Seeking the Source

This piece from four years ago is a bit dated, but it also is not. We do need to find original sources, and far too many important issues in our world are clouded by the lack of them.

The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?

The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
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Emergency Powers

Queen Elizabeth II (or I, if you’re Scottish) is one of the most powerful people in the world. She can dissolve Parliament on a whim, declare war, revoke passports, and commit just about any act that would be a crime to anyone else with no consequences.

This may surprise you, given that she never does any of these things. Yet the main reason why the monarch of the UK still holds all these powers, what with the Magna Carta and Commonwealth and other historical tidbits, is a simple one. She absolutely never uses them. If she did, you can bet the UK would become a Republic faster than you could sing, “Rule, Britannia.”

This may seem like a rhetorical point, even with Brexit turning far further South than the Treaty of Rome ever enabled. But we’re about to see this principle in action. Not in the UK, but here in the US.

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Debate

A day after the State of the Union address has the internet lit up. Everyone has an opinion, and many of them want to state it. Topics range from the substance of the address to how it was presented and ultimately how it is received in the nation given a varying degree of relevance.

It’s entirely possible to go through this point by point and make some kind of alternative statement about the state of the union as I see it. But that seems to miss the main point. Our nation is fractured and unfocused. Why? Before we debate this topic, it seems reasonable to go back to the main purpose of debate in the first place, a fundamental skill necessary for an open, free, and democratic society.

The purpose of debate is to learn.

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Polar Vortex

It’s polar vortex day across much of the United States. Temperatures are plunging well below zero, close to the point where going metric doesn’t change a thing. It’s a day to stay inside and huddle, a day to not only be glad you’re still alive but wonder why you live where the air hurts your face.

It is not, however, a day to talk about climate change. These things just happen on a big continent with interesting geography. The same forces that water it and keep it green also create nasty weather patterns that can kill us all. It’s a big part of the North American experience, and it’s why people tend to migrate freely in this part of the world and have since humans first arrived.

So let’s talk about the Jet Stream again, and why this is just one of those things.

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What Next?

With the federal government open again, there’s a little less uncertainty in the economy. Things are back to normal and everyone is happy again. Right?

Unfortunately, the effects of the record shutdown are still hard to predict. As with any economic data, we won’t know until the quarter is over just what happened. We do have a few clues, however, and a few things that we can watch to know just where it’s going.

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For a Bigger America

The classic American road trip is a great experience for a lot of good reasons. More than the core of great novels and movies, it’s usually a journey of inner discovering and bonding and so much else all at once. At the core, however, is one undeniable lesson – this is a truly vast and amazing nation.

The best measure of how stuck in a rut this nation have become is how much that obvious fact has been forgotten. I promise you that the United States is bigger than you or I can ever possibly imagine. But to listen to today’s media or politics of any kind you’d swear that this nation is weak, fragile, and small.

We need a road trip. Short of that, let’s take one in our minds.

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