Friday, April 30, 2010

Extremism won't help Environmental Awareness

Greenpeace says that we're destroying our ancient forests at an alarming rate. One wonders how truly alarmed we ought to be.

It gets rather tiring after a while to hear all the horror stories that typically come out in the media. We're running out of trees, we're running out of oil, we're running out of farmland. Yet the general ecology is better than it's ever been, people (on the whole) are eating, well, well enough, the air is cleaner than the smoke filled cities of the early 1900's, and everyone seems able to get gas for their cars. Why is there always that segment of the population which worries and frets, and indeed threatens our daily lives, so much?

To be sure, good conservation of our resources is expected of us. We cannot run wantonly over planet Earth and not expect some repercussions. But are we, as individuals, truly acting that wantonly?

Part of the blame surely lies with the sensational nature of apocalyptic stories. Telling someone that 'you're gonna die' is bound to get a reaction, pro or con. And it is difficult for laymen to tell the good guys from the bad. Greenpeace tells us they speak for the environment against evil corporatism; isn't it fair to ask how self-interested they are in what they do, and whether that may cloud their judgment?

We obliged to good stewardship of the environment. But if the best we can muster is that the sky is falling when it clearly is not, we are left to question the intent of the doomsayers.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Victory for Religion

A 7-foot tall cross, made of metal pipe and in an isolated spot in the Mojave Desert, has been saved by a narrow vote of the Supreme Court. On a thin 5-4 ruling with no less than six Justices penning their own opinions, it was decided that the cross could stay uncovered. It has been in place since 1934 as a memorial to World War I troops killed in battle.

This is a good and fine ruling. As Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society,". There is nothing wrong with a simple cross, especially in this case, where it is far from public view and on land turned over to private interests.

Other religious groups claim they feel excluded over such a thing. Well, okay, then, petition to put up a symbol of your religion somewhere to honor your fallen. It isn't likely that mainstream Christianity would be offended. Because the main point here is that it is not wrong of government to recognize what religion means in our society and our history. To be particularly blunt, it is safe to assume that the overwhelming majority of Americans killed in WWI were Christian. We do no disservice to that onerous 'ideal', separation of church and state, in a simple acknowledgment of that. Especially as freedom of religion was one of the things those doughboys and sailors and Marines fought to protect. Can we not honor them in a manner they would see as fitting?

Hopefully the ruling will lead to a greater acceptance of religious symbols mixed with government action. Yet that will almost certainly hinge on future Court rulings, rulings which will be decided by, perhaps, future justices. Which means we need to make sure that someone gets elected in 2012 who is most likely to appoint folks who would support such cases appropriately.

That movement must start in the 2010 elections. Otherwise, we shall have little left of our common religious bonds save dusty old directives noted only in our history books.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

English as a First Language

Arizona has passed a new, tough immigration law. Alabama has a candidate for governor who wants to do all he can to make people speak and work in English. Presumably Alaska and Arkansas will be next in the parade of States in declaring something about the primacy of English in the USA. Alphabetical order is important, you know.

Kidding aside, what we have happening lately is, at least arguably, much ado about nothing which is being made into more of an issue than it needs to be. Those who assert that Americans ought to speak English are right for several reasons, not the least of which is that a common language unifies a people more than any other single point. If we cannot understand one another is very difficult to come together and grow strong. Yet that does not mean that having certain accommodations for the recently arrived is a bad thing either.

We can debate about the precise actions ad infinitum, but there is no reason that we cannot agree on the basic idea. We should want to welcome people willing to come to America and become productive Americans, and part of that is surely to give consideration of what they need to adjust to our language and ways. In the meantime, the new arrivals ought to be working hard to make that adjustment, which surely must mean learning the dominant tongue.

Take the multi-language driver's license exams in Alabama, for example. Why can't they be in someone's native tongue at first, if necessary, with the requirement that after a reasonable period of time they must be mastered in English? After all, not all road signs are simple figures or simple art depicting this or that. We often see construction signs and freeway warning signs in English only. At some point it is only reasonable to expect that any given driver should be able to read them, as there may truly be life or death ramifications involved.

As to whether the Arizona law is bad law or not, or Alabama gubernatorial Tim James rant bad form, let that play out in the political arena. In the meantime, why don't we all consider what it is to be an American, and act the part with as fair and unbiased an outlook as we can muster.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hawking may be on the Right Path

Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has expressed concerns that extraterrestrial life may not be what we assume. Aliens may be dangerous rather than charitable and giving, he asserts in an upcoming Discovery Chanel special. If nothing else, cultures advanced enough to reach Earth may have an effect similar to the discovery by Europeans of the Americas: devastating to the so discovered.

Other scientists disagree: many believe a sophisticated alien race reaching our world could only be good.

Truth be told, we really don't know what to expect. Who's to say aliens would be bad? Or good? It's all simply presumption. That said, the only honest appraisal of contact with any given extraterrestrial life form would be the same as with meeting any given stranger on Earth: approach with caution, olive branch extended yet with the proper amount of reserve to counter their actions and intentions if need be.

Our science fiction has had a great propensity to view potential alien life as superior to ours in almost every way. It is good to see a prominent scientist point out that that may not be the case.

In the end it may all be conjecture. Presuming that other lives on other planets would face the same daunting tasks of physics as we do, interstellar travel itself may be little more than science fiction. The folks at SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, seem to think that the best we can hope for is hearing them through radio transmissions. That sounds like the most reasonable prediction on the matter.

In short, the possibility of sentient life other than us in the universe is fun to discuss but nothing is likely to come of it. Still, it is good that Professor Hawking has sought to balance the scales. There's no good assuming that technical superiority means morally advancement.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Simply Despicable

Facebook has become almost a part of our culture. That is quite an accomplishment, considering it has been around for only six or eight years. A good part of the reason for its success is undoubtedly its simplicity of use. The bad part about that is in how it allows easy access for the lesser elements of society to trump up their poor causes and bad jokes.

More than a million people have become fans of a facebook page calling on folks to pray for the death of President Barack Obama. Whether this is meant as honest sentiment or a joke in very poor taste seems irrelevant. It goes beyond free speech, lending question to whether we Americans are as considerate of others as we should be.

Facebook says that it meets their guidelines. If so, then their guidelines are in need of a thorough review. Incendiary speech is rarely in good form, no matter how you slice it. How can these folks ever hope to gain disciples if all they spew is hate?

To be sure, the President and his liberal allies are in need of a sharp rebuke. But let that rebuke be at the polling places in November, and not at the hands of fate. Or worse, at the hands of a renegade who believes fate is on his side.

Free speech is never, ultimately, free. Let is hope we do not pay too great of a price for this travesty.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Times at Archie Comics

It appears as though the long term Archie comics, about the fictional Archie Andrews and his friends in Riverdale, will introduce an openly gay character this coming September. Whether this is an attempt to boost circulation or a genuine, heartfelt message that gay is okay, is hard to tell.

Beyond the morality of having any actually gay characters in any comic kingdom, it ought to be considered who the readers are. If primarily preteens, it is fair to ask whether the subject should be broached at all. There's simply no need for adult storylines in a a kid's world.

The only reasons to have it at all must be for greater overall exposure to the world of Archie, which would trivialize the issue itself, or to promote the lifestyle. That second part speaks for itself.

Archie Andrews is off the mark either way on the matter. Perhaps the creators should consider simply ending the series instead of using it for such shallow purposes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Capital Punishment

The death sentence is under the spotlight once more. The focus has been drawn there recently by the plight of convicted Utah killer Ronnie Lee Garnder. His requested method of execution: firing squad.

Much can made from that. Gardner himself says that there's no mistakes with the method, and that's why he selected it. Yet that excuse appears far too simple. Lethal injection has not proved ineffective so far. So we are left to little more than conjecture. Why should a convicted felon choose a loud and abrasive method of death over something much cleaner, and at least arguably easier on him?

Republican Sheryl Allen of the Utah legislature complains that such a method of carrying out the sentence distracts from the penalty. There may be more sympathy for the murderer than the victims. She has a point; the emphasis on the matter does change according to the method of carrying it out. The firing squad seems particularly brutal. Indeed, barbaric. Any sympathy for the victims or their families surely is lessened by that.

If Mr. Gardner's point is to show us the real brutality of such measures as capital punishment, well, to be frank and fair, what difference does it make by how one dies at the hands of a (presumably) just society? But is that his real intention? Does he have a perhaps masochistic reason for the option?

Conjecture, yes, no matter how we view the issue. Capital punishment is one of those questions which leave a bad taste any way you interpret it. Society has a right to protect itself and that right may at times entail taking the life of someone completely recalcitrant. Yet it is only right to ask whether we are becoming animals ourselves if we keep up with the old eye for an eye standard.

It is a mess and that is that. The real and true hope here is that Mr. Gardner's victim and his family are in a position and mind frame of willingness to forgive if the man really wants forgiveness, and that Mr. Gardner himself is willing to meet his fate with the right mentality. If he is merely grandstanding, he will not help himself (or others) regardless. If his victims, attorney Michael Burdell and his family, are not willing to forgive, then what lesson is left?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflections

Today is my 50th birthday. They say you're as young as you feel, and I feel about 12 right now.

I suppose we're supposed to reflect on our lives at certain milestone points in them, so I'll go ahead and do that. I'll start by asking why even, decaded numbers (decaded numbers; I'm allowed to make up words today, aren't I? I mean, our birthdays every ten years) are so much more important than others. 51 or 49 aren't so far off the mark, eh? Last year was about the same as this one, and the next one ought not be so different.

Life has been good. I've been married to a good woman willing to tolerate me for almost 30 years and have three great kids, and tomorrow looks good. All those big and not so big issues I talk about are not about to go away, so they'll always be fodder for friendly and not so friendly discussion. Which I like: it keeps the creative juices flowing, and even the people I disagree with are courteous enough to talk back. All you out there who don't like what I say, thanks for reading. I honestly do appreciate it. Your input is always welcome even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.

All of you who listen and agree with my drivel, thank you too. It is such support that makes me want to continue. For truth is a beautiful thing; everyone should pursue her with the ardor of the chivalrous knights of old. Wisdom is essentially feminine because she understands on a level more profound than simple, rote knowledge: this is right, do it, or, this is wrong, do not.

To my family and friends, and to all those not so friendly or familial but willing to at least listen, I love you all. From the depths (the very deepest depths) of my heart, have a great day. And have one beer or adult beverage of your choice or coffee or tea or glass of water on old Marty today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National Hockey League Referees, Officiating Stink

National Hockey League referees are awful. The general officiating of the League isn't much better either.

The refs call penalties with such in consistency that it's easy to wonder whether there are any actual rules in the game. A guy gets absolutely mugged and nothing happens, while a slight bump is interference and someone gets sent to the sin bin. it's no wonder teams have enforcers; the league certainly doesn't mete out punishments in any rational manner.

Then we have issues such as goal review, to make sure the calls are right to help ensure the proper outcome of games. Yet the on ice official cannot be overruled without significant video evidence. That's understandable, one supposes, except that if the call is wrong it doesn't matter what the referee said at the time of the play. Why worry about what the guy said on the rink? Just get the call right. As it is, there's an incentive to lean towards the on ice ruling instead of getting the call right. It's almost schitzo.

Hockey needs better officiating and better oversight if it wants a broader audience. Until then, the game will only matter to teams still playing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The World Loves Obama: So What?

Recent polling by the BBC indicates that an awful lot of the world loves our President, Barack Obama, even as polls of Americans show that they do not believe that he is doing a good job. They also show that trust in the federal government is around 20 percent, the lowest point in ages.

The main reason for the world's perception is that they believe that the President has been more open to it, rather than go it alone as former President Bush was wont to do. Yet this cannot paint a very full picture; it isn't as though Bush didn't attempt to curry world favor but merely that world favor was generally against him. Sure, he said at times that he was acting no matter what. But isn't that what Barack Obama has done, a la health care? Yet he is seen as a leader acting like a leader, while Bush is a pariah. That's simply hypocrisy.

Especially as it is not unusual for the rest of the world to want us to do what they want us to do. They are envious of American power and stature so they want to control it. They see in our current President a pliability which they can use to their ends. It is no different than an America goes it alone attitude for Americans.

To be fair, neither attitude is particularly right or wrong on their own merit. It is the content of particular actions and ideas which make them good or bad. But as to what the rest of the family of nations feel about our President, that can be summed up in two words: so what? Americans should expect a leader who acts in their best interests. When these coincide with the best interests of others, great. When they don't, so be it. If what we're doing is right, that doesn't matter. It's only when were wrong, which has and will happen, that we need be concerned with differing opinions.

Yet openness to other views does not mean abiding by them. Listening doesn't mean we must support them. We can debate all the live long day as to where exactly those lines are marked. And we do need to be aware that we are as human as anyone else and subject to human flaws and failures. Yet so does everyone else. If the only reason you're against us is jealousy, then who is truly being shallow and inconsiderate?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Next Supreme Court Justice

We are in the early stages of selecting the Justice who will replace John Paul Stevens on the high court. Yet whomever that shall be is almost unimportant. President Barack Obama will almost certainly get the one he wants. And it will not likely affect the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Justice Stevens was one of the sternest liberals on the bench and he will almost certainly be replaced by someone similar. It is not likely that a leftist nominee will ever gravitate rightward; that concept appears driven only right to left for some reason, when a philosophical change does occur. So any real change on the Supreme Court will not happen until, perhaps, the next opening comes up.

Which is what makes the 2012 election so important. As it stands today, there is not much chance of another opening before that point. If the President is reelected and there is no paradigm shift in the Congress brought on by the voters in the next two clashes, it is then that we might see a substantial change in the Court's political/philosophical bent.

It is a truly scary proposition in light of the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court Justices. This is supposed to make for an independent judiciary, and, if the right folks are on board, it can serve a check on federal power. Yet if the wrong people are in the black robes, it can be devastation to any useful sense of right and wrong in our laws and our culture.

No less a civil libertarian than Thomas Jefferson said that the greatest threat to our freedoms came from the Supreme Court. We would do well to remember that in the coming elections.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Confederate History Month

Virginia has declared April to be Confederate History Month. If that's meant to unite our nation, it's difficult to see how. Or why.

The Civil War was about slavery. Period. To interpret the matter any other way is intellectually dishonest. If there had been no slavery, there almost surely would not have been a conflict.

So why honor a time in our history when we were nearly rent asunder? Apparently to satisfy the folks who believe that the Confederacy has been railroaded over time. Yet how can the CSA be seen in a positive light? To be sure, there may have been instances of personal heroism or sacrifice, but to what end? Essentially, for a selfish, self righteous cause. Ultimately there isn't any great heroism in that.

The true shame of the Civil War is that, in the only significant instance when the states actually stood up for states' rights, they were wrong. And they actually made Washington stronger for their efforts.

The South does not merit consideration for their actions at the time. The area was out of line and has been judged harshly for it. If there is a historical lesson in that, it is to not act rashly, or selfishly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fear of Prayer

Why are certain avowedly non-religious people so afraid of prayer? It seems that the sentiment is picking up steam, now that a federal court in Washington has ruled that the traditional National Day of Prayer - this year scheduled for May 6th - is unconstitutional. It goes 'beyond acknowledgment of religion' and actively encourages it. As such, it is a threat to the separation of Church and State.

Why is it so wrong for the nation to acknowledge a large and significant part of the population with one day a year? Surely no one who does not want to participate in any festivities will have to. No one has to celebrate July 4th or Memorial Day, for example. And to repeat, why are those opposed to publicly supported prayer so afraid of it? If it is nothing more than a mythic practice based on tired old ways of interpreting the world, how can it harm them?

Because it puts pressure on them to convert? Perhaps; but if they truly believe what they say they believe, how much of a threat is that, really? There is no pressure on anyone in particular to play football merely because the Super Bowl is popular. There are few atheists who cower as they pass a church, synagogue, or mosque. If they don't believe that anything can come of religious practice, and it presumably has not affected them as it is, why are they against those who believe in prayer, praying?

There is no great constitutional issue at point here. This is the minority of the population throwing their weight around because of their hatred of the seriously religious. If they merely had no use for religion they would simply ignore it. We are long past the days of genuine and systematic religious persecution in this country. If anything, such has been turned around. Religion is more under attack nowadays than free thought.

Why fear what you assert cannot affect you? It is a completely senseless point of view. What those against things such as the National Day of Prayer truly fear is that they may be wrong in their beliefs. It is a sense of inferiority in their own stated creed (or lack thereof) which drives them. They do indeed fear religion. They fear they are wrong, and are unprepared to face the fact.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Partiers: Mere Knee Jerks?

As we, ahem, celebrate Tax Day today, there are those who take greater pleasure (of sorts) in the revelry than most. They are the Tea Partiers, the widespread yet rather uncoordinated mass of people who are protesting too much government taxing and spending. Today is, quite naturally, a prime time for them to call attention to their concerns.

It would be easy to call the entire movement knee jerk, and there is perhaps good reason for believing as much. There are without doubt many folks on all sides of the political spectrum who simply call certain things wrong merely because they oppose them on general principle rather than exact detail. Such movements may safely be summed up by Groucho's famous line: "Whatever it is, I'm against it". It may be shallow rationale, but is it always all that pig headed?

Not if general principle is on their side. Government spending is not usually very efficient. In fact, it is notoriously inefficient. The great economist Milton Friedman summed that up quite well with his famous quip about spending other people's money on other people. In short, where there's no real vested interest in sound spending we tend to get unsound spending. The only real way to quell that is to cut off the source of cash. In the case of government, this means taxes.

Those who dismiss the tea party folks as missing the boat, as even mislabeling their cause (after all, it is our elected representatives who have imposed the taxes at issue) miss the point themselves. Though an important right to have taxation with representation, that in and of itself is not the catch all be all. The taxes imposed in and of themselves must still be reasonable and proper to their aims as well as to the proper role of government.

So if many in the Tea Party factions are little more than knee jerk, so what? They are better than the knee jerks of the left. Even if only by happy accident, they stand on firmer ground.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nebraska Attempts to Restrict Abortion

The State of Nebraska has imposed a limit on abortion to twenty weeks, on the grounds that it is at that point when the fetus begins to feel pain. Whether this is a step forward or not, is difficult to tell.

Simple reason tells us that human beings have human babies. On that point alone it should be obvious that abortion is a moral evil. Yet seeing as the political and moral climate of our land is not likely to change anytime soon based on even that simple and easy to understand concept, then any restriction on abortion perhaps should be hailed as a step in the right direction.

But as to whether the ability to feel pain is what makes us human, well, that seems weak on its own merit. Certainly feeling pain, as with feeling empathy or emotion of any sort, is part of what makes one human. Still, mere animals can feel pain, and arguably at least even some form of sympathy. The question is, do we want to view humanity in the manner in which we view animals?

If we are defending human life merely on the grounds that people feel pain, are we really saying anything valuable about it at all? It just seems, on a certain level anyway, shallow. If this is an idea of the Right to Life movement, then it seems as though they are falling into something of a trap: the idea takes the value of human life out of the metaphysical and moral and into the mere animal. What are we really supporting when we do that?

Any step which may limit abortion is, one hopes, a positive one. This law will surely be challenged, so that it may not serve a purpose anyway over the long haul. And so far as it keeps the abortion debate stoked there may be a good served by it. Still, there are far greater reasons for disallowing the practice. When we effectively step into the pro-abortion arena on the terms of the pro-abortionists, who see human life as nothing more than another aspect of our world, have we won any ground at all?

Monday, April 12, 2010

GOP May Filibuster Court Nominee

The Republican Party has not ruled out a filibuster to prevent President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee from being seated. Let's hope they show some backbone and, depending on exactly who gets the nod, fight it tooth and nail.

Why not filibuster? They have nothing to lose. In fact, the party likely has more to gain by engaging the President, particularly if he selects someone outside of the mainstream. It could become another talking point in the coming bi-elections if the GOP gained another harsh liberal issue and made hay of it. Any attempt to land a socialist of sorts on the Bench would be one more godsend in a year already filled with much that the opposition party could use against the embattled Chief Executive and his minions.

As to anyone who says that the Republicans ought to 'play fair' and give the President, elected by the people of course, whoever he wants, there are two names to remember: Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork. The Democrats went out of their way to defame now Justice Thomas, and as to the incredibly well respected jurist Bork, under the very well liked President Reagan, well, the opposition liberals of the time simply said no, with no consideration of what the people thought.

It will be hypocrisy of the Democrats to cry foul if the GOP actually does go full on after whoever Mr. Obama puts before the Senate. But we should be used to that by now. Those scions of fairness are the least fair themselves. It is high time they get a dose of their own medicine.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gop in 2102: Still to Early to Tell

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won, by one vote, a very unscientific straw poll taken at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. He edged out Ron Paul, 439-438, and was followed closely by Sarah Palin at 330 with Newt Gingrich at 321. The organizers basically just put names on cards and asked whoever wanted to turn them in to turn them in. They guessed at who would be running. Still, that does not mean no useful information can be garnered from the tally.

It does help the appearance of a wide open field for the GOP in 2102, especially as the votes were so tight and so many were left off. How might the field have been spread even thinner if a few more challengers had been listed, particularly more moderate Republicans (if there are any these days).

Most interesting, though, may be that Ron Paul was so high on the list. It was thought that support for him, though significant early on in the 2008 election cycle, had run its course. But perhaps the libertarian wing of the GOP is not so far from power. We may be seeing a real and substantial break of ranks in the party. In light of the very socialist trend of late, in the Republican party not much less than with the Democrats, the people may be ready for a more traditional brand of American conservatism: leave me alone outside of abject necessity.

Again, this really means squat this day. And it should be taken into account that southern Republicans tend to be more conservative too. But if this is where the GOP is headed, it can only make for a spirited race both for the party nomination and the White House in two years.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Perverting 11 year olds

My cousin and I have sons about the same age. Needless to say, they were both excited about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies which came out in the early Nineties when they were 9 or 10.

We were discussing the films after they had seen them. I remarked that they were all right movies for kids our boys' ages, but that I didn't see where one of the characters had to say 'damn' repeatedly at one point. "There are younger kids watching these things," I remarked.

She replied, "Oh, don't be such a dad. They were only going for a sense of reality."

Teenage...Mutant...Ninja...Turtles. And she was concerned about reality.

I think that's one of the problems with movies these days. I'm really not against swearing on screen to make a certain point or to emphasize an emotion perhaps, but have we forgotten that movies are NOT REAL? As such, why ought they reflect any particular reality?

The defense of nudity in love scenes, for example, is that we need that reality. The fact is that that takes away from the suspension of belief which is supposed to make films engaging. Rarely does a man see a naked woman and think, 'this really has me into the point of the story.' He sees a naked woman and, shall we say, isn't overly interested in plot development. Bernadette Peters once said she wouldn't do a nude scene because she would no longer be seen as her character, but as Bernadette Peters with her top off. She's right.

Why can we show certain things for reality's sake but not others? My aunt used to say that if reality is what you're looking for, then Ingrid Bergman should have actually been burned at the stake when she played Joan of Arc. 'But you can't actually kill someone for the sake of the show.' Of course not: but then can we have actors and actresses actually doing a likewise immoral act (for a man feeling up a woman is actually feeling her up; it's not pretend like a gunshot wound can be) for the sake of reality? Or actually swearing when it's poor taste?

Now we see that the whole swearing thing is getting worse. In the upcoming film Kick Ass, about a ragtag group of young (indeed pre-teen) superheroes, an 11 year old girl uses the word c***. Why? Why must we wallow in such filthy language? Because we can? That simply isn't a very good reason. Truly, it's no reason at all.

It's cafeteria storytelling, my friends. Liberal storytelling: the producers and directors and actors want what they want because it's what they want. The quality of their production, and our aversion to calling things right and wrong, are what suffer.

We're better people than that.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Americans Fail at Civics

It has been reported by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute that most college students fail miserably at Civics. They cannot recall basic data about what the Constitution says or what Lincoln and Douglas debated about; nor do they have any idea about what the New Deal meant or who created it. Smaller schools seem to do better than larger, yet even they tend to score poorly. Why?

Simply because fact is not seen as important in our schools these days. Never mind that facts are the building blocks of knowledge. Never mind that the ability to recall information easily and accurately is what makes us able to distinguish the good from the bad. Never mind that human thought itself is predicated upon what we do and do not know: we cannot act rationally if we cannot think rationally, and we cannot think rightly without a command of the facts.

Yet schools downplay rote knowledge. You can look up in a book, or google it on the Internet, if you really need to know what Lincoln said to Douglas. What's important is how you feel. What compassion do you have for your peers? How can you relate to others? What sense of social justice do you have?

Well, you cannot know real compassion, you cannot relate well to your fellows, you cannot have any sense of social propriety, if you don't know when, where, why, how, and who merits it. And you can only know that by knowing things and events and, yes, morals, the critical offshoot of correct thought.

We are trying to teach young kinds to be good minds without any guidelines. We are creating what C. S. Lewis called Men Without Chests: we atrophy proper sentiment by instilling in the young poor thought, or no thought at all, rather than showing youth good and clear thought supported by the facts.

When we do not support rote knowledge we support no true knowledge at all. Our schools do not believe we can know anything. It is no wonder so many of people fall for it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sex Education should not be in schools

There is an uproar in Wisconsin over teaching sex education in the schools. Basically, the state has a new law which mandates teaching high school youths age appropriate birth control techniques. Parents can keep their kids out of the classes, and schools may opt not to offer them. And at least one Wisconsin local DA has threatened to arrest teachers who teach the course.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. One that could be avoided entirely if the government and the schools would simply get out of the sex ed business.

It is not your schoolteacher's job to teach sex ed at all, in any way, shape, or form. It is not the province of government at any level to compel teaching it. A great many issues could be avoided by schools and legislatures simply keeping away from areas not part of their true responsibility. Schools should stick to the three R's and lawmakers to making good and proper law.

Why is it that so many schools and so many government agents do not trust parents?

Arrogance, plain and simple. They know better than we do. We don't have the proper degrees and certifications and public electoral sanction. The people who do hold them are the ones who know.

And they wonder why there's a tea party movement. Or that so many school bond issues are at risk.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fake Proms: the way to go

A short time ago it was reported that a school in Fulton, Mississippi canceled its Senior Prom rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend. Despite the fact that the ACLU sued on her behalf and won, the school did not reschedule the dance. Now one of the young ladies is claiming that she was sent to a fake prom while parents organized the real one to avoid her attendance.

As before, bravo Fulton, Mississippi! This is an excellent way to get around the bullying of the ACLU and the arrogance of a youth with a chip on her shoulder. If these folks think they can throw their weight around and get their way on their terms, terms which the majority of society correctly object to, then actions like that may be the greater society's only option.

The silent protest. It is time for America to regain its moral footing, and doing it one step at a time in a manner which courts and faux civil rights activists cannot affect, sounds like precisely the tone to adopt. The people can't be told what to do on their own time and initiative, at least not yet. It may be our only recourse when courts and clowns dictate our public activities.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baseball: America's Game

Now that the baseball season has begun, we can say with all confidence that spring has sprung. There is music in the air as the true American pastime takes the field to lead us through summer.

It is the perfect blend of individual prowess and team effort. Everyone fields and everyone bats. Well, okay, not everyone, as the American League sticks to the lousy designated hitter rule, but still, baseball is the truest of sports.

It's the only one that gets a season to itself (soccer, that dull European game) is not a threat to baseball dominance of the season. Plus, fans get more baseball than any other sport: 162 whole games. It doesn't get any better than that, unless you're a Cubs fan.

Play ball!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Church Sex Scandal

It has become the scandal that won't go away, and it shouldn't. Priests from many parts of the world have been accused of sexual peversion against various youths in various conditions, and officials right up to the Vatican and the current and former Popes have been alleged to have attempted cover ups of the incidents. It is all certainly a black eye for those involved. Yet we cannot let it become a judgment of the Church herself.

To whatever degree Pope Benedict XVI and/or Pope John Paul II are culpable, they should be held accountable, as with any other Church official, whether a parish priest or bishop or Cardinal. But what sins exist are sins of the individual, not the institution. Bill O'Reilly said it best on his web site last Friday: the Church isn't about the local priest, it's about doing Christ's will and living as He taught. If Father Bob is sinning, it's not a point of theology, it's human frailty at work. If that frailty is so bad as to threaten the well being of parishioners then he needs to be dealt with both by the Church and the proper secular authorities. When higher ups further the injustice rather than address it, that needs to be dealt with as well.

Part of it is because those individual sins do put the Church herself in a bad light, but the actions must be addressed properly and in a forthright manner mainly because of the harm done to the victims. Yet that is not served by suggesting changes in theology such as allowing women priests: we need only recall the number of times women teachers have in recent memory abused young boys to see that is not the answer. It is not served by suggesting that the Catholic Church is not the One True Church: She is infallible in pronouncing moral and theological questions as right or wrong, but not infallible in the human choices of human beings. Her members can be as guilty of wrongdoing, of individual sin, as anyone else.

That the world revels in the current crisis may actually be interpreted as something of an odd compliment. The Church, standing for goodness and purity as She does, is measured by a more exacting standard of morals than most of the world. This is as it should be. It does make the crimes worse. Yet that is because what is at stake is so precious: the salvation of us all.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! Christ is risen and salvation is possible. There is nothing of greater import to be said today.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Limiting Salt in Health Care Reform

It seems that, among the minutiae of data buried within the recent health care reform package, the government will instruct companies as to how much salt they put in their foods. This admittedly rather small item should serve as a warning to what we may be getting into when we allow Big Brother in Washington to dictate our needs. For though something of a minor point, it nevertheless begs quite a few important questions, while opening up many more.

To begin with, it isn't rocket science to see the connection between a high sodium intake and certain health problems. But that really isn't the issue; the real point surrounds the idea of whether the government should attempt to regulate our use of salt. Healthy or not, to what degree does Washington have the right to tell us how much salt we want, or even need?

This question puts the whole idea of government controlled health care in precisely the right light, because the answer will tell us how the government, any government, views its people. If you believe that it is right for the government to tell you what to eat, then such measures become acceptable. If you do not, they are repugnant.

Within that framework, we can now see what direction that government mandates must eventually lead. If government can regulate salt, then government can regulate you. If you do not take care of yourself, then at some point the government will argue that it no longer has to take care of you. Health care benefits will be stopped because caring for you will become too much of a public burden. Your health will become a matter of public interest, which translates into public dollars which can be cut from use on you if you don't, in a bureaucrat's eyes, deserve it.

Yes, it hasn't gone that far. Yet. But now that health care has become Washington's province, it is only a matter of time.

We were asked during the course of the debates, how many people will die from lack of government mandated health care? As the course of our history plays out we must ask: how many people will die because of it?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

President Obama's change of heart

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2010: In a stunning and dramatic move, President Barack Obama has switched political parties. White House officials, speaking anonymously, have said that a formal announcement will be made at a press conference in the East Room at noon today.

The President, it is reported, was so impressed by Republican unanimity in the recent health car fight that, in comparison with all the deals and cajoling necessary to bring enough Democrats on board to push the reform through, it became obvious to him that the GOP was the true party of the American electorate. He will meet with Republican minority leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner immediately after the noon press conference to discuss how they might dismantle the recent health care package.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi was the first the praise the President for his 'daring and insightful foresight' and added that she too would do all she could in support of Mr. Obama's change of party. Senator Harry Reid followed quickly on her heels with a pledge of support of his own, calling the President 'a true visionary'.

Representative Bart Stupak's office released a statement saying that the Michigan Congressman was 'deeply hurt and offended' by the move, but would withhold further comment until he hears what particulars there are within the anticipated newer health care reform now apparently in the works.

The President's decision throws the entire 2012 election cycle into turmoil. Now considered the GOP front runner for the nomination, it is expected that the many Republican hopefuls will alter their plans. It is reported that Sarah Palin will take the helm of a crab fishing boat, possibly the Cornelia Marie, for next season's edition of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. The has been no word yet from the other anticipated Republican challengers, though it was noticed by an onlooker that Mitt Romney looked 'pensive' over breakfast.

Democrats, meanwhile, lament that they have no obvious candidate of their own except perhaps Joe Biden. In a move seen as distancing him from the President, insiders from his camp have said only that he would be 'the obvious (expletive) choice'.