Friday, February 20, 2009

Little Miss Muffet Updated

It's fun to spend a day with a five month old! And who's to say that spider isn't preferable to "curds and whey"? My wonderful granddaughter is now trying her darndest to crawl and taking in all the wonders of the world, including that funny black thing grandma sticks in her face. She opens her mouth wide and says "Hi" even though it comes out more like "Haaaaa," perhaps a throwback to her mother's Texas birth. She's more laid back than her 3 1/2-year-old brother, but she watches with interest as he leaps around and returns to give her a squishy hug. Soon she'll be scooting around and creating her own uproar, knowing her charm will carry a long way.

Straight Talk

Attorney General Eric Holder has proclaimed that we are "cowards" for not discussing race more often. I think he is right, and Heather MacDonald gives many of the reasons why in "Nation of Cowards?" (City Journal,

Political correctness does not allow us to say that more blacks are in prison because more blacks commit crimes (83% of gun assailants in NYC, according to MacDonald, compared to their 24% of the population) and among other things, blacks do more poorly in school (close to a 50% high school drop out rate), score lower on even the new revised SAT tests, and, most tellingly, lead the nation in single mother births. As MacDonald suggests, conversation would be easier if honesty were permitted.

And beyond that, it is true that most middle class whites have little contact with blacks. This is not choice; it's demographics...where we work and, more importantly, where we live. And again, this is not necessarily today's choice, but the result of historical conditions, including bigotry. However, I don't think, if blacks are 20% of the population, it would be particularly wise to decree they occupy every fifth home on a street.

I had an older black man in composition class last year. He had been in prison and been a truck driver for many years and wanted to advance into a position in the computer area. He was a big, jovial man, who called me "Teach." But he made it clear that he didn't want to be the token black in the class and respond to readings with the black race's viewpoint. He wanted to be himself: loud, sometimes angry, mostly funny. He had no desire to be a black foil to white misconceptions, nor to affirm white guilt.

Race relations and conversation in this country will be improved when it's possible to say to any candidate, "You didn't get the job because you weren't qualified" or "You didn't get into Harvard because your academic record didn't justify admission." Along with that honesty, we need to change our schools (I believe we need affirmative action for poorly performing schools) so that all students, especially minorities, are encouraged and pushed to excel. Obviously, a lot of that push must come from the student's home, and having a father in the home is one of the most important factors to ensuring success in life.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ducks and Roses!

I took a walk with my sweetheart (fortified with a great big chocolate bar) by the Truckee River on Valentine Day, and in response to the writing prompt on Middle Zone Musings (, this is what I noticed: two men feeding Canadian geese, which are a lot like pigeons except bigger, feistier, and messier; several older couples walking; one younger couple necking under a bridge; four possibly homeless guys smoking and talking (not panhandling), a mother and small daughter, and best of all a bunch of red roses, caught in a cross current that sent them swirling in a circular pattern around a duck couple, which noticed them not. Ahhh, romance.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Please Don't Eat the Books

Sitting on my desk right now to be repaired (the front cover and next page have been ripped off) is a copy of Robert McCloskey’s wonderful Blueberries For Sal. I bought the book in a used book store years ago for my kids, and I saved it for years before giving it to my grandson (3 ½) a few months ago. This book is an all time treasure. I loved it as a child; my kids loved it. And Maddox will love it also as he begins to move beyond being careless with fragile books to appreciating the story and illustrations.

However, this book, and the remaining seven boxes (file drawer size) of my kids’ children’s books that our well-over-60 moving crew lugged to our new home last month, is now illegal. At least it is illegal of me to give one to a child or read one to a child because of the possibility or even likelihood that the inks with which it was printed contained lead. This is despite the fact that no one can point to any child who has ever been injured by lead paint in ink used in children’s books (Walter Olson, “The New Book Burning, City Journal,

This abominaton is the result of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress last summer in hasty response to panic over lead paint contained in toys from China. It shares this panic feature with the recent stimulus package, but it is demonstrably pernicious from the start. Walter Oleson may not be literally correct about “book burning,” but he quotes a commentator on the “handicraft and vintage goods-site Etsy,”

"I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage!...Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of The Outsiders from the top of the box, but so many!"

Besides generations of children, this congressional edict will hurt second-hand bookstores, thrift shops…and those wanting to make a few books selling their old children’s books at a yard sale. Although it may be that the long arm of the law won’t extend that far, it could also be that a neighborhood nanny will snitch, and booksellers have reason to fear that the new administration, delighting in regulation, will not be lax in enforcement. Oleson points to an unknown consequence: the cost of replacing, if possible, the number of children’s books published before 1985 that reside in public libraries. It will be astronomical and, therefore, beyond the reach of many.

Just for a guess, I looked up Blueberries for Sal on Amazon. There are a few used copes available (still listed anyway) beginning at $25. I suspect I paid 25 cents for the copy on my desk (copyright 1948, The Viking Press). I will repair it for my gandson and talk with him about how important it is to treasure old books.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Half a Glass or Half Empty?

After President Obama's prime-time-televised press conference last night, I'm wondering how many more he will want to subject us to. Frankly, I agree with Bill O'Reilly. It was boring. And I thought he sounded a lot like an Economics 101 or 102 student making a class room presentation.

But I may be wrong. Most of the conservative talking heads disagreed with Bill and thought Obama had stayed on message and made his point well: We are in "dire" straits," the worst straits since the Great Depression, so we have to do something as quickly as possible. How do you rate the logic of such an assertion?

The stimulus bill has grown in the Senate. Many of the social reprogramming contained in the House bill is still there. I'm thinking about health care especially. Although government health care is sold as a benefit, what would the result be? Would you believe possibly lowering the age expectancy...and definitely the "quality" of life of the elderly? Read what Hudson fellow Betsy McCaughey has to say on

And here's how government care is working in Canada:

One Canadian responded to the Journal, writing "I'm in Newfoundland, Canada, 74 years old and in need of a hip replacement as it's bone on bone. I have an appointment to see a doctor on October 20th of this year. Meanwhile I carry on the best I can. I would be better off if I was a dog in need of a vet” (Robert McCrindle).

I realize it is also true that many in the U.S. can't get hip replacement surgery because they can't afford it and don't have good health insurance coverage, but shouldn't the answer be to expand coverage rather than to limit proceedures and apply the rule of equal discomfort for all?

McCaughey reports, "the health-care industry is the largest employer in the U.S. It produces almost 17 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Yet the bill treats health care the way European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth industry." She tries to imagine limiting "growth and innovation" in the electronics industry during this downturn. Moving this back a few years, try to imagine life without the IPOD, smart phones, Kindle etc., to say nothing about the amazing expanding internet.

President Obama claimed he is "a perennial optimist" toward the end of his designed-to-alarm press conference. Before his administration tackles the best health care in the world, I hope his spirits rise, and he sees more good outcomes to increase than hardships to impose.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Plum Duff Updated!

Here's an updated version of plum duff from Graham Hawkes' Flannagans Seafood Restaurant in Invercargill, New Zealand:
It looks yummy, even if we're past the Christmas season!

Now, can anyone tell me how to translate grams to cups?

Sunday Morning Blues

My husband had an interesting thought this morning: Rather than asking "are you better off now than four or eight or ten years ago?" ask "are your children better off than four, eight, ten or more years ago?" I think most might answer in the negative.

Dale's thought was prompted by thinking about the cost of the proposed stimulus bill for future generations. And I'm thinking about educational results that have slid downhill for 40 or more years and of the many aspects of the culture that are toxic to a life to be well lived.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Houses Split Asunder

I never took one of the Marriage and the Family courses in college, perhaps to my detriment. At the time these didn’t seem grandly intellectual. I think later they gave way to even less intellectual offerings in women’s departments.

Today, I am reconsidering my earlier prejudice. I’ve been reading the latest (January/February) issue of Touchstone magazine (A Journal of Mere Christianity) and the issue’s theme is “Meaningful Intercourse,” and yes, the editors do mean sexual.

The main point of one article, “Phony Matrimony,” is encapsulated in this quote: “Mainstream American society, even as it is statistically somewhat more opposed to same-sex marriage than in favor of it, envisions ‘marriage’ in a way that cannot bear any rational scrutiny of its exclusion of same-sex couples.” The reason is most marriages today are considered revocable; “for better or worse… until death do us part” has become a rhetorical flourish only, and more tellingly, bearing children has become optional.

Modern marriage’s revolving door makes the institution more attractive to the irresponsible “love” bitten and to the commitment phobic, and splitting the roles of “spouse” and “parent” has undermined the necessity of marriage and shaped it as an optional living arrangement, while opening the door of acceptability to any kind of alternative.

If you are like me, there’s pause here because I share the guilt. Along with, I’d guess, a majority of people, I fall short of the traditional Roman Catholic ideal of marriage. I may have some excuse in being raised Protestant, but I am more significantly a part, as are most of us inescapably, of what Oleson terms “our cultural deterioration.” We have been raised so and confirmed so by all the social forces around us. The Catholic church’s position on contraception seemed archaic and alien to me in my child-bearing years, just as the Church’s position on abortion seems archaic, alien, and oppressive to many sexually liberated women today.

However, it’s not individuals that Oleson seeks to condemn, it’s the cultural debasement he wishes to counter. And he recognizes that the task will be long, quoting Alaisdair Macintyre’s After Virtue… “through the new dark ages that are already upon us.”

Don’t expect the government to help. Stephen Baskerville takes on the culture and business of divorce in “Divorced From Reality,” in the same Touchstone issue. This one you can read online: Baskerville asserts: “Divorce licenses unprecedented government intrusion into family life, including the power to sunder families, seize children, loot family wealth, and incarcerate parents without trial.”

If this language seems intemperate to you, go the website and read the entire piece. No-fault divorce is seldom a rational decision made by two adults; rather in 80% of cases (Divided Families by Furstenberg and Cherlin), one spouse objects. Such “involuntary divorce,” Baskerville’s term, brings in “an army of judicial hangers-on who reward belligerence and profit from the ensuing litigation: judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, counselors, mediators, custody evaluators, social workers, and more.” And it doesn’t end there: “involuntary divorce by its nature requires constant government supervision over family life.”

Children become “the principal weapons of the divorce machinery.” And the usual result is to remove the father from the home… innocent of any crime and without any burden of proof for justification. A father can be arrested “for seeing …children without government authorization…for not paying child support, even if the amount exceeds his means…and for not paying an attorney or a psychotherapist he has not hired.” Although all this would seem a violation of basic constitutional right, Baskerville points out the “multi-billion divorce industry also commands a huge government-funded propaganda machine that has distorted our view of what is happening.”

Baskerville goes on to outline “Divorce Gamesmanship,” “Cycle of Abuse,” “Trafficking in Children,” “The Child Support Racket,” and finally the “Responsibility of Churches. He believes families need to be protected from government “invasion” and endorses the work of Marriage Savers (

I think all of us know there is a crisis in family life in the US and seemingly throughout the Western world. No marriage is ever trouble free, and sticking with a “bad” marriage may seem like suffering through a life sentence, but there are also cycles in marriages; things often get better. And we need to acknowledge also that although “no-fault” divorce makes a mockery of marriage as a contract, there are legitimate grounds (unrepentant adultery and abuse) for divorce in civil society. It’s just tragic that the actual choice is so often made frivolously by one party without due consideration of consequence. Perhaps Marriage and the Family courses need to be reinstated.

Fear Itself

A friend has sent me a link ( to a revealing history of the origins of global warming alarmism...and at the same time an extremely informative site for serious investors (not me, unfortunately). It's a story of "follow the [funding] money" coupled with messianic visions of world government and simple lust (to make this summary a little sexier) for political power, all by John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel. You'll enjoy...or grit your teeth.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Light My World!

I used to muse, when we lived in Port Townsend, Washington (a quaint, touristy Victorian seaport, harshly split between granola crunchers from California and PT-born paper mill workers and others scrambling for a living) that a Hollywood Video store, complete with garish pink and orange neon, was needed on the main street, Water Street—or at least on the road into town—to add a bit of reality and discourage further migration from the south.

Now I learn that Las Vegas wants stimulus money for more neon—off the strip—because there’s not enough glitz “off the beaten path,” says the Wall Street Journal. The project “will revitalize a blighted neighborhood,” says the city’s spokesperson.

Now, I think I was wrong in my earlier thinking. Neon won’t necessarily scare away Californians and others who want to change communities…always for the better, of course. Neon won’t provide many additional jobs for locals in blighted neighborhoods in Vegas, but it might light their way home at night.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Republican Judd Gregg is the new secretary of commerce...and his Senate seat will go to a moderate Republican and be up for grabs in the next election, all according to a deal made between Gregg and the Democrat governor of New Hampshire (with or without White House participation).

So let me get this straight: it's not OK to sell a Senate seat, but one can be bartered. Pardon me if this seems rather like a hostile takeover of a fragile Republican filibuster card in the Senate.