“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Aristotle (c. 384 BCE–c. 322 BCE) lived much of his life in ancient Athens, and studied at the academy founded by Plato. After tutoring Alexander the Great, he established his own school where he taught, wrote, and continued his own studies. The triumverate of extraordinary ancient Greek philosophers were connected: Socrates taught Plato; Plato taught Aristotle–and the two remained together at Plato’s school for two decades. Aristotle was particularly drawn to the sciences. In regard to philosophy, Biography describes his goal as developing “a universal process of reasoning that would allow man to learn every conceivable thing about reality.”
It may seem strange that on April 25––just three weeks into the new baseball season––that the biggest sports stories were about the NFL and NBA. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady had his four-game “Deflategate” suspension upheld by a Federal Appeals Court, so unless he challenges the ruling, he’ll be out for the first four games of the upcoming football season. In the 2015-16 regular NBA season, Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a record 73 victories, or one more win than had been achieved by Jordan and the Bulls. But now Curry’s sprained his right knee and he’s expected to miss at least two weeks of the playoffs. Maybe baseball doesn’t get no respect anymore because its popularity continues to plummet. According to a recent Harris Poll, pro football is by far the most popular sport in the country. It was selected by 33% of a survey audience while baseball was preferred by less than half of that figure, or 15%. Historic season or no, the NBA languishes (with hockey) at a 5% preference, outgunned by both college football (10%) and auto racing (6%). Bringing up the rear are men’s soccer and men’s college basketball, both at 4%; men’s golf and boxing at 3%; and swimming and track and field (2%). As pro women soccer players seek to equalize their pay with men, they must overcome the fact that women’s soccer is favored only 1%––together with horse racing, women’s college and pro basketball, and men’s tennis.
SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER
On May 8, 1945, “VE Day,” World War II officially ended in Europe. Next Sunday will be the 71st anniversary of the historic victory of the Allies over the Nazis. However, this huge conflict is not confined to historical monographs; it continues to assert itself throughout pop culture. There is still no one as evil as a Nazi, and over the past seven decades this titanic conflagration has fascinated people in many nations. Here’s a “tip of the iceberg” tiny sampling of how WWII inspires creative projects. A dedicated website––Stone & Stone––will help you find a particular book on the war. Amazon lists 47,976 historical studies focusing on some aspect of WWII. Another source declares that “since September 1939, no fewer than 6,000 and perhaps as many as 7,000 novels” have addressed the Second World War. Wikipedia lists more than 100 television shows––produced all over the world––and more than 1,300 films based on the war. Many of these literary and cinematic titles have been among the most honored cultural artifacts, such as these books: Catch 22 (Joseph Heller, 1961), Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut, 1969), Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001), Sophie’s Choice (William Styron, 1979), The Naked and the Dead (Norman Mailer, 1958 ), Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky, 2004) , Battle Cry (Leon Uris, 1953), and The Thin Red Line (James Jones, 1962). One work, The Producers(1968), was a hit film and then became a major success as a musical on Broadway (2001). These are WWII movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar: Casablanca (1943), Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), From Here to Eternity (1953), The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Patton (1970), and The English Patient (1996). The Holocaust has generated great films specifically dealing with this horrific phenomenon: Schindler’s List (1993) won the Best Picture Award; Life is Beautiful (1998) took home the the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and Schoah (1985), which ran nine hours, has been one of the most honored documentaries ever made. Among the most popular tv programs on the war have been: Band of Brothers (2001), The Winds of War (1983), War and Remembrance (1988), Holocaust (1978), Combat! (1962), and on the lighter side, Hogan’s Heroes (1965) and McHale’s Navy (1962). I was completely blown away by the British television series, Foyle’s War (2002). There also has been music composed that was inspired by the war: my favorite is the musical accompaniment to the television show Victory at Sea, composed by Richard Rodgers, arranged by Robert Russell Bennett, and performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bennett. There were popular songs as well, such as: Begin the Beguine, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, We’ll Meet Again, and Sentimental Journey. Video games as well have been created with WWII as the focus.
GIVE ME MONEY!
Politics has become a big money game with huge sums being raised and spent seeking the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. According to the Federal Election Commission, contributions to all candidates in the 2016 race have amounted to more than $710 million dollars; the Democrats led slightly, having raised about $370 million compared to the Republican total of $340 million. On The Center for Responsive Politics website, Open Secrets.org, the contributions are sourced: $446 million, or more than 61% of the total raised, came from super PACs supporting individual candidates. This unsettling reality, of wealthy individuals and corporations spending an unlimited amount of money on favored politicians, can be directly attributed to the Supreme Court’s atrocious ruling in the celebrated case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). Among Democrats, more than 42% of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising came from outside sources, including super PACS, while Bernie Sanders took exactly the opposite route: a record number of individuals––2,513,665 contributors––each donated a small amount (average November 2015-January 2016 contriution: $27.16). Yet, as of this FEC report, Sanders led Clinton in fundraising: $182,182,143 to $180,158,371.Among GOP candidates, Donald Trump is shouldering the cost of funding his campaign primarily from of his own fortupne. In fact, 75% of Trump’s fundraising total, or more than $36 million, came from the candidate’s own resources. Other, failed Republican candidates, notably Jeb Bush, far outspent the Donald only to crash and burn. Bush, in his diastrous campaign, raised $155+ million––far exceeding any other GOP candidate––of which $121,143,468 came from outside sources, such as super PACs.
STEAL THOSE PROFITS!
Although many leading corporations have enjoyed record profits in recent years, a culture has developed in which corporations actively seek to shield their treasure from U.S. taxes. For example, in 2015, General Electric and United Continental Airlines paid $0 the government in taxes. A legal industry has grown up with the goal of assisting companies to avoid their responsponsibilities; tax attorneys on staff and hired as consultants create complex strategies in which companies are able to render their profits as unavailable to the Treasury Department. Thus, 75% of Fortune 500 corporations hid profits–exceeding $2 trillion— in offshore tax havens in 2014. Also, a number of large corporations spent more on lobbying than they did on federal taxes between 2008-2012. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service has endured budget cuts which have crippled that agency’s ability to audit large corporations. Corporations, on the other hand, have increased spending to the personnel responsible for developing tax avoidance schemes.
A SPECIAL DAY
If a friend or loved one has a birthday coming up consider sending them a unique birthday card featuring my original art and text. The card is 5 x 7, four pages, and is printed on semi-gloss stock using a high-end digital press. Cards sell for $3.50 in my wordsandabstracts shop on Etsy.com.
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