Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day 2011 Blog Post: Food

Two years ago, I participated in Blog Action Day for the first time. That year, the topic was "climate change." This year the topic is the less specific "food." (I can imagine plenty of blog posts featuring favorite recipes or odes to chocolate.)

This year Blog Action Day is scheduled to coincide with World Food Day, October 16. According to its own blog, 2,250 bloggers from 100 countries are participating in a global conversation about food.

I thought I might just revisit some of my previous posts about food and beverages. (I missed last year's topic, "water," which is the most common and, arguably, the world's most important beverage.) It turned out there are not many of them, at least not many that have been tagged for easy reference. Still, a few jump out and, as you will see, certain shared themes emerge from them.

My latest food-related item was posted in July, marking National Ice Cream Month. Previous to that (on April 7, 2010) was one that drew attention to a bizarre kind of Easter candy, and the one before that was an odd report about some New Zealand scientists who advised people to eat their pets as a way to save the environment.

It seems that there's something about food in the news that brings out weirdness, since I also noted the existence of "cock soup" on the shelves at Kroger back in June 2009, and in March of that year I wrote about the Oakdale Testicle Festival. Then in October of 2008, there was a report of a political candidate who was denying his opponent's calumnious accusations that he was a vegetarian.

On a more serious note, in the wake of then-current reports of "tainted tomatoes" across the country, in June 2008, I republished an old article of mine about the benefits of food irradiation, a topic that could be revisited in light of the recent listeria-infected cantaloupes scare in the United States. A few days earlier, I looked at the food policy of the U.S. government in a post called "How Congress Makes Us Fat."

Three days previous to that, I looked back at the 1996 Democratic National Convention and how the journalists there engaged in a literal "feeding frenzy" each afternoon, when the DNC hosts laid out a big buffet catered by local Chicago restaurants.

More sentimentally, on February 3, 2008, on what would have been my mother's 70th birthday, I recalled how she liked to entertain with food, particularly on occasions like Super Bowl Sunday.

The previous November, I discovered a favorite recipe of foot-tapping Senator Larry Craig, an odd concoction that involves pushing a hot dog through the center of a baked potato. (I am not making this up.)

More nostalgia came up when I found an article in the Marquette Tribune about a durable Milwaukee tradition, the Friday night fish fry.

One of my favorite odd-food stories was the one about the clergyman who discovered that eating soy products results in homosexuality. (Tofu does what?)

In terms of beverages, my favorite post has to be the one I published on the 25th anniversary of the introduction of New Coke. You would have thought Netflix had learned from that episode before introducing Quikster.

Speaking of anniversaries, it's hard to talk about beverages without talking about alcoholic ones -- so I celebrated the 75th anniversary of the repeal of the Prohibition amendment, on December 5, 2008.

That, of course, suggests cocktails, including the recipe for Alter Kaker, which linguist Michael Wex published as a "Yiddish mixed drink."

In the end, however, realizing the sobriety (no pun intended) of the topic adopted by the people behind Blog Action Day, I decided to focus on the darker side of food -- that is, hunger.

I found a book review I wrote while I was in graduate school about the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a serious drought, which is hitting Somalia particularly hard. While parts of Ethiopia and Kenya have also been affected, drought there has not turned into widespread famine as it did in the 1980s because the governments there are now far more responsive to the needs and wants of their people. Ethiopia overthrew the Stalinist Mengistu regime in the early '90s, and Kenya has been having democratic elections since Daniel arap Moi was forced from power more than a decade ago.

Both countries, while far from perfect, are far more open to free enterprise than they were in the 1970s and 1980s, and -- has history has shown -- while drought may occur in free-market economies, drought in such countries does not turn into famine. (Somalia is still a basket case, divided by clan rivalries and beset by terrorist groups with ties to al-Qaeda.)

What follows is my review of Breakfast in Hell, by Myles Harris.

A Doctor’s Story Of Deliberate Famine And an African Hitler 

Breakfast in Hell: A Doctor’s Experiences of the Ethiopian Famine, by Myles Harris, Picador, London, $4.85, 221 pp. 

Breakfast in Hell Ethiopia FamineIn the play Man of La Mancha, the poet Cervantes explains what impelled a plain country squire toward becoming the knight Don Quixote: “Being retired, he has much time for books. . . . All he reads oppresses him, fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man.”

This is one of those books. Breakfast in Hell came to my attention through an article by the author in The Spectator, the British public affairs weekly. The title was “The Regime That Kills Ethiopians,” and that sums up the whole story. It would be extraordinarily difficult to come away from Myles Harris’s account of the state-imposed famine in Ethiopia without profound anger and indignation.

Myles Harris is a medical doctor who has worked all over the world caring for the malnourished, ill-housed, poorly clothed and impoverished people who make up such a large number of us. Prior to his six months in Ethiopia with the Red Cross, he and his wife Janet had worked in undeveloped regions in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Kalahari Desert.

It is clear from the outset that Harris went to Ethiopia with few, if any, preconceptions of what he would encounter there. The Red Cross needed medical personnel to work in famine areas, and he responded to their call. He had no trouble adopting the apolitical life of a Red Cross delegate and wanted only to help suffering Ethiopians.

He emerged from the country half a year later with bitter feelings toward the Mengistu regime, toward international aid agencies and toward petty Communist Party officials who blocked genuine humanitarian relief; he has fond and loving memories of his Ethiopian co-workers and the farmers, townspeople, young mothers and children he encountered in the feeding camps and medical stations.

Harris writes vividly and pulls no punches. He compares the Emperor Mengistu (as he calls Ethiopia’s Marxist military dictator) to Hitler and Stalin; indeed, reading some of the descriptions of Mengistu’s atrocities makes one think Adolph and Joe were mere pranksters.

For instance: The Soviets, as part of their aid to keep him on his throne, sent a unit of the East German Volkspolizei, “a secret police force with one of the finest pedigrees in suppression in the world. . . . At the time of the Ethiopian terror in 1977, some of the most senior Volkspolizei officers had once been serving members of the Gestapo. For, at the end of the Second World War, the capitulation of half the Third Reich to the Russians had meant little more for them than. . . swapping a swastika for a red star, before it was business as usual.”

The business these ex-Gestapo henchmen taught Mengistu was the need for a memorable terror to bring all Ethiopians into his iron grip. “Mengistu searched his heart for the most terrible thing he could do to bring his people through fear to the truth of Marxism-Leninism, and he thought of burial. Ethiopians hold burial to be one of the most important rites of life. To die unburied, to be forgotten in death, is so awful that even today those who whisper to you their memories of the Terror can hardly bring themselves to speak of this part of it…. [Mengistu] ordered that the bodies of the slain should lie unburied, and that those who tried to take them for burial were themselves to be slaughtered. One morning, the people of Addis woke to streets filled with corpses and a sky dark with vultures.” Later, “the lampposts were strung with corpses, not of men, but of young school boys who had tried and failed to rescue their fathers’ and brothers’ bodies for burial. . . . When it was over, of the 5,000 students at the University of Addis Ababa, only 1,500 were still alive.”

That excerpt exposes the minds of men who would, among other things, padlock food warehouses for days and weeks, refusing to give relief workers access to the tools of their trade; who would refuse hospital admission to obviously sick and dying children whose parents lacked the proper papers from the local farmers’ association, papers that took five days or longer to obtain; who would ship truckloads of grain from the famine-stricken north of the country to the healthier and more fertile south, where it was stored for unknown reasons -- perhaps for later shipment to the masters in Moscow. These are men who forbid the sale of yeast to Ethiopian citizens in order to secure a government monopoly on the baking and selling of bread.

Harris spares nearly no one from his understated but strongly felt wrath. The Red Cross and other relief agencies get criticism for trying too hard to work with and please the government -- a government that wants to keep the Red Cross from doing its job. At one point, he tries to explain this to his superiors:

“We had done exactly what we had been instructed to do by Geneva: emptied the camps of all except the very ill and returned the rest of the people to their villages.

“But each success would have found little favor with the Ethiopians. Suddenly, they had been washed into the center of a disaster worse than the First World War.

Confused and frightened, their only remedy -- huge feeding programs -- seemed the only rock to cling to. Then we came along and tried to close down their camps. Closing down their operation implied their failure, and, as in most aid programs, threatened bureaucratic livelihoods. Famine camps meant foreign aid, foreign aid meant jobs.”

Hitler, Stalin and Mao share one positive characteristic — they are all dead. But Mengistu and the communists who rule Ethiopia with him are alive and dripping with the blood of their countrymen. Why, then, do Western governments, the United Nations and Bob Geldof’s Band-Aid continue to send them money that perpetuates their tyranny?

Richard Sincere, a Washington writer, is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in international relations at the London School of Economics.
NOTE: This review originally appeared in the Washington Times on Monday, June 1, 1987, and in the New York City Tribune on Wednesday, June 3, 1987. It has been crossposted from Book Reviews by Rick Sincere, where it appeared on January 9, 2010.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ballot Petitioning for GOP Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson

Today my friend from Nelson County, Doug Hornig, and I spent about two hours on Charlottesville's downtown mall collecting petition signatures to put the name of former New Mexico Governor Gary E. Johnson on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Virginia.  The primary election is scheduled to take place on March 6, 2012.

For a long time I have said that the hardest job in politics -- with the exception of asking people for money to finance an election campaign -- is collecting petition signatures.  Over the past 20 years, I have probably gathered thousands of such signatures, both for candidates and for ballot measures.  To do so requires an ability to deflect rejection with aplomb (or at least not take it too seriously).  Most people are unfailingly polite, even if they refuse to sign, but even in the course of a few hours, one is likely to encounter a surly character who makes it clear that he holds you or your candidate or cause in disdain.  It's best just to ignore such people and return to the task. 

Petitioning is not an appropriate time for campaigning or engaging people on the issues or the merits of your candidate. If people ask for information, give as much as necessary to help them decide whether to sign, but focus on the goal of gathering as many signatures as possible in the shortest period of time, because the actual campaign can proceed only if your candidate qualifies to be on the election ballot.

On the flip side, however, comes the pleasure that circulating petitions in a place like downtown Charlottesville offers an opportunity to interact with friends and neighbors.  It's practically inevitable that in Charlottesville, you run into people you know.  Indeed, today, I chatted briefly with Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Wagner; local activist (and actor -- check out Superior Donuts at Live Arts beginning next week) Sean McCord; locavore, hunter, and author Jackson Landers; and Jack Faw, who brought the Ron Paul blimp to the Charlottesville area during the 2008 presidential campaign. It was fun to see them all, perhaps mostly because it was so unexpected.

Another unexpected thing was discovering that Charlottesville's downtown mall is not a gathering place for locals alone.  I collected about 35 signatures but only a small fraction came from people who live in the city of Charlottesville or Albemarle County.

It seems that on sunny autumn days, Charlottesville is a destination for people from all over Virginia.  The signatures I gathered today came from residents of Loudoun, Greene, Augusta, Bedford, Chesterfield, Clarke, Greene, King William, Loudoun, Louisa, Rockingham, and Spotsylvania counties, as well as the cities of Richmond, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach.

On the back of my clipboards, I have "Gary Johnson for President" in large block letters, two photos of Governor Johnson from his visit to Charlottesville, and his campaign web site address,  I don't have any literature to hand out but I did write the web site URL on both sides of the Free Speech Monument chalkboard near City Hall.

My usual pitch is simply to ask, "Are you registered voters in Virginia?"  If the answer is yes, I say, "We're collecting signatures to put Governor Gary Johnson on the ballot for the March presidential primary.  This isn't an endorsement or a promise to vote for him, just saying you'd like to give him a chance to compete with the other candidates."

At that point, some people say, "Sure, I'll sign."  Others ask, "Who is Gary Johnson?" and that gives me an opportunity to explain that he served two terms as governor of New Mexico, he climbed Mount Everest, he's a successful entrepreneur.  If necessary, I'll size up the voter and quickly decide whether to mention specific issues, such as Governor Johnson's success at shrinking the size of New Mexico's state government, his plan to allocate Medicaid and Medicare to the states in the form of block grants so they can be "laboratories of innovation" and "laboratories of best practices," and his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With others -- such as the couple selling tie-dyed t-shirts near the carousel -- I simply point out that Governor Johnson favors legalizing marijuana.  (That line got me more than a few signatures today.)

Grassroots supporters of Gary Johnson in Virginia will continue to collect ballot petition signatures until the turn-in deadline of December 22.  A good many volunteers will be deployed at polling places on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8) all over the state.  That day will be particularly fruitful because virtually every person you meet in those locations will be registered voters from a particular location, meaning that each signature is pre-qualified and categorized by city or county, which is required by State Board of Elections rules.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the Gary Johnson presidential petition drive in Virginia can learn more about the process and express interest in volunteering at the "Virginia Grassroots for Gary Johnson 2012" or the "Virginia for Gary Johnson" Facebook groups.  There is also a Virginia for Gary Johnson Meetup group.  ( was instrumental in the early momentum of Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and for Ron Paul's juggernaut in 2008.)

Like those of all other statewide candidates, Gary Johnson's supporters have to collect 10,000 signatures, including 400 from each of Virginia's eleven congressional districts, by the December 22 deadline.

Readers may also like:
Gary Johnson's Pursuit of Scrappiness
Governor Gary Johnson Plays 'Not My Job' on NPR
Gary Johnson on WINA's 'The Schilling Show'
Gary Johnson Speaks at CPAC 2010
Former NM Governor Gary Johnson to Speak in Charlottesville
RLC Videos: Peter Schiff and Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson wins RLC straw poll, places third in CPAC poll exclusive: Gary Johnson reflects on his first visit to Jefferson's Monticello
CPAC bars GOProud; presidential candidate Gary Johnson presciently weighs in
At the 9/12 March on Washington: Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson aims 'to put a voice to the outrage'
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Frank Kameny: A Life of Consequence

Dr. Franklin Kameny
Most people live their lives while history happens around them. A few people live their lives to make history happen.

Frank Kameny was one of those amazing few who make history happen.

Kameny died yesterday at age 86. He was a pioneering advocate and activist for equal rights for gay citizens and he passed away -- ironically or poetically -- on National Coming Out Day, observed each year on October 11.

I first met Frank Kameny about 20 years ago, when he was one of the speakers on a large panel assembled by Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty in the District of Columbia city council chambers to discuss the platform of the upcoming national march for gay and lesbian rights, which eventually was held in April 1993. Kameny, though a diehard liberal whose views were forged in the fires of the New Deal and World War II, railed against the proposed platform's venturing into issues barely peripheral to the core questions of gay equality - things like "universal health care" and "sexism in medical research," as well as a laundry list of New Left demands that were, in large part, eventually discarded from the final platform statement.  Some of the people at that meeting rolled their eyes and openly wondered why this crotchety old man (he was just 66 years old at the time) was bothering them with his retrograde actions.  Someone actually asked me why he had been invited.  I said he was invited because, were it not for him, the rest of us would not be here.

Later in the 1990s, Frank and I ended up on the same email discussion list. He weighed in on the issues of the past fifteen years in the same way he had lived his life: with ferocity and passion and a refusal to accept any situation simply because "that's the way it's always been done." He scoffed at "tradition" as a reason for anything, pointing out that if we had continued to maintain the traditions of our ancient ancestors, we'd be living in caves and roasting our enemies over firepits.

It was his fundamental perseverance that brought him -- and all gay and lesbian people in his wake -- to the point we are today.

Imagine this: When Frank Kameny was fired from his job as a government astronomer simply because he was gay, he was the first person to have the audacity to stand up and demand to get his job back, suing the government and writing his own brief requesting certiorare from the U.S. Supreme Court. (That petition is available on in a Kindle edition.)

He and colleagues organized the Mattachine Society in Washington a few years after that group first emerged in Los Angeles. Because meetings of homosexuals were illegal in those days, he personally (and audaciously) invited the local police and FBI to attend.

He and friends were the first to march in front of the White House to demand equal rights for gay Americans.  They also took their placards to march in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia during tourist season, a move steeped in symbolism.  ("We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal...")

When sexual relations were still illegal between persons of the same gender -- that is, when sodomy laws were still on the books and the Supreme Court had not yet ruled, in Lawrence v. Texas, that they were unconstitutional -- Frank went on the radio and solicited everyone in the listening audience, including, he specified, any law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and elected officials, to engage with him in an act of sodomy of their choice. No one ever took him up on his invitation (at least not that he revealed), and he was never arrested for that brazen act of solicitation to commit a felony.

In his lifetime, Frank Kameny moved from a world in which the government and all private employers could fire you for being gay; in which marriage of gay people was illegal everywhere; and where it was illegal for patriotic gay Americans to serve in the military.

Half a century after he took up the cause, sodomy laws have been wiped off the books; six states and the District of Columbia, plus numerous foreign countries (including Spain, Portugal, and South Africa) allow gay people to marry; and the notorious Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that banned gay servicemembers has been repealed.  Eventually, the government formally apologized for treating him so cruelly.

All this happened, in large part, because of Frank Kameny's dogged determination and insistence that "no" is not the right answer to demands for equality and freedom. He did not do it alone -- that credit belongs to hundreds and thousands of ordinary folks who themselves realized that "no" is unacceptable -- and he would have been the first to admit that his own efforts, by themselves, were insufficient.

But, boy, were they necessary.

Last year I had dinner with Frank and some friends. While we were waiting to be seated, I pulled out my voice recorder and asked him a few questions about his life. That interview resulted in three articles for, one of which was cited this morning in the Washington Post's obituary of Frank. (In fact, I learned of his death last night shortly after 10:00 o'clock, when a Post reporter called me up to ask for my reaction to the news. That is not the gentlest way to find out a friend is dead.)

One question I asked him was one that had troubled me for a long time. After he lost his job with the government and became a full-time activist, I wondered, how did he make a living? How did he earn enough to make ends meet? Here's his reply, from the raw transcript, most of which has not been previously published:
That’s a good question.

Incidentally, you know, a few months ago, last June, after mulling it over for 52 years, what was the Civil Service Commission, now the OPM [Office of Personnel Management], gave me a beautiful, full-page letter apologizing for their shameful (their word) act in firing me. I was tempted to ask, apropos of your question, for 52 years’ back pay.

... The firing occurred at the very end of ’57, maybe the very first months of ’58, and the next two years or so were very difficult. There was a period of eight months in ’59 when I was living on 20 cents of food a day, which even at ’59 prices was not much.

I had a degree in physics, optics, my bachelor’s degree is in physics, my master’s and Ph.D., as you probably know is in astronomy. I got a series of jobs over the next decade, three or four of them, in that. However, because of the Eisenhower 1953 executive order 10450, which we finally persuaded Clinton to reverse – and that’s a whole [other] story – over the next 40 years, but because of that I was unable to get a security clearance, which meant that I had a number of edgy jobs, companies that went out from under me.

Meanwhile, however, I began to get increasingly involved, starting in ’61, with the gay movement of the time, and got moving, and through most of the Sixties, it amounted [to] -- speaking figuratively -- I was a physicist from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon on weekdays, and I was a gay activist in the evenings and on weekends. But the activism gradually took over things.

The Seventies were very, very difficult financially. At the very end – ’78, ’79, ’80 – my mother gave me some stocks and they gave me an income. I wasn’t rolling in wealth, but the Eighties and through the Nineties, I was comfortable.

My mother died in ’97 and then left me some additional funds. But then I just -- I was going to invest those bonds or something, and I would have been very comfortable, again not rolling in wealth but OK. Just about that time ... what has been called the dot-com bubble burst and all at once in early 2000, I ended up with very little. Most of a million dollars just disappeared and the ten years since then -- it’s almost exactly ten years-- financially speaking, has been a nightmare.

People have helped out. They’ve been generous. It’s very edgy. It’s been very, very, very difficult and awkward.

A lot of money came in from getting my papers over to the Library of Congress. That brought in some other money, but still, I don’t sleep soundly at night.

Obviously, as you know, I’m good at some things, but a financial wizard I’m not. I don’t know how it’s all going to work out. Hopefully, something will come along.
Thus it is that Frank Kameny, once an outcast from polite society -- or so the government would have had you think -- had his home in Northwest Washington designated as a historical landmark; his papers have been enshrined in the Library of Congress; his gay-rights memorabilia are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution; and a street near Dupont Circle bears his name.

I've noted elsewhere that, even on some issues of concern to gay people, Frank and I seldom saw eye-to-eye.  He was, after all, a New Deal liberal and I'm a libertarian.  But where we could agree was that all Americans deserve to be treated with equal dignity and respect regardless of their sexual orientation.  Gay is good, Frank said, paralleling the 1960s slogan "Black is beautiful."

Gay is good -- a fitting epitaph for a man who did what is right in spite of the odds, even at the cost of substantial personal sacrifice.  He will be missed by those who knew him.  Those who did not know him, but who benefited from his efforts, should wish they had.

Here are the links to my interview with Frank Kameny:
Gay-rights pioneer Franklin Kameny remembers his civil disobedience – Part I
Gay-rights pioneer Franklin Kameny remembers his civil disobedience – Part II
World War II veteran Franklin Kameny remembers his experience with 'don't ask, don't tell'
Among the many tributes to Frank appearing in print and on line today, I noticed two reminiscences by our mutual friends, Jon Rowe and John Corvino. The Huffington Post also has a piece that intriguingly links Frank Kameny with the Talmud, written by James Peron, president of the Moorfield Storey Institute.

Plans for a memorial service have not yet been released, but it has been suggested that the (non-religious -- Frank insisted) service coincide with the previously planned 50th anniversary party for the Mattachine Society of Washington on November 15.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Virginia's Governor and the Constitutional Authority of Congress

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.)
President Barack Obama is making a campaign swing through Virginia next week, an acknowledgment that, although Virginia has only voted once for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, it has the potential to do so again in 2012.  (In 1964, Virginia voted for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater; in 2008, the Old Dominion chose Illinois Senator Barack Obama over Arizona Senator John McCain.  GOP candidates won Virginia in all the intervening elections.)  As the 2012 presidential campaign is well underway, even with the GOP nominee still unknown, the President's need to keep Virginia in his Electoral College "win" column is quite keen.

The White House has not released precise details but it looks like the President will make at least four stops, in Charlottesville, Danville, Fredericksburg, and Newport News.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has requested that Obama add a fifth stop to his tour of Virginia:  earthquake-damaged Louisa County, where the town of Mineral was the epicenter of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt up and down the East Coast and as far west as Chicago and St. Louis on August 23.

In a letter released by McDonnell's office, the Governor makes his case to the President, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied his request for assistance to property owners to pay for damages to their homes and businesses:
I am inviting you to join me in visiting Louisa County during your tour of the Commonwealth next week. This additional stop in your previously scheduled tour will provide you the opportunity to meet the citizens who were at the epicenter of this significant seismic event, and witness the impact of the earthquake and more than 40 aftershocks on the homes and businesses in this area. It would benefit your administration to understand the devastation brought on by this historic earthquake, and to sec how the community’s recovery will be hindered as a result of FEMA’s denial of important emergency relief funds.
In his letter, at the top of page two, the Governor goes on to make a puzzling and unsubstantiated claim (italics added):
Disaster relief and public safety are core functions of the federal government. Volunteer groups are ill-equipped to repair earthquake damage. And, while state and local officials are doing everything they can, federal assistance is necessary in ensuring that affected Virginians are able to repair their homes to a safe condition and get back on their feet again.
That italicized phrase also appeared in a news release from the Governor's office dated October 7. It stuck in my craw a bit but I let it go as illustrative of the poetic license one associates with public relations efforts.

Never having seen any part of the U.S. Constitution that addresses either "disaster relief" or "public safety," I sent a query to the Governor's press secretary, asking, "Can the Governor's office provide a citation of the section (or sections) of the U.S. Constitution in which either 'disaster relief' or 'public safety' are found?"

As of 10:23 p.m., I have not received a reply.

While waiting, I took another look at the famous story ("Not Yours to Give") about Tennessee Congressman David Crockett, who told his colleagues once about his encounter with a constituent, Horatio Bunce, something of a backwoods sage.

Bunce had objected to Crockett's vote to appropriate funds for the relief of victims of a fire in Georgetown, D.C., and said to the Congressman:
The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.
Among those things not delegated to Congress is the authority to engage in charity using taxpayers' money, no matter how noble the cause. That authority is missing from Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which specifies the few and defined powers of the national legislature.

"Disaster relief" is not among them, and "public safety" (aside from the raising of armies and navies to protect against foreign enemies) is reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment.

Certainly Governor McDonnell, as an educated man and a lawyer, knows this.

By the way, country singer Alan Jackson is giving a free concert in Mineral to give a moral and material boost those directly harmed by the August earthquake.  His efforts to help the town are, in fact, his to give.

The question is, who would draw a bigger crowd in Louisa County:  Barack Obama or Alan Jackson?
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