What an ancient Roman philosopher can teach us about our pandemic era | Five for the Weekend

By: - October 24, 2020 6:30 am

Happy Weekend, All.

It’s Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek again, once again filling in for the vacationing Cassie Miller, who returns next week after a well-earned respite.

It’s an understatement to say that we’re living through the most challenging time in modern memory. The pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives, touching all of us in some way, whether by losing someone we love, or by calling on us to console others mourning a loss.

We’re weathering an economic downturn, and many of us are struggling to make ends meet. And we’re living through perhaps one of the most consequential presidential elections since, well, the last most consequential presidential election.

So it might sound odd, during this most modern of times, to look back to the wisdom of ancient philosophers for advice and consolation.

But the writings of the Stoics, a school of thought driven by personal accountability and perseverance in the face of adversity, are built to order for our pandemic era. In fact, one of its foremost practitioners, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, also presided over a plague that ended up killing him.

I’ve been dipping into the teachings of the Stoics daily, and it’s made a pretty profound difference in my worldview and been a source of great solace and strength.

If you’re looking for a place to start, The Daily Stoic website is a treasure trove of readings, meditations and inspiration. You can also sign up for a daily newsletter that delivers little doses of wisdom to your inbox every morning.

So before we dive into the week’s Top Five Stories, here’s a nugget from Marcus Aurelius to take you into the weekend:

“Make sure you’re not made ‘Emperor,’ avoid that imperial stain. It can happen to you, so keep yourself simple, good, pure, saintly, plain, a friend of justice, god-fearing, gracious, affectionate, and strong for your proper work. Fight to remain the person that philosophy wished to make you. Revere the gods, and look after each other. Life is short — the fruit of life is a good character and the acts for the common good.”

It’s a tall order — but it’s wisdom for any age. Including our own.

Take care — and be kind to each other.
John L. Micek, Editor

Billboard on Route 21 in Fayette County (Image via Twitter/Pittsburgh City Paper)

1. SWPa. billboard accusing Biden of dementia misspells … dementia

A roadside billboard in Fayette County repeating a Republican accusation that Democratic nominee presidential Joe Biden suffers from diminished mental capacity has a deficiency of its own: A whopper of a spelling error.

“Biden’s dimensia is worsening, he is not fit,” the billboard reads, misspelling “dementia.” The billboard also repeats two denigrating nicknames that President Donald Trump has used to refer to the former vice president and his running-mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. As a matter of policy, the Capital-Star does not repeat those nicknames.

According to the Twitter user who took the photo above, the billboard is located on Route 21 just outside of Uniontown, at the intersection of Matthew Drive and the Route 119 bypass.

The billboard is owned by Penneco Outdoor Advertising, which is based in Delmont, Pa. in Westmoreland County. The company has a 1-star rating on Google Reviews. One review … reads, “They can’t master basic spelling.”

Penneco has a history putting up right-wing billboards. In 2018, a Penneco billboard in North Huntington called women who accused now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavannaugh of sexual assault “Paid LIARS.” That year, the same electronic billboard also ran ads supporting Republicans Scott Wagner and Lou Barletta.

(Tim DeFoor Facebook page image).

2. Get to know Pa.’s Auditor General candidates: Tim DeFoor

In an effort to help voters make an informed decision this Nov., the Capital-Star will be doing Q&A’s with all four candidates for the Office of the Auditor General, a statewide position currently held by Eugene DePasquale.

We’re kicking things off with Dauphin County Controller Tim DeFoor, the Republican nominee.

What is the role of the auditor general? 

DeFoor: Well, think of the role of the Auditor General as your as your state fiscal watchdog. And basically what that is, the auditor general is responsible for making sure that government is accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars, and to make government transparent with regards to how it also spends those tax dollars.

3. Perry and DePasquale clash over Obamacare, QAnon at second debate 

There was a good deal of deja vu Monday night as U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, and his Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania’s auditor general, stepped on the debate stage together for the second and final time.

The debate, hosted by WGAL-TV in Lancaster, found the two pressed on such topics as systemic racism and the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that they addressed two weeks ago.

In response, Perry and DePasquale at times repeated the same lines or stories verbatim, down to the cadence.

But the two also fleshed out their positions on other topics, such as health care, as well as addressing fresh controversy on their attack ads.

(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

4. Want to hand-deliver your ballot in Pa.? Here’s a map of election offices and drop boxes

If you’re one of the 2.2 million Pennsylvanians who requested to vote by mail-in ballot this year, you don’t have to rely on the postal service to cast it.

State law allows voters to hand-deliver their ballots to county election bureaus – the offices in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that handle voter registration and administer state, local and federal elections.

But voters have other options for the first time this year. Thanks to a 2019 change to the state Election Code, some counties have established satellite voting offices or secure drop box locations to collect ballots and administer voter services.

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

5. Pa. has to pass a budget soon. Here’s what is on the table

Budget debates in Pennsylvania’s state Capitol are fast-moving affairs in the best of years, with legislative leaders talking behind closed doors with little input from the public.

This year, however, brings some historic variables: a pandemic, a major election, and volatile unemployment.

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly has to pass a new budget by Nov. 30. That’s when the current budget expires, and when the current legislative session ends.

But in order to approve new spending and revenue plans, lawmakers must confront a projected $5 billion tax revenue shortfall that’s expected to endure through 2021 — the result of job losses and slow economic activity during the pandemic-induced recession.

And that’s the week. See you all back here on Monday. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.