Monday, December 16, 2013

Morgan Griffith on NSA Data Collecting

From Congressman Morgan Griffith's E-Newsletter:


The first court opinion of what I believe will be more has ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects the phone data of law-abiding American citizens appears to violate the Constitution.  In the case of Klayman v. Obama, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that collecting such metadata is likely unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment, and, in ruling in favor of an injunction against the NSA, found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits and will suffer irreparable harm absent injunctive relief.  Judge Leon also found that the public interest and potential injury to other interested parties also weigh in favor of injunctive relief.  Notwithstanding his concerns, he stayed the injunction pending appeal by the government.

I do not know what the appellate courts will do, but I agree with the reasoning of Judge Leon in this case.  Liberty and freedom are worth our attention.

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 "

National Defense Authorization Act Reprise

While returning to cyberspace, gearing up for another winter's bill reading, and checking out a new computer system, I just learned that that bad ol' National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is up for review in Congress. Again.

Gentle Readers, I'm lazy. I'm tired. It's about time for me to take a full-length eye break and/or go home; I've been looking at this computer for seven hours. I see that U.S. readers are coming back now, so will youall please visit this Popvox page...

Read it, if able, and tell me whether you've read it and how bad you think this year's version is. I am waaay behind on a lot of things. 

Why Nancy Tracy Shops Online

I've never considered shopping online as a way to deal with this, but check out Nancy Tracy's first-person report:

I read this and went "Yesss!" I'm an introvert and would rather savor my own thoughts about which of several items would be more fun to own, instead of being chattered at by a sales pest. Yet, when I managed a mall shop and when I owned a flea market booth, I tried to pamper the extroverts who so eagerly imagine that, and greet shoppers, to boost sales. It didn't work. Often the shoppers would turn around and walk out without a word. Not even because they necessarily were introverts, but because everybody who's a little more intelligent than the Chatty Cathy doll has figured out by now that a chatty sales clerk is nearly always pushing a bad bargain.

If you own a store and want to boost sales, may I suggest trying a new policy: Let the customer speak first. Don't avoid eye contact, but don't push for it, either. Understand that some people enjoy wandering through a store in a wordless reverie, just looking and/or touching, enough that they'll buy something just to pay for the pleasure of browsing. If you cut off this pleasure, whether it's by limiting the choices, by jumping down their throat the minute they walk into the store with a demand that they buy something at once, by asking personal questions that might be perceived as friendly at home but are perceived as gossipy in a public place, or just by interrupting the reverie with a stream of boring "small talk," then shopping at your store isn't fun and, unless they happen to need one thing they can grab and rush out, a lot of potentially good customers will never come back.

If, on the other hand, you're trying to sabotage a store where you've already given notice, just identify the introverts and try to "draw us out" in the "kindest, friendliest" way. This is a total turn-off because, even though you might have to feel terribly afraid or depressed to keep you from wanting to chatter at everybody in the world, introverts want to chatter about as much as you want to memorize the telephone directory. Just one soulful little warble about the hypothetical "pain" and "fear" that cause us to find your small talk boring, and I for one will never willingly pay for anything that's passed through your hands. 

Homeless Victims of the Welfare State

The last time this web site commented on one of the Kingsport Times-News' write-ups about people who need readers' help at Christmas, this web site was unsympathetic. I mean to say...a full-grown, able-bodied man wailing about his broken-down bed instead of fixing it? Please.

This time, I'm convinced that a family whom the Welfare State would like to put out on the street on Christmas Day actually need and deserve help.

The story appeared in the Times-News on December 10, 2013, at the bottom of page A-1, written up by Jeff Bobo.

Sometimes nice middle-class homeowners have a year or two when everything goes wrong and nothing goes right. For this family in Rogersville, Tennessee (their names are in the Times-News), 2013 was one of those years.

The father did at least get a disability pension. He needed it, to cover the expenses from nine surgical operations for cancer.

The grandfather died.

The house burned down.

The family were given a choice between moving into a low-income housing project, which didn't have a flat big enough for five school-aged children (and where the kind of cancer the father had must have been deeply not appreciated by other residents), or living in their car. So they moved into the project, where they had to pay $450 per month rent.

The mother, a nurse, also became unable to work. Now the father's $500 pension* was all they had to cover the $450 rent, plus groceries, school supplies, car payments, and medical bills. Naturally they made a few incomplete rent payments. The kind humanitarian social workers in charge of the housing project responded by slapping on late fees.

*[EDIT: My new editorial resolution for this year is that, if I post something in error, I'll fix it where it originally appeared so that it doesn't float around in cyberspace confusing people. A recorded phone conversation still sounds to me like "paying $450 out of $500 a month" but I'm convinced that the informant misspoke; the father's monthly pension was reported in a Times-News follow-up article as over $900.]

The car was repossessed.

The family were told they had to sell their land to pay the rent. They were desperate enough to give serious consideration to this very bad idea. They even found a buyer...but at the last minute he came up short of money.

Luckily, the family had friends at church. Friends appealed to the church on their behalf for money to pay the family's back rent. Money was raised. The kind humanitarian social workers in charge of the housing project sneered "that even if [the family] come up with the money, they will still be evicted."

Social workers tend to get that way when they have to deal with people who've been in the comfortable middle class long enough to have become accustomed to functioning like, and being treated like, intelligent adults. (See Nathaniel Lachenmeyer's The Outsider for another detailed example.)

The manager of the project threatened to "start moving stuff out on the curb" if the family didn't come up with the money in half an hour, on December 9. The police, however, being more conservative, impersonal, law-and-order types, replied that the rules required them to wait another fifteen days. 9 + 15 = ...that's right, Gentle Readers, they were going to put these two disabled adults and their children out on the street on Christmas Day.

Predictably, people who read this story in the Times-News on December 10 started calling the newspaper office and e-mailing Jeff Bobo. I had met a minister from Of One Accord about a year ago, kept his card with a vague plan of writing something about his ministry, not had the online time to write the article, and misplaced the card, but I eventually tracked down the church's number, and on Saturday I finally called when someone was there.

Of One Accord Ministries is keeping it real. They do have a fax machine; they don't spend money on Internet access. The minister who talked to me did, however, say he was asking anyone and everyone who used the'Net to publicize this story, so I am.

During the past week, various agencies of the Welfare State had come up with unhelpful suggestions. The "Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency...offered to pay their first month's rent up to $500 if they find a place--but wouldn't be able to pay for a deposit." We would like to see the social worker who made that offer rent a decent three-bedroom house or flat for $500, even with a deposit, even without a prospective tenant having had an especially yucky kind of cancer.

Church members and newspaper readers had, however, made some offers that were worth taking seriously. By Saturday, someone had promised the family a two-bedroom flat, rent-free, for two months; a collection was being taken up to buy them a clean three-bedroom trailer house in which they could live on their land while rebuilding the house, and construction workers and supplies were being rounded up.

As of Saturday, the minister said they'd been able to collect what sounded like about one-third of the cost of a livable three-bedroom trailer house, and other churches would be taking up collections on Saturday and Sunday. I've not asked how successful those efforts have been. Rebuilding a three-bedroom permanent house will take a lot of money.

Is anyone out there feeling munificent? Or has anyone out there even received, or do you expect to receive, gift cards for stores like Lowes, Home Depot, or Wal-Mart (all of which have outlets near the family's property)? Currently collections are being taken via real mail only.

Please address cheques, postal money orders, or relevant gift cards to:

Of One Accord
P.O. Box 207
Rogersville, Tennessee 37857

Please put "The Homeless Fund" on the memo line.

Please share this post as widely as possible. Link, tweet, plus, like, copy, Disqus, Digg, and whatever else you can think of. Make it viral.

Politifacts Rating for Obamacare...Evolving

Hosted by Michelle Malkin, Doug Powers traces the "evolution" of Obamacare's Politifacts rating:

Sympathetic Wonk Details Flaws of Obamacare

You don't have to take it from me. Obamacare isn't working. Isn't workable. Take it from Ezra Klein, the Washington Post's self-described "wonk," who's been crunching the discouraging numbers.

Cards for Wounded Warriors

The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes is collecting e-signatures for Christmas cards for recently disabled veterans. Click here:

The e-mail I received was about the current collection to send our wounded warriors Christmas cards and, of course, money; the Coalition promises to send $500 to disabled veterans who may be still waiting to collect their first pension payment. The Veterans Administration investigates disability claims pretty thoroughly, and landlords, utility companies, other creditors, sometimes even family members, can get tired of waiting. For some families a $500 Christmas gift may be a nice little luxury. For others it may be what keeps the children in school, or even what keeps the family in their home.

Specifically...although I've felt that "soldier" and "veteran" are grammatically masculine words and have been accused of overlooking female veterans, the Coalition observes that young, female disabled veterans, some of whom have young children, are especially likely to be in financial distress...

Did Obama Implement Martial Law?

Well, at least the headline made me go ahead and read about what our President did...

Phenology: Carolina Wren

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for posting about this cute little bird:

Carolina Wrens don't come very close to the Cat Sanctuary because the cardinals and house wrens think they own the house and yard, but I heard one up in the orchard on Saturday.

Other phenology: Chilly and damp in Gate City; on the way to the computer center I saw snow beside a back road. Most living things have gone into Winter Mode. However, last week and the week before we enjoyed a long warm spell that fooled some creatures into thinking it was spring already. A few insects flew, grass and chickweed popped up, and spring peepers (small frogs) started peeping. The inevitable cold snap has been enough to discourage these mistakes, but not, we can hope, cold enough to kill off things that should become active in March.

Billy Jack R.I.P.

Er whom am I writing this morning, after losing so many U.S. readers by staying offline so long? How many of you remember Billy Jack? The computer says most of you live in countries where it's unlikely that that movie was ever available, but I just had to reminisce a bit...

In 1971 that movie was madly controversial. I didn't see it for forty years after it was made. Heard a lot of snarky remarks, dirty jokes, and allegations that it was pornography (there is a fairly distant shot of Billy Jack's female friend skinny-dipping, and although it's obvious that no actress was harmed in the making of the movie it's also fairly obvious what's going on when the script calls for her to be raped). I learned to sing "One Tin Soldier" long before anybody mentioned where it came from.

Lots of commentary at this Blaze article shows that people who remember Tom Laughlin's movie, or movies, are about evenly divided between liking and hating the star/producer of Billy Jack.

As a middle-aged nostalgia-tripping movie viewer, I thought it was awesome how well he managed to be both of those things. But the plot? Uh-oh...uh-oh...Dave Urbanski saw Billy Jack as a prototype of Rambo, but wasn't anybody else reminded of David Koresh? (No. Billy Jack was what David Koresh wanted to be, not what he actually was. But. Still.)

I didn't even know there was a series. I'm glad the fictional Billy Jack survived as long as his creator did...sorry he misled the poor dweeb who confused a mixed-up-rebels movie with real life.

Rest in peace, Tom Laughlin.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How the NSA Will Use Cookies to Spy on Us

The surprise here is that the Washington Post printed it:

So, they'll be going after the various pedophile web sites we've all read about in the newspapers? Or the hackers who, among other things, "burned" Grandma Bonnie Peters' Yahoo e-mail, recently, to the extent that a public access computer refused to open her in-box? (You expect hackers to target pornographic sites and people who visit them, but some hackers think it's clever to harass a 78-year-old Sunday School teacher who wants to write about vegetarian food and the major Christian testimonies in her family archives.)

Don't hold your breath. Remember Al Gore's Future? If you want to save any particular posts from this web site, I recommend you print'em out now. I would defend Al Gore's right to publish the kind of thing he says in that book, although I think a lot of it's just plain wrong. However, among the things Al Gore says in The Future is that he's not supportive of my right to publish the kind of thing most of youall send me.

I expect to be hacked. I expect to be harassed. And I want those of you who still refer to the Old Left as "liberals" to move into the present century. I'm the liberal. Al Gore and his party are the Tories, and they see themselves as the House of Lords.

Why Do Introverts Fear...?

The computer reports that somebody out there found this web site by searching for answers to the question, “Why do introverted people fear...?”

Unfortunately the computer doesn’t show what this reader believes introverts fear. Anyway, this is one of the questions that haven’t been addressed at this web site, but should be.

First of all: this is definitely a question it’s better to ask Google than to ask any real person. In real life, it’s an obnoxious question. Individuals have fears. Large groups of people defined by demographic traits do not have fears. Even in the kind of political discussion where people casually say things like “Older voters fear Candidate X’s Social Security plan,” such casualness is sloppy; even if you know fifty older voters who said they did fear the X Plan, you probably also know two or three who were saying, “The X Plan would solve some problems! Bring it on!”

Introverts have, however, had to deal with a lot of misunderstanding based on the now disproved assumption that introverts are really just shy extroverts. Which is further evidence that introverts qualify as a true “victim” demographic group, like ethnic minorities or women. The easiest way around society’s discrimination against your group is to try to be perceived as a member of the oppressor group. Back when people grew up hearing that “women don’t” have/need this or that kind of job/talent/freedom, there were sane heterosexual women who didn’t bother with sociological analyses of how these stereotypes came to be but just told their male colleagues to “Think me a man: my soul is masculine.” Similarly, during the Advertising Age when people grew up hearing that salesmanship was more important in any job than skill, talent, or character, there were basically sane introverts who grew up hearing “All people should enjoy party chatter more than they enjoy working or thinking,” who internalized the misbelief that they were quiet because they were shy, because they had some sort of unnatural, unfounded fear of other people.

If your experience of “other people” is that they’re always trying to tell you that there’s something profoundly wrong with you, then although it might be reasonable to try to replace fear with confidence in your ability to defend yourself by any means necessary, it’s reasonable not to like “other people.” When introverts (usually young introverts) are shy, they fear being recognized as members of a despised victim group and attacked as such, usually because that’s the experience they’ve had in social situations such as school. However, the more we succeed at accepting ourselves and bonding with other self-accepting introverts, the more clearly we see that what we feel toward our verbal abusers is not fear but contempt.

We recognize that if extroverts really do “like people,” rather than needing constant distractions from their own emotional pain,  they’ll like us, too, just the way we are. The fact that most extroverts don’t like us just the way we are shows that their “outgoing” behavior has nothing to do with liking people, but is merely a defense against their fear, pain, and shame. Since introversion is defined by positive hereditary neurological traits extroverts lack, it’s likely that most extroverts do live with chronic fear, pain, and shame produced by some subliminal awareness of their neurological inadequacy. They cope by trying to identify defects in other people and make those people feel inadequate, too.

Only if these extroverts’ bullying is physically dangerous is there any need to fear such transparent cowardice, and unless we were brought up on sentimental Humanist malarkey about their needing (or deserving) to have self-esteem, there’s no particular reason not to humiliate these would-be verbal abusers. When people are determined to put their own inadequacies on parade, showing them up is so-o-o easy.

Nevertheless, as long as young introverts buy into the haters’ Big Lie about our being isolated freaks doomed to a lifetime of bad relationships with “people,” it should surprise nobody that these young individual introverts fear social interaction. You would, too, if most of your social interactions featured nasty little reminders that something is inexplicably, profoundly, permanently wrong with you...even though, if you are an extrovert, that happens to be true.

Know Your Pests: Walnut Caterpillar

Here, ridiculously behind schedule, is the last document I was trying to finish in September when the system shut down (just enough minutes ahead of schedule, for no obvious reason, to keep the document from becoming visible. Does anybody want to read about September phenology in December? I don't know, but I might as well post this and get it out of the way!

Several kinds of moths feed on walnut trees and may be known as Walnut Moths or Walnut Caterpillars in some places. The one that is occasionally confused with Tent Caterpillars or Gypsy Moth caterpillars is Datana integerrima, a member of the family Notodontidae. In years when their populations are high, Walnut Caterpillars can be an unsightly nuisance; in our part of the world, however, they infest walnut trees too late in the summer to be a real pest.

Here's the Ohio State University fact sheet on Datana integerrima:

Walnut Caterpillar hatchlings are reddish; as they molt their skins become progressively darker, and by the time they start exploring the world beyond their host trees they can be described as black caterpillars with fluffy white hair. Like Fall Webworms, they spin large unsightly webs around the ends of trees, usually but not always walnut and hickory, while eating the leaves. Like Tent Caterpillars, they leave their nests and wander about for a few days before pupating; as mature caterpillars they're about two inches long, sometimes longer. Also like Tent Caterpillars, they often rest in large groups and, though mostly harmless, repel predators by squirming.

Then again, their activity in autumn (late September and October, even as far north as Michigan) might cause Walnut Caterpillars to be confused with various black and white "Bear" and tussock moth caterpillars. Most of these species look different from Walnut Caterpillars, e.g. this cute little tussock moth (also found in Virginia in autumn):

However, scientists classify Walnut Caterpillars as a completely different family from Webworms, Bears, tussock moth caterpillars, or Tent Caterpillars because both moths and caterpillars have a different body shape. While Webworms move their heads from side to side to repel predators, and Tent Caterpillars can bend almost double in any direction, Walnut Caterpillars can bend themselves into a U shape, raising both their head and tail ends at the same time. Later, as moths, they will retain this tendency to arch their backs. The Notodontidae are sometimes called Prominent Moths because they often rest with their tail ends "prominently" pointed up above their wings.

Walnut Caterpillars are very common in the Midwest, and sometimes manage to be pests on nut trees. In Virginia they're uncommon; I'd lived in a house shaded by a walnut tree for twenty years before I ever saw one. Once in a while, when weather conditions are favorable and the animals have become a serious nuisance in the Midwest, we do see what scientists call an "irruption" or sudden population explosion of Walnut Caterpillars in Virginia. This happened in 1985; I'm not aware of its having happened in any other year during my lifetime.

Like almost all hairy animals including humans, Walnut Caterpillars can shed enough short, coarse hairs to irritate human skin, but they're not poisonous. As observed in other "Know Your Pest" pieces here, most people who want to pick these caterpillars up in their hands have no problems with their fur, but people who've got one down their neck often report itching or a mild rash.

When they defoliate trees that aren't already losing their leaves, as can apparently happen in Texas pecan groves, Walnut Caterpillars become pests. However, it's not necessary to destroy their natural predators (they already have few enough natural predators!). As with the other nest-building caterpillars, you can use a stick, garden rake, etc., to pull the nest out of an endangered tree. Some caterpillars will survive, but since predators will be unharmed and you'll be able to burn, drown, or crush most of the caterpillars, the tree will be safe.

It's also possible to buy other insects that parasitize enough of the caterpillars to keep their population under control, next year. Here's a list of helpful insects, along with other data:

In the North, surviving walnut caterpillars jump or crawl down from their host trees in September or even early October. The trees are unharmed. The caterpillars may even have a slight beneficial effect by reducing the amount of walnut leaf litter that decomposes into the soil; walnut trees contain a chemical that inhibits the growth of many other plants. The caterpillars pupate in the soil all winter, then emerge as moths in early summer. Moths as well as mature caterpillars seem to mimic Tent Caterpillars, which contain enough cyanide to discourage most birds; Walnut Caterpillar moths are a little smaller than Tent Caterpillar moths, and have different structure as well as different color shadings in their wings, but to the casual observer they look similar.

However, in warmer climates, specifically Texas and Oklahoma, these caterpillars have evolved a lifestyle that makes them more problematic. According to "There are two generations of this pest per year in Oklahoma. Moths emerge from mid-May to early June and in late July and early August. Larvae feed on the leaves in June and July and from late August into October. The larvae are gregarious and feed in groups, but do not spin webs in which to feed."

So, if you see these caterpillars in the South, you might want to invest in a few natural predators.

I'm Back, for Now

I (Priscilla King) am back online for now, testing a different public-access computer system that definitely is not workable as a long-term plan but might get us through the bill reading season. Mostly I'm checking e-mails and doing other e-chores today, but I'll try to post at least one thing I've written along with the wonderful things readers have e-mailed...