In my narrative he repeats this tale to his grandson, with grandiose embellishments. But there's a happy ending: A Promise in the Clouds.
I don't often take offense at things people say. But two comments from the past have always bothered me, and now is as good a day as any to grumble about them.
On August 11, 1984, before recording a radio program during his reelection campaign, President Ronald Reagan tested the microphone by intoning: "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
He was obviously playing around. Perhaps he was poking fun at his own image (opponents had accused him of being a reckless cowboy). And outsiders weren't supposed to hear what he said. But it did leak out, and some voters were unnerved. According to PBS, Reagan lost seven points of his lead in the polls over challenger Walter Mondale.
Jokes are fine, but no sitting president should have made this joke. For one thing, it's very bad diplomacy for our head of state to threaten, even in jest, to blow away another nation. Worse than that, the one person we least want to talk lightheartedly about starting World War III and destroying the world is the person who has the authority to do that, the man who has his finger on the nuclear button. Careless thoughts should never even enter the mind of a leader who takes such an awesome responsibility seriously.
On September 17, 2001, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Dan Rather appeared on the David Letterman show. This was six days after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. The question was how America should respond, and no one seemed to have a clear answer. Rather deferred to "my commander in chief," President George W. Bush. He said, "George Bush is the president. He makes the decisions, and ... wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where, and he'll make the call."
If Rather were in the military, the President would indeed be his commander in chief, and orders passed down the chain of command would have to be obeyed. But a newsman has a different job. In fact, his position should be completely the opposite. It's a journalist's responsibility not to blindly accept government declarations but to bring them into the light, raising questions, exploring alternative possibilities, so that the people can decide. As a private citizen, you can choose to fall into line with whatever the President or the governor or the mayor tells you, especially if you happen to be of the same political party. But a journalist must not take government handouts from either party at face value. A journalist must be ready to ask the hard questions.
JULY 23, 2018 WE MIGHT BE IN HOT WATER
JULY 20, 2018 MY TRUSTEES
The Board of Trustees at Oberlin College includes alumni representatives. This month, we learned the two winners of four-year terms in our 2018 Alumni Trustee Election. As candidates, each of them received my vote.
One is Francisco X. Dominguez of the class of 1989, a judge in El Paso. In applying for the position, he wrote in part:
We must continue to lead in meaningful ways against the growing attack on human and civil rights in our nation. Oberlin still nurtures the kind of leaders that espouse the values our world needs.
The other is Jay Whitacre of the class of 1994, a scientist in Pittsburgh. He worked at Cal Tech's famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory until 2007, when he became a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He's currently the director of CMU's Energy Institute.
It's not surprising that he got my vote. That's because, like him, I majored in physics at Oberlin and now live in the Pittsburgh area. Here's some of what Dr. Whitacre wrote:
The mentorship and guidance I received from an Oberlin physics professor, John Scofield, helped define my career. I watched him work with a range of people from other disciplines and learned that thinking holistically even considering economics and policy matters greatly, even when conducting basic research. I came to see that there were many different ways to approach a problem.
Oberlin helped me come into my own, and so of course I'm eager to return the favor. Most of the alumni pool (and the Board as well) have a background in the humanities, social sciences, or performing arts. A smaller fraction of us hold degrees in the sciences. A new member with this background increases board diversity while providing deeper support for issues and opportunities that involve the natural sciences.
I recently had a long car ride with someone with a very different political perspective than myself. There were initial barriers based on liberal versus conservative. I explained that, to me, liberal is not a set of static beliefs or political dogma but is rather a state of mind that values openness to all possible aspects of a topic. Most issues are nuanced/not absolute, and common ground can often be found. We started by agreeing on some basic facts; this helped greatly, and we ended up realizing we agreed on much more than one would have imagined.
The core values Oberlin has perpetuated are deeply needed in today's culture. The one value that stands out is the concept that things can be different depending on from what perspective they are viewed. Before judging/acting on anything, one must seek out multiple angles to understand how someone else may be feeling.
John Frederick Oberlin, the pastor for whom the college was named, used a similar fanfold picture for counseling. His message was that people with diverse perspectives can nevertheless live in friendship with one another.
JULY 17, 2018 H&R WHO?
Well, it's been 90 days since the filing deadline, and I haven't gotten any angry letters from the IRS, so maybe I did my taxes correctly.
As the Republicans promised, I understand the IRS will be condensing next year's two-page Form 1040 into the size of a postcard. That sounds good to voters who don't like to pay taxes anyway. But it turns out to be an oversized postcard 5" x 8", with fine print on both sides.
However, before most of us can determine what numbers to enter on the 1040, we still need to fill out supplemental schedules. And there will be at least six new schedules next year.
For example, I own investments that result in capital gains. That means I had to calculate whether I owe Alternative Minimum Tax by completing Form 6251, which includes many instructions like these:
I stubbornly insist on filling out my own tax return, as I have all my life. It's a challenge, like working a puzzle. When I was younger I wrote the numbers on paper forms with a pen, but nowadays I download blank PDFs and type in digits; then I print out the pages and mail them in. Still, I do come up with all the numbers myself. I don't completely trust tax-preparation software, nor do I wish to surrender my documents to an overworked human preparer who's a stranger to me.
I saw an ad for real estate in Florida, or Hawaii, or somewhere. It promises Nothing but sandy beaches and sunshine here! Make Retirement Special.
Therefore choose life! urge the fervent pro-lifers inside this storefront, quoting Deuteronomy 30:19. Their counseling center is called My Choice Medical Clinic a deceptive name, because they're not medical doctors and they're the opposite of pro-choice. They will do anything they can to convince a pregnant woman to bear her child, even if it will be unwanted and unloved.
My Choice has three locations in this area, and according to this article, there are more than 4,000 such fake reproductive health centers in the nation.
What's noteworthy about typing this supplication?
JULY 7, 2018 YOU CAN'T ARGUE TOO MUCH
Inspired by the 2017 New York Times Crossword No. 0802, I imagined that the city was dealing with riots protesting ambiguous clues in recent puzzles.
Please rise for the Anthem.
We open today's Independence Day services with a hymn by Lloyd Stone, to the tune of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius.
I'm proud to be an American citizen. Americans can express pretty much any opinion without having to worry about being taken away by the government. We can criticize ourselves and adapt to a changing world. We are entrepreneurial and optimistic.
On the other hand, as Americans we run the danger of being too full of ourselves.
This country song from the Charlie Daniels Band, "In America," enjoys some popularity in the redneck states. It also gets played here in Pittsburgh because it praises our fierce loyalty to our football team.
Now the people in the Bible Belt may disagree with me, but I don't think that supposedly God-fearing Americans should strut arrogantly around the world, loudly claiming to be better than everyone else.
Are not Christians taught that our neighbors include even the despised Samaritans? And are we not taught the Golden Rule, to love our neighbors as much as ourselves?
I wasn't brought up to be a boastful loudmouth, or an impatient aggressive driver, or a member of a drunken mob of fans eager to avenge any insult. I wasn't brought up to mistrust everyone outside my city or nation or religion or ethnic group.
A blogger with the initials JED wrote:
I guess the moral is that we should be very sure before we Add to dictionary.
Is it possible to Delete from dictionary?
It didn't result in a win, but Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell last night flouted National League tradition by having his pitcher bat eighth in the order instead of ninth.
In the "typical" order, Jack Wilson would be guaranteed a first-inning plate appearance, and Jason Bay would not. Last night, those guarantees were reversed. (Nevertheless, the Pirates failed to score in the first inning; Sanchez, Michaels, and Bay all struck out swinging.)
However, once you get past that point, these two batting orders are, for practical purposes, identical. In later innings, Doug Mientkiewicz bats before the pitcher and Jack Wilson after. It doesn't make a bit of difference whether you call those hitters 8-9-1 (traditional) or 7-8-9 (last night).
Here's another way of looking at it. The nine batting spots are in a rotation. Traditionally, a team begins the first inning at point "A" and proceeds clockwise around the wheel, thereby delaying the appearance of the weak-hitting pitcher as long as possible. However, last night the Pirates began the first inning at point "B." After that, everything proceeded normally.
If you're a traditional "leadoff hitter," you have two roles.
In one, you're the first batter in the game. Last night Sanchez filled that role, and he led off the first inning only.
In the other, you hit after the pitcher; when the pitcher makes the last out of an inning (as he often does), that means you bat first in the next inning. Last night Wilson filled that role, and he led off the third and the seventh innings.
There is precedent in the National League Central. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has batted his pitcher eighth for the past few years, and at the beginning of this season the Milwaukee Brewers did likewise.
"I can understand why the Cardinals do it," Russell told Paul Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "because they have Albert Pujols batting third and it gets another guy on base in front of him." So why, I wonder, don't they simply move Pujols to fourth?
"There are a lot of different ways to look at it," Russell continued. "Doug [Mientkiewicz] is our most patient, work-the-count, get-on-base guy. . . . We put him in front of our pitcher, and if they want to pitch around him, he'll take the walk. If Doug gets on, Paul [the pitcher] can bunt him over. Or if he gets on with two outs and Paul makes the third out, Jack [Wilson] leads off the next inning; then we have the top of the order coming up. It's mainly just to add a little more offense, maybe get a few more guys on base and help turn the lineup around."
Poppycock. I say again, Mientkiewicz bats before the pitcher and Wilson after, and aside from the first inning, it doesn't matter whether you call them 8-9-1 or 7-8-9. The only purpose is to confuse the rest of us as we fill out our scorecards.
JULY 1, 2018 WHERE'S THE ERASER?