Goodbye Columbus (with apologies to Phillip Roth)

Goodbye Columbus (with apologies to Phillip Roth)

By Patrick F. Cannon

Poor Christopher Columbus. Statues of the intrepid explorer are being hauled down across this great land. Residents of the many cities and town named after him – including the state capital of Ohio – are agonizing of whether they might want to change their names. (May I suggest Rogersville? So far anyway, Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood have remained unblemished.)

            As a young lad, I was taught that Chris had discovered “America.” I probably assumed that by “America,” they actually meant our dear United States. Eventually, of course, I found out that he had never actually set foot on the mainland of North America, and had instead blundered into what we now call the Bahamas, thinking (hoping?) that he has reached the East Indies.

            (Let me digress for an interesting story. A friend of mine told me years ago that he had gotten a summer job at a union office in Chicago. On the wall was a large painting of Columbus and his crew landing on the shore of what he would call San Salvador. You have probably seen similar views: Columbus at the front of the group proudly holding the Spanish flag; behind him his elegantly-dressed crew holding various standards, including crosses. According to my friend, the title on the frame proclaimed: “Christopher Columbus Dedicating the United States to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”)

            In actuality, Chris was out to make a buck and maybe convert the heathens to Roman Catholicism. That’s pretty much what the so-called Age of Discovery was all about.  In our rush to judge Columbus by our own standards (none too perfect, if we’re honest), we ignore the realities of the times the explorer lived in. And we should not minimize the sheer courage it took to brave the Atlantic in a ship just a bit more than 100 feet long. As a kid, I boarded the hulk of the replica that sailed to Chicago for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It lay rotting in the Jackson Park Yacht Harbor; it’s gone now, but I remember being disappointed at how small it was.

            The profit motive, of course, is timeless. In those days, the spice trade was king. Once folks who could afford them discovered that their heretofore bland food could be greatly improved with spices like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and sage, they couldn’t get enough of the stuff (they never got to Ireland, but that’s another story). 

            When Columbus sailed in 1492, the Roman Catholic church was dominant in Europe (the beginning of the Reformation was about 30 years in the future), and Columbus would have believed that so-called heathens – anyone not a Catholic – would be eternally damned unless they embraced the true faith. In Europe, heretics were routinely tortured and burned at the stake. After the Reformation, things got even worse. No one knows for certain, but at least 20 to 30 million people died during the wars of religion that devastated much of Europe until late in the 17th Century.

            It’s true that the Europeans brought diseases along with them for which the natives had no immunity. Still happens, doesn’t it? And unless they embraced the true faith, staunch Catholics would have had no compunction in enslaving and otherwise mistreating them. Actually, they did similar things at home to their own people who strayed from orthodoxy, and were applauded for doing so.

            Columbus was, of course, an Italian, and it’s the Italian community that’s most up in arms at his “cancellation.” As for the man himself, he’s been dead for 516 years. Despite what many now consider his sins and transgressions, he may well be in heaven. After all, it was a different world then, with a different God.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Let’s All Do Our Part!

Let’s All Do Our Part

By Patrick F. Cannon

It behooves each and every one of us to take global warming seriously and do our part to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we spew into the air we breathe. It will be many decades before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels (of which we have more than enough for ourselves, and to sell to our buddies around the world). In the meantime, all of us has a sacred duty to do what we can to foster cleaner power generation.

            We’re all aware of the obvious ones: wind, solar, hydro and nuclear. But I believe there are others that should be obvious to any woken observer. For example, just the other day, I was on  the way to the golf course for an early tee time when I passed a fitness center. This one happened to have large windows, offering a view of the workout spaces. Plain to see were members young and old, male, female and other, running, pedaling, lifting, rowing and thrusting in or on various contraptions that would not have looked out of place in the torture chambers of the Tower of London.

            What if, I asked myself while keeping one eye peeled on the road, all of these contraptions were wired together to generators connected to the grid or to storage batteries? How much clean energy could the nation’s fitness fanatics provide for their families, neighbors and friends? Some way could even be found to wire the stuff in our own homes into the system. That might even provide an incentive for actually using that dusty treadmill in the basement.

            As I continued my journey, I crossed over the Des Plaines River. While it’s an unlikely location for a mighty dam, it got me to thinking about hydro power. As you may know, many of our fellow Americans get their power from dams like the Hoover, Grand Coulee and Tinker’s. And many parts of the South only got electricity when the Tennessee Valley Authority damned up its many rivers to provide cheap and abundant power, as well as water for drinking and irrigation . Water, I thought to myself, has even more great untapped potential!

            We make use of it before it arrives in our homes and businesses, but what of after? Just the other morning, as I was shaving, I heard the unmistakable sound of rushing water in the wall behind the nearby toilet. As it happens, there are three apartments above me and one below. The entire building includes no fewer than 60 similar units, many with not one but two toilets! Imagine if the power of all this rushing liquid could be somehow harnessed?

And that’s just the toilets! How about all the sinks? Then add my modest building to the hundreds of thousands – or is it millions? – of mighty apartment and office buildings that dot our great land, and you have torrents that could turn vast turbines! And how about the beer-fueled urinals at Wrigley Field and other sporting venues? It’s easy to imagine the flow keeping the lights on for night games.

And why only harness the power of wind with those huge blades that dot our rural landscapes. Their average size is 116 feet, or 20 times longer than yours truly. It is not unknown for the odd blade to break off and cause havoc to nearby cattle or pickup trucks. Just this morning, I was watering the plants on my balcony when it occurred to me that modest-sized (and shrouded) wind turbines could be clamped on balconies, roof tops, street lights and other convenient places, all wired together and making the power grid hum. The blades could even be multi-colored to create a rotating rainbow effect!

I’m sure my faithful readers can come up with their own ideas to save the planet from boiling over. I’ll happily put them all together and forward them on to the Department of Energy. As you know, sometimes bureaucrats overlook simple solutions in their quest to overcomplicate and delay. I’m sure many of them would give up their naps to save the planet.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

They Hired It, Didn’t They?

They Hired It, Didn’t They?

By Patrick F. Cannon

Although some of my younger family members may be benefitting from it, I think President Biden’s cynical election-year forgiveness of $10,000 in student debt was a bad idea. It thumbs his nose at all those who actually paid back their loans; or worked their way through school; or joined one of the armed-services for their educational benefits; or whose family sacrificed to pay their tuition and other costs.

            In a very real way, it also rewards the many colleges and universities that think nothing of charging outrageous sums for what is often a dubious return. The last time I looked, my own alma mater, Northwestern University, was charging $58,700 per year for full tuition and fees. I concede that few students actually pay that much (the average for a middle-class family is $41,600), except for the foreign students who are courted for their parents’ willingness to cough up the entire $235,000 for an American college education.

            Why these high costs? Administrative bloat is one reason. Highly-paid professors who don’t teach much is another. I had one complain to me that he was being required to teach an actual class in a coming semester, as if it were an intolerable imposition! In many cases, our children are being taught instead by low-paid and resentful teaching assistants or non-tenured “adjunct” faculty.

            It doesn’t have to be that way. I am indebted to my friend Steve for reminding me that Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and currently president of Purdue University (retiring on January 1), has actually managed to reduce the costs of tuition and fees in real terms during his tenure. Full costs for in-state students are about $20,000 per year; and for out-of-state, $38,000. And let me remind you that no one needs to apologize for a Purdue degree.

            In this crazy world, when the Democrat-controlled Congress passes a trillion dollar spending package, they call it a Debt Reduction Act! Now, I guess we’re going to spend another $300 billion to further reduce the deficit! George Orwell would recognize the irony.

            It occurred to me that we might ask the Chinese – who hold much of our debt – to forgive some of it, maybe a few trillion or so. It’s the least they can do for their best customer. Perhaps you didn’t know we owed them so much?

            Oh well. I’ll stop there. One last thing though. When President “Silent Cal” Coolidge was asked whether we should forgive Great Britain’s World War I war debt, he responded with: “They hired the money, didn’t they?” In those days, people tried to avoid debt in the first place, but believed you were obligated to pay it back. We stopped believing in that a long time ago, and the government is leading the way.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Consequences, Intended or Not

Consequences, Unintended or Not

By Patrick F. Cannon

Although not as widely recognized as the Bald Eagle, which managed to become one of our national symbols, the Golden Eagle is slightly larger and has more powerful talons. It’s range extends from Mexico to Alaska; it is rarely seen in the Midwest or East.  

            The noble bird, which can have a wing span of nearly eight feet, was recently in the news as a victim of the clean-energy movement. It seems that wind farms in Wyoming are killing more than a few of the raptors, who blunder into them as their vast blades slowly rotate in the Western winds. While I won’t go into all the details here, there’s a law in Wyoming that penalizes anyone who kills a Golden Eagle, so the company that runs the wind farm has been heavily fined.

            There is a wonderful irony here. Wind, along with solar, hydro, and nuclear,  is one of the non-polluting sources of the energy which modern folks gobble up so rapaciously. So, a company in the business of generating “clean” energy is fined because birds fly into their slowly rotating (and giant) blades. Of course birds of all kinds bump into all kinds of things – buildings, cell and radio towers, and power lines, among other obstacles. Some are just stunned, shake it off and resume their journeys. Others, alas, make the ultimate sacrifice to progress.

            The Golden Eagle, which has no enemy save us, keeps the population of bunnies, squirrels and other rodents in check. It’s a beautiful creature, and certainly worth preserving. It may be that scientists will find a way to save them from the danger of the wind turbines – perhaps by painting the blades in colors or patterns that alert them to the danger; or generating some kind of sound waves to scare them off.  But if not, what’s more important, our clean energy (and some say, survival as a species) or the loss of a few hundred birds a year?

            Don’t ask me who figured this out, but it’s said that 99.9 percent of the earth’s total of four billion former and current species are now extinct. Since about the year 1500, we have been responsible for directly causing the extinction of about 1,000. Most of the time, it was because we enjoyed eating and/or shooting them; or we built cities, towns and public works that eliminated their habitat. In some cases, we may have killed them off while trying to get rid of some other pest.

            Let’s face it. We’re at the top of the species chain, and usually make decisions meant to maintain that primacy. At the moment, many of us feel threatened by, or at least grudgingly admit, the existence and perils of global warning. After all, most of that 99.9 percent became extinct because of climate change or natural disasters.  

            We have been making choices like this throughout our history, sometimes for convenience, or greed, or survival. Is every species sacrosanct, even if it means forgoing sources of clean energy?  Will a vast solar array despoil a pristine wilderness? Will the view of rich residents be ruined by an off-shore wind farm? Will a hydro project cause the extinction of an inedible crawfish?

            History is full of unintended consequences. Now, we will increasingly be asked to weigh intended consequences. While I’m sure we’ll try to find ways to minimize the peril to the Golden Eagle, I’m just as certain that we’ll still put ourselves first.  

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

I’m Too Fat!

I’m Too Fat!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I’m technically obese, which means that I have a body mass index (BMI) above 30. The formula for computing it involves your weight and height, but that would only provide an approximate BMI; a more precise one would need to take into account your percentage of muscle to fat. While I have little excess fat on my legs and arms, I’m sure my tummy would still put me over the magic 30.

            In the last year or so, I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I should lose another 20, which would probably get me down below that 30 BMI. On the other hand, I’m consoled by a recent report that said having a little extra weight at my age (84) might have some advantages. And of course I have a good deal of company. We live in the most obese country in the world. Overall, 42.4 percent of us are technically obese.

            The percentage of the morbidly obese, with BMIs over 40, is at seven percent and rising (it has doubled in the last 15 years). While this seems a low number, it means that at least 22.5 million of our neighbors are dangerously overweight.  It hardly seems necessary to point this out, but excess weight leads to serious health problems —  heart attack, stroke, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, and increased infant mortality, among many others. It’s estimated that caring for them adds $150 billion a year to our healthcare costs.

            Although more men than women are overweight, more women (11.5%) than men (6.9%) are morbidly obese. The highest numbers are among African-American women. This is certainly concerning, as is the childhood obesity rate of 19.7 %. But before I get carried away with the statistics, I think we can agree that we have a serious public-health problem, and one that’s getting worse. So where is the urgency in addressing it?

            To give some perspective, in 1954, 45% of Americans smoked; in 2020, the percentage had dropped to 12.5. Why? Because of a relentless advertising campaign to educate the public about the true effects of tobacco on the public health, deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and COPD have all declined. That campaign obviously worked and continues to this day.

            If you look at the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, obesity can be a contributing cause in all but one or two. Yet where is the kind of public health advertising and public information campaign that was so successful against smoking?  I see no evidence that it exists or is even contemplated. Indeed, against all logic, being obese seems to be becoming chic.

            (There are, of course, numerus ads for weight-loss products and systems. Notice that they mostly emphasize appearance, not health. How many millions of pounds do people lose and gain back every year? It’s estimated that at least 80 percent of weight lost is gained back.)

            We now have performers who actually flaunt their excess weight; they even dress to emphasize their bulges. Overweight models increasingly appear in both print and television advertising, and not – as you might suppose – for weight-loss programs and nostrums. And just the other day, I saw a promo for a new program on WE-TV that will feature morbidly-obese beauty-salon workers who cater to (you guessed it) morbidly-obese customers.  It’s as if being obese is a lifestyle choice, like deciding which sex you would rather be.

            We are told that it’s blatantly discriminatory to “shame” the obese. But I have to wonder if we have reached the point where public health education has become shameful? If so, why is it not shameful to point out the proven health risks associated with smoking, but not to highlight the very real risks associated with excess weight?  No one is advocating yelling “hey fatso” to our obese neighbors, or playing the “Too Fat Polka” at weddings or other events, but simply educating them continuously about the very real health risks (including premature death) associated with those excess pounds. Such a campaign might even encourage me to lose those 20 pounds!

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Duck, Nancy, Duck!

Duck, Nancy, Duck!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I can’t for the life of me understand why Nancy Pelosi wanted to go to Taiwan. I’ve been there twice myself. The first time was in 1981. My memories include sitting in the rain and watching some kind of national day parade in Taipei, which included their military riding along in vehicles and tanks obviously donated by the USA; and eating a meal the last day that kept me in the bathroom for several weeks thereafter.

            The next time, in 1987, was for a convention of my employer, Lions Clubs International. The parade that time was our own, and I escaped without getting sick. I must say that considerable progress had been made in the years since my first visit – new buildings, better hotels, cleaner streets – but traffic was just as chaotic. Although her injuries were minor, one of my employees was hit by an anarchist-driven cab.

            Nowadays, Taipei has some of the world’s tallest buildings, and fancy hotels like the Four Seasons, Ritz and Peninsula (I had stayed in the exotically-named Lai Lai Shangri-La). They may even have installed traffic lights. All in all, Speaker Nancy found an overall snazzier place than I did.

            Why did she go?  Well, to tell the Chinese government that they couldn’t tell her where to go and what to do, by gum! To the Chinese, Taiwan is part of China, even though the Taiwanese might  think that they are a separate self-governing democracy. Anything that might support that delusion is anathema to the Ruling Communist Party (RCP). Our government doesn’t actually recognize Taiwan as an independent country, but has made it clear to the RCP and its President for Life Xi Jinping that they should keep their Commie hands off.

            To show their displeasure, the Chinese withdrew from our ongoing military and climate talks. No problem there, since they never tell the truth in any negotiations anyway. But they also imposed sanctions on Speaker Pelosi and her family. On the face of it, this probably seemed laughable to Nancy. After all, she already has the latest I-Phone. But she hadn’t realized until the other day how far into American society the tentacles of the RCP had reached. Everyone knows, of course, that they have placed moles in the hearts of industry and academia. But the other day, she found out to her horror that their evil machinations had reached into the very heart and soul of her beloved San Francisco!

            Although born and raised in Baltimore, she has lived in San Francisco for most of her life, and represents it in Congress. When she returns, she never fails to dine at the world famous Yank Sing restaurant in the city’s storied Chinatown. And, inevitably, she will order her favorite – Peking Duck. Imagine her shock and dismay when the waiter told her “No duck today.”

            “How could that be,” she said in stunned disbelief, “you’re famous for your Peking Duck!”

            “Cook say he try to buy duck, but told every duck in California bought up and shipped to Miami; some go to Cuba too. Say may not have duck for long time. But we have goose. Cook said he could cook your goose instead.”

            Thus did the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America learn how far the Chinese government was willing to go to wreak havoc upon her for daring to put her spiked heels on the soil of their Taiwan!

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Keep Them to Yourself

Keep Them to Yourself

By Patrick F. Cannon

“Democracy, if I understand it at all, is a society in which the unbeliever feels undisturbed and at home. If there were only half a dozen unbelievers in America, their wellbeing would be a test for our democracy, their tranquility would be its proof.”

                                                                        E. B. White, 1956, in Collected Essays

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or prohibiting the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

                                                                        First Amendment, US Constitution

On June 27, in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the US Supreme Court said it was OK for a public high school football coach to say a prayer of thanks after a game in the middle of a public-school  football field.  To be brief, the coach took to kneeling on the field to say his prayers, and was later joined by players from both teams. The school board, cognizant of the fact that prayer has long been banned in public schools, asked Kennedy to stop. He didn’t and was as good as fired, since his contract was not renewed.

            He sued, saying his right to free speech was denied. If you’ll look at the part of the First Amendment quoted above, you’ll see there is a semi-colon between the religious establishment clause and that regarding freedom of speech. They are not the same thing, but the court seems to think they are. Just as they seem to forget to read the entire Second Amendment, emphasizing “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” and ignoring the real meaning of the opening clause “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”  The  clauses cannot be separated; they are part of the same sentence. Each was and is dependent on the other, as was intended by the framers.

            A little background. The religious establishment clause is there because a significant percentage of the British settlers in what became the United States came here at least partially to escape a country that had an official religion (and still does), and required its citizens to financially support it whether they were members or not. And we no longer have militias in the form that existed in 1787, wherein local citizens banded together to serve the state when called upon, and armed themselves. They have now been replaced by the state National Guards, which supply any needed arms to its members.

            While the six members of the Supreme Court who voted to let Kennedy and others say their prayers saw a distinction between this case and permitting prayers in classrooms, I see no essential difference. Kennedy was free to silently pray all he wanted, as long as he was not seen to be praying in public on public property. The claim that no one was forced to pray with him is ridiculous. We’re dealing with high school kids here. Did the six justices never hear of peer pressure? And, by the way, does Kennedy’s God care where he says his prayers?  Does God give more attention to public prayer?

            I should point out that five of the six justices who voted for Kennedy are Roman Catholics, and the sixth, Neil Gorsuch, was raised Catholic but now attends an Episcopal church. Do you really think it was a coincidence that the same six voted to overturn Roe v. Wade?

            While I’m on my high horse, let me say I would also ban the prayers that often open public meetings, including Congress. Failing that, I would ask that an atheist be included in the rotation. How’s this for an invocation: “Don’t blame God. This mess is all your fault.”

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Golfing with the Derdzinskis

Golfing with the Derdzinskis

By Patrick F. Cannon

Last week, I played nine holes of golf and had lunch with three of my nieces, daughters of my late wife Jeanette’s sister, Mary Derdzinski and her late husband John. During the luncheon conversation, when talking about this weekly blog, one kiddingly suggested I do one titled “Golfing  with the Derdzinskis.” So, here it is.

            For the record, their married names are Beth Edwards, Julie Donzelli and Sue Ellen Vozza (left to right in the photo). In the interests of full disclosure, I rode the golf cart with Beth, who shot a 41 (even with an 8 on one hole) to my 43. I don’t know what Julie and Sue Ellen shot, but both of them hit the ball farther than me. Ah, youth! I would not hazard a guess as to their ages, but they were all teens when I first met them a bit more than 35 years ago. Most of my nieces’ own children have already graduated from college, a couple are married, and others have set wedding dates. As you can see from the photo, these three have aged well!

            I actually have seven nieces from Jeanette’s family. The eldest of the Derdzinskis is Karen Fitzpatrick. Jeanette’s sister, Gerri Ciucci and her late husband Dominic, had three daughters: Mara Thanos, Laura Tyler and Michelle Woodring.

            This “Golfing” piece has given me an opportunity to say something about the importance of family. When you marry into a family, you often just don’t know how you’ll be accepted. Jeanette’s family not only accepted, but embraced me. If you the read “Dear Amy” in the Chicago Tribune, as I do, you’ll have read many horror stories about the “in-laws from hell.” I lucked out. My own family and friends have also been all that I could have hoped for and more.  

            This became particularly important when Jeanette was diagnosed with leukemia in August, 2018. Although she was eventually cured  of that, she was diagnosed with an unrelated brain tumor in January of last year, which took her from us in February. During the entire  time of her  illnesses, her nieces supported her (and me) in every way they could. They made regular visits to the hospitals – where she spent a total of three months – to our home and, in the last seven months, to the assisted-living facility where she died. She was never alone, not even for a single day.

            (I see I have used the adjective “late” several times in this article. In the last couple of years, many people close to me have died: my wife; my brother; my best friend’s wife; both of my brothers-in-law; a close friend and golfing buddy; and a member of my book group, among others. At my age, this is expected. All the more reason to cherish the friends and family who are left, even if they do outhit you on the golf course!)

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Electricity Made Simple

Electricity Made Simple

By Patrick F. Cannon

The fact that everything is more complicated than I  think it is has never stopped me from trying to make sense of it all. Take President Biden’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia. Despite saying during his campaign for president that they should be branded as “pariahs,” he sucked it up and went there hat in hand  because they still have a lot of oil and are sworn enemies of our enemy, Iran. I’m on record as saying that individual sportsmen should shun Saudi money, but countries have different priorities and moralities, don’t they?

            I don’t pretend to understand the petroleum market, but I do suspect that if everyone pumped at capacity, there would be a glut on the market and prices would fall. Shortages of oil – or rice, corn or soybeans for that matter – will have the opposite effect. We are feeling that now. Although prices have begun to slowly decrease in the great state of Illinois, regular still costs about $5.50 a gallon. We encourage the Saudis to produce more because we import about 40 percent of the oil we need, despite actually being able to produce what we need here.

            Let me repeat that. We could produce all the oil we need. But what happens? When the Republicans are in power, the oil flows. When the Democrats take over, they do everything possible to stop the flow. Pipelines that are essentially finished are never used. Drilling permits are denied. Environmentalists cheer! Progressives cheer! I pay more for gasoline for my car, fuel to heat my home, and electricity to do just about everything else. It is just one more example of how ideology gets in the way of practical solutions. And, by the way, it’s becoming clear that the Supreme Court is going to force the Congress to actually legislate, not only about abortion, but the environment as well.  Strangely enough, however, we have made progress despite the political backing and forthing.

            In the long term, we have every reason to wean ourselves from fossil fuels; and not only to halt obvious global warming, but to improve the air we breathe. In fact, we are already doing so. In the year 2000, 85 percent of our electricity was generated from fossil fuels; last year, 61 percent. Coal’s share is now 21 percent; with natural gas at 39. In 2000, coal’s share was 51.5 percent. For the record, renewables – mainly including wind, solar and hydro – have increased to 20 percent from less than 5 percent in 2000. Nuclear produces about 19 percent of our electricity.

            For the short term, we should subsidize technologies like wind and solar. As volume and costs of production decrease, as they already are, the subsidies should be phased out. This is already happening in the electric vehicle market. Although the average cost is still about $10,000 higher than gas-powered, you can get one with a range of 250 miles for about $31,000. The same thing is happening for home-installed solar panels. In fact, I think local governments should require solar systems in all new construction, including multi-family.

            One barrier to increasing solar, wind (and yes, nuclear) power is the old “not in my neighborhood” movement. I seem to recall that the rich folks who summer on Martha’s Vineyard  Island off the coast of Massachusetts objected to wind turbines in the waters near that exclusive enclave. Would spoil their view, they claimed. Others object to solar arrays for similar reasons. What if they had to live near a coal-fueled generating plant?

By the way, the fossil fuel folks have every incentive to find a way to eliminate carbon dioxide from their emissions. Another source with potential is hydro power, mostly produced by dams. Now at about 7 percent, it may be increasingly possible to harness river flow and tides to generate power.

Despite the claims and wishes of environmental radicals, the elimination of fossil fuel emissions is going to take decades, not years. A realistic goal? 2050? 2060? I don’t know, but the trend has already begun. In 20 years, we’ve reduced fossil fuel use by 25 percent, and the use of renewables is accelerating apace. Who’s to say that today’s 61 percent might be 20 percent by 2050 by just letting science and the market do their work? Now, if we could just get cows to stop farting, and the Chinese and Indians to do their share!

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I belong to several organizations and subscribe to a couple of magazines. What all of them have in common is the annoying practice of trying to encourage you to renew your membership or subscription long before they’re due to expire. You may think they do this because they’re unorganized or scatterbrained. No, they do it hoping you’ll forget when the actual renewal is due, and mindlessly send the money along early. I believe the idea is to keep doing this until you’ve paid enough for a lifetime subscription or membership. Perhaps if you die before they expire, the  remaining time can be added to your estate?

It’s also getting hard to be charitable about charities. Once you donate, the deluge begins. You can expect new solicitations to come at least monthly. Mostly, I just consign them to the recycle pile unopened. After the paper is recycled, no doubt it comes back eventually in a new plea for funds. By the way, I don’t feel the least guilty about using the stuff (nickels, dimes, quarters, note pads, pens, greeting cards, etc.) that they send to encourage donations. In recent months, I’ve even gotten socks and garden gloves. Garden gloves? What genius thought that one up? Eventually, after 10 or 20 years, they give up (unless you weaken and donate again).

 What would the Postal Service do without them, or the catalogs that fill our mailboxes? Aside from the occasional greeting card and bill, what else is there? I live in a condo building which has recycling bins in the garage, so when I pick up my mail, I often go directly there to unload the unwanted catalogs and other solicitations. Saves me a trip. As it happens, if you never order from the catalogs, eventually they get the message and drop you from the list. They cost a lot more to print and mail than a letter, even one with unwanted greeting cards.

 By the way, you probably know that most organizations are only too  happy to  sell their mailing (and email) lists. Many years ago, I did some very modest direct mail campaigns. I got friendly with a rep of a direct-mail specialist company. Although all this would now be available digitally, in those days you referred to a catalog of available lists. It was as big as the Chicago phone book (you do remember phone books, don’t you?). Most organizations sold their lists, and still do. You can’t escape! Give to the VFW, and don’t be surprised if you get a solicitation from the Bereft Veterans of the Grenada Rescue Operation.

 Perhaps most annoying of all are the phone calls. Does any day go by without you getting at least two or three annoying calls for products or services you don’t want (and may be phony anyway). How often can one be told that one’s car warranty is expiring (for the record, my car is 11 years old). I notice that many of these calls come from local area codes, and even have my local exchange number.

To make sure you don’t miss real calls, you almost have to memorize the phone numbers of friends and relatives. By the way, I regularly register with the National Do Not Call Registry of the Federal Trade Commission, which I suspect is yet another of the government agencies whose employees spend their days not answering the phone.

While I’m in a complaining mood, let me also once again berate the Chicago network affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC (which are owned by those networks) for using their news programs to promote parent company entertainment programs and films. During a 30 minute local news program, only about 22 minutes of the 30  don’t have commercials. Weather forecasts – why are there more than one? – consume another four or five minutes, leaving maybe 16 for actual news. Let me use WLS-TV, the ABC station, as an example,  while pointing out that the other Chicago stations do much the same.

As it happens, ABC is part of the Disney entertainment colossus. Disney operates the famous theme parks; has a regular and streaming channel; and also owns Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century and Searchlight Pictures. And it’s also a major producer of Broadway musicals. Obviously, it could afford to pay for commercials, but instead insists that its ABC local stations treat the opening of a new movie (for example) as news, thus reducing the time available for real news even further.  

I wonder if journalism schools now teach a mandatory course called “How to read non-news with a smile on your face.” If not, maybe Disney can fund a chair in Entertainment News. As it happens, most of the folks at WLS-TV are graduates of either the University of Illinois or the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I’m sure either would happily take the dough.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon