Latest from Alan

Grandmother’s Quilt, Grandfather’s Ghost

A slightly frayed, white and peach-trimmed quilt now lays unfolded on one of our spare beds. Twenty-nine of its 30 squares each feature the carefully stitched name of one member of the Ladies Aid of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Rising City, NE.
The stitching on the quilt’s 30th and final block, also in peach and […]

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Capitol Hill’s Christmas Cookie Bake-Off

Business leaders like Warren Buffett and the late Steve Jobs often credited their enormous success to simplicity. Buffett repeatedly explains that his best stock market secret is no secret at all: Buy quality and hold it. Similarly, Jobs made complex machines—computers, music recordings, cellular telephones—so simple and intuitive that even aging Oliver tractor drivers can […]

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Rising Woe in Rural America

The gap between America’s rural poor and non-poor, like in urban America, continues to widen. The difference in rural America, however, is that the gap is widening faster than in any of the nation’s grittiest cities or suburban counties.
That’s the conclusion of two recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University […]

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“Screaming and Yelling in Public”

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, is not happy with you, me, and, based on comments he made at a gathering of Big Biz executives Nov. 16, our republic’s representative government.
When asked about the slow-and-getting-slower NAFTA trade talks at an invitation-only Wall Street Journal “CEO Council” meeting that day in Washington, D.C., Ross, identified […]

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Those Not Around the Table

The scarlet and gold promise of mid-harvest has slipped into the gray, damp reality of early winter. Last month we smiled at sun-kissed crops; this month we smile when we see the sun.
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, November was a month more endured than enjoyed. Its most memorable features were muddy […]

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