The Thinking 
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Miss Birdseye

January 13, 2010


Miss Birdseye is a delightful character in Henry James’s novel The Bostonians. Or let’s say the elderly activist and irrepressible humanitarian would be delightful if she weren’t so vividly and painfully real. I have known Miss Birdseye in various young and old incarnations, and perhaps you have too. The problem with this woman is that she is fundamentally decent. She is just so blind to human nature. She is lost, astray in her grandiose fantasies of rescuing the dispossessed and fanatically prejudiced against her own people. Here is a description of her early in the book:

She was a little old lady, with an enormous head; that was the first thing Ransom noticed – the vast, fair, protruberant, candid, ungarnished brow, surmounting a pair of weak, kind, tired-looking eyes, and ineffectually balanced in the rear by a cap which had the air of falling backward, and which Miss Birdseye suddenly felt for with unsuccesful irrelevant movements. Read More »


Those Scruffy, No-Good Homeschoolers

January 13, 2010


An article in the University of Maryland’s Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly argues the evils of homeschooling. It states:

The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner. These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000 square foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots.

Izzy Lyman offers an excellent rebuttal at the website Big Journalism.

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Beards in American History

January 13, 2010


According to this fascinating glimpse into the subject of male facial hair and presidential politics, only five U.S. presidents have worn full beards, supporting the argument by one commenter that while facial hair may be for frontiersmen, hippies and prophets, it is essentially un-American. However, when one takes into consideration mustaches and mutton chops, the claim becomes more dubious. Nevertheless, there has not been a bearded presidential candidate since 1916 and the last man with facial hair to win the presidency was Taft in 1908. The 1912 election marked a turning point as it was the first time a candidate with facial hair was defeated since 1856.

Nicholas Whyte writes:

The last bearded man to run for the Presidency was Charles Evan Hughes, the Republican candidate narrowly defeated by Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It is said that Hughes “grew his famous beard in 1890 in the interest of efficiency – to save trips to the barber.” Theodore Roosevelt, reconciled with the Republican Party, unenthusiastically campaigned for Hughes whom he called “Wilson with whiskers.”

William Howard Taft


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