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?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ancient guides for shopping, bathing, dining, and dealing with drunk relatives

Edited by Morris Dean

When researchers find more than one fragment of an ancient text, they know that it was popular in antiquity. We consulted “Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire,” by Alison Flood, Guardian, February 10. Excerpt:

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Growing Up in America

St. Paul’s and girls

By Rolf Dumke

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

Notwithstanding environmental, social, and moral problems of life in and around our house in Linwood Avenue and E. 55th Street, I grew up attending a well-structured Lutheran school for the four years from 5th through 8th grades. St. Paul’s Lutheran Elementary School was located up on E. 55th, above Superior Avenue. I graduated with top grades and was awarded at our graduation ceremony the cherished blue letter P for top sportsman of the graduating class, making my parents proud.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Playboy puts on (some) clothes

Or it will in its March issue

By Morris Dean

A couple of posts we did on pornography and/or erotica late last year [Why Christians aren’t celebrating Playboy’s PG-13 move,” October 29, and “Eroticism and its discontents,” November 5] made extensive references to Playboy Magazine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

El Camino de Santiago, Part III

Legends and reality

By Valeria Idakieva

[Part II, “On the road again,” was published on January 5.]

I left the little farming village of Azofra early in the morning to head for Santo Domingo de la Calzada, named after Saint Dominic. The legends that surrounded the town were attracting me like a magnet.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tom Cruise no sorry Ted Cruz

By Penelope Griffiths

So the Trump lost in Iowa.
    But he didn’t really think he would triumph in Iowa. He isn’t a total idiot but a shrewd businessman, and he always knew that his brash, outspoken persona would not appeal to the masses. In the other corner waited Ted Cruz, who is not that well known over the Pond – other than that he was born in Canada but is a U.S. citizen. Oh, and also that he thinks the whole of America is doomed like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah if they don’t follow his “God.”

Why do owls bob their heads?

Answer from the National Audubon Society

Edited by Morris Dean

[Link to corrected.]

Ever wonder why owls bob their heads? Here’s a short video of an owl in action:

Monday, February 1, 2016

To dump or to trump

That is the question

By Penelope Griffiths

As I sit in my lounge watching my 55" HD, 3D TV, I could be on either side of the Pond but currently I am on the UK side with my jaw on the floor at the shenanigans of the U.S. presidential hopeless, Donald J. Trump.