Miles Ahead

Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.
There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from higher socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into welfare families.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from upper income and working class families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this troublesome situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The big question is what do we do about it?  

Eve

I asked my granddaughter (age 3-1/2) what she wants to be when she grows up.  She looked at me seriously and replied “I want to be a princess, a super girl and a pilot.”  I told her that it is quite possible for her to be all three at once.  She nodded knowingly. . . .  

She then asked me what I am going to be when I grow up.  I didn’t really have an answer for her.  Frankly, I’m still trying to figure that out.  I’d really like to play right field for the Chicago Cubs. . . . . .

 

Are You Saving that Seat?

I get on the train every day. And sit down with my duffel on my lap.  I sit next to someone or I scooch in and leave the aisle seat for someone else.  Everyone does the same.  Or nearly everyone. 

Nearly every day, I see the same people (or the same kinds of people) taking up two seats. They’ll set their pack or duffel on the seat next to them and spread out like they own the place.  Some will sit and cross their legs sharply — foot stuck half into the space of the other seat.  Meant to intimidate – don’t sit there or I’ll wipe my foot on your pants/skirt.    Hordes of people get on the train.  All looking for seats.  And the few seat hogs will protect their space until someone asks — usually politely — may I sit here?   Seat hogs will scowl.  Huff and puff.  But usually pull their “stuff” and pile it in their laps. Though there are the occasional whiners who refer to their bag and complain “I can’t put that in my lap!”  And then there are the crafty ones – who start out sitting in the aisle seat.  When one observant enough to see the window seat is unoccupied asks for the person to move, the seat hog gets up and insists the newby take the window as if to say “I’m in control.  That’ll show him/her.” 

I’ve done an informal study over the years of the seat hogs by looking at what seat hogs are reading.  Nearly all are reading cases, briefs, arguments and such.  Lawyers.  The men – often doffed in suits – and the occasional women (adorned for court) — are lawyers.  There’s not much push back against the seat hogs though the conductors (bless ’em) will frequently admonish the assembled over the intercom to “be courteous” and “not take up two seats.”   Just one more reason to give lawyers a bad name. . . . .

Reunion

For three summers, I was on staff at Camp Napowan — a Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. From late May (setting up the camp) until late August (taking it down), I worked with about forty other young men.  Nearly all were Eagle Scouts.  And all were good pals.  I’ve posted before about Camp Napowan (7/26/11; 2/1/12; 2/5/12; and 6/4/13).   Working at that camp — with young men of great stature, integrity and character — made quite an impression on me.   

A few weeks ago, I went back for a reunion of staff at Camp Napowan. There were guys that I hadn’t seen in 53 years. And you know what? We literally picked up where we left off. There were seven guys of my vintage who showed up.  The camp had changed a great deal.  But the guys had not.  It was enlightening to see what these 15 year old boys had become: veterinarian; oncologist; Navy pilot/commander; accountant; businessman; and two lawyers.  We have since spent time emailing, exchanging photographs and chatting on the phone. 

Next year, Camp Napowan is hosting another reunion.  The 70th anniversary.  Instead of bringing seven grown up 15 year olds out of the woodwork, there is hope for several times that.  Maybe even Harrison Ford will show up (see 2/5/12).  To be continued. . . . .  

Trump

I’m convinced that Donald Trump is a Democrat. He was a registered Democrat for years on end. He has told CNN that the economy does better under Democrats. He wants a single payer health care system. He’s pro choice. He supports the ban on “assault weapons” and believes there should be a longer “waiting period” before one can acquire a firearm. Over the years he has contributed major dollars to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other Democrats.    He rebuked George Bush as one of the “worst Presidents” ever.  Bill and Hillary are “close friends.” Best friends.  And they are regularly complimented by “The Donald.”  

And of course at the big debate, he’s the only one who raised his hand and said he would not promise to support the Republican candidate.  The man is a traitor (whether you are Republican or Democrat).  His ongoing buffoonery has angered women, Mexicans, the poor and a host of others — and cast a serious pall on the image of legitimate Republican candidates.  And if he runs as an independent?  Who wins?   Trump’s claim to be a Republican raises the specter that he is actually working closely with the Democratic Party to assure their success in 2016.  I am convinced he’s a Democrat.  And even Al Sharpton on MSNBC concluded that Trump is a Democrat.  What are Republicans thinking to include this character in their midst

Islam’s Reformation

Islam is in need of a reformation.  In the same manner that Christianity and Judaism centuries ago softened dogmas of intolerance (and violence) and opened doors to all believers.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali woman – and Muslim – who penned a book on the subject – Heretic:  Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.  Powerful.     

Muslims the world over recite the ShahadaThere is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger.  Yet as previously discussed, there are 72 different sects of Islam (see 9/6/13).  And many of them hate each other.  In 2013, there were 12,000 terrorist attacks worldwide.  Most were committed by Muslims.   Most were committed against Muslims.  To understand this anomaly, Ms. Ali divides Muslims (of all sects) into three groups:

Medina Muslims — These are the fundamentalists who want a return to the 7th Century caliphate.  They are the ones who prescribe violence to convert  or exterminate those not like them.  They are the ones who insist on burqas for their women and justify beatings and executions for the smallest of theological (or interpretive) missteps.  They insist that Sharia law should dominate all other laws.

Mecca Muslims — The vast majority of Muslims.  Peaceful as a rule.  Moderate. 

Dissidents — Those like Ms. Ali who believe in reform.  Her book suggests five areas of Islamic reform:  view Muhammad as fallible – not divine; reject martyrdom; accept Sharia law as coequal with the laws of man; eliminate religious police; and reject jihad (what has come to be known as “holy war”). 

Her feeling is that Muslims need to embrace modernity and reject the small group of radicals (those of Medina) who are destroying the faith.  Her conclusion is that not just Muslims – but the whole world – would win.     

Don’t Mess with Texas

Texas. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in 2014 the Texas economy grew by a sizzling 5.2%. That’s second only to North Dakota (6.3%). Texas is creating large numbers of jobs and unemployment (4.3%) is below the national average. Texas is now America’s top technology exporter. In short, Texas is in the business of creating wealth for all. Not redistributing what is there.  Governor Greg Abbott has just signed into law tax cuts amounting to $4 billion. 

And then we have Illinois.  The worst bond rating of the 50 states.  The highest pension deficit of the 50 states ($111 billion).  Massive budget deficits.  Jobs leaving Illinois at the rate of 1,000 per day.  Citizens moving away.  Chicago’s population is today less than it was in 1920.  Up until last November’s election, Illinois had the worst Governor in the 50 states (Pat Quinn) according to the Wall Street Journal.  The state is run by unions and Speaker Mike Madigan — a man who should probably be in prison for what he has done to the State.   Unlike Texas – where citizens are getting a tax break – Illinois taxes are going up on the diminishing number of taxpayers who are footing the bill.   The new Governor – Rauner – is trying to improve things but the unions and Mike Madigan refuse to cooperate.  They insist on killing Illinois once and for all.