James Stockdale

Divorce, American style

It’s easy to see why bookkeeper Linda Mortimer moved to the Florida Keys 20 years ago: the impossibly blue water, the year-round sunshine, a lifestyle so laid-back that every day is like a Jimmy Buffett lyric.

What Mortimer didn’t anticipate was falling in love — and then getting divorced less than two years after taking her wedding vows.

“I discovered after we got married that my husband had been divorced four times,” said Mortimer, as she finished a noontime burger while sitting at the bar at the Ocean View, a local party spot and Mortimer’s place of employment.

“I was his No. 5. He didn’t understand why I got so upset.”

An armed America: Time for a change

The gun brandishing and outbursts at town hall meetings this summer were like a brain scan of the nation.

It was surprising, for instance, how off-point some parts of the national brain were. Criticism leveled at individuals with weapons, even if porting them was legal, were out of place and inappropriate, but seemed to not phase them at all.

Arms are instruments of threat and coercion; town hall meetings are about information and reason. Guns are not friendly persuasion.

None of the vehement negative protests made sense until I realized how this was foreshadowed about three years ago at a seminar I attended. A small group of journalists, filmmakers, academics and others were invited to share ideas about what was driving public opinion when it came to immigration. In 2006, numbers in the 70 percent range favored immigration reform but legislation got stuck in Congress as if a consensus didn’t exist.

More than 150,000 gay couples married

Nearly 150,000 same-sex couples reported being in marriage relationships last year, many more than the number of actual weddings and civil unions, according to the first U.S. census figures released on same-sex marriages.

About 27 percent of the estimated 564,743 total gay couples in the United States said they were in a relationship akin to “husband” and “wife,” according to the Census Bureau tally provided to The Associated Press. That’s compared with 91 percent of the 61.3 million total opposite-sex couples who reported being married.

A consultant to the Census Bureau estimated there were roughly 100,000 official same-sex weddings, civil unions and domestic partnerships in 2008.

A teenager’s perspective on Obama

My 16-year-old granddaughter was outraged and she gave me specific instructions.

"You must write about this asinine nonsense about the president speaking to us," she said. "How could anyone object to their sons or daughters being told by the president of the United States to stay in school? That’s incredible. Why would anyone take that position?"

I had no answer other than to explain that there are people who see ulterior motives in every action, who believe that no discourse that includes a politician can be honest and most likely hides a conspiracy. That is particularly true if the politician is not one they have supported.

America today: Angry, bitter & partisan

Angry protesors at town meeting.After eight divisive years under President George W. Bush, Americans looked forward to a united nation under the leadership of Barack Obama.

But America today is more divided than ever and partisan bickering, deepening resentment and outright racism have polarized the opposite ends of the political spectrum.

From deep divisions in the health care reform debate to petty bickering over Obama’s "back to school" speech, the rhetoric of political debate is filled with hate, mistrust and hyperbole like never before.

Trying out the General Motors Diet

When I came back from vacation last week, I felt that I had done my part to contribute to the national obesity crisis — and I felt a great shame.

It used to be that people would be excused their excessive weight on the grounds that they were "big boned." Unfortunately, that no longer applies, because too many people have grown big bones inside their bellies and spoiled it for all of us.

As it happens, Pittsburgh is not the worst place to be tubby. It’s not one of those fashionable places like Los Angeles where if you are not thin you are socially dead. Quite the contrary.

In fact, I have long thought that Pittsburgh’s promotional motto should be: "Want to Look Slimmer? Come to Pittsburgh and Stand Next to Us."

How a ragtag concert became a money machine

Back in 1969, Woodstock organizers billed their three-day festival as "An Aquarian Exposition." But although the concert became free when an expected crowd of 200,000 grew "half a million strong," it was conceived as a business proposition.

And the business has endured. Woodstock Ventures, the firm that oversees the licensing and intellectual property related to the Woodstock festival, is still run by the original producers of the event. And for several decades now, that once ragtag group of hippies has evolved into — if they weren’t already — good businessmen with savvy instincts.

Citizen protests: An all-American tradition

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her deputy, Steny Hoyer, stand accused of calling the impassioned, enraged and generally incoherent protesters currently disrupting town-hall meetings as "un-American."

As usual in the health-care ruckus, this charge is a half step away from the truth. What they said, in an op-ed for USA Today, is, "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." Wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

Race: It depends on your point of view

I was one of the students hearing Professor Homer G. Barnett’s lectures on the history of anthropology at the University of Oregon the year before he retired. That was more than three decades ago.

Feelings: Letting our emotions rule

I’m often intrigued by the conversations I overhear when I am having my hair cut. OK, I admit that it’s something of a guilty pleasure to read People magazine while listening to various discussions among people I don’t know, and finding out what they are concerned about and interested in.