Free Speech or NOT?  Free speech in Academia- Not So Much Anymore

Academic Freedom & Free Speech


After I wrote the following blog, I asked myself if this was not too much of a rant against the Republican Party.  I had to face the fact that it has been the Republican Party which has been waging the war against public education in this country.  However, I did not want this to be a rant against Republicans. I truly believe that Democrats and Republicans can offer a useful counterbalance to each other’s traditional positions IF they are so inclined to discuss and try to reach a compromise on positions and policies.  I am afraid that what I would like and what is possible today given the demonization of each party by the other side is no longer an option.

Some friends suggested that I simply avoid using the word Republican.  I thought about this, but the idea crossed my mind that if it waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims and flies like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is most likely a duck.  Republicans are at the forefront of an anti-intellectual agenda taking place across America today.  There can be no hiding or denying this fact.  If you identify as a Republican and are for free speech in schools, then you should speak out against these anti-public education policies or else vote as an independent.  If you continue to be silent or vote for Republican candidates simply based on party affiliation, then you are as guilty as those who would banish free speech in schools.

speech under attack

Freedom to Speak

Once upon a time, the freedom to speak the unspeakable was protected in Academia by a system unique to the hallowed Ivory Halls known as “Academic Tenure.”  Academic Tenure was thought of as an almost ironclad guarantee that would allow the professorial class the ability to speak their minds on any subject without fear of reprisals.  Wikipedia defines the system, and its purpose as follows:

“Tenure is a category of academic appointment existing in some countries.  A tenured post is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances, such as financial exigency or program discontinuation.  Tenure is a means of defending the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views.” Wikipedia

Now the purpose of education is mainly to create people who think for themselves.  Over the years, schools have had only minor success at accomplishing this goal.  There once was at least some correlation between the amount of education people had and their ability to think independently of political or economic ties.  As education for jobs, what I call Technocratic Education, has gradually replaced the idea of Liberal Education, this correlation has diminished.  Under the goals of the old Liberal Education, the correlation between education and independent thinking was stronger albeit, it still left a lot to be desired.

Today, we live in an age of Technocratic Education.  Students are now more interested in IT, Computer Science, Law, Medicine, and Engineering than English, History, Philosophy, and the Liberal Arts.  People go to school to get training in job skills and less in creative thinking skills.  We have doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, and many other graduates who while they may be experts in a certain field often have no idea of what happens beyond their chosen discipline.  This fact of specialization could make a strong case for the old Liberal Education.  Sadly, we cannot bring back the past.  Students pay ridiculous amounts of tuition in hopes of finding a job.  It is not easy to pay bills today.  The cost of living keeps skyrocketing.  That will not change.

Years ago, the Republican Party recognized that American Universities were saturated with professors who tended towards a liberal political perspective.  A large majority of professors were Democrats and some even very left wing.  A small minority were Conservatives.  The Republican Party schemed how they could change this.  Liberal Education and Democrats went together.  This would not do for the Republicans.  They came up with three ideas.

  1. Destroy and or neuter public education.
  2. Destroy tenure in institutions of public education
  3. Create conservative think tanks which would skew information and research to the right.

They were aided in their efforts to destroy public education by the prevailing zeitgeist which saw a decrease in the number of students interested in a Liberal Arts Education.  Technocratic Education had become the new standard.  Teacher Education was also declining as a preferred career field under an assault by school boards and Republicans to control curriculums and what teachers could say and teach.  In Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Free State of Florida,” a charter school principal was forced to resign after sixth-grade students were shown images of Michelangelo’s notably nude sculpture, “David.”  Apparently, DeSantis never visited downtown Louisville where a 30-foot-high gold painted statue of David is in the middle of a major street.  David is complete with his genitalia.


The lack of funding for teachers, lack of prestige in the profession and war on ideas and free speech may kill public schools simply because of a shortage of teachers willing to deal with this denigration.  The Republican assault on tenure has been very successful.  It has led to a decrease in the number of schools with Academic Tenure.

Tenure Under Attack Nationwide:  Continued political pressures threaten to erode tenure on public campuses and compromise academic freedom. — Mark J. Drozdowski, Ed.D., Dec 8, 2021

“In January, legislators in South Carolina will consider a bill to eliminate tenure at the state’s public colleges and universities. While this may seem like an extraordinary move, it actually aligns with current and recent plans in several other states nationwide.”

Several other state legislatures have moved to abolish tenure in public schools.  News sources like Fox News continually portray educators as flaming Liberals and Radicals who want to brainwash our young people into believing in Socialism or Communism.  Here is a recent story on Fox News:

“Former teacher warns new Minnesota educator licensing standards includes every ‘buzzword’ from the far-left.”  — America Reports, January 30, 2023

The usual formula by Fox is to find some story with a “real teacher” who supports their conservative perspective and who is “blowing the whistle” on yet another dastardly plot by Liberals to brainwash students.  Conservatives hate “WOKE” ideas and liberal ideas that might be promoted to help protect the rights of minorities such as Blacks, LGBTQ, and Immigrants.  They also hate unions because they try to protect the rights of teachers.  This former elementary school teacher has made a second career out of railing against such liberal policies and support for unions.   The following video by another teacher is more emblematic of what teachers are thinking and doing today.  Please take a minute to listen to this teacher.

Gross Pointe Teacher Roasts School Board and Resigns 

A tribute to Republican propaganda is that the term Conservative has not become a dirty word in politics.  However, few Liberal politicians will define themselves as Liberals.  Hardly a day goes by when I do not read of some Republican Legislature bringing out new laws to muzzle teachers and ensure that they do not say anything which would lead to a questioning of authority.  We now have a “Parents Rights bill” sponsored by “you know who.”  This is a party that is all in for “Rights” but seem to forgot that as my Principal Sister Giovanni always liked to say “For every right, there is a responsibility.”  I would love to see a “Parent’s Responsibility Bill.”


I find it ironic, that 2600 years ago, Socrates, the smartest man in the world was tried, found guilty and executed for daring to teach young people to think for themselves.  He was executed in another place famous for its claim to democratic principles. Socrates believed that the foundation of education was based on questioning everything.  Republicans believe that the foundation is based on discipline, following instructions, and doing what you are told to do by your leaders.  One philosophy leads to pluralism, while the other leads to fascism.  The results of the Republican strategy can be clearly seen by the attack on the US Congress by a mob of Trump supporters and the resulting silence by the majority of the Republican leadership.  As tenure and unions decline, more and more educators find themselves threatened with jail and/or fines for teaching ideas and theories that are anathema to Conservatives, Evangelicals, and Republicans.

“In Indiana under a proposed bill (Senate Bill 12), if a prosecutor charged a teacher or school librarian with disseminating material that is harmful to minors, the school teacher or librarian would not be able to argue that the material had educational value as a defense.”Feb, 28, 2023, Indiana Senate passes bill to ban ‘bad’ books, ease prosecution of teachers, librarians.

The final plank in the Republican platform to destroy education was to establish several think tanks and political action groups that would sponsor bills and laws to support their agenda.  If this seems somewhat absurd, allow me to explain further.  The current Republican Party is the most anti-intellectual and anti-science party that has ever existed in the USA.  There has always been a strong strain of anti-intellectualism in America   (Read Hofstadter’s book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life).  The Republican Party has carried this strain to new heights.  Two examples as evidence of my statement:

  1. Their denial of climate change.
  2. Their anti-mask and anti-covid vaccine stance during the epidemic.



It can be argued that not all Republicans supported these positions but enough have done so to stymie efforts at reducing oil and gas emissions that directly contribute to climate change.  In terms of the Covid Epidemic, their opposition to masks and vaccines probably led to thousands of needless deaths.

The idea of “think tanks” and political action groups was sheer genius.  The Republicans realized that truth was ephemeral and that those who controlled the press or so-called research could write their own narratives.  Groups like AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH and the CATO INSTITUTE are nothing but shills for the Republican Party.  They exist to put a pseudo intellectual veneer on Republican efforts to destroy honest science and scandalize public policies that they are opposed to.

“The Trump team may not have been prepared to staff the government, but the Heritage Foundation was.  In the summer of 2014, a year before Trump even declared his candidacy, the right-wing think tank had started assembling a 3,000-name searchable database of trusted movement conservatives from around the country who were eager to serve in a post-Obama government.  The initiative was called the Project to Restore America, a dog-whistle appeal to the so-called silent majority that foreshadowed Trump’s own campaign slogan.”  — How One Conservative Think Tank is Stocking Trump’s Government, — By Jonathan Mahler, NY Times Magazine, June 20, 2018

There is nothing wrong with vigorously supporting your ideas and policies.  However, when fake science is done with people paid off by bribes or when research is perverted to support a political agenda rather than the public good, there is a great deal wrong.  The Republican Party has shown repeatedly that they will stoop to any low to win votes and to control American policies.  Their agenda ignores the art of compromise or finding the middle ground.  One early study into the purpose or goals of conservative think tanks noted the following in its summary:

The study revealed that these conservative think tanks are substantially different from more traditional policy institutions in their open advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and in the relative weakness of the scholarly credentials and policy experience of their personnel, compared to more established policy organizations.  

Their positions on higher education issues focused on a perceived decline in the teaching of Western culture, opposition to affirmative action and multicultural studies, and calls for decreases in funding for higher education.   — Conservative Think Tanks and Higher Education Policy: by Susan Marie Wilis, Bowling Green University, A Dissertation, 1991



I have little doubt that much of my information in this blog is not news to many of my readers.  I fear that I am preaching to the choir.  My hope is that some of you who support my positions and ideas will either repost my blog or send it to someone else who you think might benefit from reading it.  Many people have already argued my case and most of those arguing have been more erudite and scholarly than I have been.  I have added my voice to the chorus of people who can see what is happening to education in America for a simple reason.  I hope that my simplistic depiction of  those who want to destroy public education and open discourse in our schools will find a place alongside the more extensive treatises that have been written.

PS:  Here is one example in today’s news:  Talk about stifling discussions!

The “Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act,” SB 83, “Affirm(s) and guarantee(s) that faculty and staff shall allow and encourage students to reach their own conclusions about all controversial matters and shall not seek to inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view.”  

Further, “Controversial belief or policy means any belief or policy that is the subject of political controversy, including issues such as climate change, electoral politics.”

Officials have tried repeatedly to control how issues they find controversial are taught — or not — in Ohio.  Two decades ago, after the state Board of Education eliminated creationism from its model curriculum, creationism board supporters proposed a policy of neutrality on topics it deemed “controversial”. Those included evolution, climate change, and human reproductive technologies.

Higher ed bill might as well be called ‘Make College Courses Boring Act.’”, Steve Rissing, Special to The Columbus Dispatch, March 26, 2023

Want to guess who sponsored this act?

Jerry Cirino is a Republican member of the Ohio Senate representing the 18th district.  He was elected in 2020, defeating Democrat Betsy Rader with 60% of the vote. 




My Brother Billy: RIP


This is a short story with few characters.  It began ten or so years ago, but it did not end until February of this year, Anno Domini 2023.  It is but a brief waypoint in the relationship I had with my brother before he died on July 6 of 2022.  Before we begin my story, let me introduce the “cast” of characters.

William Paul Persico:  Younger brother to John Persico Jr.  Born on March 31, 1958.  Billy as everyone called him was almost twelve years younger than John.  Billy and John grew up in the same house, but their paths hardly crossed.  They shared little in common.  Billy dropped out of school in the 9th grade after staying back two years.  Billy’s main values: Drinking, smoking, drugs, and partying with his friends.  Later in life, Billy started to pay more attention to his son Jacob.  They shared some very special times together before Billy passed.

John Persico Jr.  Brother to Billy.  Born on September 17, 1946.  Joined the military in September of 1964 at the age of 18.  Hardly had any contact with Billy for many years.  Not much in common.  John’s main values: Education, hard work, and honesty.  Others might disagree with this rather positive outlook but hell, I am the one telling this story.



Jeanine Persico:  Billy’s older sister and John’s younger sister.  Born on August 30, 1951.  Spent thirty-five years working for Social Security.  Received early retirement.  After her mom and older sister Sheri died, she seemed to adopt Billy as a basket case that she needed to take care of.  Continually enabling him (In my mind at least) by giving him money and never expecting him to pay it back.  Jeanine’s main values:  Family, friendship, loyalty, compassion, and avoidance of conflict.  Jeanine is much like our mother.  A loving kind person who takes care of people.

Karen Y. Persico.  Wife of John Persico.  Born July 5th, 1944.  Karen had to listen for many years to my complaints about my brother’s perceived lack of positive attributes.  She was always kind to Billy when he called and once visited but shared my disapproval for his profligate lifestyle.  She never questioned or complained of any money we loaned to Billy.  Karen’s values: Family, frugality, hard work, education, and music.  She shows her love for others through her cooking, crafts, and music.

Linda Therrien:  Billy’s common law wife and companion for twenty or so years.  Born October 13, 1946.  Billy lived with Linda in a mostly loving relationship.  Two lonely outcast souls that seemed to find each other and as Judge Judy once said, “There is a cover for every pot.”  Linda’s values:  Unknown.  It will not really matter since Linda plays a very small role in this story.  Linda is a walk-on and walk right off in this story.

The story that follows has some roots in what happened after my mother Dorothy died.  She passed away on Feb 2, 1994, at the age of 67.  After Billy’s divorce, he had continued to live with our mom.  My sister Sheri who died on December 22, 2002, along with my sister Jeanine and I agreed to let Billy have the house if he paid the mortgage, taxes and maintained it in a reasonably good state.  It did not take long before we had to pay all of the former out of our own pockets as Billy remained unemployed and more interested in partying with his friends.  Billy was turning the place into a crack house for his druggie friends.  Sheri, Jeanine, and I met to discuss the situation.  We agreed to sell the house and split the proceeds four ways.

The practically non-existent relationship that I had with my brother went even further south after we sold the house.  He once said that my sisters and I got all the brains, and it was not fair.  He felt that he should have kept the house and that we could keep paying his bills.  I was living in another state and wanted nothing to do with him.  About the only time for the next ten or so years that I heard from him was around Christmas time.  I guessed he was angry about the house but I did not care.  The less that I heard from him, the happier I was.

Jeanine would fill me in on Billy’s various shenanigans which were always good for a laugh.  It seemed that he had little desire to do anything with his life except drink, drugs, and smoke.  The only time that I did hear from him was to borrow some money.  Jeanine routinely gave him money.  I was a more difficult touch as I did not feel any guilt over his lifestyle.  I did occasionally break down and give him some funds when I could afford it and did not expect to be paid back.  I had nothing to worry about on that score.

More years went by and sometime around the beginning of 2008, Billy contacted me and asked for a loan of $300 dollars.  It surprised me that he was so adamant about it being a loan.  He did not expect it to be a gift.  He assured me that he would pay me back in full before Christmas of that year.  I gave him the loan and reassured him that I did expect it to be paid back.  You can guess the outcome.

Christmas of 2008 came and went, and I did not hear from Billy.  I was angry and fed up.  I called him after the holidays were over to find out where my money was.   I received the excuse that he just did not have it and he was sorry.  I lost my temper and cursed him up and down.  But I was not through with him.  I went to the computer and wrote the meanest, cruelest letter that I have ever written.  I told him that if he had been run over and was dying in the streets and all it took was one cent to save his life, I would not give it.  I read the letter to my sister Jeanine.  Sheri my younger sister by one year had died of cancer six years before.  Jeanine did not say much at the time.  I put the letter in an envelope and mailed it to Billy and Linda.  At the time, I had no regrets.  I thought of it as a form of tough love or shock therapy.  I thought it might make a difference.  Why did I not have a real brother instead of someone like him, I often wondered?

Well, communication between Billy and I grew less and less frequent.  Considering it had never been frequent, it was more like hardly ever.  I reasoned that Billy had received my letter and was now even more angry than before.  Five or more years went by.  Christmas cards and Christmas calls did not happen between us anymore.  Then gradually, a call every six months or so would happen.  Karen and I started to send and receive Christmas cards to and from Billy and Linda.  I guessed that he had put my mean letter behind him and was attempting to move on.  I wanted to forget the letter and often thought of apologizing for it but just could not bring myself to do it.

Billy died at the age of 64 on July 6, 2022.  He had suffered from many illnesses primarily but perhaps not entirely due to his lifestyle.  According to Linda, he went into their bedroom to lay down and take a nap.  She went in later to talk to him and found him dead.

The story really begins here.  The stuff above is simply prelude. 

Jeanine:  Calls me on phone from RI to Wisconsin.  “John, Billy died yesterday.”

John: “How did it happen?”

Jeanine: “Just passed away.  They are calling it a heart attack and will not do an autopsy.”

Jeanine is crying and very distraught.  I reasoned it best not to go into any details at this time in terms of funeral or whatever.  Knowing Billy and Linda had no money, it would fall on Jeanine and I to take care of any burial expenses.  Some days go by, and I call Jeanine.

John: “What do you want to do about the funeral?” 

Jeanine: “I would like to have a regular church funeral and burial for him.”

John: “I am sorry that he passed but I am not willing to go for a big elaborate funeral and burial.  I will split a cremation and simple burial with you but that is as far as I will go.  I am not going to pretend that I am all teary eyed about his passing.” 

Jeanine: “I will get back to you on this.”

A few days later, and Jeanine calls me back.  Without talking to me she has made funeral arrangements and set a date for the service.

John: “Jeanine, I told you that I am not willing to spend this kind of money on such an elaborate funeral.  This is your show and your expense.  I am not planning to come out for the funeral.  Billy was less a brother to me and more just someone I knew in passing.  I am not going to be a hypocrite now and pretend to be all mournful.” 

I had discussed my response to Jeanine with several friends and asked each what they would do.  Most agreed with me and said they would set a limit on how much they would spend.  They all implied that Jeanine felt guilty and was making reparations by this funeral.  I did not feel guilty except for one thing.  The mean nasty letter that I had sent to Billy thirteen years ago.

I could tell that Jeanine was somewhat miffed by my response.  A certain distance seemed to come between us.  For my part, I thought she went overboard.  As things worked out, she did not have enough money to cover the gravestone that she wanted to put on Billy’s plot.  I sent her a thousand dollars to cover a portion of the expense.  It seemed to mend our relationship and in February of this year, 2023, Jeanine came out to Arizona to visit for a week.  The story continues from there.

Jeanine and Karen went to the health club the second day of her visit to work out together.  Upon their return, we have the following discussion.

Karen: “Jeanine wants to tell you something, but is afraid that you will be very angry.”

John: “Ok, I promise no matter what, I will not be angry.”

Jeanine: “Do you remember that letter that you sent to Billy many years ago?”

John: “Of course, I remember it.  I still regret that I never called him up to apologize for it.”

Jeanine: “Well, Billy never got it.”

John: “What do you mean he never got it?”

Jeanine: “You told me about the letter and I went over to Billy’s apartment each day to intercept the letter.  One day when Billy was not home, I went over and asked Linda if she had received a letter from you.  She said that it had just come that morning.  Billy had not seen it.  I asked her for the letter and told her I needed it and not to tell Billy about it.  Linda simply gave me the letter and I destroyed it.”

John: “Are you kidding me?  You were tampering with US Mail.  This is a serious offense, Jeanine.  For thirteen years, I fretted over sending that letter and whether I was going to apologize for writing it.”

Karen: “You promised not to be angry.”

John: “I am not angry.  I don’t know what to feel: relief, disappointment, gratitude, regrets.  It is just hard to believe this.  You waited thirteen years to tell me.  Well, it is all just water over the dam now.  I will never know what would or would not have made a difference in my relationship with Billy.”   

The End – Almost

The last few years of Billy’s life, he seemed to change.  I was noticing postings of his on Facebook and he seemed happier and more thoughtful.  He was taking time with his son Jacob and was engaged in other activities besides drinking and smoking.  Jeanine told me that he had quit drugs, drinking, and smoking and was trying to clean up his life.  I was skeptical and did not believe what I was hearing.  Jeanine often had rose colored glasses when it came to Billy.  With the advantage of hindsight, I believe he really was making an effort to live a real life.  I wonder if I could have been a better brother to him or how I could have made a more significant contribution to his life.  I wonder whether or not Billy’s not receiving the letter was a good or bad thing.  Mostly, I am glad that he did not.

“None of you believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”  ― Prophet Muhammad  


Free Speech or NOT? Free speech on both the political right and the political left

woman-taped-mouth-thoughts-freedom-of-speech-expressionThis past Thursday I attended a meeting for a new Veterans group that had recently formed in our town.  There were three people at a table in front of the group (two men and a woman) and about 20 or so people in chairs facing the table.  The two men whom I assumed were leaders mentioned that the key-note speakers, someone from the Arizona Posse and someone from the Pinal Country Sheriffs department may or may not make the meeting.  Apparently there had been a few recent killings in area and both groups were lending support to the Casa Grande Police department.  The woman in front was the spouse of one of the men leading the group.  She was also the club secretary.

One of the leaders outlined the various apparel that was for sale to raise funds for the group as well as sell some tickets for a fifty-fifty raffle.  Eventually, we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and then an invocation from one of the two male leaders who was apparently a pastor at a local church.


After this the group leader on the right started a spiel about how “THEY” were not allowing history to be taught anymore in the schools.  He had brought a bunch of old books that looked like they came from an antique store, and he went on about how these books had the “real” history in them.  But THEY had removed the true history from current textbooks so that THEY could hide the truth from us about what had really happened.  He ended with two pleas.

  1. Those of us who wanted the truth most not be afraid to stand up and speak out.
  2. We must heal the divide in the country and reduce partisanship.

I could not agree more with his first plea but the second one struck me as strongly hypocritical since all of his speech was a right-wing polemic against what he perceived as a liberal bias in schools and the media.

Now I have to tell you, it was all I could do not to walk out of this meeting.  Retired Arizona veterans are not known for their liberal orientation.  I looked around to see if anyone was as disgusted with the speech just given as I was but no one seemed overly concerned.  I kept my mouth shut and decided to see what the next speaker, the leader who was also a pastor had to say.

download 222

He was even more right-wing than the first speaker.  He went on and on about Political Correctness ruining America and again the ambiguous “THEY” who are out to destroy freedom and democracy.  I was getting more and more annoyed.  I looked around to see if I would have any support in the group if things escalated and decided that I would not.  I thought about speaking out.  Fear governed my emotions.  I kept reminding myself that “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority and the test of courage comes when we are in the minority.”  I was no doubt in the minority.  Would I be a craven coward?

download 1

The pastor started to quote Nietzsche with “Those who forget the past will continue to make mistakes.”  I lost it right there.  Wrong person and butchered quote.  Courage did not play a role in what happened next.  I stood up and said “You are wrong.  Nietzsche did not say this.  George Santayana said it and it should go “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Other people have of course said a similar thought, but I do not remember Nietzsche having said this.  Furthermore, my bias against Nietzsche raised my ire even higher than with the first speaker.

I then gave the following diatribe to the assembled group.  I said “First of all there are two things wrong with your speeches.  The first is your belief that some absolute truth to history exists and that all schools must do is teach this truth.”  The one guy waving the Bible earlier led me to think that he must believe that all truth came from the Bible.

Silence reigned in the room, and I plowed on.  “History is full of perspectives and some facts.  Think of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant.  Well history is a thousand times more complicated than an elephant and there are not just five perspectives on history but millions.  If you tried to put all these perspectives and a few facts in one large history book, it would probably weigh a million tons.”

“The second thing wrong is your idea about eliminating partisanship.  That idea itself would be a good thing, but you do not eliminate it by insisting that your view of reality is the only view or the right view.  You are causing partisanship when like one of the blind men insisting that he is right, you insist that your perspective is right and others who have a different perspective are stupid, wrong and unpatriotic.  You eliminate partisanship by respecting the perspectives of all people.”  Thus ended my rant.

I sat down to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

I wished.

The room was dead silent.  I felt like a fish out of water and soon to be gutted and fried.  I sat down and the meeting went on.  We discussed other ideas for the group to support to have a more social group for veterans.  The meeting ended with the group secretary calling out the winners for the fifty-fifty tickets and a few winners for some free tickets that we had all been given. The meeting lasted for about 1 hour and fifteen minutes and then people dispersed.

right wing extremistsNow in America today, we have five political perspectives arranged along a continuum.  On the extreme right, we have the “extreme conservatives” as they may think of themselves.  However, they are fascists and anti-democratic in symbols, outlook and beliefs.  On the extreme left we have a smaller group who might think of themselves as progressives or socialists but in the minds of many on the right they are “card carrying communists.”  Indeed, some of the extreme left-wing do fit this perspective.  Slightly to the right of center we have the true conservatives and slightly to the left of center the true liberals.  In the middle we have people who support some social programs but are fiscally conservative.  We also have people in the middle who support some government but are against too much government.

left wing extremistsOne characteristic of both the extreme right and the extreme left is the inability to see perspectives different than their own.   To the extremists, the world is black and white.  Good and bad.  Each extreme entirely rejects the perspectives of the other extreme.  Each extreme feels that they are not allowed to speak but that the other extreme is.  Newspapers and zealots take sides with the extremists and promote narratives designed to appeal to the extreme views exposed by each side.  The ability to condone or support multiple perspectives becomes more and more difficult as a greater and greater polarization ensues.   People bemoan the death of compromise but each side ladens itself with oaths and pledges guaranteed to insure that they will not try to see the world from the other side.

liberals against free speech

imagesThe result is a form of warfare between each side.  The middle groups become more and more polarized as they find that they must take sides to survive.  Liberals talk about the importance of listening to understand what the other side says and thinks as though this will solve the problem.  It will not.  Unless someone listens with an OPEN MIND, no amount of listening will make a difference.  I was once approached by an employee who asked me to speak to his boss on his behalf.  I asked him why he did not do it himself.  I pointed out that his boss had “an open door policy.”  The employee looked at me and replied: “Open door but closed mind.”

liberal intoleranceOur schools have failed us because they teach right answers and not right questions.  They teach closed minds and not open minds.  We have a generation who are now increasingly anti-education.  We have a war against our schools by people who do not believe that schools exist to teach right thinking but only right answers.  Liberal schools are boycotting right-wing fanatics and not allowing them to speak.  Fox News prints daily rants against schools portraying the worst aspects of what once was a liberal education.  The right wing increasingly wants a technocratic education which will result in a job that pays well.  Any focus on mindfulness, morality, ethics, and integrity plays little or no role in the education system desired by the right.  Those on the left believe that public education should be for the masses but ignore the needs of many rural and poor people to get a job that pays a living wage.


Meanwhile the rich liberals go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League colleges.  Colleges that people like me could never have afforded and that would never have let pass their shiny doors.  Many people have asked me why I did not go to college after high school.  This always brings a laugh to my throat.  Two months out of high school, I went to the only “college” that I could afford.  I joined the US Military from 1964 to 1968 as a E-1.  I left four years later as an E-4 and an Aircraft Control and Warning Radar technician.  I also earned a certificate for an Honorable Discharge.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell

Free Speech or NOT?


From a theoretical perspective, I am opposed to Free Speech.  The very idea is absurd.  Nothing in the world is free.  Everything has a price that you pay.  Furthermore, the idea of upholding the right of anyone to say anything at anytime is absurd.  It is bizarre beyond fathoming.  Where does this ridiculous idea come from?  Some idealist version of Democracy or some unrealistic idea that everything works out in the long run if we only allow “truth” to finally poke its way though the deluge of lies and misinformation that permeates modern society.

From a pragmatic perspective, I am 100 percent in favor of Free Speech.  It is one of those rare examples where the alternatives are even worse than the present bias towards Free Speech.  If we started to arrest people for lying or because we did not like what they had to say, we would have to build more prisons than we have space for in the entire world.  We already have rates of incarceration which are abominable.  If we start locking up liberals who we disagree with or racists who we disagree with solely based on what they say, we might as well give up any discussion in the public space.

From an idealistic viewpoint, I am all in on Free Speech.  We cannot start muzzling people and expect to find the information or thoughts that we need to make progress in the world.  The best discussions come about from a wide range of viewpoints that are uncensored.  Better to know the enemy than for the enemy to remain hidden.  Only from a weltanschauung of perspectives can we tread our way to a reality that transcends mediocrity and complacency.

From a realistic perspective, I see many dangers in Free Speech.  From inciting riots to allowing people to die because of distorted information and intentional malignancy, there is a great danger in allowing people to say what they want and when they want to.  The “Big Lie” and many other marketing ploys from selling cigarettes to downplaying the health hazards of alcohol, have resulted in millions of deaths.  Is Free Speech more important than human life?

There are several pathways to Free Speech that are important when we debate the pros and cons of Free Speech in American society.  I would like to list each of these pathways and then make some comments about each.

  1. Free Speech in media, books, curriculums
  2. Free Speech on both the political right and the political left
  3. Free Speech in academia
  4. Free Speech in the public arena
  5. Free Speed on the Internet

Free Speech in media, books, curriculums

There could be no more blatant example of the hypocrisy concerning the 1st Amendment than regards books, media, and curriculums.  Let’s diverge for just a second to review the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


This “right” to Free Speech has not stopped Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott from restricting books in public schools, canceling curriculums and limiting the right of teachers to speak out on racism or sexism in history.  Nor has it stopped the “rights” of others all over America from trying to censor the thoughts, facts and data that characterize much of US History.

  • From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.
  • The 1,648 titles are by 1,261 different authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,553 people altogether.
  • Bans occurred in 138 school districts in 32 states. These districts represent 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students. — Banned in the USA

But censorship did not start with DeSantis or Abbott.  It has a very long history in America.  This despite the First Amendment.  About as many people seem to pay attention to the First Amendment today as they do to the Ten Commandments.  Imagine for a second if everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments.   No murders.  No robberies.  No adulteries.  No rapes.

I remember growing up and wondering why so many scenes from movies seemed to me rather unrealistic.  It took me a while to realize that many movies scenes were banned or censored in the USA.  As far back as 1897, a statute of the State of Maine prohibited the exhibition of prizefight films.  As the film industry developed, so did censorship as the government tried to control the content of what the public could see or hear.

“In the 1950s many books and genres were banned from the public.  Educational literature was targeted specifically because many people wanted to stop the teaching of evolutionary theories due to religious reasons.  Books, such as the Wizard of Oz and other fantasy books, were banned due to the fear that they would corrupt the minds of children and teens.  For this reason comic books were also banned.” — Censorship in the 1950s


I still remember hiding my comic books under my textbooks when I was ten years old in the fifth grade at Mount St. Francis School.  I loved comic books and every time I was caught reading one, I would get my knuckles whacked with a ruler.  My assailant (teacher/Nun) would castigate me with the rejoinder that comic books would warp my brain and make me stupid.  Sixty years later and I am still waiting for my brain to decay.  It may already be happening, but I fear it is the result of old age rather than reading comic books.  I finally stopped buying comics when they became too expensive.  Easier to get them from the library today.

If we are talking about censorship of media, we should not leave out “pornographic” films and songs. 

“Chicago enacted the first censorship ordinance in the United States in 1907, authorizing its police chief to screen all films to determine whether they should be permitted on screens.  Detroit followed with its own ordinance the same year. When upheld in a court challenge in 1909, other cities followed and Pennsylvania became the first to enact statewide censorship of movies in 1911 (though it did not fund the effort until 1914).  It was soon followed by Ohio (1914), Kansas (1915), Maryland (1916), New York (1921) and, finally, Virginia (1922).  Eventually, at least one hundred cities across the nation empowered local censorship boards.” –Wikipedia

61A5VaThL7LHere are two more recent examples of “titillating sex” that would never have passed the censors in the fifties.  The first is from a song called “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers from the middle seventies.  Time magazine called it “a marathon of 22 orgasms.”  Many singers like Beyonce and Madonna have mimicked Donna Summers in more recent songs and videos.  Can you imagine if Donna Summers had a video made today to go along with this song?  You can see her perform it on stage in 1976 on YouTube:

My movie example is from a PG movie, that means Parental Guidance.  This is far from the R or X rating that movies could be given but the scenes or suggestions that can be slipped in demonstrate the imagination and creativity of movie producers.  The film Twilight opened in 2008 as PG-13.  It slipped in a suggested sex scene between the vampire Edward and his lover Bella.  The scene is not overtly sexual as some more recent scenes might be, but it leaves little to the imagination.

Growing up with the censorship that has been imposed on films, books, songs, and other media in the USA, I am continually astounded by the hypocrisy that surrounds the First Amendment.  It is one thing to label something to inform people that something might be offensive.  It is quite another to outright ban things.  Where does the First Amendment concerning these media begin and end?  For that we need to look at the politics of censorship.

Since this blog is getting “too” long, I am going to self-censor and divide it into four more sections.  In my next blog or section, I am going to cover the politics of censorship.



Sex, Politics and War

I should have written something new in honor of International Women’s Day but I did not think far enough ahead. I wrote this piece about 1 1/2 years ago and I talk about the war on Women’s Reproductive Rights and Gender choices for all people. I think given the politics going on in the USA, that this blog is still appropriate. It is not upbeat and celebratory. Women have come a long way in the USA since the signing of the constitution but there is a long way for them to go to obtain the rights and respect that men get. As long as the rates of Domestic Violence and Rape are as high as they are in the USA, women cannot live the lives that they deserve. IMHO.

Aging Capriciously

sex-and-power978-0-8223-6367-5_prThere is a war on sex by politicians.  There has always been a war on sex by politicians.  It is the longest running war in the history of the world.  It is not a gender war but a political war.  The goal of political warfare is to alter an opponent’s opinions and actions in favor of the state’s interests without utilizing military power.  Such warfare has been waged by the state against sex since the dawn of humanity.

In the USA, we have had political wars on race, drugs, poverty, crime, and terror.  None of these wars were officially declared as military wars.  Each of these wars were unofficially declared by the US government.   Not one of these wars has ever officially ended.  The war on sex has never been acknowledged either officially or unofficially.  It has never ended either.


This fourth and final part in my series of articles…

View original post 1,614 more words

Why am I reading this? 

sandovalTom Sandoval addressed the jaw-dropping drama that he and longtime girlfriend Ariana Madix called it quits over infidelity.

The “Vanderpump Rules” star made a conscious effort to remain silent after news broke he and co-star Raquel Leviss were having a “full-on affair” — but decided to finally speak out Friday night.  —- ‘Hated’ Tom Sandoval addresses Ariana Madix split amid cheating claims by Nika Shakhnazarova, March 4, 2023 | 4:58am

Before I saw this headline on my Google consolidated news channel, I must confess that I had never heard of Tom Sandoval, Raquel Leviss or Ariana Madix.  Over the years, I have “jealously” noted that major movie stars (For example, Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley) with drop dead gorgeous girlfriends or wives always seem to cheat on them with equally beautiful drop dead gorgeous girlfriends who are no doubt dating other famous movie stars.


Now for “common” guys like me, having a girlfriend like Ariana Madix would be like “let’s say” owning a Ferrari.  Not a chance in a lifetime that I ever will but it is still something to dream about.  By the way, to my female readers, I am sorry that I cannot write a blog that might sum up some of your fantasies, but it is beyond my writing skills to put myself in your shoes.  The only thing that I might say is that perhaps many women would like to write a blog about a guy that does not cheat on them.  If so, I would suggest that you do not look for inspiration in Hollywood.  The saying that a man’s penis and his brain cannot both operate at the same time seems largely true for much of “mankind.


So, I saw this headline this morning and immediately wondered if Tom was leaving a decrepit homely looking girlfriend for better waters or if my imagined “Law of Cheating” held true.  Was his new illicit girlfriend just as beautiful but no more beautiful than his old girlfriend?  I had to test my hypothesis, so I Googled pictures of both.  You can make your own mind up by scanning the pictures I have posted of each woman.  I think my “Hollywood Law of Cheating” is still valid.  But this is not really the issue.

The real issue is why a seemingly intelligent man like me (I hope somewhat intelligent anyway) would even care about Sandoval and his exploits.  I know we call some of these headlines click-bait and I keep telling myself to ignore them.  After all, I really don’t care about British Royalty, the Kardashians, Zombie TV shows or the trysts of Hollywood actors and actresses.  I have a hard enough time trying to avoid the latest news dealing with crooked politicians, greedy real estate developers and lying lawyers to last me the rest of my life.  Short though that might now be.

I have an idea that might help us to avoid these clickbait useless stories.  We need a schema for categories of news stories.  Such a schema would help us to prioritize what we could or should read and when.  Might I suggest the following as a start:

Category One:  Local news that might directly impact your safety or wellbeing or the safety or wellbeing of your loved ones.

Category Two:  Local news that might impact you or your family either socially or economically.

Category Three:  National news that impacts you or your family in any meaningful tangible way.

Category Four:  International news that you might be able to do something positive about in terms of aid or humanitarian assistance.

Category Five:  News about subjects you are interested in like science or history.

Category Six:  Social, Economic or Political news that you cannot change or do anything about.

Category Seven:  News about sports or entertainment

Category Eight:  News that includes gossip about other people whom you have never met and or likely to never meet.  This includes British Royalty, the Kardashians, and most movie stars.

The way you use these categories is as follows.  Just like you have a meal with a balanced diet of carbs, fats, proteins, and nutrients, you would select your daily diet of news based on a balanced news diet.  For example:

Monday:  Two helpings from Category 1.  One helping from Category 2.  One helping from Category 3.  One helping from Category Seven.

Tuesday:  Two helpings from Category 2.  Two helpings from Category 3.  Two helpings from Category 5.  One helping from Category Eight.

You get the idea?  A balanced diet of news with some allowance for “junk food.”  Junk food being anything in Categories Six, Seven or Eight.  Such a diet would help many Americans focus on what is important.  You can start by cutting out my list of categories and keeping this list close by your TV or favorite news source.

Now that I have helped you to think about the important things in your life, I am going to go back to reading about Tom Sandoval, whoever he is.

By the way, I would not trade my spouse Karen for all the glamorous movie stars in the world.  Happiness lies not in what we can buy or what is skin deep but in character and personality.  I can not imagine growing old with anyone else by my side than Karen.

Quandaries of My Existence

Quandaries of My Existence

images (1)I am having one of those days; when the questions of life that I have never been able to answer just seem overwhelming.  I once looked forward to the day that I would know almost everything or at least know a great deal more than I did.  Sadly, that day has retreated further and further from my grasp.  Each day that I live, I find more questions that I cannot answer.  So today, I am listing some of these in the hopes that you (my reader) may have found some of the answers that have eluded me.  Please feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments section or send me an email with your answer.  Any solutions will be greatly appreciated.  For those of you who have never read my blog before, I am a 76 year old White guy who lives in the USA.  I love lobster, liquor, reading, music, travel and making it difficult for racists, xenophobes, Trumpers, and other bigots to dominate current narratives.


Here then are my major quandaries:

  • I grew up always feeling like I was old. I never felt like a child.  Now I am told that I am old, but I do not feel old.  How can I never be young or old?
  • Years ago, I thought that I was smart and that I knew a great deal about the world. Many years have gone by.  I have studied and read much.  I have attended years of education and completed many programs.  How come today, I do not feel like I know much at all? 
  • The older I get, the less that I understand people.  I had people all figured out years ago.  Today, I can’t even figure my self out.
  • It was said that if you are not a socialist when you are young, you do not have a heart and if you are not a conservative when you are old, you do not have a brain. Well, something must be wrong with me, because I still believe in the merits of socialism.
  • I never wanted to be young. I have always been more comfortable around older people.  Trouble is I never wanted to be old either.  I truly wonder if there is any age that I would be happy at?    
  • I have never discovered the meaning of existence, a buried treasure, or the secrets to success. I have looked high and low.  Seems like I would have found something by now.
  • My father used to say if “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich.” I still don’t know the answer to his question.  My father thought he was smart, but he died poor as well.  I guess, “Like father like son.” 
  • Money never mattered very much to me. I wonder what my life would have been like if money had been my holy grail instead of time.  I always admired the grasshopper in the story with the ants.  I could never save for a rainy day as much more followed the precept to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I might die.” 
  • What if I could live my life again. Knowing what I know now. Would I have a better life if I could live it over again?  Somehow, I doubt it.  This conclusion puzzles me.  Maybe its like the time paradox thing.  You can’t go back in the past and change the future. 


  • My greatest heroes were always thinkers rather than doers. I think Hofstede’s book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” should be for thinkers like the Communist Manifesto was for the proletariat.  “Rise up Intellectuals and overthrow the morons of the world!”  God knows there are enough of them.
  • Why did none of the officers on the Star Ship Enterprise have seat belts? Every other episode they are in a photon battle with Klingons or Romulans and they are tossed hither and zither all over the deck.  Four hundred years in the future and they still do not have seat belts?  This show was a harbinger of our future.  God Forbid It! 
  • I have made many friends and lost many friends.  Friends seem like ships in the night.  Why do they come and go?  Am I the one that changes, or do they?  I read Aristotle’s books on friendship years ago hoping that they would help.  Did he leave out some important information?
  • Was Socrates really the smartest person in ancient Greece?  Seems like the Delphic oracle would have been, but she was not counted because she was a woman. 
  • How do so many mediocre writers sell so many books?  People who find a blasé character that is some dumb action figure and repeat the story over and over again with a slightly different title.  The hoi polloi buy hundreds of these books making the authors rich and making us listen to them on endless talk shows. 
  • If I die and there is a heaven and I go to it, will I have to listen to God lecture all day long?  I have never liked long lectures and I have been told that we must listen to God in heaven.  I suppose I could take him or her for a few minutes but all day?
  • If I go to heaven, will I have any chores to do?  Lots of other questions on the sexual side about heaven but I don’t want this blog to get an X RATING so I will leave them to your imagination.
  • Life’s not fair. Parents told me that when I was five or so.  Now that I am wiser, I still have never given up expecting it to be.  Is there anyone out there who really expects life to be “unfair?” 
  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise! BULLSHIT!  PS:  Maybe it works for women. 
  • The early bird catches the worm. Great if you like worms.  Just a few examples of some of the useless sayings we hear as we grow up.  This leads me to my three rules for aphorisms. 
  • Three rules that I have learned from aphorisms, 1st For every up there is a down. 2nd For every pro there is a con.  3rd For every rule there is an exception.  But if there are exceptions for every rule, then that means that these three rules are all false.  How confusing! 
  • Do not go gently into the night, rage, rage and drag your feet when they come to take you to the nursing home. It probably won’t do you any good, so you will need a backup plan.  In a future blog, I will give you a plan for avoiding getting dragged off to a nursing home.  If I can come up with one.
  • Whoever said that death and taxes were the only eternals was a big schmuck. If I started a list of “eternals” it would go on for many pages.  Taxes get a bad rap.  You want roads? You pay taxes.  You want police protection?  You pay taxes.  You want education for your kids?  You pay taxes.  So why are so many people complaining about taxes?  Maybe they should pay for these things out of their weekly checks and see how they feel about that.

images (2)

That’s it folks.  I am sure that with more time devoted to it, I could add endlessly to my list of quandaries.  Each day brings more and more of them.  I would love to hear your Quandaries of Existence.  Please feel free to add as many as you like in my comments section.  Perhaps other readers will have solutions to your quandaries.  If there are any Socrates, Marilyn Vos Savants or Solomons out there please give us the benefit of your wisdom.  😊





Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

I wrote this six years ago on the day of Trump’s inauguration. I was re-reading it and wondering if those that disagreed with me at the time have ever had a change of thought? My question still stands “Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?” Or will we see an even worse cadre of political prospects in 2024 than Trump was. People just as regressive but even more cunning like Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Glenn Youngkin and Greg Abbott.

Aging Capriciously


Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like…

View original post 598 more words

OMG!  It’s Chat GPT

chat-gpt-open-ai-bot-illustration-266167606 111

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

For hundreds of years now, we have had technological change.  And for hundreds of years humans have been fighting it.  Trying to reverse change and put Pandora’s evils back in the box.  But that is where we go wrong.  We see things that we do not understand and we label them as “evil.”

Humanity began maybe a million years ago.  The first humans were hunters and gatherers.  10,000 or so years ago humans learned the art of agriculture.  The Age of Agriculture lasted until the advent of machines and industrial technology.  The Industrial Age began in the middle 18th Century.  It lasted until the mid-20th Century.  The next age to come was the Information/Computer Age.  This age began about 1950 and by my reckoning lasted until about the middle 1980’s.

What I want to call the Age of the Internet began with browsers, world wide web and social media platforms in the middle 1980’s.  The Age of the Internet lasted from about 1985 to 2020.  A few years ago, computers became so powerful that no chess player or mathematician could stand against a computer.  Computers can now outdraw, outfire and outshoot any human being.  We have programs that can draw as good as most humans and write as good as most humans.  We have now entered the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligences is defined as “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”Oxford Dictionary Online

As with all new technologies, from fire, to steam engines to airplanes to computers, the detractors are out in force.  These are the people who cannot accept new technology.  They see any changes as evil and want to put them back into the box.  The lines are being drawn as to whether we will move forward or backwards with Artificial Intelligence.  But there is no going backwards.  You can never put the demons back into the box.

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

maxresdefault (1)

A new Artificial Intelligence (AI) program called Chat GPT writes so well that one of the most sacred cows of education is being threatened.  Students do not have to plagiarize anymore; they can simply ask Chat GPT to do an essay or address a theme for them and it will come up with some unbelievable results.  I tried the program myself the other day and obtained some very remarkable results.  I asked it the following questions:  Chat GPT’s replies follow each of my questions.


“What are the secrets to a happy life?”

Chat GPT: 

As an AI language model, I can provide some insights on what research and studies suggest can lead to a happier life. Here are some of the most commonly cited secrets to a happy life:

  • Cultivate positive relationships: Strong social connections and healthy relationships with family, friends, and community can bring joy, meaning, and purpose to life.
  • Practice gratitude: Focusing on the good things in your life and being thankful for them can improve your overall well-being.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy: Pursue hobbies, interests, and activities that make you happy and give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Take care of your physical health: Regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep can boost your energy, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
  • Develop a positive mindset: Cultivate a positive attitude and learn to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Set goals and work towards them: Having a sense of purpose and working towards meaningful goals can increase happiness and satisfaction.
  • Be kind and help others: Acts of kindness towards others can boost your own happiness and well-being.

Keep in mind that everyone’s definition of happiness is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, incorporating these secrets into your life can help increase your overall well-being and lead to a happier life.



“How do I get better at playing a musical instrument?”

Chat GPT:

Getting better at playing a musical instrument takes practice, dedication, and patience. Here are some tips to help you improve:

  • Set achievable goals: Decide on specific goals you want to achieve and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. This can help you stay motivated and see progress over time.
  • Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key to improving your skills. Aim to practice every day or several times a week, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
  • Focus on technique: Make sure you have a solid foundation of technique and work on improving it regularly. Pay attention to your posture, hand and finger placement, and other technical aspects of playing.
  • Listen and learn: Listen to recordings of skilled musicians playing your instrument and try to emulate their techniques and style. Attend live performances or watch videos of performances online to gain inspiration and insights.
  • Seek feedback: Get feedback from experienced musicians or teachers who can help you identify areas for improvement and provide guidance on how to address them.
  • Experiment with different styles: Try playing different genres of music to broaden your skills and keep things interesting.
  • Stay motivated: Keep your passion for music alive by reminding yourself why you enjoy playing your instrument and setting new challenges for yourself.

Remember, improving your skills on a musical instrument takes time and effort, but with dedication and practice, you can make progress and achieve your goals.



“Who was the greatest philosopher who ever lived?”

As an AI language model, I cannot provide a subjective opinion on who the greatest philosopher who ever lived was, as the answer may vary depending on personal beliefs, cultural background, and philosophical preferences. Additionally, different philosophers have made important contributions to various branches of philosophy, including ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and aesthetics.

Some of the most influential philosophers throughout history include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many others. Each philosopher has contributed to the field of philosophy in their unique way, and their ideas have shaped and influenced the development of Western and Eastern philosophy.

It is important to recognize that philosophy is a diverse field, and different philosophers have made significant contributions to our understanding of the world and our place in it. Ultimately, the choice of who the greatest philosopher ever lived is subjective and dependent on individual interpretation and perspective.

The replies to each of my questions were generated in less than two minutes for each one and probably closer to one minute.  I don’t know what you think about each of these answers, but I was very impressed.  I would probably say that they were just as good as I could have done if not better.  We now have the power to perhaps make every living human being a genius in the sense that the questions one asks are more important than the answers.

Long ago, I learned that the essence of critical thinking is asking critical questions.  I have never met a teacher who did not think that critical thinking was the most important skill a student could learn.  Unfortunately for our students, schools are being run by politicians who believe that tests are critical for student learning.  Every public school in the country must kowtow to ignorant politicians who measure learning by test scores.  In addition, we have a primitive education system that treats all students the same and moves them all through a system of grades and courses with the goal of creating some uniform outcome.  It has never happened, and it never will.  Modern education curriculums should be tailored to the skills and goals of each individual student.

Oh, when will they ever learn?  Oh, when will they ever learn?

download 111

We are now at another major crossroads in history.  We can learn to use the best of AI to help humanity achieve its goals and objectives or we can engage in fruitless fights to stem the development of AI and to prohibit people from using it. There is no doubt that technology can have both positive and negative elements.  However, we cannot address the negative elements of AI by ignoring the technology and or by pretending that it does not exist.   We are in the 21st Century.  Isn’t it about time that we learn from the past?

Empathy:  Do We Really Need It?

what is empathy

Before we begin to answer the question raised in the title, we need to define empathy.  I will ignore what the dictionary says in favor of my own definition.  My definition of empathy is “A feeling that somehow gets shared between two (or more people) and that helps each person feel closer to the other person.”  Years ago, when my first wife and I went to marriage counseling, she told the counselor, that I was the only person she knew who did not have any feelings.  For years, she had wondered about it but she finally concluded that I did not have any.  I cannot fault her for this.  I believed that Spock on Star Trek, was too emotional.  After all, he did have a human mother.

Forty-six years have gone by since that fateful counseling session and I have learned a lot more about empathy.  But to say that I am a master or even a journeyman in empathy would be an exaggeration.  Learning empathy is not as simple as that.  It is compounded by the fact that I see three types of empathy (This is my typology).  There is neg-empathy, neutral empathy, and positive empathy.  Most of my days are spent in neutral empathy.  I have had many occasions of neg-empathy.  Once in a great while, I get struck by lightning and have a glimpse of positive empathy.  They have become more frequent as I have aged but not frequent enough. (The opening picture above shows three types of empathy that psychology textbooks use.)  Again, I favor my own three types.

compassion versus empathy


Neg-empathy is a complete disregard for how another person feels.  Sometimes it is intentional but most often it is inadvertent.  Culturally many of us are brought up to exhibit neg-entropy.  Here is one example:

A good friend is running with me on a mountain trail in Casa Grande.  He stumbles, falls, and twists his ankle.  I ask him if it is ok and can he still run.  He replies that it hurts quite a bit, to which I reply “Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  I think I heard that line from John Wayne or Vince Lombardi.  Many men and maybe women in some cultures are brought up to disregard pain and to ignore suffering.  “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, so should you.”  “The only thing you have to fear, is fear itself.”

Personally, I love a lot of these macho aphorisms.  My father used to tell me them all the time.  Like when I once came home battered and bruised from a fight that I had won with an older kid, and my father said.  “Next time you win a fight, look like you won it.”

People who are suffering from depression are often the victims of neg-entropy.  In trying to help them with lines like “Tomorrows another day” or “You worry too much,” we make things worse for them.  At best, we do not ameliorate or disperse any of their depression.

Neg-empathy does not make anyone feel better.  Comments from neg-empathy do nothing to share a sense of common concern or camaraderie.  At best, they are not helpful and at worse, they may just be mean spirited and cruel.

Neutral Empathy:

sympathyI started running in 1975 after being a very good bicyclist for many years.  I ran in freezing rain, below zero wind-chills and blistering heat.  I even went out one time and ran with a tornado coming through the neighborhood.  Like the U.S. Mail, nothing could stop me.  Over the years, I met many people who would tell me “I used to run but my knees went out and I had to give it up.”  I had enough sense not to tell them what I was really thinking so I usually said nothing or just a “too bad.”  What I was really thinking was “If you really wanted to you could still be running.” The latter comment would be an example of neg-empathy.  My silence was an example of neutral empathy.  I did not make any connection to the feelings that the other person had, nor did I much want to.  I could not identify with them since I ran “no matter what.”  I was better than they were.

Last year in April of 2022, I broke my finger in a fall while running on a mountain trail in Casa Grande.  I continued running and did not find out that my finger was broke until I had an Xray about two months or so later.  The finger throbbed and looked funny for much of this time.  This still did not stop my running.  The advice from many people was that it was just swollen, and the swelling would go down.

One of my favorite run days of the year is January 1.  It is a day that while many are making promises to exercise or lose weight, I go up and do a long hour run in the mountains. This year, January 1, 2023, I put my running gear on and drove to the mountain trailhead.  The closer I came to the trailhead, the more apprehension I felt.  I began to dread running on the mountain trails today.  What used to seem like fun was replaced with a scary feeling.  “When will I break my leg” kept going through my mind?

I finally decided not to run anymore (at least on these trails).  From now on I would hike the trails.  Since January, I have made about three hikes each week.  On each of my hikes, I have suffered from missing the challenges of trail running, feeling like a coward who quit, and just plain thinking of myself as a loser.

Today, I was experiencing the same feelings when suddenly, I realized that I would now be the one to have an excuse for not running any more.  My thoughts went to the numerous times I had encountered others with an excuse for not running.  What would I say to the people I met on the trail.  Should I apologize for not running?  Would they recognize me as the guy who had been running these trails for 12 years?  I did not want sympathy, but I was embarrassed before even meeting anyone else on the trail.

download 6666

I realized that I had never given anyone positive empathy for having to give up their running.  My keeping quiet was just an example of neutral empathy.  No support, no compassion, no closeness, no connection with how the other person was feeling.  Forty years after my counseling sessions, and the best I was doing was negative empathy.

Positive Empathy:

My shoulder hurts now from lifting too many weights yesterday.  With Karen gone East to visit her children, I have been doubling down on my exercise schedule.  I figured I could catch up and maybe even get ahead for the several days that I missed last month.  This idea of “catching up” is stupid.  It is fruitless and a waste of time.  Furthermore, it is much more likely to result in injury than sticking to a “normal” schedule.  So now my shoulder is painful and I have no one around to show me any empathy.  Karen would be running some cream or oil in my shoulder or giving me a massage or just telling me that she was worried about me, and that I should take it easy.  Karen is my main source of positive empathy.

martin luther king f

We all need positive empathy for the pains and outrageous misfortunes that happen to us in life.  There are two problems that we may have in getting this positive empathy.

  1. Too many people like me who are not good at giving positive empathy.
  2. Not enough people in our lives to give us the empathy we all need on occasion.

What happens to people who live alone or who have few friends?  I don’t really have a good answer to this.  I realize that there are people who visit shut ins.  People who visit prisons.  I wonder if this is enough.  Some of the studies on happiness suggest that people are less happy than they were years ago.

“While happiness increased globally up until 2011, it has been falling ever since. But this trend masks large differences in happiness across countries, with clear winners and losers.” World Happiness Report


Some questions I have for you:

  • Is it possible to give ourselves empathy?
  • Can self-empathy replace empathy from other people?
  • What happens to people who never get any empathy?
  • Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing your comments or responses. 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: