Category: Feature

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Sweatshops of the Mind, Part II: The Schooling We Have Lost

During the 1990’s, in Rockford, Illinois, an appointed federal magistrate usurped the authority to  decide what schools should be opened or closed or built, how much tax money should be spent on which programs in which schools, and how many white children could be admitted to the gifted programs.  I was among those who condemned the magistrate’s power-grab as both unconstitutional and immoral, and, although the local powers-that-be–including the newspaper and big business interests–condemned the magistrate’s critics as racists, a federal judge ruled in our favor.  

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Sweatshops of the Mind: The American School Bureaucracy, Part I

The most significant conclusions of the National Education Goals Panel was the familiar complaint: Further study is needed.  More data needs to be collected in every area… and most of the panel members agreed that the main emphasis in the ongoing crusade to improve our schools should be on assembling data and devising new instruments for testing and measuring progress.  This has been the burden of that same old song that was sung before John Dewey had ever corrupted the first mind of a student.

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October Surprises Coming

In American political parlance, an October Surprise is something launched to affect an election just before voters go to the polls, this year on November 6. There also are run-ups to the October Surprises, such as Vyshinsky’s – I mean Mueller’s – witch hunts against President Trump’s associates, which have had nothing to do with Mueller’s portfolio to look into non-existent Russian rigging of the 2016 election.

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What Is To Be Done?

The flaws in such [conservative] strategies are pretty obvious.  Most obvious is that they are rooted only in nostalgia or folklore, not in the realities of power or the realities of human nature.  This leads to the second flaw:  They simply don’t work.  They never have, they never will.

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Wednesday’s Child: The Errant Way

While invoking Conrad or Nabokov would be a bit of overkill, the fact is that passing for a native in a language other than one’s mother tongue – in my own case, moreover, a native whose literary persona is distinctly curmudgeonly – invites comment.  In particular, it is often said that learning a foreign language any time after puberty, as was Stalin’s case with Russian, condemns the learner to a lifetime of subtle humiliations. Stefano, a friend from London who has been almost absurdly kind to me over the years, has now got it into his head that he wants...

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A NEST OF SWAMP RATS

In the past twelve months the national news has introduced us all to some remarkably loathsome people wielding considerable power from very high places.  How does this come about? A complete list of these creatures would be long and unwieldy, but a short list, on the lines of the FBI’s Most Wanted, and treated as character studies, allows us to reach some conclusions, the most important one being that we are dealing here with is entrenched mediocrity—intellectual, moral, and spiritual.      John Brennan, former head of the CIA under Obama, is an Irishman, born in New Jersey, 1955, whose...

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Death of a “Diva”

Morgana King died in March.  Born in the province of Catania (Sicily), she moved to New York with her family at an early age and, with a clear if wispy voice, she enjoyed a fine career as a singer of popular music with a strong jazz orientation.  Her recording of the Kern/Wodehouse standard “Bill” is a classic performance.  Those who do not have an ear for popular music may recall her as Mamma Corleone. Since “de mortuis nihil nisi bonum,” should be the rule for normal human beings (which excludes politicians, journalists, and academics), I’ll say nothing about the late...

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‘Give Us Back the Death Penalty, Josef Vissarionovich!’

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force.” – George Washington (attributed) “All grandeur, all power, all subordination to authority rests on the executioner: he is the horror and the bond of human association. Remove this incomprehensible agent from the world and at that very moment order gives way to chaos, thrones topple and society disappears.” – de Maistre “Who – Whom?” – Lenin My title refers to the chapter of that name in Solzhenitsyn’s “In the First Circle,” now “free” with Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Under the all-compassionate Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union abolished the death...