Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reform and Accountability?

Politicians have a lot of annoying habits. Presuming to tell us what we think and then validating that opinion with some selective poll are two of the worst. Before the election, the senator from Illinois told us that "corruption" was the grievance most frequently cited by voters (Washpost, 04 Jan 08). By that account, you might think the economy and the war were small potatoes.

Since then, the President has frequently said; "it's not enough to change the players, we have to change the game." Game is the key word in the argument. Hearing about ethics from a chap who represented a state where his vacant Senate was put up for auction is a little like hearing from Harry Reid about the evils of gambling and prostitution.

Whenever politicians start to preach about ethics and accountability, we need to recall Mark Twain's observation that politicians are the only permanent class of organized criminals. We are told daily that draconian measures are necessary to “recover from the mismanagement of the last eight years”. Polosi, Reid, Frank, and Dodd were the financial management of the last decade. Where’s the accountability in this group? Congress proposes; a president merely disposes.

The recovery plan (aka bailouts) has drop-kicked all moral hazards out of the financial arena. To be replaced with what? The fatal flaw of all government roles in commerce is the assumption that politicians or federal bureaucrats are moral and competent; at least more so than entrepreneurs and the titans of industry. All those who believe politicians and integrity belong in the same sentence, raise your hand!

In short, on the oversight front, President Obama wouldn't do more with less; he would do less with more. The “unprecedented effort” to be led by the Vice President is a cipher. Biden’s first effort was to strong arm governors into accepting funds they do not want. Surely the President knows that a deeper oversight matrix makes any corrective action less likely. Joe Biden has spent his entire career inside the Beltway. Should we believe he’s about to have an epiphany?

Here's a thought. Instead of new bureaucracies, boards and commissions; let's disband all the inert oversight and ethics monitors that aren't doing the job and let the Justice Department do its job. Revive the ABSCAM stings if you will, with apologies to Representative Murtha and Senator McCain of course. If we must have another "people's public watchdog," let's keep the varmints out of the hen house - no politicians on the oversight dais. The solution isn’t bipartisanship; the answer to oversight is no partisans - citizens who have never held office.

It's hard to believe that smart people like Obama and Pelosi do not understand all of the above. We are left to conclude that, like the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform, we can look forward to a lot of moral sizzle, but no steak. Creepier still is the similarity of Obama's proposals to Marion Barry's recent stunt. Councilman Barry introduced legislation, since withdrawn, to the DC Council that would prohibit employment discrimination against ex- convicts. Presumably that would mean the guy who gave your neighbor a lead pipe lobotomy might someday return to your street as the beat cop. When the President and the Speaker have their way, the folks who stole your chickens will get to watch the hen house.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The War on Prosperity and Others

There are three things we know for certain about Barrack H. Obama – maybe four. The first is that he is our President; he just won the most expensive bull shit contest in the free world. The second is that he has a good rap; that’s how he won the contest. Indeed, even when he shades or ignores the truth, he is so sincere and so articulate that we give him a pass on candor. A Press corps whelped by Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky is unlikely to hold his feet to the fire. NBC’s Chris Matthews admits to being “tingled” by Obama. Stimulus indeed! The third thing we know for certain is that Obama has written two books – mostly about himself. The fourth is a little sensitive; he doesn’t like to use his middle name, a least not in public. Obama seems to be more than a little cagey about his Muslim heritage. If character is destiny, we may be headed for the ego abyss. Picture Carter(D) policies fronted by Kennedy(D) rhetoric.

All of the air in the room is being sucked out by the economy at the moment. For the near term, our dismal science is the sum of bail-outs, stimuli, political pork, affirmative action mortgages and earmarks – although the later, henceforth, will be known as investments. No one seems to know whether a trillion large will work, but let’s not sweat details like effectiveness. Using more deficits and more debt to “stimulate” may be a little like hiring Maynard Keynes to diddle your furnace and expecting it to heat the house.

On a daily basis we are told that draconian measures are necessary to recover from the “mismanagement of the last eight years”. Never mind that Nancy, Harry, Barney, Chris and Maxine were our management in that decade. Does Congress still propose and the President still dispose? If Maxine prevails and we nationalize everything; we will still be the most prosperous nation on earth – until Halloween.

All this economic heat is more notable for smoke than fire. And national security seems to be receding into the miasma. Wars with real bullets have fallen off the radar. Some might argue that the first priority of national security is the domestic piƱata. Fair enough, but those gifts are already on their way. Our domestic vector is set. We are going to pig out as far as the eye can see and then make a date with Jenny Craig – a date uncertain. We have launched the war on prosperity and that’s that!

But what about those other wars that were so worrisome during the late great campaign? Is it two or three wars? Harry said we lost one. We need to do the math.

There is the bad war in Iraq that the President ran against; and the good war in Afghanistan he says we should be fighting. Never mind that many of Obamas’s acolytes never met any war they approve of. Then there is the “war on terror” which apparently has fronts in places like New York, Karachi, London, Madrid, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Aden, Somalia, and recently, Mumbai. Let’s end the confusion and call it the “whatever” war. But who the hell are we fighting?

Making war on terror is out; nobody makes war on a tactic. And then there’s the Carlin (bless his soul) corollary: “Beware of those who speak euphemism”; they say not what they mean nor mean what they say. We can’t call it the war on Islamofascists. That’s an affront to National Socialists and Communists every where. After all, Fascism has been in decline while Islam has been growing like, well, the Later Day Saints. National security mavens such as Sally Quinn assure us that terrorists are just a small minority, not representative of Islam – never mind that Islam is exactly what they have in common. Nobody ever asks Ms. Quinn how many followers the Bolsheviks had in 1916 or the Nazis had in 1932.

Now that the Congress and the White House have Democracy and Capitalism on the run, what are we going to do about the enemy whose name we dare not speak? America may be suffering from sacrifice fatigue. What with going from jumbos to hail Mary mortgages, Hummers to hybrids, Deer Valley to the Delaware Shore, Feragamo to flip flops and most worrisome of all, from plastic back to paper. If the President opens another front on the Great Salt Lake, we should put down our dopio, pull up our panty hose and just say no!

Enough is enough!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dear General

We haven’t heard much from you since that last piece of performance art at the United Nations. Now it seems that we hear from you once a month. First there was that endorsement of Obama and then, after the election, there was the condemnation of Republicans, Sarah Palin and, of all people, Rush Limbaugh. Let’s start with the Republicans.

You jumped ship at the eleventh hour before the election. And now you give Republicans advice on how to get well? This is a little like Colonel Arnold giving war counsel to General Washington. You recommend that they dump Palin and stop listening to Limbaugh! You may lose your RINO card.

You also seem to laboring under the illusion that the ‘community organizer’ won because he was a better choice, more accomplished than, or had a better program than McCain/Palin. Bravo Sierra, sir!

Any honest observer would have to admit that Barrack’s only concrete accomplishments to date are two books – about Obama. Now granted he has a good rap. But it’s not like someone hasn’t said it all before. The only difference between B.H.O. and Jesse Jackson is that Obama doesn’t patronize us with rhymes. And by-the-by, should you ever decide to counsel the president, you might want to point out that hope is not a strategy and change is not an objective.

The Republicans could have run Pericles and still lost. The Republicans lost because Hilary blew the primaries. The Republicans lost because the economy fell into the crapper just before show time. The Republicans lost because a left-leaning congressional circle-jerk successfully, if not fairly, hung the affirmative action mortgage debacle on Bush and by implication, McCain.

‘Twas unfair to link Obama with Wright and Farrakhan, but somehow not unfair to claim a McCain victory (guilt by association) would be a third term for Bush. The Republicans lost because a vote for Obama was a vote against Bush. The Republicans lost because McCain looked and sounded like yesterday.

But why do you have Sarah Palin in your cross hairs? By any metric, she is an accomplished lady; athlete, wife, mother, business woman, volunteer, municipal and state-wide office holder. Unlike the usual political groupies and bimbos inside the beltway, she’s also a babe. Ms Palin favors and actually does justice to a skirt.

She is ridiculed for her performance on the gas bag circuit. Compared to whom? Surely you can’t be thinking about Joe (“I’ve forgotten more about foreign policy than most people know”) Biden.

Biden’s singular accomplishments are tenure and an overwrought ego. He is an inside baseball, inside the beltway diva. His only qualification to be chair of anything is 35 years at the Senate trough. Change my ass! Let’s put aside for the moment his hair plugs, teeth by Steinway, plagiarism and chronic foot-in-mouth problem and look at his grip on history and current issues. He doesn’t know when Roosevelt (D) served or when television began! Entertainment is the only value added that Senator Malaprop brings to this administration.

His one recent foreign policy initiative was to suggest we divide Iraq into ethnic and religious cantons! Such a policy would reinforce not eliminate the divisions that fuel conflict in the Levant. Such nonsense would also torch relations with at least four other nations in the region. As we used to say in boot camp; “this guy doesn’t know shit from Shinola (an excellent shoe polish I might add)”.

The real difference between Palin and Biden deserves a hockey analogy; good prospect versus no prospects. Before I leave Sarah, one more thought. If we compare you, Obama, Biden and Palin, we can say with certainty that Governor Palin has reached her high station without benefit of political tenure or an affirmative action tailwind. You will note that my remark about you and the President is conditional, yet if the shoe fits, I’m sure it’s a size ten.

Let’s move on to Limbaugh. You suggest that Republicans need to stop listening to El Rushbeau? Whatever for? He is their most caustic critic;
flailing the flaccid on an equal opportunity basis. Take the McCain case. Limbaugh may have lost several million votes for Republicans before the recent election by suggesting that McCain was a political hermaphrodite.

You must appreciate that the Left makes Limbaugh and talk radio possible! Newspapers and networks are loosing clients while conservative talk radio is growing. There is only one possible message here. Talk radio is providing facts and a point of view that “mainstream” outlets, including CPB, are unable or unwilling to provide. The issue here, sir, is bias and in too many cases “cooking (Janet you know who you are) the books”. The mainstream keeps telling itself that it is loosing ground because of technology. Their real problem is integrity. Readers, viewers and listeners are literally not buying crap anymore - or corvettes, it seems.

Just a few examples would include Mike Wallace, Janet Cooke, Stone Phillips, Dan Rather and Jason Blair. We might even throw in Woodward and Bernstein now that we know that their source for Watergate was a highly placed FBI fruitcake with an ax to grind. Cooke and Blair, you may recall, were two investigative “journalists” caught lying for the Washington Post and NY Times about conditions in black communities – as if the truth were not bad enough. Old school editors like Ben Bradley (WP) Hal Raines (NYT) underwrite questionable journalism with bad conduct medals. Cooke received a Pulitzer Prize.

But your personal favorite should be Mike Wallace. Do you remember how CBS tried to smear Danny Graham and William Westmoreland on their Vietnam era order-of-battle assessments? CBS and Wallace had to be taken to court before the truth was told. Blaming soldiers for an unpopular war is a little like blaming crime on cops.

Conservative media is a growth business because they put their politics and their agenda up front. The so-called mainstream is committing suicide (no offense, Mr. Wallace) in slow motion because they continue to lie about their agenda and cook the books in an era when such duplicity is quickly exposed. Leftist, liberal and socialist journalists never admit to an agenda or admit who they are. Say what you will about Limbaugh’s politics; you don’t have to take him to court to know from whence he comes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that like you, I‘m a product of the Bronx, a proud graduate of Cardinal Hayes High. Indeed, I was also born into the Democrat Party. As a youth, I was a big fan of Tip O’Neil and Pat Moynihan. I lost my progressive cherry when Moynihan was thrown under the bus for telling the truth about welfare and affirmative action hustles. Since then, my misgivings about liberals have been validated.

Today, the Democrat Party is led by a botox bimbo, a sin city shill, a hysterical sodomite (who ran a boy’s bordello out of his basement) and two philandering boozers, one of whom may be a homicidal drunk. Please fill in any names that fit. The governor of California recently characterized legislators as girlie men. Here in Washington we actually have three types; there are women who want to be men, men who want to be women and the rest don’t seem to have the giblets to make either team. Calling this crowd a “parliament of whores” (thanks PJ) is an insult to honest hookers everywhere.

Not that any of this drove me into the arms of Republicans. In my Bronx neighborhood we thought Republicans had died off with Teddy Roosevelt, if not Lincoln. I had a short hot-flash of deja-vu during the Reagan years, but I recovered. Yet the real problem isn’t Party; its propriety.

So I was more than a little concerned the other day when you trashed the good lady from Alaska because you thought she had slighted your “Bronx values”. I applaud your concern with values but let me say a few words about the use of “Bronx” as an adjectival salutation.

The Bronx is a place people come from, not a place people go to. Even when New Yorkers talk about “the city”, they mean Manhattan not the Bronx. If you were to go to the Bronx today there a five things you would not bring; your wife, your kids, your wallet, your watch and certainly not your automobile. If you were to ask citizens of the Bronx where they would like to live, 75 percent would say “anywhere else” and the remainder would be unresponsive due to mind numbing chemicals. Let’s be serious, neither of us would go back there to vacation, buy property or to retire. Just as surely, the best day of our lives was the one when we saw the Cross Bronx Expressway in the rear view mirror.

They say you can take the boy out of the Bronx but you can’t take the Bronx out of the boy. As a soldier and citizen, I tried to refute this canard daily. You shouldn’t be defensive about the Bronx and I don’t think Governor Palin ever mentioned your values or lack of them. Yet I think she has a point about small state, small town values. And she always makes her point with gentle, humorous Thornton Wilder aplomb.

Considering recent political values on display in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and now Illinois, we should all worry. Yet, you say that big cities are where the votes are. So what! Does this mean its OK to sell a Senate seat if enough like-minded idiots agree?

Seeing that you have brought up this values thing, let’s talk about them in important venues like a president’s character - the economy and in national security matters.

People like us who grew up in the Bronx can’t afford to believe in guilt by association. Good folks should be willing to overlook those unsavory characters that dog Obama’s character. At the same time, you know that were he a GS-6 looking a security clearance, he wouldn’t get past hello. Nonetheless, he should be judged on his contemporary associates.

The first that come to mind are the Clintons - the last pair of breeding lawyers in the White House. You may recall how that played out. Now Obama brings this circus act back to the national stage under the flag of “change you can believe in”. Hello, general, are you still there? Good, let’s continue the values chat.

We now live in a single-trade oligarchy, a culture where almost all elected and too many appointed officials are lawyers. The law trade is like the psycho babble business. Their ethic is the game – keeping the ball in play, not unlike scoreless soccer. Lawyers and psychiatrists don’t care who wins or looses as long as they get paid or laid (sorry Bill). In Barack’s old neighborhood it’s called pay to play. Do you think it’s an accident that even judicial pay raises get pasted into unrelated bail-out bills?

So when I think about the economy I’m having another hot flash of deja-vu. Plan Obama calls for massive spending to be followed by a fiscal diet at a date uncertain. Seems to me that massive spending is what got us here in the first place. Using deficit and debt and to stimulate the economy may be a little like having Maynard Keynes diddle your furnace to heat the house.

Politicians never see any problem that can’t use more money. That’s where the votes really hang out. Conversely, they never have the stones to end programs that don’t work. I live in a town where health care, education, housing and policing receive massive taxpayer support. If any of these programs were dependent on values or effectiveness, they wouldn’t merit another nickel. A century and a half after Lincoln’s death, too large a part of the nation’s capital is still a dangerous slum. Values for lawyer/politicians, sir, are about arithmetic not ethics.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd couldn’t manage a trip to the toilet without staff assistance. Yet we have to watch Obama’s Hill colleagues lecture Wall Street and Industry on accountability. This may be change you can believe in. I’m still stuck on the hope thing.

And finally, there is national security. I’m concerned that a guy who thinks his grandfather liberated Poland doesn’t have a firm grip on reality or world history. You know, those Nazis, fascists, communists and like-minded totalitarians in the Muslim world. When he meets Putin, Obama may have to apologize to Marshal Zuchov’s memory. Nonetheless, today’s war is more to the point. Not once in the recent campaign did I hear Obama say the word Islamist. Is courage one of those values that concern you? Does he plan to beat the bad guys by never speaking their name?

When you chat with the commander-in-chief you might also point out that we are not fighting “a war on terror”. Nobody makes war on a tactic. We are fighting Muslim fanatics. You might also disabuse him of the notion that we have two wars; a bad war in Iraq and a good war in Afghanistan. There may be two major theaters and numerous minor fronts but the war is singular and it’s world-wide. Does Mumbai ring a bell? If he thinks he can jawbone this growing movement of religious crazies, I suggest he hang onto those smokes and one of your flak jackets. He’s going to need them.

You know, general, the beauty of democracy is that sometimes we get the kind of government we want and sometimes we just get what we deserve. Back in our active duty days an SOS (save our ship) was a distress signal. But for troops in the mess hall it also meant chipped beef on toast (shit on a shingle). For bored grunts in the barracks, it simply meant “same old shit”. So I’m thinking that Jeremiah Wright might be right no matter how you read the SOS. The chickens have come home to roost.

Before I wrap this up, let me apologize to you on behalf of George Tenent and the Intelligence Community. Yes, I’m a twenty five year Intelligence veteran. Old George hung you out to dry. Guys that work both sides of the aisle don’t have values. But they get medals too. That Iraq speech CIA wrote for you to deliver at the UN could not pass muster at a cadet beer bust. But you gave it anyway. So we all understand how you might be in the mood for a little pay back.

But lay off Sarah Palin! She has already been slapped silly by the deficit side of the values spectrum - for trivial reasons in most cases. She is a role model for any American girl. And compared to Caroline Kennedy, Sarah Palin looks like Elizabeth the First.

And it’s not like you didn’t shoot yourself in the foot at the UN. At the time, you had 50 thousand gofers that could have done some Iraq fact checking or a little in-house analysis at the State Department. But that’s another story. Until next time, let me leave you with a few lines of poetic consolation: “Of all the words to come from mouth or pen, the saddest are these, what might have been”.

On Education

(This is the first in a series of essays prepared for a couple of beginning college freshman – one at American University and the other at the University of Southern California. The assumption that proceeds all of these is that true education comes after class.)

If you are looking for an education, you probably will not find it at the schoolhouse. For too many Americans, the mandatory 12 years and the optional four years of schooling is a deferment from life. A high school diploma does not guarantee you can read. A college degree will not guarantee you can write. And no number of advanced degrees can certify that you will ever be able to think for your self. Education can not be forced. Universal “education” (aka the public school system) is predicated on two flawed assumptions: all people can learn and all people want to learn.

So before you squander part of your lives and all of your youth, we should make a few distinctions.

School is not a synonym for education. In the last 60 years, the object of schooling has morphed from learning to credentials. Thus, diplomas and degrees are not necessarily accomplishments. Today, there are institutions where a well matriculated hamster could get a diploma or baccalaureate. You already know the mantra. High school graduates make more money than dropouts; college graduates make more than high school grads. There may be a link between learning and earning but it has nothing to do with schooling as we know it.

Learning has been subverted by credentials. Grades, promotions, diplomas and degrees are often a function of social concerns and misguided notions of affirmative action. An illiterate professional footballer recently enrolled in the adult literacy program at the Lab School in Washington, DC. He was a graduate of primary, secondary, and college programs in the State of Texas. Academic credentials often represent social ransom not achievement. Feeling good is the new being good. And you seldom hear about the home scholars and drop outs that change the world or become billionaires. If urban public schools could be sued for malpractice, the system would collapse in a year.

Public schools at the primary and secondary levels are government monopolies, a kind of municipal day care. They are also a civic tautology; mandatory taxes for mandatory schools. They exist because the law says they must. And because attendance is compulsory, their fist mandate is custody – learning is optional. Armed guards and metal detectors are standard features of the urban school. The public community college and university is an extension of primary and secondary school logic. If twelve years in public custody are good, sixteen must be better. Education is possible in a public school; it is likely almost anywhere else.

The so-called “education system” is the largest single private and public employer in the country. If your parents send you to private school, they pay twice. First for the public school you don’t attend and then for the private school you do attend. Such a hustle is bound to attract grifters: school systems are magnets for fraud and mediocrity.

An old adage says that those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach. There is much more than a grain of truth in this folk wisdom. A brief survey of public school teachers and text books tells the tale.

An Education degree or “certificate” is the necessary credential for primary and secondary school instructors. Indeed, most administrators and principals possess advanced Education degrees. Thus at every level, the “how” of teaching is emphasized at the expense of the “what”: method trumps substance throughout. The substance vacuum is compounded by the devalued currency of Education degrees. Consistent research finds that Education majors test well below the bottom of the academic pile. The dregs of academia are thus preordained to become primary, middle and high school teachers, and principals – the untutored leading the uneducated.

Conditions are not much better at the college and university level – for different reasons.

We now have a very large class of instructors who have no life experience but every academic credential. Indeed they spend their entire life at the academy. And substantive superstars in the cloisters do not teach; they spend as little time in the classroom as possible. Such savants are expected to research or write. Most of the research is derivative and most of the writing is drivel - resume fodder or text books.

The text book racket is notorious. Over-priced books, most of which have no use beyond the class room, are the mandatory expenses for a captive audience. Assistants on the make and tenured professors regularly commend each other’s texts to the various departments. Every few years, Professor Avarice changes ‘happy to glad’ and a new edition and another revenue stream is created. Never mind that definitive classics already exist for most subjects. Never mind that these might be available on line or in any library. Need we mention that the campus book store is a revenue stream for the school. Text books are the perfect cash cow - or circle jerk – depending on whether you’re buying or selling.

Nonetheless, the most pernicious influences on schools are tenure and unions. At all levels, tenure is a euphemism for permanent employment devoid of merit. Two examples are definitive. In Manhattan there is a high rise in New York City where teachers who have been removed from the classroom, for cause, are warehoused at taxpayer expense. Some are child molesters. They have been removed from class but not from the payroll. They are protected by contract, union mandates and tradition. Children, unfortunately, have no similar protection.

Tenure is no less of a problem for higher education. In the nation’s capital, a school president was recently removed from office for making obscene phone calls to a day care center. After several months of “rehabilitation”, he was returned to the classroom at full salary with all the perks of academic tenure. Ironically, the school in question calls itself American University. Such is the way of American tenure.

This quality deficit is compounded by toxic politics. Almost every text used at the primary and secondary level is tainted by political revisionism. At higher levels the American academy has been hijacked by the totalitarian left. The recent fiasco at Harvard is instructive. The president, a male, was fired because he had made some innocuous remarks about differences between males and female. The only politically correct vision of women in the academy is that they are men without giblets. They only correct view of men is that they are not women - and therefore clueless brutes or gay.

Ironically, academic feminists are captive to a kind of self-serving sexual hypocrisy. When coeds fall under the spell of some male lecturer with a good rap, the next thing they are likely to hear is the sound of a zipper going south. Male academics have traditionally seen female students as one of their academic perks. Indeed, a Georgetown scholar once observed: “The advantage of teaching, over other professions, is that, unlike your wife, the girls never get any older”. It’s not just that women tolerate this kind of exploitation; they now seem to participate with gusto. If we can believe what we read in the Press, the distaff pedant has few boundaries – including sex with minors.

Beyond the politics of sex, many campuses have become permanent refuges for all manner of neo-Marxist ideologues. These are not just the Chomskys (University of Chicago) who rave against democracy and capitalism – the very things that make his brand of political nihilism possible. Worse still, many universities actually seek out former criminals, terrorists, ‘community activivists’ and assorted bomb throwers and give them tenure in the name of diversity. The line between professor and propagandist has been obliterated. Many a campus has become the employer of last resort for the social flotsam and political bong resin of the last century.

So what’s a girl to do? Can you swim in this sludge? Is it possible to learn and get an education? Ironically, even in a swamp, the good bits float to the top. Today, any student with a modest triple digit IQ has a leg up when you consider the caliber of peer and pedagogue you are likely to encounter.

Nonetheless, forewarned is forearmed. In another time, there was a clear consensus on faculty qualifications and student study requirements. Until the turn of the last century a genuine scholar might speak the vernacular and Latin - and have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew in addition to some specialty expertise in the natural sciences. Don’t look for any of these guys in your faculty lounge.

A serious student would be required to master ethics and rhetoric before dabbling in the natural sciences. Back in the day, rhetoric would include logic, reading, writing and public speaking. The natural sciences are all those ‘ics’ and ‘ologies’ parsed by Aristotle and refined during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. A classical education would also include the great books – the canon of “dead white men.”

Given the circus of political correctness and assorted distractions on today’s campus, you could do worse than model your personal academic goals on the classic model.

If you have no sense of ethics or morals, you will be rudderless before you leave port. Ethics is simply an understanding of the historical consensus about right and wrong; indeed, the basis of all law and civil behavior. In the old school, ethics was first among equals; should do was always superior to can do. You might have to transfer to Hillsdale College to find an ethics course.

Rhetoric was the anchor for all specialized learning. Thinking logically, reading critically, writing coherently and speaking persuasively are the real prerequisites for any field of study or profession. Master these rhetorical skills and the world, academic or professional, is your oyster.

If you are ever to be truly learned, you must also get up to your ear lobes in the dead man’s (or women’s) canon. Classics on any subject are classics for a reason. Two illustrations follow.

If you were to explore the subject of atheism, you could do no better than to read Graham Greene or Dostoyevsky. Their life’s work is an exposition of the subject. The value added with dead authors is that they are always more entertaining than live professors.

And so it is with subjects like poetry, prose and stage craft. You can do no better than to read Shakespeare. (He never went to college.) And the value added here is not just entertainment, but a slow epiphany that will allow you to see that the bard is a lot like your mother and father; as you get older, they get smarter.

One more dead white guy until our next conversation. Hemingway believed that the secret of good prose was knowing what to throw out. In the next four years or more you will encounter a blizzard of bravo sierra and a host of charming charlatans. Please, know what and who to throw out of you lives. Good luck ladies!


G Murphy