Thursday, May 31, 2012

Little Girls Dream of...Birth Control?

Is birth control what little girls need to make their dreams come true? I don't think so...

What about just having mothers who tell them that they can say no to the behavior that causes unwanted pregnancy? Ethics apart, wouldn't that be more efficient?

Mayor "Nanny" Bloomberg Bans Large Drinks

Yet another reason not to visit New York City...that list just keeps growing!

This story takes my memory back to the last time I bought a 32-ounce styrofoam drink cup. That was in Bethesda, Maryland, in July, shortly after my husband died, almost seven years ago now. A writing client had designed some promotional T-shirts, which I'd schlepped from my home in Hyattsville to the Montgomery County Farm Women's craft market. It was literally ninety degrees in the shade. I was hoping those cool white T-shirts would sell as I sat under a tree and fanned myself with my big floppy sun hat. They didn't.

Before heat exhaustion set in, I walked down the block to a convenience store that was running a sale on large iced drinks. Filled the cup with ice, dispensed something fizzy with electrolytes in it into the cracks between the ice cubes. When you fill a 32-ounce cup with ice first, you're actually getting less than 16 ounces of soda pop even if you start with large ice cubes...which was what I'd bought the large drink for. I drank off the soda pop right away, then kept refilling the cup with water all afternoon. I wasn't overweight, hypertensive, or "elderly" at the time, so I wasn't at especially high risk for heat exhaustion, but I think that large iced drink may have kept me out of the hospital that day anyway. It was a long, hot day, no matter how healthy a person was.

Thanks to local warming, although New York is colder than Washington in winter, it's not less hot and humid in summer. I wonder whether being unable to cool off by refilling a 32-ounce cup of ice, with water or anything else, will be cited as a factor in any deaths in New York this summer?

[Update: Cameron De Smidt wrote a snarkier, edgier, NewYorkier comment here:

And if you can't "like" it on Wordpress, and want to encourage Cameron De Smidt, you may find it easier to create and use a free account here:]

Pat Summitt Awarded Medal of Freedom

Click here to see the photo of former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Tennessee readers have to love it...but youall may not love the company Coach Summitt has been thrown into. I mean to say: Dolores Huerta?

Solar Energy: If It Sounds Too Good to Be True...

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...especially when a business is offering to "Green up" your utilities. Thanks to Bart DePalma for the alert that something that's been predicted, but isn't happening yet in my neighborhood, is happening in his:

Can you afford to care enough to pay double for "Greener" energy? Is it more frugal to keep your old dirty-energy account, and use less electricity and/or gas?

Mass Murder and Suicide in Seattle

Once again, the man who suddenly shot five random strangers before turning the gun on himself "was mentally ill." Please, Madeleine Morgenstern, dig deeper. Was he using antidepressants? For how long? Had he reported "new, long-buried" memories of horrific past abuse after beginning to use antidepressants?

Mainstream newspapers (e.g. the Washington Post) used to mention this useful information regularly; then, as it became obvious that almost all random murders followed by suicides were associated with use of antidepressants, pharmaceutical companies demanded that the mainstream newspapers censor the pertinent facts. This is the kind of thing we read strictly private news media, e.g. The Blaze, for.

If antidepressants are going to save more lives than they cost, they need to be used in strictly controlled conditions; patients should be either hospitalized or closely supervised while using these drugs.

Airbag Fumes Kill Man in Scotland

Car airbags have been controversial for a long time because, when deployed, they're likely to injure or kill people under 5'4" tall--the category that includes most of the women on Earth. At 5'4" in flat shoes, I've avoided the front seats in cars that have airbags since these hazards came onto the market.

As local readers know, my mother survived a crash about a year ago. Although her left arm was broken, both ankles were badly sprained, and predictable rib cracks and bruises appeared, Mother was back on the job in a few weeks...because she was wearing a seat belt (not a shoulder belt) and had had the driver airbag removed before driving her minivan. (Mother used to be exactly as tall as I am, but has shrunk during the past thirty years.)

Unfortunately, Mother had left the passenger airbag in the van. With the car that hit her blocking the driver's side door and the airbag blocking the passenger's side door, Mother was trapped in the van for more than twenty minutes. Airbag fumes definitely damaged her throat, leaving her voice gravelly for several weeks. She thinks the chemicals in the airbag have affected her memory and temper, and after observing Mother over the past year I believe this is true. Her memory was excellent before the accident and is still well above average for her age group, but it's not as good as it was a year ago.

We'd considered sharing these facts for several months before Steve Milloy shared the link to this news story:

"His widow June said: “I knew from the very beginning that it was the airbag. I just knew but other people would look at me as if to say, ‘don’t be silly’. Ronnie told me about the white powder straight away. He said there was so much of it he couldn’t see. It’s just not fair that you have to lose someone because of something that is meant to save a life.”"

Please, Gentle Readers, if you own a car and have not taken these steps already: Have both airbags removed from your car; and make sure all users of your vehicle wear seat belts at all times.

And, optionally, even if you are not a woman and don't plan to marry one, support the women who want to get those "death bags" out of our vehicles.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tax-Funded Ads for Food Stamps?

Seems Glenn Beck caught a radio ad singing the praises of food stamps, and Becket Adams, a long-term member of Team Beck, thinks the ad inspired one of Beck's best TV routines:

I can't watch the video here, so I can't comment on that part of the story. Instead, I'll address an issue some other commenters have brought up: "If food stamps could be used to buy diapers, the diapers would be resold for cash."

Likely they would. And when food stamps are used to buy food--whether it's junkfood, or "good healthy food," or the kind of healthy food, e.g. whole-wheat bread or whole milk, that's actually more harmful to some bodies than junkfood is--that food is likely to be resold or bartered, too.

It's just human nature: Even when people are reduced to begging for food handouts, they have this nasty human tendency to feel that they need other things as well as food. Soap, shoes, gas, help moving furniture or removing poison ivy from their yard, a sparkly new white dress for a granddaughter to wear in a church program on Easter. The only way to make sure they eat the kind and amount of food you've deemed appropriate for them, and get nothing else whatsoever, is to take the time to deliver the food and then sit down and watch them eat it. Otherwise, you run the risk that they're going to decide that, in any given month, there may be something else they need more than they need some of that food.

Alternatively, of course, you could try to get some help for that control fixation. Breathe deeply. Why do you think you need to control what other people do? Breathe. What part of your life seems to be out of control right now, creating this unbalanced compulsion to control someone else's life? Breathe. Feel your fear. Breathe. Face your fear. Breathe. Maybe you need to call for help, but you can release that clutch on other people's lives and choices. Breathe. Maybe those who have less than you actually know more about what they want and need than you do. Breathe. You can live with that possibility.

The tighter we clutch at control of what people do with any form of welfare, the more creative fraud we push people into. The whole idea of food stamps is based on thinking, "We're willing to give this person food, but we don't trust this person with actual money." Why not? Maybe there is a valid reason for that kind of thinking; maybe the person needs to be in some sort of drug rehab program. Or maybe the person is as competent to handle actual money as we are, but just happens not to have enough of it. If so, why are we trying to limit that person's opportunities to earn more money on his or her own initiative? Maybe we need to get out of the way, overlook a little chicanery at the outset, and give the person a chance to start doing more legitimate work.

There is, occasionally, a welfare recipient--even a welfare cheat--who actually prefers honest work to welfare-cheating, and will do honest work if not prevented from doing it. If reselling unwanted handouts is someone's first move toward honest work, how bad is that?

Food Lion Brand: Beans'n'Roaches

You can't walk into one without noticing: Food Lion stores are really pushing the store brand these days.

Name-brand items, even the big sellers every convenience store stocks, are disappearing from the shelves for weeks at a time, to make room for more store-brand competitors.

Prices on name-brand items may be more than double what they were five years ago; if you remember what you paid for something five years ago, and you can find that price in a Food Lion store now, it's on a store brand.

And you're unlikely to get through the store without hearing that smirky recorded voice announcing the non-news that Food Lion has re-branded its store brand "My Essentials." The first time you might not have guessed; now, what you're actually being reminded of is how Orwellian a name "My Essentials" is, for products you've not been buying...and probably don't want to try.

Earlier this spring, the store even got desperate to print out a coupon at the cash register for a substantial discount on a purchase of any store-brand products, if people would only buy $10 worth. Discontinued flavors of cat food made up most of my purchase, and the cats survived. But I did try a few store-brand food products. Canned beans. How far wrong can you go with canned beans? They were boiled at the factory, and you boil them again to eat them. I figured canned beans ought to be safe. And I ate a few cans of Food Lion's store-brand beans. And I survived. I had a few episodes of mild diarrhea, but nothing serious.

Until today. I opened the last can of Food Lion beans, dumped it into a saucepan, put on the lid, put the label in the stove where I always put wasted paper, tossed the tin out for the possum to clean before it's hauled off for recycling, did a few other little kitchen chores while waiting for steam to lift the lid off the saucepan, and finally served myself a big bowl of canned beans. I even ate a few bites.

Then I saw something in the bowl that looked like a burned bean. I scooped it out. It was not and had never been a bean. It was a very large, very dead American Cockroach.

Right. This is a separate issue from Food Lion's active discrimination against introverts, which I plan to write about later. This is not, however, a separate issue from the fact that, while trying to spend $10 on discounted Food Lion products, I did in fact consider buying salted peanuts, and I inspected six separate cans. I don't eat food before paying for it, in a supermarket, but because aflatoxin is so rampant these days I do look and sniff to make sure that a can of peanuts contains a reasonable number of edible peanuts in addition to the nasty ones that will always have to be thrown out. So I looked and sniffed, and I was definitely not tempted to taste. Every single can of store-brand peanuts smelled as if it contained more foul than edible nuts.

Are store brands always inferior merchandise? Not always. Older people in Washington probably remember a time when Giant stores actually marketed better baked goods. This was possible because most Giant stores had their own bakeries, so their baked goods were always fresher than the name-brand, packaged competitors. Also, back then, Giant stores were actively operated by members of a local family who ate their own name-brand food and served it to their friends, so they demanded that the kitchen be clean and the ingredients be as specified on the label.

And there are even situations where, conceivably, even the Food Lion brand might be preferable to a name-brand product, for murky, quirky, outlier-type reasons you might not want to know about. In the 1990s I worked briefly at a potato-chip factory in Bristol (it no longer exists). I didn't find anything marketable as an undercover report, but I did learn that the factory was routinely packaging the first batch of chips, fried in the freshest grease, for Food Lion. Market testing had determined that the loyal name-brand customers were used to the chips fried in the second through fifth batch, when the grease was less fresh and contained more trans fats...and had the flavor the customers recognized. So you could say that the store brand was better. Of course, you could also understand why (a) the factory is no longer in business, and (b) even when free chips were part of my employee benefits, I've never been really keen on chips.

However, these are exceptions. As a general rule, when a manufacturer markets some products under the brand that's been heavily and expensively advertised, and releases other products as generic or store-brand items, the generic and store-brand items are going to be noticeably second-rate in some way.

Maybe, as a thrifty shopper, you don't really mind this. Maybe the second-rate product is perfectly acceptable. Maybe you can't tell a real difference--by and large, a bean is a bean. Maybe you like fabrics with a lower thread count (lighter in hot weather) or ice cream with a lower butterfat content (it has enough butterfat anyway).

But even store-brand products shouldn't contain drowned cockroaches...or more stale peanuts than edible peanuts...or bits of string, or thumbtacks, or other oddments I have found floating about in store-brand canned goods. Store-brand products shouldn't even contain a few peas or corn kernels in a can that's labelled as containing only beans.

Unless unadvertised non-food items, including vermin, in your food are part of your essential daily diet plan, I propose that you interpret Food Lion's smarmy new name for its products thusly: "MY ESSENTIAL shopping rule is NEVER to buy Food Lion store brands."

American Groan

Erica Ritz's report is relatively neutral...

But check out the comments below. How many U.S. citizens already live with fascist "zoning ordinances" that prohibit anything that resembles, oh dear, lower-class "agricultural activity" like a vegetable garden in their own personal yards?

That's if they have yards...the ongoing effort is to convert urban and suburban residential areas into slums where most people will have "balconies." Where they'll be lucky if they can petition for an exemption to the rules to allow those with sufficiently low incomes to take advantage of a window to air-dry their laundry on the porch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ryan Young Stands His Ground

For those who've been questioning Florida's "stand your ground" law, which recognizes the lawful use of force in self-defense, here's a scenario that puts the shoe on the other foot. What about using force to defend people who are unable to defend themselves?

Fair disclaimer: The urgent tone of the e-mail, the snappy success of the petition...would be suspicious if this were a petition to the government of California. Since the petition has been resolved by the employer, I'm inclined to think this story may still be true.

For those who've been swayed by the "Trayvon could have been my son [or whatever]" non-argument, or the "Zimmerman would be legally Black in some states too" argument...please note the photo of Ryan Young on this page. "Stand your ground" applies to dangerous-looking young men, too, when they happen to be on the right side of the law.

Virginia Legislative Update: Voter ID Law Enacted

From the office of Governor McDonnell, edited for format only:

Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of Governor Bob McDonnell

Governor Directs State Board of Elections to Send Every Virginia Voter a
Free Voter Card Between Now and Election Day, Ensures All Virginia Voters
Will Have ID to Vote in November

Governor: We will be sending every voter in Virginia a free voter card
between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one form of ID to
bring with them to the polls. On Election Day this year, every Virginia
voter will have at least one valid ID.
RICHMOND Governor Bob McDonnell signed today legislation that the General
Assembly sent him that will expand the forms of acceptable identification
for voting, and change the procedure when someone votes without presenting
identification, requiring them to vote provisionally and later present an
approved ID to their local registrar through email, fax, mail, or hand
delivery. Governor McDonnell also issued an executive order today directing
the State Board of Elections to take a number of steps to implement this
legislation. Among other things, the executive order directs the State
Board of Elections to send every Virginia voter a voter card, a valid form
of ID under state law, before Election Day, so that every registered
Virginia voter has a valid ID to present at the polls.

Virginia's Voter ID law has been in place since 2000. This legislation
only deals with individuals who do not bring an approved form of ID with
them to the polls when voting.
Open and secure elections are the cornerstone of a free democracy and
are essential for citizens to have faith in their government, McDonnell
said. Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two
votes; not zero votes. It is our duty as a democracy to ensure that is
always the case. For a dozen years, Virginia has already required voters to
bring identification to the polls. This legislation does two things. It
increases the forms of identification that can be used for purpose of
voting, while helping to further prevent voter fraud and ensuring Virginians
that they can have faith that votes have not been fraudulently cast.

The executive order issued by the governor directs the State Board of
Elections to take a number of steps regarding implementation of this
legislation. First, the State Board of Elections will issue voter cards to
every Virginia voter between now and Election Day. Second, the State Board
of Elections will coordinate a public education campaign to help raise
awareness about the need to bring an approved ID to the polling place on
Election Day, and the process for obtaining a free voter card if someone
does not have a form of ID. Third, the State Board of Elections will make
clear that localities may contact voters who vote provisionally without an
ID about the need to provide ID prior to noon on Friday after the election.
Lastly, the State Board of Elections will collect data regarding provisional
ballots cast and the number of voters who vote without an ID.
The additional steps my administration will take to implement this
legislation will ensure that no voter is overly burdened by the provisions
included in this legislation, Governor McDonnell continued. Some have
argued that there are voters who do not have any form of ID to bring to the
polls. For that reason, we will be sending every voter in Virginia a free
voter card between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one
form of ID to bring with them to the polls. On Election Day this year, every
Virginia voter will have at least one valid ID.

On April 9, 2012, the governor submitted a number of proposed
amendments to the General Assembly to improve the legislation, and most were
approved. One set of amendments would have created a system for simple
signature comparison that would have allowed someone's vote to be cast
without any follow up action required on the part of the voter; however, the
General Assembly regrettably did not accept this set of amendments.
While I think the legislation would have been improved with the
signature comparison provision that would have virtually eliminated the need
for nearly anyone to have to return with an ID later in the week, the
legislation returned to me, coupled with the above additional steps to be
implemented by executive order, is an important step in securing our
elections and preventing any possible fraud, Governor McDonnell remarked.
I was pleased that the General Assembly approved my remaining amendments,
particularly my proposal to extend the time a voter has to transmit or
present their ID after Election Day until Friday at noon after the

Virginia first implemented a voter identification requirement in
2000. Virginia has never required, nor does this legislation require, photo
identification to vote.
Under this legislation and existing law, the following are acceptable
forms of ID for voting:

Virginia voter registration card
Social Security card
Valid Virginia driver’s license
Any other identification card issued by an agency of the Commonwealth, one
of its political subdivisions, or the United States
Any valid student identification card issued by a Virginia institution of
higher education
A valid identification card issued by an employer containing a photograph
of the voter
A copy of a current utility bill
A copy of a bank statement
A government check
A paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter.
Virginia's current voter ID law commands broad compliance. While
comprehensive statewide statistics are not available, a survey of localities
from the last presidential and gubernatorial elections in 2008 and 2009
indicate a compliance rate of well over 99%. Only a handful of voters per
precinct, on average, do not bring an approved ID document. The intensive
voter education initiatives contained in this Executive Order will increase
compliance and continue Virginia s tradition of honest elections. The
Governor strongly encourages all voters to register and vote in the
important elections this year.

Contact: Jeff Caldwell
Phone: (804) 225-4260
Editor's comment: Here's the full text:

I like it. This law doesn't require voters to carry around excessively complete documentation, and does allow those who aren't carrying any documentation a provisional vote. There's nothing discriminatory about it. Hurrah!

Autologous Stem Cell Transplants, Again

"Autologous" means from the patient's own body, so this is so not paving the way for greedheads to start trafficking in "harvested" fetuses whose mothers wanted them to be babies. Autologous transplants are known to be more successful than donor-tissue transplants.

Stormy Wedding

Liz Klimas shares the photo of a determined bride and groom kissing as funnel clouds swirl in the distance. (It's Kansas; the tornados are still miles away.)

I'm sharing this one by way of an endorsement of the young man's fashion statement. If and when I remarry, it's going to be a full-scale family gathering, which in view of the size of the families involved means outdoors. Hats? Fine. Ties? Optional. Shoes? Whatever.

Even in a Virtual March, Tall People Aaaalways...

Even in a virtual march, some taller person aaaalllllways stands in front of me. Check it out:

My virtual marcher has a dark ponytail and a red shirt, and a few pixels of the shirt show behind that blonde virtual marcher who's standing right in front of me on the circle.

Oh, well...I guess she donated some money to the Veterans Center. Somehow that's more fair than the real-life situation, where I'm not even all that short, and the person who's not necessarily even all that tall may not have made any kind of contribution!

Gentle Readers, it costs absolutely nothing to add a cartoon representing you to the crowd scene and add your name to the list of well-wishers. Go ahead! Pack'em in there! Crowd the blonde and me out of view!

And if you have e-money to spare (apart from, of course, supporting this site), you may want to check out the Veterans Center as a potential beneficiary.

General Motors or China Motors?

Patricia Evans shares video evidence that "General Motors is becoming China Motors." On this video, a GM spokesman pledges to work with and for China...

The trouble with all this global brotherhood and chumminess among corporate executives is that it's based on a policy of ongoing exploitation of poor people. You can trace the movement of a greedhead corporation from New York or New England, to Pittsburgh or Akron or Milwaukee, to some place in the South, to Mexico, and now to some part of Africa or Asia that's still in recovery from twentieth-century socialism.

Back when the words were a liberal line, Peg Bracken counted among the 108 other sins that she thought were just as deadly as the traditional seven: "Paying anyone else less than a White man for doing the same job." Right on. And the position of this web site is that the idea is still right on, even now that it's coming from the...I am not and have never been a member of the John Birch Society, but I'm not too prejudiced to give their ideas a reality check either.

If you are manufacturing something, and you really want to hire foreigners, the cost of shipping means that you probably have some reason for wanting to hire foreigners. So I say you should hire them...if you still want to hire them on exactly the same conditions you would hire Americans. If there really is a good reason, such as the raw material growing in their country in the first place, so you save money by having it processed there, then "imported" can still be a status-symbol word.

SeattlePI: Organic Food Promotes Self-Righteousness

Right, so the study proving that just looking at organic food increases self-righteousness and reduces compassion is so full of flaws that I suspect students who did it would have had to do a make-up project to finish a sophomore class at Berea College.

But it's funny (and short):

If and whenever Grandma Bonnie Peters starts writing for this site, Gentle Readers, this is the easiest way to tell her and me apart online. (In real life, there's a thirty-year age gap...but then my identity has already been stolen by someone on the other side of a twenty-year age gap.)

Some health food enthusiasts are evangelical. They grew up, or matured as health food enthusiasts, on the defensive. You can hardly ask them to pass the salt without them whipping out a fifty-frame slideshow about sodium and hypertension.

The worst offenders in this category are of course the ones who still aren't all that healthy. I lived with one of them for a few years, and understand how they come to exist. Someone who is still disabled by chronic health problems is just so thrilled not to be in a wheelchair already that she can't stop talking about the dietary adjustment that she thinks kept her out of the wheelchair...even after twenty years have passed by and recent research now suggests that her prospect of a wheelchair-bound old age was probably overestimated in the first place.

How much of Ellen White's actual writing can you read, or worse yet listen to, before you yell, "Is there any proof that this Victorian windbag ever even had tuberculosis?"

Sometimes the health food evangelists get into a healthier-than-thou competition. I can be goaded into this kind of thing myself. Listening to the fat, stooped, slow-moving, slow-thinking lady who's thrilled just to be on her feet, I feel an urge to fight nagging with nagging. "Yes, and if you dried your laundry before hanging it in the closet, your children might not walk around scratching like fleabitten dogs all the time!"

Seriously, if I'm going to play the verbal abuse game, I want to challenge somebody who has a better defense than "You're just picking on an older person. With a disability, yet."

But when writing about food, my restricted diet, and my belief that food choices really can control a large number of the health problems we have...I try very hard not to be evangelical. In real life, I recently car-pooled to a grocery store with a mutual friend after visiting GBP, and surprised her by not wanting to talk about food choices in the store. Because what works for GBP doesn't always work for me, or vice versa, and what works for her is probably different from what works for either one of us.

I can tell anybody, without a qualm, that eating mindfully is likely to cure some chronic problems or so-called symptoms of aging you may have had, and fend off problems you may have in the future. I can't tell you what food tolerances or intolerances you may have inherited, or how your body is able to balance and metabolize what you eat.

If you crave a bowl of fresh clay mud every day, or have an overwhelming urge to lick ashtrays, I can tell you that you probably have a nutrient deficiency that's caused by an imbalance and could be more effectively relieved by a better selection of normal human foods. I can't tell you exactly what either your imbalance or your optimal alternative selections would be.

If you seriously want help researching natural healing alternatives that might work for you, I can do that sort of thing, but it's not the kind of service I would ever thrust upon you. It's work. It's research. I usually work cheap for people with disabilities, but I would demand some sort of compensation before I started devoting serious time to researching natural healing ideas for you.

I can share some general information that seems likely to interest a lot of readers out there, such as--this still comes as news to some of my generation--the fact that many Caucasians become lactose-intolerant in middle age, and this unsuspected, undiagnosed, untreated, chronic indigestion is what makes so many older Euro-Americans so grumpy. Is this fact particularly relevant to you? To your parents? I have no idea. It's probably relevant to somebody you know. If you think it might be relevant to you, test yourself and find out.

And I can tell you that organic, locally grown food is likely to be the pure-dee best food you can get; particularly if you happen to be in Scott County, Virginia. But if you can't afford the best, why would I want to rub it in?

Patricia Evans: Taxmageddon

Written by Patricia Evans; links confirmed legitimate by Priscilla King. Permission for quotes entrusted to Patricia Evans. Projections and predictions offered in the Spirit of 1999, the year when we learned that, if everyone becomes aware of a potential crisis ahead of time, the crisis may be averted; or, don't agonize, strategize.

Warning on coming "fiscal cliff" or "taxmageddon"

Roughly 100 tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year and the largest tax hike in history is due to strike the United States on January 1, 2013, with an average tax increase of nearly $4,000 per household. Most observers anticipate that lawmakers will address the expiring tax breaks, as well as the looming federal debt limit and $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, in a lame-duck session of Congress following the election. The mounting challenges commonly are referred to as the “fiscal cliff” or “taxmageddon.”

From "Heritage Sounds Warning on Taxmageddon" - How could nearly half a trillion dollars in higher taxes hit the American people so fast? What hath prior Congresses wrought? Heritage’s Curtis Dubay explains that the tax hikes come from a series of expiring tax cuts and the imposition of even more new taxes. And Heritage’s J.D. Foster writes that Americans can expect to see the following tax consequences starting next year:

- Income tax rates shoot up,
- The child credit is cut in half,
- The marriage penalty roars back,
- The capital gains tax rate goes up,
- The dividend tax rate soars,
- The payroll tax rate jumps two percentage points,
- The death tax is restored to its punitive past,
- The Alternative Minimum Tax relief expires, and
- A uniquely pernicious additional payroll tax hike from Obamacare takes effect.

From: and
Michele Bachmann: We're heading towards 'Taxmageddon'
We all know that we have never seen anything in the history of the United States like this accumulation of debt! And this is how bad it is. It took 219 years to accumulate about $8.67 trillion in debt. And now President Obama is way over $5 trillion in additional debt in less than four years. Now we're looking at about $16 trillion of debt by the end of the year. We're in unchartered territory...But here's more disturbing news. We are now again pushing up against the debt ceiling Congress extended last August. So will Congress again raise the ceiling? One thing is certain, the next round about raising the debt ceiling or not will be a bloody fight.

A confluence of circumstances will create the Perfect Storm for taxpayers come 2013 in what is being billed as “Taxmageddon.” Unless something happens, be prepared to take a huge hit to your wallet next year.

About $500 billion in tax breaks expire in 2013, which will cost U.S. households with an average tax increase of nearly $4,000. If Congress doesn’t act, and so far the Democratic-controlled Senate seems incapable of doing anything, about $165 billion in Bush-era tax cuts expire. That means the lowest tax bracket will increase from 10 percent to 15 percent. The child tax credit will decrease from $1,000 to $500 a child, the marriage penalty will return, and tax on dividends (which many seniors rely on) will soar from 15 percent to as high as 39.6 percent. Hmmm, I thought Bush’s tax cuts were for the rich?

The lowest tax rate increasing 50 percent? Hurts the lower class.

Child tax deductions decreasing? Hurts lower and middle class families the hardest.

Return of the marriage penalty tax? Hurts lower and middle class families the hardest.

Soaring taxes on dividends? Hits fixed-income seniors the most.

In addition, the temporary cut in the payroll tax (Social Security taxes) of 3 percent comes to an end this year too. That is a $125 billion tax increase. And a temporary fix to the alternative minimum tax would be nullified. That will hurt 34 million taxpayers; again largely lower to middle class families.

According to Curtis Dubay of the Heritage Foundation, 70 percent of ‘taxmageddon’ falls on middle and low income families. “That is because 60 percent of the Bush tax cuts went to middle- and low-income taxpayers,” Dubay said. The payroll tax cut also hits the same taxpayers the highest.

This $500 billion hit not only hurts people’s pocketbooks but it also will negatively impact the economy. Jim Capretta, a former official with the White House Office of Management and Budget who now works for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told Fox News that this means we’ll have “an economy that’s about one to two percentage points smaller than it otherwise would have been, and unemployment that’s a full percentage point higher that it otherwise would have been.”

Currently, the U.S. economy is growing at about a 2 percent clip. So, if the tax increases take effect that 2 percent hit on economic growth could send the economy back into a recession. Not that the economy is all that stellar now. We’re barely treading water.

Nothing will get done because it is a presidential election year. The Republican House budget proposed major tax reforms. But that budget has been vilified by President Obama as “social Darwinism” and, of course, the Democratic-controlled Senate, ruled by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, hasn’t even produced a budget in three years and will not produce one this year. Reid won’t even let the Senate vote on the House Republican budget.

To avoid, ‘taxmageddon’ from occurring, a lame duck Congress and a possible lame duck president will have to work it out after the November elections, in a 30-day window from the end of November to the end of December. That is no way to run a country.

So, while President Obama jets all over the country touting his desire to have a Buffet Tax, which will only bring in at best $4 billion a year in revenue to the government, he says nothing about a Perfect Storm of tax increases that will hit the middle and lower classes the hardest.

That $4 billion that Obama is so desperate to get? It accounts for about one days’ deficit spending. That $4 billion is barely a morsel of a budget that is nearly $4 trillion.

What is so especially interesting about these impending tax increases is that most of it comes from expiring Bush-era tax cuts. Tax cuts that benefited middle and low income families. Not the rich.

So, the next time someone tells you the Bush tax cuts were for the rich, remind them of this impending tax increase that will hit the middle and lower class families the hardest. I would call it the “Democratic Tax Increases on the Poor.”

How Can We Stop The Largest Tax Hike in History?

The largest tax hike in history is due to strike the United States on January 1, 2013. Known as “Taxmageddon,” it would impose $494 billion in higher taxes on the American people in the first year. So terrible would be its impact that yesterday Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Senate Democrats that the country is headed toward a “fiscal cliff” and that Congress must deal with the impending tax nightmare.

On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that his chamber will take up the issue before the November election. Knowing Washington’s general reluctance to do anything of substance in an election year, Boehner’s announcement was welcome news given the disastrous ramifications the threat of such a massive tax hike is already having on the economy. That’s according to Mohammed El-Erian, CEO of Pimco, the world’s largest bond trading firm. El-Erian argues a “prolonged political inaction is likely to postpone building plants and purchasing equipment and to discourage them from hiring.” And that is only an inkling of the blow that would strike the economy if these tax hikes actually took effect.

Taxmageddon is not the only tax problem. A consensus is coalescing in favor of fundamental tax reform, and many members of Congress understandably want real progress. Fortunately, there’s a solution if Congress gets its act together and decides to take action. Foster writes that solving America’s tax problem should be a simple two-step process:

Step 1) Prevent Taxmageddon. If Congress doesn’t act, Foster says, “The effects on families and businesses would be devastating; the effects on the economy no less so. Congress should make current tax policy permanent and eliminate, once and for all, this cavalcade of tax hikes.” Washington should take action before the election and before the tax hikes hit in order to bring more certainty to the economy and give taxpayers much-needed relief. Taxmageddon is anti-tax reform, a big step in the wrong direction.

Step 2) Usher in true tax reform. America’s tax code inhibits growth and bedevils taxpayers with its maddening complexity. Having prevented a big step in the wrong direction with Taxmageddon, Congress should then lower marginal tax rates and eliminate taxes on saving and investment while eliminating the many ill-advised deductions, exemptions, and credits that distort the economy and clutter the tax code. Foster points to Heritage’s New Flat Tax, contained in the Saving the American Dream Plan, as the best way to simplify the tax code, make it more fair, and encourage the kind of economic recovery America needs.

Speaker Boehner warned that if Congress does not take action soon, “We’re going to have this mess all stacked up until after the election. And you want to talk about a train wreck? You’re talking about a big one.” He’s right. The American people can’t afford the $494 billion Taxmageddon train wreck, and the time is ripe this summer for Congress to do something to prevent it.

GOP: House vote on cuts to forestall 'taxmageddon'
But effort could hit the skids in the Senate

Well before Congress hurtles toward the so-called fiscal cliff in late December, House Republicans will make clear that they favor extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

Last week, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the House will vote prior to the election to “stop the largest tax increase in American history.”

He means that the House intends to take up a measure to continue the Bush tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, that lowered each level of personal rates, and reduced capital gains and dividend rates to 15% each. The policies expire Dec. 31.

In addition to the Bush tax cuts, a raft of other tax breaks also expire at the end of the year.

Curtis Dubay, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, estimates that the economy will be hit with a $494 billion tax increase if Congress doesn't act.

Most observers anticipate that lawmakers will address the expiring tax breaks, as well as the looming federal debt limit and $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, in a lame-duck session of Congress following the election. The mounting challenges commonly are referred to as the “fiscal cliff” or “taxmageddon.”

House Republicans are portraying their upcoming vote on the Bush tax cuts as a way to illuminate the murky tax picture. The legislation also will include a provision to establish a fast track for broad tax reform next year.

“We need an extension that creates a level of certainty ... and then move into a framework where you can really begin to deal with large tax reform questions,” Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the House chief deputy whip, said at a Capitol Hill event last Thursday with four corporate chief financial officers who were promoting low capital gains and dividend rates.

“There's a sense of clarity about moving forward and passing [an extension of the Bush tax cuts] out of the House so that the public knows if their lawmakers are afoot or horseback,” Mr. Roskam said.


Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to make the rich richer.

“Democrats will again fight to extend the tax cut for the middle class and work to ensure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share as we reduce our deficit,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “While the Republicans continue to protect millionaires and the special interests, Democrats are committed to acting quickly to ensure certainty for America's middle class and small businesses.”

Resistance from House Democrats signals that tax policy is far from being resolved.

“Speaker Boehner's speech is just the beginning of a long process that is going to run right up to the end of the year,” said Clint Stretch, managing principal of Deloitte Tax LLP. “If I had to bet, toward the end of the year, we do extend everything for one year because that's the path of least resistance.”

As with most politics in Washington, the key tension point will be between the Democratic-majority Senate and the Republican-majority House.

“The Senate is going to be the challenge,” said Brian Reardon, executive director of the S Corporation Association of America. “It's unclear what they're going to be able to pass over there.”

Although it looks as if both parties will resort to the brinkmanship that has characterized fiscal and tax policy negotiations over the past few years, the fact that the House will vote on a Bush tax cut bill before the election provides some needed momentum, according to observers.

“Anything they can do to get the process rolling gives them a better chance of getting things wrapped up before the end of December,” said Phillips Hinch, assistant director of government relations at the Financial Planning Association.

If Congress hasn't extended the Bush tax cuts by Jan. 1, the capital gains rate will rise to 20%. Dividends will be taxed at personal rates, the highest of which will be 39.6%.

Advisers back the lower rates.

“The tax incentive is an important element in encouraging people to invest in the equity markets,” said Scott Moser, chief executive of Moser Wealth Advisors PLLC. “Right now, everything is going into fixed income.”


In order to broaden the appeal of their effort to keep the capital gains and dividend rates low, Republicans are arguing that the primary beneficiaries of the policies are in the middle-income range.

According to Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, 50% of those who pay capital gains taxes earn less than $100,000 a year.

“These are hardworking Americans who will be impacted if these rates go up,” she said at the Capitol Hill meeting with the corporate chief financial officers, which was organized by The Alliance for Savings & Investment.

Whether Congress acts by Dec. 31 or not, the capital gains and dividends rates — wherever they stand — will increase by an additional 3.8%. On Jan. 1, a tax hike on passive income contained in the health care reform law will kick in.

“I know no clients realize it,” said Tom Moore, an investment adviser with Capital Investment Advisors LLC. “When you tell people, they're absolutely shocked about it.”

Perhaps the best way to keep investors calm will be for Congress to provide certainty about tax rates well before midnight on New Year's Eve.

"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

The Zimmerman Story So Far

Not exactly known for objectivity in writing books, Patrick J. Buchanan offers the most succinct and objective summary of George Zimmerman's case that's popped up in my e-mail so far:

How to Fantasize About TV Stars Like Ellen DeGeneres

Most guys have dreams and fantasies that involve something like lying on a couch beside a popular female TV star. Ordinarily this web site does not consider that kind of fantasies interesting. However, Jeff Frank's fantasy about Ellen DeGeneres made me chortle out loud, and I think it is worth sharing:

Insights into the Great Distraction

Why on earth would President Obama flipflop on same-sex marriage? Check out the insightful, if sometimes cruel, comments on Tiffany Gabbay's article:

White House Releases Music Videos

Some things about the Obamas we still have to love...including their unprecedented ability to release digital videos of the official White House musical performances. Of course our federal government has been luring the best musicians in America to Washington for a long time; that's one of Washington's main attractions. It's the digital videos that are now. However, if you have the capacity to watch and listen to concerts online, you're guaranteed to like something on this page:

Carrico Appointed to Tobacco Commission

In C.W. "Bill" Carrico's own words:

Carrico Appointed to Tobacco Commission
Senator also receives appointments to NCSL & Joint Commission on Health Care
Richmond – Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Fries) has recently received appointments to three important organizations, signaling continued success in his first year in the Virginia Senate after serving a decade in the House of Delegates.

Carrico’s most notable appointment is to the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission, commonly known as the Tobacco Commission. Now in its thirteenth year, the Commission is tasked with revitalizing the local economy in Virginia’s tobacco region. Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), the Chairman of the Tobacco Commission, said in a letter to Carrico that while the Commission has been very successful, work still remains. “I am honored by my appointment to the Tobacco Commission,” Carrico said. “This organization has a stellar reputation as a catalyst for economic development in Southwest Virginia, and I look forward to my role with the Commission.”

Sen. Carrico was also appointed recently to two committees with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Sen. Walter Stosch, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, appointed Carrico to the NCSL Health and Transportation committees in a letter dated May 16.

Finally, Sen. Carrico has been appointed to the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care. The commission is currently chaired by Del. Benjamin Cline.

“The appointments to the Tobacco Commission, NCSL committees and the Joint Commission on Health Care simply mean that I will have an expanded opportunity to serve my constituents,” Carrico said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to belong to organizations who will bring economic development to my region and the Commonwealth. I am eager to get started.”

Tracking Bad Cops

Apart from the "good cop, bad cop" game, how many people out there have ever met a seriously bad cop? Probably we've met a few police officers who weren't completely the best they could have been--tired, unfocussed, more interested in next month's vacation than in this month's work--but what about the ones who really abuse their position, won't do their jobs without a bribe, shoot or beat up suspects who turn out not even to be guilty, etc.? So far as I know I've never seen one of those in real life. I hope I never do. I hope you don't, either.

However, nobody is perfect. So in the interest of protecting everyone's safety, the Cato Institute is organizing a project investigating reports of bad cops. More information:

Miss Fortune on Overcoming Depression

Here's an article about the psychiatric benefits of willpower that's not just Positive Thinking:

I believe this one's true, because I've been following this writer (under a different screen name) for years. She doesn't write like a depressed person. She writes like a person who plays a lot of computer games, but has a job and a life and a talent. Every year or two she's also mentioned having an artificial leg. I know a few non-depressive amputees, and paraplegics, and that's the way they talk.

Why do some people with clinical-level depression say that antidepressants make them feel worse? For most people antidepressants do at least seem to produce a mild temporary "high." However, at least three different biochemical phenomena are known to relieve different types of depression. Antidepressants boost serotonin metabolism, which is only one of these three phenomena. For some depressives, sugar and alcohol--and breaking the addictive reaction to both--is more helpful. For others, especially active people who've suddenly been disabled, restoring blood endorphin levels is the key to relief from depression. In her clinical work, Kathleen Desmaisons found that when sugar imbalances or endorphin deficiencies are the problem, depressed patients usually say that antidepressants seemed to help for a few weeks, but then they felt worse. More information on these conditions is available at When depression is caused by sugar or endorphin issues, reliable, permanent relief is much safer and cheaper than prescription antidepressants.

Endorphin is the biochemical specifically associated with diaphragm activity. Physical exercise keeps most active people well supplied with endorphin. If unable to get adequate arm and leg exercise, patients can maintain endorphin levels by working the diaphragm muscle--laughing out loud, singing, praying, chanting, or doing breath control exercises.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rosa Koire Responds to Andrew Reinbach's Article

Andrew Reinbach thinks concern about the United Nations' Agenda 21 is a "groundless conspiracy theory"...that has, nevertheless, been successfully used to diagnose and cure malignant "planning" and other land-grabbing, government-bloating efforts, Reinbach admits here:

Rosa Koire, a Democrat Against Agenda 21, shares her video recording of her interview with Reinbach by way of rebuttal to his bias:

Do You Really Hate "Negative" Campaign Ads?

Today's e-mail contains a YouGov study suggesting that Americans don't actually hate "negative" campaign ads so much as they hate the term "negative."

Personally, I hate intrusive ads. (I like small, neat, discreet ads tucked in at the bottom of a page.) I'd like to see what would be a logical literal interpretation of "negative campaign ads"...the ads that aren't there, especially in the form of unsolicited campaign phone calls.

However, in this presidential campaign, the smearing and sliming has officially begun as the Democrats try to puff up a dubious story about Mitt Romney's allegedly bullying a school enemy.

A few years ago I wrote a positive Yahoo review of Dreams of My Father. (I'd been asked to write a review of a current bestseller, and that was the one I'd read the week before the payment was offered.) I liked the book, and recommended it. One thing I didn't like about it, though, was Obama's confession of having hatefully rejected the friendship of another child who wanted to buddy up with him because they were in the same ethnic minority at the same school. If it wasn't physical bullying, it certainly pushed the buttons on my memories of social/verbal/emotional bullying. I don't know why the immature, pre-empathy behavior of children and teenagers should be held against the adults they eventually become, since most children who are sent to school both give and receive emotional abuse...but although I find myself visualizing both candidates as having been rich brats, and as a little girl I hated all boys who weren't my brother or cousins, I think my inner child hates the boy Barry more than the boy Mitt.

Not that that has anything to do with voting for adults on the basis of the legislative measures they've proposed, opposed, supported, or whatever. Not that my outer adult doesn't like people whom my inner child wouldn't have liked, or may actually remember having disliked, at age ten. I would still vote for Obama if he'd stood firm on the constitutional basis for not allowing any kind of mandate that any person buy into any insurance gambling scheme. I would still vote for Romney if he'd done the same. The fact is that both of these candidates have proposed legislation that forces individuals to buy into insurance gambling schemes, as adults, and that, rather than any stupid kid stuff they got up to as children, is why I think both are unfit for election, and their fitness even to vote in the United States needs reviewing.

Feeling munificent? Feed this web site's Message Squirrel at Or overpay for one of those cool new USO T-shirts--scroll down for the link. Or help e-friend and contributor Karen Bracken feed her crew of Volunteers at

But if you really have a lot of e-money burning holes in your e-pockets, and need a tax write-off, or just hope the Obomney can bite itself in a fatal spot and expire...

(Note to our foreign readers, who still account for about 40% of all readers: The image here is of two unsatisfactory candidates forming a political monster that may do itself enough political damage to throw the election to someone less disastrous, e.g. Ron Paul. This web site does not recommend physically biting politicians.)

Anyway, the fun-loving guys at and just sent a list of sixteen promising topics for anti-Obama campaign ads. If anybody out there really wants to work on anti-Obama ads, the fun starts over there.

HR4269: Protecting Meredith Graves

Remember Meredith Graves, the Tennessee nurse who was arrested for being a legal gun owner who visited New York City?

And then there was the Navy SEAL who was not only arrested, but hospitalized, for telling the arresting officer he was a Navy SEAL...

Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) is sponsoring a bill that would prevent similar problems in the future. From his newsletter:

Griffith Fights for Gun Rights
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is very explicit: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” I stand by this Amendment; and I wholeheartedly support it. I recently introduced legislation (H.R. 4269), which would strengthen federal protections for law abiding Americans traveling with firearms.

In 1986, Congress passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA). This bill included protections for individuals transporting firearms between jurisdictions where they are legally allowed to have them. While most states comply with FOPA’s ‘safe passage’ provision, some states continue to harass and detain travelers who are abiding by federal law. For instance, the National Rifle Association cites some examples:

In 2004, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) arrested John Torraco at LaGuardia Airport for possession of a firearm. Torraco, an attorney and law professor, had stored his legally owned unloaded handgun in his checked luggage. However, when he declared the firearm to the counter agent (as required by federal law), he was arrested and charged with possession of an unlicensed handgun.

In 2005, William Winstanley, a New York state resident, was detained at JFK International Airport when he attempted to check a handgun in his luggage, again in compliance with the requirements of § 926A. Winstanley was not arrested, but his travel was delayed for several days while he proved that he was in compliance with federal law.

In 2007, Greg Revell, a Utah resident, was flying through Newark Liberty International Airport to his final destination in Pennsylvania. However, his flight into New Jersey was late, which caused him to miss his connecting flight. Revell was forced to collect his baggage and spend the night in a Newark hotel. When he attempted to recheck his baggage the following morning, he declared the unloaded handgun to the counter agent. PAPD officers arrested Revell for illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition under New Jersey law. Revell spent three days in jail before he was able to make bail.

My bipartisan bill puts an end to these practices and makes it clear that the rights of American citizens can no longer be ignored. If you’re legally transporting your firearm, stopping overnight, filling up at the gas station, or stopping for an emergency, you are protected. The legal burden of proving a violation now falls to the states, and provides for the possibility of compensation for those unlawfully prosecuted.

Politically Correct, Language Deficient

Joe Miller shares a video of a teacher who may be politically correct (at least as judged by Democrats) but definitely flunks out on vocabulary and language skills:

Teachers who can't think of better words than that--even if they're talking about their all-time least favorite politician--need to be in a different line of work.

[Update at 4:30 p.m.: Erica Ritz reports that the teacher has been suspended...with pay.]

Jeff Frank and His Barber Discuss Taxes

Is your county like theirs? Read the discussion and find out...

Robert Adair's Love Poem

The world needs more love. So does the Internet. Click here to read a heartwarming love poem:

Please Help Feed the Volunteers

Although the proper adjective is "Tennessean," residents of Tennessee are often called "Volunteers." This week, a few of them have volunteered their help to Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. (For those who've not heard, this is a right-to-work issue.) Here's Karen Bracken's e-mail:

I will be in WI working with Tea Party Patriots fight the recall on
Governor Walker. I will be responsible for the operation of one of
the volunteer offices and will have limited time to check emails. If
you need to speak with me please call me.  If you are interested
in helping the effort in WI please make a donation to the national Tea
Party Patriots. Your donation will help feed the volunteers.

*Karen Bracken*

Rattlesnakes Should Become Extinct

Audrey Hudson reports yet another land-grabbing ploy: listing the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake as a valuable endangered species.

There are just a few species that would never be missed if they did become extinct. Dog and deer ticks are two of them. Tiger mosquitoes are another one. Rattlesnakes are another one. Copperheads, which slither around silently, pretending to be blacksnakes, are even more extinction-worthy than rattlesnakes, who at least usually give fair warning before they bite...but corn snakes and king snakes are capable of taking over the venomous snakes' rodent-eating position in the ecology of the Eastern States.

Even if our federal government is corrupt enough to accept the demented idea that rattlesnakes need to be "protected" from human property owners, however, all is not lost. There is one creature on Earth that really knows how to love a rattlesnake. That is a king snake. Immune to the rattlesnake's venom, the king snake swallows it right away and appreciates it for a few weeks before going out to look for another meal.

I grew up hearing that the best thing for rattlesnakes was a blacksnake. Looking up these valuable, if not lovable, animals online, I find that they are classified as a sub-species of king snake. In most of Virginia they're rare. Locally they seem to have been selectively bred into the dominant sub-species, because fear of copperheads caused people to kill any dark-colored mottled snake on sight, resulting in whole families of blacksnakes who are solid blackish grey above and pearl-grey below.

I've talked to people from eastern Virginia who said, "Blacksnakes will mate with copperheads or rattlesnakes." In the case of copperheads this belief may reflect mistaken identity; some copperheads are almost solid black above. Few people care to get close enough to inspect the shape of the head and positively identify a copperhead.

However, when they're talking about a real blacksnake, this belief reflects confusion about the behavior they've observed. Snakes' lack of appendages limits their behavioral options, but blacksnakes don't snuggle their full lengths alongside inferior snakes and wriggle pleasurably, nor do they bite their mates' heads. So it's fairly easy for a non-phobic observer to determine that what blacksnakes actually do with venomous snakes is eat them.

If you live with or near a blacksnake, give thanks--you will probably never have to worry about killing a rattlesnake, or a copperhead for that matter.

If you don't, try to attract some other sort of king snake. Force yourself to look at it enough that you'll recognize it as different from inferior snake species. You won't have to look at a king snake very much. They like lots of personal space, don't live in families, and usually keep out of large animals' way.

If Gulegi, my housemate for forty years, is typical, even your pets will have nothing to fear from a king snake. They have a very keen sense of smell--they use it to locate one another when they're ready to mate, although humans can't smell king snakes at all. They use this sense of smell to go after inferior snakes as their first choice of food, followed by rodents. They will eat other small animals, including baby chickens or infant kittens, if they're hungry, but not when they can easily get pest species that might also attack pets.

I chose this screen name in honor of the computer center where I started writing for the Internet, not in honor of king snakes. But the more I learn about these animals, the more I think they deserve honor from humans.

Joan Jett T-Shirts

Please check out the T-shirts Joan Jett's offering for USO supporters to wear this Independence Day:

I'll bet you can think of a body on which this design would, well, rock.

Phenology for 5/22/12: Cicadas

At the Cat Sanctuary clover and daisies are still blooming profusely, one privet hedge has passed its peak and the other is just approaching its peak, and red Rosa rugosa are blooming beside the road.

Up-and-down temperatures have thinned out the moth population. Unfortunately, palmetto "bugs" are trying to move into moths' ecological niche around lights. Let's just say that it takes a palmetto bug every few years to make some of us appreciate how much nicer moths are. (They're not, technically, bugs at all. They're large, flying members of the cockroach family. If you've never seen one, you're lucky.)

But the real nature news this week has been the periodical cicadas. Although Gate City gets a few stragglers from eastern Virginia's famous Brood X, our own cicada population really peaks on a different cycle; this is our big cicada year.

Apart from timing there's no obvious difference between our cicadas and those in Brood X, but there is an amusing bit of local folklore. Christian immigrants to our part of the world, not knowing what cicadas were, thought they might be the locusts mentioned as a plague in the Bible. The proof of this theory was said to be that some call "Egypt, Egypt," and some call "Pharaoh, Pharaoh." In fact the insects produce sound by stridulation, scratching their sides with their legs, and the whirring sound of an individual cicada does sound a bit like "EeerrrRRRrroh." When the trees are full of cicadas using this noise to call one another, it's easy to convince yourself that you're hearing words like "Egypt" and "Pharaoh" in the general clamor.

According to a cicada watchers' web site, our cicadas might be part of what they call Brood I, although their map shows Brood I appearing further east:

Cicadas are mostly harmless; they bore into only the ends of twigs and seldom do more than minor, temporary, cosmetic damage to a tree. They can't sting, and can't do much damage to large animals by biting or scratching, although if molested they will try. Once you realize how short their lives are and how little fun they have, it's hard to begrudge them any of it.

Another Cormorant Picture, and an Osprey

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link to Kayre's horse and bird photos. The backlighted osprey is a prize.

Traffic Tickets for Rescuing His Son?

Liz Klimas reports on the two traffic tickets a father received for jumping out of a Jeep he was parking in order to rescue his five-year-old:

Tourists may want to avoid New Jersey scenery this summer.

The Abandoned Owl Problem

According to Yahoo, Harry Potter fans have been trying to make pets of owls. And now that the series has ended, disappointed owl owners have been banishing the birds into the wild--in such numbers that, in parts of England, they're apparently upsetting the local ecology.

Reportedly owls can make rewarding pets--for the right person. They can live up to thirty years. They bond intensely with their families, accepting human owners as family. Like crows, they're not born speaking a language, but learn "words" from those with whom they're intimate, and can learn to understand many words in human languages. However, bonding with an owl takes lots of quality time, and since the birds become dangerous under stress, bonding with an owl is not recommended for humans who want to live with children.

Stacey O'Brien lived with an owl for almost twenty years. If watching Harry Potter movies has made you wonder what a pet owl would really be like, you need to read Wesley the Owl. Let's just say that I wouldn't want one.

And I empathize with those who've tried living with an owl and decided they didn't like it...but it's cruel to release any pet bird into the wild. At least take it to a nature park, where the burden of having adopted it can be shared by a group of nature lovers until a suitable place for release can be found.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road

Author: Cameron Tuttle

Author's web page:

Date: 1999

Publisher: Chronicle

Length: 192 pages

Illustrations: cartoons by Susannah Bettag

ISBN: 0-8118-2170-6

Quote: "It's time to hit the road when you think Renuzit really smells like fresh air."

For all nice girls and decent women who are starting to feel just a bit like Thelma or Louise, Cameron Tuttle has the answer: Take the road trip, with or without friends, before there's any danger that you'll kill anybody...or want to. And laugh.

With The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road, laughter is fairly well guaranteed. This book does contain just a few seriously useful tips about driving, car maintenance, and tourist attractions, though not nearly as many as a serious book on those topics would be required to have.

And some delightfully whimsical suggestions for low-budget road fun: "Don't pack anything [in the way of clothing]...just shop sale racks or thrift stores and drop your disposable clothes along the way."

"Unless you're in the mood for diced iceberg lettuce and a shriveled cherry tomato sprinkled with fossilized Wonder Bread croutons, don't bother ordering a salad...[at] most roadside eateries...your best bet is to find a quality steak house with a salad bar. (But check out the condition of the salad bar before you bother to sit down.) And there's always the produce department at the local grocery store."

"To find fun on the run...Start by asking around. Don't be shy, talk to anyone who will talk to you...What do people here do for a good time?"

These three suggestions, and several others in the Bad Girl's Guide, are seriously endorsed by this web site. The recommended rule for reading Tuttle's suggestions is: Yes, they'll work, but some of them will have consequences that Tuttle expects you to anticipate. Pack a Nerf Ball to amuse children, including your inner child, because it also makes a good pillow? Go for it--the worst possible consequence is that somebody might drool into the Nerf Ball. Take up chewing tobacco just to scare off pests? You know life's too short.

You know better than to drive fast under the influence of anything, including stress, which is why the long and detailed list of pleas made by "road sisters" trying to "talk their way out of a ticket" is so funny...and wouldn't it be a real hoot if traffic police read this book, so the next time some Idiot Girl started one of those routines, you could go into it right along with her and write out the maximum ticket your state law will allow.

If you would like to take a summer road trip, and people can still describe you as a "girl" when they're being serious, this web site also recommends discussing this book with your parents in the most earnest and nerdly tones you can achieve...if, that is, your parents know you've read it. Say things like, "I don't believe even Tuttle or Bettag would actually play 'strip driver' while the car was moving!"

The book comes in a convenient, wallet-sized, wallet-shaped vinyl binding, and here's an extra road trip tip that's not in the book: On a road trip, always wear jeans or skirts that are roomy enough to hold a wallet-sized book like this one, the wallet-sized car manual with the title and insurance document folded inside it, and an actual wallet, all in one pocket, comfortably.

Once again: other online resellers may offer better prices, but if you e-mail $5 for the book and $5 for shipping to, we'll send $1 to Cameron Tuttle.

Book Review: Canciones y Poemas para Ninos

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Canciones y poemas para ninos

Author: Federico Garcia Lorca

Date: 1987

Publisher: Editorial Labor

Length: 92 pages

Illustrations: line drawings by Daniel Zarza

Quote: "La mar no tiene naranjas, ni Sevilla tiene amor."

Cultures differ; when I read books published "for children" in Spanish-speaking countries, I often think that they'd be considered completely unsuitable for children in English-speaking countries. This is that kind of book. The poems are short, simple, often lyrical, often whimsical. As an Amazon reviewer said, it's a pleasure to share...some of them...with the smallest children. And then there are some...well...

To be fair, these poems do not represent what was probably Federico Garcia Lorca's definition of his adult work; he was an overt homosexual (rejected by equally wacky, but heterosexual, Salvador Dali) and an outspoken left-winger. Born in 1898, he was shot to death in 1936, probably by political enemies. His fame as a poet and playwright rests almost as much on his idealization as a Socialist martyr as on his literary talent. The verses in this book don't tell children to take sides in a war or demand sexual favors from married men.

But they do contain lyrics like this one:

Lejana y sola.
Jaca negra,luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
Aunque sepa los caminos
yo nunca llegare a Cordoba.
Por el llano, por el viento,
jaca negra, luna roja.
La muerte me esta mirando
desde las torres de Cordoba.
Ay que camino tan largo!
Ay mi jaca valerosa!
Ay que la muerte me espera,
antes de llegar a Cordoba!
Lejana y sola."

There's also a poem about a couple who have to get the Pope's consent to be married because they're first cousins, a sweet little ditty comparing a girl who refuses to ride away with soldiers to fruit that's dried up while green, and a ballad in which a medieval knight "liberates" a slave girl and finds out (one hopes before taking advantage of her) that she is his long-lost sister. These are, obviously, not mental images I'd worry about the nephews finding on the Internet, now...but they're not the kind of thing I would have wanted to share with the nephews when they were at the coloring-in-the-line-drawings stage.

The line drawings, I might add, are perhaps deliberately no more realistic than what four-year-olds can do all by themselves. When I was four I hated that sort of thing. Teenagers love being able to do something better than an adult who's being paid to do it, but four-year-olds know they need to be taught, rather than mocked, by adults.

All that said, who should read this book? Among people who read this web site in English, teenagers and adults taking Spanish classes are probably an ideal audience. Reasonably adult concepts are presented in simple, familiar, melodious words. I don't know whether Garcia Lorca consciously tried to write for people learning Spanish as a foreign language, but he's accessible to, and wildly popular with, that group. If you're looking for a short, easy, but not infantile read, Canciones y poemas para ninos is for you.

Given that the Books You Can Buy From Me system offers no benefits to deceased authors, should you buy this book from me online? Although it was widely distributed, this edition seems to have become a bit of a collector's item. The best price you can get from would be $10 for the book, $5 for shipping. That's reasonable compared to what some online dealers are asking for a used, clean copy of this collection; Amazon lists prices as "starting from" $30, but a little prodding turns up better deals. However, there are other collections of this poet's shorter, simpler work that may be cheaper.

Book Review: When We Were Very Young

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: When We Were Very Young

Author: A.A. Milne

Date: 1924, 1970

Publisher: E.P. Dutton (1924), Dell (1970)

Length: 102 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Ernest Shepard

ISBN: 0-440-49485-0

Quote: "Where am I going? I don't quite know. What does it matter where people go?"

This book was dedicated to Christopher Robin Milne, the child in Winnie the Pooh. When these books initially became popular, Christopher Robin was old enough to hate his father's four books of poems and stories that were all inspired by his having once been a toddler. The books are still terribly, awfully cute, and have not only stayed in print, but have even been made into Disney movies.

So perhaps what I need to say about these books is that there has never been a children's book, even Lisa and Lottie, even Comanche, that I didn't like better than the Disney movie.

What makes When We Were Very Young different from Now We Are Six? Different poems and pictures, of course. At least one of each two pages contains a picture--a line drawing--and, in between the pictures, there are 44 mostly short and childish poems, some better than others. This is the volume that contains "James James Morrison Morrison" and "Has anyone seen my mouse?" and "What is the matter with Mary Jane?"

Actual children of my acquaintance recommend photocopying and enlarging the pages so the details of the pictures can be colored in with crayons, watercolors, or felt-tip markers.

You can buy it from me online by e-mailing $5 for the book and $5 for shipping, but since neither A.A. Milne nor even Christopher Robin is in a position to need $1, you might as well buy this one cheaper on Amazon and buy some other book from me. The copy I'm physically donating to Mountain Treasures, a legitimate local charity store in Gate City, has not been colored in by children but has been torn and taped, and should cost less than a dollar.