'Old-worn-down' New England

On the rocks at  the summit of Mt. Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire in high summer.

On the rocks at  the summit of Mt. Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire in high summer.

''New England has had a long history, not only in relation to the nation of which she is part, but also in relation to the history of the planet. The folded and faulted rocks that form her bony structure are so ancient that their exact history has not yet been fully deciphered; but most of us know them at least vaguely as examples of 'old-worn-down mountains' in the contrast to the 'young-rugged-mountains' of the West. The marks of the last wave of glacial ice, on the other hand, are clear and fresh, and lie about us everywhere. Once one learns to see them, the glacier seems a very real and tangible thing, and twelve thousand years since the ice disappeared become as the twinkling of an eye.''

--- From The Changing Face of New England, by Betty Flanders Thomson

Making 'one's own masculinity'

"Calice,'' (vintage motorcycle jacket, vintage hanger, wire), by  Caleb Cole, in the group show "Made Masculine,''  Aug. 30- Oct. 15, at the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. The museum says: "The thirteen contemporary artists in this exhibition accept the framework that masculinity is made, fashioned, and modified generation to generation. Selected works of art explore the artifice of masculinity through themes such as strength, desire, and intimacy while posing the question: What does it mean to be made masculine or to make one’s own masculinity?'

"Calice,'' (vintage motorcycle jacket, vintage hanger, wire), by  Caleb Cole, in the group show "Made Masculine,''  Aug. 30- Oct. 15, at the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. The museum says: "The thirteen contemporary artists in this exhibition accept the framework that masculinity is made, fashioned, and modified generation to generation. Selected works of art explore the artifice of masculinity through themes such as strength, desire, and intimacy while posing the question: What does it mean to be made masculine or to make one’s own masculinity?'






Chris Powell: Ascension of crotch grabber-in-chief also emboldens crazies against him

Now that President Trump, the crotch grabber-in-chief, has (sort of) condemned neo-Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan, violence, and hate, obediently if belatedly citing each item on the Democratic Party's checklist, will people whose minds he has changed please raise their hands?

Is there even one such person?

Did nearly everyone really not already understand that the things on the checklist are reprehensible?

Does anyone really think that the crotch grabber-in-chief was sincere with his belated remarks rather than just posturing opportunistically to deflect the Democrats' own opportunistic posturing?

Does anyone really think the Democrats were sincere in their denunciation of the crotch grabber-in-chief for not using their checklist from the start? Does anyone really think that the Democrats are more concerned about the worsening embitterment and hysteria of national politics than about exploiting a chance to rile up their base and embarrass the crotch grabber-in-chief, as if he isn't pretty good at that all by himself?

Yes, the ascension of the crotch grabber-in-chief has emboldened certain crazies and strengthened their attraction to the Republican Party. But the crotch grabber-in-chief's ascension also has emboldened other crazies in  opposition  to him, from black separatists to immigration law nullifiers, some of whom have been welcomed enthusiastically into the Democratic Party.

After all, those who rioted in Charlottesville last weekend aren't the country's only violent crazies. Others rioted in Washington to disrupt the crotch grabber-in-chief's inauguration in January, and two months ago a deranged supporter of Democrat Bernie Sanders shot up the Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.

Few people today look to national elected officials for moral leadership, and those officials are kidding themselves if they think that nobody can distinguish moral leadership from their usual posturing.

Number of Conn. state employees down, costs still up

Gov. Dannel Malloy likes to boast that his administration has shrunk state government's workforce by about 3,200 positions since he took office in 2011. But the Waterbury Republican-American's Paul Hughes reported lasyt week that the total annual cost of that workforce since the governor took office has risen from $5.5 billion to $6.3 billion. That is, while state government's workforce is smaller than it was six years ago, it is more expensive than ever.

Of course if state government had not reduced its workforce since Malloy took office, its cost would be even higher, so this is an accomplishment, just not one from which taxpayers can take as much consolation as the governor might like them to.

Besides, the true test of the government's workforce isn't what it costs but what it delivers.  Who would begrudge state government a few more employees if the workforce's total cost  declined?  Who would begrudge it a few more employees if that's what it took, say, to eliminate long waits at Motor Vehicles Department offices?

In the stalemate over the next state budget, which is eight weeks late, the effectiveness of state government has been almost completely overlooked. The governor is setting state government's spending by executive order because he and the General Assembly can't agree on how much tax revenue to raise, much less how it should be spent.

In these circumstances seriously evaluating state government's performance is pretty much out of the question. It may take a miracle just to get state government running more or less normally again, effective or not.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


'Slow-cooling glow'


"Let me enjoy this late-summer day of my heart while the leaves are still green and I won't look so close as to see that first tint of pale yellow slowly creep in. I will cease endless running and then look to the sky ask the sun to embrace me and then hope she won't tell of tomorrows less long than today. Let me spend just this time in the slow-cooling glow of warm afternoon light and I'd think I will still have the strength for just one more last fling of my heart." 

- John Bohrn, "Late August''

My Cape Cod -- from rural to suburban

The Bourne Bridge, over the Cape Cod Canal, with the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge in the distance.

The Bourne Bridge, over the Cape Cod Canal, with the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge in the distance.

From Robert Whitcombs's "Digital Diary','' in GoLocal24com

We went down to the Cape the other day to stay with a cousin in a house on a harbor on Buzzards Bay. I thought of how much the Cape had changed since my boyhood, in the ‘50s. Then, much of it was truly rural, with small farms and many cranberry bogs. There were no superhighways. Approaching from Boston’s southeastern suburbs, you’d go down Route 3A, which would become increasingly rustic as you headed south, with farm stands and general stores. The closer we got to the Cape Cod Canal, the more the air smelled like pine, as we entered a state forest.

Then the excitement of crossing the Sagamore Bridge onto an island/peninsula then devoid of big box stores, malls and gated retirement communities and on to my paternal grandparents’ gray-shingled house in the village of West Falmouth,  the land of which some of my Quaker ancestors had bought from the Indians in the 1600’s.  Then, if there were still time, to the beach, where the water was much cleaner and warmer than in Massachusetts Bay, and where the private bathhouse would get destroyed from time to time in hurricanes, to whichBuzzards Bay is particularly vulnerable.

After that, getting some ice cream from the village’s one and only general store. Then maybe a trip to Woods Hole the next day to see the aquarium of the world-famous Oceanographic Institution there. Woods Hole was where some of my ancestors built boats and partnered in the Pacific Guano Co., where bird excrement from Pacific Islands was processed with fish meal to make what was considered in the 19th Century the best fertilizer. Nowadays, it’s hard to think of Woods Hole as a factory town. Rather, it’s now in effect a college town.

As for West Falmouth, while it’s still almost as pretty as it was 60 years, it’s a ghost town to me since virtually everyone I knew there has died or otherwise gone elsewhere.

Or we occasionally approached the Cape from the west, on Route 6, with its strips of clam shacks, cheap motels and kitschy tourist-oriented gift stores. Ugly, but delightful to young children. Now, of course, you miss the local and often tacky texture on the boring big divided highways. And these highways draw in so much out-of-region traffic that the traffic jams on the two road bridges (there’s also the beautiful railroad bridge) mean driving to the Cape can take considerably longer now than in the ‘50s.

Because of that and because too much of this glacial moraine now looks like exurbia or suburbia, we don’t makemany visits anymore to Olde Cape Cod. Still, the air down there still has a certain luminosity.

Llewellyn King: In the Trump reign, recall John Donne



When I arrived on these shores in 1963, I wrote to a friend in London from New York, “We had America wrong. It is not a melting pot but rather a fruit salad. Spanish-speaking youths sell pizza on Broadway. Italian and German men drive taxis. All the doormen -- they stand in front of the better blocks of flats -- seem to be Irish. Black men and women do menial work: They are less obvious and not prospering.”

Those were the days when integrating the South was being bitterly fought and I, for one, thought that the soaring rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. could heal as well as inspire.

The most overt racism I saw in the North was not in New York or Washington but in Baltimore. At a bar beloved by the editorial staff of the Baltimore News American on Pratt Street, a major commercial thoroughfare at the time, an African-American man came in for a drink. The owner, a Polish-American, was on his feet in seconds, telling the man that the bar was in fact a private club, but he could sell him a bottle to go. The would-be patron took this clear lie quietly and left. My colleagues at the newspaper, including an African-American editor, were not interested in protesting the incident.

Race is probably baked into my consciousness, as I was born and raised in the British African colony of Southern Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe).  I grew up in a society in which some dreamed of a multi-racial future and others leaned toward white supremacy. In the end, after independence, Robert Mugabe made a mockery of democracy and civil rights for white and black citizens; his rule has been an equal-opportunity horror.

When King was shot in 1968, Washington and Baltimore erupted in riots. I would not call them race riots, but they were riots of protest, of angry people who felt they had had enough. I walked through some of the worst rioting in Washington, and later drove through burning sections of Baltimore.

Rather than being threatened as a white man in black communities that were gripped with looting and fire-setting, there was an almost eerie politeness, a concern among the rioters for my safety. John Harwood, father of the CNBC correspondent, wrote about this, these manners, in The Washington Post.

It struck me then that the United States could survive even in its worst struggles if it could keep its manners, its sense of the other fellow’s well-being.

Nelson Mandela said that hate has to be learned. What he did not say, as far as I know, is that people love to hate. When hate is sanctioned, as it was in Nazi Germany or in endless Russian pogroms against the Jews, it becomes a creed and a way of seeing everything.

The selection of Barack Obama not as an African-American but as the Democratic presidential candidate was a high point. It made me very proud to be an American, of having been accepted in an exemplary place. It told the world that the United States, for all of its history of slavery and prejudice, was an ascendant society; Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”

In Dublin, I chastised an Irish journalist for criticizing a less-than-lovable newscaster as a “Protestant prick.” What had the man’s religion to do with it? In America, I said, we would not add religion to the epithet.

I was lunching with a Malaysian publisher at the National Press Club in Washington when he declared for all to hear, “The only straight thing about a Chinaman is his hair.” I was appalled and said so. We would not have said that, not in recent decades, because of the restraint of brotherhood, the sense of ascendance and the manners of a people from many places who live together.

Now an American president, Donald Trump, has whistled up tribalism, rationalized the unacceptable through false equivalence. And America, as an ascendant place, is in question, the delicate weave of its social fabric under stress.

John Donne, the metaphysical English poet, wrote nearly 400 years ago of “America” as hugely desirable place. He also warned, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Even more so in a diverse nation held together by the knowledge that any other course, any tribal hatred, diminishes the whole construct; or, to me, contaminates the fruit salad with rotten produce.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com) is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS, and a frequent contributor to New England Diary. This piece first appeared in Inside Sources. 


Boxwood bathos

Boxwood -- Photo by Sten Porse


-- Photo by Sten Porse

"I have heard New Englanders say that they have an affinity for Box{wood} -- that it exerts power like a hereditary memory, and affects them with an almost hypnotic force. This is not felt by everyone, but only by those who have loved Box for centuries, in the persons of their ancestors.''

-- Eleanor Early, from A New England Sampler

'Relax! Relax!'

"Crickets leap from the stubble,   

parting before me like the Red Sea.   

The garden sprawls and spoils. 


Across the lake the campers have learned   

to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.   

Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   

suffuse the hazy air.  'Relax! Relax!'


Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   

fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   

The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   

brighten the margins of the woods.''


-- From "Three Songs at the End of Summer,'' by the late New Hampshire poet Jane Kenyon.

Jim Hightower: The campaign to turn far-right churches into temples of dark money

A Protestant Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity into atheism.  

A Protestant Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity into atheism.



Via OtherWords.org

You know what’s wrong with American politics? It’s that there just aren’t enough ways for giant corporations and mega-rich political donors to funnel their big bucks into our elections and buy our government.

At least that’s what Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and a devious group of right-wing political pastors are saying. And, of course, they’ve got a diabolical fix for this “problem.”

Their scheme is to turn tax-exempt, far-right churches into gushing sewers of political money, secretly channeling unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and right-wing extremists through the churches and into the campaigns of politicians who’ll do their bidding.

They don’t admit this, of course. Instead, they wrap their scheme in the pious rhetoric of religious freedom.

Their point of attack is the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law passed by LBJ that prohibits tax-exempt charities, including churches, from endorsing candidates, funding campaigns, and directly engaging in politics.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist Christian operation pushing for repeal of the Johnson amendment, asserts that banning churches from overt political campaigning lets the IRS “tell pastors what they can and cannot preach.”

Clever, but totally dishonest.

First, the issue isn’t whether the government can tell church groups what to say — it can’t. The question is whether taxpayers should subsidize a church group’s electioneering views and activities.

Second, and more diabolically, repealing the Johnson ban would turn these churches into holy temples of dark money. Special-interest funders would rush to these political “charities,” turning churches into super-secret super PACs. And since churches are tax exempt, the donors would also be blessed with a tax deduction for their corrupting campaign contributions!

Taxpayers would be underwriting the corruption of American politics. How ungodly is that?

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 


The greenhouse effect

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

Congratulations to RI Mushroom Co., featured in an Aug. 6 Providence Journal story headlined “They’ve spawned success with rooms of ‘shrooms.’’ It’s a lovely entrepreneurial tale, in which partners MichaelHallock and Robert DiPietro have expanded their mushroom-growing, packaging and sales operation from a “1,500-square-foot facility with one 16-by-50-foot grow room to a 10,000-square-foot facility with three grow rooms, a large packaging room and 1,000 square feet of office space.’’ They told The Journal that they eventually want to grow $100 million a year of mushrooms.

Mushrooms are increasingly popular and it’s unlikely that Amazon will take away the duo’s business. The article reminded me of the broader potential of such indoor agriculture in southern New England. Well-insulated greenhouses could  be used to grow a lot of the fresh vegetables that New Englanders now must get from far away (at considerable environmental cost) outside the region’s main vegetable-growing season of May to October.  Near-Arctic Iceland, of all places, grows a lot of its own vegetables in greenhouses, albeit with the help of that nation’s geo-thermal riches.

Put up greenhouses on the  vacant parking lots around the proliferating number of closed suburban malls and big-box stores, where they could share space with wind turbines and solar-panel arrays.


Visually unpacking

Left, "Happy Go Lucky'' (mixed media) and right "Balls'' (mixed media), by Joe Caruso, in his show "Joe Caruso: Covered, Uncovered, Discovered,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Sept. 1-30. The gallery says the "he explores the themes of discovery, time and transformation....The viewer js asked to visually unpack the layers (of these pieces) to discover the treasure within.''

Left, "Happy Go Lucky'' (mixed media) and right "Balls'' (mixed media), by Joe Caruso, in his show "Joe Caruso: Covered, Uncovered, Discovered,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Sept. 1-30. The gallery says the "he explores the themes of discovery, time and transformation....The viewer js asked to visually unpack the layers (of these pieces) to discover the treasure within.''

Sarah Anderson: How air conditioning unites and divides Americans

Via OtherWords.org

Before air conditioning, even presidents had to suffer.

In the summer,  Abraham Lincoln used to ride a horse every evening from the White House to a cottage at a higher elevation four miles away. There he’d join his family in an attempt to escape the muggiest depths of the nation’s capital.

In July 1881, White House aides took to blowing air through sheets dunked in ice water in an effort to cool a severely wounded James Garfield. He wound up dying from an assassin’s bullet.

In 1909, William Howard Taft took the desperate step of sleeping on the White House roof to escape the furnace that is a Washington summer.

Back then, you could say, extreme heat was a social leveler. When air conditioning first entered American homes, it created a deep divide. Only the extremely wealthy — the ones least likely to have a job that required working up a sweat — could afford these newfangled contraptions.

Minneapolis railroad tycoon Charles Gates is believed to be the first to purchase a home cooling unit in 1914. At 7 feet high and 20 feet long, the device required a mansion-size home.

Smaller window units hit the market in the 1930s, but at a cost of more than $120,000 in today’s dollars, they were beyond the reach of the vast majority of Americans. As late as 1965, just 10 percent of U.S. homes had air conditioning.

Today, the economic divide created by home air conditioning is virtually gone. The Department of Energy estimates that nearly 90 percent of U.S. families have either central air or window units.

The modern divide is in the workplace.

In my Washington, D.C., office, colleagues routinely wrap themselves in blankets for long meetings in our refrigerator-like conference room. And throughout the city, you can see men in dark suits and ties even when temperatures soar near 100 degrees. They may complain (and they do), but they spend so little time exposed to the elements that their hot uniforms aren’t much of a health risk.

The people who have to work outside are the ones who really suffer. And outdoor workers, the people who harvest our food, build our homes and bridges, and care for our greenery, tend to also be among the lowest-paid.

In Las Vegas, where luxury hotels blast cool air out onto the sidewalk, construction workers in the desert heat have sometimes had to fight for the right to water breaks. In the landscaping industry, which employs more than 900,000 workers nationally, average pay is just $28,560 per year, one of the lowest of any occupation tracked by the U.S. Labor Department.

And those are official statistics based on full-time employment. Outdoor workers’ actual earnings are likely much lower.

The Economic Policy Institute recently pointed out that most California farmworkers have unpredictable, seasonal work hours. In 2015, that state’s agricultural workers earned an average of just $17,500 per year, EPI estimates.

The health risks of outdoor work will only worsen, of course, with climate change. And one contributor to that change, ironically, is the air-conditioning boom in the developing world.

The rapid increase in air conditioner sales is narrowing the gaps between cool air haves and have-nots in countries like China, India, and Brazil — just as it did in the United States. But this boom will also generate massive greenhouse gas emissions that will make the planet even hotter.

Today’s air conditioning gaps are a symptom of much bigger problems with complex solutions.

On the labor side, we need to ensure living wages and safe working conditions for all workers. At the same time, we need to get serious about addressing climate change in a way that puts the greatest responsibility on those who have contributed the most to this global challenge.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a co-editor of Inequality.org. 

Todd McLeish: More seabirds in region turning up dead, perhaps from starvation

Great shearwater.

Great shearwater.


Walking on the beach at the north end of Block Island last month, Matt Schenck stumbled upon two dead and decomposing seabirds, which the avid birdwatcher identified as great shearwaters. While gulls of various species are commonly found dead on local beaches, shearwaters are an extreme rarity.

Except this year.

Hundreds of great shearwaters have turned up dead on beaches on Long Island and southern New England this summer, and no one seems to know why. In addition to the birds on Block Island, birders and biologists have reported dead shearwaters on Rhode Island beaches in Tiverton and Charlestown.

Shearwaters spend most of their lives far out to sea, where they soar just above the waves as they forage on small fish and other marine creatures near the surface of the water. Four species of shearwater — great, sooty, Cory’s and Manx — are typically seen in Rhode Island waters, though they seldom travel within sight of land. Most breed on remote islands in the South Atlantic.

According to Josh Beuth, a biologist for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, shearwaters have been observed in large numbers from the shore this year, including from Jamestown, Newport and Point Judith. They have also been seen regularly from the Block Island ferry.

“There has been an abundance of sand eels in our local waters, which are a forage fish for shearwaters,” Beuth said. “As a result of them being closer to shore than usual, it would be more likely that they’d wash up on shore if they died.”

While prey may be abundant, some biologists, including Linda Welch, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist who studies great shearwaters off Cape Cod, have noted that many of the dead birds are juveniles that have been thin or emaciated, suggesting that the birds have starved.

The dead birds began to show up on beaches in late June, which is about when they should have arrived along the East Coast after their long migration from their breeding grounds in the South Atlantic. By then, they were likely stressed and tired and hungry, which may have made them susceptible to any number of potential sources of mortality.

Wildlife pathologist Joe Okoniewski examined some of the dead shearwaters found on Long Island beaches, and he told The New York Times that the birds were not only thin but anemic. “The big mystery is: Why are they thin? On the surface, it looks like you know what happened — they starved,” he said. “But when you ask why, it becomes much more of a mystery.”

It is especially mysterious if prey is seemingly abundant, as it has been this summer in Rhode Island waters.

Robert Kenney, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, speculates that toxic algae from red tides may be playing a role in the bird deaths. He said a number of northern gannets, another species of seabird, have been found dead on Cape Cod beaches this summer. The only difference, he said, is that they are “in good condition, except for being dead.”

He noted that toxic algae may have also contributed to the deaths of some of the numerous whales that have been found dead along the East Coast and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence this year.

Among those trying to find an answer is Julie Ellis, director of the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network at the Tufts University Veterinary Medical Center, which uses volunteers throughout the Northeast to regularly walk beaches to collect dead birds for study. She is reaching out to a number of animal diagnosticians throughout the region in hopes that together they can come up with a consensus of what is causing the shearwater deaths. She hopes they will have an answer next month.

Rhode Island resident and author Todd McLeish runs a wildlife blog.

Don Pesci: In Charlottesville, the success of violence as tool of social change

''Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.''

- An old children's line


They call themselves Antifa, meaning “antifascists.” George Orwell would have been the first to point out that the anti-fascists are, in fact, a modern offshoot of the brown shirts one associates with Hitler, violent fascists pledged to break the bones of those who disagree with them so that by means of force their intellectual opponents may be silenced. A broken bone is a very convincing argument, as any thug well knows.

Naming is a process of attaching words to events in such a way that the general public may apprehend the events as they had occurred in real time through the assigned words. This process also is open to perversion. But as a general rule, the process breaks no bones and is constitutionally allowed, even when the resulting descriptions violate what we may loosely call the truth.

Naming bears no arms. But fascism, the antifas movement, Nazism and its modern evocations, KluKluxery, the White Separatist movement, are all fully armed and pledged to violent means. All use ideologically neutral populations to accomplish their chief aim, perfectly described by Karl Marx in his "Theses On Feuerbach'': “Hitherto, philosophers have sought to understand the world; the point, however, is to change it.” In the hands of thugs well concealed behind the veil of First Amendment rights, violence is an effective change agent, and violence is the Alpha and Omega of all the  above mentioned groups.

What we all witnessed in Charlottesville over the weekend was the success of violence as an instrument of social change. The violent and murderous events in Charlottesville were, everyone can agree, preeminently a failure of crowd control. And what a crowd it was.

On the fringes were professional violent agitators, as usual beating plowshares into swords. Possibly more than 80 percent those arrested, after Antifa thugs and anarchists and Klu-Kluzers and White Separatists were brought together on the streets of Charlotte, were from somewhere else. Two groups – peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and a group protesting the eradication of Southern history – were used as masks by Antifa, anarchists, KluKluzers and racist separatist groups to accomplish their violent ends.

Violent agitators who march under false flags to commit criminal acts should instantly be denounced by men and women of good will everywhere – including President Trump, who is not a racist, a KluKluxer or a white separatist. How difficult can it be to publicly denounce the Klu Klux Klan, an anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic hate-group that dates from the late 1860s?

Not too difficult, apparently, because 48 hours after Charlottesville police, told to stand down, failed to suppress rioting in the streets, Trump issued the following lucid and unambiguous denunciation: “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans.”

This pronouncement will be too little, too late to satisfy the partisan hounds intent upon deposing Trump for the unpardonable crime of defeating Hillary Clinton in a presidential election -- whether by lawsuits or by inflaming the national media against him; not a difficulty chore, since Trump already has alienated most of the nation’s left-of-center media. Belaboring the media and pointing out their sometimes embarrassing hypocrisies, pro-Trumpeters insist, is part of Trump’s politically eccentric charm.

Among repugnant hate groups, one may count with some confidence violence- prone anti-fascist fascists, loudly baying Trump-deposers with knives in their brains, and a left-of-center media that prints with relish rhetorical pot-boilers from, say, Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, among other Democrats inflamed by national ambitions.

Trump, Murphy said, had incited peace-loving anarchists and members of the national antifa movement to commit acts of violence against hateful groups that even Mother Teresa would consider disreputable. Moreover, those who fail to agree with Murphy’s sentiments and do not vigorously denounce Trump are themselves co-conspirators: “Silence or weak condemnation will be rightly read as complicity with this newly emboldened racist movement.”

This is a giant step-up from guilt by association, otherwise known as McCarthyism. The failure to assent vigorously to Murphy’s views is itself proof of complicity. Disagree with Murphy and you are racist, anti-Jewish and homophobic. Only an anarchist could seriously buy into such wild denunciations.

Is Murphy a fascist because he did not instantly denounce antifa and anarchists, which deployed fascist methods to shutdown free speech in Berkley, the home of the Free Speech Movement in 1964? Of course not.  

How would one know, Dwight McDonald once asked, if the world were moving into a new Dark Age? One possible answer: cults, separated from the broad way of Western civilization, will be everywhere.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist whose work often appears in New England Diary.





Angel B. Perez: Past time to change how we prepare students to apply to college

At Trinity College, in Hartford. Photo by Consigli

At Trinity College, in Hartford.

Photo by Consigli


Via the New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org)

Recently, I read yet another higher education professional’s case for standardized testing, specifically that making such tests free and universal would help level the playing field for low-income and minority students seeking access to top colleges. But while the SAT’s hefty $57 fee contributes to the barriers low-income students face, eliminating it won’t solve the problem. Access to higher education in America is much more complex.

The problem is our nation’s inability to offer consistent college preparation, academic rigor and counseling across varying socioeconomic communities. Data from the College Board show that the higher your family’s income, the higher your SAT scores are. Standardized tests then do more to keep low-income students out of top colleges than to invite them in. There is no shortage of talent in America. The shortage lies in its cultivation.

Many countries surpassed the United States in educational attainment because they believe in providing equal educational opportunity for all.  In fact, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which measures global student performance, notes that the U.S. is not on the top 10 list of achievement in Math, Reading, and Science. Canada and Japan on the other hand, are. What do these two nations have in common?

Both made equal access to educational opportunity a top priority. In Japan, students may live in a poor neighborhood, but they don’t attend poor schools. In Canada, one third of young people come from immigrant families and, when given the same educational opportunities, perform at the same level as their peers.

Equity has clearly benefited Canada tremendously since it is the only nation in the world where more than half its adult citizens have a college degree. Unfortunately, the U.S. lags behind on this issue. Instead of exerting energy investigating “affirmative action” in college admissions, perhaps the current administration could address the educational inequities that have resulted in America being knocked off the world stage.

A study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows that the average public school counselor has a caseload of 476 students and spends only 22% of his or her time on postsecondary counseling. This is in stark contrast to the 55% that private school counselors spend. Most low-income high schools can’t afford to offer expensive test-preparation courses to their students, and while free or low-cost online options are available, the services offered to students who pay for preparation courses are unparalleled.

Yet knowing how stark the contrasts are in preparation between low- and high-income students in America, most colleges still insist on using an exam that was created in 1926 by Carl C. Brigham to “test” America’s intelligence. The exam was originally touted as a tool of meritocracy, the great equalizer among students in America. We all know that dream never actualized. Our world has evolved tremendously since then, and a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be used to evaluate whether a student is ready to succeed in college. Our nation’s talent abounds. It’s higher education’s job to identify it.

From my own experiences as a vice president and teacher at several of America’s most selective institutions, I know it’s easy to dismiss an applicant because he or she doesn’t meet the university’s average test scores, or even worse, would hurt its average on U.S. News and World Report rankings.

But research shows that rather than test scores, the best predictors of success in college are high school grades and academic rigor.

At Trinity College, I have led efforts to rethink how we admit students, and we’ve changed our admissions process to think differently about what it means to be “college ready.” One of the changes we made was to adopt a test-optional policy. Next month, the college will welcome the most diverse first-year class in its history. It includes the highest number of low-income and first-generation students in Trinity’s history. In addition, the academic profile has increased tremendously. The Class of 2021 has twice as many students at the top of our academic profile as did last year’s entering class. We focus on grades, rigor, curriculum and all quantitative data high schools submit to us. But we also pay very close attention to personal qualities that we know will help students succeed in college—qualities such as curiosity, love of learning, perseverance and grit.

Since we’ve redefined our admissions process, members of our faculty have told us that their students are more curious, engaged and involved. Isn’t that what we want from all of our students?

If our educational system in America provided equal educational opportunity to all students regardless of income level, making the SAT and ACT free might significantly increase the number of low-income students in college. However, since this is a far cry from our current reality, it is higher education’s responsibility to think more creatively about whom it allows in the door. We are a long way from ensuring that every citizen has equal access to high-quality education, but in the meantime, universities can play a significant role in ensuring inclusivity of all talent.

The demography of the U.S. is shifting dramatically. Our population is younger, more diverse, and less wealthy. If we are going to prepare the nation for future challenges and regain our status on the world stage, we must rethink our approach to college access. We either fundamentally change student preparation for college or make our admissions processes more inclusive of diverse talents and less traditional—but more predictive—measures of success. Actually, our nation’s future depends on our doing both.

Angel B. Pérez is vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. 



Mystery space

"On a green island in the Main Street traffic

is a granite arch to the dead of the  Civil War --

in the Eastlake style, all cubes  and tetrahedrons,

each end of the passage barred by an iron-lace door.


They are always locked, tho the space between is empty --

from door to door it isn't much over a yard:

break open one, you could almost touch the other.

Nobody knows what the locks were meant to guard.''


-- From "Pro Patria,'' by Constance Carrier