Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Apt Description of Getting Older

"When you hit your 50s life starts comin' up on ya fast,  Gordo Tallman said to me on the occasion of my 49th birthday.  For that time life is pretty much a straight line. Wife looks up to you and the young kids are small enough, and the older kids smart enough, not to weigh you down. But then, just when you start puttin' the pounds an' losing your wind, the kids'er are expectin' you to fulfill your promises and the wife all the sudden sees every single one of your flaws. Your parents, if you still got any, are gettin' old and turning back into kids themselves. For the first time you realize that the sky does have a limit. You comin' to a rise, but when you hit the top there's another life up ahead of you and here you are – – just about spent."

Walter Mosely Known To Evil

Monday, February 8, 2016

Behind the Ronald Reagan Myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” by William Leuchtenberg

“You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”

Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” 

“Every moment of every public appearance was scheduled, every word scripted, every place where Reagan was expected to stand was chalked with toe marks.” Those manipulations, he added, seemed customary to Reagan, for “he had been learning his lines, composing his facial expressions, hitting his toe marks for half a century.” Each night, before turning in, he took comfort in a shooting schedule for the next day’s television- focused events that was laid out for him at his bedside, just as it had been in Hollywood."

New Vocabulary Words

crepuscular-occurring or active during twilight

didactic-designed or intended to teach people something

miasma- a heavy cloud of something unpleasant or unhealthy

limned-to draw or paint on a surface

anomaly-deviation from the common rule

anodyne-not likely to offend or upset anyone (adjective)

cozenage- art of fraud, trickery

concupiscence- strong or sexual desire

Paul Krugman article on "Foxification" of the GOP (NYT)

"Mr. Rubio’s inability to do anything besides repeat canned talking points was startling. Worse, it was funny, which means that it has gone viral. And it reinforced the narrative that he is nothing but an empty suit. But really, isn’t everyone in his party doing pretty much the same thing, if not so conspicuously? The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication. First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 million private-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect. Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle. This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

“If you think culturally, socially, after about 67 we run out of narrative as to what to do,” he (Joseph Coughlin, the director of MIT’s AgeLab) explains. “There’s only so many cruise ships that you can enjoy norovirus on, only so many golf games, so many daughters to walk down a wedding aisle.”
G. Clay Whittaker
We’re Not Ready for a Population That Lives to 100

The most obvious culprit here is the Catholic obsession with the sinfulness of sex for pleasure, especially homosexual sex, along with a peculiar sexual proscrip­tion for clergy: celibacy. Intentionally or not, the celibate priesthood specifically attracts applicants who are at best confused or conflicted about their sexuality, and at worst deliberately seek positions conducive to sexual exploitation of the vulnerable. Although Catholicism condemns homosexuality, priests appear to be disproportionately gay. The prevalence of homosexuality among priests has not yet been properly measured via random sampling, but when 101 American gay priests were asked to estimate this prevalence, most of them guessed 40 percent or more—a rate far higher than in the general population. A different study of a thousand priests found that 20 percent of them were in homosexual relationships, and another 20 percent were in stable relationships with women. Most of these were verified by interviewing the sexual partners. Aside from being an ineffec­tive sham, the doctrine of celibacy for the priesthood apparently attracts young Catholic homosexual men, either as a means of suppressing a sexual orientation they perceive as evil, or—in certain Catholic subcultures—as a safe venue for hooking up with other gays.
Excerpted from “The Illusion of God’s Presence” by John C. Wathey.

According to the New York Times, over half of all American women under 30 who give birth are unmarried. When adjusted for levels of education and economics, the numbers skew dramatically higher.

According to the Washington Post, 25 percent of millennials don’t affiliate with a faith-based tradition and almost twice as many don’t belong to a church. More so, a Pew Research study suggests that an astonishingly low number of youth believe in the existence of a God. As religious participation, affiliation and even belief wane in both post-Christian Europe and the Americas, atheism is now among the fastest-growing affiliations among young adults who have turned anti-faith into its own kind of faith.

This is the end of marriage, capitalism and God. Finally! My fellow boomers might mock millennials, but what if the new generation has the big questions absolutely right?

Jeff DeGraff

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top 12 Books I Read in 2015

 Normally I read much more nonfiction books than fiction. The percentage is definitely moving to fiction as my reading tastes and interests are changing as I get older.

In no particular order, the 12 Best Books I Read in 2015. The first six books on my list are non-fiction, the last six, fiction. I would have included Trigger Mortis, which is the latest James Bond book by Anthony Horowitz but I listed two of his other books that I found a bit more entertaining in my Top 12 list.

  1. The Guns at  Last Night: The War in Western Europe 1944-45 by Rick Atkinson.
  2. In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria.
  3. Dead Wake; The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  4. God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican by Gerald Posner
  5. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  6. Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright
  7. Live By Night by Dennis Lehane
  8. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
  9. Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
  10. All The Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
  11. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercranz
  12. And Sometimes I Wonder About You by Walter Mosley