The American Conservative, 4 May 2009

mrhardingposterI’ve long thought that the last truly acceptable US president was Warren G. Harding.  He was virtually the last president not to have committed American forces to a new war.  On the contrary, President Harding pulled US troops out of Russia, where his predecessor Woodrow Wilson had sent them to fight alongside the anti-Bolshevik forces.  He negotiated a peace with Germany separate from the  Versailles treaty and free from that document’s vengeful anti-German provisions and its dangerously open-ended entanglement with the League of Nations.  He concluded the Washington Naval Convention, an agreement which staved off the kind of arms race at sea that had led to the First World War.  And while most other president’s have treated the other countries in the western hemisphere with barely disguised contempt, a habit which made it possible for Woodrow Wilson actually to say of his 1913 incursions into Mexico that he was going to use the US military to “teach the Latin American republics to elect good men,” Harding showed genuine respect for his countries neighbors.  In a 1920 campaign speech, he denounced Wilson’s intervention in Haiti, saying:

Practically all we know is that thousands of native Haitians have been killed by American Marines, and that many of our own gallant men have sacrificed their lives at the behest of an Executive department in order to establish laws drafted by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. … I will not empower an Assistant Secretary of the Navy to draft a constitution for helpless neighbors in the West Indies and jam it down their throats at the point of bayonets borne by US Marines. 

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy in question was at that time also the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee.  This official had publicly said that “The facts are that I wrote the Haitian Constitution myself, and if I do say it, I think it’s a pretty good constitution.”  The man’s name?  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  As president, FDR would speak of a “Good Neighbor Policy” toward the other states in the Americas, but as a party to the invasion and occupation of Haiti during the Wilson administration he was rather less entitled to be called a “good neighbor” than was Harding.    

Harding’s peaceful record in foreign policy was matched by his concern for liberty at home.  Unlike most of his successors, Harding did not increase the number of grounds on which Americans could be imprisoned; on the contrary, he released the political prisoners Woodrow Wilson’s administration had locked up during the First World War and the subsequent First Red Scare.  He even invited the most famous of these prisoners, Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, to have Christmas dinner with him at the White House. 


Psychic Saves Wind-Blown Chihuahua

Associated Press:

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Tinker Bell has been reunited with her owners after a 70-mph gust of wind picked up the six-pound Chihuahua and tossed her out of sight.

Dorothy and Lavern Utley credit a pet psychic for guiding them on Monday to a wooded area nearly a mile from where 8-month-old Tinker Bell had been last seen. The brown long-haired dog was dirty and hungry but otherwise OK.

The Utleys, of Rochester, had set up an outdoor display Saturday at a flea market in Waterford Township, 25 miles northwest of DetroitTinker Bell was standing on their platform trailer when she was swept away.

Dorothy Utley tells The Detroit News that her cherished pet “just went wild” upon seeing her.

Water Torture

Torture- I mean “enhanced interrogation”- for charity . . 


Being asked the same question 183 times in 1 month while being bound and asphyxiated might be 183 times as unpleasant as this . .


Corktown Ukulele Jam

Here are some youtube videos from Toronto’s Corktown Ukulele Jam, held every Wednesday night at the Dominion on Queen. 

An ad for the occasion; Rochelle Gagnon is the Oyster Queen; “A lot of people think this song is about sex, but it’s really about strawberries”; Eve Goldberg has found a “Cold Wind Blowing.”  (The Gordon Lightfoot fans among you will be especially impressed); Collette Savard and John Zytaruk, “I see you.”  Alexis Alchorn looks really young for her age- she remembers the “Dinosaurs.”  It’s a great song and she has the perfect voice to sing it.  As for her uke playing- well, she’s written a great song and she has the perfect voice to sing it.

Scott Moore

Some time ago, I used this picture to illustrate a post here:

Grocery Checkers, by Scott Moore

Grocery Checkers, by Scott Moore

Scott Moore has been working in this vein for some time.  For example:

High Bread

High Bread


Handicapped parking

Slate‘s “Dear Prudence” answers a letter from someone in a category I’ve been thinking about for years: people who do need handicapped parking spaces, but who look like they do not need them.

Two ukuleleists

Here’s a pleasant little ukulele number, by a guy who posts on youtube under the name “teepeeok”: 

And “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” covered by Ariana Gillis.  She only plays her uke for part of it, but she has a nice voice and her band plays well.  Besides, I love the song:

Chronicles, May 2009

The Reverend Ann Holmes Redding

The Reverend Ann Holmes Redding

This issue of Chronicles tells the story of Seattle’s Reverend Ann Holmes Redding, who has been ordered to leave her position as an ordained priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in America simply because she has converted to Islam.  They do not seem to have great sympathy for Rev. Redding’s complaint of religious discrimination, but they don’t have much respect for the Episcopal Church, either.  Surveying the willingness of that Church’s leaders to discard all of the more hostile-sounding parts of the Christian tradition, they conclude that the Episcopalians’ “understanding of ‘Christ-follower’ must mean a disciple of the imaginary Jesus who never, no never, discriminates.” 

The issue’s main feature is a roundtable under the title “Can the Republic be restored?”  Not without a moral revolution, says Thomas Fleming: “Constitutions do not make a people free any more than clothes nake the man.  Men, in fact, make clothes, and a free people makes a constitution that expresses its character.”  It is because Americans have lost the moral character of a free people that we have lost our Republic, not because we have lost our Republic that we have been degraded.  I think Fleming is right as far as he goes- political institutions express the habits of the people among whom they exist, they don’t transform those habits.  So there isn’t much point in writing a constitution that guarantees free speech, for example, to a people who fear unfamiliar ideas and habitually defer to authority.  On the other hand, those habits don’t appear spontaneously, but become widespread because of social institutions that reward them. 

Can the American Republic be restored?  Donald Livingston says no, because there never was such a thing.  The states were Republics when they formed the Union, the Union itself was something less: “a federation of republics is not itself a republic any more than the federation of nations in the United Nations, or in the European Union, is a nation.  A federation is a service agency of the political units that compose it.  Whatever else a republic might be, it is not a service agency of something else.” 

Can the American Republic be restored?  Clyde Wilson doesn’t claim to know, but he is quite clear on what will have to happen first if it is to be: the US presidency will have to be reined in.  “The American president began as Cincinnatus, a patriot called to the temporary service of his country (a republican confederation.)  The president ends as Caesar, a despot of almost unlimited power, presiding over a global empire.” 


Cow People?

This cow person was made by visionary Patricia Piccinini.

This cow person was made by visionary Patricia Piccinini.

Cow people and human people are due any day now . .

OK I’m just kidding about the cow people . .

But I’m NOT kidding about sheep with human parts!

Artist Patricia Piccinini’s vision.

Meet Your Makers

Virus (specifically, a Bacteriophage):

DNA or RNA is stored in the head until it is injected into a Bacterium. The 6 spider leg-looking things are tail fibers. Not all Bacteriophages have base plates and tail fibers.


 Bacteriophage Life Cycle:

Hmmm . . that’s a “life cycle”?

Sure looks like one.


 Beautiful, isn’t it?:


That’s all very fascinating, but are they useful?

I mean are they REALLY useful.

Holy crap, are these things alive?

Seriously, are they ALIVE?

ACK! Kill it!


Viruses and Computers:

Viruses and the Event Horizon

How’d they do that?