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We should be reading the Westerly Sun (Part I of II)

I suspect that Eliot White will be pleased with the title of this post. Mr. White, the publisher of the Sun, as well as the Meriden Record-Journal in Central Connecticut, is a bit of a rarity in modern America. He is the publisher of a family-owned newspaper, among just a handful of folks in the United States still to do so. This is too bad. Newspapers published by people who have a vital interest in their local community are the first thing you should be reading. Here are four reasons why:

1)  They are less likely to have an agenda that you can't readily suss out. Put differently, if they do have a secret agenda (for example, "that guy at the Sun really wants to get a casino in town,") chances are it will become apparent. A local paper can end up with a credibility problem if it pushes an agenda.

2)  They put local perspective on national issues. How does the recent tax legislation affect local businesses? What do changes in healthcare legislation mean for local healthc…
Recent posts

Where have all the public servants gone?

I've been putting off writing in the effort to formulate a piece on the media, but Chelsea Manning's decision to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, reported in Sunday's Washington Post, prompted me to get back in the game. Maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, because Ms. Manning has yet to file with the Maryland State Board of Elections, so this could be a non-story. Be that as it may, in seeing this article, I was reminded of a disturbing trend in American politics. I was also reminded of the guy who is digging a big hole for himself, hits rock bottom, looks up, and asks for a pick.

Who's the guy in the hole? It's the American voter.

For numerous, complex reasons (which is no excuse), we have increasingly permitted our politics to be conflated with entertainment. I'm not sure how this began, but I'm old enough to know it hasn't always been like this. Maybe it started with Bill Clinton, who was then the governor of Arkansas, playing saxophone …

George Towery -- An American Hero

A couple of weeks ago, Northern Virginia lost a man of great decency and dignity in George Towery. I knew George since 2011, when we hired him to serve as a facilitator in our after-school program of civic engagement for low-income, immigrant youth at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. George was the anchor of that program as he later came to be at our Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA. His relationships with our teenage participants, everyone of whom he knew by name, was based on his profound respect for the individual and his high regard for basic human dignity. In return, the youth respected and admired him, treating him as a surrogate grandfather. He was the classic example of intergenerational bonding at its best.

There was an obvious reason for this. George was a lifelong educator. Before he retired from Fairfax County Public Schools in 2010, George served as the principal at Cameron Elementary School for 30 years and before that he was the principal of Lorton Ele…

It's not as bad as folks say

Really, it's not. All you need to do is type, "What makes America great?" (or some permutation thereof), into your Internet search engine. You will be presented with millions of results featuring list upon list extolling the benefit and value of our Republic. Some of these lists are light-hearted (but not without merit, have a look at any of the 100 great things about America that was published, up until recently, by Forbes.com), but others are entirely thoughtful and compelling (see, for example, Daniel Krauthammer's excellent essay in the May 8th issue of The Weekly Standard, "What Makes America Great? The question at the heart of the debate over nationalism").

I bring this up because I've just been re-reading Geoff Kabaservice's op-ed from the Saturday, June 10th edition of The New York Times, "Our Failing President's Great Performance." Kabaservice, who has his degree in American History from Yale and is currently a research consul…

Why I'm here (this blog's raison d'etre) - Part II (of II)

Is everything as it's always been? I touched on this point last week. American political life has from its very beginnings been filled with animus and rancor. The election of 1800, pitting John Adams against Thomas Jefferson, two American icons, was filled with the very worst tactics of political campaigning: mud-slinging, backstabbing, and scare-mongering, making it not much different from the American presidential elections of the 21st century. The election of 1824 between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was a particularly nasty affair, featuring all sorts of slanders and outrageous fabrications.

This thought reminds me of an op-ed written by a conservative columnist years ago, in which he argued that the voting patterns in Tennessee in the 19th century were basically the same as they are today. The gist of his argument was there's nothing to be improved upon and we should be content with the way things are (since that's the way it's always been).

So, there you …

Why I'm here (this blog's raison d'etre) - Part I (of II)

Is the United States in terminal decline, or is the American Republic so durable and its institutions so well-created that nothing can undo it? If the answer is the latter, this blog will have a short existence. As soon as I get a little more evidence for it, I will close up shop and occupy my time some other way. If it's the former, it's about time "We The People" did something about it.

On the face of it, this is a question for historians, who, by virtue of their training, can (or ought to be able to) see long-term trends. Much of what we experience today, after all, has been seen before. That's why George Santayana remarked, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is a point lost in our 24/7 media frenzy, whose purveyors promote the novelty and urgency of the most minute and trivial of events as though it's all new and of the greatest import.

I will say more about this at some future point. For now, a lot of people (…