Saturday, July 31, 2010

Counseling

The other day we broached the issue of counseling, in reference to a lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University where a student claimed to have been dismissed from the school's counseling program because of her Christianity. The courts have thus far ruled against her, stating that she had to counsel people in a value neutral atmosphere. The idea calls for a bit more discussion.

So, there are those who suggest that the role of the counselor is to offer value neutral advice to the person being counseled. This is an idea which is not itself value neutral and thus self contradictory. It can dismissed out of hand as useless to the arena of counseling. Still, people seek counsel, and often very wisely. Therefore, we must understand what counseling means, so that we can offer good counsel ourselves when and if asked. It is not a realm given solely to the supposed professionals.

Counselors, as we understand it, are expected to make recommendations which are in line with the advice seeker's worldview. This must be seen as nonsense. What good can that approach achieve, especially on the rather safe presumption that the counselee already knows what their worldview expects of them. Yet should they not and desire clarification, wouldn't it make more sense for them to go to an adviser of their own stripe? Should not a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or - and we only point this out as it was the basis of our column the other day (July 29th) and do not intend to start a flame war - practicing homosexual therefore seek a counselor who is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or believer in homosexual rights? Why go to some sort of generic counselor if what you want to hear is best offered by your own stripe?

Indeed, that brings the whole idea of a generic form of counseling itself into question. How could such a counselor possibly be an expert in all areas: Christianity in all of its forms, Buddhism in its, Islam in its, and even secularism in its? Indeed again, what kind of a counselor would they in fact be if they merely told the person before them what they wanted to hear?

There are two basic ways in which we approach counsel. One is that we want to be told what we really already or at least should know, based on a decent worldview and a rational intellect. The other is when we need a boot to the head and require an objective, impartial observer to show or tell us why, and in no uncertain terms, our current approach to an issue or problem is errant and must be changed or altered. This is because if all we need of a generic counselor is essentially to be told that what we are doing is right based on the options our own worldview already allows, then such a job is superfluous. It must only encourage selfishness and self centeredness within the minds of those seeking counsel.

There is nothing wrong with being a yes man when the boss is right. Yet obviously when he is wrong it displays a complete lack of integrity. A decent and useful counselor must be willing to tell you you're wrong when you are. That must mean making judgments brimming with proper values. It means calling right things right and wrong, wrong. It does not mean that a counselor shouldn't be charitable towards the counselee's feelings nor inconsiderate of their background. But a refusal to call bad ideas bad and good ideas good, to wit, to be value neutral, fails on all levels. It leaves the advice seeker at best in Limbo and at worst in Hell. Meanwhile, it makes the counselor a sort of devil when he should be a friend.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Public Funding does not make Something a Public Good.

Library Larry loved his local library. So much so that when he learned that it had to cut its budget significantly for the next year he remarked, "I would gladly pay a few dollars more on my property taxes to keep that from happening."

"I wouldn't," replied Conservative Carl.

"But the community needs the library!" Larry protested.

"Why?" Carl asked. "You have books and the Internet at home. You can read and research from there. Why should I have to pay for a library you don't actually need simply because you have made the value judgment that it's necessary? I am not expected to pay for your other forms of entertainment."

Library Larry muttered that Carl was a fascist and stormed off.

This may or may not be an oversimplification. Yet libraries, like the print media, are fast becoming obsolete. But perhaps more importantly, why should Library Larry be seen as such a hero (he will be for some who read this) for being willing to force his neighbors to spend their money on what he likes? It's arrogance, pure and simple. Yet that attitude is the basis for an awful lot of public spending.

All democracy ultimately means is that fifty percent of the population plus one person can force everyone else to do what they want. That is not a rationale for good public policy or public spending. But it can and will create jealousies which, in the long run, will rent asunder the body politic.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Secular Values Forced Upon Students

Eastern Michigan University has won a lawsuit filed against it by a student who says she was expelled due to her Christian beliefs. Julea Ward was removed from a position in the school's graduate program in school counseling for refusing to counsel homosexuals. Her case is similar to one against Augusta State University in Georgia, where one Jenifer Keeton was told that she had too stop 'sharing her Christian beliefs' in order to graduate. In Ms. Ward's case, Eastern Michigan cited school policy and the American Counseling Association's code of ethics.

"The university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values,' opined Judge George Caram Steeh in his ruling. This is but another example of some rather pointed liberal doublespeak. No one can impose their values on anyone...except when it comes to imposing values on Ms. Ward and Ms. Keeton. They must help people in a value free atmosphere.

Such reasoning is so outlandish that it almost defies explanation. The fact is, there is no such thing as a value free environment. Saying that homosexuals must be counseled without reference to their homosexuality is in and of itself a statement of value.

What we have here quite simply is outrageous on its very face. Conservatives, particularly Christian ones, cannot have values and live by them. Values are reserved for the liberal elite in the schools and the courts. Woe be it for you should you violate what they believe good and proper. You will be recommended a great, heaping dose of sensitivity and diversity training. You can be reprogrammed.

And all of it value free, no doubt.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Decadent Americans: Do We Need Delicacies at Such Risk?

The Deadliest Catch is one of the most popular shows on the Discovery Channel, and it's easy to see why. It is certainly entertaining, and there is a great degree of excitement watching the men involved battle one of nature's harshest environments in the Bering Sea. Still, the practice of king crab fishing and reality television such as this show ignore a question which is of paramount importance: is it worth the risk?

An awful lot of men put their lives at stake for the sake of a seafood delicacy. Should they? What kind of decadence is reflected within our society that we should demand such a food at so terrible a risk, especially as so many other foodstuffs are so readily available so easily? Remember too that two sets of ships are in peril for this: the crab fishermen themselves, and the boats carrying the film crew.

The obvious retort - no one makes them do it - is entirely invalid. No action is moral simply because those involved freely agree to engage in it. What is being done must be moral in and of itself. With this, an awful lot of time, money, and effort is regularly put forth for at least an arguably dubious reason.

We don't have to have king crab on our dinner plates. We don't need to battle rough seas and risk our lives merely for our daily bread. We certainly ought not do things out of any macho need on the part of those involved. In short, we need to ask ourselves whether such delicacies are worth the trouble, or whether an interest in watching guys put their lives on the line for them isn't a bit too reminiscent of the savage events of the Colosseum. In this day and age, we ought to be beyond such entertainment. And perhaps we should learn to be a little more grateful for bounty we already have.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alien Life Forms: No Big Deal

The SETI (search for extraterrestrial life) folks have decided that they're going about the search for alien life in the wrong way. They've been listening to distant star systems for steady radio signals which would theoretically would indicate intelligence. Yet a newer view is that intelligent life would sent out short, powerful bursts of radio energy on the idea that other smart fellows would be sending out those rather than the steady, lower powered energies we've been looking for. It's really quite interesting. The sad thing is that it will almost certainly lead to nothing.

We will go on the record as saying that we don't believe that there is other intelligent life, indeed that there is not any life at all, elsewhere in the galaxy. That is not etched in stone, for if the universe is huge and expanding as we're told then other life is admittedly not out of the question. Still, that old saw, that with the sprawling and expanding nature of the universe there must be intelligent life besides our own, isn't really that impressive or an argument. Space and time do not automatically mean that other life forms can or must have developed.

For starters, our immediately experience is that nothing else is there. We've found no hard and fast evidence of life in the local planets and solar systems; it would be more logical to assume that the more worlds without life, the less likely that there are in fact others with it. Further, why is it so outlandish to think that maybe, just maybe, we were touched by the Divine for a very singular purpose? Perhaps, only perhaps, we will allow, the rest of creation is there simply for our marvel, to appreciate the immensity of the Supreme Being? There is certainly no law of physics which states there must be life elsewhere.

Yet if there is, it isn't as though such a discovery would alter what should be our proper view of things. If there are intelligent aliens, they would have been created by the same God. They would face the same issues which we do: seeing to or needs, our daily bread, and considering their responsibilities to their fellow creatures and to whomever else they may find. In short, SETI is interesting as an academic device. But would any discoveries it may make be, shall we say (we do so love puns), Earth shattering?

Of course not. So keep looking, if that's you life's work, and we would readily concede the error if proved wrong. But don't make it too much of a mission. There's an awful lot here on our world which could be as rewarding. Indeed, if you want to get to know others, there's plenty of them around for your entertainment.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Republicans; Give Them Their Due on Civil Rights

The minority vote is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That's a shame, when you consider how badly that group has played minorities over the years.

Democrats want to take credit for all the advancements in civil rights in recent times, indeed for any and all forward movements on civil rights in our entire history. Yet at the least, the GOP deserves more consideration in what it has done in that area over time.

It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who sent federal troops to insure that minorities were allowed in public high schools. Going back much further, a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, did the most to free the slaves. Say what you want about what he said at the time, his actions were what ended slavery.

How quickly too we forget the Dixiecrats, Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation. You know, the guys such as the late Robert Byrd, whose past the Democratic party has gone to great pains recently to ignore if not outright, ahem, whitewash? Not that it isn't good that he may have recanted later on in life, there is nonetheless his history of at least initially working against minorities.

It is interesting also to note that Republican support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually stronger than Democratic support. As a Party, the GOP voted for the Act by about an 80% - 20% margin; Democrats, while overall in favor of it, voted at about a 62% - 38% figure. Indeed, not enough Democrats in the Senate voted for the measure to have passed it on their power: only 46 Democratic senators voted aye. That means that it would not have passed the Senate without Republican support at a time the Democrats were the majority party by a tremendous number in that chamber, 67-33.

Why don't we hear about this in schools and the media? Because it's not history that they like. It makes conservatives in general and Republicans in particular look too good. So much for the objectivity of the journalists and educators.

When you throw in the fact that many minorities are social conservatives, one cannot help but conclude they need to rethink their ties to the Democratic Party. But when the race card gets played, well, we'll see who's actually played.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

NC busing: the Seventies live!

A new war has begun on an old issue: busing students out of their neighborhood and into another for the sake of school diversity. The battlefront is Wake County, North Carolina, and contains Raliegh, the State capital.

It seems that for years students from wealthier areas were bussed into poorer ones, and students from poorer schools to wealthier ones, all for the sake of diverse classrooms. We should refrain from the comment that you get what you pay for, that when you begin from a bad premise (in this case, the 'right' to a public education) you simply invite all sorts of bad ideas, each growing worse as the error spreads farther from good policy and healthy schools. But we won't. The issue is too great to ignore.

It could be argued ad infinitum whether the policy has had a positive or negative effect. Apparently test scores have leveled across the district, but what does that really tell us? Only that mixing some good students in with, ah, lesser academics, will naturally give the appearance of improved overall academics. To be sure, there may be greater diversity within the schools as well. This too is not of itself a bad thing, as tolerance of others when tolerable should of course be encouraged.

Yet such things ignore the issue of school choice. Why should a student not want to attend a closer school, or a parent not want to send their child near to home? But this is exactly where the whole idea of public education tears its own fabric. The local school is not truly your school: it is public property. Ultimately the body politic and not the immediate locals control it.

It is understandable that teachers in poorer areas have a more difficult job than their peers in areas where the drive to succeed is greater. As a side issue here, it should be pointed out that they ought to be cut slack, rather than move mountains to smooth over the rough areas of academic measurement. After all, money is a legitimate public concern, and saving $14 million bucks as the Wake County Schools claim they will ought, on the surface anyway, allow for a few dollars to be spent on innovations which may encourage students who have special needs, to perform better.

Still, the bottom line is that it's all just one big mess, and it all begins with rights which aren't naturally there. The first obligation for the education, as with the clothing, feeding, and general rearing of children, is parental, not societal. We have strayed from that, from the beginning of our Republic. Now we pay the ultimately price for it: we risk losing control of who, when, and where our children are schooled. The real lesson of the North Carolina school busing fiasco is that when we surrender our most basic rights to the general public, we in fact lose them.

And the ones who actually pay the price are the ensuing generations.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Extreme Evangelicals

There was an ad on the telly this morning for Jack Van Impe, an evangelical preacher who has been around for decades. In the ad, he asserts that biblical prophecy essentially points to President Barack Obama as the Antichrist, intent on reaching fame through a peace plan for the Middle East. The President fits the bill because, according to Mr. Van Impe, both Lebanon and Syria have said that he would make a great mediator.

That's quite a leap of faith, if you don't mind a bad pun. Unfortunately it is precisely the sort of talk which gets his kind dismissed as serious theologians, let alone purveyors of Christian truth. Indeed it serves little purpose save to get honest, better thinking Christians and conservatives dismissed as kooks.

We do not need that. It cannot help our cause and will not positively effect this fall's elections. Our best hope is simply that no one takes him seriously. It is good that shows such as his are at hours of the day when many cannot see them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The GOP says, thanks, NL!

You think that there's no connection between baseball and politics?

Think again.

With the victory of the National League in last week's annual Major League Baseball All Star Game, it seems that the great American game has found itself in lock-step with the political trends of the last half century or so. Provided that the polls keep heading the direction they are with the anticipated results which this November is expected to bring, it appears that the NL win is a harbinger of doom for the Democratic Party. Wins by the Nationals in 1966, 1980, and 1994 precipitated huge Republican gains in the elections the following autumn. In total, National League wins have come before the nine elections which have resulted in GOP double digit gains since the middle 1900's.

So the liberals have something more to fear now: the American Pastime is against them. When baseball looks upon you with disdain, you are indeed in deep, deep trouble. The betting man should put his money on a Republican grand slam.

The Spirit of 94. Catch it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

George Washington on religion and morals.

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

- George Washington, from his Farewell Address

We have said many times that morality, indeed any issues of right and wrong, must have a God of some sort behind them. Without an objective norm to fall back on, any and all questions of good and evil, even issues of simple prudence, are nothing more than your word against mine. In such a case, problems would be resolved only through might makes right, whether at the hand of a single tyrant or that old saw consensus, which is but a name for the tyranny of the majority. We must do right because it is right on its own terms as instituted by the Creator of the natural law.

Consensus cannot make something right. Consensus is merely what the majority of the people at a given time happen to want which they are able to subject the upon the minority. Do we honestly believe that such is the best way to create good law and rational public policy?

Obviously it is not. We require a Supreme Being, a supreme and final Law, in order to do well and avoid evil. To those who object, which God?, we say, the one whom philosophy, not religion, insists is there. From that point we can safely speculate on how such a being would expect us to act. It is then when we start to cross into religious principle because at that point we begin to realize that people are special, that doing wrong against them is an evil in itself because it is an affront to their dignity as individuals. A dignity they have by virtue of their humanity, as given them by God. It does not come from them or anything they do.

So there is no reason to base morality and law on anything slippery such as convention, which can and will change as generations do. We need that eternal sense, that eternal reality, if we are to make a good society, and become good people. For any ideal of dignity must come from the religious ideal that everyone deserves proper respect. That cannot come from any simple human act. It can only come from above, overarching each individual. We recognize that and live accordingly, or we slowly perish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Natural Law

True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.

- Cicero

Right wingers and Christians are two groups of folk who are almost universally derided for daring to suggest that there is something such as the Natural Law. They are scorned when asserting that some things are congruent with nature and others less so, if at all. They are mocked because of the idea they espouse which says that certain acts are really right, and others really wrong. In the end, they are scolded for the presumably arrogant belief that our laws must reflect this, because, of course, nothing is right on its own terms and how dare anyone try to force their morality on another. Simple and stupid consensus will take care of that.

So imagine the joy which one put upon by society in such a manner might have when they discover an old pagan who says exactly what they do. A pagan who speaks of virtue and discipline as though they were ideals to strive for rather than ancient old abstractions of which some people simply will not let go. A pagan who insists there is a God who is the source of all of our law, and that we must adhere to the commands of that being. In the end, Cicero teaches, our laws must reflect that eternal and unchanging law on which any and all good laws are based.

Right Reason is that which is in league with nature and nature's God. All that we do which is to be of any good use must reflect that sense. When we do that, we create justice on Earth. When we do not, when we do as we please with no regard for ultimate and final right and wrong, we invite chaos and anarchy. To quote Cicero once more:

...if the principle of justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decision of judges, then justice would sanction robbery and adultery and the forging of wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace. (For if a human law)...can make Justice out of injustice, can it not also make good out of bad?

Indeed it can. It is good to hear such a question voiced by someone not, ahem, tainted by modern religion. Those who dismiss religious sentiment and insist that it cannot be applied to lawmaking need a good dose of the old Roman orator if they are to see things in the right light. For Christianity has no hold on the eternal. The truth and beauty of that belongs to all who are willing to seek it. Our laws would be truer and more beautiful as well, should we create them justly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dull Days at STR

Summertime, and the living is easy.

But not really so much for a writer with writer's block. There doesn't appear to be anything particularly exciting happening right now. The Michigan primaries are a slight three weeks away yet none of the GOP hopefuls elicit any great passion. Perhaps the Tea Party favorite, Miller, is it, should he win may inject at least a tone of importance to the race in November. But that is not now.

The Democratic primary is a bit more worth watching, as the unions attempt to show they are still a political force by putting their money behind Virg Bernero over Andy Dillon. Yet even that invokes little more than a yawn. Unions are through as a major player, and who really cares which Democrat wins in August?

Today is, of course, (of course!) Bastille Day, which is sort of France's Independence Day. Yet that is only memorable as it was the last time the French were actually up in arms about anything, and they blew that chance at worthwhile reform by setting the stage for Napoleon's rise. That does seem something deserving of remembrance.

So tomorrow is another day, and perhaps greater things will come of this world and from this computer by then. Hopefully there will be a few comments from incensed commenters which shall inspire a topic. Until, then, adieu.

Might as well inject a tiny bit of France into the day, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

True Parenthood and False Analogies

In a blow to the presumed rights of gays and lesbians (it is, at the least, an ambiguous question as to whether anyone has rights based solely on their sexual preference) a Michigan woman has been denied custody rights over three children despite a 19 year relationship with the children's mother.

The woman, Renee Harmon, has no legal or biological right to custody according to the Child Custody Act. So ruled the Michigan Court of Appeals. It is a good ruling, not only in the eyes of the law but in the realm of common sense. No amount of psychobabble can make a child not your child, in fact your child.

Never mind the status of the relationship involved. Simple physical proximity does not make one a relative. And no mount of will on your part can make something true merely because you wish it. If they are not your kids through rational law or biology they are not your kids. Period.

This is in the end another example of nonsense which spews from nonsensical positions. Gays and lesbians cannot make natural families. Two women cannot give birth to a child. Two women cannot procreate. Only one can meet nature's definition of motherhood, even with the ghastly and inhuman act of artificial insemination. The second woman is simply on the outside looking in. That she has chosen poorly in her elective lifestyle is no mitigating factor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Destroy the DOE

The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.

-Milton Friedman

Sharron Angle is going after Harry Reid in Nevada tooth and nail. No surprise there: she's the GOP candidate against him for the Senate seat up for the state this November, and a darling of the Tea Party movement. But what intrigues are some of her recent stands. She wants repeal of the health care reform, lower taxes, and the disbanding of certain federal agencies, including the Department of Education.

Bravo, Sharron. Washington knows little about most anything these days, much less education. In fact, as Mr. Friedman points out in our chosen quote, it knows little about anything. Innovation almost always comes from the private sector. But more to the point, what the folks who want government control of education do not realize is that centralizing education centralizes control of what gets taught in the long run. It is a mean of control, not liberation.

If we want freedom we need independent schools. That's where any worthwhile diversity will emanate: from free minds interacting freely.

Washington will only tell us what good it will do for us. A well regulated personal freedom demonstrates the good, and teaches us what government cannot: to do for ourselves.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Warning Against Air-brushing?

Although the realm of modern government in action seems to range from the proverbial sublime to the ridiculous, there are still items which catch the eye for their sheer nonsense quality. One such example has popped up in Australia. The leadership there is considering whether magazines which use airbrushed pictures of cover models and the like should contain an advisory that the bodies have been touched up to look better than they may in actual fact. Why? So that the impressionable among us will not feel quite so angst ridden at the sight of presumably better looking people.

What to say, what to say? Does this beg parody or merit a rant?

Let's rant. Why in the world would any government feel obliged to even comment on such trifles, let alone take them seriously? The whole non-issue reeks of the sort of idiocy wherein folks are shocked to find hot coffee hot, or when the report on education which came out a few years ago came back with the obvious conclusion that students who study more learn more. Which leads to the second relevant point about this: how many citizens in this day and age don't realize that photographs are cropped, touched up, and in probably a thousand other ways altered to meet an absurd standard? Isn't there at least a degree to which that if you allow your mental state to be affected by such tactics, you hold the blame for your demeanor? Do not sensible people realize as much?

This is government appearing to be working hard towards addressing a vital social issue when in fact it is not contributing to the betterment of society at all. It beats doing the true work of government such as actually protecting citizens and their real rights, though. All it really does is pander to the basest elements of humanity, most notably in this case vanity and jealousy. As to those whose self esteem are harmed by mere imagery, a smack to the back of the head would do them more good than any government regulation. Wake them from their stupor rather than treat it as a psychological condition.

Kate Ellis, the Australian Youth Minister (and subject of a future rant: governments need youth ministers?) claims that the move will empower consumers to seek greater choice in their purchases of beauty products. Sentiments like that, coming from a bureaucrat in all earnestness, speak volumes. When you institutionalize shallow feelings, you do indeed empower them. But is that what we want from those who are supposed to have our best interests in mind?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

November is Fast Approaching

Yes, things still look bad for the Democrats in November. There are many conservative Republican groups who are raising significant amounts of money for use in the upcoming elections, the Democrats are very unpopular, and President Barack Obama continues to display nothing short of despotic tendencies from the Oval Office. No political reporter worth their salt would expect anything less than major change in the coming months.

Of course, it is still far too early to know for sure. The only important data won't arrive until the late night of November 2nd or the wee hours of November 3rd. It isn't as though the Republicans are without issues, either. There is no clear leader within the party at this point, established politicos of all stripes are held suspect, and the many conservative groups could splinter GOP support rather than ensure the party of victory.

But with the coffers of groups such as Liberty Central and American Crossroads burgeoning and the freeing up of corporate political giving after recent Supreme Court rulings, well, it is unlikely that Republican candidates will hurt for money this fall. No less than the Democratic President we now endure realizes the importance of cash during a campaign. The hypocrisy apparent when a liberal opts out of government campaign financing is itself galling, especially as they're the ones who want to restrict the freedom of others in their electoral giving. It was but one of the first real views our nation had of a the quasi-dictatorial intent of an Obama Presidency.

Now we see more evidence, not coincidentally also from the same health care front where he displayed his contempt for democracy in forcing through health care reform a few months ago. The President's recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick as head of the nation's Medicare and Medicaid programs, allowing him to avoid the confirmation process, shows little regard for the generally required constitutional input of the Congress on high ranking political appointees.

Not only is Dr. Berwick an advocate of rationed health care, a problem we've been promised would not happen here, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, but apparently even ranking Democrats are upset over the President's move. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, who's Finance Committee would have overseen confirmation hearings over such an appointment, expressed dismay at the action. An action likely planned anyway, as the the Democrats who nonetheless control the Senate hadn't even scheduled any confirmation hearings on the question. They accuse Republicans of trying to torpedo action, yet ramrod through what they want without concern for the betterment or will of the American people. Who are the true hypocrites?

The Spirit of 94, friends. Coming to a polling center near you this November.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The US Social forum has Left momentos

Although it has been gone for about ten days now, the US Social Forum has made sure they were not forgotten. A simple walk through the park where they held their big June 26th rally offered a reminder that these thinkers of bigger things and doers of greater goods than the rest of us, and by the rest of us we mean folks with jobs and real responsibilities, had forgotten something. They failed to clear the park thoroughly of their debris, at least as of yesterday.

Strewn between trees and across a little steel decorative bridge were the pennants representing many of the participating groups. An idle piece of paper could be seen on the grass as well. It was not a true mess, to be fair, but still, they did not adequately clean up after themselves. These folks of the post no bills type left their bills all across the park.

We're sure it was a mere oversight, for protectors of the environment surely do not support open littering. Yet it does offer us an interesting view of such groups. It suggests that the little things, especially the little things done by the Social Forumers and their ilk, are not so important as the great big issues out there which they mean to draw to our attention. There's no need to bother about detail when the Detroit incinerator is killing everyone. What's few pennants in light of that?

Not much, except that it is common practice, not to mention simply decency, to pick up after yourself. But we doubt that anyone will venture back from inner city Chicago or the West Virginia coal mines merely to clean up. There's surely something else somewhere else more important. In the meantime, we see where your interest truly lies. And don't worry, we'll dispose of your rubbish properly. We'll fuel the incinerator with it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebrating Holidays

Today is Independence Day! It's a safe bet that most people do not realize that July 5th ranks as Independence Day for 2010. But thanks to the Monday Holiday Law, most holidays are celebrated on the Monday after the true holiday, if it falls on a Sunday, or on the nearest Monday if it happens to fall at a different time of the week. Why do we do it? So that workers may enjoy an extended weekend several times a year. Perhaps too so that it may make the work week easier to plan if we simply get the day off at the start of the week rather than as an interruption to the flow of things on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

You know what? Such a practice is immeasurably insulting to the people and the events and the causes which we celebrate. We are speaking about people who gave their lives so that we could be here today to grill or watch ballgames or what have you, causes which speak to the soul, and events so important to our history as a nation that without whose remembrance we commit a great affront to our collective memory. And what do we do?

Shove them around the calendar for our convenience.

Wow. That Dr. Martin Luther King was such a great guy, let's make his birthday a holiday. Only let's make it on the nearest Monday if January 15th inconveniently falls on a Thursday this year, so that we can enjoy a prolonged vacation. Whatever we do, we better remember our heroes in the way which suits us best: by us taking time off to do as we please. That's what matters: our convenience.

You know what else? That stinks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ranking the Presidents

Siena College in New York sets out every eight years to rank the Presidents, and this year is no different. But in an attempt to throw us a curve, there's been movement at the top of the list. Teddy Roosevelt has passed Abraham Lincoln into the number two spot. Franklin Roosevelt has held the top spot since 1982.

Any such surveys must be held suspect, especially when academia and the intelligentia is involved. That FDR has remained number one for so long is surely little more than a reflection of the leftist control of our scholarship. Let's face it: he attempted to circumvent the Supreme Court, proposed myriad acts and agencies which are clearly unconstitutional, and was an underhanded leader interested in only his own power and prestige. He does not deserve the praise he gets, and Americans are slowly beginning to understand that.

It is interesting to see his distant cousin rated second. This has to be merely on his persona, for he did not do all that much as President. Unless, that is, you rank the national parks and supposed conservation efforts of Teddy as important. If that then we again face an instance of liberalism among professors clouding their judgment.

No survey which does not rank George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as the best and next best Presidents is worth its salt. Without Washington, quite frankly, we have no United States. He was the only one trusted enough by everyone to have any chance of holding the nation together. Lincoln held the nation together during its toughest trial. If your survey does not put them first and second, your survey is seriously flawed.

That Thomas Jefferson ranks fifth is another example of liberal bias. That Jefferson was a great and influential man in our history is beyond argument. Yet even he would agree that his Presidency was a disaster: the Embargo Act of 1807 alone nearly killed the young American nation. He did not even want the fact that he had been President etched onto his grave marker. He knew, which an inspirational writer, he was a poor leader. Academia needs to accept that fact.

Recent Presidents are also ranked clearly according to liberal beliefs. George W. Bush is ranked 39th while Barack Obama is placed 15th. Absurd. But, to be fair, it is our belief that anything in the last two generations is not true history as yet. We are too close to the persons and events to have that general objectivity which history requires for any rational analysis. Perhaps history will vindicate him, but the admittedly very early returns on his Presidency display only a man bent on change for the sake of his own vainglory. Ramming health care through casts an image of raw power, not genuine concern for the wants and needs of the nation.

When all is said and done, these things are mere beauty pageants without true historical reference. How else could a man only in power a year be ranked 15th? We don't have enough history behind him to know what his real effect shall be. But that's liberalism for you. We're the best because we say so. Yet remember that the Washingtons and Lincolns and, we'll say it, Reagans let their actions speak for them. Tooting your own horn emits but a sour note.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flags are too Nationalistic?

Germany plays Argentina this afternoon in a World Cup Soccer quarterfinal. The whole of Deutschland is plagued with Soccer fever in anticipation of the match. But if you fly your German flag in support of the national team, you may be an ubernationalist attempting to force your xenophobic feelings on the unwilling around you.

There are bars in Germany where they promise not to even display the nation's colors less someone find themselves in the midst of "patriotism, chauvinism, and colonialism", reports National Public Radio. One business owner has had his large German flag ripped down twice by leftist rather than right wingers. They have done so to protest that such displays are too much of a reminder of the country's past.

If we were talking about the World War II era swastika flags there could of course be no argument about impropriety. Yet how can the mere flying of a national flag, an act almost universally accepted as a show of love for and pride in your country, be offensive? Especially as the current one was not officially adopted until after World War I, and out of use during Hitler's reign, what type of extreme nationalism can it possibly imply?

Indeed, it appears at least vaguely schizophrenic, and arguably hypocritical, to shown up at a soccer event to root for your national team yet essentially pretend that the squad is not German. One non-flag bearing soccer fan opined that nationalism leads to racism, and that nationalism is 'easily sparked by many people being patriotic in one place'.

So if you unashamedly root for the German soccer team as the German soccer team you risk becoming a racist? Absurd. It is understandable that modern Germans may be skittish about their history, but it is just plain stupid to assume that the black-red-gold tricolor in some way symbolizes evil. Even merely potential evil.

Go Deutschland! It would be sweet now for Germany to win the World Cup simply so that the anti-flag crowd would be forced to endure the almost certain and incessant waving of the flag by the revelers who would celebrate such a victory. After all, even imperialist, xenophobic racists need to let loose occasionally. Still, if that happens, Poland had better watch out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kaganed Will Never be in Our Slang

The Senate hearings for the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court are plodding along, with nothing new or substantial to report. That's no surprise; unless she does or says something really stupid, or it turns out that she is in fact an axe murderer, she will be our next Justice. But one thing is for certain: her name will never be known in the way other nominees' nom de plumes have fell into parlance. Kagan or some derivative thereof shall never be a mock verb or adjective. Or worse, the object of the spiteful venom which other potentials were subjected to during their hearings.

She need not worry about facing the fate of the esteemed Robert Bork, shown the door by the Democratic controlled Senate of 1987 solely because he was the choice of Ronald Reagan and we hold the power now, thank yew very much. She shall not face accusers producing trumped up and sophomoric accusations in the manner Clarence Thomas was in 1991. Elena Kagan, though we hope will be grilled thoroughly by the Republicans on the committee, will not be the object of ridicule which Thomas and Bork were. That is because the Republicans will not stoop so low in trying to prevent her confirmation.

As we have conceded, it is virtually a done deal anyway. The cynics among us will claim that that is all which will prevent the GOP from going after her tooth and nail, pulling every lever and flinging every bit of mud they can. Perhaps; but we can't think of a Democratic nominee for anything who faced the trials which Bork and Thomas had. This is not to say that the Republicans are below employing legitimate parliamentary tools to fight for their cause. But a filibuster, should they attempt to use one against Kagan, is one thing. Trying to create dirt, or merely ignoring qualifications because they fail a political litmus test, is quite different. The GOP would not use raw power, nor create a pig sty of the nomination process, merely to make a point.

There are enough legitimate questions about Ms. Kagan, her lack of experience on the bench, for one, with which the loyal opposition can press her about. There are her actions as President of Hahvahd Law which may be spoken of without bringing her professional integrity into play. Either way, her name will never be regularly used in a derogatory fashion as today becomes history. She at least shall be respected where Bork and Thomas were not. That speaks volumes about the Democratic and Republican views of government.