Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"A Smorgasbord for Pedophiles"

Mark Earley, President of Prison Fellowship wrote "A 'Smorgasbord' for Pedophiles: The Allure of MySpace" on May 30, 2006. Some excerpts:

A few months ago, a 16-year old New York girl began exchanging messages with a stranger on the social networking site, MySpace. It was a tragic mistake. One day the stranger-- a 37-year-old man-- drove to where the girl had an after-school job and sexually assaulted her. How did he know where to find her? She had listed her place of work on her MySpace profile.

MySpace. It's a place for kids to go to escape parents-- and teenagers know it. So do sexual predators.

The body of another MySpace fan, a 14-year-old New Jersey girl, was found in a dumpster in Newark, strangled. In California, the body of a 15-year-old girl was found floating in an irrigation canal. Both girls had MySpace accounts, and police are investigating the possibility that they met their killers through it as well.

Clearly, kids do not realize the danger. According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 2,600 reports were made involving adults going online to lure minors. The center has received nearly three hundred complaints involving MySpace alone. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan says MySpace "creates a smorgasbord" for pedophiles.

Tragically, our kids make it all too easy for them often. Nearly 40 percent of American high school kids have posted their personal information online--information that allows predators to learn who they are, what they look like, where they live, and where they go to school. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, teenagers consider MySpace the way to communicate with friends; checking for messages, and receiving them, is part of a daily computer ritual. And they reveal a chillingly naive attitude about what they're doing. As one boy told the Post-Gazette, "I don't think it is so much of a worry . . . everyone posts pictures and puts their ages up. It's kind of like a rite of passage to have MySpace."

Obviously, some parents, largely out of naivete, are not doing a good enough job protecting their children. Children and even teenagers often lack common sense. Teenagers especially project the attitude that they are invincible and that no one would want to harm them anyway. These days, it is merely good parenting to explain to our kids just how easy it is for predators to piece together particulars about their lives from miscellaneous facts left scattered about. It is also a good idea to keep computers in the open and to know which sites one's children are viewing and to whom they are speaking on the net. After all, this isn't Mayberry.

Check out the link to the original article. There are fifteen additional links about this and related topics for parents who are safety-minded regarding their children.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

HB 422 Vote--Wed. Afternoon

A friend of mine forwarded this email to me. I'll share it with you here.

Dear Parent,
I am asking you to support House Bill 422 by contacting your state representative and state senator ASAP. The House Revenue and Finance Committee will have a hearing on this bill Wednesday, May 31 at 3:00 PM. HB 422 provides $750 per student per year in Delaware's public charter schools. Charter schools are the only public schools that do not receive this "bricks and mortar" funding. Charters must use operating funds to pay for capital expenses. Presently traditional public schools receive approximately $1410 per student annually.

Call, fax, or e-mail your state legislators to request their support for HB 422. If you do not know your elected officials you can go to and click on "state officials" on the left side of the home page. Select "Delaware". Click on "My Elected Officials" at the bottom of the page. Enter your street address and city. Your state senator and representative will be displayed at the bottom of the page.

Help us to eliminate this unfairness toward charter schools. Support HB 422.

Ronald R. Russo

Many of the charter schools are doing a terrific job of educating our kids in Delaware. Although harassing the charter schools seems good sport to many public school supporters, it is time to move passed the hard feelings and support these attempts to improve education in Delaware. There is no need for favoritism toward the status quo public schools by denying adequate funding for charters or for enmity between charters and regular public schools. After all, both have the same goals at heart--educating kids.

While some may think this bill benefits the Charter School of Wilmington, Mr. Russo, in fact, is seeking help on behalf of all the charters and by extention, all their students---flesh and blood kids. It would be a shame if the animosity seen a couple months ago in the letters to the editor page of the WNJ toward CSW was to extend to the other charter schools, causing hardship for all.

Update: PolitaKid has special interest in this issue and has further information on this topic here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Frivolous Late Term Abortions

A British site, Daily Mail, posted this story yesterday about late term abortions in the U.K (excerpts below):

The ethical storm over abortions has been renewed as it emerged that terminations are being carried out for minor, treatable birth defects.

Late terminations have been performed in recent years because the babies had club feet, official figures show. Other babies were destroyed because they had webbed fingers or extra digits. Such defects can often be corrected with a simple operation or physiotherapy.

The revelation sparked fears that abortion is increasingly being used to satisfy couples' desire for the 'perfect' baby.

A leading doctor said people were right to be 'totally shocked' that abortions were being carried out for such conditions. Campaigners warned we are turning into a society that can no longer tolerate imperfection.

Ethical groups fear parents are opting for abortions because they are not told of the support and help available if they continued with the pregnancy.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that between 1996 and 2004, 20 babies were aborted after 20 weeks because they had a club foot. It is one of the most common birth defects in Britain, affecting one in 1,000 babies each year. That means around 600 to 700 babies are born annually in the UK with the problem, which causes the feet to point downwards and in severe cases can cause a limp.

However it can be corrected without surgery using splints, plaster casts and boots. Naomi Davis, a leading paediatrician at Manchester Children's Hospital who specialists in correcting club feet, said: 'I think it is reasonable to be totally shocked that abortion is being offered for this. 'It is entirely treatable. I can only think it is lack of information.'

Figures also show that four babies were aborted since 1996 because they were found to have webbed fingers or extra digits, which can be sorted out with simply surgery.

Remarkable pictures recently have revealed how at just 23 weeks baby in the womb appears to smile, yawn and flinch in pain.

Read the rest of the story here.
The story continues, discussing babies being aborted for other minor ailments such as cleft palate.

This is occurring in the U.K. which has greater restrictions on abortion than the U.S. One wonders how many women here are being pressured by their own fears of the unknown because their baby might have a disability or even by their doctors to abort. This may be one reason why some doctors object to the constant prenatal testing that is expected these days. Often these tests are inconclusive yet generate a great deal of fear.

The U.S. today (and apparently the U.K., also) faces a schizophrenic-type conflict in values. On the one hand, laws are passed such as ADA to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against. Programs are designed to ensure that children with disabilities are educated properly. Support groups are founded to help parents of children with more serious handicaps. Technologies and surgery techniques are devised to improve the lives of the disabled. Now surgery can even be performed in utero for some conditions like spina bifida; recall the incredible photo by Michael Clancy? On the other hand, we tell the disabled by our desire to abort any late term baby that is less than perfect that if we had only known of their defect a little sooner, we'd have killed them right off.

Especially frightening was the fact that these abortions were for minor, correctable defects. None of these were for horrible problems.

That leads one to wonder about more serious handicaps. Do we abort the blind? Where would the world have been without the music of Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles? the works of John Milton? the teaching ability of Annie Sullivan? What about the deaf--do we abort them? Would the world have been better off without the swimming of Terence Parkin, the acting of Marlee Matlin, or the painting of Goya? What about Helen Keller who straddled both worlds--blind and deaf? What about the dyslexic, the hyperactive, those with spina bifida? The list is endless. In fact, a partial list of famous people with disabilities appears on

This story hits me hard. I have had friends and acquaintances with disabilities. I have known parents with handicapped children very well. Not one of the disabled people I have known wished they had never been born. The parents of handicapped children did not grieve that their child had come into the world. I, however, did know a woman who had been informed that her baby might have a minor disability and was consequently pressured by her husband and doctor to abort---she regretted her decision even years later.

As this post began with a quote, so will it end:
The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped.
~Hubert Humphrey

Hat tip to Paul Smith, Jr. for his post on this topic.

In Remembrance

"Posterity--you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."John Quincy Adams, 1838

Today we remember those who have given everything so that the cause of freedom could be furthered. We owe so much to the men and women who have fought for our country, and I fear that John Quincy Adams is right; we really don't comprehend how much our liberties have cost.

PolitaKid has pictures in remembrance of Delawareans who have died in Iraq.

Word around the Net has photos to remind us that freedom has never been free.

Paul Smith, Jr. has a link to the Hall of Heroes.

Armstrong Williams has an essay: Recipe for Celebrating Memorial Day

Thanks, guys.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

C. Taylor Examines Bias- Pt. 1

Yesterday, Christopher Taylor of Word around the Net posted the first in a series of essays on media bias---what it is and what it isn't. Always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Taylor looks at media error in this installment: "Genuine Bias- The Mistake". Trip on over to Salem, Oregon this morning while I take a break and enjoy my family. See you tomorrow, and have a great day.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Crime and Consequences: Another Sad Story

This just makes me sad.

Two students have been charged with giving a high school's employees marijuana-spiked muffins in a senior prank that sent 18 people to the hospital and triggered an FBI and terrorism investigation.

"I had no idea of the scope of my actions," Ian Walker, 18, said Friday, a day after he and friend Joseph Tellini surrendered to police. They could receive 10 years in prison or more if convicted of felony charges.

When Lake Highlands High School employees ate the muffins, they began complaining of nausea, lightheadedness and headaches. Most of those sickened were quickly treated and released, but Rita Greenfield, an 86-year-old receptionist, spent two days in the hospital.

Walker, an honors student at a nearby Catholic school, and Tellini, 18, were each charged with five felony counts of assault on a public servant, each of which carries penalties of two to 10 years in prison.

"It was juvenile and stupid, and believe it or not, I thought I was only participating in a senior prank," Walker said.

This quote is from FoxNews. The entire story can be accessed here.

Why am I sad? Because I think these boys are going to go away for a long, long time, and I just don't feel in my gut that they are evil people. I think they behaved badly and foolishly, but I don't think they are evil.

Violent crime is different. Even two year olds feel empathy and will try to comfort someone who is crying or hurt by patting them. The behavior is not consistent, but by the time children are big enough to do actual harm to another, they usually know that if someone is crying or screaming in pain, something is wrong, and if they have inadvertently caused that pain, that they should apologize and try to rectify the situation. I don't get how anyone can find pleasure in beating, raping, or killing another human being. You know what? I don't want to get it either.

These boys did cause harm to others for whom we certainly hurt. They obtained illegal substances, no less, to do it. They should have known better. But I believe them. I think they really did not understand the scope of their actions and that they really thought it was just a silly prank. They didn't think it through, and now their behaviors have led to far-reaching consequences over which they have no control, and their lives are in ruin. What a waste.

I hope that other young people hearing this story (okay, all of us) will make a mental note to think through their actions before committing them, concentrating on all the possible ramifications, because we really don't want to see more lives destroyed before they've even begun.

Related post: "Life Lessons from the Holt Affair" (my very first one!)

Appreciation for Readers

Wow! What an interesting week it's been around here. I knew there were people coming by for a while now, but only rarely did I know what you all thought. Something changed this week; I'm not sure what. Maybe suddenly I hit a nerve. Or maybe it's just that the day before fingers started flying across keyboards, I had posted a story called "Let Us Argue" about McCain's speech and you, my readers, took the exhortation quite seriously.

What has impressed me most has been the high quality of readership and commenters on this site. Sadly, it is not so everywhere. On some other sites, people curse, name-call, and use inflammatory statements designed to cause someone to lash out. I don't know if those people are just rude in general or if the anonymity and lack of face to face contact causes people to forget that they are responding to a real human being and not merely to words on a screen. That's not been the case here, though. Have we disagreed? Oh, yes. With so many voices in the world, how could we not? But we've maintained civility. We've discussed our points of disagreement rather than vilifying each other. In the process, I think maybe we've even learned from each other or at least saw a situation through another's eyes. At least, I can speak for myself and say that even when I've not agreed with some of the comments, they've made me stop and think. That's a good thing, right?

In short, I think I have some of the classiest readership around. Thanks; you're the best.

Friday, May 26, 2006

UN Endangers American Homeschoolers' Rights

Yet another danger to the liberty of parents has appeared on the horizon. After fighting in the courts for over twenty years for the right of citizens of the United States to homeschool, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) warns that even though the U.S. has never ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, its provisions could still be binding on the U.S. "How is this possible?" one may ask---because of activist judges.

Below is the majority of the story as it appeared in LifeSiteNews:

According to a new "interpretation" of what is known as "customary international law," some U.S. judges have ruled that, even though the U.S. Senate and President have never ratified the Convention, it is still binding on American parents. "In the 2002 case of Beharry v. Reno, one federal court said that even though the Convention was never ratified, it still has an 'impact on American law'," Farris explained. "The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence."

Under the Convention, severe limitations are placed on a parent's right to direct and train their children. As explained in a 1993 Home School Court Report by the HSLDA, under Article 13, parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deemed unacceptable. Under Article 14, children are guaranteed "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" - in other words, children have a legal right to object to all religious training. And under Article 15, the child has a right to "freedom of association." "If this measure were to be taken seriously, parents could be prevented from forbidding their child to associate with people deemed to be objectionable companions," the HSLDA report explained.

Farris explains that, in 1995, "the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance" with the Convention "because it allowed parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes without consulting the child". Farris argues that, "by the same reasoning, parents would be denied the ability to homeschool their children unless the government first talked with their children and the government decided what was best. This committee would even have the right to determine what religious teaching, if any, served the child's best interest."

Farris suggests that there are several solutions to the dangers presented by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for Americans. "First, Congress has the power to define customary international law. It also has the power to modify the jurisdiction of federal courts. Congress needs to address this issue of judicial tyranny by enacting legislation that limits the definition of customary international law to include only provisions of treaties that Congress has ratified."

"Second, Congress could pass an amendment to the Constitution, stating explicitly that no provision of any international agreement can supersede the constitutional rights of an American citizen. Two such amendments have been proposed in Congress, but neither was ratified."

"Third, the specific threat to parental rights can be solved by putting a clear parents' rights amendment into the black and white text of the United States Constitution."

In countries like the UK and Canada, which have already ratified the Convention, it is less clear what measures can be adopted, although similar measures are likely possible.

The first paragrah of that quote chills the soul. How can U.S. courts get away with subverting the sovereignty of this nation? This kind of activism was, in fact, the most nauseating aspect of the Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas decision of 2003. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited decisions made by the British Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights as justification for striking down a Texas law. Hello?! The U.S. is sovereign; we are not under European law!

Of course, children have the right to be free from physical abuse. However, the right to raise one's children according to the dictates of one's own conscience is foundational to true freedom. Children lack both the intellectual capacity and the wisdom their parents have gained over decades. The beauty of families is their unique ability to shape children into competent adults. While schools may help in this process, even the best public institutions cannot touch the socialization and education that occurs almost by osmosis in an adequate family. Although the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recognizes that women are "wise" enough to decide whether or not their babies in utero are worthy of life, women apparently do not possess the requisite wisdom to make educational decisions for even the youngest of their offspring, according to the UN.

This is ludicrous. Many children and teenagers believe their parents are unfair and dislike their rules. Yet when they become full-fledged adults with families of their own, they come to appreciate those parental diktats that had previously left them railing against the "injustices" they had suffered. Now the UN gives the right to children to decide how they are educated? Even in the U.S.? How is that accomplished? Do bureaucrats with no intimate knowledge of and relationship with the child waltz into a homeschool family's abode and sit a little six year old down to discuss how he feels about being stuck at home while other little boys and girls are playing with lots of children on the playground and doing neat art projects? One can see how easily a government agent with an agenda could manipulate a child into saying he dislikes homeschooling and would prefer public education.

Courts of the United States, do not treasonously betray our sovereignty! Congress, it's long past time to remind the judiciary that it is not the strongest branch of this government and was never meant to be.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Gore on the Importance of Over-representation of "Fact"

Here is a quote that appeared on Right Wing News which originally came from National Review Online: The Corner.

"In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous (global warming) is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis." -- Al Gore

Just in case you missed it (and because it's just too darn good not to repeat): "Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous (global warming) is". (Emphasis mine).

So it's okay to over-represent (read: lie about) any" factual presentations" to get what you want, mass hysteria over what arguably may not be a problem at all. What happened to good science with verifiable data and reasonable discussions over actual issues in an attempt to discover the truth?

Asides: A great read which is based on serious research is State of Fear by Michael Crichton. Of special interest is the appendix that highlights the research on global warming.

Also, if you click on the Right Wing News link, you can access the full discussion, some of it just fun, other parts of it containing factual information that may be valuable.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On "The Party of Death"

Dr. Mike Adams recently commented on The Party of Death by Ramesh Ponnuruat at (I gotta get this book!)

Below is an excerpt from The Party of Death courtesy of Adams in which Senators Santorum and Boxer "discuss" the rights of a baby and when they begin:

Santorum: Do you agree any child who is born has the right to life?

Boxer: I agree with the Roe v. Wade decision, and what you are doing goes against it and will harm the women of this country.

Santorum: But I would like to ask you this question. You agree, once a child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?

Boxer: I think when you bring your baby home … the baby belongs to your family and has all the rights …

Santorum: You said "once the baby comes home." Obviously, you don’t mean they have to take the baby out of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is … completely separated from the mother, you would agree that baby is entitled to constitutional protection?

Boxer: I will tell you why I don’t want to engage in this. You did the same conversation with a colleague of mine, and I never saw such a twisting of his remarks.

Santorum: Let’s say the baby is completely separated; in other words, no part of the baby is inside of the mother.

Boxer: You mean the baby has been birthed and is now in the mother’s arms? It is a human being? … I would say when the baby is born, the baby is born and would then have every right of every other human being living in this country, and I don’t know why this would even be a question.

Santorum: Because we are talking about a situation here where the baby is almost born. So I ask the question of the senator from California, if the baby was born except for the baby’s foot, if the baby’s foot was inside the mother but the rest of the baby was outside, could that baby be killed?

Boxer: The baby is born when the baby is born. That is the answer to the question...

Unbelievable. Why does Boxer sound just like a politician? Oops. That's right; she is one.

Is it just me or should such a simple question receive a simple answer? That Boxer couldn't answer it without giving away her agenda, well, gives away her agenda.

So how do people like her get portrayed in the MSM as kind, compassionate, and in the little guy's corner (just not that little, I guess) , while more principled people who think American citizens are entitled to the rights of American citizens no matter how small get painted as meanies? Just wondering.

Hey, Paul, can I borrow your copy when you're finished?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Coming Societal Trainwreck

A societal trainwreck is coming. Soon. On one train is our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. On the other is gay marriage.

Already, there has been a casualty---Catholic Charities of Boston.

"Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies, had long specialized in finding good homes for hard to place kids," says Maggie Gallagher, author of "The Coming Conflict between Same-sex Marriage and Religious Liberty". However, Catholic Charities in Boston is now out of the adoption business.

Why? Massachusetts's court mandated gay-marriage.

[I]n November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered gay marriage. The majority ruled that only animus against gay people could explain why anyone would want to treat opposite-sex and same-sex couples differently.

To operate in Massachusetts, an adoption agency must be licensed by the state. And to get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination--including the decade-old ban on orientation discrimination. With the legalization of gay marriage in the state, discrimination against same-sex couples would be outlawed, too...Ron Madnick, president of the Massachusetts chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, [claimed]: "Even if Catholic Charities ceased receiving tax support and gave up its role as a state contractor, it still could not refuse to place children with same-sex couples."

[T]he Becket Fund [a religious liberty law firm which defends any faith group] brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Picarello [of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty] summarizes: "All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming."

These are not necessarily scholars who oppose gay marriage...the scholars who favor gay marriage found it relatively easy to foresee looming legal pressures on faith-based organizations opposed to gay marriage.
Of course in principle, people's right to free speech, our most cherished liberty, will not be infringed upon. At least, that's the theory. In reality,
People who favor gay rights face no penalty for speaking their views, but can inflict a risk of litigation, investigation, and formal and informal career penalties on others whose views they dislike. Meanwhile, people who think gay marriage is wrong cannot know for sure where the line is now or where it will be redrawn in the near future. "Soft" coercion produces no martyrs to disturb anyone's conscience, yet it is highly effective in chilling the speech of ordinary people.
The churches themselves might have a First Amendment defense if a state government or state courts tried to withdraw their exemption, ... but "the
para-church institutions are very much at risk and may be put out of business because of the licensing issues, or for these other reasons--it's very unclear. None of us nonprofits can function without [state] tax exemption. As a practical matter, any large charity needs that real estate tax exemption."

There are already examples of this kind of church-state conflict from recent history.

[Robin] Wilson predicts "a concerted effort to take same-sex marriage from a negative right to be free of state interference to a positive entitlement to assistance by others. Although Roe and Griswold established only the right to noninterference by the state in a woman's abortion and contraceptive decisions, family planning advocates have worked strenuously to force individual institutions to provide controversial services, and to force individual health care providers to participate in them."

"This litigation after Roe," she says, "provides a convincing prediction about the trajectory that litigation after Goodridge will take" (Goodridge being the Massachusetts supreme court decision that legalized gay marriage). The post-Roe litigation also provides fair warning about the limits of First Amendment protection. The lever used to force hospitals and doctors to perform abortions and sterilizations was the receipt of any public money. "Given the status of most churches as state
nonprofits and federally tax-exempt organizations, it is likely that public support arguments will be advanced to compel churches to participate in same-sex marriage. Thus, churches in Massachusetts (and perhaps soon other states) may have much to worry about," Wilson writes. "Churches that oppose same-sex marriage today may perceive a credible, palpable threat to their tax-exempt status, the benefits of which are substantial."
Access the complete story here.

Personally, I don't care much what people do in their private lives. Big people can make big people decisions. I have no desire to regulate whether people smoke their lungs out, drink their livers into cirrhosis, smash their heads because they failed to where a seatbelt in their cars or a helmet on a motorcycle, or whatever. I have no interest in going into people's bedrooms to regulate their behavior there either.

However, society as a whole will lose out if religious people and groups lose their churches and organizations because of this growing conflict. Religious schools could be forced to close down if they choose not to bow to the government. Many parents, both religious and non-religious, have depended on religious schools to educate their young. They would lose out. What about religious camps, retreats, shelters, and community centers? Any facility that courts deem a place of public accommodation could be in danger of lawsuit and might be forced to close. The public will again be the big losers in such cases. The para-church organizations are among the first to arrive in disaster hit areas such as in Louisiana after Katrina. Many of these organizations may no longer exist once demands by the state are made upon them. Even casual speech in the workplace could be stifled as corporate lawyers seek to suppress simple self-expression for fear of lawsuits.

In a world in which a simple Quaker librarian from Ohio State can be accused of sexual harassment for suggesting conservative books like, "It Takes a Family" for a freshman reading list, the chill could affect everyone.

As we argue over where our culture should go and what our rights actually are, let's be careful not to damage the most valuable rights we have. The first amendment is first for a reason. The people who founded this nation knew that before all else the free exercise of American's religious beliefs, their freedom of speech, and their right to peaceably assemble was tantamount to true liberty. These are crucial rights to preserve.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thoughts on "Let Us Argue"

While I am not always a huge fan of Senator John McCain due to some political differences, I have to admit that he gave a fine commencement address at the New School in New York on Friday, May 19, 2006. It's worth quoting:
But spare a moment for those who have truly attended you so well for so long, and whose pride in your accomplishments is even greater than your own--your parents. When the world was looking elsewhere, your parents' attention was one of life's certainties. So, as I commend you, I offer equal praise to your parents for the sacrifices they made for you, for their confidence in you, and their love. More than any other influence in your lives, they have helped make you the success you are today and might become tomorrow.
I can picture myself beaming over a paragraph like this one a few years from now.

Ours is a noisy, contentious society, and always has been, for we love our liberties much. And among those liberties we love most, particularly so when we are young, is our right to self-expression. That passion for self-expression sometimes overwhelms our civility, and our presumption that those with whom we have strong disagreements, wrong as they might be, believe that they, too, are answering the demands of their conscience.

All their resistance to my brilliantly conceived and cogently argued views proved was that they possessed an inferior intellect and a weaker character than God had blessed me with, and I felt it was my clear duty to so inform them. It's a pity that there wasn't a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.

It's funny, now, how less self-assured I feel late in life than I did when I lived in perpetual springtime.

I, too, was much more sure of myself and of my own wisdom when I was young. Now I find myself amazed by everyone else around me and have a greater sense of my own inability. Sometimes I do miss the arrogance of my youth when I lived in a state of perpetual certainty about everything. Regardless, I definitely related to that section of his speech. Unfortunately, it was probably the parents that really "got it" and not the students to whom it was directed.

We have our disagreements, we Americans. We contend regularly and enthusiastically over many questions: over the size and purposes of our government; over the social responsibilities we accept in accord with the dictates of our conscience and our faithfulness to the God we pray to; over our role in the world and how to defend our security interests and values in places where they are threatened. These are important questions; worth arguing about.

We should contend over them with one another. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in. It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation.

Our country doesn't depend on the heroism of every citizen. But all of us should be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf.

Yes, we do disagree on many issues, and they do need to be debated. I do object to the attempts to shut people up because their voices are somehow "inferior". While I am sure several groups feel this way, there seems to be a real attempt to silence the religious who are somehow the only ones bringing their values and beliefs to bear upon their political views. This is ludicrous. We all bring our values and beliefs, our worldviews if you will, to bear upon our politics and all our decisions, for that matter. How could we not?

Of special significance to me was the statement: "But all of us should be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf. " Perhaps if each of us were truly living out our lives in a manner that made us worth sacrificing for instead of living with a "me-me-me" attitude then some of the conflicts in the nation might subside. It's just a thought. I would, in any event, like to believe that I have lived in such a way as to make my friends and acquaintances that have served in the military feel I was someone worth their efforts and sacrifices and that I have given at least a little more back to the world than I took from it. At least, that's what I hope.

The speech continued on and spoke about the war in Iraq among other things. If you get the chance, it might be worth a perusal. I hope the students in the audience actually listened, unlike at most commencement exercises, and I hope they were inspired. I know I was.

This commencement address was re-printed in the Wall Street Journal- Opinion Journal and was entitled, "Let Us Argue".

Worthy New Blog: Word around the Net

In my travels around the blogosphere, I encountered a new blog, Word around the Net. Check it out as you have opportunity. Of special interest is a post from Saturday, "I Want My Rights". This blogger argued eloquently on some of the current controversies of our day. It is a tad lengthy, but definitely worth the read as he brings perspective to the debate. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tri-State Home School Brings Home Medals

The Tri-State Home School Science Olympiad team headed out to Indiana this past week to compete at the national level, the actual competition being held on Saturday, May 20. The team will be bringing home medals for two events: Storming the Castle and Mission Possible.

In Storming the Castle, students built a small trebuchet, a form of medieval seige equipment, that could fit within an area 1 meter square to propel a projectile such as a small ball some distance and hit a target. In previous years, hacky sacks have been used. This year a racket ball was the projectile. TSHS placed first in this event, a gold medal, for a 27 meter throw and two 28 meter throws.

Mission Possible required students to build a Rube Goldberg-type contraption to perform some specified task, utilizing the six simple machines---lever, pulley, screw, gear, inclined plane, and wheel and axle. This year, students had to drop a tennis ball onto a first class lever and make use of at least sixteen other simple machines before their contraption performed the final operation which was to unravel a roll of toilet paper from between twenty-five to thirty-five centimeters. There was also a mandatory time restriction which was announced shortly before students dropped their tennis ball. Students were allowed a brief interval so any necessary adjustments could be made. TSHS received a fifth place medal for this event.

Also of note, during the opening ceremonies on Friday, one of the TSHS team members received a Sallie Mae Scholarship for correctly answering the most questions on a science test.

Congratulations, Tri-State Home School. Keep up the good work. You make homeschoolers and Delawareans proud.

For further information about TSHS, see previous article, "DE's TSHS Science Olympiad Team" posted on Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

He's Such a Guy

One evening at dinner recently, my husband asked what our son was studying in English class these days. I chipped in that the class was studying poetry again.

Mr. Venger then asked him his impressions of the poetry unit. Our son replied disdainfully, "Poetry is all about feeeeel-ings---Which I have no use for."

I swear I did not raise him that way...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ban on Off-Shore Drilling Upheld

The House voted late yesterday on whether or not to continue the ban on off-shore drilling for natural gas/oil. From AP:
The House late Thursday rejected an attempt to end the quarter-century ban on oil and natural gas drilling that has been in effect for 85 percent of the country's coastal waters from Alaska to New England despite arguments that new supplies are needed to lower energy costs.

The fight to open the waters off both coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico to energy companies - at least for natural gas - was led by Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa.

The vote on Peterson's measure broke primarily on geographic lines, not party lines, with representatives of coastal regions wishing to uphold the ban while representatives of interior states leaned toward lifting the ban.

So Congress has no desire to produce more energy domestically, yet it continues to rail against the oil industry for the current upward trends in energy costs. Where's the plan, guys? Shooting down every serious attempt to gain some energy independence for the U.S. does not qualify as one. Sorry.

Fallen Soldier Laid to Rest

Today Delaware grieves the loss of a soldier, PFC. Stephen P. Snowberger III. Services are to be held at Beeson Funeral Home this morning, May 19, 2006, with a public viewing from 10:00-12:00. Internment will be private.

For any who wish to attend, Beeson Funeral Home is located at 2053 Pulaski Hwy. (rt.40) in Newark, De.

The Patriot Guard Riders will also be in attendance to honor PFC. Stephen P. Snowberger III.

May God grant his family a measure of comfort and peace as he is laid to rest.

hat tip: Anonymous Opinion

Government Grabs at Google

In the Salt Lake Tribune, David Boaz of Cato Institute describes the government grab at Google in "Parasite Eonomy Latches onto New Host"

The U.S. government needs to keep its grubby little hands off Google. The time, energy, and money that Google will need to spend to defend itself will only add to their costs of doing business which can't be good for the public and will slow down development of new ideas that could benefit us all.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Women Face Greater Risks of Addiction

A new study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University demonstrates that women "pound for pound, not only get drunk or high faster then [sic] men, but also become addicted more easily."

In the past, males figured predominately in the substance abuse statistics. "But now the gender gap is closing. More than 20 million girls and women in the United States abuse drugs and alcohol, and 30 million more are addicted to cigarettes." Among the teenage population, girls are rivaling boys in experimentation.

"Susan Foster, CASA's director of policy research and analysis, who directed the research" asserts that "each single drink hits a woman like a double."

Also from the FoxNews story (from which all quotes have been taken):
A woman's body contains less water and more fatty tissue-- which increases
alcohol absorption-- compared to a male body. And women have a lower activity
level of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which breaks down alcohol.

Similar biological factors are at work in metabolizing illicit drugs.

The risk of addiction to alcohol and drugs, including nicotine, is approximately doubled as well. The reason may be hormonal or psychological, according to ongoing
research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Personally, I don't believe they will find psychological determinants to factor heavily in greater and quicker addiction rates. Women and men are so significantly different from one another in subtle body chemistry that this could easily be the reason for these discrepancies.

Although the fact that women pound for pound become drunk more easily than men has been known for a while, the higher risk of addiction to nicotine and other drugs is a new revelation. Perhaps it's time to sit down with our daughters and explain to them the greater risks they face from yet another source. But then to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and such information is crucial to our well-being.

Quite possibly one of the loony ladies' leagues is preparing to decry this study as foul, unfair, and baseless. I wait with bated breath. Nevertheless, facts are facts, and one may as well go to the nearest brick wall, remove one's shoes and attempt to kick it down as to try to alter facts of nature.

You can be sure I will show my daughter this news article and discuss it with her shortly so she too can be forewarned.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Movie Critics Pan "The Da Vinci Code"

Ouch! The much touted The Da Vinci Code movie has received reviews ranging from ho-hum to derision from critics at the Cannes Film Festival. Some excerpts from the FoxNews story:

While readers worldwide devoured the novel, reaction from Cannes critics ranged from mild endorsement of its potboiler suspense to groans of ridicule over its heavy melodrama.

The Cannes audience clearly grew restless as the movie dragged on to two and a half hours and spun a long sequence of anticlimactic revelations.

"I kept thinking of the Energizer Bunny, because it kept going and going and going, and not in a good way," said James Rocchi, a film critic for CBS 5 television in San Francisco and the online outlet Cinematical. "Ron Howard makes handsome films. He doesn't make bad ones, but he doesn't make great ones."

One especially melodramatic line uttered by Hanks drew prolonged laughter and some catcalls, and the audience continued to titter for much of the film's remainder.
Tough crowd.

Well, that clinches it for me. Mr. Venger had wanted to go see it, but now I think I'll pass---he can take me to dinner instead. Maybe I'll see it on DVD, preferably a borrowed one.

FYI, some links regarding The Da Vinci Code:

Four from Father Jonathan: here, here, here, and here.
Paul Smith, Jr. also has a list of links.

Discovery Program Debunks Da Vinci Code

On Sunday evening (May 14), Discovery aired several programs regarding the da Vinci code. "The Real Da Vinci Code: Episodes 1 and 2" was one of these, and it did a very professional job of describing the "points" made in Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, and then tracking down the true history behind the claims, detective style.

One claim in Brown's fictional tale is that Jesus was married to Mary of Magdala and that He sired offspring through her whose bloodline continues to this day. Obviously, this is no where substantiated in the New Testament, but what about in the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi? Experts on these texts were interviewed. The text that comes closest to describing a physical relationship between Jesus and Mary is the "Gospel of Philip", written in the second half of the third century (far later than any texts the Church could accept as inspired). Apparently, even this text is highly problematic. It reads, "And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to ] kiss her [often] on her [...]." Brackets indicate broken parts of text. Filled brackets indicate logical, scholarly guesses of what probably belonged there based on the size of the gap and context. Empty brackets are a bit more up for grabs. The historians most familiar with this text said that this passage in no way indicates that Jesus and Mary were married. It does not even connote a sexual or romantic relationship between the two as we have no idea where He supposedly kissed her (head, forehead, cheek, nose, mouth, hand). Some scholars pointed out that even if it were on the mouth, that was not an uncommon way to greet one another in that time period and would not indicate a sexual union.

Also countered was the holy grail/holy blood connection. A historian discussed the origins of this point. Eerily, san greal (meaning holy grail) is very close to sang real (holy blood). It turns out that historians know exactly when this change first took place. A couple hundred years ago or so, a lazy copyist wrote "sang real" instead of the original "san greal". Therefore, there are no texts which accurately demonstrate that the missing "holy grail" is really the bloodline of Jesus and Mary.

Another point which was investigated was the claim that a priest in France suddenly became rich because he happened upon a great secret which has been hidden from the masses all this time. Once again, nope. This story was actually fabricated within the last generation or so by a self-serving soul.

Bottom line, there is no historical reason to believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were either married or lovers.

Regardless, the faith of billions would not be shattered even if Jesus did have descendants. This simply has no bearing on the work He came to do. However, since people everywhere are now questioning this historical point as though there has been some conspiratorial cover-up, it seemed worth mentioning. Also, since this marriage and subsequent pro-creation of a holy blood line was one of the major "discoveries" in Brown's mystery and has since been debunked, the rest of his claims of historicity are in question (and have been discredited elsewhere, as I understand it).

Other points were examined, too, in "The Real Da Vinci Code: Episodes 1 and 2". For example, experts on Leonardo da Vinci have refuted the claims that he was part of a secret society and that he placed messages in his artwork. Keep checking the Discovery site to see if these programs will be re-shown (no re-showings are listed for this week, unfortunately). They are worth watching.

Rumor has it that Brown's book is a good read. Maybe I'll get around to it one day, but I have already exhausted this year's quota of fiction intake reading Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, previously reviewed on this site. What I do know is that historical fiction should be thoroughly researched and grounded in as much fact as possible to maintain its integrity, and as a lover and perpetual student of history, I insist upon it. Apparently, as seen in the Discovery channel investigation, Brown's work does not pass this test. What a shame, as I hear he is an excellent storyteller. And what's even more a shame is that the general public doesn't seem to know his work is not properly anchored and are spouting fiction as though it were fact.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Feminism Gone Nuts

At Bucknell University, we see another example of feminism gone nuts. Dr. Mike Adams describes the situation:

On March 8, Bucknell's so-called Feminist Majority - along with groups like
the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Center for the Study of Race,
Gender, and Ethnicity, and the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Awareness - paid $1,920 for a strip show at Bucknell.

Billed as a "celebration of whore culture" the show was euphemistically titled the "Sex Workers Art Show." It featured a group of hookers, phone sex operators, smut writers, porn stars, and one woman who appeared via her 24-hour porn website.

Yeesh. Take it to a strip club.

The campus's Conservatives Club was understandably vexed. However, more maddening was the response of Bucknell’s Women and Gender Studies Department to the Conservatives Club's previous overtures of joint sponsorship of a talk by Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism?

From: (a member of Women's Studies faculty)

Subject: Re: BUCC Speakers 2004-2005

Dear Dominic,
The reasons behind our not wishing to co-sponsor the Hoff Sommers event are not only financial. Several of the members of the Board had serious concerns about the intellectual integrity of her work and did not think that the Program should endorse her talk.

Maybe we can work together in the future to find speakers we would both agree on.

(name withheld)

Since when do hookers and phone sex operators have more intellectual integrity than a well-recognized, New York Times best selling author with a PhD? Can there ever be agreement between campus conservatives who seek principled, serious, and educated speakers and a women's studies department gone off the rails, promoting the objectification of women? Sure. When little devils go ice skating right outside their front doors.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Illegals, Tuberculosis, and Public Health

One concern often overlooked by pro-illegal alien supporters is public health and safety. When most immigrants were coming to the U.S. via Ellis Island, it was routine to medically examine all applicants for entry into the country for infectious disease. Those who were a health risk to the general population were refused admittance. After all, our citizens depend upon our government to promote our welfare.

Illegal aliens can bring with them diseases that we had all but eradicated from our domain. Virulent stains of tuberculosis are making a comeback in our nation, for example. Some of these strains are resistant to antibiotics, and spread easily. My doctor told me that a teacher had tested positive recently, having caught tuberculosis from one of her students.

Illegal immigrants have no health insurance and no means to pay for services. Hospitals are loathe to send someone in need away, so they often end up providing services for free. Of course, nothing is ever really free. Services are only free to the one receiving the service. Someone else pays. That's something to think about when we complain about the high costs of medical care. Those hospitals that cannot make up for the financial losses with the help of paying customers have been going bankrupt and closing, making it harder for people in some areas to obtain appropriate care.

In the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Katrina S. Firlik describes an experience with an illegal immigrant with an advanced case of a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis in Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. Not only did this man have the disease, requiring an extensive hospital stay, strong and expensive drugs, and a risky operation, but all his friends and family tested positive for TB. They were all working in the food service industry there in town.

Hospitals closing, school children exposed to harmful, possibly incurable diseases, healthcare costs skyrocketing for taxpayers and average citizens---all this and more are outcomes of our failed border control. Maybe if we think hard about what it would mean to experience a return to the sanitariums of the past where tuberculosis patients were housed until they died to keep the rest of the population in relative safety, the whole issue of illegals coming into our nation with no background checks or medical examinations would become crystal clear. We must secure our borders. We cannot afford not to.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Other United 93 Reviews

Be sure to check out the other DCBA members' reviews of United 93.

Other DCBA reviews:
Anonymous Opinion
Jokers to the Right
Paul Smith, Jr.

What a terrific group of people!

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

United 93

A group of friends and I saw United 93 last night. What a powerful movie! Hollywood actually got it right. United 93 was tremendously well-researched and well-presented. From the depictions of the pre-murder rituals of the terrorists to some of the very men and women from air traffic control and the military replaying that horrible day to the re-creation of furtive phone calls of passengers of United 93, accuracy was the name of the game.

I was most impressed with how down-to-earth the passengers were. Phone calls in the airport to loved ones reminded me how ordinary these men and women were---"ordinary" in the best sense of the word. They were decent people--- moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters--- who loved their families and just wanted to go home. They had no clue that they would never make it, that there were men who wanted to kill them that day and use them as weapons for no other reason than because they were Americans.

As the plot unfolded, the surprise of the air traffic controllers and the military was portrayed naturally. They had not seen a hijacking for years, and the events of 9/11 were so truly unprecedented that it took them some time to piece it all together, even though they were right on top of the situation the whole time. They were shocked but professional as they sought to minimize the damage to our nation and our people.

The passengers of United 93 were equally stunned by the sudden attack on passengers, a stewardess, and the commandeering of the plane. At first, they were powerless through fear and self-preservation. Of course, they assumed that this was an normal hijacking, as if a hijacking could be normal. They supposed that most everyone would be alright after the initial violence was over. Most hijacking victims, after all, eventually make it home safely. Bravely, they snuck phone calls home and slowly pieced together what was actually happening that morning in our nation. They realized that they were not going to live through this ordeal and worse, would be weaponized against other Americans. Gradually, a plan emerged to attempt to take back the plane from those wicked men.

My own emotions were so varied that it is difficult to sort them out. Primarily, I felt anger, deep anger, that wicked, evil men sought to take the lives of ordinary, decent Americans no different from myself and my loved ones. The fact that twisted souls seek to justify themselves and can warp their logic so greatly as to think that God would approve of their murderous rampages infuriates me, but then evil always does. I have known villainous souls who felt utterly justified in dehumanizing others and using them for their own pleasure and purposes, and I have never been able to wrap my mind around a desire to hurt others, save in self-defense.

Also, empathy flooded my soul as I watched the final phone calls of my fellow Americans who, knowing they would probably die soon, wanted nothing more than a moment to tell their families how very much they loved them. Their last moments were absorbed in this love and the pain of knowing they would not be with their people again this side of heaven.

Lastly, pride was a predominant feeling---pride in the men and women who refused to be mere victims and to go out without a fight. Stewardesses and other women sought to help the dying and to find potential weapons. Men worked a plan to overtake the terrorists and take back the plane. Unlike the typical Hollywood flick, there was no one hero, ready and able to single-handedly vanquish the bad guys. Instead, there was a concerted effort amongst brave men and women willing to work together and do whatever it took to overcome the terrorists. Yes, I was proud, proud of my courageous fellow Americans who determined to be the good who refuse to let evil succeed by doing nothing.

The Americans who lost their lives on 9/11 deserve to be honored and remembered by the rest of us. Hollywood has done an excellent job this time of commemorating the innocent men and women who died that day. We too can show our respect for them by seeing this film and by determining in our hearts that we will never forget them or 9/11.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Reminder: Delaware Attractions for Free--Saturday

A friendly reminder:

On Saturday, May 13, 2006, there will be free admission for Delaware residents to over forty Delaware attractions. Click here and then click on "free to the first state" for more details.

Unfortunately, I have children going in opposite directions all day on Saturday, so we will not be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Hope some of the rest of you can.

Allegations of Chinese Organ Harvesting

Some Canadians are alleging disturbing human rights violations in China. Excerpts from "Canadians Probe China 'organ harvesting' Allegations" below:
Former MP David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas are to investigate allegations that China has been executing Falun Gong prisoners in order to harvest and sell their vital organs...Most of the allegations come from the spiritual movement Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), which has a substantial following in Canada, but has been banned in China since 1999...[David Matas] said if the allegations were true, "there would have been thousands of people killed for their religious convictions."..."Given China's record on human rights abuses we have a duty to take these allegations seriously," [MP Rahim Jaffer] said. "This investigation is the first step in putting all the facts on the table."

Widespread allegations into organ harvesting have persisted for several years -- including from international human rights groups. Reports suggest that the speed of matching donors and patients -- which are matched sometimes as quickly as a week -- implied prisoners were being selected before execution. ..But Chinese health officials insisted publicly last month that organs from executed prisoners were only used with prior permission and only then very rarely.

Hopefully, these allegations will be found false. However, the Chinese government has forbidden women from the largest ethnic groups in the country to have more than one child and then has monitored women's menstrual cycles and forcibly restrained pregnant women while ripping babies from their wombs. Furthermore, Chinese officials have been persecuting religious people---arresting, beating, torturing, imprisoning, and sometimes even killing them---for years. A government that is capable of all this and more can't be trusted to care much about the lives and organs of prisoners.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Women Judge Testosterone Levels and Child-friendliness by the Face

Here's a rather interesting story. Apparently women can judge whether a man has a high testosterone level or if he will be good with children just by looking at him. If a woman is merely interested in a fling, she will tend to choose the guy with loads of testosterone, but if she is interested in settling down and starting a family, she'll go for the child-friendly variety. Read the whole story here.

What I want to know is---are high levels of testosterone and child-friendliness necessarily mutually exclusive?

D.C. and the National Anthem

Spanish lyrics to the National Anthem have a lot of people miffed. But apparently over 60% of legal Americans do not even know the words in English. It gets worse. Even some of our politicians in D.C. don't know the lyrics. Check out ABC's Nightline Online, "Oh, Say Can You Sing?" for the full video clip, complete with singing fish, chiropractors, tourists and politicians.

A Matter of Perspective

Imagine waking up in the morning, turning on the news, and hearing, "There's been another '6 murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault' since yesterday morning. More foreigners have snuck across the borders illegally, and the government is continuing to bleed red ink."

Worse, this news report is remarkably similar to yesterday's, and similar reports will be aired tomorrow, and the day after that, ad infinitum.

Am I speaking about Iraq? No. These statistics are from our very own California.

Daily we are overwhelmed with bad news from Iraq. As Victor Davis Hanson points out in "Eye of the Beholder", reporters focus on the negatives of that weary, war-torn nation. However, if reporters wanted to paint California in a negative light, we would be inundated with reports like the one above of the daily crime, financial woes, a large inmate population, prison scandals, and the incessant border problems California faces.

I have been to California a couple of times; I'm sure it is nothing like Iraq. Given a choice between vacationing in either one, I would return to California. Nevertheless, it's wise to keep in mind that much of the news from Iraq may be influenced by the perspective of the reporters.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

CDC Suggests HIV Testing on Everyone

The CDC wants all Americans between the ages of 13-64 to be tested at least once for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"Most HIV is transmitted by the 25 percent of infected people who do not even realize they are infected," Fenton said. "We need to dramatically expand access to HIV testing by making it a routine aspect of clinical care." Kevin Fenton, MD, PhD is the new director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention. Read the whole story from FoxNews here.

Peace for the Oppressed of Sudan?

World has an informative article on Darfur, Sudan entitled, "No Way Out". In fact, World has been covering the situation in Sudan for over nine years.

After victimizing Christians and animists in southern Sudan for many years, Sudan's Islamic government has turned on Darfur in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. In the last three years, 300,000 have died from war and war-related disease and starvation. Another 3,000,000 have been displaced, many fleeing west to Chad where their situation often goes from bad to worse.

To make matters worse for those who remained in Darfur, the United Nation's World Food Program began cutting food rations to the region by half due to lack of funds. For many, this has been the only food standing between them and starvation. Other groups have been trying to supplement the best they can. Mark Smith of World Relief, a Christian charity which has also been bringing aid to this region, says World Relief remains committed to working in this dangerous area for as long as possible. Also concerned for the people of Darfur, President Bush has asked Congress for another $225 million for emergency food aid for them, according to Fox News.

While the U.S. has been trying to bring about some resolution for the suffering in Sudan for quite a while, they have faced an uphill battle due to lack of support from the international community. China and Russia, in particular, have often defended the Sudanese government because of business interests. Hopefully, the new agreement signed a few days ago will indeed bring about a lasting peace, but as Dr. Eric Reeves told World, the rebel groups are "basically being asked to trust the Sudanese government, but they've already seen how untrustworthy the government is." Time alone will tell.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I wish to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who supplied my friend with ideas to help solve her current predicament. Hopefully, one of the options mentioned will work out. Please know that I truly count any aid to her as a personal favor to me. Thank you all.

Book Review: "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism"

I've just finished reading "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism" by Carrie L. Lukas. Ms. Lukas has marshaled much research and repackaged it into a highly readable form. Less than two hundred pages, but bursting with information, this book provides a great overview to some of the leading debates of the day.

In this book, Ms. Lukas demonstrates that:

  • there really are biologically based differences between men and women, other than the obvious anatomical ones. (No swooning, please!)
  • "women still tend to prefer men who are breadwinners, who they can consider intellectually superior, and who can physically protect them." (p. 7)
  • women have lost power in the current dating world.
  • there are biological reasons why "casual sex" is an oxymoron for women, and some regret it not only in the short run, but for years.
  • "women lost the sexual revolution". (p. 19) (Duh.)
  • the media makes teenage virginity seem much rarer than it actually is.
  • condoms don't protect from all STDs.
  • women, in particular, are at greater risk of contracting and experiencing lasting damage from STDs.
  • men are more likely to be victims of violence.
  • "married women are less likely to be victims of violence than those who are divorced, separated, or unmarried but cohabitating with men." (p. 66) (OK, I do happen to know many exceptions to this rule.)
  • while women do need to protect themselves, they should know that most men don't attack women.
  • both men and women tend to experience better mental health and happiness when married.
  • married women tend to have more and better sex than single ones.
  • cohabitation ("test driving" another person) actually increases the odds of divorce later.
  • divorce doesn't guarantee future happiness.
  • "children of divorce are more likely to suffer from pathologies and exhibit antisocial behavior" both immediately and for many years afterward. (p. 91)
  • infertility rates increase with age.
  • miscarriages and chromosomal abnormalities increase with age.
  • anti-abortion and anti-woman are not synonymous.
  • overturning Roe v. Wade would not outlaw abortion.
  • abortion is a physically painful procedure which can cause lasting damage if there are complications.
  • Europe is much more restrictive on abortion rights than the U.S.
  • for many women, careers are the least consistent source of satisfaction in life.
  • many women would prefer to be home with their children but work out of financial necessity.
  • women frequently trade off better paying jobs for more time at home.
  • most parents still think having a parent home with a child is the best way to raise him.
  • children in daycare experience more illness and discomforts.
  • women tend to be concerned about the same political issues as men and do not vote as a block.
  • today's feminists seek more dependence on government rather than real independence.
  • today's feminists are pro-choice for abortion, but hate school choice.

While some of these statements are politically incorrect (hence the title), each is well documented. Much of the research has been around for years, and those of us who seek out the data, instead of waiting for it to be fed to us, have seen it before, but the mainstream media has buried much of it. Therefore, having the research summarized and easily available in one source is extremely beneficial for those who actually want to know the real deal. Also, for those who desire more information, additional readings are suggested. Take my advice, and get this book.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Biden on Moussaoui's Prison Sentence

Joe Biden indicates that Moussaoui will be tortured in prison. And he seems to think it's funny. We all know about the physical and sexual abuse that takes place in prison, but since when is that something to laugh at? Are these the same liberals who thought the whole military was horrible because of a few whack jobs (and they were that) at Abu Ghraib? Where is the outrage?

Here's the transcript. Rush Limbaugh has the sound clip, too.

We're back to Hardball now with Chris Matthews.

Matthews says, "What do you make of Moussaoui's comment as he left the courtroom? He yelled out, 'America , you lost,' and clapped his hands?"

BIDEN: I don't want to be that sucker in prison. I don't want to be that guy in an American prison. If you want to say how to punish somebody, put Zarqawi [sic] in a prison with a bunch of red-blooded American criminals. Criminals. Put him in there for live -- and guarantee under no circumstances, no circumstances, could he get out of prison. I think that boy is about to have, as we Catholics say, an epiphany. I think he's about to find out (laughing) that he may not have gotten the better end of the deal.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he'll survive for long in prison, senator?

BIDEN: I think it's not going to be an easy road for him.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" Summary: Part 2

(Part 1, covering the first few speakers and links to their presentations was posted May 2)

One issue that was brought up during the panel discussions is the common misconception that there have been harmful cuts in spending for programs. In fact, there have been cuts in growth of spending, eg a program might be slated to have an increase in spending of 7.4% and might be "reduced" to an increase of 7.1%, but the media and opponents label the 7.1% increase in spending a "cut".

Alison Fraser, Director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, gave an especially compelling presentation. Currently her presentation does not appear to be among the list, but the Power Point presentations of two of her collegues from the Heritage Foundation who have been on previous tour stops are available. These gentlemen are Stuart Butler and Brian Riedle.

Ms. Fraser discussed the three ways Congress could bring the federal deficit under control. One idea was to raise taxes, making us more like Europe, but there would be serious consequences for doing so. Currently, if Europe were one of our states, it would be the fifth poorest. To raise taxes as much as would be necessary to meet spending could bring about that same kind of economic stagnation. A second option, to continue financing our debt, is unthinkable because we would soon be unable to afford the interest.

The third choice, spending cuts, seemed to make the most sense, although there will be some very tough choices. Ms. Fraser showed a series of graphs with each successive one removing some item from the budget. As the National Endowment for the Arts, NASA, foreign aid, and pork (as in a bridge to nowhere) were removed, little difference was noticeable. Even if all defense spending was eliminated, there would be an insignificant difference in spending. As previous presentations had demonstrated, it is indeed the entitlement spending (SS, Medicaid and Medicare) which are the biggest portion of our budget woes and are only going to increase in proportion of the budget. Some way to cut these programs will need to be devised, I fear, in order not to go bankrupt as a nation. This will be hard to do as no one wants to touch these programs, but it is in the best interest of the nation to question places where spending here can be reduced perhaps beginning with reducing payouts to people who may not need them based on personal wealth.

The last presenter was Joe Minarik, Senior Vice President and Director of Research from the Committee for Economic Development. His presentation began with a humorous quote from Ronald Reagan, "The federal government would be bankrupt if not for the printing press." His focus was on the amount of debt being financed by foreign countries and the several drawbacks to depending on foreigners to bankroll us. One obvious problem is what to do if foreigners choose not to finance us at current levels. This could cause interest rates to rise preciptiously for Americans. Also, with foreigners lending us more and more money, our moral authority could be greatly compromised. It is difficult to imagine a U.S. trying to pressure some of the governments of the world which are extreme in their violations of human rights when we depend on them to keep us afloat.

While it will probably be time consuming to examine all their presentations, please do so if at all possible. The only way to bring this massive conundrum to heel is if we, the citizenry, become informed and then pressure our representatives to make real changes. They will take their cues from us and will not be likely to risk the ire of the populace by making significant changes unless they sense we are firmly behind them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Dear Readers,

A friend of mine called me this evening in a real bind. There is a court order from her original state for therapy to reconcile her son to his father. They've settled on Wilmington, DE as a reasonable compromise if they can get the necessary services. Otherwise, she will be forced to miss large quantities of work to travel back to the original state for these meetings.

As you've surmised, the boy and his father have "issues" to work out. Does anyone out there know of any Delaware agencies that can provide supervised therapeutic services? As both parents are out of state, they understand that they will be financially liable.

Please advise, ASAP.

Thank you,

Anna Venger

A Tribute to Bernard Lewis

I was thrilled to come across "A Sage in Christendom: A Personal Tribute to Bernard Lewis" by Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal's opinion page. Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is a historian par excellence. It was wonderful to see him rightfully praised, especially since historians don't usually acquire much of a following or receive many accolades.

Bernard Lewis is author of many books dealing with the Middle East and Islam, two of his more recent books being, What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East and Crisis in Islam. In reading both these books, I was especially impressed by Lewis's fairness and wisdom. Also noteworthy, he had demonstrated great prescience in claiming in the early 1990s that there would be a coming clash of civilizations, a phrase picked up by Samuel P. Huntington.

Below is a paragraph and a half from Ajami's tribute. Notice in particular Lewis's concerns for the West and the respect different Arab groups, recognizing his even-handedness, give him.
For an immensely gregarious man of unfailing wit and personal optimism, a darkness runs through his view of the future of the Western democracies. "In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues," he told me when I pressed him for a reading of the struggle against Islamic radicalism. "In our island, we knew we would prevail, that the Americans would be drawn into the fight. It is different today. We don't know who we are, we don't know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy."

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which once translated one of Mr.
Lewis's books into Arabic, said that his book was "the work of a candid friend or an honest enemy." Either way, the Brotherhood said, it was the work of "someone who disdains falsification." And this, to me and to his countless readers, runs to the core of this historian's craft--the aversion to falsification. He has been, always, a man of his own civilization and convictions--a fact that accounts for the deep reservoirs of reverence felt for him in many Muslim and Arab lands. In the American academy, he may be swimming against the currents of postmodernism and postcolonial history; he has given up his membership in the Middle East Studies Association, of which he had been a founding member. But countless Arab and Iranian and Turkish readers recognize their tormented civilization in what he has written. They know that he has not come to the material of their history driven by bad faith, or by a desire for dominion. They take him at his word, a man of the Anglo-Saxon world, convinced that the ways of the West today carry with them the hopes of other civilizations. In one of his many splendid books, "Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery," he gave voice to both his fears and to his faith. "It may be that Western culture will indeed go: The lack of conviction of many of those who should be its defenders and the passionate intensity of its accusers may well join to complete its destruction. But if it does go, the men and women of all the continents will thereby be impoverished and endangered."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spanish Health Ministry Findings

I am quoting the following article in full because it made such an impression on me.

Spanish Health Ministry points to ‘abandonment by men’ as main cause of

Madrid, May. 01, 2006 (CNA) - A report by the Spanish Ministry of Health is expected to affirm that abandonment by men, not social or economic problems or the supposed grave risks to the physical or psychological health of the mother is the main reason that women obtain abortions in Spain.

Although the report has not yet been made public, in an interview with the newspaper “Alba,” the country’s Health Minister, Elena Salgado, revealed that
“the fundamental conclusion of the report is that the main reason women abort is
because of abandonment by the man.”

“Curiously it has nothing to do with the alleged risks to the psychiatric health of the mother, which supposedly accounts for 97% of legal abortions in Spain. Nor do supposed socio-economic reasons stand out, despite the repeated threats to legally allow abortion for these supposed socio-economic reasons,” the newspaper pointed out.

The preliminary conclusions of the report also “coincide with a study carried out last December by the Association of Victims of Abortion (AVA) in which 3000 women between the ages of 14 and 40 who have had abortions were surveyed.”

That study showed that the “main motivating factor for the abortion in 87% of the cases was the lack of emotional support.” In addition, “in 71% of the cases, abandonment by the father is the result of ‘emotional blackmail’.

”The newspaper reported that the AVA study likewise points out that all the
women polled said they did not “receive sufficient information about the possible side-effects of abortion. The study also revealed that 99.1% of the women acknowledged the lack of information about alternatives to abortion, such as social or institutional assistance or adoption.”

“The data reveals the lack of support and the pressure endured by pregnant
women from fathers, work, society and doctors. If the message women received
were one of support,” the newspaper stated, “women would continue ahead with
their pregnancy.”

The AVA and other pro-family groups have called on the Ministry of Health to
create a network of support for women in difficult pregnancies. “For the moment, they have not received any response,” the newspaper reported.

I gotta say, this kind of data does not make me feel very "empowered" as a woman. Actually, there is similar data floating around the U.S., but I don't look for the media or the government to publicize it any time soon as it is not very PC. That's why the fact that the Spanish government is about to come out with this so impressed me.

There are few sexually active people who are intellectually deficient enough not to understand how babies are made. Therefore, maybe men and women should rethink some of their behaviors and demonstrate more personal responsibility. A man, for example, could consider whether he really respects a woman enough to make her the mother of his child before they actually make a baby together. And maybe a woman ought to consider if the guy is going to be there for the long haul before making the baby, rather than finding out afterward, when she faces the frightening decision of whether to go it alone, to give up her baby or to abort. I think greater personal responsibility and self-respect could go a long way to ending abortion as we now know it.

Source: CNA

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" Summary: Part 1

The "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" came to Delaware yesterday, compliments of Representative Mike Castle and Senator Tom Carper. They each began the session with some opening comments, followed by Robert Bixby, Executive Director of the Concord Coalition who presented "Federal Budget Basics".

The first page of Mr. Bixby's presentation displayed the actual federal expenditures of 2.47 trillion in 2005. The biggest part of the budget for 2005 was for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which together weighed in at 1.03 trillion, followed by defense spending at 494 billion. Other dramatic details revealed during his presentation included the fact that our current outstanding debt is $8.4 trillion and that foreigners presently hold 45% of our national debt. Please view the rest of his presentation at the provided link.

David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) spoke next. His entire Power Point presentation, Saving our Future Requires Tough Choices Today, is also accessible for those who were unable to attend the meeting. Of particular note, on the second page, Mr. Walker displayed pie charts comparing the composition of federal spending in 1964, 1984, and 2004. The most striking changes were in the percentage of federal expenditures for defense from 1964 to 2004. In 1964, 46% of federal spending went to defense, as compared to 27% in 1984 and 20% in 2004. Medicaid and Medicare did not exist in 1964; now they are 19% of total federal expenditures. Social Security has jumped from 14% in 1964 to 19% in 2004. Check out the pie charts mentioned above, as visuals are more compelling than a string of words and numbers.

The next page, showing federal spending for mandatory and discretionary programs, was equally disturbing. Mandatory programs are those that are on autopilot. There is a formula in place for how much will be spent year by year, adjusted for inflation and whatnot. These include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. At this time, politicians have little leeway to modify this part of the budget. In 1964, 26% of the budget fell in the mandatory category as opposed to 54% in 2004. That means that 54% of the budget is currently off the table when budgets are drawn up and discussed. If the situation continues on its present course, our debt per capita could exceed our gross domestic product (GDP) per capita by 2030. Between 2005 and 2030, each of the three main entitlements, SS, Medicaid and Medicare, is expected to outpace economic growth by two to four times. Our current fiscal policy, therefore, is unsustainable.

Isabel Sawhill, Senior Fellow of Brookings Institution, also gave a Power Point presentation. Most notable to me from her presentation was the growth in spending under President Bush at 4.9%, second only to growth under Lyndon Johnson at 5.7%, with Jimmy Carter a close third at 4.1%. One example of spending growth under President Bush is the prescription drug plan, which while a nice thing to do, has cost a tremendous amount. Sawhill had several proposals to bring the federal budget under control. The most promising suggestions included the suspension of the indexing of programs for inflation, the implementation of pay as you go budget rules, and strong bipartisanship in efforts towards fiscal responsibility.

To be continued...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bagged Lettuce and E. Coli

Last night, my family was flipping through channels and found Dateline NBC. The reporter was discussing with various health specialists and with lettuce growers several outbreaks of E. coli which seemed to be connected to bagged lettuce, of all things.

There were no definitive answers. Nonetheless, it might be wise to follow their suggestions. Wash bagged lettuce even if it says "pre-washed; ready to eat" on the packaging, and don't use it past its expiration date as E. coli tends to grow more rapidly the more decayed the food becomes. There is no need to panic and stop buying bagged lettuce, at this time, but it can't hurt to take a couple simple precautions until the cause of the outbreaks is found. (Unfortunately for me, that probably won't make a difference in my household. The program has done its damage well; there'll be full scale rebellion here if I try to serve lettuce from a bag ever again.)

As I caught only the tail end of the report myself, if anyone who saw this program wishes to elaborate in the comment section, your additional thoughts would be most welcome.