The American Dream is Freedom, Not Wealth

Not that there's any reason to be opposed to wealth, which can to some degree sometimes increase practical freedom. Still, most Americans seem to grasp that the essential thing was always liberty.
What our survey found about the American dream came as a surprise to me. When Americans were asked what makes the American dream a reality, they did not select as essential factors becoming wealthy, owning a home or having a successful career. Instead, 85 percent indicated that “to have freedom of choice in how to live” was essential to achieving the American dream. In addition, 83 percent indicated that “a good family life” was essential.

The “traditional” factors (at least as I had understood them) were seen as less important. Only 16 percent said that to achieve the American dream, they believed it was essential to “become wealthy,” only 45 percent said it was essential “to have a better quality of life than your parents,” and just 49 percent said that “having a successful career” was key.

This pattern — seeing the American dream as more about community and individuality than material success and social mobility — appeared across demographic and political categories. In the case of political party affiliation, for example, 84 percent of Republicans and independents said having freedom was essential to the American dream, as did 88 percent of Dem­ocrats; less than 20 percent of those in either party held that becoming wealthy was essential.
Contra the NYT's summation, they didn't say "community," they said "family." There's a crucial, biological difference there. The nation grows out of its families, and whether or not it sustains and supports healthy families is an important measure of its success. Blood ties remain important. People care less about whether they are 'living a better life than their parents' than about whether their children and grandchildren will still have prospects for a good life, even if they happen to define that life in terms of less-marketable choices.

Ultimately this is all very wise, and I'm glad to see it.

"A Plan to Reduce Emissions"

The more I think about yesterday's fiasco, the more I realize how little these people understand what they are talking about. I have to conclude that they don't actually care about the stated goal -- reducing emissions -- at all.

For example, this discourse on how to 'pay for' the Green New Deal misses a major step.

This is equivalent to saying that of course we can afford a starship line to Alpha Centauri, because we can afford anything that is for sale in our own currency. Even if it's true -- as is quite debatable -- that you can really inflate the currency without damage to the economy, there is no such product for sale in our currency.

The same is true for this deal. Take just the provision that we're going to refit or rebuild all the buildings in America in ten years. I read a claim yesterday that this roughly means refitting 39,000 buildings a day. It might be twenty thousand or fifty thousand a day, but let's go with 39,000 as a round figure. To make it easy to accomplish, we'd start with America's 100 largest cities, so we'd need 390 teams in each of these 100 cities, each team capable of refitting a building per day. So we've got 39,000 such teams nationwide.

Maybe it's possible to hire 39,000 teams, 390 teams per city. Maybe it's possible to buy all the stuff that all 39,000 teams would need to refit a house today. But what about day two? We're going to have scoured every hardware store and warehouse in America by day two, or certainly by day three or four. But we've got to keep going, every single day for ten years. Where's all the stuff we'd need? It doesn't exist. It's not for sale.

That's just one bullet point. To make the goods available for sale in our currency over a ten year period, you'd first have to build thousands of new factories. You're also going to want to build massive new amounts of wind farms and solar panels, so you'll need to make lots of electricity-expensive aluminium. You want to build a railway system that is so big and active that it eliminates air travel -- so you'll need lots of new trains, and new steel tracks, and to cut down lots of trees to make the cross-ties, and you'll need to boil lots of tar to make the creosote to soak the cross-ties as a preservative.

This plan is going to reduce emissions?

While we're building all this stuff, we don't have it yet, so even while we're building up all this renewable electrical power we'll have to ship it from the factories to wherever it's going to be set up and put to use. Since we don't yet have electric trains, we'll need to do that shipping with diesel fuel. We'll thus need more diesel fuel -- so we need new oil refineries, to make a lot more diesel, which we're going to burn moving all this stuff.

Reducing emissions is the point of all this?

Why don't we just buy the starships instead, and export people to the Offworld Colonies? If practicality like money is no object, why not shoot for the stars?

Development is good because it's developed and stuff

My little community wants to establish something called an "Economic Development Corporation," a 501(c)(3) entity that under some circumstances (but not ours) can glom onto a half-cent local sales tax.  It has to operate under open-meeting and open-records laws like a governmental entity, but as far as I can tell it doesn't have any authority.  There are said to be 700 of them in Texas already.  They look to me like a sort of souped-up chamber of commerce, though I'm told that our local Chamber of Commerce doesn't do the same sorts of things at all.

Actually it's very hard to talk to the supporters about why an EDC would be a good idea.  Luckily, ours apparently would be pretty low-risk, since it will have to subsist on modest handouts from local governments plus private donations, and will have no power that I can discover to make anyone do anything in particular.  Most EDCs seem to operate pretty good websites with information of the sort that prospective employers would want, like demographics, available real estate, zoning philosophy, educational opportunities, tax abatements or other financial incentives, and links to local elected officials.  I thought that was Chamber territory, but apparently not.  Or, if it's Chamber territory, the Chamber doesn't have enough money and people to do it effectively.  It's surprisingly difficult to get supporters to answer a question like, "Are you going to do what the Chamber does, but more of it and better because you'll have more money and staff?  Or are you going to do completely different things, and if so, what?"  They kind of look blank and say they're going to do "economic development."  What does that look like?  Well, it's development.   Of the economy.  I never understand these sorts of conversations.

On the other hand, I'd be pleased to see someone put together a good website with information that prospective employers would want to know.  I've never understood why we don't have one already.  You'd be amazed how hard it is just to find basic information about local codes and ordinances.  Our local leadership is not what you would call wildly enthusiastic about the digital revolution.

Another question I found it hard to engage supporters on was, "How do we find out whether the 700 Texas cities who have EDCs experience better economic development than the many cities who don't?" I'm told I can easily get a list of the 700.  Sure, but you see how my question is different? Not really.  Well, the 700 cities worked really hard on economic development, which is obviously a good thing.  Right, but concrete results?  ... It's as though I were speaking a foreign language.  It's just intuitively obvious that this kind of activity, whatever it is, is valuable.

Earlier this evening I managed to find a few articles nearly on point. One was a master's thesis that couldn't find any statistical correlation between imposition of a Texas EDC sales tax and anything identifiable as economic progress.  The author admitted, however, that she was unable to put her finger on what people meant by economic progress:  was it simple growth in key metrics like per capita income, or something to do with a qualitative change in economic activity?  Either way, the pattern was murky.  Another article confidently explained that you get economic development when you can attract and retain talent, but that's tricky, because it's the nature of talent that it can relocate whenever it wants, so you have to have quality of life.  What's that?  Whatever talent wants.  Then there's probably something about making the environment business-friendly.  That's actually the only part I can readily grasp:  low taxes and regulations that are transparent and predictable.  But then there is so little consensus on whether it's a good idea to attract businesses if you can't be sure they won't degrade quality of life, as they surely will if they're not heavily regulated!  You can't trust those dang businesses!  At the same time, the coolest little town ever won't last long if there aren't any jobs.  It's a tough one.  I remain skeptical that governments can help much.  Maybe businesses can't either, but at least they employ people.

Well, as I say, the possibilities for mischief appear minimal.

"The nature of the economics didn't make sense."

Lookie here, young feller, if you wanted the economics to make sense, why were you trying to operate a socialist restaurant?  This Panera chain tried to base its business model on not just a proverbial free lunch but a literal one.

Company founder Ron Shaich explained, "We had to help [customers] understand that this is a café of shared responsibility and not a handout." Now, see, that was a big problem. People weren't smart enough to pick up on that important distinction. It goes to show you that socialism can't work unless we get smarter people. I blame the schools.  But I wonder whether the customers' level of understanding improved after the restaurant "helped" them with this concept?

Shockingly, the restaurants reported an atmosphere of increasing resentment and disappointment before they went broke and shut down. Maybe if they had taken advantage of economies of scale and expanded the experiment to include an entire country . . . ?

A Modest Proposal

Details on the Green New Deal are out.
As well as calling for the dramatic expansion of the country’s renewable energy resources, the plan proposes:

*“Upgrading all existing buildings" in the United States to make them energy efficient, and developing a smart grid.

*A radical overhaul of the country’s transport infrastructure to eliminate emissions “as much as technologically feasible.” This would involve expanding electric car manufacturing, installing charging stations “everywhere” and developing high-speed rail links to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

*Restoring threatened lands and hazardous waste sites.

*Working with farmers to build a more sustainable food system that “ensures universal access to healthy food” and clean water.

*The plan also includes social justice objectives such as "high-quality health care" for all Americans, a guaranteed job "with a family-sustaining benefit provisions.” Another goal is “to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”
Converting America to a centrally planned economy might lower our emissions just by depressing economic output, although even that isn't certain. China's Communist economy worsened pollution.

The plan is, however, just as advertised: an attempt to take over the entire American economy, so that close to 100% of what we are doing is directed by the government and paid for by the taxpayers. It is unlimited in its ambition; even if all you wanted to do was 'upgrade all existing buildings,' that would probably be too hard to accomplish in practice. But that's just bullet point one, and we'll throw in all the social justice goals as well.

You knew we were lying, why'dya believe us?

Fascinating testimony from Thomas P. Miller of the American Enterprise Institute in his Statement before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing concerning Texas v. Azar, the Republican AG lawsuit that recently yielded a U.S. District Court ruling that the Obamacare mandate was both unconstitutional and unseverable from the statute as a whole. Miller's analysis focuses on the probable impact on Americans with pre-existing conditions and pretty much tries the usual ecumenical scolding, but now and then he makes some clear points about how badly Congress blew it.
Determining the legislative intent of Congress regarding the role of the individual mandate as it related to the rest of the law is at the heart of the severability component of the Texas v. Azar litigation. The plaintiffs contend that the Findings of Fact included in the ACA statute by the 111th Congress that passed it should be determinative on this point. That Congress essentially said that the individual mandate was essential to the functioning of several other ACA provisions, including protections against exclusions of coverage or higher premium charges for individuals with pre-existing health conditions (hereinafter more commonly referred to as “guaranteed issue” and “adjusted community rating”). Whether or not those “findings” have been borne out in practice or the economic and policy connection was quite as tight as that Congress officially assumed, the plaintiffs are not out of bounds in holding Congress to its past word, and in building on the similar reasoning used by other Supreme Court majorities to strike ACA legal challenges in NFIB v Sebelius and in King v. Burwell.
In other words, if that’s the “story” for ACA defenders, they should have to stick to it, at least until a subsequent Congress actually votes to eliminate or revise those past Findings of Fact already embedded in permanent law.
Whatever the 111th Congress “may” have really intended is far more complex. At best, one might conclude that, in the final analysis, it really aimed to pass whatever surviving, though problematic version of the ACA it could, by whatever legislative and political means would work, and then try to implement it and fix it up later, as needed, as it went along. However, this gap between what was officially said with a “wink” and what actually was the political calculation is far harder to recognize in the courts as official legislative intent.
To be blunt, one of the primary ways that the Obama administration “sold” its proposals for health policy overhaul was to exaggerate the size, scope, and nature of the potential population facing coverage problems due to pre-existing health conditions ACA advocates then argued that the only way to address those problems was with a heavy dose of (adjusted) community rated premiums and income-related tax subsidies, complemented by an individual mandate. Unfortunately, this combination also made the coverage offered in ACA exchanges less attractive to younger and healthier individuals, who were asked to pay more for insurance that they valued less. We ended up with the worst of both worlds, a mandate despised by many (low-risk) individuals that largely failed to accomplish its intended goals. To the extent that net insurance coverage gains still were achieved under the ACA, they were due overwhelmingly to the combination of generous insurance subsidies for lower income ACA exchange enrollees, plus an aggressive expansion of relatively less-expensive (but even more generously taxpayer-subsidized) Medicaid coverage in many states.
* * *
It’s important to remember that the problem of pre-existing condition coverage, before the ACA was enacted and implemented, was limited almost entirely to the individual market. A host of semi-specialized risk pools and other pre-ACA legal provisions already offered various types of such insurance protection to many otherwise vulnerable Americans. Of course, public policy to address remaining problems could and should be improved in other less prescriptive and more transparent ways than the ACA’s tangled web of less-visible regulatory cross-subsidies and income-related premium tax credits (for example, extending HIPAA’s continuous-coverage provisions and risk protections to the individual market).
* * *
Hence, if the ACA’s current, overbroad regulatory provisions involving guaranteed issue, adjusted community rating, and prohibition of coverage exclusions for pre-existing conditions were stricken down in court in the near future as inextricably tied to an unconstitutional individual mandate, there are better policy alternatives available to lawmakers.
* * *
I don’t want to neglect pointing out the disappointing results and collateral damage caused by the ACA’s execution of its stated objectives. Yes, U.S. taxpayers spent more money, or we borrowed it, and millions more Americans were covered with insurance than before while others had their coverage upgraded and subsidized more generously. At the same time, less-visible victims of the ACA lost the coverage they had preferred to keep or had to pay much more for it if they fell outside of the law’s more generously subsidized cohorts. Insurance and health care markets were substantially destabilized for years, although, with enough premium hikes and Silver-loaded subsidy alchemy in the last two years, that’s begun to change. Nevertheless, the overall size of the individual market actually have grown smaller than its pre-ACA levels.

Powerlifting and Natural Performance Enhancement

It's an irony that America's Islamic officials are the ones pushing the transgender movement in sports, but as the article from the other day pointed out it's an easier fit for some traditional cultures than accepting homosexuality.

What caught my eye about this story, though, is that this powerlifting group has a completely different standard here than strongman sports. Strongman Corporation is completely willing to accept transgender competitors. They just want you to provide evidence that your testosterone levels in the blood are low enough if you want to compete as a woman. This is what Rep. Oman is claiming is unnecessary, as I understand her remarks.
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar recommended Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison investigate USA Powerlifting for barring biological males from women’s events, according to a Jan. 31 letter she sent USA Powerlifting.

Omar called it a “myth” that men who identify as transgender women have a “direct competitive advantage” and copied Ellison on the letter, “with a recommendation that he investigate this discriminatory behavior.”
Lest you think she's out in left field here, it turns out that another American powerlifting organization -- USPA -- has no relevant rules at all. They just say they welcome everyone, compete however you like. USPA, however, also doesn't test for performance enhancing drugs of any kind -- so if you're pumped up on steroids, and can inject as much testosterone as you like, what's the big deal about some natural testosterone?

I suppose free associations can do whatever they want here, and all of these solutions make a certain degree of sense. The American way, as it were.

Obamacare & Death

Death rates may have risen since the passage of the law.

A Reality Show for the Hall, Maybe?

The History Channel's Forged in Fire is something I just discovered today by accident.

It has a reality-show format and each episode pits 4 blade smiths against each other in a particular competition. Some past competitions have included forging a katana, creating a "Templar Crusader Dagger," and transforming failed blades into functional cutlasses.

It also introduced me to the American Bladesmith Society, which I know nothing about but which looks worth checking out.

Part of me is fascinated by the skills displayed, but part of me is repulsed by the reality-show format. I dunno. See what you think.

"America Will Never Be A Socialist Country"

I am reminded of Fritz Leiber's wizard poem: "Never and forever are neither for men/ you'll be returning again and again."

All the same, consecrate yourselves to it for your lifetimes at least. We were born free, and we can at least swear to die free.

What comes after us is not ours to write, but that far at least we can write for ourselves.

Basing stories on uncorroborated allegations

I lifted this from Ace.

In short, the Lt. Gov. of Virginia is threatening legal action against a major newspaper (The Washington Post) for reporting details of "an allegation of sexual assault against him from 15 years ago".  Yes, he also accuses them of "smearing" him, and various other grandstanding statements about how this has never been done before (*gag*), but none of that is relevant to what I find interesting about this.

I fully support the Lt. Gov. in lambasting the Washington Post, and actively encourage him to sue them and just about every other news organization that repeats the details of an allegation of crime with no factual basis other than one person's story.  Now, I'm not saying he'll win, but I think he absolutely ought to sue.  Because this idea that an accusation is something that we must blindly accept as factual (i.e. "believe victims") and therefore report-able is toxic to responsible reporting.  If literally anyone can say "Person X sexually abused me" and that story makes the newspaper, then we've entered an era of sexual McCarthy-ism wherein an accusation is just about as good as a criminal conviction as far as a person's public reputation is concerned.

Now, I want to be crystal clear.  I'm not saying the Lt. Gov. is innocent, or that his accuser is a liar.  I'm saying a responsible news agency should not publish such an accusation unless there's either a criminal report, or a civil lawsuit filed with the accusation (i.e. a legal filing of some sort).  And yes, I absolutely believe that Brett Kavanaugh ought to have sued anyone repeating Dr. Fords' accusation unless and until some form of legal filing was made (though I will consider the argument that the accusation being read into Congressional Testimony may very well count as a legal filing).  And the reason is simple.  Reporting based upon uncorroborated accusations is nothing more than rumor-mongering.  If the news organization reports on a legal action, then that is responsible and in line with the public's interest.

Now, of course, the surest defense against libel or slander is that the accusation is true, but if Lt. Gov. Fairfax knows he is innocent, then he should have no fear of that defense working (likewise for Justice Kavanaugh).  But if the veracity of the accusation simply cannot be ascertained (i.e. "he said, she said" and no further evidence) then the responsible way to report the story (absent any other form of legal filing) is simply not to report the story.  And I absolutely do want newsrooms to fear a lawsuit when they publish rumors and unsupported accusations.  Because I think in the Trump era far too many news organizations (both major and minor) have become comfortable with posting the most scurrilous of accusations with no more concern for the actual truth of the matter than they have concern for the heat death of the universe.  A little fear of having consequences for reporting those accusations would go a long way to cleaning up that problem.

I'll Keep Looking Until I Find It

The Speaker of the House on her favorite Bible verse:
“I can’t find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time,” Pelosi said as she introduced the quote. “I keep reading and reading the Bible—I know it’s there someplace. It’s supposed to be in Isaiah. I heard a bishop say, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation … ’ ”
In fairness, the bishop may well have said something like that. Some priests sometimes feel very free in their translations from the Latin, especially if they have prayed about it and feel like this is the version of the message that their flock needs to hear right now. Pelosi's version of Catholicism strikes me as very likely to be led by priests of that spirit.

Man Kills Mountain Lion, Apparently With Bare Hands

It's not impossible -- C. Dale Petersen once killed a grizzly bear with his bare hands and teeth (by using his teeth to close off a blood vessel to the brain, rather than by tearing out the thick, tough throat).

This lion was young, too, and not full grown.
The runner, whose name has not been released, fought off the cougar-- killing it in the process-- and hiked out of the area and drove himself to a hospital. The Denver Post reported that the runner suffered serious injuries that included facial bite wounds and lacerations to his body. He is expected to recover.

Wildlife officers searching the trail found the juvenile mountain lion's body near several of the runner's possessions. They estimated that the animal weighed about 80 pounds.
Still, an impressive feat! Colorado's government has confirmed that he did not use a weapon, but suffocated the animal while it was trying to kill him.

Women's Brains Differ From Men's (and Vice Versa)

This science is publishable, according to the "Althouse rule," because it can be portrayed as a way in which women's brains are better. Actually, it shows they are different -- surprisingly, and both pre-puberty and post-menopause, for reasons the scientists don't understand.
Scientists found that healthy women have a “metabolic brain age” that is persistently younger than men’s of the same chronological age. The difference is apparent from early adulthood and remains into old age.

The finding suggests that changes in how the brain uses energy over a person’s lifetime proceed more gradually in women than they do in men. While researchers are unsure of the medical consequences, it may help explain why women tend to stay mentally sharp for longer.

“Brain metabolism changes with age but what we noticed is that a good deal of the variation we see is down to sex differences,” said Marcus Raichle, a neurobiologist at Washington University school of medicine in St Louis.... “The great mystery is why,” said Raichle. The researchers suspect something other than hormonal differences are at work because the difference in metabolism stays the same when women enter the menopause.

“I refer to things like this as the curve balls of Mother Nature,” said Raichle. “Maybe women start off with this difference and it’s perpetuated throughout life.”

It is not clear what the difference means.
The fact of the difference is important enough on its own.

Rich-Soaking Very Popular

...polling suggests that when it comes to soaking the rich, the American public is increasingly on board.

Surveys are showing overwhelming support for raising taxes on top earners, including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Monday that found 76 percent of registered voters believe the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. A recent Fox News survey showed that 70 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning over $10 million — including 54 percent of Republicans.
You'd think that tax cuts followed by the most robust economy in decades would suggest that this is the opposite of wisdom.

A Tea Party of Their Own

This is such a familiar complaint, except that it's normally a complaint by insurgent right-wingers against "Establishment Republicans" rather than "radical conservative" Democrats. The left is having its own moment along those lines.
“I am talking about the radical conservatives in the Democratic Party,” said Saikat Chakrabarti. “That’s who we need to counter. It’s the same across any number of issues—pay-as-you-go, free college, “Medicare for all.” These are all enormously popular in the party, but they don’t pass because of the radical conservatives who are holding the party hostage.”

Not long ago, this would have been an outlier position even among American liberals. Today, it’s the organizing principle of a newly empowered segment of the Democratic Party, one with a foothold in the new Congress.

Chakrabarti is chief of staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez... Although it’s Ocasio-Cortez who gets all the headlines, she arguably wouldn’t be in Congress in the first place without the group Chakrabarti founded: Justice Democrats, a new, central player in the ongoing war for the soul of the Democratic Party. It was the Justice Democrats who recruited her in a quixotic campaign early on, providing a neophyte candidate with enough infrastructure to take down a party leader. And it is the Justice Democrats who see Ocasio-Cortez as just the opening act in an astonishingly ambitious plan to do nothing less than re-imagine liberal politics in America—and do it by whatever means necessary.

If that requires knocking out well-known elected officials and replacing them with more radical newcomers, so be it. And if it ends up ripping apart the Democratic Party in the process—well, that might be the idea.

“There is going to be a war within the party. We are going to lean into it,” said Waleed Shahid, the group’s spokesman.
So far their ambitions have mostly failed, even compared to the TEA Party's initial moments. However, in the young Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, they have an extraordinary platform to draw attention to their movement.

Resume Inflation

Gov. Norham turns out to have inflated his service during Desert Storm in order to push his gun control agenda.
Well, he was indeed a doctor during Desert Storm, according to the NPRC... He was a child neurologist working at the Army’s Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. The way I understand neurologists, they treat brain diseases not gunshot wounds. It looks like he specialized in child neurology before, during and after the time he was at Landstuhl.... Now, he didn’t exactly lie about his service, he was a Major, he was a doctor, he served during Desert Storm, but I’m pretty sure a child neurologist wouldn’t be treating wounded soldiers, except in emergency circumstances – extreme emergencies.

"Take Care Of" Like a Hitman

Rather than say anything about this image, I'm just going to let it sit there a while for quiet reflection.

Is anyone home?

Again from Maggie's Farm, this rather wonderful Jordan Petersen clip that speaks to the thing that's been occupying me lately:  when we speak to someone, are we getting through to a person?

I'll repeat here a comment I just left there: Someone recently quoted a similar passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer--was it here? I forget--about how essentially stupid we become when we surrender our judgment to an ideology. He was talking, of course, about how Nazis got ordinary people to behave so horribly. The ideology no longer is a way to order our thoughts but instead something that makes us unthinking tools, one-note Charlies spouting empty superficial trash. And there tends to be someone standing nearby who's more than happy to use us as tools for a horrible purpose, while our brains are turned off and our souls numbed. Not by accident will it be a horrible purpose, because people with good purposes aren't as drawn to using other people as tools, rather than fighting with them as free brothers. And that's the difference between God and the Devil. Well, obviously, a difference.

Jordan Peterson is a rare exponent of moral heroism.


Salt of the earth

My little town is losing an excellent police chief to retirement, just as I was getting to know what a rare find he is.  If you're familiar with the true story on which the 1991 movie "Rush" was loosely based, he's the straight arrow cop who was brought in to clean up the mess after the two undercover cops flamed out and went to prison. Their original police chief was acquitted of evidence-rigging upon testifying he had no idea what they'd been up to, but after acquittal he was quietly chased off.  So my currently outgoing police chief stepped in to straighten things out under more than usually fraught circumstances.  Not too long after that he came down to my neck of the woods and ran our police department for several decades.

Last night's retirement party was in minor part a study in local politics, as revealed by the presence of a certain contingent and the absence of another.  All that political tension largely faded into the background, though, as a group of very old loyal friends and family enjoyed each other's company and honored the chief.  He has three grown sons who I imagine to be much like Cassandra's boys.  Something about the chief and his wife also put me in mind of Cassandra and her husband--what was it she used to call him?  The Unit?  The young men gave some extremely touching tributes to their parents.  At first I thought, "What a fine father he must have been to raise those sons." Then I met his wife and realized she was equally extraordinary, so I found myself thinking, "You don't get sons like that by accident, even if your husband is a superb father."  Many of those present were the solid core of the local Baptist Church.  I knew it must be an amazing congregation from the central role it has played in coordinating volunteer storm relief over the last 18 months.  Now I can see more clearly what they have going for them.  These people's love of God goes right down into their bones.

I have spent too much time lately in the "mean-girls" atmosphere of small-town political intrigue.  I meet people who sound like they'll be reliable comrades in arms and others who obviously can't be bothered or relied on.  This party made me realize there's a big society out there to be met and cherished.  These are people who will know what's right and stand up for it.  They don't give off the signals that are so familiar to me from my law firm days, or even from some of the more unpleasant local political gatherings, that everyone is faintly drunk and wondering, upon meeting me, whether it's to their advantage to be nice to me.  They're just good people, exhibiting warmth, and ready to get to know anyone they sense will behave well and stick up for what's right.  It will be an honor to serve them and be their voice.