And Then The Finches Arrived

Saturday, 30 January 2010, 17:21 | Category : Birds
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It’s one of those weird things that happens. This morning, I wondered where the finches were. Every January for years, one of my favorite things is to watch the finches at my feeders (I live an exciting life). This year, I’d seen none, even though I’d been at home during the day several times. But within an hour of that last post, in the midst of very light snow flurries, I looked out and saw a small crowd, 15 or so, of finches at the feeders. And cardinals – there were, at one point, nearly 20 cardinals in the back yard, either at the feeders or clustered in the shrubs by the fence. Makes a cold, dreary day a little less dreary.

Goldfinches

Saturday, 30 January 2010, 10:10 | Category : Birds
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I’ve seen none this year. Zero. My feeders have always been crowded by this time. No goldfinches, no house finches, no purple finches. Where are my finches?

Health Care Reform: Selling Insurance Across State Lines

Tuesday, 26 January 2010, 17:55 | Category : Healthcare, Politics
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Now that Republicans are feeling emboldened by the Massachusetts Senate victory, we’re hearing about their health care reform proposals again. One of their key provisions would allow the sale of insurance policies across state lines, with the supposition that this would foster greater competition among insurance companies. State insurance regulators are leery, because they don’t know how they would regulate these policies. But if you allow insurance policies to be sold across state lines, doesn’t that then become interstate commerce, which is defined as the buying and selling of products and services across state borders? And if so, then the Constitution clearly states that the federal government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, which takes state regulators out of the picture, and creates a new layer of federal oversight, and puts the federal government’s hands all over health care. I’ve never heard this mentioned in the reform debate. Can anyone tell me how this would not be interstate commerce?

Corporate Personhood

Monday, 25 January 2010, 19:33 | Category : Politics
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The Supreme Court ruling last week on corporate political spending was based on the determination that corporations have the same first amendment rights as an individual where free speech is concerned. And while many, primarily in the Republican camp, have greeted this ruling as if the very essence of democracy had been restored, I can’t help but wonder how far this will go. Will the court be able to restrict these new corporate rights to just the First Amendment? For that matter, will it be able to prevent it from being extended to the entire First Amendment? Will a corporation be able to establish a church and claim tax exempt status for some parts of its operations? What about the Second Amendment? Will Xe-nee-Blackwater be allowed to establish a company militia within the United States? On what legal basis will we infringe on their right to keep and bear arms? Will corporate trials be forced to seat juries composed only of other corporations? For that matter, since the Supreme Court has now held corporations to be equivalent to individuals under the law, will they be allowed to vote? I know some will say this is a ludicrous statement, but our law tends (although not in this case) to be built on precedent. And Justice Kennedy and his Hour Horsemen of the Apocrypha have just laid down quite a precedent.

On Writing And Reading

Friday, 22 January 2010, 21:38 | Category : Books
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I posted this as a comment on another blog, in response to a post on writing among college students. Chris made the statement that “I recently heard somewhere that you learn to write not necessarily by writing, but by reading”. Reading introduces you to the art of language, while writing introduces you to the science of language, or perhaps more properly, the engineering of language. Both are important, but trying to write without the advantage of being a well-read person is analogous to someone possessing a box full of tools. If they have never observed someone working with those tools, their ability to use them is severely restricted. The use of some, like a hammer, will be largely self-evident, but others, like a place, will not lend themselves to obvious use. The results will not likely be a piece of well-crafted furniture.

Reading is becoming a lost art in our society. While library usage has risen during these shaky economic times, I suspect it’s been computers, not books, that have borne the increase. Perhaps I’m wrong – I would love to think that people are actually reading books in greater numbers – but my limited-sample observations, at my local libraries, show that the computer rooms stay full now, but the stacks are still easily navigated. Study after study shows that reading is beneficial in many ways, but so many people have the attitude of the person who asked me, several years ago, why I went to the library. Reading was something they stopped doing as soon as the finished school. I can’t imagine not reading.