Genius
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One of his letters, written shortly before his death in 1955, just sold at auction in London for $400,000. Whose hand-written thoughts are worth that much? Albert Einstein, physicist and genius. In the “Miraculous Year” of 1905, Einstein published four papers in a German physics journal, any one of which would guarantee his science immortality. The most well-known of the four was his theory of mass-energy equivalence, expressed by the formula e=mc2. Elsewhere Einstein had written that the superb order... Read More
Eugenics
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“Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Those sad words are the conclusion of Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1927 Supreme Court opinion which led to the involuntary sterilization of Carrie Buck, an otherwise healthy 18-year-old girl. The Court upheld the right of the Commonwealth of Virginia to sterilize the “feeble-minded.” She was placed on a table by an agent of the state, who made an abdominal incision and cut her Fallopian tubes. One of the terrible ironies of Carrie’s life... Read More
Bridge People
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I spent an evening last week with a roomful of Nigerians. Yeah, Nigerians—here in Milwaukee. There is a surprisingly large community of expatriate Africans here. I had a blast. The buffet had some standard American fare, but it included also steam trays of goat meat and quite a bit of stuff that I had never seen or smelled before. The DJ blasted music that sounded like a cross between Caribbean steel drum, salsa, and Bob Marley. The beat made me... Read More
She Ain't Heavy
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By now I hope you’ve seen the news clip. The cable stations have given it pretty heavy airplay. Sara Tucholsky is a player for the Western Oregon women’s softball team. In their recent game against Central Washington, Sara hit a home run, her first ever. As she was rounding first, she tore a knee ligament in a freak accident and collapsed, unable to finish her victory lap. The rulebook states that any teammate touching or helping her would result in... Read More
Cinco de Mayo
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So what’s the big deal today? Why do Hispanics, and especially Mexican-Americans, always get so excited on May 5? Is it anything more than just an exercise in national pride and awareness and a chance to sell Coronas and margaritas? May 5 actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. During our own Civil War, Mexico had to suffer the indignity of being invaded by the French, who installed their own emperor, Maximilian, over the Mexican people. The little Mexican... Read More
I'm Being Starved
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Only in America. Lloyd Laswell is suing Benton County, Arkansas. His complaint? He is an inmate in the county jail. He currently weighs 308 lbs., down from 408 when he entered. The roughly 3,000 calories’ worth of food that the county provides him each day he considers grossly inadequate. The AP story reports his misery: "About an hour after each meal my stomach starts to hurt and growl. I feel hungry again. The only reason we lost weight in here... Read More
Bittergate
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Well, here we are in mid-April, and the Democratic presidential contenders are going at it like two tired heavyweights in the later rounds. By now nobody is hearing any new ideas. The game now is to try not to wound yourself with a fatal gaffe, while of course scrutinizing your opponent’s speeches and hoping he/she will utter something really stupid. This past week it has been Barack’s turn to sweat. Last weekend in San Francisco he observed that he thought... Read More
Is It Really Greener?
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Last week I read a thoughtful and poignant article by a 32-year-old New York woman whose parents had immigrated from India. She is a Harvard-educated journalist, smart and savvy, but she often feels cultural dislocation by living halfway between two very different worlds of dating and mating. Neither the New York social scene nor her father’s matchmaking had produced a guy she wanted to commit her life to. Like many singles, she still longed for marriage, but not at any... Read More
Three Cheers for Westminster
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April 1 brought good news from Philadelphia, and ‘tis no joke. The board of directors of Westminster Theological Seminary voted to suspend a professor for teaching in a 2005 book that the Bible’s content was partly of human origin and partly divine. This is a big deal. When you read the Bible, it makes a huge difference if you think you are hearing God’s infallible Word or St. Paul’s fallible opinions. When you hear it read in church, it makes... Read More
Rhetoric
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By now most of the chattering class has weighed in on the subject of Mr. Obama’s level of disavowal of the fiery pulpit comments of his Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ, the denomination’s flagship congregation. I suppose another few observations from this corner wouldn’t hurt much. It really shouldn’t surprise anybody that harsh and extreme comments would be spoken in a monocultural group. When we feel safe, when we’re surrounded by people just... Read More