Today's NEHGS eNews includes the following lovely passage written on July 4, 1632 by New England Puritan leader John Winthrop. (The website version the eNews link will take you to is currently a few issues behind, but will eventually catch up to the one to which I refer, which is Vol. 10, No. 19).

I have much difficulty to keep John Galloppe here by reason his wife will not come [to the New England colony]. I marvel at the woman’s weakness that she will live miserably with her children there, when she might live comfortably here with her husband. I pray persuade and further her coming by all means: if she will come let her have the remainder of his wages, if not, let it be bestowed to bring over his children, for so he desires: it would be above £40 loss for him to come for her.

Say what you want about the difficulties of family separation, and the desirability of reunion, and I will agree with you.  But I marvel at the arrogance, duplicity, bullying, and blackmail from a leader who was loved and respected by so many.  (Actually, it reminds me of a modern-day religous leader some of us know. Let the reader understand.  Perhaps more strong, innovative leaders than we'd like to believe are a curious admixture of high intelligence, charismatic personality, stubborn will, and arrogant self-righteousness.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 9:18 am | Edit
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It's easy to dismiss the Yearning for Zion Ranch as a collection of kooks, but even kooks have rights in this country, or should. Innocent chidlren, especially, should have their rights firmly protected, including the right not to be torn from their homes without clear and compelling evidence of immediate danger.  Yet the State of Texas has abused the children of the Yearning for Zion families in just that way, on the strength of one anonymous phone call accusing one man of abusing his 16-year-old wife.  Over 400 children were turned over to strangers, subjected to medical examinations, and even though there was no evidence of abuse have still not been allowed to return home.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (not to be confused with the "mainline" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called Mormons) certainly is bizarre, and if they are forcing people to marry against their wills (underage or not), if they are breaking the laws of Texas, they are in the wrong.  But living in an isolated community, wearing old-fashioned clothing, and teaching one's children that obedience is a godly virtue are not crimes, no matter how odd they might seem to mainstream America.  If the laws against underage marriage have been broken, let them be investigated and prosecuted with due process, not with hysteria and actions that will forever scar young lives.

"Laws against underage marriage."  Hmmm, I wonder where the activists are?  The ones who think it's so natural for children to have sex that they're pushing for condom distribution in middle schools?  The ones who insist 13-year-olds need access to abortions—without parental consent or even notification?  It's okay for young teens to be sexually active and have abortions, but not okay for them to marry and have children?  Now that's what I call a bizarre belief system!
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at 12:47 pm | Edit
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Is it any wonder Americans are such poor money managers when you look at the behavior of our government? Or should I perhaps say that the other way around?

Only a few short years ago, the State of Florida was enjoying a large budget surplus, because tax revenues went through the roof thanks in part to all the rebuilding necessary after our four-hurricane year. Naturally (but stupidly), everyone clammored to spend the "excess." There were plenty of claimants for the money, but few indeed were the voices of reason, and they did not prevail. It should have been obvious to anyone with any sense at all that boom times don't last, and the years of plenty are when you put away your surplus to help you through the lean years.

Now the rebuilding is complete, and people are being more careful with their money, so Florida is hurting for sales tax revenue. Suddenly we are cutting programs, laying off public prosecutors, and—that whicih inspired this post—threatening to demolish the wonderful Road Ranger system that I wrote so enthusiastically about after I was stranded on the side of the highway, at night, in a non-functional car. If we had invested that surplus when we had it, we could be using it now to go along normally, and avoid the expense of restarted when economic conditions improve. Basic economics, Finance 101, just plain common sense.

Or not so common. God Himself had to teach Joseph this strategy, and then Pharaoh thought the idea so impressive he put Joseph in charge of the whole kingdom. But you'd think we'd have learned something from that story.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Edit
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It's true that Barack Obama scares me.  He has so much charisma that I'm afraid an Obama presidency would actually succeed in implementing his harmful agenda.  I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton's and John McCain's agenda's aren't harmful—just that I think they're less likely to succeed in bringing them to fruition.

Nonetheless, there's no point in making too much out of his regrettable comment that small-town Americans "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment" because they are bitter about their economic circumstances.  True, the remark is offensive, out of touch, and just plain wrong, and Obama didn't improve the situation with his attempt at recovery.  "I didn’t say it as well as I should have,” he admitted, but “I said something that everybody knows is true.” (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 7:06 am | Edit
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John C. Wright is one of the latest entries in my feedreader, and frankly I've forgotten whom to credit and am too busy/lazy to try to figure it out.  But thanks, whoever you are.  John's entries are almost always well-written and interesting, and often give me a fresh perspective on issues.  His latest is too rich for me to give it more than a quick read at this point, but I'm posting it here so I won't lose it, and for the benefit of others.

And when the Laws of England Are Flat, and the Devil Turns on You? 

Fans of A Man for All Seasons may recognize the title; if not, there's a YouTube link to refresh your memory.  If you're told "this video is no longer available," try again; it worked the first time for me, and not the second, but the next time I had no trouble.

One of the reasons this post resonated with me is that this is the second time I've run into the idea that Classical Liberalism is nearly the opposite of what we call Liberalism today.  (The first was in a Teaching Company course on Western Civilization.)  That and the fact that it reminded me of this line from Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night"The first thing a principle does, if it really is a principle, is to kill someone."
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at 9:03 am | Edit
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Not a proper post today, but I must keep my readers checking in.  :)  A post on Random Observations led me to this Boston Herald essay by Michael Graham: Campus "Activism" Redefined.  As one commenter remarked, it's too late to be an April Fool joke.  Not content with co-ed dorms on college campuses, the latest push is for gender-blind dorm rooms. Whoopee!

To be fair, I think they're actually talking about letting you choose your own roommate regardless of sex, rather than yet another big shock when a freshman meets his or her roommate for the first time.  Still, it remains a stupid idea. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 4:38 pm | Edit
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The other day we were told, by one whose buisness it is to predict these things, that no matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, our taxes are going up.  He may be right.  If they're serious about stimulating the American economy, raising American taxes seems a foolish approach, but the public keeps demanding more services, and there's always a bill for services rendered.

So I got to thinking, at lunchtime, as I munched on my barbecue potato chips, about Switzerland.  They have some wonderful potato chips there, somewhat like our barbecue variety, but better—though that impression may have been due to Favorable Emotional Circumstances.  One day I made a hasty stop at the grocery store and grabbed some food for a train trip, only to discover, too late, that I had paid over $5 for a medium-sized bag of chips!

The bag I was munching from was more than half again as large, and priced at $2.50.  I actually paid half that; I generally don't by chips unless they're on sale.  It occured to me that a price tag of $7.50 would be a significant deterrent; I would probably still buy them for very special occasions, but casual purchasing would defintely be out.  Thus it would be in my best interest, health-wise, if the potato chip manufacturers decided to triple their prices.  But they wouldn't do it.  Without illegal collusion in the industry, competition would force the price back down immediately.

Unless the government stepped in.  Imagine a $5/bag tax on potato chips; applied to all, no one manufacturer could undercut the market, and suddenly Americans just might start reducing their consumption.  I only pick on potato chips because they are my own weakness, but let's not stop there:  corn chips, soda, candy, cookies, Happy Meals—all those top of the food pyramid, artificial ingredient, and preservative heavy "foods" that make up so much of our modern diet and have nutritionists and health professionals wringing their hands.

Sin taxes have their problems, I know.  The last thing I want to do is create yet another opportunity for organized crime to fluorish.  (Pssst!  Wanna buy an Oreo?) But it would be my favorite kind of tax:  likely to provide significant income for the government, yet completely avoidable simply by eating as we know we should. 
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Edit
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Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty

Whether you attribute that quotation to Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry, it's the truth, and no less true when it comes to the rights of parents to educate their own children. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 9:02 am | Edit
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver,  Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007)

When we were visiting Janet, a friend of hers was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  The friend wasn’t totally happy with it, but it sounded intriguing enough that I borrowed it from the library when we returned. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Edit
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Two years ago, Andy F. alerted me to a National Review article by Rod Dreher entitled Crunchy Cons.  This was actually a reprint, the original having been published 'way back in 2002.  Andy suggested I might enjoy both the article and the opportunity to turn it into a blog post, and he was right.  It's not his fault it's taken me so long to write.

Dreher has a book of the same title that I haven't yet read, so I'll only be commenting on the article.  But the book's subtitle nearly says it all:  How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 10, 2008 at 11:09 am | Edit
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I always get depressed when guests leave. Those who know me know also that I am basically an introvert and am energized by solitude and by being at home. But that in no way lessens the empty feeling when company leaves. I mean good company, of course, but we've never had any other kind. We truly enjoyed Stephan's brief visit and are looking forward to spending more time with him at the Maggie P. this summer. So I deal with my depression by writing. It's healthier than some choices, even if it only worsens the time pressure I'm also dealing with.

Not that this is anything new, but I've decided that love and growth are inextricably intertwined with risk and pain, and each new opportunity comes with mixed joy and sorrow. I love the new ideas, knowledge, viewpoints, and friendships Janet is gaining from her overseas experiences—and that we are gaining, also. But with that comes the inescapable truth that she is planting roots a long distance from home, and developing a heart that can never again be monocultural without pain and loss.

Ah, well—it's been a long time since most people were born, lived and died in the same town, and we enjoyed the benefits (as well as the tribulations) of several generations living together. Now, at least, we have e-mail and inexpensive phone communication and not-impossibly-expensive plane fares to ease the sting a bit. And Skype. Stephan introduced us to Skype this weekend. I hadn't been enthusiastic about it before, since our phone calls to Switzerland are only six cents per minute and we can use our regular phones. But Skype can handle video, and it was so good to see Janet's face! Something tells me I need to invest in a camera for the computer (Janet said it wasn't expensive, even in Switzerland)—and convince the Daleys to do the same. :)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 28, 2008 at 9:58 am | Edit
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I'm trying to clean up my office.  There's too much stuff that needs attending to, and it's getting lost in the paper shuffle.

Unfortunately, one of the things that needs attending to happens to be my sample ballot for the upcoming Florida presidential primary.  It inspired me to go online and try again to find help deciding for whom to vote.  Now that was depressing.  I suppose it doesn't matter, because the Democratic National Committee has chosen to play the bully and not count our votes. (They're still sore over 2000, I guess.)  What hurts so much that it's hard to think about is how opposed all of the Democratic candidates are, in their stated positions, to so many things I hold dear.  What I once believed to be the party of the little people seems bent on being the party of big government, big unions, big education, and big medicine—the bullies that are pushing around the little people I know.  "Litmus tests" on the issues are of questionable value, but it's hard to see all the candidates failing all of them.  Sigh.  I can't say I'm impressed by any of the Republicans, either, but some of them at least give lip service in favor of my positions.  So I could always cast my primary vote hoping to put forth the least electable candidate.  If I could figure out who that was.

Clinton the First wasn't as bad as he threatened to be, partly because it seems one must be extreme while campaigning, and partly because Congressional opposition kept him from accomplishing all his goals.  Perhaps my best hope is a similar stalemate.

There's always the temptation to set up a Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton - Bush line of presidents (all different people).  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Edit
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I normally don't mind that most news stories are bad news.  After all, the different, the unusual, that which makes "news" should be bad; good should be so common that it doesn't make headlines.

However, I'm beginning to suspect that some folks actually enjoy reporting bad news, as stories that have both good and bad sides always seem to be reported in the negative.  Take the latest housing "crisis."  Yes, I know, people who should have known better, and bankers who did know better, behaved stupidly and even wickedly, which led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and I understand how that's a problem for a lot more people and businesses than those directly involved.

I certainly sympathize with those who are trying to sell their houses and find that prices have fallen and they have to sell for less than they could have received a year ago—maybe even less than they paid.  But this is not news.  There have always been "buyer's markets" and "seller's markets," and I grew up knowing that one is more likely to be on the wrong end of the swing.  Yet now the headlines scream disaster because housing prices keep falling.

Sure, this is bad news to some.  But a few years ago the headlines cried woe and doom because housing prices kept rising, squeezing people—especially first-time home buyers—out of the market.  We certainly felt that way when we looked at buying a house in the Boston area.

If it must always be bad news, if the country is headed toward disaster when housing prices rise, and again when they fall, I'm likely to cry, "A plague on both your houses!" and toss the paper over in favor of my World of Puzzles magazine.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 7:23 pm | Edit
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So states an Orlando Sentinel article with the bizarre and ominous headline, "Hong Kong Tests Toys for Date Rape Drug."  It appears that the Chinese manufacturers of a children's arts and craft item called Spin Dots (also known as Bindeez), instead of using the non-toxic compound 1,5-pentanediol, substituted 1,4-butanediol, which metabolizes into the "date-rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate when swallowed.

Surely the article's author was being facetious, for it is abundantly clear why the substitution was made; as the article states, the non-toxic compound is between three and seven times more expensive than the dangerous one.  It is the Chinese-made toothpaste scandal all over again, in which toxic diethylene glycol was substitued for harmless, but more expensive, glycerin.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Edit
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Heard in passing:  Money you pay in taxes doesn't come out of your pocket.

There's a chance I missed something critical here, since I just walked by the radio and didn't hear the whole story.  But what I heard was the results of a survey of people in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and some other countries, about which the reporter stated, with a serious and worried tone, that people in the United States pay about $1000 more per year in out-of-pocket health care expenses than those in most of the countries surveyed.

Most of the countries have socialized medical care and their people pay heavily in taxes for their services.  I should hope they'd be paying less out-of-pocket!

But somehow, if you pay money to the government, rather than to a doctor, it doesn't count.  As an economist I know keeps reminding me, "A dollar is a dollar is a dollar."  And so is a pound, a euro, or a franc.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 2, 2007 at 6:05 am | Edit
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