“. . . ye, who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow. . . “

San Diego Food Bank, 2013

San Diego Food Bank, 2013

We go through life ignoring the major part of what we see and hear. If you couldn’t filter out the sounds you’re not specifically listening for, you’d hear the din. And if you’re driving down the street and can’t focus your eyes on the path ahead instead of taking in the entire panorama, everyone else on the road better be doing more than defensive driving.

I’ve often taught “music appreciation” classes with the goals of making listening to music consciously enjoyable for the students and helping them understand something of the history of musical style and the place of music in various cultures.

I always include lessons in singing various kinds of melodies—from medieval chant to folksongs to popular songs, to opera arias (anyone can sing a couple arias from Carmen). One of my favorite ways to teach such music is to help students hear dissonances and understand that in tonal Western music, dissonances propel melodies forward because they are set up with chord progressions and they resolve into other chord progressions. Dissonances are to music what “and,” “but,” “so,” “however,” “therefore,” “because,” “even so,” and hundreds more words are to language. Most English teachers call them “transition” words—if they mention them at all. I think, rather, they are “connection” words.

Because the Congress is useless” is not a complete thought. It’s a fragment—even though everyone knows what I mean and agrees with it. The bolded words are like dissonances in music—they make the writing complex and interesting, and they propel the ideas forward by connecting them together. Of course the “because” clause here is a fragment because it is not connected to anything (somewhat like the Boehner/Cruz Congress).

Connect musical ideas and make them interesting—that’s what dissonances do in tonal music. And, like the connecting words in writing and speech, they are so integral a part of our musical patterns that we hardly notice them or know what they are. I’d say—because I’m an elitist and a snob—most people would tell you they don’t like dissonant music. That’s tantamount to saying they don’t like music. Period. All music is (to some degree) dissonant. “Row, row, row your boat” isn’t. “Happy Birthday” has hung on as a cultural icon because it has one crucial dissonance—at the point where we stick in the celebrant’s name. A sort of mellow dissonance, but dissonance all the same, the dissonance for which the song exists, both musically and textually.

Unemployment line, Olympia, Washington, 2013

Unemployment line, Olympia, Washington, 2013

Take the Christmas carol “It Came upon a Midnight Clear,” one of those so ubiquitous this time of year that it might be said to be part of the collective unconscious of the entire English speaking (Christian) world. But a Muslim student told me once it was her favorite Christmas carol.

The standard accompaniment for the tune has dissonances (some so harsh that, if most people heard them in isolation, they would say they were noise) at the bolded words:

It came upon the mid –night clear, that glo –rious song of old; from an –gels bend –ing near the earth to touch their harps of gold. Peace on the earth, good will toward men, from hea –ven’s all gra –cious King. The world in sol emn still –ness lay to hear the an –gels sing.

This little chart does not include the greatest dissonance—the complete change of “key” at “Peace on the earth, good will toward men. . .” It’s almost as if for one sentence in her essay, a tenth-generation American English-speaking student wrote in Arabic for no reason other than to spice up her writing.

I would not try to teach this tune to a group of Russian émigré students again for anything. It’s impossible to comprehend if you didn’t hear it in utero. I know. I tried it once at Bunker Hill Community College.

But the overwhelming problem with the carol—the reason almost no one knows more of the words than the first stanza—is the shockingly harsh dissonance of the words. They are not, like well-constructed dissonance in music, prepared for. They strike out of nowhere and leave the singer horrified. They are not what Christmas, or any other materialistic, capitalism-praising holiday can be about. Members of Congress, for example, cannot—could not, if they ever got beyond the pabulum of the first stanza—believe their ears upon hearing these words. But don’t go feeling all self-righteous about that. If we could believe our ears, Congress would be made up of a much different sort of people, that is, not so much like us.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow,
Look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.

For lo, the days are hast’ning on, by prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

Nope, we don’t even hear the dissonance in that. It’s a hymn to, a prayer for, social justice. No member of Congress is bending low beneath life’s crushing load. Most of us aren’t either. But more and more of us are as the wealthy friends of Congress store up for themselves more and more of the stuff that makes people secure, such as food and clothing and health care and shelter (connecting words bolded).

I don’t know who the angels are these days. But they will eventually arrive. And when they do, those who rest beside the weary road will be able to send back the angels’ song of peace. If you can’t hear that, if it’s too dissonant for you, perhaps you need a course in music appreciation. Or ethical and socially responsible thinking and behavior. As opposed to unthinking militant christianism and capitalism.

I don’t know. Sermon over.

In the Middle Ages the word was “oligarchy”

When I was a kid, all of us were given to believe that we could grow up to be President (well, the white boys, at any rate). At the very least we knew our single little solitary vote counted in elections. I remember the election of 1966 as vividly as any other in my lifetime. I remember standing on the steps of Watchorn Hall at the University of Redlands talking with two of my favorite people, all of us students in the School of Music

We were going to vote for Governor Brown for reelection, of course, rather than Ronald Reagan. It was the first vote of my life. It counted for very little. I lived in California through the entire reactionary (anti-intellectual, anti-middle class, anti-freedom of expression) eight years of Ronald Reagan’s magisterial term as governor.

Edwin Meese was Reagan’s “chief of staff.” He ran the executive branch of the state government. He told Reagan what to think (or at least what to say).

Then there was the Reagan White House. The same arrangement. That is, until Meese became Attorney General. He was implicated in all of the scandals of the Reagan administration.

Now Edwin Meese is in charge of the shutdown of the federal government.

ol·i·gar·chy
noun

1.       a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

Meese has never been elected to public office, only anointed to various overlord positions, most of them by Ronald Reagan.

He seems to be the brains behind the power of the new American Oligarchy—those few, the dominant class, the clique who are running our country. The coup d’état is a fait accompli. The takeover of the government is finished. We have let it happen. We have only ourselves to blame.

Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which is designed to end all constraints on the amount of money a person can contribute to a political campaign. The Court, with its majority led by Antonin Scalia, the Edwin Meese of jurisprudence, will almost certainly throw out fifty years of its own decisions and allow Edwin Meese’s friends to contribute as much as they like to their far right-wing candidates.

We are living in the time of oligarchy. The few.

The few of those who are hiding behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision declaring that, in our oligarchy at any rate, corporations are persons and PACs are no more influential or dangerous than your local PTA, but PACs don’t have to reveal the sources of their money.

I want to go back to the days when any (white boy) kid could become President.

O Joy! Fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation before I die!

The sign of the beast -  but which one?

The sign of the beast –
but which one?

What effect does a “government shutdown” have on an individual citizen trying to get through one more day as if her life meant something?

I forbid students to open an essay with a question (I don’t forbid any writing—I simply take off points from grades for elements of a writing assignment I think do not adhere to “academic” standards, whatever that is).

Every writing, composition, rhetoric (what we used to call “English”) student has heard the rule that an essay should begin with the “general” and move to the “specific.” Asking a question necessarily begins with a specific statement rather than a verifiable general truth.

Let me simplify. Students are instructed to write inductive reasoning (without using the term in teaching them) rather than deductive.

You know the difference because your high school English (writing, composition, rhetoric—whatever obfuscatory, jargony name your school used trying to help you figure out how to use academic English) teacher told you. Deductive reasoning “links premises with conclusions. If all premises are true, the terms are clear, and the rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is necessarily true.” In inductive reasoning “the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion.” (Sorry. These definitions are from Wikipedia. I know. I’m exposing myself as non-academic.)

“While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.”

In other words, if you are being deductive, you can say, “All Tea Partiers think in slogans and misapprehensions. My friend ‘Billy’ thinks in slogans and misapprehensions. Therefore, my friend ‘Billy’ is a Tea Partier.”  This is deductive because the conclusion is true. The first premise is absolutely true. The second is also absolutely true. However, the conclusion is not. “Billy” could have all sorts of things wrong with him besides being a Tea Partier. (The fact is that he is a Tea Partier, but that has nothing to do with my faulty deductive reasoning.)

One of the strangest bits of “deductive” reasoning against the Affordable Care Act is that the government is going to implant a computer chip each of our foreheads—that is, ALL of us, everyone—to keep track of our medical needs and expenditures. Here’s the deductive reasoning:

     And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17).

Barak Obama is the beast.

     Therefore, Barak Obama (that is, Obamacare) will cause each of us to receive a mark (that is, a computer chip) on our right hand or forehead (to buy or sell health services).

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Apparently this came from a preliminary Affordable Care trial balloon (2009) that was never

The least good for the greatest number

The least good for the greatest number

passed which called for a registry of all implantable devices (titanium hips, pacemakers, etc.). This morphed to the requirement to implant a device in all of us in order to register us and was soon announced to be the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation (1).

I had heard of this bit of deduction, and last night “Real Time with Bill Maher” included a “person-on-the-street” segment asking random people on the streets of New York what they knew about Obamacare. Two of the randoms answered that we are all going to be implanted with chips. One of them said to the Maher interviewer, “I’m surprised you don’t know about this.” Of course, the entire sequence may have been staged. I doubt that.

Puts me in mind of the conversation (defeated-by-the-Tea-Party) Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) had with a group of Tea Partiers (during the primary campaign in which they defeated him) who told him we each have a number on the back of our Social Security card that the government shares with our banks in order for our accounts to be collateral for loans they get from the Federal Reserve Bank, and they can take our money whenever they want. See the full story below at (2).  That may be a liberal Urban Legend, but I doubt it.

So this is the kind of inductive/deductive/nonsensical reasoning on which the Republicans base their assertion that a majority of Americans don’t like Obamacare?

Yesterday I had a conference with a student (a wealthy, white student from an affluent community in Texas) regarding her rough draft for her required essay on the short story “The Body Snatcher,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Her ideas were confused to me at first, but through conversation I came to understand that she thought the grave-robbers in the story were engaged in some sort of “game.” Eventually, I got to the basis of her thinking. It came from a philosophy class she took as a first-year student in which the central “take-away” was the Utilitarian philosophy of John Stuart Mill.

All men are mortal.  Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is a Tea Partier.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is a Tea Partier.

And, of course, that is as it’s played out in the bizarre anti-social ideas of Ayn Rand. Grave-robbing (even murder) in the story is not grotesque because it results in “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (providing cadavers for medical students to dissect). And this incomprehensible (to me) philosophy morphed in the student’s mind into Rand’s “objectivism.” Robbing graves to sell the bodies is neither grotesque nor immoral because it provides the grave-robber with income to care for her family.

A little philosophy is a dangerous thing. And a few bizarre and unrelated “facts” are dangerous things in the hands of those who are determined to thwart the objectives of “the Beast.” Is President Obama the First Beast, arising from the sea and demanding allegiance, or the Second Beast, arising from the earth and seducing humanity to worship the First Beast.

Stay tuned. I’m sure the Republicans will clarify anon.

.
.
.
__________
(1) “Will Obamacare Require RFID Chips in Humans by March 23 2013?” wafflesatnoon.com. December 1, 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2013. http://wafflesatnoon.com/2012/12/01/will-obamacare-require-rfid-chips-in-humans-by-march-23-2013/
(2) Corn, David. “Confessions of a Tea Party Casualty.” Mother Jones. Aug. 3, 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2013. Inglis said, “I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, “What the heck are you talking about?” I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, “You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!”

A special post – Essay by Professor James Petras

Note: This essay appears here because it needs to be widely read.

petrasJames Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.
He is a prolific writer especially on Latin America and the Middle East. He also writes insightfully about current events and political currents in the United States. I am fortunate to have had discussions with him, and, therefore, am on his email distribution list and read selected essays before they are published. Please read and pass this essay on.

Wall Street Take-Off:  2012 – 2013

            On July 16, 2013, Goldman Sachs, the fifth largest US bank by assets announced its second quarter profits doubled the previous year to $1.93 billion.  J. P. Morgan, the largest bank made $6.1 billion in the second quarter up 32% over the year before and expects to make $25 billion in profits in 2013.  Wells Fargo, the fourth largest bank, reaped $5.27 billion, up 20%.  Citigroup’s profits topped $4.18 billion, up 42% over the previous year.

            The ruling elite, the financial CEOs pay is soaring:  John Stumpf of Wells Fargo received $19.3 million in 2012; Jamie Dimon of J. P. Morgan Chase pocketed $18.7 million and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs took $13.3 million.

            The Bush-Obama Wall Street bailout has resulted in the deepening financialization of the US economy:  Finance has displaced the technology industry as the profitable sector of the US economy.  While the US economy stagnates and the European Union wallows in recession and with over 50 million unemployed, US financial corporations in the Standard and Poor 500 index earned aggregate profits of $49 billion in the second quarter of 2013, while the tech sector reported $41.5 billion.  For 2013, Wall Street is projected to earn $198.5 billion in profits, while tech companies are expected to earn $183.1 billion.  Within the financial sector, the most ‘speculative sectors’, i.e. investment banks and brokerage houses, are dominant and dynamic growing 40% in 2013.  Over 20% of the S and P 500 corporate profits are concentrated in the financial sector.

            The financial crash of 2008-2009 and the Obama bailout, reinforced the dominance of Wall Street over the US economy. The result is that the parasitic financial sector is extracting enormous rents and profits from the economy and depriving the productive industries of capital and earnings.  The recovery and boom of corporate profits since the crises turns out to be concentrated in the same financial sector which provoked the crash a few years back.

The Crises of Labor Deepens – 2013

            The new speculative bubble of 2012 – 2013 is a product of the central banks’ (the Federal Reserve in the United States) low (virtually zero) interest policies, which allow Wall Street to borrow cheaply and speculate, activities which puff up stock prices but do not generate employment, and furthermore depress industry and polarize the economy.

            The Obama regime’s promotion of financial profits is accompanied by its policies reducing living standards for wage and salaried workers.  The White House and Congress have slashed public spending on health, education and social services. They have cut funds for  the food stamps program (food subsidies for poor families), day care centers, unemployment benefits, social security inflation adjustments, Medicare and Medicare programs.  As a result the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 90% has widened.  Wages and salaries have declined in relative and absolute terms, as employees take advantage of high unemployment (7.8% official) underemployment (15%) and precarious employment.

            In 2013 capitalist profits , especially in the financial capital, are booming while the crises of labor persists, deepens and provokes political alienation.  Outside of North America , especially in the European periphery, mass unemployment and declining living standards has led to mass protests and repeated general strikes.

            In the first half of 2013 Greek workers organized four general strikes protesting the massive firing of public sector workers; in Portugal two general strikes have led to calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister and new elections. In Spain corruption at the highest level, fiscal austerity leading to 25% unemployment and repression have led to intensifying street fighting and calls for the regime to resign.

            The bi-polar world of rich bankers in the North racking up record profits and workers everywhere receiving a shrinking share of national income spells out the class basis of “recovery” and “depression”, prosperity for the few and immiseration for the many.  By the end of 2013, the imbalances between finance and production foretell a new cycle of boom and bust.  Emblematic of the demise of the “productive economy” is the city of Detroit ’s declaration of bankruptcy:  with 79,000 vacant homes, stores and factories the city resembles Baghdad after the US invasion – nothing works.  The Wall Street-devastated city, once the cradle of both the auto industry and the organized industrial workers’ leap into the middle-class, now has debts totaling $20 billion.  The big three auto companies have relocated overseas and to non-union states while the billionaire bankers “restructure” the economy, break unions, lower wages, renege on pensions and rule by administrative decree.

Let’s amend the Constitution

I propose a 28th Amendment to the Constitution reading:


“Neither Congress nor any State Legislature shall pass any law limiting any person’s right to be free from violence at the hands of those who bear arms.”

A book I know well says, “We will not regret the past, nor wish to close the door on it.” I have tried for years to come to terms with that concept. To make it part of my self-perception. Internalizing the idea is pretty difficult for me because much in my past I wish had been otherwise than it was.

I know, I know. Everyone can say that—and would if she were being unabashedly honest. But whether wishing it were not so is the same as regretting, I’ll let keener minds than mine decide. My distinction is that I can regret only those choices I made consciously and willingly, while I can wish experiences over which I had little or no control had not happened.

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here

So much better

So much better

The gang shows up in the middle (in fact, it first appears in the overture) of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. If anyone ever asks you what tunes Arthur Sullivan is noted for, two obvious examples leap to mind, “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” and “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here!” (If the person asking is very sophisticated, you might also mention “Tit-Willow.”) I’ve wondered since the first time I heard Penzance if “Hail, Hail” wasn’t some old British “public” school song Sullivan snitched. But it’s not. He wrote the tune. The words we all know were attached to it in 1917 and published as a popular song in America. But it’s Sullivan’s tune.

Why would anyone ask you what tunes Arthur Sullivan is noted for, you might ask. Who knows? It’s simply what was on my mind when I woke up this morning. I looked it up when Jerome—who has been in a production of Pirates and loves G&S—and I returned to his place after seeing Pirates yesterday. I’m fond of G&S, too. When the short-lived Dallas G&S Society began, a good friend hounded me to get involved, and I would have if I hadn’t had two jobs at the time. It’s a shame the Society didn’t thrive—a city the size of Dallas needs such a group.

Well, now, that sounds pretty much like a letter to the editor. It’s not. It’s a way into what I want to say.

Yesterday Jerome and I celebrated our anniversary. The earliest e-mail to him I have saved in my webmail is from March 2, 2012. One year. We saw the University of North Texas Opera Theater production of Pirates. Then we went to an elegant dinner (there’s no other kind to be had there) at our favorite Mideastern restaurant, Babouch. Then we came home (to his apartment), watched a bit of TV that he had recorded (the Graham Martin show, with Richard Gere—whom we had seen in Arbitrage the night before, courtesy of Netflix), and went to bed.

“Me, senescent.” Me, growing older. That’s what this blog is about, or so it says at the top. And that’s true. Growing older, I’ve come to believe, is OK.

Two old guys acting (dare I say it?) like an old married couple—except, of course, that we don’t actually live together. Two old guys knowing the limits of being set in their ways. It’s fairly obvious I shouldn’t say “two” old guys. I should say an old guy and his inamorato. He’s seven years younger. A young guy.

Tosh (and Jerome)

Tosh (and Jerome)

Here’s the thing about “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here,” Babouch, an anniversary, and me, senescent. I probably would not have dragged myself to Denton to see Pirates, and I wouldn’t even have known Babouch existed were it not for Jerome. And that’s sort of what happens when you start getting older (my right hip feels like I’m just plain old sometimes) and you decide being happy is meant more for old guys than for young guys (this applies to gals, too, but someone else will have to write that one). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We have things backwards in our collective mind.

Life, liberty, and happiness are not meant for young folks. They’re meant for old folks. I can see clearly now.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

I wouldn’t say with Johnny Nash that all the pain is gone and all the obstacles have gone away, but I see clearly now that, even with aches and pains and curmudgeonliness, and all the other things we have  been warned to believe are the evils of old age, life is for us old folks.

“Hail, Hail, the gang’s all here.” The old guys have it. We know about the gang. We’re all here. And I don’t really give a damn how silly or sentimental you think this is. When you’ve been through what we’ve been through and hung on and come out the other side of youth, you’ll understand that even John Boehner and his megalomaniac sequestration don’t matter.

Difficult as it is for two old guys who’ve been practicing their idiosyncrasies for sixty years to match up their quirks, it’s possible. And that difficulty makes the end result much more important—at least that’s my experience. I’m not going to get any sappier than that. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Do you have any idea how much more handsome Richard Gere is now than he was in An Officer and a Gentleman?
???????????????????????

My grandparents were not “takers”

Nina Huntley Knight

Nina Huntley Knight

My paternal grandmother, Nina Huntley Knight, was a commandingly and elegantly beautiful woman.

Two days in to the Great Sequestration. Do you suppose President Obama’s Presidency will be known a hundred years from now as the “Great Sequestration Administration” the way the Warren G. Harding’s is remembered by the Teapot Dome Scandal? My guess is not. In the long run it will be seen as so petty, as so absurd that people will simply forget it. Or it will be, if the White House is politically clever enough (which I doubt), known as the work of the Second Great Do-Nothing Congress.

My maternal grandfather, Edward Leroy Peck, was a jovial and warm-hearted, somewhat ordinary looking guy.

I have been wondering what “sequester” means, and I finally got around to looking it up. It is absurd to call what’s going on in Washington the “sequestration.”

Sequester, verb, late 14c., from Old French sequestrer (14c.), from Late Latin sequestrare “to place in safekeeping,” from Latin sequester “trustee, mediator,” probably originally “follower,” related to sequi “to follow” (see sequel). Meaning “seize by authority, confiscate” is first attested 1510s.

I have been thinking a great deal the last few days about the direct line of personality traits from one generation to the next to the next in my family (we are not unique, but I’ll not extrapolate and let you think about your own family).

Or, perhaps, we are experiencing a “sequestration.” The Congress has certainly “seized” and “confiscated” the means whereby we “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” We ought to demand a special election right now—today—and throw the entire 535 of them out.

I’m enchanted by old family photographs, especially if they are of me—or show a connection between who I turned out to be and my immediate forebears. I’m neither commanding and elegant nor jovial and warm-hearted. So I wonder sometimes how I ended up in my family.

My grandparents, in their own noble ways, were the common folk we believe were the backbone of this country. Grandmother Knight managed to arrange for her two sons to attend a private college during the depression—when Grandfather worked only sporadically as a carpenter. Grandfather Peck had a steady job with sufficient income to support a family of five children through the depression. He was “only” the elevator operator in one of Kansas City’s early skyscrapers, but it fed his family and allowed him and Grandmother Peck to own their own home—the home where my mother and her four brothers grew up and where we visited Grandmother until she could no longer live alone in the 1970s.

Both Grandmother Knight and Grandfather Peck had earned Social Security benefits. Grandfather Peck died too young to draw his, but his Social Security allowed Grandmother Peck to live in dignity without want. Social Security was an important part of the support of both of my grandparents Knight. I used to have (but it has gone the way of so much family memorabilia) the check stub from Grandmother Knight’s first Social Security payment. She saved it for years because it was such a blessing to her.

Edward Leroy Peck

Edward Leroy Peck

My grandparents were not “takers.”

More than usual, the connection between my ideas is vague. So I will throw in one more disconnect. Once about twenty years ago when I was visiting my parents, my father showed me the service leaflet from a funeral he had recently attended. He wanted me to see the words for a song that had been sung.

You can picture happy gath’rings ‘round the fireside long ago.
And you think of tearful partings when they left you here below.

His question for me was his usual one. “Where do they get this stuff?” It was my introduction to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” I, like my father was (and his mother would have been)—well—appalled at the sentimentality and, to Dad and Grandmother, the deplorable theology.

I care little for most country music, and I have no belief that I’m going to meet Grandmother Knight or Grandfather Peck or my dad in the sky by and by.

But I think it’s fair to ask John Boehner (and, let’s be fair, President Obama, too), “Will the circle (of decency and ‘the common welfare’) be unbroken?”

How’s that for stretching an idea to the breaking point?