Monday, July 31, 2006

Roundtable Discussion: Education

Christopher Taylor is hosting a roundtable discussion on education on his site today. Please stop in periodically throughout the day as you have time to see what's happening.

I have various appointments today, but I'll check in myself again just as soon as I can. Hope to see you there.


Yesterday I watched "Obsession: What the War on Terror is Really About", now available for free viewing at Google movies. This awarding winning film brings home what radical Islam is really all about and why we can’t ignore its rise.

Thankfully, the movie both begins and ends with assurances that most Muslims are not radical extremists. Nevertheless, official estimates of the number of radical Muslims run at ten to fifteen percent. With over a billion Muslims in the world today, that means there are between one hundred and one hundred fifty million people completely dedicated to terror. Sadly, the percentage of anti-Zionists and anti-Americans in the Islamic world is much higher than that fifteen percent.

Those of us in the West do not understand the deep hatred of these extremists. Our natural inclination is to search for reasons for their loathing. After 9/11, our media personalities and academes claimed it was our own imperialism to blame, but as several in the film pointed out, this distracts from a twisted ideology that wishes to destroy the West, an ideology that states that that Jews, the United States, and the West are trying to destroy them and that they must conduct war against us kaffurs as self-defense.

Several professors, historians, and other experts on Islam and the Middle East spoke in this documentary. Also appearing were Nonie Darwish, a daughter of a terrorist, and Mr. Shoebat, a former terrorist. Mostly the movie used the news programs, the “inspirational” political and religious speakers, music videos, children’s cartoons, and shows for adults appearing throughout the Arab world to demonstrate what these extremists say for themselves.

Media clips from Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, and Pakistan use their own words against them. Their religious, terrorist, and even political leaders indoctrinate their viewers with the belief that the U.S. is a threat to them, trying to destroy Islam. Some of these clips pre-date 9/11 and so can be seen more as a cause for such an attack rather than a response to what’s happened since, as some might claim. Leaders call for all honorable people to stand against the West and kill its young men and slit throats and for the beheading of Jews. Again and again there are shouts from huge crowds, “Death to America”. There are cartoons and doctored photos making Americans and Jews look like demons. Children’s cartoons depict Israeli leaders drinking the blood of Arab Muslims and adult programming shows the same. There are calls to kill all the polytheists and infidels.

Perhaps the saddest part of this film were videos of little Arab-Muslim children in classrooms and news clips of little children reciting jihadist poetry calling for suicide attacks against Jews and young children claiming that Israelis are the offspring of pigs and apes as taught them from the Qur’an, per their claims. Even a tiny three and a half year old girl called for the death of Jews. How can young children speak so admiringly of martyrdom as a goal and pour forth such hatred unless they are inculcated with these beliefs?

The film also showed the strong ties between Nazi Germany and the Middle East. They had a strange cooperation based on their mutual hatred of Jews. Hitler, in fact, had met with the Mufti of Jerusalem and informed him that the war was for the extermination of the Jews, emphasizing their shared goals. The Mufti raised a Bosnian-Muslim SS division with recruits brought in from all over the world. In many ways, Islamo-Fascism is more dangerous than the Nazis were because they are spread across fifty-five states and brainwash the people that their god instructs them to hate the West and Jews. If we play ostrich as our ancestors did while the Nazi threat slowly built up, we could face huge death tolls also, just like we did in World War II.

Watch the film and see their own leaders on their television programs calling for the conquest of the world (by Iran’s president, for example) and for a world unified under Islam. Witness the reactions of the crowds to whom they speak. The goals of these radical extremists are nothing short of killing all Jews, the destruction of democracy and western civilization and the spread of Islam to all of us, by force if necessary.

Admittedly, the documentary is long- an hour and seventeen minutes- but we watch movies longer than that all the time. It’s well worth the effort.


Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link.

Cavalier wrote another review of the movie at Guardian WatchBlog which appears here.

The movie's website is here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Favorite Things

Wow! My first weekend creating a Blogging Chicks Carnival Theme post. This weekend is "Favorite Things".

Some of my favorite things include:

Children's Laughter. One of my favorite things in all the world is the sound of children laughing. No sound is more beautiful than that of kids experiencing sheer innocent delight and laughing without self-consciousness. I imagine it to be more beautiful than a choir of angels singing.

Snuggling. Snuggling is definitely another favorite. I used to cuddle with my children when they were very small. We would snuggle when we read stories or watched television. Those were precious moments, indeed. Now they think they are too old for snuggling with Mom so on cold winter nights when I just can't get warm, I kick them off the couch and cuddle with the dog instead (who always smells clean, by the way). Hubby will sometimes cuddle too if he's not too busy. He's even better than the dog! (And, for the record, there is another couch.)

Nature. Nature is very soothing to my soul. The quiet and the green of the trees in the woods can set everything right again when things have gone awry. Silently observing animals playing and working can bring a soothing, joyous peace to my mind and body as well. A beaver swimming or scouting out new wood, a bird hopping along the ground or in flight, waterfowl gliding across a pond, a squirrel climbing a tree; all these bring joy to my spirit.

The First "Spring" Day. That first spring-like day that signals that winter really will be gone soon gives a better high than any drug I can imagine. The hint of warmth, the sunshine, and the smell of spring in the air always transform me into a saucy teenager again and anything is possible.

Visiting with family and friends. Few joys in life match time spent with loved ones. Whether the talk is serious or lighthearted, the people God's placed in our lives are worth more than all the achievements and awards we can conceive. No one on his death bed says, "If I had just spent more time slaving away for work, I could die in peace. I wish I'd put in fourteen hours a day at the office every day and not spent so much time with my kids." It's always about the relationships.

Reading. As much as I love spending time with family and friends, a day to myself with a book is a gift from heaven.

Blogging. 'Nuff said.

Check out the favorite things of other Blogging Chicks here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Yep. She's Selfish.

Duffy over at Pencader Days has always seemed an even-keeled kind of fellow to me. Imagine my surprise when he seemed genuinely bothered by Helen Kirwan-Taylor's "Sorry, but my children bore me to death!" in his post about her.

I had to read the article for myself. Yep. There is plenty there to be upset about.

In a nutshell, Kirwan-Taylor feels modern women are enslaved to their children and that children are inherently too boring for her.

Kirwan-Taylor admits to making up excuses to avoid children's birthday parties and singalongs. She hates taking the kids to the park, driving them to guitar lessons, watching them play soccer, viewing movies with them, playing games, and reading them bedtime stories, among other things. In short, she admits to being too self-obsessed to enjoy parenting.

Unfortunately, she's completely missed the point. Parenting is about being other-minded. It's about laying your life down for someone else. It's about training up the next generation. If parents don't model their values to their children, whose values will they acquire? If parents don't read to children and discuss issues and ideas, how will they develop strong language and reasoning skills? If parents don't take the time to help their children acquire skills, how will children develop competence in any area? If parents don't love their children, how will their children know how to love? Make no mistake, to children love is spelled T-I-M-E.

As she complained about the boredom of packing kids' lunches and discussing problems at the school with other parents, she explained that she was really thinking about her own lunch and "which shoes [she] planned to wear with what skirt." And if her children become superficial, self-absorbed young men, whom should we blame?

She asks at one point: "So how have we reached this point where so many intelligent women are subverting their own needs and desires to that of their children?"

My answer: Because those women realize that character is more important that intelligence. Hitler and his henchmen were intelligent. Stalin was intelligent. But we don't admire them for their intelligence because they lacked character and goodness. These women seem to understand that their intelligence is not a god to be worshipped. It is instead a tool to aid them in their ambition to raise compassionate, well-adjusted, competent human beings.

Sadly, Kirwan-Taylor has failed to see the future. She has never fast-forwarded twenty, thirty or forty years. When her sons develop stronger ties with their wives' families (assuming that they've learned enough selflessness somewhere along the way to successfully marry) and prefer to spend family time with them rather than with her, will she wonder why? When her grandchildren enjoy their maternal grandparents who seem warmer and more cuddly to them, will her feelings be hurt? When she reaches the final stages of life and feels it ebbing away, will she look back on her time here on earth and be thrilled that she published so much and always had her hair highlighted, or will she long for the relationships she never developed with the people who were supposed to be closest to her? Most people faced with death don't think about their professional achievements but their relationships.

At the end of the article the publisher includes the question, "What do you think-is Helen selfish?"

And the answer is "Yes."

(Reformed Chicks Blabbing also has a post on this here.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

FGM in Great Britain

Warning: not a pleasant post. Probable rating: PG-13.

A recent posting on female genital mutilation captured my attention this afternoon. Christopher Taylor of Word around the Net has written a heart-felt and sensitive article called Mangled Girls on this so-called "crime of love". (Thank you, Mr. Taylor.) Isn't that a dandy euphemism the British have devised? "Crime of love"? You've got to be kidding. Whom are they trying not to offend?

About three million girls and young women in the world undergo this brutally violent, unloving procedure each year.

Reuters has the story, "Britain tackles "crime of love"-female circumcision"

The practice, also known as female circumcision, involves removing part or all of a girl's clitoris or labia. It is often carried out by an older woman with no medical training, using anything from scissors to tin can lids and pieces of glass.

The victims have no idea what is going to happen to them and anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment is often not used.

The centuries-old practice, prevalent mostly in Africa, is now also being brought by immigrants to Western countries, like Britain.

"FGM is a huge problem in the UK," said Ensharah Ahmed, community development officer at the UK-based Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (Forward). Forward estimates there are around 279,500 women living in Britain who have undergone FGM, with another 22,000 girls under 16 in danger of joining them.

This year London police launched an awareness campaign...

Detective Inspector Carol Hamilton from London police's Child Abuse Command says it is difficult to tackle what she calls a "crime of love" as those responsible believe they are doing the right thing for their child...

However, it can disfigure, cause extreme pain, psychological damage, infertility or even kill.

Ahmed says not enough study has been carried out into the mental scars which were often as bad as the physical ones...

Legislation passed in 2003 makes it illegal for British residents to arrange FGM in Britain or abroad, and those guilty of procuring or carrying out the practice face up to 14 years in jail. No one has yet been prosecuted.

Why hasn't anyone been prosecuted in three years if so many young immigrant girls and women are being victimized? Are doctors required to report any girls they see in their practice who've been mutilated?
"Most communities will say it's necessary, it's something they need to protect their cultural identity now they are living in another country," she said...
There are some very nice customs that people bring with them from other lands that add meaning to their lives. But you know what? Mutilation of little girls ain't one of them. You move to the West, you live by our rules. We don't like little girls being cut up. If you don't respect our custom of leaving little girls intact, then don't come or be prepared to do some jail time. Am I wrong here? (Rhetorical question only, because, no, I am not.)
"But what it is actually is physical and emotional torture of little girls who
have no say in the matter. It is so totally barbaric and against human rights
that we need to be seen to be tackling it -- but we have to do it slowly."
Whaaat? I was with you until that last "but". How slowly are we talking? Only a few thousand more girls cut up first? Is that slowly enough? I wonder if those PC proponents who don't want to offend the immigrants' culture would wish it to be phased out slowly if they or their daughters had to undergo female genital mutilation. Somehow I think they'd want it stopped fast if they or a loved one were about to be attacked with a razor---as in immediately, and not one more victim!

Getting the message across is not easy. Many teachers, school nurses and welfare workers are ignorant of the issue, and community workers say the government needs to do more.

"Part of our challenge to the government is to promote this law -- it is a good weapon we have now," said Mary Kanu, a worker in a London-based African community group.

"If the children know that they have a right not to be mutilated they can report it to the police.

"If they have no opportunity to know there is a law that protects them, anything their mum or dad or auntie tells them, they will accept it."

But the message can be gotten across. So do it, already. Doctors and nurses could talk with all their patients about the evils of female genital mutilation. Schools are routinely used to indoctrinate the young with the latest philosophies. Here's a clear-cut situation where they could do some good. Whenever welfare workers interact with families they could explain our culture and laws to any families that may be at risk. And how about making a few examples out of some offenders? My understanding is that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The article ended with a mention that this is more of a cultural custom than a religious one, with some Islamic leaders speaking out against the practice.

There is a time to be sensitive to other cultures. But, guys, this is not it. This shouldn't be happening anywhere. While we may not be able to do much to stop this practice in other countries, Europe can certainly make the consequences for hurting little girls harsh enough that people won't want to hurt them in the West.

And boy, I sure hope this isn't going on here.

Iraqi PM to Congress

In case you missed it, the Washington Post printed the transcript of the Iraqi Prime Minister's address to the U.S. Congress. Here are some excerpts:

Let me begin by thanking the American people, through you, on behalf of the Iraqi people, for supporting our people and ousting dictatorship. Iraq will not forget those who stood with her and who continues to stand with her in times of need.

Thank you for your continued resolve in helping us fight the terrorists plaguing Iraq, which is a struggle to defend our nation's democracy and our people who aspire to liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. All of those are not Western values; they are universal values for humanity...

The war on terror is a real war against those who wish to burn out the flame of freedom. And we are in this vanguard for defending the values of humanity...

Thousands of lives were tragically lost on September 11th when these impostors of Islam reared their ugly head. Thousands more continue to die in Iraq today at the hands of the same terrorists who show complete disregard for human life.

Your loss on that day was the loss of all mankind, and our loss today is lost for all free people.

And wherever humankind suffers a loss at the hands of terrorists, it is a loss of all of humanity.

It is your duty and our duty to defeat this terror. Iraq is the front line in this struggle, and history will prove that the sacrifices of Iraqis for freedom will not be in
vain. Iraqis are your allies in the war on terror...

The fate of our country and yours is tied. Should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq and terror permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere...

The transformation in Iraq can sometimes be forgotten in the daily, futile violence.

What used to be a state-controlled media is now completely free and uncensored...

What used to be a command economy in Iraq, we are rapidly transforming into a free market economy.

In the past three years, our GDP per capita has more than doubled. And it is expected that our economy will continue to grow. Standards of living have been raised for most Iraqis...

We have gone from mass graves and torture chambers and chemical weapons to a flourishing -- to the rule of law and human rights.

The rights chartered in the constitution will also help consolidate the role of women in public life as equals to men. And help them to play a greater role in political life.
I am proud to say that a quarter of Iraq's Council of Representatives is made up of women, but we still have much to accomplish.

It sounds as though the Prime Minister believes the worst thing we could do now is to cut and run. One thing is for sure. To leave the job half finished, before the Iraqis are truly ready for us to go, would be a mistake.

H/t: Right Wing News

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why Israel Must Fight

More reasons why Israel must fight:

Rich Galen in "It's Up to Israel. Again." outlines the history of the U.N.'s failure to disband and disarm Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias despite U.N. Resolution 1559, adopted on September 2, 2004, calling for just that.

So, if the U.N. had followed through on its resolution, the current conflict could have been avoided? Well, I for one am shocked, shocked I tell you, that a U.N. resolution had no effect.

He also points out an important part of a July 12 BBC report.

[Hezbollah] says it has captured the soldiers to secure the release of detainees held in Israeli prisons.

"Fulfilling its pledge to liberate the prisoners and detainees, the Islamic Resistance... captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine," the Hezbollah statement said.

Hezbollah captured three Israeli soldiers in 2000. They died during the operation, but four years later, the group was able to exchange their bodies for 430 Palestinians and Lebanese held in Israeli jails.
(Thanks to for the link to this article.)

So once again, what other option does Israel have but to pound Lebanon? Obviously exchanging 430 prisoners for two dead soldiers two years ago didn't secure them any peace.

Alan Dershowitz in his commentary for the Christian Science Monitor claims that Hezbollah has no real interest in a the creation of a Palestinian state. Their goal is more basic--the eradication of Jews from Israel and possibly the world.

Sometimes an apology can be quite revealing. Consider the one recently issued by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah. He apologized to the families of two Israeli children who were killed by a Hizbullah rocket that hit the Christian holy city of Nazareth. He called them shahids, martyrs, even though they did not choose to die at the hands of Hizbullah terrorists.

The apology was issued not because they were children or innocent bystanders, but
because they were Israeli Arabs and not Jews. Hizbullah's rockets are aimed at Jews, and earn cheers whenever they kill a Jewish baby or grandmother. No apologies there.

The so-called Arab-Israeli conflict represents the first instance since the Holocaust that Jews, as Jews, are being specifically targeted by an international organization that seeks recognition as a legitimate power. Hizbullah has threatened to attack Jewish targets outside of Israel as well...

Hizbullah's goal is not the "liberation" of Palestine. Its members are not Palestinian. They are Islamic extremists who want to "liberate" all Islamic land, which includes all of Israel proper, including Tel Aviv, from the "crusaders," a term that includes Jews and Christians...
(Thanks to Right Wing News for the link to this article.)

I tend to agree here with Dershowitz that the main stance of Hezbollah toward Israelis is racist. The failure of many Middle Eastern nations to even put Israel on the map and their old collaboration with Nazis as well as more recent actions indicate a deep pathos towards their ancient cousins.

Even if no nation is willing to commit troops or resources to Israel in this current conflict, the least we can do is continue to give Israel our moral support.

So, again I say: Go, Israel. Go!

Then There Were Three

Here is a link to the student profile page of an application to Harvard Business School's MBA program. Notice in the "About You" section there is a drop down menu for gender. Count the number of choices. Notice anything different than usual?

What happens when those who choose door number three fill out job applications later? (Will they know what to do with only two choices?)

Oh, and some of the Harvard Business School's communities seem a little skewed.

Source: LifeSite

Aside: Just in case you need to see the HBS webpage from which the student profile link came, it's here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Take It Back!

"Peace prize winner 'could kill' Bush"
Annabelle McDonald
July 25, 2006
NOBEL peace laureate Betty Williams displayed a flash of her feisty Irish spirit yesterday, lashing out at US President George W.Bush during a speech to hundreds of schoolchildren...

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64. "Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

Can they take away the Nobel peace award from Williams? Just rescind the honor. Please? Isn't this just a bit over the top to wish a U.S. President dead? Did she give any speeches wishing Saddam Hussein dead? Osama bin Laden? Why President Bush? And why do the peace-lovers of the world seem so...un-peaceful?

Some other posts on Betty Williams:

Word around the Net

Colossus of Rhodey

Michelle Malkin

Serious Dating No-nos

Oh. My. Gosh. Now here's a dating story that does triple duty. First, it serves as a cautionary tale about how not to handle a date that did not produce the desired results, and second as a warning to procede slowly in relationships and not get all googly eyed early on as it can take a while before the "love interest" reveals his true self. Lastly, this could be a great concept for a movie script. Once again, I am reminded how blessed I am to have long since found the one with whom I am supposed to grow old.

Here's the background. Darren meets Joanne for a date through a dating service. They have a nice meal and seem to be hitting it off well enough that each is interested in seeing each other again, as we find out later. Joanne offers to split the bill, but Darren declines the offer. Darren tries to reach Joanne for another date, leaving a phone message. When Joanne, who is out of town, does not promptly return Darren's call, Darren, well, shows his true colors. In a way, Joanne is lucky as it might have taken a few more dates before she discovered what a jerk the guy is if she'd been home to answer the phone. The story would be funny if it weren't so unbelievable.

Check out PR. Differently for the full story complete with all emails and voice mails between the two of them.

Thanks to Paul of for the link.

Brain Pattern Gender Differences

Well, here's a surprise. Researchers have found that men and women think a little differently from each other. (Shh. Don't tell Women's Studies Department.)

When presented with the same task, men and women use different parts of their brains to come up with the same answer, according to a new study.

"What we found most compelling was that male and female participants performed equally on tasks, both in terms of accuracy and timing; they just used different parts of their brains to get the tasks done," said researcher Amy Clements of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, in a news release.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers found distinct differences between men and women in which parts of the brain were used to complete the tasks.

For example, women showed more bilateral activation of a brain region during the
language tasks than the males, who were more lateralized to the left side of their brain. Meanwhile, the opposite was true during the visual-spatial task with men showing more bilateral activation in another area while processing visual information than females, who were more lateralized to the right side.

Read the FoxNews story here.

Interesting. Mind you, the average IQ for both men and women as groups and for individuals is still 100. (We can talk about standard deviations another time.) Males and females can and do perform the same tasks, but come up with their answers in different ways. Undoubtedly, there will be concerns over research such as this in certain quarters. The concerns will probably center on whether these demonstrable differences will translate into societal oppression against half of us.

While research such as this is inherently fascinating, I imagine that most people instinctively knew that men and women approach problems from different angles, or think a bit differently, if you will. In my experience, it usually takes a great deal of education to deny the obvious. While some of the sex differences we observe are most likely cultural, most parents know that their babies come pre-wired with certain personality traits and that gender differences tend to be more the cause of the types of toys and activities their children gravitate towards rather than a symptom of toys and activities forced upon them.

There exists a tremendous amount of variation within both sexes, and it's my belief that children should be allowed to develop their natural interests regardless of an activity's societal label as masculine or feminine. Still, that hardly means that no general tendencies can be observed. I think some of the feminist anger arose from the long-standing tendency to label difference as intellectual inferiority and to stifle those women whose giftings and interests have led them into more "masculine" endeavors. Point taken. Perhaps now we can have intelligent discussion and research on this fascinating topic of real gender differences without politicizing it?

"My Fair Lady"

Tonight the whole Venger family went to see “My Fair Lady” at Longwood Gardens. I haven’t been to a show there in many years. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it!

The Brandywiners still put on a good show. Sandy Yozviak starred as Eliza Doolittle. She has had varied musical experiences and has a few lead roles under her belt. Paul Kevin Laich, also an experienced performer, played Henry Higgins. Both actors were new to the Brandywiners.

Laich played Higgins well. He certainly seemed quite British. My informal survey of several women in the audience showed that most wanted to smack him because he was such a jerk, which is how Higgins should be perceived by any normal person. Hubby and I, however, agreed that the Mr. Doolittle character was more despicable by far. Everyone seemed to think Yozviak did a great job.

Tickets are $25 a piece. (We were given ours.) Show dates are July 27-29 and August 3-5; the show begins at 8:30 and runs until 11:30. Our tickets didn’t have seat numbers so it was first come, first served as far as seating selection went. Down side: without a specific seat number specified on the ticket, it’s best to be there by 7:30 so better seating can be attained. Up side: a ticket to “My Fair Lady” allows entrance to Longwood Gardens all day. The seats were a bit uncomfortable for a long performance, so if you go, you may wish to take cushions just as you would for a football game. I wasn’t the only one complaining.

For those of you who are local, if you go to see it, please stop back and leave me a comment about it. I'd be interested in knowing what you thought.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Terrorists vs. Israelis

I saw this "cartoon" over on Word around the Net and thought it apt depiction. It's self-explanatory.

Terrorists break all the "rules" of warfare. What kind of people shoot from civilian centers and then act shocked when their fire is returned and noncombatants die? They count on the basic decency of the Western nations and the high value we place on life. But I'd say Israel is long past that now and rightly so.

Israel has every right to point to Palestine and Lebanon and say, "They started it!" (And add, "And we'll finish it!" too.) Normally, I'd say the adults should act like adults, but when the children refuse to modify their behavior time and time again and instead grow into hard-core street punks, it's time for the gloves to come off. And that's pretty much what Israel has done.

Go, Israel!

Update: Right Wing News has the same picture up and a little quiz regarding on whom the blame for the civilian deaths really rests. Hawkins points out that it is Hezbollah that purposely congregates in civilian centers, stores their ammunition in mosques, dresses in civilian attire and fires from crowds, and deliberately targets civilians. Therefore when Israel responds militarily and civilians tragically die, it is not really the Israelis who are to blame.

Amish Paradise

My son's friend pulled this music video up for us, called Amish Paradise. It's a Weird Al parody, and it's very funny.

I actually really like the Amish. I first went on a tour of the Amish Farm and House when I was about ten or twelve. They fascinated me. I admired their tight-knit, large families, their simplicity, and their strong communal ties, all so different than my own upbringing and our modern world. Back then, they had up to twenty children per family which I did think was a little much and no modern conveniences.

Last summer, a friend, her kids, my kids and I revisited the Amish Farm and House. Funny how much smaller things appear as an adult. The Amish have changed. Their families are smaller now, around six or seven kids, and they've added a few more modern conveniences that don't involve electricity. Since I have an ex-Amish friend, I was even able to ask some intelligent questions. I still admire their culture, but my friend and I agreed that we would really miss our reading addictions since with all their hard work they don't have a lot of spare time for that sort of habit. The other reason I could never be Amish is because I am allergic to most forms of manual labor. I have no objection to other people doing it, mind you, but if I'm going to do something physical, I would prefer it involve some activity for my amusement and not actually involve, you know, work.

Anyway, if you get a chance, check out the video.

Palestinians Signal for Cease-Fire

The Palestinians are signalling a willingness for a cease-fire, according to
All groups in Gaza, including Hamas, would now accept a cease-fire deal with Israel which would include releasing Gilad Shalit, according to the Palestinian Agriculture Minister, who also heads the coordinating committee of Palestinian organizations there.

Ibrahim Al-Naja said the factions were ready to stop the Qassam rocket fire if Israel's ceased all military moves against the Palestinian factions in Gaza. They are also ready to release Shalit in exchange for guaranteeing the future release of Palestinian prisoners.

That's the part that I'm not sure about. Will it be in Israel's best interest to agree to the release of prisoners? Is that a fair trade? If Israel releases terrorists, will they commit more terrorist acts against Israel? I would have rather seen an unconditional cease-fire proposal except for the agreement to release Shalit.

H/t: Right Wing News

Monday, July 24, 2006

ACLU Backs Phelps

For the life of me, I cannot figure out the criteria the ACLU uses to decide which cases to take. The ACLU has chosen to back that wacky Fred Phelps and company. It is fighting to have newly made laws against picketing at funerals struck down.

While Phelps and his twisted little group of followers certainly have the right to believe and say what they wish, funerals are not the place to do it. Funerals are for communal good-byes to the deceased and shared grief over the loss of a loved one, not for protesting national policies. Common decency demands that proper decorum prevail at such longstanding human rituals.

None of the laws that I have seen have said Phelps and company couldn't express their warped views, just that they couldn't picket at or immediately about funerals. Why does the ACLU think that stance is unreasonable?

Furthermore, apparently the ACLU is doing this to defend religious freedom. This while they regularly fight to have displays of the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols abolished from the public square.

Why? Any theories?

My take: Funerals are usually deeply religious observances. The belief in an afterlife and the significance of sending a loved one off properly have roots in human history going all the way back to our beginnings as any archeological dig of a burial will show. So when the ACLU has the choice to back traditional religious belief or warped "religious" views that make a mockery of traditional religion which honors the dead, they choose mockery.

H/t: Right Wing News

Does This Happen to You?

There I was at a family gathering. I had just sat down with a plate of food and put a forkful in my mouth.

"Anna," called a relative. I instinctively looked up. Click.

Now why in the world would anyone call my name and snap a picture while I'm in mid-chew? This could be why I hate cameras. Won't that be a charming little keepsake by which future generations can remember me?

Does this happen to anyone else or am I the only one?

Colbert on Religion Video

I saw this over on and thought it was a hoot. (Thanks, Paul.)

Click here to view the clip, "De-Deification of the American Faithscape", a very funny piece from Stephen Colbert in which he recites the Nicene Creed in the interest of disclosure, pokes some fun at Unitarians, and posts a nifty little chart to demonstrate loving interfaith relationships (not).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saddam's Hunger Strike

Saddam in Hospital after Hunger Strike

Jul 23, 2006 — By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein was being fed through a tube on Sunday after 16 days on hunger strike and an Iraqi official said he will not attend court on Monday.

"Saddam Hussein continues to maintain his hunger strike and is voluntarily receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. His condition is constantly monitored by medical personnel and is not life-threatening," [a U.S. military spokesman] said.

Saddam lawyers accuse the U.S. military of force-feeding the ousted leader, whose hunger strike has added to the chaos of his trial, which is approaching its conclusion.

The U.S. military says the 69-year-old ex-president has been drinking sweet coffee and liquid nourishment and receiving psychological counseling to try to persuade him to eat.

Read the whole article here.

First of all, what's up with all these hunger strikes? It's not even like they're real hunger strikes. They keep eating.

Second, why does anyone pay attention? The best way to extinguish attention getting behavior is to ignore it.

Why don't we call his bluff? You don't want food? Fine with us. With the price of food these days...

Alright. I understand there are probably some good political reasons for keeping Saddam alive, but is it me or are all these little theatrical antics getting just a little tiresome?

H/t: Cao's Blog

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Rest When You're Dead"

A good friend of mine sent me the link to this video, "Rest When You're Dead", about a young man from his platoon who was injured in Iraq. His will, his drive, and his uncomplaining spirit are reminders to me not to whine when little things go wrong in life. He's been through a lot and still keeps plowing through.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why Johnny Can't Read

In "Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls", a study indicates that even sons of college educated parents lag behind girls in reading in high school.

The interesting part came at the end of the report:
In separate research that Kleinfeld is also preparing for publication, she has possibly gotten to the root of the problem.

"Here's a fascinating fact," she said. "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls."

"Why? In school, teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings," she said. "This way of teaching reading does not turn boys on. Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests."
It seems my homeschooling friends may be on to something.

Mentos and Coke Fountains

If you missed Fritz and Stephen on Late Night with David Letterman or The Today Show, you can still see their "Fizz Fountain! Mentos and Diet Coke" video here. Totally cool.

For more fun videos on mentos and coke, just do a google search on the two words. A cautionary word, however, as I care too much for you all to let you go without one. You may not want to try the bombs as there have been many reports of broken noses and the like when they backfire and fly up into people's faces. I'd be concerned for innocent bystanders, too. Even for the fountains, I'd want to use protective goggles at the very least. (Being a geeky family, we've tons of them around.)

Shattered Dreams

Yesterday Dr. Mike Adams published an article entitled, "I Had a Dream". Normally Adams tends toward sarcasm, so I was surprised and touched by yesterday's piece.

As a university professor, Adams has had his share of pretty young women come through his classes. He recounted the tales of four of them, changing names and other identifying information, who took jobs in strip clubs. One seemed destined to be a lawyer, but after blowing her stash on the ubiquitous cocaine, getting pregnant by her boss, and getting fired for not wanting to abort the baby, she never achieved her dreams. Another discovered the hard way that "a single year in a topless bar can put a decade on a young woman's face". Still another was fired for gaining a few pounds. "[S]omewhere between the cocaine parties and the group sex, [she] lost her self-esteemand the desire to do anything with her life." Last was the woman who had hoped to make money for her doctorate but wasn't able to hold on to the money, like most of them, looks worn, and due to her experiences, "deeply resents every man with whom she works."

Dr. Adams ended his piece:
[M]ost young women who decide to strip are already equipped with low self-esteem
the first night they walk into that strip bar. When they finally decide to leave, they often walk out with STDs, drug addictions, a string of unwanted pregnancies and even lower self-esteem. But they never seem to walk out with the money.

But I have a dream that some day the so-called men who frequent these establishments will realize that that they are helping fund the destruction of these young women one dollar bill at a time. And I dream that they will come to see these women as someone’s lost sister or perhaps the estranged daughter of a friend.

I have a dream that some day we will judge them by the content of their character, not the revelation of their skin.
Some may argue that some women do make a success out of selling their bodies through posing in magazines, stripping, or "starring" in porn movies. These, however, are very, very few in number. Most are broken and washed up early. Used and discarded like mere objects, which tends to come from the objectification of women.

I've read a fair amount on this topic. Some women who go into such professions do, in fact, come from normal families. Most, however, come from highly dysfunctional homes where they really don't have a sense of their worth. Some of the stories I've followed are of young women conditioned through sexual abuse by step-fathers or boyfriends of their mothers to think that's all their bodies are for and that's all men really value. I've encouraged men who go to strip clubs to remember that the nubile young woman as a kid may have been raped by some sicko pervert, left crying and hurt, and to remember he's feeding into that perception of the roles of men and women.

Bottom line is that in the sex industry, women rarely are truly empowered. They may be lured into believing that, for a time. But it's just an illusion. In the end, most end up worn-out in appearance and lacking in skills and vitality. By supporting these industries, people are contributing to the devastation of young lives.

Why, you may ask, should anyone care? After all, they made their choice, and if they chose to be whores for a career that's on them. Well, the reason we should actually care is because, as I recall, the implicit answer to "Am I my brother's (or sister's) keeper?" was "Yes."

*Please check out "Sex Industry" on Word around the Net.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

St. Patrick Quote

A quote attributed to Saint Patrick (c. 373-464):

All snakes who wish to remain in Ireland will please raise their right hands.

Pedophile Party Legal in the Netherlands

From Reuters:
Dutch Court Rejects Ban of Pedophile Party
By Emma Thomasson

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch court said on Monday a political party formed by pedophiles could not be banned as it had the same right to exist as any other party and was protected by democratic freedoms.

The Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity party (PNVD) was launched in May and campaigns for a cut in the age of consent from 16 to 12 and the legalisation of child pornography and sex with animals, provoking widespread outrage in the Netherlands.

"The freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association ... should be seen as the foundations of the democratic rule of law and the PNVD is also entitled to these freedoms," the court said in a statement.

The PNVD says it wants to lift the taboo on pedophilia...

The Netherlands, which already has liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution and gay marriage, has been shocked by the new party. An opinion poll showed that 82 percent want the government to do something to stop the party.

The party wants to allow possession of child pornography and supports broadcasting pornography on daytime television, with only violent pornography limited to the late evening. It also wants youths aged 16 and up to be allowed to appear in pornographic films and prostitute themselves.

Hmmm. Someone will always push the envelope and attempt to normalize socially unacceptable behavior. With legalized drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage, what's left to push there? Already pedophilia has been euphemized as intergenerational intimacy in some western nations. Give it a few years. No doubt the PNVD has seen that with enough exposure over a long enough period of time almost anything can become normal.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pres. Bush's First Veto

President Bush has followed through on his threat to veto a bill which would have provided federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells.
"In this new era, our challenge is to harness the power of science to ease human suffering without sanctioning the practices that violate the dignity of human life," Bush said in the East Room of the White House after vetoing the measure.

Bush announced his veto surrounded by 18 families who "adopted" frozen embryos not used by other couples to have children, otherwise known as "snowflake babies."

"Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts," Bush said after several interruptions of applause from supporters. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. The remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals."
Read the whole FoxNews article here.

Stem Cell Controversy

Some links on the embryonic stem cell controversy:

Word around the Net

Human Events Online

Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics

National Review Online

I, for one, would prefer that research continue to center on adult stem cell or stem cells from umblical cords which have shown promise. There are no ethical concerns with those sources.

Furthermore, there is no federal ban on experimentation with embryonic stem cells. That's a point about which many are confused. The question is about whether the federal government should fund it or not. I don't think they should.

Heartbreaking Abuse

This kind of stuff just breaks my heart and turns my stomach.

LITCHFIELD, Conn. — A Torrington man and his girlfriend have been charged with risk of injury after a 3-year-old boy was found locked in a room in their home with a broken arm.

Police said the boy was forced to stay in the room for a month as punishment for swearing. He was allowed to leave only to use the toilet for a bowel movement. A 20-ounce soda bottle was provided when he had to urinate, according to the police report.

Source: FoxNews

For the life of me I cannot understand how people can live with themselves while abusing children. All that for a swear word which a three year old doesn't even understand. How cruel!

I remember when my boy was four or five. We were sitting together and talking. He stopped, examined a piece of lint on his sock and queried, "What the hell is that?"

Honestly, I had to stifle a laugh. He used it perfectly. So I asked where he'd heard the word. At school, of course. I explained that that was what we call a swear word and that many people consider it impolite so Mom and Dad don't talk that way (ahem, generally speaking) and would prefer that he not either. Then I told him he'd be hearing other words that would be considered impolite and that he should check with us for definitions and imput on any such words he heard that seemed different from the kind of vocabulary used in our home.

You know, we've never had a problem since.

So why couldn't that couple have handled the poor little three year old like that? Whackos!

Hezbollah and Us

Reuters posted this last night:

FBI Eyes Hizbollah in US as Tensions with Iran Rise
By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent
The FBI is trying to ferret out possible Hizbollah agents in the United States amid concerns that rising U.S.-Iranian tensions could trigger attacks on American soil, FBI officials said.

Relations between Washington and Tehran, which soured after the 1979 Islamic revolution, have deteriorated further recently over Iran's nuclear program and its support for Hizbollah, the militant Islamic group whose capture of two Israeli soldiers last week prompted Israel to launch retaliatory strikes in Lebanon.
These are not idle concerns on the part of the FBI as later the article claims:
But Iran's Hizbollah -- which claims links to the Lebanese group -- said on Tuesday it stood ready to attack U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide.

And this is why I continue to hold my breath over affairs in the Middle East. I am anxious for this to end without escalation outside the region. The FBI, however, has been doing an amazing job so far in identifying and neutralizing terrorists within our land. I'm just not sure what another attack on our soil would do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Colossus of Rhodey Down

Currently, Colossus of Rhodey and all blogs are down. I have no information as to cause or potential duration, but hopefully we'll have access to their site again soon.

UPDATE: Hube and company are back!

In Nasrallah's Words

Michelle Malkin has links to an article on Katie Couric and to her own Hot Air site in this morning's post, "When Katie Met Hezbollah". The Vent video is worth viewing just to see excerpts of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's speeches (with captioning in English, of course). Nasrallah is a holocaust denier and in 2002 called for the destruction of Israel, calling her a "cancer" that needed to be eradicated.

No Peace for the Middle East

In my post yesterday about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and other portions of the Middle East, I mentioned that the reason for the conflict was straightforward enough; Israel's enemies wish her and her people dead.

This morning Dennis Prager expresses a similar opinion in his piece "The Middle East Conflict is Hard to Solve but Easy to Explain". Here are excerpts, but please read the whole thing:
The Middle East conflict is difficult to solve, but it is among the simplest conflicts in history to understand.

The Arab and other Muslim enemies of Israel (for the easily confused, this does not mean every Arab or every Muslim) want Israel destroyed. That is why there is a Middle East conflict. Everything else is commentary.

Israel's enemies regularly announce the reason for the conflict...all want the Jewish state annihilated.

In 1947-48, the Arab states tried to destroy the tiny Jewish state formed by the United Nations partition plan. In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan tried to destroy Israel in what became known as the Six-Day War. All of this took place before Israel occupied one millimeter of Palestinian land and before there was a single Jewish settler in the West Bank.

Two months after the Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967, the Arab countries convened in Khartoum, Sudan, and announced on Sept. 1, 1967, their famous "Three NOs" to Israel: "No peace, No recognition, No negotiations."

As a lifelong liberal critic of Israeli policies, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman wrote just two weeks ago: "The Palestinians could have a state on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem tomorrow, if they and the Arab League clearly recognized Israel, normalized relations and renounced violence. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't know Israel today."
Prager goes on to remind us that Clinton had tried to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Remember that deal? Israel offered 97% of the West Bank and even some of its own land in exchange for peace? It wasn't enough. Why? Because that's not really what they want. They want Israel gone from the face of the earth.

Perhaps if Israel said, "If we agree to cease to exist as a nation and most of us leave the area, will you leave us alone?", then they could have "peace". For the illogical, I assert that this is an unreasonable position and that one cannot reason with the unreason-able. Whatever else has happened, this hatred of Israel is the root of the problem. And that's why there is no peace in the Middle East.

Related posts:
Land for Peace Works Wonders (Not)
Meanwhile, in the Middle East
Gaza and Chemical Weapons

Scientists Study This?

From a study at an Australian university:
Scientists find that moms consistently rank the stink of their baby's "number two" as No. 1.

In a new study, 13 mothers were asked to sniff soiled diapers belonging to both their own child and others from an unrelated baby.

The women consistently ranked the smell of their own child's feces as less revolting than that of other babies.
Source: FoxNews Health

I kid you not. Someone actually studied this. At least I can't gripe about American tax dollars being spent on crappy research.

However, once again I could have saved them the trouble and told them that this was the case. I am, after all, a mom. Back home, my neighbor had a daycare in her house. We would visit sometimes. My kids would enjoy playing with hers and the daycare tots, and we adults would attempt to converse in between the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth and the refereeing of the little ones so they didn't injure themselves or others. She had told me the results of this study without even having to do any scientific research. Her own kids' diapers didn't bother her, but the daycare kids' did---especially this one little tike's.

I myself had the misfortune of discovering the truth of her words as I assisted her one day. Changing a couple diapers was more than enough to prove that my body's gag reflex was working quite well. My own little darlings rarely generated that sort of response in me.

While I can think of several rather pithy and relevant clinchers for this post, I'm just not going to do it. You'll have to use your own imaginations. Sorry.


Whenever I hear of important research, I make a point of sharing with my kids. You know, things like the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet, reduction of sugar intake, latest findings on STDs, safety tips, etc. So for fun I told my daughter that Australian scientists had been conducting some very important research and had come to some crucial conclusions, namely that moms, when comparing their own children's and other children's diapers, found their own children's less offensive.

She gave me the oddest look. "Well, obviously. They actually had to study that?"

(And there you have it. You don't even have to be a mother to know. Apparently any female could have told the researchers that.)

After laughing at the researchers and their research, she asked me in all seriousness, "Are they all like that?"

"Like what?" I responded.

"Weird," she replied.

"Who? Scientists?"

"No. Australians."

Ah. I thought it was a good question. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Land for Peace Works Wonders (Not!)

Miss Anonymous Opinion has written an insightful post about the connection between Israel's decision to turn over some land in Gaza to the Palestinians and their current troubles in that region. Yanking people from their border homes in exchange for peace has certainly worked well, don't you think?

I remember exactly where I was when the news broke on that story. I had just pulled in to Brandywine Creek State Park. I sat in my car all but spitting at the radio, "Stu-pid! Stu-pid! Stu-pid!" along with some other enlightened commentary. If they had just asked me before they made that ridiculous agreement, I could have told them the results. These people don't want a little land. They want Israel and the Jewish people gone from the earth. They simply can't be reasoned with because they are not reason-able.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world watches and waits to see how big this current storm will grow.

Weight Gain and Cancer

Here's an interesting release from WebMD via FoxNews:
It is increasingly clear that maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood is one of the best things women can do to protect themselves against breast cancer. that weight gain during adulthood is a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Researchers also found that weight loss after menopause helped lower breast cancer risk. Gaining 55 pounds or more after age 18 was associated with a 45 percent increase in breast cancer risk after menopause over women who maintained a healthy weight throughout their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Apparently, the reason for the connection between weight gain and cancer has to do with increased estrogen circulation in the body after menopause when one weighs more than she should.
Estrogen fuels the growth of most breast cancers. All women produce estrogen during their reproductive years primarily by the ovaries. But after menopause, circulating estrogen levels drop dramatically and the main estrogen source comes from the body’s fatty tissue. The more body fat a woman has after menopause the more estrogen she will have circulating.

The researchers estimate that for all the women included in their study, 15 percent of breast cancer cases may be linked to a gain in weight of 4.4 pounds or more since age 18, and 4.4 percent of cases for similar weight gain since menopause.

For women who didn’t use postmenopausal hormones, the percentages were 24 percent for weight gained since age 18 and 7.6 percent for weight gained since menopause.

But they also found that the biggest gainers often had the most aggressive cancers.

I wonder if they've compared this study with the last one I cited about the relationship between light at night and beast cancer. Since the above study was conducted on nurses, chances are good that a significant proportion worked at night thereby being exposed to light at night and suffering from disrupted sleep cycles. The reason I ask is because I had recently seen a study about the link between insomnia and weight gain, although as I type here in the middle of the night, I make a mockery of that statistic. (Of course, I'd rather be asleep than mocking anything!) How many of the overweight nurses that suffered from cancer also worked at night or otherwise were affected by disrupted sleep cycles?

I'm also a little concerned about this expectation that one should weigh within four pounds of her college freshman year weight (18 years of age) until menopause. How many people actually weigh within four pounds of their college entrance weight through their forties? That just seems a stiff expectation. Personally, there is no way I could ever weigh that again, nor would I want to. I'm happier the way I am now, quite frankly.

Well, I'm going to try to catch some zzzz's now myself. Here's hoping that I've remained coherent and lucid throughout this post. Hope all of you are sleeping well, keeping your weight down and otherwise snubbing your noses at yet another study over which we're supposed to worry. Please don't lose any sleep over it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Manhood (or the Lack Thereof) Today

Christopher Taylor of Word around the Net has posted yet another excellent essay, entitled "Unmanned" in which he examines the role of men and masculinity, or the lack thereof, in modern society. He also expresses his ideals of true manhood and examines the different forms of false manhood common today.

It's definitely worth reading, so please click on over to his site.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Word to the Wise

In a freakish minor mishap of the sort that could only happen to me, I discovered the slicing power of hard pretzels. We were on our way out the door, and I realized I hadn't eaten much. I grabbed a couple of multi-grained hard pretzels (hey, they're healthy and taste good too!) and dropped them into a baggie. With paraphernalia in one arm, I broke the hard pretzel with the other hand.

It was the pain that first alerted me to the Situation. The pretzel had sliced my thumb in two places!

Back into the house I went to search for the anti-biotic ointment which was not where it belonged (ooooooh, those kids!). Settling for iodine solution, I doctored myself and was on my way, once again nibbling on my hard pretzels but a bit more respectfully.

So a word to the wise----when eating hard pretzels, beware; they may bite back!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Carper is Right

Dang! I feel as though I've been dropped into a parallel universe. Senator Tom Carper has come down on the right side of two recent votes. What in tarnation is goin' on?

From the Washington Times:

Mr. Sessions offered his amendment to authorize $1.8 billion to pay for the fencing that the Senate voted 83-16 to build along high-traffic areas of the border with Mexico. In the same vote on May 17, the Senate also directed 500 miles of vehicle barriers to be built along the border.

But the May vote simply authorized the fencing and vehicle barriers, which on Capitol Hill is a different matter from approving the federal expenditures needed to build it. "If we never appropriate the money needed to construct these miles of fencing and vehicle barriers, those miles of fencing and vehicle barriers will never actually be constructed," Mr. Sessions told his colleagues yesterday before the vote.
Virtually all Democrats were joined by the chamber's lone independent and 28 Republicans in opposing Mr. Session's amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Only two Democrats -- Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware -- supported funding the fence. All told, 34 senators -- including most of the Republican leadership -- voted in May to build the fence but yesterday opposed funding it.

(H/t: RightWingNews.)

AND this via Jeff the Baptist:

Good news

from the Senate:
Handing another victory to gun control opponents, the Senate votes to bar the confiscation of legally possessed firearms during an emergency.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., proposed the gun provision amendment, which is attached to a domestic spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.The Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 84-16. The House has already passed its own version of the spending bill. Negotiators will have to decide whether to keep the amendment.

The 16 nay voters were all the senators from California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey along with Teddy Kennedy (D-Ma), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Levin (D-MI), and Reed (D-RI). Thankfully both Biden and Carper have common sense.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East

While asserting that Israel does have the right to defend herself, President Bush has promised to pressure Israel to pull back on its counter-assault against Lebanon, after the kidnap of two Israeli soldiers by a Lebanese-based terrorist group, Hezbollah. Lebanon's leaders declare their weakness, saying they have little control over Hezbollah.

While Israel bombs Lebanese targets, Hezbollah has launched rockets and mortars into Israel and apparently is attempting a transfer of the captured Israeli soldiers to Iran which still adamantly refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

Oh, yes. It seems Israel's right to exist is always the question over there. And when there are people who just want Israel wiped off the map, with whom no amount of compromise will work, perhaps one can see where Israel might think a stong offensive is in her best interest.

Hopefully this situation will settle out before the conflict spreads to other nations in the Middle East.

By the way, I thought this was an interesting little post, "Welcome to My Lebanese Nightmare" linked from Blackfive. Also, Hube's post is here.

Any thoughts?

A Last Word

The last two days have been, well, interesting to say the least. I did know when I posted that letter that it could possibly generate some heated discussion. I had even requested that you all discuss the merits or lack thereof of the proposal and had hoped for some thoughts on what else could be done. My goal was to bring to light the fact that there really are women who’ve been victimized and seen little justice, at least in my experience. (Some of you clearly got that, probably had gotten that ages ago, and were absolutely on the same page. Thank You!)

Long before it became apparent that the discussion would veer off course, I had written the second post. I wanted to clarify that I was most interested in achieving justice for women who were cowed and trapped in cycles of violence and for women who were forced to have sex against their will. Actually, I was undecided about posting it as revisiting their stories was horribly painful for me, knowing the details, but wouldn’t impact readers the same as I purposely withheld the specifics. The decision to post solidified as I realized that some of my readers thought we were discussing more minor, less clear-cut cases and didn’t seem to have the breadth of experience that I’ve had with true victims of abuse at the hands of much larger, crueler people--totally missing my point. Although my main focus was women who’ve suffered because they are a much higher percentage of those victimized, a broader discussion of what to do about serious abuse in any of its forms would have been welcomed too. As I had mentioned, I know men who’ve been on the receiving end, and I certainly don’t consider that a trifling or joking matter. It would be more accurate to say that I am anti-abuse regardless of who is doing it or who is victimized. Period.

I guess some guys really can’t comprehend what it’s like to be small and vulnerable and a target of lust and dominance. Being married fairly young, I was removed from many dangerous situations because I was no longer in the dating scene and rarely unescorted during social events.

However, at 18 I did come close to being a dead body in the woods. Having just gotten into my car, I reached over to lock the passenger side door only to realize there was a man there. As soon as my hand hit the lock, he turned and walked away. There were no other cars in that section of the parking lot. There was no other reasonable conclusion but that he was trying to get to me. Have any of you guys nearly been kidnapped and forced to have sex? And maybe even killed so you couldn’t tell? Have you ever even feared it?

Have you ever been followed around a store by someone outweighing you by 2x who kept insisting that you give him your phone number and that you leave with him right then because he wanted to go out with you? Then despite multiple attempts to explain that you are married…happily married…not the cheating kind…not interested…really Not Interested, felt panicked because you couldn’t seem to get away and because leaving might be worse? And that wasn’t even a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What stunned me most is that some really didn’t seem to understand that a person can be completely innocent and still be harmed. From some comments, I was left with the impression that if a man were to beat me that, to a man, you would all condemn his actions, but in the back of your mind some of you would think “But she probably was annoying and instigated it.” As there wasn’t any comment on the fact that I really do know several women who’ve been raped, not even of the he said/she said variety, that that doesn’t come up on your radar at all. This is, honest to God, most women’s deepest fear. I can only guess at what some would say about that. I suppose, for example, that I could have been to blame for the guy trying to get into my car or the guys who’ve followed me and pressured me to “go out with” them regardless of how many times and ways I tried to explain that I wasn’t interested. I do, after all, exist. (Okay, I know none of you would say that. I’m just venting after the suffering of some of my friends was marginalized.)

There really are women (and I’ll grant you, men, too) who are locked into patterns of violence. Locked in, because as they’ve been told, they’ll be killed if they try to leave. I know a few who did face more violence as they tried to remove themselves from the sick relationship. And one who died as the result of her decision or rather because the man didn't care for her decision.

By now I’ve probably lost half my readership anyway, so I suppose this post is more therapeutic than anything else. I am, after all, a woman, and needed to tell you how I feel. I needed to do it for me. And I want you to know that while I have frequently maligned the "femi-nazis", a couple of the comments did make me stop and think that maybe, just maybe, they do have a point. Those were some uncomfortable moments, I assure you. I gotta say, I thought that how we deal with abusive men would be controversial. I never dreamed that the real controversy was whether there really are abusive men. For those of you who got me, and for those of you who are sticking around, thank you, and I promise we’ll be moving on from here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Where is Justice?

(or "Since I've already stepped in it, in for a penny, in for a pound...")

Yesterday I posted a provocative letter I had received after the letter-writer had read an off-handed comment I had made on Colossus of Rhodey. My letter-writer had written in defense of corporal punishment for men who abused women. We had much correspondence back and forth over a couple days discussing the issue. I am still not clear where I stand on his proposal because I do abhor violence (although I must admit I really do enjoy seeing the violent bad guy who picked on the weak and innocent get it back in spades in the movies). I've certainly been wronged in my life in various ways, and I have never sought revenge. It's not my way. Then again, I have never been physically assaulted.

Nevertheless, as I had mentioned in passing yesterday, I am the repository of many truly troubling stories and the secrets and hurts of many people. Being one of few outstanding skills who will probably never be anyone "important" in this world, I've found the one thing that I can give to others is my ear and my compassion. So what if I can't sleep for a couple weeks after hearing yet another horror story? If my listening and accepting someone who feared no one would care brings some measure of healing into her (his) life, who am I to turn her away?

I remember:

The friend who was regularly beaten, subjected to indignities I won't repeat, and even raped by her husband who, knowing he would probably try to kill her if she left, finally drummed up the courage to do so because she didn't want their little boy hurt or to grow up in that way. Never was there a sweeter, less argumentative little person than she. How someone could harm such a soul is a mystery, or a nightmare.

Another who was threatened with death regularly by her husband, who was being strangled and was rescued by a police officer. Once the police officer thought he had the situation under control, he turned away momentarily only to find the man again strangling my friend. Even after hearing the policeman's testimony, the judge, in her wisdom, ordered them to family counseling. So much for automatic prosecution by the state helping an abused woman. It didn't do much for her though it certainly wasn't the fault of the cop who testified on her behalf. She finally escaped, through drastic means, to secure a safe and happy life for herself and her son. She still shuts down out of fear when someone becomes angry with her rather than defending herself because of her conditioning.

A friend whose mother confided in me that my friend had never been quite the same since she was raped* and that that was, in her opinion, why she never married.

Another who refused to let me walk home in the dark because "bad things happen in the dark".

Many others who have confided to me that they as children or teens or that their own children were the victims of sexual assault by trusted relatives or family friends. I simply cannot tell you their suffering, a couple rivaling Sybil for grotesqueness. Twelve have immediately sprung to mind.

Another friend's husband had her up against a wall, fist cocked ready to slam into her face. She cried out, "You do and I'll tell my father and brothers, and they will get you." He shook with rage, she recalled, because she could see in his eyes how much he wanted to, but knew that her particular father and brothers did not fear police or prison sentences and would make him pay dearly.

There are so many others. My head hurts as their stories and faces swirl in my brain. I've had to pause to compose myself many times so far, but I have spared you the goriest details so as not to sensationalize the issue. However, I think I've made my case that there is a real problem of abuse towards women (and children) however secret it might be. Any one who has read my work for any time knows that I do not hate men**, nor blame them indiscriminately for the ills of society. My goal is merely to demonstrate that there is a real need for justice and that we have not achieved it.

Paul Smith pointed out in his comment yesterday that he would not mind if a woman's family knocked some sense into an offending male. I wouldn't either. Many women, however, lack fathers or brothers to come to their aid. Others fear telling, knowing that their loved ones could end up in prison should they seek to avenge them. Furthermore, one of the first things an abuser does is to isolate his victim, cutting her off from family and friends. Then he daily undermines her self-confidence, like Chinese water torture---drip...drip...drip.

I recall a relationship of my own that could have headed down that road. While in high school, I dated a reincarnation of Adonis. He was studying psychology in college and liked trying out little theories on me. He worked to undermine my self-esteem, whittling away with carefully placed comments and criticisms. After we had broken-up, I visited with his brother whom I still considered a friend, as he had requested that I help him with something. He confided to me his great pleasure that we had broken-up--because he truly believed that I deserved better than his brother. He confessed that his brother used to beat a previous girlfriend right there in their home. I was surprised, but not that much. It made sense as I had witnessed cruelty in him. To what I owed my good fortune in having escaped relatively unscathed, I cannot be sure. Perhaps my unspoken vow to never be a silent victim, to never allow a man to physically harm me and get away with it was evident to him. Or perhaps it was my mother who wore combat boots and could reduce a young man to a whimpering mass of flesh with her evil eye that declared no one would hurt her girl. Or at least that's how one male friend described her to me. Anyway, the mind control clearly precedes the abuse in most cases of ongoing victimization.

Most men are not abusive. Many become righteously angry when those weaker than themselves are harmed. I've seen that anger in their eyes at injustice. I believe that that masculine propensity to protect begins early on. I recall visiting a cousin a couple years older than myself when I was a kid. Every night around one or two in the morning, the yelling and the hitting and the crying would commence in the apartment above us. I would reach for the phone, poised to dial 9-1-1 but be forbidden to get involved. My cousin would rail against the "ninety-eight pound weakling that should have the crap beat out of him". He was old enough to want to protect, but not big enough to do anything about it. We tried to help her one morning as she was still weeping after he had left for work. We'd certainly heard it all. We begged her to leave, to see a doctor, to press charges, anything, but she was thoroughly brainwashed. I wonder what my cousin, as a grown-up man, would do.

To be sure, a strong male presence can avert danger. I myself have been the beneficiary of such a defense. A too ardent admirer insisting that I go out with him instantly disappeared once I latched onto an acquaintance who was providentially at the right place at the right time.

But what of my friend's acquaintance? She works at a restaurant and one of her regulars, a great guy, wound up in jail for a year for having the balls to defend a woman being accosted in a parking lot. A year in jail! For doing what a man is supposed to do! I have heard of rapists being freed after three years because of time off for "good behavior". Three years in exchange for ruining a woman's life! No wonder many won't press charges. To go through all that humiliation only to know he may not face much of a real punishment? Why put oneself through it?

With courts sentencing habitual wife-beaters to family counseling instead of treating them as the criminals they are, judges trying to repair families where sexual abuse has occurred instead of getting the perpetrator the hell away from his victim forever, often far too light sentences for rapists, and real men being sentenced to jail for being...real men--well, is there justice? I honestly haven't seen much.

No wonder men like my anonymous letter-writer suggest corporal punishment to put some fear into the souls and bodies of abusive men.

*Please note, of my over a half dozen friends who have been raped, none of them are he said/she said stories or of the date rape variety. There were no murky circumstances involved or misunderstandings or any other such thing. That's not what I'm talking about and that would be a whole other post, I'm sure.

**To be fair and in the spirit of full disclosure, I've had a couple of male friends on the receiving end of relational violence. In both those cases (and in a third which was second-hand information), I'm proud to say that they used their greater strength and size to de-escalate bad situations, and not to inflict harm on little people who didn't know how stupid it is to pick on someone bigger. Therefore, this post is not to be taken as an anti-male screed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One Man's Ideas on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Women

While I was on a tour of historic sites in old New Castle, Delaware, a couple years ago, there was a picture of a whipping post. It was last used in Delaware in 1952, on a man convicted of beating his wife, as I recall. I commented to the tour guide that maybe they shouldn’t have stopped that practice. She responded that I’d be surprised at how many people said that exact same thing. But, you know what, I’m really not.

I’ve known many acquaintances as well as close friends who have suffered physical abuse at the hands of men. I cannot wrap my brain around the evil that exists in a, thankfully, small minority of men who fail to see any wrong in using their greater strength and size to intimidate and physically or sexually abuse those weaker than themselves.

A few weeks ago, Hube had posted about Philly’s pitcher Brett Myers allegedly striking his wife in public. I commented there:
Obviously it’s innocent until proven guilty, but women don’t generally end up crying on street corners with their faces all swollen, claiming their husbands hit them and having witnesses back them up.

What’s most troublesome about this is that this is most assuredly not the first time he’s struck her. Abusers tend to do their abuse privately. Men know they aren’t
supposed to hit women and are not generally stupid enough to do it in public where they can be identified.

Therefore, he most likely has a hot temper and has already broken the taboo against striking women & wife beating.

And if a man hits his wife once, almost invariable he will do so again within five years.

Aside: Delaware used to have a whipping post until about the 50s where men who beat their wives would be whipped. Personally, I have no idea why they stopped that practice.
Apparently, it was that aside that caught the attention of one of Hube’s readers. I received an email from him which I thought worth sharing. Please feel free to discuss the merits or lack thereof of the case as he presents it. I, for one, have seen enough to know that some men have no fear of jail time or police, and need something else to serve as a deterrent to crime against women. Any ideas you can bring to this debate are welcome.

Dear Anna:

I value your comment on the Delaware whipping post. I often think that there is not enough discussion of this topic. I find that many people are in favor of it when they topic is raised. More consciousness-raising of this time-honored, cost effective,
and effective form of correction may be needed.

I see the lash, cane, or leather strap as a good, strong deterrent for men and teenaged boys who physically or sexually abuse women (and for those who are showing themselves to be career criminals who are not deterred by prison alone). Most sex crimes (including date rape, the most common form of rape) against women are committed by young, sexually focused males 16-24 years of age who need a strong deterrent, who could be reformed by such decisive correction early in life, and are physically robust enough to endure such discipline.

I have some admiration of the Singaporean justice system which provides mandatory caning for males, starting at 16 years of age, who are convicted of sexually offending against women. Even those who engage in nonconsensual sexual touching receive a minor caning. I see this as promoting respect for women and stopping problems before they escalate. Because most nations that still employ the lash are developing nations, I like how Singapore shows us that a nation can be modern and still have provision for flogging. And as most people know, the amount
of sex crime is very low and repeating such a crime after having been caned
across the bare backside for it is almost unheard of.

Some women from Singapore educated me on some good reasons for flogging males only, and I have come to see some merit in this. My reasons are as follows:

-it is probably not good for men to get the idea that it is ever okay for a woman to be beaten.
-the male body is better suited to with stand the rigors of corporal punishment.
-males are more likely to commit crimes that deserve flogging.
-exempting women elevates the status of women.
-the pro-woman element to flogging is compromised if women also have to fear
receiving it

Look at this example. Even circus lions can be kept tame and safe when they know there is a whip available that can be used on them. The desire to avoid pain affects the behavior of all mammals. As a man myself, I can tell you the fear of being lashed would keep me in line much more so than would just the fear of going to jail. People think that society has evolved beyond the need for the lash, but have all men evolved beyond the need for this?

If whipping were in use, a man wanting to assault a woman would know he would
also get hurt just like when a man decides not to attack a man whom he thinks can hurt him back badly. Also men need to know that assaulting a woman will not be even close to worth it and he will deeply regret it. Men motivated by sexual
impulses to do forced sex or sexual contact need to know that the pain of the
punishment will far outweigh any pleasure derived from the crime.

I often think we could live in a better society if women felt safer around men and men were safer for women to be around. I also wish for women to feel that justice is
done, that sex crime is blamed on the offender, that rape is taken seriously, and that women are valued by society. I see whipping as helping to achieve these ends and to demonstrate these things -- even when it is trusted men who abuse women, as is often the case.

Whipping also in some ways fits as a consequence for rape. The abuser is stripped down, tied down, and whipped. He would have some sense of what it is like to feel
pain, fear, humiliation, vulnerability, and a helplessness to resist.

I should also state that boys and men sentenced to receive corporal punishment should receive counseling beforehand and afterwards in order to help them find
meaning and growth from the experience rather than bitterness or resentment. Such punishment should be given to reform the offenders not done out of vengeance or hatred. Of course mentally ill offenders should not be whipped, but should
be put in custody while they receive treatment. Whipping should be reserved for the many guys who knew what they were doing, knew it was wrong, and were able to control themselves but chose not to do so. And of course, whipping should occur in addition to a prison term and be administered as humanely as possible with an aim to ensuring no excesses in its use.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Night Light/Cancer Correlation

On Dr. Andrew Weil's site this morning, he answered a question from a reader on the possible connection between exposure to light during night hours and breast cancer.
A link between light at night and breast cancer is not yet proven, but there is a growing body of evidence for the correlation. A 2001 study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that women in Seattle who work the graveyard shift face up to 60 percent increased risk of breast cancer. Other studies have shown a similar pattern. And the risk of breast cancer is up to five times higher in industrialized nations (where exposure to nighttime illumination is more common) than it is in undeveloped countries. About half of those breast cancers cannot be accounted for by conventional risk factors.

So what's going on?

Back in 1987, a researcher named Richard Stevens, then at Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington, hypothesized that even brief exposure to nighttime illumination suppressed the pineal gland's production of melatonin, a neurotransmitter with strong anti-cancer properties.

Recently, that hypothesis came closer to confirmation. In April, I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by David E. Blask of the Bassett Research Institute in Cooperstown, NY. In research published in 2005, he found that human breast-cancer tumors grafted to rats grew more quickly in the presence of melatonin-depleted blood. The growth was fueled by rapid uptake of linoleic acid, a proinflammatory fat that's abundant in processed food, especially fried snack foods.

So far, light at night has not been linked to other kinds of cancers, perhaps because melatonin suppression boosts estrogen production by the ovaries, which in turn can support cancerous cells in a woman's breast. In other words, diminished nighttime melatonin production may boost breast cancer risk by two different mechanisms: speeding cancer cells' linoleic acid uptake and boosting estrogen levels. But I would not be surprised if light at night is eventually correlated with other cancers as well.
Read the rest here.

Personally, it feels to me as though every time I turn around there's yet another thing I do that can cause cancer, and I become frustrated with the information overload. What's especially maddening is that sometimes the warnings come based on one solitary study. Nevertheless, I thought it worthwhile to pass the information along as three studies now seem to indicate a possible correlation/causation. There. You have the information. Research it more, if you are interested, and decide for yourselves.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Difficult Conversions

In church yesterday morning, a young Pakistani woman, named Rosi*, who was visiting from England, spoke to our congregation. She had grown up in Pakistan with her father, mother, and several brothers and sisters. Her immediate family lived in a home beside two of her father's brothers and their families. A close family, her early childhood had been a happy one.

Then Rosi's father began reading a Bible given to him by one of his students. He converted to Christianity. As he attended church week after week, his brothers became angry with him. Eventually, they threatened to kill him if he did not stop being a Christian, for they believed that was their duty.

He fled with his immediate family to another town where they lived happily enough for a couple of years until her uncles found them again. They loaded up everything her family owned into a truck and told them to come with them. Her father plead with them to allow him and his children to finish out the examination period, and then they could return with them after that in a few days. His brothers relented but took his two oldest children with them along with everything they owned.

Assuming his children would be safe, he instead packed up the rest of his family and fled to yet another town. There they lived with a pastor for some time. The pastor's habit was early morning Bible reading and prayer with his family, and Rosi and her family joined them. Not particularly thrilled with her 6 A.M. wake up call every morning, Rosi disliked the pastor greatly.

Rosi also began studying the Koran and other Islamic writings at that time. While she loved her father very much, the things she was reading convinced her that if she truly loved God she would need to kill her father because he had converted from Islam, which was clearly an action deserving of death.

As she contemplated what she should do, Rosi obtained a job in another town. There she worked and discussed her predicament with her Christian father with some of the townspeople there. Her employer, not wanting to see Rosi's family hurt, pulled her aside one day and explained to her that she was causing great danger for her father as the townspeople were considering taking revenge upon him. Rosi protested that she had spoken nothing but the truth and hadn't done anything wrong. Nevertheless, she was sent back.

Next, Rosi was given a job in a Christian seminary in yet another town. Her new job typing up seminary courses gave her constant exposure to Christian Scripture. She read her Islamic literature on her own time, but the differences between the two faiths stood out. Eventually, she herself gave her life over to Jesus Christ and became a Christian.

Soon her uncles discovered where Rosi was working. They phoned her there, looking for information about her father and mother, brothers and sisters. As her uncles were still determined to take her father by force and to kill him if he would not give up Christianity, Rosi was snuck back home.

Her father decided it was no longer safe there for Rosi either since she was now a Christian too, and he sought to place her out of harm's way by sending her to England. She managed to obtain a visa to attend a class there. She was heartbroken to leave her family since the move would probably be permanent.

She has been living in England for many years. Recently she received a call from her father and mother who has also converted though she still performs her daily prayers. There are men who stand outside her parents' home daily. They have called her father and know everything about him and where his children now reside. She requests prayer for her family because of the constant death threats that are being made against them.

Rosi's story touched me. The danger posed to those who convert from Islam is real. Apparently it is an easy religion to convert to, but impossible to convert from without great risk. Her uncles threatened to kill her father and took all that they owned. Others, upon hearing of her father's conversion, contemplated harming him. Now her parents' home is being watched day and night, and they are receiving death threats. Rosi herself, though previously considering doing her duty to God by killing her father, had to flee her home after her own conversion to Christ. The difficulties she and her family have faced are hard to imagine as we live in a country in which we are free to believe as we wish and are not faced with possible death for changing religions or holding to no religion at all. I wonder if I would have the fortitude that her family had shown in similar circumstances. It's something to think about.

*not her real name as I do not wish to inadvertently cause her or her people harm.