Trump: ‘Infectious disease pouring across border’

(THE HILL) — Donald Trump doubled down on his controversial comments about illegal immigration from Mexico on Monday, saying that “infectious disease is pouring across the border.”

Trump issued a lengthy — nearly 900 word — statement invoking the death of a San Francisco woman shot and killed last week by a suspect who had previously been deported to Mexico five times.

“This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States,” Trump said Monday. “In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government.”

Obama disappears, abandons press corps

(WASHINGTONEXAMINER) — President Obama disappeared abruptly without the press pool after spending Sunday golfing at Andrews Air Force Base.

He took former Hawaii school mate Mike Ramos, pal Marty Nesbitt, the co-CEO of the Vistria group, ESPN’s Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser with him to the links for approximately six hours of golfing, before abruptly taking off without the waiting press pool.

Obama left Andrews AFB at 2:48 p.m. and according to a White House official, returned to the White House at 3:04 p.m.

The press pool exists so that news organizations can pool resources and send reporters to events where large number of journalists may not attend. An assigned reporter follows the president and sends out a pool report to the member news organizations.

Remaining childless – selfish or noble?

Reasons not to have children

Forget the old feud between working moms and stay-at-home moms. The latest chasm to open among women is those who want kids, and those who don’t.

The reason for wanting children is as old as humanity. It is so biologically innate it seldom requires explanation. But when women not only consciously choose not to have children, but justify this choice with excuses ranging from the generous to the snarky, the debate can become fiery.

A recent Huffington Post piece encapsulated and justified the decision not to become mothers with the article 270 Reasons Women Choose Not To Have Children.

“Far too often,” begins the article, “women who choose to be childfree are asked to defend their ‘immature,’ ‘selfish’ lifestyles. They’re told that motherhood is the ‘most important job in the world’ and face accusations of living ‘meaningless’ lives.”

HuffPost asked child-free readers to discuss the reasons they chose not to have kids and gathered 270 responses. These were divvied into five categories, and women could choose more than one category:

  • I want to prioritize my career
  • I don’t like children
  • I have a bad relationship with my parents
  • I don’t want the financial responsibilities
  • I like my life as it is

The vast majority of responses were career-driven:

  • “I am a flight attendant on a private aircraft. I have been flying for 16 years. For me, flying and having children are just not compatible.”
  • “I have been working my entire life toward my career. I am driven and always working toward my next goal. I can’t imagine getting to a point where I feel I can “tap out” of my career aspirations.”
  • “I enjoy my life and my career. Being on active duty in the U.S. Navy would make it hard to prioritize my career while prioritizing my child. It’s not easy to do both. I love my job and things are great just the way they are.”
  • “Being a performer and instructor in the circus means I prioritize training my body over a LOT of things. Children included. Just thinking of taking 9 months off the trapeze makes me cringe, let alone it would potentially be career-ending.”
  • “I am very career driven and know I would resent them if they got in the way. I enjoy being able to live how I want and not worry about little people’s needs.”

Some of the reasons involved a lack of maternal instinct:

  • “I’ve just never felt the need for children. There are plenty of kids in the world that don’t have loving parents, and I’ve surrounded my career around this need. I also have plenty of kids to love in my life; I don’t have the need for my own.”
  • “I want to focus on my career. As a young child I knew I did not want to be a mother. I never played house, or played with baby dolls, I was too busy playing nurse!”
  • “I’ve never had a motherly instinct, whenever I see kids, I just feel ambivalence.”
  • “My husband and I have been together since high school and knew from the beginning that neither of us wanted children. We were both determined to get as many degrees as possible and have successful careers.”
  • “I’ve never really felt that pull to have children. When my parents divorced I became very protective of my two younger brothers. I guess that was enough parenting for me.”
  • “I never saw myself as a mother and don’t really have that natural maternal instinct. I also wanted to have freedom in my life to choose how to spend my time.”
  • “Apart from never having the “maternal instinct,” I feel happy and fulfilled in my life as it is. My career and social life give me more happiness than a child could. Neither me nor my partner want children, so it seems like the logical conclusion.”

See the generous selection of parenting books in the WND Superstore: Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young; Bringing Up Girls; Bringing Up Boys; and much more!

Some of the reasons were environmental:

  • “I do not like what the world has become. I would feel guilty bringing another human being into this world.”
  • “The environmental issues, the state of the economy, the cost of education, and other cultural /social factors lead me to believe it would be highly difficult, at best, to raise a child.”
  • “I have a hard time ever imagining raising a child in this world. I certainly would never spawn my own with all the overpopulation issues.”
  • “The world is already overpopulated. Having a child so that I can carry on my legacy is selfish.”
  • “Overpopulation and vulgar consumption of goods and products is not lessening. I do not want to contribute another individual into that cycle. I feel that taking a stand and refusing to buy into breeding is entirely unselfish, and I have given it a lot of thought.”

It’s women vs. babies, and people want to know “Who Killed the American Family?” Answers are here, in Phyllis Schlafly’s new analysis of the nation.

Some of the reasons behind not having children are sad:

  • “My childhood was horrendous, and children trigger my trauma.”
  • “I had a horrible childhood living in poverty with two very dysfunctional parents. They taught me how to be the worst kind of parents. I wanted school, career and financial independence. I can not and will not hurt a child. The cycle stops with me.”
  • “Being forced by my mother into undergoing an instillation abortion at the age of 16 probably contributed to my aversion to childbirth, as I had to endure a night of labor pains in the hospital.”
  • “I’m afraid I would screw the child up. I didn’t come from a very stable background. I also have an illness that has no cure and it can be passed on to my kids. I wouldn’t want them to have this illness. It is not easy, at all.”
  • “I’m working in the social work field where you see child after child abused. It is not only heartbreaking, but it really makes you question whether or not you’re fit to raise someone else’s life.”
  • “I was raised by people that never wanted to have children and really had no right to procreate. I was a clear burden and suffered various forms of abuse. I have aggressive tendencies due to being raised in that environment.”
  • “I was sexually abused as a child. My mother beat me and told me the abuse was my fault. I will never ever bring a child into this messed up world.”

Some of the reasons have to do with an honest dislike of children:

  • “Big pregnant bellies, continuous snot and poop mixed with urine and tears, no sleep, no money… I don’t get the appeal.”
  • “I don’t like the thought of being around small people I have to raise to be productive citizens of the world while cleaning their boogers and snot and poop. No thanks.”
  • “They are gross, destroy your free time, drain your money, and are generally selfish and egotistical through most life stages. Plus, there are 7 billion people on this planet. It’s time we stopped breeding like wild rabbits, the planet is ruined enough as it is.”

Some of the reasons were blunt:

  • “Because I don’t want them.”
  • “There are enough of us already, don’t you think?”
  • “I don’t want children, because I don’t want them.”
  • “Why do I need to explain ‘I don’t like children’? What part of that comment is unclear?”
  • I like to take naps.

And some of the reasons border on bizarre:

  • “You can’t reason with them. They are not rational.”
  • “I could never love something that caused me that much pain. I love plenty of other people and animals in my life who have not violated my body.”

In the end – selfish or not – it’s a personal choice for a woman whether or not to become a mother. The general hope is she doesn’t achieve this status by killing any babies she “accidentally” conceives.

Illegal who killed SF woman deported 5 times before

(Fox News) The man arrested in connection with the seemingly random killing of a woman who was out for a stroll with her father along the San Francisco waterfront is an illegal immigrant who previously had been deported five times, federal immigration officials say.

Further, Immigration and Customs Enforcement says San Francisco had him in their custody earlier this year but failed to notify ICE when he was released.

“DHS records indicate ICE lodged an immigration detainer on the subject at that time, requesting notification prior to his release so ICE officers could make arrangements to take custody. The detainer was not honored,” ICE said in a statement Friday afternoon.

What Is “Libertarian Parenting”?

By Steven Horwitz

One of the dangers of modern libertarianism is that some people want to apply the ethical rules and insights that make complete sense in the market to micro-orders such as the family and the firm. Because our day-to-day life is made up of these micro-orders, it would seem to many libertarians that any consistent philosophy should go all the way down.

But as Hayek argued in The Fatal Conceit, the macro order and its rules — which he called the “extended order” — are distinct from the norms and rules that make up these more localized levels of description. When we fail to make this distinction, we wrongly apply the ethics of the extended order to the intimate orders of families and firms, which risks crushing those micro-orders.

This problematic tendency is most pronounced in the ways some libertarians discuss parenting.

They often begin by asking what “libertarian parenting” would look like. Naturally, they then imagine parents being analogous to government and children being analogous to citizens. Unsurprisingly, they conclude that, on libertarian grounds, parents should interfere as little as possible in the lives of their children. Some even propose organizing the household on market principles.

For example, advocates of libertarian parenting might argue that children should always get paid for chores and that parents should never say, “Because I said so!” to their kids. With the best of intentions, they believe that what we might call “laissez-faire” parenting will create children who will be more likely to support a laissez-faire society.

Obedience to legitimate authority, which includes following rules, is not anti-libertarian.

 

I think they are deeply mistaken for several reasons.

First, there is the empirical evidence from psychology. Psychologists distinguish among a number of parenting styles, but the major ones fall on a spectrum from most involved to least:

  • authoritarian
  • authoritative
  • permissive
  • neglectful

The advocates of libertarian parenting clearly reject the “authoritarian” style and presumably would reject “neglectful.” What they seem to want is perhaps something like permissive parenting:

Permissive parents . allow children to make their own decisions, giving them advice as a friend would. This type of parenting is very lax, with few punishments or rules. Permissive parents also tend to give their children whatever they want and hope that they are appreciated for their accommodating style. Other permissive parents compensate for what they missed as children, and as a result give their children both the freedom and materials that they lacked in their childhood.

As it turns out, permissive parenting doesn’t work very well. The psychological research indicates that children of permissive parents suffer from a variety of problems as they mature.

By contrast, authoritative parenting provides the best results:

Authoritative parents encourage children to be independent but still place limits on their actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is not refused, and parents try to be warm and nurturing toward the child. Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling as authoritarian parents, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Often, authoritative parents produce children who are more independent and self-reliant. An authoritative parenting style mainly results when there is high parental responsiveness and high parental demands. Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy.

In other words, it’s perfectly appropriate to place limits on your children’s actions and to insist on only such freedom as is age appropriate. Authoritative parents have high expectations and are not hesitant to say no to their kids. The evidence is clear that this style produces the best psychological outcomes for children.

This style of parenting is not just the best for individual outcomes, but also for promoting a liberal social order.

Many things that might seem to be “anti-liberty” that happen within healthy families are, in fact, preparing children for life in a free society. What children need to become responsible adults is not freedom but structure. For example, they need to learn the importance of following rules, as a free society is a rule-governed society. Political and economic freedom are enhanced by rule-following, and parenting can model that.

It’s perfectly fine as a libertarian parent occasionally to say, “Because I said so.” Obedience to legitimate authority, which includes following rules, is not anti-libertarian. It’s a necessary skill in a world where some people and institutions actually do have authority. And small children in particular do not need everything explained to them. That’s how you end up putting them in the center of your familial universe, which is the mistake that permissive parents make. Parents should be leaders, and they should lead by example.

Encouraging and even forcing your kids to share their possessions is not socialism and it’s not bad parenting. It is not a bad thing to demonstrate to kids that sharing with other individuals they know, even when they might not wish to share, is often an effective way to prevent conflict and establish trust. You can also help them to understand the difference between the expectation to share with known others versus anonymous others. Sharing is what families do, after all. Would children rather their parents didn’t share the income they earn and the food they prepare?

And requiring chores without compensation is an excellent idea and it’s not anti-liberty. The institutions of civil society, such as families and religious organizations, are not bound together by the cash nexus. (There’s a reason that cash gifts among close friends are often considered tacky.) The world does not divide into either state or market. Outside state and market, we often do things out of obligation to others, whether it’s some form of expected sharing or providing help without monetary compensation. Learning that this is often the appropriate way to behave helps to ensure that the institutions of civil society survive and thrive. They are just as important to liberty as are the institutions of the market.

One area where the “libertarian parenting” advocates are correct is in the importance of allowing children to play on their own, without constant parental supervision. The psychological literature is clear about the benefits of unsupervised play for helping children develop the capacity to create, follow, and enforce rules; think about issues of fairness; and learn empathy. Most important, from a libertarian perspective, such play requires the continuing consent of the players. Behaving in ways that upset other children will bring play to an end. Unsupervised play teaches children how to negotiate and compromise to ensure that playing relationships are consensual. Consent is at the core of both markets and civil society, and parents who let their children play without parental supervision are helping those children to develop skills and abilities central to a free society.

When libertarians think about parenting, we should not be asking, “What sort of parenting appears to be implied by our ethical and political views?” Instead, we should be studying what psychologists know about child development and seeing how that aligns with the aptitudes and attitudes we know are necessary for a free society. We shouldn’t want parenting to be libertarian; we should want to parent in ways that produce children who have the skills they need to value and sustain liberty.

Star Trek actor fumes: Clarence Thomas ‘clown in blackface’

George Takei, the openly “gay” activist and Hollywood actor known for his decades-old role in the TV series “Star Trek,” issued a scathing criticism against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, calling him a “clown” for failing to vote with the majority on the Supreme Court’s “gay” marriage case.

“He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court,” Takei said, in an interview with Fox 10. “He gets me that angry.”

Takei made the comments in context of discussing the court’s 5-4 ruling that now compels states to allow same-sex marriage, and Thomas’s dissent. But he then went off on a tangent about racism and slavery, referencing the dissent Thomas wrote.

Get the hottest, most important news stories on the Internet – delivered FREE to your inbox as soon as they break! Take just 30 seconds and sign up for WND’s Email News Alerts!

Thomas, in his opinion, spoke of the “inherent worth” of all humans in God’s eyes, and wrote: “That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built. The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away..”

Takei took offense at the slavery reference.

“For him to say slaves had dignity,” Takei said, the Hill reported. “I mean, doesn’t he know slaves were chained? That they were whipped on the back?”

How did America get from “Mayberry” to “gay marriage?” Here’s the explanation, in “A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.”

He also recounted his own family’s experiences with internment, saying in an op-ed for MSNBC he was “only a child when soldiers with bayonetted rifles marched up our driveway in Los Angeles, banged on our door and ordered us out. … To say that the government does not bestow or grant dignity does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process. At the very least, the government must treat all its subjects with equal human dignity.”

Takei wrapped his interview with Fox 10 by blasting Thomas as unfit for court service.

“This man does not belong on the Supreme Court,” he said. “He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.”

Home Education Inspires a Love of Learning

By Lawrence W. Reed

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


The hero in this story is not any one person but rather nearly two million Americans — moms and dads who go the extra mile and who, often at great sacrifice to themselves, are rescuing children in a profoundly personal way. They are the homeschoolers, parents who give up time and income to directly supervise the education of their children. They teach, they arrange learning experiences within their home and elsewhere in cooperation with other parents, and they inspire an appetite for learning.

Of all the ingredients in the recipe for education, which one has the greatest potential to improve student performance?

No doubt the teachers unions would put higher salaries for their members at the top of the list, to which almost every school reformer might reply, “Been there, done that!” Teacher compensation has gone up in recent decades, while indicators of student performance have stagnated or fallen.

Other standard answers include smaller class size, a longer school year, more money for computers, or simply more money for fill-in-the-blank. The consensus of hundreds of studies over the past several years is that these factors exhibit either no positive correlation with better student performance or only a weak connection. On this important question, the verdict is in and it is definitive: The one ingredient that makes the most difference in how well and how much children learn is parental involvement. Homeschooling is the ultimate in parental involvement.

When parents take a personal interest in their children’s education, several things happen. The child gets a strong message that education is important to success in life; it isn’t something that parents dump in someone else’s lap. Caring, involved parents usually instill a love of learning in their children — a love that translates into a sense of pride and achievement as their students accumulate knowledge and put it to good use. As one might expect, time spent with books goes up and time wasted in the streets goes down, but there’s so much more to the homeschooling experience, as explained by Marianna Brashear, curriculum development manager at the Foundation for Economic Education:

Much time is spent not just in books, but seeing the world and participating in field trips with hands-on learning. There is so much knowledge that is gained through real-world exposure to a vast array of subjects far more lasting than reading out of a textbook. The word “schooling” in homeschooling is misleading because education takes place in and out of formal lessons. The biggest waste of time in schools comes not just from indoctrination, but also from “teaching to the test,” where kids memorize, regurgitate, and forget.

American parents were once almost universally regarded as the people most responsible for children’s education. Until the late 19th century, the home, the church, and a small nearby school were the primary centers of learning for the great majority of Americans.

In more recent times, many American parents have largely abdicated this responsibility, in favor of supposed “experts.” The context for this abdication is a compulsory system established to replace parental values with those preferred by the states and now, to an increasing degree, by the federal government. (It’s important to remember how much the current system was established as a reaction to immigrants, especially Catholics. See Robert Murphy’s “The Origins of the Public School” in the Freeman, July 1998.)

Twenty years ago, a report from Temple University in Pennsylvania revealed that nearly one in three parents was seriously disengaged from their children’s education. The Temple researchers found that about one-sixth of all students believed their parents didn’t care whether they earned good grades, and nearly one-third said their parents had no idea how they were doing in school. I can think of no reason to believe things have improved on this front in the two decades since.

Homeschooling is working — and working extraordinarily well — for the growing number of parents and children who choose it.

Teaching children at home isn’t for everyone. No one advocates that every parent try it. There are plenty of good schools — private and many public and charter schools, too — that are doing a better job than some parents could do for their own children. And I certainly praise those parents who may not homeschool but who see to it that their children get the most out of education, both in school and at home. Homeschooling almost always goes the extra mile, however, and it is working extraordinarily well for the growing number of parents and children who choose it.

This outcome is all the more remarkable when one considers that these dedicated parents must juggle teaching with all the other demands and chores of modern life. Also, they get little or nothing back from what they pay in taxes for a public system they don’t patronize. By not using the public system, they are in fact saving taxpayers at least $24 billion annually even as they pay taxes for it anyway.

In the early 1980s, fewer than 20,000 children were in homeschools. From 2003 through 2012, the number of American children 5 through 17 years old who were being homeschooled by their parents climbed by 61.8 percent to nearly 1.8 million, according to the US Department of Education. That’s likely a conservative estimate, but it equals 3.4 percent of the nation’s 52 million students in the 5–17 age group.

Parents who homeschool do so for a variety of reasons. Some want a strong moral or religious emphasis in their children’s education. Others are fleeing unsafe public schools or schools where discipline and academics have taken a backseat to fuzzy, feel-good, or politically correct dogma. Many homeschool parents complain about the pervasiveness in public schools of trendy instructional methods that border on pedagogical malpractice. Others value the flexibility to travel, often with their children for hands-on, educational purposes; the ability to customize curricula to each child’s needs and interests; and the potential to strengthen relationships within the family.

“When my wife and I first decided to homeschool our three children,” says Bradley Thompson, a political science professor who heads the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University, “we did it for one reason: we wanted to give them a classical education — the kind that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson might have received when they were young boys.” He adds,

Within a couple of years, we added a second reason: we didn’t want our children exposed to the kind of socialization that goes on in both government and some private schools. Over time, however, we added a third reason: homeschooling became a way of life for our family, a way of life that was irreplaceable and beautiful. By the time our third child goes to college, we will have been homeschooling for 18 years. Those years have been, without question, the most important of my life.

Homeschool parents are fiercely protective of their constitutional right to educate their children. In early 1994, the House of Representatives voted to mandate that all teachers — including parents in the home — acquire state certification in the subjects they teach. A massive campaign of letters, phone calls, and faxes from homeschool parents produced one of the most stunning turnabouts in legislative history: by a vote of 424 to 1, the House reversed itself and then approved an amendment that affirmed the rights and independence of homeschool parents.

The certification issue deserves a comment: we have a national crisis in public education, where virtually every teacher is duly certified. There is no national crisis in home education.

Critics have long harbored a jaundiced view of parents who educate children at home. They argue that children need the guidance of professionals and the social interaction that comes from being with a class of others. Homeschooled children, these critics say, will be socially and academically stunted by the confines of the home. But the facts suggest otherwise.

Reports from state after state show homeschoolers scoring significantly better than the norm on college entrance examinations. Prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale, accept homeschooled children eagerly and often. And there’s simply no evidence that homeschooled children (with a rare exception) make anything but fine, solid citizens who respect others and work hard as adults. Marianna Brashear informs me thus:

More and more early college and dual enrollment programs are available for rising 9th through 12th graders, and these programs, too, are quite eager to admit homeschoolers for their ability to take responsibility and to self-motivate, for their maturity, and for their determination to learn and succeed. For example, my 14-year-old daughter will be starting with a nearby technical institute in August and will receive high school and college credit simultaneously. She will be in a class with other high school students, and they are on track to receive AA degrees before graduating high school.

Homeschool parents approach their task in a variety of ways. While some discover texts and methods as they go, others plan their work well before they start, often assisted by other homeschoolers or associations that have sprung up to aid those who choose this option. Writing in the Freeman in May 2001, homeschool parent Chris Cardiff observed that because parents aren’t experts in every possible subject,

families band together in local homeschooling support groups. From within these voluntary associations springs a spontaneous educational order. An overabundance of services, knowledge, activities, collaboration, and social opportunities flourishes within these homeschooling communities.

My FEE colleague, B.K. Marcus, also a homeschool parent, identifies this natural “socialization” as a critically important point:

Homeschooling produces communities and participates in a division of labor. Homeschooling is social and cooperative, contrary to the stereotype of the overprotected child under the stern watch of narrow-minded parents. Traditionally schooled kids show far fewer social skills outside their segregated age groups.

A quick Internet search reveals thousands of cooperative ventures for and between homeschoolers. In Yahoo Groups alone, as of June 2015, about 6,300 results pop up when you search for the keyword “homeschool.” More than 800 show up in Google Groups. Facebook is another option for locating a plethora of local, regional, and national homeschool groups, support groups, events, co-ops, and communities.

In every other walk of life, Americans traditionally regard as heroes the men and women who meet challenges head-on, who go against the grain and persevere to bring a dream to fruition. At a time when more troubles and shortcomings plague education and educational heroes are too few in number, recognizing the homeschool champions in our midst may be both long overdue and highly instructive.

Common to every homeschool parent is the belief that the education of their children is too important to hand over to someone else. Hallelujah for that!

For further information, see:

What Do We Celebrate on the Fourth of July?

By Sarah Skwire

I know exactly where I will be tomorrow. I’ll be sitting on a grass-covered hill in a small town in Maine, applauding as fire trucks and floats roll by, watching my kids wave to the parade royalty and chase down candy thrown by the marchers, getting just a little teary as the war veterans ride by, and celebrating this unwieldy and flawed conglomeration of people and history and ideas called America.

It has taken me a while to understand why I like the Fourth of July so much. I don’t like government or politics. The onset of yet another round of presidential elections fills me with a vague dread and nausea. I don’t even like the Pledge of Allegiance.

If I have problems with all of these bastions of Americana, why bother celebrating this weekend? Why don’t I treat the Fourth of July with the same indifference I show Election Day?

For me, the Fourth of July is not a political celebration. I understand that it is for most people. And yes, I do see all those local politicians driving by in bunting-draped cars during that parade I’m so fond of. But for me, vaunting celebrations of contemporary political issues and personalities are not the point of the Fourth.

Mixed feelings may well be the only appropriate kind.

I’m not even there for the historical aspects of the celebrations. (Though, for the record, one of the most surprisingly moving things I have done on a past Fourth of July was to attend a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. I was brought to tears at many points, and to full-on rage at others. You could read it this weekend, if you wanted.) The June 17 tragedy in Charleston has reminded us, yet again, that history is never as uncomplicated as we would like it to be. Mixed feelings may well be the only appropriate kind. And so, as interested as I am in America’s founding, and as inspired as I am by so many aspects of it, that’s not why I’ll be sitting on the hill watching the parade go by.

I’ll be watching the parade because I can, and because no one is making me. I’ve long thought that the American freedom to assemble is a freedom we don’t celebrate enough. We’re allowed to get together — when we choose and where we choose — to celebrate or mourn or express our opinions. There’s value in having a parade just to appreciate the right to have a parade. And there’s value in having one just to appreciate that you don’t have to have one. I’ve written for Anything Peaceful about Soviet May Day parades. These were enforced “celebrations” where workers had to check in with their bosses to prove they had attended, had shown their loyalty, and had expressed sufficient delight over belonging to the Soviet Union. No one will check to see if I attended the parade this weekend. That’s a pretty good reason to go.

I’ll be watching the parade because in with all the fire trucks and the government agencies are the local businesses, the city orchestra, the Girl Scout troop, the school of martial arts, the CrossFit gym, and all the other voluntary associations that Tocqueville correctly observed are such an important part of American life. I’ll be there because I think those organizations are worth celebrating, not only for the specific activities they promote, but also because they remind us all that “if men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased.”

But mostly, I’ll be watching the parade because everyone will be there. We will line the streets and watch the floats go by. And even within my own small family, we don’t all vote the same way (We don’t all vote!); we don’t all worship the same way; we don’t all agree on anything. But we’re all there, cheering for the parts of the parade we like best, politely acknowledging the parts we don’t care for as much, and helping the kids catch candy.

That’s plenty for me to celebrate.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

—Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

Survey: 1 in 3 Americans would leave U.S.

(CNBC) — As the Fourth of July weekend looms and Americans prep their grills and ready their fireworks, some citizens are packing their bags.

A recent online poll of more than 2,000 adults by TransferWise, a peer-to-peer money transfer service based in the United Kingdom, revealed that 35 percent of American-born residents and emigrants would consider leaving the United States to live in another country.

This percentage greatly increases for those age 18 to 34. More than half of millennials, a whopping 55 percent, said that they would consider leaving the U.S. for foreign shores. Among them, 43 percent of men and 38 percent of women noted that a higher salary would be a factor in their relocation decision.

Amazon Liberates Readers

By Stewart Dompe

Science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin thinks Amazon represents everything that’s wrong with capitalism:

If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

She blames the online retailer for perpetuating a system that encourages authors to produce “sweetened fat” instead of the literature that nourishes the soul. She attacks the marketing of best seller lists (“BS lists”), and it would not be a mistake to infer that she believes these lists are comprised of an entirely different sort of “BS.” She writes:

Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable.

If the literary world is a garden, then Amazon would be a gardener whose liberal use of fertilizer, Le Guin contends, has encouraged the growth of weeds. But her anger is misplaced. There is no gardener — and the garden is more beautiful than ever.

Spontaneous Order in the Book World

Amazon is a consequence, not the cause, of the digital revolution. More books are being published every year because it is now easier to become an author. Traditional publishers printed 316,480 new titles in 2010. That’s 100,000 more than they published in 2002, but this figure is dwarfed by the 2.7 million “nontraditional” titles that were published in 2010. The importance of publishing houses, bookstores, and critics has eroded because authors can now bypass these middlemen and sell ebooks directly to the public. All it takes is a website and some social-media savvy.

More writers can now pursue their dreams of becoming authors. The garden is growing larger and more diverse.

 

Some will argue that with this large increase in quantity, the weeds will start to outnumber the roses. The problem with this argument is that it misunderstands the market segmentation that is occurring. Simply put, what is a weed to one is a rose to another. Publishers need to sell a minimum number of books to recover the substantial fixed costs of printing. These financial pressures mean that even a well-written manuscript would be rejected if it were judged to appeal to too small an audience. As the cost of publishing has fallen, manuscripts that were previously rejected are now being published, and authors can now target smaller audiences. It is therefore unsurprising if readers find that most books conflict with their aesthetic preferences — they are not the intended audience.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter will never sit on my parents’ nightstand. That is neither a tragedy nor unexpected, but to the people who love historical horror fiction, the world is a better place with that book in it. More writers can now pursue their dreams of becoming authors. The garden is growing larger and more diverse.

What Hath Marketing Wrought?

Le Guin is concerned about the influence of marketing in creating best seller lists. But even with a much larger budget than what book publishers have, Hollywood seems incapable of ensuring against $100 million bombs like Tomorrowland. Producers may broadly know what “the people” want, but that knowledge offers little guidance in ensuring a commercial success.

If you had told me a few years ago that one of the most popular book series in America, the Twilight saga, would be about a love triangle between a mopey teenage girl, a werewolf, and a centuries-old pedophile, I would have laughed in your face. Another best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey, started as Twilight fan fiction. In what smoke-filled room was it decided to sell erotica at Walmart?

Best sellers are an interesting phenomenon, because book consumption — once an intimate connection between reader and writer — has transformed into a widely shared social experience. These shared experiences create bonds between strangers. Art is a bridge that connects otherwise lonely islands of experience. When Mark Zuckerberg announced his book club, he was inviting countless strangers to join him in thinking and talking about the world.

Producing a best seller is harder than it looks. What sells or doesn’t sell — and what becomes the next breakout hit — is never the outcome of design. Writers and publishers experiment. Readers respond. Social media allows the cycle to accelerate, and sometimes the results can seem bewildering.

In this new era, more people are dedicating their lives to creating art. It is hard to find fault with either those pursuing their dreams or those paying them to do so. There are more books than we can read in a lifetime. If there is anything to regret, it is our pitifully short lives, not the literary bounty before us.

Le Guin is a brilliant novelist, but she fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the 21st-century market. The challenge now facing all readers is not to criticize the abundance of choices but to develop better filters for finding the literature that appeals to their interests. Luckily, Amazon has some recommendations you may be interested in viewing.