Monday, November 30, 2009

* The Serenity Prayer: Play it again, Sam

Yale Daily News

Yale librarian recants doubts of “Serenity Prayer” authorship
By Ilana Seager
Staff Reporter
Published Monday, November 30, 2009

Yale librarian Fred Shapiro, who last year questioned whether Reinhold Niebuhr ’14 GRD ’15 truly authored the Serenity Prayer, has been persuaded to retain Niebuhr as the author in the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations, which Shapiro edits. The decision came after a researcher at the Duke University library found a Christian student newsletter from 1937 that explicitly cites Niebuhr as the writer of the prayer. Shapiro first suggested that Niebuhr was not the author after finding newspaper articles and pamphlets that cited the prayer as early as 1936, while Niebuhr’s family said...
#1 By on November 30, 2009Here's one time authorship is almost irrelevant (except to the Niebuhr family) since plagiarism made this the second most famous prayer in the Christian world, one which is even used by atheists and agnostics by simply omitting the first word ("God") and starting with "Grant". The "Grantor" could be "Cosmic Tranquility" or any number of acceptable non-anthropomorphic , non-deistic amorphous "forces"

NB: Agnostics accomplish the same end with the first and most famous prayer in Christendom by turning the "Lord's prayer" into two question[s]: Our Father? Who art in Heaven?


* Gaming The Yale/Harvard Game

Yale Daily News

FOOTBALL Yale blows lead in final minutes
Williams: 'It hurts'

By R.J. Rico
Staff Reporter
Published Saturday, November 21, 2009

#81 Gatsby Old Sport (PK) Monday, November 23, 2009

Eighty comments in eight [days]!
You outdid the "Mr. Yale" gender puckersnatch which ended after a week at 68 comments.

What are sports FOR?
To soak up all this mindless energy?

What is Yale FOR?


Saturday, November 28, 2009

* The Academic Industrial Complex (Killing Huck Finn Once and for All)

"It is a rare person who is naturally inclined to sit still for sixteen years in school, and then indefinitely at work, yet with the dismantling of high school shop programs this has become the one-size-fits-all norm, even as we go on about 'diversity' ". (Crawford, p. 73)

Matthew B. Crawford

Matthew Crawford ( Ph.D from the University of Chicago and a motorcycle mechanic), reminds us several times in his brilliant ---alternatingly dense and coarse --- book, of the words of Anaxagoras: "It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals."

He raises the spectre of America becoming a nation of disembodied brains, skilled in reading the social cues of a managerial culture, but divorced from the joy of knowing things empirically from the process of "analyzing" them with our hands.

He does not raise the spectre of a nation which seems to be handing its children's education over to a monolithic Academic Industrial Complex, which devises brain measurements and instruments to test those measurements, instruments which require no more use of the hands than keyboard choreographies.

In his last speech as president, Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the nation in 1961 and warned of the dangers of a Military Industrial Complex, dangers we have seen, and see now, in dubious military proposals for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ike forgot to clean his glasses and see what was else was boiling on the national stove: The Academic Industrial Complex which is about to drain the Huck Finn joy out of American childhood forever.

When I was a child in the 1950's and hung around the livingroom on an afternoon watching TV, my mother would issue her hated but wise command which I can still hear even today: "Go outside and play and don't come back until supper."

There are no such commands being issued in homes or even in the recess-free, obesity-prone school populations today.

Instead, eyes are rivetted to screens, ears to earphones, and hands to keyboards.

And we wash our hands of it as we post the standardized test scores of our standardized children on our standardized refrigerators with our standardized magnets.

". . . all made of ticky tacky . . ."



Friday, November 27, 2009

* Melting on Health Care: My Half-a-Loaf Reversal

Strike It Rich!

After watching the Dr. Oz Houston Free Health Care Clinic on television the day after Thanksgiving I have renounced my opposition to President Obama's health care legislation despite months of publicly opposing it, beginning with my "interview" with Senator Bernard Sanders (Senator Sandbag)on the issue:

Dr. Oz's Houston Free Health Care Clinic saw over 1700 patients in one day, a new national record. Several of those patients he presented today on his program and offered them free surgical help.

I melted.

It reminded me of the early 1950's television program Strike It Rich with Warren Hull (1951-58).

On that program three different contestants would appear and tell their hardship story. At the end of the program a large heart with three windows would register audience applause. The window with greatest applause won the cash award to relieve the contestant's hardship.

Directors of the show would have to take Warren Hull by the arms and walk him around the block after the program to steady him from the ordeal of not only having to listen to the hardships stories, but the agony of having to bait and discard two contestants.

Luckily, Dr. Oz (a creation of Oprah Winprey and her day time talk-show which began featuring him two years ago) did not discard any candidates for help today.

At least, not in front of the cameras.

And even if he is the Oprah conglomerate's mouthpiece to help President Obama sell the urgent need for universal health care in the country, I have no objection. No one should be without health care in the richest country in the world.

Even if I think Obama's health care plan might have killed me a year ago (which I do so think)I have melted after this Dr. Oz presentation. Just grab me by the arms and walk me around the block a couple of times and I'll sign on the dotted line (or my president will).

The most chilling of Dr. Oz's beneficiaries was a 42-year-old man from Texas with an entire lower lip swollen into a black cancerous tumor. Dr. Oz offered him surgery and made him pledge to stop smoking.

Some hard headed, stubborn, independent Yankee types might object to paying for such a person's surgery, saying, "Nobody forced him to smoke."

As someone whose mother and father died at 73 and 78 repectively of smoking related illness (emphysema), I say HOLD ON A MINUTE.

Smoking is an addiction.

And addiction is an illness.

Both of my parents were intelligent and middle class. Both were as addicted to cigarettes as an alcoholic is to alcohol.

(Golden Anniversary Photo: Robert and Barbara Keane, 1983)

We do not punish people for being ill.

The illness is punishment in itself in many cases.

When I think of my mother, fully consccious, unable to get off a ventilator in an Intensive Care Unit for 118 days before she died because her emphysemic lungs were not strong enough for her to breathe on her own, I have no doubt that the illness
is punishment.

Cast my vote FOR health care legislation, no matter how inadequate the legislation may be. Half a Loaf is better than none.

Walk me around the block please.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

* Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)

I don't know who invented Hell AKA eternal damnation. An underworld called Sheol is mentioned in the Old Testament, but no concept of eternal punishment is associated with it.

The New Testament obviously gets the blame for this happy idea. And it is one of the reasons Bertrand Russell rejects Christianity in his essay Why I am Not a Christian. If I recall correctly, he says something like this (only more eloquently): Any religion which introduced the idea of eternal damnation into the world is evil and I cannot subscribe to it.

Well, if he didn't say that, he should have.

Around the time the music of the Beatles began saving the world from hypocrisy (1960), secular American society began ignoring hell until today when no one ---except very old and literal-minded Christians (Ted Kennedy writing the Pope?)--- is actually frightened by hell any more as a real, potential destination on the lower floor of a triple decker universe where evil doers spend eternity being savagely punished.

Or if they do, they believe in it as a place OTHER people are going to wind up in, or as a psychological state in THIS world which can be worked out of by improved behavior AKA contrition and rectitude.

The trouble with the trivialization of hell is that it was a good Skinner Box technique for training socially acceptable behavior. Like an electric shock, the fear of hell would keep others from transgressing too much, at least in personal issues. (Except for Huck Finn who decided to go to hell for lying rather than betray his slave friend Jim. Good choice, Huck!)

Unfortunately, that Skinner Box didn't seem to work in war (the one exception allowed to the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" one-way-trip-to-hell-violation). Read these statistics for the Twentieth Century from a book by one of our former National Security Advisors:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century (1993)

"Lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage":

167,000,000 to 175,000,000

War Dead: 87,500,000
Military war dead:
Civilian war dead:

Not-war Dead: 80,000,000
Communist oppression:

Even Abraham Lincoln, in the century prior, cooked up a way to justify the killing he ordered and escape the Skinner-Box of hell: "For every drop of blood from the lash, a drop of blood from the sword." Thus he came to believe that the Civil War deaths of both Union and Confederate soldiers were Providence's way of balancing the scales of divine justice for the evil of slavery.

Who knows. Sounds pretty. But it's rather blood-thirsty of the deity, don't you think?

Dead is dead. And those statistics above are MILLIONS not THOUSANDS.

I say, bring hell back and make it twice as bad and totally inflexible: You kill (or order others to kill): you go to hell and suffer in flaming torture forever.

For Ever.

That would have included Honest Abe, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Eisenhower, Churchill, Kennedy,McNamara, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, and perhaps now, Obama. (Notice they're all males? Maybe we need to give a few more women the power to kill, besides Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher.)

* A Half Century-Plus of First Amendment Calisthenics


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

* Hubris Mirror: Benjamin Franklin's and Abraham Lincoln's Turkey Day

A Grace for Yale Divinity School, Thanksgiving, 1976

You can’t say grace
If you don’t feel gratitude.

And in this old land
“I paid for it, so I deserve it”
Is an on-going national attitude.

Sure, we mortals croon
‘Cause we walked on the moon
Minutely divining its latitude.

But till time comes to end
Or there’s no more to spend
There’ll be no real change in our habitude:

The trouble with Grace
Is that new time and space
Is perennially bloating our vanitude.

What we need right now
As we sit down to chow
Is a mirror: To check-out our finitude.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

* "Our long national nightmare . . ." Gerald R. Ford

Ghost of Thanksgiving Past : What We Went Through: 1963-1974

John F. Kennedy
Lee Harvey Oswald
Malcolm X
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy
My Lai
Kent State
Jackson State
Abandoned Presidency

President Nixon resigns, 1974.

Congressional Watergate Investigation, 1973/4

Two students killed, ten wounded by police at Jackson State College, 1970

Four students killed, nine wounded, by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University, 1970

The slaughter of 500 civilians by U. S. troops at My Lai, Viet Nam, 1969

Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated, 1968.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated, 1968.

Malcolm X is murdered, 1964.

Alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is murdered, 1963.

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Thanksgiving, 1963.

"Too much happens...Man performs, engenders, so much more than he can or should have to bear. That's how he finds that he can bear anything...That's what's so terrible."

William Faulkner
Light in August

"After the first death there is no other."

Dylan Thomas
A Refusal to Mourn the Death of a Child, by Fire, in London

Denial is the greatest and most salvific of all human faculties. Or, as a more prosaic pundit put it, "Human beings have a built-in forgetter."

Monday, November 23, 2009

* Death in Hanover and the Hippocratic Oath

Paulina Karpis reports tonight 11/23 the following sad story as an email bulletin in The Dartmouth, the student newspaper at Dartmouth College five miles from my home:

Henry Masters, a student in the master's of public health program at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, passed away this weekend after testing positive for the H1N1 virus. Masters had a chronic autoimmune disorder that College President Jim Yong Kim said in a campus-wide e-mail Monday afternoon was the "underlying cause" of his death.

Whether or not President Kim had the family's permission to discuss the deceased student's health situation is not the question. And we extend our sincere condolences to that family as we perhaps follow in the same dubious footsteps with this very commentary.

What is the question is whether or not it was in good taste to enter into such a discussion, regardless of the urgency of keeping the Dartmouth community from panic in reaction to the H1N1 death.

President Kim is a medical doctor as I understand it, not just a Ph.D. Patient/doctor confidentiality--and its certainty -- is the axis on which all medical interactions rotate in America.

To raise even the possibility that the certainty of that confidentiality was worth sacrificing to the College's need to maintain its composure and its public image, is a sad commentary.

Has corporate health trumped the Hippocratic Oath here?

First, do no harm. Even to a patient who is deceased. And to the profession.

Would it be different if Dr. Kim was not a medical doctor?

Yes: Just another bumbling bureaucrat.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

* "Bastard" Etiquette B. L. M.

(My mother, Barbara Ward Keane, at 70 with her god-daughter)


My mother never would have uttered the word "bastard". But she occasionally had to hand a senior citizen an official document with that word emblazoned in red across it.

B.L. M. (Before Liiberation Movements) she worked in the Town Clerk's office of a town ten miles from Yale near The Sleeping Giant mountain. She had as one of her duties searching for and presenting original birth certificates to their name bearers. In Puritan riddled New England, until the last few decades , births, and their certificates, without a certifiable father's name, were recorded "illegitimate," and before that simply with a red stamp reading "Bastard" emblazoned diagonally across the certificate.

Hard to believe.

Another Puritannical oddity which I marvel at from her Town Clerk's office days (which ended in 1978 with her retirement at 68)is the quandry my mother was in when she received a phone call while alone in the office one afternoon from another Town Clerk's office nearby; two men who had just been rejected for a marriage licence by the phone-caller, were on their way to my mother's office to secure a marriage licence (this was before 1978, mind you).

My mother was a lady, and a lady (like a gentleman) has as her highest code the axiom that one should never embarrass another person if it can be avoided. My mother's solution in this case, was to leave the office open, but unattended, and go to another office before the couple arrived, to work there until they left---thereby causing them no personal discomfort or embarrassment.

In the case of the "bastard" certificate, my mother's solution was easier. She merely handed the certificate to the person completely un-shielded by envelope or paper as if nothing unusual was occurring. Indeed, since she had to wait for the certificate to be returned, she would often engage the recipient in blithe chitchat.


Friday, November 20, 2009

* Grand Oprah / Soap Oprah

Grand Oprah / Soap Oprah

Today, Oprah gave the world an 18 month teary eyed countdown to her disappearance from the daytime television slot she will have held for 25 years when that countdown comes to an end.

I do not want to talk about the trivial Tom Cruise Oprah; the celebrity interviewer; the perfume and toaster gift giver Oprah: the Soap Oprah.

It is the intellectual and philanthropic Oprah ; the Grand Oprah who deserves praise here: for making reading an exciting passtime again for millions; for bringing sexual abuse out of the closet; for interviewing those who have overcome health challenges and those who have done good in the midst of evil; for being a leader for women (Even Sarah Palin thanked Oprah on her show last week for setting an example for women as a woman who could do it all, when Palin was younger and assessing her own aspirational compass); and, for letting us know the truth of what we see before our very eyes every day: that the richest woman in the world is unhappy and drugs herself with food.

Money; fame; power; cosmetic youth: Dust in the wind.

Ask Liberace.