Monday, December 31, 2012

Note to E-Friends: That Spam Filter

Yahoo has a wonderful, tough spam filter. So why, when I checked the spam box for a possible update from Compuworld (about a floppy disk drive to improve the usefulness of the laptop), did I find about a dozen e-mails from people whose mail I normally read first, and often reply to? Including an e-mail from retiring Senator Webb?! Since when are U.S. Senators spammers?!

I don't know for sure what went wrong with my spam filter, but I found one clue when I opened one of Patricia Evans' lovely, long, linky articles, several of which have been posted here. Some of the links were installed by that sometimes obnoxious "Text Enhance" system, and others had, apparently, been permanently disabled...perhaps by same; I checked one and found it legitimate, and know two others to be legitimate, so maybe "Text Enhance" disables links below the ones it adds?

Weird things happen on the Internet. Things people type in with good intentions can pick up nasty stuff while travelling through cyberspace. This web site will not knowingly expose you to any nasty stuff, but I am--and I suspect numerous correspondents, including some in Congress, also are--too unsophisticated about computer coding systems to know how to protect you from all the possible nasty stuff in the'Net. It's a big bad world, and McAfee's finest is still only one step ahead of the spammers and hackers and lousy creeps out there.

To all e-friends and acquaintances whose mail I've requested, then apparently ignored: Please double-check all links, graphics, or any rude words you may have used for shock effect (some issues of friends' zines got into the spam filter for this reason too).

To all elected officials whose e-mail I've requested and not received: This web site in no way blames elected officials for spending their time actually reading and researching legislation and helping constituents, instead of playing with computers. We elect you to be legislators, not geeks. If your web sites go down, your e-newsletters don't come through, and you don't reply to your e-mail, while state legislatures or Congress are in session, this web site officially pronounces this a good thing.

When Giraffes Fight

Most of the time, giraffes seem to get along with one another. Nevertheless, Liz Klimas has found a video showing two male giraffes fighting, apparently to impress a female...

Washington Beats Dallas out of Title

It shouldn't even be news, but it's worth reposting here: Washington beat Dallas out of the NFC football title!

Dave Barry's Year in Review

Can you read Dave Barry's "Year in Review" online? Whoopee! Some of you may have to sign up to receive Washington Post content in your e-mail to use the link below. Problem?

Can You See the Emancipation Proclamation?

Two pages of the Emancipation Proclamation are now on display in Washington...but do you want to see it enough to endure long waits in icy weather?

Actual Effects of Gun Control

Joyce Lee Malcolm reports on the actual, historical effects of gun control policies:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Water Pollution by Water?

They're serious. Whatever you may be hearing about that dreadful drought as the latest excuse for the latest round of price inflation, Virginia is having a problem with floods. Such that, out in the Tidewater where streams often back up at high tide in ideal circumstances, there is serious, federal-level concern about the pollution of streams by excessive water levels in their tributaries...

Chordatesrock on Oppressive Language

I'm guessing that "tl/dr" means something like "touch language / deaf readers":

So here's a token link to the deaf community. How oppressive is that? Seriously, s/he reminds us of valid points in a clever way. Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link.

States Banning Drones

From Patricia Evans:

States banning domestic drone use
Please read "The coming drone attack on America" below. You need to understand why many states are passing legislation banning domestic drone use. In the fight to keep America a republic, grassroots activism is pitched in an unequal contest against a militarized federal government.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. In time, they will likely be weaponized. Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 drones will be in use in US domestic airspace. A total of 110 military sites for drone activity are either built or will be built, in 39 states. That covers America. See a map here: We don't need a military takeover - a messy, distressing declaration of martial law: with these capabilities on US soil and air force white paper authorization for data collection, the military will be effectively in control of the private lives of American citizens.

From Carol Stopps, Chair: Virginia Tea Party Federation Legislative Action

The Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation is working on Drone legislation. The deployment of drones in Virginia remains a very serious concern that goes way beyond out of control government. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act's plan for 30,000 drones over this country by 2020 is totally unacceptable! and combined with the new National Defense Authorization Act allowing the military to detain US citizens indefinitely without charge or trial is a path to tyranny! We are counting on the Virginia General Assembly members to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from this total invasion of privacy and ignoring of rights guaranteed under the Constitutions of both the US and VA.

The coming drone attack on America
military drone spy
By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 drones will be in use in US domestic airspace. Photograph: US navy/Reuters
People often ask me, in terms of my argument about "ten steps" that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.
In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, "a huge push by […] the defense sector" to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won't necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.
Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them.
An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS (pdf) news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step – one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. (The US constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard units by governors, who are answerable to the people; but this system is intended, as is posse comitatus, to prevent the military from taking action aimed at US citizens domestically.)
The air force document explains that the air force will be overseeing the deployment of its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the US; that it may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant – and will then, retroactively, determine if the material can be retained – which does away for good with the fourth amendment in these cases. While the drones are not supposed to specifically "conduct non-consensual surveillance on on specifically identified US persons", according to the document, the wording allows for domestic military surveillance of non-"specifically identified" people (that is, a group of activists or protesters) and it comes with the important caveat, also seemingly wholly unconstitutional, that it may not target individuals "unless expressly approved by the secretary of Defense".
In other words, the Pentagon can now send a domestic drone to hover outside your apartment window, collecting footage of you and your family, if the secretary of Defense approves it. Or it may track you and your friends and pick up audio of your conversations, on your way, say, to protest or vote or talk to your representative, if you are not "specifically identified", a determination that is so vague as to be meaningless.
What happens to those images, that audio? "Distribution of domestic imagery" can go to various other government agencies without your consent, and that imagery can, in that case, be distributed to various government agencies; it may also include your most private moments and most personal activities. The authorized "collected information may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent". Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told CBS:
"In some records that were released by the air force recently … under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations."
This document accompanies a major federal push for drone deployment this year in the United States, accompanied by federal policies to encourage law enforcement agencies to obtain and use them locally, as well as by federal support for their commercial deployment. That is to say: now HSBC, Chase, Halliburton etc can have their very own fleets of domestic surveillance drones. The FAA recently established a more efficient process for local police departments to get permits for their own squadrons of drones.
Given the Department of Homeland Security militarization of police departments, once the circle is completed with San Francisco or New York or Chicago local cops having their own drone fleet – and with Chase, HSBC and other banks having hired local police, as I reported here last week – the meshing of military, domestic law enforcement, and commercial interests is absolute. You don't need a messy, distressing declaration of martial law.
And drone fleets owned by private corporations means that a first amendment right of assembly is now over: if Occupy is massing outside of a bank, send the drone fleet to surveil, track and harass them. If citizens rally outside the local Capitol? Same thing. As one of my readers put it, the scary thing about this new arrangement is deniability: bad things done to citizens by drones can be denied by private interests – "Oh, that must have been an LAPD drone" – and LAPD can insist that it must have been a private industry drone. For where, of course, will be the accountability from citizens buzzed or worse by these things?
Domestic drone use is here, and the meshing has begun: local cops in Grand Forks, North Dakota called in a DHS Predator drone – the same make that has caused hundreds of civilian casualties in Pakistan – over a dispute involving a herd of cattle. The military rollout in process and planned, within the US, is massive: the Christian Science Monitor reports that a total of 110 military sites for drone activity are either built or will be built, in 39 states. That covers America.
We don't need a military takeover: with these capabilities on US soil and this air force white paper authorization for data collection, the military will be effectively in control of the private lives of American citizens. And these drones are not yet weaponized.
"I don't think it's crazy to worry about weaponized drones. There is a real consensus that has emerged against allowing weaponized drones domestically. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has recommended against it," warns Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU, noting that there is already political pressure in favor of weaponization:
"At the same time, it is inevitable that we will see [increased] pressure to allow weaponized drones. The way that it will unfold is probably this: somebody will want to put a relatively 'soft' nonlethal weapon on a drone for crowd control. And then things will ratchet up from there."
And the risk of that? The New America Foundation's report on drone use in Pakistan noted that the Guardian had confirmed 193 children's deaths from drone attacks in seven years. It noted that for the deaths of ten militants, 1,400 civilians with no involvement in terrorism also died. Not surprisingly, everyone in that region is traumatized: children scream when they hear drones. An NYU and Stanford Law School report notes that drones "terrorize citizens 24 hours a day".
If US drones may first be weaponized with crowd-control features, not lethal force features, but with no risk to military or to police departments or DHS, the playing field for freedom of assembly is changed forever. So is our private life, as the ACLU's Stanley explains:
"Our biggest concerns about the deployment of drones domestically is that they will be used to create pervasive surveillance networks. The danger would be that an ordinary individual once they step out of their house will be monitored by a drone everywhere they walk or drive. They may not be aware of it. They might be monitored or tracked by some silent invisible drone everywhere they walk or drive."
"So what? Why should they worry?" I asked.
"Your comings and goings can be very revealing of who you are and what you are doing and reveal very intrusive things about you – what houses of worship you are going to, political meetings, particular doctors, your friends' and lovers' houses."
I mentioned the air force white paper. "Isn't the military not supposed to be spying on Americans?" I asked.
"Yes, the posse comitatus act passed in the 19th century forbids a military role in law enforcement among Americans."
What can we do if we want to oppose this? I wondered. According to Stanley, many states are passing legislation banning domestic drone use. Once again, in the fight to keep America a republic, grassroots activism is pitched in an unequal contest against a militarized federal government.
Where Are the 63 Drone Sites Approved by the FAA in the U.S.?
See a map here:

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." - Thomas Jefferson Virginia Tea Party Patriots Danville Patriots

Second Amendment Preservation Act...for 2013?

Here's a "Second Amendment Preservation Act" that's being proposed for enactment in all state legislatures, or as many of them as possible, or in our U.S. Congress if possible:

...and I say the sooner the better. I'm no expert on which version of the wording is better, legally, but this one has a much better name than the Dick Act of 1902.

How Special Are Six-Toed Cats?

Jonah Goldberg comments on the rights and freedoms of the cat family descended from Ernest Hemingway's legendary tomcat, Snowball:

Polydactyl cats aren't especially rare. After having one kitten with Graybeau (who didn't live long) and two healthy litters with Pounce, our Bisquit fell for a polydactyl tomcat. Her polychromatic and polydactylous daughter, Candice, had three brothers--two polydactyls, all three promptly adopted. Candice chose a normal mate, but passed down her polydactylism to one of her daughters, Heather. So the Cat Sanctuary is now the home of two six-toed, three-colored cats.
Heather is one special kitty. Not only is she six-toed, and technically a calico (orange and black mottled above, white patches below), but she's also a highly social and intelligent Listening Cat. And a formidable hunter.

There is just one problem with Heather and the three classic calico kittens born to Heather and Candice last spring. (Note: no kittens were born to Grayzel, and the surviving non-calico kittens have been adopted.) All calico cats come into this world knowing that they are special and wanting to believe they're more special than other cats...and the only way I can come close to identifying a favorite, among the Cat Sanctuary cats, is to say that Candice isn't it.
Candice does not cuddle. Candice definitely blamed me for banishing her brothers, and has never really liked me since. Any time she acts as if she likes me, I know she wants something. Candice is, however, a big strong healthy cat with good hunting skills and excellent DNA, and is welcome to stay and have kittens.

As for Candice's daughters Heather, Iris, and Irene, and Bisquit's daughter Ivy...currently Irene is on the large and lazy side, like her father. Iris, who started out the biggest and liveliest kitten, seems to have stopped growing and become more cuddly and clingy; I hope it's just a stage and not a serious health problem. If I had a lot of money I'd take her to the city and have tests run. Country vets tend to say "Would you rather try an antibiotic, knowing it might kill or cure a kitten, or just have it put down now?" and I tend to say "Neither." Click here to contribute to the Diagnosis For Iris Fund.
Ivy is the most vocal, but she's a Listening Cat. For a while after Bisquit died, Candice and Grayzel and I all reacted to her meowing in a way I verbalized as "Poor little orphan Ivy." She's almost a week younger than her nieces, and for a while she was smaller. Then one day I noticed: "Ivy, you have three mothers. Everyone loves you. You can stop whining now." She didn't completely stop whining on that day; another day I had to say, "Enough whining, Ivy. Enough!" I had said that to Bisquit almost daily, all Bisquit's life; it did no good; Bisquit was a talker not a listener. But Ivy listened...and although she still has a loud, annoying meow she can deploy at will, Ivy is no longer a whiny cat.

But Ivy has only five toes on each fore and four on each hind paw, like most cats. Heather has six toes in front and five behind. Candice actually has seven toes on each forepaw, but, as seems to be usual, the seventh toes aren't completely separated and serve no noticeable purpose--except that if Candice ever does need to attack anybody, she can sink in fourteen rather than ten claws.
Heather is an interesting cat. As a young kitten she was smaller than her litter mates and spent a lot of time hiding in a back corner. Then there was the day she refused to stand up and run to me when called, but pulled herself along the porch on her side. Made me look, but apparently she was just having fun; she got up and played later in the day. As the kittens reach adolescence, Heather is now the longest and tallest, and acts more dignified and mature than the other kittens.

They're all very purry and cuddly, especially in cold weather. In really cold weather they go down cellar and stay out of the wind. In most of what humans have been calling cold weather, so far, they crowd into a bin on the porch where they keep each other warm, waiting for chances to pop out and call attention to themselves when anybody passes by.
And they all like rice. I didn't know that cats could eat rice until I took Magic to be spayed, and the vet said, "After the operation, brown rice may be easier for her to digest than regular kibble." Ever since then I've shared my brown rice with my cats. Most cats prefer kibble to rice (Grayzel does), but Candice, Heather, Iris, Irene, and Ivy prefer rice to kibble, and will eat rice even when it's not been cooked with meat.

They have also learned to like pumpkin seeds. Before Magic's reign, I lived with a cat who would eat cantaloupe seeds and rinds; I thought that was bizarre. A friend's vet says, "Actually, pumpkin and similar seeds are good for cats. They're high in protein and nutrients, harmless to mammals, and often fatal to intestinal parasites." Cats who hunt often pick up intestinal parasites from their prey, so from time to time the Cat Sanctuary cats get a tablespoon or so of pumpkinseed meal mixed into one of a tin of meat, fish, or fish-flavored "treats." Some cats try to eat around the pumpkinseed meal as much as possible (Grayzel still does), but Candice, Heather, Iris, Irene, and Ivy will all eat pumpkinseed meal by itself if it's fresh.

But, are the polydactyls, Candice and Heather, more special than the normal-toed cats? That one's just too close to call. To be fair, it's hard to imagine how any cat could be more special than the whole Patchnose Family have been and are. They hunt as a team. They can and do catch adult squirrels. Iris, Ivy, and Grayzel seem to understand more words than Heather, and Heather seems to understand more than Candice and Irene, but all of them know their names and several words...and if one of them's late, the others will show me where they last saw her when I call her name. Each of them may be convinced that she's the most beautiful and lovable cat on Earth, but all of them are social cats who know their family and make a distinction between friends, whom they insist I feed with them, and strangers, whom they tell me to feed separately--they don't seem to make enemies. This whole family seems to consist of, well, cats you won't meet every day.

And they don't inbreed successfully, so you too can add your name to the list of potential adopters for next year's male kittens.

Yes, It's Actually Called the Dick Act of 1902

Yes, this post is about a piece of U.S. federal legislation. (Sorry, trolls.)
How comprehensively does the Dick Act of 1902 rule out the gun-grabbing, bowing-to-foreign-powers Feinstein proposal? This site attempts to discuss it...

 ...but I can categorically say that their site security system is hopelessly messed up. Let's hope their understanding of the law makes better sense than their site manager has displayed! If people furnish a web site where you can read all about them, a reasonable web host might, after visiting a site, decide s/he doesn't want comments from certain readers, but if they furnish a web site there is no need for annoying "Captcha" software.

Probably a Unique Shark Photo

Becket Adams also shares what is probably a unique live photo of shark cannibalism:

Hitting Them Where They Live...

"Hitting them where they live" is, for our foreign readers, one of those English slang expressions that actually mean about the same thing as "hitting the nail on the head" or "thinking of the cleverest, most appropriate thing to say or do." So why are we using the violent-sounding version? Because, in this case, the most appropriate thing to do to privacy-violating newspaper "calumnist" Dwight Worley happens to be, well, telling the world where he lives.

Er-herm...Gentle Readers, you must now promise me that all you're going to do with this information is bombard this guy with calls, cards, letters, and e-mails. Obviously this web site would prefer that you send him links to true stories in which violent crime was thwarted by armed law-abiding citizens, and (possibly because the tough old man shares my late godfather's name) I'm especially partial to this one:

Now: Dwight Worley is a shameless, unethical journalist who has published the home addresses and contact information of law-abiding gun owners, for the express purpose of enabling their political enemies to harass them. And this is where Dwight Worley lives...

The Ban on Russian Adoptions in the U.S.

Now, time to get serious. Because the computer shows that this web site is most often read in (1) the U.S., (2) Russia, and (3) Canada, except sometimes after a U.S. holiday when it's (1) Russia, (2) the U.S., and (3) Canada, we have to do something with this story:
The Russian President wants to ban adoption of Russian children in the U.S. It's not exactly a surprise to U.S. or Canadian readers. It has to be terrible news for the children, though, considering that the only reason for adopting children so far from their home would be that the children can't be placed anywhere near where they were born.
Obviously it's better for homeless children if their adoptive parents speak the same language they do, if the children can grow up within their original community and culture. Russian readers, this has to mean you. You have access to computers, and you seem to enjoy reading English, so you must have enjoyed some degree of social stability and financial security in your lives. Forty-six children need your help now.
I don't think anyone meant to accuse American adoptive parents of killing, abusing, or neglecting homeless Russian children. Very few people who go through the adoption process are willing to part with their children for any reason. Reading that the children have medical problems that were not being adequately treated in Russia provides some clarification. Possibly these children were just too ill to survive in any case. Possibly being unable to help them was more than their adoptive parents could bear.
Then again, stress may have been a factor in the children's suffering; being adopted by foreigners has to be more stressful than anything most of us care to try to imagine. If the children would have a better chance to survive without being shipped halfway around the world, perhaps baby-craving Americans would prefer to help pay for them to receive treatment in Russia. Maybe even U.S. and Canadian doctors would be willing to go there to perform treatment.
Can we talk? Does anyone out there have any firsthand experience of this situation? What does the world need to know about these children?

Silly Product, Hilarious Product Reviews

Becket Adams shares Amazon product reviews for a banana slicer:

If you've not laughed out loud yet today, please read this post right's pain medication!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Life 101

A Fair Trade Book

Book Title: Life 101

Authors: John Roger and Peter McWilliams

Date: 1991

Publisher: Prelude Press

ISBN: 0-931580-97-8

Length: 400 pages

Quote: "We call this book Life 101 because it contains all the things we wish we had learned about life in school but, for the most part, did not."

In the 1980s, stores near my school sold a book of practical advice for young students. I don't remember whether Life 101 was in its title, or subtitle, or blurb-on-the-jacket. I remember that it discussed things like changing tires and cleaning filters, and other things people renting their first furnished rooms needed to know.

Many years later, I found this rather large paperback book and wondered whether it was an expanded version of that practical little book I remembered. The simplest way to review Life 101 is to say that it wasn't.

What the McWilliams brothers have to offer is a philosophical outlook on life that was popular with New Agers and the human potential school of psychotherapists in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1991 a backlash had begun. Some Christian groups had pronounced the McWilliams' philosophy heretical; I'd already reality-checked it and found it unhelpful.

"Accept reality." Why is that not helpful? First of all, this phrase uses the word "accept" in an incorrect way. To accept something literally means to pick it up in your hands, as when you pick up a package at the post office and take it home. Neither a situation, nor a person, nor "reality" can be accepted in the literal sense, so what is "accept reality" supposed to mean, and why can't the person speaking use the verb that fits whatever is in his or her mind? The McWilliams brothers are using "accept" as an alternative to "deny"; they're advising readers not to live in denial, like a sick patient who may actually believe that he's gone back fifty years in time and that the grandson to whom he's speaking now is the brother who died forty years ago, or like an alcoholic who won't admit that she drinks too much. The average person reading Life 101 is probably not living in denial. The reader of this book may be more interested in changing tires than in trying to change his or her emotions, but probably perceives reality about as efficiently as the rest of us do.

Several words that describe things most of us do, relative to "reality," would fit this context better than "accept." What about "acknowledge," "perceive," "face," "consider," "evaluate," "understand," or "be aware of"? Those words didn't sound "dynamic" enough for the philosophy the McWilliams brothers are preaching. Preachers of this philosophy wanted a word that seemed to mean something active and cheerful. And why was the subjective emotional tone of the word so important? Because what they were actually about to say was something like "Just tell yourself you like whatever's on your mind, because I'm emotionally enmeshed with your moods but I don't intend to do anything to help with your actual situation."

In a word: unhelpful. I think Life 101 is likely to be most useful to the critical reader who wants to write a study of "Lies My Therapist Told Me, or Feel-Good Ideas That Leave People Feeling Bad." Life 101 is a great source of the quotes, the oh-so-insightful bad puns, and the whole popular philosophy of the 1980s. It is valuable for studying this period in historical perspective.

If you're looking for advice you can use in your life, this web site recommends that you read the Bible.

Book Review: Molly Ann's Message

A Fair Trade Book

Book Title: Molly Ann's Message

Author: Edith Mary Gunderson

Date: 1953

Publisher: Moody Bible Institute

Amazon tracking number: B000GT0YA6

Length: 128 pages

Quote: "I'm to tell Grandpa that you sent me to tell him God's love, and Mamma's love."

Molly Ann is an orphan whose grumpy Grandpa never sees visitors, but always sends out food for beggars. Although an atheist, he intends to be just as good and kind as a Christian. Knowing she has a short time left to live, Molly Ann's Mamma has rented a room near Grandpa's house and died there, leaving Molly Ann to throw herself on Grandpa's mercy by wandering out to his house alone, dusty enough to look like a beggar.

Everyone wants to comfort Molly Ann by giving her pets, and her bond with one of these pets will eventually impress Grandpa so much that he joins the church...but, for those who think that even a real oldfashioned Sunday School book should have a little suspense, I won't explain how.

And this is a real oldfashioned Sunday School book, with the paper, not cardboard, binding, red-and-blue line drawing on the front cover, and all, just the way people currently over age forty remember the genre. If you've missed these flimsy but well-intentioned books and wanted to share one with a child, here is one for you.

I enjoyed these books mostly in grade two...because that was the first year I was exposed to them. Vocabulary words like "union depot," "poultry," "procession," "rebuked," and "mantelpiece" may be unfamiliar to some second grade readers. Some of my sixth grade classmates still enjoyed some of the Moody Bible Institute's Sunday School books, but my guess would be that Molly Ann will appeal most to primary school readers.

Buy a Fair Trade Book From Me

It's time for New Year's resolutions, and the one I'd like to share with you, Gentle Readers, is the resolution to change one of the labels on this web site.

"A Book You Can Buy From Me" is too long. It's sort of clunky. It refers back to a time long gone, when I hadn't even thought of selling books online, but had noticed that, although Associated Content wasn't buying book reviews outright, a few dozen local lurkers were faithfully reading every review I posted and were buying books I had on display in a real store. Associated Content no longer exists. That store no longer exists; the building was damaged by the tornado about which I wrote the firsthand story for which Associated Content refused to pay me. I kept the label in the hopes that the same local lurkers would find this site, and find the books wherever they were displayed. Although I made no attempt to find out who they were, evidence suggests that they're not searching for this label.

It's time for something easier to type, something with a more "professional" ring...and since we're all about fairness to living writers, I'm relabelling books that I'm selling secondhand for prices that include a 10% payment to the author, if we find her/him still living, as "Fair Trade Books."

There are actually a few hundred books in this category for which I've not been able to post reviews; if we can attach a floppy disk drive to the laptop on which I'm typing this, and if that floppy disk drive doesn't damage my precious floppies, this site will finally become a bookstore big enough for serious browsing.

Book Announcement: Bullies and Agenda 21

Bullies is the title of Ben Shapiro's new book, in which he cries foul on Illiberal Left “bullying,” smearing, racism, and other dirty tricks used to disparage conservatives. Agenda 21 is, in this case, the title of Glenn Beck's and Harriet Parks' new book, in which they analyze the United Nations' Agenda 21 and how it's still around, undead, under names like “Smart Growth” and "Future Earth."

Why announce these two books together? Because both are available as freebies if you subscribe to a magazine called Townhall. The online edition features favorite conservative writers including Mona Charen, Bill O'Reilly, Thomas Sowell, and many more. If you're going to subscribe to magazines, this'un oughter be good...

More Tragedy Ahead for Connecticut?

After the murders, you might think that people in Newtown, Connecticut, are dealing with as much grief, pain, shame, guilt, anger, and miscellaneous misery, as any town could possibly need.

If they're serious about wanting to know the answers to all the “How could it...Why did it...” sort of questions people ask after tragedies, they're in for another bit of shock. The Newtown murders fit into a well documented pattern that includes several other school shootings. The pattern, initially associated with street drugs like meth, PCP, and less often LSD, acquired the name “Prozac Dementia” in the 1990s, when incidents involving legal prescription medication began to outnumber incidents involving illegal drugs. Practicing psychiatrists Peter Breggin and Joseph Glenmullen wrote books about the syndrome; practicing psychologist Lauren Slater put herself on the line, using Prozac, specifically, with the conscious intention of exploring the pseudomemories the drug gave her. Then, as documented by Arianna Huffington, the pharmaceutical industry began urging the commercial news industry just to stop reporting on the link between stimulant drugs and violent insanity.

The fact remains: about one out of twenty people who use any of the prescription medications in the “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor” category are going to experience some combination of physical pain and bizarre, horrific new “memories” that seem to account for that pain. Some patients, like one of Dr. Glenmullen's students, will develop Prozac dementia after taking one or two pills; some may report only the “high” these drugs are supposed to induce for years before dementia sets in. Patients who are fully aware of the situation may, like Lauren Slater, be able to watch their pseudomemories like movies and not become violent. However, there will always be some danger involved in letting anyone who's taken SSRIs leave the hospital.

The position of this web site is that, if outpatients are allowed to use SSRIs, they should be supervised at all times. It goes without saying that they should have no access to anything that can be used as a weapon, including motor vehicles and sewing needles, but at least one Prozac-demented patient managed to murder a stranger by stomping on her head.

Earlier this month readers were referred to; if you've not visited this site already, you're encouraged to check it out now.

Nevertheless, greedheads in denial roll on...thanks to Steve Milloy for sharing this bit of Extremely Bad News:

Note the graphic on the left...and it's worth reading all the way to page 3 for more documentation of how industry-subsidized researchers can encourage overprescription of a medication they've “studied.”

If psychiatrists listen to the greedheads, Newtown could easily become the site of another mass murder, followed by a suicide, before the end of the school year.

Meet Semi, Lloyd Marcus's Semi-Feral Cat

Semi the cat is a good model for us all: She accepts and returns friendly gestures, but she's not willing to sacrifice her freedom.

I would have enjoyed the rest of Lloyd Marcus's essay more if he'd tied in some recent Blaze and Freedomworks polls showing that most existing conservatives are high-info voters. He's right, but he doesn't choose to make what I'd call the best explanation of why he's right.

So I'll add another observation. Some attempts to identify low- versus high-information voters are misguided because they rely on unreliable measures of how informed voters are. For instance, although I participate in polls, that site has apparently labelled me a low-info voter because I haven't memorized the titles of various semi-famous members of our government. A real Washingtonian does of course memorize who's currently secretary, undersecretary, chairman, and so on of every federal department and congressional committee. This is not especially wonky or nerdy; a real Washingtonian is motivated to memorize this information because a real Washingtonian is likely to meet these people socially. Those of us who don't live or work in Washington, however, don't have to memorize the titles, because the news stories we read about these people always supply the titles for us. My mind has shifted by now into filing almost all the names in the category of "Influential federal employee--check paragraphs above and below for current job title." This doesn't mean I don't remember which responsibilities go with the job title, or even whether the individual has done something I found particularly praiseworthy or blameworthy in the past; it merely means that I'm aware that, at the time when the individual did whatever it was, s/he may have been in a different position.

Trying to stay informed about our government is a full-time job, and all readers are hereby invited to join me in the full-time job of reading the bills currently before our state legislature. The web site is still building its database of current legislation, so it's not yet possible to read all of them in order. That will be taking place during the next week. Read the bills with me and marvel that a few of our legislators can still walk around without thick glasses.

Washington Post Meets FreedomWorks

For the first time in their sheltered and insular lives, Washington Post readers get a peek at the Tea Parties' forum, FreedomWorks...

What a lot of comments I was goaded into posting. Well...I used to know these people, or people like them. I've sat beside them on the Metro, dated them, rented rooms in group houses with them. The amazing thing is that they're not nearly as crass in real life as some of them sound when they're writing about the ideological enemies they don't know on the'Net. They read. They bathe. They're easy to talk or work or dance with. If they were your housemates many of them would never wipe their hands on your towel. Most of them have travelled across state lines (other than D.C./Virginia/Maryland), some have lived in foreign countries, many have foreign-born friends, and some even speak a foreign language. And they think they know something about the plain people of even these United States, even of other countries. And they are so wrong.

I want to see more of them here. Commenting. Contributing. Filling in the gaps in their extensive, but incomplete, educations.

Most of the active participants in this web site may find them...I think "foreign" is the right word. I think a lot of people who've always lived in McLean, Virginia, would look, sound, and feel foreign in Gate City, Virginia. I think one reason why people who are still in the Democratic Party aren't contributing more to this web site, apart from Mark Warner's apparently ongoing software issues, is that they're not used to dealing with both the Old Left and the Old Right; that's an experience surprisingly few Americans have shared with me. And I think it's a pity and a shame.

Phenology: Turtle Squashers

Jonathon Seidl reports on the surprising results of a university study: Some drivers actually go out of their way to run over box turtles (terrapins) they see on the road.

First, let's say that I love the idea of retraining these jerks by planting artificial turtles full of spikes on our highways. It would be good for the economy, allowing some entrepreneur to make money on the turtles and many existing businesses to make money replacing and recycling jerks' tires. Plus, it would liberate money from jerks.

Unfortunately, living box turtles would still be vulnerable to genuine accidents. We already have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...what more can be done toward helping humans appreciate turtles?

Seriously, Gentle turtles are useful animals (except when they get into fishponds or vegetable gardens--but even there, they're easy to move and unlikely to come back). They eat insects. They help control mosquitoes! And the way they shut themselves up into "boxes" is cool.

Box turtles have few natural predators, although raccoons, large hawks and eagles, and occasionally some other predator who is very hungry will eat them. They're not good to eat (they can eat things that are toxic to other animals and store the toxins in their bodies), and only jerks go out of their way to kill anything they don't want to eat. Perhaps because they live about as long as humans do, they don't reproduce much faster than humans do, either. In fact, because turtle eggs and young are exposed to more hazards, turtles don't actually reproduce as fast as humans do. They're a threatened species.

Here's the web site that goes with Tess Cook's book, Box Turtles:

Here's the box turtle's Wikipedia page:

Here's another academic site that offers lots of photos and fun facts about box turtles:

Being cold-blooded, box turtles aren't very active in my part of the world in winter, but so far we're having the sort of mild winter in which a box turtle might come out and prowl around. In the Deep South, they're active all year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Michael Moore Blames the Gun...

Predictably, boringly, Michael Moore does that lame-brained left-wing thing where they blame the gun for what the man did with it. Why even mention this? Because, in spite of his leftist tendencies, there's a certain core of honesty about the only left-wing competition Rush Limbaugh's ever had. Notice how, even in the process of blaming the gun, Moore admits that the "school security measures" didn't work, that sending the shooter to get "help" hadn't helped (actually it may have caused the shooting), and that what actually stopped the murders was the arrival, uh...other people with guns.

We Can Stop Sending Prezzies to Newtown Now

So many people wanted to donate a toy in memory of the children murdered in Newton, Connecticut, that town officials have asked charitable souls to stop the deluge...

New Yorkers Look Miserable, Others Perky

Okay, maybe this emotional correlation isn't fair...

People who live in the city look miserable in the snow...because they were photographed trying to commute through it, or shovelling it. People who live in the country were photographed playing in it.

But maybe that's the point, too. People who live in the city don't have a chance to play in snow.

The Miniature White House

Ornamental effects on older (or older-style) buildings are sometimes called gingerbread. The official White House Blog shares a video of a miniature White House being built out of actual gingerbread:

Is this really good news? How much did this amusement cost...oh, for pity's sake, it was Christmas, and it's cute. Plus the web page also links to a video of Bo, the First Dog.

Phenology and That Clunky Birkenstock Look

While the computer center was closed for Christmas, it rained, more or less continually; never very hard, but it never really stopped either. Temperatures stayed in the forties (Fahrenheit) all day and night. Great weather for sitting by the fire, eating too much turkey, and talking to disabled relatives. Not very good weather for any other traditional forms of Christmas fun.

Early this morning, the temperature dropped, and the rain changed to snow and then stopped. Snow actually accumulated on the highest points of the mountains around Gate City.

I have, of course, dug out those dreaded knee-high boots. I have looked at them, and said to myself, "Do I haaaff to...?" and told myself, "Not yet, thank goodness."

This morning, with temperatures in the upper thirties and dropping, I put on those open-toed sand shoes and immediately admitted that that counted as Showing Off. Then I remembered that in the city some members of my generation, a bit fashion-challenged perhaps but otherwise quite nice, wear clunky-looking flat sandals, especially Birkenstock brand, with white socks all the time. I would never have considered adopting this look just as a look...but this morning I tried it for practical reasons, and I like it. No stiff, heavy leather, and my toes feel positively cozy.

The cats complained about the weather all through the holidays, but conceded that this morning's change was an improvement.

By daylight, the rain-swollen stream was an interesting mix of gray, tan, and green, not at all like a pearl. The waterfall is still white, and very loud.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Before the Computer Center Closes for Christmas...

Before the computer center closes for Christmas, let's remind anyone out there who has any shopping money left to remember our troops and veterans...\

Good News for Keystone Pipeline Supporters?

NBC reports that John Kerry, who will probably be our next Secretary of State, supports the Keystone Pipeline project that's been so controversial this year:

David Guttenfelder Goes to North Korea

Jason Howerton shares a series of rare photos credited to AP's David Guttenfelder:

"Future Earth" Is Agenda 21

"Agenda 21"? Forget about it. It's passe (this system can't handle diacritical marks). It's sooo last year. It didn't sell, therefore today's United Nations wants nothing to do with it and today's United States has no motivation whatsoever to try to enact it...right?

Wrong. The practical objectives of Agenda 21 were relabelled "Smart Growth" around the turn of the century. Now they've been relabelled once again: "Future Earth."

Karen Bracken shares an article by Susanne Posel that's been published on two different web sites, with different videos. The text is the same on both sites, so no need to use both links unless you want to watch the video clips:

And what, exactly, is this agenda? It owes a lot to Benito Mussolini, who would have called it fascism. Its differences from what Nikita Khrushchev called Communism, or socialism with a theoretical agenda of progress toward communism, are superficial. It's actually more like the Saturday morning cartoon villains' agenda--"We will rule the world!" And it also has much in common with what the science fiction community remember as Soylent Green--in that, in order to create the dream world the planners want to rule, a lot of human death has to be included in the plan.

You Pay 75% So He Can Save 40%

In Illinois, Don Dodson reports on a car wash owner who's allowed taxpayers to subsidize 75% of the costs of setting up a solar-powered gadget that saves him 40% on electric bills:

In the long run, car washer Richard Nevels says, it'll all work out to an overall savings. That's assuming he's in business for the long run--and I hope he is. Now let's see how he passes that savings on to his community.

This web site is not opposed to ventures like Nevels', but we would like to see more of the subsidies coming from people who believe in solar technology, rather than being gouged out of unbelievers. We would like to see those who believe in solar power sell it to the rest of the world.

Prices Expected to Rise

Laura Heller reports on twelve general categories of merchandise where we can expect prices to rise:

Right. Blame it on the drought. Now I'm not disputing the word of those who claim that there was a drought in some part of North America, last summer, but where I live we had rain every single day for seven weeks that summer, so I'm not terribly sympathetic to any claims based on this drought. If somebody did have too much sunshine, they should've shared it with me.

Then another thing I've noticed...a good growing season does not cause prices to fall, proportionately to the way a bad season causes them to rise.

In Virginia, according to the Department of Agriculture, 2012 was a very good year for peanuts with farmers getting an average of 200 pounds per acre more than they harvested in 2011. Virginia farmers planted more corn and harvested less per acre, but Virginia's corn production, overall, was only about 15% lower than last year. Soy production didn't change. Cotton production increased by an average of 312 pounds per acre.

Be sure to look for the reduced prices on all your cotton clothing and linens, and on peanuts, in the next year, Gentle Readers. (Ha. Ha...snarky, mirthless laugh here.)

The Real Santa Claus

Some readers may remember the kid-friendly version of the Santa Claus story I published on Yahoo, where the original "Saint" Nikolaus had been given the three big balls of gold to put on the ends of the cross in front of his church, but felt sorry for the three poor children when he saw a slave dealer talking to their father, and dropped the gold down their chimney. Or threw it in through the open window--we don't know what sort of house it was.

"So Nikolaus was like Robin Hood?" a reader asked. Not exactly. He was the bishop. Although the people who gave him the gold expected to see it used to decorate the church, the bishop had the right to decide how the church should use the gold.

There are different versions of this story, including a really wild one where the children had been cut up and packed in brine for sale as salt pork, but Nikolaos miraculously restored them to life. There is some disagreement about whether the children were boys, girls, or some of each. Needless to say, there is no historical proof that these stories are true.

However, Chris Field has dug up a serious historical study of the original Bishop Nikolaos. If not a miracle worker, he was an active and generous member of his community:

Whether in amusing, fairy-tale-like ways or not, he really did use church money to help poor families.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No Warming for Moscow

Steve Milloy shares photos of brutally cold weather in Moscow, "with more on the way," for those who think the warm year North America has been having is proof of global warming:

I can tell these aren't old propaganda photos of the Land Where It Was Always Winter and Never Christmas, back in the Cold War years, because the coats are newer styles and some young, cute faces are included.

Phenology for 12/21/12: Nor'easter and Snow

The word "nor'easter" is not often used in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but once in a while we see the thing it means, and yesterday we had a classic one. Cold winds, mostly from the northeast, driving chilly gusts of rain that seemed as if they were about to stop every hour or two and then resumed with an even chillier, even heavier blast. Grim, grey clouds hanging down around the Clinch Mountain; darkness, without a glimpse of moon or stars, before 5 p.m.

I got home around 6 p.m. After turning off the paved road and walking up into a fold in the mountains, I looked down at the little branch creek that runs alongside the gravel road to the Cat Sanctuary...the loudness of a quiet twelve-or-fifteen-foot waterfall caught my attention. The creek was full, almost over its banks in places. By daylight it would have looked brown and murky, but in real night-darkness, away from the light pollution of towns and traffic, the water caught and magnified all of the scanty light left in the air. The creek became luminous, like a little river of pearl.

That unexpected beauty gave me something to think about last night. I'm not young. I'm not rich. I'm a widow. There's been a remarkable lack of good news in my life for the last seven years. Why am I not depressed? I think it's because I draw emotional energy from being alone in the beauty of nature. With that the Cat Sanctuary will always be abundantly supplied.

I've not always lived in beautiful places. The last time I lived in an ugly place was the winter I spent in Wheaton, Maryland, which was trying hard to be a nice suburban town, but had "developed" too many densely populated streets in between its green spaces. I was earning good money, doing interesting jobs, working among people who seemed like potential friends. I thought it wouldn't matter--much--that the place through which I walked from a nice, ugly furnished room to these nice, un-beautiful workplaces was dreary and overcrowded. (I was one of the people who'd left Takoma Park after the Big Storm of 1989. I understood that the other towns in Maryland can't be Takoma Park. Wheaton does in fact have nature parks and gardens--beautiful gardens--but when you walk through them you're almost always walking through crowds of people.)

But a funny thing happened when I was living in Wheaton. I didn't have allergies or even come down with flu that winter, but I had writer's block. And I caught myself positively disliking my perfectly nice neighbors, just because there were too many of them. And I caught myself spending a whole Saturday at the library looking at pictures of nature in books.

In January a drugged-out young man pulled a knife on me, in broad daylight, in the front yard-slash-parking-lot in between four "four-plex" buildings in the low-income housing project. It wasn't hard to take the knife away from him. It was hard to live with the awareness that although several residents of the project were at home, and two or three of them knew me personally, none of them had come out to help, called the police, or even watched from their windows. And then in March, as I was walking down a street of individual houses packed together on small yards, I saw fire engines hosing down a house that had caught fire, four houses away from the one where I was staying. Not one neighbor was outside or even at a window watching the fire. As long as their own houses weren't ablaze, they didn't care whether that neighbor's house burned down. And by that time I understood why they didn't care. Some part of them wanted there to be one less house in that neighborhood. And I realized that I had to get out of Wheaton before this form of insanity infected me too.

Since then I've not stayed in a place where I can't get out and expose myself to things too beautiful to be made by humans, every day. I don't actually go outdoors every day--sometimes I work overtime, sometimes I'm fighting the flu--but the possibility needs to be there. I understand that people who spend too much time around other people start, even if unconsciously, to hate other people. People who are not constantly crowded together are free to practice good will.

Anyway, around that time of evening, the rain turned to snow. I wasn't too surprised to wake up this morning and see that some of the snow had managed to stick on roofs and grass. The sky's still grey, the slopes of the Clinch Mountain are white. The roads are still clear, but wet, because the ground is still warm.

As I walked to the computer center this morning, the sun peeked out through the clouds while the snow continued to fall. According to local folklore, that means we can expect either rain, or more and heavier snow, tomorrow. Some people are hoping to be snowed in for Christmas, and this year their wish may come true.

And because most of us aren't living in overcrowded conditions, I suspect that nobody will mind very much if it does. Y'know...I'd like to get a head start on the bill reading marathon, but as long as my home has electricity, I understand...some people like snow.

Danville (California) Planning Update

Since this web site (somewhat by accident) drew attention to a California Tea Party's efforts to interfere with slum construction in Danville, California, here's an update on how that town meeting went: "We have had excellent turn outs to the past two planning meetings. However the staff, planners and council are ignoring the public and are going forward with the 2030 Plan to rezone 9.6 acres with the option to up zone up to 35 acres to high density housing. I’ve spoken with the SOS Danville group and they are moving forward to referend of the plan. They have asked if we would like to join them in this effort."

Ah, yes, the old "Who cares that the community we're supposed to be democratically representing hate this idea, if there's money in it for us" routine. We're seeing that in Scott County, Virginia, too, with the zoning ordinance that nobody wants, which was supposed to bring in a Wal-Mart, which nobody really wants either, which is just as well because it's not bringing one in; all the zoning ordinance is doing is making it harder for some people to improve or even repair the homes where their families may have lived for two hundred years.

People in Danville, California, may want to contact this "Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource":

Los Angeles Regulates Burger Joint to Death

Becket Adams reports on how the city of Los Angeles killed a locally owned hamburger joint by over-regulating:

Was the place actually targeted by criminals, because of its location, or for some other reason? Maybe--but the owner doesn't mention any actual problems.

Memories come to mind...When my husband and I settled in Hyattsville, Maryland, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant. No surprise--everyone who worked there was speaking Chinese. As we left he said, "The trouble with Chinese immigrants is that they give nothing back to the community. All the profits from that restaurant will go back to China. You didn't see any Americans in there and you'll never see those people trading in an American-owned business either."

I wondered whether all of them would have had a real language problem, or whether they were speaking Chinese out of respect to the owner or the owner's parents. Anyway I said, "Well, we should talk! Every time we buy anything, you go to Columbia, and I go to Bethesda. We've been living in Hyattsville for six months, and do we buy anything but gas, groceries, or train tickets in Hyattsville?"

We didn't actually buy a great deal of things other than gas, groceries, and train tickets, but after that we started consciously checking out the stores and restaurants in Hyattsville. We liked what we found. At that time Hyattsville was a bargain hunter's happy hunting ground. We found quirky little independent bookstores, boutiques, and restaurants, as well as something that was still new to me--the full-sized department stores operated on behalf of various charities. We found stores that still made things to order or delivered to your door, stores that let people sell their crafts or crops or catches in the parking lot, stores where it was still possible to haggle. We actually encouraged visitors to shop in Hyattsville while they were there, for the fun of it.

Then, during the last summer before my husband died, we received a glossy brochure notifying us that Prince Georges County had become infested with "planners" who wanted to pack in more people, build more slums, and, very specifically--I don't remember the exact words, but the brochure spelled this out--get rid of the independent stores and bring in more big chains. Ick. There's no fun in shopping in big-chain stores. We certainly didn't want to invest in a business in Prince Georges County any more. I wouldn't take a house there as a gift any more. Who wants to live, shop, or work in a slum full of all-alike big-chain businesses and high-rise apartment buildings. There's no charm, no beauty, no novelty about places like that.

I was born in a suburb of Los Angeles, but have no memories of that city. I'm told the last pockets of charm, beauty, or novelty were smothered in smog around the time I was born, which was why my parents never went back.

But here's this burger man, whose business doesn't look as if it contributed much beauty to his neighborhood but does at least have a bit of novelty, and apparently tradition, to offer...and the city's railroading him out of business. To make way for another McDonald's, no doubt.

Do they realize that I, personally, can go without solid food for three days before I get hungry enough to eat anything sold at McDonald's?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Meet the President of Hillsdale College

Reprinted by permission:


Time to Give Up or Time to Fight On?

An Interview with Dr. Larry P. Arnn
Larry P. Arnn, the twelfth president of Hillsdale College, received his B.A. from Arkansas State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in government from the Claremont Graduate School. From 1977 to 1980, he also studied at the London School of Economics and at Worcester College, Oxford University, where he served as director of research for Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill. From 1985 until his appointment as president of Hillsdale College in 2000, he was president of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. He is the author of Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education and The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk By Losing It.
The following is adapted from an interview by Hugh Hewitt for the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, conducted on the day after the election, November 7, 2012.

Hugh Hewitt: My guest is Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. Several weeks ago, when I was at Hillsdale, Dr. Arnn warned me that yesterday’s election might well go badly for the cause of constitutional conservatism. And I wanted to review the results of the election with him today on the radio show. Larry, welcome.
Larry P. Arnn: Thank you, Hugh, good to be with you. And it did indeed turn out to be a terrible election from the standpoint of constitutionalism. Its results will bring about hardships and set back the time frame for reviving the kind of government our Founders bequeathed to us. I do agree with that. But I very much disagree with the idea that this election marks a decisive event in our politics, or a point of no return.
HH: That’s what I want to discuss, because there are a lot of people who are close to saying “game over,” who are tempted now to retreat from politics—to go do missionary work, for instance—and give up on the republic. But you have made your life’s work the studying of leaders who have refused to do that.
LPA: That’s right. And the reason you can’t do that, by the way—the reason you can’t retreat into private life and give up on politics—is that the cost of doing it is overwhelming. If you don’t live under good laws, life becomes truncated and less happy, injustice becomes customary, civilization is compromised. And one cannot acquiesce in that. One has to be involved. And since politics is natural to us—man is essentially political, as Aristotle says—and since we do live in the greatest modern country—founded that way at least—we owe it a lot. And many of the people who have seen the republic through to where we are today have gone through things that are worse than this. So first of all, it’s a duty not to give up. But second, there are good reasons to know that the game isn’t over.
HH: What are the reasons?
LPA: One of them is that the election is shot through with contradictions. The obvious contradiction is that we have a divided government. The presidency and the Senate are in the hands of one party, and the House of Representatives and most governorships are in the hands of the other. A second contradiction is that a large majority of people continued to say in the exit polls that they were against raising taxes in order to cut the deficit. One might be cynical and put that down to an irresponsible refusal to pay for existing benefits—to get more and more “free stuff.” But for a long time now, opinion polls have pointed towards the existence of a broad majority of Americans who favor smaller government. This obviously contradicts the re-election of the president and the Democratic gains in the Senate. The country is still a house divided against itself, and that’s dangerous. But it doesn’t mean that there’s been a resolution. It means in fact the opposite: there is not a resolution. That resolution still has to be made, and the making of it lies ahead of us, and not behind us.
HH: Reminding us of the words from scripture that a house divided against itself cannot stand reminds us also of Lincoln. What is the applicability of Lincoln’s situation to our own?
LPA: Lincoln’s argument was that either slavery is right or freedom is right, and that the country couldn’t long stand if it was divided on which was so. There was an argument that slavery should be allowed to spread and be protected as a good thing, and there was an argument that slavery violated America’s principles and should be kept from spreading. There’s almost an exact parallel today, because the people who founded our country believed and wrote—and established a Constitution to provide—that there must never be unlimited rule by any man or group of men over other men. And our government is getting to a place where it threatens to become limitless.
Not only that, but government itself has become a strong force in elections: Much of the money funding the party of big government comes from inside the government through public employee unions—not to mention corporations, so many of which receive a form of welfare from the government. This new development represents a dangerous corruption of the election process—and elections are the only means left to Americans to limit government. It’s a real problem.
HH: Another new form of corruption is what I call the media-industrial complex. We seem to be in uncharted waters now. The Framers of the Constitution were geniuses, but we will see if their wisdom is up to these new challenges.
LPA: Well just think of what our Constitution is doing right now—the protection it is providing. In 1946 in England, following Churchill’s ouster as prime minister, the Labor government got its first outright majority, and within a year it had nationalized 15 or so major industries. It was able to do that all at once. Compare that to what occurred here. President Obama only had that kind of united power for two years, because our Constitution divides power. He did, in his first two years, push through Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, which are significant. They will do a lot of damage, and we are stuck with them for now because of the election. But despite the election, one part of the government remains in the hands of the opposition. That means that no big new legislation is going to go through. So the Constitution is working, despite the uncharted waters you mention.
HH: In his introduction to The City and Man, Leo Strauss wrote this:
However much the power of the West may have declined, however great the dangers to the West may be, that decline, that danger, nay, the defeat, even the destruction of the West would not necessarily prove that the West is in a crisis: the West could go down in honor, certain of its purpose. The crisis of the West consists in the West’s having become uncertain of its purpose.
Is that applicable to what we see in our politics today?
LPA: It is certainly true that the vast majority of our nation’s elites today—those who welcome the results of yesterday’s election—are creatures of modern historicist thought, which explicitly rejects the kind of objective principles—equality under God, inalienable rights—on which America was founded. According to modern historicism, the only objective truth is that one can’t know an objective truth. President Obama embraces this view in no uncertain terms in his book The Audacity of Hope: “Implicit . . . in the very idea of ordered liberty,” he writes, is “a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ‘ism,’ any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single unalterable course . . . .” So much for individual rights and limited government.
This view, which drives modern liberalism or Progressivism, has been on the ascendant. But remember when you quote Strauss that his works were intended to constitute a revival of the West. The West is heavily besieged from within, but it’s not dead. We are obviously a house divided right now, and I think it’s safe to say that conditions are going to get significantly worse before they get better. But we need to remember why Churchill thought that Hitler could be defeated even when the British had ten or twelve divisions and the Germans had 200, plus three times the air force, and the British stood alone.
For one thing, Churchill thought free men were morally obliged to believe it, in order to go down fighting if necessary. But beyond that, he calculated what the advantages were. And there was a fundamental advantage that is especially important for us to recall today: Churchill believed that Hitler’s kind of government could not work, and thus that it would not work. In other words, he looked at Hitler and he saw weakness—despite Hitler’s great military advantage.
Similarly, Churchill and Ronald Reagan are the two statesmen I know who regarded the Soviet Union as weak, even at the height of its power, because it was built on self-contradictory propositions and its system led to obvious and repeated injustices. Churchill believed that also of the socialist government to which he lost in 1946.
HH: Now Larry, I’ve got to break in here, because I know the media-industrial complex, and someone will go and get the transcription of this and say that you are comparing Obama to Hitler, which you are not doing. What you are talking about is a relative advantage of political forces today, comparing that to the relative advantage in military forces of Hitler vis-à-vis Churchill. You aren’t comparing our government today to the Third Reich.
LPA: No, and I don’t mean that. What I mean is that the principles of Progressivism that animate our government today, which are antithetical to the principles of the American Founding, lead to policies that cannot work, will not work, and result in obvious injustices. That is its weakness, and that provides cause for hope. But by the way, there is a parallel with the great twentieth century tyrannies: The modern bureaucratic form of government cannot remain accountable to the people, so in the fullness of time it will become despotic. That’s not the intention of anybody who runs it today, or at least not very many people. But that is its direction.
HH: You mentioned Reagan, who always seemed to know, as Solzhenitsyn knew, that it was all papier-mâché in the Soviet Union—that you could poke a stick through it and it would fall apart. It was held together by fear. But modern bureaucratic government operates in such a way as to gain people’s allegiance and trust. Isn’t that a significant difference between the two?
LPA: The experts who run the modern bureaucratic state think they are architects of a perfectly rational society. They think of themselves as scientists, and of the running of government as something more like science—the science of administration—than politics. They think they can coordinate society comprehensively so that no one is left out. That’s why they think of their work as something good and as something high. The problem is that what they are trying to do defies human nature—the human nature that led James Madison to write famously that men are not angels, and that led the Framers of the Constitution to divide government in order to limit government—and so what these experts are doing will ultimately lead to despotism.
But to speak directly to your question, Hugh, there are many indications that there’s a deep and even intensifying opposition to bureaucratic government today. People don’t like it, and they don’t trust it. They want less of it. And I don’t believe that yesterday’s election signified any change in that. Now, how to harness that opinion politically is the challenge. No one yet has been able to capitalize upon it.
HH: What would be your advice as to what constitutional conservatives should be saying?
LPA: One obvious theme to strike is that people didn’t vote for, and don’t support, higher taxes and bigger government. But conservative statesmen have to get better. Calvin Coolidge once said that great statesmen are “ambassadors of providence, sent to reveal to us our unknown selves.” What that means is that great statesmen are not going to be around very often. I’d say that the standard of conservative statesmanship today is improving, but too few prominent conservatives are skillful at explaining the problem of the modern bureaucratic state. This form of government proceeds by rules, and rules upon rules, and compliance with those rules becomes a key activity of the entire nation. That results in bureaucracy, and in the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. Constitutional government, on the other hand, proceeds by clearly stated laws.
Not grasping this is an important failure of conservative statesmen today. During the first presidential debate I stood up and slapped my leg, and my wife said to sit down and be quiet, when Mitt Romney said that business and prosperity require regulation. What he should have said instead was that of course we require laws in order to be productive and to live safely, but that laws are different than regulations. Laws are passed by elected (and thus accountable) representatives, they cover everybody equally, and we can all participate in their enforcement because they are easy to understand. Not one of those three things is true of the regulations imposed by independent boards such as those established under Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Romney was not able to make that distinction, and yet that distinction is at the heart of the choice Americans must make about how they will be governed.
HH: Larry, Hillsdale College now has a Graduate School of Statesmanship, and you have spent your life studying statesmen. Do we have statesmen now, or people you see who are potentially great statesmen?
LPA: What you look for are the ones who have the music of America in them, and who are also good at learning. It takes both things, and there are some fine young conservatives in Congress and serving as governors who give one hope. They understand the urgency of the situation, and that makes them better.
I was talking to Margaret Thatcher a couple years ago, and she asked about the setbacks American conservatives had been suffering. And I said, “Well ma’am, it’s your fault. You have ruined your successors.” And she said, “How did I do that?” And I told her that when she did what she did, nobody knew if it would work, so it was clear that she chose it because she believed in it. But the people who’ve come after her—after her and Ronald Reagan, I might have said—many of them chose it because she and Reagan made it work, so they considered it to be the road to success. In other words, a lot of them have been pretenders. But the situation is more urgent now, and there won’t be so many pretenders. The pretenders will jump ship. And that’s a healthy development.
But let me close with a word about Churchill. The service that he did in 1940, when his nation stood up against Hitler alone, was preceded by a service equally great. In the 1930s, British politics were ugly and ill-directed. Churchill’s own party leaders conspired to deprive him not only of his seat in Parliament, but of his livelihood writing for the public. One of his colleagues, an official in the Foreign Ministry named Ralph Wigram, was threatened with transfer to a remote place without medical care—his son had birth defects—if he continued speaking with Churchill. Churchill, Wigram, and Wigram’s wife Ava stood up to this kind of thing, year after year. First a few, and then many, and then legions joined them. Finally the British people realized the truth, and then all over London billboards appeared with the words in large black letters, “What Price Churchill?” He was called to lead in 1940 because he proved in the 1930s that he could do so.
That same year, Churchill asked one of his assistants, John Colville, to find him the precise text of a prayer he remembered from the siege of Gibraltar. It reads:
Fear not the result, for either thy end shall be an enviable and a majestic one, or God will preserve our reign upon the waters.
We might follow Churchill in saying that prayer in hard times. We might cultivate the strength that it can give.

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AEP Shuts Down Big Sandy Plant

Will we remember this as the year when everything with the name "Sandy" in it was Bad News? The hurricane, the name of the murder scene, and now this...

Close? Why not employ the workers to convert the plant to something other than burning coal? The Times mentions that the first plan to "retrofit" the plant would have been absurdly expensive. So? They can't think of a better plan?

Juniper Russo Shares Migraine Relief Tips

In memory of "Aunt Dotty," who lived with migraines for 87 years, this web site wishes a merry, pain-free holiday season to all the migraine sufferers out there...

Morgan Griffith Shares Poem for Newtown

We apologize for not finding Congressman Griffith's message and posting it sooner. Even with four e-mail accounts, we miss a lot of things that are worth sharing, down at the back of the day's e-mail pile. We may miss more than ever during the holiday week ahead. U.S. readers have probably read Longfellow's poem before, but nobody can read this thought too often...

"As a father to three young children, I was heartbroken upon hearing of the heinous, criminal act that took place Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut. No words can describe this senseless crime that took the lives of many. As details of this tragedy continue to emerge, let us give thanks for the school faculty, law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and brave students who helped get people to safety.

We in western Virginia know all too well that senseless violence like this has no place in our society. Any tragedy is difficult to understand, but especially difficult to comprehend are those that impact young people. In the days and weeks ahead, my family and I will continue praying for strength and comfort for all those grieving, particularly for the victims’ families, whose lives will never be the same.
This time last year, I wrote about American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his poem Christmas Bells, but the poem and song seem especially poignant this year after Friday’s tragedy in Newtown.

After suffering through years of great despair following the tragic loss of his wife and the injury of his son Charles in the War Between the States, Longfellow wrote Christmas Bells, which was the basis for the carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. This carol tells of its narrator’s despair that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men,” until he hears the ringing of the bells, which celebrate the power of faith and offer great hope.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men...

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good well to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!"

Just like Longfellow, we have witnessed despair and evil, particularly over this last week, but “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!” As we mourn and yes, cry, let us also celebrate the Christmas season, for this is the message that we must remember: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” From my family to yours, best wishes for a safe and merry Christmas.

In observance of Christmas there will not be a column next week, but as always, if you have concerns or comments or wish to inquire about legislative issues, feel free to contact my offices. 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"