Friday, August 17, 2018

"Purpose of Education"


Sydney M. Williams

Essays from Essex.
“Purpose of Education”
August 17, 2018

Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
                                                                                                Allan Bloom (1930-1992)
                                                                                                The Closing of the American Mind, 1987

With ten grandchildren, the two oldest of whom will be off to college in the fall of 2019 and the youngest only eight years behind, the state of higher education has been on my mind. Much has been written about the need for greater emphasis on STEM classes – that China and India outstrip us in graduates each year in those fields. We read of cryptocurrencies and cyber theft and recognize the need to understand the former and thwart the second. There are students talented in these fields, and they should be encouraged. Less, however, has been written and said about the decline in humanities and the concomitant attenuation of morals, values and character that are their progeny. When a student at Morehouse College in 1947, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote for the college newspaper: “The function of education is to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

No country in the world has colleges and universities so well endowed, and so highly regarded as does the United States. Yet, too often, university administrators see their job as letting students design faddish majors that reflect a cultural-relevancy, advocating diversity in all ways, excepting ideas and preparing students for what is their view of a multi-cultural and globally-competitive world. There have been consequences.

One is the politically-correct model they follow. Students are deprived of needed contrary and, at times, uncomfortable, speech and opinions. Thus, there is no open and free debate. Insularity in a world of seven billion people, awash with myriad philosophies and political system, does little to encourage curiosity, increase understanding, reduce arrogance and hone rhetoric. Another consequence is an emphasis on STEM that supersedes humanities. Certainly, we need students to use their creative talents to invent new products and services, but we also must consider the consequences, the “whats” and “whys” of their creations. Why is it needed and what might be its longer-term effects? Much of life is learning to balance and temper the proven versus the unproven, dreams from reality. Humanities help. History teaches perspective. Literature provides insights. Philosophy allows for nuances. Religion makes us think beyond ourselves. Students need to consider all sides of an argument, even to question the wisdom and motives of their instructors and professors. When 90% of the teaching and administrative staff is of one political mind-set, prejudice sets in. And, as Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote in National Review, “…bias is a force multiplier of ignorance.” Why, for example, should trigger warnings and safe rooms be necessary if the cloistered student is to become an unsheltered working woman or man? Do such actions prepare them for the world, or do they only offer cocoon-like protection for the duration of their time at university?

There is a fundamental purpose (and need) for education that stretches beyond math and science, which are subjects more germane for graduate and trade schools. Students should first read and learn classics that have stood the test of time. They are the threads that bind generations. Students should study philosophy and learn economics. They must read history to understand how governments have evolved, to learn from other’s mistakes and successes. They should read poetry to appreciate the beauty of words. They must think independently and communicate effectively. The world is in constant flux, but basic principles of morals, ethics and character do not change. Even vivid imaginations cannot predict the positives and negatives of artificial intelligence: which jobs will be created and which replaced. In a recent issue of National Review, Justin Dyer and Ryan Streeter recently wrote, “As artificial intelligence increasingly performs STEM-specific tasks, greater expectations should be placed on the liberal arts to cultivate the creativity and curiosity that robots cannot do.” Minds must be prepared for an unknowable future.

As well, a good education allows people to live rich and rewarding lives – not only in the material sense – but ones in which literature, art and music can be appreciated; to understand other cultures and people; to know one’s heritage and to recognize there are religions whose values do not match ours; and that a moral sense, while not universal, does exist. C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Theodore Roosevelt went further: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, David Books referred to a metaphor I have used – that the purpose of life is the journey, not the destination. While agreeably reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” Mr. Brooks raises the question that such attitudes lead to narcissism and away from social connections. Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute wrote an article, “The Origins of Our Second Civil War,” in which he laments the role of higher education that has fostered debt, radicalism and intolerance, and an absence of shared knowledge, of works like the Bible, Shakespeare, writers during the Enlightenment and the Founding Fathers. He concludes that religious and spiritual reawakening are crucial to reforming the university. He suggests that we confuse technological advancement with improvements in the human condition. “…technology,” he writes, “is simply the delivery pump…That water can be delivered ever more rapidly does not mean it ever changes its essence.”

Albert Einstein allegedly once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”  A liberal education should cultivate curiosity. It is the fuel that fires the brain. A good education should make one less certain they have all the answers and more eager to question, to debate and to learn. My father, sitting at the dining room table, would talk to my brother and me. There were times when we would find his ambivalence unsettling: “on the one hand, on the other.” However, we were being taught to question our conclusions. Aristotle allegedly said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” You hold a thought or an opinion in your mind, weigh it, view it from different angles, challenge it and either accept or reject it. The university should urge its students to question assumptions, and debate assertions, no matter their ubiquity, popularity and province. The university should encourage and sate curiosity. Doing so, the student will satisfy Socrates’ admonition to know thyself. Shakespeare has Polonius say something similar to Laertes in Hamlet: “This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst then be false to any man.”

The papers are filled with myriad examples of graduates of our best universities confusing fiction with fact, praising their elite education, while making outrageous and erroneous statements. Should not colleges, before graduation, require students pass an exam, demonstrating proficiency in history, literature, geography and government, showing to the world and future employers they will be valued citizens and workers, and to their parents that four years on campus was worth the $200,000 to $300,000 expended?

In his book, 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson writes of the struggle between order and chaos. We require rules, values and standards, but “Order can become excessive, {while] chaos can swamp us.” It is the search for balance, for the dividing line between the two, that should be the goal. A sound education helps. This is what I want for my grandchildren: An education that provides the tools for considered decisions, to take responsibility for their own lives, to live without bias, to understand that justice is blind, to be unafraid of contrary opinions, to appreciate beauty, to find meaning and to be content with who they are. That pathway blossoms with education, whose roots feed on the humanities. And that, in my opinion, is the purpose of education.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Burrowing Into Books - "The Inner Life of Animals"


Sydney M. Williams

Burrowing into Books
Reviews of Selective Readings

                                                                                                                                    August 14, 2018

“The Inner Life of Animals”
Peter Wohlleben

The goal is not to anthropomorphize animals,
but to help us understand them better.”

As a reminder to new readers, these scribblings are not reviews and certainly not critical ones. That’s left to those far more qualified. These essays are less an analysis and more a celebration of the pleasure of reading and learning.

Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany. In 1987, at age 23, he took a job as a forest ranger for the Rhineland-Palatinate state which includes the largest coherent forest in middle Europe. A few years ago he began to manage five square kilometers of forests in Hummel where he was free to experiment with eco-friendly forestry methods. Off those experiences, he wrote his first book, The Hidden Life of Trees, which was discussed in this series last year.

In The Inner Life of Animals, Mr. Wohlleben writes of the complexity and intelligence of animals: From the fruit fly, which in microseconds can dart back and forth, because their eyes are made up of “about 600 individual facets;” to crows who have been seen sliding off the roofs of houses, with deliberate pleasure: and to pigs that, according to researchers at Dresden University of Technology, can recognize distant relations. The reader marvels at life, nature and the extraordinary fact of evolution.

He writes of myriad emotions displayed: Maternal love, common to all species; instinctual fear that is endemic to all wild animals, and which keeps them alive. He writes of swallows who pursue sexual dalliances and Billy goats who take obvious pleasure in mating. He tells of the compassion of elephants for those that died, and the shame shown by dogs who have misbehaved. Mr. Wohlleben once observed a magpie who deliberately tried to deceive him, as to where he (she) had hidden an acorn.

From a personal perspective, having grown up with horses, goats, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats and having had, at different times during married life many of the same animals, I can attest to the accuracy of his assurance that animals are curious, smart and sensitive.

The author shares his knowledge and experiences. Many animals are both predator and prey. They kill and are killed. The Osprey feeds on menhaden, which, in turn, eats phytoplankton. Others are parasitic, like the tapeworm inhabiting the intestine of a cow. The planet is shared, and its inhabitants are, in fact, symbiotic. Over thousands of years, we, and they, have evolved, gaining knowledge and perfecting features and instincts. There are an estimated 8.7 million species that inhabit the Earth, many of whom have been around for millions – in some cases billions – of years. For most (perhaps all except man, domesticated animals and those we protect and provide for, like suburban herds of deer and city-dwelling racoons) it is the fittest that survive. It is natures’ way of ensuring that the strongest and most adaptable produce future generations.   

Mr. Wohlleben writes, easily and knowingly, of animals communicating with each other and with other species, including man. Anyone with a dog knows it can be trained to let people know when it needs to go out. He writes of researchers at ETH Zurich who “discovered that whinnies contain two basic frequencies. The first…indicates whether the whinny is communicating a positive or negative emotion. The second frequency indicates the strength of that emotion.” And some of us thought horses were dumb! He raises the question: Why does man, the most intelligent of all species, try to teach animals – domesticated and wild – to understand what he says and wants, rather than trying to learn animal-speak, as did the fictional Dr. Doolittle?

Peter Wohlleben concludes on the understandable but mournful note that man, like all species that cannot photosynthesize nutrients, must consume living entities to survive, plant or animal. He hopes that readers will be more thoughtful about what and how much they eat – that such habits will lead to “happier horses, goats, chickens and pigs.” The book is fun, short and informative.





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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"The Month That Was - July 2018"

Sydney M. Williams
swstotd.blogspot.com

The Month That Was – July 2018
August 1, 2018

No other date on the calendar more potently symbolizes
what our nation stands for than the fourth of July.”
                                                                                    William “Mac” Thornberry (1958-)
                                                                                    U.S. House of Representatives (R-TX)

Liberty has special reverence for July. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, or, at least, that is the date we celebrate its signing. It gave birth to the greatest nation and the freest people the world had ever known, which in subsequent years has become larger and freer. On July 14, 1789, the Bastille, a military fortress and prison, was stormed and the prison gates opened, a turning point in the French Revolution. And, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon – a manifestation of the power of freedom and capitalism and a giant step in technology, science and courage.

Three news items during the month deserve special notice – the miraculous recovery of twelve boys and their coach from two and half miles into a water-clogged cave in northern Thailand; the truce on trade wars agreed to between Mr. Trump and European Commission President Jean-Clade Juncker, and the poor performance by Mr. Trump in Helsinki and the even worse reaction on the part of his critics.

Let me tackle the latter first. There is an advantage in having an outsider in Washington – the absence of political ties that prevent fresh looks at long-persistent problems, formed, in part, by long associations. Perhaps voters felt, given the soiled nature of relationship politics, that a fresh face would be a reminder of Lord Palmerston’s admonition that a nation’s interests have more permanence than its friends?

There are, though, disadvantages: Washington works differently than business; there are three co-equal branches of government, making collaboration imperative and executive orders undemocratic. In politics, grey is more common than black or white. Also, while ultimate power is vested in the people, administrators and bureaucrats, through knowledge of how things work, do hold power – which needs to be recognized by the occupant of the oval office. The Presidency is unlike any other job in the world. It comes without training wheels. Thus, beginner mistakes are made. Nevertheless, the President sets the tone. As an outsider, Mr. Trump, in his quest to fulfill campaign promises, has run afoul of mainstream media and establishment insiders. Why, for example, at his joint news conference with Mr. Putin, did Mr. Trump state that he trusted the words of the Russian President over revelations of the intelligence community?  Why did Mr. Trump’s attempt to correct that error – a claim that it was the use of a double negative – remind us of President Clinton when he said it depends on your definition of “is?” Why did he appear on the cusp of offering up former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and progenitor of the Magnitsky Act Bill Browder for questioning by Vladimir Putin, in exchange for Robert Mueller being given the right to interview a dozen indicted Russians for allegedly hacking into the Democrat National Committee’s computers?

The answer, in part, lies in the visceral responses by Mr. Trump to the unprecedented attacks on him from mainstream media, the establishment and what from passes for so-called cultural parts of our society: the entertainment industry, university professors and administrators, and television talk-show hosts. Their attacks are vulgar, violent and disquieting. Voters in 2016 did not elect an angel or a saint. They elected a 70-year-old white man who had for decades been involved in the murky world of commercial real estate. They voted for a man who had been twice divorced and whose extra-curricular activities had been well-documented. But he was also a man who reflected their inner fears and concerns – that elites in politics, business, finance, universities and the media, with a focus on plastic straws, transgenders and multiculturalism, had ignored the more pressing needs of stagnating incomes, jobs and respect.

The press, Democrats and many Republican “never-Trumpers” deliberately conflate two distinct words – meddling and colluding – as they apply to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. The first is a “dog bites man story;” the second is a “man bites dog story,” and is worthy of investigation and, if true, punishment. President Trump’s animus toward the press is well known, and understandable given its ferocity toward him. His reactions, therefore, are unsurprising. As well, people see through the obvious bias of those doing the investigating. The release of the heavily redacted FISA application for a warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page confirmed that the FBI relied on the Steele dossier without acknowledgement, a dossier funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Even so, many of us would prefer Mr. Trump use humor to deflect the slings and arrows flung at him, rather than nasty Tweets.

Mr. Trump is the Constitutionally-elected President and a certain level of respect should be shown him and the office he represents. Mr. Trump was wrong to criticize his own intelligence officers and to suggest that Mr. Putin might be correct when he denied interference in the 2016 election. But the hyperbolic reaction of those who dislike him works to their disadvantage: John King, CNN commentator, said the President had “surrendered” to the Russians. Jill Wine-Bank, on MSNBC compared the President’s performance in Helsinki to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or Kristallnacht, Former CIA Director John Brennan claimed that Mr. Trump’s joint press conference with Mr. Putin was “nothing short of treasonous.” Mr. Trump is fortunate in receiving such diabolical diatribes and in having political opponents like Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi. Whenever they speak, they make him look good.

The meeting in Washington between Mr. Juncker and Mr. Trump was big news. Tensions have been high between the European establishment elite, represented by Mr. Juncker and the American elephant in the china shop, Mr. Trump. The latter has been concerned with a mounting trade deficit between the U.S. and Europe and unequal tariffs that, for example, favored European auto manufacturers over their American counterparts. When the two men announced an alliance against third parties’ “unfair trading practices” they didn’t have to explain the reference was to China. Tellingly, the day following the meeting CBS Radio made no mention of the agreement on its 6:00AM news. The New York Timespublished a front-page report of the meeting next day, but under a misleading headline: “Truce on Trade Follows Route Obama Paved.” Both sides – Europe and the U.S. – would like to declare victory, which means that only time will expose the details. Regardless, the fact of the meeting was big news, and it was good news. 

The saving of the boys in Thailand was a miracle, only marred by inappropriate comments from Elon Musk. The feat combined what best characterizes our species: faith, meditation, perseverance, courage, audacity, patience, intelligence, and the technology we have developed. The world waited and watched as SEAL-teams from a dozen countries assisted Royal Thai SEAL-team members in rescuing the boys and their coach, from a narrowly-accessed, water-filled cave. Time was of the essence, because the onset of the Monsoon season would have meant a possible delay of another three or four months. A colossal human tragedy was averted. Most news reported is tragic or bad, for that’s what sells. This rescue provided daylight for the boys as they emerged, but the story also shone sunlight on the world.

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President Trump visited NATO and Great Britain, before meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. At NATO, he repeated his demand that Europe pay more for its defense needs, which is gradually, but reluctantly, being done. While he still has misgivings about the seriousness of EU members regarding defense, he reiterated his support for NATO. He did, however, question the wisdom of invoking Article 5, should Montenegro, NATO’s newest member and a nation of 630,000, be attacked. His is a position that Lord Palmerston would have understood, even as his opponents did not. In England, in an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, Mr. Trump belittled Theresa May’s handling of Brexit but the next day defended her, in an amusing and friendly joint press conference. Tea with the Queen followed. Protestors, with their “Baby Trump” blimp, were visible on network and cable TV, but small-town Brits were ignored when they expressed solidarity with Mr. Trump, like the mayor of Ramsgate Trevor Shonk who said the President was moving things in the right direction, globally.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned from Mrs. May’s cabinet over the slow and bumbled walk toward Brexit. A few days later, Brussels rejected Theresa May’s Brexit plan for City access to the EU market. Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire in Gaza brokered by Egypt. Syrian government forces re-took the city of Deraa, seen as the cradle of the revolution against Bashar al-Assad, which began in 2011. (It was Russian military intervention into Syria in 2015 – ironically, invited in by former Secretary of State John Kerry – that turned the civil war in Mr. Assad’s favor.) A Syrian jet fighter was shot down by Israeli forces when it entered her airspace. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having won re-election in June, appointed his son-in-law to head the newly formed treasury and finance ministry, replacing market savvy persons who had held the position in Mr. Erdogan’s previous government. Turkish stocks and the Lira fell. Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers for engaging in a “sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the DNC and DCCC(Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee)” – a provocative gesture, as it immediately preceded the Helsinki talks, and empty, as Mr. Mueller knows the accused will never stand trial.  

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It is becoming difficult for Democrats to continue the pretense that the tax bill signed last December was a sop to the wealthy. Connecticut, a “Blue” state with one of the highest disparities in income, joined a lawsuit filed by Maryland, New Jersey and New York contesting new limits on the state and municipal tax payments that filers can deduct on their federal returns. (The tax bill capped deductions at $10,000, which has no effect on those earning $100,000 or less. Median household income in Connecticut, for example, is $73,400.) Unstated is the fact that the suits, all supported by the states’ respective Democrat governors, are designed to help their wealthiest citizens. Scott Pruitt resigned as head of the EPA, but, fortunately for the economy, only after he had undone many of the restrictive rules implemented during the previous Administration. Peter Strzok’s disingenuous and disrespectful testimony before the House was a vivid manifestation of the arrogance and condescension that characterize progressive, professional bureaucrats. 
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Preliminary Second Quarter GDP growth was reported at + 4.1 percent, the strongest in four years. China continued to weaken the Yuan, to offset the effect of tariffs on exported goods. But devaluing one’s currency starts a country down a slippery slope, as it serves to scare away foreign investors. The price of a Bitcoin continued volatile, up 28% for the month, back to where it was in May. In U.S. equity markets, volatility remained muted, as the DJIA moved up 4.7 percent. The yield curve continued to flatten, with the spread between the Ten-year Treasury Bonds and the Two-year Treasury Note narrowing to 16 basis points, (from 32 basis points a month earlier). What gets economists concerned is that every recession in the past sixty years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve – short rates higher than long rates. But, as The Wall Street Journaleditorialized on July 23, “…it’s hard to know what this means given the Fed’s continuing dominant role in the long-bond market.” Following the 2008 credit crisis, the Fed took unprecedented steps to keep short rates at extraordinary low levels and their quantitative easing programs did the same for long rates. The lifting of Fed Funds’ rates, which began in the fourth quarter of 2015, has taken that rate from 25 Basis Points, where it had been for seven years, to 200 Basis Points today. (In the 1990s, when inflation was about the same as today’s 2.3%, Fed Funds averaged around 550 Basis Points.) The unwinding of the Fed’s long-bond purchase program ended in October 2014, but these rates, too, are historically low. In other words, both short and long rates remain uncommonly low. Mr. Trump is wrong to try to talk rates down. 

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In sports, France and Croatia played for the World Cup, with France winning 4-2. The U.S. did not even qualify for the tournament. The New York Timesreported that the number of players in the U.S. aged 6-12 has declined 14% over the past three years. Germany’s Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon, while Serbia’s Novak Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson for the men’s title. Australia’s Georgina Hope Rinehart National Training Center took both men’s and women’s championship at Henley, winning the Grand Challenge Cup and the Remenham Challenge Cup respectively. The British Open was won by Italy’s Francesco Molinari. The Tour de France was won by Welshman Geraint Thomas. Baseball’s All-Star game was won by the American League 8-6, its 13thvictory in the past sixteen years. LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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A still-raging California wildfire has killed eight, burned over 100,000 acres and destroyed more than seven hundred homes near the city of Redding. Missouri’s Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill, seeking sympathy and preparing for a possible loss, has already blamed Russia for meddling in her re-election bid. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old avowed Socialist defeated longtime Democrat Representative Joe Crowley in New York’s 14thCongressional District. Joe “Jaws” Chestnut, the perennial winner of Nathan’s Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, downed 74 hot dogs in ten minutes to win his 11thvictory. A duck boat, an amphibious craft, sank in Missouri’s Table Rock Lake, during a sudden squall. Seventeen of the thirty-one passengers died, nine from one family. A steam pipe exploded in New York’s Flatiron district, dislodging about 500 people for a number of days. Twisters, with no warning, struck several Iowa towns, leaving seventeen injured. New York City subway ridership is down, so Democrats did what Democrats do – blamed Uber and proposed fare hikes. Stormy Daniels’ husband filed for divorce on grounds of adultery! Who would have suspected? In good news, Japanese-based Eisai and Biogen disclosed results from a mid-stage study that appear positive for their Alzheimer drug, BAN2401. Republicans should be heartened, as the disgraced James Comey said he would support Democrat candidates in this fall’s election. 

Redoine Faid, France’s most recognized and notorious gangster, made a daring and dramatic escape by helicopter from the Sud-Francillien Prison in RĂ©au, about 35 miles south of Paris. Israel’s Mossad agents made a daring raid on a Tehran warehouse where they grabbed Iranian nuclear archives, which included warhead designs and production schedules. Russian hackers gained access to the networks of several U.S. utilities. One hundred and thirty-two died in Pakistan, during a troubled election in which Imran Khan, a former cricketeer and anti-American politician, was elected Prime Minister. Maria Butina, a red-haired Russian agent who offered sex in exchange for information, was charged with acting as a foreign agent. Wild fires near Athens, Greece killed at least a hundred. Four people were hospitalized during Pamplona’s annual running of the bulls. Russia announced its intent to raise the retirement age to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women. Life expectancy in the former Communist country is 66.5. A shooting in the Greek district of Toronto left two dead and twelve wounded. The shooter, Faisal Hussein, was killed by police. In a case of perverted priorities, some of the press and many Democrats were upset when President Trump did not bow to Queen Elizabeth, but they were okay when President Obama did bow to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in 2009. It is fascinating how retirement can turn a hard-left partisan into a statesman. But that is what Barack Obama showed in an hour and eighteen-minute speech in South Africa celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. He spoke of the importance of borders, citizenship and listening to those with whom one disagrees, concepts he ignored as President.  

In a sign that sanctions are biting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned: “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail. This would only lead to regret…” The American President naturally responded on Twitter: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN…” Pundits and mainstream media immediately suggested Mr. Trump – not Mr. Rouhani – was war-mongering. But, how should he have responded? Turned the other cheek? A few days later, the mercurial but pragmatic Mr. Trump said he would be willing to meet with Mr. Rouhani about the nuclear issue. 

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Lord Carrington died at 99. He was born Peter Alexander Rupert Carrington and served in the governments of Winston Churchill, Harold MacMillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher. As well, he had been secretary general of NATO, and he had been a member of the House of Lords for 78 years. Sergio Marchionne, the man who revived Fiat and Chrysler, died at 66. Nancy Sinatra, the first of Frank Sinatra’s four wives and the mother of his three children, died at 101.

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The month ended amidst heat and humidity, at least here in Connecticut, just payment for the below-average, cooler spring we experienced. August will bring primaries in fifteen states, including my state of Connecticut, so politics, if not the weather, will remain intemperate. As Caroline and I will be on the Jersey shore, we have already voted. I urge everyone to get to the polls and exercise your right, which is truly a privilege. A country is best served when its representatives most fully reflect all its citizens.