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Articles written by Bill Benson

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  • Incarceration?

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jun 20, 2024

    In 2022, a jury convicted Elizabeth Holmes, founder of biotech firm Theranos, of four counts of defrauding investors. A judge sentenced Holmes to 11 years and 3 months in prison. The film producer Harvey Weinstein was declared guilty of inappropriate relations with women twice, first at a trial in New York in 2020, and the second in California in 2022. In 2018, the comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drugging and assaulting a woman, but in 2021, after serving three years...

  • Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

    Bill Benson, Columnist|May 23, 2024

    In Topeka, Kansas, on February 20, 1943, a black girl named Linda Brown was born. When still a child in the early 1950's, her father, Oliver Brown, was required to drive Linda to an all-black school five miles across Topeka, when an all-white school, the Sumner School, was a few blocks distant from Oliver's home. Oliver was angry. An assistant pastor at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, he joined the NAACP and other plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against Topeka's Board of Education,...

  • 14th Amendment: Sections 2 and 3

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Mar 28, 2024

    Last time in these pages I looked at Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. Today I continue. The last phrase in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment declares that no state can "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law." All races are equal under the law. Section 2 begins: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers." By these words the committee eliminated the 3/5's rule. Section 2 continues: "But when the right to...

  • John Bingham, the 14th Amendment, Section 1

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Mar 14, 2024

    In early 1866, the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction in the 39th Congress wrestled with the idea that they must write a 14th Amendment to address certain issues: Who is a citizen? How does the country's laws apply to former slaves and slave owners? Will former Confederate officials hold elected office now in the Union? Will former slaveholders receive any compensation for the loss of their property? Who will pay the Confederacy's debts? Most important, who will rule supreme: state...

  • Black History Month Part Three

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Feb 29, 2024

    In December of 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suggested a plan to reinstate the seceded states back into the Union, his "Ten Percent Plan." He would permit each Confederate state to form a new state government after ten percent of the voters in a state took loyalty oaths to the Union and recognized the former slaves' freedom. Following Lincoln's assassination on April 9, 1865, his successor, former Vice-President Andrew Johnson, decided to run with Lincoln's Ten P...

  • Frederick Douglass's "Slaveholder's Sermon"

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jan 18, 2024

    David Blight teaches Civil War and Reconstruction history at Yale University. In 2018, Blight published a biography on the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, entitled, "Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom." Blight tells a remarkable story. His biography deserved and did win the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. Blight describes Douglass as a spell-binding lecturer through most of the nineteenth century, who left audiences both weeping and laughing, their emotions whipsawed by his incredible story of how... Full story

  • Assertion is Not Evidence

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jan 4, 2024

    On May 11, 2017, the newly-elected U.S. President, Donald Trump, issued an executive order to form a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He appointed Vice-President Mike Pence as chair, and Kansas State's Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice-chair. For some time, Kobach had "promoted the myth of voter fraud and supported laws that restricted people from voting." Two other members were "notorious advocates for voter suppression." At least one member was a Democrat, Maine's S... Full story

  • Unique Word

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Dec 21, 2023

    December 16 marked the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when colonial Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships-Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver-split open 340 chests filled with tea, and dumped their contents into Boston's harbor. This defiant act was directed as a protest against Parliament's insistence that the consignees of the tea in the American colonies pay an import tax, to keep afloat the struggling British East India Company, which brought the tea to the... Full story

  • Secession

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Dec 7, 2023

    Abraham Lincoln faced an absolute calamity on March 4, 1861, the day when Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath of office to Lincoln at his inauguration. Already seven states from the South had seceded, or withdrawn, from the Union because voters had elected Lincoln President of the United States. Southern voters believed that Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into western territories, like Kansas and Nebraska. South Carolina voted to secede on December 20, 1860, forty-four... Full story

  • Election of 1864

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Nov 23, 2023

    Throughout the year of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln believed that he would lose the election in November. He admitted in August, "I am going to be beaten, and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten." The odds were stacked against him. Plenty of voters in the Union had reason to despise, even hate, Lincoln. The war that had begun in April 1861, at Fort Sumter, had turned into a ghastly event, full of fury, fever, horror, and madness. The human wreckage was colossal, on a scale... Full story

  • Tunnels and War Coincide

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Nov 9, 2023

    People burrow into the subsoil, build tunnels, plus storage rooms, and stockpile food and water, for one reason, and that is to stay alive. Atop the ground, in the open air, in the sunshine, they feel oppressed, insecure, and poised to die or suffer an injury. On July 4, 1863, thirty-one thousand Confederate soldiers, trapped inside Vicksburg, on the Mississippi River, surrendered to the Union's commanding officer, Ulysses S. Grant, on the forty-eighth day of Grant's siege of that town. During... Full story

  • What Can I Achieve with Greek Mythology?

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Oct 26, 2023

    What is the good that comes from knowing even a little about the ancient Greeks' religion? I prefer to learn of actual people who once lived in a historical setting, a time and a place. Greek mythology, instead, is a collection of make-believe fantasy stories I would like to know more of, but I find it hard to gain much traction from them, practical use. I wonder. Mark Twain disparaged the whole notion. "Classics," he said, "are the books that everybody wants to claim to have read, but nobody... Full story

  • Differ We Must

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Oct 12, 2023

    Since 2004, radio personality Steve Inskeep has hosted National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” During Covid lockdown in 2020, at home with time to spare, Inskeep researched and wrote a book that was published this past week. Inskeep found its title, “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America,” in a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his good friend Joshua Speed, dated August 24, 1855. Last week, Inskeep explained to Amna Nawaz of PBS News Hour, and Scott Simon of NPR, that... Full story

  • Peering Into The Future

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Sep 28, 2023

    Some people possess a talent to peer deep into the future. In Biblical times people called them prophets. In the Middle Ages, people believed them wizards. Today they are economists who make projections based upon previous business data. Thomas Paine was an unknown writer in Philadelphia, fresh off the boat from England, but he peered deep into the future, more than did others already here. In 1776, in “Common Sense, Paine wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A sit... Full story

  • Motza, Israel

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Sep 14, 2023

    The main highway running east to west across Israel's width is Highway One. It connects Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the Jordan River Valley, near Jericho. In 2012, highway contractors working five kilometers west of Jerusalem near the town of Motza uncovered a Neolithic town, home to perhaps 3,000 people at one time. A new thing, an interstate highway, led to a discovery of an old thing, a town. Tel Motza is now the largest Neolithic site in Israel. Archaeologists define a Tel as "a mound or small... Full story

  • Books and Censorship

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Aug 31, 2023

    The list of banned, censored, and challenged books is long and illustrious. Decameron (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio, and Canterbury Tales (1476) by Geoffrey Chaucer were banned from U. S. mail because of the Federal Anti-Obscenity Law of 1873, known as the Comstock Law. That law "banned the sending or receiving of works containing 'obscene, 'filthy,' or 'inappropriate' material. William Pynchon, a prominent New England landowner and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote a startling... Full story

  • A Summer's Day

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Aug 17, 2023

    Popular song writers will, on occasion, dub into their lyrics references to summer. In 1970, Mungo Jerry sang, "In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can stretch right up and touch the sky." In 1972, Bobby Vinton sang, "Yes, it's going to be a long, lonely summer." In 1973, Terry Jacks sang about enjoying his "Seasons in the Sun." In 1977, in the film Grease, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John sang a back-and- forth duet about their "summer days drifting away, to summer nights."... Full story

  • 70th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Aug 3, 2023

    Last Thursday, July 27, 2023, North Korea's leader Kim Jon Un presided over a military parade that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean conflict, from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. North Korea's Foreign Ministry announced, in bellicose language, that "the 21st century would see the irrevocable termination of the U.S. "Should the U.S. choose to offend our Republic, we will annihilate them by using all our military power that we... Full story

  • Four Trials

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jul 6, 2023

    Two trials in American history stand out above the others, the Salem Witch Trials and the Scopes Monkey Trial. Both were of a religious nature. The two serve as bookends on America's history, the first in 1693, in the years after New England's founding, and the second in 1925, early in the twentieth century. The trial at Salem Village, Massachusetts sought to identify and then execute those unseen spiritual forces, the witches, who, village's officials believed, went about in secret performing... Full story

  • EXPLO '72

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jun 8, 2023

    This last week I watched the new Lionsgate film, Jesus Revolution. The film did better than expected, grossing $50 million in the first months after its release in February. The screenplay is based upon a memoir that Greg Laurie, and co-writer Ellen Vaughn, published in 2018, Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today. I knew nothing of Greg Laurie when I watched the movie, but since then, I have learned that he is a long-time pastor, fifty... Full story

  • Native Americans and Education

    Bill Benson, Columnist|May 25, 2023

    In National Geographic's May edition, the writer Suzette Brewer, member of the Cherokee Nation, wrote an article about "the some 500 federally funded boarding schools for Native children opened in the U.S and Canada in the 1800s." Catholic or Protestant missionaries, intent on converting the students to Christianity and to white men's culture, oversaw many of these schools, all designed to indoctrinate the students in the missionaries' specific theology. Brewer calls these schools "places of hor... Full story

  • An Optimistic Look at the US Economy

    Bill Benson, Columnist|May 11, 2023

    Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election because of his upbeat creed, his optimism, and his sunny disposition, an attitude that contrasted to Jimmy Carter's beat-down-but-struggling talk. Reagan told the American people, "America's best days are ahead of us," and they believed him. Jimmy Carter talked about a National Malaise, ways to cut the deficit, and how to get hostages out of Iran. The American people were aghast. Warren Buffett says, "For 240 years, it has been a terrible mistake to bet... Full story

  • Roger Williams and William Shakespeare

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Apr 13, 2023

    William Shakespeare was born close to April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-the-Avon, in England, 100 miles northwest of London. Roger Williams was born either as early as December of 1603, or as late as April 5, 1604, in Smithfield, a section of London. Shakespeare's father, John, was a glover in Stratford-on-the-Avon, in that he stitched gloves out of animal skins. Williams's father, James, bought, sold, and traded textiles. Shakespeare became a famous playwright in London at the Globe Theater, but... Full story

  • Profiles in Courage

    Bill Benson, Columnist|Jan 19, 2023

    John F. Kennedy served in the U. S. Congress for fourteen years, from 1947 until 1960. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, JFK was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, and he stayed there until 1952, a total of six years. In 1952, he ran for Senate, won the election and stayed there from 1953 to 1960, a total of eight years. He was elected President of the United States in November 1960, and in January of 1961, he and his wife Jackie, and their two children, Caroline and John, Jr...

  • Two Weddings

    Bill Benson|Dec 8, 2022

    Twenty-eight-year-old Naomi Biden married twenty-five-year-old Peter Neal on the south lawn, at the White House, on Saturday, November 19, 2022, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. Because there was no tent, and because the temperature was a chilly 39 degrees, some 250 guests received shawls, hand-warmers, and blankets once they arrived. They also checked in their cell phones. The President and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the ceremony, and the family paid for the wedding. At a few minutes... Full story

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