophidia:

The one by Ta-Nesi Coates

The one by Toni Morrison

The one by Thomas Friedman

The one by Harari, solely for its use of the inelegant “humankind” in its title

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

So there you have it: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Barrack Obama’s 2009-2016 book recommendations.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Honest Questions for a Progressive

I do not understand progressive thought. I honestly don’t. And it’s half of the reason I am not a progressive. This morning in the shower I was thinking about this disconnect. During those ten minutes I came up with most of the list below. It’s not a hypothetical list. Though the questions vary in their degree of practicality, they all deserve a response. I’d like to see them answered, point by point.

I understand the class thing. I do. I don’t come from money. Three times I’ve suffered, rightly or wrongly, to varying shades of gray, under the dictates of wealthy men. I get the justice thing, too. I’ve fought battles against the unemployment system, the healthcare system, even the legal system (just once). I’ve studied many different types of political, philosophical and religious beliefs. I will admit that time and time again I am pulled back to conservative and Christian systems of thought, but only because their positions make sense to me, deep down.

Now here’s an open forum for the Progressive side.

Twelve questions I would honestly like answers to. Answers that make sense. Answers that I can test, even if only through thought experiment. Answers that appeal to both the head and the heart. I list the questions below solely in order that they came to me, and I tried to avoid those of a “loaded” variety.


Here goes …

– What is the purpose of the minimum wage? How does raising it help low-end earners over the long term? Why only raise it to $15 an hour? Why not $20? $50? $100?

– If “tolerance” is one of the overriding progressive values in society, why is diversity of thought not tolerated? (i.e., positions that are not completely aligned to progressive tenets)

– Why is a Christian baker not baking a cake for a gay wedding unacceptable, but a fashion designer refusing to dress Melania Trump acceptable?

– How does increasing taxes on the rich help the poor? And how are “rich” and “poor” defined, exactly?

– Why do progressives believe the unborn have no rights?

– Why must the results of an election be accepted when a Democrat wins, but challenged when a Republican wins? In broader terms, under what circumstances are pre-determined rules of a game contestable based on the outcome?

– Is it better to have a single entity supply a product and/or service, or have multiple entities supply the same product and/or service? Why, exactly?

– Which is more important – reason or feelings? Head or heart? Some combination of both? Equal? One over the other? Again – why, exactly?

– Is governing through Executive Order (to circumvent Congress and, perhaps, the rules provided by the Constitution) a valid exercise of power? If “sometimes,” then – when?

– If all value systems (be they religious, philosophical, cultural, political, etc.) are equal, i.e., no one single system can be “better” than the others, how does a society determine for existential reasons what is “good” and “evil”? Does “good” and “evil” exist?

– How do progressives address the inherent contradiction of the statement: “All truth is relative”?

Anyone willing to help an inquiring mind out?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Men on the Moon

Here is the list, in chronological order, of the twelve men who walked on the moon:

Neil Armstrong

Buzz Aldrin

Pete Conrad

Alan Bean

Alan Shepard

Edgar Mitchell

David Scott

James Irwin

John Young

Charles Duke

Eugene Cernan

Harrison Schmitt

Apollo 11 through Apollo 17, with the famous exception of Apollo 13, made successful lunar landings over a span just shy of three-and-a-half years. Six successful missions, averaging a landing every seven months or so. Armstrong and Aldrin, on Apollo 11, walked on the moon for two hours. Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, on the final run, stayed for three days and motored the hell out of the lunar sand in that buggy over 22 miles.

Each Apollo mission was crewed by three men. One remained in lunar orbit while the other two descended to the surface to explore and complete mission objectives. Six missions, twelve men.

Cernan, the last man to touch the lunar surface, died a few days ago from an undisclosed illness. He is the sixth of the twelve to have passed on. The first was Jim Irwin, back in ’91, who died from a heart attack. Alan Shepard, the first American in space and commander of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, died in ’98 after battling leukemia. Pete Conrad passed away the next year of injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. Iconic Neil Armstrong died after complications from heart surgery in 2012. Then Edgar Mitchell, just about a year ago, under hospice care.

Rest in Peace, noble men.

Six remain who walked upon the moon. The oldest are Buzz Aldrin and John Young at 86, the youngest Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt at 81.

Now – fully privatize Space, and let’s get back to the moon before the Chinese!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tread Softly ...

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Inwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and the light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet;
But being poor have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

- Yeats

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Brush with Celebrity

Last night I met my wife in NYC to see La bohème at the Met.

This was a Christmas present from the Mrs. to me, one very appreciated. Way way back, before our second child was born eight years ago, we made a point to see either a play or a concert or both every year. We saw Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh, Quentin Tarantino in Wait Until Dark, Kelsey Grammar in Macbeth, on and off Broadway. We saw Aida, La Traviata, Oedipus Rex, at the Metropolitan Opera House. We saw classical pieces performed three times at Avery Fisher Hall and once at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington DC. We even went to a program at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Then came house, baby 1, baby 2, health issues and job layoffs. No more high life of culture.

So the Christmas gift was a nice surprise. I had listened to Puccini’s La bohème twelve or thirteen years back and thought it so-so (I was much more a fan of his Turandot). But I was game. It was a night out, my father-in-law would be watching the little ones, and the wife and I would enjoy a show and grab a few drinks and some eats afterward.

What did I think of the performance?

Obviously, it was phenomenal. The sets struck me most – based on Franco Zeffirelli’s set design, they were authentically bohemian à la 1830s Paris, oozing the poverty and wintry cold required for the tale. The quartet of main singers, all in their early thirties I suppose, were excellent. The protagonist, Rodolfo, was played by a singer who hails from nearby Montclair, NJ. The orchestra and the conductor were sublime – melodies and motifs so emotionally driven yet so unobtrusive to the action on the stage – I never experienced such a perfect meld of music, singing, and acting.

Yeah, I had some nitpicks. Didn’t like taking a bus and a cab in all by myself. As far as the opera itself, I had trouble distinguishing who was singing in Act II, the café and Paris street scene, and thought some stuff thrown in were unnecessarily ostentatious, but I guess that’s par for the course in the Big Apple. The wife felt the second intermission was unnecessarily unnecessary. And I didn’t think one of the characters was as good as the wife did. But all these negative complaints were positively dwarfed by the rest of the opera.

Then came the Brush with Celebrity.

During the first Intermission we went out to the bar area on the Orchestra level for our free complimentary flutes of champagne. Seeing one or two hundred opera-goers of varying qualities of dress. Saw some tuxes, saw some tats. Lots of clusters of folks of all ages, groups bustling by, icy waves wafting down the main stairs when the outer doors opened. We scurried off to one side, then moved in close to the bar, off to the side, where traffic seemed light.

After chatting about five minutes, I look over my wife’s shoulder at a character who catches my eye.

In a sea of people, he’s alone, isolated just off the center of the room, a few feet from the bar, five or six feet from me. He’s doing slow three-sixties around, as if looking for someone, but I don’t get the impression he’s here with anyone.

He’s wearing a brown fedora with a tan … almost a leisure-suit like jacket. I thought he had one of those half-canes with the carved ivory handle, but my wife, in retrospect, thinks I was just projecting off the glass of alcohol he was drinking. But we both noted those rings – huge, gigantic brass rings, at least an inch in height, adorning several fingers of each hand.

Who is this man? I’m thinking. I’m also thinking I should know him. He seems familiar. And if not, my writer’s eye realizes that he would make a fascinating character in some fabulously bizarre post-modern fantasy. A man who can rock the eccentric hobo millionaire look and not give a single damn about what anyone else might be thinking is someone who interests me.

Our eyes meet again, and he’s looking right at me, right into my eyes. It’s a vacant sort of stare, open-eyed, no concern whatever, no fear, just reaching out as he slowly spins around, taking in the crowd mingling about. There are patches of ill-grown facial hair, gray and black and splotchy, framing his face. In a moment his back is now to me.

Then it hits me. I lean in to my wife and whisper, “Don’t make it obvious, just turn around slowly. I think Nicolas Cage is right behind us.”

My wife sloooooowly turns, inconspicuously, and I examine another part of the room with extreme feigned interest. Sixty seconds pass and then we look at each other. “That is one hundred percent Nicolas Cage,” she confirms.

My mind is blown. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a bona fide celebrity.

“Should I go up and talk to him?” she asks, and I know she’s willing, ready, and dying to do it. “I’ll tell him I loved him in Moonstruck and Leaving Las Vegas and I’ll ask him how he’s enjoying the opera.”

Images of her chatting with Nicolas Cage, motioning me to come over and shake his hand overwhelm me. “Nah,” I say, “don’t bother him. It looks like he doesn’t want to be bothered.”

Meanwhile an older blonde with a black dress has now swarmed up to him and their chatting amiably.

We went back to our seats to await the beginning of Act III, talking over our Nic Cage sighting. 

Which inevitably devolves into us doing our best worst Nic Cage imitations:

“So Mr. Cage,” my wife says to me, “how are you enjoying La bohème?”

“It’s great, really great – needs more explosions though,” I say in as close I can to his unique vocal styling.

I follow it up with, “Be on the lookout for ‘La bohème 2018’ starring Nicolas Cage as Rodolfo!”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Reader

“The Reader”, a fable by Robert Louis Stevenson

“I never read such an impious book,” said the reader, throwing it on the floor.

“You need not hurt me,” said the book; “You will only get less for me second-hand, and I did not write myself.”

“That is true,” said the reader, “My quarrel is with your author.”

“Ah, well,” said the book, “you need not buy his rant.”

“That is true,” said the reader. “But I thought him such a cheerful writer.”

“I find him so,” said the book.

“You must be differently made from me,” said the reader.

“Let me tell you a fable,” said the book. “There were two men wrecked upon a desert island; one of them made believe he was at home, the other admitted …”

“Oh, I know your kind of fable,” said the reader. “They both died.”

“And so they did,” said the book. “No doubt of that. And everybody else.”

“That is true,” said the reader. “Push it a little further for this once. And when they were all dead?”

“They were in God’s hands, the same as before,” said the book.

“Not much to boast of, by your account,” cried the reader.

“Who is impious now?” said the book, and the reader put him on the fire.