Monday, June 19, 2017

Cheers to celebrating the things we value. 8 May 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, May 8 2005

Teaching Bible as literature? Be careful what you pray for, 18 March 2007

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, March 18, 2007

Bald eagle an inspiring sight, even on a dirty river, 30 June 2006

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 30 June 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Talk to your children about common sense on the Net now, 26 June 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star 26 June 2005

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Change, uncertainty breed the need for absolute answers June 12, 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 12 June 2005

Much info still in the closet on sexual activity, July 29, 2007

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 29 July 207

A war that once seemed right now 'feels' wrong jul 10 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 10 July 2005

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Societal acceptance of same-sex marriage will take time, Jan 9 2006

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 9 Jul 2006

What will future hold for Iraqi's. Jan 30 2005


Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 30 Jan 2005

Civil discourse at its best online, 7 Jan 2007

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, Jan 7 2007

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sense of belonging for all crucial to community's future, 2 January 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 2 January 2005

Violent Islamic reaction reveals deeper conflicts, Feb 19, 2006

Previously published in the 19 Feb 2006 Terre Haute Tribune Star

A reaction laced with hyporcrisy, Feb 6, 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 6 Feb 2005

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What would we do without the railroads? 5 February 2006

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 5 February 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bush's plan makes Social Security reform look simple--but is it? Dec 26, 2004

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 26 Dec 2004

Trading liberty for security not viable option for America, Dec 25, 2005

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 25 Dec 2005

Abortion debate roots in women's changing roles, Dec 1, 2005

previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, Dec 1, 2005

Monday, May 29, 2017

The top three reasons why lists are so popular, August 29, 2004

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 29 August 2004

'Village' breaks down when too many adults look the other way, 28 August 2005


Previously published Terre Haute Tribune Star, 28 August 2005

PR battle over Iraq must now be waged at home, August 13, 2006

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 13 August 2006

Tax discussion challenges traditional positions, 12 August 2007

Previously published Terre Haute Tribune Star, 12 August 2007

Assessing the core of 'Hoosier values' April 16, 2006

Previously published Terre Haute Tribune Star, 16 April 2006

Technology, social movements drive cultural change, April 10, 2005

previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, April 10, 2005

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trick or treat, discontent, give us better government

previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 30 October 2005





Sunday, May 21, 2017

Opportunities and threats from the Beacon of Democracy

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 21 May 2017
There was some bad news last week for the senior demon Authoritarian in the Battle with Democracy. We pick up on a conversation between Authoritarian and his nephew, Pootie Poot.
“Pootie Poot, I hoped that the Front National would have prevailed in France. We were building such momentum with victories in Turkey and the Philippines. It would have been another crack in the wicked European Union. Indeed, this has not been a particularly good week for us, has it?”
“Uncle, the French do not have the same taste for melodramatic sex scandal like the Americans. The leaked documents from Macron would have destroyed him in the U.S. Instead, the government chose to ignore the ill-gotten gain of our efforts and prohibited their publication.”
“Pootie Poot, you executed your part well but as the world becomes aware of us we may have to somewhat alter our ways. Enough with France, it only adds to my irritation. What of our battle with the beacon of Democracy, the United States. How was the meeting between your people and the Strongman Trump?”
“It was a success, Uncle! Access to the Oval Office was his test of loyalty but then he surprised with sharing of classified information. Strongman Trump is unpredictable but in a good way it seems.”
“That is good news but what about those photos? I hope you punished the leakers.”
“Yes, Uncle, global warming has not yet reached Siberia.”
“Despite the unwanted illumination of the meeting, it does demonstrate that Trump is loyal.”
“Indeed, Uncle, Zaika Trump is so eager to please.”
“Pootie Poot, the U.S. Strongman then fires Patriot Comey and it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t about the investigation now. Had the meeting not been known, the original plan would have been plausible. Not now.”
“Uncle, we will continue the claim that Patriot Comey is a showboat and grandstander. Already his insistence on testifying publicly proves the point. It’s enough to create our best friend, chaos. Republicans will want to keep Patriot Comey’s testimony private and the Democrats will want it public and that will become the issue. In the meantime the search for a loyalist to head up the FBI will continue but with distracted scrutiny. In any case, Uncle, the Patriot Comey is no longer a threat.”
“Ahh Pootie Poot, you make me smile. But there are now stories about memos that Patriot Comey wrote, detailing Strongman Trump, being a Strongman.”
“Uncle, this works to our advantage, the more focus on Zaika Trump’s actions, the less on us and there is a strong counter push against the press for its unnamed sources and reference to unpublished memos. The churn helps us. We will throw more computer hacks at them and stretch their resources. We can also give them additional distractions as well as a chance for Zaika Trump to bolster his support among his loyalists. He can show how ineffective the U.S. intelligence and security community are as we cripple their medical offices.”
“Pootie Poot, I admire your initiative. What are you thinking?”
“Our friend, the Great Successor, loves his rockets. He has been toying with them. We could help him to make one fly farther, straighter, and more accurately than ever before. It would scare the U.S. military who rightly downplays the Great Successor’s toys but let’s give them something to raise an alarm with and then those wanting a demonstration of how good a strongman works instead of Democracy’s fumbling, with its archaic rules and practices, we could aid an easy and effective response by Zaika Trump.”
“Yes, a good mano a mano meeting between Strongman Trump and the Great Successor would be just the kind of demonstration needed. It would also distract from investigations. Imagine an Oval Office photo of the Great Successor and Strongman Trump announcing that there will be no more missile tests. All as part of a trade deal involving agricultural commodities. I can hear it now, Trump opens new markets and ends the Great Successor’s ballistic missile program! Oh Pootie Poot, you have made my day.”
“Uncle Authoritarian, I just checked Fox News and the support for calling a constitutional convention in the Democratic beacon is growing. The divide among Americans over the role of the press will no doubt bolster that effort. That will be a tremendous opportunity for us.”
“Pootie Poot, what is this? Patriot Mueller is named as a special counsel! Trouble is here, so open the gates.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A peek beyond the precipice of impending battle

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 26 March 2017

There are forces of good and evil in the world. Today, we are fortunate to eavesdrop on the forces of evil as a senior demon, Authoritarian, provides advice to his nephew, Pootie Poot, on battling the good, Democracy.
“My dear Pootie Poot, we are on the precipice of achieving our goal, the dismantling of the practice of Democracy, an evil that blocks us from our destiny! I know you are anxious, but be patient.”
“Uncle Authoritarian, why not just manipulate vote totals and elect our collaborators and sympathizers?”
“Pootie Poot, be patient. I know you could change vote totals but don’t do that! It is important that the people believe it is their will and decision to vote for Total Authority.” Our prize is the beacon of personal freedom and democracy, the United States. Our efforts must be nuanced and exploit their weaknesses and turn their strength against them. The U.S. press is ‘free’ but lazy. The ‘journalists’ work for people who want to make money and thus they scramble after the sensational, to be first, rather than right. The more sensational the claim, you can trust they will report it. They will report sensation over the real, so spreading those emails from ‘staffers’ will work even better than attacking the leaders themselves.”
“Uncle, that seems to only serve as a distraction a ‘he said, she said’ argument. Nothing seems resolved and the next sensational headline, some entertainer having a baby, distracts them.”
“Pootie, that is all right. As long as the political leaders disagree on even what events are important, it doesn’t matter. What we want is the two political parties to look at the same thing, for example a leak of classified material that exposes us and our collaborators, and have the political parties divide over it. For example, one party focuses on the content of the leaked material and the other on the crime of leaking and seek to identify the leaker. This is perfect for us!”
“Uncle, there are patriots. Americans are a patriotic people, are they not?”
“Many Americans are patriots, but few American political leaders are patriots. See how few of them even serve in the military or any of their children. Do not be confused by the nationalists. Remember, nationalism is a path to isolation and division and thus is good for us. The nationalists will put party above all else and we can paralyze them politically. Oh how stupid they are not to realize this. They beg for Total Authority and do not realize it!”
“Uncle Authoritarian, is this why we do not try to foment a military coup in the United States, because the military is full of patriots?”
“My dear Pootie Poot, Americans are a complicated people. You might think that all military people are patriotic, but many are political and some are just out for themselves. A couple of places you can be sure there are patriots and the one’s we need to be careful of are in the Intelligence community and in law enforcement. They will put country first and already we have seen some of this at work. We thought that Patriot Comey had compromised himself during the 2016 election, but listen to what he just said:  ‘They’ll be back in 2020, … They may be back in 2018 and one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful, because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sowed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.’ ‘One of the lessons’, Patriot Comey says, hahaha, we are already ahead of you!”
“But Uncle, Patriot Comey just revealed our plan!!!”
“Yes, my dear Pootie Poot, he did and what did I say earlier? Rely on the party divisions to call light dark and dark light, just as is happening now with one side focused on identifying the leaker instead of our actions and our collaborators. Relax Pootie and let the Americans do the heavy work of undermining 250 years of constitutional democracy and make way for Total Authority!”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Stress, poor health contributing to less sex

Previously published, Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 19 March 2017

“About how often did you have sex during the last 12 months?” The General Social Survey, a respected annual survey since 1972, heavily used by social scientists, has asked this question regularly since 1989. A recent publication, “Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989-2014” analyzes changes in responses to that question . Overall, the trends are down, which explains probably why general happiness among Americans is down as well.
“American adults reported having sex about nine times a year less often in the early 2010s than in the late 1990s” the authors find. After considerable statistical analysis, the decline in sexual frequency reflects a generational change. The average Millenial (born in the 1980s) had sex about six times a year less than the average Silent generation member (born in the 1930s). Declines are similar across sex, race, region and the presence of minor children in the household. Contrary to popular culture presentation, married couples have more sex than others, but that too has declined and accounts for much of the overall reduction. Thus, the decrease overall in the number of married people and the decline in frequency of sex among marrieds explains much of the observed decline. These conclusions take into account the overall aging population (older folks have less sex than younger ones and the increase in the consumption of pornography (which is associated with more sex).
The rest of the article attempts to suggest why this is the case including possibly the Clintonian “what does it, ‘sex’, mean?”
One trend that the authors do not explicitly discuss is America’s increasing weight and obesity problem. According to the National Institute of Health since 1962 obesity has more than doubled among adults 20 and older. Adding in the overweight, today about 70 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese compared to a bit more than half in 1990. While the authors suggest that some drugs that are related to diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure may affect sexual performance and desire, they also report that drugs for erectile dysfunction should enhance sexual activity, they do not address directly what all that extra weight might do to American sexual frequency.
Sex, regardless of how one might define it, narrowly as involving heterosexual intercourse (likely how the Silent Generation did) or more expansively to include, …, well you know, and if you don’t then ask a thirty-something, requires some physical activity, a certain amount of agility, and let’s not discount the physical appearances of those engaged. And while those who watched a pornographic movie in the last week have more sex, today’s pornography is different than yesterday’s. The images in the Victoria’s Secret catalog today were pretty much limited to the pages of soft core pornography in the ‘80s. And mass media imagery impacts what people think is sexy, attractive and desirable.
Another change since the late ‘80s is abstinence-only sex education. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 1988 abstinence-only sex education accounted for only 2 percent of all sex education, but by the 2010s, nearly 23 percent. What kind of message does abstinence only sex education send about sex aside from it should be confined to marriage? If sex is portrayed as a threat to one’s self, as a corrupting or staining outcome except inside the confines of marriage conducted for procreative purposes, such a view of sex would likely diminish overall sexual activity as well. And with fertility rates at near historic lows, even procreative sex within marriage appears to be ebbing.
Lastly, for those who distrust government or academic research, what does research from commercial interests say about sex? Durex, the condom manufacturer, studies sexual satisfaction internationally and they conclude the following: the physical drivers of sexual satisfaction are being free from stress and good mental and physical health, being free from stress to achieve orgasm, being free from sexual dysfunction, and the frequency of sex and foreplay. The emotional drivers of sexual satisfaction are feeling close to your partner, having an exciting sex life, being free from sexual dysfunction, and having a good first sexual experience. 
In short, being healthy and free of stress is key. As a nation, we seem unhealthier and more stressed. No wonder sexual frequency may be at an all-time low.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

ISU can be proud of how it helps students succeed

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 5 February 2017

In a Sunday Review in the Jan. 18 New York Times, titled “America’s Working Class Colleges,” I learned of an effort to rank “all” of America’s colleges and universities by how much mobility flows from them for working class students, measured by their parents’ household incomes. Working class students are those students who come from a household in the bottom 20 percent of the household income distribution. The study comes from The Equality of Opportunity Project (www.equality-of-opportunity.org). And, in a true spirit of scholarship, they share their data. I downloaded it to examine Indiana colleges and universities. This is a working class state, so how do we do at helping those students achieve economic mobility?
I was able to find 10 four-year Indiana colleges and universities and two two-year universities. Not all Indiana colleges were listed; Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Marian University were not listed.
I was, of course, interested in how well ISU did, because ISU, as long as I have been here, (into my 31st) year, has had the reputation of a “blue-collar university.”
The data is highly quantitative and perhaps this essay will prompt the Trib-Star to look into the report and create some easy-to-understand charts from the data, but such graphics are not the “stuff” of the opinion pages.
Data were taken from students who graduated between 1980 and 1991 and then their individual incomes between the ages of 32-34. One measure is median household income of all students during the study time period. ISU ranks last among the four-years and third when VU and IVTCC are added. ISU’s median student family income was $82,600 while the highest family income is Notre Dame at $165,400 twice as much as ISU.
Ranking median student individual earnings at age 32-34, ISU ranks ninth of the 12 institutions at $37,800. The lowest was IVTCC at $25,900 and the highest is $83,600 at Rose-Hulman.
What proportion of the institutions’ student body comes from low-income households? Not surprisingly, the two-year schools have the highest proportion but among the four-year schools, ISU is number one at 6.7 percent. The lowest proportion is Notre Dame at 1.4 percent. Certainly these numbers confirm ISU’s reputation as Indiana’s four-year working class institution.
Just for fun we can examine the share of students who come from the top 1 percent of the income distribution. ISU ranks last, at 0.5 percent, among the four-years and is very similar to the two-years with 0.3 percent. Running away from the field, at 11.0 percent, is Notre Dame.
Also, we can infer an institution’s de facto mission by looking at the change in percent of students admitted from the bottom quintile of the income distribution. Six of the 10 four-year schools decreased the proportion of students admitted from the bottom 40 percent, three were essentially unchanged, but ISU increased its share as did the two-year schools.
The key measure, according to the “Equality of Opportunity Project” is the “mobility rate,” the percent of children who come from the bottom 20 percent and reach the top 20 percent of the income distribution. Here, ISU is tied at third, at 1.1 percent, among the dozen Indiana institutions. The highest is Rose-Hulman at 2.2 and the lowest, USI, at 0.6 percent.
Those who work at ISU, I hope, can take some pride in this accomplishment. I do. However, the working-class university that ranks number one in the U.S., at 9.9 percent in the mobility rate, is California State University at Los Angeles. The U.S. average is 1.7 percent. Only two Indiana colleges are at the national average or above. VU reaches that U.S. average mark of 1.7, and Rose-Hulman exceeds it at 2.2 percent. Indiana’s average, based on my calculations, is 1.1, so while ISU ranks high in Indiana, it is just average and below average nationally.
Regardless of what anyone might think of the numbers, for those students who come from humble families to experience such mobility in a short period of time, 10 years, is a significant and life-changing impact in their material existence. Many who work at universities, especially the faculty, hope they have a positive impact on their students’ lives. In Indiana, a working-class state, ISU makes a difference for working-class students. 
Personally, I’d like to see more of our efforts couched in these terms and use metrics like this to demonstrate our success.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What does 'liberal agenda' really mean?

previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 15 January 2017

I am (apparently) a member of the “liberal elite.” I didn’t aspire to it. Beverly Gage, writing in the January 3, 2017, New York Times Magazine states its “one of the nastiest epithets in American Politics.” The term has been around a long time, and is proof of “repeat a lie long enough and it becomes ‘truth’.”
Who are the liberal elite? There is a geographic aspect to it: they live in the coastal states but apparently not the Gulf Coast because then we would include those who reside in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The image of liberal elites doesn’t fit driving around in a Cadillac with a longhorn hood ornament. Those south-eastern Atlantic states, North Carolina with its highly regulated bathrooms, Florida’s “stand your ground laws” and Georgia’s most lenient gun laws in the nation are hardly bastions of the “liberal elite.”
The liberal elite also live in cities, San Francisco, LA, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., with outposts in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin. So far, I don’t fit.
Beyond geography, according to Conservapedia, “The Liberal Elite is a term used to describe those high-ranking members of society — politicians, college educators and celebrities — who regularly promote the liberal agenda to unsuspecting teenagers and young people.”  Three occupations are especially contaminated with the liberal elite, college educators being one of them. I am guilty of that profession, professing the discipline of sociology to students. Lastly, Conservapedia adds this: “The Liberal Elite believe they are superior to others. Not in a physical sense but mentally, they have their high ground and nobody dare challenge. If you challenge the Liberal Elite thinking and beliefs, you risk being ridiculed.” I am surprised that the “conservative inferiors” (literally the antonym of liberal elite) would be so concerned about ridiculing. Do they need a “safe space?” I like being challenged. Most college professors I know want their students to challenge them instead of trying to guess what we want to hear.
Conservapedia offers a long list of the characteristics and traits of the liberal elite. It’s too long here to reproduce but among the most damning for me are the following: “professor values,” “birth control,” and “public schools.”
Lastly, Wikipedia offers that the liberal elite (only left-leaning individuals) “used their education to open doors to power and influence” and formed a managerial elite. This must be in contrast to those who inherit their wealth and influence and need to hire folks with the skills to manage their wealth and companies.
Here is my “liberal agenda:” I believe humans are capable of learning; that means sometimes moving beyond conventional wisdom such as supply-side economics and that government can solve all the problems. I resist bigotry of lumping those who I disagree with into some abstract group with a negative label like “liberal elite” or “fly-over country.” In fact, I call people and groups by the name that they wish to be called as a matter of respect, so pro-life people are pro-life and pro-choice people are pro-choice (not abortionists or a hate group). I seek to understand, even though sometimes it’s difficult, “the other side.” I try to argue over the factual aspects of the debates, although, I admit, that seems harder and harder to do, snark and clever accusations seem more the form of debate today.
I admit to sarcasm in response to sarcastic or nasty remarks, but like swearing, it’s overused and has lost its effect. I am skeptical of power, both governmental and corporate. I do not watch much television or many mainstream movies (anymore). I prefer to read the news instead of listening to it. I cherish free speech the way individuals do which is why I prefer the public square over the mall. I also believe in and practice civility. Most of my life I have been associated with a church, I am not nor ever was particularly religious. I am a gun owner but am uncomfortable with the macho fetish gun culture that now grips America. I believe there is racial and gender bias on both sides, but it matters far, far more for one side.
I do not support capital punishment, even for Dylan Roof. I support Social Security but favor indexing increases to a different measure of cost of living more reflective of retirees. I don’t believe corporations are people and they do not have speech.
If you agree with much of the above you might be an “elite,” too.
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