Saturday, July 10, 2010

UPDATE!! --- More on Bellesiles

For those who find the bizarre behavior of Michael Bellesiles  a matter of continuing interest I recommend this article by Jim Lindgren from the Volokoh Conspiracy. It is an in depth look at the piece Bellesiles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Keep in mind that the VC is a “law blog” and as such is peopled by law professors, attorneys, and those accustomed to the tedium of extracting facts from minutia.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Grateful Recovering Alcoholic

In typical fashion for an alcoholic, I let slip a most significant date. June 10 marked the 75th Anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. While that sets a landmark for the most important organization in my personal history, it does take second place to the most important date for each and every recoveree. That would be the date, hour and—if remembered—the exact minute of his last drink of alcohol. It marks a coming of age in life which has no peer. Don’t believe me, ask any former drunk and he will gladly share his recovery date with you.

I shall spare you the “drunk-a-log” of the preceding night and simply state that I woke up in my car (pulling a 24’ travel trailer) on a side street in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize without any prior memory of why or how I got there. With some prior brief experience with AA, I vowed at that moment to attend a meeting that night. That was September 21, 1980. Thanks to God and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous I have not had a drink since. My every possession and that of my business was contained in the car and the trailer hooked on behind and I had put my all at risk; not to mention—my life.

In the nearly 30 intervening years I have attended thousands of AA meetings in churches, club houses, parks, civic centers, barns, bank board rooms, private homes, and restaurants with an attendance ranging from several thousand to as few as one lone attendee. Interestingly, that eight o’clock meeting didn’t disperse until we were about talked out near midnight. When last I saw him (3 years later) he was well on the way to recovery.

This post was provoked by an interesting and literate article by Brendan I. Koerner on the subject on the website, Wired.  It is long but well worth the time if you or one you love is afflicted by alcohol. He does cast some light on the scientific causes of the disease with some possible insights into gaining recovery. He does not claim membership in AA but that is not surprising since the organization is actually self-described as “anonymous.”

After 30 years I tend to disregard that anonymous label because anybody who has known me over the years knows that I was a very public drunk. While I don’t advertise it, I also realize that if my story is known, some drunk might just wander by and seek a little counseling from an “old hand.” Somehow, folks seem to respond better to the guy who has been there and lived to tell the tale. As for others; there is no chance that I would break their confidential relationship with a fellow member.

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous has been a source of consternation to the academic community for many years. In spite of BA’s, MA’s and PhD’s they cannot digest how a bunch of drunks with poor grammar, sitting on folding chairs and donating $1 per meeting can achieve a success ratio which they have difficulty matching. I can appreciate how they must feel. To cede the success of AA’s 12 step program compared to clinical experience has to be a bitter pill to swallow. With an estimated 23 million sufferers, there is a wide open market for a cure. With only 11,000 variously sponsored treatment centers, they are hopelessly outnumbered by the 55,000 meeting groups of AA. The secret to the success is not all that difficult to grasp—it’s the 12 steps.

The turning point in the program is wrapped up in the first three steps. Any person who lacks a clear understand of these is probably doomed to failure. For those who can easily identify with these three; recovery is on the way! Each must be done in order.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The first step contains an admission which many are not able to make. If your ego is so great that you cannot recognize being directed by an external source, your life will absolutely become unmanageable and you will fail. This is borne out by millions of failed marriages, failed businesses, failed families, failed friendships, and premature death caused by this powerlessness.

Having made the admission in the first step, it is absolutely necessary that one acknowledge that there is greater Power which exists. Once the sufferer finally realizes that he is not the supreme master of the universe then he may continue his search for identification of that Power. It becomes a matter of subjugation to a universal truth. The committed narcissist will most likely fall by the wayside at this point.

In the third step, if he has a firm grip on the two preceding steps, he will freely accept the reality that the world he lives in is not of his personal creation. Unbelievably, this is difficult for many alcoholics to accomplish. Too often they misunderstand this to mean that they must don the cloth, start thumping on bibles and become a “holy roller.” In reality, it only requires that one acknowledge a “higher Power” and attempt to become familiar with It. Over the years I have watched many wretches fight this concept tooth and toenail to their ultimate destruction. “We understood Him” are the key words which are widely ignored in this step. As crudely stated in many meetings “you may call Him God or Fred or doorknob” but clearly understand “He ain’t you.”

If the tragic circumstance which brought the alcoholic to his first meeting is insufficient to convince him of the efficacy of these first three steps there is a distinct possibility that he may well not be ready for the program as a whole. As I sat in my car that fateful morning 30 years ago, I was blessed by prior familiarity with those first three steps. Each one took on a whole new meaning and resonated to the core. The popular concept in the meeting rooms is that there is a requirement to “hit bottom” before attempting the long road back. While this does have a dramatic result I’m not so sure that it is absolutely necessary. An open mind for self-criticism is indeed a valuable asset but is unfortunately, a rare quality to be found in a practicing alcoholic. Depending on prior usage patterns it could well be a springboard to success.

For those who can toss back a few and not wreck their car, their marriage, and their job—enjoy a toddy. For the rest of you—come on down and we’ll find an extra folding chair and urge you to “keep coming back.” Don’t worry about having a buck for the plate; we’ll get you next time.

Happy 75th Birthday AA!

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One of My Best Old Friends

I recently got a wild hair and decided to restore and repaint the double door complex which leads to the rear deck. I gathered all the necessary tools, tape, masking papers, paint, brushes, hand sanders and started the project. Vines had crept up the columns and sullied the good finish and it all needed to be restored. It actually takes far longer to do a masking job on windows, floor and adjacent siding than it does to do the repaint.

With all that pile of equipment, I found, yet again, that the most often used tool for that job was already in my britches—my pocket knife. Once the job was done and as I was putting all the tools away, I discovered that my knife was missing.

It is a Frost Cutlery “Cheyenne” with a bone handle and 2½" blade. It has nickel bolsters and the business end is 440C surgical steel. That steel is a little tougher to sharpen with my Lansky kit but the reward is that it keeps an edge longer and shows little evidence of wear after twenty plus years. I love that knife.

Having been in the business, I retained many blades when I left the ill-fated Cochise Trading Co. back in the eighties. I also carry a Leatherman Tool when I wear a belt and it has bailed me out many times when I needed a multipurpose tool. I also keep the huge Compass Bowie sheath knife whose most arduous task was cutting the wedding cake when Granny and I tied the knot. I also have a “manila folder” which is too clumsy to carry but does put on a great show when I open it. In addition there are other blades which I keep, more or less, in reserve as back ups.

On balance though, nothing is quite as essential as the pocket knife a man carries on every occasion. I could catalog the everyday problems which that little gem solves but if you have formed an attachment to a pocket knife, I don’t need to relate each and every one. If you don’t carry one then you probably also call some one to change a flat tire on your car. If you wear a skirt or are incapacitated by a ventilator then I understand why you have probably stopped reading by now.

When my father-in-law, Dick Shepard, died in Cooperstown, NY, one of the kids suggested that I go into the bedroom and see if there was anything there that I could use as they had individually taken their “first pick” and justifiably found those mementos which they held to be important. Imagine my surprise to see on the chest of drawers that no one had taken his two-bladed tiny pocket knife. I picked it up and immediately returned to where they were gathered and double checked to see if any of the natural family members had inadvertently over looked it. None of them registered any interest and I felt honored that I now possessed his most personal of all tools and have enjoyed the constant reminder of his nobility and goodness. He was my kind of man and I treasure his memory every time I use or see it.

Every one of my antecedents which are now long gone carried his own version of this invaluable tool. As farmers, most had a double bladed affair with the smaller blade sharpened to a razor edge for neutering animals. My grandfather Frank finished his on his razor strop. It was also always available for removal of a kid’s splinter or an assist in separating fruit from a tree. The general antiseptic was a quick wipe over the leg of bib overalls. My uncle Jess Frank, a vet, who I followed as a kid, probably relied on his pocketknife more than any tool in his bag. He was much in demand and well respected among his clientele whether two or four footed.

Among those who treasure their knife there is rarely a temptation to ask another man to loan his temporarily no matter how close the relationship. That piece of cutlery is just all too personal. Most men clearly understand this prohibition. As one realizes a constant companion is absent, the sense of possible loss is immense.

As I straightened up the office this morning in advance of its annual “clean up and reorganization” and floor sweeping, there on the floor was my Cheyenne. Don’t even ask how it got there. Somehow, it had made the journey from the back deck to the office floor and there it was. I now have at least partial knowledge of how a mother feels when a lost child shows up. My only obligation now is to God who I promised everything if He would only facilitate its return. Keeping those promises will be difficult but it will be more than worth it.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Michael Bellesiles – Still a Jerk!

Beware the lettered academic with an agenda. The most common excuse offered by fellow academics is that their paper/treatise/book/propaganda flyer is “peer reviewed.” And who, precisely, are their peers? Mostly they are same collection of liberal campus activists who share their insane and lying propositions. It would appear that they sit around the faculty lounge, look for the most outrageous lies which support their otherwise untenable assertions and then grant that least valuable of endorsements—“peer review.”

When the average bear evaluates an opinion he might review the numbers, check for source and accuracy, weigh the conclusions as affected by verifiable facts and then render an opinion based on that information. This is not the criteria for a faculty peer review. It would appear that to qualfy for that position at a prestigious university, he must share conclusions with the author, and the weight of his conclusions upon society are the hall marks of his aims.

Bellesiles was a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and authored “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture” in 2000. Critics summarized the book as “guilty of unprofessional and misleading work.” Columbia University had awarded the book a Bancroft Prize which, upon close examination, they rescinded in 2002. He resigned under fire from Emory.

Among the failures and misleading statistics found in the book were the following:

* purported to count guns in about a hundred wills from 17th- and 18th-century Providence, Rhode Island, which had not existed because the decedents had died intestate (i.e., without wills);

* purported to count nineteenth-century San Francisco County probate inventories, which had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire;

* reported a national mean for gun ownership in 18th-century probate inventories that was mathematically impossible;

* misreported the condition of guns described in probate records in a way that accommodated his thesis;

* miscited the counts of guns in nineteenth-century Massachusetts censuses and militia reports,

* had more than a 60% error rate in finding guns in Vermont estates; and

* had a 100% error rate in the cited gun-related homicide cases of seventeenth-century Plymouth.

Shucks, anybody could make a few mistakes like these. One might assume that having committed such an egregious attempt to skew statistics to establish a false premise would render an author unfit to have the opportunity to publish further material. One would be wrong. From his perch at Central Connecticut State University as an adjunct professor of history comes his latest effort: “1877: America's Year of Living with Violence” from The New Press.[22]

Anyone looking for confirmation of the accusations leveled upon Bellesiles in the first circumstance will be rewarded by the apparently unverifiable citations in his new offering. Now that he has established his credentials as a serial prevaricator, he offers a tale of a student who lost a close relative in Iraq in combat. Fact checking Bellesiles has now become a cottage industry and a raft of people are eagerly jumping to the occasion to discredit him one more time. It’s not certain whether he will claim another flood as the culprit in destroying his data. He may now rely upon the ubiquitous “I misspoke.” When all else fails, if he can not certify the truth of his allegations he can always say “the dog ate my homework.”

Since Bellesiles has insisted upon writing fiction in non-fiction offerings, he will fit right in with those on the left who share his feelings. So far, we have not noticed the “peer revue” crowd jumping on his bandwagon.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NASA Rigs Nobel for Miscellaneous Muslims

The word has come down from the White House that the new NASA mission is to make Muslims feel better about themselves. Given their current contribution to science and technology, it’s about time someone gave them that well deserved pat on the back. What other group has done the background work necessary to refine stoning of non-believers with such precision? Have they been credited for their ground breaking work on female genital mutilation? Innovation in concert with age-old axe technology has enabled them to separate a head from a body with dispatch when offended or in observance of a violation of Sharia law.

In spite of a few missteps with underwear bombs and failed fireworks in SUV’s, they have relentlessly pursued inventive means of destruction of the followers of the great Satan. Now that we have an entire federal agency charged with the responsibility for and the encouragement of rewards they may enjoy praise and adulation for their accomplishments. It is possible that we can aid them in bringing their culture into the 9th century. If done properly, perhaps even the tenth is possible. I’m certain that someone at NASA can jury-rig a space suit for a goat. They may have to trim those beards though. We would suggest that a catchy name for the program would be: “No Imam left behind.”

Part of the program will no doubt soon include a suitable Nobel candidate for their participation in some upcoming historical event. Let us hope that in a fit of typical federal carelessness, they have not lost that coupon on the back of the cereal box which specifies how many box tops are required for redemption of that prestigious Norwegian award.

What an ignominious end for an agency of our government which brought unequalled pride to our peoples. God help us all.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pete Hegseth, Captain, Infantry

Capt. Hegseth in two tours, one to Guantanamo and one to Iraq, has seen our enemy first hand, understands our military, and in his academic career pushed the limits of exceptionalism. In an appearance before the senate committee responsible for investigating Elena Kagan for the appointment to the Supreme Court, he cites his objections to that action.

There are two reasons to watch this video. The first is, as an active military officer, to clearly understand intellectually his opposition to the appointment. More important is the opportunity to witness the caliber of young officer who has risen in the ranks to lead our troops.

Much of the testimony centers on her decision to bar the military from recruitment on the campus at Harvard Law. Capt. Hegseth clearly answers that ill-founded position and reminds us of what we should all remember: the complexities of modern warfare require an exceptional intellect and a capacity for firm leadership. Watch Capt. Hegseth in his testimony and see if you agree he is definitely up to the job.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday Morning Rant 154

The yard is now littered with fireworks detritus. The fridge is starting to look a little leaner. Most of the holiday company has gone home. The speeches and the parades are slowly coming to an end. The patriotic fervor has reached a fever pitch so now we can speculate on how long it will last and how we are to accomplish it.

Today, our country commences our 235th year. We have been well reminded of where we came from; now it is time for each citizen to gain a clear picture of where we are going. More important; we have had our annual reminder of the importance of the role of each person and his individual responsibility in the governance of the people as a whole. Our veterans clearly understand the role of the citizen soldier and their individual obligations to the country and to the guy standing next to them. This is a posture which needs to become universal if the nation is to survive.

Those who have contributed their lives, their limbs and lost hours of their lives in defense of our values to varying degrees, understood the concept. We celebrate those leaders who have distinguished themselves in the pursuit of liberty but they would quickly remind us that those who lead depend upon the intensity, integrity and willingness of those who follow. All too often they have seen simple individual initiative prevail over a determined and well organized enemy. This quality in those who serve has been the determining force in obtaining hard won victories in battle.

This holiday has been an opportunity for every American to review his obligation to those who have preceded him to perpetuate that exceptionalism which has made our country the greatest in the world. In so doing, we must accept the responsibility of citizenship. We must be ready to insist upon a renewal of our dedication to the constitution. We need to remind ourselves and our leaders that we are, indeed, a country which excels by virtue of the laws of God and not of man. Pray earnestly for the continuation of this republic.

“76”, An Anniversary Date or A Continued Disaster?

We all remember the famous novel/movie “Forest Gump.” Now, we hear from the author, Winston Groom as he comments on the oil spill in the gulf as it appears in the Weekly Standard. As you read his account of the spill, you will sense the affection for his native home and the damage incurred during the disaster.

Mr. Groom outlines the absolutely incompetent response to the spill by the federal government as expertly as one might expect from such a successful writer. In his personal competence, one easily sees the pain which he experiences as he watches his home country decimated by the result of the spill—now seventy-six days and counting. He cites repeated examples of “EPA, OSHA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and a host of lesser bureaucracies” as they follow their regimen of nonsensical barriers to progress against the spill.

Read his account on the link above and share his angst with the sheer ineptitude of these agencies as they follow ridiculous rules and regulations to inhibit the recovery effort. The president has tools in his kit to relieve the regulatory process to face this huge emergency. Noting his inability to actually be an effective leader, it is likely that they will continue to spend more time counting fire extinguishers and life preservers than actually doing anything substantive to rectify the problem.

The Stars and Stripes Forever

No Fourth of July is complete without hearing at least one rendition of the "Stars and Stripes Forever" .  This John Phillip Sousa march is here performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

The piccolo work late in the piece is wonderful but not one whit better than that performed by Marilyn (Martin) Parizek as a teenager with the West Liberty High School band back in the forties. If her rendition did not send cold chills up your spine, you had no soul.

Nearly all of the survivors of the class of ’50 (14?) who will attend the 60th class reunion in a couple weeks were members of the multiple award winning band and occupied “first chairs” in their respective sections. Each would happily recount for you the affect that their early music skills had on their entire lives. We often shared with a grateful community the product of our band and choruses. Most were also an integral part of their individual worship experiences as choir members and soloists.

As you watch the video, please note the expression on Conductor Bernstein’s face as he enjoys the piccolos. One senses an eagerness on the part of the orchestra to be playing this venerable Sousa march. Enjoy!

Obama Speaks!—the Steve Bridges Version
This video is incredible!   Steve Bridges has this guy nailed. His specialty is impersonation and he is superb. It is in two parts and both are available at the link. I know, every one thinks his link is the best and hypes it to the roof. You’ll just have to trust me on this and see for yourself if you do not think it is outstanding.

And finally

The relief from the heat of mid-summer has been enjoyed by all. We even got a little bit of rain and that is always a help. The wildlife feature of the week was the appearance of a family of wild turkeys with some very small ones in tow. They are the absolute definition of the word “deliberate.” It would appear that each movement is preplanned and executed with great care.

On one contact, we were able to test our dog Maggie’s discipline. Granny reported that she--albeit reluctantly--did return when called and left the turkeys alone. It is probably just as well because I truly believe that they are not only capable of handling dogs on a routine basis but also more than able. I also believe that the presence of the young would provide an additional stimulus to their existing defensive talents. The short version being, don’t mess with an angry mama turkey. Come to think of it, that would apply to innumerable creatures which inhabit our little wood.

Have a great Fourth (5th?) and pray for better times ahead.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon