Thursday, December 22, 2022

My favorite books of fiction in 2022

The best fiction books I have read this year out of about 32 are Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and the Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is a classic but still very relevant today. Atlas Shrugged is a fictional story which exemplifies Rand's Objectivist philosophy. Basically society is made up of what Rand calls "producers", "looters", and "traders." We therapists are the producers while those who manage us are the looters and hopefully the relationship we develop with our clients is based on trading.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles is a new novel about a bunch of late adolescents in a coming of age story in the 50s which demonstrates the impact of ACEs and family dynamics long before there was a language to describe such concepts.

An honorable mention goes to Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford which is a story about a boy who is a Chinese immigrant in the early 1900s who is put up as the prize in a raffle at the Seattle World's Fair in 1909. Years later his daughter, a journalist, is trying to get her elderly father to disclose his life story about himself and his wife, the journalist's mother.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Gun fatalities vary widely from state to state

The rate of gun fatalities varies widely from state to state. In 2020, the states with the highest rates of gun-related deaths – counting murders, suicides and all other categories tracked by the CDC – included Mississippi (28.6 per 100,000 people), Louisiana (26.3), Wyoming (25.9), Missouri (23.9) and Alabama (23.6). The states with the lowest rates included New York (5.3), Rhode Island (5.1), New Jersey (5.0), Massachusetts (3.7) and Hawaii (3.4).

For more click here.

Editor's note: This past election cycle, the 2022 midterms, it has become more apparent than ever that the political campaigns and voting is based more on celebrity status and entertainment value of candidates than their policy positions. In fact, especially in the GOP, policies no longer matter and campaigns are run more based on the entertainment value of conspiracy theories than facts.

Therefore, Markham's Slow News will be devoting our publication to providing more facts about social indicators which are influenced by policy decisions at the state level. Sometimes there are social indicators significantly influenced by even local levels at city and county levels.

This article describes the significant differences in gun fatalities between blue states and red states. Gun fatalities are five times higher in some red states than blue states. For example the highest rate of gun fatalities is in Mississippi with a rate of 28.6/100,000 while the rate in Hawaii is 3.4/100.000.

I will often reference New York State because that is where MSN is located and where circumstances are the best known to the author.

In terms of gun fatalities New York is in the top five best states with a a rate of 5.3/100,000.

Gun policies do make a huge difference in protecting the well being and safety of state populations.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The shadow side of American democracy

 The shadow side of American democracy is always with us whether it was the Native American Genocide, slavery of black Americans, misogony toward women, child labor, discrimination against immigrants, the red scare of McCarthy, corrupt politics, the con of Donald Trump and his cult, etc.

In spite of this shadow, once it is made conscious which often takes decades if not centuries, truth, justice, goodness and beauty has triumphed. What do you make of that?

The misguided belief in “alternative facts.”

Conversely, to the extent that GPS works, its success reinforces our confidence in all the underlying assumptions, including the assumption that Euclidean geometry describes, with good accuracy, the reality of spatial geometry on earthly scales. And so far, GPS has worked flawlessly.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. 19). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Kellyanne Conway told reporters that the Trump administration worked on a belief in alternative facts. How did that work out for them and us?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Space without objects is like one hand clapping.

Direct, everyday experience teaches us that objects can move from place to place without changing their properties. This leads us to the idea of “space” as a kind of receptacle, wherein nature deposits objects. 

Practical applications in surveying, architecture, and navigation led people to measure distances and angles among nearby objects. Through such work, they discovered the regularities on display in Euclidean geometry.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. 16). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Hans said to Gretel: "What is space?"

Gretel said, “Space is the receptacle that holds objects.

Hans said, “What if there were no objects?”

Gretel said, “Then there would be no space.”

Hans said, “It’s kind of like one hand clapping.”

Gretel laughed and then Hans laughed too.

Friday, October 14, 2022

What does Wilczek mean by the term “radical conservatism?”

The method of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton combines the humble discipline of respecting the facts and learning from Nature with the systematic chutzpah of using what you think you’ve learned aggressively, applying it everywhere you can, even in situations that go beyond your original evidence. If it works, then you’ve discovered something useful; if it doesn’t, then you’ve learned something important. I’ve called that attitude Radical Conservatism, and to me it’s the essential innovation of the Scientific Revolution. 

Radical Conservatism is conservative because it asks us to learn from Nature and to respect facts—key aspects of what is called the scientific method. But it is radical, too, because it pushes what you’ve learned for all it’s worth. This is no less essential to how science actually works. It provides science with its cutting edge.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (pp. 4-5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

As a psychotherapist I often ask my clients “How is that working for you?” Learning how to live life and be happy is often trial and error and often people have to learn the hard way. Few would call this approach to living “scientific.” 

Socrates taught that an “unexamined life is not worth living.” Living an examined life entails the willingness to learn from one’s experience. Some people would rather be right, that is hold tightly to their beliefs no matter what, while others are curious, humble, and willing to learn. This is the attitude that Frank Wilczek calls “radical conservatism” which means keep and continue what works and yet be open to new applications and possibilities.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Reality doesn’t care anything about your beliefs.

The second theme is that to appreciate the physical universe properly one must be “born again.”

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xv). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Quantum mechanics reveals that you cannot observe something without changing it, after all. Each person receives unique messages from the external world.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xvii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Psychophysics reveals that consciousness does not direct most actions, but instead processes reports of them, from unconscious units that do the work.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xvii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Since we were babies we perceive and manipulate our immediate world. The results of this manipulation comes to be what we think we know. But as we get older we begin to realize that sometimes what we think we know isn’t so. The bumper sticker says, “Reality doesn’t care anything about your beliefs.”

Monday, October 10, 2022

We are made up of the same stuff as the stars.

Each of our human bodies contains far more atoms than there are stars in the visible universe, and our brains contain about as many neurons as there are stars in our galaxy. The universe within is a worthy complement to the universe beyond.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiv). Penguin Publishing Group. 

The idea that we are composed of the same stuff as stars is physically true. The poets, was it Walt Whitman, had it right.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

There is a lot of space out there.

The first of those themes is abundance. The world is large. Of course, a good look at the sky on a clear night is enough to show you that there’s lots of space “out there.” When, after more careful study, we put numbers to that size, our minds are properly boggled.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiv). Penguin Publishing Group. P. xiv

When you read, and watch the daily headlines we forget about the world out there. We lose a sense of reverence and awe at the majesty of creation. In relation to the awesomeness of the universe what we as humans have wrought seems infinitesimally stupid.

Book of the month, Fundamentals by Frank Wilczek, " Where’s your curiosity?

The spirit of their enterprise, and mine here, transcends specific dogmas, whether religious or antireligious. I like to state it this way: In studying how the world works, we are studying how God works, and thereby learning what God is. In that spirit, we can interpret the search for knowledge as a form of worship, and our discoveries as revelations.

Wilczek, Frank. Fundamentals (p. xiii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Awesome. We seldom use that word anymore unless you are a teenager describing something teenagers used to call kewl.

Awesome it is, the universe, and when we dig in and deconstruct it it just gets awesomer and awesomer. How can you say you don’t believe in The Creator, Mother Nature, a Transcendent Source?

And so I hand it to Frank, the physicist, for sharing with us his world of awesomeness.

When people tell me they are bored I get the feeling something has gone terribly wrong. How could that possibly be? Look around you! Where’s your curiosity?

October 2022 MSN book of the month, Fundamentals: Ten Keys To Reality by Frank Wilczek

There will be a book of the month on Markham's Slow News. The book will usually be non fiction which provides a frame of reference or point of view about the world we are living in. This frame of reference or point of view provides the context for understanding and interpreting the various perceptions and events occuring in our media world around us.

The book for October, 2022 is Fundamentals: Ten Keys To Reality by Frank Wilczek. Frank is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and is a gifted writer.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Ideas worth considering - Is humility and curiosity better than love?


Robert E. Lee and Me is one of the most important books I have read in the last few years in helping me understand the history of the United States and what continues to ail us.


This quote is the basis for my conclusion that stupidity reigns in human beings. We want to believe what we want to believe regardless of the evidence. This observation is what is polarizing us as a nation. We are living in a post truth narcissistic nihilistic culture where as Kellyanne Conway said, when challenged by the GOP lies, that the GOP is not lying but believing in and espousing "alternative facts."


The belief in the viability of "alternative facts" is the death knell of democracy. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said one time, "We can have different opinions, but we can't have different facts." I don't think the position of alternative facts is worth going to war over but reality has consequences and doesn't care anything about a person's beliefs.


What the world needs now is not love, sweet love, but humility and curiosity. Give me humility and curiosity any day and the love will follow but without humility and curiosity it is difficult to muster up the emotion of love.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ideas worth considering - Do you care about the Neanderthals?

 How have you benefited from learning about the Neanderthals?

The subject line is being changed from "Blast From The Past" to "Ideas worth remembering."

Some of us read a lot of books. What are we after, quantity or quality? Reading can be entertaining and certainly takes up a lot of spare time. However, what did we learn from our reading that helps us grow as individuals and helps us better understand the world we are living in? Is what we read useful in any way?

I liked reading Kindred because I didn't know anything about the Neanderthals except that they existed at one time and were probably a link in the chain of evolution of homo sapiens. It was interesting to learn that some of us still have some Neanderthal DNA in us and we are a product biologically, socially, technologically of what they were composed of, experienced, and learned.

What do you remember and has stuck with you after reading and discussion Kindred?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ideas Worth Considering - Is human nature good or bad?

 Is human nature good or bad?

What's your view of basic human nature? Is it good or bad?

Raised as a Roman Catholic I was taught it was bad. Human beings are born with Original Sin and we are sinners who need the death of Jesus to redeem us and set us right with God.

So we spend our lives trying to be good and to be worthy because we have been conditioned to believe that we are basically bad. It has taken me decades to shed this conditioning and now I believe the opposite, that we are blessed by life bestowed by our Transcendent Source who loves us unconditionally.​ As humans we make plenty of mistakes and I have learned that's how we learn and grow and mature.

It has taken me a lifetime to come to the belief that people are basically good. Having been taught the opposite by clerics who want to make me dependent on their religious powers to save my ass is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on humanity.

Bregman has done us a huge favor bringing to consciousness the most fundamental existential question of all. Is human nature good or bad? Your answer is .....?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Politicians seek to control classroom discussions about slavery in the US


Politicians seek to control classroom discussions about slavery in the US

Raphael E. Rogers

Of all the subjects taught in the nation’s public schools, few have generated as much controversy of late as the subjects of racism and slavery in the United States.

The attention has come largely through a flood of legislative bills put forth primarily by Republicans over the past year and a half. Commonly referred to as anti-critical race theory legislation, these bills are meant to restrict how teachers discuss race and racism in their classrooms.

One of the more peculiar byproducts of this legislation came out of Texas, where, in June 2022, an advisory panel made up of nine educators recommended that slavery be referred to as “involuntary relocation.”

The measure ultimately failed.

Read news coverage based on evidence, not tweets

As an educator who trains teachers on how to educate young students about the history of slavery in the United States, I see the Texas proposal as part of a disturbing trend of politicians seeking to hide the horrific and brutal nature of slavery – and to keep it divorced from the nation’s birth and development.

The Texas proposal, for instance, grew out of work done under a Texas law that says slavery and racism can’t be taught as part of the “true founding” of the United States. Rather, the law states, they must be taught as a “failure to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

To better understand the nature of slavery and the role it played in America’s development, it helps to have some basic facts about how long slavery lasted in the territory now known as the United States and how many enslaved people it involved. I also believe in using authentic records to show students the reality of slavery.

Before the Mayflower

Slavery in what is now known as the United States is often traced back to the year 1619. That is when – as documented by Colonist John Rolfe – a ship named the White Lion delivered 20 or so enslaved Africans to Virginia.

As for the notion that slavery was not part of the founding of the United States, that is easily refuted by the U.S. Constitution itself. Specifically, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 prevented Congress from prohibiting the “importation” of slaves until 1808 – nearly 20 years after the Constitution was ratified – although it didn’t use the word “slaves.” Instead, the Constitution used the phrase “such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit.”

Congress ultimately passed the “Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves,” which took effect in 1808. Although the act imposed heavy penalties on international traders, it did not end slavery itself nor the domestic sale of slaves. Not only did it drive trade underground, but many ships caught illegally trading were also brought into the United States and their “passengers” sold into slavery.

The last known slave ship – the Clotilda – arrived in Mobile, Alabama, in 1860, more than half a century after Congress outlawed the importation of enslaved individuals.

An 1880 map shows where enslaved people originated from and in which directions they were forced out. Hulton Archive/Stringer via Getty Images

According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade database, which derives it numbers from shipping records from 1525 to 1866, approximately 12.5 million enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas. About 10.7 million survived the Middle Passage and arrived in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Of these, only a small portion – 388,000 – arrived in North America.

Most enslaved people in the United States, then, entered slavery not through importation or “involuntary relocation,” but by birth.

From the arrival of those first 20 so enslaved Africans in 1619 until slavery was abolished in 1865, approximately 10 million slaves lived in the United States and contributed 410 billion hours of labor. This is why slavery is a “crucial building block” to understanding the U.S. economy from the nation’s founding up until the Civil War.

The value of historical records

As an educator who trains teachers on how to deal with the subject of slavery, I don’t see any value in politicians’ restricting what teachers can and can’t say about the role that slaveholders – at least 1,800 of whom were congressmen, not to mention the 12 who were U.S. presidents – played in the upholding of slavery in American society.

What I see value in is the use of historical records to educate schoolchildren about the harsh realities of slavery. There are three types of records that I recommend in particular.

1. Census records

Since enslaved people were counted in each census that took place from 1790 to 1860, census records enable students to learn a lot about who specifically owned slaves. Census records also enable students to see differences in slave ownership within states and throughout the nation.

The censuses also show the growth of the slave population over time – from 697,624 during the first census in 1790, shortly after the nation’s founding, to 3.95 million during the 1860 census, as the nation stood at the verge of civil war.

2. Ads for runaway slaves

Advertisements for fugitive slaves offer a glimpse into their lives.

Few things speak to the horrors and harms of slavery like ads that slave owners took out for runaway slaves.

It’s not hard to find ads that describe fugitive slaves whose bodies were covered with various scars from beatings and marks from branding irons.

For instance, consider an ad taken out on July 3, 1823, in the Star, and North-Carolina State Gazette by Alford Green, who offers $25 for a fugitive slave named Ned, whom he described as follows:

“… about 21 years old, his weight about 150, well made, spry and active tolorably fierce look, a little inclined to be yellow, his upper fore teeth a little defective, and, I expect, has some signs of the whip on his hips and thighs, as he was whipped in that way the day before he went off.”

Advertisements for runaway slaves can be accessed via digital databases, such as Freedom on the Move, which contains more than 32,000 ads. Another database – the North Carolina Runaway Slave Notices project – contains 5,000 ads published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1865. The sheer number of these advertisements sheds light on how many enslaved Black people attempted to escape bondage.

3. Personal narratives from the enslaved

Though they are few in number, recordings of interviews with formerly enslaved people exist.

Some of the interviews are problematic for various reasons. For instance, some of the interviews were heavily edited by interviewers or did not include complete, word-for-word transcripts of the interviews.

Yet the interviews still provide a glimpse at the harshness of life in bondage. They also expose the fallacy of the argument that slaves – as one slave owner claimed in his memoir – “loved ‘old Marster’ better than anybody in the world, and would not have freedom if he offered it to them.”

For instance, when Fountain Hughes – a descendant of a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson who spent his boyhood in slavery in Charlottesville, Virginia – was asked if he would rather be free or enslaved, he told his interviewer:

“You know what I’d rather do? If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away, because you’re nothing but a dog. You’re not a thing but a dog. A night never come that you had nothing to do. Time to cut tobacco? If they want you to cut all night long out in the field, you cut. And if they want you to hang all night long, you hang tobacco. It didn’t matter about you’re tired, being tired. You’re afraid to say you’re tired.”

It’s ironic, then, that when it comes to teaching America’s schoolchildren about the horrors of American slavery and how entrenched it was in America’s political establishment, some politicians would prefer to shackle educators with restrictive laws. What they could do is grant educators the ability to teach freely about the role the slavery played in the forming of a nation that was founded – as the Texas law states - on principles of liberty and equality.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

People are not free who are lied to and don't know it.

Thomas Jefferson and some of the other founding fathers seemed to believe that an educated citizenry is a requisite for the effective execution of democratic processes.

Stupid people, especially when they believe conspiracy theories and engage in mob violence, are harmful to democratic government as the founding fathers well understood and attempted to create a republic rather than a direct democracy.

In the U.S. we have seen signs and symptoms of fascism arising, the most worrisome sign being that people no longer believe in voting as a primary component of the democratic process. The GOP has been trying to suppress the citizens' rights to vote and have adopted a belief that if their candidates don't win in an election the election process is corrupt. This places democracy in great peril of authoritarian rule.

Most people don't seem to understand the basics of the system, and truth and facts don't matter because without a basic understanding of the system, there isn't the ability to comprehend claims that the fascists are making. A good example of this just occurred in the winners across the country of GOP candidates who promote the big lie and undermine trust in the electoral process without any evidence.

Decades ago "civics" was eliminated from many states' grade school curricula and now we are seeing the consequences in a large percentage of the citizenry who are easily duped, conned, and scammed. People are not free when they are lied to and they are too ignorant to know it.