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Commentary

Courtesy, the Sheldon Art Gallery

A visitor finds it difficult to move along to the next picture when he’s looking at Radcliffe Bailey’s absorbing and  many-layered glittery print, “Tricky 3.” This large, complex and challenging picture at the Sheldon Art Galleries sets the tone for a new exhibition, “Printmaking in St. Louis Now.” In size,  scope, substance and intention, the show qualifies as a respectable blockbuster.

Sam Sextro lights candles across the street from the Edward Jones Dome while mourning the city's loss of the Rams. Sextro and a friend, who ran a St. Louis University High Rams fan club, met outside the stadium Wednesday for a "final tailgate."
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This commentary was originally posted on St. Louis Public Radio reporter Maria Altman’s Facebook page on January 14, 2016. It was recorded for “St. Louis on the Air” on January 19, 2016. Listen to the radio commentary here:

Some thought on the Rams leaving for L.A.:

In Missouri, as in most states, public schools are administered by local school boards.  The boundaries of school districts are drawn in accordance with state law. Schools are funded primarily through local property taxes. Districts with higher per capita incomes tend to have better schools.  The districts most in danger of losing their accreditation tend to be those with lower per capita incomes.

(Courtesy of D.J. Wilson)

Cost is factor no matter what you are buying – a six-pack of beer, a pair of jeans, a house, or for a state government, a public education for school-age children.

 Much has been said about the cost of the region’s current inter-district student transfer program. Much of what has been said about that cost has been incomplete, or ill informed.  

The one price tag that’s been floated is $35 million. Let’s break that down. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:The stock market is setting new nominal highs. Gas prices are not going through the roof. And just when you thought it looked as though the recovery would gain steam, some economist comes along to write that things are not as good as we thought.

We are nearing the release date (April 26) for our first glimpse at first-quarter GDP, the measure of goods and services produced in the economy, adjusted for inflation. The mounting evidence indicates that it will not be as quick as previously thought.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dear Beaconites --

You don't run a marathon on a whim. You don't run a marathon because it's easy. And unless you're part of a rarified elite, you don't run a marathon to win.

For most who dare to participate, 26.2 miles presents a test of character. You commit to train despite doubts that you can succeed. You continue forward though your inner voice and your aching muscles beg to stop.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Traditionally, we were taught to believe that those we elect to Congress either voted the views of their constituency or felt that the electorate selected them to choose the best alternatives for the polity. On some issues, voting one’s conscience might be an expected course of action.

More recently, scholars and pundits have posited other reasons for voting strategies. Self-interest becomes the key decider.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Recently President Barack Obama appointed agent Julia Pierson to be the Secret Service’s first female director. I’m sure that Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency, is an excellent choice who will live up to the motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” I hope so, as this is an extremely important position.

Four times in American history the president of the United States has been assassinated. The first, of course was Abraham Lincoln who died on this day in 1865. Ironically, he ordered the creation of the Secret Service just hours before going to Ford’s Theater. The agency was originally created to investigate counterfeiting. Two more presidents, James Garfield and William McKinley, were assassinated before the Secret Service was assigned to give the president full-time security protection.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In her weekly letter, Editor Margaret Freivogel said that the Beacon will be reporting in depth on gun violence in the St. Louis area in coming weeks. The problem is certainly topical and worthy of thoughtful commentary. Unfortunately, I fear that as presently formulated, it is also too broadly defined to lend itself to productive analysis.

Seventh graders performing a traditional dance in Honduras for Father's day
Michael Dulick | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As many friends already know, Guillermo had a recent cancer operation, and it was successful. Still, I am anxious every time I call his wife, Erlinda, fearing setbacks, but it’s been good, and better, news each day. Within a couple days or so he was taking little walks, taking baths, enjoying a liquid diet, a nice step up from intravenous.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The topic of heroism — and just what constitutes a hero — has engendered a good deal of recent debate. My Feb. 21 column, “The trouble with heroes” dealt with a cover story in Esquire, “The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden Is Screwed.”

That piece related the plight of a former Navy Seal — identified only as “the Shooter” — who claims to have taken out bin Laden and later resigned from the military after 16 years of very honorable service  He reportedly feels slighted because he was not granted a 20-year pension.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As deep as the recession that ended in 2009 was, history suggests the recovery should not be limping along as it is.  This weakness is not without explanation. You’ve heard that recessions coupled with financial crisis engender prolonged, shallow recoveries. And many of those unemployed during the downturn have not or cannot find work.

Or is this slower pace of economic activity, this unemployment rate staying above 7 percent, the new normal?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The film Platoon is narrated by a fictional American infantryman in Vietnam named Chris Taylor. At one point, battle-scarred and exhausted, he says, “Hell is the impossibility of reason.” For his sake, let’s hope Chris didn’t become a cable news junkie in his later years because the 24/7 news cycle contains enough illogic to fuel several infernos. To cite but a few examples:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Each year, more than 300,000 school-age children go through the criminal justice system. This means that America, a country with the worlds’ highest incarceration rate, is also the global leader in the criminalization of its children. Due in large part to “zero tolerance” policies adopted in the late 1990s, our country’s educational and juvenile court systems have become major suppliers to the school-to-prison pipeline.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This week, the Beacon has been hosting open mics in four areas that have been getting help in identifying how arts can help them and that may get further aid through the Kresge Foundation.

These events have come at the end of a series of meetings in and exploration of Old North, Midtown, the Garden District and an expanded Loop done under the auspices of the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation with support from Arts & Education Council and Regional Arts Commission. The goal is to build collaboration and develop ideas from within neighborhoods rather than bringing in outside organizations to plan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It was just after 11 p.m., and the weather was clear. The driver was an attractive woman in her late 40s; fashionably dressed, hair and nails professionally done. In simpler times, you might have described her as a “career girl.”

Her late model car was properly licensed and operating within the speed limit. In short, there was nothing about her outward appearance to suggest that she would be a person of interest to law enforcement.

Commentary: No better name: The Stan Musial Bridge

Mar 18, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most storied franchises in all of baseball and their accomplishments are among the best in the Major Leagues. With 11 World Series titles, 18 National League Pennants and the likes of Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Red Schoendienst, the Cardinals have always been a world-class organization.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In a scene that could be from "Zero Dark Thirty" or the latest news story about drones, a computer screen with a slight greenish glow shows an aerial view of an urban neighborhood.

The camera fixes on a long automobile as it makes its way down narrow streets. Referring to the screen, a bald man, a former Israeli intelligence chief, talks quietly about the difficult decisions that must be made in fighting terrorists. The screen is reproducing images from years back, when the man was in charge of Shin Bet, Israel's powerful domestic intelligence agency.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.”

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I teach a night school course in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at a local university. To encourage classroom dialog, I tell my students that the only stupid question is the one they fail to ask because they’ll never learn the answer to it. Alas, there are exceptions to every rule as Deb Feyerick demonstrated rather convincingly last month.

Commentary: Gun regulation is a battle worth joining

Mar 13, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “It’s an uphill battle. It’ll never pass.” That’s what is being said about legislation that would ban military style assault weapons. Yet, as I listened to the testimony of Neil Heslin whose 6-year-old son was one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I can’t accept this conventional wisdom.

Sandy Hook is a turning point. Too many lives have been taken by gunmen using weapons whose only purpose is to kill many people in mere minutes. Newtown is not going to “blow over” as the NRA has stated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, we began looking for pediatricians. We wanted the best doctor; and because we had choices, we were able to find a pediatrician we loved. In almost every area of our lives, we have choices, but many families do not have options regarding where their children are educated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The sequestration of federal government expenditures is in place. Just how will the mandatory cuts in federal government spending impact the economy? To answer that, consider several pertinent facts.

The sequestration will reduce federal government expenditures by a total of $85 billion, which is split between defense and other government agencies (some programs, like Medicare, remain untouchable). The cuts are not immediate and will take time to be implemented. This phase-in lessens any immediate effects on the economy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In 2007, the German director Werner Herzog released a film called "Encounters at the End of the World." The subject was Antarctica and those who love it, but the title could have described the whole of Herzog's prolific career. Herzog has directed about two dozen documentary features, beginning in the late 1960s with "The Flying Doctors of East Africa," and 19 dramatic films.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The email arrived unsolicited. A friend forwarded it to my inbox after he’d received it from a mutual acquaintance. Nobody seems to know who wrote the thing originally. Attribution is apparently not a high priority among internet theorists.

Like so many of the factoids circulating through cyberspace, the text was intended to be read in cursory fashion and then shared with others as revealed truth. This particular missive sought to compare the nation’s financial situation to a family budget. It concluded — wrongly — that pending federal cuts equated to a $38.50 reduction in spending for a household making $21,700 a year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Guillermo, 65, was diagnosed with stomach cancer and the family was simply at a loss when told the operation would cost 40,000 Lempiras ($2,000), not to mention all the other expenses, tests, medicine, etc., even the instruments for operation itself, right down to the thread!

That’s the way health care in Honduras works, or doesn’t. So I held my breath and sent out a call to friends in the states who responded like a choir of angels.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I am a gun owner, an avid duck hunter and am working hard to pass that passion to my grandchildren. My eldest grandson is a solid convert, and I am proud to say that for the past three years the only thing he wanted for Xmas was a plane ticket to come duck hunting with me.

This year, we went to our local sporting goods store to renew his permit, which is required to hunt waterfowl and small game in Missouri. Hunters have to have federal game stamps but there is no federal firearm stamp.

St. Louis Grown Artists

Jan 4, 2013
Photo by Peter Monsanto via Flickr / Hip-Hop Theater

I recently saw a picture of Joe Edwards of the U. City Loop fame shaking the hand of Ntozake Shange after her star had been installed in the University City Walk of Fame.

Shange is of course best known for her choreopoem,"For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide,When the Rainbow is Enuf."

I started thinking of the multitude of artists in all artistic fields who have come out of our culturally rich region and made it on a national level. Many are deceased, many are still working, and many are up and coming and will probably go all the way to the top.

(Office of Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson)

Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson’s decision to resign from the House of Representatives is disappointing for two reasons.