Thursday, February 9, 2017

Troubled Times

“Where's the truth in the written word?
If no one reads it
A new day dawning
Comes without warning
So don't blink twice”
            Green Day, “Troubled Times”
 back cover of Green Day "Revolution Radio" CD

The Senate confirmed wealthy Republican donor Betsy DeVos to be Trump’s Secretary of Education, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.  She is the daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, co-founder of the Amway multi-billion-dollar pyramid scheme and the brother of Erik Prince, founder of the nefarious private military company Blackwater USA.  During the hearings DeVos argued that guns were necessary in schools in case of a grizzly bear attack.  In a shabby charade two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted no, along with all 48 Democrats, knowing that when push came to shove, their votes were not needed. DeVos, a champion of charter schools and vouchers, will become the steward of over 100,000 public schools.  Shameful. Plutocrats can’t wait to further milk the education cash cow.
 above, Betsy DeVos; below, Sen. Elizabeth Warren

During debate on whether to confirm Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney-General, Elizabeth Warren commenced reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King charging that Sessions had used his office as federal judge to intimidate elderly black voters.  Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell interrupted, claiming the Massachusetts lawmaker had broken Rule 19, which prohibits members from impugning fellows Senators.  The Upper Chamber then voted on straight party lines to silence Warren for the rest of the debate.  Warren, using a soccer phrase, told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, “I’ve been red-carded.”

Trump’s own Supreme Court nominee has evidently called the President’s rants against the judiciary demoralizing.  Ray Smock wrote:
              Our new President uses fear to divide us and he offers no Freedom from Fear. He has advisers who prophesize war with China and even more war in the Middle East. We have a president who causes fear around the globe with his complete lack of diplomacy and decency when dealing the heads of state. We have a president who speaks loosely and cavalierly about nuclear weapons. 
          We live on a planet of diverse peoples, languages, religions, cultures. There are more than 7 billion of us. The United States is a divided nation of 325 million. We need the world, the world needs us, and we all need each other. We cannot retreat to isolation. We cannot pretend that we are superior to others or that our path is the only path.

From Rapid City, South Dakota, Dean Bottorff wrote:
  Both South Dakota Senators, Republicans John Thune and Mike Rounds (bought and paid-for by out of state money from big donors like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos) voted to confirm Jeff Sessions (a bigoted unrepentant racist) on Wednesday. SHAME!
In a subsequent post Smock wrote:
                “IT WAS A BRIGHT COLD DAY IN APRIL, AND THE CLOCKS WERE STRIKING THIRTEEN.” This is the attention-grabbing opening line of George Orwell’s novel 1984. I don’t know anyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, or none-of-the-above, who does not feel that right now, in America, the clocks are striking 13. We are in uncharted waters. We have been cut loose from our moorings. Things do not seem right. 
             I have not seen this much anxiety about the fate of our government and of our Constitution since the two years of agony surrounding the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon. When that dark episode ended on August 9, 1974, President Gerald Ford pronounced “Our long national nightmare is over.” I am sorry to report that this nation has embarked on another national nightmare. How long it will last I have no idea. I want to wake up right now. But I can’t. Each passing day of the Trump administration finds me descending deeper and deeper down a dark rabbit hole. I feel like Alice having tea at the table of the Mad Hatter and his wacky consorts.
               The hero of Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith, was a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Truth in the fictional country of Oceania (thinly disguised Great Britain). His job was to change the facts of history to suit the ruler, Big Brother. To show how Winston Smith would work in Donald Trump’s Ministry of Truth, I offer one example: If the facts of history showed the murder rate was near a 47-year low, but President Trump needed murder to be up for political reasons, the Ministry of Truth would say that murder was at its highest level in 47 years. Did I just hear the clock strike 13 again?
Drinking a beer from 18th Street Brewery left by Miranda’s boyfriend Sean, called Temporal Purgatory, I called ray Smock and told him that was an apt description of our country right now.
 Albert and Victoria

In part 3 of the PBS series Victoria the 20-year-old- queen asked Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg to marry her. The film makes it appear that Victoria initially thought Albert was dour and conceited, but she had met him in 1936, three years before, and afterwards thanked her uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, who had arranged the visit, for “the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert ... He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.”  The two married in 1840 and subsequently had nine children, including Edward, Prince of Wales (nicknamed Berty), who visited the United States in 1860 and spent a night in the White House when James Buchanan was president and Harriet Lane First Lady.

In duplicate bridge I played a two No Trump contact and took 11 tricks.  Charlie Halberstadt frowned, thinking we had underbid, but I told him it was hairy.  I used one of my two heart stoppers to take the opening trick, and, had the opponents led them a second time when they got in, I would only have been guaranteed eight tricks.  Instead a Diamond lead gave me a free finesse, enabling me to set up my long Club suit despite missing both Ace and King.  We ended up with high board. The hand I wish I’d played differently was a three Spades contract where, sitting south, I went down one.  Both opponents had bid Clubs, but I held the King, Jack, spot.  After East won the Ace, he led a small Club.  I played the King, thinking I could discard the Jack on a Diamond winner, an eventuality that failed to materialize due to uneven distribution. Turned out, the Club finesse would have worked.  Charlie and I ended in first place with a score of 65.28% (50% being average), good for 1.59 master points.  Charlie emailed:
That was a STAC game, a Sectional Tournament at Club game.  So not only were the master points silver, rather than the weekly dull black, we were competing against a bunch of clubs, and our high percentage gave us an additional 3.xx points.
Dr. Bonnie Neff (above) solicited my advice on what to say at the August dedication of the new Arts and Sciences building that IUN will share with IVY Tech.  I suggested emphasizing the university’s commitment to the community and that this will augment the University Park initiative along Thirty-Fifth Avenue.  Its predecessor Tamarack Hall (IUN’s original Glen Park building, first called Gary Main) had a state-of-the-art auditorium whose orchestra pit, unfortunately, frequently flooded during heavy rains.  I gave Bonnie a copy of Paul Kern and my history of IUN, “Educating the Calumet Region,” which contained this remembrance by Acting Chancellor William Neil of Gary Main’s dedication 58 years ago:
  We were the [regional campus] pioneer.  Ours was the first major off-campus building program.  There had been nothing like it.  IU President Herman Wells took a particular interest in our campus.  He was involved up to his ears.  He insisted that Gary Main have a full-scale auditorium. At the dedication, a play was performed by a cast from Bloomington and the next night an opera was performed.  The dean of IU’s Music School wasn’t very pleased, but Wells insisted.

Indiana Magazine of History has asked me to reviewManhood on the Line: Working-Class Masculinities in the American Heartland” by Stephen Meyer.  It deals mainly with Michigan auto workers, and I plan to make comparisons with Northwest Indiana steelworkers, citing works by Richard Dorson (“Land of the Millrats,”1981), Mary Margaret Fonow (“Union Women: Forging Feminism in the United Steelworkers of America,” (2003), and Anne Balay (“Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers,” 2014).
 Jake Arrieta wins Cubs first World Series victory since 1945

Ryan Shelton worked his magic to ready my completed files for transfer to the printer. My six-month-old computer has no DVD outlet, so he transferred the final product electronically using something called VOX file format. I recall when floppy disks became obsolete and then zip drives.  Like me a big Cub fan, Ryan paid $500 for a standing-room-only World Series ticket to game two (a 5-1 Cubs victory thanks to a solid performance by pitcher Jake Arrieta) in Cleveland (equivalent Wrigley Field tickets cost five times that much) and then was offered an empty seat right behind home plate that cost his buddies $1,500.

The Engineers took two games and series from Spare Me even though I was the only one above average despite a paucity of strikes.  I picked up a 4-5-7 split; 99 times out of 100 if the ball goes between the 4 and 5, the 7-pin remains.  My new Nitrous barely grazed the 5-pin before veering left.  We won game 3 by 5 pins when Dick Maloney converted a difficult 3-6-7-10 split. 
sand and steel mill photos from Anne Balay

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