December 2016 Archives

A message from the Prime Minister of Israel from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem:

To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I send you these greetings from Jerusalem. I'm standing in the courtyard of this magnificent International Christian Embassy. I'm so proud of our relations with our Christian brothers and sisters. I wonder for many of you if you remember the experience you had when you first visited Israel, when you saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Via Dolorosa or the Sea of Galilee or Nazareth. I'm sure it moved you deeply.

And it moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization. What a magnificent heritage it is. Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence. We stand with you and I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It's because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future.

For many Americans, Rick Steves is the guru of European travel, specifically of an approach to travel he calls "through the back door" -- skipping the high-priced hotels, chain restaurants, and tourist traps which insulate you in an American bubble, and instead encountering authentic local culture, staying at B&Bs, hostels, and pensions, eating where the locals do, and seeing historical attractions that are off-the-beaten path. The front door is formal, where strangers ring the bell; the back door is where you welcome friends and neighbors for a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

My wife and I first encountered his work in the late 1980s, and used it to plan visits to central Europe and the British Isles. Even when we didn't follow his specific recommendations, his approach to travel guided ours and led us to some memorable people and places.

Steves is an admirer of European social democracy, a self-described progressive Lutheran, and a resident of Seattle. In his latest Facebook post, he discusses the difficulty he has in discussing the election results with his European friends.

Europeans are struggling to understand the anger and energy coming from the slice of America that voted for Trump. And I am, too. From my point of view, working class Americans voted against a candidate who supported things that would seem to benefit them -- like higher minimum wages, affordable health care, and free community college. But clearly, those voters see things differently.

This election has nudged me to get out of my West Coast bubble and try to better understand parts of my own country that I rarely visit. In an honest attempt to empathize with red state voters, I read "Strangers in Their Own Land" by Arlie Russell Hochschild -- and found it quite enlightening.

Steves links to a blog post that he calls "my little 'book report' -- a collection of my notes, summaries, and favorite passages from 'Strangers in Their Own Land'."

The post is full of condescending generalizations about middle America and southerners in particular. A few examples -- and keep in mind that words below seem mainly to be quotes from or Steves's paraphrases of Hochschild's words, and not necessarily Steves's own thoughts.:

The Tea Party is more than a political group -- it's a culture. Traveling through red America, you notice this culture: No New York Times in newsstands, no organic produce in grocery stores, no foreign films. Fewer small cars, fewer petite sizes in clothing stores, fewer pedestrian zones, more pit bulls and bulldogs, fewer bicycle lanes, fewer color-coded recycling bins, fewer solar panels. Cafés with virtually everything on the menu fried. Lottery machines in bus stations. No gluten-free entrees. Lots of signs advertising personal injury lawyers....

The key issues: small government, guns, low taxes, prohibition of abortion. It's natural for a blue state person to marvel at how red state voters seem to vote against their economic interest. But it's not about money. It's a political high, emotional self-interest. A disdain for federal money helping them out. (Hillary's offer of higher minimum wages, free community college, affordable health care was ignored or even ridiculed.)

Emotional self-interest -- freedom from being a stranger in one's own land -- was what got traction in 2016. Trump supporters happily overlooked all the contradictions (and even blatant lies) to protect their elation. Liberals can't stop thinking, "But it's a lie!" The fact is, Tea Party Americans willingly and knowingly accept lies because they care about other things -- emotional needs -- much more.

Pretty sure I've seen the New York Times for sale here, although newsstands are hard to find anymore. Plenty of conservatives in these parts are also gluten-free and choose organic produce when they can or -- gasp! -- even grow their own vegetables and raise their own chickens. We have bike lanes, and conservatives are some of the most avid cyclists I know.

As for "emotional self-interest" and believing in lies, we believe that the left is selling lies. We know that "free" community college -- like any transaction involving a third-party payer -- is a license for college administrators to build their empires without having to worry that higher costs will drive away customers. We know that the Affordable Care Act has made medical care less affordable and less accessible than it was before for the vast majority of Americans. We know that involving the government in the economy inevitably leads to shortages and rationing. We know that higher minimum wages increases costs to consumers and gives employers incentives to automate and eliminate jobs.

We know what Rick Steves does not seem to know -- there is no such thing as a free lunch. We see that his beloved Europe is drowning in debt, imploding demographically, unable to sustain its welfare state without an influx of immigrants who don't share modern European values. We see the Left's disdain for the old values of European Christendom which built the monuments and villages and customs and traditions that he admires. We see Europe -- and Blue America -- as a cut-flower society, detached from the sources from which it drew nourishment, its apparent vitality beginning to fade and wilt.

Steves has a huge blind spot. For 30 years or more, he has been encouraging Americans to travel to Europe, to meet Europeans first-hand. He would never want you or me to feel that we know Europe because we read a book about it by an American author who looks down on Europeans and their ways, who confirms the basest prejudices against Europeans. Can you imagine Steves saying, "You don't need to visit Gimmelwald. Sean Hannity's latest book will tell you all you need to know about the Swiss." And yet he is willing to let a condescending American author shape his understanding of the Middle American voters who didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

Rick Steves needs to apply his own philosophy to his own country. He needs to visit the small towns and big cities of the American heartland. He should pick up a copy of Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood and hit the best diners in every state, talking to the customers and waitresses and cooks. Visit Pennsylvania -- the middle part between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- West Virginia, Oklahoma, west Texas, rural Wisconsin. Visit a variety of churches -- big suburban megachurches, small country Baptist churches, PCA congregations, Catholic parishes -- and hang out between Sunday School and worship to chat over coffee. Better yet, see what these churches are doing during the week to provide for the physical needs of their communities. Talk to the homeschooling moms who come to Bibliomania Bookstore in Tulsa to buy curriculum and materials for their kids. Visit the lay Catholics who have decided to build a community around Clear Creek Monastery. Sit in the stands for a high school basketball game or stand on the sidelines for a pee-wee soccer match.

Rick Steves needs to extend to his own countrymen and their attitudes and customs the same respect and understanding that he readily extends to Europeans. Steves celebrates the diversity to be found in Europe's various nations and regions, the peculiarities that reflect each locale's unique history. He deplores the homogenizing forces of mass culture and multinational conglomerates. Conservatism, as Russell Kirk expounds it, prefers the culture and institutions that spring from the local community to alien values, enforced from afar, yet Steves's fellow liberals want to impose their own values and ways on all of America. The left-wing commenters on his blog and on Facebook go well beyond condescension and incomprehension to full-blown contempt and hatred for their fellow Americans.

Rick, it's time to go "through the back door" to get to know the strangers with whom you share a country. You'll find a warm welcome, and you'll learn some things you don't know.

Republican presidential electors have been deluged with pleas to vote for someone other than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is still unfit to be President of the United States (as is Hillary Clinton, as is Gary Johnson, each in their own way). I wish that, when the Electoral College meets tomorrow in state capitols across the nation, enough Republican electors would vote for a stable, principled conservative candidate to deprive Trump of an electoral college majority, and that the House would then choose said stable, principled conservative candidate to serve as president. But it is not going to happen.

It's true that Trump has announced some good choices for his cabinet. Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator is a particularly welcome choice; Pruitt will execute the EPA's responsibilities without going beyond the agency's authority in law. On the other hand, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a globalist who sees national borders as obstacles rather than protections and who pressured the Boy Scouts of America to back down its principled stand against the Sexual Revolution. Trump's choice of a Goldman Sachs executive as Secretary of Treasury suggests that Trump's campaign rhetoric was just him saying whatever he thought he needed to say to win.

I like some of Trump's announced policies, but many of the policies I like are contradicted by other announced policies. It did not bother me a bit for him to take a congratulatory call from the president of the Republic of China, a nation attempting to hold on to what little territory it has left after the Communist revolution drove them off the mainland. It bothers me that he seems to accept or ignore Russia's aggression-by-proxy against Ukraine.

Trump is impulsive, too lazy or impressed by his own instincts to consider implications before speaking or tweeting, too easily distracted by insults to his pride to be entrusted with the power of the American presidency. Republican electors would be acting as patriots if they voted to deny him the office.

I wish I could depend upon Republican majorities in the House and Senate or the leadership of the Republican Party to act as a check on his most dangerous impulses, but I see nothing in their actions since Trump clinched the nomination to persuade me that they're willing to resist him. They see his apparent popularity as a bandwagon to jump aboard or at least as a steamroller to get out of the way of.

Is there a legitimate reason for electors to deny the presidency to Trump? It was the intention of the Framers of the Constitution that the selection of a president should be insulated from popular passions. They intended that the people would only select trustworthy men who would in turn choose a Chief Executive. But the framers didn't reckon on the rise of political parties and the idea of electors already pledged to support a specific candidate. They certainly didn't foresee a future in which a major political party was reduced to a hollow shell, a mere mechanism devoid of principle or platform, taken over by a pop-culture celebrity.

The expectation for over a century has been that voters in each state are really voting for president and vice president and only incidentally for a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for the preferred presidential candidate. Despite this expectation, and despite the laws and oaths that seek to turn this expectation into a legally binding commitment, electors have the freedom to vote as they see fit.

It's been claimed that voters chose these electors because they wanted Donald Trump to be president. I'm sure that's true for many voters, particularly in the once-reliably Democrat Rust Belt states that voted Republican this year and who saw Trump as the first champion for their concerns (even though Rick Santorum ran on the same approach to trade in 2012). On the other hand, many voters voted Republican only because they didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president, and they would be relieved if a conservative wound up as president instead of Trump.

In any event, the Republicans who were nominated to be electors were elected knowing that they would be expected to vote for the party's nominee. In Oklahoma, five electors were nominated by congressional district conventions when the nomination was still in doubt, and the other two were nominated by the state executive committee and ratified by the state convention after Trump's rivals dropped out of the race. These people were chosen because they were known by their fellow activists as committed to the party and its principles. These electors signed notarized pledges to vote for the nominee, and many of them have cited those pledges as reason enough to vote for Trump, no matter their personal view of Trump's character or instability. They aren't going to vote for another Republican, much less a left-wing Democrat.

Democrat calls for electors to vote for Hillary Clinton because she "won" the popular vote are either naive or disingenuous. Does anyone believe that Democrats would be calling for elector independence if Hillary Clinton had won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania?

The popular vote is an irrelevant metric. The rules, as set out by the Constitution and the state laws that govern the election of presidential electors, make the presidential election into 56 separate contests -- 50 statewide contests, one in the District of Columbia, plus separate contests in the three congressional districts of Nebraska and the two districts of Maine -- each of which awards a varying number of "points." If the game was scored differently, the strategy would be different. If the Big 12 football title was awarded based strictly on point differential instead of won-loss record, you'd keep the first string in against a weak team and run up the score rather than resting your starters once the game was well in hand. If the World Series title was awarded based on total runs, you'd burn up your bullpen to stop more runs being scored, even if you're already down by 10 in that game. If the presidential contest were a national popular vote, candidates would allocate their resources differently. Voter behavior would change as well. A conservative who felt free to vote third-party or not at all because either Trump or Hillary led by a wide margin in his state might have cast an anti-Hillary vote for Trump in a national popularity contest.

And don't trot out the argument that the electoral college gives too much power to small states. Any inequality in the number of citizens per electoral vote is just a reflection of the inequality in the number of citizens per seat in Congress, a product of Congress's unwillingness, under Democrat and Republican majorities alike, to expand its numbers with the population for the last 100 years. (UPDATE: But see below: While a larger House would even out population per electoral vote, it wouldn't have changed the outcome of this election, because California was entirely responsible for Hillary Clinton's popular-vote lead.)

If you want #HamiltonElectors -- electors who fulfill the role envisioned by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 -- you have to have a system for electing them. As long as electors are nominated by political parties and as long as political parties select presidential nominees before the electors go before the voters, the status quo will prevail. Make it easier in your state for citizens to run as independent, unpledged electors, and then vote for them, if you want things to change. Abolish the state party rules and state laws that require elector nominees to bind themselves to a presidential candidate. I'll believe that Democrats want #HamiltonElectors and indirect democracy when they start calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment and a return to indirect election of senators.

Even in its present desiccated state, the Electoral College still serves a couple of important purposes -- it acts as a firewall, restricting the effects of voter fraud in one state to that state's outcome, and it ensures that no one can be elected president without support from the breadth of the nation. Out-of-step, shrinking, but still-populous California cannot dictate to the rest of the nation who will be president.

But I still wish that Republican electors would vote for someone else -- perhaps Mike Pence -- instead of Donald Trump. (The choice of Pence would have some legitimacy, as he was nominated by the Republican Party, was on the ballot as the vice presidential nominee, and was not one of Trump's defeated rivals for the nomination.) I reject the argument that because a safety mechanism hasn't been used before, we can't use it now -- the same argument that was used against a delegate revolt at the Republican National Convention.

The electoral principles outlined by Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 are sound, but the system no longer produces the result Hamilton expected. The culture and its influencers will first have to regain respect for the value of indirect election, and states and parties will have to eliminate those practices which work against indirect election.

UPDATE: The electoral vote tally, according to reports from all 50 states and the District of Columbia: Trump 304, Clinton 227, Colin Powell 3 (Democrat electors in Washington state), Faith Spotted Eagle 1 (Democrat elector in Washington), Bernie Sanders 1 (Democrat elector in Hawaii), Ron Paul 1 (Republican elector in Texas), John Kasich 1 (Republican elector in Texas.) So a total of 2 Republican electors and 5 Democrat electors voted for a candidate other than the party nominee.

Four Texas Republican electors were no-shows, possibly because they did not want to vote for Trump, but felt bound by their pledges. The four vacancies were filled by a vote of the remaining 34 Texas electors. One Texas elector resigned following the November election rather than vote for Trump and was replaced by someone who would.

Three other Democrat electors tried to vote for someone else but were prevented: A Maine elector voted for Sanders but was forced to change vote to Clinton. A Minnesota elector submitted a blank ballot but was replaced by an alternate who voted for Clinton. A Colorado Democrat elector tried to vote for Kasich and was dismissed in favor of an alternate who voted for Clinton. A Fox 31 Denver news report has more on the intent behind the Colorado elector lawsuit.

MORE: Would a bigger House of Representatives have changed the outcome by reducing the small-state advantage in population per electoral vote? With 435 House members and 538 electoral votes, there are 3.6 times more people per electoral vote in California (677,345) than in Wyoming (187,875). If the House had 10,000 members -- getting us very close to the Article I minimum of 30,000 people per apportioned House seat -- there would be 10,103 members of the Electoral College, and the residents-to-electoral-vote ratio would be a maximum of 30,763 in California to a minimum of 28,025 in North Dakota, a difference of only 9.8%. Still, the result would be 5,699 votes for Trump to 4,404 for Clinton. That's assuming that all of Maine's 45 electoral votes went to Clinton and all of Nebraska's 63 electoral votes went to Trump, when voting by congressional district would likely have split off some of each state's vote for the other candidate.

Clinton's problem is that all of her national margin (2,864,974 more votes than Trump) came from her blowout win in California (4,269,978 more votes than Trump). Even if the entire nation chose electors by congressional district, Clinton likely would have lost, because her popular vote was highly concentrated. Her margins in Los Angeles County (1,694,621) and the five boroughs of New York City (1,670,027) are enough to account for her entire national lead. (If you're curious, the margin in Cook County, Illinois, was 1,158,659. Trump won Illinois minus Cook County. The three counties of Florida's Gold Coast -- Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach -- gave Clinton a 684,787 vote margin.)

I had occasion Saturday afternoon to travel to Joplin with my dad (a seasonal celebrity), who was making an appearance at the Sam's Club there. There was freezing rain in the forecast, so I spent some time before leaving town looking for current weather and road condition information.

Getting current information about Missouri road conditions was easy. That link leads to an interactive map showing you whether a segment of road is clear, mostly clear, partly covered with ice/snow, covered, or closed. Icons show construction closures and major wrecks, which can be clicked to show more information. For example, within a few minutes of a semi-trailer wreck at mile 49 of I-44, east of Mount Vernon, Mo., the map showed an icon indicating that the wreck occurred at 5:30 pm, that the right lane was blocked, and that it would be about 2 hours before both lanes were reopened to traffic.

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The Oklahoma road conditions map, by contrast, assigned three conditions to the roads -- moderate, severe, closed -- and the same condition was applied to all the roads in a county (with the exception of turnpikes). While Missouri drew a distinction between roads which were known to be clear and roads for which the condition was unknown, Oklahoma's map showed both as unhighlighted. Clicking on the Oklahoma map produced the same boilerplate text for the condition shown -- no location-specific information.

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Another thing I did to prepare for the trip was to be sure I was subscribed to Twitter feeds for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Transportation - Southwest, and National Weather Service offices in Tulsa and Springfield, and to turn on mobile notifications -- sending any new tweets to my phone. I had hoped that these agencies would use social media to provide up-to-the-minute news on road conditions and closures. Not so much.

As we drove northeast on the Will Rogers Turnpike, we started to encounter freezing drizzle around the Foyil exit. We had to stop at midway to clear the ice around the edges of the windshield and on the wipers. As we got closer to Big Cabin, we drove past a couple of jack-knifed trucks off the side of the road-- they evidently hit patches of ice on the bridges. (Thanks to the warm temperatures a day earlier, the ice was melting when it hit the road surface -- except on the bridges.) Past the Afton exit, traffic came to a stop.

Ten minutes later, it began moving again, but we soon learned that the Highway Patrol was directing all traffic off of the turnpike. A patrol car blocked the eastbound lanes, and Miami police cruisers were keeping traffic from entering the turnpike in either direction. We rerouted via OK-10 and MO-43, which added about 30 minutes to the trip but had very little traffic.

When did the OTA take to Twitter to notify motorists that the turnpike was closed? Over an hour later, at 4:39 pm. The OTA telephone hotline (1-877-403-7623), supposed to have to have the latest information about turnpike conditions, had not been updated since Friday morning, according to a tweet at 3:28 pm Saturday. It was updated at 5:30 to report that eastbound Will Rogers Turnpike was closed but one lane was open westbound.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, OTA reported at 5:09: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE HAS ONE LANE WESTBOUND OPEN AT THIS TIME. EASTBOUND STILL CLOSED."

At 6:00 pm: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE EB REMAINS CLOSED DUE TO ICE AND ACCIDENTS. TURNER TURNPIKE IS OPEN IN ALL DIRECTIONS." My question in reply at 6:03 pm -- "What is the plan for salting and sanding Will Rogers Turnpike?" -- went unanswered.

There were no further updates from OTA until they replied to my 8:38 pm tweet noting the lack of hotline updates. Even then, it took another question from me to elicit the information that the closure was only from the Miami exit eastward.

It's a big deal for an interstate highway on a major cross-continent route to be shut down for hours. Twitter, the web, even telephone hotlines offer a quick and inexpensive way to communicate information and keep it current, but only if officials make it their job to provide precise and frequent updates and to respond promptly to questions.

A closing question: How is it that it was safer to drive on the taxpayer-funded side roads than the user-funded toll roads? Shouldn't some of those big toll dollars have gone into salting the turnpike, preventing accidents, and keeping the road open?

ONE MORE THING: OKDOT's 8 p.m. Saturday news release neglects to mention that the Will Rogers Turnpike is closed east of Miami. Did they not know, or did OKDOT not mention it since the turnpike is OTA's responsibility and not OKDOT's? Do they expect travelers to know that there are two different agencies overseeing road conditions?

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IMAG0490.jpgA series of encounters led to an opportunity to appear on 612 ABC Brisbane (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's locally focused station) to talk about the aftermath of the U. S. presidential election.

In late October, I was walking in the Spring Hill neighborhood north of the Brisbane CBD, looking for an affordable alternative to the hotel's unaffordable laundry service. I came across two young men standing on a street corner with a small metal easel sign identifying one of them as Trevor Evans, the Member of Federal Parliament for Brisbane, who was holding a "mobile office" -- making himself available to any of his constituents who might want to bend his ear. I stopped and introduced myself, and we talked about the recent Australian elections, the looming US election, and the excitement I'd witnessed at Prime Minister's Question Time in Canberra the previous week. As the conversation wound down, I asked Mr. Evans if he knew where Brisbanites interested in American politics might gather to watch the returns. He had heard something about a gathering at the Norman Hotel -- thought it was being sponsored by AmCham, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia -- but he'd be in Canberra on the day.

It wasn't AmCham -- I called, and they knew nothing about it -- but it took me until the day of the event to find out that the sponsor was the Australian American Association. The deadline had passed a week earlier. A phone call went to voice mail, but someone responded to a Facebook message and said come ahead.

As the results started to roll in, a 612 ABC reporter doing a live report from the party wanted comments from a Republican and a Democrat, so I volunteered. The Democrat was a woman who had moved to Australia 20 years or so previously but still voted back in the US. The reporter asked if Trump's apparent win was the last gasp of the white conservative Christian male.

A couple of days later, one of the AAA leaders phoned to say 612 ABC had contacted him in search of a Republican to participate in a studio discussion about the election. I was interested, so he connected me with Sunday morning host Rebecca Levingston, who filled me in on the topics she wanted to discuss. Rebecca told me that her go-to Republican had moved to Perth, and she likes to have guests in studio for these discussions.

Sunday morning I strolled across the Victoria Bridge to the 612 ABC studios in South Bank. Rebecca was at her desk in the bullpen, prepping for the show, and she showed me to the green room, where I was joined a few minutes later by my Democrat counterpart, Peter Axelrod, an aviation attorney originally from New York by way of San Francisco, who had settled in Brisbane about 15 years ago, and his wife, a native Aussie. We had a nice chat, and I was surprised to learn how small the general aviation sector is in Australia, given the vast distances that have to be covered. (This is a country where your doctor may make house calls by plane, and you might talk to your school teacher over the radio.) Regulation holds back the industry.

(Somewhat related: I met some Americans at the hotel who were private pilots and would be touring Australia by air -- this sort of thing. They had to do a checkride on their first day in country to qualify for the trip.)

We were led into the studio by the producer. Peter had come prepared with an article from NPR and some other material, which he had sent to Rebecca ahead of time, and which he let me look over. (It reminded me of the way I used to show up to my weekly slot on KFAQ with pages of background material.) Here's Peter and Rebecca in the studio:

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Rebecca was a very gracious host, who asked intelligent questions and was fair and balanced. If she had a political leaning, it wasn't apparent.

The conversation began with Rebecca asking for our reaction to the results. I said that I was relieved that Hillary Clinton would not be president, but apprehensive that Trump will be president. We also discussed prospective appointments (Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani were still possibilities in that first week after the election), presidential power and checks and balances on those powers, filibusters, Obamacare, the electoral college, election turnout, the National Popular Vote proposal, and the need for reform of the nominating process. The final section of the conversation was about the prospects for Trump's promises.

My favorite moment was using a cricket analogy to explain the electoral college and getting a laugh and a complement from Rebecca. The context: South Africa had beaten Australia in the first match of a three-match test series by 177 runs, the latest failure in a long string of Australian losses in international cricket. But if Australia would win the remaining two matches by one run each, they'd win the series, even though their run total would still be 175 less than South Africa's. That's because the series is won by winning a majority of matches, not by getting the highest run total. If the winning criteria were different, you'd use different strategy. (As it happened, Australia lost the second match, too, failing to score as many runs in two innings as South Africa managed in one. After a massive overhaul of the lineup, Australia won the third test handily by seven wickets.)

Here's the whole segment, which runs about 20 minutes.

612 ABC Brisbane was my preferred listening when driving around town or on excursions around southeast Queensland. I appreciated the conversational approach -- where guests had time to develop ideas -- and the variety of serious and silly topics. As I find them online, I hope to share some of the segments that I found particularly interesting.

You can listen to 612 ABC Brisbane on their website or via various apps. ABC Radio has an archive of interviews and conversations on Soundcloud, as does 612 ABC Brisbane.

My other favorite radio station was 1296 4RPH -- Reading for the Print Handicapped. Most of the station's schedule consists of volunteers reading articles from the local and national newspapers and a variety of magazines and books. The articles are often long-form essays, including political analysis, book reviews, and arts criticism. It was real food for thought while driving or taking care of routine tasks. They also carry BBC World Service during the overnight hours and daily broadcasts from two American evangelical broadcasters -- John MacArthur ("Grace to You") and Chuck Swindoll ("Insight for Living"). You can listen to 4RPH via the TuneIn radio app.

Newly sworn-in Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum IV has appointed outgoing mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. to the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

The Tulsa World published a list of 52 appointments by Bynum IV to authorities, boards, and commissions. By my quick count, 23 are reappointments to the same position on the same board. The "new" appointments include the familiar names of frequent appointees to boards and commissions and City Hall insiders. A few examples: Longtime trash board member Cheryl Cohenour to the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission, former Metropolitan Environmental Trust chief Michael Patton to the trash board, Bama Pie chairman Paula Marshall to the Port Authority, school board member Lana Turner-Addison to the Sales Tax Overview Committee, former State Rep. Darrell Gilbert to the Ethics Advisory Commission.

Some reappointments hint at the likely direction of the Bynum administration -- namely no change in direction. Bynum has reappointed Toby Jenkins, head of Oklahomans for Forcing Other Oklahomans to Pretend There's No Difference Between Natural Marriage and Gay "Marriage," to the Human Rights Commission. Both appointments to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission are reappointments, so if you bet that Bynum would take a fresh approach to development and land use, you just lost your bet. Ditto for the two reappointments to the Tulsa Development [Urban Renewal] Authority.

I see no reason to stop referring to the new mayor and the old mayor as Tweedledee IV and Tweedledum Jr. Politicians used to promise a chicken in every pot. Under Mayor Bynum IV, we'll have water in the river and a perverted man in every ladies' locker room. Prosperity is just around the corner!

Scenes from around Australia illustrate aircraft safety procedures. The brace position demonstration made my wife laugh out loud. Josephine Falls looks like fun. And that's an impressive beard at Lefroy Flats.

BONUS:

How to produce Australian vowels: The long "O" sound amuses me. Women particularly seem to draw it out -- even radio announcers.

In 1908, just seven years after Australia's federation, a young woman named Dorothea Mackellar wrote a tribute to her homeland. The poem, "My Country," is sometimes called by the first line of its second verse, the beginning of the poem proper after a prefatory stanza.

I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror - The wide brown land for me!

Here is audio of the poet herself reciting her work, many years later, accompanied by photos of Australia that illustrate "sapphire-misted mountains," "pitiless blue sky," "jewel sea" -- this "wilful, lavish land."

Mackellar was a third-generation Australian, whose grandparents arrived from Scotland in 1839. Her official website describes the sentiment that produced this poem.

The first draft of My Country was written in England when Miss. Mackellar was feeling homesick for Australia. Dorothea Mackellar wanted the verse to express her deep and true love for her country. It was re-written several times before a satisfactory completion.

She resented the tendency of acquaintances in her youth to discredit Australia, and to refer to England as 'Home'. As a young girl Dorothea was clearly aware of the variety and beauty presented by the Australian landscape. The majority of her poetry has taken its imagery from her love of the natural Australian scenery. The original title for "My Country" was "Core of My Heart", and was the title used when the poem was first published in 1908, in the London Spectator Magazine.

Here is a choral setting of the poem:

The Wall Street Journal editorial reports that France's High Audiovisual Council (which sounds like nerds with tape on their glasses wielding gavels) has banned "a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome."

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. "Dear future mom," says one, "don't be afraid." "Your child will be able to do many things," says another. "He'll be able to hug you." "He'll be able to run toward you." "He'll be able to speak and tell you he loves you."

France's High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could "disturb the conscience" of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.

Advocates say the move hampers efforts to reverse the high rate of DS terminations. Ninety-six percent of DS pregnancies are terminated in France, according to the pro-life Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sought to overturn the ban. Setting aside the abortion politics, the Council's reasoning is so broad that potentially any TV advocacy could be chilled.

Here's the ad:

This is amazing on several levels. Will they ban ads encouraging saving for retirement because they might disturb the consciences of people who chose to spend instead of saving?

The whole point of advertising is to disturb the viewer's contentment so that he'll spend money on your product.

How does a positive social or political change occur unless the consciences of citizens are disturbed as they are confronted with the damage caused by the status quo?

Of course, I wouldn't expect to see the High A/V Council apply this rule to an ad in any realm of debate beyond these two: sex and Islam and the consequences of each. The abortion industry is keen to suppress any information, no matter how innocuous or how winsomely presented, that might give a prospective abortion client second thoughts. Pro-life advocates have adjusted to avoid unnecessary offense, eschewing bloody photos of aborted fetuses, from which most people will avert their eyes. But the pro-aborts object even to images of healthy babies in utero, or, in this case, happy, healthy children -- any image that could undermine the fears and ignorance on which they prey.

This decision treats French citizens as children who need to be protected against the stirrings of their own consciences, so that they will persist in selfish, infantile behavior and remain dependent on the paternal state.

MORE:

Here is the press release from Jerome Lejeune Foundation (en Francais) after the decision by the High Audiovisual Council.

In October 2015, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation challenged a Charlie Hebdo cover that depicted a disfavored politician, Nadine Morano, as a Down Syndrome baby. The cover called Morano "la fille cachée trisomique de de Gaulle" -- "the hidden trisomic daughter of De Gaulle." Jean Marie Le Méné, head of the foundation, writes that Charlie Hebdo is guilty of "chromosomal racism." He notes the discrimination faced by Down Syndrome children, even before birth, and reminds that people with Down Syndrome used to be called "mongoloid".

"Trisomique" refers to Charles de Gaulle's daughter Anne, who had Down Syndrome, but who was not hidden from the public. De Gaulle, the leader of the French resistance during World War II and monumental post-war president, said of his daughter, "This child also came as a grace, she helped me get over all the failures, get past any man, see further." Anne died in 1948 at the age of 20. Anne saved her father's life in 1962, when the frame of the photo he carried of her deflected an assassin's bullet.

MORE:

George Will reacts:

So, what happens on campuses does not stay on campuses. There, in many nations, sensitivity bureaucracies have been enforcing the relatively new entitlement to be shielded from whatever might disturb, even inappropriate jokes. And now this rapidly metastasizing right has come to this: A video that accurately communicates a truthful proposition -- that Down syndrome people can be happy and give happiness -- should be suppressed because some people might become ambivalent, or morally queasy, about having chosen to extinguish such lives because . . .

This is why the video giving facts about Down syndrome people is so subversive of the flaccid consensus among those who say aborting a baby is of no more moral significance than removing a tumor from a stomach. Pictures persuade. Today's improved prenatal sonograms make graphic the fact that the moving fingers and beating heart are not mere "fetal material." They are a baby. Toymaker Fisher-Price, children's apparel manufacturer OshKosh, McDonald's and Target have featured Down syndrome children in ads that the French court would probably ban from television.

The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people -- and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people -- matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles: That the lives of the disabled are not worth living. Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs. Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people's right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.

Here's a direct link to the high court ruling, which quotes the High A/V Club ruling:

« susceptible de troubler en conscience des femmes qui, dans le respect de la loi, avaient fait des choix de vie personnelle différents »

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