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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.


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Food for thought

Sigh. Vacation over. Back to the real world. Sad to see the news is just as exasperating as it was when I stopped paying attention to it two weeks ago. President Trump has had a terrific first 100 days. No, President Trump has had a terrible first 100 days. North Korea is rattling its chains again, and this time we're paying attention. Trump's wall is on hold. The government will continue at least through September, but then it's the shutdown threat all over again. Maybe I can ease back into things by writing about food, since that was such a highlight of vacation. Had some wonderful Mexican. Ate breakfast with the old fogies from the VFW hall. Had a great steak cooked on the grill by my brother. Enjoyed my sister-in-law's meat loaf and spaghetti. Experienced smoked brisket at what is reputed to be the best barbecue joint in Hill Country, Texas. (Memo to Fort Wayne residents: Shig's is comparable, so go enjoy.) But, no. Even that has been put in the political hopper: *A group of Yale g

Pressing on

Next week a range of journalists from old and new media will gather at New York University  for an event hosted by the liberal website Slate called “Not the New Normal.” It’s billed as a forum on “how the news media can and should proceed to cover” the Trump administration. Here's hoping, writes Tom Kuntz at Real Clear Politics, "the answer to that question is fair, fact-based coverage that informs the public about issues of significance." Yeah, well, good luck with that. If the press takes its cue from Kyle Pope, editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, it will remain as clueless as ever, as arrogant and ignorant as a high school sophomore, absolutely certain of its superiority and completely in denial about its biases. In a piece called "An open letter to Trump from the US press corps," he basically delivers a finger-wagging lecture to the president-elect that's as snotty and disrespectful as it can be. He recaps a list of

High noon

I've written about our coming pot problem before but in the context of "what if. . ." Now it might be time to consider the matter with a little more urgency. To refresh your memory, here is the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. And here is the federal government's definition of a Schedule I drug: Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote The co

It has come to this

President Donald John Trump. DJT. President Hillary Rodham Clinton. HRC. First Lady Melania Trump. First Gentleman Bill Clinton. Nope. Can't get my head around any of that. Who could have predicted that our presidential choice would be between a demented huckster and an unindicted felon? Or that Indiana would have been the place where voters could have said, "You know what? This is crazy. Let's just stop it." Instead, we will be known as the ones who put the wounded Ted Cruz campaign out of its misery. And what is the campaign going to be like? We're going to have two people most Americans don't like slinging mud at each other for months. There have been elections for which I've had to hold my nose and choose the lesser of two evils. This is the first one in which the thought of voting for either candidate makes me ill. I'm not one of those who think Clinton is going to crush Trump in November. Everyone has been misreading the Trump phenomenon from the beginning. Andrew Sullivan, in

Hot licks

I admire good guitar players a lot, I think more than any other musicians. It must have started when I first heard Jimi Hendrix while I was in the Army and was just blown away by the sounds I heard. Nobody had ever played a guitar quite like that. So Hendrix has always been the guitar god to me. But I have also worshiped many lesser deities from all sorts of musical genres: Andres Segovia, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, the list goes on.  But somehow I missed Prince. I don't know if it was because I was in one of my "done with pop culture" phases (I've had several) or because I considered Prince's flamboyance a compensation for a lack of talent or whatever, but I just never paid any particular attention to his music. So I completely missed the fact that he was an an amazing guitar player. "Defying description" is the way ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons describes it. The two of then had a remarkable (to me at least) two-hour conversation about the art and craft of guitar playing. A

Fairy tales packing heat

NRA Family, the National Rifle Association's family-oriented website, has caused quite a stir by "updating" classic fairy tales by arming the protagonists with guns. They've done two so far -- "Hansel and Gretel," in which the kids, guns at the ready, rescue two other kids from the evil witch, and "Little Red Riding Hood," in which Grandma holds the Big Bad Wolf at shotgun point until help arrives in the form of the friendly huntsman. In neither story are guns actually fired, which is kind of a cop-out, but never mind that. i might have also have armed Red instead of Grandma, but never mind that, either. The group of course says it has only the best of intentions -- it's for the children, don't you know: The NRA said the stories, written by Amelia Hamilton, whom the NRA calls a “conservative blogger” and “lifelong writer and patriot,” are part of an effort to promote responsible firearm use by children. The accident prevention program it oversees has help

The word's out

Instead of a "word of the day" today, how about a whole bunch of them, "13 wonderful old English words we should still be using today," from Christina Sterbenz over at Business Insider. I already knew the first word on the list, and it just might be my favorite word of all time, "ultracrepidarian," which is "somebody who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about." Actually, the for I knew was "ultracrepidate," the verb, meaning "to criticize beyond the sphere of one's knowledge." Think of the pope spouting off about economics, or a sportsw columnist who suddenly feels compelled to write about politics, or an editorial writer who goes on about . . . .well, just about anything. Since we're not experts on anything but having opinions and expressing them, ultracrepidarianism sort of comes with the territory. Just about anything we put into words involves a "subject we know nothing about." What makes the word really interesting is its origin. In a Roman story, a cobbler criticize

The rights stuff

Hillary Clinton is getting a lot of grief for a little bit of nonsense she spouted in an interview with Steve Harvey about guns in America: “We’ve got to say to the gun lobby, you know what, there is a constitutional right for people to own guns. But there’s also a constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that enables us to have a safe country. where we are able to protect our children and others from this senseless gun violence.” The nonsense is that the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" appears in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The Declaration is a foundational document and asserts our justifications for independence, including those rights, God-given or natural, as you will, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it doesn't guarantee a damn thing. But this is more than Hillary getting confused and putting words in the Constitution that aren't really there. It's a misstatement o

Bomb-throwing voters

Good grief. At this late date, there are still pundits and politicians who don't get the Donald Trump phenomenon? "Trump win," the headline says, "confounds people who thought gaffes would do him in." For months, Donald Trump's antagonists in rival campaigns, in the GOP establishment and in the punditocracy have believed the time would come, someday, when Trump would say something so outrageous, so over-the-top, so out there that the scales would finally fall from his supporters' eyes and the Trump candidacy would collapse. The South Carolina campaign, some believed, would be that time. After all, in the course of a week, Trump had dumped all over popular former President George W. Bush, had said good things about Planned Parenthood, and had gotten into a weird tiff with the pope. Surely now… Honestly, how many people left can there be who think it matters a whit what Trump says about anything? He once said he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and not lose any vot

Word police

The Word Police are on the job. This time, they're out to protect the delicate sensibilities of sensitive progressives who just can't stand some of the offensive words and phrases they encounter on the Internet. Now, with s simple Google add-on to their Chrome browser, they can visit any number of news and opinion sites where the horrible term “pro-life” appears, and in each and every instance the term will helpfully be replaced with, “anti-choice.” It isn't really that liberals feel threatened by the pro-life language. They are offended by it. "Pro-life" gives the movement a positive spin that liberals can't abide, so in their own minds, and of course on their own websites, they will think of it as "anti-choice," which makes their own arguments seem more righteous. Of course, "pro-choice" is the preferred name of the liberal movement, and it puts a positive spin on things conservatives don't think deserve a positive spin. I would say pro-choice people are

The mystery remains

Rats. I was enticed by those ancestry.com commercials in which the guy thought he was German and discovered he was really Scottish. I thought it might be fun to explore my own background, so I ordered one of their kits, which turned out to a be a little vial I was supposed to fill up with spit. So I did, and filled out the form, and sent everything in. Several weeks later I got a notice in the mail that my spit sample was unusable for the purposes of getting DNA. I have defective spit? They included a replacement kit, and I dutifully went through all the steps again and mailed the stuff away again. And, several weeks later, got another letter saying my spit was unusable. They included a third kit, which has been on the back of my couch for about a month and a half. I've been working up the courage to have my spit rejected again -- three strikes, and I'm out, probably was sent here as a child from another planet. And then yesterday, I see this article: "Genetic Ancestry Is Basically

Marching orders

A couple of years ago, The Los Angeles Times got some attention for announcing it would no longer accept letters to the editor from climate change deniers, that to publish a letter saying something like "there is no sign that humans have caused climate change" because such a statement is a factual inaccuracy," not an opinion. Trying to keep factual inaccuracies off the page I'm pretty sure is a goal of just about every editorial page out there, but this bold assertion of what is accurate and what is not is seems out of line to me. The paper has made its mind up and will brook no dissent. I've always thought the purpose of an editorial age in general and its letters package specifically was to generate debate, to keep an argument going. If it is vigorous enough, a good letters to the editor package can be self-correcting, with letters with good ideas driving out the ones with bad ideas. When The Times' policy was announced, Mother Jones contacted eight other papers and found more or le

Tweets and twits

Twitter seems to have stalled, with its number of followers flat and its stock tumbling. And it's just made a move that many are saying will accelerate the decline. Apparently some people are leaving the platform in protest over the creation of the new Twitter Trust & Safety Council because they say the mission being undertaken here is censorship. It can't really be censorship, since technically that refers to government activity, and Twitter is a private company. But since that's the term being used, and it does convey the idea of people having their Tweets blocked or getting outright banned, let's go with that. Our newspaper has been accused of censorship because we didn't print somebody's letter, so what the hell. Here's what Twitter said in announcing the TT&SC: To ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies. With hundreds of millions of Tweets sent per day, the volume of content on Twitter is massive

Trump free

 Watching the presidential debates is just good, clean fun for us, isn't it? By the time we finally get around to our primary in May, who knows who will be left standing? If past elections are any guide, the victors will already be known by the time we cast our ballots. So we can amuse ourselves by picking debate winners and losers without it really meaning anything.  I think Megyn Kelly had a great opening when she said, "First, let's talk about the elephant that's not in the room." That got the absence of Donald Trump, which of course had become the debate story, so it could be dealt with and dispatched. And honestly, the Donaldlessness of the evening wasn't that big a deal from then on. Marco Rubio dealt with it better than did Ted Cruz, who tried to hard to make jokes and just came off as the mean guy again. The debate overall in fact seemed to enlarge Rubio and diminish Cruz, so I guess I agree with the focus group Fox convened that gave the debate to Rubio. Everybody

It's an outrage!

The person who merely reacts to what others say and do is not likely to be successful. The smart thing to do is to try to anticipate what others will say and do. It's common sense. When I was a kid and I wanted some money from my parents, I knew to ask for twice as much as I wanted, because I knew they always gave me half of what I asked for. (Conversely, I have read, when you answer a doctor's question about how much you drink, he doubles it in for records, because he knows you have cut the true amount by half.) Donald Trump is always thinking ahead like that. If you've read his "art of the deal," that's how he has done business. You open up with something outrageous. Not just an offer so outrageous you know the other party won't accept it. So outrageous that the other party thinks you've lost your freaking mind. That softens him up for the offer you really want him to accept. After your outrageous opening bid, your real offer sounds so reasonable he can't possibly refuse it. And th

Snow way

OK, we've had our first snow. Are you winter-loving freaks happy now? Well, just shut up about it. My first cat, Pierre, was a tough indoor-outdoor feline who made it to almost 20 despite everything he endured in the jungles of Oakdale Drive. No matter how badly he got beaten up, he'd lick his wounds for a few hours then be ready to happily go right back outside. Even when there was a thunderstorm, he wanted to be out under the porch. The only thing that really got to him about outside was snow. Every year, during the long spring, summer and autumn months, he forgot there was such a thing. So the first snow every winter, he'd step onto the porch, then jump up and yowl and rush right back into the house, shaking his paws to get the awful stuff off. Then, I swear, every time, he went to the back door and made me let him out there. He just had to see for himself if the snow was everywhere. Surely, it skipped the back yard this year! When he discovered otherwise, he came back in and sulk

I will fight no more forever

Could I respectfully request that we agree to a moratorium on declaring war on anything other than another country amassing armed troops on our border? We're coming up on the seasons when everybody across the political spectrum can use the war trope to demonize a philosophical enemy, and the prospect is utterly depressing. The holiday season is almost upon us, and conservatives will use the occasion to revive their annual whine about "war on Christmas," as if Christ will be taken out into the parking lot and mugged by Santa, who will then be banished to the shopping mall on the edge of town. And the presidential election season would be just around the corner if it hadn't become a permanent part of the landscape, so get ready for more pathetic "war on women" rhetoric from liberals, as if Republicans didn't have wives, daughters, sisters and mothers, While we're at it, we can end a couple of long-running wars, and that can be a bipartisan effort, too. Liberals can give up the "war on

Just death

The pope believes all lives are sacred, so he's against both the death penalty and abortion. He's sort of soft-pedaled his anti-abortion message during his visit to the U.S., but he's hit the death penalty hard,  calling for its worldwide abolition. Ted Cruzdoes not approve: GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz said he disagrees with Pope Francis’ call Thursday to abolish the death penalty, calling the use of capital punishment a “recognition of the preciousness of human life.” In an interview with POLITICO shortly after the pope’s historic address to Congress, the Texas senator said he respects Francis’ views and the Catholic Church’s teachings on the issue, but “as a policy matter, I do not agree.” “I spent a number of years in law enforcement dealing with some of the worst criminals, child rapists and murderers, people who’ve committed unspeakable acts,” Cruz said. “I believe the death penalty is a recogn

This is not a test

With a large part of the populace in thrall to the pope and giddy over his visit here, it's a good time to recall John F. Kennedy's religion speech. Considering where we are today, it's probably difficult for anyone who didn't live through those times to understand just what a big deal JFK's Catholicism was. No Catholic had ever been elected president, and a large part of the Protestant population questioned whether Kennedy's faith would allow him to govern independent of the church. A lot of people actually said he would be taking his orders in the Oval Office straight from Rome. It became such an issue that candidate Kennedy decided he had to address it, which he did in a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on Sept. 12, 1960: I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me. Whatever iss

The Prime Directive

I'm usually wary of essays that mix politics and entertainment, especially ones that try to divine the philosophical underpinnings of cult favorites. But I found this one, as Spock would say, fascinating: "How Star Trek Explains the Decline of Liberalism." Gene Rodenberry and his cohorts were veterans of World War II, and when they created Star Trek in the early 60s, liberalism still meant fighting the evils of totalitarianism and liberals still believed in freedom as a universal yearning. There were clear-cut good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains: The best expression of their spirit was John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, with its proud promise to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” By the time The Next Generation came along, though, liberalism had been transformed into a philosophy of tolerant, nonjudgmental multi-culturalism and a moral relativ

Go, girl

Sorry, boys. The girl won. Back to that in a moment. I did not watch the undercard debate on CNN last night. Those four candidates aren't going to get anywhere near the nomination. I should give up "Jeopardy!" to listen to their babble? And please realize that everything I'm going to say about the main debate might be total nonsense (and everything most other people say as well). Since Donald Trump entered the race, all the accepted conventional wisdom about political campaigns has been turned on its head, so anything can happen in this race. For example, I don't think either Trump or Ben Carson, who are polling 1 and 2 in the field, did particularly well last night, so that should hurt them, right? But they didn't do all that well in the first debate, either, and look where they are now. The debate was about as crappy as I thought it would be. I don't think it was quite as bad as Justin Peters at Slate thinks it was ("an utter failure" and perhaps "the worst debate I can remember")

Life and death

If you've made it here, welcome to the first post at the blog's new address If you haven't, I guess I'm talking to myself. Wouldn't be the first time. Just to break in the new platform, I thought I'd start with a look from a different angle at two old issues, both of them dealing with matters of life and death. First is the issue of abortion, and the pope's new pronouncement about it: Pope Francis, who has defined his short tenure by taking on the most controversial issues from gay marriage to climate change, waded for the first time into one of the thorniest topics of his papacy Tuesday when he said priests can forgive the "sin of abortion" for women who are sorry about it. In a letter published by the Vatican, the pontiff — who has been striving to build a more inclusive church — said priests will have the power during a special "Holy Year of Mercy" that begins in December. "I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the con