from items published in the
(See the category index for more.)


Newspaper items

index pages:

Bruce E. Mahall and F. Herbert Bormann
“On this planet, we are but guests”

published in the
Star Tribune,
March 8, 2010

The Earth has its own rules, grounded in physics and chemistry, geology and biology. [...] Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, 100-year floods, massive wildfires and epidemics are dramatic parts of nature, neither all service nor all harm, creating and destroying, and governed by rules that are indifferent to humans. Our anthropocentric economic model ignores Earth’s rules and is on a collision course with them.

We need to see ourselves as part of nature, governed by nature, not economics, beholden to nature for ecosystem services and subject to nature’s disturbances.

We need to view our existence in nature as dependent on functions we are unable to perform ourselves. And we need to recognize that we now have the power and the reckless inclination, driven by shortsighted anthropocentrism, to disrupt these functions to the degree that Earth will become uninhabitable for us.



Climate change

Ecosystem services need to advance from recognition of services to humans to recognition of services to our planet.

We need to find ways to avoid changing Earth in irreversible directions. We need to soberly evaluate anthropocentric economics’ sacred cow, growth, in light of sustainability. And we need to think beyond our own brief lifetimes.

text checked (see note) Apr 2010

top of page
Michael E. Mann
“In denial of warming, lies were repeated”

in the Star Tribune, July 30, 2010

Havanac objects to the term “climate-change denier” to describe him and his fellow travelers. Perhaps he prefers to think of himself as a “skeptic” instead? Well, skepticism is a good thing in science. But when it is applied in only one direction (that is, to reject all evidence of climate change while uncritically accepting transparently flawed arguments against it), it is not skepticism at all, but indeed denial.


Climate change

text checked (see note) Jul 2010

top of page
Judith Martin

Miss Manners

in the Star Tribune February 6, 2008

Gentle Reader: The Law of the Air, as Miss Manners recognizes it, is “Try to stay out of my space and I’ll try to stay out of yours.”

You may notice that the wording is rather loose for an etiquette rule. This is because passenger space keeps getting smaller, and we may all soon be sitting in one another’s laps instead of just leaning back on one another like fallen dominoes.


Air travel

in the Star Tribune December 12, 2007

Miss Manners does not advise you to taunt a person who has just been proven to be rude. Your answer should be a soft, “Why, that’s very kind of you to point that out.”

The phrasing prompts the other person to say an automatic “thank you” that is choked off with the realization that gratitude is neither meant nor deserved.



in the Star Tribune July 25, 2007

Did you never see anything wrong with the idea that brides should be publicly packaged and labeled according to their purity?

All right, neither did anyone else except Miss Manners for a century and a half.

Dear Queen Victoria launched the white wedding dress fad at ther marriage in 1840. White had been a usual color for young girls before they were allowed to overstimulate themselves – and others – by wearing exciting colors and jewels and putting up their hair. When the color of the wedding dress came to be considered as a declaration that its contents were new or used, Miss Manners cannot say. She only knows how relieved she is that this has ceased – or so she thought, until you spoke up.

Goodness knows there is plenty to criticize in that prolonged display of expensive egoism and blatant greed that is the modern wedding without resorting to such vulgarity.



in the Star Tribune October 17, 2012

The idea was to show one thing at a time, although Miss Manners knows that there should be a better way to put that. Let her just say that cleavage should not be displayed when the dress is down-to-here in the back, or up-to-there anywhere in the skirt.

text checked (see note) Jul, Dec 2007; Feb 2008; Oct 2012

top of page
from an obituary of
Thomas Matthews

by Ben Cohen, quoting Lee Egerstrom

“Thomas Matthews, a newsman’s journalist”

Star Tribune, September 21, 2007

He could make readers smile even in weighty stories.

“He wrote that the roster [employment rolls at the treatment plant] was filled with lots of political habitués and lots of sons of habitués,” recalled Egerstrom.



text checked (see note) Sep 2007

top of page
Jaime Meyer
“Why try to shrink God to our understanding?”

published in the Star Tribune, April 23, 2004

Here’s the history of religion in a sentence: We tremble in the face of the Divine’s immensity. That trembling can become, inside us, mostly fear or mostly awe. When our religion is filled with more fear than awe, we inevitably want to put God safely in a box and make God do what we want, hate the people we hate, punish the people we fear. Our fear brings on amnesia — we forget that God is capable of anything and everything.

When our religion summons more awe than fear, we are compelled to honor the creator’s unexplainable, incomprehensible diversity in action. God makes more than we can see, and even that which we can see is beyond our understanding.



top of page
Mike Meyers
“Regulation (and more of it, not less)”

Star Tribune February 12, 2012

America suffers not from too much regulation, but from too little.

Lax or sabotaged regulation leads to far more casualties than vigorous enforcement of laws governing commerce. When public watchdogs do not even bark when they should bite, expect widespread harm.

The U.S. economy still reels from the worst recession in 75 years – and not because financial regulators were overzealous. [...]

Alert regulators could have averted the crisis, but they were party to the magical thinking that market players always know best.

Technically feasible sometimes gets confused with technology that can be bought at zero cost.

To be sure, regulators never should publish 2,000-page rule books when 20 pages, or even 200, would do. Indeed, unnecessarily complex regulation can provide cover for corporate lawyers to challenge or evade rules and laws for decades.

But trusting the businesses to do right by society on their own ignores their prime reason to exist – to make as much money as they can in as short a time as possible.

Markets have a term for a good-hearted capitalist who sacrifices profits for clean air, pure water, protected workers and safe products when rivals are not required, by law, to do the same.

The term is “bankrupt.”

text checked (see note) Jul 2012

top of page
Minneapolis Tribune
“Despite indiginities, the eagle still soars”

Editorial, July 4, 1873

reprinted by the Star Tribune July 4, 2009

Much our national prowess lies in our heterogeneous origin — in the mixing of iron and silver in our blood — but as we pass through the crucible of Independence Day, we should become more and more allied in patriotic feeling, more and more homogeneous in desire and purpose. Subjected to this annual test, foreigners will learn to adopt the faith that is at the basis of our national life — that the people are wiser than their rulers, that everybody knows more than anybody, and that the greatest statesman is he who governs himself.



text checked (see note) Jul 2009

top of page
Peter Moore
“So this middle-aged white guy tells a joke ...
How to be funny without being offensive.”

published in the Star Tribune, May 2, 2007

So as a member in good standing of both the majority and the minority, and as such possessing the ability to oppress myself, I feel I’m qualified to clear up the questions people have been raising about humor, double standards and political incorrectness that have been the hot topic of late. So here are My Rules For Jokes Involving People Who Aren’t Like Me.

If you’re a member of an ethnic group, you can tell any joke you want about that group.
[...] It’s OK to make fun of your own.

If you aren’t a member of the ethnic group involved in the joke, it’s OK to tell it if it doesn’t involve a mean stereotype.
Remember – there’s a difference between racist jokes and jokes about race. Example: Two old Jewish guys sitting on a park bench. One says, “Oy!” The other one says, “I thought we weren’t going to talk about the kids!” Or here’s another: What do you call a black guy being chased by a bunch of white guys with clubs? The PGA Tour. [...] Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you look over your shoulder furtively to see who’s around before you tell a joke, you’re better off swallowing it unsaid.

The people in power can be made fun of without being able to hit back.
This addresses the whole minorities-make-fun-of-whites-but-we-can’t-make-fun-of-them-what-a-double-standard-wahhh! issue. [...] Sorry, fair or not, that’s the way it is. A small price to pay for world domination, I think.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, gets to tell Ole and Lena jokes.
My favorite: Lena goes to the town newspaper after Ole dies to run his obituary. “Just put, ‘Ole died.’ ” she tells the editor. “Well, Lena,” says the editor, “There’s a five-word minimum.” She thinks for a second and says, “OK – put ‘Ole died. Boat for sale.’ ” I’ve never met a Scandinavian who was offended by these jokes (and even if they were, how would you know? Sorry). [...]

I hope these simple rules will be a useful guide as you make your comedy-styling choices. But if you’re still confused, just remember:

If you’re unsure whether to tell a certain joke, don’t.



text checked (see note) May 2007

top of page
Bill Moyers
“Punished for the truth”

published in the Star Tribune May 29, 2005

A free press is one where it’s OK to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

One reason I’m in hot water is that my colleagues and I at “NOW” didn’t play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.



These “rules of the game” permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny.

An unconscious people is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy — or worse.

text checked (see note) May 2005

top of page
Mike Musgrove
“Porn industry, new technology go hand in hand”

from the Washington Post; published in the Star Tribune January 22, 2006

Online pornography [...] pioneered such now-commonplace practices as streaming video, trading files and making online purchases. [...]

It’s an old joke that every new technology is driven by porn. A big attraction for digital cameras, some hold, was the ability to take bedroom photos without having to take film to the snickering teenagers at the corner photo shop. And a force behind the rapid spread of VCR and, later, DVD sales was the ability to watch blue movies without being seen at a theater.

More recently, when Apple announced an iPod with video playback capabilities, there was a stampede among sex-oriented entertainment companies to announce that they were making video programming available in the player’s format.




text checked (see note) Jan 2006

top of page
W. Scott Olsen

“Taking a moment to ponder a book”

Star Tribune
Books pages,
August 28, 2022

The ability to scan a text quickly is wonderful, if your goal is utilitarian. But that’s not what reading is.

Reading is internal, a process of spirit and psychology more than aesthetics, and perhaps because of this, reading allows one type of communion that no other art form allows. It allows a pause, in process, for contemplation and sustained emotion.

We look up and away from the book. Perhaps we gaze at the ceiling; perhaps we gaze out the window. Our gaze has no object. We are looking inward, exploring emotion or intellect or the sweet combination of the two.

In this moment, reading has not stopped. Unlike music, where the symphony continues, and unlike film or dance or theater, where the narrative proceeds independently of our perception of it, reading gives us the space to think and feel in a sustained moment of otherness. We hold that moment in the mind as long as we can.

Reading is intimate. Perhaps it is the most intimate art form in that every bit of it exists internally. Other than an elegantly designed font or page or binding, there is no external object to literature. Because reading is internal, what we are really doing is exploring our own ability for empathy.


Books (general)


text checked (see note) August 2022

top of page

Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen