#NeverAgain

Observations on the human condition.It appears a bunch of rich kids from the nation’s safest county may be able to get the nation’s politicians to act. Having 17 of the classmates and teachers murdered in a school where such things were not supposed to happen had got ‘em pretty riled up.Read more

Our neighbors need help

Turn right at the stop. If you're in the creek, you missed it.It is difficult to watch the television evening news and not know that some U.S. citizens seem to be less than the rest of us. And no, I’m not talking about African-Americans living in the contiguous 48 states.

Puerto Rico is politically an interesting situation. It is not a state. It does not have a vote in Congress. Yet its 3.5 million people are U.S. citizens. And it is, as President Trump has noted, an island, separated from the rest of the United States by about 1,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean.Read more

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.”Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

Good guys (sometimes) wear white hats

It’s great fun to sit by the stream and watch the oak leaves start raining down on the earth. They’ll become fertilizer to make more leaves next year. I do like a place with seasons.

Soon will be time to get Babe the Blue (Harley) Moose onto some curving mountain roads, among the multi-colored maples, birches, poplars and other natural topiary.Read more

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 …Read more

We’re all House Sparrows

A few months ago, a pair of English House Sparrows began guarding what they intended would eventually be the place they raised their offspring. Like most of us, they chased away interlopers, including the bluebirds we human yard owners hoped would make a home there.Read more

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.Read more

1 2