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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Robert Hurt on the National Debt

From U.S. Representative Robert Hurt (R-VA-5):

When I came to Washington in 2011, we were in the midst of a historic level of fiscal irresponsibility that threatened to drive us into a borrowing crisis like those experienced by Greece and Spain. President Obama's policies generated the highest deficit levels in our nation's history and our national debt exploded. Thankfully, with a new House of Representatives in 2011, so too came significant fiscal reforms that halted the stampede toward bankruptcy. We were reminded of both our successes and our continuing challenges as we began the annual appropriations process this week.
The deficit has decreased in each of the last five years, with the most recent deficit level coming in at nearly a trillion less than the 2009 deficit. We actually cut government spending for two straight years for the first time since the 1950's. If you compare actual spending levels to spending projections that President Obama estimated back in 2009 based on his policies, we have spent $2.5 trillion less than what he intended to spend. We enacted the first significant entitlement program reform in nearly 20 years with hundreds of billions in savings. We permanently prevented what would have been the largest tax increase in American history for 99% of the American people.
While we are by no means out of the woods, these are tangible policy successes, especially considering that Congress has been negotiating with a President that has very little interest in reducing spending or reforming broken programs and would rather spend far more. While we have made progress, if we truly want to eliminate the debt, we have many years of continued work ahead. It is important to consider how we achieved these outcomes.
Back in 2011, the new House immediately demonstrated its focus on fiscal reform by banning the practice of earmarks as its first act. Earmarks were a symbol of everything wrong with the spending culture in Washington, and their prohibition for the last six years has promoted a more responsible fiscal policy focused on reducing spending rather than grabbing your piece of the pie. We also reestablished the practice and importance of crafting budgets, which had been abandoned altogether in the previous Congress. It’s astonishing to think that the Senate went six years without passing a budget under the Harry Reid regime. Budgets and the process of crafting budget blueprints are a basic yet vital responsibility of any government because they represent the country's priorities and values. The budget marks an opportunity to examine our short and long-term fiscal strategies, which is essential if we expect to pay down our $19 trillion debt.
The House has adopted a balanced budget in each of the last five years, and the House and Senate came together last year to adopt a joint budget that balances, the first time such a budget was adopted since 2001. It is disappointing that we have not yet hammered out a budget this year, but I remain hopeful that we will find agreement on a framework that achieves a balanced budget without increasing taxes, but rather by reforming our spending programs that are on unsustainable trajectories.
Although we have taken some positive steps in recent years to cut spending and reform unsustainable government programs, deficits will go back up and the debt will continue to grow if we do not continue to focus on fiscal reform. We must take further action to rein in the programs that represent trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for future generations because this burden will bankrupt our country if we do not act. If we address these issues now, we can improve our prospects for economic growth and build a stronger future for our children and grandchildren.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.
I spoke with Colonel Victor Pena of Charlottesville at the Virginia Council of Chapter's (VCOC) of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). At this gathering, Robert was recognized as the Outstanding Legislator of the Year by this prestigious group.
Laurie Crigler of Madison County and representatives from the Virginia delegation of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association (PHCC)met with me during their time in Washington.
" [signature graphic: Robert Hurt]

Book Review: The Guilt-Free Gourmet

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Guilt-Free Gourmet 

Author: Vicki B. Griffin

Author's web site:

Date: 1999

Publisher: Remnant

ISBN: 1891041258

Length: 400 pages 

Illustrations: graphics on every page, some food photos

About Vicki Griffin, The Guilt-Free Gourmet, and Griffin's related video presentations (not sold on Amazon), this web site is of two minds.

Grandma Bonnie Peters used the recipes in this book to launch her undercapitalized, therefore short-lived, but widely appreciated line of Allergy-Ease Foods. She and Griffin have met, and approved of each other. Though most of Griffin's recipes aren't gluten-free and she actually recommends using more grain protein in the diet, GBP maintains that she was able to base delicious gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, corn-free, soy-free, yeast-free, and even citrus-free recipes on Griffin's recipes. Well, she obviously based them on something, and some of them certainly are delicious.

Seventh-Day Adventists have long been identified with a healing tradition that features vegan cooking. It was at S.D.A. "sanitaria" and school cafeterias that classic American foods like peanut butter, Postum, and cornflakes were invented. These places were also the home of traditional Adventist vegan dishes like pecan loaf, cashew casserole, and soybean sausage. For the majority of humans who can digest wheat gluten, and can be healthy vegans for years, getting their B-vitamins from a healthy balance of yeast organisms helping them metabolize wheat, this culinary tradition is as healthy as it is palatable. 

Traditionally the recipes for the seasonings that made "vegan meat analogs" (like Morningstar Farms') so successful, so distinctly not meat yet so satisfyingly reminiscent of meat, were handed down to new members of the church in "cooking schools." (GBP teaches in those.) But there was never any real reason not to publish them to the masses. Vicki Griffin persuaded a publisher to market S.D.A. culinary traditions to the health food crowd. It worked. "New" copies of this first, apparently risky, small-publisher-type book are currently selling for ten times their original value on Amazon. 

I, shall we say, formed an emotional allergy to Seventh-Day Adventists during my churchgoing early years. I look at Griffin's tense, furiously cheerful manner on the video and recognize the all too typical S.D.A. who may believe that we're saved by Jesus Christ alone, but we need to be saved from introversion if we've inherited it. I've known too many women like that. Typically slim, healthy, energetic, well preserved, and in theory attractive, they exude an unmistakable--though subtle--pheromonal odor of tension and dissatisfaction with themselves, or with anyone they really, deep down, do manage to like. They're drawn to people who accept their quieter, calmer personalities, but they've not really accepted their own personalities; they've internalized a need to push, nag, blame, boss, and bully those people toward a social style as miserable as their own. However healthy their recipes may be, therefore, a meal eaten at their tables (and how they urge visitors to their churches to eat at their tables!) will be sickening.

Griffin also overstates her claims and oversimplifies her findings. Many cases of clinical depression are in fact symptoms of physical illness, and often that illness is what Dr.Kathleen Desmaisons calls sugar sensitivity. Hyperactivity is often a food reaction. The perceptual distortions involved in some cases of autism and even a few cases of schizophrenia are associated with food reactions. Wonderful psychological and psychiatric benefits can come from improving an individual’s diet, but I still find it very unlikely that all the behavior problems at a certain school were “completely cured” by changing the menu in the cafeteria. Some children are going to feel worse not better, and perform worse not better, when they're given “healthy bagels” instead of potato chips; I'm one of them. However, the simple way to cure all the behavior problems at a school is to make attendance a privilege contingent on appropriate behavior. Make attendance a privilege, withhold that privilege from problem kids, and you will have well-behaved kids even if the cafeteria serves nothing but peanut butter sandwiches, with the options of taking it or leaving it.

And of course I'd rather enjoy a leisurely breakfast with hand-ground blue corn meal pancakes, delicately flavored Virginia-grown sorghum molasses, and tea brewed from hand-picked herbs dried over the fireplace, than grab a Mountain Dew and Fritos for breakfast on a road trip. Of course I wouldn't try to eat "road food" every day, or recommend that anyone else do. Even so, I’ve never noticed that having a Mountain Dew and corn chips for breakfast prevented me from being able to add, or spell, or follow directions, or even drive...actually, even that “healthy bagel” wouldn’t prevent me from doing those things, although it would make me discouraging (and noisome) company. 

The thing is, I used to take friends to the Allergy-Ease Foods Test Kitchen. We'd be alone with GBP and possibly some of the grandchildren. I'd think, "Five dollars for soup, salad, and a sandwich? Best deal in Kingsport! What's wrong with the people who aren't packing into this place?" I suspected the relentlessly educational pro-vegan posters and Vicki Griffin videos were part of the problem. I kept imagining ways Griffin could have made her video (and her cookbook) less unappetizing. I would rather eat plain hash browns, or even "yeast-flavored hash browns," than "Healthy Hashers!" any day. Maybe it's the exclamation point that reminds me that, if you have candidiasis, yeast-flavored hash browns are not health food. 

Instead of repeating the story that feeding children even one nutritious meal a day is going to teleport today’s schools back to the days when school attendance was always a privilege not a right, which is about as credible as repeating “Billy chanted ‘Rain, rain, go away’ for six hours and then it stopped raining,” she could just use the Power Point screens for recipes and the video track for the physical movements people copy in order to follow the recipes. A little objectivity, an awareness that people who are going to sprinkle yeast on their hash browns have already heard that that might be good for them, would do so much for this book.

One person's food is another person's poison. Whatever Griffin was eating was obviously working for her body, and still is; a glance at the book or the video was enough to establish that, especially if you knew that she was, in fact, out of college when she wrote it--and still is. Gina Griffin was her grown-up daughter, and Vicki Griffin still looks great. But I remember eating that kind of food. I remember being skinny and flabby and sallow and sick all the time, because I was eating that kind of food. I remember forcing myself to act cheerful and energetic, undoubtedly being even more annoying than Griffin in her videos, when I actually felt cheerful and energetic maybe one day every two or three months. 

But it is undeniably tasty, low-fat, and vegan. So, if you don't have special dietary restrictions other than a desire to cook something vegan, or if you don't mind editing around your own dietary restrictions, The Guilt-Free Gourmet is a good cookbook. You get lots and lots of recipes, many alternatives for veggie burgers and fat-free dressings and low-calorie fruit desserts. You learn the seasoning secrets to create your own "meat analogs," without the preservatives and artificial flavorings that are inevitably added to the Worthington, Loma Linda, and Morningstar Farms products in the supermarket...or even without the wheat gluten on which those products are based.

In my quest for restricted-diet meals that people who are not on a restricted diet can enjoy too, I’ve bought many cookbooks, transferred the interesting recipes to my files, and put the books up for resale. I don’t currently own a copy of Griffin’s cookbook; I recommended it highly and sold it fast. 

The trouble was that this book hasn't been reprinted. Instead, a shrewder publisher offered to publish Griffin's recipes in a series of less complete, more expensive books. That's the way they're currently being sold, and they're not even showing up on Amazon. The original, valuable cookbook is semi-rare now.

So, it's a Fair Trade Book. Secondhand copies in good condition aren't fearfully expensive--yet. To buy it here, thus showing due respect to both Griffin and me, send $10 per copy + $5 per package (i.e. $15 for one copy, $25 for two copies shipped together) to either address at the bottom of the screen. Out of this we'll send $1.50 per copy to Griffin or a charity of her choice.

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 23 Link Log with Senior Moment

Senior moments are just busting out all over here. I won't really describe a few other people's recently observed moments, but I'll tell this story on myself. My astigmatism has been more or less noticeable from day to day, all my life, but it's really calling attention to itself today. I just moved to one of the public computers in this building, which involves taking a printed PIN number from one of two librarians, and caught myself speaking to #2 while still looking in the general direction of #1--because I was not actually seeing either one--just looking in their general direction as a point of etiquette. If I didn't have a general idea of what both of their faces look like, I'd probably guess their gender, but have no clue to their age or color (since I'm still focussed on a computer--a different one--and switching focus that far took up enough time). I don't know what they're wearing--it's just the habit of generalizing from past experience that causes me to believe that they're wearing some sort of clothes. What my eyes saw were two vague, colorless, human-shaped blurs. If I sat and looked at the blurs for two or three minutes (long enough for them to feel "stared at"), then I could see clearly, from here, what color their eyes are, not to mention their clothes...but that would be not only wasting my time, but also rude and offensive. Many people with astigmatism just go through life talking to blurs and never learning what "body language" is all about. Astigmatism can be noticed at any stage in life; it often complicates children's learning to read, although it didn't affect mine; it can get either better or worse over time, but all aspects of sight and hearing are likely to get worse after age 50. Life goes on. Categories: Animals, Books, Christian, Education, Food (Yum), Funny, Legislation, Money, Nature, News of the Weird, Political Correctness, Politics, True Crime, Venezuela Update.


These cats aren't mine, but they look remarkably similar...especially the way the two females are snuggling up with the same kittens! Unless this is a Photoshopped picture, the "nuisance" in this trailer park consists of social cats--not a "nuisance" but a remarkable phenomenon, of real scientific interest, that could be considered an attraction for the trailer park. Instead of threatening to evict the resident, they should PAY her!


Noner warns us that this is not a happy story:

+L. L. Reynolds ' new book sounds as if it's not for everyone, either. Maybe for those who wish Harry Potter's school years weren't over?


One "daily devotional" piece from a book:


Every dorm student needs headphones.

For younger students, yes, there's still a Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum:

Food (Yum)

Iced tea with twists...of different fruits.

Here's a chicken recipe that's just a bit different, and also gluten-free if you can trust your source of "corn flour." (In the U.S. that term may describe either regular or extra-finely-ground "corn meal"; in the U.K. it may refer to pure "corn starch." +Sandy KS describes what she used as finely ground "meal." The recipe would work either way, but with different results.)

This banana scone recipe comes from Malaysia but looks likely to work with U.S. ingredients:

These potatoes might be even yummier with a bit less butter, but to each his or her own.


This week's "Dilbert" cartoons may look a bit different. Here's why. (The explanation might belong in the "Nice" category; the cartoons are still funny.)

And here's a funny "fable":


Please do use these harmless methods to keep cats from digging in your garden.

Yet another flower called a lily...There's a specific plant family called Lilium, which includes many things that do and don't have pretty white flowers, and then there are all kinds of plants that are called lilies because they have (more or less) tall, pretty flowers (that may or may not be white). I've been asked, "What is a lily? What does the word mean?" Apparently, it can mean anything. As with robins, people learned that a word applied to something they hadn't seen, then applied the same word to something they had seen that could be described in similar terms. A robin is a songbird with a red breast. A lily is a pretty white flower on a tall straight stem.

I knew that curly dock is an edible "weed," that it can be too rich in nutrients for hens (and for humans if they ate a great deal of it), but I learned something new about it here.

Do you use aluminum containers in the garden? I don't like aluminum in the kitchen, and don't usually drink things packed in aluminum cans, but aluminum does have its uses.


What happens when laws are badly written: legislation meant to discourage nuisance litigation over dead people is being used to shelter child abusers. And by all means let's commend Mr. Marbury and Ms. Quinney for their extraordinary dedication to law and order. They came home, they found solid proof that a baby-sitter beat up their baby, and they let the baby-sitter walk away? This borders on fanatical faith in the legal process.


Well, I clicked. Can't most of us learn something (or other) from a retired NFL star? Well, unfortunately for me now, though fortunately for me then, I'd absorbed what this Baltimore Raven has to tell people who "succeed" early in life before I was eighteen. But somebody out there needs to hear it from Ray Lewis.


It's not all partisan politics or thank-a-veteran fundraising in the +Allen West Republic , Gentle Readers:

"Was even Euclid impervious to midges?" one of Eleanor Farjeon's characters asked once...Click on the picture to buy the book. I preferred an older edition without drawings, but must admit the picture gives a feel for the kind of book it is.

...In the U.S. "Midge" is usually a nickname for children, short people, or (ironically) very tall people, so not everyone necessarily understood the idea. This is what the character had in mind:

News of the Weird 

In this case the weird part is that I think Etan Thomas may really not have a clue what's going on. He's Black if he says so; he's not much darker than the guy his fellow passenger doesn't mind sitting beside. But no points for guessing, he's bigger than that other man. Also, as an athlete he's probably more comfortable with his body, so his body language probably doesn't scream "I'm more reluctant to touch you than you are to touch me, stranger, for sure!" as loudly as the other man's does. I'm a short woman and I know: short women haaaate larger people--of either sex or any color, and if we have astigmatism and are trying to read we may not even know which sex or color--sprawling over onto our seats on a bus or train. It's not about hating the large, sprawly people individually. In fact we agree with them that public transportation services need to curb their greed and offer nice, roomy seats, with partitions too high for even NBA stars to let their arms sprawl over.

In another instance of celebrity discontent, million-dollar movie star Michelle Rodriguez wails that being a woman in Hollywood movies is "like being born a slave." She means, of course, in the sense of "something unfair that you feel unable to change, and just learn to live with in order to survive." The question might also be asked whether anybody becomes a millionnaire, other than by inheritance, before age 40 without being a bit of a "slave" to their career. Still, in view of the facts that real slaves (1) didn't own the money they earned and (2) didn't have the choice of changing to any other career they

Political Correctness

What happens when granny bashers break into the home of a senior citizen who does not have some sort of lethal weapon? I shouldn't read stories like this activates my Inner Child Abuser. Well, let's just say that if these boys had been spanked properly, in the way my kittens are currently being kicked, as their brains matured enough to form coherent thoughts they would already have had a neurological sequence that goes "Push/hit...older female-type person...ouch! scary noises! ouch! ouch! No! Don't try this again!", which tends to discourage granny bashing later. And if children are spanked, or kittens are kicked, properly, they cheer up the moment the punishment stops and resume following you everywhere and clinging to your ankles, only a tiny bit more cautiously. But when kids get too big to be spanked, sometimes they have to be handled like adults of their size.


From the +Allen West Republic , this graphic came with a link but the link didn't work...I have no idea who keeps re-electing Jim Moran. Well, a few years ago his son did provide us with an important clue. Anyway, Jim Moran has been in Congress longer, but still has some very important life lessons to learn from Morgan Griffith. (One reason to move to Gate City from Alexandria, Virginia: you'd get a waaay better Representative in Congress.)

True Crime

Fighting crime is all in a day's work. This blog post starts with an unrelated anecdote. Scroll down for the expose and also a nice clear photo of a clean, safe way to fight crime...when it works.

Venezuela Update

Great Weimar Republic's ghost! (Thanks to the +Allen West Republic for sharing.)

Book Review: The Road to Memphis

A Fair Trade Book 

Title: The Road to Memphis

Author: Mildred D. Taylor

Date: 1990, 1992

Publisher: Dial (1990), Puffin (1992)

ISBN: 0-14-036077-8

Length: 290 pages

Quote: “Y’all in trouble...Not you, Cassie...Rest of y’all are, though.”

It’s 1941, and sassy little Cassie Logan, the narrator of Taylor’s “Logan Family saga,” is in high school with her brothers and their friends. Although she’s aware that she’s a teenager, that she’s considered pretty, and that one of their buddies has a crush on her, Cassie isn’t her friend, Sissy, whose infatuation with one of Cassie’s brothers’ buddies has led her to get pregnant and say she’s not sure who the baby’s father is. Actually, Sissy confides to Cassie when they get a chance to talk, the baby’s father is definitely Clarence; she was trying to make Clarence jealous. All the teenagers, including Sissy, agree that Sissy’s uninhibited immaturity is “crazy,” but that marrying her is the right thing for Clarence to do. But poor, foolish Clarence and Sissy aren’t destined for a happy ending.

First we have to find out what’s going to become of Jeremy Simms, who has acted throughout the series as if he has a crush, not really on Cassie, but on her older brother Stacey. The way Cassie tells it, anybody would have to admire her big brother...but falling in love with Stacey Logan is especially dangerous for Jeremy, not only male but the son of one of the ugliest, most bigoted rednecks in Mississippi.

The character of Jeremy has always been handled with wonderful sensitivity. This is, after all, 1941; for anyone to have suggested outright that Jeremy may be homosexual would have been a crime. It’s bad enough that his feelings for Stacey have sensitized Jeremy to the race war that’s going on and the injustices Stacey and his friends and relatives have to deal with. Only Cassie, who’s been warned against Jeremy, notices what’s really going on with this odd, naïvely idealistic boy. Child readers are free to imagine that Jeremy is just an unusually idealistic, guilt-ridden kid. 

I appreciate this tactfulness and hold it up as an example to other writers (like the ones at Disney). Children can benefit from reading about characters whom adults may recognize as homosexual, without having more information about these characters' sexual lives or fantasies shoved at the children than a decent person would shove at a child in real life. Jeremy Simms is excellent.

Jeremy’s father wants Jeremy to be more like his three big, mean cousins. Nothing sentimental, naïve, or (don’t say effeminate) about that lot. They’re bullies who just love to exploit the racial tensions of their time and place in order to torture Stacey, Cassie, and Jeremy. Not brave enough to challenge Stacey and not quite vile enough to molest Cassie, they try to provoke the Logans into hitting first by bullying their friends. In the Simms goons' first real scene, the two groups of teenagers meet in the woods, hunting. One of Cassie’s and Stacey’s buddies is a fat kid; the Simms boys think it’s funny to sic their dogs on him. When he climbs up a tree, falls out of it, and breaks a leg, Stacey tells Jeremy their friendship is over.

In their next scene the three louts turn their attention to Clarence, who has been having terrible headaches ever since he joined the Army. Blood pressure? Brain tumor? A reaction to some of the vaccines and medications for which Army recruits were lined up? It’s 1941, so we’ll never know. Anyway, when the louts make a joke of knocking on Clarence’s aching head, Cassie’s shy, quiet admirer, Moe, picks up a crowbar and lays Jeremy's Cousin Troy flat. Jeremy, who was waiting in the truck, quickly hides Moe under a tarp in the back and drives away.

If Troy dies, Jeremy knows he’ll be considered an accessory to murder. Even if Troy gets up and walks away, Jeremy’s family will disown him. They would have disowned him anyway, so Jeremy can afford not to worry too much about that. In the Army he'll be with Stacey in spirit.

Meanwhile the kids take up the job of helping Moe get out of Mississippi. They plan to go with him all the way to Chicago. They have a fictional version of the sort of road adventure real kids had in 1941: dirt roads or none, low gas mileage, few gas stations, and no hope—unless you happened to break down within sight of the home of a fellow “motor enthusiast”—of replacing any broken parts on a Sunday. Cassie is threatened, and basically mugged, just for looking wistfully at a gas-station restroom door marked “White Ladies.”

Clarence runs out of over-the-counter painkillers and wants to check into a hospital, but of course it, too, is “for Whites only.” Segregation in American hospitals was supposed to guarantee ethnic-minority Americans opportunities to succeed in the health care professions; in practice it guaranteed many “colored” types (the term that included Native Americans in some States) no professional health care at all in the many places that had no sizable "colored" population. Clarence’s symptoms are so ominous that it’s not clear whether hospitalization would be of any benefit to him. In any case, all that can be done for him is for hospital staff to refer him to the home of a private nurse who can at least give him painkillers and a place to lie down. He doesn’t go to Memphis.

With all the excitement they’re having in the small towns along the road, the kids are surprised, when they get  into Memphis, to find people talking about “what’s happened.” While they were camping in their broken-down car and trying to find a fan belt, Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Along the way Cassie finds a temporary job and falls in love. It seems to disappoint some people nowadays as much as it used to reassure many people, even in the 1990s, that most of the high school girls who still want to be “just friends” with high school boys are not lesbians. Cassie has been levelheaded enough not to become obsessed with any of her buddies. She’s even levelheaded enough to act sensible about it when she gets a chance to dance with, and even kiss, a handsome, charming, sophisticated grown-up man...but readers, who are taken into her confidence, know she’s feeling as thrilled by this man as poor old Sissy felt about poor old Clarence. The difference is that Cassie is intelligent. 

How true is this book? How true are any of the Logan Family stories? Mildred Taylor hasn’t given readers a memoir to compare with these novels, but she has consistently affirmed that they’re based partly on stories her father, “who lived many adventures of the boy Stacey,” used to tell. They are not, however, the stories of any one particular family. The Logans and their friends become, in their “saga,” representatives of all the African-Americans in Mississippi during this period, when all Euro-Americans, even the nicest ones, are still from the enemy side and any interracial friendship is downright dangerous. At the same time, the stories adhere to the rule that nothing really bad should happen to the major characters: Cassie gets harassed, while Jacey has already been raped in Let the Circle Be Unbroken; Stacey is allowed to walk away from trouble, while T.J. has been brutally beaten in Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Things like the horrors the Logans keep surviving did go on in this time and place, but in real life all of them did not happen to the friends of two strangely unscathed children. The Logans are, therefore, a fictional frame on which ugly bits of history are displayed. People who don't enjoy this series complain that there's too much ugly history and not enough attention to the family love that sustains people like the Logans in real life.

I’m a fan of this series--have been ever since I read the school bus scene in Roll of Thunder, which still makes me smile--but I have to warn those who’ve not read the books yet that none of them, not even The Friendship and The Gold Cadillac, which are thin volumes containing short stories and color pictures, is really a children’s book. They’re too grim. They can leave readers feeling angry. The Road to Memphis, in which so many teenagers are doomed to heartache, is not the most violent novel in the series but may be the saddest.

So, to whom is this series recommended? To people who are free from both depression and Positive Thinking, who can appreciate stories about people who survive and resist injustice without any temptation to blather, “See, they’re surviving, so the abuse and injustice aren’t really bad things, they’re actually good for the characters’ characters.” Abuse and injustice are not good for anyone’s character. I think that’s why I like the Logan Family series so much. Growing up amidst the injustices of an unofficial war may be helping Cassie and Stacey develop qualities of toughness, reserve, and resourcefulness, but just being a farm family in the Depression would have done them that much good; the race war is also helping them develop qualities of resentment, bitterness, and suspiciousness. And it’s also preparing them to embrace a political strategy that, although sometimes useful to them, was planned to serve other people’s interest more than theirs, and that may not have been the best strategy.

We can’t change history; we can only learn from it. The Logan Family stories show us how good people were systematically prepared to become pawns in a movement toward totalitarianism. Cassie’s and Stacey’s future politics are being refined in a crucible of us-against-them, which-side-are-you-on violence. A girl who’s just been mugged is naturally likely to be wide open to the propaganda that that’s the way things are supposed to be in her state, but that a more powerful federal government can force change...even though force is what created the hostility in the first place, even though further use of force is likely to work against Cassie within her own lifetime. Nobody cares to remember the story of how the hospital policy that banned Clarence from the hospital was created by a demand that government create more jobs specifically for “colored” health care workers. Cassie is going to vote for a bigger, stronger, more coercive federal government, probably all her life. This actually happened. The Logan Family stories tell us why.

By the time these stories began to be published the whole world had watched the sequel—the smallest, most  helpless-looking children in cities being marched into forcibly integrated schools between armed guards, harassed by the trashiest adults in those cities, while private schools had integrated themselves freely and happily. Ruby Bridges’ memoir, Through My Eyes, would later ask the question why African-American community leaders would have wanted to subject her and other harmless children to the torment she lived through. Because some of them were “living the adventures” of Cassie Logan, in real life, in 1941, that’s why.

The Logan Family stories are therefore especially recommended to those who want to work toward the improvement of society. When we're tempted to feel that “anything would be better than this,” they remind us to learn from history rather than repeat it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: Spiritual Living in a Material World

Title: Spiritual Living in a Material World

Author: Morton Kelsey

Date: 1998

Publisher: New City Press

ISBN: 1-56548-105-4

Length: 94 pages text, 2 pages endnotes

Quote: “Real Christianity is a mature and balanced religion; it stresses our spiritual life, our physical life, and our social life as one integrated whole.”

When Spiritual Living in a Material World crossed my desk I was writing some articles about church history--differences and similarities between denominations. Morton Kelsey would be better qualified to tell readers about those similarities. Although a Protestant minister, he was teaching at a Catholic university when he wrote this book, in which he cites several Catholic books and authors.

Some other Protestant writers who learned a lot from Catholics and wrote about the spiritual life were Richard J. Foster (Celebration of Discipline), Madeleine L'Engle (The Irrational Season), Kathleen Norris (Amazing Grace), and C.S. Lewis (Letters to Malcolm). My opinion is that their books are better than Kelsey's because they have/had more talent. Not everyone agrees. Some prefer a shorter, yet at the same time more academic, style of writing. Kelsey had that.

If you want a short, academic overview of the spiritual practices all Christians have in common, Spiritual Living in a Material World might be the book for you. But don’t expect it to be a quick read merely because it’s short. This is the writer’s quick summary of fifty years of study. Think of it as the initial lecture in which a teacher gives an overview of a five-hour, two-semester course. If you’ve not already read the Bible and many other Christian books, you may need to pause, sometimes more than once on a page, and read another book (or books) in order to get the full sense of what Kelsey is talking about. If you have read, say, half of the books Kelsey has, you’ll probably appreciate this book as a sort of abstract or précis.

Kelsey didn't always list the books in his bibliography the way publishers catalogue them now. To give readers an idea what to expect, I've had a try at tracking them down on Amazon.

Reynolds Price: ThreeGospels and A Whole New Life.

John Wesley: Complete Works.

Charles Wesley: Charles Wesley Reader.

Baron von Hügel’s MysticalElement in Religion is very old and, in places where I’ve looked, hard to find, but Kelsey lists is as an important source for his book. The Baron’s student, Evelyn Underhill, is also cited in Spiritual Living in a Material World and is easier to find.

Fritz Künkel: InSearch of Maturity.

Dorothy Phillips (editor). The Choice Is Always Ours.

John Sanford: TheKingdom Within.

A book Kelsey calls The Search for Stillness. Amazon doesn't pull up this title and suggests a book about the Shakers first published in 1998--unlikely to be what Kelsey had in mind.

John Bunyan: Pilgrim’s Progress.

Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Augustine. Confessions; City of God.

Martin Luther: Luther's Works vol. 1-55.

Apology of St. Justin the Martyr.

John of the Cross. DarkNight of the Soul. (He wrote it, and this web site has discussed and offered it, in Spanish: .)

Carlo Carretto. Daily Reflections. Well, that's what Kelsey called it, but see how Amazon catalogued it:

François Fénélon: Complete Fenelon

Søren Kierkegaard: TheSickness unto Death.

Thomas Merton: Seven Storey Mountain (and others).

Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle (and others).

Teresa of Calcutta: Simple Path.

Ignatius of Loyola. SpiritualExercises.

C.S. Lewis: Till WeHave Faces is mentioned in this book. In connection with other references to Lewis’s name, I think Mere Christianity, Letters to Malcolm, and TheScrewtape Letters are the works cited.

Catherine of Siena: Dialogue (and others).

Charles Williams: Shadowsof Ecstasy is mentioned in this book. 

Chiara Lubich: MayThey All Be One. Also referenced is another nonfiction book that may now be available in English, United in His Name, and a biography, Chiara Lubich, written by Franca Zambonini. Amazon does not show the biography.

Paul Tournier: CreativeSuffering.

John Westerhoff: SpiritualLife.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Giftfrom the Sea.

(Why did the spaces between some words disappear when the words were italicized? I have no idea. I know the Amazon link app is already behaving as if it were overwhelmed; I'm not going to try to edit the links.)

A person who really wanted to support this web site could order all of these books here. Generally the price is, as for Spiritual Living in a Material World, $5 per book + $5 per package. (In other words, $5 for shipping each group of 1 to 12 books that will fit into one package.) In some cases, when books have become rare, collector prices apply; all 55 volumes by Martin Luther, translated into English, would currently cost $1000. (And even at that they'd take a while to reach you, because I own very little of Luther; if I order his complete collected works, now suppressed because the great German preacher didn't talk like a proper English gentleman, I'm jolly well going to make samizdat copies before I ship them out.) A few of the writers cited, like Foster and Norris, are still alive so their books would qualify as Fair Trade Books. Morton Kelsey, born in 1917, died in 2001.