Loyal Opposition – Thanks, Coach

Great Britain’s lawmakers (Parliament) who are not in the party of the country’s prime minister are known as “back benchers” or the “loyal opposition,” emphasis on “loyal.”

A brief column in this week’s Sports Illustrated (January 30, 2017, page 18), provides us with an excellent example of loyal opposition as stated by Coach Greg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. An Air Force veteran, he offered his thoughts on the state of the union:

“I’d just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It’s dangerous, and it doesn’t do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there’s a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it. And that respect has to be earned. But, it’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people….

“….But I felt great today watching the march in protest [of] how he has conducted himself, because it tells me I live in a country where a whole lot of people care. And we have to be vigilant to make sure that, although we all hope that he does good things for our country, that we don’t get embarrassed by him and roll back liberties that have been worked for [for] so long.”

Thanks, Coach…….

Surprised By Numbers

First, an iceberg larger than the State of Delaware is about “…to break off from a giant ice shelf in Antarctica. It, the iceberg, measures 1,930 square miles. Source: TIME, January 23, 2017, p. 11.

Makes we wonder if Iceberg Delaware will be visible from the beach this year…..

Second, take a guess as to how many bombs the U.S. dropped last year. Hint: it was 3,027 more than in 2015.

According to an anlysis of Defense Department data by the Council on Foreign Relations, the total for 2016: 26,171. That comes to 12,192 in Syria, 12,098 in Iraq, 1,337 in Afghanistan, 496 in Libya, 34 in Yemen, and 3 in Pakistan. Source: ibid, p. 11.

Makes me wonder how many of those bombs hit targets that threatened the security of the U.S…..

Last, take a guess as to the combined total of nuclear weapons the U.S. and the Soviet Union had on hand during the height of the Cold War. Hint: it was in the tens of thousands.

The answer: seventy thousand. Source: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes, Simon and Schuster, Foreward to the 25th Anniversary Edition.

Makes me wonder how many are still ready to go if someone decides this planet has been around long enough…..

Could That Possibly Be The Same?

I expect most men, even my friends, would be a bit embarrassed by this.

Have you Facebook fans noticed their new feature, the post in which you, yes you, have reached some anniversary or milestone on Facebook?

An example: today Facebook notified me that it has been six years since I became friends with one of my nieces. Actually, it’s a best friend’s daughter, but I think of his kids as a nephew and four nieces.

Anyway, it has been six years.

Here’s the embarassing part: the post shows a photo of me, it happens to be my regular photo or profile photo or whatever the photo is called that shows up automatically now and then. I happened to notice that in that photo I am wearing the same shirt I’m wearing today.

It’s a good shirt, an L.L. Bean’s, and I’ll probably still be wearing it six years from now if I’m still breathing.

Besides, it still washes up pretty well. And nobody else of importance (read: wife) has said anything about it.

Does kinda make me think about the other stuff in my closet, though I’m pretty sure it’s all newer than my Facebook shirt.

Small Toilets….?

The other day a headline in our local newspaper intrigued me.  It promised a brief article about “small toilets.”  Had me wondering about a variety of weird things until I read the article and quickly realized the headline writer meant “smart toilets,” which had me wondering about a variety of other weird things.

Smart toilets?  I have just enough tech savvy to know that the “Internet of Things” is the next big thing, but smart toilets?  What, we’ll be able to flush from anywhere in the world with our, you know, smart phones?

“Honey, hand me the phone.  I think I forgot……”

“Here darling.  While you’re at it, please make sure the refrigerator doesn’t order another jar of that awful mustard.”

Good grief.

The Bully Pulpit, part two

“The Bully Pulpit,”

The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt,

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Writing this a few days after the 2016 election of a man who lacks even a trace of so many of the attributes of any president in my lifetime, I’m searching for anything that will give me some hope. As so often has been the case, returning to a history book read a year or two ago has provided a bit of rescue.

A little over a hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was thrust into the presidency of a country in crisis. Elected to his own term after completing the term of the assassinated William McKinley, Roosevelt confronted a widening gap between the rich and the poor a struggling middle class, and a country dealing with scores of other serious problems stemming from the Industrial Revolution.

“Yet by the end of Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House, a mood of reform had swept the country, creating a new kind of presidency and a new vision of the relationship between the government and the people. A series of anti-trust suits had been won and legislation passed to regulate railroads, strengthen labor rights, curb political corruption, end corporate campaign contributions, impose limits on the working day, protect consumers from unsafe food and drugs, and conserve vast swaths of natural resources for the American people.”

An impressive list of achievements that helped America continue to be great. Those who supported those achievements were then called “Progressives.”

We will be vigilant and active while watching to see whether governance during the next four years will transcend the regrettable, bizarre and often insulting campaign tactics of the last eighteen months.

Will the changes be progressive or will they take us backward?

Teaching the Statute of Frauds

The title of this short story is a bit misleading; can’t make it more accurate without giving away the ending…..

A young mother came to me before class to ask whether it would be OK if her 8 year-old daughter sat with her. “My sitter called at the last minute. She couldn’t make it. Amy, say hello to Mr. Bohlin.”

I’m a world class sucker for kids, especially kids whose parents have clearly taught them well.

I told Amy and her mom I was a dad and a grandfather and it would be fine for them both to be in class for the evening.

I was teaching aspiring real estate sales persons what they needed to know to pass the North Carolina broker exam. During the first hour I spent a fair amount of time on a law called the Statute of Frauds, which requires certain documents to be in writing. Can’t say exactly, but I probably said Statute of Frauds a dozen times or so.

At break time I was making my way out of the classroom to get a soft drink. Before I reached the door Amy presented me with a drawing. Clearly a talented young artist, she gave me a drawing of a man – looked like a soldier – sitting on a horse. On the ground around the base of the pedestal on which the man and the horse were perched there were several smaller drawings I didn’t recognize right away, until I read the sign on the front of the pedestal, which read: “Statue with Frogs.”

Amy’s version of the topic was much more amusing. And interesting.

Congress: How Did Americans Like It Then?

The Russians I met back in 1965 on a study tour of the then Soviet Union may have had it right with their observation about the superiority of their legislature vs. Western legislatures, that one could tell simply by their names. Back then I heard from several Russian friends that while the British legislature is called parliament, from the French “to speak,” and the American legislature is called Congress, from the Latin “to congregate” (have a meeting, so to speak), the Russian legislature is the Duma, from the Russian verb “to think.”

Since I was a guest in their country at the time, and a polite guest by nature, I went along with their joke.

But recently I found in my book club’s monthly read a discussion about our Congress and how much Americans have more contempt than love for the institution. Those of us who haven’t made it our life’s work to ensure President Obama never hears a kind word are especially prone to view Congress as obstructionist. Witness the Senate’s refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nominee.

But the dismal amount of popularity for Congress isn’t exactly a new thing, and here is modest, historical proof, a ditty about the very first Congress, the Continental Congress of 1776:

“These hardy knaves and stupid fools, Some apish and pragmatic mules, Some servile acquiescing tools, These, these compose the Congress!

When Jove resolved to send a curse, And all the woes of life rehearse, Not plague, not famine, but much worse, He cursed us with a Congress.”

(Source: “A More Perfect Constitution, Larry J. Sabato, 2007, Walker Publishing, Chapter 1, Note 1. Quoted from the 1776 Pennsylvania Evening Post.)