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UPDATE: Two new boys born in our family the same week! Such a blessing! Makes our hearts sing.  Thanks for the comments and good wishes.
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I'll be offline for a few days, thanks to new grandbabies arriving in two different states, bringing our total to five (!). One down, one to go. Life is very, very good.

 
 
Pulitzer-winner Saul Friedman brings his wealth of knowledge and understanding to the fore in a comprehensive, but clear, look at current threats to Social Security, as we know it. He also lays out a plan for keeping the program flush for the next generation.  A must-read for all seniors and anyone who expects to be one someday. 

We thought Social Security was safe when Barack Obama was elected. He had opposed George Bush’s attempt to turn the program into millions of 401(k)s subject to the whims of the stock market.

And Obama pledged to keep and preserve Social Security as it is, a defined benefit pension/insurance plan that pays $650 billion to 53 million older Americans, the disabled and the surviving spouses and children of beneficiaries.

But Obama has fallen for the cut-the-deficit frenzy, appointing a commission run by banker Erskine Bowles and right-wing, former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, that began its work by attacking and talking about cuts in Social Security’s benefits.

The president, who says he is still hostile to such cuts and that its long-term financial problems are easily fixed, adds ominously that “everything is on the table.”

That makes me nervous because Obama compromises too much with sworn enemies of Social Security, so perhaps he, as much as the rest of us, needs a primer on the crown jewel of the American moral imperative towards its older population.

For the complete story, go to http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2010/07/reflections-on-social-security.html
 

 
 
Having a bad day? Rain and/or heat got you down?

Before you hit the bottle or kick the dog, get a low fat, no calorie, environmentally friendly, completely ridiculous pick-me-up at I Write Like (http://iwl.me/).


It’s free, it’s fun, it’s completely unscientific.

Just cut and paste a few graphs of your writing and discover your literary DNA (just don’t take it too seriously). Here’s mine: 
 
I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


I pasted in a portion of the blog post “What is a Family” for this head-swelling analysis. Later, I dropped in a a few sentences from another post and came us as a dead ringer for Dan Brown!

After some thought,  I decided I’d prefer to write like James Joyce but be as rich as Dan Brown. Wouldn't you?

Unfortunately, they don't tell you how to do that on this blog..

After you’ve had your palm read – so to speak – check out the I Write Like newsletter, complete with interesting quotes from some of the great writers of the last century, including this gem:

It’s a feature of our age that if you write a work of fiction, everyone assumes that the people and events in it are disguised biography — but if you write your biography, it’s equally assumed you’re lying your head off.

— Margaret Atwood

So, keep writing, just like whoever, and yes I said yes I will Yes.

 
 
From the July 24 The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1936, the Dust Bowl heat wave was so intense that Kansas and Nebraska experienced their all-time hottest temperatures, unbroken to this day. In Alton, Kansas, the temperature was 121 degrees, and in Minden, Nebraska, it was 118.

During the summer of 1936, a total of 15 states recorded all-time hottest temperatures that still have not been broken. And not all of the states were in the Dust Bowl region.

Earlier in the month, Runyon, New Jersey, was 110, Moorhead, Minnesota, hit 114, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, 112. By early August, Ozark, Arkansas, and Seymour, Texas, had hit 120 degrees.

The term 'Dust Bowl' had first been used on April 15, 1935, the day after 'Black Sunday,' when dust storms were so bad on the Great Plains that the sky was totally black during the day and there were winds up to 60 miles per hour. The term 'dust bowl' was coined by Robert Geiger, a reporter and sports fan, and he might have been comparing the bowl-like formation of the Great Plains, ringed by mountains, to the appearance of the arenas for the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl. He used it offhandedly -- two days later, he referred to the same region as 'the dust belt.' But 'dust bowl' stuck.

In The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck wrote: 'And then the dispossessed were drawn west -- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Carloads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless -- restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do -- to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut -- anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.' 

 
 
From today's The Writer's Almanac:

Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo 
 
 
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.
  
"Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo, from Reinventing the Enemy's Language. (c) W.W. Norton and Co., 1998. Reprinted with permission.
 
 
 

 
 
Has anyone had any experience with the Free State Project? It seems thousands of Free Staters are attempting to set up a new society in neighboring New Hampshire, home of the free. 

In case you don’t know, there is no sales tax or state income tax in New Hampshire, but very heavy local and estate taxes, plus the usual federal stuff. [Mais oui, if you want schools and snow-free roads, you’ve gotta get the money from somewhere!]

Consequently, in rich NH towns near Boston or Hanover and even Keene, schools are well-funded. Elsewhere in the state, the quality of public education reflects what the locals can afford, which ain’t much.


You would think this craziness would not appeal to many, but no, it’s attracting a raft of wingnuts from all over the US, especially from those places where extremists tend to gather. 

A few weeks ago, for example, Massachusetts State Police made a routine speeding stop involving a New Hampshire car on I-91. Inside the car, they found cocaine, scales, glassine envelopes, camouflauge clothing, targets, ammunition, as well a .357 revolver loaded with hollow-point ammo tucked under the driver’s seat. They arrested the driver and two passengers, and later arrested two of their friends who showed up to bail them out. I won’t go into the whole story, but, according to the news story, the friends went out of their way to antagonize authorities into offering them a few free nights' lodging.   

The friends refused to follow rules for posting bail or to cooperate with police because, they said, they were Free Staters and did not believe the state had any right to impose any laws on them.

One described himself as a “Voluntaryist.”
According to the story in the local newspaper, Voluntaryists believe in minimal and entirely voluntary government and they reject the idea of licensing for guns or the importance, by society, of rules on their members.

According to Wikipedia, the Free State Project, begun in 2001, is designed to convince a minimum of 20,000 libertarian-leaning people—including Voluntaryists---to move to New Hampshire in order to make the state a stronghold for their political ideas. They recommend people move to Keene, on  the southern border, near Massachusetts and Vermont (where people do pay taxes and have services).

Those who formally join must sign a statement of intent to move to the state within five years of the group reaching 20,000 participants. (What happens to them if they don't move?) As of March 14, 2010, according to organizers, there were 10,000 participants, 797 of whom had moved to New Hampshire. See their website for more information.


They also are putting up candidates for state office. One Free Stater NH judge has been elected and six state legislators have ties to the Project.

Whaaa?

How can an anarchist run for office? And win? I hope he/she didn’t take any salary for the work.

Listen up, you people in Oregon, California, western NYS, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Texas: please keep tyour fringe people happy and home in your own states! We already have our own crazies in New England. We don't need this.

And they can leave their guns and their drugs home, too!

What are folks gonna do when winter comes and there are no volunteers to go out in the sub-zero night to plow the roads?

And, New Hampshirites, are you really interested in building the No State?

 
 
Guess who I wrote to today? One of my senators, Scott Brown, himself.

I wrote to Sen. Brown because I don’t want him to miss Tom Friedman’s column in today’s NYT concerning the importance of passing clean energy legislation and doing so now, for both political and practical reasons. What could be a bigger incentive to reduce our dependence on oil than millions of gallons of the stuff washing ashore in five states?

In his piece, Friedman offers the GOP a framework for compromise, so I sent it to SB, in hopes he’ll run with it. If he wants to be a hero to the millions of Democrats and independents in his home state, he better listen up. Massachusetts is poised to take a lead in the clean tech industry, and he should be backing that potential for new jobs and revenue every chance he gets. Let’s see what he does on this one.

I’m tired of waiting for House and Senate Democrats to lean on the GOP for support on important bills, and equally tired of waiting for Obama to do it. Obama’s got a full plate, and those in Congress must call in their chits carefully. You can’t expect those chits to always fall where you want them.

I urge everyone to clip and send this paragraph to their Republican senator or senators. It can’t hurt.

Can you imagine how high the stock market would soar and how easy a compromise with Democrats would become if Republicans offered an energy policy consistent with their values and our interests? What if the G.O.P. said: We will support a carbon tax provided one-third of the revenue goes toward cutting corporate taxes, one-third toward cutting payroll taxes for every working American and one-third toward paying down the deficit. The G.O.P. would actually help us get a better energy policy.

Surely there are seven Republican senators who can see this. Aren’t there?

 

For the full column, see What 7 Republicans Could Do
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/opinion/21friedman.html?hp

 


 
 
By now, the whole world probably has heard of Sarah Palin’s tweet, wherein she compares herself to William Shakespeare. Well, not exactly.

Here’s what she tweeted: 
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While you unwind from that cringe, you might want to read two well written takes on this presidential wannabe’s gaffe -- one light, one serious and both worth reading:

Refudiate: Sarah Palin’s New Political Language
The Meanings of Sarah Palin

 
 
More shenanigans in Texas where, apparently, only the most outrageous acts are viewed as normal. Consider a permit-to-carry as a fast track into the Texas statehouse, according to this AP story carried in today’s Washington Post:

Everyone from lobbyists to lawyers and journalists is rushing to get permits to carry guns inside the Texas Capitol, where legislators already often tote pistols in boots and purses or stow them away inside their desks.

A unique loophole in a new security procedure means a gun permit is like a special-access pass into the domed building, allowing people who are certified to carry a gun to bypass lines at the metal detectors that were set up after a shooting incident earlier this year.

"Nobody wants to be the one standing in line behind three hundred kids wearing the same colored T-shirt," said University of Texas political scientist Jim Henson.

For the full story, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/19/AR2010071901454.html?hpid=nation

Remind me to skip that tour.

Sorry Paul, George, Kathleen, Ann and other Texaphiles on Birds. Maybe guns as accessories are something a person can get used to. Frankly, I hope I never do.  
 
 

 
 
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For a look at the festivities in Paris, see the BBC report here.