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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category


Do government busybodies really need to stick their noses into e-books?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I like to read.

For a long time, I was reading only hardcovers borrowed from the library because the small type in most paperbacks was no longer as friendly to my eyes as it was when I was young. Early last year, having heard praises sung by many relatives who owned one, I decided to buy a Kindle. Great decision.

Books for the Kindle are reasonably priced compared to their hardcover versions and are often less expensive than the paperback versions. Even better, there is lots of stuff you can read for free. The writing may not be the equal of a best-selling author, but the stories and characters are often just as engaging. And among he free stuff you sometimes find early works by famous authors.

Of course, whenever any free-market system is working well, something must be wrong, prompting some government bureaucrat to stick his or her bloated, overpaid, busybody nose into it, and e-books are no exception.

Justice Department threatens to sue Apple, publishers over e-book prices

The Justice Department told Apple and five of the nation’s biggest book publishers that it will sue them for their alleged price-fixing of electronic books unless the companies agree to change their business practices.Federal officials found that Apple, Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, Macmillan and HarperCollins Publishers “engaged in a pattern of behavior that violates antitrust laws,” according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Apple and the publishers are talking with Justice Department officials to try to avoid charges and a federal lawsuit, according to the person familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation and talks are private.

The charges, part of the latest Justice Department probe of the e-books market, come as consumers flood to e-book readers and tablets such as the Kindle and the iPad for digital versions of books, newspapers, magazines and movies.

But as consumers have switched to digital, they have also begun paying more for e-books released by the country’s biggest publishers.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

The short version of the article is that Amazon was charging $9.99 for e-books and publishers thought they should charge more so they cut a deal with Apple whereby they could set their own prices and pay Apple a 30% commission per sale. Faced with new competition, Amazon agreed to the same kind of deal. Naturally, publishers set their prices higher, high enough to provide them and the authors with what they considered a reasonable return on the investment of time and money necessary to write and publish a book.

Were consumers forced to pay more? No. Certainly, the prices were raised, but nobody was compelled to pay them. Faced with the option of paying $25 for a hardcover or $14 for an e-book, lots of people chose the latter. Lots of others chose not to buy either. As books age, prices tend to come down, and as s thrifty person, I wait until that happens. If others simply must read the hottest book now and are willing to pay for the privilege, why is it the concern of the Justice Department?

Yes, it’s true that all six big publishers are pricing their bestsellers in the $12 to $15 dollar range. No doubt they have determined that is what the market will bear. If any one of them thought they could get more, they undoubtedly would. And if few people buy the books at $12.95, you can be sure the price will drop fairly quickly. That’s how the free market works.

If these publishers are guilty of price-fixing because they all sell their books in a similar price range, then gas stations all across the nation are equally guilty. Invariably, gas stations close to each other sell for the same price or within a couple of cents per gallon. Indeed, in my city, the brand-name stations are within a few cents even on opposite sides of town and the same is true of most independents. And it’s not because they are colluding in a price-fixing scheme, it’s just good business not to charge too much more or less than the competition.

The simple fact is we have too many damn laws in this country and way too many government officials who have never done a productive thing in their lives  telling folks who do produce how they must do it.

Ronald Reagan had his faults as a President, but he well-understood that less regulation equals greater prosperity for everyone. If only the last few dopes and their administrations understood that, America would be thriving today instead of on the verge of bankruptcy and ruin.

What say you about this issue…and about regulation in general?


Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot? Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone? Could you work for a robot boss?

There was a time when such questions were considered only by writers of science fiction. But such ethical and practical questions are already being considered and will have to be answered in the coming decades as robotic technology advances, as the book being reviewed in the following piece from yesterday’s newspaper makes clear.

 Introducing Robot Ethics

Thirty years ago, few people envisioned just how completely computers would be integrated into our everyday lives; today, they’re everywhere. In Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, Patrick Lin (a science ethicist), Keith Abney (a philosopher of science) and George Bekey (a computer scientist) argue that the same is true about robots. Today, they are technological oddities; tomorrow, they’ll be ubiquitous and indispensable. That’s why, they write, we need “the emerging field of robot ethics.”

In their introduction to the book, which is a collection of essays in robot ethics from philosophers, lawyers, and scientists, Lin, Abney, and Bekey point out that people have been thinking about the ethics of robotics for millennia. Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics are only the most recent entry in a long tradition. “Homer,” the editors write, “described in his Iliad the intelligent robots or ‘golden servants’ created by Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of technology… Leonardo da Vinci conceived of a mechanical knight that would be called a robot today.” But the need for a serious inquiry into robot ethics is now greater than ever before, because robots are now advanced enough to participate, on their own, in the ethical world:

[I]n August 2010, the U.S. military lost control of a helicopter drone during a test flight for more than thirty minutes and twenty-three miles, as it veered toward Washington, D.C., violating airspace restrictions meant to protect the White House…. In October 2007, a semiautonomous robotic cannon deployed by the South African Army malfunctioned, killing nine “friendly” soldiers and wounding fourteen others….

Already, robots are taking care of our elderly and children…. Some soldiers have emotionally bonded with the bomb-disposing PackBots that have saved their lives, sobbing when the robot meets its end.

Already, fascinating moral questions are emerging. If a robot malfunctions and harms someone, who is responsible — the robot’s owner, its manufacturer, or the robot itself? Under what circumstances can robots be put in positions of authority, with human beings required to obey them? Is it ethically wrong for robots to prey upon our emotional sensitivities — should they be required to remind us, explicitly or implicitly, that they are only machines? How safe do robots need to be before they’re deployed in society at large? Should cyborgs — human beings with robot parts — have a special legal status if their parts malfunction and hurt someone? If a police robot uses its sensors to perform a surveillance operation, does that constitute a search? (And can the robot decide if there is probable cause?)

Some of these questions are speculative; others are uncomfortably concrete. Take this example involving (what else?) robot sex, from an essay by David Levy:

Upmarket sex dolls were introduced to the Korean public at the Sexpo exposition in Seoul in August 2005, and were immediately seen as a possible antidote to Korea’s Special Law on Prostitution that had been placed on the statute books the previous year. Before long, hotels in Korea were hiring out “doll experience rooms” for around 25,000 won per hour ($25)…. This initiative quickly became so successful at plugging the gap created by the antiprostituion law that, before long, establishments were opening up that were dedicated solely to the use of sex dolls… These hotels assumed, quite reasonably, that there was no question of them running foul of the law, since their dolls were not human. But the Korean police were not so sure. The news website… reported, in October 2006, that the police in Gyeonggi Province were “looking into whether these businesses violate the law . . . Since the sex acts are occurring with a doll and not a human being, it is unclear whether the Special Law on Prostitution applies.”

It seems inevitable, Levy writes, that more advanced “sexbots” will push this issue even more to the fore, forcing lawmakers to figure out just which aspects of prostitution they want to outlaw.

Levy’s sexbot example is emblematic of a theme running through this collection of essays: The ethical problems posed by robots aren’t just about the robots. They’re also about old, familiar human behaviors which we must reconsider once robots are introduced. How will spouses feel, Levy asks, about the use of sexbots? Some will see it as adultery, others as a intrinsically meaningless. The answer, Levy argues, really has nothing to do with the robots themselves. “It will depend very much,” he writes, “on the sexual ethics of the relationship itself when robots do not enter the picture.”

There are some fascinating questions there, eh?

Let’s consider the questions I posed to open this post:

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

To have sex with a doll seems to me to be little more than complicated masturbation. But what if one develops an emotional attachment to the robotic doll? That may sound weird, but folks have been known to become attached to their cars, trucks, clothes, photos — all manner of things, and none of them provide sexual gratification.

Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone?

I don’t see how it could rise to the level of murder, but what if the prosthesis required regular maintenance and one continuously neglected to perform it? In such a case, I could see a district attorney going for a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Could you work for a robot boss?

I think some of us already do. Take certain delivery drivers. While they may have a human “boss,” their day’s work is dictated by a computer which determines which stops they will make and often, in which order.

I think the near future will bring some interesting and challenging developments in the field of robotics. We might well see robotic cops or soldiers. When you get sick, you might first have to be diagnosed by a robot doctor before you get to see a human one. And who knows, if the field advances far enough, we might one day even see the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court leading the way again by making it legal to marry your robotic lover.

What are your answers to the three questions?

Do you think this is all just foolish fantasy or can you foresee a time when these and the questions in the article will have to be faced?

 And can you think of others who are, directly or effectively, working for a robot boss?


Are you saving less and spending more, too?

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

With interest rates on savings hugging zero, many folks around the nation are spending rather than saving according to this article in today’s papers.

Americans spending more with income almost flat

Americans are making a little more money and spending a lot more.

Under normal circumstances, that would be a troubling sign for the economy. But a closer look at some new government figures suggests another possibility: People are saving less money because they’re earning next to nothing in interest.

Saving is already difficult because of more expensive gas and food. It’s even tougher because of the lower returns — the flip side of super-low interest rates that the Federal Reserve has kept in place since 2008 to help the economy.

Critics say the Fed is punishing those who play by the rules — those careful enough to set aside money for savings or people who built up a nest egg and are living on fixed incomes that depend on interest.

Americans spent 0.6 percent more in September, three times the increase from the previous month, the government said Friday. Spending was especially strong on durable goods — things like cars, appliances and electronics.

At the same time, what they earned was mostly flat. Pay increased 0.3 percent, and overall income just 0.1 percent. After deducting taxes and adjusting for inflation, income fell for a third straight month.

So to make up the difference, many have cut back on savings…

Click here to read the rest of the article.

It might seem counter-intuitive to spend instead of save, but it all depends on what you are buying.

If you’re spending on vacations and fancy jeans and must-have trendy whatevers, you’d probably be wiser to keep the money in the bank despite the low interest rates.

I’ve always believed it prudent to have enough cash to cover at least six months of expenses. A year would be better. But what to do with cash after that?

Money sitting around does nothing for you, so many would say you should invest it. But in what?

There are many financial instruments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. – in which to invest, but they all carry the risk of loss if markets tank. Gold and silver can be hedges against inflation, but both have been bid up pretty high of late.

I like the idea of investing in things that will cost more tomorrow, or next year. Stocking a pantry, buying extra work clothes or a few more animals if you live in a rural area can all provide a better return than a savings account. What about ammunition? Or lumber?

If you own a home, there are many places to “invest” the money. I recently had the outside of my home patched and painted because I knew it would probably cost me ten percent more next year. I’m looking into upgrading my heating system, if I can afford it, for the same reason.

You may also choose to invest in yourself, in knowledge, in classes, books, magazines, anything that will help you earn more and live better.

Where I live, it costs about thirty dollars to go see a movie when you add in the popcorn and soda. For $24.95 you could get a year’s subscription to Backwoods Home, and use the other five bucks to rent five $1 movies at Redbox kiosks. Five times the entertainment, plus knowledge that will last the rest of your life, all for the cost of one trip to the theater.

So what are you doing with your money these days?

Are you just getting by?

Will you be spending more for the holidays than last year or less?

What “investments” have you made to ensure the value of what you have doesn’t vanish when inflation hits?

And how would you advise other readers who may not yet have thought about what to do with extra cash?


Forum News

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Sorry, folks. I’ve been so busy today I’ve not had time to even think about a post so some BHM website news will have to do.

We made some alterations to our Forum, the biggest of which is the addition of a BHM Advertisers board in the “Forum” section.

Current magazine and website advertisers will be able to post special offers, discounts, etc. for our Forum visitors.

We’ll be notifying the advertisers over the next few days and we hope many will choose to participate.

We just posted our own Special Offer, a $5 discount on two of our big anthologies. We’ll be posting another one tomorrow.

Click Here for the BHM Advertisers board in our Forum.



Are you part of the mob that is endangering America?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner, Richard.


I’ve never read any of Ann Coulter’s books, but based on the first chapter excerpt I found yesterday, I just added to my reading list her newest, Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America, which is being released today.

The beginning of the excerpt is below, followed by a link to the rest of it.



The Liberal Mob

2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.

3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.

4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.

5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.

7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”

8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”

—Mark 5:2-9

Ann Coulter

The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. It is the nihilistic mob of the French Revolution; it is the revolutionaries who seized control of Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century; it is the Maoist gangs looting villages and impaling babies in China; it is the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Republicans and blacks in the South; it is the 1992 Los Angeles riot that left fifty dead and did $1 billion of damage after the first Rodney King verdict; it is the bloody riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; it is the masked hoodlums smashing up Seattle when bankers came to town; it is the 500,000 illegal aliens marching under a foreign flag in Los Angeles; it is throngs of Islamic fanatics attending the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s funeral, tearing his body out of its coffin; it is left-wing protesters destroying property and attacking delegates at the Republican National Conventions. Everything else changes, but mobs are always the same. A mob is an irrational, childlike, often violent organism that derives its energy from the group. Intoxicated by messianic goals, the promise of instant gratification, and adrenaline- pumping exhortations, mobs create mayhem, chaos, and destruction, leaving a smoldering heap of wreckage for their leaders to climb to power.

The Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents. Democrats activate mobs, depend on mobs, coddle mobs, publicize and celebrate mobs—they are the mob. Indeed, the very idea of a “community organizer” is to stir up a mob for some political purpose. “As so frequently happens when a crowd goes wild,” historian Erik Durschmied says, “there is always one who shouts louder and thereby appoints himself as their leader.”  Those are the people we call “elected Democrats.”

The Democrats’ playbook doesn’t involve heads on pikes—as yet—but uses a more insidious means to incite the mob. The twisting of truth, stirring of passions, demonizing of opponents, and relying on propagandistic images in lieu of ideas—these are the earmarks of a mob leader. Over and over again, one finds the Democrats manipulating the mob to gain power. It is official Democratic policy to appeal to the least- informed, weakest minded members of the public. Their base consists of soccer moms, actresses, felons, MSNBC viewers, aging Reddiaper babies, welfare recipients, heads-up-their-asses billionaires, and government workers—who can never be laid off. The entire party gave up on attracting the votes of white men decades ago. It’s easier to round up votes by frightening women about “assault weapons” and promising excellent free health care to non-English speakers. Yes, a free health care system that is so superior that Democrats exempt themselves and their friends from being in it.

Click Book to Order

Liberals frighten people about their health care in order to stampede through ObamaCare. They claim the Earth is overheating in order to seize taxpayer money for solar panels and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. They call out union thugs to force politicians to accede to insane benefits packages. They stage campaigns of calumny to get their way on gay marriage. Faddish ideas that would never have occurred to anyone fifty years ago—or even twenty years ago—are suddenly foisted on the rest of us by the liberal mobs.

Click here to read the rest of this excerpt.


So…what did you think of the whole excerpt?

Is she correct or not about Democrats employing “the mob”?

Thinking about what she said and quoted about mob tactics, does it cast the 2008 Presidential election in a new light?

Can you think of any ways for rationalism to combat the mob mentality?


If you are interested in reading The Crowd: A Study Of The Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon, clicking this link will let you download a PDF version I made for my own use from the text download available at the Project Gutenberg website.


Americans getting angry. Are you one of them?

Monday, June 6th, 2011

I found this as I was surfing this morning.

I’ve been wondering for a long time why we no longer have protests in the streets as occurred in the 60s and 70s. Some chalked it up to complacency, to generations so transfixed by their electronic toys they had no idea what what really happening in the world around them.

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote “…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable…” That certainly seems to have been the case here in the land of the (no longer so)free. But maybe those in Washington have finally crossed the line. Maybe their hubris made them believe Americans would, forever, just bend over and take it.

Maybe, just maybe, America is starting to wake up.


America the Angry
by Douglas Schoen

Gas and grocery prices are soaring, the housing market is crashing to new lows, and yet another dismal jobs report has confirmed a stubbornly high unemployment rate. Could the anger fueling the Arab Spring soon bring club-wielding protesters to America?

According to an exclusive poll by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, reality is beginning to break down Americans’ normally optimistic attitude. Three-quarters of our respondents think the country is on the wrong track. A majority say the anxiety wrought by this recession has caused relationship problems and sleep deficiency. Two-thirds even report being angry at God. See the results of [the] poll below.

By almost four to one, Americans say our economy is not delivering the jobs we need, 81 percent to 12 percent.

And Obama isn’t helping. 50 percent of respondents think the president has no real plan to balance the budget; 40 percent say he does.

Republicans aren’t getting any love, either. Our poll respondents say the GOP is just laying the blame on Obama rather than making their own positive proposals, 58 percent to 29 percent.

Over half (52 percent) say their personal economic situation makes them nervous. Forty eight  percent say it makes them anxious, 44 percent say it makes them upset, and 30 percent say it makes them angry.

Americans are even losing sleep over this: 56 percent are so angry about their personal economic situation that they have lost sleep.

Thirteen percent say their anger has affected their sex life. Of those, 63 percent say they experienced a lower sex drive at least some of the time.

Listen up, Republicans: Our respondents overwhelmingly say they support increasing taxes on the wealthiest as a means of balancing the budget, 68 percent to 27 percent.

Seventy percent of Americans are nervous about their retirement because of their personal economic situation; 45 percent are nervous about being able to put their children through college; 31 percent are nervous about starting a family; and 29 percent are nervous about being able to afford to buy a home.

Twenty seven percent say their family’s economic situation has affected their health, and 26 percent of those married say it has affected their marriage.

Of those who say their family’s economic situation has affected their marriage, 57 percent say their relationship with their spouse has become worse, while 34 percent say it has become stronger.

Douglas Schoen is a political strategist.  Scott W. Rasmussen and he authored the  upcoming book Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System to be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins on September 14. Schoen has worked on numerous campaigns, including those of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Evan Bayh, Tony Blair, and Ed Koch.


Are you one of the angry Americans? I sure am.

What are the three to five things you’re angry about?

And what can we do about them as a nation?


Misquoting the bible appears to be pretty common

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

God helps those that help themselves, right?

Says so in the Bible, right?

Actually, that’s not in the Bible
By John Blake, CNN

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season.  “This, too, shall pass.”

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches – all types of people  – quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.

These phantom passages include:

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.

None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.

But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.

“Only a few catch on.”

Few catch on because they don’t want to – people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.

“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.

“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Were any of the sayings in the article among those you thought were straight from the bible?

Are there other quotes you’ve heard folks use which you know are not bible-based?

And can you think of any passages that have been mis- or re-interpreted by anyone to justify his or her actions or beliefs? (No last names, please, unless they’re public figures.)


What were your kids like at bedtime?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Having been inundated with it from all sides when our two children were young, and despite the fact that both are now healthy, functioning adults with jobs and spouses, I have never presumed to give unsolicited parenting advice. After all, parenting styles are many and varied as are children’s personalities and temperaments  Even on those very few occasions when it was solicited, I generally took pains to disclaim any authority on the subject.

I suppose my personal parenting style could be described as a combination of Lots of hugs and goofing around and praise when it was earned with Because I’m the father and you are the kid and I said so. Period. built on a base of logic and common sense. I’d never claim it was the perfect system, but it worked for us, and the results speak for themselves.

The reason I bring all that up is a short piece I found in the newspaper this morning about a new book, available June 14, by Adam Mansbach titled Go the F**k to Sleep. More to the point, it was this passage from the article that has prompted me to break my rule and offer Mansbach and those who parent similarly, some unsolicited parenting advice:

Mansbach, who just finished a two-year visiting-professor stint at Rutgers University, says he was inspired to write the book by his 3-year-old daughter, Vivien. “There were those moments, when she’s not rolling around, sitting up. Her breathing got slow and I’d convince myself, this is it,’’ he said. “Then I’d make that fatal mistake, trying to sneak out early. You know you shouldn’t, but you really want to get out of there. And she’d wake up.’’

As soon as I read that, I understood that Mansbach was one of those parents who think they must pacify their child to sleep each night, remaining with them until the reassurance of their presence soothes their little darling into slumberland.

No wonder he’s using the F-word in the title of the book. Of course, his problem was entirely of his own making. He trained young Vivian to feel entitled to his presence every night as she fell asleep and then didn’t want to live with the unintended consequences — that she’d actually feel entitled and not respond well if his presence wasn’t provided.

We handled bedtime a little differently.

When the kids were newborns, they most often fell asleep while feeding. I imagine that’s true of most newborns. For a few months, we’d rock or cradle them in our arms until they drifted off. Then that stopped, unless they were sick. At bedtime (which still varied somewhat until we got each on a schedule), we put them in the crib, tucked them in, and said good night. As I recall, our son cried for awhile the first couple of nights, but soon learned that crib plus dark equaled sleep. Our daughter followed a similar pattern.

My son, about 28 years ago.

By the time they were a year old, though, bedtime had been established as 7 PM. We’d read a book or tell a story or sing some songs or act out a little play with a stuffed animal until 7:30 when it was lights out. Early on, they mostly went right to sleep, probably because we never made them take naps during the day once they were walking.

At some point as they got older, we heard the inevitable “But I’m not tired” or some variation thereof. That was when each was advised of the rule — you don’t have to go to sleep but you do have to stay in the bed. By that time in their young lives, they’d each become aware of “the look” and that unpleasantness would follow if they disregarded it. So they stayed in their beds. Mostly.

As they got older, bedtimes got later, and the rule changed from stay in the bed to stay in your room, but the result was the same. And never did either Martha or I ever think the words “go the f**k to sleep” much less feel inspired by misery to write a book so titled.

I don’t know if our system will work for others. As I said above, parents and kids are all different. But I do believe that children want, and need, parents, not grown-up friends. That is a role best played by grandparents or a favorite aunt or uncle.

But I’m very curious about how you handle bedtime or how you handled bedtime when your kids were young.

What did you do at different ages? How did they respond? Were you more like us or like Mansbach?

And if your children now have children, have they carried forward your bedtime rituals or come up with new ones?


A four-star book – That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I just finished reading Michael Graham’s That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom. It was published last year,  but I just got around to reading it and I’m glad I did.

Graham is a local radio talk-show host. His show, The Natural Truth, deals with exactly that, the natural truth, ie. the facts, about local and national issues, with healthy doses of informed commentary and humor. Graham is always entertaining and frequently gets me thinking about issues that end up in this blog.

In That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom, Graham takes on “Team Obama’s assault on Tea-Party, Talk-Radio Americans,” that is, you and me and everyone else who supports limited government, low taxes, maximum freedom, and personal responsibility.

About the book, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds wrote, “Michael Graham has authored a hilarious harangue on behalf of the millions of Americans who don’t ‘know their place,’ who still think that what they earn should be theirs, and who don’t trust politicians.”

And Glenn Beck said, “This book is for every typical American who’s been insulted, attacked, and abused by the liberal media just for showing up at a tea party or townhall meeting. Michael Graham uses his wit and humor like a club to give the Arrogant Left the beatdown they deserve.”

Following are some snippets that resonated with me and/or made me laugh. There were lots more in the book, but I kept forgetting to mark the pages.

Page 1: 90 percent of being labeled a rightwing lunatic is just showing up — especially at a tea party.

Page 3: Why have these painfully polite, terribly typical people — folks who look less like bomb-throwers and more like the early-bird special crowd at a Denny’s in Branson, Missouri — come under constant assault from the elite media, the Washington establishment, and the Obama administration? What makes my mom such a threat?

Like I said — she’s normal. And in Barack Obama’s America, “normal” is the new “freak.”

Page 38: When our politicians are more focused on the security “threat” of angry taxpayers with policy questions than they are on radical Muslims with access to weapons and U.S. military installations, you know their priorities are out of whack. And the fact that a jihadist on a government watch list can waltz onto a U.S.-bound plane with his underwear full of explosives also indicates Homeland Security doesn’t have its eye on the ball. Then again, Muslim terrorists only kill people. Angry voters kill political careers.

Page 128: … Liberals are also about 50 percent more likely than conservatives to claim to have spoken to the dead.

Or, as it’s known at ACORN, “conducting voter outreach.”

Page 132: Go to a tea party, and the guy with the tin foil hat and the “Flouridated Water IS a UN/Bilderburg Plot!” sign will be shunted to the sidelines. But go to a liberal rally, and the guy who thinks Osama bin Laden works in Dick Cheney’s Department of Voting Machine Manipulation and Weather Control is up on the podium. In fact, there’s a good chance he works in the White House.

And these are the people calling us insane?

Page 133: I know you O-bots don’t like George W, Bush, but do you really believe he’s a cold-hearted, calculating murderer of thousands of his fellow Americans? Even more unbelievable, do you really believe he has enough loyal followers in the government to keep his secret?

And let’s be honest — a vast secret conspiracy to coordinate hijackings and controlled demolitions as a pretext for war?

Please. This is the federal government we’re talking about. They can’t even pull offf a vast, open program of coordinating mail trucks to get my Victoria’s Secret catalogues to my house on time.

Page 194: You want to know the real divide between typical America and the Obama Nation? My mom has never in her life said the sentence, “You know, this would work a lot better if the government were doing it.” Team Obama, on the other hand, approaches every problem with precisely that attitude.

Page 217: The euphemism “undocumented worker” conveys the absurd notion that these “workers” simply lack a few, needless bureaucratic documents. But there is noting unusual or unfair about requiring documentation. Having the right paperwork is the difference between “registered pharmacist” and “drug dealer.” And what is a bank robbery other than and “undocumented’ cash withdrawal?

Page 243: What an irony to hear supporters of big government, racial quotas, and limited personal freedom accuse tea partiers of wanting to return to an era of Jim Crow. It wasn’t the private sector that imposed segregation on black Americans fifty years ago. It was the government. It wasn’t free people who mandated segregated water fountains and segregated schools. It was the state.

Notably, the freedom marchers who were attacked in southern streets and faced down snarling dogs were denounced as “mobs” and “radicals” by the government establishment they challenged, too. They wanted to expand individual liberty in the face of collective judgments about which citizens were “good” or “bad.”

Reclaiming America’s values means defending the notions of individual liberty, opportunity, and accountability that are anathema to this sort of injustice an thuggery. There’s a reason that third-world dictators and low-rent tyrants fear any interjection of freedom into their regimes. It’s because freedom is a corrosive force. It wears away at centralized stupidity and collective control.


Have you read the book? If so, what did you think of it?

That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom should be available at or through your local library or click on the link to order it from Amazon.


The perfect metaphor for Obama’s America

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

The other day, I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Acedemicals. You can find a synopsis online, if you’re interested, or send a few cents my way if you order it at Amazon, but this isn’t about the book so much as one of the cleverly-crafted, insightful lines Pratchett wrote in it. You don’t even need  a setup to understand it.

[He] plunged on, because when you have dived off a cliff your only hope is to press for the abolition of gravity.

Take a moment to think about that line and how well it applies to current events in America and, indeed, around the world.

Go ahead. I’ll wait… … … … … …

Done? Did it hit you as it did me?

When I read that line, I laughed out loud as I realized it was the perfect metaphor for the liberalism/socialism/fascism that has been forced on America, and much of the developed world, these past decades, and especially for the social and economic policies of the Obama regime.

Our Dear Leader took office full of hope that his visions would be the impetus for change in America. Well, he got his wish, though not in the way he imagined.

By ignoring the lessons of history (which has to make you wonder just how bright this so-called genius really is), he dove off the cliff of socialism, dragging the nation behind him, and has spent the time since then hoping the gravity of reality will be abolished and his doomed-from-the-start policies will magically turn the nation around even as they pile ever more debt on our backs and on the backs of our children and generations of  grandchildren.

To be fair, past administrations bear their share of blame for putting into place the mechanisms that have allowed Obama and his henchpersons to accelerate the nation’s decline. And let’s not forget all the Congresscritters, who also ignored history and pranced merrily along behind the President down the debt spiral. The half-measures currently being proposed will only delay the inevitable. The current fight over raising the debt ceiling is a joke, as are the dire, misleading predictions spewing from the left side of mouths from coast to coast. (See Jeff Jacoby’s recent column.)

As I’ve said before, and will repeat often, the 2012 elections may be the last hope of turning the nation around. And it will take each and every one of us getting involved to overthrow the remaining leftist incumbents in Congress and their empty suit in The White House.


All of the above political stuff aside, it is the constant discovery of clever phrases, new ways of looking at things, hilarious bits of satire, and so much more in Pratchett’s Discworld series that has captivated me and millions of others. When I finally complete the series, I already know it is going to feel like I’ll be leaving behind close friends. That is how good a writer Pratchett is. The only bright spot is knowing that, after having finished the thirty-something regular and young-adult books, I can start all over again at the beginning.



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