Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Round Up (literally)

Last weekend the coop, this weekend, the run. Too bad they're not actually connected.

We were lucky enough to get a big dog kennel for the price of unscrewing and picking it up at my friend's house - thanks Sue! The large kennel will enable us to keep the chickens safe, but move them all about the yard in sort of a free-but-safe-range set-up (yes, just like my parenting).

On Saturday we rebuilt the kennel in our backyard. If you've ever worked with over 40 linear feet of 5 1/2 foot high chain link fence - you know how much fun that was. Then we had to figure out how to actually move the chick-chickens from the coop into the run, which again, is not attached to the coop, so they could enjoy their days outside.

Today, that process went something like this:

"Let's open the door and see if they come out."

"Approach them slowly so they don't spook."


"I've got this one! You get that one!"


"Hey. Where'd they go?"

"All right. Who's next?"

"Escape! Escape!"

When they first got into the space, they went crazy. It was kind of fun - they ruffled up, flew around a little, hopped up and down. They looked like they were having a great time.




Eventually they calmed down and just poked around all afternoon.




It kind of makes you wonder. What will tomorrow bring when we don't have the same ranch hands?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

3 Good Things (strings edition)

1. Minimalist fun with Stringfever.



2. Anne-Sophie Mutter playing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (short compilation trailer).



3. Having a ten year-old daughter who will join a local string orchestra in the fall.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poetry Friday: No Mean

Middle Age, Middle Place, Middle-earth:
Which mean should I choose?
The one where “Super White Teeth!”
Slowly replaced the obsession for shoes?
Or the one where being both parent and child
Occupy the same bittersweet hour?
Or where fantastic beings unite
To battle evil – the seduction of Power.

Some of these things I cannot choose,
But more important are the things I can.
And within the limitations of my one life,
I choose to be a rational man.
Understanding the difference between the chosen
And the facts of the metaphysically given,
I'm slowly working for my life in the extreme;
There is no average by which I am driven.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

3 Good Things (Embodied Abstractions edition)

“By a selective re-creation, art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. Out of the countless number of concretes—of single, disorganized and (seemingly) contradictory attributes, actions and entities—an artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction.”

Ayn Rand “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” The Romantic Manifesto, 19.

1. Delight



If food can be art, then this piece of art speaks to my very soul (in that it attracts me like no other cake has before). Its obviously stable, but seemingly precarious fanciful form, vibrant, celebratory colors, and crisp animal print icing compels me to look at it over and over again, and smile each time.

(via Cake Wrecks – a hilarious blog – and created by Sharon of Sharon’s Cake Art)

Hello…Stephen…are you reading this? October isn’t too far away.

2. Justice

“…And Justice for All” by James Muir

Despite the fact that I can’t really figure out Mr. Muir’s philosophy, I am quite enamored of his version of a bolder Justice wielding her double-edged sword of Power and Reason. (I found the symbolic meaning of the double-edge sword from a Wikipedia entry, but I couldn't confirm it elsewhere. It make sense to me, though.)

(via Beth at AisA Academy)

3. Potential
I published this before as my own attempt at the embodiment of an abstraction. To me, this photograph represents the unlimited capacity of a child (my daughter in this case) to experience the joy in the possibilities of the world. It reminds me of the line, "Yours is the Earth, and everything that's in it," from the great Rudyard Kipling poem, If.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Schoolhouse Rock Wednesday: Figure Eight

In a campaign to urge our homeschool chorus to pick "Schoolhouse Rock" as our theme for next year, I'd like to showcase a variety of song stylings put forth by those little educational videos of the 70s (and I have to scoop Amy).



Talk about wistful.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Parades and Perches in Pictures

This weekend was all about remembering those who have bravely served our country, and getting the chickens out of the garage and into their coop.

Sites from our tiny local parade:



My favorite part of the High School band (on the right in both pictures):

Sure, I bet she has both pearl earrings on. I’m not sure you can see it, so I wanted to point out the cheetah detailing on the sunglasses.

Also momentous this weekend was the moving of the transitional chicks into their permanent home: the Schechter Poultry Corp. coop (sign still in design phase).

Stephen had been working very hard to get the girls into the coop. He buried hardcloth underneath the entire shed’s dirt floor (good tip from Beth at A is A Academy) and ran it up the sides for at least six inches. He constructed sturdy perches, nesting boxes, and droppings boards according to the instructions in Building Chicken Coops by Gail Damerow. He even made a little chicken door/ramp for them to walk into and out of the coop. The result: they love it.



Even though I’m not sure that the weather is warm enough for the little chickie-dos to be out there, I had to let them go. Well, I did borrow a baby monitor to make sure they weren’t completely left on their own outside in the cold, cold world. I wanted to hear they were adjusting well the first few nights. I know. Even I was shocked at the softie I had become over these prehistoric looking birds.



Monday, May 25, 2009

3 Good Things (little grin, warm smile, hearty laugh edition)

1. Someone from the Lutheran Medical Center came to my site on a quest for “Hugh Jackman Australia shirtless”;

2. This story of US soldier brings new meaning to military gear (via Illustrated Ideas);

3. As her kids try to make sense of the world around them, Rational Jenn makes the best of it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Perhaps she had literally only one pearl earring. Maybe the other was removed in lightning-fast strike by a transitional Easter-egger chick looking for some shiny bauble.

Hey – it could happen.

In fact, that is exactly how we got our own girl with a pearl earring today, and let me tell you – she was none too happy about it either! Trying to find a small pearl earring in a pile of pine shavings is just a wee bit worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. At least the haystack is clean.



Result of the crime.
She doesn't look guilty (Alpha(ba),far right)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

3 Good Things (the physics of childhood edition)

1. Trying to make an “Alfalfa” peak with your hair and shampoo. You need just the right thickness of lather not to mention the right amount of hair. It’s not as easy as you think.

2. Bike riding with no hands. I found I could negotiate gentle curves without using the handle bars on the bike trail this morning and did so for 3/4 of a mile. Wheee!

3. Playing Keystone Cops with a double kayak above your head. An actual child would likely use a much less expensive, heavy, and awkward object in the comic balancing act.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tell Me Everything You Know

From Pedagogically Correct, the occasional newsletter from VanDamme Academy, Lisa VanDamme reports on a great and simple game she invented called, "Tell Me Everything You Know". While Ms. VanDamme made up the game for her classroom setting, I bet it could be used with great success in a homeschool setting by giving points for each observation and adding the points together each day. The motivation is to get more points today than yesterday.


Tell Me Everything You Know

I have invented a new educational game. I call it "Tell Me Everything You Know."

Here is how the game works in my grammar class: I write a sentence on the board, set a time limit, and then have the students write down every grammatical fact they can name about the sentence. When the time is up, I go around the room, asking each student to volunteer one of his observations. If someone else in the class has written the same thing, both must cross it off their lists. If no one else has made the same
observation, that student gets a point. Victory goes to the student with the most points.

For example, yesterday I wrote, "When it is Taco Tuesday, we go to the park that is down the street to eat tacos."

Their observations ranged from the simple …

  1. "Tuesday" is a proper noun.
  2. "The" is an article.
  3. The sentence is declarative.
  4. The sentence ends with a period.

to the more esoteric …

  1. "To eat tacos" is an infinitive phrase used as an adverb modifying "go."
  2. "When" is a subordinating conjunction linking the adverb clause to the word it modifies.
  3. "Tacos" is the direct object of the infinitive.
  4. "Park" is the antecedent of the relative pronoun "that," which introduces the adjective clause "that is down the street."

At the conclusion of the allotted time, my 7th and 8th grade students had as many as forty to fifty things to say about the grammar of the sentence.

This game works equally well in other classes. Mr. Black and Mr. Steele have played it in their math classes. With one 3rd-grade level math group, Mr. Steele wrote on the board, "362 ÷ 3," and said, "Tell me everything you know."

These 7- and 8-year olds made comments that ranged from …

  1. The divisor is 3.
  2. The dividend is 362.
  3. The quotient is 120 with a remainder of 2.

to such acute observations as …

  1. The 3 in 362 is in the hundreds' place and stands for 300.
  2. 362 is a 3-digit number and an even number.
  3. The divisor, 3, can be subtracted from the dividend, 362, 120 times.
  4. (Connecting division to repeated subtraction.)

This game both cashes in on and reinforces the VanDamme Method. All the teachers in all the VDA classes stress conceptual understanding of the material. We work hard to ensure that the students are not taking a rote, thoughtless, pattern-seeking approach to their work, but rather that they fully grasp and can fully explain the concepts they are learning. So when they look at a problem like "362 ÷ 3," we want them to possess a depth of understanding that allows them not just to solve the problem but to thoroughly explain the problem and its solution.

Playing this game also serves as excellent review and reinforcement. It helps the students to probe their own understanding, to dig through their subconscious minds and retrieve all they have learned about a given subject. They listen carefully to others' answers and in doing so are reminded of aspects of the subject they may have forgotten or not readily retrieved. They revisit and focus on aspects of a subject they know but may not have recently brought into conscious awareness.

In my experience, because the students are well prepared for the rigors of this game, because it is a fruitful review, and because it is benevolently competitive—they
love it. Students share their insights eagerly and are delighted when others cleverly dig up obscure facts that hadn't occurred to them.

I had to boast about having invented the game because I have to confess to having lost the game. Though I am the self-proclaimed grammar guru, I was bested by 11-year-old Melissa McWilliams. Well, as Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Pity the student who does not surpass his master."

Pretty cool, huh?

I'm going to try it out on my homeschooler after the long and lazy weekend. There'll be no where to go but up from there.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Git Along, Now

This week's Objectivist Round Up is hosted over at Amy Mossoff's blog The Little Things. So giddy up and git on over there to check out a sample of writing gathered from various people who are all "animated by Objectivism," the philosophy of Ayn Rand, writer of Atlas Shrugged.
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
“About the Author,” Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.

And don't forget, the best information about Objectivism is presented by Ayn Rand herself. And the best collection of her writing can be found at the Ayn Rand Bookstore, so you should mosey on over there, too.


I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time dropping my deeply held cowboy connection to the term "round up". Oh, all right! I don't want to drop it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interjections!

Damn!

That's the disappointment you utter upon opening your credit card bill and realizing that you lost the how-late-can-I-mail-this-in-and-still-be-in-time? game you played. (C'mon. You've said it before.)

Ugh!

That's the less than silent groan you make when you immediately write out the next check for your purchases bought on credit plus the late fee and the interest charged by the company in accordance with your agreement. You don't want to pay more than you have to or risk ruining your credit.

Splat!

That's the deafening sound of coercive government squashing those who have good credit in order to help those who have poor credit, which is shortly followed by the same sickening sound a company makes when the government rides in and stomps on its legal ability to make money. And it's the onomatopoeic sound in the cartoon bubble over your flattened body when the Blue Hippo of general welfare sits on you.


As reported by The New York Times in a topsy-turvy manner yesterday, "credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full." Well, fellow Good Risks, those salad days are over!

As congress moves "to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers" it is expected that the credit card companies will try to recoup some of that loss of projected revenue by lessening perks, charging annual fees, or increasing interest rates on those holders who have managed their credit well. But the Times article blames the credit card companies for expecting to be able to enforce their agreement with card holders rather than the government intervention for attempting to remove responsibility from those individual card holders.

But a key point is sorely missing from the Times article: credit cards are not a right. They help us to pay for things with one easy transaction without carrying lots of cash around. They allow us to get a mini-loan in an instant based on the company's assessment of our ability to repay that loan. They are an agreement we have made with the company who issued the card on the premise that we will repay our temporary debt. In short, they are a value that we work to attain. Anyone who thinks that he can borrow indefinitely without having to actually pay the price must be confusing personal finances with government finances.

And another thing that's missing from the article is the ability of card holders to cancel their accounts. I will cancel my credit cards if I suspect that they have been violating our agreement. I have the power. I have noticed a shortening of the payment period on one, but I didn't cancel that card because I value its convenience.

An economic advisor to President Obama, Austan Goolsbee, likened credit card company practices to carjackings:

“The card industry is giving the argument that if you didn’t want to be carjacked, why weren’t you locking your doors or taking a different road?”

I think the government attempt at egalitarianism in the credit card industry is like saying if you didn't want to be carjacked, why did you lock your doors (i.e. pay on time) and take a different route (i.e. pay in full)? Why didn't you just go along for the joy ride?


And now for something completely different
(Well, it is somewhat related, but much, much more enjoyable.)



The "WOW!" girl was always my favorite.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Theme Songs

At different points over the years I have associated certain songs with my loved ones. In addition to the music that I associate with my husband, the seriously lofty and celebratory wedding march (despite my humble introduction to it) and the wistful first dance music (wistful, because we regret not having used it, realizing only later how perfect it was), I have what I would I call theme songs for each one of my children.

For my son, who has always been more sensitive than he likes to let on, it’s I’ll Stand by You by the Pretenders.

For my teenage daughter whose ebullience from a very early age was practically infectious, Wonder by Natalie Merchant makes me think of her spinning and dancing.

For my youngest child, it’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach which played by her crib every night when I checked on her sleeping. It was like her personal soundtrack. Sadly we didn’t have the choral version, but like her, the melody is so beautiful, sometimes it hurts.

While there are certainly some passages in the two pop songs which are contradictory to my values, these songs still capture the essence of each of my children for me.

Do you have any theme songs for your children? If so, let me know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Five Movies in Five Minutes

Here are my quick reviews of notable movies I've seen lately. I wanted to save some for more detailed reviews, but I kept pushing it off to the point where I can barely remember them - so this is my purging of that stack. I hope it's more entertaining than I've just made it sound.

Each title is linked to a trailer for the movie.


Slumdog Millionaire

I know that everyone who is interested in seeing this movie has already done so, but I wanted to add my two cents here: I loved it. I thought it was an incredible story about the power a human being has over the course of his own life. After the movie Stephen and I discussed the intent of the writer and producer in paying lip service to destiny in the tag line “it is written”, but I walked away with the overwhelming feeling that the film, regardless of what was said, actually showed that you are in control of your life and it is only through your efforts that you will gain your greatest values.

It is a love story with an unlikely hero that grew out of the most unimaginably cruel conditions. [9]


Sunshine Cleaning

I can’t say enough about this little movie. First, you have the fabulous actors of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in the leads, not to mention the hilarious (though not in this film) Steve Zahn and the great Alan Arkin in the supporting roles. More than the fabulous acting, this film fascinates the viewer all the way through with its insight into the human condition. You wonder if, despite her cute perkiness, Adams’ character and her quirky parenting style should elicit your empathy. You wonder if she’s going to wise up and kick the deadweight to the curb. You wonder, at times, if she’s even sane. You wonder how it can possibly end well.

Your curiosity is rewarded as Adams’ character displays what it takes to be a successful human being: dedication to her own happiness. [9+]


Rope

I’m not a big Hitchcock fan, so I was slow to agree to watch Rope (1948). And maybe that was a good thing, because I’m not sure that I would have recognized the destructive ideology of the main character, but rather written him off immediately as the psychopathic murderer he was. The movie clearly illustrates how his mind set of superiority and privilege allowed him to not only murder an innocent man just because he could, but also persuade another, less insane man, to help him do it, then entertain the murdered man’s father and fiancĂ©e with the body hidden in the room. It’s a powerful indictment of the idea of intellectual noblesse oblige.

Jimmy Stewart’s role was awkward and unconvincing as the mentor who helped foster these twisted ideas in the murderer’s head but ultimately repents. [8]


Australia

Any movie that can that can take a shirtless and sudsy Hugh Jackman and make him seem almost unattractive can’t be good. Add to that some sweeping rugged vistas of the Australian outback, a slate of moral injustices crying to be wiped clean, the help of the beautiful and talented Nicole Kidman all among the backdrop of the impending outbreak of World War II and still make the whole two and half hours a painful and unredeemable experience (but for the mere visual presence of Mr. Jackman as a hard-riding cowboy) and you have my complete dismal opinion of the movie.

The two seconds of shirtless Hugh may be worth it for some, but surprisingly, not for me. [1]

There. I just saved you two hours of your life. You can thank me later.


Doubt

Again Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, and Philip Seymour Hoffman bring excellent performances to this movie about alleged priest impropriety with young boys in the parish. It is a fascinating look into the way the Catholic system worked, but more so into the way that people who are convinced they are doing the right thing in someone else’s interest can be carried away by their own baseless convictions. It was gray and ominous, but very well done.

In addition to the keen insight and great production, the movie gave Stephen and me a chance to spontaneously break into Catholic hymns we had forgotten we even knew. [6]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Sign of the Times

We’ve been working on our chicken coop this weekend (and by “we” I mean my husband and youngest daughter have been doing the physical work and I’ve been thinking about and organizing what else needs to be done). Right now I’m concentrating on the flooring, spatial arrangement, and safety features for the ladies. But mostly I’m preoccupied by the all important chicken sign that will hang above the coop doors.

In s l o w l y reading The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, I think I found the perfect words to grace our coop: The Schechter Poultry Corp.

Perhaps few will understand the reference to A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States, the Supreme Court battle between four brothers in Brooklyn and the massive regulatory NRA (National Recovery Administration), one of the first alphabet soup bureaucracies of the New Deal established under the NIRA (National Industrial Recovery Act) of 1933. It might, however, prompt some questions from curious visitors.

The Schechter case is fascinating not only in its outcome, but in its very existence. Four kosher butchers from Brooklyn were besieged upon by federal inspectors who were determined to find violations to the newly enacted NRA code of fair competition. After interfering with the Schechters’ business for months, the inspectors made a report detailing 60 code violations. When the case, pursued by the FDR's administration as a test case for the constitutionality of the NIRA, finally went to the Supreme Court, the effective violations were reduced to one sick chicken, according to Shlaes, but the Schechters’ business was ruined.

The case of the Schechters resulted in three determinations by the Supreme Court: 1) “Extraordinary conditions do not create or enlarge constitutional power.” 2) “The Congress is not permitted to abdicate or to transfer to others the essential legislative functions with which it is thus vested.” 3) “We are of the opinion that the attempt, through the provisions of the Code, to fix the hours and wages of employees of defendants in their intrastate business was not a valid exercise of federal power.” The Court had effectively overturned the overreaching NIRA.

While more recent cases may have lessened, if not overridden the impact from the Schechter decision, it is important to remember a time when the Supreme Court was willing to uphold the principles of the Constitution rather than succumb to the notion of the emergency breach necessitated by “modern needs” and social justice.

We may not see that rigor again for quite some time.



As an aside, it is worth noting that businesses which supported the NRA code were encouraged to proudly display the blue eagle insignia of the NRA. It soon became that those who didn’t were thought unpatriotic and in some cases boycotted. This is a just a simple example of how voluntary government programs effectively become compulsory with just the right nudge.

You can view an interesting New Deal era promo for the NRA courtesy of Jimmy Durante and Metro Goldwyn Mayer here.

As for us, the sign will be a reminder that we should never allow the fox to guard the hen house.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One Good Thing

Monday, on the way to driving my fifteen year-old daughter to dance class, I had the radio tuned to NPR. My daughter hates it when I listen to NPR and usually makes several consecutive attempts to force me to listen to her more upbeat thumping pop jams. But during that drive she just sat passively in the passenger’s seat in what I determined to be a moment of typical teenage sullenness.

Then All Things Considered came on with a two minute report about the increase in the price of the first class stamp to 44 cents. I thought the little fluff report on the frustration of trying to get make-up postage was mildly humorous until I heard this:

“Many people who bypass stamps altogether – pay their bills online and correspond by e-mail – know that they are in part to blame for today’s price increase...”

“What?” scoffed my daughter incredulously before I could even manage a raised eyebrow let alone a full eye roll. “How does that work?”

At that point, I’m sure I acknowledged her assessment of the implied faulty logic, but what I was really working on was something along these lines: “Whoopie!” I didn’t even know she was listening, let alone thinking critically about what she was hearing.

This, I believe, is a very good thing.

Schoolhouse Rock Wednesday

Enjoy this little Grammar Rock reminder.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coming Soon to a Grade School Near You

If you have little kids in government school, or progressive private schools, perhaps you'll want to watch this 20 minute long video, Story of Stuff, on YouTube so you can prepare yourself for the onslaught of self-hatred and victimization your kids will come home feeling after they watch as part of their “education”.

The New York Times reports "Story of Stuff" is the next big thing in environmentalist propaganda in the classroom. Of course, they don't report it that way; the Times actually calls it "cheerful" as its simple drawings and friendly presenter are accessible to even the very young. I don't think that the shaking, desolate line-drawn individuals standing on their little piece of destroyed earth – who have no alternative but to work in nasty factories and poison their own babies through their toxic breast milk because you had to have an iPod – is "cheerful" even if the presenter refers to it in scare quotes as the "beauty” of the system.



In laying out the materials economy system (a phrase I found only in conjunction with capital “E” earth and “green” sites) in simple terms, the presenter successfully alarms the viewer about the catastrophic side-effects of that system which are ignored by our insatiable consumerism. Furthermore, while instilling the idea that we are victims of the “golden arrow” conspiracy between the government and the corporations designed to make us feel bad about ourselves in order to perpetuate unbridled consumerism, we are warned that we don’t feel badly enough about our unintentional poisoning of babies, killing of animals, and eventual annihilation of our planet.

That is a whole lot of stuff.

Very few adults will question how exactly the iconic big fat corporation can force people to work for them and to buy their goods, but might gloss over this suggestion as a fact. Even fewer, I’m afraid, will recognize that it would have been appropriate to represent the government as a tank, not as a criticism against the supposed disproportionate military spending of our government as the presenter implies, but because the only contribution the government can offer to any problem is to act as a vehicle of force.

Presentations like this actually seek to negate the government's only proper function as protector of the rights of individuals to act in their own best interests; instead, they support forced, collective behavior modification in order to keep men in line with the man-hating world view of the religion of environmentalism. Whatever valid points may have been contained in the video (i.e. legitimate rights violations) are lost in a sea of blind devotion to Mother Earth and the mistaken idea that government is supposed to “take care of us”.

If adults can't see through the presenter's pleasant demeanor to discern her destructive ideology, children certainly won't be able to defend themselves against these bad ideas. At the very least, each will harbor a big scarlet "C" for the shame of his consumerism.



My child’s education is not a social experiment for the apologists of modern technology. No one’s should be. Be on the lookout: the comprachicos are alive and may very well inhabit a grade school near you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

3 Good Things (weekend edition)

Friday: I constructed transitional housing for the transitional chicks and moved them into the garage. It’s amazing how powerful an incentive the smell of chicken poop in the house can be.

Saturday: I contributed in small part to the great big sound of our homeschool family chorus concert. There really is nothing like the sound of the little kids singing, except the feeling of getting to sing with them (and the satisfaction of remembering all those words when it really counts).

Sunday: I shared hours of laughter and good food with my mother and mother-in-law (and father and father-in-law) from the morning into the early afternoon and played tennis with my daughters on a gorgeous, warm, and breezy late Sunday afternoon.

Life is good.

Friday, May 8, 2009

George Washington Beat Me To It!

In looking for the source of George Washington's definition of government as a force,
"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."
I came across another great quotation attributed to him.

"[Government] has no more right to put their hands into my pockets, without my consent, than I have to put my hands into yours … "
Hmmm. Where have I heard something like that before?

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the source documents to either one - just yet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Washington Petard

From President Obama’s website, here is the wrap-up of his remarks on tax fairness for the middle class:

It's a simple proposition. That the wealth we earn comes from the work that we do. It's a proposition that is lived, day in and day out, in the homes of millions of working Americans. The steady pursuit of simple dreams.

The American economy is the tally of all of those dreams. Now - at a time of rising costs and rising uncertainty - it's time for polices from Washington that put a little wind at the backs of the American people. Now is the time for us to come together as a nation behind a new compact for the 21st century - one that gives the American people a lift, so they can lift up this country anew.

Let’s look closer at this folksy bit of wisdom:

Simple Dreams: When my dream to own a house becomes a mandate from the government to move around the wealth you earned to make sure I can stay in that house, one that I could never have afforded in the first place without government policies allowing for cheap money and coercing banks to take greater risks in their loan practices – that’s not simple.

When my dream to have the best medical care that money can buy without actually paying for it creates a system where doctors and other medical providers become employees of the government and must practice as mandated rather than at will – that’s not simple.

When I begin to think of my dreams as my needs, and my needs as my rights to be fulfilled by the government which in turn pays for my dreams with your earnings – that's not simple.

Rising Costs: Government subsidies of failing businesses contribute to rising costs. New government programs contribute to rising costs. Increasing taxes to support these programs contribute to rising costs. Hamstringing corporations, or outright nationalizing companies contribute to rising costs (and falling employment). Every action of the government contributes to rising costs somewhere in the economy.

Rising Uncertainty: When the rules for doing business in American change everyday, this can only contribute to rising uncertainty. When the three branches of government seek to meet the prevailing winds of "social justice" instead of pursuing the steady course of justice, nothing is certain.

Washington Winds: Any “lift” from Washington occurs at the expense of all of us. Government does not produce money. It takes it from the individuals who do and uses it to function. There are legitimate functions of government in the protection of our individual rights: objective laws to protect those rights, the legal system to determine when violations of those rights occur, and national defense to secure our rights from invasion by a foreign power. Everything beyond that is overreaching and destructive to those rights.

There is, in fact, a wind blowing from Washington - it is from an unfathomable explosion of government spending, programs, laws, and regulations, all crushing and crumbling our individual rights to meet the dreams of the mob.


Rather than being lifted, we are being hoisted on that petard.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Haven Left

The Brain Drain

So, if I understand President Obama’s latest efforts at creative garnishment to feed the governments coffers correctly, he plans to hire over 800 new IRS analysts “to detect and pursue” money he feels should go to the American government instead of to the American companies that earned the money.
"Nobody likes paying taxes, particularly in times of economic stress," Obama said. "But most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that it's an obligation of citizenship, necessary to pay the costs of our common defense and our mutual well-being."
First, I find it appalling that Obama would use “common defense,” one of the legitimate powers of the federal government, in conjunction with the phrase “mutual well-being,” which seems to be community-organizer-speak for forced redistribution of wealth. It appears to be a transparent excuse to extort tax dollars to direct toward his unprecedentedly large welfare state programs.

Furthermore, in claiming that it is too easy for "a small number of individuals and companies to abuse overseas tax havens to avoid paying any taxes at all," Obama is ignoring the very real possibilities that changing the tax code will drive the remaining jobs, the corporate headquarters, and the high paying jobs, off shore as well. In brief, he is looking for short-term cash at the expense of long-term principle – something he has often accused Wall Street of doing.

Judgment Day

Beyond his short-sighted and potentially destructive plans, Obama said two things in that speech that flipped a switch in my mind about his abilities and his intentions as POTUS, resulting in an abrupt end to my wait-and-see, how-bad-could-it-be optimism.

The first was his gratuitous ingratiation of xenophobes, disgruntled union workers, and fear-mongering rednecks in his catch phrase about how the current tax system allows companies to "pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, N.Y." It is a clever word choice for garnering across-the-aisle support but it is done at the price of perpetuating dangerous protectionist ideology.

But it was the president’s dictatorial flouting of the law - "If financial institutions won't cooperate with us, we will assume that they are sheltering money in tax havens and act accordingly" - that sparks my use of the f-word.* That’s right – the word for the type of government that issues such threats against private citizens who do not surrender control of their property to the state is fascism. It appears Obama has found a domestic enemy upon whom he can flex his arbitrary political power with very little public outcry: the American businessman.

In this, our elected leader intends to violate the Constitution in order to allegedly protect our mutual well-being. This means that individuals who live in accordance with the rule of law are subjugated by a capricious government to serve the collective.

Plans for the Future

Since I live in Massachusetts, the thought of writing to my elected officials to complain about bad policies is about as appealing as banging my head against the wall. Not only would my efforts be wasted on those who are completely invested in the current administration for their continued employment and glory, but I would have to do it many times everyday, and that would hurt – a lot.

Instead I’ve decided to make a point to speak out about political issues when I can and continue to become better educated about the purpose, history, and function of the government. Those of us who understand that America is great because it was founded on the principles of individual rights and a government limited to protecting those individual rights must help to make it clear that excellent political leadership comes from those who not only recognize the prescribed law of the land, but also embrace its principles.



* A nod to Beth at Wealth Is Not the Problem for the expression.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's 10 PM. Do you know where your chickens are?


Dispelling chicken myths, one picture at a time.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

I like Jon Stewart

I really do.

I find his dry humor quite appealing. For a comedian who tackles the absurdities of politics, on both sides of the aisle, with wit and insight, Stewart has earned my respect as well as my laughter. I don’t always agree with him, but I like his style. Most of the time.

Recently, Stewart accused President Truman of being a war criminal for dropping the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; however, while he did not elaborate on why, he later admitted he was wrong.

Unlike the legion of leftists who insist that radio personality Rush Limbaugh is a de facto leader of conservatism, I can vehemently disagree with the dreadful ideology held (at least partially) by Stewart that allowed him to initially make that mistake and still acknowledge and appreciate his appeal and cultural influence as an entertainer. In other words, I can let the dirty bathwater drain while keeping my clean baby warm and dry.

My support of Stewart should in no way imply that I don’t think that ideas, even presented through entertainment, are unimportant - they are of supreme importance.

That is why if you are unclear on the details leading up to the decision to drop the atomic bombs, you should watch this brief (at 17 minutes it’s brief in efficiently tackling such a large subject), but excellent refutation of Stewart’s lob. The link will take you to the conservative website, Pajamas Media TV, but don’t let that dissuade you from availing yourself of the information.

Insofar as all liberals are not mindless, unwashed socialists, all conservatives are not mindless, religious bigots. True, there is mindlessness on both sides, and that is what we should each strive to overcome. Stewart often does so while making me laugh and I appreciate his efforts.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Make No Bones About It

If Cass Sunstein has his way, cats will sue.

From an oft forwarded email (with apologies to the author whose name and original words, no doubt, have long been stripped away):


Excerpts from a dog’s diary

8:00 AM- Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 AM - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 AM - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 AM - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a cat's diary

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am.

Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now....
While I find the differences between the secret cognitive lives of dogs and cats both familiar and hilarious, I don’t find Mr. Sunstein’s rise to political positions, including being on a list of potential Supreme Court candidates, anything to laugh about.

To read two good blog posts on what is horribly wrong with having Mr. Sunstein in any position of power see here and here.

Or you can read Mr. Sunstein’s own words when he feared a conservative activists’ takeover of the Court:


Of course, the activists argue, and even believe, that they are speaking for the Constitution itself, and not for any particular point of view. But this is the most damaging myth of all.
Now if only we could be certain that Mr. Sunstein could apply this wisdom to his own particular point of view and remember that granting animals rights and putting bumper guards on personal choice is not in the Constitution, whereas freedom of speech most definitely is.

If you haven’t read Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, you owe it to yourself to do so as Sunstein, who along with Richard Thaler co-authored the book, is gaining political ground to nudge us into making decisions for our own good. In addition to getting people to save money, Thaler and Sunstein propose nudging could help people lose weight and have better marriages. Apparently there is no limit to what a well-placed nudge can do for you.

In previewing Nudge for The Boston Globe last year, the reporter actually stated that “most of us grossly overestimate our own abilities, whether it's to invest intelligently or avoid divorce.” I guess in the minds of the authors of both the book and the article, that makes it okay to get some positive channelization (my favorite euphemism from my traffic engineering days) from the government to help us out.

Lest you think this choice architecture, the actual euphemism given to this practice, is new on the scene, leading behavioral economist George Lowenstein from Carnegie Mellon University assures us in the same article that it has been around long before it was identified as such. He says the fast food industry, the banks, the credit card companies, and healthcare companies all wield subtle forces which cause us to act a certain way, and that it’s high time for the government, in its role as protector to nudge back.


"The idea that the government should be the consumer's ally to me doesn't seem like a particularly controversial one." he says.
While his potential for an appointment to the Supreme Court may be limited, Mr. Sunstein is already a part of Obama's administration in the Office of Management and Budget and "regulatory czar nominee." With these positions and his often touted academic brilliance that qualifies him to know better than we do how to live our lives, he is already a threat to our individual rights.


Does anyone else have the urge to watch The Truman Show?

Poetry Saturday?

The Wind Blew Shrill And Smart

by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

THE wind blew shrill and smart,
And the wind awoke my heart
Again to go a-sailing o'er the sea,
To hear the cordage moan
And the straining timbers groan,
And to see the flying pennon lie a-lee.

O sailor of the fleet,
It is time to stir the feet!
It's time to man the dingy and to row!
It's lay your hand in mine
And it's empty down the wine,
And it's drain a health to death before we go!

To death, my lads, we sail;
And it's death that blows the gale
And death that holds the tiller as we ride.
For he's the king of all
In the tempest and the squall,
And the ruler of the Ocean wild and wide!


I'm not big on the whole death thing, but I love the sailing imagery.

What else would you expect from a Gorton's Fisherman wannabee?