Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Compassion and justice

A teaching of Jesus & John

By Morris Dean

[Published originally on September 1, 2009.]

An email discussion I’ve been having about health care reform with a small circle of Yale classmates recently put me in mind of something I’d read about the political philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002). I’d read, perhaps in an obituary, that he held something like

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Loneliest Liberal

Where’s the bacon?

By James Knudsen

Finding the right metaphor can be tricky but I think I’ve got it this time: bacon. We’ll get back to that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ask Susan

How can I get my family to stop punishing me?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

My sister and my fiancé had an affair that blew my family and my life into pieces. The two have both moved on with different partners now and life is great for them, but I’m still dealing with what happened. What I’m struggling with most is that it was my own sister who betrayed me, and we were always so close.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chapter 10 of The Unmaking of the President (a novel)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
What the Man on the Street Said

By W.M. Dean

[The novel is set in the 1970s of Watergate. Links to earlier chapters are provided at the bottom.]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Material body and immaterial soul

According to Christian belief

By Kyle Garza

In our postmodern materialist society, there seems to be an idea creeping steadily more prevalently into our culture that, as the field of neuroscience progresses, scientists will eventually “explain away” all that we once thought could only be attributed to the human soul. Eventually, some think, we’ll be able to say with empirically-based scientific observation and study that the physical human brain accounts for all of our experience in life, and that there is no reason to archaically believe in the existence of the human soul.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

El Camino de Santiago, Part IV

The Meseta

By Valeria Idakieva

[Part III, “Legends and reality,” was published on February 3.]

After the sweltering heat of the previous day, luckily a storm during the night lowered the temperature and cleared the air. So my first day on the Meseta – wide-open spaces with very little shade – started on a more cheerful note in the fresh air.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Futures (a sonnet)

By Eric Meub


We had then (still) tomorrow, Saarinen,
a Trans-World tapered, curled, stiletto heeled,
and Kahn. We thought we’d live without a Penn
Station (what a leveled playing field).

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bernie Sanders occupies Wall Street?

March for Bernie demonstrators
Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/
LightRocketv/Getty Images
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

Four fairly recent articles examine Occupy Wall Street, and three of them see strong affinities between the movement and Bernie Sanders:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Duke University’s adjunct faculty members celebrate
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

The days appear to be over when a university’s faculty runs the place of teaching, learning, and inquiry, and its administration supports them. “Duke’s Adjunct Faculty Uprising Is Just What Higher Ed Needs” [Bob Geary, Indy Weekly, March 30] Excerpt:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Meeting the Tjuntjuntjara community

Shirley Deane/Midyett and Elder Mr. Ned Grant
(photo by Graham Townley)
In honor of the Spinifex People

By Vic Midyett, in consultation with Shirley Deane/Midyett

[Author’s Note: Shirley has now done the work at the remote Spinifex Health Service center that we announced here on March 11, in “White butterfly...Aboriginal Australian symbolism.”
    In all Australian aboriginal cultures there are strict and definitive rules around what is “men’s business” and “women’s business.” I have written this article in the hope that we have been appropriately sensitive to all. We wish to acknowledge and honor the Spinifex People as the owners and custodians of their land.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools Day

From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

Could this announcement be a joke for this special day? “Hull set for City of Culture mass nude photograph” [BBC News, May 30] Excerpt:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Boystown: The Return (a novel)

Foreword, Prolog, & Chapter 1

By Ed Rogers

[Boystown: The Return is the sequel to Boystown[: The Cocaine Highway], chapters of which have been excerpted on Moristotle & Co. Both books are now available on Amazon.]

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ask Susan

I wish my husband & I weren’t together – what should I do?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

I’ve been married for 26 years and have two teenage children. I haven’t been happy for a long time and my husband and I have not had sex for at least five years. I’ve been hoping he’ll get fed up and leave. Recently, I told him I wanted a divorce, but he accused me of being selfish and not thinking about our children – my elder is leaving home to go to college in September, though.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Loneliest Liberal

Obsessions, magnificent and mundane

By James Knudsen

Genius is not without its drawbacks. I write this as an assumption, not a statement of fact based on firsthand experience. Having avoided the genius gene generally, I come to my informed conclusion based on the historical record. Whether the genius in question was a person of the sciences or of the arts, being blessed with a gifted mind always seems to entail a concurrent trait or circumstance that, all things being equal, one would just as soon avoid. Michelangleo, an unquestioned genius with the hammer, chisel, and paintbrush, was nonetheless an unapologetic slob who ate merely for the sustenance it provided. Ponder that for a moment. Michelangleo, sitting on the scaffolding in the Sistine Chapel with his assistant and not caring for a moment whether his Subway sandwich was accompanied by Doritos of the Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch variety. A lengthy Wikipedia entry seems small compensation for such a shortcoming in the tastebuds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Leaving Costa Rica

A personal update

By Ed Rogers

I have submitted many “character updates” from Costa Rica over the years. This one, I am sorry to say, will be my last from San Ramon.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Movie Review: He Who Must Die

A Greek Passion for Easter

By Bob Boldt

I hope this thumbnail review will pique your interest in a nearly forgotten film by one of the great directors of the 20th Century.
    If Christ, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were to return to earth, it is of little doubt that it would be necessary to kill him again. I am convinced that our own beloved leaders would be the ones to drive the first nail.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Chapter 9 of The Unmaking of the President (a novel)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
The Vice-President’s Plan Is Missing

By W.M. Dean

[The novel is set in the 1970s of Watergate. Links to earlier chapters are provided at the bottom.]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Humanity and its discontents

From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

News of Stephen Greenblatt’s having been awarded the Holberg Prize warmed my heart. Good on him!
    I’m happy too for what the award signals to the public at large about the value of the Humanities — in this time when the Humanities are coming under attack for allegedly not preparing students for employment. “Stephen Greenblatt Wins Holberg Prize” [Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, March 11] Excerpt:

Monday, March 14, 2016

When dreams become nightmares

By Bob Boldt

It is sometimes advantageous to take the long view. “Te Deum” is a video I made during the Bush years, when it didn’t look like things could get much worse. Well, they did.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: Is Everybody Happy Now?

The second volume of Shirley Skufca Hickman’s autobiography

By William Silveira

Building on the success of the first volume of her autobiography, Don’t Be Give Up, author Shirley Skufca Hickman has published the second volume of her very well told life story, Is Everybody Happy Now?: Growing Up after World War II.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fly (a sonnet)

By Eric Meub


She steps into the church, unprepared, underdressed,
just to shake off the downpour, the street noise defied
by a coffin-lid door slowly sealing inside
with the shadows her hurry to go un-confessed.

Friday, March 11, 2016

White butterfly, a painting by Shirley Deane/Midyett

“White Butterfly” (5" x 7")
Aboriginal Australian symbolism

By Vic Midyett

In this latest painting of Shirley’s, she wanted the butterfly’s wings to be the focus of attention, so she purposely only hinted at the creature’s body. She did the painting for a couple of reasons: A story in our Cherokee heritage features a white butterfly. And she has a passionate interest in aboriginal Australians, in one of whose stories a butterfly plays an important symbolic role.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What is really behind the Trump phenomenon?

By Bob Boldt

As early as 1968 I witnessed the death of Liberalism when I saw the Democrats ignore the strong voices of dissent against the Vietnam War and proceed with a war agenda that was as foolish as it was doomed. The irony of the situation was that the nominee that year, Hubert Humphrey, could have successfully come out against the very war the Johnson administration had been so vigorously losing. More bizarre still, President Johnson knew that Nixon and Kissinger could have well been charged with treason for their private negotiations with the South Vietnam delegation to the Paris peace talks [see “George Will Confirms Nixon's Vietnam Treason,” August 12, 2014].

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ask Susan

How can I know she has given me a clear sign she wants to have sex?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

I have been dating a woman for about two months now. She is 57 and I am 68. She’s a lot of fun to be with and we always have a great time together. I think it could develop into a more serious long-term relationship.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Growing Up in America


By Rolf Dumke

[Links to previously published installments appear at the bottom.]

In contrast to my usually detailed memories of childhood experiences, I have few memories of my life in St. Paul’s Lutheran School in the 5th and 6th grades, which were taught by a strict, small and mousy man who drilled his pupils in arithmetic.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Demigod for President?

Not just an analogy

By Morris Dean

Mitt Romney’s denunciation of Donald Trump on Thursday has provoked outrage among the candidate’s supporters. Yesterday Michael Barbaro, Ashley Parker, and Jonathan Martin, in their NY Times article “Rank and File Republicans Tell Party Elites: We’re Sticking With Donald Trump,” quoted Lola Butler, 71, a retiree from Mandeville, La., who voted for Mr. Romney in 2012:


From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

Be sure to watch this on the largest computer screen you have (HD if possible). And have your sound turned on. The hummingbird doing rolls chasing a bee is not to be missed. Be sure and watch closely (around 2 min 40 sec) and check out the baby bat under its mother. See some of what goes on in the garden when you aren’t paying attention. Some of the finest photography you will ever see.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Link from the NY Times
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

What an opening last night, if Rubio or Cruz or Kasich could have taken it without doing themselves in...“Clash of Republican Con Artists” [Paul Krugman, NY Times, March 4]. Excerpt:


From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

“Rare ‘superbloom’ blankets Death Valley in millions of yellow wildflowers” [Oliver Milman, Guardian, February 25] Excerpt:

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Andrew McDonald, a student
of High Sierra Workshops,
took this photo
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

Great pictures of a magic transformation of the falls off El Capitan: “At Yosemite, a Waterfall Turns Into a Firefall” [Tatiana Schlossberg, NY Times, February 24]. Excerpt:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Falls and meadow, by Shirley Deane/Midyett

“Falls and Meadow” (detail)
From her imagination

By Vic Midyett

Shirley’s latest.
    I wasn’t certain she was finished with it yet. I thought she was, but she kept studying it, and that is sometimes an indication she’s about to change something. When I asked her, she said that the little additions she wanted to make would be small and probably wouldn’t be consciously noticed anyway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Celebrating Hieronymus Bosch

From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

The Hieronymus Bosch exhibition described in “Dutch museum achieves the impossible with new Hieronymus Bosch show” [Maev Kennedy, Guardian, October 21, 2015] opened on Monday last week, a 500-year anniversary celebration. Excerpt:

Monday, February 29, 2016

The importance of clean thoughts and good oral hygiene

A short story

By Bob Boldt

I was finally having that tooth drilled, the one that had been killing me for over a month now. Dr. Ralph was busy with the first stages of the excavation of the offending rear left molar.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Movie Review: The Martian

Hard Science Fiction

By Chuck Smythe

Once upon a time, there was Hard Science Fiction. It has deep roots, but the modern, genre paperback tradition started with the Greatest Generation. They came back from the war with heads full of The Bomb, computers, and rockets, and were an eager market for pulp science fiction. Quite a bit of this, of course, was formula adventure fiction tarted up with spaceships. Some of the most interesting examples, though, had scientifically literate authors, who were interested in exploring the possibilities, for better or worse, of all this new technology. This was Hard Science Fiction, and the best of it insisted on getting the science right.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Loneliest Liberal in Region VIII

It’s Hawaii!

By James Knudsen

For people of my generation, knowledge of our 50th state is based largely on Hawaii Five-O, Magnum, P.I. and the three-part episode of The Brady Bunch with a cursed tiki idol at the center of the storyline. None of these was much help during my recent five-day stay on Oahu as part of Fresno City College’s trip to the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for Region Eight. (I previously covered this topic in February 2013: “A piece of theatre’s pie.”)

Friday, February 26, 2016


Never a dull moment

By Vic Midyett

A trailer park we used in eastern Australia three years ago was on a septic system. For some reason, I just found myself thinking about the frogs that apparently lived in that septic system. The second day we were there, I remember very clearly, I did my morning constitution and flushed the toilet. I didn’t have my glasses on, but was amazed to see something black with long, spongy legs and feet clinging on for dear life to the inside of the bowl. Knowing better than to say something to my wife, Shirley, I said nothing instead.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Justice Scalia the perfect model

From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

Wow, the opening paragraphs of Jeffrey Toobin’s comment in the latest issue of The New Yorker [“Looking Back,” February 29] lets you know immediately what he thinks of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Here it is:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The old man and his wife

By Ed Rogers

When I moved in to the house where I now live, an old man and his wife lived across the street. He was about my age but had health problems. She on the other hand seemed to be doing well. They would sit on the slab that acted as their porch and watch the world go by. People would wave or honk the horn and the two always returned a wave and a big smile.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A moment in my life as a sales rep

By Penelope Griffiths

I currently work for a medical devices company. The therapy areas are wound care and urology-continence, both of which I’ve had personal experience with, as well as training as a nurse and midwife.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reconsidering Antonin Scalia’s view of “original intent”

Judge Richard Posner at Harvard University
By chensiyuan - chensiyuan, GFDL
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia occasions our reconsidering his view of the “original intent” of the authors of the U.S. Constitution and his insistence on textually clear interpretations of statutes rather than on legislative intent.
    Scalia’s ideas have served as presumably objective methods in turning back previous, more liberal judgments in favor of conservative notions.
    Richard Posner shredded Scalia’s view of “original intent” in The New Republic (August 24, 2012) in a scathing review of one of Scalia’s then recent books. Judge Posner’s review, “The Incoherence of Antonin Scalia,” was a wonderful refutation by one of the most coherent of American jurists. Posner’s review opens thus:

Judges like to say that all they do when they interpret a constitutional or statutory provision is apply, to the facts of the particular case, law that has been given to them. They do not make law: that is the job of legislators, and for the authors and ratifiers of constitutions. They are not Apollo; they are his oracle. They are passive interpreters. Their role is semantic.
    The passive view of the judicial role is aggressively defended in a new book by Justice Antonin Scalia and the legal lexicographer Bryan Garner (Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, 2012). They advocate what is best described as textual originalism, because they want judges to “look for meaning in the governing text, ascribe to that text the meaning that it has borne from its inception, and reject judicial speculation about both the drafters’ extra-textually derived purposes and the desirability of the fair reading’s anticipated consequences.” This austere interpretive method leads to a heavy emphasis on dictionary meanings, in disregard of a wise warning issued by Judge Frank Easterbrook, who though himself a self-declared textualist advises that “the choice among meanings [of words in statutes] must have a footing more solid than a dictionary—which is a museum of words, an historical catalog rather than a means to decode the work of legislatures.”
    Scalia and Garner reject (before they later accept) Easterbrook’s warning. Does an ordinance that says that “no person may bring a vehicle into the park” apply to an ambulance that enters the park to save a person’s life? For Scalia and Garner, the answer is yes. After all, an ambulance is a vehicle—any dictionary will tell you that. If the authors of the ordinance wanted to make an exception for ambulances, they should have said so. And perverse results are a small price to pay for the objectivity that textual originalism offers (new dictionaries for new texts, old dictionaries for old ones). But Scalia and Garner later retreat in the ambulance case, and their retreat is consistent with a pattern of equivocation exhibited throughout their book.
    We would love to quote the whole thing, but fairness to the original publisher prevents us. And you can read on with a single click and a bit of scrolling.

Copyright © 2016 by Morris Dean

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Chapter 8 of The Unmaking of the President (a novel)

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
The Battle of the Press Conferences

By W.M. Dean

[The novel is set in the 1970s of Watergate. Links to earlier chapters are provided at the bottom. We regret that this chapter didn’t appear last month; the author was sick and unable to prepare it for publication. The time-out did allow him to reflect and discover that he should have been including photos of some of the real cast of characters from Watergate. Making up comical names for some of them was part of the fun in writing the novel in 1974.]

Friday, February 19, 2016

Australians shaken by Donald Trump

He’s the thickest

By Vic Midyett

Bunbury, Western Australia has a wholesale/retail shop on the boardwalk overlooking the harbor that sells homemade candy and ice cream. A friend of mine sent me this picture he took Sunday of the shop’s sandwich board, which usually advertises what candy the shop is making that day to alert people that they may observe the process if they wish. My friend didn’t say whether the shop displayed any images of Donald Trump – or just left his image to the imagination of its customers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tom Sheepandgoats returns

This is me in my best harness.
My wife has her arm around me.
She is looking at me with admiration.
Who wouldn’t? As for that grinning dope
on my right, I’ve no idea who that is.
Long time no see

By Tom Sheepandgoats

Three weeks ago I received an email from the editor of Moristotle & Co.:
Hey, Tom, you still there? I’m still here. I remember you with affection and respect.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Some possibilities of metaphor

From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

The photo shown in the NY Times article “Creations That Capture Our Imaginations” of the 1000-year old Chand Baori stepwell in Rajastan, India could be used to exemplify the well of knowledge in a text.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Assessments of Antonin Scalia’s Court

Ronald Dworkin, by David Shankbone
Own work., CC BY-SA 3.0
From recent correspondence

Edited by Morris Dean

[Yesterday’s article by James T. Carney, “Justice Antonin Scalia: A judicial activist?,” provoked several communications from our readers. We share them here.]

Ronald Dworkin (1931-2013), who was perhaps the most cited, brilliant legal scholar in both the US and Britain, preferred a moral interpretation of the constitution over the so-called “original intent” interpretation by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Dworkin wrote many enlightening articles for The New York Review of Books.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia

A judicial activist?

By James T. Carney

The essence of judicial conservatism is a recognition of the truth of Churchill’s aphorism: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for any other which has been tried from time to time.” The U.S. Constitution is the foundation upon which our democracy rests. In interpreting the Constitution, one should discern and implement the intent of the founding fathers and one should apply the doctrine of stare decisis (i.e., once decided, always decided) – except under two circumstances.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Welcome Penelope Griffiths to our staff

From over the Pond

By Morris Dean

For the too-short time we have been privileged to know Penelope Griffiths, my wife and I have always enjoyed visits from our next-door neighbor’s mum from Wales. We look forward to her trips here “from over the Pond,” and we miss her after she flies back.

A Valentine’s Day bouquet

By Bob Boldt

I am obsessed with all the varieties of possible human experience; how two lives can see the same setting from such differing perspectives. I think it is necessary for one to not only be able to see the world through all the lenses of personal parallax, but also to understand our experiences from a state of transcendent, unconditioned Reality. My thoughts this Valentine’s Day drifted back to a small London park I visited nearly 45 years ago:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Me (a sonnet)

By Eric Meub


It’s true, Lake Lagunitas sparkles like
the windows at Bulgari, but, as I’ve
remarked before, you idolize your hike,
why can’t I idolize Rodeo Drive?