Build That Wall!

By Penny Smith It’s difficult to capture Big Bend National Park in words. It’s vast and varied, but it’s in Texas and everything there is supposed to be big.  It’s isolated — over 560 miles from Houston, where I once lived and from which I started my visits, so...

What I’m Reading, 4-22-18

By Penny Smith Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die. New York: Crown Books, 2018. This is a long review, but it’s an important book.  I started this book several weeks ago, when it first came out, and put it aside, because it was a tad too...

BBAs and Republican Duplicity

By Penny Smith The Japanese have a penchant for stylized theatre. Kabuki is an ancient drama-dance form with predetermined plots, dress, and exaggerated facial make-up. Sumo wrestling is both a stylized performance and a life style. In a wrestling bout there is...

My Parents’ Republican Party

By Penny Smith Both of my parents were Republicans, first by heritage and then by choice. My mother’s family was from Iowa farm country, a Lincoln Republican stronghold. They valued personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, stoicism in the face of challenges, and...

What I’m Reading 4-15-18

By Penny Smith  Dan Cruickshank, Bridges: Heroic Designs that Changed the World. London: Collins, 2010.  I confess to being a book bargain bin diver. I rarely pass up an opportunity to cruise literal bargain bins in bookstores, mail order options like Daedalus Books,...

Deep State Dilemma

By Penny Smith Part I I generally subscribe to one mainstream conservative magazine for two reasons: (a) it lets me know what the opposition is thinking and (b) it puts me on mailing lists that bring to the house truly awful solicitations on behalf of the...

What I’m Reading, 4-9-18

By Penny Smith Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. New York, 2018.  Michael Isikiff and David Corn are long-time Washington DC reporters and frequent cable news analysts. Most...

My Goodness (An Abstract Poem By Our Dear Leader)

By Penny Smith Yes, he really did say these things.   I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, It’s literally going to cease to exist. (1990)   The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese In order to make United States...

Tangled Threads or Who’s Really Paying for GOP Campaigns?

By Penny Smith I was originally going to write about the “Deep State” this week, but a casual glance at today’s news sent me in another direction. Like a previous entry on this site about the devious ways in which the GOP has decided to fund their candidates, this one...

Life Lessons: What We Can Learn from Squirrels

By Penny Smith Spring is about returning. The birds are back. Peepers are peeping. Daffodils, crocuses and tulips are mature. The smell of tilled earth is once again in the air, as is, unfortunately, the faint dust of pollen. Fruit trees appear in grocery store lots....

What I’m Reading, 4-1-18

By the Fooler on the Hill If you are currently omitted from the exposé, there is always next year. After all, there was limited space, but not unlimited stories. See the 2019 edition.  Jane Koenig, Communications Made Easy. San Francisco, 2018.  Koenig’s book is an...

Parallel Planes: Parallel Lives

By Penny Smith In geometry, a plane is a flat, two-dimensional surface. Parallel planes may extend forever, but they never intersect. So much of American history is made up of parallel planes. For example, I just finished reading Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin’...

What I’m Reading, 3-26-18

By Penny Smith Joe Bageant, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir. Melbourne, Australia: 2010.  I read Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus recently (See “What I’m Reading” for February 11, 2018) and compared it to the currently popular Hillbilly Elegy. As luck would have it,...

On Ending the Liberal Arts in College

By Penny Smith Last week the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announced that it was considering eliminating 13 humanities majors, including English and History. They would be replaced by “clear career pathways.” The announcement echoes an earlier attempt by...

LIFE LESSONS — MY FIRST CAR: PARENTS ARE SOMETIMES RIGHT

By Penny Smith In 1961 my father retired from the Air Force. With a friend he briefly considered opening a Par Three golf course in pre-Disney World Winter Park. However, like many men with his set of skills and experiences, he transitioned to the military arms...

John Jordan O’Neil: One of My Heroes

By Penny Smith Countdown: If it’s Monday, March 19, 2018, it’s ten days until opening day. Play ball!  I first encountered Buck O’Neil in a couple of baseball history books, but he became real to me in Ken Burns’ baseball series. O’Neil frequently comments on this,...

What I’m Reading, 3-19-18

By Penny Smith Jane Mayer, “The Man Behind the Dossier: How Christopher Steele Compiled His Secret Report on Trump’s ties with Russia,” The New Yorker (March 12, 2018): 48-65.  In many ways Jane Mayer is a national treasure. A staff writer for The New Yorker, she...

Arrogant Donald and the 2018 Election

By Penny Smith I’m on a David Cay Johnston kick at the moment, having read It’s Worse than You Think last week. I just finished The Making of Donald Trump this week. The book is a campaign anti-Trump biography, hoping to take The Great Pretender (TGP) down a couple of...

Forty-Two

By Penny Smith The laziest reader of Douglass Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows that “42” is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. There was even a book published on the tenth anniversary of his death, 42: Douglas Adams’ Amazingly Accurate Answer...

What I’m Reading — 3-12-18

By Penny Smith David Cay Johnston, The Making of Donald Trump. New York, 2016.  See the article about Donald Trump posted on this same blog date.    Theda Skocpol, “Can Marches Become a Movement?: Lessons the Tea Party holds for the left today.” Democracy (on...

Beware Political Termites

By Penny Smith You’re going to hear this term a lot, particularly as we get close to 2020. Attributed to David Cay Johnson (see my summary of his most recent book, It’s Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America on the “What I’m...

Middle Class Bind

By Penny Smith According to Robert Reich and a number of other economists, over the past several decades income inequality has significantly increased in the United States. Particularly stressed are people in the middle, who “play by the rules.” The standard of living...

What I’m Reading, 3-5-18

By Penny Smith David Cay Johnston, It’s Even Worse than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.  David Cay Johnson is a prolific writer of books, essays and newspaper articles. Recently, he has become one of...

NRA’S LAP DOGS: Tillis, Burr and Money

By Penny Smith In the wake of yet another school shooting, the National Rifle Association has trotted out its public defenders. They blame almost everything except a pervasive, pernicious gun culture for such violence. Guns are fine. Any kind of gun. Everyone should...