Showing posts from 2020

RBG and Gentle Persuasion

Many people have noted the strength and effectiveness of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Her gentleness was also noteworthy.  She learned about this quality from others.  From her mother-in-law, she learned that “in every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little bit deaf.”  Ruth applied this advice in her interactions at work, not just in her marriage.  Her reason was practical; she said, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.  Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”  She believed that collegiality was essential to the mission of the Supreme Court.She learned about gentleness from some of her professors.At Harvard Law School, Professor Benjamin Kaplan used the Socratic method in class “always to stimulate,” she said.“Never to wound.”On the Supreme Court, despite their differences, Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg had a warm friendship.She believed that to do the job that the Constitution demanded of the Court, it was often nec…

Harissa and happy memories

The summer of splendid isolation is what I call this time, in a deliberate effort to keep my spirits up.  In this year of horrors, my husband Tom and I are doing our part by staying home, not allowing the virus to find us.  The previous 22 summers of our lives we took ourselves and our computers to Paris, where we summered in the city.Even if we never return to Paris, that city has changed us in what seems like a thousand little ways.We didn’t drive for those months in Paris, so not driving anywhere much now isn’t so strange for us.In Paris, we learned how to live comfortably enough without air conditioning even when summer turns wickedly hot.Tom loves the French bakery breads so much that I’ve now learned how to make a boule[1] that we’d be pleased to find in a Parisian bakery.We experienced the full range of French cuisine, as well as so many other ethnic cuisines that can be found in the big city.In Paris, we came to love certain aspects of North African and Middle Eastern cuisine,…

Sanibel Voters Must Meet the Challenge: Keep Sanibel Special

Sanibel voters will be electing three new city council members in March.  Since there are only five members of council, this will be the majority of members – newly elected.  That is a rare occurrence, and it is a great opportunity for residents to ensure that their interests will be represented on council.  Rumors abound about who may be running for election to these positions.  At least it seems that this time candidates will probably not be running unopposed, as has happened at times in the past.The Sanibel Plan, the document that has guided us in ensuring that Sanibel remains special, states clearly by way of background for the Sanibel Vision Statement that we have a challenge before us:“The specter of rampant development has diminished as the community has matured. Nevertheless, unwanted changes are occurring; visitation increases as new ‘attractions’ are developed; beaches and refuge areas are becoming stressed by overuse; traffic congestion is turning to gridlock; and formerly …

The Plan

Sanibel Island has about 18.1 square miles of land – similar in size to Manhattan, which has 22.8 square miles.  Two-thirds of Sanibel’s land is designated as conservation land, owned by the City of Sanibel, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Federal government, or the State of Florida.The island’s biggest landowner and land manager is the Federal government, with 8 of those 18 square miles.The land use of the remaining 10 square miles is strictly regulated by the City of Sanibel.The guiding document for that control of land use and development is Sanibel’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, better known simply as the Sanibel Plan.
From its beginning in 1976[1], the Sanibel Plan has recognized that “unlimited future population growth would be hazardous to health, safety, and welfare of the public.” The plan also notes that restriction of development is needed for “adequate delivery of services and natural resource protection.”This is the rationale for Sanibel’s limit on the tot…

Red Horse Bread

During the pandemic, I cook all of our meals at home.  I try to keep as much variety in the fare as possible; I’m always trying something new, or reaching back to re-discover traditional southern foods that we love.  I cook French, Italian, other European, North African, Thai, Indian, and of course, southern American soul food. I just put away the deep fryer for a while, in the interest of cardiovascular health, after having made some fried chicken and red horse bread this week.Red horse bread is a form of hush puppy, but the history of red horse bread pre-dates hush puppies.The earliest recorded use of the term “hush puppy” dates to 1899[1].But those puppies were inspired by red horse bread, which dates back to pre-Civil War times in the Carolinas.Some even trace the roots back to creative cooking by 18th Century nuns in Louisiana.My husband’s father, whose name was also Tom Cooley, made red horse bread, which he called red hoss bread, and served it with fish.My Tom has fond memories…


I was a very shy little girl.  I was so shy I shuffled my feet when I entered a room full of people.  I lacked self-confidence.  Because I was a year younger than many of my classmates (due to my passing an early entry kindergarten test), I thought I was inferior.  The teachers that I had for kindergarten through third grade did little to help me come out of my shell.Then came the reading test and Mrs. Hardesty.I took the reading test, convinced that I would be placed in the remedial group.Instead, I was placed in the small group of kids who read exceptionally well.I was incredulous, but then I had to admit, I loved to read books – real books, the kind that serious adults read.And then there was fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Hardesty.She was a lovely, energetic, and whip-smart lady who loved to teach kids.She brought out the best in each and every one of us.My self-confidence grew enormously.I felt happy about my possibilities.Before Mrs. Hardesty, I dreaded school.During and after Mrs. H…

It is not about the money

By and large, what fuels our local government, the City of Sanibel, is income from property tax.  Where does most of this revenue come from?  Residential or commercial property?
According to the Lee County Property Appraiser’s 2020 Preliminary Tax Roll Totals for Sanibel, the island has about $4.87 billion in taxable residential property out of a total of $5.36 billion in taxable real estate.By and large, it is the residential property owners, not commercial property owners, who fund the City.
In addition to property tax income, the City of Sanibel has some other revenue streams, such as charges for services like planning department permits and solid waste tipping fees.Much of these are services for residential property dwellers.
By definition, those who vote in Sanibel elections are Sanibel residents.
Sanibel residents should rule when it comes to making decisions about how this island is governed and developed.Do they?Do elected and appointed officials always put the interests of r…

How to Save Lives and the Economy

How economically valuable is a face mask mandate in terms of reducing the need for broad lockdowns with their well-documented negative effects on GDP (Gross Domestic Product)?  That was one of three questions that the people at Goldman Sachs recently answered, using their analytical tools.[1]  You can read the nitty gritty details of how they conducted their analysis in their recent publication on the subject, but here is the bottom line from Goldman Sachs:
“Thus, the upshot of our analysis is that a national face mask mandate could potentially substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from the GDP.”How serious is a 5% drop in the GDP?That’s about how much the GDP fell in the first quarter of 2020 – the worst quarterly decline since 2008, during a deep recession.Our economy cannot sustain continued declines such as this.

“Our analysis suggests that the economic benefit from a face mask mandate and increased face mask usage could be sizable,” the Goldman…

They fought for a cause

This past Spring, I had the honor and pleasure of getting to know my great-great-grandfather, William McAdams, as I studied and transcribed letters that he wrote while in the Union Army during the Civil War.
I frequently wonder what he’d think of things the way they are now:how much farming has changed since his days, how big our cities have become, how quickly and easily we travel.Except for his 3 and a half years in the Army, he stayed at home or nearby.Home was a busy, multifaceted, yet simple farm on the prairie of central Illinois, near a town called Kansas.
I know that he would be perplexed, to say the least, to know that monuments to Confederate officers stand in places of honor in many public squares, and that schools and military bases are named for Confederate generals.Throughout his letters, he referred to the enemy as “rebels,” “Secessionists,” and “Secesh.”He considered them to be treasonous traitors.
He and several of his neighbors volunteered to serve in the Union Army…

Sea Hares

On Mother’s Day in 2016, we saw some marvelous things.  There were several of them, these strange little creatures, moving about gracefully and silently in the water beneath and around our dock.  My husband and I had never seen anything quite like them.  We’d only been living on Dinkins Bayou for about a year, and before that we had not lived on salt water.  We had never seen such a weird and beautiful creature that swam like a sting ray, by flapping its “wings,” which are called parapodia.
The next day, I posted photos of the creatures on Facebook and asked my knowledgeable friends, “What is this little sea creature?”

The answers came quickly:sea hares, a.k.a. sea slugs.Wildlife educator Richard Finkel replied, “Sea hares.They come to shore in spring to deposit their eggs.”
Sea hares are gastropod mollusks; they have a small internal shell.Off the coast of California, sea hares are black, and they are significantly larger than our Gulf sea hares.
Sea hares eat algae – nothing but al…

With Liberty and Justice for All

The removal of Confederate statues and memorials is nothing new.  This has been going on for decades.  According to Jane Dailey, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, “Most of the people who were involved in erecting the monuments were not necessarily erecting a monument to the past.  But were rather, erecting them toward a white supremacist future." 
A white supremacist future goes against core American values such as liberty, equal rights, and justice.When we decide to take down these monuments and statues, relegating them often to museums, we are deciding to uphold these core American values.We are not erasing history; we are accurately portraying who we are as a country.

In America, we have a strong union, unlike the sometimes seemingly tenuous union in Europe.Our union was forged by the Civil War – the deadliest war in our history.When we remove statues of Confederate generals from places of public honor and put them in museums where they are displaye…

Let’s change it.

Systemic racism can be difficult to detect and destroy, because it is so insidious.  People can say things without thinking, but they say them because the words seem to make them sound like caring, concerned folks.  The words protect them from being seen as callous, compassionless people.  Good people say these things, but if they think about the meaning of the words, and apply logic and common sense, they can see what is hiding underneath those words.
I was having a phone conversation with a friend along the lines of my commentary last week, “Work for white people,”when she said that she thought black people had some work to do, too, because “most black people who are killed are killed by other black people.” Bingo!There are some of those words covering up hidden, systemic racism.
Think about it.Most white people are killed by other white people because most people who are killed are killed by someone they know.Why apply this statement to just one group of people when it is true of …

Work for white people

White people will have to do the heavy lifting to end institutionalized racism.  Several incidents in my life have taught me that lesson.  Here’s the story about one of those times.
Many years ago, when I began to serve on a board of a nonprofit organization that promoted historic preservation in a city in Ohio, I heard my fellow board members (all white people) voice concern about the fact that the vast majority of the membership and all of the directors of the organization did not include people of color.My colleagues on that board were wondering if the black community did not care about historic preservation.
Nonsense, I thought.I called my friend CD who was interested in restoring and preserving a music hall/theatre that was much like Fort Myers’ McCollum Hall, only larger. (Duke Ellington had performed in both of these places.) I knew CD because my husband and I are jazz fans, and we liked to go to a particular bar/restaurant that had excellent live jazz and delicious food.We we…

The Power of Love and Hearing

My dad’s business was vandalized and looted in the Cincinnati riots of 1967-68, yet what concerned him was not his losses, but the injustices and racism that sparked the riots.  He empathized with the people who were suffering so much.  I don’t know if he had heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., say that the riot is the language of the unheard,[1] but my dad certainly understood that truth.  I was just an adolescent at the time, but my dad’s words and sentiment about the people who were protesting, and his valuing these people’s yearning for basic human rights and fairness made an impression on me.  I will never forget it.
So after I listened to the audio stream of the Sanibel City Council meeting on June 2, I had to write these words in Facebook:
“It troubles me that the discussion at the beginning of today's Sanibel city council meeting seemed to focus on the council members' concerns about the rioting in cities across the country, and not on the racism and injustices t…