Archive for February, 2013


Her story is inspirational; she was a woman who through hard work, diligence, an unlimited appetite for information, and a modest talent made herself a voice heard round the world.  On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, by William Souder, describes a life always in a struggle against something, either early childhood poverty, limited employment opportunities for women, modest pay for women, a dependent family, or finally failing health.  She met it all with an uncommon grit and grace.

Her story is cautionary.  The same governmental bureaucracy that impeded her work, and abetted the chemical catastrophe she exposed in Silent Spring is still protecting its own bare ass instead of caring about the public good.  The same business interests are at work purchasing influence and dictating public policy that encouraged unlimited nuclear testing and insecticide poisoning of our environment during her life.  We have the same buffoons elected to represent us now as then.  Support for education and research is unimportant to them as it does not contribute to their reelection coffers.  Super PACs are now our masters.

Souder gives us a real person.  In reading the biography, it is easy to imagine you know her and understand her decisions.  You experience the constraints she overcomes, and appreciate her approach to work which would have been maddening if you were her work partner.  Though her loneliness is painful, it is hard to imagine her working in tandem with another.  Her late in life encounter with Dorothy Freeman is a fully earned reward.

For grit and grace, you cannot go wrong admiring Rachel Carson.  Charles Marlin

Read Full Post »

4 guysTalk radio, poisonous emails, and Fox News are pesticides killing our understanding of what it means to believe in the American way of government.  To rid ourselves of these destructive chemicals we must educate ourselves in our history and culture.  While they make noise, we should reserve judgement until we are well grounded.  A superb starting point is Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By.

The premise of the book is clear, “America’s unwritten Constitution encompasses not only rules specifying the substantive content of the nation’s supreme law but also rules clarifying the methods for determining the meaning of this supreme law.  Since the written Constitution does not come with a complete set of instructions about how it should be construed, we must go beyond the text to make sense of the text.”

The men most influential in molding the unwritten Constitution were William Blackstone, George Washington, John Marshall, and Earl Warren, each unique and fortuitous in time and role.  The birthing of the written Constitution sheds light on the fundamental principles of our government more so than any time since its ratification.  A quiet return to the study of our history will bring rich rewards in understanding past and present leaders, events, successes, failures, and public responses.

“Precisely,” writes the author in his Afterword, “because America’s unwritten Constitution and America’s written Constitution fit together to form a single system, no proper account of the former should ever lose sight of the latter: The terse text is inextricably intertwined with the implicit principles, the ordaining deeds, the lived customs, the landmark cases, the unifying symbols, the legitimating democratic theories, the institutional settlements, the framework statutes, the two-party ground rules, the appeals to conscience, the state-constitutional counterparts, and the unfinished agenda items that form much of American’s unwritten Constitution.”  Charles Marlin

Read Full Post »