Carson, Carson, Carson. What are you thinking?

Please make sense once. Just once.

ICMYI: Mint Press News (9/28/2015) – Ben Carson Considers Religion As Probable Cause For Searches

And if you can’t make sense, would you at least leave our 4th amendment rights alone?

Seriously, the irony is rich with this one.

““What we should be talking about is Islam and the tenets of Islam and where do they come from? They come from Sharia. They come from the Koran,” he told host Martha Raddatz. Continue reading

A belated lesson for Ted Cruz on speaking for the people

It helps when more people are behind you. How’s the view from under the bus?

ICYMI: Politico 9/28 – Cruz sternly rebuked by GOP

On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.

Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed “no” when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has: Just one other GOP senator — Utah’s Mike Lee — joined with Cruz as he was overruled by McConnell and his deputies.

Life must be truly surreal for him these days. I mean: Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Writing more than ever despite not being able to write…

Americans are writing and publishing more than ever; meanwhile, arguments rage about the inability of Americans to write and what educators should do to address this perceived inability. 

Ursula Le Guin (image courtesy Wikimedia)

In a recent interview with Salon, author Ursula Le Guin bemoans the lack of skill she sees in aspiring writers. Le Guin blames the problems she sees in writers – serious, well educated people – on a lack of two sets of skills. First, she notes that she sees many people trying to write who don’t have solid language management skills: they lack solid backgrounds in syntax (sentence structure) knowledge and they have weak vocabularies so that they do not easily see possibilities in sentence construction or word choice that would give their writing imagination and vigor. The other problem Le Guin observes is that the way in which many people attempt to become writers – through creative writing programs – does many nascent writers harm by forcing them to submit to a form of group think.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, writer Natalie Wexler attempts to explain “Why Americans can’t write.” Wexler’s thesis, that Americans do not get adequate writing instruction, meshes nicely with Le Guin’s observation. One can easily conclude that, if Wexler is correct in her claim that Americans get too little writing instruction, it is only natural that their creative writing efforts would suffer from the sort of grammar and syntax deficiencies that Le Guin mentions.

As with most easy explanations, this one leaves some questions unanswered. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

Abortion and the separation of church and state

20,000,000+ reasons why separation of church and state remains a good idea

Sometimes I mull and navelgaze and don’t have the decency to refrain from posting. This may be one of those times. Indulge me if you will, or not, but if these musings strike you in some way, one way or another, I hope you’ll share where those musings lead you.

Before our most recent tragedy, Planned Parenthood and efforts to defund it were all the rage in GOP quarters, replete with Fiorina trying desperately to overtake Hillary as America’s most notable serial liar. So while we struggle through this unfortunate hiatus until the next government shutdown showdown, I got to mulling and gazing.

How many people in America actually oppose abortion? Continue reading

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council strikes again

Bearing false witness is Perkins’ anti-Christian stock in trade

From Raw Story: Tony Perkins: The Constitution protects Christianity but not Islam because it’s not just a religion

Judging all Muslims for the violent behavior of the relative few (as a percentage of total population) makes as much sense as judging Christians on the behavior of Anders Breivik, the George Tiller Killer, the violent clashes in Ireland not so long ago, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. Continue reading


Why can’t Ben Carson address the ramifications of his bigotry?

Maybe because it would be awkward?

Caricature by Paul Szep

Caricature by Paul Szep

From PolitiFact: Ben Carson: Do any Muslim countries have women’s rights, gay rights or religious freedom?

Spoiler: mostly false, with caveats. Ironically, while busily lambasting nations where a different religion holds the majority and calls the shots, he rather fails in addressing those inequalities and the political extremes evidenced here.

What do I mean? He feels that being Muslim should exclude a person from the presidency, because heaven forbid a single Muslim should be the head of state. Maybe if America were to become a majority Muslim nation we’d have to worry about being one of the worst Muslim-dominant nations according to the data in the fact-check. Maybe we’d be one of the best. We will probably never know. Continue reading

Trump: no obligation to decency


From The Guardian: Trump: I was not obligated to correct questioner who called Obama Muslim

On Twitter, the Republican presidential frontrunner said: “Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don’t think so!”

Let’s reframe.

Jackass stands up and, based on zero evidence, Continue reading

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina’s lie that wouldn’t die

Carly either can’t distinguish between evidence or doesn’t know what it is

Last Saturday I posted this on social media with my own comment:

If anyone has the footage she describes, please post. Otherwise, I’ll go with the existing evidence and conclude that this is just another pernicious lie.

Continue reading

What woman should be on the new $10 bill?

The government is deliberating redesigning the $10 and putting a woman on it. Should we select a politician? A Civil Rights figure? An icon of environmentalism? How about an artist? The Scholars & Rogues staff offers some ideas.

Apparently this is a question now. It came up during the recent GOP debate and apparently the best anybody could come up with was “Margaret Thatcher” or “my mom.”


So we put the question to the S&R staff, hoping maybe we could come up with something a tad more credible. Here are our answers, and you can feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Sam Smith

There’s a range of great, semi-obvious answers here, including Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt. Continue reading


Wilma Dykeman’s The Tall Woman: The Power of a Great Story

Wilma Dykeman’s The Tall Woman is a masterpiece of straight forward story telling that deserves to be better known – Dykeman presents a quietly powerful depiction of the life of an Appalachian heroine that rings true in every respect…

The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman (image courtesy Goodreads)

Finally, a return to the 2015 reading list after some side trips to cover in once case a current literary flap and some musings on the disappearance of protest music from American cultural experience – and what a return it is. Wilma Dykeman’s The Tall Woman is an example of the sort of rich storytelling that once populated American fiction publishing. This unpretentious but exquisitely literate – and literary in the best sense of that word – novel is an example of regional fiction that rises far above its author’s primary aim to make profound statements about human character.

Lydia Moore McQueen is a character who moves readers in the way that, say, a more celebrated (and controversial) character, Atticus Finch does: she is an example quiet courage and dignity, a brave soul who does what she feels she must and faces the challenges her life presents not without flinching, but instead with strength gathered from within. Dykeman does a fine job of taking us through the events of Lydia’s life and showing us that heroism is sometimes standing up for what is right. Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

The real and the fake and the real fake: Yi-Fen Chou, poetry, and the issue of who we are

A white male American poet pretends to be an Asian poet and gets work accepted that has been rejected when submitted under his American identity. This behavior says something about culture that is painfully clear despite well meaning attempts to deconstruct it.

Yi-Fen Chou, a.k.a. Michael Derrick Hudson (image courtesy Poetry Foundation)

As I have done before, I will begin with an anecdote:

In the middle of the last decade of the last century I applied for a number of college and university teaching jobs. I kept getting to “semi- finalist” or “finalist” status without getting offers. Finally one department chair agreed to talk to me OTR. The problem, he explained in a series of private emails, was that the push for diversity made a white male candidate like me, even though well qualified, Plan C (usually, for college teaching posts, there are three finalists). If the other candidates who met diversity needs for the department/university turned the post down, I  might get an offer. Continue reading

Iranians gather to show their support of the people of Syria and Iraq, in Tehran, Iran on June 24, 2014. Demonstrators said if ISIS attacks holy Shiite shrines in Iraq, they will go and fight against ISIS.     UPI/Maryam Rahmanian (Newscom TagID: upiphotostwo319406.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Foreign policy: make Iraq great again

                                                       image courtesy of

The answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is Iraq. As Secretary of State Colin Powell famously warned President George W. Bush, “If you break it, you own it.” (Read that whole article, by the way, because Colin Powell is one of the great American Generals and he speaks the truth.) We have many allies in the region and they are doing everything they can to help us. Turkey is housing nearly 2 million refugees (half of whom are children.) That’s 10% of Syria’s pre-war population. Jordan has embraced almost 650,000, which means that 10% of Jordan’s total population is now Syrian refugees.

Lebanon (not an ally) has accepted 1.1 million refugees. Lebanon and Israel are in the midst of a Cold War. As a result, the United States offers Lebanon no assistance, even though 25% of their population is now Syrian refugees. The children keep coming, and Lebanon keeps housing, feeding, and sheltering them, even though their resources are well beyond the breaking point. Even Iran has been sending aid, as much as they are able, to fellow members of the Red Crescent Society (think Red Cross for Muslims.) Continue reading

Dr. Walter Palmer

Cecil the Lion’s killer doesn’t quite get it

Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, says he did nothing illegal and that he’s going back to work.

I don’t think Dr. Palmer understands the issue. He doesn’t grasp why people are so upset. He thinks we’re all mad because we mistakenly believe that he broke the law.

No, Walter, we know you acted legally. We live in a country where it’s legal for rich people to buy Congressmen. Most places it’s called “bribery” or “graft” or “corruption,” but here it’s called “lobbying” or “free speech.” Continue reading


Saints at the River: powerful, predictable…almost great….

Ron Rash’s Saints at the River has at its center a powerful story about the struggle of Southern mountain subculture to reconcile itself with the “greater” culture….

Saints at the River by Ron Rash (image courtesy Goodreads)

Ron Rash’s novel Saints at the River has been widely acclaimed as a novel of power and insight in its depiction of Southern mountain culture. It is certainly that. Rash’s tale of a child drowned in a wild mountain river and the struggle over the rights of parents to retrieve the child’s body from the river while protecting the river’s environmental (and historical) significance has moments of resonance for any reader aware of the struggle between homogenization and cultural diversity.

But the novel has, alas, some real limitations, too. The ancillary plot lines (mountain reared news photographer daughter alienated from father, newspaper reporter struggling to write story about drowned girl due to reminders of his own daughter’s death, budding romance between reporter and photographer complicated by both characters’ pasts) are, despite Rash’s efforts to give them more than average depth, average and predictable.

Saints at the River is, then, at best a flawed effort. The question then become, do its strengths outweigh its weaknesses? Continue reading


Bastard out of Carolina: literature as hot mess…

Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina is a compelling read, a powerful look at life among working class Southerners, and what is known in the vernacular as a “hot mess” – a beautiful work in spite of its flaws….

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison (image courtesy Goodreads)

One of the blurbs for Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina likens its narration to that of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Don’t be fooled. There is little about Ruth Ann Boatwright, known within her family as Bone, that will remind readers of Scout Finch only in a certain feistiness at given moments. Both characters possess a certain headlong quality that can seem endearing. But Bone Boatwright and Scout Finch have so little in common in terms of their life experiences that any likeness between them as characters or as narrators is superficial at best.

Astute readers will also note that, like Mockingbird, Bastard Out of Carolina has structural flaws that have been glossed over rather than solved. The novel rambles, often needlessly, and smacks of having been pieced together from previous drafts, a short story (or perhaps a group of stories) – and not always smoothly. Finally, there are, by various accounts, semi-autobiographical elements in this work. As one reads Bastard Out of Carolina, frequently one runs into passages that have more the raw feel of the author’s journals rather than the polished feel of fictionalized experience. Continue reading


Land of the free, be brave.


photo credit

I am a proud Democrat. I think the Democratic Party started with a Virginia planter and Renaissance man named Thomas Jefferson. I am not proud of TJ for owning slaves. Slavery is an abomination, the antithesis of everything for which the Democratic Party stands. Jefferson himself was an abolitionist, describing slavery as holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” He also believed that emancipation would result in a large scale race war which would destroy America, his beloved experiment in liberty.

I believe otherwise. I believe that if one allows a man to stop being a wolf and become a fellow Renaissance man, he will do exactly that. I believe this has been proven time and again during the intervening centuries. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I have read Max Weber. I understand that every moment is valuable, not only in the present, but also for the fruits it may bear, properly invested, in the future. Continue reading


Intolerance of intolerance: how much is enough?

ISIS is but one example. What about the rest?

Dr. M. Neil Browne of Ice in the Head, author of Asking the Right Questions, posted today about the merits of selective intolerance. Warning: videos linked from that article are of graphic violence, so don’t click that video link as the contents aren’t safe for work or much of anything, really. Continue reading