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    North Carolina’s Gov picks a Poet-you know-Laureate

    A bit of a stink going on in North Carolina this week.  Nothing so serious that lives are at risk, but serious enough, in a state that prides itself on its ability to nurture and grow literary giants, that the story moved all the way up the Looky Here ladder to the New York Times.

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    Harper Lee: You Don’t Know Me

     More than 50 years ago Nelle Harper Lee wrote a book called “To Kill a Mockingbird”.   It was her one and only book and it is a masterpiece, but the story behind it has always been a tantalizing enigma.

    Through the years there have been rumors that her best friend and neighbor, Truman Capote, edited her writing so much, by rights he actually wrote it.

     

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    These Children Are Lost and They've Entered Our Village

     

    Thousands of Latin American children have been arriving in the U.S. over the weeks and months, in scenarios more like that of a fictitious screenplay than of real life.  Out-of-control gangs, drug cartels, and corrupt government officials are the antagonists in horror stories of a kind we can only imagine. Poverty, exploitation, rape, torture, murder--so common now in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, there is little chance those countries will ever float free.

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    Today Five Members of the U.S. Supreme Court Moved Us Closer to a Theocracy

     

    Today the Supreme Court ruled that private, family-owned businesses--in this case, Hobby Lobby--could opt out of paying for contraceptives if their objections to them are based on the owners' religious beliefs.

    The case came to the attention of the Supremes when the Affordable Care Act included this mandate:

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    What Does The Death Of Cursive Mean?

     

    As someone who dreaded Penmanship class, and who always–and I mean always–got poor grades in it, let me just say if writing in cursive goes away I’ll be right up there in front mourning the loss.  (Cursive:  flowing letters all connected to make one word.  What we used to call “handwriting”.)

    We learned the Palmer Method in grade school, where every letter had to follow a pattern and fit between the lines, and where loops and curlicues had to loop and curl, but not too little or too much.  Just right.
     

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    Hate And The "Patriots": Like Watching One Long Horror Movie, Wondering Who Dies Next.

     

    In an insightful article about the upsurge in anti-government hate groups and the murderous rampages they spawn, John Avlon calls them "Hatriots"--those people claiming that true constitutional patriotism requires them to disavow, disown, and destroy the United States government--and anyone who g

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    Thank You, Maya Angelou, for Your Magical Words. And for Being You.

     

    We got word that Maya Angelou died today.  When her picture flashed on the TV this morning I held my breath, hoping it wasn't bad news.  When they announced that she was gone, I shouldn't have been shocked, considering her age (86) and ill health, but it took me a few minutes because it never occurred to me that she might someday leave this earth.
     

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    A Flag Is What We Make It

     

    In the 21st century controversy over the legitimacy of the 19th century Confederate battle flag, one question remains unanswered:  What does it mean to those who want to fly it?

    The answer:  Anything they want it to mean.
     

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    Monica, Bill and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

     

    Monica Lewinsky is now 40 years old.  In the late 1990s, when she was barely into her twenties, she met Bill Clinton, flirted a bit and caught his attention.  Before long she was having an affair with the President of the United States.  Heady stuff for a bedazzled young girl and of course she had to tell somebody.

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    Derange Wars: The Cliven Bundy Story

     

    There is a rancher out in Nevada named Cliven Bundy who has been using government land to graze his cattle. His family has been doing it for what seems like ages, always paying their grazing fees to the Federal government, but some 20 years ago the Feds told him he had to move his cattle off a section that was protected.  He quit paying his fees in protest but he didn't move his cattle.

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    But we don't need no gov'mint interference

    Hey all you smarties (and you know who you are), how about chewing on this for a while?  There was a time when we built things and got things done.  We did it as a nation, with national pride and national inclusion.  It felt like we were a real country.  What happened?

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    Detroit's Rivera Murals are now a Historic Landmark. Bloch and Dimitroff Would be So Proud

    Great news today:  The Diego Rivera "Industry" murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts have been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Before we get too excited and actually think this will allow us to breathe easier about the ridiculous but real threat of a forced sale of certain treasures at the DIA, this is an honor more honorary than it is concrete.

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    Will the Real God Please Stand Up

    I don't know God personally, of course, but it's a good bet He isn't looking kindly upon His follower, Tristan Emmanuel, who was out there defending His Good Name by calling for the flogging or hanging of a comedian (a comedian) because this "pugnacious degenerate" made some jokes about God and the proven nature of His wrath. (Proven, I should mention, because the Old Testament is full of stories about a God who is just scary angry. It's all in there.)
     

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    Ye Auld New America: Didn't We Go Down This Road Before?

     
    Working for someone else, fingers to the bone with no expectation of decent wages or a foothold on the ladder, is back in vogue here in America.   Even your big deal congresspersons will tell you that.  There are no greater patriots than the country's laborers, and the very, very finest--the finest patriots of all--are those who have no use for unions. The best patriot/workers understand that in America it's All for One and None for All.

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    Paul Ryan to Poor Parents: Even Your Kids Are Ashamed Of You

     
    Photo:  Salon

    Paul Ryan took to the podium at CPAC on Thursday and did not disappoint those of us waiting to pick at the lies this duly elected government official must tell in order to remind us all that our government --the very same government he volunteered to be a part of; the very same government that pays him a handsome salary and will give him lifelong perks--has been infiltrated so thoroughly by the socialists (that's us) huge chunks of it must be eradicated and the spoils turned over immediately to the only saviors who have our best interests at heart--the privateers.   (Why does Paul Ryan lie?  Because he's Paul Ryan and that's what Paul Ryan does and does and does.

    Here's a portion of what he said:

    "The way I see it, let the other side be the party of personalities. We’ll be the party of ideas. And I’m optimistic about our chances—because the Left? The Left isn’t just out of ideas. It’s out of touch. Take Obamacare. We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. [We do?] And the Left thinks this is a good thing. [They do?] They say, “Hey, this is a new freedom—the freedom not to work.” [Who says that?  Lemme at em!] But I don’t think the problem is too many people are working—I think the problem is not enough people can find work. [ Now you're talking] And if people leave the workforce, our economy will shrink—there will be less opportunity, not more. [Yeah, that's what we've been saying ever since you guys came up with that crazy outsourcing idea] So the Left is making a big mistake here. [They are?] What they’re offering people is a full stomach—and an empty soul. [Okay, now--what?] The American people want more than that."

     So then he went on to explain that remark about the full stomach and the empty soul:                               

    "This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my friend Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him."

    Now, I know I'm not the only one to sit up and take notice over that one.  It's been all over the place.  But the emphasis from most corners has been on Paul Ryan's misuse of an anecdote that was lifted initially by Eloise Anderson, Scott Walker's appointee to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, who skewed the story to serve her own purposes after apparently finding something somewhat similar in Laura Schroff's book, An Invisible Thread.

    I don't care where it came from.  I don't care that Paul Ryan was careless about the source.  What grinds me most about this are these words out of Paul Ryan's mouth:

    She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

    This is a representative of our government shaming poor people.  This is a man of privilege--a man who never hesitates to vote against safety-net programs designed to pull underprivileged people up and out and on their own; a man who, through his own "Ryan Budget", offered up huge cuts to the safety nets in order to give more to the rich and to the military--shaming poor parents by telling them their own children don't want a free lunch.

    He told a crowd--and the rest of us by extension via TV cameras--that poor kids are ashamed of their parents, that poor parents who accept government aid ought to be ashamed, and that we on the left are guilty of encouraging that kind of behavior:

    "That’s what the Left just doesn’t understand. We don’t want people to leave the workforce; we want them to share their skills and talents with the rest of us. And people don’t just want a life of comfort; they want a life of dignity—of self-determination. A life of equal outcomes is not nearly as enriching as a life of equal opportunity."

    This is what Paul Ryan does, and why he is so dangerous.  A quick reading of that quote above has everybody nodding their heads.  Skills!  Talents!  Dignity! Self-determination! Equal opportunity!

    But what he's really doing is equating essential programs like welfare and SNAP to "a life of comfort".  He's suggesting poor people are poor because they like it that way.  A "life of dignity" means getting out from under the government wing and going it alone.  "Self-determination" means you brought this on yourself.

    The "Brown bag" story means stop using your kids as pawns in order to get people to feel sorry for you and give you stuff.

    And, oh, by the way, get a job.  (But good luck with that, since the dreaded Obamacare just killed that avenue for you, too.  The theory goes that employers hate the idea of Obamacare so much they're cutting their workforce in order to show how much they hate it.  The insurance companies thank them very much.)

    This is Paul Ryan. He is wildly successful.  We pay him, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to his other income sources.  We will give him health and retirement benefits for the rest of his life--not that he needs us to pay for them.  We've given him the power, as a representative of the people, to use this public platform and he uses it to screw the least of us.

    If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's this:  Live with it.

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    Hail, CPAC! Silly Season is Upon Us. Can Spring be Far Behind?

     

    To this liberal there is no more fun in the world than when CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) comes to Virtual Town.  I look forward to the two-day conference every year and I'm never disappointed. Best comedy show ever!
     

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    A Writer asks a Famous Writer to Stop Writing Because–Why Again?

     

    Every writer is jealous of other writers.  Whether it’s fame or fortune or talent, we can’t help but snivel a little when they become Them and we’re still just us.
     

    Most of us do it in silence or in the midst of a narrow group of co-commiserators.  Not many (Okay, a few, but they’re gone now) do it as publicly as a writer named Lynn Shepherd did recently when she wrote a blog post on HuffPo UK telling J.K. Rowling she’s had her turn and if she had any decency at all she’d hang it up and give someone else a chance.

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    The Story: Pentecostal Snake Handler refuses help and dies. My Reaction: Surprising, even to Me

     

    For days now, since I heard about the death of Jamie Coots, the snake-handling preacher from Middlesboro, Kentucky, I've been struggling with my own thoughts about it.  There is no reason in the world why I should be involved in any of it.  I didn't know him.  I had never before heard of his church.  And I didn't know before this weekend, when I read about his death, that he had been the star of a National Geographic Channel series called "Snake Salvation".

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    Why Self-Help Almost Never Is

    Here’s the thing about self-help:  If you’re reading a book or an article about how to fix your current miserable existence, or listening to a self-described “expert” tell you and hordes of others how to fix it, it’s not even close to being self-help.

    It’s not that these folks don’t want to help you.  They do!  They really, really do!  The goal is to help you to let go and try their tactics on your own. (But not to such a degree that you won’t be buying their next book or watching their next program.)

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    Ugly Politics: When the Meme is "The President Must Die" We Have To Pay Attention

     

    At a Town Hall meeting held last week in Oklahoma, an audience member raised her hand and said to Jim Bridenstine, a congressman from the First District,  “Obama is not president as far as I’m concerned. He should be executed as an enemy combatant.”

    Read that again:  "Obama is not president as far as I'm concerned.  He should be executed as an enemy combatant."  (Video here.)

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