National Service?

National Service?

By Patrick F. Cannon

I first set foot on British soil on November 11 in the early 1980s. I was enroute to India for a meeting, and decided to break the trip by spending a few days in London to see the sights. I took a train from Heathrow which left me off in a tube (subway) station just a couple of blocks from my hotel.

            The first thing I saw when I emerged from the station was an elderly gentleman dressed in a red uniform selling poppies. November 11 was for many years called Armistice Day, for it was on that day in 1918 that World War I  hostilities ceased. Since we managed to have World War II since then, it came to be called Remembrance Day in the UK, and Veteran’s Day here. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when I saw a photo of the new King Charles III placing a wreath at London’s Cenotaph, the memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate those who had died in World War 1.  

            The man who sold me the poppy was, I discovered later, a Chelsea pensioner, a resident of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement and nursing home for British Army veterans; thus the red unform. Selling poppies is still a tradition in the UK; here, not so much, since the American Legion, which sold them, has declined in membership, along with so many other volunteer organizations.

            While originally meant for those who had served in the war, the day now honors all veterans, including me. I managed to avoid shooting wars, although I was in the Army during both the Berlin Wall (1961) and Cuban Missile (1962) crises. I was drafted, and served the required two years in France and the Mojave Desert. After basic training and signal school in Georgia, I can’t say my service was in any way burdensome. But it was worthwhile in many ways.

            Why worthwhile? The draft ended in 1973, although young men are still required to register when they turn 18. Sometime in the mid-1970s, I wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune calling for its return, but in a different form. Instead of just military service, draftees could opt for a variety of ways to serve their country for one or two years. The Peace Corps was mentioned, but so were  things like the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which brought unemployed young men together in camps to improve the National Parks and do other needed public works.

            One of the reasons the country is now so divided is simply that our young people are segregated by class, income and education. My close friends in the Army – in just two years – included a blacksmith’s son from rural Illinois; one from New Jersey, whose father was the export manager for the Ford Motor Company; the son of a wealthy tobacco farmer from North Carolina; a black kid from Chicago who had enlisted to escape the gang culture; a banker from Long Island; and even a distant cousin of the Kennedy’s. Education level ranged from near illiteracy to a master’s degree in biology (strangely, the Army in its mysterious way decided he would make a good cook!).

            I think one year of national service would be enough. If the “draftee” opted for the military, that would be sufficient time to go through basic training and a specialist school. After the year was up, these young people (of both sexes by the way) would then be required to serve a term in the National Guard or reserves. The armed services would still be primarily volunteer forces. Everyone who does national service would receive educational benefits.

            Would the young person destined for Harvard benefit from serving with someone who was destined to be a plumber or truck driver? And vice versa? Most would.  Some of course wouldn’t. In my case, I wouldn’t be the person I am today – more than 60 years later – were it not for being forced to spend two years learning about people and places I hadn’t known existed. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to go from Lake Forest to Harvard to Wall Street with a detour to a barracks in Appalachia. Maybe the young lady from New York’s upper east side wouldn’t see the “other” as quite so deplorable. And Veteran’s Day might have a whole new meaning.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon   

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

By Patrick F. Cannon

A roasted Turkey is the centerpiece of a classic Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, not everyone loves the big bird. One such was a former neighbor of mine in Albert Lea, Minnesota, where I lived for a couple of years in the late 1960s due to a job transfer. It had a population in 2020 of about 20,000, about the same as when we lived there. We moved from one of the cheapest houses in Glenview (a fairly upscale suburb of Chicago) to a new house in Albert Lea, which was about twice the size for roughly the same cost, a bit more than $25,000 in 1968.

            The next door neighbor was the retired county sheriff. Can’t remember his name, but he was known around town as “Sheriffy.” He was an amiable but quiet fellow, part Native American and part Norwegian. Before he bought his new house, he had lived on some “acreage” (as the folks in the area would have called it) on the edge of town. To make use of some of his land and generate a few bucks, he decided to raise some turkeys. The way it worked was you bought some poults (babies), put them in some kind of enclosure, fed them, then sold them to a processor when they reached market weight.

            Anyway, Sheriffy had his flock near market weight when a big-time thunderstorm blew through the area. It seems the birds were terrified and huddled together so closely that they all suffocated to death. No turkeys, no income. Sherrify hadn’t realized, he said, “how stupid the damn things were. I’ve never eaten Turkey since. Ham is what we have.”

            As for me, I’ve eaten Turkey for Thanksgiving as long as I can remember. My mother was an indifferent cook, but there was always enough gravy to make the tough Turkey go down. Even the Army managed to put on a traditional feast when I was stationed in France and later, the Mojave Desert. After that, and for many years, my sister Kathleen hosted Thanksgiving. Married to an Italian (Emilio Giuseppe Evangelisti), she became an excellent cook. We always started with a pasta course, and the food kept coming! I always overate.

            After Kathleen died, and I remarried, my wife Jeanette and I always hosted Thanksgiving and I was put in charge of making the hallowed bird. I have become (justly) famous for my stuffing. I would give you the recipe but there isn’t one. I just play it by ear. I can, however, give you some advice. Because there’s nothing worse than wet and gooey stuffing, always toast the bread the day before, cube it, and let it dry overnight. Don’t be afraid to search the freezer for those bits of bread you always forget about. If there’s some rye or whole wheat lurking in the back, thaw it out and throw it in the mix.

            I also add some breakfast sausage. I fry a package of (usually 8) patties, drain them on paper towels and chop into small cubes. I also dice a lot of onion and celery. These are sauteed in a very large pan in butter, along with some fresh parsley, rosemary and sage. I then add some shaved carrot, diced apple and minced, dried cranberries to give a bit of color. I usually root  through the spice drawer and sprinkle in anything that looks likely, as well as salt and pepper to taste. No garlic though. Garlic is a no-no in stuffing.

            After this mixture cools a bit, I add it to the bread and mix it thoroughly. If it’s a bit dry, I add some turkey stock until it’s (in my view) perfect. Then into the bird it goes. There’s always enough to both stuff the gobbler and fill a casserole. There is a school of thought that says you should never stuff the bird. I suppose if you forget to cook the turkey completely, this might be a problem. But in 35 years I have never sickened anyone who ate my stuffing.

            I should mention here that the raw bird will have a sack full of innards in the cavity. I have heard of people who have inadvertently left this in. Since you are one of my readers, I can’t imagine you would be guilty of this. Before you put the turkey in the oven (read the instructions on the packaging to determine oven temperature and approximate cooking time), brush all over with melted butter. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. I always tent with foil for the first half of the cooking time. After it’s done and out of the oven, let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. I have seen some inept carving in my day, but don’t worry, it will still taste OK.

            If you have to have ham, buy one of those spiral-sliced ones; really, one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Or, you could have both turkey and ham! Now that would be something to be thankful for!

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon          

The Horse of the Century (So Far)

The Horse of the Century (So Far)

 By Patrick F. Cannon

I’d be surprised if everyone reading this today will have heard about the horse that won this year’s Breeder’s Cup Classic on November 5. His name is Flightline and I believe he’s the best thoroughbred race horse since Secretariat in 1973.

            Secretariat of course won the Triple Crown and even made the cover of Time Magazine. Minor injuries and accidents kept Flightline from starting his career until April 24, 2021 of his three-year-old year. He didn’t win his first stakes race until December 26. That was the Malibu Stakes, a Grade 1 race (the highest rating for stakes races). He ran only three more times, all Grade 1 events. In his race before the Breeder’s Cup, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in California, he won by 19-1/4 lengths. His margin of victory in the Breeder’s Cup was 8-1/2 lengths, the longest winning margin in the race’s 38-year history, and against what was widely believed to be one of the strongest fields ever assembled.

            Horse racing was once the most popular spectator sport in the United States. The reason? In most states, it was the only form of legalized gambling. No more. Numerous gambling options are as near as your phone. You don’t have to go anywhere, least of all to a race track. The irony is that online betting has increased thoroughbred purses substantially, but few people actually attend in person. So, poor Flightline had two strikes against him – no Triple Crown participation and little interest in racing among the general public.

            I was unable to go to the Breeder’s Cup. I was in New Orleans with my daughter Beth and son-in-law Boyd. But I was able to use my phone to place a bet or two. My usual bet is $2, but I bet $10 on Flightline to win. For the day, I was $8 richer, with Flightline contributing $4 of the total (he went off at 2 to 5, which means you won $2 for every $5 you bet). While not earthshaking, it was better than the stock market has been lately! Oh, and I was able to watch the race in the down-time between eating at great restaurants.

            I have seen some legendary horses in person, mostly at now-closed Arlington Park. That includes the great Secretariat, who won an invitational race there on June 30, 1973. I also saw Dr. Fager run the fastest mile ever run on the dirt – one minute, thirty-two-and-a-half seconds – also at Arlington in 1968. On those days, the crowds would have exceeded 30,000. The last day I was at Arlington (last year), I doubt there were 5,000 people there, and it was a lovely Saturday.

            Another reason racing has lost its appeal is that the great horses are retired to stud after their three-year-old year. Were Flightline to run next year, he might well earn $10 or $15 million in purses. He might also be seriously injured enough to be euthanized. The highest stud fee I know of currently is the nearly $400,000 charged in England for the European super horse, Dubawi. That’s what it costs for one mare to have one baby. It has been announced that Flightline’s initial fee will be $200,000. If he services 140 mares (a typical number), he would produce $28 million in stud fees in the first year alone! As they say, do the math.

            Thus, the paradox. The great horses, who might excite the public as Citation, Seabisquit, Seattle Slew (Flightline’s great-great grandfather) and Dr. Fager once did as four- and even five-year-old’s, disappear from the scene before they even mature as runners. Once again, sportsmanship gives way to cold, hard cash. In this, of course, racing is not alone.

(P.S. You should be able to find reruns of Flightline’s races on the NBC sports site, or on YouTube. It’s worth doing.)

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

By Patrick F. Cannon

It has been announced that Prince Henry Charles Albert David, duke of Sussex, earl of Dumbarton and baron Kilkeel, formerly of the United Kingdom and several tiny islands, will soon be publishing his memoirs, which he has titled Spare.  We know him better as Prince Harry.

            The book’s title refers to the practice of the royal family and other peers of the realm to produce “an heir and a spare.” His elder brother William, prince of Wales, earl of Chester, duke of Cornwall, duke of Rothesay, duke of Cambridge, earl of Shathearn, baron of Renfrew, baron Carrickfergus, lord of the Isles, and prince and great steward of Scotland (and some knighthoods to boot) is of course the heir to their father, King Charles III. As William now has three children (an heir and two spares), it’s unlikely poor Harry will ever be king, being fifth in line now. In the Middle Ages the problem might not have been insurmountable, but these are tamer times.

            Prince Harry and his wife, Duchess Meagan, apparently got tired of both their fellow royals and their jobs visiting charities and opening supermarkets in the cold and rain of the UK, so they resigned from the family firm and moved to sunny California.

It’s said the book was going to come out sooner, but Harry decided to tone down its criticism of his relatives because it might seem unseemly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, or granny as she was known in the family. (Of course, all of them managed to put on a good show of familial solidarity for the funeral. The British tabloids are assuming – or are they hoping? – it won’t last.)

            When Harry was traipsing around the UK on  behalf of the House of Windsor, he was paid about $7 million a year. In return, he cut ribbons, patted little heads and generally kept out of trouble. Duchess Meagan – an actress after all — learned how to wear hats and hold flower bouquets without sneezing. These skills should stand them in good stead as they replace the royal income by trading on their fame in the celebrity-mad United States.

            As it happens, Harry was trained as a helicopter pilot when he served in the British Army. If the celebrity thing doesn’t pan out, he can always sign on as a shuttle pilot. In the near term, things seem to be going well. Like their models – Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, and numerous other “influencers” – they need not actually work for a living. They need only be famous.

            Their fame and related income has enabled them to spend north of $10 million on an estate in Montecito, an enclave for the favored of God near sunny Santa Barbara. Their neighbors include Brad Pitt, Jeff Bridges, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Rob Lowe, Oprah (who obliged with an “explosive” television interview that was worth millions in future earnings), and Gwyneth Paltrow, who knows a thing or two about cashing in on celebrity.

            There is, of course, precedent in the Windsor family for Harry to emulate. His great-great uncle David – briefly King Edward VIII until he abdicated – managed to live quite well trading on his fame as the king who gave up his throne for the love of a woman, in that case another American, Wallis Warfield Simpson.  As Duke of Windsor, he passed his days in a mansion near Paris and the watering holes of the idle rich. He had no worries about money – in addition to an allowance from the royal family, subtle endorsements and appearance fees kept him nice and comfy.

            It’s a wonderful world, isn’t it, when the dupes who get up in the morning and go to work make it possible for others to make money by simply existing. America is, after all, still the land of opportunity!

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Can Reasonable People Disagree?

Can Reasonable People Disagree?

By Patrick F. Cannon

The number of intentional abortions in the United States was 1,545,170 in 1980, and 930,670 in 2020. In the latter year, that’s about 14 abortions per 1,000 births. Of course, the rate varies by state. My state, Illinois, has a rate of 16.6; neighboring Wisconsin, 5.9 (abortion is banned only after 21 weeks and six days); New York, 26.3 (yikes!); Vermont, 11.4; and so on. Although there has been a spike recently, the overall trend is down.

            Despite this, abortion as a political issue seems to be front and center in this election. In my home state – broke (and woke) Illinois – most of the Democratic campaign ads for the November 1 election paint the Republican candidates as fiends who would take a women’s right to choose abortion away, even, as they all claim, in cases of rape or incest! As it happens, Illinois is one of the least likely states to do anything like this.

            Although I’m conflicted about abortion, I do think women should decide for themselves whether to have one or not.  What troubles me is the demonization of people who oppose abortion for religious or moral reasons. For example, if you are a devout Roman Catholic or belong to a fundamentalist Christian denomination, you are required to believe in the sanctity of human life, no matter it’s form. It you believe that as soon as the woman’s egg is fertilized human life – sanctified by God – begins, then you feel obligated to oppose its termination, regardless of how it took place.

            Recent polls say that 61 percent of American support abortion in some cases; 50 percent support it in all cases. If you add the number who oppose abortion in all cases to those who support it only in cases of rape or incest, you come up with 49 percent, creating a statistical tie. The number of Americans who support abortion only in certain circumstances has remained remarkably constant since 2000.

            When more than 90 percent of American were churchgoers (1900), support for abortion would have been miniscule. In 2020, only 47 percent said they went to church regularly (it was 70 percent as recently as 2000). This mirrors the trend in Europe, where regular church attendance is less that 10 percent in Germany and France; and between 10 and 15 percent in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. It’s no surprise then that abortion is legal in most of the European Union, with the exception of Malta. Poland – still staunchly Roman Catholic – also prohibits it except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is threatened.

            But here, and perhaps for the next few decades, we are divided on this issue. And though there are excesses on  both sides – doctors who performed abortions have been murdered, for example; and pro-life organizations have been vandalized and even fire-bombed – pro-choice advocates seem increasingly to demonize those who oppose abortion for religious or moral reasons. Thus, the negative campaign ads that make some candidates look like heartless monsters. (By the way, what does one’s position on abortion have to do with how one administers the state treasury?)

            In the end, I think it must be the individual woman, not the state, who must decide whether abortion is a moral or medical issue.  But I also think it’s a mistake to demonize people whose sincerely believe abortion is wrong for religious or moral reasons. But neither side of the issue benefits from politicians who position on abortion is not based on any moral quandary, or actual belief, but: “what will get me elected?”   

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Music, Music, Music!

Music, Music, Music!

By Patrick F. Cannon

Two articles in the online edition of the New York Times got me thinking about music. Rap and Hip Hop superstar Kanye West, who now prefers to be called Ye (as in Ye Gods?) was being upbraided for a couple of  things – wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt and for having made some antisemitic remarks. Ye, who has a very high opinion of himself, was also mentioned as being our eras equivalent of  Mozart.

            The other article was about the new movie Tar, which stars the always wonderful Cate Blanchette as a female symphony orchestra conductor who has risen to conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, considered by some to be the world’s greatest (although many just rank it as part of the “big three” with Vienna and, yes, Chicago). While generally praising the movie, the writer couldn’t resist pointing out that the protagonist also seemed to prefer the so-called “standard” reparatory (Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.) to “new” and experimental music.

            Let me discuss this first. As it happens, most major orchestras have “composers in residence” programs which pay stipends to young serious-music composers. In most cases, they eventually produce works which are then featured during a concert. Over the years, I have heard some of these works, and a few have been pleasing. Most, however, have been annoying – unmelodic, discordant, and loud. It is said by some that this music is simply reflecting the ugliness that surrounds us in a chaotic world, as if these were qualities unique to our times.

            Here’s a scoop. Mozart’s world was even uglier and more chaotic. He died tragically at 37, which was about the average life expectancy then. Abject poverty was more widespread. Europe had been almost continuously at war for 250 years, and would stay that way for another 25 after Mozart’s death. The gap between rich are poor was at least as wide as it is now, probably wider. Yet, with just a few exceptions, Mozart’s music – all 800 compositions! – is melodic, dramatic and, yes, beautiful. Listening to it, whether in a concert hall or in a recording, gives pleasure.  Is it any wonder that concert goers prefer it to angst-filled contemporary music? (Much visual art also seems angst driven. A cartoon I saw recently showed a couple looking at a painting, which was a blank canvas with a single black dot at its center. The man comments: “Such anger.”)

            Mozart was a real genius. He produced an astonishing number of works in his 37 years because that’s how he made his living. No work, no money. Today’s serious composers exist on grants and academic appointments. I would guess the only non-rock, rap and hip hop composers who make any money are those that compose music for the movies, television, video games and the Broadway stage. John Williams of “Star Wars” fame comes to mind, but I would guess Ye/Kanye tops him with an estimated net worth of $2 billion!

            The audience for his kind of music – if that’s what it really is – is huge and growing. The audience for classical music is declining, if you consider it as a percentage of the total population. Major orchestras exist on philanthropy more than ticket sales (the cost of which are high and getting higher). I wonder how many people will actually pay to see Tar, which is receiving strong reviews, and has one of our greatest actors doing some of her best work. After all, large parts of it have her rehearsing the Berlin Philharmonic in Mahler’s 5th Symphony, which, by the way, takes nearly 75 minutes to actually perform.          

            So I guess Kanye West is a kind of genius. Not perhaps a musical genius, but a genius in gauging the popular taste. He can fill stadiums with 50,000 screaming and jumping fans, most of whom will have never heard a note of Mozart’s music. And now they have courses in rap and hip hop in the same colleges and universities that once offered courses in classical music appreciation. Kanye even has an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which knows a good deal about pandering to contemporary taste. I leave you today with two quotes from Kanye’s “music.”

            “I feel like I’m too busy making history to read it.”

            “For me to say I wasn’t a genius would be lying to you and myself.”

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

What’s Under Your Bed?

What’s Under Your Bed?

By Patrick F. Cannon
When I was about four years old, my sister Kathleen (who then would have been 15) took my year-older brother Pete and I to the movies. As I recall, there were three theatres in our hometown of Braddock, PA. The fanciest was the Capitol. That’s where the big productions went after closing in downtown Pittsburgh. The others were the Paramount and Times. We usually ended up at the Paramount, which featured double features of mostly B westerns.

            Along with Hopalong Cassidy, Johnny Mack Brown, Gene Autry, and other heroes, you would get a newsreel (dominated by World War II, which was just underway) and a cartoon. On that  particular day, the bill of fare instead included two horror movies – The Mummy and The Wolf Man. The latter sometimes appears on old movie channels. The Mummy, originally released in 1931, is generally only available on DVD and maybe streaming services. 

            In case you’d forgotten, a Mummy is a dead Pharoah embalmed and wrapped in bandages. In this particular movie, he’s played by Boris Karloff, who’s more famous for impersonating Frankenstein’s monster. But you have to start somewhere. It seems this particular Pharoah was dug up by a diligent grave robber (a British archeologist). This is a no-no, so Boris rises from his coffin, staggers haltingly toward the camera (the audience), then unwraps himself and takes off after the grave robber. Needless to say, he looked better wrapped up.

            (The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and it’s curse would have been fresh in people’s minds in 1931. Similar stories have been a staple of the movies ever since.) 

            Lon Cheney, Jr appeared as the title character in 1941s The Wolf Man, which is now considered a classic of the genre. Poor Lon was strolling through the woods one evening when he was confronted by a snarling wolf, played by Mickey Rooney in wolf’s clothing (just kidding). Anyway, the wolf, whose fangs were dripping with goo, bites poor Lon, but doesn’t finish the job. He recovers, but ever after, when the Moon is full, spouts shaggy fur and a mouth full of sharpish teeth in an early classic of special effects. As with the mummy, panic ensues. The supporting cast was somewhat more memorable, and included Bela Lugosi and a real actor, Claude Raines, best remembered as Captain Renault in Casablanca.   

            On those long ago Saturdays, my sister would often deposit us at the Paramount and go on to the Capitol to see some mushy romance. If her movie finished first, she would be waiting for us; if not, we were instructed to wait for her to take us home.

            Why would I remember this day out of hundreds of forgotten childhood days? Simply because I spent a night of pure terror. As it happened, our parents were away, and Pete and I slept in their bed. Every creak and every shadow foretold the imminent arrival of either the mummy or the Wolf Man. What was under the bed? What lurked in that partially open closet! I’m sure we eventually went to sleep out of pure exhaustion, but eighty years later, I still remember that night.

            While I have occasionally seen a horror movie, in general I have avoided them ever since. To be frank, I have never understood the public’s demonstrated interest in stories about zombies, vampires and fellows wielding chain saws. If I want to be truly frightened, I need only pay attention to the knuckleheads we keep electing to political office.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Lowdown on Higher Education

Lowdown on Higher Education

By Patrick F. Cannon

The New York Times, our newspaper of record, that great “grey lady” of journalism, occasionally runs focus groups. People of diverse sexes, ages, ethnicities and political persuasions are gathered together over coffee, tea, flavored water, sweet rolls, bagels and rice cakes to discuss subjects of contemporary interest. Politics? Sex? Dogs vs. cats? Trump? No Trump? Almost anything could be grist for the mill.

            Last week, a group of 12 college undergraduates were assembled to talk about their expectations and experiences. As you might expect, there were an equal number of men and women; a no doubt scientifically-chosen selection of races; a mixture of family income levels; and even political party affiliation (two actually identified as Republican!). Although college names were  not disclosed, it was clear that both public and private institutions were represented.

            As you might have expected, student loans weighed heavily on some (a few hadn’t needed them), and they were predictably pleased about the recent forgiveness of some debt. White guilt plagued some – they seemed to think their family’s prosperity permitted test tutoring that minority student students hadn’t been able to afford. One black girl was sure her classmates looked down on her because they assumed her race had factored in her admission.

            It was also clear that most of them saw college only as a means to an end; that end being their future careers. One young man complained that he had somehow been forced to take an art history course, when it had nothing to do with his career choice; and besides, he had zero interest in the arts. Others made similar complaints. Those career choices, by the way, included medicine, speech pathology, psychology  and the law.

            I was interested in discovering whether they experienced restraints on freedom of expression. A few said their professors actually encouraged free discussion of relevant issues; while others, confirming what one has heard reported, claimed they felt constrained in voicing their opinions. Two even said they felt their professors were given to expressing their personal left-wing political views even in courses where they had no possible relevance. In this case, it would have been helpful to know the name of the colleges.

            But the most interesting single thing to me was that only one of the students – just one of 12 – actually seemed excited to be there. He said that he was learning something new and exciting almost every day! Imagine spending four years with that attitude, instead of being impatient to get the whole thing over with.

            While it may be too late to reverse the tide, I think the aim of an undergraduate degree should be a liberal education instead of vocational training.        At a minimum, every college graduate should have full knowledge of United States history, both the good and bad, but untainted by political ideology. There has been a tendency in recent years to emphasize the darker aspects of our history, ignoring a trajectory that has given us more personal freedom and less abject poverty than ever before. And demagogues have always been able to impose their own version of history on those who have none of their own.

            In general, we need to return to the concept that the first two years of college are meant to ground the student in the history and culture (literature, art, music) of the United States and the wider world. I was asked 60 or more years ago to also choose basic courses in the sciences or math. I chose biology and chemistry and it did me no harm! But I was also inspired to become an English major (a dwindling choice these days) and further my studies in the arts. Although I didn’t publish my first book on architecture until I was retired, it was a course in Chicago architecture as an undergraduate at Northwestern that eventually led to the six I’ve done (so far!).

            A seventeen- or eighteen-year-old should be given at least two years to explore the possibilities for future studies and a career. Like that lonely young man, they just might be anxious to get out of bed every morning and get to class. That enthusiasm might lead to eminence in the law or medicine, or a Nobel Prize in literature. At the very least, they might learn that the world wasn’t created on the day they were born.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon    

A World-class Skater

A World-class Skater

By Patrick F. Cannon

Despite being the most disreputable man to ever serve as president of the United States – which is saying something — Donald Trump has managed thus far to avoid being charged with anything that could send him to jail. This has caused severe consternation among his many enemies, but they are now hopeful that the January 6 investigation, or the document business at Mar-A-Lago, will at long last do the trick.

            While Trump has lost in many civil matters over the years, and had to pay up in some cases, heck, it’s only money (and often other people’s at that). And he may well end up settling before trial in the latest civil suit in the State of New York. Even if it goes to trial and he loses, and is banned from doing business in the state, I suspect he’s long since moved most of his operations to Florida.

            But what if he’s actually criminally indicted for his obvious crimes? I’m indebted to David Brooks of the New York Times for questioning whether 12 tried and true American jurors would unanimously vote to convict him. As I know from my own experience as a juror in a murder trial,  one holdout can make a lengthy trial a pointless exercise.

            Trump and his supporters are fond of saying all of  this is a political witch hunt. Of course it is. With a few notable exceptions (Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney, and a scant few others), it’s Democrats who are leading the charge to indict him. But it’s also political for the Republicans office holders who are willing to overlook Trump’s obvious moral, ethical and legal transgressions – and world-class narcissism – because (a) he seems to have a solid base of support among Republican voters, and (b) they’re scared he’ll go after them come election time.

            This is clearly not the same Republican Party that sent a delegation consisting of Senators Goldwater and Scott and House Minority Leader John Rhodes to the White House to tell Richard Nixon in August, 1974 that the jig was up, and he was certain to be impeached, convicted and removed from office. Who now would want to compare Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham to Barry Goldwater?  

            As it happens, I tend to be more conservative than not. I have voted for as many Republicans for president as Democrats. I believe in free trade, free speech, actual separation of church and state, fiscal restraint and international engagement. That’s pretty much what Republicans used to believe in; some perhaps still do. Too many, alas, have fallen victim to a cult of personality. While there is still time, I would urge the rational ones to organize now to stop Trump from even getting the nomination in 2024.

            First, they should discourage fringe candidates from entering primaries. In 2016, the debate stages were full of candidates whose names you have likely forgotten. Encourage someone like former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to run; discourage sure losers like Ted Cruz (bribe him if necessary). Force Republican voters to choose between Donald Trump and a rational human being. Choose integrity.

            By the way, Trump wasn’t and isn’t a Republican. He ran as such because it was his best chance to get nominated. He was and is a Trumpist, and, thus far, a world-class skater. But all skaters eventually fall.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon     

Home, Sweet Home

Home, Sweet Home

By Patrick F. Cannon

Ken Griffin of Citadel LLC, known as Illinois’ richest man ($30 billion plus), is famously planning to decamp from Illinois and move his company to Palm Beach, Florida. Not sure how many homes he owns currently, but I see that two of his Chicago condos are on the market for north of $50 million. Oh, and he just put together a property near Trump’s in Palm Beach where he plans to build a home for dear old mom. Total cost? About $450 million.

            It appears he owns an opulent residence in just about every place he might wish to visit. Apparently, even the best hotels aren’t good enough for him. Nothing like “home sweet home” for a man who would be worth even more if he hadn’t gotten a divorce that cost him about half his net worth. Reading about Griffin’s mania for real estate got me thinking about the irresistible urge some people have to buy houses more as status symbols than just a nice place to live.

            Young men who play professional sports – and their coaches and managers too – seem particularly vulnerable to the urge to house themselves extravagantly. Of course, real estate can be a good investment in a rising market. But at its highest reaches, it can be notoriously fickle. In perhaps the most famous case, Michael Jordon still has not found a buyer for his Highland Park, IL estate, which he originally listed for $29 million, but which you can now have for just under $15 million. Could be that not everyone wants an elaborate gym, full-size basketball court, and 16-car garage.

Writer Bob Goldsborough has a weekly column in the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Real Estate section that chronicles the ups and downs at the top of the market. While Griffin’s transactions are a favorite subject, many of the stories involve recently-fired or traded local sports figures. As you  sports fans know, it’s rare for a player, coach or manager to spend his or her entire career with one team. Some will move four or five times during a career. Yet, they think nothing of spending several million dollars on a  mansion with more bedrooms, bathrooms and parking spaces than  they need. And don’t forget the wine cellar!

I wonder how many of these properties sit empty at any given time? Perhaps the owners rent them out through Airbnb or Vrbo. Might I suggest also that they would be great as places to house the homeless? Imagine all those bedrooms put to good use. An added benefit would be healthy exercise on otherwise dusty treadmills and rowing machines.

Perhaps Griffin hasn’t heard about it yet, but there’s a summer home for sale in the Adirondacks that might catch his fancy. Associated with the Whitney family (look them up) it’s a steal at $180 million. It includes a rustic, but substantial, home and associated buildings. But what sets it apart from even a Palm Beach estate is its 36,302 acres of forests, lakes and ponds, all connected by 100 miles of roads and trails. That’s less than $5,000 an acre. Talk about bargains! If you’re interested, please feel free to call 518.624.2581.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon