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Move over, Hester: Speaker Mikey's in town...

Remember Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Puritan society in his novel, The Scarlet Letter?  Poor Hester Prynne violated the laws of the church, which meant that she broke society’s laws, too.  At the beginning of the novel, the reader joins Hester as she leaves the safety of the town prison and makes her way back into the society that jailed her.  Reading the book for the first time in the 11th grade, I had a hard time understanding how, in a free society, the religion of one group could also form its judicial system.  That makes the laws of God the same thing as the laws of man.   Separation of church and state was also an 11th grade U.S. history lesson, so we students figured no more Hesters could be jailed for breaking the laws of her religion .  Or so we thought.  We fought a war 250 years ago to separate the colonies from a king who was not only ruler of the government but leader of the church.  A quick walk through British history shows what a mess that ideal leads to:  remember Henry VIII
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Shed Some Light On 2024

 Last night, I watched the final episode of the Netflix series,  All the Light We Cannot See, based on the book by Anthony Doerr.  It was fabulous, and I would heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in WWII or in history in general.  The most salient thing about the series was that, even though it was set in the early 1940’s in France during the Nazi occupation, so much was relevant to our time.  And the scary part is that the brutality of the Nazi soldiers towards those different than themselves and the blind allegiance that Germans had for a delusional and dictatorial leader smack somewhat of our own 2023 world.  So we haven’t really learned a damn thing, have we? The Republican Party is led by a delusional and dictatorial leader that promises to retaliate against those that do not support him, if he is elected president once again.  He declares that he will shut down the justice department, the state department, and any other institution that doesn’t fall in line with his dem

Pinky Swears and the Very Red Right

 Remember the pinky swears you made with your best friend when you were six?  You linked your little fingers and swore to whatever promise the other demanded, because you were best friends and, well, a kid.  As silly as this seems now, this is evidently the way the Republican party operates.  Leaders make promises to those in the House, and those members hold up the business of the American people if promises aren’t kept.  Then we’re all in pinky-swear limbo.  But members of congress aren’t elected to keep promises to each other; they‘re elected to keep promises to the American people.   So, as distasteful as this idea is to the right wing of the Republican party, members of congress must negotiate. This means no one gets everything they want, but the government moves forward and American life goes on.  Yup, Republicans:  compromise is the name of the congressional game.   Evidently, nobody sent Matt Gaetz or Nancy Mace the memo.  They believe they are entitled to every demand they mak

Way To Go, Joe !

 You know those drug ads with the snazzy slogans and ear-catching jingles that interrupt your favorite TV shows?  I’ll bet  you’ve found yourself singing one or two while you head to the kitchen for a snack or take a much-needed bathroom break.  Well, those advertisements are the brainstorms of the pharmaceutical companies, developed to make you head straight to your family doctor and demand the latest boutique drug designed just for you and your specific illness.  Trouble is, the industry spent over 8 billion dollars on these adds last year, and of course they passed the costs on to those looking for an easy cure and a catchy tune to whatever ails them.   Which means, unlike other developed countries around the world, we Americans pay a bundle for our drugs- sometimes a bundle so high that people simply can’t afford the medicine they need.  And that’s why President Biden’s announcement that ten drugs would be the first to have to negotiate prices with Medicare is such a big deal:  it

Thoughts on “Common Sense” Education in Virginia

Governor Glenn Youngkin, in interviews and presentations, often refers to his policies as just “common sense.” For example, “common sense” is the typical description he provides for his views on public education in Virginia, a topic that played an important role in his winning the 2022 election. Imagining myself to be a sensible individual, and having spent much of my adult life as a (public) university professor of ancient history, I happen to care a great deal about real, life-long, and life-changing education, and I do not believe that Youngkin’s policies deliver genuine goods. Youngkin’s Executive Order Number 1 (2022) was entitled: Ending the Use of Inherently Divisive Concepts (my italics) Including Critical Race Theory, and Restoring Excellence in K-12 Education in the Commonwealth. The words “inherently divisive concepts” occur numerous times in the Order, which promises “professional development and training so teachers and schools are prepared to engage students on important

O this learning, what a thing it is!

Florida schools have now decreed that nothing from Shakespeare can be taught, if it’s sexual in nature.   I’ve got news for you, Ronnie.  All of Shakespeare is sexual in nature.  In fact, pretty much all of life is, too.  Think of Verona, Italy - the setting of Romeo and Juliet - as a microcosm of Florida.  Adults make all the bad decisions:  two groups live to fight each other, the prince decrees death to those who don’t follow his rigid laws, a priest gives bad advice to teens.  Romeo and Juliet are simply trying to survive and grow up in this not-very-conducive environment.  Kind of like teenagers in your state.  The good news for you, Ronnie, is that Romeo and Juliet get married before sex.  But sex it is, and without teaching that part of the play, the rest makes little sense.  And if students are lucky enough to have a Shakespeare-loving teacher who attempts to teach the comedies, high school students might run into A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Fairy dust and lust is probably bann

Youngkin's Plan For Education

 It’s almost that time of year again:  kids are enjoying the last free days of summer and getting ready for another school year.  New notebooks, book bags, lunch boxes and pens and papers of all shapes and sizes line the counter tops of homes across the country, waiting for the arrival of a yellow school bus and another year of learning math, English, science, and history.  Except in Florida.  By now, you’ve heard of the Florida Education Department’s declaration that slavery was an on-the-job training program designed to ready slaves for the work force.  But this isn’t the only scary change in academics for excited Floridian students.  Ever heard of Prager U ( ?  It’s neither a university nor a credible place to get curriculum for public schools.  But that hasn’t stopped Ron DE Santis and his gang from using it to promote white supremacist, misogynistic, and factually inaccurate information among the most vulnerable minors.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida De