Friday, January 29, 2016

What in Flint...? (Rant Followed by Fundraising Links)

Flint, Michigan...it's a real place. (So is Hell, but Flint is bigger and, in some ways, more unpleasant; in real life I often say "What in Flint...") I didn't spend much time in Michigan and don't plan to go back there, but my emotional "heart" does contain a tiny glow of warmth toward this beleaguered, often benighted, horribly polluted State.

Home of Gerald Ford..."President Nice Guy" wasn't our most memorable President, but he was nice.

Home of Michael Moore...a lot of this web site's correspondents bash him, and there were a few years when he bought into a conspiracy theory and even my Democrat husband was saying "Don't support that kind of lunacy," but he's a good writer and I've always liked his work. Conspiracy theories apart.

And the home of some, not all, of the "Moms" in a nationwide organization called Moms Rising. As an aunt I support some of their efforts in aid of children. Some, not most, because there are too many left-wingers in the group. Left-wingers are really good at publicizing problems. At generating workable answers they're not so good.

I mean to say...take a look at the e-mail below. The problem is that these people are poor...so their idea of a solution is to spend more tax money...but tax money has to be collected from local folks, and the local folks don't have much, so they're basically talking about a boondoggle that's going to require a bailout. There are disaster areas, like New York in 2001 or New Orleans in 2005, where a bailout may seem like the only remaining way to help. That's not what Mom Dream is describing to me, though. What she's conveying to my mind is definitely a problem, but it looks, sounds, feels, whatever, more like a problem that might be better addressed by collecting and spending less tax money.

I want to know, if the following commonsense suggestions don't work for Flint, why they don't work better than the ones the left-wingers are proposing:

1. Flint's city water is polluted. Buy filters. Lots of filters, because the chances are that residents of Flint are going to go through them like toilet tissue this year. Take up a collection to buy filters for those who can't afford them.

2. The city manager switched the water supply? Well, then, the city manager should switch it back. (Whether the city should switch managers, and/or take a switch to the manager who switched to the polluted water supply, is up to them.)

3. After exposure, the body recovers from lead poisoning...slowly. Some people benefit from chelation therapy to speed up recovery; most don't need it. A clinic to help identify anyone who does need treatment, and advise other residents of Flint about nutrient supplements during the recovery process, would be a good thought. Should the state use tax money to set up the clinic...taxes collected from poor people...or offer private people and organizations whose image could use a boost, of which Michigan has plenty, the opportunity to get credit for funding it?

Not being from Flint, I can't claim to know, but I would think that in a place as rich as Michigan a good marketing campaign could get richies competing over which of them could chip in most. There's the Meijer store chain fortune, Amway, Little Caesar's, Quicken, Penske, Stryker, Henry Ford's heirs, Dan Gilbert, what's left of General Motors, the university built on the ruins of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and that one's not even close to being the biggest university/hospital system in Michigan. By now, for pity's sake, never even mind Roger Smith, Michigan has Michael Moore! Admit it, conservative readers--no matter how much you disagree with his politics, there are times when you have to like Michael Moore:

http://michaelmoore.com/walk-with-mike

At the right point in the recovery process, walking helps people recover from lead poisoning, too.

So, Mike From Flint, this is for you, from the friendly-looking fair-skinned woman who dragged in the judgmental-looking dark-skinned man, and sat at the back and didn't buy a book, at the Arlington book party after 9/11. (Oh, of course, at a mob scene like that any writer would remember the people who didn't buy the book after fifteen years...all two of them? Maybe.) If I'd written a book that had earned as much as any of your books, even the one my husband hated, and if my home town had a crisis, would I sit back and let people raise taxes on working parents to salvage my town? Like the Pope would convert to Judaism, maybe. Like thunder! What are you going to do for your townsfolk? Book? Movie? You could singlehandedly give the world something that could raise enough money to fix the water supply in Flint and open the clinic. Writers have power. Writers have fortitude. You, Michael Moore, could not only get the hard-working and laboriously poor-mouthing people in Gate City to shell out money to help Flint; you could make us laugh out loud as we did it. And it's about time we had another good laugh out of you anyway. I'm not about to sell my copy of Here Comes Trouble, which I believe my husband would've liked too, but it is practically old enough to be a Fair Trade Book.

But honestly...Penske people, I know you're going to read this because I mentioned your company, are you going to leave everything to Michael Moore? Youall could put something about Flint on a racing car and take up collections at races. You have fans. You could probably collect enough to open a clinic at Charlotte alone...

Andrews University, where I met most of the real-world people I know in Michigan. How long are you going to be the only Adventist university that's not affiliated with a well-known present-time health care institution? Seventh-Day Adventists are not poor. Not all of them are rich, either, but they donate religiously to church, mission, and humanitarian causes. That whole clinic idea is calling yourall's names. "Holistic," Dream wrote. Think "naturopathic," A.U. people. And build it to last. A hundred years is long enough to coast on the memory of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

I'm not saying the legislators should sit on their hands either; they're human too, they'd have to have had quite a bit of lead poisoning themselves to want to sit on their hands. Virginia and Tennessee legislators "never allow a crisis to go to waste"; in any kind of community disaster they're out there raising funds, boosting morale, and basking in free publicity. I'd be surprised if a Michigan legislator weren't in Flint as I type. But I am saying that raising taxes is not the ideal solution to everything. Raising taxes seems likely to be an especially non-ideal solution for a place like Michigan that still has way more than its share of money, but seems to be stuck in a state-wide, thirty-year-long shortage of healthy pride. A one-time crisis seems to call out for a one-time display of that "We can take care of our own" sort of pride.

Penniless as I am, I do want to be part of that one-time display. So here's what I can do: If any Michigan writer, ideally but not necessarily Michael Moore, it could be un-funny Dan Gilbert for that matter, cranks out a new documentary book about the Flint water crisis and/or what Michiganians are doing to solve it, and sells it at fundraising prices up to $50 per copy, I will personally walk into Kingsport and buy that book at the Fort Henry Mall bookstore. And I will photograph that walk. And that book. And tweet the images, using the "WalkWithMike" hashtag.

Here's Mom Dream's alternative solution...and it's not all bad; it just seems to me less efficient and less good. I could be wrong, and if convinced that I'm wrong I could support Moms Rising on this one. But I'd be greatly disappointed in Michiganians if they had to fall back on any solution that involved raising taxes.

"
As parents, we do all we can to keep our kids healthy. And we rely on our government to make sure we have access to essentials like clean water. That shouldn't change depending on what color we are, our income level, or where we live.
That's why we're beyond mad about the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Join us in demanding justice from the Michigan State Legislature: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=5&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
Here's what happened. In April 2014, in an effort to cut costs, an emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the Flint water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. Long story short: dangerous levels of lead seeped into the water supply, posing long-term and serious health risks for local residents.
Families in Flint knew there was a problem when the water turned brown, young children broke out in rashes, and the hair of some residents began falling out. Yet officials denied anything was wrong, as they failed to follow federal guidelines around lead safety and utilized faulty water testing techniques. [1] Can you imagine?
Refusing to stay silent, residents started organizing. Researchers found the water supply contained over 900 times the recommended amount of lead [2]. Even the City Council voted to reconnect to the Detroit Water Supply in March 2015. Yet Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose continued to insist that the water was safe to drink [3].
Indeed it took WELL OVER A YEAR for the city to acknowledge that there was a BIG problem, and that the water in Flint was NOT safe to drink. There are no words for this kind of failure. Are the children and families of Flint so disposable that local officials didn't act more quickly and comprehensively?
Governor Snyder himself now refers to the situation as a "catastrophe". [4] The New York Times wrote: "Officials at all levels of government acted in ways that contributed to the public health emergency and allowed it to persist for months" [1].
We are outraged. It's time for urgent and comprehensive action on behalf of the families in Flint. Join us in demanding justice from the Michigan State Legislature: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=7&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
Earlier this month Governor Snyder finally declared a state of emergency in Flint, over a year and a half after the problem began. [5] Residents are now being told to use water filters and/or bottled water, and no one knows how many of the city's almost 100,000 residents have been affected by lead, and to what degree. What we do know is that ingesting high amounts of lead can have devastating and long-term effects on children, the elderly, and the sick. Current estimates are that it could take as much as $1.5 billion to fix the problem. [6]
Would officials have ever been so careless about the drinking water if over 50% of Flint's residents weren't black, and over 40% live below the poverty line, making Flint one of the most impoverished cities of its size in the US? [7] The appointment of an emergency manager in Flint, one of several Black cities across the state to have their elected officials replaced by an appointee from the Governor, is at the center of this crisis.
These kinds of environmental injustices happen time and time again in communities of color. Indeed, "Black people in America - especially those living in rural and poor areas - have long been denied the same access to clean drinking and water for bathing and sanitation as everyone else. The crisis in Flint is not an isolated incident," Black Lives Matter has stated. [7] We must do better.
Following the lead of our local allies, we're demanding the Michigan Legislature do the following:
  1. Replace all public water infrastructure at no cost to residents or businesses.
  2. Refund all water bills since the switch to the Flint River water supply, and create a fund to repair property damage caused by toxic water.
  3. Launch an independent state and federal investigation into what happened in Flint. Lift executive immunity from the Governor’s office and release all communications.
  4. Create a Flint Citizen Civilian Core to train workers to repair infrastructure.
  5. Create a holistic medical care facility in Flint to offer therapies and other methods to treat lead poisoning.
Join us in speaking out, on behalf of families and parents in Flint: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=9&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
ALL of our children and communities deserve access to safe drinking water. What's happening in Flint is a tragedy and a disgrace. Our leaders must be held accountable, and we must do all we can to ensure it never happens again.
Thank you,
- dream, Elyssa, Monifa, Karen, Gloria, Felicia and the rest of the MomsRising.org team

[1] Abby Goodnough, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith: When the Water Turned Brown, the New York Times. January 23, 2016.
[2] David Graham, What Did the Governor Know About Flint's Water, and When Did He Know It? The Atlantic. January 9, 2016.
[3] Stephanie Gosk, Kevin Monahan, Tim Sandler, Internal Email: Michigan 'Blowing Off' Flint Over Lead in Water, NBC News. January 6, 2016.
[4] Julia Jacobo, Flint Water Crisis: Michigan Governor Apologizes, Takes 'Full Responsibility' for 'Catastrophe’, ABC News. January 19, 2016.
[5] Paul Egan, Snyder declares emergency as feds probe Flint water, Detroit Free Press. January 15, 2016.
[6] Paul Egan, Flint mayor: Cost of lead fix could hit $1.5 billion, Detroit Free Press. January 15, 2016.
[7] Solidarity Statement with Flint, Michigan, Black Lives Matter.
"

Communication Analysis: What's Going Wrong?

First, please read this story:

http://blogjob.com/ladyfingers/2016/01/29/one-of-those-people/

I started to include it in a Link Log, then decided to comment at length and make this a separate post, mainly because of the nature of the distraction that came up while I was writing.

I've said, and received hatespews for saying, and therefore feel obliged to say again: Real introverts do not want uncongenial people to try to "draw us out" and "be friendly."  During the twentieth century many of us were miseducated to believe that we ought to be more gregarious, but we simply are not. Deep down, we'd prefer that people not clutter our lives with idle chatter, but do things they really enjoy, with people they really like, and allow us to do the same. If you share our interests you're likely to become a close friend. If not, the friendliest thing to do is to accept that you're a familiar stranger, be cordial when talk is necessary and helpful or appreciative when help is necessary, and not waste more of our time than you can help in any other situation.

We're introverts because we have more completely developed, better-functioning brains than extroverts have, but that alone does not automatically make us perfect. If we've not been blessed with opportunities to bond with fellow introverts, in our own way, introverts can actually become as antisocial as extroverts want to believe we are.

How can you tell? Well...in this story Louise goes from making it clear that she doesn't want to be "befriended" to making it clear that she actively dislikes and wants to punish the people who've insisted on trying to "act friendly." Although she limits her "punishment" to verbal/social displays, an introvert whose social personality had been less damaged wouldn't have bothered with those either. If Louise hadn't become antisocial and hostile, she might still be a bad listener and an awkward talker, but she wouldn't continue hanging around the group after she'd rejected Sharon's invitation; they'd see her looking out the window or bringing a book or newspaper to the table at lunch time, taking her lunch out into the park when the weather permitted, chatting with other people (probably men) if she went to luncheons or parties, moving away from their group altogether as she found other uses for her time.

Louise needs help--I wish more introverts organized and attended communication skills study groups, the way Ozarque did while living. People like Louise don't need to be distracted with garbage about something being wrong with them. They do need to know that they can improve their communication skills, just as they've probably spent time improving their math or computer or car-driving skills.

The other young people in this story also need some guidance. They need to be especially aware that, even though they've seen Louise (shudder! gasp!) eating lunch alone, that does not mean she feels any "need" to drown out those terrifying inner voices with constant chitchat. She may not be hearing those inner voices, or that inner roaring silence, or whatever else it is of which extroverts seem to live in such horror. She may be relaxing and meditating; she may be listening to her own, rational, confident, task-focussed inner voice, and enjoying it, thinking intelligently about her job or her creative pursuits or her family. That might be why the group should want her--they may need her talent, know it, and have something to say that she'd be interested in hearing. In this story, however, the group obviously don't want Louise's help to do anything Louise is interested in doing, so Louise's indulging them in that first invitation is indeed a matter of her doing them a favor. If they're not abjectly grateful for the honor of her indulgence, they shouldn't demand it.

At the very moment that I began typing this post, in the computer center, a little child wandered up and started nattering to me about a movie. Whoa! Say whaaat? Who is this child and why is he approaching me? He wasn't even born when I was interviewing children about children's toys for Associated Content. Where are his parents--it's dangerous for an adult to be seen talking to some random child without parental supervision these days! Fortunately the parents were wandering around in the computer center, talking out loud, eating all over the place, leaving little trails of crumbs, and reclaimed their offspring before I got up to look for them.

They didn't even warn the kid. What happened to "Never talk to strangers!"? What about "Don't bother people who are working!"? I'd settle for "That's your second cousin twice removed, Priscilla King, and as you can see she's busy." The fond parents didn't say anything like that. We are still a culture that coddles extroverts, that encourages them to believe that the brain damage that prevented that poor, cute little boy from realizing he was annoying a stranger is normal, or healthy, or at least "more fun" than having a healthy sense of respect for other people.

We need to become a culture where everyone understands that most people have their own lives to live, their own work to do, and that normal, healthy, happy people do not want to be interrupted without a very good reason. We need to teach children that, even if I have been known to talk to children about Disney movies, I did that while I was selling toys, tutoring, or baby-sitting, not while I was writing.

(Obligatory warble: Even though I'm not that one unknown adult in a million who would ever consider kidnapping or molesting or even slapping a chatty child, that little boy had no way of knowing this. For all he knew I might have been Ms. Stranger-Danger, with a stick of candy, a rope, and a roll of duct tape stowed under the back seat of my car! In some ways that's a separate issue from teaching children to be polite and not pester people who are busy...and then again, maybe it's not completely separate. People like Louise are a minority already, and maybe one in a million even of them would consider punishing a pushy pest with anything worse than a verbal slap--but do parents want to take that chance with little children?)

We need to become a culture where everyone looks at that little boy with the mix of horror and pity I am feeling for him, now, and asks, "What went wrong? No, he didn't just nearsightedly approach someone who looks a bit like his mother from behind--even after making eye contact with a stranger who'd been working on something else, he went right on blathering! Something's not right...that child should be in a special school if he ever goes to school."

We need to become a culture where, if Sharon feels a need to "reach out" to Louise and try to "break the ice," she can at least be honest with herself about what she's feeling, and why.

"I wish I had the courage to sit alone in a cafeteria. When I see you sitting alone and think about sitting alone, I remember things that used to happen when I was in primary school and worry that somebody's going to start throwing things at you. I went to a horrible primary school."

"I wish I weren't so afraid of being alone or being quiet. When I tried meditating, I seemed to hear voices in my head that seemed to come from dead people calling me to join them."

"Are you by any chance unattached? My friends are starting to pair off, and I'm looking for another (male/female) buddy to hang out with until I find someone to date."

We need to become a culture that teaches extroverts, from early childhood, to recognize the signs that people are busy, or are just not interested in them; to accept that most people aren't interested in them, most of the time. I have, and I suspect that many introverts have, experienced most extroverts primarily as obnoxious manipulative jerks. I suspect that most extroverts could have been trained not to be obnoxious manipulative jerks; they can even be trained to think through that urge to approach a new acquaintance, ask themselves whether they really want to talk to this person and why, and then, if they have a reasonable reason to want to approach the person, actually make themselves interesting to that person.

If we as a culture stopped indulging extroverts in the belief that they're the center of the universe and everybody wants to hear from them at every minute, we could actually train them to make themselves useful to humankind. What happens when a child is born intelligent and brought up well, yet still likes being the center of attention, wants to be a leader, even feels an interest in people-as-such? Well...one possibility is that, if that child doesn't waste his energy being a pushy pest, he might go into politics and be a really good representative of his constituents. (I really ought to be following a few examples of that pattern in the state legislature today. I am being lazy and self-indulgent.) Or she might go into business and become rich. There's no reason why extroverts have to remain clueless, practically autistic, about what probably could and should become real talents.

Book Review: Moving to the Country

(Reclaimed from Blogjob. I didn't want to do this; it's a vote of no confidence in an e-friend in whom I wanted to have confidence, and it's also a boring chore...but advertisers can't go on using these posts as if they'd been paid for when they have not. Blogjob tags: 1970’sAnne Morrow Lindbergh’s daughter,Appalachian Mountains,back to the landCharles Lindbergh’s familygentle fictionGranola Green farmersReeve Lindbergh,topophiliatopophilic novel about Vermont.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: Moving to the Country
Author: Reeve Lindbergh, under the name Reeve Lindbergh Brown
Date: 1983
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0-385-12279-9
Length: 282 pages
Quote: “Nancy...might be expected to feel lost in the country.”
So thinks her husband, Tom, feeling guilty about taking Nancy and the children with him when he accepts a job teaching English in one of those small towns where all the other families have lived for six or seven generations. However, Nancy doesn’t even have time for the culture shock to set in before she suffers a health crisis. Then a local woman sues the school board for hiring Tom instead of her.
In order to preserve some suspense, I won’t explain how these sources of stress become bonding experiences for Tom and Nancy. I will say that it’s all a nice, tasteful, feel-good slice of rural life in the late 1970's.
If Tom’s and Nancy’s goal is to become accepted and put down roots in the small town, and if they can be said to have succeeded, how realistic is this? I’m not sure. Reeve Lindbergh would have been welcome in just about any small town, conceivably even mine, because so many people admired her father, Charles Lindbergh, and because she and her mother and sister were (consequently) very successful authors. Dearly Loved Though a Stranger Among Us.
I wouldn’t describe Moving to the Country as a comic novel; it’s too real. Like reality, however, it has comic moments, as when Nancy tries to teach herself to swear, or another city-bred back-to-the-lander unashamedly points out evidence of “toil and soil” on a neighbor’s hands. (Locals politely ignore him; after he’s out of earshot one observes dryly, “We are his religion, you know.”) Maybe you’ll get more of the jokes if your parents were either Real Farmers or successful Granola-Green Farmers. There’s a good bit of farm lore in Moving to the Country.
 Fair disclosure: I got this book at a library book sale, where its excellent condition, only seven circulation stamps in ten years, show that...well...apparently not too many farmers in Lee County, Virginia, want to read about farmers in Vermont. Pity. Vermont is in the Appalachian Mountains too. The land and lore are more similar than some of us care to admit. That’s why others of us enjoy going up there to cool off in summer.

But maybe it’s just too nice; too much like a novel by Debbie Macomber. Anyway, Moving to the Country is recommended to anyone who thinks that a scene where someone strains to be “liberated” enough to utter the F-word is as much smut, and a scene where a cow breaks a leg and is butchered immediately is as much death, as a novel needs.
And it's a Fair Trade Book: If you send $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen, I'll send $1 per copy to Lindbergh or a charity of her choice. If you add other books by her to the package...they're a lot of different shapes and sizes, so how many books would fit into one package depends on the books, but shipping is still $5 per package, and the payment to living authors or their charities is still at least $1 per book.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January 28 Link Log

Categories: Obligatory Fundraising Links, Animals, Feminist, Food, Frugal, Health, Politics.

Are these getting familiar? Fund the project, or share the links, to make these links go away:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-frugal-gracious-living-challenge–2#/

http://blogjob.com/priscillaking/2015/12/29/so-then-i-told-the-senator/

Animals 

Personally, I think these little garter snakes are cute and lovable...I couldn't live with them, though. My house snake Gulegi was sent into this world on a mission to keep all other snakes, except a friend or two who visits him in the spring, away from his house. (In his mind I'm sure the Cat Sanctuary is his house.) He has been carrying out this mission for more than forty years now; during that time he's shed a slightly longer skin each year. If cornered by a human he's big enough to chomp hard, maybe crack a bone--but he's very good at avoiding being seen by humans. And other snakes are his favorite thing...for breakfast.

http://blogjob.com/insights/2016/01/28/all-types-of-animals-are-important/

Crows...y'know, before West Nile Virus, many of us in the U.S. didn't notice or even care how cute and clever they are.

http://blogjob.com/pets/2016/01/crows-stealing-clothes-hangers/

Feminist Activist Updates 

Here's a town that desperately needs to rethink a stupid law. If everyone out there sends the town a few postcards expressing support for this heroic teenager, we can literally lean some weight on the town officials to commend the girl instead of squawking about her (awesomely brave) decision to risk relying on a relatively less lethal weapon.

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/225119/

Food (Yum) 

Have you ever tried baking vegetables, and/or cooked or canned meat or fish, right into bread? I have; it can work well with gluten-free breads. Fruit is excellent in sweet breads, too.

http://blogjob.com/baking/vegetable-bread/

Frugal Fun 

Frugal fun in Australia:

http://blogjob.com/funismymiddlename/2016/01/27/jogging-walking-and-having-fun/

Health News 

Zika virus explained:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/27/zika-virus-what-you-need-know?

Doctors for vegans:

http://www.theveganjunction.com/top-20-plant-based-health-professionals-to-follow/

And a startling study shared by Steve Milloy...sometimes studies just get an atypical sample group, but this one is interesting.

http://junkscience.com/2016/01/claim-secondhand-smoke-makes-kids-fat-and-stupid/

Politics 

Jonah Goldberg:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/430324/donald-trump-conservative-crackup-here?


Morgan Griffith's Agenda for 2016

This was in Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter last week; it's been sitting at the bottom of a pile of e-mail since the Big Continuous Snow began. Its belated appearance here means I'm within sight of the end of the e-mails that have been piling up for nine or ten days.

"
A Year of Ideas and a Bold, Pro-Growth Agenda
For several days each year, Republicans and House Democrats gather for separate annual policy retreats. At the Republican retreat, which was last week, Republican members of the House and Senate joined together in an effort to sort out our bold, pro-growth agenda for this year.
Five areas in which we are planning to make a mark are national security, jobs and economic growth, restoring the Constitution, health care, and poverty and opportunity.
Meanwhile, I and others are continuing to push for more change towards a better internal procedure, including a more transparent rules process, greater input on legislative action from the House Republican Conference membership at large, and considering more bills of consequence.
One of the more specific processes we are working on is the appropriations process. There are 12 appropriations bills which authorize funding for certain government activities such as national defense, homeland security, education, etc. These bills require regular (usually annual) authorization. Under the Constitution, all appropriations bills must begin in the House. But like any other bill, the Senate must agree to it and it must be signed by the President in order to become law.
However, as reported by Roll Call, “Last year, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev and his caucus imposed a blockade on moving spending measures to force budget negotiation, a strategy that proved successful.” We in the House passed several appropriations bills, but because Senate Democrats hijacked the process, Congress as a whole wasn’t able to pass any.
Doing so would have allowed Congress and the President to work out differences of opinion within each of the government activities without the threat of shutting down the whole government. Health and Human Services (HHS) funding would have been approved separately from national defense, etc.
As the result of this broken process, Congress passed without my support a massive “omnibus” bill that will fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016.
I am cautiously optimistic that this year we can restore the appropriations process to what it once was.
But in the weeks that have passed since Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) became Speaker, progress has already been made on other objectives.
Legislation to form our agenda is now being crafted from the bottom up, meaning that Members of Congress will have a more equal say than in a top-down speakership.
Broader steps have been taken toward reforming this body, and I am proud to have served on working groups tasked with doing so. One of these working groups is to propose rules changes, and another was to reform the House Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee chairmanships and helps to set policy.
Additionally, under Speaker Ryan, we have been able to do what hadn’t been done previously (due in part to the Senate’s modern filibuster rules), sending to the President’s desk a bill repealing the Obamacare health care law. Congress also sent two Resolutions of Disapproval (H.J.Res 71 and H.J.Res 72) under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block two final rules for new and existing power plants issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
President Obama vetoed this legislation, and is expected to soon veto legislation on his desk that would use the CRA to block the President’s Waters of the United States rule, which seeks to assert federal control over puddles, ditches, areas that are occasionally wet, etc.
While I regret his vetoes, I am glad we are sending him bills that not only make clear what we stand for and believe in, but also what he believes. We will continue to do things like this whether the President likes it or not.
A more detailed legislative agenda is still under development, as crafting such detailed policies in a short amount of time is difficult. However, this plan could be unveiled as early as March. I would encourage votes on these legislative proposals at the proper time so as to help further create a clear contrast between the policies of this Administration.
Realistically, we will need to elect a President who will work with us in order to see the most profound difference. But in the interim, to borrow from Speaker Ryan: “If we’re ever going to get our country back on track, we need to make this year about ideas, not about Obama’s distractions,” he said. “And that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.
"

Book Review: A Cow for Jaya

(Blogjob tags: 1960’sadolescent embarrassmentcows gain weight slowlyHeifer Projectlarge animal rescuevillage in India.)

Title: A Cow for Jaya
Author: Eva Grant
Date: 1973
Publisher: Coward McCann & Geoghegan
ISBN: none, but click the picture to buy it on Amazon
Length: 64 pages, most with text
Illustrations: drawings by Michael Hampshire, some partly colored
Quote: “When Jaya entered his house, he found his father counting the rupees he was saving to buy the cow.”
A Cow for Jaya was obviously meant to give primary school readers a mental picture of a village in India during the mid-twentieth century. The houses and furniture, the clothes people wear, and the scrawny old cow Jaya’s parents have saved up to buy, could have been drawn from old photos. This blog has a few readers in India; I hope they’ll be kind enough to tell us how much these pictures have aged, whether this book still shows the way some villages look or is as amusingly outdated as Glen Rounds’ drawings for Squash Pie.
The story is true to life, although it’s been oversimplified. Jaya doesn’t like the look of his family’s new cow, Khubi—not because she belongs to a breed that looks strange to Americans, but because she’s skinny, too undernourished to give milk. But an adult who wants to thank Jaya for doing a good deed offers a decoration for his cow. Now that the cow is associated with such good memories, she starts to look better to Jaya.
It’s the last part of the story, in which Khubi’s “rich milk filled the pail,” that may need explanation to children. Cows don’t gain weight and give milk merely because someone loves them. In real life, Khubi would have been fed and perhaps treated for diseases for a few months before becoming able to produce a calf and give milk. As Rita Mae Brown explains in Animal Magnetism, grazing animals’ high-fibre, low-fat, and high-activity lifestyle allows them to lose weight fast and regain weight very slowly...and misguided animal lovers often attempt to “rescue” a cow or horse who looks underfed from humans who are trying to feed and care for it. And it’s also normal, even necessary, for a healthy cow to stop giving milk for at least a few weeks between calves.
This book is particularly recommended to families (or primary school classes) who are interested in looking up facts about India...or in rescuing a cow.
Some Amazon reviewers mentioned that this book raises questions about how we understand wealth and poverty. It does that. It may also raise memories of my late e-friend Ozarque's favorite charity, (Arkansas-based) Heifer International. This organization purchases animals for needy farmers who would feel richer if they had a cow, goat, or even a hen. If any rich people reading this review want a quick tax write-off, they might want to check out that web site.
Is it a Fair Trade Book? Amazon has a page for a currently active author using the name Eva Grant, but that author doesn't sound like the same Eva Grant who's written a few dozen picture books for children. The author of A Cow for Jaya might still be writing picture books; some picture books by Eva Grant have been published as recently as 2013. However, a lot of people, including the sister of a notorious criminal, have used the name "Eva Grant" and at the time of posting I'm not sure which, if any, of the people using that name in cyberspace is the author of this book.
 
If you buy this book from me, however, I'll write to the publisher and try to find out whether the writer can use 10% of the total price for each book sold. For the paperback, which has not yet gone into collectors' pricing, that would be our standard $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, which includes $1 per book sent to the writer (if living) or her/his charity. You could fit several other books into a package with this one; if you ordered six copies of A Cow for Jaya, you'd send a total of $35 to either address at the very bottom of the screen, and, if I can find her, I'll send Grant or a charity of her choice $6.

Backpack-Style Diaper Bags

(On Blogjob, this appeared as a four-part series. The client who'd requested it and then not paid for it wanted a thousand words; on Blogjob it came out as twelve hundred. Tags: baby shower suggestionsbaby suppliesbackpack diaper bagsDad Gear diaper baghack writing,presents for new parentsunisex diaper bagbaby shower gift ideasbackpack-type diaper bags,girly diaper bagGraco Gotham backpack diaper bagOrgrimmar backpack diaper bagBebamour backpack diaper bagdiaper bag a child can take to primary schooldiaper bag that will hold a laptop computerdiaper bag with backpacker-type chest clipgifts for new parentsRun Like Baby backpack diaper bagdiaper bags for multiple babiesextra-large diaper bagshack writingOkkatots diaper bagpresents for new parents.)

Although diapers and babies are not part of my life, this post is about the daily life of a writer. Hack writers get paid to write things from research. Often those things are guest posts for other people's web sites (or blogs). Often they're about products those people are selling. Ten years ago, companies trying to launch a new product had to wait for writers to buy it, or send us free samples of it, so that we could write about it. Today, it's possible for professional writers to write summaries of what people are saying about products at Amazon or Walmart.
So, just before the Big Continuous Snow started falling for parts of six days, off and on, and closing down the computer center, I wrote a summary of the buzz about six well reviewed diaper bags. The customer didn't like it. Possibly the customer wanted some reasonable change to be made--more or fewer words about one specific product, e.g. As things were, by the time I came back online, all the information available was that the customer wasn't paying for it.
Sometimes the reason why customers don't pay for a decent piece of writing is that they've figured out some way to use it without paying for it. To prevent this happening, I have to publish the rejected article somewhere else, right away. This allows the customer to use someone else's article if the customer likes someone else's article better, but not to make unauthorized use of mine.
So...Blogjob runs on ads. This computer is set up to generate Amazon ads. This article is about Amazon ads. Therefore this article belongs on Blogjob. So, although I don't know whether anyone reading this has any use for a backpack-type diaper bag, this week we're going to learn more about diaper bags. As always, the pictures that look as if they belong in this article should take you to Amazon pages where you can buy the product discussed.
1. General Observations
Fair disclosure: I, personally, have never used a backpack-type diaper bag, and probably never will. This series--the article is running here as a series--is about backpack-type diaper bags that receive top ratings on Amazon.
Which one is "best"? All of these bags received a few bad reviews, including at least one apiece from somebody who claimed to have received a defective product when ordering a bag online. This happens, Gentle Readers. Any time you buy anything online, there's always a possibility of receiving a product that a real-world storekeeper would quietly have pulled off the shelf and returned to the manufacturer, so in a real-world store you wouldn't even have seen it. If customers report that they received a prompt, cheerful, satisfactory refund or replacement, that counts as a point in the company's favor.
The predominant tendency of reviews for each of these bags is, however, that it's a good product for the right person. The differences we're exploring here reflect which kind of customers tend to rave most over each bag.
All of these bags feature:
  • Multiple pockets for organizing different types of baby supplies
  • At least one insulated pocket for baby's bottles
  • A dispenser for standard-size packets of "baby wipes"
  • Small enough size to fit easily under plane, train, or bus seats
  • Shoulder straps and a hand strap (and most of them also have stroller straps)
2. Featured Product #1: Dad Gear Backpack Diaper Bag
DadGear Backpack Diaper Bag - Solid Black
Light, unisex, organized, durable, and ergonomically right for taller adults: for a $100+ diaper bag, this one's a winner.
Specifications
  • Measurements: 12x18x10"
  • Weight: 2.2-2.9 pounds
  • Material: Polyester
  • Colors: Solid black, or 33 other colors and patterns
  • Ships from: USA 
    What people love
  • About a dozen disposable diapers ride in a hammock on top.
  • Polyester is water-repellent; users say that when they were caught in rain showers, the gear inside stayed dry.
  • The bag comes with a warranty for the lifetime of the purchaser.
  • There's room for lots of gear in the bag...a tablet computer, if not a laptop.
  • It's unisex, not noticeably different from a student's or camper's backpack. 
    What they don't love
  • Cloth diapers are bulkier than disposable diapers; some cloth diaper aficionados say the hammock should be bigger.
  • A diaper bag is designed to carry diapers. Some users complained because this is not the one of the bags discussed here that's designed to carry a laptop.
3. Featured Product #2: Orgrimmar Diaper Tote Bags Larger Capacity Baby Nappy Bag Fashion Mummy Backpack
Orgrimmar Diaper Tote Bags Larger Capacity Baby Nappy Bag Fashion Mummy Backpack (Pink)
For $25, this feather-light, washable nylon bag gets high ratings from young mothers.
Specifications
* Measurements: 11.8x8.7x16.5"
* Weight: 12.3 ounces
* Material: Nylon
* Colors: Pink, red, or leopard print
* Ships from: China
What people love
* It's super-light, yet has enough padding to stand up on its own.
* It's a good ergonomic fit for short people.
* Some people like the "tapered, not boxy" shape.
* People who bought this bag love the "girly" fashion prints.
* Nylon wipes clean.
* For the first year after a baby is born, the mother is advised to lift nothing heavier than the baby. If she sticks to that rule when loading this bag, it should last through several babies' diaper days.
What they don't love
* No extras are included...no changing pad, nothing. (For this price, you know it has to be minimalist.)
* "Girly fashion" colors not only embarrass Daddy, but may embarrass Mommy on her baby boy's behalf.
* If you want a camper's or student's backpack, this one's not for you. It seems designed to remind new mothers not to lift more than ten pounds.
4. Featured Product #3: Graco Gotham Smart Organizer Backpack Diaper Bag
Graco Gotham Smart Organizer System Back Pack Diaper Bag, Black/Grey
Highly organized, with neat, specific little pockets all over, this $40 bag gets rave reviews from women; some men like it too.

Specifications
* Measurements: 18.5x15x5.5"
* Weight: 2 pounds
* Material: Polyester
* Color: Black
* Ships from: China

What people loved:
* Lots of pockets, inside and out.
* A changing pad is included, although it's thin.
* Padded, adjustable shoulder straps make the bag easy to carry. One customer specified that this bag adjusts to fit both a 5'3" and a 6'4" user "perfectly."
* It looks like a student's backpack; it doesn't shriek "baby" or look "girly."
* It does, however, have a teardrop shape some fashion-conscious mothers like.
* It's roomy and well organized. Some customers typed lists of dozens of things they carry around in this backpack diaper bag.
* Polyester is durable; this bag should last through several babies' diaper days.
What they didn't love:
* A few people received bags that weren't well made, and nobody mentions anything in the way of a warranty with this bag.
* This bag doesn't come with stroller straps. The Amazon page suggests buying a stroller hook, sold separately.
5. Featured Product #4: Bebamour Travel Backpack Diaper Bag Tote Handbag Purse
Bebamour Travel Backpack Diaper Bag Tote Handbag Purse (Light Khaki)
For $45, this canvas-type bag gets mostly excellent reviews.

Specifications:
* Measurements: 13.8x15x5.5"
* Weight: 1.3 pounds
* Material: Similar to a classic trench coat...enough that people mention waterproofing it like one.
* Color: Khaki, orange, or dark yellow
* Ships from: China
What people loved:
* This bag comes with a lifetime guarantee.
* The top handle strap can be used to carry the bag over one shoulder.
* Thickly padded shoulder straps attach to thin nylon webbing straps below the arms, where less padding is needed.
* Straps are adjustable, though not necessarily roomy enough for everyone.
* The khaki color should match a classic trench coat.
What they didn't love:
* This bag is smaller than some other bags on the market, and has slightly smaller, not very flexible pockets. It serves most users well, but some complain that their gear doesn't fit where they expect it to fit.
* Customer service gets mixed reviews. People love the well-made bags, and some love the service they got when it was necessary to return a defective bag, but others think the quality of customer service needs improvement.
* Some people don't like the straps.
6. Featured Product #5: (Run Like Baby) Diaper Backpack with Changing Pad--Multipurpose Travel Diaper Bag
Diaper Backpack with Changing Pad, Multi-purpose Travel Diaper Bag (Camo II)
This $50 backpack is so sturdy and unisex that some users mention letting the baby keep it and carry it to school.

Specifications
* Measurements: 17.7x13.3x2.6"
* Weight: 2 pounds
* Material: Polyester
* Colors: Black, Camo I, or Camo II
* Ships from: USA

What people loved:
* Although Run Like Baby is a fairly new company, this bag is made in the USA and comes with a 90-day warranty.
* It looks classic, not trendy, and durable.
* It's waterproof.
* It comes with a changing pad.
* The main compartment is roomy and durable enough to hold a laptop along with the diapers.
* It has air-mesh padding in back, and a chest clip, like a serious camper's backpack.
* Both handle and shoulder straps are padded, and it has side braces for easier carrying. One customer claimed her husband carries mechanic's tools around (along with the diapers) in this backpack, and not only does the chest clip hold the tools, but the grease wipes off.
What they didn't love:
Despite features that may tempt customers to overload this backpack, it's still a diaper bag. After ninety days, if you carry a lot of books, tools, or camping gear in it, the warranty has expired...and you've been warned.
7. Featured Product #6: Travel Baby Depot Bag / Travel Diaper Backpack from Okkatots
Travel Baby Depot Bag / Travel Diaper Backpack in Cranberry Red
This $100+ bag is big and roomy enough for the cloth diaper crowd.
Specifications
* Measurements: 15x21.2x6"
* Weight: 3.4 pounds
* Colors: Red, blue, or black
* Material: Nylon
* Ships from: USA
What people loved:
* It has room for everything. Customers type out long inventories of gear they can haul around in this bag.
* A diaper dispenser holds up to 15 disposable diapers.
* There's room for supplies for three children. Some customers say this bag holds everything they pack for three children for a two-day trip.
What they didn't love:
* Some users say this bag is too big. If you have only one baby, do you really need a bag that will hold supplies for three tots?
* Customers who had to report problems with the bags they received said, "For this price I'd expect more" in the way of customer service.
8. And so, in conclusion... 
This is the kind of thing hack writers write all day if we want to get paid, these days. Better assignments come along. So do worse assignments. Nicer customers come along. So do nastier ones.
One thing that comes to mind, as I reflect on the writing experience, is that I think this client did want more than s/he was willing to pay for. Hack writing jobs are generally paid according to the length the article is meant to fit. Although it came out a little over 1000 words (I usually give a customer a few free words, just to forestall complaints that links aren't words), this article could easily have been longer. Customers worded their raves over these bags in memorable, unique ways that my dissatisfied writing client might have wanted to see quoted in the article; if I were selling these bags, would have wanted to quote their words in the article.
(And actually, with those Amazon links, I am selling those bags; if anyone out there clicks on a bag to open an Amazon page and then buys the bag from Amazon, I should in theory receive a commission.)
If you're seriously shopping for bags, by all means check out the customer comments on Amazon. They contain factual details that had to be cut out of this article so it would fit into the "box" the client had ordered, like the precise number of pockets in each bag, or how well the baby wipes dispenser did at keeping these pre-moistened napkins moist.
Plus, by the time you read this, there are likely to be more comments than I even saw. These products sell fast within their market niche.
However, greedy writing clients beware...if you're paying for a 1000-word article, don't even think about getting a 1200-word article. You can always rewrite it and add more of your own favorite details about the product(s) you're trying to sell!