Lies, Damn Lies, and Politicians!

Lies, Damn Lies, and Politicians!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I’ve often complained that one’s choice  on election day in many areas of Illinois is quite limited, particularly for primary elections. You might be asked to “vote for five” candidates for Commissioner of Alley Beautification, only to discover that only five candidates appear on the ballot. Or you’ll discover that many worthies are running unopposed.

            Even in cases where there is a contest, if the incumbent does little or no advertising, it’s a good bet he or she will find favor with the voters. This is the case in the Illinois 7th Congressional District (one of the more gerrymandered districts in the USA), where incumbent Danny Davis has spent very little to defend an office he’s held for 26 years. His main opponent in the upcoming primary, Kina Collins, hasn’t spent much money either, no doubt because she doesn’t have any. So, even though we often don’t have much choice in some of our elections, at least we don’t have to put up with the endless commercials that feature in races where there is actual competition.

            But if there is a contest, and the candidates have some dough, the negative commercials will clog the airwaves right up to and even on election day. If the commercials were actually accurate, the subjects should be before a judge and jury, not the voters. It’s hard to  believe that anyone would vote for these charlatans and felons! Take the contest for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Secretary of State.

            As Illinoisans will know, 87-year-old Jesse White is throwing in the towel after only 23 years on the job. Hankering after this job-rich office are former State Treasure Alexi Giannoulias and current Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia. (Let’s call them Alexi and Anna, so I won’t have to keep typing the last names.) Some of Alexi’s commercials show him playing basketball (he once played professionally in Europe) with little kids. He also wants you to know he used to play pickup games with former President Obama. Positive stuff this. But other commercials supporting him paint Anna as being investigated for trying to throw business to her lobbyist husband. Alexi doesn’t appear in these commercials, presumably because he’s too busy  buying ice cream for the little kiddies.

Anna does appear in commercials that, on the flimsiest of evidence, infer that Alexi once said something nice about a Republican who supports Donald Trump; and that he must be pro-life for a similar reason. Of course, Alexi has always professed disdain for Trump; and has, as a good Democrat, been solidly pro-choice. But you have to give Anna credit – she’s actually willing to stare at the camera and shamelessly lie with a straight face.

            Then we have the race for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor. The two main contenders for the Republican nomination are former prosecutor and current Aurora mayor Richard Irwin; and farmer and legislator Darren Bailey. Irwin has benefited from the support of Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, who has pumped some $45 million into his campaign. Interestingly, the Democratic Party has actually paid for commercials that oppose Irvin and support Darren Bailey. Apparently, they think Governor Pritzker, who is essentially unopposed in the primary, would have a better chance of re-election in November if opposed by Bailey.

             Recent polls suggest that Democrat money may have had an impact, since Bailey now leads Irwin. My theory is that negative commercials have convinced Republican voters that Irwin thinks – as one commercial states – that Trump is an “idiot.” Bailey’s commercials show he and his wife smilingly posing with Trump at some fund raiser. My guess is that most downstate Republicans still revere Trump, who, by the way, is no idiot. But he is a lying, dishonest, malevolent narcissist.

            I have the impression that intelligent voters largely ignore the more negative and dishonest ads. There was a time when reporters confronted candidates about the biggest whoppers, which were typically sponsored by political action committees (PACs), which legally must have no direct relationship with the candidates they support. This enabled (and enables) candidates to claim they have no control over the ads. Notice, however, that they never disavow them, which they could easily do.

            Students of history will know that this kind of negative campaigning is nothing new, just more intrusive in our daily lives. You might want to check the Thomas Jefferson/John Adams campaign of 1800 to see how it was done in the “good old days.”  Jefferson’s agents even spread the rumor that Adams was a hermaphrodite! How’s that for negative campaigning?

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

I’m Too Old

I’m Too Old

By Patrick F. Cannon

I’m 84, and I think I’m too old to be president of the United States. And I think Joe Biden is too old to be president now, and certainly would be in 2024 if he decides to run again. Ditto Donald Trump, although age isn’t his only disqualification.

            In 2028, when the next term ends, Biden would be 86, and Trump 81. And they’re not the only ones that have passed their sell-by date. Nancy Pelosi is 82, and Mitch McConnell – who may well be Senate majority leader come January of next year – has turned 80. The average age of senators is now the oldest ever. My congressman, the venerable Danny Davis, is 80 and running for re-election. Senator Dick Durbin is 77, and will be 83 when his current term ends in January 2027. By then, he will have been in Congress for 44 years.

            How old were the greatest presidents when they were sworn in? George Washington was 57; Jefferson 58; Jackson 62; Lincoln 52; Teddy Roosevelt 43; FDR 51; and Eisenhower the oldest at 63. Some people would add Ronald Reagan to that list. He was 70 when he was first elected, and many argue that it might have been better had he not run for re-election.

            It seems to me that as the average age of our politicians has gone up, their average intelligence has gone down. I can’t prove this, since their IQs – if they ever took such a test – haven’t been made public. It’s a wonder to me that some of them can even tie their shoelaces. We know Donald Trump’s ego is off the charts, but what of his intelligence? Wouldn’t you just love to see his SATs or his Wharton School transcripts? Did his family’s donations to the University of Pennsylvania insure his acceptance?

            Of course, you don’t have to be a genius to be president. In his books on FDR, James MacGregor Burns argued that it wasn’t his intelligence but his temperament that made him a great president. And charisma, charm, a sense of humor (and good speech writers) took John F. Kennedy a long way.

            But let’s get back to age. Take me for example. I watch Jeopardy most days. I will often know as many answers as the typical winner, but I would never win because I wouldn’t be able to come up with the answer as quickly as a younger contestant. There’s a good reason President Biden holds few news conferences – his staff realizes he can’t think quickly enough or avoid choosing the wrong words.

            There was a time when I watched Sunday morning news programs like Meet the Press and Face the Nation. I don’t know if they kept records, but I would guess Biden was on more than any other politician. They could always count on  him to have an opinion (right or wrong) and never be at a loss for words. If anything, they couldn’t shut him up. Now, his staff seems to be trying to, or hustling later to clarify his mistakes.

            As I see it, the country has two related problems. Its politicians are getting older; and the best and brightest of our young people are avoiding politics like the plague. And who can blame them? Who would their heroes and role models be? Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell, whose combined ages are 160? (Not that I don’t have a sneaking admiration for Bernie, who at least has the courage of his wrong convictions.)

            Please don’t misunderstand me. I think older people are fully capable of performing at a high level, but there is a difference between writing a book –  social critic Jacques Barzun published a major work, From Dawn to Decadence, at 92 – and running the most complicated country in the world with all the pressures that entails. And it may be that someday an 80-year-old man or woman may appear who is able to effectively run the country, but I see no one like that today.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

I Wish I Owned a Country!

I Wish I Owned a Country!

By Patrick F. Cannon

You’ve probably been wondering why I’ve never written about the proprietors of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I have no excuse, other than lethargy. But something in the Chicago Tribune recently finally got me on my high horse (and those noble steeds will be relevant in due course).  One of the lesser known Emirates is Ras Al-Khaimah, whose port has become a refuge for the luxury yachts of Russian oligarchs trying to prevent their seizure. More importantly, the Emirates have also become a safe haven for their money.

            The most famous of the Emirates is probably Dubai, home to the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which tops out at 2,722 feet; and numerous luxury hotels, resorts and shopping centers. They even have an indoor ski hill. All of this has risen from the desert in the last 50 years or so, and is meant to be a hedge against the eventual decline of income from – you guessed it – the Emirates oil reserves. Dubai is owned, and I use that term advisably, by  the Maktoum family, whose current head is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Along with the rest of the Emirati (have I coined anew word?), he has scrupulously avoided criticizing the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

            Back in the 1970s, Sheikh Mohammed decided to get involved in Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Since his family owns Dubai and its oil, he had the dough to get in at the top. Beginning in 1977, he began showing up at the Keenland July Yearling Sales, where the cream of Kentucky’s young horses were sold. Ditto the major sales in England, Ireland and France. Since there were Englishmen and Irishmen with deep pockets interested in the same horses, a new Golden Age began for Kentucky breeders. Indeed, the highest prices for yearlings were all achieved in the 1980s.

            Not to be outdone, the family that owns Saudi Arabia also got involved in breeding and racing Thoroughbreds. They also hold the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup, which has a purse of $20 million. It replaced the Dubai World Cup, which has a paltry purse of only $10 million. For comparison, our own Breeder’s Cup Classic only offers $6 million.

In the rest of the world, purses are generally related to nomination fees and betting. The high purses in the Middle East have lured American horses, who would otherwise have done their winter racing in California or Florida, to the sands of Arabia. It’s obvious that American and European breeders and owners don’t care where the money comes from, even when the Saudis still chop off the odd head and hand, prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality, and order the execution of political opponents like Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

In an obvious PR ploy, the Saudis convicted a couple of dupes, instead of the man who ordered the murder, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. He’s the same fellow who earned kudus for permitting women to get driver’s licenses! With the price of oil through the roof, he will be able to buy even more yachts and French estates.

In yet another effort to buy legitimacy, the Saudi Investment Fund, said to total $560 billion, is this very day initiating a new professional golf tour, whose purse is reputed to be $25 million. On the American PGA tour, the average purse is a bit more than $10 million. Oh, and there is no appearance money on the PGA tour; the players are independent contractors. Not so on the Saudi tour.

The highest ranking golfer to deflect for the Saudi dough is former World #1 Dustin Johnson, who reputedly has been guaranteed $125 million for making the move.  Just added to the London event is Phil Mickelson, a six-time major tournament winner who described the Saudi’s (please excuse the language, but this is a direct quote) as “crazy motherfuckers.”  Not so crazy, however, that Phil is going to turn down a similar upfront payment.

“Everyone has their price,”  goes the old saying. The folks who send their horses to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the big purses, and the golfers who have chosen to play on their new tour, have found theirs. They are thus willing to overlook extensive human rights violations, many centered on legal systems based on the sacred documents of Islam, including the Quran. It’s as if our laws would be based on the Old Testament. Of course, we do have a significant number of our fellow Americans who would welcome it.

P.S. Two of the Saudi-backed golf tournaments in the US will be held at Trump-owned courses.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

It’s All Optional

It’s all Optional

By Patrick F. Cannon

There’s an intersection at the end of my block with three-way stop signs (my street is one way). In the six years or so that I’ve lived here, I can only recall a handful of times when a vehicle actually came to a full top before proceeding on its way. Shall we be honest? Almost no one comes to a full stop unless there’s another vehicle proceeding through the intersection. I believe I’m an expert on the “full hesitation” instead of a lawful full stop.

            While I have no way of actually proving it, it seems to me – on the evidence of my eyes – that the number of drivers who don’t even hesitate at stop signs is increasing.  And not only stop signs; I’ve seen many drivers just slow down at red lights, then go through them with impunity. This impatience extends to speed. On expressways, few drivers take speed limits seriously, including me. But while I generally exceed the limit by 5 or 10 miles and hour, I have often been passed by drivers – if traffic permits – going 20 or 30 miles an hour (or more) above the posted limit. I’ve even seen two cars that seem to be racing each other through traffic (maybe with drawn guns?).

            Passing on two-lane roads and streets is permitted if the center line is broken, but I have been passed many times when there is a solid yellow line, which means no passing. Just the other day, I was doing 35 in a 30 mile per hour zone on a residential street with a solid yellow line. I was passed by a car doing at least 50; there was a stop sign at the end of the block which was also ignored.

            Last year, 42,915 people died in traffic accidents, a 10.5 percent increase over the year before. A popular theory says that it’s all connected to Covid restrictions. Although things have eased a bit, being forced to wear a mask in public, stay away from the corner bar, and generally hunker down has frustrated folks so much that they expressed their freedom in the one place they could – behind the wheel of their cars. I may be forced to wear a mask at the supermarket, but by God I can at least be free to ignore the law on the highways and byways of our great country!

            In an effort to overcomplicate matters, I offer some alternate reasons for the lawlessness and carnage. One involves what I would call the “Trump effect.” This posits that his followers emulate their hero by having a total disregard for truth, justice and the American way. One can choose for oneself which laws to obey, including those pesky stop signs and speed limits. Countering this is the argument that liberals and progressives have overthrown accepted morality, so that breaking traffic laws with impunity follows logically from permitting same sex marriages, abortion and gender fluidity.

            One that appeals to me – I’m a political independent – is simply that vehicle performance has exceeded the ability of most drivers to control it. When I was a lad reading car magazines, if a car could make it from zero to 60 in 12 seconds or less, it was considered pretty racy. My current car, a four-door sedan, can get there in half the time. And it’s not unusual for some, even hulking SUVs, to manage 60 in 5 seconds or less. Can you even imagine trying to control a machine like the Bugatti Veyron, which can get there in 2.4 seconds? And reach a top speed of 254 miles per hour? Even at 100 MPH on an expressway, how many drivers can really react properly to the unforeseen?

            Then there’s a particular favorite of mine (and many an old crank like me). It speculates that younger generations have been told so often that they are unique and wonderful – and even win awards for being average – that they feel entitled to do whatever they damn well please, regardless of how it might affect others. Of course, it may be a combination of all of the above. In any event, if you’re a pedestrian, you would be well advised to take great care in crossing at intersections with stop signs. Hit and runs are on the increase too.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Bernays’ Familiar Quotations

Bernays’ Familiar Quotations

By Patrick F. Cannon

As a former public relations guy, I’m always on the lookout for items that remind me of the good old days, and of the tried and true language that endures.

            In Monday’s Chicago Tribune, there was an item about someone named Lizzo. Now I don’t have a clue who this might be, but I certainly recognized the stock phrases that described an upcoming HBO “documentary” about her. We can all look forward to a thus far untitled project that “shares the inspirational story behind her humble beginnings to her meteoric rise with an intimate look into the moments that shaped her hard-earned rise to fame, success, love and international stardom…”

            Nice ring to it. The same ring that has rung on many other occasions, for many other entertainers, some of whom no doubt are still well known. In this digital age, it joins many other stock phrases in the computer storages of entertainment PR firms from coast to coast (but mostly in LA).

            Now, this isn’t a direct quote, but I’m sure you’ve read or heard something very much like the following, usually from some actor or other show-biz biggie: “I am extremely sorry if anything I said or did caused (insert woman’s or women’s names) any discomfort. I realize now that I crossed the line. I can only say I’ve learned a valuable lesson and won’t let anything like this ever happen again.”

            Have you ever noticed how similar these public expressions of remorse are? In almost every case, they are released not by the offender, but by his (or rarely her) public relations consultant (in the old days, “press agent). They rather remind me of a prayer that used to be recited at the Roman Catholic mass. Here is a current version:

            I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters,

            that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words,

            in what I have done and in what I have failed to do;

            through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;

            therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints’

            and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

When I was a young lad, when you got to the “through my fault” part, you pounded your breast three times to further emphasize your guilt. When you confessed your sins to a priest, you promised, in the privacy of the Confessional, to sin no more. No privacy now. You must be seen (and heard) to publicly beat your breast.

            If it doesn’t already exist, someone should publish a collection of  useful and interchangeable paragraphs that cover the needs of any public figure. You know, kind of a Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for the poor PR practitioner (which they like to call themselves instead of “flack”). It could be broken  down into sections like Poverty-stricken Childhood, Sexual Mis-steps, Charitable Gestures, and Marriage Breakups. Under the last, we would find that classic – “We will always remain friends and put the interests of  the children first!”

P.S. In case you haven’t heard of him, Edward Bernays is considered the “Father” of modern public relations, for better or worse. Look him up; an interesting character.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Help! What Should I Say?

Help! What Should I Say?

By Patrick F. Cannon

Regular readers will know that I feel a general contempt for politicians, with no particular bias against either Democrats or Republicans. As it happens, I live in Illinois, whose finances have been wrecked by years of Democratic-dominated mismanagement. On the other hand, Republican candidates for governor have associated themselves with commercials that no ethical person would countenance.

            Now, with the leak of Supreme Court Justice Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, many candidates for the House and Senate face a dilemma. Apparently, roughly two-thirds of their fellow Americas support a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion or not. While there are certainly states where Republicans can oppose abortion with little worry, there are others where seats may not be so safe.

            It has been widely expected that the Republicans would gain control of the House in the mid-term elections. Historically, the party in power is vulnerable, but apparently some Republican candidates think the expected decision may be a wild card possibly affecting their electability.

            As it happens, I have an opinion on abortion rights, as I expect you do too. I’m not likely to change my mind after many years of thought, and I wouldn’t think of asking you to change yours. But what if we were politicians?

            A news source I respect reported recently that Congressional candidates – Republicans in particular – have been asking their election consultants for advice on how they should talk about abortion during their campaigns. Think about this. After all these years of mouthing the “pro-life” party line, some Republicans are looking at the numbers – that two-thirds who support abortion – and beginning to sweat just a bit.

            The reality is this – most politicians have no reasoned opinions on anything, much less abortion.  What they do know is that a seat in Congress is worth both having and especially keeping. It provides a large staff to do the actual work, leaving plenty of time to schmooze contributors and be schmoozed by lobbyists. And grandstand. Notice how many members have made their way to Ukraine to show their solidarity with that beleaguered country. To save some dough, maybe Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell should have taken the same flight!

            I don’t mean to suggest that there are no principled politicians. Although I think he’s living in a self-created Socialist Valhalla, I do think Bernie Sanders is sincere in his beliefs. So, I think, are Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. But what are we to think about someone like Kevin McCarthy? And the 147 Republicans who, against all credible evidence, voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election?

            McCarthy is on record as telling fellow Republicans immediately after January 6, 2001 that he thought President Trump should immediately resign. And Washington’s Spinx, Mitch McConnel, was on record as saying he should be impeached. They said these things because they well knew that Trump had indeed tried to overthrow the election. Since then, their memories have clouded over, so don’t be surprised if they waffle a bit on abortion if they think it will get them elected.   

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

R.I.P., Myron Cohen

R.I.P., Myron Cohen

By Patrick F. Cannon

Myron Cohen (1902-1986) was a well known comedian from the 1950s until his death in 1986. He was best known for his dialect jokes, primarily done in a Yiddish accent, but with a sprinkling in Italian and Irish dialects too. They were done affectionately, and were really short stories rather than the typical one-liners of the time. Before becoming a full time entertainer, he had sold fabrics to the New York garment industry, and said his story telling set him apart from his competitors. (Only Billy Chrystal today reminds me of him.)

            He appeared fairly regularly on Ed Sullivan’s variety show, and later on both Jack Paar’s and Johnny Carson’s Tonight shows. I remember three of his short stories in particular, and I’ll try to do them justice here, but of course his delivery and accents added much to them. (By the way, I don’t recall that he thought his sex life was so fascinating that anyone would want to spend an hour listening to its gory details. Why this has become the norm with comedians today escapes me.)

                                                Stage Delicatessen

Sam was a waiter at New York’s legendary Stage Delicatessen. His boss, the manager (maître de is perhaps too fancy a word for that place), was named Max. They had both been there for some 25 years, and had never said a kind word to each other. Their feuds were legendary, and indeed the customers thought their constant bickering was part of the delicatessen’s essential ambiance.

            Then one day at closing, Max took Sam aside and said: “Sam, I know we haven’t always gotten along {a massive understatement}, but I know you’re a hard worker with loyal customers, so effective immediately, I’m giving you a raise.” To say that Sam was thunderstruck would be an understatement. He was actually almost struck dumb and could only reply with a very weak “thank you.”

            When he got home and told his wife, she was amazed and said maybe Max wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Anyway, Sam had a spring in his step the next morning when he arrived at work. He went to the back room to put on his white jacket and apron. Max entered, walked over to him and said “Sam, you’re fired!” “Fired,” the stunned Sam replied, “yesterday you praised me and gave me a raise. How can you fire me?”

            Max smilingly replied: “You should lose a better job!”

                                                Watch Out!

 O’Hara was a motorman on New York streetcars when such things still existed. He had been assigned to a route in Queens for many years, but then got transferred to a route in lower Manhattan. Being a bachelor, he decided to move to an apartment in the lower east side, so he could be within walking distance of the street car barn.

            One day, he noticed his watch seemed to be losing a couple of minutes a day. Since an accurate watch was important in his job, and he had a day off, he decided to have it fixed. As it happened, he had noticed a shop down the street with a large watch in the window. Assuming it was a watch repair shop, he entered and went up to the counter. Behind it was an elderly man with a beard.

            “My watch is losing time,” says O’Hara, “and I wonder if you could adjust it?”

            “I don’t fix watches, I’m a mohel,” replies the bearded one.

            “What’s a mohel, for God’s sake?”

            “I circumcise little Jewish boys.”

            “But why do you have that big watch in the window if you don’t fix watches?

            “So, what do you want me to have in the window?”

Goldberg and the Pope

We’re back at the Stage Delicatessen. One table has for many years been set aside for a group of garment industry men who gather every week day for lunch. Not everyone comes every day; but on a typical day seven or eight show up. Two of them, Goldberg and Pearlstein, show up most days. They are both competitors and old friends. Over the years, Goldberg had become known as a name dropper. If you mentioned Frank Sinatra, for example, he would mention that he helped Frank get his first job singing in a club in Hoboken.  In fact, almost every time a lunch mate mentioned a famous person, it turns out that Goldberg knows him or her from somewhere.

            So one day his pal Pearlstein says to him that he knows someone he can’t possibly know. “I bet you don’t know the Pope!” Now, at the time, John XXIII was pope. Without batting an eyelash, Goldberg replies “Of course, I know the Pope. We’re pals from a long time ago.” A hush came over the table. After a pause, Perlstein challenges his old friend: “I’ll tell you what. Let’s take the wives to Rome on vacation. If you can prove you know the Pope, I’ll spring for the whole trip, but if you don’t, you pay!”

            To everyone’s amazement, Goldberg agrees. Two weeks later, the couples are in Rome, seeing the sites and eating lots of pasta. Goldberg tells his friend that in two days the Pope will appear on his balcony in St. Peters Square to bless the multitude. “I’ll give you a pair of binoculars and when he appears, you’ll see me come out behind him.”

            On the given day, Pearlstein joins the huge crowd waiting for the Pope to appear. He trains his binoculars on the balcony. The double doors open and the portly Pope steps out. Then, just behind him, who should appear but Goldberg. Pearlstein’s jaw drops in disbelief. He is transfixed, but he feels someone pulling on his sleeve. Next to him is an elderly man, who says to him: “I can’t see too well anymore. Could you please tell me who is that man standing on the balcony with Goldberg?”

#####

Copyright (sort of) 2017, 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Don’t Do It!

Don’t Do It!

By Patrick F. Cannon

Writing about the Disney Corporation’s difficulties with the State of Florida over its new sex education law got me to thinking about my own experiences growing up. When I tell you that my first eight grades were spent in Roman Catholic schools in the 1940s and 50s, it should give you a hint.

            “Sex Education” as a subject did not exist. This now strikes me as strange, as the Church seemed to encourage its married members to be as fruitful as possible. It is well to remember that Catholic schools were run by nuns, who themselves had taken a vow of chastity. To most of them, the mere mention of sex seemed sinful. I do recall being told that it was mortal sin to touch one’s private parts for pleasure. I forget whether it was your hand or your penis which would fall off!

            The late Peter Ustinov, the actor (and so much more) told a story of going to an assembly at his boy’s boarding school, where the headmaster tried manfully to educate his charges about sex. He muttered and stuttered, and finally told them: “just don’t do it!”

              I went on to a public high school in McKeesport, PA, and the subject was covered in a mandatory course in Sophomore year called “Health.” It was taught by the school’s football coach. He would instruct the students to read a chapter, and answer to the questions at the end. Then, if you were on the football team, as I was that year, you would go the back of the classroom, where coach would diagram plays on a blackboard. Since football was almost a religion in Western Pennsylvania, no one thought this odd. There was a chapter on reproduction, which described the subject in vague terms. Needless to say, it wasn’t illustrated. At least, the stork wasn’t mentioned as a delivery system.

            Somehow, I figured it out for myself, as those did who had a similar education. However, I do think sex education should be mandatory in our schools. The question – and this is the nub of the Florida controversy – is how much and when. Is the third grade too soon to tell the kiddies about the seemingly endless ways humans express their sexuality? I believe it is. Children that age are still three or four years from the earliest stirrings of puberty, which is time enough to  raise these issues.

            I’ve heard it said that teaching the variety of sexual expression to young minds may somehow encourage them to imagine that they themselves may be gay, or bisexual, or transgender. I’m not sure there’s any evidence that that’s the case. I do know that it can all be very confusing to an immature mind. Eventually, we all need to know these things, if only to learn tolerance of those who once were shunned and even prosecuted for their sexual orientation.

            And not only sexual orientation, but race, religion, class and national origin. Ideally, these would be taught at home, but why do I get the impression that today’s parents are ill-equipped to do so? Religion? Some these days seem to preach intolerance instead. And even those that don’t see fewer and fewer people in their pews on Sunday.

            So, my idea, for what it’s worth, is that Junior High or Middle School is time enough to begin properly educating young people about sex in all it’s glories and pitfalls. Let’s let the little kids live in ignorant bliss.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon  

Mind Your Own Business!

Mind Your Own Business!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I’m not going to go into the details of the Florida law about what can and cannot be taught about sex to little kiddies in their schools, but whether or not the Disney corporation should have gone public with their objection to it.

            My answer is “no.”  Why would a corporation that owns more than 200 companies that reach into the pockets of almost every American, alienate a significant percentage of its customers and its stockholders by taking a position they may or may not agree with?  Maybe they should make a cartoon called “Mickey Talks Sex.” Or, maybe “Goofy Comes Out!”

            More and more, public corporations are giving in to pressure from some of their employees and customers to take positions – mostly, it must be said, “woke” ones – on public policy matters. I suppose Disney, in the business of amusing children, now thinks it should take a role in deciding how they’re educated about sex. Initially mute on the bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek eventually gave in to pressure from members of the Disney family and affiliated companies to express opposition to the bill. As a result, and in obvious retaliation, the Florida legislature has stripped Disney of its special quasi-governmental status.

            I frankly don’t know enough about the bill to take an informed position. But I do know that public corporations like Disney should mind their own business, unless a proposed law or regulation directly affects it. For example, if the Florida legislature were to propose a special tax for amusement parks that other businesses didn’t have to pay, that would be a legitimate reason to scream bloody murder. And General Motors would be within its rights to weigh in on fuel consumption or pollution limits. But why would they take a position on school prayer?

            Private companies are a different matter. Their owners can say whatever they wish — at their own risk, of course. A good example is Bill Penzey of Penzey’s Spices. A progressive’s progressive, Penzey uses his regular customer newsletter and other media to heap abuse on Republicans. As I recall, he started this when Donald Trump was running for president and upped the ante when he was elected. While I was inclined to agree with him on Trump, he soon began painting all Republicans with the same brush, and continues to do so. Indeed, in honor of Martin Luther King Day this year, he proclaimed “Republicans are Racists” weekend!

            Has he lost customers because of his stance? Yes, he has. Obviously, Republicans can get their spices elsewhere, and mostly do. But it seems that Democrats and progressives have decided to put more spice in their lives, so he claims his business has actually increased. Go figure!

            Anyway, if I were running a public company, I would require all employees to sign something like this as a condition of employment:

            “The Acme Horseshoe Company is in the business of making the best horseshoes available on the market. It is dedicated to providing a quality product to the world’s horses, farriers, owners and trainers. It takes no position on matters of public policy, unless they directly affects its core business. This does not mean that its employees may not do so – in fact, it encourages its employees to express their opinions on matters that affect them and their communities, as long as they do not associate the Acme Horseshoe Company with them. To do so is cause for immediate termination.”  

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon       

Boy, That Was a Close Shave!

Boy, That Was a Close Shave!

While I was shaving the other day, and musing on the true meaning of life, it suddenly occurred to me that I was performing a task I had performed approximately 25,000 times before. So struck was I by this, that I decided that my faithful readers would have to wait a bit longer to find out what their existence really meant.

            There is evidence, although a bit sketchy if you ask me, that men began shaving about 100,000 years ago. Well, shaving might not be an exact description. It seems the cave men would remove unwanted facial hair by plucking it out with used calm shells. In more recent times, women have been known to pluck out unruly hair from their eyebrows in a similar manner. Indeed, in the 1930s they often plucked all the hair from their eyebrows, then painted on a more acceptable version with something called (still) an eyebrow pencil. Some very bizarre effects were obtained, but that’s fashion for you.

It wasn’t until about 3,000 B.C. that something resembling a razor appeared, in Egypt of course. Thin pieces of  sharpened copper apparently did the job. Surviving images often show men with spade-like chin whiskers, but otherwise smooth of face. By the time the Greeks came along, as shown in surviving sculptures and urns, the fashion seems to have gone back and forth between the smooth-shaven and the full bearded. When the Romans entered the stage, beards seem to have gone completely out of fashion.

One of the reasons seems to have been that they had mastered steel-making. In addition to sword and knife blades for hacking away at those pesky barbarians and dispatching unwanted emperors, they could now sharpen and hone a blade that made shaving bearable. This technology also made scissors more useful for cutting one’s hair, which made short hair fashionable for the first time.

For hundreds of years thereafter, whether one had a beard or not, or long or short hair, was – for the rich, at least – a matter of taste and fashion. Long hair, no beard? No hair, but luxuriant beard? Bald, but bewigged? The Rasputin look? All were available. Eventually, the foldable straight razor became the implement of choice, whether wielded by the gentleman himself of his barber.

(As an aside, it was once common for men to go regularly to their barber for a shave. No doubt you’re familiar with the ditty: “shave and a haircut, two bits.” Now rare, the ritual involved wrapping the customer’s face in hot towels, then lathering his face with soap, often using the customer’s personal shaving mug. Using a very sharp straight razor, the barber would sweep the customer’s face clean of the offending beard, then finish the ritual off with a fine and fragrant after-shave lotion. At an upscale shop, a shave and haircut might now cost $100 or more.)

When I first started shaving some 70 years ago, I used an electric machine. As my beard became a bit tougher, I switched to a blade razor. It was a Gillette, which then and now dominates the business. It was started by King Gillette, not to be confused with King Canute. To him, we owe the invention of the safety razor. The blade of choice by the time I started was the double-edged Gillette Blue Blade. In keeping with the time-honored American practice of making its products obsolete on a regular basis, they eventually introduced the Super Blue Blade, followed by the Platinum Blade (actually stainless steel).     

Having exhausted the possibilities of the double-edged blade, they then began selling cartridge razors and blades. Their latest iteration, the Gillette Labs Exfoliating Razor, not only slices away your beard with five blades, but gets rid of your foliates! The cheapest cost per blade is about $3.50.  Since I’m not afflicted with foliates, I get similar 5-blade cartridges from Harry’s for less than $2.00 each. They do a good job, and I kind of like the name.

Historically, women have used similar razors to shave their legs, underarms, and what has come to be known as the “bikini line.”  It seems to me that shaving one’s private parts is fraught with danger, but I’m told that even some men do it. I find this hard to believe, but then I’ve never understood tattoos or body-piercing either. Apparently neither God nor Mother Nature (or simple biology) can be trusted to get things right.

Finally, I tried to grow a beard once. I discovered that my beard was heavier on the left side of my face than the right, resulting in a strange lopsided effect. I do admire a fine beard, and have friends who sport them. If you wish to see beards a plenty, as well as tattoos and interesting body piercings, you would do well to walk the streets of Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square in Chicago. That is the domain of the hipster. The women will look much the same, except (mostly) for the beards.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon