Monday, September 29, 2008

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

I have been trying to develop a diverse library of children's books. One of the areas that is still pretty thin is music. When I saw Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, I picked it up and flipped through it. I think it is a very fun book with a clever "format"...

Although it is a picture book (recommended for children 5-9 years of age), it is sectioned into "tracks": Hoofin' in Harlem, Jammin' at Yale, Stompin' at the Savoy and Carnegie Hall Scat. Ella's story is told by "Scat Cat Monroe", a zoot-suited feline.

Track 1

Ella hoped to make it big as a dancer. She taught herself to tap. She and her friends would perform on the street corners in Yonkers, New York. Neighbors told her to go to Harlem, in New York City, "where dreams really do come true." At seventeen, at the Apollo Theatre, she entered a talent contest. When the got on stage, "her feet failed her", but she wouldn't be booed off the stage, so she started to sing. "She won the contest straight up, kicked her dance dreams to the curb, and pinned all her hopes on being a singer."

Track 2

The following year, as a "featured singer" at the Harlem Opera House, "Bardou ALi, the master of ceremonies for the Chick Webb Orchestra, saw Ella perform." He knew she had to sing with Chick, but Chick didn't think people came to listen to a singer, but to hear the instruments. "What Chick didn't know was that Ella's voice was its own instrument." Chick gave her a chance:

He told her she could sing with his orchestra at a college dance the next night. At Yale University - the Ivy League, where gettin' loose don't always come easy. Chick told Ella that if she could work that college crowd, she could join his band.

So Ella went to Yale with a purpose. And, man, once Ella started to sing, she had them Yalies

Track 3

The Chick Webb Orchestra regularly played the Savoy in Harlem "to a house packed tighter than the A train". The band played, Ella sang, and she joined the audience on the dance floor when she was done.

"When the sun set on Harlem, and the cats and kitties came out to play, it was Ella and Chick they were coming to see."

The Savoy also had a battle of the bands. One contest was between Chick Webb's orchestra and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. The applause from the audience would determine the winner.

Benny set the contest in motion. His band started with a song called "Peckin'." They made the place swing, no doubt.

Then Chick's band took their turn. Chick's drum solos were slammin'. They backed up Ella's vocals, which gave new meaning to the word divine.

The contest was close from the get-go. Those musicians put a fever to the room. They had me sweatin' the sheen off my fur, and scuffin' my wing-tip shoes. When Chick's band played "Harlem Congo," the crowd got hotter than bootleg Tabasco. That's 'cause Ella set "Harlem Congo" on fire. Her voice was quick-fried rhythm, with a brassy satin twist.

She sizzled with Chick's cymbals.

Busted loose with his bongos.

She tamed the crowd while Chick played his timpani.

And, man, that ain't all!

Ella worked the downbeat. She milked the backbeat.

She sang like tomorrow wasn't ever gonna come.

Four thousand people filled the Savoy Ballroom that night. The contest lasted five hours. When it was done, everybody knew who was boss.

Track 4

Chick had to put nightclubs on a waiting list for his orchestra. "Ella's popularity showed them that a true star has no color - it just shines."

Ella wasn't afraid to try new things in music. She tried bebop, which is "jazz on the wild side."

Fast-smack sound - done low down.
It was slam-bamming on the flitter-tip.
It was ham-hock-jabber.
FEVER. Pitch.

Dizzy Gillespie was a bebop star. "With his trumpet, he could blow notes into back flips." Ella joined his band. She "used her voice in the same way Dizzy used the notes he made with his horn - like a runaway leaf flying high on a breeze."

Dizzy & Ella performed before a sell-out crowd at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947.

Dizzy's trumpet chirped. It zipped. It sputtered in double-time tempo.
Ella's singing hung fast to Dizzy's rhythm.
Dizzy bounced his bebop to Ella.
Ella shot him back her scat.
Man, those two were making up music in the moment.
It was invention.
It was frolic.
It was cooler than cool.
Ella put scat on the map. When she and Dizzy threw down their skippity-hop-doo-dee-bop, every soul in the place slipped into the jam.

Ella Fitzgerald became The Queen of Scat, The First Lady of Song; she was a Vocal Virtuosa...

At the back of the book, there is a Note from the Author and a Note from the Illustrator. The author's note include specific biographical information about Ella Fitzgerald and lists many of the honors she received. The illustrator's note discusses his inspirations for his paintings for this book. Also included at the back are a bibliography, videography and "selected" discography.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa has fun with words. It's not "perfect" English, but I think it perfectly illustrates the musical culture Ella Fitzgerald represents. Even though this is "just a book", the words seem to make the music come alive from the printed page.

This book would be good to share with any child, but I think it could be a great tool to introduce music lessons about Ella, the Big Band era, and jazz.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Words of Wisdom

I've been reading The Button Box:A Daughter's Loving Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton by Ruth Ellen Totten Patton (the younger of the Pattons' two daughters). I've not been able to just sit and read, with some of the other things I've had going on, but when I know I'll have some "down time" (waiting for appointments, break time when I am subbing), I bring it along.

I've got a lot of stuff in storage right now, and I needed to go dig something out. My storage place is right next to a Sonic Drive-in, so I figured I'd grab some lunch before "excavating" for my toaster oven...

The first thing that grabbed me today was something I think would be very much at home on some of the threads over at Cassandra's place:

A marriage is like a tree; sometimes it is in bud; sometimes in blossom; sometimes in leaf, sometimes in fruit, and then; sometimes the leaves will all fall off and it will look dead, but if you keep on cultivating the roots, always cultivating the roots, it will come alive again. (p. 261)

Not too much after that, Ruth Ellen relates the story of a young lieutenant and a lady friend who came to see Mrs. Patton during the Patton's last time in Hawaii. Seems the young lady had gotten thrown out of her family's home after "getting into trouble (remember, this was the 1930s). The woman who "helped" the young lady through the birth of her child up the baby up for adoption and introduced her to a man who "promised her a good job in San Francisco" (p. 266), and the poor girl ended up in a whore house in Honolulu. The young lieutenant met her shortly after her arrival and "fell in love with her, bought her time-book from the Madam who was a well-known and respected figure in Honolulu [ed. - prostitution was regulated and legal there at that time; remember that Hawaii was not yet a state], and intended to marry her. (p. 266)" He wanted Mrs. Patton to "check her out" and hoped for a "seal of approval" from Mrs. Patton (p. 266). Mrs. Patton did approve. Apparently, the lieutenant later became a lieutenant general in the Air Force, and he and the lady (who "was an asset to him" [p. 267]) had a successful marriage and four children.

Mrs. Patton, being a concerned mother, worried about the virtue of her two girls remaining intact. Ruth Ellen's recollections of the lessons:

Ma had told us from as long as I can remember that a woman's only truly personal possessions are her reputation and her virginity; you inherit your maiden name from your father; your husband trusts you with his family name when you marry; but your virginity is yours and yours alone to give to whom you choose, and if you give it away for nothing you get nothing in return. She said that virginity was a physical fact and that chastity was a spiritual virginity and it was to be handled with equal care. After Bee [ed. - the Pattons' eldest daughter] and I resented being different we started to glory in it, and keeping ourselves for Prince Charming in his golden cloak was very real. (p. 267)

If more mothers would teach this to their daughter today, and if those daughters would take those lessons to heart, I think certain things would be so much better today than they are...

Supporting Any Soldier, Inc.

I've been a little lax in posting about Any Soldier lately. This morning, I participated in a chat at Any Soldier with one of Any Soldier's most popular and well know contacts, Major Gary Bourland. Since Gary was a pen pal of mine back in 2004 when he was in Afghanistan with 1/6 Marines, it was a chat I didn't want to miss. Gary mentioned that there were some items up on eBay. So, I went to eBay and searched on "AnySoldier", as instructed. There are currently six items up for auction:

Marine Corps 25 count Cigar Humidor (dark finish)
Marine Corps 25 count Cigar Humidor (light finish)
Marine Corps 75 count Cigar Humidor (dark finish)
AnySolider Golf Package
Marine Coffee Mugs and Coffee Package
Freedom of Expression Lithograph

All proceeds from these auctions will go to Any Soldier, Inc. Also, the National Museum of the Marine Corps donated a number of the items up for auction.

Any Soldier also has a raffle going. Someone offered up their house in Prince Frederick, Maryland for the fundraiser. The house recently appraised for $835,000.

This beautiful single-family home is nestled on 7.989 acres in Prince Frederick, Maryland. WATERVIEW OF PATUXENT RIVER -- INCREDIBLE Farm Property! Beautiful Custom Colonial Home has much attention to detail; approx. 3500 square feet on two levels with 1620 square feet finished in basement, five bedrooms, 2.5 baths, zoned heat, upgraded fixtures, HWD, Imported Italian Limestone, authentic barnwood in LL, Recessed Lighting, Cherry Cabinets in Kitchen, Hot water in Garage. 5 Stall Barn, 6 paddocks, Hay Bin, Saw Dust Bin, Wash Rack, Electric and Water in every stall, large run-in.

There are lots of pictures of the house. I would love to have a house like this, with all that land and the pretty views. Raffle tickets are $100 each. If you don't win the house in the raffle (drawing to be held November 11, 2008), you have a chance at other prizes: 2nd Prize - $10,000 cash, 3rd Prize - $5,000 cash, 4th Prize - $2,500 cash, 5th Prize -$1,000 cash. Nine thousand tickets must be sold for this auction to be a "go". All the legalese is posted on the raffle page for those with a serious interest in this raffle.

Any Soldier, Inc. is a fabulous organization that now provide support to more than 100,000 service members through more than 3,000 service member contacts. If you are able, help keep this valuable operation going.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Too many holes in the story

Stanley Kurtz is doing a job that should be done by the rest of our free press. He is asking important questions that need answers. And there are other who seems to be stonewalling about letting those answers get out:

Questions to Press
While Rolling’s letter raises more questions than answers, it seems clear that we’re not being told the whole truth about who chose Obama to lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. In particular, the Obama campaign’s claim that Deborah Leff and Patricia Graham may have put forward Obama’s nomination can no longer be taken as the last word on the subject. The Rolling letter strongly suggests that Obama and his allies are not being fully forthcoming on this issue, quite possibly in an attempt to disguise the fact the Bill Ayers had a substantial role in elevating Barack Obama to the chairmanship of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. More generally, in the immediate wake of my attempt to gain access to the CAC records, Rolling appears to have been maneuvering, both to block my access, and to make sure that the full story of who chose Obama as CAC head would not come out.

Given the Rolling letter, here are some questions that need to be asked:

1. Why did Ken Rolling contact UIC on August 11, 2008? Was he tipped off to my inquiry on the same day by someone at UIC? If so, who?

2. Was Ken Rolling in touch with anyone in the Obama campaign on August 11, or shortly thereafter. Has Rolling been in touch with Bill Ayers since August 11? Has the Obama campaign been in touch with any of the CAC founders, Chapman, Hallett, or Ayers, since August 11? In other words, has the Obama campaign been working through Rolling or the other CAC founders, including Ayers, to help manage this story?

3. What is the full story of Obama’s elevation to the chairmanship of CAC, and what role did Bill Ayers play in the choice of Obama?

4. Did Obama and Ayers know one another prior to their time at CAC?

The Obama campaign’s initial response to this issue notwithstanding, the question of how a young and inexperienced lawyer like Obama was chosen to head a foundation created by Bill Ayers in 1995 is still very much open. Ken Rolling, Warren Chapman, Anne Hallett, and indeed, Barack Obama and Bill Ayers must now provide some answers.

Burning Down The House: What Caused Our Economic Crisis?

Updated after someone attempted to get the original video banned from YouTube...

How did we get here? Watch this 10-minute video. All claims are cited, so you can do your own research if you so choose:

H/T: Instapundit

Thursday, September 25, 2008

COP Lybert

Haole Wahine sent me a link to yesterday's post at Gratitude & Prayers, which is currently supporting 6-4 CAV, 3-1 INF in Afghanistan. COP Lybert, named for a soldier killed in the area in 2006, came under attack on September 11, 2008. One soldier was killed. Go read the story and watch the related video.

Haole also informed me there would be a memorial service at Fort Hood tomorrow, but I am unable to attend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama's Presidential Coin

Will the narcissism never end? Grim links to Dad29, who links to Hot Air, who links to the Birmingham (UK) Post article:

The coins already sold to the Democrats will be presented to the senators, congressmen, governors and other politicians they are being given to within the next two weeks.

There will also be a television advertising campaign launched in the US.
When they got in touch with the Democrats the party jumped at the chance. And the coins have proved such a hit that locally produced versions have already been launched to compete with the UK originals.

The coins show Senator Obama’s face, along with a picture of the White House and the legend “President of the United States of America”.

Never mind we are still more than 6 weeks from Election Day, and even further from Inauguration Day...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ASP raffle to help family of fallen blogger

I never read any of Bane's stuff, but he was apparently a friend of sorts to many in the milblogosphere. Bane, who was a veteran, passed away Monday morning. CJ over at A Soldier's Perspective is raising funds to help the family with funeral and hospital expenses by raffling off this "Paratroopers of Blackfive" t-shirt he wore at this past weekend's Milblog Conference in Las Vegas. If you would care to contribute, go on over to CJ's place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bill Whittle: The Undefended City

Popped over to Bill Whittle's place this evening to see if there was something new. Indeed there was:

If you step far enough back to look at the whole of human history, you will begin to see a very plain rhythm: a heartbeat of civilization. Steep climbs out of disease and ignorance into the light of medicine and learning — and then a sudden collapse back into darkness. And it is in that darkness that most humans have lived their lives: poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

The pattern is always the same: at the height of a civilization’s powers something catastrophic seems to occur — a loss of will, a failure of nerve, and above all an unwillingness to identify with the values and customs that have produced such wonders.
When all is said and done, Civilizations do not fall because of the barbarians at the gates. Nor does a great city fall from the death wish of bored and morally bankrupt stewards presumably sworn to its defense. Civilizations fall only because each citizen of the city comes to accept that nothing can be done to rally and rebuild broken walls; that ground lost may never be recovered; and that greatness lived in our grandparents but not our grandchildren. Yes, our betters tell us these things daily. But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.

As always, go read all of The Undefended City.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Challenger: A Free-flying American Bald Eagle

Got this link in an email from a new internet acquaintance. Challenger is an American Bald Eagle who was rescued at five weeks of age who became human-imprinted and unable to be re-released into the wild. He is now an ambassador of the efforts to preserve his species. He was named to honor the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger that was lost on January 28, 1986.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dig It

You should be judged by the company you choose to keep. When you keep company with unrepentant domestic terrorists, I find you lacking. You have no moral compass and you should not be the Leader of the Free World.

H/T: TigerHawk

Update: Jane of Marine Moms - Bethesda sends a link to her "The Man Who Would Be President". It's just another example of how Obama lacks the character to be President of the United States of America.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Have we ever had a sitting president who had a child on active duty in the military?

I asked my dad that this evening - him being the history teacher and all - and he said there was a Roosevelt involved with the D-Day invasion.

I did a little checking, at that was Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, but as far as I can tell, he was not in the military while his father was still in office.

So, does anyone know of one? If not, if John McCain is elected President, he would be the first, what with his son Jim, 20, in the Marine Corps (as a Lance Corporal at this time), and his son Jack, 22, in his fourth year at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I guess the same question could he asked of sitting Vice Presidents, as well. Would Sarah Palin be the first, with her son, PFC Track Palin, having just deployed to Iraq. Of course, Joe Biden has a son in the JAG Corps in Iraq right now, too.

9/16/08: Welcome ASP readers!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

Where I was, seven years ago, when I heard about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:

9/11/01 was the last morning I just listened to the radio in the morning while getting ready to go to work. That morning, I was going into work late because I had to take my car in to get payment for repairs arranged after I had been re-ended in my new car. I always just had the radio on as part of my alarm clock, and it would turn off an hour after my alarm. The radio had turned off before I left for the insurance office.

When I arrived at the insurance office, the agent I was dealing with (the agent for the guy who rear-ended me) asked if I had been watching or listening to the news. I told him no, and he informed me that a jet had hit the World Trade Center. At first, I thought small jet, not commercial airliner. While he was looking at the damage on my car, the Pentagon had been hit. I immediately thought Bin Laden. I went home before going into the office. I called in to see if they knew yet - yes, they did. I had turned the TV on when I got home, and I watched as the first tower collapsed. I knew that about 50,000 people worked in the towers, and I anticipated a death toll far more horrifying than it was, although nearly 3000 dead is horrifying enough.

At the time, I was part of a small church group at my parish in Fayetteville, and we had our regular weekly meeting that night. Instead of what we originally had scheduled, we went into the church and prayed the Rosary.

Since that day, I am even more of a news-junkie than I was before. I kept the TV on all the time when I was home, even overnight, watching nothing but news for days on end. I kept hoping for survivors. To this day, I often sleep with the TV on FoxNews channel.

Sadly, the deaths resulting from that attack didn't all occur on that day, or as a result of physical injuries received that day. Another friend of mine has a boyfriend who had a brother who had recently moved to Virginia and worked at the Pentagon. Stephen was a helicopter pilot. He had been part off Dust-Off during the Vietnam War. I'm not sure what Dust-Off was - I'd have to do a bit of research. Anyway, Stephen was at the Pentagon that day. Apparently, he was often in the part of the building that was hit and he lost people he knew. I'm not sure, but I think he was involved in either rescuing or dealing with the people who were pulled from the building that first day. Stephen later commited suicide. My friend and I surmised that what Stephen saw that day brought back the traumatic memories of the Vietnam War, and did not seek help in dealing with what he was going through. Stephen in buried at Arlington National Cemetry. My friend accompanied her boyfriend to the funeral. Stephen's wife moved away from there - I think she had been home when Stephen killed himself there. I happened to have a business trip to DC in May 2003, after Stephen's funeral over the winter. I was able to find Stephen's grave and photograph the headstone, since it was not in place yet at the time of the funeral. I'm sure Stephen's wife was still visiting - there were small stones placed on the top of the headstone. I don't remember the significance of that gesture.

We will never know the true toll of people whose lives will end as a direct result of the attacks. I'm sure Stephen's was not the only suicide of a survivor or a family member of those killed, and there are also those who are now getting sick and dying from illnesses connected to working at Ground Zero....

A local high school remembers

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The World of Harry Potter

I had avoided writing about the Harry Potter series. These books are generally well known, and others have done very in-depth commentary on them. So, what I will do is look at the series, overall, for those who haven't actually read them who are on the fence about them.

I started reading the books long before I went back to school to earn my M.Ed. Lyric Mezzo, who had introduced me to other fantasy series, loaned me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone back in the late '90s. Only after having borrowed all the released books from her did I decide I would get copies of my own - after another friend gave me a copy of a new release in hardcover. I've even recently gotten the older of my little sisters - who is 27 - to read them. Just the other day, she gave me back Chamber of Secrets and told me it would be okay if I brought her the next one of my "nerd books"...

The series consists of seven books, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This is where we meet Harry Potter, an eleven year old orphan, living in the cupboard under the stairs in the home of his aunt and uncle. Harry learns that his parents were wizards, and that he is one, too, and that he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That is where lots of people have a problem with the series, thinking it promotes witchcraft to children. People who think that, in my opinion, haven't read the books and don't know what the heck they are talking about. For those of you who lean this way, I invite you to check out Fantasy Fiction for Christians, where you can find discussions of the Christian imagery that can be found in the books (WARNING: there be spoilers there!). There are also books on the subject, as well as at least one "anti-Harry Potter" commentary book (none of which I have read). Let me just say that in the Harry Potter books, whether one is a witch or wizard is something you are born with and is not something that can be acquired. Anyhow, Harry learns that his parents were murdered by a "dark wizard" called Lord Voldemort, and that Harry is the only one to have survived when Voldemort decided to kill them; most people think Voldemort died when Harry became "the boy who lived", but there are some, including Hogwarts' headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, who believe otherwise and are on guard against Voldemort's return.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone covers Harry's first year at Hogwart's. As mentioned above, Harry turns eleven at the beginning of this book. I think it would be appropriate for a child to start reading the series about this age - 10 or 11, though I had a student in my 3rd grade student teaching class (who was 8 or 9 at the time) who was reading it. Each of the subsequent books are the succeeding years of Harry's life.

One thing I will say is that the books get progressively darker in plot as they go along. So, even if a child is a good enough reader to get through all seven books right off the bat, I'm not sure that most kids would be mature enough to deal with the darkening plot line. I would really recommend that parents read the books themselves in order to be able to make the judgment about whether or not their child is ready to read them. The first death - a murder - of a character occurs in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which is the fourth book.

Harry Potter's world is one of fantasy: magic spells, fantastical creatures, and all the conveniences enchanted objects can provide. But, it also presents situations where characters must make choices between right and wrong, and as Dumbledore says: “The time is coming when we must all choose between doing what is right, and doing what is easy.” The lesson being: sometimes doing the right thing is the difficult choice. This theme carries throughout the series, in this fantasy context. I think that parents could use the books to talk to their children about making choices, being honest, helping others: Does Harry always make the best decisions? What other choices could have been made? Is it right or wrong to keep secrets? Does evil really exist? The possibilities, I think, are fairly endless.

So, the series, in order:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are other "Harry Potter" books by Rowling, but they aren't really about Harry. They appear to be - I have not read them - "books" mentioned in the actual Harry Potter books: Tales of Beedle the Bard (to be released December 2008) and Classic Books from the Library of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001).

So, while I have very much enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books, I know not all parents are okay with them, and that not all children will be ready at the same age to deal with the progressing plot line through all seven books. But, before you decide to not allow your kids to read them, I would ask that you read them yourself first and make an informed decision.

On a related note, unless you've been living under a rock, you are likely aware that the books have been turned into a highly successful movie franchise. Like the books, the movies are getting progressively darker. While these movies are based on children's books, these movies - especially as the series has progressed - are NOT for small children. I've seen (and own) the already-released first five movies. A small child - and possibly not-so-small kids - might get very scared by these movies. The sixth movie is to be released July 17, 2009. As with the books, screen them first for young children.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bill Whittle: Proud of the GOP

H/T: a commenter at Michelle Malkin

Bill Whittle has a new essay, but this time it is at National Review Online:

Sarah Palin has done more than unify and electrify the base. She’s done something I would not have thought possible, were it not happening in front of my nose: Sarah Palin has stolen Barack Obama’s glamour. She’s stolen his excitement, robbed his electricity, burgled his charisma, purloined his star power, and taken his Hope and Change mantra, woven it into a cold-weather fashion accessory, and wrapped it around her neck.

A candidate who is young, funny, well-spoken, intelligent, charming, drop-dead gorgeous — and one of ours? Is this actually happening?


And, finally . . . what of John McCain? I’ve read many comments about his speech being a disappointment. I don’t know how it looked or played from the floor. But I know how it played from my Los Angeles living room. I believe — and we’ll know soon enough if I’m right — that John McCain did something Thursday night more powerful and astonishing than Sarah Palin did the previous evening. Sarah stole Obama’s glamour. McCain stole his message. (Granted, that may not be a lot, apart from the glamour, but it was all Obama had left.)


John McCain got me to believe tonight what I never really believed about him before: he is serious about changing Washington. He is serious about getting the GOP back to basics. John McCain wants to repair the brand. Claiming to want to do something is talk. What I think will cause many to believe him is something more than talk: McCain decided to man up. It’s our fault. We lost the confidence of the American people. We said we’d be true to our principles, and we weren’t. The Democrats didn’t make us do it. We did it to ourselves.

That has the ring of truth to it. It is a grownup accepting responsibility for a mistake not of his making and asking for the chance to rectify it. I don’t know how much of the country will believe him. But I did.


When John McCain told me what I and untold millions of Americans have always believed, what others tell me to be ashamed of and mock me for — that I live in the greatest country in the world, a force of goodness and justice in dark places, a land of heroism and sacrifice and opportunity and joy — to me that went right to the mystic chords of memory that ultimately binds this country together. Some people don’t know what it is, but there is such a thing as patriotism — pure, unrefined, unapologetic, unconditional, non-nuanced, non-cosmopolitan, white-hot-burning patriotism. John McCain loves this country. I love it too. Not what it might be made into someday — not its promise, always and only its promise — but what it was and what it is, a nation and an idea worth fighting and dying for.

Go read the whole thing.


Must-reads from Bill Whittle (5/22/07)
Bill Whittle: Forty Second Boyd & The Big Picture (1/2/08)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

An American soldier addresses Mr. Obama:

H/T: American Infidel

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution

Constitution Day is September 17th. That is the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787. You might use this occasion to share A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy and Giulio Maestro with the children in your life.

No story about the Constitution would be complete without a little of the history behind it. The book begins simply enough explaining how the thirteen colonies had declared independence from England, and that a war had been fought in which the colonies won their freedom.

But after 10 years, in 1787, things weren't going well - the thirteen states weren't working well together and weren't acting as one nation. The leaders of the country wanted to do something about it before things got even worse. It was decided that all the states would send representatives to Philadelphia to try to fix things.

Some delegates to this convention arrived early and started to share their ideas with one another. Many of them were already acquainted from working on the Declaration of Independence or fighting in the Revolutionary War. Some delegates were late - travel took a long time by horse or carriage, and the weather was terrible. The convention took place in the same building where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. George Washington was selected to run the convention, and James Madison volunteered to record the meetings.

First, the Virginia Plan was presented. It was a surprise because it was proposing a new government instead of just fixing the old one. They voted and decided to create a new government.

Now the job of the convention would be to write a new constitution, a set of rules for forming a new government, and another set of rules for the new government to follow.

The small states didn't like the Virginia Plan because they would have no influence because they would be outnumbered by representatives from the big states. The small states made their own plan, the New Jersey Plan, where all the states would have an equal say, no matter how big they were. Most delegates voted against the New Jersey Plan. Then, the Connecticut delegates came up with another idea: some parts of the Virginia Plan, some parts of the New Jersey Plan, and some new ideas, too - the Connecticut Compromise.

After the Great Compromise, some delegates took a little vacation because it was very hot in Philadelphia. But, some of the delegates, the Committee of Detail, decided to keep working. They took the parts of the Connecticut Compromise and made a rough draft of a new constitution. When everyone was back, they discussed and debated and eventually "agreed on almost everything." Another group, the Committee of Style and Arrangement, would write a final draft, "making sure that every word was just right. At last, the Constitution was complete."

On September 15, the delegates voted to sign the new Constitution. Forty-two members were present, and only three did not agree to sign. Then the words were copied onto parchment, a very special kind of paper that last for a long time.

On Monday, September 17, 1787, the convention had its final meeting. Thirty-nine delegates signed the new Constitution. Some of the original fifty-five delegates had left the convention in anger because they did not approve of the new Constitution. Some others would have signed, but had to return home early.

The work wasn't finished yet. "The Constitution had to be ratified, or approved, in each state before it could become law. The delegates had to convince the people in their home states to vote for the new Constitution." At least nine states, or two-thirds, would have to agree to establish this new form of government.

Delaware was the first state to approve, followed by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut. Then Massachusetts, then Maryland and South Carolina. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the new Constitution. By May 1790, all thirteen states had agreed to the new Constitution.

A new Congress was elected, and it immediately went to work. Law courts were set up, and the new government seemed strong and sound.

But still some Americans were worried. They believed that certain important rights of the people were not protected under the Constitution. So, to ease these fears, Congress proposed some additions to the Constitution.

The first ten additions, or amendments, are known as the Bill of Rights. In part, they state that people have the right to say what they want, go where they want, and pray to God in the way they want, without fear that the government will stop them. The Bill of Rights has turned out to be a very important part of the Constitution. It protects people from losing the freedom that is so much a part of American life.

The end of the story explains how this American form of government "is the oldest set of rules for running a country still in use in the world. It created a government that has worked better and longer than any other in history." Also, the Founding Fathers wrote it "with the idea that the power of government should come from the people."

At the back of the book is a section titled Additional Information About the Constitution. Here you will find: the Preamble to the Constitution and summaries of the seven articles that make up with Constitution; the signers of the Constitution - exactly as they signed; important dates - from the First Continental Congress in 1774 through Virginia ratifying the Constitution in 1791; notes on the Connecticut Compromise; interesting facts about the convention and the delegates; order and dates of ratification; and finally, summaries for the twenty-six amendments to the Constitution.

While this book may not be some great work of literature, it clearly and simply explains how our nation came to be in its present form and would be a terrific resource to teach younger children about it (the book is recommended for children about 7 years old).