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by Reid Fitzsimons

Nobody knows how the Trump presidency will unfold. Perhaps he’ll enjoy the celebrity aspects of the office and leave the actual governing to (hopefully capable) advisors and administrators. Certainly there are conservatives who worry he’s in reality an in-the-closet progressive. He might prove to be erratic in word and action and need to be constrained by constitutional check and balances that all but disappeared during the Obama years, facilitated by feckless Republicans. Or perhaps he’ll prove to be a principled conservative, holding a gentle but steady hand on the rudder of state. Nobody knows at this moment, perhaps not even Trump himself.

What we do know is that on January 20, 2017 we will not have to be subjected to a shrill voice proclaiming, “We are women, and from shore to shore the entire world heard us roar,” or some such inanity that flows so readily from the mouth of Hillary Clinton. We can take pleasure in the knowledge that any number of despots and obscure manipulators of money and power will not be receiving the return on their investment: “for a ‘donation’ of xx million dollars to the Clinton Foundation, I can assure you when I’m in the White House I will…” Hillary and Bill will always have enormous amounts of money and with it will maintain a cadre of people to tell them they are wonderful, but absent power no one will have to listen to them.

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by Barry King, November 28 2015

Thanks to Reid's son Forest for introducing me to this book. If you buy it, or buy anything else from, please shop at instead of, and select The Virunga Fund as your beneficiary. It won't increase your price, but amazon will make a donation to Virunga.…/…/

Book review: Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott.

Prototypical scheme: A wild forest was designed by God, or by Darwinian evolution, to "succeed" as an ecosystem capable of sustaining a bio-diverse assortment of plant, animal, insect and bird species (and many other kinds). Modern "scientific" forestry, on the other hand, in its early stages, focused on maximizing board-feet of lumber produced, and chose mono-culture: a whole forest of trees of a single species, planted in rows. Many such projects worked for a few years, then failed as the whole forest ecosystem collapsed for unforeseen reasons involving complex interdependencies. The key insight is: these projects, and many others like them, were promoted as "modern", "scientific" and "rational", but were nevertheless unsustainable.

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by Reid Fitzsimons

(Warning: this article includes gender stereotypes, which might be viewed as microaggressive)

One day, 30 plus years ago, a guy I worked with (we were friendly if not exactly friends) kind of blurted out, “We do IT once a week, straight missionary, over in five minutes.” Obviously he needed to express some frustrations pertaining to this aspect of his marriage. Often marriage is described as a series of compromises, which is probably true in many cases, and doesn’t necessarily imply problems beyond resolution. In regards to intimacy, typically or perhaps stereotypically, the husband wants IT more frequently or adventurously while the wife is looking for more cuddling and romance. Neither is wrong, and within the foundational concept of marriage, compromise may well enhance the relationship for both. True compromise, however, requires working within a mutual framework.

Say a husband is a selfish ass who read one Penthouse Forum (is that still around?) too many, you know- “You might not believe it, but my wife caught me looking at the hot young divorcee who moved in next door. Instead of being angry she told me to go ahead, as long as she could watch!” He’s not thinking of trying to be more affectionate if maybe his wife would be willing to experiment with this or that. Rather he pictures himself as some swinging orgy guy, which inconveniently falls outside the bounds of marriage, even if he begins to convince himself otherwise. Compromise becomes coercion, though he still presents it as the former. “Come on honey, why can’t you be reasonable- if I’m satisfied I’ll be a better husband to you.” Perhaps the wife is strong and deftly disabuses him of his fantasy or tells him to get lost, but perhaps she is not. For some reason she is capable of submitting herself to humiliation: maybe being with him offers her a desired social standing, or she can’t overcome deep personal insecurities, or she has evolved some less-than-healthy concept of love. She’s grasping for anything to justify an acceptance of this situation she knows is wrong and unfair to her. If he says, “I may be having sex with a lot of different girls, but you’re the only one I truly love,” it is enough. It has to be enough, because it’s the best he’s going to give.

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sen csey

by Reid Fitzsimons

Note: The following appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Times-Leader newspaper on Sep 17, 2015 with the title "Sen. Bob Casey Parrots Planned Parenthood's Dubious Statistics."  Below that (“Follow-up”) reflects a discussion subsequent to when the letter was written (early August 2015) with one of Sen. Casey’s policy staffers in his Washington office on Sept. 10, 2015.

A majority in the US Senate recently voted to terminate Federal funding of Planned Parenthood (PP), but a “supermajority” was not obtained, hence the motion failed. Among those voting in support of the half billion dollar plus subsidy of PP was Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. Those who follow such things know that Sen. Casey frequently declares himself to be “pro-life,” but of course he is not- his obsequiousness when it comes to the severe progressive liberalism of Barak Obama disallows whatever independent thought he might possess. Perhaps claiming to be “pro-life” buys him few votes or, less cynically, it helps assuage a sense of inadequacy in his inability to live up to his father’s moral standard.

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by Barry King

For lovers of science and of nature, parasitism is a fascinating topic. An important detail is the complexity of the definition of "success" for the parasite, who prefers to rely on the productivity of others rather than on his own productivity (the cuckoo prefers not to be bothered by the hard work of building a nest, incubating eggs, and feeding chicks, so she just lays her eggs in someone else's nest.) The "success" of parasitism has an obvious strategic limitation in this consequence, that if the parasite is too "successful" the host is overwhelmed and goes extinct. Then the parasite goes extinct because it had become fatally dependent on a now-extinct host. Cuckoos can get away with it sustainably because they are parasitic only gently and on a wide variety of other species rather than on just one. A forest with cuckoos is more (bio)diverse than one without, but if the cuckoos collectively are not careful they will end up subtracting both their hosts and themselves from the biodiversity gene pool. That's why infectious organisms that cause 100% fatality in their hosts are extremely rare: their evolutionary tactic is strategically suicidal within just 1 or 2 generations. In human politics and economics, the analog to parasitism is misleadingly called "rent-seeking" ( I guess it's a good thing that we humans are not aggressively parasitic organisms - or are we?

by Barry King

I have Mennonite relatives who travel all over North America without paying for hotel rooms, by staying in the homes of a network of relatives of relatives or friends of friends. In so doing, they fail to support the hotel industry and perhaps contribute to slow job growth in that sector. I have Amish relatives who, when they suffer fire damage to a barn, will accept the volunteer help of neighbors for rebuilding, instead of hiring unionized construction workers for that job. In so doing, they take jobs away from those unionized workers. Further: the working conditions at the Amish Barn raising might possibly be OSHA-non-compliant. The Amish also plow their fields with mule teams instead of tractors, and drive horse-drawn carriages on the roads, instead of cars.

It wonders me (that’s a Pennsylvania Dutch phrase) how I should understand Anabaptist attitudes toward innovation. Anabaptists until very recently have been counter-cultural in a variety of ways, which is kind of innovative, but on the other hand, plowing with a mule team in the 21st century seems old-fashioned. Now comes another data point: modern internet-based ride sharing via Uber looks a lot like “Mennonite-Your-Way” travel arrangements and like the Amish approach to barn-raising, and the Uber economic model is considered innovative rather than reactionary, whereas, the growing backlash against it looks pretty darn reactionary. Sixty years after Bill Buckley coined the phrase, who is it now who is standing athwart history and yelling “Stop!”? (Hint: read Hillary’s recent speech in which she scolded Uber, without mentioning it by name. If the guy in Seinfeld who withheld soup was a “Soup Nazi”, does that mean Hillary is now an “Uber Nazi”? Just wondering...) Bill Clinton wanted to build a bridge to the 21st century, which at the time was a forward-looking idea. Now here we are, and Hillary apparently wants to build the same bridge, but she plans on using it to go the other way.

So why exactly is Hillary staking out a position as an Uber Nazi? Well, she counts on union support, and the unions hate Uber, and she likes tax revenues and regulation, while Uber drivers and customers tend to dislike those things. How much do unions and government regulators hate the Uber-style economy? In France, Hillary’s fellow travelers (mobs of taxi drivers) “went full Luddite”, destroying Uber cars, and the French government joined them by arresting Uber managers.

Bottom line: the fundamental difference between the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Uber drivers on the one hand, v. the Uber Nazis on the other is this: the former are content to do their economics via free contracts voluntarily entered, while leaving the rest of the world also free to do whatever they want, whereas, the Uber Nazis want to impose their preferred models on other people by means of government coercion or violence.  President Obama at his best, drawing on 2000 years of Christian tradition, also recently demonstrated by Rwandan Christians after their 1994 genocide and by Lancaster County Amish folks after their 2006 Nickel Mines school massacre (an example of forgiveness also explicitly followed by the survivors at Emmanuel AME church). The President here has kept a tight rein on his inclination to exploit crises for political advantage (limiting it to between about 25:00 and 30:00 in this 38 minute speech). That's progress, but he is still missing that part of the Christian tradition, which some Rwandan survivors have also missed, but which the Amish understand, and which Jesus himself clearly understood and articulated: that there is a possibility for Christians to do forgiveness and reconciliation, and experience Amazing Grace, without at the same time yielding to the temptation to lay their hands on political power which amounts to violence and coercion in another form.

TSA glove

by Reid Fitzsimons

Any fair discussion about the TSA requires a disclaimer of sorts. The average TSA employee is looking for a paycheck, not confrontation and perhaps to be viewed as doing something meaningful in at least a small way, not just another assistant to the acting chief assistant to the deputy director in charge of special projects; I can assure those inexperienced in the workings of government there are plenty of the latter. Human nature dictates that wherever there is power to be had, running the gamut from petty to absolute, a certain type of person is attracted not to the mission but to the allure of authority. Throw in a uniform and I am sure there are enough TSA employees who derive something from their position other than the satisfaction of doing their job, so to speak, and they are likely well represented in management.  As a point of reference, there are around 56,000 TSA employees and the budget is in the range of 7.4 billion.

I cannot think of any other citizen/government interaction that so routinely expects/ demands the former comport themselves as sheep. I’ve never heard of anyone who loves the TSA but certainly there are those who hate it. I do not hate the TSA and submit to the ovine requirements when necessary, but I have my tale, nothing particularly dramatic, which I am recounting here. ...continue reading