Because nothing important is going on in the world right now, America is engaged in a fevered debate about airplane seats.
Is there a God-given right to recline, even if it impinges on the kneecaps of the person seated behind you?
Three recent in-air disputes have resulted in commercial flights being rerouted for unscheduled landings, and feuding passengers booted off. This trend, if it continues, can only add more thrills to the already-hectic air travel experience.
I was relieved to learn that President Obama has appointed an Ebola czar named Ron Klain. His job, as I understand it, is to reign over all matters having to do with the Ebola virus. How he will manage to do that is not clear right now, but time will take care of that.
The word “czar” can be traced a couple of millennia back to Julius Caesar, the Roman ruler who was stabbed to death by senators, thereby establishing a custom that has been followed by politicians ever since. “Caesar” became synonymous with king, ruler, emperor, godfather, CEO and other terms. As centuries passed, the word was changed to kaiser (Germans), tsar (Slavic) and finally czar (Russian). Let’s hope it stays that way.
Republicans have criticized Obama for appointing a veteran bureaucrat as Ebola czar, rather than an experienced medical person such as someone having a Ph.D. in Ebola-ology. In response, Obama’s defenders ask “Have you ever watched a doctor trying to administer funds and priorities for 387 squabbling epidemiologists while also fielding questions from obnoxious know-it-all reporters and panic-stricken parents whose daughter has been dating a man who visited Liberia in 1998 and brought home a possibly-infected coconut? Have you? Hanh?!!”
If you believe Houston Mayor Annise Parker, then you have to believe that when lawyers for her city subpoenaed five local pastors and demanded their sermons, the episode represented an unfortunate instance of lawyer overreach, with no intent to harass or intimidate the opposition.
This story begins in May, when the Houston City Council passed, by an 11-6 vote, an equal rights ordinance that banned discrimination based on sex, race and national origin - as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.
Some local church leaders objected. They petitioned to put a measure on the ballot to repeal the ordinance. They gathered signatures - more than the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot, according to the city secretary.
Standard night-time in-the-bed while fast-asleep dreams can be crazy, sort of like visiting the Dalí Museum while you’re drunk and on acid. But they are mild compared to what may happen if you doze off while watching television.
I did that a few nights ago. Here’s what I remember about my TV dream: The president of the U.S. was named Ebola. He was a short Italian man, married to the singer Taylor Swift, who kept singing bittersweet tunes such as “You leave-a me and I willa cut off your dinky pepperoni!”
The president escaped onto the White House lawn. There, a thousand protesters had gathered to accuse Ebola of every crime and problem known to humankind.
So you’re perturbed over a letter to the editor. You’re so mad you vow never to read our newspapers again. Here’s my advice: “Don’t get mad, get even.” In other words write a better letter.
I love letters to the editor, even though some make me cringe.
In the past 10 years, I bet I’ve read and edited more than a 1,000 letters to the editor, ranging from complaints about the president, ex-presidents, animals, local government decisions, police, dog poop, fireworks found in mail boxes, the smell of sewage, bicyclists who text, Democrats, Republicans, the cost of groceries, trash on the beach, our columnist Bob Driver and yours truly.
The novelist Henry James once wrote a remarkable story called “The Beast in the Jungle.” It told of a man, John Marcher, who believed that something important, and possibly catastrophic, would one day happen to him. He was not sure what it would be, but he believed it would surely come and give meaning to his life.
He had a friend, May Bartram, who cared deeply for him. He did not value her as he might have. He did not allow May to come close to him, for fear his coming big event - the beast in the jungle - might somehow harm her. He was too busy waiting for the transformation of his life to occur.
Years passed. Archer and May remained friends, but never attained the glory they might have known if Archer had allowed May to replace his long-awaited beast, the great unknown event. That event never arrived. At the story’s end, Archer realizes that the “beast” he had waited for was the fact that he would never experience a grand event. His life had been a futile, humdrum waste. The closing of “The Beast in the Jungle” is regarded by many critics as one of the most powerful pieces of writing known.
If you wanted to nudge the courts to establish a right to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, you couldn’t pick a more sympathetic plaintiff than Brandon Coats of Colorado. As a teenager, Coats was in an automobile accident that left him severely disabled. Now 34, Coats is a quadriplegic who has had a state medical marijuana card since 2009. He worked as a customer service representative for Dish Network from 2007 to 2010, when Dish fired him after he tested positive for marijuana use during a random drug test.
Coats sued Dish. On Tuesday, attorneys argued his case before the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We’re not arguing that it’s a constitutional right,” Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, told the court, “but we are arguing that it’s lawful (to use marijuana outside the workplace).” Dish maintains that it fired Coats in keeping with its zero-tolerance drug policy, which comports with federal law and even Colorado law, which provides only an “affirmative defense” for marijuana.
Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings, are held every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Scottish American Society of Dunedin, 917 Louden Ave.
The cost is $3 and $5 for nonmembers. The social club is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish culture, offering Scottish country dancing, line dancing, holiday dinners and parties.
Family fun night CLEARWATER – A Family Fun Night sponsored by the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance is set for Friday, Oct. 31, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Buccaneer Field, 905 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
Costumes are not necessary but welcomed. Children age 6 and younger must be accompanied by parents at all times.
The free event includes entertainment by the Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet, food, games, treats and additional entertainment. There also will be various vendors and on-site service providers.
Food includes hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, soda, popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy. There will be bounce houses and face painters as well.
The event is partnered with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Clearwater Police Department, Walmart, Publix, Clearwater Parks and Recreation, Greenwood Panthers, PSTA, AIB and GFS.
Postcards from Italy PALM HARBOR – Residents are invited to view the video “Postcards From Italy” on Friday, Oct. 31, 2 to 4 p.m., at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave.
This program is a part of the library’s Italian-American Heritage Month celebration.
The video, which was filmed in Sicily, Matera, Irsina, Naples, the island of Procida, Gubbio, Spoleto, Siena, and Rome, shows the uniquely Italian way of life as reflected in its cultural traditions as well as in the stories of its people.
Mildred Cooper, president of Central Gulf Coast Lodge in Florida, Order of the Sons of Italy, will facilitate the discussion for this and each of the Italian/American Heritage programs. Light refreshments will be provided.
For further information, call 784-3332, ext. 3006.
Scottish American Society social gatherings Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings, are held every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Scottish American Society of Dunedin, 917 Louden Ave., Dunedin.
The cost is $5 for nonmembers. The social club is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish culture, offering Scottish country dancing, line dancing, holiday dinners and parties.
Sunset Market LARGO – Sunset Market is open every Friday through May, 3 to 7 p.m., in Largo Central Park’s parking lot No. 1, at southwest corner of East Bay and Central Park drives.
Vendors will offer vegetables, fruits, raw local honey, herbal teas and wild-caught seafood as well as organic body products, essential oils, arts and crafts. The focus will be on produce and organic products with about 40 percent of the market dedicated to art and craft vendors.
The market offers several ways for commercial business to advertise as well as two free spaces per market reserved for nonprofit entities.
Abundance Swap CLEARWATER – The Abundance Swap, an event where anyone can bring a gently used item or one in decent working order to Moccasin Lake Park, 2750 Park Trail Lane, on Saturday, Nov. 1, noon to 4 p.m.
Those items will be on tables for display and can be taken home for free. Bring something and take something home.
Organizers hope to have a wide variety of items, including books, CDs, electronics and parts, games, sports equipment, art supplies, clothing, kitchen and other household items available for anyone who wants it. This is a wonderful way to clear out one’s closet, drawer or box in the garage and walk away with some other goodies.
Items not accepted include food, shoes, underwear, things broken beyond repair, stuffed animals that have been drooled on a lot, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc.
Affordable Care Act seminars PINELLAS PARK – Liberty Tax Service, at 7001 66th St. N., will offer free seminar events to educate everyone about the new tax laws surrounding the Affordable Care Act.
There will be three seminars throughout the day on Saturday, Nov. 1, 10 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. The seminars will be open to the public. There also will be family fun, entertainment and free food, music and the Lady Liberty Wavers.
Liberty Tax Service also will be collecting used cell phones for the nonprofit Cell Phone for Soldiers. Every phone this organization collects provides free talk time for soldiers to call home.
Fall and Christmas Craft Bazaar SEMINOLE – Oakhurst United Methodist Church, located at 13400 Park Blvd., will host its Fall and Christmas Craft Bazaar Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1-2.
Hours will be Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The event will feature crafts, bake sale, Georgia pecans, handcrafted gifts, decorations, lighted Christmas trees and florals.