Blog # 89   BEWARE  AGENT  ORANGE!   

From the time of its inception (less than 1 year ago) it had been our resolved intention to refrain from political or partisan comment.  Assuredly, there are sufficient deserving subjects for examination and thought, life and personality, growth and life enhancement, mortality, the environment and infinitely more. Pliny has, in this relatively short span of time, published 87 blogs, inclusive of his poetry.

However, an unprecedented and, potentially dangerous situation has emerged, one, it is submitted, that has the potential to lead to a societal regression to a modern version of the “Dark Ages.” This, it would seem, provides ample justification for this deviation from prior resolve.  To do otherwise might be to commit the “sin of silence,” which modern European history has shown, bears tragic results.

Thomas Jefferson famously observed that in order to maintain a successful democracy, what is needed is a well- informed and literate society. He, and many others, believed that free exchange of varying points of view would ensure the relevance, vitality and health of the Republic.

The first, and really jarring realization that our national population, by contrast, is inclusive of a vast number of semi-literate and ill- informed citizenry, most with simplistic ideation, was the selection of none other than Donald Trump (from a field of seventeen potential choices) to run as the nominee of one of our two major parties, for (no less than) the office of the Presidency of the United States.

Mr. Trump has consistently shown himself to be an egotistic, intemperate reductionist, a demagogue, remarkably unsuited for the office of the President; his sole talent seemingly is to be the possession of a phenome to attract those discontented with the government and the status quo. A good deal of such discontent is vague and non-specific is and Trump delivers visions of Valhalla, in a general and completely non-specific manner. What is specific is his assignment of specific scapegoats as responsible parties for all grievances such as, immigrants, minorities, government intellectuals {and especially, his opponent, Hillary R. Clinton, whose experience as a Senator and the U.S.  Secretary of State may well qualify her for the position of President). He campaigns by means of large rallies, policed by goons who are not reticent about employing physical force.

Sound familiar? A messianic demagogue, promising in a vague, non-specific manner, a Valhalla  with specification only as to selected scapegoats, in lieu of proposing improvements in policy and programs. Where have we heard this before?

In the 1930’s and 40’s, an arrogant, egotistical housepainter, one Adolph Shickelgruber, d/b/a, Adolph Hitler, seized the opportunity presented by a hugely discontented Germany, following the humiliation of its defeat in the First World War, the ensuing bad economic conditions, including high unemployment and  scarcity. He promised happiness, without specifying any new or ameliorative policy or new proposed programs, merely identifying selected scapegoats, allegedly responsible for Germany’s problems, especially the Jews. The lessons of recent European History are ignored at our peril. His campaign, incidentally, was conducted by means of huge rallies policed by strong armed goons.

Those irresponsible people who consider this animated caricature of demagogue, to be an entertaining reality show diversion from politics as usual, by his “sticking it to the establishment” as perhaps they would fantasize their “sticking it “to their employer, are dangerously toying with a hazmat, possibly more lethal, enduring and debilitating than the Agent Orange of nightmarish recollection from the shameful Viet Nam war.

It has been observed, in our previous blogs that the experienced combination of ignorance with arrogant self-confidence is a dangerous admixture, a hazardous material which has terrifying potential. For humanity, it should be avoided at all costs..

It is painful and frustrating to observe the damage Trump has already caused to our society and democratic system of election and governance.




Blog # 88 (poesie) A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC*


The velvet cloak of Night descends,
But slower now in solstice times.
Day describes a respectful bow,
Since Dark’s far older than the Light.
Night tucks Day into its bed,
With softness and with loving care.

As if responsive to a cue,
The insect choirs take up their song
The bullfrogs croak their hoarse refrain.
Warm vapors from the day before,
Exude from all the plants and trees.

The Moon, far weaker than the sun,
Salutes the rocks with its pale rays.
Critters mostly sleep when dark,
Yet some set out in search for food.
Predators begin a nocturnal stalk;
Tall grasses dance the rhythmic breeze.

As vital is the Day to most,
I often do prefer the night
Its then I cry out to the skies,
Please, do now turn on the dark!

-p. (attributable to Leonard N. Shapiro, August, 2016)
*( title attributable to W.A. Mozart, 18th Century)


The 1980’s hit musical, “Cabaret” not only was excellent entertainment; but in addition, possessed great significance as a telling statement, a sermon on the subject of an important flaw in the human character. In the presentation, the cabaret patrons, evidently symbolizing the Berlin population, which in the 1930’s, mesmerized by the exotic entertainment,  hosted by a demonic master of ceremonies (brilliantly played by Joel Grey) were able to irresponsibly turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the horrific Nazi atrocities( particularly against the Jews) then concurrently taking place in the streets. The flaw exemplified was the unfortunate human tendency to avoid dealing with unpleasant occurrences by looking the other way.

To come at once to the main point, it is frustrating and painful to observe that over the great many decades we have all been patrons in attendance at a real-life cabaret, averting our eyes and attention from the cruel, atavistic and barbaric atrocity that is the sport of boxing.

America was rightfully outraged and disgusted at news that a certain NFL player was engaged in the business of the public staging of brutal dogfights. He was found out, fined and suspended from play (at least for a period of time to allow our dog loving public to cool off). Cock fighting, a traditional Latino event, as well as all bloody animal contests are illegal; a federal statute makes it no less than a felony, punishable up to five years in prison plus a fine of $250,000. It is well known that there are several agencies and foundations established to prevent cruelty to animals, such as the ASPCA, PETA and, WWF. (See: Blog # 37) .Movies that use animal actors uniformly display a notice, together with the film credits, that no animal was mistreated in the production of the film as an assurance to the moviegoer.

The controversial subject of school sport injuries, especially concussions, is gaining ever increasing attention. Concussions, we are advised, are incurred either by a significant blow to the head or by the cumulative repetition of lesser blows. Customized helmets are being developed in an attempt to lessen the occurrence of concussions in football and other contact sports. In some jurisdictions, the wearing of a protective helmet is mandatory for motorcycle and bicycle riders. It should be noted that there is a great deal of ongoing and heated debate concerning the issue of eliminating football and other contact sports altogether from school, notably, high school.

In fairness, it must be noted that football is not a “blood sport.”  The theme of the sport is to earn goals and not to cause injury.  However, the all too frequent collateral injuries during football play, provide  many a cogent rationalization for the banning of the sport.

In this context, what does the legally approved activity of boxing (and even worse, cage fighting) reveal about the nature of our civilized society? In ancient Rome, considered a brutish society, unfortunate gladiators (often slaves or prisoners) engaged in deadly combat for their life, for the primitive amusement of the bloodthirsty spectators. This barbaric travesty went so far as to feature, historians reveal, deadly combat between dwarfs and women for public entertainment.

Unlike football, where injuries are unintended and are collateral to the play, the express, sole theme of boxing is the causation of disabling injury to the opponent. The more lethal the punch, the more points are awarded by referees, avid and enthusiastic experts in discerning high scoring serious injury. Ultimate success is attained by rendering the opponent unconscious, the ultimate act of victory; usually met with howls of approval from a highly stimulated audience. We are not professionally competent to diagnose the mental and physical health of professional boxers over the course of their career, but it is safe to expect that it is not salutary.

For some time, and presumably, for the foreseeable future, we all seem to be patrons of our American cabaret and look the other way. Perhaps the contrasting interest in school sport injuries may be explainable by the fact that the young players are identifiable, often our own children.

What quality of compassion, sanity and wisdom do we evince by expressly and properly outlawing cruelty to roosters and dogs and simultaneously providing  legal status and societal permission to this immoral travesty regarding humans?

Willkommen zum Kabaret



For illustrative purposes, we will, initially, conjure up the following bit of fiction.

A 29 year old white mother is escorting her five year old daughter to school; they are walking at a slow pace, hand in hand. The mother, a Barnard College graduate (in American Studies) is a well- educated, forward  thinking person and an ardent supporter of civil rights, donating annually to the NAACP and the Urban League, and an outspoken opponent of racial prejudice .They notice another young mother, who it happens, is black, similarly accompanying her young child to school. The white mother’s  little daughter feels a very subtle squeeze of her hand, an act, virtually unconscious, of which her mother would be completely mortified if she were made aware of it; the explanation for this dynamic is no less than the fundamental and universal basis for all racial and ethnic prejudice.

Historians will readily identify past episodes of strife and injustice and suggest that such events are the root causes of today’s many ills, offering factual accounts which underlay their theories; we do emphatically disagree.

The horrible bloodshed between Sunni and Shia Muslims as they say, can be traced back to a 7th Century dispute as to the proper method of succession to Prophet Mohammad, either by familial inheritance or by democratic vote. The Greek-Turkish enmity, historians say, dates back to the military defeat of Greece by the Ottoman forces, under Kemal Ataturk. The Irish-English conflicts are fueled by past wars concerning religion and economics; the Protestant-Catholic troubles including the 30 year’s war dating back to Luther. Anti-Semitism, they will tell you is rooted in the scandalous claim that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. These may, in general, be rather accurate depictions of historical events but are, in reality, not at all the dynamic basis for bigotry and prejudice in our modern times.

To our point, as we have previously stated, it is only by the random accident of birth that we acquire our respective features, culture and belief systems. Some, undoubtedly well intentioned parent or other adult soon sows the pernicious seed of “we” and “they” (perhaps to give the child a sense of belonging) in the fertile and imaginative mind of the young person. From such unfortunate implantation, thereafter mythologies about the “other” are created, perhaps then evangelistic inclinations and thereafter, conflict and war. This problem is fundamental and timeless and not founded upon the recalled horrors of the past (undoubtedly due to similar causes). We must consciously and effectively amend our messages to our young concerning “we” and “they” and find a way to inculcate a more appropriate consciousness of an “us” and a respect and appreciation for diversity. Others may have differing belief systems and sometimes even look a little different from us but the young must be taught that we are all life tenants on the planet. This will take generations, much to the justified dismay and impatience of those who are the victims of discrimination, but it seems to be the only effective and enduring way. In the interim, we certainly can be good neighbors and friends to each other

The mother, unaware that she subtly squeezed her daughter’s hand is a good person, but undoubtedly a product of an early “we” “they” upbringing; the daughter is now, unfortunately, another.       –p.


The eminent British philosopher, John Locke, an empiricist, maintained that man is born with a blank slate, to be inscribed by him with knowledge acquired from experience.

Those who choose to avail themselves of the sheer joy and profound experience of reading great literature, thereby acquire an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of life, its potential and its challenges, and are empowered to relate such understanding to their own experience.

One can comfortably sit at his favorite perch, armed only with a small light and a great book and, while sedentary, travel the planet and the cosmos; he can acquire enlightenment and valuable insight to himself and others by examining other lives and life situations as created and aesthetically portrayed by the great authors. A certain valuable category of books are labeled “Classics” since they portray man’s eternal plight on the human canvas. These exceptional works should be read and re-read (“reprised”) not only as a continuing source of great pleasure, but as instructive and comforting insight and perspective into the timeless, universally eternal issues which are implicit in the human condition.

The young adult, albeit in possession of the requisite intellectual and aesthetic ability to comprehend and enjoy such literary works, nonetheless, is at a relatively prerequisite stage of maturity and potential development ; his future course of life will instruct him, experientially and developmentally, in levels of ever  increasing sophisticated insight. This maturity will lead him, ultimately, to the fuller appreciation and comprehension of the author’s intended message.

The mature reader, with a lifetime of accumulated experience, has thus acquired the in- depth capacity to identify with the life and characters portrayed and is equipped to appreciate the full extent of  the author’s message and intention; his own  experiences, joyous and tragic,  empowers him with the ability to spiritually identify and  communicate with the classical author.

Reprising the great classics of literature at a later stage of life is a satisfying life-enhancing experience .A little dust never hurt anyone.



Blog # 84         OUR PLANET SPEAKS…

A  possible theory which might explain the difference between the plethora of writings seeking the abolition of the death penalty, as compared with a relative dearth of the same in favor of its continuance. It may be suggested that the arguments in its opposition are essentially based upon rational premises and therefore readily amenable to their literate expression, while the contrary position is not.

There are but few enlightened, democratic countries (unfortunately, including the U.S.) that still feature the atavistic and barbaric practice of the death penalty. It would seem far more emblematic of theocracies and other tyrannical regimes which have need of it to intimidate and control their respective populations.

Many logical and ethical arguments have been repeatedly made in opposition to the death penalty and it would seem sufficient merely to refer to them:

It is cruel, barbaric and antithetical to an enlightened society,
It has completely failed to serve as a deterrent,
It is grossly unfair in its racial application,
Following execution, mistakes in justice cannot be rectified,
Legal defense provided for the indigent defendant has been inadequate,
Its application has been unacceptably arbitrary,
It has proven by experience to be unfair to the mentally handicapped,
Its administration has often been incompetent causing horrific suffering,
It violates Natural Law (as stated by many eminent philosophers, including John Stuart Mill),
The long period between sentence and execution is great torture, and,
It is illegal under the U.S, Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.”

These are the cogent arguments seeking the abolition of the death penalty which have been eternally made and, as stated above, there would seem to be no utility in their restatement. It is telling, however, to point to the historic and expressive nature of the words, “capital punishment, themselves. The significant word, “capital” is directly referable to the identical verb origin as “decapitate” as used in such societal niceties as the guillotine and the chopping block (capital means “head”). The other euphemistic word is “execution,” referring to action such as, execution of a policy, a plan, the execution of an act. The employment of such banal euphemism is an admission of the undeniable, express and defensive recognition of the practice as a gross moral atrocity.

A related topic may be the “Right to Life” organization and its over- zealous adherents, whose dedication is antithetical to its pirated name. Their sole purported goal is the protection of the fetus, in contrast to their actual goal, the denial of a mother’s right to an abortion. This cohort claims religion and ethics as their basis, but would, after the birth of the fetus, deny the poor child needed help, including food stamps, affordable health care, welfare or any other program of vital assistance. After the event of birth, their religion and morality seem to become non-existent. These so- called “right to lifers” have strategically committed premeditated murder of abortion providers, favor the free sale and distribution of guns, are supporters of the subject death penalty and seem to consistently advocate military action in preference to diplomacy in instances of international problems. This is all shamefully abhorrent to its misleading name. (See Blog #52).

We would give expression to what appears to the sensitive observer, the subtle but articulated, concern for the continuation and preservation of “life” meaningfully expressed by our Planet in countless observable ways. The dynamics of planetary evolution over the countless millennia toward a sentient being, the self- healing of trees after a violent storm, the rebirth and replacement of flora following forest fires, the ingenious tactical dispersion of seeds by plants, are but a few examples of the seemingly infinite instances of a clear-cut planetary message that life’s continuance is mandated.

This (no less than) imperial mandate of Nature is certainly not within the jurisdiction of any legislature, however august, nor capable of refutation by the ignorant and misguided advocates for” justice” (read “vengeance”). The horrific approved murder of individuals guilty of murder creates an undesirable equivalency and inconsistency from the standpoint of any professed civilized and humane society.

Incidentally, what is being” killed” when a criminal’s (or any other) life is terminated? After death the body becomes completely useless and disposable; is it some species of electro-chemical power that is switched off when certain body parts are destroyed? The profound mystery of life and death ought not to be tampered with by the ignorant and unaware.

Every living thing is the recipient of a generous planetary franchise: to function. Our current initiation of major programs to probe deep outer space, are all in essence, a search for other “life.” We must be ever aware that (no less than) our own Planet, through its communicated phenomena of Nature, demands that the gifted franchise of life is eternally to be gratefully maintained and nurtured.


Blog # 83 (poesie) PANTHEIST SABBATH

Cool Connecticut morning
Bees buzzing the big hydrangea
Wings flapping at pendant feeders
Mental kisses to scampering chipmunks
I blink at the leafy sunshine-
Dare not miss the Sabbath devotion
Forest woodland the iconostasis
Choir sounds from green bushes
Floral gifts from Nature’s rosary
Holiness high up the treetops
Resurrection in the sprouting soil.

Could man but reject his idols
And their belligerent servitude,
All would be Connecticut morning
Bees a-buzz and wings a- flap, for ‘ere.

.p- (attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro, August 2016)




Spoken words are the expressed formulation of the speaker’s thoughts. Those fortunate to be gifted with the skill to do so precisely have a greater likelihood of meaningful conversation. Spoken words stimulate a response on the part of the listener who, hopefully, is objective enough to apprehend the speaker’s meaning and intention. As noted previously (Blog#81), the optimum interaction is one in which all participants are consistently dedicated to the identical subject.
Ethically and solicitously, the speaker should earnestly strive to maintain an awareness and sensitivity to the likely effect of his words upon the other party and not thoughtlessly speak merely to discharge the personal energy of a presenting thought.
Ideally therefore, the parties would adhere to the same subject and context and maintain a conversation in the nature of a spontaneous exchange of thoughts on a common subject; this is all too often not the case. Too many conversations take place between parties who pay little, or no attention, to the specific subject and engage in the formal “dance” of a conversation as occurs in the automatic exchange of a handshake.
There are particular instances in which the choice of vocabulary has the potential to evoke an emotional response on another, in contrast to those exchanged in meaningless banter.
In this brief note, we specifically exclude the subject of verbal exchange in the romantic context. In any case, most participants, particularly of the female gender, it seems, are well schooled in the impactful significance of such words as, “love,” “commitment,” “relationship,” “intended,” and the like. Most of such words are accorded an exalted status, above mere vocabulary, and enjoy the experienced status of a professionally competent diagnosis of the presenting facts.
In other contexts, the use of certain words have profound impact, examples are,” love,” “ hate,” “fear,” “peace,” ”friend,” “trouble,” and many, many more. We would however, limit the scope of this note to two words, “probability” and “possibility.” These concern distinctly different predictive words which when used appropriately, summon markedly different reactions.
“Probability,” in general, means likely to occur or is expected, i.e., a frequently experienced result. It is a mildly qualified expression concerned with empirical experience, percentage outcome, deductive or inductive reason. It is because it is empirical, and therefore, measurable, that there exists an entire discipline in mathematics devoted to the calculation of probable outcomes; the algebraic calculation of probability results in a statement of the percentage likelihood of occurrence of the selected event or result.
“Possibility,” by contrast, connotes the occasional chance of occurrence (as opposed to its expectation, as in “probability). It is more ethereal and theoretical, a prospect which in the future may attain realization. It is not predictive in the same way as probability and therefore not readily capable of calculation. The possibility that an asteroid may collide with our planet is a matter of some scientific interest; a probability of such occurrence would justify global panic. Significantly, in the area of medical illness, the predictability, or probability of full recovery would evoke a feeling of relief; a statement of the possibility of recovery would encourage concern. In all factually important instances of any kind, the competent observer should be scrupulously assiduous in the selection of the appropriate description of the degree of realistic expectation.
We would offer some comments regarding the appropriate and sensitive use of these two expectancy words in the hope that they may be of some interest:
1. In matters of illness or temporary disability, if possible and accurate, speak in the context of predictability or possibility. A demonstration of advance knowledge by the recitation of remote possibilities may cause unnecessary anxiety. That an individual might conceivably, pull out a nose hair, resulting in a fatal toxicity, is somewhat possible, but not at all probable.
2. Words connoting probability are preferable with regard to the initiation of new business ventures. The mere “possibility” of success would seem remote and not encouraging.
3. The probability that she (he) loves me back is a far better prospect than such possibility.
4. In general, the possibility of failure should not inhibit the new entrepreneur, the start of a scientific inquiry or an aspiration for the love of another person.
There are, indeed, many possibilities whose contemplation are positive and hopeful; the possibility of enduring world peace, the possibility of finding a unified cure for cancer, the possibility of real and lasting brotherhood, the possibility of a clean and green planet. May we dare to hope that these possibilities evolve into probabilities and eventually to the reality?


Stimuli, initially received by our eyes and ears, scientists tell us, are then transmitted to the appropriate area of our brain where they are depicted in comprehensible form. The next (and non- scientific) stage is our personal apprehension of them (our perception).

Perception describes our nuanced, subjective impressions and evaluation of the information so apprehended; it is, regrettably, influenced by such factors as psyche, chemistry and past experience. The internal, life-long conversation with one’s self and resultant personal perceptions will vary from one person to the next. It may be observed that a significant element in this subjective phenomenon appears to be the extent or degree of one’s self-absorption.

Unfortunately, there is no window on the real world save our perception of it, which alone serves as the determining basis for response. The major significance of this phenomenon is amply demonstrated by the observation, for good or bad, that much of one’s own self-image may be affected by an observed societal consensus (shared group perception) as to his personal standing and worth (Blog #47).

In ordinary mundane conversation likewise, perception of the words expressed are often colored by the setting and context of the conversation, as well as one’s judgment as to the authority and character of the speaker. The received message may, as a result, be “photo -shopped” to a degree, dependent upon the hearer’s perceptions and degree of subjectivity. There is good reason to put all contracts in writing (to be signed by both parties); contrary recollection or perception could otherwise lead to dispute.

Intra-family discussion, the appropriate venue and opportunity for the amicable resolution of extant family issues, is often marred by nuanced recollection and perception of past events and statements. An additional and major cause of poor results is the failure of the participants to define and stick to the issue. In discussions of a political nature, similarly, the parties are hard put to restrict debate to the chosen topic; yet this requirement is of crucial importance in order to avoid a mutual descent into meaningless partisan rhetoric.

The benefit and quality of daily personal conversation also diminishes where self –absorption, resulting in completely subjective perception, is at play. The costly failure to attend to what the other person is saying, often in a  pressing need to urge an already worded response, is a failure of even simple interaction; it is sad and, at times, even  perversely hilarious. An illustrative example of such a conversation {after customary greetings and handshake} follows:


Leeward: Oh hi Windy, guess what, I saw Phil yesterday.
Windward: Was that Phil from Long Island or the Phil from the Bronx who owes me $70.00?
Leeward: Phil from Long Island. He told me that his oldest daughter, Peg, is getting married.
Windward: Actually, it was $82.50, he owes, now that I think about it.
Leeward: Phil sent his best regards.
Windward: That bum. he better pay up soon!
Leeward: Well, I have to go. Goodbye.
Windward: Yeah Bye, Good talk.

Spousal discussions are arguably the most photo-shopped. Couples need to put maximum effort into their attempt to restrict the conversation to the intended issue. For example, if the color of a new replacement sofa is in contention, the parties should limit their statements to that selected subject. Additionally, in all spousal discussions involving contrary views, it is recommended that the word, “you” be strictly avoided. The word “you” appears to operate as a catalyst for the escalation of the issue to fundamental topics, more stressful than sofa color.  Some suggestions:

  1. Steadfastly adhere to the agreed specific issue.
  2. Closely listen to the other party and consider his position (as opposed to rehearsing the response).
  3. If a resolution cannot be reached, sincerely acknowledge that parties may, indeed, differ.
  4. Do not conveniently avoid the important exchange of controversial subjects, so necessary to the attainment of solutions, but do respect other’s contrary belief systems.