Vanity in History

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.  Abraham Lincoln

By Doug Magill


I recently watched the movie Lincoln, and was impressed at its historical accuracy, as well as the incredible talent of the actors involved, particularly of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln.  I was also struck by the gritty portrayals of the members of the House of Representatives: venal, vain, sometimes obtuse but very human.  Certainly not unlike today.  And, I suspect the movie got the backroom dealing and compromising right.  Democracy isn’t pretty, and passing legislation is a complex process done by fallible people.

I thought of this in light of the recent media explosion over a tape of Donald Trump expressing some rather vulgar and demeaning thoughts about women.  I don’t recall as much crocodile-tear outrage over a man’s words since the early days of the “feminist revolution” and the lame attempts and angst by the nerdy guys trying to get laid with their militant girlfriends.  Usually it was about something the athletes or fraternity guys did or said.

That said, Trump certainly didn’t add anything dignified to the presidential contest, did he?  One has to suspect that as marriage historically has been the method for gentling and dealing with the baser instincts of men, that his wife and daughters will clarify for him what is acceptable to say in public about women.

Knowing the media, it is not surprising that they will try to make as much out of this as they can.  Long ago having lost credibility and any pretense to integrity, it is their secret-society sworn duty to bring Trump down.  Our narcissistic millennials are easily influenced by this goal, thinking that this is something new and are eager to impress their self-absorbed peer group of their compassion and concern.  Most people who dislike Trump will be reinforced, but those who support him will be unfazed.  Alas, for those who truly wish to get perspective, the road ahead is difficult.

Ah history, thy appeal is difficult to discern.

We have certainly had large egos in the Presidency, and the quality of presidential language has not always been Catholic-school approved – along with their less-than-saintly actions.  Kennedy turned the White House into the Play House for his frequent frolics, as did one William Jefferson Clinton.   President  Johnson was more than well known for his earthy expressions as is Senator McCain.  Who can forget the disgusting and x-rated antics of Senator Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd – the least desired guests in a jaded Washington?

One of the most foul-mouthed offenders, according to those who know her well, is Hillary Clinton.

One has to remind our younger and uninformed progeny about the impeachment of then-President Clinton.  Eleven counts, including lying to a grand jury.  Disbarment and fines.  All because of romping with an intern – an intern! – in the White House.  Yet at that time the media described it all as just sex, personal and not relevant.  The special prosecutor was viciously attacked as being a pervert for even investigating.  How far we have come.

Still, the question to be asked is, which will harm America more, Trump’s stream-of-consciousness invective in the past, or the actions of a ruthless and avaricious Hillary Clinton whose stated objectives are to overturn the Bill of Rights and cause enormous damage to the American experiment?

One has to be shocked, saddened and dismayed at the would-be president’s capacity for mendacity, even under trivial circumstances.  The most chilling  is where her actions have directly lead to personal destruction and even to the deaths of others.  The mother of Sean Smith plaintively asks what happened to her son, while Democrats cavalierly walk out of the Congressional hearing where she was testifying:

Hillary abandoned him to die at Benghazi and lied about it to his mother’s face, and later tried to call her a liar.  Patricia Smith is still waiting for an answer.

This is Hillary’s character, and her history.  At 27 years old and as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee she was fired by lifelong Democrat Jerry Zeifman.  When queried as to why, he stated “Because she was a liar.  She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer.  She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the Committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

Throughout her career there are innumerable examples of her dishonesty.  From Whitewater to her role in enabling her husband’s transgressions to Travelgate and the destruction of Billy Dale and his staff (see Peggy Noonan’s reminder of Hillary’s responsibility, lying, and evasion: to Benghazi to her server to her compromising national security with her emails and the corruption of the Clinton Foundation the constant is her complete and absolute willful perversion of the truth for her own benefit.

Recently, Secret Service Officer Gerry Byrne called her a “complete pathological liar”:

Beyond that there is the enormous disconnect between her words, her actions and her desires should she obtain office.  Her empire games in Libya have resulted in countless deaths, her complicity in the withdrawal from Iraq has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands and her disdain for Africa has resulted in multiple atrocities.  To say nothing of what the rise of radical Islam has meant to women.

Her lack of support for DC vouchers, her unholy ties to teachers’ unions and the resulting condemnation of poor minorities to third-world schools, her alliance with anti-police  forces leading to rising crime rates in already desperate inner-city communities all lead to a destructive and anti-human set of policy prescriptions that would be disastrous for our country.  Her desire to treat abortion as an unalloyed social good will lead to the death of millions of more babies, and ultimately to further erosion in human dignity as we creep ever-closer to euthanasia and the forced termination of services under government-controlled health care.

It is understandable that there is hesitation to support Trump because of his free-form verbal onslaughts.  Yet, to an America sick of mendacity and corruption one is reminded of Abraham Lincoln, in responding to criticisms of General U.S. Grant and his occasional forays into excess alcohol, “I can’t spare this man – he fights.”

People back Trump because he fights.

Doug Magill is the Communications Director for the Cuyahoga County Republican Party.  He is also a councilman for the city of Solon, a communications consultant, voice-over talent and freelance writer.


In These Soul-Trying Times America Wants Paine Relief

By J.F. McKenna
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” — Thomas Paine, The Crisis
Pamphleteer Tom Paine was a master of the opening line. Likewise, he was a craftsman of the lines that followed—well considered, well fashioned, and always timely, even to our 21st century world of instant communication, tactics to hack into that messaging, and the effective countermeasures that address such hacking. Paine, who started life in England as a corset maker apprentice to his father, understood the value of the foundation, be it in ladies’ garments or a nation desirous of freedom. Is it any surprise that General George Washington had the Paine essay—from which the above lines are taken—read to his revolutionary troops at Christmas, on the eve of their victory at Trenton.
Historian and author Gordon S. Wood declared the amazing polymath “America’s first public intellectual.” In his 2006 book, Revolutionary Characters, Wood added in his chapter on Paine:
“After Common Sense had established his reputation, Paine came to know nearly all the political leaders of the United States, including Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, and he continued to write on behalf of the American cause. The most important of these writings was his American Crisis series, essays that appeared throughout the war with Britain….
“If these important contributions were not sufficient to immortalize Paine as one of the founders of the United States, then we have his extraordinary book Rights of Man (1791-92), which became one of the most important works of political thought in the history of the Western world. Although the book was written after Paine had left the United States in 1787 and was intended as a refutation of [Edmund] Burke’s Reflection on the Revolution in France (1790), it actually sums up what he had learned about constitutionalism and political theory during his years in America. In fact The Rights of Man is the best and most succinct expression of American revolutionary political thinking ever written.”
Despite Paine’s exceptional efforts, writes the professor from Brown University, the revolutionary “never quite has had what it takes to get admitted to the sacred temple of American founders.” The good professor, who himself has won an enviable Pulitzer Prize, called the early Republic’s biographies “muckraking diatribes that pictured Paine as an arrogant, drunken atheist.” Actually, many decades after Paine died in 1809, Teddy Roosevelt said much the same thing about Paine.
In our century, Thomas Paine has yet to receive “his due measure of homage from the people and nations of the world whose aspirations he expressed with such force and clarity,” according to the late philosopher Sidney Hook. “His passion for human freedom shines through everything he wrote.”
Again to quote Professor Wood, Paine’s writing was very different, noting that the revolutionary champion “looked for readers everywhere, but especially in the tavern- and artisan-centered world of the cities.” (He understood foundational marketing, eh?) Thomas Paine, continued Dr.Wood, “spoke out of a tradition of radical republicanism that ran deeper and was more bitter yet more modern than the balanced and reasonable classical republicanism of most of the founders.”
In Rights of Man, Dr. Hook writes, Paine proposes that the government undertake “the amelioration of distress which entitles to be considered almost despite himself a forerunner of the Welfare State.” Ever so gently Dr. Hook, a 1985 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, excuses Paine’s inconsistency as “a tribute to his sense of compassion for human suffering.”
Even in this election year, when the delivery of the varied political messages is more than shopworn, Thomas Paine’s core message still is not given its due: the passion for freedom.
Maybe in time that will change, for as Paine wrote in 1776, “Time makes more converts than reason.”
CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. While at IndustryWeek magazine in the early ‘90s, he wrote a series on Total Quality Government and chaired TQG conferences across the country. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at

If it’s Hubris, it Couldn’t be Hillary

By Doug Magill
Dang it, I never did get the hang of using these dumbass things.
Computers are for little people – I prefer the voice-activated conveniences of power.  When I yell for a minion, someone comes and adjusts whatever thingy I need to change.  Especially TVs, I hate trying to figure out remotes.  After all, that’s what my worshipping followers are here for.  Now, if I could get them to wear those cute yellow outfits with the goggles….
My neurologist – that nitwit – thinks I need to do more mental exercises in case my brain was scrambled with that last stroke so he suggested I write stuff.  Who cares?  My scrambled brain is better than the unbroken ones of the yokels who adore me.  See – yolks – a joke!  I’ve still got it.  Oh, I said yokels and meant yolks.  How do I change that?  Oh hell, Cheryl never seems to be around when I need her.  Someone will fix it for me later.  Someone always does. 
What the heck?  I have to get a new TV.  Who knew a shoe could break one?  My arm is still good.  Ha, lots of practice throwing pottery at Bill.  Too bad he didn’t get brain damage from all the earthenware I’ve bounced off that horny little skull.  The stupid TV kept showing clips of my comments about that basket of deplorables.  What’s the difference?  I thought the basket thing was a nice touch, you know – a place for towels and kittens (disgusting creatures).
Besides, I meant to say basket of deportables.  I mean, Trump Top wants to get rid of all of the illegal aliens – good little future Democrat voters.  Did I say little?  I mean dependable.  Same thing.
Anyway, if he wants to get rid of our little brown brothers (crap, I said little again – must be the medication).  So why can’t I say I want to get rid of those pathetic morons who think that more Democrats is a bad idea?  Put all those Bible-loving gun-carrying freaks in a boxcar and ship them out of here.  Let Mexico deal with them.  Hah, then who’d want to build a wall?
Speaking of walls a couple of my mansions need better fences – mostly to keep the bimbos out if I get elected.  Bubba boy will be partying his little deplorables off and I can’t stand coming home and throwing out lingerie that’s lying about.  If only they knew.  Well, maybe some of the clones at CNN do, they figure they’ll get in on the action if they keep hiding Bill’s bacchanalian blowouts – as if I didn’t know how to hire private eyes. 
Been doing that since Little Rock.
Oohh….alliteration. “Bill’s bacchanalian blowouts.”  Stroke, shmoke.  Love it.  And they say I’m a wooden speaker.  Speaking of wood, haven’t been laying it down for a while.  Gotta get this weight off.  To think, that mousy little writer from Powerline called me a “muffin- top of mendacity.”  Gotta talk to the boys.  What’s power if you can’t use it?  We’ll see how many pieces we can make her pedestrian car explode into.
What was I saying?  Oh yeah, blasted adorables.  That’s what I meant to say.  I mean, aren’t those fanatical, hairy beer bums that like Trump just cute?  Cute like in spiders that need to be squashed.  I know that’s what I meant.  I love everyone, even snakes.
Ooh, gotta go, Huma is coming with those funny green pills she keeps making me take before she puts on those weird Accepting the Koran tapes.  I always fall asleep anyway.  Maybe I can get her to get another keyboard too, this drooling thing gets really messy, especially with the H key in the middle when I want to keep typing all the wonderful things that start with H….
Doug Magill is a communications consultant, city councilman, voice-over talent and freelance writer.  He can be reached at

Happiness with Long Brown Ears

Happiness gets so tangled in life’s blind alleys and grand abstractions that you miss the long brown ears. With The Duchess, though, the long brown ears were the first thing you noticed.

“What a pretty dog!” declared Carol as soon as she laid eyes on the Beagle who would change our lives. “I could swear she just smiled at me. Isn’t she a dear? That brown coat is so soft. And look at those ears!”

“Soft for good reason, too,” said Jerry, Carol’s son. “Ambray and I bathed her more than once after we lured her out of the woods. We figured someone had let her escape a kill-shelter; but when she made it to the woods nearby, she quickly found herself very cold and very hungry. She was on her own—lost, scared, and searching for something to eat. Getting dirty in the woods just happened.”

“What are you calling her?” asked Carol, who lays claim to the most-tender heart this side of Heaven.

“She likes the name Holly, it seems,” said Ambray, Jerry’s wife. “She almost seems to smile when she hears the name, almost as if that were her given name from the start.”

“This pup,” I said, “looks almost regal—those long brown ears and those bright brown eyes. She could be the candidate for any magazine cover—Here Comes The Duchess of Hollingsworth!” At that moment, Holly looked at me and seemed to smile, a long grin carefully shaped as an upside-down triangle, with her eager tongue creating a sort of bright pink exclamation point.

The stately title of Hollingsworth was a given; that’s Carol’s maiden name.
“She likes you, Joe,” Ambray said. “I don’t see her go to many men since we found her. But she definitely likes you!”

To confirm Ambray’s comment, the little Beagle rubbed herself affectionately against my pants. “Hello, little Holly,” I said, even as I reached down to pat her head and touch her ears, which were as soft as a woman’s fanciest purse. Holly responded by nuzzling into my pant leg all the more affectionately.

“I think you’ve got a friend for life,” said Jerry, who was ready to fire-up the barbeque grill for dinner. Carol and Ambray agreed.

“She’s probably expecting something better than hamburger,” I said. “I told you she had all the marks of a duchess.”

“An always-hungry duchess, to be sure!” Jerry said.

As our dinner of hamburger and salad commenced, little Holly sat next to me, right below the table. In no time she was giving me a playful nudge, a reminder that she was my new friend and that she liked hamburger as much as any two-legged creature. Every time I looked at her, Holly would smile that triangle smile and flash that empty tongue. Before long, pieces of my hamburger were finding their way under the table.

The humans ate and talked and laughed; once in a while, Holly would remind me that she was still under the table and still hungry. Since Carol and I were weekend guests, the four of us at the table were in no hurry to let the day end.
As it turned out, neither was The Duchess.

After dinner we cleaned up the dishes and then Carol and I started to all get ready for bed. Jerry and Ambray had the guest room ready for us. That’s when the surprise of the evening occurred. As soon as I hopped on the bed, a brown streak moved across the room and jumped up next to me.

“Well, Holly,” said Carol, laughing, “I don’t think there’s any more hamburger.”
“That’s right, my girl,” I said to Holly.

All of a sudden Jerry and Ambray popped their head into the bedroom. In unison our hosts proclaimed: “She wants a lot more than a hamburger.”

As Carol and I found out when The Duchess added a touch of royalty to the evening by sleeping between—yet very close to—Carol and me the rest of the night. And that’s where she stayed the rest of her life.

The Duchess of Hollingsworth died November 10, 2015, having enjoyed many hamburgers lovingly prepared by Carol. CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. McKenna and his wife now live in neighboring Steeler Country with their remaining dog, Lord Max. whose pointed ears are greatly loved as well. Reach him at .

We’re All Second Amendment People

By J.F. McKenna
Donald Trump rejects claims he was advocating violence against Hillary Clinton when he suggested at a rally August 9 that there might be something “Second Amendment people” can do to stop her from picking judges, telling Fox News he was talking only about their “political” power – and saying about the media coverage: “Give me a break.”
In fact, much of the press needs to give the rest of the citizenry, along with The Donald, a break.
As soon as Trump let the words fall from his lips, the pro-Clinton machine set to the task of the day, which was reminiscent of many days before­—beating on the GOP candidate. Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook called Trump’s comments simple and dangerous, adding that “A person seeking to be the president…should not suggest violence in any way.”
Like it or not, to my mind, Trump was not suggesting that at all. He was promoting the right to bear arms within the limits of generally acceptable reason. After all, we citizens are Second Amendment people the same way we are First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment people. (For starters, may I suggest reviewing the 1990 case of U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez.)
If contemporary history texts read better for you than legal decisions, take a look at Richard Brookhiser’s ingenious, extremely well-written What Would the Founders Do? In his 2006 text the popular writer and historian reminds his audience that the founding fathers’ own defense-related backstory is linked to England’s earlier struggles with James II and its changing fortunes thanks to the Glorious Revolution in 1688. Here’s a part of Brookhiser’s take:
William Blackstone, a mid-eighteenth-century legal commentator, explained the right of ‘having arms’ as a firewall, a ‘barrier…to protect and maintain’ other rights when ordinary protections had crumbled. “It is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”
“How can Blackstone’s ‘natural right of resistance’ find a place in the Constitution in any case?” asks Brookhiser. “It is the starting point of Declaration of Independence, which opens with a recipe for just revolution.” As I wrote in June, consider just a handful of the indictments against the King of Great Britain in 1776 (and consider if the same charges do not address some leaders in 2016).
As does human nature, history loves an encore, no?
Again, here’s Brookhiser: “Was the Second Amendment then a bulwark of liberty, or a pious irrelevance? The framers of the Constitution doubted that any Bill of Rights was necessary, which was why they left it out. Under the Constitution power would derive from the people; how could the people oppress themselves? But Madison became midwife for the Bill of Rights, under pressure from his enemy Patrick Henry, and prodding from his friend Jefferson,” who considered it a useful prop.
As our history has shown, the Bill of Right is more than a prop, for sure. And as our current election cycle shows, there are no other Madisons, Jeffersons, or Henrys coming to the fore for the rest of us.
Let’s hang on to what we have.
CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at

Facts Submitted to a Candid World

By J.F. McKenna

Every American knows that July Fourth marks the nation’s birthday. Yet every citizen, even 240 years after the event, remains vague about the details of the birth announcement.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Drafted by the eloquent Thomas Jefferson the month before its appearance in July 1776 is a birth announcement that traces it inspiration to other, older thinkers but is, and remains, America’s initial commitment to personal freedom. To quote the singular historian-journalist Richard Brookhiser in his 2006 book What Would the Founders Do? the Declaration of Independence, followed by the Constitution and The Federalist Papers, is the first among the nation’s “user manuals.”


“Our founders are close by,” writes Brookhiser, “and they cast long shadows.” In fact, to read the Declaration today is to remind ourselves that the founders’ shadow is one of and for liberty against tyrants who are often not merely petty but petulant toward fellow human beings. Consider just a handful of the indictments against the King of Great Britain in 1776 (and consider if the same charges do not address some leaders in 2016).

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Before 56 names found their way to the bottom of this document, the Declaration offers this charged summary: In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Before the first hot dog gets mustarded out and before the first cry of “Play Ball!” is heard next week, maybe a bit of recharging of our Americanism is in order. The same year my birth announcement was issued, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared the value of doing so.

“There is in most Americans some spark of idealism, which can be fanned into a flame,” Justice Brandeis wrote. “It takes some time a divining rod to find what it is; but when found, and that means often, when disclosed to the owners, the results are often extraordinary.”

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at


By J.F. McKenna
That phrase above remains one of the most poignant expressions of one man’s life and work, written by essayist and storyteller E.B. White in 1957 and later shared in Hal Hager’s brief biographical notes at the end of Essays of E.B. White (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1992). To quote Hager, Elwyn Brooks White debuted in the final year of the 19th Century and “found joy in nearly everything he saw,” from brown eggs to Thoreau’s Walden to, as White wrote, “the nature and beauty of brevity.” More important, White shed his singular light on such parts of our world and coaxed a new appreciation for them, insisting that “writing of the small things of the day, the inconsequential but the near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sanctity or grace.”
In a world in which instant communications try but fail to demonstrate more pull than gravity itself, White’s principles and style endure—even though originally batted out on a standard manual typewriter. To quote William Shawn of The New Yorker, “His literary style…was singular, colloquial, clear, unforced, thoroughly American and utterly beautiful.” Shawn offered that praise as a White eulogy in 1985, but a modest White himself may have rendered the best appraisal of his work in 1977: “Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.”
Though I have no notion of ever sharing work space with E.B. White, Lady Carol took pity on me recently and purchased a copy of Essays for her congenitally self-centered husband. As she knows, I have been a reader of White’s work since my earliest newspapering days. And before that, as a Boomer high schooler, I regularly carried around my paperback copy of The Elements of Style, written by William Strunk Jr. in the early 20th Century, and revised by former student White in 1957.
Today, according to one source, the book remains the most frequently assigned text in U.S. academic syllabi. Writer White, no surprise, deserves the lion’s share of the credit for sales. “Professor Strunk, although one of the most inflexible and choosy of men, was quick to acknowledge the fallacy of inflexibility and the danger of doctrine,” White explains in his late-Fifties’ essay on Professor Strunk. “It is encouraging to see how perfectly a book, even a dusty rulebook, perpetuates and extends the spirit of a man. Will Strunk loved the clear, the brief, the bold, and his book is clear, brief, bold. Boldness is perhaps its chief distinguishing mark.”
Then, too, White’s contributions to children’s literature are nothing less than monumental—fromStuart Little to The Trumpet of the Swan to the publishing blockbuster Charlotte’s Web, whom one librarian recently declared to be found nowhere else but at the peak of children’s books today. Without question, White’s long work as an essayist for his adult audience prepared the stage for his young-reader classics. In his 1947 essay on the death of a pig, The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine writer displays an enviable eloquence about an expected occurrence among Maine farmers:
“I have written this account in penitence and in grief, as a man who failed to raise his pig, and to explain my deviation from the classic course of so many raised pigs. The grave in the woods is unmarked, but [White’s dog] Fred can direct the mourner to it unerringly and with immense good will, and I know he and I shall often revisit it, singly and together, in seasons of reflection and despair, on flagless memorial days of our own choosing.”
What has made, and has kept, E.B. White a brilliant essayist all these decades? One can find it in his praise of Henry David Thoreau: “Thoreau said he required of every writer, first and last, a simple and sincere account of his own life.” Then White added, “Having delivered himself of this chesty dictum, he proceeded to ignore it.”
In the introduction to his own essays, White called this form of exercise that of the role of second-class citizen to other writers, and he told the reader to “leave the essayist to ramble about, content with living a living a free life and enjoying the satisfactions of a somewhat undisciplined existence.” But, added White, he “cannot indulge himself in deceit or in concealment, for he will be found out in no time.”
CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at

‘Can You Spare That Twenty?’

By J.F. McKenna

“Men will pursue their interest. It is as easy to change human nature, as to oppose the strong current of the selfish passions. A wise legislator will gently divert the channel, and direct it, if possible, to the public good.” – Alexander Hamilton, 1788

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has announced that former slave and Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman will be the new face on the $20 bill by 2020, taking the space now occupied by the face of President Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, a crack-shot duelist of his day, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, and the trigger for many late-night “beer and bull sessions” at Kent State dormitories in years past. Secretary Lew also has remodeling plans for the back of the $5 bill to highlight various 20th century folks and events at The Lincoln Memorial.

Whether all this planned money-changing will generate additional public good is a topic for another day, although some public figures are quickly weighing in with comments. The Donald has dismissed this $20 image-transfer as “pure political correctness,” and Dr. Benjamin Carson has joined Mr. Trump in that criticism. After suggesting that Tubman appear on “another denomination,” such as the $2 bill, the retired neurosurgeon gave Secretary Lew’s move a thumbs-down: “Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt. In honor of that, we kick him off of the money.”

But let’s give the Treasury Secretary some credit for a channel diversion of sorts: he originally planned to displace the image of Alexander Hamilton himself from the $10 bill and then changed course, only to declare a fuss with the back of the bill as a way to honor well-known American women.

To refit a quote from an old KSU history prof of mine: “Partial credit, Mr. Lew—you didn’t completely disrupt this everyday glimpse at historiography. But keep in mind—Hamilton was the first boss of the Treasury.”

Were Hamilton still in charge of the Treasury, interestingly enough, he’d likely not be trying to score political points with the citizenry by retooling the look of its paper money; instead, as historians and economists have long noted, he’d be trying to retool the national economy toward being the world’s leading one again. Probably no finer summary of the Hamiltonian effect on the early Republic is that of Gordon S. Wood’s 2006 book, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (The Penguin Press).

Often in a figurative second row when pictured with Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and Adams, Alexander Hamilton left a bastard childhood in the British West Indies to become, as Wood writes, “celebrated for his nationalism, for his administrative genius, for his financial expertise, and for his hardheaded realism in foreign affairs.”

In 1789 President Washington—anyone can readily find GW on the $1 bill today—appointed Hamilton secretary of the treasury. Wood calls that pick “almost a preordained choice” that brought Washington’s “surrogate son’s brilliance” into the first national administration. “He treated Hamilton very differently [than other department heads],” Wood relates, “partly because he knew little about public finance but also because he believed the Treasury Department was constitutionally different from the other departments.” Ergo, Hamilton aimed to “strengthen central authority and the Union ‘by increasing the number of ligaments between the Government and the interests of Individuals.’”

“The severe criticism of Jefferson’s slaveholding and racial attitudes over the past several decades,” continues Wood, “has offered an opportunity for some positive reappraisals of Hamilton. He was after all opposed to slavery and worked to end it in his home state of New York. Also, in a land of immigrants he was the only one of the leading founders not born in what became the United States. In a major exhibition…at the New York Historical Society, Hamilton was once again celebrated as ‘the man who made modern America.’”

Admittedly, writes Wood, “Hamilton’s plans for an imperial America were out of touch with the realities of his world in 1800. Two centuries later, however, these plans do not seem so bizarre. Hamilton would be right at home in the present-day United States and present-day world.”

As will his image continue to be on the new $10 bill.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at

At the Core of Apple

By Doug Magill

I find that principles have no real force except when one is well fed.  Mark Twain

The FBI has reported that it has found a way to access the data on the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook.   While not releasing details of how it was able to accomplish this, Apple’s internal technology team is probably overloading cell towers with calls to known commercial encryption technology companies trying to discern who may have been working with the government.  With the long term intent of hounding them out of business.

The NSA probably had the means to break in to the iPhone but, interestingly enough, that secretive organization has not been mentioned in regard to this controversy.  Because it reports to the Defense Department and the FBI to the Justice Department, there were probably statutory concerns that prevented the NSA from being involved.  Regardless, the FBI undoubtedly was able to solicit the assistance of a foreign company to help them – to avoid dealing with the political issues associated with using any government or foreign intelligence resources.

In an interview a few weeks ago John McAfee – of McAfee antivirus fame – claimed he could put a team together in a matter of weeks that could crack Apple’s security.  If the FBI was interested he said he would be glad to help them as he knew who to contact.  The implication being that there were a number of individuals in the security world that had the expertise and the tools to crack an iPhone.

The controversy got quite heated, with Apple CEO Tim Cook issuing a blistering 1100-word letter to Apple customers criticizing the government and trying to position himself, and Apple, as champions of privacy.

The controversy centered on the 10-attempt safeguard Apple uses.  It anyone attempts more than 10 times to access a locked iPhone it automatically wipes itself clean (no cloths involved).  The FBI had a court order from a judge to force Apple to find a way to disable that security feature, and then they would use their own technology experts to discern the password and access the contents of the phone.

Apple has cooperated with the government before in accessing contents of its devices, but the head of the company decided that this would be a great opportunity to market the iPhone’s enhanced encryption and security features and show disdain for parochial American concerns.  After all, it is a multinational company worried about Chinese and European customers that wanted to feel that whatever business they transacted with their phones would be secure from government intrusion.  Any government’s intrusion.

The FBI did not appear to overreach in this case, only desiring a way to disable the phone-wiping protection on this single phone.  Contrary to Cook’s claims, they were not looking to create a permanent backdoor into Apple’s encryption methodology.  But, why waste a good marketing opportunity?

Lost in the press releases and angry letters and vitriolic statements is the fact that 14 people were killed by the owner of that iPhone.  And he, along with his wife, may be connected to others that have similar designs on their coworkers and neighbors.  Should another incident occur and be connected to Farook, the condemnation of Apple and the government would reach volcanic proportions.

But Apple’s worldwide marketing concern seems to be the core of its reaction to this event.  Which is sad, because at best marketing can be informative, while at worst it can lead to portraying an image that is misleading and possibly downright dishonest.  Apple was joined by Facebook and Google – a rare triumvirate in the viciously competitive high-tech world – in claiming moral superiority in the concern for privacy over security.

All three companies profess the standard liberal bromides about caring for people and international self-righteousness over the narrow parochialism of national sovereignty.  Unfortunately, by focusing on Apple’s concerns and not the country’s security, they have exposed themselves as greedy and self-interested.  They are not worried about the effects of their policies on individuals, and not interested in cooperating to help alleviate legitimate fears about a phenomenon that is causing consternation world-wide.  And ultimately, they really aren’t interested in the well-being of the people who use their products.

One supposes that the decision makers at these companies feel they are above nationalism, and have a vision that transcends narrow individualism.  Not unlike our uninvolved and pathologically dishonest president.  With a compliant and partisan media, they will continue to comfort themselves in the shroud of smug superiority.  Right up until the moment a bomb goes off in one of their buildings and they run screaming into the streets and find the only means to deal with the now worldwide threat of terrorism lies in the expertise of the government they disdain.


Doug Magill is a former Chief Technology Officer for a major corporation and is now a freelance writer, voice-over talent and communications consultant.  He can be reached at





If You’re Going to Accept a ‘Final Mission,’ Make it a Great One

By J.F. McKenna

On the bus home at day’s end, Patty Corcoran, a St. Ignatius School classmate, chatted frequently about TV’s Star Trek. She could talk incessantly about the sci-fi series, about Captain James Kirk, about intergalactic travel, and about Kirk’s second-in-command, an annoyingly precise spaceman who was half-human and half-Vulcan.

“Spock is very cool,” I recall Patty saying on the No. 22 bus, whose own journey ended daily at the West Park transit station. “He’s got this Vulcan Salute—Live long and prosper! Really cool!” I myself couldn’t mimic the salute separating the two middle fingers; nor did I care that much about it. My grandest 13-year-old accomplishment was not getting caught executing the one-finger salute known throughout America. Such was the convergence of two different worlds in 1966 Cleveland.

As generations of TV and movie viewers now know, Spock and Company didn’t stay moored in the ‘60s. The Star Trek phenomenon, as fiction and as the inspiration of actual new-world seekers, has continued unto this day. And all along the journey has been Spock himself—the actor and artistic polymath Leonard Nimoy.

The end of February marks the one-year anniversary since the death of the legendary actor who surrendered to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by chronically poor airflow that typically worsens over time. The main symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and sputum production. Most people with chronic bronchitis, it is said, have COPD.

COPD affects more than 30 million Americans, making it the third leading cause of death. Surprisingly, more than a third of these Americans suffer the symptoms of the disease – coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and breathlessness – without ever being diagnosed.

As Spock would say, this is “highly illogical”—since early detection and treatment can reduce suffering and extend lives.

Nimoy’s daughter, Julie, and her husband, David Knight, are determined to continue the actor’s “final mission” to raise awareness about COPD, currently producing a new documentary titled COPD: Highly Illogical: A Special Tribute to Leonard Nimoy. Here is a mission that will conclude only with the last patient.

“The film is going to be an intimate look at my father’s life, legacy, and his final years advocating for greater awareness around COPD,” Ms. Nimoy said. “My Dad felt an urgent responsibility to educate people about it, frequently tweeting and speaking about the disease and its causes.”

The couple launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo last month to raise the additional $150,000 required to produce the documentary. They are hopeful of securing the funding by mid-March so that the film can be released near Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary later this summer.

To view the documentary film trailer and to link to the Indiegogo funding page, go to For a direct link to the funding page, go to

If you’re going to accept a “final mission,” make it a great one: this the Nimoy-Knight Clan has done. Nimoy and Knight’s mission is as iconic as the decades-long role Leonard Nimoy played as executive officer of the Starship Enterprise. The only difference is that it’s not playacting.

Which prompts the age-old Latin expression—Ad Astra Per Aspera. “Through hardship through the stars” is a perfect saying for the man best known as Spock.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at