January 26, 2023

One of These Things

By Glenn

As a child, and as a parent, I’ve watched enough Sesame Street to have its images and songs drilled into my head.  One of the most useful is the categorization song: “one of these things is not like the other.”  It prompts a child to do a quick compare and contrast.

Comparing and contrasting is essential to every aspect of adult life.  My dad had a particular mechanical skill.  He could listen to engines and do a quick compare and contrast. He knew which engines sounded normal and knew which sounds indicated a problem.

As adults we want all of our skilled experts to be good at determining which “one of these things is not like the other.” We pay doctors to do it.  We pay cooks to do it.  We pay hair stylists to do it. We pay our pilots to do it.

Imagine if you went to a dentist and every solution was to pull teeth.  Are my teeth dirty?  Pull them.  Do I have a cavity? Pull it.  Would you trust such a dentist?  Or, would you trust a person who could properly identify a problem and develop a competent solution?

Based on court documents, we know that Donald Trump intentionally took classified and top secret documents from the White House.  When American voters fired him and evicted him from the White House, the National Archives told him what property to leave behind.

Donald didn’t follow the law.  After Donald moved to Mar-a-Lago, the National Archives noticed the items were missing and asked for their return.  In sworn statements to a Federal Court, Donald promised that he did not have the items. 

Someone at Mar-a-Lago knew the truth and reported the crime.  A Federal judge then gave the FBI a search warrant to investigate a crime.  The search produced 40 boxes of stolen documents.

Now, imagine if you rented a hotel room for the night.  When you left, you not only took a bath towel, but you also took the sheets, the clock and the television.  Would these items legally belong to you?

Imagine, you then get a call from the hotel.  The hotel tells you which items went missing from the room and asks for the return of the items.  After you deny procession of the items, the police find them in your home.

On the other hand, what if you returned home from a trip and noticed a hotel towel in your bag?  You think back, remembering throwing the towel into your dirty cloths’ pile.  You decide to call the hotel, tell them about the mistake and return the item.

Are these two hotel stories the same?  Are they different?  Would the hotel and the police treat these scenarios the same? I bet you can tell that “one of these things is not like the other.”  It really doesn’t take an expert.  If a child can, I’ll bet an adult can.

January 19, 2023

Keep Your Nose

By Glenn

Old sayings are a good way to remind us not to do stupid things.  For example, I’ve often heard, “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.”  This phrase warns us against acts of self-harm.  We often act out of anger and end up hurting ourselves.

For the last sixty years conservative politicians and media have cultivated anger to motivate their voters.   The United States as a whole has moved in a progressive direction, improving the lives of most Americans.

The New Deal provided workers with jobs and unemployment insurance.  The Civil Rights Movement provided women and minorities protections from abusive relationships. Public Schools and universities created equal opportunities.  Federal programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid improved the quality of life for American Seniors.

Conservatives have three lines of attack on this progress. Government programs make people lazy.  Government programs reward bad people.  Government programs are too costly. 

Unsurprisingly, these attacks have done little to hurt seniors directly.  Seniors vote regularly to protect themselves.  They are not going to cut off their nose to spite their face.

Unfortunately, the conservative fear tactics have divided and conquered other voting groups.  Those divisions have generated enough to roll back some of the progress in Civil and Voting Rights as well as public universities.

The Hollywood actor who played the role of a conservative politician, Ronald Reagan, helped advance his career by attacking college students.  He exploited the stereotype of student using drugs, having sex and protesting the Vietnam War.  These attacks eventually paid off as both the federal government and states cut funding for college education.

The result was predictable.  Wealthy families continued to pay for the children’s education.  Middle and working-class families struggle to keep up, contributing to the student loan crisis today.

This experience should be a cautionary tale.  In Texas conservative politicians like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are following in Reagan’s footsteps.  They, however, have moved beyond higher education and are demonizing public education. 

Abbot and Patrick make up scary stories about the LBGTQ and minorities communities to sell a school voucher program.  Vouchers would funnel money out of public schools to private schools.  Like cuts to higher education funding, middle and working class families would be left holding the bills.

America has a beautiful inclusive face.  Our democracy may have been an ugly duckling but it is progressing into a beautiful swan.  Conservatives want us to hate our nose. We shouldn’t cut it off to spite our face.

January 13, 2023

Eat Real Food

By Glenn

One of the best parts of my job as a historian is reading.  Because I work at a small teaching university rather than a large research university, I take a broad approach to my continuing education.  

This morning I read a fascinating genetic study about prehistoric dog domestication.  It showed that there are five major dog families and they probably all descended from a common series of events that converted wild animals to “man’s best friend.”

I like these kinds of studies because my personal interests with my professional life intertwine. Personally, dogs certainly made my life richer.  Professionally, it is interesting to learn how humans started to transform the natural environment to suite their own needs.

 I’m also reading a book about food and the nutrition industry.  For my friends and followers on Facebook, it’s not hard to figure out that I have two hobbies: food and public policy. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto brings together both.

My love of food began at home and expanded through travel.  My mother and both grandmothers cooked for us.  Mom cooked nearly every day, and my Maw Maws cooked family meals on weekends.  My dad and the other men in my family restricted their cooking to BBQs and seafood boils.

When I was in High School my Momma told me that I needed to learn how to cook.  She said, “They don’t make women like that anymore.”  I did learn to cook, but Momma was wrong.  My talented wife Jackie is a wonderful cook, and we’ve spent many hours in the kitchen together.

This practical experience made Pollan’s In Defense of Food easy to understand.  He argues that Western eating habits are making us sicker.  Too many of us eat processed “nutrition” instead of real food.  Americans will pop a vitamin C pill but never eat an orange. 

Additives and preservatives have put local producers out of business. We no longer buy fresh food from a local market or cook what is seasonally available.  No, we digest products made to sit on the shelf and stuffed with high fructose corn syrup. 

The reasons for this shift from food to nutrition are a complex mix of corporate greed, science, politics and home economics.  As industrial foods became cheaper they also lost their nutritional value.  To make up for the loss supplement and healthcare industries developed. 

Pollan recommends eating, and enjoying, more real food. Unfortunately, eating real, nutritious food cost more money than processed food.  Cooking also takes time.  Many parents today don’t have the time to cook at home. 

We could make this situation better.  We could reintroduce Home Economics in High School for boys and girls.   We could raise the minimum wage to make real food more affordable.  We can build communities that don’t require long commute times to work. We just need to prioritize people over profits.  

January 6, 2023

Roots Run Deep

By Glenn

In October of 1929 the New York Stock market crashed and took down the global economy.  Conservative President Herbert Hoover chose to keep government help limited.  For the next three years the economy remained in free fall.

This horrible experience taught voters that something had to change.  Millions of people realized that they had the power to make their lives better.  They elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt President and a Congress dominated by liberals.

FDR and Congress ignored conservative crying.  They got to work alleviating the immediate pain, reigning in Wall Street abuses and creating a safety-net for the future.  Not only did the economy turn around but America avoided the cyclical depressions of the past.

After World War Two ended the New Deal programs laid the foundation for the greatest period of progress in human history.  FDR set a new standard:  “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Sensible Republicans saw the obvious reality of this success and helped build America.  Men like President Dwight Eisenhower and Chief Justice Earl Warren protected federal economic programs and expanded Civil Rights. 

This bipartisan effort led to federal investments in computer technology, space exploration and highways.  Public education and universities flourished.  Women and minorities gained equal rights under the Civil Rights laws.  A rising tide was lifting most boats.

Unfortunately, a small minority of conservatives continued to whine about the new prosperity and freedoms.  At first this minority was divided into both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Those divisions allowed Congress to pass Medicare and a Civil Rights Act.

Ronald Reagan, a California politician and Hollywood actor, failed to rally opposition to Medicare.  Alabama Governor George Wallace failed to muster opposition to the Civil Rights Act.  The 1970s energy crisis, however, brought these two factions together.

Both pointed to “big government” as the problem facing America.  By 1980 the memory of the Great Depression had faded enough for voters to forget how far the country had progress and opened their ears to limited government.  Fortunately for Reagan Conservatives, his Presidential victory coincided with new oil fields coming into production in Alaska and the North Sea.

As energy prices fell globally, conservatives claimed credit and attacked the very programs that built middle class prosperity and security.  Those attacks have been persistent for the past forty years.  While most have failed to turn back the clock, conservatives have successfully redistributed wealth from the middle class to bankers and corporate executives.

January 2, 2023

Ciudad Rodrigo 2019

By Glenn

After leaving Porto we drove to Salamanca. Along the way we stopped in Ciudad Rodrigo for sandwiches and a walk around the ramparts. The Old Town sits atop a defensive hill top with a unobstructed view of the valley below. The guide books call the wall “Medieval.” I am sure the walls rest on a Medieval foundation, but they were redone in the trace italienne style.

January 2, 2023

Fatima 2019

By Glenn

We left Lisbon on a rainy morning and drove north to Porto. On the way we stopped in Fatima. It was a large, modern complex. We attended mass in the bright arena like cathedral. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_F%C3%A1tima

January 1, 2023

Belum 2019

By Glenn
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Belem is a short tram ride outside of Lisbon. It is the gateway to the Atlantic. This day trip was an immersion into Portuguese naval history. Outside along the mouth of the river are huge monuments to the heroes of exploration. The Naval Museum itself tells the story of naval technology from the 15th century to the present. Jerónimos Monastery provides the home to the memorial to Vasco da Gama. It looks like a tomb, but it is empty.

January 1, 2023

Lisbon 2019

By Glenn

As we left Sagres, Jackie decided she need to feed the local donkeys. Leaving was much less stressful than arriving. I was ready for the tiny roads. Our apartment was on a step incline. Thankfully, we had garage parking. The area to navigate in and out, however, was not the most spacious. We rarely spent time indoors. Rick Steves had planned several walking tours. They were a great way to see the architecture and minimize the walks uphill. Everywhere at the top had a view. Avenida da Liberdade is a grande way that is a luxurious stroll. It was not far from the apartment and provided a lovely stroll at night as well as from and to the apartment. On day two, we rode a cable car to the other overlook of Lisbon. The city itself is nestled in a steep valley. Riding up make the walk down better than the reverse.

December 8, 2022

A Few Good Men

By Glenn

As a kid I didn’t “go to the movies” with adults.  On special occasions my Aunt Barbara would round up her nieces and nephews and take us to see classics like Herby the Love Bug.  In Bamberg Germany, my friends and I would walk together to the theater on the military base.

One trip to the theater as an adult with my parents, however, does stand out.  In 1992 A Few Good Men debuted, and my parents wanted to see it.  I remember the movie both for its famous court room scenes and my conversation with my parents after it.

Hopefully, you’ve seen the movie, and I won’t spoil the ending for you.   The plot centers on two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine, Private William “Willy” Santiago.  The two defended themselves claiming the death was the accidental result of a brutal hazing incident ordered by Base Commander Colonel Nathan Jessup.

At first nobody believes the two privates because Colonel Jessup denied ordering the illegal “Code Red,” or beating.  Eventually, their attorney, Naval Lieutenant Daniel Kaffe, believed them and called Col. Jessup to testify under oath. Kaffe’s questions goaded Jessup into saying more than he should.

In the movie’s most famous scene, Kaffe demanded the truth, and Jessup shouted back, “You can’t handle the truth.”  Jessup admitted under oath that he ordered the illegal Code Red because the Marines needed to be tough to protect America.

With this explosive testimony, a military jury convicted Colonel Jessup and the two privates.  One of the privates couldn’t understand the verdict because he was just following orders.  The other private explained the verdict: “We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.”

My dad instantly understood rationale.  He understood that the military serves the society, not that society serves the military.  My mom, however, couldn’t understand the guilty verdict.  My dad, a Vietnam veteran patiently explained that soldiers and marines shouldn’t follow illegal orders.  A Few Good Men say “no.”

Like Jessup, Donald Trump continues to mislead conservatives in beating down our democracy.  On January 6, 2021, he incited a mob to attack the United States Capital.  Like Jessup, Donald ordered a “Code Red.”  A few well-placed punches from the mob would “Stop the Steal.”

Unlike Jessup, Donald is not in jail yet.  Donald continues to promote illegal activities.  On December 3, 2022 he wrote “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Simply put, Donald called for treason.  Anyone following this mad man’s ranting will find themselves in jail with January 6 insurrectionists. Where do you stand?  With Donald?  With the United States of America?  I know my choice.