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Giving credit to graduates, and sparing them empty platitudes

It’s commencement season and we are obligated, those of us who have passed this milestone, to dispense nuggets of our hard-earned wisdom to the graduates.

Well, here’s my advice to you in the gowns and mortarboards.

You don’t need it.

You’re pretty smart already.

There’s lots you don’t know, sure.

But you’ll figure all that out along the way.

Most of it, anyway.

Bad dream, and the brilliance that is Pop Rocks

As a person who has mastered little besides the repetitive pattern of respiration required to survive, I’ve never been especially annoyed at how often I dream about failing at some task.

It seems, based on my conversations with other people, that I’m plagued by an inordinate number of these nightmares.

Although I suppose this might be an illusion, the result of these unpleasant dreams being so abnormally vivid that they linger a good while and thus seem more frequent than they actually are.


Can welfare and work co-exist in a post-Roosevelt world?

I recently watched an excellent Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary about the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of several alphabet soup public relief agencies President Franklin Roosevelt created during the Depression.

This was a time, of course, when soup of any flavor was hard to come by except those recipes simmering in government kitchens.

The topic, despite the grainy black-and-white patina of the film, seemed more relevant than you’d expect of something going on 80 years ago.

In particular the show, a 2009 episode in OPB’s “Oregon Experience” series, got me to thinking about a current controversy over a state aid program that bears a passing resemblance to the CCC.

The program is called Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). As its name implies, the program gives public money to families — 30,000 of them, roughly, a total of 52,000 adults and children.

Getting stuck, but living to tell the embarrassing tale

I’ve gotten my rig stuck probably a dozen times, but never for a good reason.

And that’s even allowing for an especially generous definition of “good reason.”

Forget such legitimate excuses as “I was carrying life-saving serum to diphtheria patients,” or “my passenger just had a heart attack.”

I can’t even make the understandable, albeit silly, claim that I got high-centered on a snowdrift or mired in a mudhole while taking a shortcut because I was late for my kid’s ballgame or a friend’s wedding.

Bin Laden's dead, and Obama proves an adept keeper of secrets

Say what you will about President Obama’s economic policies, but the man’s capacity for secrecy is absolutely Nixonian.

And I’m talking about real secrets here, not ludicrous claims involving Kenyan hospitals and doctored documents.

The clandestine affair that has burnished Obama’s reputation has to do with a death rather than a birth.

Specifically, it has to do with America’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden.


Will The Donald pull a Perot on the Republicans?

I’m a registered independent but I have considerable respect for the Republican Party’s electoral acumen.

The GOP, after all, has won seven of the past 12 presidential elections.

And in the past 18 years the party has amassed a level of legislative power, particularly in the House, that had eluded it for decades.

But lately I’ve begun to wonder whether the Republicans, or at least a significant percentage, are going a little soft in the head.

Free speech and lap dances: Oregon's curious Constitution

Although I rarely go anywhere unclothed, I have no particular objection to nudity.

You don’t see much of it around here anyway, what with sub-zero weather common, and a potentially carcinogenic solar index for half the year.

But though I don’t care whether people bare a little skin or a lot when they’re at home or in a public setting where children aren’t allowed, I am a trifle troubled when brazen displays of flesh are made the measuring stick, so to speak, for how well America is living up to its reputation as a bastion of freedom for the individual.

Climate changes, and so should attitude about nuclear power

I’ve just finished re-reading, for the first time in several years, one of the more frightening non-fiction books written in the 20th century.

It’s called “The Warning.”

The authors are Ira Rosen and Mike Gray.

Published in 1982, the book chronicles, in exhaustive detail, the infamous 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

A 21st century gold rush that's good for the environment?

The reality that a single ounce of any substance is worth $1,400 can exert a considerable influence on a person.

Especially when the substance in question is legal and can be peddled on the open market.

(Certain drugs have a comparable value, but dealing in them, unless you’re a licensed pharmacist, is a clandestine matter. Also, the people who get into that line of work frequently end up not with a lucrative investment but rather a long prison sentence or a bullet in the head from a short-barreled handgun.)

Gold, by contrast, has for centuries been a socially acceptable, and treasured, commodity pretty much everywhere on the globe.

An abundance of public land, but a scarcity of compromise

Scrolling through the comments posted on OregonLive.com, with the goal of sampling reasonable, respectful opinions about a complex issue — cattle grazing on public land, for instance — is akin to letting a mob of 3-year-olds decide the dinner menu and expecting a nutritious meal.

You’re going to get lots of candy and ice cream.

But very little in the way of leafy green vegetables.

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