Tougher Bill on Illegal Immigration

Immigration Bill

The Grand Old Party, especially in Georgia, has raised ‘divide and conquer’ tactics to the level of fine art.  This bill and others like it at the Federal and State level around the country attack primarily Hispanic workers, who inherently have close to zero bargaining power.   They simultaneously appeal to Black and White workers who already feel threatened by both outsourced and incoming international workers.  Unfortunately, the result of such efforts will always be a further lowering of the wages, benefits, and quality of life of all workers.

Three Mile Island project

We are working on a  project which involves documenting differing perspectives on what most observers agree was the worst reactor accident in American history.

Within the next few weeks, by the date of the actual anniversary of Three Mile Island itself, we will make  available to internet listeners  an archive of interviews that we have collected.  These conversations proffer varying points of view, yet each participant faces the same 11 questions  about the March 28 event thirty years ago.  Our focus though, instead of the past, is what, if any, of TMI’s ramifications are relevant now. We will not edit these in any way, so that all interviewees have precisely the same chance to state their points.

We intend to document as many different points of view as possible: academic and scientific voices, community voices, political organizations on both sides of the nuclear debate, as well those of some actively involved in the business of creating nuclear power will appear.  In addition, some of the folks who shied away from participation will show up, when we read their e-mails or otherwise document how we tried to include their input.

So far, we’ve captured more interviews from nuclear critics than from atomic energy supportersr. In spite of my own views on the subject, which are decidedly skeptical of the utility, safety, and general beneficence of nukes, I intend to include as many nuclear advocates on tape as I possibly can. After all, people can only reach an informed decision about complex matters when all the information is present.  As Thomas Jefferson stated it,

“I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power”.

We hold with those who, even in matters of the most arcane policy, find a place for and insist on advice from the people who are the leaders of any republic.

The most critical point to recall, perhaps, is that the Three Mile Island accident has profound resonance and importance to contemporary reality.  In fact,  as long as  nuclear reactors here and elsewhere continue to produce electricity, radiation, and waste, the Three Mile Island episode will mark a milestone from which we must continue to learn, and upon which we must continue to reflect.  Honest brokers on all sides of this issue agree with this conclusion, and this agreement is the basis for our efforts in this matter.

An awesome novel is available, a movie version soon

It’s by a recently deceased Swedish journalist and novelist, Stieg Larsson, and, apparently, is about to become a film. The author intersperses data about domestic and anti-woman violence throughout the tale, which is a gripping story of how women manage to resist, sometimes of necessity in a violent and vengeful way.

It is also a tale of how fascism and the fetish of sexualized violence go hand in hand. And let’s see: oh, yeah, fascism is when, like, capitalism goes into major crisis mode, and then…oh yeah.

“Prohibition Blues” Redux

Before December 20th, 2007, Jake Nicholas Barton‘s only claim to minor fame was his great grandfather, Winston Churchill.  Similarly, prior to the 18th, Kai Franklin Graham‘s greatest notoriety was her mother Shirley, Atlanta’s tough, effective, populist mayor.  During that week, however, both of these minor ‘celebrities-by-family-association’ experienced a more direct notability after earlier drug busts led to guilty verdicts for each of them, ‘Sir’ Barton’s in Australia and Ms. Graham’s in South Carolina.  Barton’s arrest followed participation in an ecstasy ring that was preparing to peddle 12 kilograms of MDMA in Sydney; Graham’s plea followed admissions that she had knowingly used large chunks of her husband’s cocaine cash and contraband to pay her bills and maintain her life in a manner to which she had grown accustomed.  Both of these stories have all of the makings of tabloid drama, versions of which Britney Spears, Kate Moss, Michelle Rodriguez, Woody Harrelson, et al. ad nauseum have brought to the fore in recent memory.  However, for serveral reasons, these events permit us an opportunity to “examine our consciences,” as the Catholic prescription goes, about social, political, and economic aspects of controlled substances for which we are at least theoretically responsible, inasmuch as we are citizens of an erstwhile democratic nation. Even though these events are well in the past by now, they serve to illustrate current phenomena, in that the same things keep happening over and over again.

Justice Served?

The initial issue that ought to call forth introspection concerns the case resolution of two relatively heavy-hitters, in terms of the amounts of money and contraband involved.  For a key role in a $13 million conspiracy, Barton can expect probation by February, roughly twenty months after his and his associates’ arraignment in June, 2006.  Meanwhile, for an apparently conscious and supportive connection with her husband, now serving a life sentence for his ‘A-list’ retail coke gig, Kai Franklin Graham expects only to face probation and community service.  What would happen to me under those circumstances?  What has come to pass for millions of petty thieves, small-time dealers, and recreational users caught up in the maw of the war on drugs?  The data are appalling, although finding crisp compilations approximates the labors of Hercules cleaning the horse-shit from the Augean stables.  Until procedural changes that have occurred in the past few weeks, however, the average paltry pot dealer–less than a pound–could expect five to ten years on average; offering as little as a few grams of crack on the market, meanwhile, would likely have resulted in twenty years in state prison, without possibility of parole.  The disparities between the treatment of the regular working class ‘fall-guy’ and that afforded to the relatives and friends of, and participants in, the jet set are so extreme as to be noisome.  Seeing the disposition of Franklin Graham’s and Barton’s judgments cannot help but reinforce the notion that contemporary criminal jurisprudence, especially in relation to ‘controlled substances,’ represents a fundamentally unfair, and egregiously flawed, system-of-injustice that operates in contravention of its own or any rational premises of social control, social improvement, or public safety.

Not the Issue.

In truth, though, the prejudicial unfolding of the ‘War on Drugs’ is the least problematic element in the present pass–after all, ‘justice’ must inevitably display some unbalance, or our institutions would be Edenic indeed.  My own family’s and copious friends’ experiences prove beyond doubt that color, class, and connection account for a huge proportion of case outcomes, especially in first-offender or police-discretion situations.  That a good friend, the son of an FBI agent whose ‘golden-boy’ geist belied his ‘bad-boy’ habits, escaped with a warning and confiscation when a South Carolina state trooper stopped him with a pound of cocaine on the front seat on his seventeenth birthday, merely fleshes out a portrait of a system that we all know operates in a brutal, biased, and bizarre way.  Kate Moss’s apparently constant ‘nose-candy’ habit, with the upshot of a few luxury ‘rehab’ visits, points to another, yet similar, sort of inequity, one that we all accept, just as we realize that the likelihood of presidential daughters’ doing hard prison time for their pot faux pas is pretty small.A much more dire iniquity emanates from much deeper levels of impropriety in our cultural policies regarding drugs.  Such prominent financial institutions as Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Deutsche Bank, for instance, show up repeatedly in investigative reports regarding money laundering of the plus-or-minus trillion dollars cash a year that black market policies guarantee to major drug dealers; occasionally, non-financial companies, such as Enron or Chevron, allegedly benefit(or in the case of Enron, benefited)from such ‘book-cooking’ schemes.  Moreover, whether one prefers scholarly and historical investigation, as in The Great Heroin Coup and Drugs and Oil,


or enjoys hard-hitting current investigative output, such as Gary Webb’s San Jose Mercury News series on CIA importation of crack and Michael Ruppert’s brilliant tour de force in the pages of Crossing the Rubicon, or likes to plow through government hearings such as those on the Iran-Contra scandal that strongly suggest the drug-running culpability of such ‘heroes’ as Ollie North, or just sits back and marvels at the ongoing carnage of corruption that police and official involvement in the drug trade causes, that representatives of primary ‘protective’ institutions at least occasionally orchestrate the ins and outs of contraband processing, distribution, and usage can no longer be a matter of controversy for anyone other than the criminally culpable or pollyannishly naive.

Crossing the Rubicon

Finally, one need not be a true hero, in the vein of Michael Ruppert, who left the ranks of honest cops because he realized that his goal of bringing drug criminals to the bar would either prove impossible or get him killed in an environment of CIA orchestration of most of the elements of the trade, to witness such transgressions personally.  I have known and deposed two former DEA agents who, like Ruppert, retired young because, as one of them put it, “I didn’t want to end up with a cap in the head from a spook whose turf I violated.”  The essentially incontrovertible nature of such facts and examples as these means that critical attributes of our society exist as, at best, criminally fraudulent enterprises that we continue to ignore at the peril of our civic soul, to return to the ‘examing-the-conscious’ figure of speech.  In this vein, the foibles of the grandson of Winston Churchill–who might himself very well have been a speed freak–or the daughter of Atlanta’s mayor–who rules over a city as rife with drugs as any metro area on our fair planet, pale in comparison to what is obviously true of our constitutional core.

so it goes…

Many citizens simply cannot manage the combination of self-assessment and social analysis that the preceding paragraphs imply that we must manage, in spite of how ugly and vicious and stupid the whole situation seems.  Nonetheless, the difficulty of countenancing these ‘big-picture’ story lines is understandable.  What is not defensible, though, is yet another implication of Barton’s and Franklin-Graham’s criminal forays.  Wherever one looks in America today–in our high schools, in pubs and clubs, in church socials and office barbecues–illicit use and distribution of mind-altering substances is so ubiquitous that outside of communities such as the Amish, every adult in the country has a direct, at most a ‘one-degree-of-separation,’ relationship to the sale and smoking, dropping, drinking, snorting, shooting, or otherwise imbibing of all sorts of plant substances, and their chemical analogs, that get their users high, off, or otherwise to some altered plane of consciousness that a few folks achieve through Jesus or meditation, but the vast majority of us obtain on the basis of a ‘better-living-through-chemistry’ undertaking.  The vast array of evidence demonstrative of these facts means that only the blind, stupid, willfully ignorant, or dishonest among us is truly unaware.  In this context, the sagas of the Churchills and the Franklins are merely confirmatory of the epics of everyday life that every one of us senses, transpiring around us on a daily basis.

Were spiritual and ethical losses the only costs of the systemic dishonesty and corruption everywhere obvious around us, a reasonable attitude toward such personal drawbacks might be that they promise grotesque psychic and social consequences.  However, arguably the primary detriments of the War on Drugs’ intractable hypocrisy and fraud are economic and political, debits so profound in fact that they permit, and may promise, that we undermine all hope of a human democracy unless we find a way to act against their continuing influence.  The surface manifestations of this despoilation appear glaringly obvious.  The nauseating murder by the police of 92 year old Kathryn Johnson in Atlanta is just the clearest recent expression of a war on citizens that the War on Drugs militates must continue until we end our teetotalling facade.  Tens of thousands of citizens die each year at the hand of drug gangs and police gangs that are all too often impossible to distinguish.  Even more ennervating to average communities is the steady drain of talent and potential from them, not as a result of occasional drug use–which will ever be a component of the human condition–but directly flowing from the imprisonment of millions and millions who are nothing other than small-scale entrepreneurs and party-animals for the most part; other millions end up behind bars, marked for life as ‘unfit for human consumption,’ because they do develop really monstrous drug habits that, in the context of the false prohibition that prevails today, must lead to theft and predation to supply themselves with substances artificially expensive due to the black market that our statutes make unavoidable.

In this gloomy swamp of hypocrisy, the uplifting influence of the ‘Prison-Industrial-Complex’ on the already wealthy and otherwise well-endowed might seem a hilarious irony but for the social and personal carnage which the War-on-Drugs-Police-and-Prison-Subsidy-Program annually produces for the majority of us.  Police budgets, substantially increased by the ever present hypocrisy of fighting our most basic nature, easily exceed a hundred billion dollars a year, with another $30 billion or so on tap for prison expansion and construction.  Further tens of billions of our social treasure support the panoply of therapists and counselors whose very reason for being contravenes the programs in which they must participate, the cures and treatments that must always fail to deliver the results which they promise, and on and on, ad nauseum.  The fates of young Mr. Barton and Ms. Graham, in some senses, thus exemplify that, for the contractors and power brokers and moneybags who consistently make out like bandits from the assault on reason and hope that the War on Drugs stands for, “it is indeed an ill wind that bodes no one good.”  While one may under the circumstances enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus, which fictionalizes a world in which half the population labors as prison guards as the other half fights the doldrums of imprisonment, an attendant duty upon the conscientious ‘examination of the conscience’ that this essay purports to provide is to work to prevent Vonnegut’s imaginary existence from becoming the predominant reality of our lives.

the real issue

Nicholas Barton and Kai Graham evince an important actuality: as the busts continue successfully against relatively minor grifters(even if they rake in impressive millions, after all, their take pales in comparison to hundreds of thousands times larger drug-money pie)who may occasionally even be minor celebrities, the major players continue to operate with impunity, and the system trumpets the parade of lies and fraud that underpin a criminal conspiracy that passes itself off as law and policy in our benefit.  In a situation such as this, I cannot help but wonder about the vast ignorance of most folks about where this all came from, how it came into existence from identifiable events and patterns from the past.  Who knows that “heroin” was a wonder drug at first?  Who remembers about Sigmund Freud’s and Sherlock Holmes’s predilection for cocaine?  Who can even vaguely recite the manner in which opium served the British empire?  Who is aware that the Kennedy family billionaire fortune has its roots in rum-running?  Who realizes that the origins of the CIA are essentially indistinguishable from the decision to use ‘Mafioso’ as agents during World War II, and that these relationships continue into the present era, when drug networks are the lingua franca of the spy business?  Dozens and dozens of like political inquiries are germane to figuring out why things are so royally screwed up that our survival is clearly at risk.  Nor should the interrogatories end with these historical matters.  Who knows the history of cannabis?  Of LSD?  Of the opiates?  All of them tell a story about humanity not unlike the tale of the grape, of mead, of beer, a correlation that we pretend does not exist at our ongoing mortal peril.  If we are willing to look at the story of an upper-crust Englishman of ‘good family,’ and at the tale of an upper-middle-class Black American woman of ‘good family,’ in an open-minded and inquisitive fashion, we may yet achieve some measure of growth toward a comprehension of core issues of hypocrisy and corruption that plague our communities, our families, and our hopes.

Clayton McMichen, a Cobb County Georgia crooner and early country music star, composed “Prohibition Blues” in 1930; the opening lines of the fourth stanza, “Prohibition has killed more folks than Sherman ever seen,” established his ‘confederate’ credibility, but the overall song illustrates the crass class dynamics of illegal alcohol in its repeated theme, that “Prohibition is just a scheme, a fine money making machine.”  Wherever one looks these days, the encroaching tentacles of increasingly pronounced prohibitory schemes are burgeoning.  Untold billions of common people suffer as a result of this futile brutality-in-the-name-of-justice; occasionally, as in the past week, a pair of well-off and privileged sorts experience the merest glimmer of the consequences that the life-sentences and death sentences of the ‘War on Drugs’ “money making machine” impose on so many of the rest of us.  McMichen, no doubt an early proponent of “progressive country,” leaves us with words that should elevate and focus our thinking appropriately.

I’ll tell you brother, and I won’t lie,
What’s the matter in this land.
We drink at will, and vote it dry,
And hide it if we can.
Well, the rich they party, and they all get drunk,
And they call it society.
But if they catch you with a pint,
Good Morning Penitentiary.

Hearst newspaper and sports quoteAs commercial outlets that purported to represent our communities drop like rats in a plague, people need to be clear that critically important news is constantly happening all around us; how can we organize ourselves to make sure that the loss of contemporary media, imperfect as it may be, does not turn into a permament decline in the quality of popularly available data?

Enquiring minds want to know…

Georgia Power’s Appeal for Front-loaded Funding of Its New Nuke Plant

If the people of Georgia are not tired of getting fleeced, then they are not paying attention. Every day, some new excess of the rich and powerful costs the common citizens of the Peach State dearly. A recent example of this is Georgia Power’s apparently successful insistence that it should receive advance financing for its new nuclear dreams at Plant Vogtle, in Eastern Georgia.  Though only through a miraculous meeting of its production schedule would ratepayers see a single watt of electricity before 2017, the corporate fiduciaries at our electricity monopoly want to start charging us for the hypothetical honor of a completed project no later than 2012.

Even if an informed citizenry might accept this political and technical decision to build a new reactor, paying for it up front is suboptimal for at least three reasons.
1) Business basics militate against such moves.
2) Georgia needs a strategic assessment of its energy needs and possibilities, including more alternatives, that is impossible to imagine in the context of both a multi-billion dollar additional utility debt and Georgia’s taxpayers already paying for a future that they neither chose nor participated in planning.
3) Questions of cost, safety and transparency need further discussion.
For these reasons and more, Georgians need to be very suspicious of this most recent instance of official presumption and, apparently, cupidity.

Surely the Southern Company wants to hold itself out as an honest organization.  Surely, then, the company is well aware that under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, 80% new reactor loan guarantees are available from the federal governmet.  Moreover, French nuclear interests are discussing guaranteeing the remaining 20% of all loans.  Southern Company reps want more than 100% financing, apparently–more like 200% financing.  Interest on a guaranteed loan may hurt cash flow, but it does nothing to reduce long-term prospects, particularly if the underlying investment is not only viable but state-of-the-art peachy keen, as Southern Company execs and nuke supporters would have us believe.

Furthermore, the Southern Company and the Georgia legislature are structuring this deal inequitably in relation to different classes of customers.  Large commercial users will pay nothing extrato finance this new scheme–according to Senate Democratic Party leader Robert Brown, “they(big business)got a deal,”  whereas everyone else will get soaked.

Nuclear Bill Gets a Push in Georgia Finally, the whole situation has the whiff of the something fraudulent about it; on the one hand, the Southern Company wants Georgians to believe that this new power source is the best deal possible; on the other hand, 100% financing from the Feds is not enough to proceed with this great deal.  Why, in such a context, should Georgia’s citizens pay a second time for something that won’t be ready for 5 – 10 years?  Though very brief and rudimentary, even these points utterly undermine any sense of commercial trustworthiness in the Georgia Power position: it is either disingenuous falsehood or it is fraud.

As bad, or even criminally liable, as such misrepresentation is, far worse is willful ignorance. Any contemporary community without an energy plan is woefully ignorant.  At best, people who choose ignorance are unwise.

To avoid such a lack of intelligence, Georgia needs a strategic energy policy, not continued handouts to fatten already bloated corporations. Such an energy policy, at a minimum, would include a comprehensive energy audit of Georgia communities and businesses; at a minimum, it would include opportunities for immediate conservation by all state agencies, local government entities, and individuals and businesses; at a minimum, such a plan would include investigating all Georgia’s reasonable energy choices; at a minimum, such a plan would include raising the energy literacy of all Georgians, in elementary schools, in middle schools, in high schools, in colleges, and in communities; at a minimum, such a plan would include an ongoing debate about choices in which citizens played the leading role–this last is what differentiates a participatory democracy from a dollar dictatorship.  I’d personally feel more comfortable dishing out an extra $40 a month of my electric bill to finance those propositions, than to expand the bottom line of the already profitable Southern Company.

Southern Company and renewable energyLacking these and other elements of an energy plan, Georgia consigns itself at best to the good intentions of Georgia Power.  While such a decision is clearly in alignment with the army of Southern Company lobbyists who camp out in the legislature every Winter, for middle class and struggling Georgians, such a deal is a dubious proposition at best, a dubious proposition only attractive to the willfully ignorant.

The final reason for not turning over hundreds of millions of dollars a month to Georgia Power from the wallets and purses and paychecks of working Georgians is that we need to consider several important issues about nuclear power that have not been a part of the debate thus far before the Senate.
The first concerns the lack of information and disclosure that characterizes the nuclear industry.  Nuclear advocates cannot simultaneously insist on secrecy at the same time that they insist on having their way.  When clean-up technicians participated in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident thirty years ago, General Public Utilities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission insisted on signed confidentiality agreements and security clearances for all participants.  Over 20% or the early documentation of the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission–NRC’s predecessor–remain classified as many as sixty-odd years after the fact.  This environment of secrecy is compounded by the general lack of information about matters atomic, except if someone has the time and resources to file Freedom of Information requests and generally has the skill sets and patience of a top-notch bird-dog private investigator.

This lack of transparency affects other issues concerning nuclear power as well, such as questions about public health. Comprehensive tracking of populations adjacent to reactors is not standard operating procedure, for example, as it must be if we’re really concerned about the impacts of nukes.  We know–no reasonable scientist disputes–that low-level radiation causes cancer, birth defects, and heart disease, among many other negative health effects.  Only sporadically do long term studies happen at all; furthermore, when they do, the necessary data to track actual exposures and compare health outcomes is never available, so that population studies, which notoriously almost never yield definitive ‘proof’ of harm, are the only investigations that epidemiologists conduct.  We simply don’t know, though compelling evidence might suggest caution, what the real long-term outcomes are of living with a nuke in the neighborhood.  In such an environment, when clean and lower impact technologies are readily available, committing almost exclusively to atomic energy is paradoxical, except from the stand-point of profitability for corporate utilities.

Multiple other matters about nuclear reactors are troubling, or perhaps worse than troubling.  Reports from Europe suggest that nations that have followed the nuclear path have been surreptitiously dumping various levels of waste in the world’s oceans.  For fifteen years or more, American reactor operators have been availing themselves of opportunities to ‘recycle’ metals and other materials exposed to radiation and classified as ‘low-level’ waste, meaning that forks and spoons and braces might contain fission products that result from, or the unstable metals that make up, nuclear reactions that utilities use to deliver electricity.  To date, we have no proven mechanism for dealing with a growing cesspool of high level nuclear waste that, though theoretically possible to compress into a small volume, also has the theoretical capacity to cause tens of millions of fatalities or more.

A complete list of problematic considerations concerning nukes would be much longer.  Proliferation of nuclear weapons is also plausibly an inevitable accompaniment of nuclear power, as the case of India proves, and as our government’s concern about Iranian reactors strongly implies.  Investments in nukes unavoidably compromise opportunities to research and develop other techniques not so beset with issues of cost, health, and safety.  Investments in nukes preclude a longer-term commitment to sustainable technologies that require no further technical maturation to be applicable today at competitive or even superior prices–technologies such as wind power and solar heating, in particular.  And we haven’t even considered matters such as terorist threats or other catastrophic breakdowns to which radiation-generated power is liable.

True enough, we face stark choices about energy.  And we may have little option, at some juncture, other than to rub the nuclear lamp again and hope that the genie their turns out to be friendlier than we feared.  However, the present return, after a thirty year detour that followed in the aftermath of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to a nuclear powered future is at the very least inappropriate without further democratic review.  And that’s at the very least.  At most, and significantly more likely, given the evidence that is available to anyone who does decide to pay attention, this represents another case of a fraud being foisted on a complacent and ignorant populace.  At the very best, we will be buying the new reactors at Plant Vogtle at a cost that is dear but about which we have little choice.  And that’s at the very best.  At worst, and much more likely, given even more copious data that the discerning can see, we are signing a death warrant for unknown legions of our children and grand children, all to enrich the already fabulously wealthy.

And they want us to pay in advance.  It’s crazy, at the best.


Saluda, NC

I’m a social democratic intellectual who has converted his Catholic upbringing into an agnostic humanism that seeks to find ways to serve humankind. I’ve taught, done legal research and investigation, and moved 35 million pounds(no fooling)of household goods all over Atlanta and the U.S. in order to support my writing habit when it did not provide the income to support the inevitable outgo of my existence. My goal is to have echoes of my work survive down the ages, long after my body has rotted back to the forest’s hummus from which our lives have sprung. I’ve published and produced a smattering of a hundred odd bits and pieces nationally, less than a per cent of the oceanic reservoir of material that I long to deliver to an audience, a vast audience that can imbibe the healing energy and insights of the stories which have come to me. That the world needs such tales and scenarios now seems like a no-brainer to me. Stories continue to inundate me. I live most days deep in God’s grace the sense of belonging right where I am in the midst of All-That-Is. I feel connection coming my way, almost in spite of my shy and intraverted nature, despite the fact that folks have long misunderstood my passion to have impact as arrogance and self-righteous know-it-all energy. I do know a lot, but part of the magic that has defined my life is an uncanny capacity to meet “ordinary” folks who reveal their most utterly extraordinary selves to me, in a fashion that compels me to ask that others pay attention and acknowledge the goddess gracious goodness that lives in all of us. At the least, as I say, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

More Advice for the Textually Challenged

For the past two weeks, I have offered tips, advice, and even prize-driven quizzes to my blog’s hypothetical readers, all in an attempt to shed some light on any linguistic or communication issues any such readers might struggle with. In the following weeks, I will be taking a different route for the rest of this blog’s life. Even though I will still occasionally post pedagogical materials, I will also include more things that are pertinent to fiction writing, more examples of my own work, and, as appropriate, interesting things I find in the media. In this respect, any readers are welcome to forward to me anything that they might consider noteworthy. I have already received one such invitation, which I am grateful for, and which I shall discuss sometime next week, when I have more time to properly digest it.

What follows is an initial template for would-be essayists. That structure, organization, form are critical to successful writing should be as obvious in writing as in home construction. Just as a pile of bricks and wood and nails and cement does not make a house, so a pile of words and sentences and ideas does not make a story.
The idea of organization is as simple as 1,2, 3. Ever since Aristotle, writers have noted that, rhetorically(which is to say, persuasively)a beginning, middle, and end of anything contain necessary, unique elements. This simple rubric, however, is never easy to achieve without diligent practice and focused attention to the logic of communication. A significant chunk of everything I teach concerns the straightforward complexity of structure. I take apart introduction, body, and conclusion for students and help them gain an organizational facility that is the first step toward mastery.
One of the ways that I do this is to “model” essays for folks. Below, readers will find such an effort. In one of my classes, pupils had an hour, more or less, to answer a two part question. “Why is peace so hard to achieve? Who or what is the greatest threat to world peace?” Clearly these are pertinent questions just now; but relevance and even interest do not necessarily guarantee an easy writing assignment.
Many of my young writers struggled with this topic. As is my wont, I also put myself under the gun in this case. I finished the overwritten, clunky, and otherwise far-from-perfect missive below in just over an hour. I worked for almost five minutes on a slip of an outline prior to starting. This step, one that is central to my teaching, guarantees, whenever a writer follows the steps as instructed, that he or she will produce something organized, something that a reader will find comprehensible if not elegant, polished, and piquant.
Thus, I do not recommend the writing in this draft. I would contend though that the ideas and development are both understandable and plausible here, precisely because I know how to create, and to teach, the simple profundity of beginning, middle, and end. So saying, I’ll hope to hear from some people who look this site over. I love thinking about language generally, and find myself inveterately excited about English in particular.

Advice to a young scribe

Thanks for the question. As in most things, in one’s choice of jobs, one should first ask, “What most interests me?” Maybe sports is the answer. Do an interview with the linebacker who broke his neck two years ago and will never play football again; or do an interview with the girls who didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Maybe you’re interested in school news. Write a general article about all of the candidates who didn’t win Senior Class President; write about the teacher in a neighboring school who won a prize or was caught smoking pot or having sex with a cheerleader. Maybe you’re interested in current events(with a student angle of course); write about the Clayton County schools losing its accreditation; write about the way that the Senate cut out schools from the national ‘stimulus bill’; write about how many kids take ADD or anti-depressant drugs. Maybe you’re interested in movies and TV or ‘lifestyle’ wtiting; same deal–choose some interesting topic, find out about it, and write a story.

Read a few newspapers before you give it a try. If it’s an essay, look at op-ed pieces, and work on a similar structure. If it’s a news story, use the ‘inverted triangle’ formula, with the lead containing the most important data and more analytical stuff, supporting ideas, at the end.