Promising Books By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thomas Piketty, And Anne Tyler

NEHISI COATES (via Wikipedia)

TA-NEHISI COATES (via Wikipedia)

The world is full of troubles, no doubt about it. I cannot sugarcoat the facts to turn bad news into good. I think nearly every great religion holds to a basic premise that good will triumph over evil in the end. What we can do is point out some of the positive thoughts and actions along the way. With luck, the accretion of positive thoughts and actions will lead us in the right direction.

Good books are harbingers of hope and progress. My reading list never lacks for worthy books, and more are published constantly. I’ll never catch up. Here are three that I urgently need to read.

I   “Between The World And Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is the most recent addition to the reading list, thanks to a review by Carlos Lozada in the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post. Coates is America’s “foremost intellectual,” and also “liberal America’s conscience on race,” according to Lozada. If you’re interested in understanding America’s struggles with “racism, white privilege, institutional violence and structural inequality,” this would appear to be the book to read. The Washington Post book review is here.

II   “Capital In The Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty, the renowned French economist. It’s a treatise on wealth concentration and distribution over the past 250 years. The author proposes a progressive global tax on wealth, according to Wikipedia. The Economist review in four paragraphs.

III   “A Spool Of Blue Thread,” by Anne Tyler, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. “Blue Thread” is a study of a fictional Baltimore family. I think I can promise that this one will be easier going and more comforting than Piketty’s “Capital,” but it’s sure to be a good read. I’ve read all of Tyler’s previous novels, and they all provide more psychological insight than your average novel. Tyler is one of America’s greatest contemporary novelists. The NPR book review is here.

By coincidence, for my Maryland readers, both Coates and Tyler are Baltimoreans.

I can’t personally recommend books that I haven’t yet read. I’m trusting that all three will live up to their advance press. If anyone here has read one of the books, your thoughts are welcome. If you haven’t read a book this year, your thoughts are still welcome.

(Note: Ta-Nehisi Coates is the correct spelling of the author’s name. I apologize for getting it wrong in the original posting.)

— John Hayden

Cheap TVs And Costly Health Care

Once in a while, a sentence or paragraph in the daily news seems to capture the truth.

“America is a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities costly. A big-screen TV costs much less than it does in Europe, but health care will sink you.”   — Joseph Cohen, Queens College, New York

Makes you wonder, why do so many Americans ridicule Europe, especially the European model of universal health care?

That paragraph is from a story in the April 27, 2014, edition of The Washington Post, under then byline of Carol Morello and Scott Clement. The headline is, “Less Dream, More Reality: America’s middle class is shrinking and is being squeezed by the pressures of diminishing opportunity, stagnant wages and rising expenses.”

The story follows a typical American family with two full-time wage earners and three children. They’re not exactly poor; they qualify as middle class. But as the story reports, they’re “masters at scrimping,” out of necessity.

As the headline says, it’s just a glimpse of reality. Makes me glad I still subscribe to a good daily newspaper.

— John Hayden

Marriage Isn’t For You

This post by Seth Adam Smith is one of the most-read posts in the history of blogging. More than 25 million views. Good advice that appears to resonate. Read the whole thing before you decide if you agree. I’ve had a request to repost it, so here it is. –John

Seth Adam Smith

Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each…

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Peter L. Hayden died Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at Montgomery Hospice in Rockville, MD, after a short illness. He was 62.

He grew up in Wheaton Woods, Montgomery County, and graduated from Robert E. Peary High School. He was the son of Bernard J. and Anita Hayden.

As a young man, Pete worked for eight years in Ocean City, MD. Later, he lived in Washington, D.C., and worked at the Mayflower Hotel for nearly 20 years.

In recent years, he lived in Olney, MD, and St. Petersburg, FL. He was an avid reader of newspapers and books, and enjoyed working on challenging projects, such as renovation of a condominium in Washington, and operation of a small restaurant in Florida.

Mr. Hayden is survived by eight siblings, Bernard John Hayden, Keith Hayden, Anna Ryan, Rosemary Diehl, Eileen Criggar, Patrick Hayden, Dorothy Caporaletti, and Thomas Hayden, all of Montgomery County, MD; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

No funeral is planned. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to Montgomery Hospice, 1355 Piccard Dr, Suite 100, Rockville, MD 20850.

Another Season At The Beach Motel

Today, the beach motel opens. Another summer begins, even as the cool spring lingers. I work the evening shift, and I’m happy to have the job.

It’s my 65th summer on Spaceship Earth. I’m fully aware that the seasons are numbered, like the fastballs in a pitcher’s arm. You don’t know how many you have left.

“No matter how long you live, it goes by fast.” My favorite great-grandmother — the only great-grandmother I knew — said that. Most people don’t get to know a great-grandmother.

(Cora Hayden was my great-grandmother’s name. Her maiden name was Cora Cash. She was indeed a grand lady, matriarch of a great family. I was a child and she was a very old woman, so it’s not as if we had any deep conversations. Or any conversations at all, of more than a few words. Adults talked; children listened. Still, my life would have been much smaller except for her.)

I take each season as it comes now. “It’s a long season, and you’ve gotta trust it.” On Opening Day, all things seem possible, no matter the number of seasons. Is it the home runs you remember, or the strikeouts?

Yes, I’m not writing well right now. But some days and nights are like that.

— John Hayden

The Real Scandal — Petty Corruption Destroys Institutions And Families

Do we care if Gen. David Petraeus’ ego is so big he has to have a personal biographer follow him around a war zone? Do we care if a smart, beautiful, and physically fit Harvard doctoral student “works her magic” on a general? Not really.

U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commande...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it scandalous? Based on the definition of “scandal,” the answer is technically, “Yes.”

But realistically, matters of ego, ambition, and romance are simply “human.” It’s strictly a private matter.

Until it begins to corrode the quality of work being done by important institutions, such as the U.S. Military.

Petty corruption pervades modern society, from highest to lowest.    Continue reading

Maryland Election Ballot Questions: In-State Tuition, Redistricting, Same-Sex Civil Marriage, Gambling Expansion

See that line? That’s the first-day of early voting at Berlin in Worcester County, Maryland.

You can expect long lines at Maryland polling places for the Presidential Election on Tuesday. The reason: Ballot questions that voters know are important, so they take the time to read all the questions in the voting booth and make their decisions. The solution: Get familiar with the ballot questions before you go to vote. Do this on Sunday or Monday. Make your decisions and mark them on your sample ballot or just jot them down on a scrap of paper. Or print out this post and take it with you. Walk into the polling booth, vote, and you’re out in three minutes. But you’ll still have to stand in line, because most people won’t take a few minutes to prepare themselves in advance.

The following comments on four of the ballot questions represent the opinions of the blogger.



Quick recommendation: QUESTION 4: VOTE FOR THE QUESTION.

Question 4 is the in-state tuition referendum, AKA the Dream Act referendum. Authorizes in-state and in-county tuition rates for all true residents of Maryland, including undocumented immigrants. It’s been passed by both houses of the General Assembly after considerable debate, and signed into law by the governor.

Continue reading

The Present Moment Does Not Linger

Summertime, and the living is easy.

Unless you live and work at the beach. Then it’s a busy and sometimes stressful time. Work, sleep, eat, repeat.

If you’re a farmer, you might say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

If you’re a baseball player, you might say, “It’s a long season, and you’ve got to trust it.”

I suppose we all might say, along with ‘Crash’ Davis, the perennial minor league slugger in “Bull Durham:”

“Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it  rains.”

Or, as the part-owner of a boardwalk 5-and-10-cent store told me more than 30 years ago: “You can make money in Ocean City, if you know what you’re doing.” Not that I paid much attention to making money, then or now.

These photos of a lifeguard stand on the beach catch the sunlight fading into dusk, along with the cloud shapes in the sky, which never remain the same for more than a minute. Let the record show that the photos were shot four days after the Solstice, in the Sixth Month of the Twelfth Year in the First Century of the Third Millennium, AD. Not that it matters.

In June of 2012, I began my 65th year, Continue reading

President Obama’s Deportation Reprieve For Children Without A Country

Thank God!  Finally, a hand reached out in humanity and compassion to innocent young people!  It’s limited compassion, but it’s a step toward forgiveness of young people persecuted for doing nothing wrong except being the children of their parents.

President Barack Obama is announcing today a reprieve for 800,000 children of immigrant parents. No deportation for two years, for those who qualify.

The hand of compassion the President offers by executive order is temporary. A two-year reprieve. The young people will continue to live in anxiety about the future. And they will carry a sorrowful burden of worry about their parents and grandparents. The two-year reprieve offers no “path to citizenship.” Not for the children, and certainly not for the adults. These young people remain children without a country.

What will be the backlash? Will Americans demand that parents and grandparents be deported as a sacrifice for the lives of their children? Is President Obama sacrificing his presidency? Can Republicans tolerate a little compassion?

The irony is that these children of hard-working immigrants can play a critical role in the future strength and greatness of the United States.

— John Hayden