Thought for the Day–Augustine

An unjust law is no law at all.


Love Wins

Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address

Back on June 6, I wrote about Thomas Jefferson’s second inaugural address, and lamented how far we have drifted from his vision for our Republic.  Today let’s take a look at his first inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1801.

Mr. Jefferson, a Republican, believed that the federal government should be small, limited in power, and nonintrusive.  His opponents, the Federalists, preferred a stronger central government.  In the address, Mr. Jefferson answered them:  “I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”  Our modern nanny state would horrify him.

Next he described the blessings of the American republic:  “Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? ”  A modern politician uttering these words would be called a theocrat, and sued by the ACLU.

In a magnificent paragraph, Mr. Jefferson described the “essential principles” of government:  “About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” 

But the most beautifully written words in this message, which is brilliant throughout, are those which answer the question quoted above:  “With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

A wise and frugal goverment that restrains men from injuring one another, and otherwise leaves them free, and that does not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.  How wonderful indeed.   That, my friends, illustrates how far we have strayed from the wisdom of our founders.

Love Wins

I commend the entire thing, which can be found here


Moon Drop

We have a fine little herd of goats, which is steadily growing.  Just today I put two of our does, Juliette and Marla, in the pasture with our buck Johnny, replacing Maggie and Nellie, who have returned to the main pasture, hopefully to kid in June.  But I have worried sometimes that we need to introduce some new genetics to the herd.  And I have blundered twice in my attempts to do so.

Most recently I answered a craigslist ad listing two Boer does for sale.  Peyton and I went to have a look at them, and without much hesitation I bought them and brought them home.  When Cherie saw them, she was horrified.  They were both emaciated.  I repeated the explanation their teenage owner had given me, that they had just been crowded out at feeding time by the more aggressive goats.  Certainly these were the gentlest goats I’d ever seen, and that’s saying a lot considering how spoiled our herd is.  And, I assured her that the teenager had assured me that they definitely did not have worms.  She wasn’t buying any of that, and insisted that we isolate them from our other goats.  Feeling pretty stupid for having brought such animals onto our farm, I said I’d take them to the market.  Of course that horrified Cherie even more.  “No way,” she said.  “We have to get these goats healthy.”  Cherie and Will gave them their White Flint names, Sheena and Judy, and for the next two and half months we nursed them back to a reasonable state of health.  We regulated their diets, and wormed them aggressively.  I’m happy to say that today we took them to the main pasture, and they seem to be on their way to full recovery.   Still, buying them certainly wasn’t my finest moment as a farmer.

Judy is registered full blood.  But she is not the only blue blood Boer in our herd.  Before I bought her, I bought Moon Drop, whose picture is at the top of this post.

I really didn’t set out to buy a registered goat.  We don’t show our goats, and my unregistered home-grown buck Johnny continues to produce kids that bring top dollar at the market.  But when I went to a nearby farm to buy a doe, all they had for sale was a pure-bred registered five-month old.  I didn’t want to spend that much for a goat, but I also didn’t want to go home empty-handed.  So a half-hour later Moon Drop arrived at White Flint.

In case any of y’all are wondering how best to introduce a young goat into your herd, let me describe to you how not to do it.  I assumed that Moon Drop would just blend right in with the others, no problem.  And under normal circumstances that might have happened.  I had not, however, considered the Joey factor.

Joey is our huge Great Pyrennes guard dog who lives in the pasture with the goats.  He is a furry slobbering gentle giant, but he looks very scary.  Moments after I released Moon Drop into the pasture, Joey came bounding over to check out his new ward.  Moon Drop had probably never been in a pasture with a dog, and had probably never seen anything like Joey in her life.  She caught one glimpse of him running toward her and she leaped across the hot wire and through our board fence, like it wasn’t even there.  In a flash, Moon Drop was gone.  Well, I thought to myself, that was a pretty expensive goat to only have for about two minutes.  Meanwhile Will was pursuing the runaway, who was nowhere to be seen.  Luckily for us our neighbors were in their yard when Moon Drop came running up.  She saw them, panicked, and ran inside a nearby barn.  We cornered her there, then did what I should have done in the first place–put her in a barn stall.

Peyton came up with the perfectly sensible idea of putting one of our young goats into the stall with Moon Drop for a few days.  Gypsy got the assignment, and executed it perfectly.  After a few days penned up together, they bonded.  Then we were able to release them in the barn pasture.  Moon Drop didn’t respect the fence, and would just walk right through it.  But she’d always return to her new pal.  All of our other goats were trained to the fence from day one, and never escape.  Over time, Moon Drop began to do as they do.

Eventually we were able to move her in with the other goats.  But we still have issues.

As Cherie reminds me frequently, never just add one new goat.  Always add at least two.  The sociology of goats is fascinating.  There is a definite hierarchy, and there is a definite group mentality that isn’t friendly to strangers.  Because of this Moon Drop has been bullied and isolated.  She has no friends in the herd, Gypsy having ignored her once she was back with her old friends.  So Moon Drop stands apart from the others and always seems sad.  She hasn’t grown as she should, and I’m sure that fact that she is a social outcast is a factor. 

In time this will change.  As she kids and her kids are added to the herd, she’ll have allies.  I’m sure one day I’ll see her bullying some other goat.  But still, I regret that I only bought one of her herd.

Soon Sheena and Judy, healthy and rejuvenated, will go to meet their new beau Johnny.  As will Moon Drop.

And by this time next year I won’t feel so bad about the poor way I bungled my goat-buying.

Love Wins


Chickens live in flocks.  They tend to wander around in groups, led  by a rooster.  They are not solitary animals.

Our Rhode Island Red hen Lucy has chosen, however, to be a nonconformist.  For reasons unknown to us, a few months ago she decided to strike out on her own.  She wanders alone.  She refuses to roost in the henhouse with the other chickens, preferring instead to roost on the steering wheel of my tractor, depositing her droppings onto the tractor seat.  She lays her eggs in a nest she’s made in our equipment shed.   And they are whoppers.   Her eggs are nearly double the size of the others our hens are laying.

Lucy’s rebellious life does create some challenges for her.  In the winter there isn’t much for chickens to forage, and she won’t go in the henhouse where we put out the feed.  So Lucy improvises, poaching animal feed in the barn, finding seeds in the stacks of hay bales, and stealing catfood off the front porch, as shown in the photo above.

We have the Alcatraz of henhouses.  It is on blocks, locked tight at night, and surrounded by electric fence.  Our hens are about as safe from nocturnal predators as they could reasonably be.  But not Lucy.  Every night she braves the owls and possums.  For a while we’d carry her into the henhouse at night.  But eventually we just gave up. 

So she takes her chances, and does her own thing.

Good for her.

Love Wins

P.S.  And now, on the very eve of her 15 minutes of fame, Lucy has moved back in with the flock.  For the past few days she has been hanging with the other girls.  This morning, when I opened the henhouse, there was Lucy, as if nothing had ever happened.  And the whopper eggs are gone too.  Go figure.  She’s done this once before, so maybe she just likes a little sabbatical now and then.

Ethanol waste as animal feed, part two

Back on July 15 I wrote about the distubing use of distillers’ waste from ethanol plants as cattle feed.  As predicted, it seems that the cheap taxpayer-subsidized waste is an increasingly popular source of “food” for cattle in large unnatural cattle operations.  An article in a recent edition of Beef magazine reports that 38% of “dairy operations,” 36% of “cattle-feeding operations,”  13% of “cow-calf operations,” and 12% of “hog operations” in the U.S. are using ethanol byproducts as animal feed.  

The staff here at Billsblog wonders why anyone would want to eat something that comes from an “operation,” rather than something that comes from a “farm.”  But leaving that issue aside, we wonder how many of the folks innocently destined to eat the cattle and pigs being fattened on this stuff, or destined to drink the milk produced by the cows required to eat it, have any clue what is going into what ultimately goes into them.

Cows are ruminants.  They are designed to eat grass, not distillers’ waste.  For those who missed it the first time, go back to my June 15 post to read about what Stockman Grass Farmer magazine has called a “ticking timebomb that will eventually go off.”

You can always find a great local source for grass-fed beef at or

Love Wins

Bottled Water

Bottled water is a blight on the planet.  America has the cleanest, safest drinking water on earth.  Yet, in one of the most incredible marketing feats in the history of capitalism, the beverage industry has somehow convinced Americans to pay $15 billion a year, and growing, for bottled tap water.

On average, bottled water costs over 500 times more than tap water.  Somehow, however, Americans have been persuaded that bottled water is safer, and better, than tap water.  In fact, almost all bottled water comes from public water sources–it is just tap water.  There are very possibly some serious health risks associated with drinking water that has been transported in heated conditions in plastic bottles.  In truth, bottled water is less healthy than plain old tap water.  And of course it is impossible to taste any difference, as water is tasteless.  I challenged folks in my office, offering to pay $100 to anyone who could distinguish bottled water from tap water in a blind taste taste.  If they lost, they had to give $100 to a water charity.  I had no takers.

Less than 20% of the plastic bottles used for bottled water are recycled.  The rest of them, over 1.5 million tons per year, end up in landfills and littered across the nation.  They do not decompose.

If this were nothing more than another example of American waste and excess, it would be unfortunate, but common.  What makes this story particularly sad however, is that the commodity we waste billions of dollars on–water–is one of the most precious and rare things on earth.

Over 3.5 million people die every year from the effects of unsafe drinking water.  43% of those deaths are from diarrhea.  Think about that.  And 84% of the people who die every year from drinking unsafe water are children under the age of 14.    That is over 8,000 kids who die horrible deaths, every single day, because they don’t have access to safe water.  The money we Americans waste on bottled water in a single year would be enough to save the lives of those children, by drilling wells in their communities that would last 25 years or more.

May I humbly suggest we all try a little experiment?  Instead of buying bottled water, just try refilling an existing bottle with good old tap water.  I guarantee you it will taste as good or better than the plastic bottled variety.  Keep track of how much money you save in bottled water purchases, and after a few months send that savings to Blood:Water Mission (  Remember that $1 buys water for one African child for one year.  So for the cost of a bottle of Dasani or Aquafina you could ensure that 2 or 3 African children have clean safe water for a year.


Love Wins

Poor always

The poor you will always have with you…

The words of Jesus.  And like so many of his words, they have been frequently twisted to justify the exact opposite of what he taught.

In Matthew, Mark and John the story appears of the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus, a few days before he would be killed.  When some protested that the act was wasteful, and that the perfume could have been sold to raise money for the poor, Jesus responded:  “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” 

This comment has been used by many through the centuries to justify a fatalistic attitude toward poverty, notwithstanding the fact that Jesus preached repeatedly to the contrary.   Some would use his words to conclude:  “Yes those people are in poverty, and no we’re not doing much to help them, but as Jesus said, there will always be poor people.”  (or words to that effect)

It might surprise a lot of folks to know that Jesus was actually quoting from the Old Testament when he said there will be poor always.  And if that quote is seen in its original context, it becomes clear that Jesus was not suggesting that poverty was just a fact of life.

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs….Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.   There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:7-10

In that context it is clear that Jesus was not saying that we shouldn’t bother acting to eliminate poverty, or to help the needy.  To the contrary, what he was saying is that there is no shortage of folks who need our help.

There is another interesting angle to this as well.  Jesus was telling his followers that the poor would always be among them, and Mark reports that Jesus added “and you can help them any time you want.”  Let’s not forget that Jesus was in the home of a leper when this happened.  Jesus was essentially telling his followers that they would always be among poor people, just as Jesus had been.  Unfortunately, in our safe world of cultural Christianity we really aren’t among the poor very often, if ever.  We really don’t have them “with us.”  Some would argue that what Jesus was saying was that if you are a follower of his, you’ll be around poor people all the time, with plenty of opportunities to help them.

A final thought from the Bible geek (well, actually a generic geek with an interest in the Bible).  This episode does not appear in the gospel of Luke.  Luke–sometimes called the Social Gospel–particularly emphasized the fact that Jesus came for the poor, and that the gospel was specifically intended for them.  Maybe Luke worried that these words lifted from the ancient Hebrew command to help the poor, could be twisted to justify indifference to the poor.  If so, his concern, it seems, was well-founded.

Love Wins