Category Archives: Politics

Building walls

Walls block human ideas and wildlife migration, creating more problems than they solve.I recently overheard a parent ask his offspring what to do if he met someone on “technology” who he didn’t know, and who wanted to talk. The youngster said he would tell his teacher. And not talk to the stranger. The parent was proud his progeny had given the safe answer. I thought about the youngster’s future.

I remember the lesson well from my youth, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

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Right #1: A Free Press

Tail of a black rattlesnake visible among the leavesI’ve wandered around this planet quite a bit, visited countries I’d like to visit again, and experienced cultures that had some good features and some not so much. In my line, one of the most valuable cultural traits is freedom of the press. It has been under open fire lately, partly because one of the better known candidates claims to dislike most of the press – especially outlets that do not agree with him.

The king of Thailand recently died. Citizens were prohibited, under strict penalties up to and including death, from voicing disapproval of the monarch.

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Climate refugees are on the way

Private water supply, public uses bannedFrom behind my back, over the ridge, the morning sun slipped its arms through the trees and over my shoulder, gripped the edge of darkness and peeled it back the way a mother pulls a blanket from her sleeping child to wake him for school. Rows of hills, farthest ones first, then the closer, darker colored ones, became visible.

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We are Ameri-cans

There is no hyphen on the American flagAs I listened to a news anchor this week talk about the hullabaloo surrounding a speech delivered by a Muslim whose son was killed in Iraq, I was struck by the way in which the parents of the lost soldier were identified: Muslim-American.

Much has been made of late about how divided is our country, and it occurred to me attaching a prefix to “American” sharpens the wedges. The now departed son was an American. He served in the American Army. He was quite possibly a hero, for reasons beyond merely his signing up to go fight, and die, for the rest of us. He happened to subscribe to the Muslim faith, as do a few million people around the world.

We humans are a tribal lot. We love to identify with a group. We include, within the boundaries of the U.S.A., Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Sikhs, and Atheists. We wear jeans to work, or ban them. We drive Fords and Chevys and Harleys and Hondas.

When I came to Gettysburg, I took up residence in Bonneauville, a town I soon discovered to be nonexistent – at least to the post office and  the Department of Motor Vehicles. When I went to get my Pennsylvania driver license, I put my address as Bonneauville 17325. The nice lady at the window, in a not quite so nice manner, questioned which was correct — Bonneauville, of which neither she nor her computer possessed knowledge, or 17325, which her computer said was Gettysburg.

A label can give us roots. In Maine, it was said to be a True Mainer one had to be at least seventh generation. I wrote about a farmer whose Maine origin went back to two brothers who had been paid for their Revolutionary War service with a deed to land near where I lived. In fact, the original land encompassed much of what had become, by the time I was writing, at least three towns.

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The worst mass shooting

I woke Sunday morning and, as is my wont, perused my email. I subscribe to several forums and news sources and it takes less time to get the important stuff than to turn on the TV and wade through the commercials.

Early reports said 20 people had been killed, 23 more wounded. The writer must have misread, because later the report was 50 killed, 53 wounded – “the worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” some have said. I doubt that, but I suspect it depends on the definition of “mass shooting.” The shooter was one of those who lay dead, which is too bad; it would have been helpful, maybe, to know for sure what prompted him. On the other hand, he apparently called 9-1-1 to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS.

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The state will come up with it!

Capital dome reversed to form a funnel.Several years ago, when I was in the daily news game covering a school district near my home, came a discussion of the districts indebtedness and its need for a new elementary school. The district had undertaken a large number of improvements, and was about maxed out on what it could get its taxpayers to cough up.

“Never fear,” the superintendent told his Board of Directors. “According to state law, the new school won’t cost us anything.”

“With our debt load limited out, the state will pay for everything,” he said.

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Wastewater: a deceptively valuable commodity

Bottled water refill station at marketHere on the East Coast, the lawn mowing season is winding down. A little earlier each day the sky looks like a storm brewing. Times have changed; I need less time each day to recognize it’s not a storm, but the westering sun that causes the early-graying sky.

Here in South Central Pennsylvania, those of us who do not regularly water our greenery find it still needs a periodic trim, but not like the rain-pressured growth that bogged down the Troy-Bilt when we returned in July from a wedding in Florida.

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Je suis Charlie, je suis du monde

When a pair of state-sponsored bullies attacked and killed journalists and police officers at the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo last week, a large portion of the world picked up banners and declared:

Je suis Charlie Hebdo.

Every time a journalist is murdered, whether by bad guys with guns or bad guys with knives, that is an attack on all of us – on journalists, certainly, but also on those of us who depend on journalists to function as our representatives.

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They’ll never miss it

There’s been a bit of discussion lately about a lost respect for police. In furtherance of that discussion, consider Exhibit A.

It’s Christmas. You need a Christmas tree, but every tree retailer in the county is sold out.

On the other hand, there are some really nice specimens growing in the national park. Sure, there are laws against cutting trees in the park forest, but you tell yourself it’s really a victimless crime. You take the tree home, decorate it, and gather friends and family to celebrate the festive day.

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Questions from Ferguson

Years as a reporter covering courts have taught me most of us can read or watch the news and decide whether the accused is guilty. The most graphic illustration in my memory came at the end of the OJ Simpson murder trial.

For those who may not remember, the former black football and movie star was accused of knifing to death his white ex-wife and her alleged boyfriend, also white. When Simpson’s trial ended in 1995, the jury said he was not guilty.

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Coming up: all new episodes of “Blood, Brawn and …”

I thought I’d write this week about nature. Maybe about birds, or about the compost pile we’ve started behind my home by digging up and chipping a pile of brush, beneath which we found tons of worms.

But she won’t stop haunting me, the 25-year-old lass, twinkling blue eyes, light-brown-sugar hair pouring in almost-ruly curls around her face, her young body scattered …

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The nation’s highest court has decided

John's thumbnail

So the nation’s highest court has decided money is speech and corporations are people. Here’s a thought: don’t vote for anyone who tries to “buy the pot.”

During the 2012 presidential election cycle, gazillionaire Sheldon Adelson set records for the amount of money he put into the Republican run for the White House. Republicans lost. It can be done.

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Abraham, Martin and John (and Bobby and George).

(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 11/22/2013)

Fifty years ago today, Nov. 22, 1963, I was in Chemistry class, a Junior in high school, when we were called to assembly. We filled the bleachers, and our principal told us President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been killed.

That, we eventually would learn, was only the first of a series of assassinations of national figures.

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Minority rule (or, Election Day is Nov. 5)

Download link at end of this column.A few years ago, we turned out a large portion of the wastrels in the state legislature. We The People were nearly uniformly unhappy with lawmakers who had, in the dark of night, given themselves a payraise.

Unfortunately for the majority that does not vote, we too often have government by minority rule.

In the district of my home, our representative seemed to have a different excuse for each audience. He voted for it because he couldn’t stop it, he said. Besides, judges deserved a long-overdue payraise. He deserved a raise to pay for his lawyering education which, he said – after 12 years of being, by his own admission, essentially legislatively useless – would make him more effective representative of his district.

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GE labeling bill author says it’s about choice

Acres of corn prepare for harvest.Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery & Delaware counties, told a gathering in the state capitol Tuesday morning his bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods was about allowing consumers to make choices, not a statement about food safety.

“People in America demand information,” Leach said. “People don’t like being told, ‘You don’t need to know that; it’s OK.’” (Additional remarks by Leach in video at the end of this piece.) Continue reading

Bill to require labeling GMO products to be introduced Tuesday morning

Rows of corn waving in a summer breeze.A bill that could require labeling genetically engineered foods sold in Pennsylvania is slated to be introduced in the state senate Tuesday morning. Several farmers, church leaders and consumer group representatives are scheduled to accompany Sen. Daylin Leach (D- Montgomery and Delaware counties) as he announces the bill on the capitol steps.

The bill would make Pennsylvania the first state to require GE labeling. Continue reading

Schools good at data collection, but is that really their purpose?

We should have learned by now that by the time a child now entering kindergarten grows up and enters the workforce, most of the jobs now available will have disappeared. In spite of numerous changes to the school system and teaching methods, and although students in many classrooms may sit in a variety of physical patterns, all students still must submit to regimentation, now comprising standard exams, purportedly – because all students are, we are told, capable of learning equally well – to prove which teachers are failing their duties to fill their students with state-prescribed knowledge.

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