Yes, you remember now, Holmes was a Supreme Court justice — but that was several decades ago, maybe a century ago, right? Just to refresh your memory, Oliver Wendell Holmes was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, when he retired at age 90. He’s one of the most widely cited Supreme Court justices. He often said that judges decide first and then look for the laws and precedents that will justify their decisions. He wasn’t being witty or making light conversation. In his very first law review article, written in 1870, he said, “It is the merit of the common law that it decides the case first and determines the principle afterwards.”
That may strike you as exactly the reverse of what should happen. But nothing that Holmes came across in his long life as a lawyer and judge made him change his mind. Indeed, he once told his fellow supreme court justices that he could take any established principle they wished to cite and he could use it to uphold or reverse any decision. Holmes may have spoken or written in ways that startle us, but by and large he was right in his view of how judges decide. Or how we all decide, for that matter.
You’ve noticed that Supreme Court decisions are generally not unanimous. Judging whether or not a law is constitutional requires that the justice interpret the Constitution. And — Surprise! — interpretations differ. Yes, old Oliver Wendell Holmes was right. Decide the case first and determine the principle afterwards.
We do need a national health insurance plan. Even Chief Justice John Roberts saw that right away. The reasoning came later, fashioned rather like a corkscrew, but it got the job done. We applaud the Chief Justice.
This unusual flower is called Foxglove. It’s also known as Purple Foxglove, or Lady’s Glove, and in Latin it’s named digitalis purpurea. The Latin and English names are related, more or less, by meaning, but they’re not translations of one to the other. The Latin digitalis purpurea means purple ring.
A ring and a glove, of course, fit smoothly over a finger, and you can see how each elongated bell-shaped blossom can fit neatly over a finger. In fact, kids when left to themselves are liable to poke a finger into those blossoms — until you rush up, shouting, “Those are poisonous! Don’t touch them!” Because, as a matter of fact, the entire plant from root to top is lethally poisonous.
The Latin digitalis is formed from the word digitus, which means finger, and even if you don’t know Latin you can probably see that it contains our word digit, which means finger or toe, and because we count on our fingers, the word digit also refers to any of the numerals from 1 to 9, and a long time ago we decided to include 0 in that group, too.
Wake up, we’re not through yet! About 235 years ago, William Withering, a British doctor, noticed that people with dropsy, which was the name given at that time to the swelling seen in people afflicted with congestive heart failure — people with dropsy got better when given a certain herbal remedy. Withering discovered that the active ingredient in the herbal mix (it contained over 20 different herbs) came from Foxglove. The herbalists who compounded that concoction must have been skilled, because a bit too much of the Foxglove would have killed the patient.
William Withering was not only physician, but also a botanist, chemist and geologist. A brilliant man, he married a young woman who was a botanical illustrator, and they had three children. Withering died in 1799, age 58, and though he contributed to many branches of science he’s now remembered chiefly for his recognition of digitalis as a remedy for certain cardiac conditions.
We haven’t mentioned the different explanations of why the plant is called Foxglove. It’s too confusing. Besides, you may feel we’ve already gone on too long about that tall plant with the purple bell-shaped blossoms.
But men don’t. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The researchers, Sarah Murray ad Robin Milhausen, asked 170 undergraduate women and men who had been in heterosexual relationships from one month to nine years to report on their levels of relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction and sexual desire. What they discovered was that the longer a woman was in a relationship, the weaker her sexual desire became. Men reported no decline in desire over time.
Well, that wraps it up. End of post.
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You want the sad details? Sarah Murray and Robin Milhausen wrote online in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy that women reported lower levels of desire depending on the length of their relationship. “Specifically, for each additional month women in this study were in a relationship with their partner, their sexual desire decreased by 0.02 on the Female Sexual Function Index.” That’s a bit of news that will make men and women equally glum. Even more depressing, the researchers reported that the length of the sexual relationship was a better predictor of sexual desire in women than the quality of the relationship or the level of sexual satisfaction.
For those of you who still retain sexual curiosity after reading the above, the Female Sexual Function Index goes from 1.2 to 6.0. We at Critical Pages don’t know why the scale starts at 1.2 and not, say, zero or 1.0. You can find out more about the FSF Index online — it really exists and really is used. We don’t know how they measured male sexual desire. We’re beginning not to care about any of this at all.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with your messy flower garden. If Mother Nature had intended neat flower gardens she would have distributed seeds in rows. Mother Nature doesn’t do that. The kings of France did that in the 18th century and you know what happened to them. Keep your head. Let your garden grow any which way. Enjoy it.
If you’re old enough you may remember a time when as a school child you had to memorize certain poems. “By memorizing,” the teacher said, “you’ll always have that bit of poetry with you.” That practice has disappeared from most schoolrooms today. Marilyn Robertson, a poet and songwriter in California, remembers memorizing poems when she was a kid, as she tells us in “Wordsworth Visits the Seventh Grade.”
We had to say his poem by heart—
the one he wandered in — our voices
droning down the stanzas, grateful
for the sturdy crutch of meter.
Standing by the teacher’s desk,
I trembled like a daffodil,
having no idea that
I, too, in fifty years, would wander
through the hills with pen and notebook
knowing chances would be slim
to none I’d ever come upon
then thousand blooms untrammeled by
the middy tires of some enormous
truck whose driver in his crowd
was never lonely as a cloud,
nor given much to gazing
and wouldn’t be caught dead
dancing with a flower.
And if you want to refresh your memory, check out Wordsworth’s poem,“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
The Federal Reserve reports that the middle class has taken a financial beating. The report made the front page of the New York Times. The Times called it “much anticipated.” (Please stifle that yawn.) The Fed issues its Survey of Consumer Finances every three years; this survey is about consumer finances in 2010, so the report is already 18 months out of date. OK, it isn’t news. You knew it all along — the middle class is going down the drain.
Here are the basics. Most of the wealth of a middle-class family is bound up in its house. In general, a lower-class family doesn’t own a house; it pays rent forever and never gets to own the roof over its head. The upper class not only owns a house, it also has money in the bank and a portfolio of stocks, bonds and government securities. So when housing prices collapsed, it was the middle class whose finances collapsed. Now you don’t have to read the Fed’s report.
But a little background information is helpful and here it is. Sectors of the middle class began their long decline in the 1970s. The descent became general in the 1980s and has continued relentlessly since then. Middle class wages and salaries, when adjusted for inflation, have remained stagnant or declined for at least 30 years. The middle class standard of living didn’t appear to decline because married women streamed into the workforce, giving families a second earner, and when the continuing descent wiped out that, families used their credit cards to maintain their living standard, and when credit cards maxed out, they refinanced their homes which at that time had an inflated value. And when housing prices collapsed – well, you know the rest.
As for the upper class, the top 20 percent of US families also suffered from the collapse and consequent recession – their 401K plans and their brokerage accounts took a dive. Stock prices fell roughly 50 percent from peak to trough from October 2007 to March 2009. But since then equity prices have risen and, while fluctuating, they have essentially made up for what they lost. The upper class — have you noticed? — tends to do well, no matter what.
The Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances also showed that our middle class is still mired in debt. The number of families able to put some money aside in savings has shrunk while the number not saving so much as a dollar has increased. Furthermore, the median amount owed has remained the same. Most people are not going to be able to retire their debts before they themselves retire
In conclusion, here’s the Good and Bad news. First, the absolutely bad news — the middle class is headed for a cliff. Now, the sort of good news — the looming catastrophe isn’t in the same category as a hurricane or earthquake or tsunami. It’s not an act of nature, an act of God or a force majeure. The 30-year decline of the middle class is largely the result of the US economic system with its peculiar structural defects. It’s a human artifact. It can be changed.
We would have given credit for the graphic illustrating this post, but our search provided neither the artist nor the origin of the graphic.
Yes, we know the world is falling apart. We know the European banking system is going down the drain, maybe taking the US banking system with it. And, yes, we know that our ally, Pakistan, gives safe haven to our enemy, al Qaeda. We know Iran is working night and day to develop a nuclear weapon, we know Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own people and we know that around 12,000 died in Mexican drug violence last year.
And, with tears, we acknowledge that here in the United States, where there doesn’t seem to be enough money to go around, billions of dollars are going to be spent on a presidential campaign that – no matter it’s importance – is going to crush us with boredom.
That’s why we’ve turned to something completely different, namely this video. We like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler and we also like Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. And it’s our good fortune that we like the way funny Isabel Fay has put them together. So we’re posting Isabel’s video, a comically updated Romeo and Juliet set to Bonnie Tyler’s desperate song. You can say we’re simply avoiding all the bad news, hoping it will go away a leave us alone. And you’re right.
Apparently the United States is suffering from two opposed epidemics at the same time. On the one hand there’s anorexia — that’s the eating disorder where you can starve yourself in a mistaken attempt to achieve an impossibly thinner, more perfect self. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia is “a hidden epidemic.” On the other hand, we have obesity – a not so hidden epidemic.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association as many as 10 million girls and women, and 1 million boys and men, have eating disorders. And the peak onset among girls comes at ages 11 to 13. At the same time, Cynthia Ogden, PhD, a CDC epidemiologist, along with other researchers, made a study of weight in the United States and discovered that 31 percent of adults are obese. Not only is one-third of our population obese, but two thirds are overweight. And obesity begins among the young: 15 percent of children and teenagers age 6-19 are overweight. Furthermore, Ogden reports that the proportion of obese people has been growing for the last few decades, particularly among blacks — 50 percent of all non-Hispanic black women are obese.
Whereas anorexia, or more properly anorexia nervosa, is a disorder of willful not eating, obesity comes partly from overeating but mostly from eating the wrong foods and drinking the wrong drinks. Obesity appears to be by far the greater of these two health problems. Indeed, if current trends continue, the health problems spawned by obesity alone will overwhelm our health system. We’re reporting these twin epidemics just in case you haven’t got enough to worry about.
The illustration above this piece is, of course, Jack Sprat, who ate no fat, and his wife, who ate no lean. And if you don’t know the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme, we’re really sorry about your neglected childhood. Our particular version of the couple who licked the platter clean was done, we believe, by Frederick Richardson for Mother Goose, the original Volland edition, in 1915. We don’t know what Jack Sprat is doing with that knife, but we think it will give little children the wrong idea of how to handle a cutting utensil.
The peony, a very old emblem of China, has a role in European mythology as well, for the ancient Greeks named the flower after Paeon, one of Asclepius’s students. Asclepius, the god of medicine, grew jealous of his pupil and would have killed him, had not Zeus saved him by turning him into the peony flower — a curious kind of salvation. But the record is confused. Paeon appears as a great healer in the Iliad and Hesiod counts him among the gods. Fortunately, we have the flower itself. Peonies are gorgeous, the large blossoms suggest abundance and their scent is as lush as the blossom. That’s enough.
Drones and targeted killings are discussed on editorial pages every day. But has the discussion been as targeted as the killings? Our colleague Jack Slack doesn’t think so. Here’s his take on the way these issues are being talked about:
America’s use of drones is in the news nowadays. And when it comes to discussing those small, unmanned aircraft, the focus is often on the virtually inevitable killing of innocent civilians near the actual target — collateral damage, as it’s called. But in fact, drones are way down the list when it comes to collateral damage. Using cluster bombs or a single 2,000 pound bomb against the typical drone target would kill many more innocent civilians.
America’s policy of “targeted killings” — called “assassination” by its critics — is also in the news. Drones are used for many purposes, but their use for targeted killings in the Afghan border region of Pakistan and in Yemen has led to heated opinions on the editorial pages of newspapers. The discussion often centers on the permissibility of assassinating members of al Qaeda and/or any other terrorist group, and whether the president or upper echelon leadership have had a “proper” review of the decision before assassinating people,
The proper topic of discussion should be whether it is constitutional to assassinate anyone. In other words does the U.S. Constitution provide due process to “all persons” under its jurisdiction? Or is the right to due process (habeas corpus) guaranteed only to citizens of the United States?
Section 9 U.S. Constitution reads: “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” That means when Rebellion or Invasion endangers public safety, then habeas can be suspended. The U.S. Civil War was rebellion, terrorists are not invaders, nor revolutionaries. They are international criminals, not unlike the Mafia.
The 14th Amendment reads: …”No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The creators of the 14th Amendment were obviously well aware of the use of the words citizens and persons.
Aliens are entitled to constitutional protections. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution apply to aliens residing within the United States. As such, the courts guarantee aliens the right to due process of law and equal protection of the laws. Courts have generally construed the Fourth Amendment as applicable to aliens as well. If a person exists under U.S. jurisdiction he is entitled to constitutional protections weather he is a citizen, legal or illegal alien.
In 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume.”
- If you have a comment to make, we'd like to hear from you, so long as it doesn't reduce us to tears. Or, better yet, if you've written a couple of paragraphs on an engaging topic, send them along. Our email address is on the Contact page, and you can get there by clicking the word Contact just above the calender.
Gene Mirabelli writes most of the posts here, so we're very pleased to announce that his recent novel, Renato, the Painter, has won a first prize for Literary Fiction in the 2013 Independent Publisher (IP or "IPPY") Book awards.
The Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Award winners are chosen by librarians and booksellers who are on the front lines, working everyday with patrons and customers. Some 125 books competed for the literary fiction Gold Medal. These books are examples of independent publishing at its finest.
Publishers Weekly says "In prose as lusty and vigorous as Renato himself, Mirabelli captures the feeling of coming to terms - ready or not - with old age." For more about the writer and his book, turn to our contact page or to the author's web site.
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