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Knucklehead for President

The words grabbed my attention. I can just see someone shouting “Knucklehead for President”. The “stuff happens” part also appealed to me but it was the knucklehead business that really got my attention.

The article was “Stuff Happens to the Environment, Like Climate Change” by Thomas L. Friedman (@tomfriedman) and here is how it begins: Continue reading

Crimson Shore by Preston & Child

First my thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to download an advanced reader copy of “Crimson Shore” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I have enjoyed some of Agent Pendergast books previously.

Most of the ones I’ve read have been very good. I see this is number 15 in the series and as I only have read a few earlier ones, I was eager to get re-acquainted. Continue reading

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution

I had read two previous books by Joseph J. Ellis about the founding of the United States several years ago . I had liked these books and when I saw he had written a new book with emphasis on the transformation into a nation or the Second American Revolution, I was eager to read it.

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution , 1783-1789 actually begins in 1781 when the final state ratifies the Articles of Confederation. This loose confederation of the states had many problems due to the supremacy of states and lack of power in the weakly united confederation that pretended to be the United States.

For example, under the Articles the confederation called the United States had no way to force the states to honor the terms of the peace treaty which ended the American Revolution. They could ask the states but some chose to ignore the request. There was no way to raise money to pay our national debt. The United States was deeply in debt from the war but could only ask the states to give it money. The requests were frequently ignored.

Many other problems are discussed. Many could clearly see some change was needed but of course there was disagreement on how big the change should be. Some would be happy with minor tweaks to the Articles to solve problems as they came up. Others believed a much stronger national government was needed.

This book is about how 4 men (George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay) made the stronger national government a reality. Many other were important but these are the ones that Ellis argues were the most important. Whether you agree with his thesis that these were the stars of this movement or disagree, the book is a good history of this major event in American history.

By focusing on just these critical years, Dr. Ellis is able to keep this book reasonably brief. Excluding appendices (Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights), Acknowledgements, Notes and Index, the book is a little over 200 pages. This is enough to present a detailed (but not too detailed) history of the Second American Revolution.

This is a very interesting story and Dr. Ellis tells it well. He takes us though the deficiencies of the Articles, the political maneuvering to write a constitution and get it approved, and then the very beginnings of the Unites States as a truly united country.

The states were united enough to win independence but probably would have ceased to exist as a single nation if this Second American Revolution had not occurred.

The Quartet closes with a quote from Thomas Jefferson. This surprised me as he was in Paris at the time and did not participate in the constitutional convention. He was also one of the more vocal critics of strong government among the founding fathers. But it is a good and appropriate quote. That is also a good place to end this review.

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

The quote is from a letter written in 1816. Dr Ellis has chosen to shorten it a bit with ellipses. I have quoted the full section. The full text is at http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-samuel-kercheval/

Congress is still forgetting “Never Forget”

I’ve written several times this month about Congress forgetting that we owe a huge debt to the responders to the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001. Some people responded as part of the job; others were volunteers who just showed up to help.

Politicians like to say they will never forget but a bit of help to go with those sentiments would be nice. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act is one way to giving that bit of help.

I imagine congress is pretty busy today thinking about the national budget. But it seems they like last minute deals. While stalling on this, they could take up the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act.

I’m sure they will just kick the can down the road on the budget and just pass some sort of continuing resolution. But parts of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act expire at midnight tonight.

How about doing something positive today?

History of the American Public Library

This is an enjoyable book. I had requested an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand because I like libraries. I got the ARC from NetGalley and thank them for the chance to read this book on my Kindle before publication.

I claim neither special knowledge of nor interest in librarianship, just an interest as a library user and occasional supporter. I think I may be part of the target audience since the subtitle suggests this is a “people’s history” rather than one aimed primarily at professionals. Continue reading

Defunding Planned Parenthood

Is defunding Planned Parenthood unconstitutional?

Defunding Planned Parenthood is much in the news lately. Congressman want to do it. Candidates in the Republican primary for President want to do it. But is it constitutional?

David S. Cohen, professor of law at Drexel University, says it is unconstitutional. And this article makes sense to me. You might want to read it and think about it.


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Congress forgot to “Never Forget”

A bit over 14 years ago on September 11, 2001 several coordinated terrorist attacks were launched on America. Americans vowed to never forget the sacrifices of those who died or were injured as a result of those attacks. Every year on 9/11 politicians make a big show that they will “Never Forget”.

Thousands of volunteers helped in the rescue and recovery. Thousands helped clean up the devastation. We will “Never Forget”.

But our Representatives and Senators in Congress seem to have forgotten. They are glad to say “never forget” in their speeches. But they seemed to forget to “Never Forget” in their actions. Continue reading

Senator Toomey, take a stand

Yesterday I wrote about the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act and how there are many co-sponsors but the House and Senate Bills have been stuck in committee for several months with no apparent action.

This week’s newsletter from Senator Toomey starts with a short summary of his visit to the Delaware County 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in which they “honored the brave men and women who responded to the scene in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania”. However, he did not tell us how he stands on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act . I would think this is more important that mere words. Continue reading

Do the right thing for 9/11 responders

About 5 years ago, the Senate almost derailed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which provides health care and compensation those for responders on and in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

One would think it would be a national priority to at least provide this minimal amount of aid to those who sacrificed their lives and/or health to rescue people from the collapsing and burning buildings recover bodies from the rubble, and helped clean-up so Wall Street and other American businesses could re-open.

But it doesn’t seem to be. We’ve heard plenty of political speech in this summer but not much about doing the right thing for 9/11 responders.

The website http://www.renew911health.org/news-articles-on-effort-to-renew-the-911-health-and-compensation-act/ provides an easy way to find what has been in the news on this issue.

Bills (James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act : HR 1726 and S928) were introduced in the House and Senate in April. In May the bills were referred to the appropriate committees and subcommittees. Bill have gathered co-sponsors but no floor action (debates or votes) in either branch.

If someone on these committees or in the party leadership has a problem with the legislation, why not tell us the problem or introduce a bill that would solve the problem. Why not a vote so we know who has a problem with the legislation or with the idea of giving medical care or compensation to those who sacrificed for America.

I think it a good idea to make this permanent but maybe there is some political benefit to being able to co-sponsor legislation every few years. But sometimes politicians just do the right thing.

Let’s hope they do the right thing for 9/11 responders.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Not quite a joke -just a misunderstanding with myself.

A few days ago I wrote that I was re-reading “TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann.  I had read the book before my vacation in Ireland this summer.  We spent our first vacation night in Cobh.  I remembered a beautifully written line from TransAtlantic about Cobh.  I thought now that I had been to Cobh, I would enjoy re-reading the  book.  It seemed to me there were quite a few great descriptions in the book in addition to the one I remembered so well.

So here is the misunderstanding.  Continue reading

TransAtlantic again

I had read “TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann last spring before going to Ireland on vacation. I was busy with preparations for my trip and didn’t really have the time to write a review.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book but did not realize what an impression it made on me until I was in Ireland and parts of “TransAtlantic” came to mind. So in an unusual turn of events I am reading a book for the second time in a few months.
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One Nation Under God

I was driving and the show on the radio interested me. An author was being interviewed about his book.  I missed part of it.  The interview had started before I got in my car. I picked up on a show in-progress  but  I heard enough that I was definitely interested.

Has the United States always been a Christian nation?  I believe the answer is “No”.  Why do many others think the  answer is “Yes”?

In “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America”, Kevin M. Kruse delves into the question of why so many believe that the United States always been a Christian nation.

I think the evidence is quite clear Continue reading

The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett

Before reading “The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett” by Nathan Ward, I knew very little about Dashiell Hammett. I had seen “The Maltese Falcon” and maybe another movie or two based on his books and knew he was an important figure in crime fiction but I did not know much more.

This book briefly describes a childhood in rural southern Maryland, Philadelphia and Baltimore. After leaving school and failing at several jobs, he found his niche with Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

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She loses and refuses

The Rowan County Kentucky clerk still refuses to obey the law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite a Supreme Court Ruling making same-sex marriage a right nationwide and losing her court case and subsequent appeals claiming that to do so would violate her religious freedom.

She loses and refuses to do her job. She was elected to do the job of county clerk. She should do it. Not just the parts she likes, but all of it. Continue reading