Friday, May 2, 2008

A Torture Rant

Reader Kyle commented on my recent post about torture.

i've been writing our elected officials on this very issue for six years now.
for me, the question isnt "when is bush leaving office?" but when is the american public going to stand up and condemn torture.
up to this point, the american public at large has condoned torture. if we honestly believed that torture was wrong, we would not have re-elected our current president. we knew, way back then, that torture and extrodinary renditions were taking place.
when i first started hearing of the crimes against humanity carried out at the behest of our president and his administration i thought very seriously of leaving america.
this is the very reason i refuse to be a "one issue voter". i refuse to allow abortion (which the president is highly unlikely to change) to effect my vote more than torture or our treatment of the rest of the world (which the president (as shown during the last 8 years) CAN effect.

I think the problem, though, is that most people are too complacent about anything that isn't directly impacting them. If we have a leader who condones and authorizes torture, most people aren't going to care because it doesn't really affect their lives. If Joe Citizen's brother was being carted off to Gitmo there might be more outrage, but otherwise people are just content to go on with their normal routines. If you ask them, most would, of course, say, "Torture is bad. I don't support it," but they don't get worked up enough to do anything about it.

That means we need leaders with integrity. Sadly, politics doesn't seem to attract people like that too often. Or if it does, they don't keep it very long. Still, I'm not sure we can get anyone worse than Bush.

"Kind of a Dork"

Nothing keeps the ego in check like the sharp words of seven-year old girls. Brenda, a good friend and co-worker of mine was telling me that her granddaughter whom I have met maybe a handful of times told her the other day, "He seems like a nice guy, but he's kind of a dork."

I embrace the label, but it's still a bit odd hearing it come from a seven-year old.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Race Question

Is there any doubt that race and racism are playing a part in this campaign when you read stories like this one.

After his speech, I left the county courthouse and crossed the main street to talk to a small group of demonstrators holding signs next to McCain’s campaign bus. J. K. Patrick, a retired state employee from a neighboring county, wore a button on his shirt that said “Hillary: Smart Choice.”

“East of Lexington she’ll carry seventy per cent of the primary vote,” he said. Kentucky votes on May 20. “She could win the general election in Kentucky.” I asked about Obama. “Obama couldn’t win.”

Why not?

“Race,” Patrick said matter-of-factly. “I’ve talked to people—a woman who was chair of county elections last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for a black man.” Patrick said he wouldn’t vote for Obama either.

Why not?

“Race. I really don’t want an African-American as President. Race.”

What about race?

“I thought about it. I think he would put too many minorities in positions over the white race. That’s my opinion. After 1964, you saw what the South did.” He meant that it went Republican. “Now what caused that? Race. There’s a lot of white people that just wouldn’t vote for a colored person. Especially older people. They know what happened in the sixties. Under thirty—they don’t remember. I do. I was here.”

I think the racism found in the older generation will be Obama's biggest hurdle in the general election. Thankfully it seems to not be as rampant amongst younger generations. Still, it's here now and Obama must contend with it.

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dialoguing Abortion Part V

In which we start drifting toward a debate on education...

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

I don't disagree that pro-life advocates need to take creative and tactical approaches in fighting this issue. That has been and will continue to be done in a variety of ways. In fact, I think the battle currently lies with state governments. The pro-life movement has also done a great job educating the public at a grassroots level over the past three years. But to the point at hand: I'd agree that fighting Roe v. Wade should not be the only method for defeating abortion.

I completely agree that pro-lifers will be more successful at the state level. It goes back to my bottom-up small scale approach.

And where does the lack of engagement come from? What is it that is keeping parents from being involved?

The thinking that has evolved is, "Well, the school will teach Elijah all about sharing, and honesty, and oh good, they’re going to have the sex conversation with him too. Whew."

I would argue that it is not schools teaching all this stuff that has made parents disengaged, but a massive cultural shift in which people don't want to do anything hard. It's easier to hand off anything difficult, including parenting, to someone else. We lead escapist lives trying to hide from anything that makes us uncomfortable or challenges us. Parents not getting involved with their children's education is only one symptom of this.

Our lives are ordered in such away that neglecting the important issues with our children is becoming easier and easier. This is most evident in the portion of the population where teen pregnancy is the highest- among the poor. Many folks in this demographic have formed a “the system will do it for you” mentality in regard to just about every aspect of their daily lives, including sex ed.

I agree the welfare state is a problem. We may have to have a similar discussion about it someday. Segueing into politics, I will say that one of the things I have liked in Obama's campaign is his call for individuals to stand up and take some responsibility for themselves. Oh, I have no illusions about his desire for increasing the government's roles in many areas, but it is refreshing for a liberal politician to also be talking about people standing on their own two feet.

This approach hasn’t worked when teaching evolution or history, for example. So with something like sex-ed, which is at least AS morally charged, we can expect, and have seen, the same results. You don't give a teenager who just wrecked the family Buick the keys to a Semi.

Well, the big difference is that evolution is science. I have no problem with biology teachers mentioning that not everyone agrees with evolution as long as they also point out that the people that do have not put forward a theory that fits the evidence near as well as evolution. The good biology teachers will also have no problem saying that the theory of evolution is an evolving (hee, hee) one and will continue to evolve as our knowledge grows. As soon as IDers or YECs can cobble together some sort of real theory backed by science, I won't have a problem with it being taught in schools. Good luck on that, though.

What do you have in mind when you mention history as not having a balanced view taught?

In terms of moral or philosophic discussions in school, I think it would go a long way toward getting students more engaged. Instead of just learning something like "Karl Marx was born in the early 19-century in Prussia. He was most famous for writing a book called the Communist Manifesto which was a socioeconomic examination of history," students can have a discussion on the the influence the book had on history. What is communism? What are the pros of such a system? Cons? Can Lenin and his Russian contemporaries really be called communists? And so on. Make the issues come alive rather than being rote facts and you'll see more kids excited about school. The same can be done with abortion or any other controversial issue. Better to meet them head on than to pretend they do not exist.

You can't change a culture through the structural constructs that have helped to create and perpetuate that culture in the first place. You're trusting a broken, dysfunctional education system with providing a clear, objective and accurate discussion on one of the most morally charged and personal issues of our day.

Except the structural construct does not exist in a vacuum. It was created by people, but us. Yes, the construct has cracks and serious deficiencies, but those deficiencies were created by us as well, so we need to and can fix them. I don't expect magical solutions, but I do expect that they can be fixed.

You've stated yourself that "I think that those who oppose abortion need to take a bottom-up approach. Talk to family members, friends, fellow church goers about abortion." Sex education became an issue in the first place because healthy sexual behavior disintegrated alongside the disintegration of families. The schools see the symptoms of that, and as a reaction now mandate sex education. But the education system is only attacking the symptoms of deeper issues that must be addressed at a family and spiritual level. As a result, the school system's efforts are proving more destructive than helpful.

I didn't mean to imply that schools should not include parents in their children's education on such topics on abortion, only that kids having homework that includes talking to their parents isn't going to suddenly make parents involved. Yes, yes, yes, parents must become more engaged. There is no doubt that this must be addressed. I disagree, though, that what schools have been doing is "proving more destructive." If schools had not been teaching sex ed, parents wouldn't have suddenly stepped up and done it. My mom did not have sex ed when she went to school, but her parents also never talked to her about it. I picture the schools more as putting a band-aid on the wound which actually needs surgery. They're doing something, but it's not enough because we need societal change, not just education reform.

Also in 2004, the Attorney General for California issued a legal opinion that “California schools cannot inform parents if their children leave campus to receive certain confidential medical services that include abortion… The opinion was prompted by resistance from teachers unions and groups such as Planned Parenthood... [to a 'parent-friendly' confidentiality proposal]."

A similar confidentiality policy is currently in place in Montana.

This is asinine. I didn't realize we had that in place here in Montana. One more thing to write to our legislators about, I suppose.

And if you're interested in what the future holds, the UK teaches abortion in schools now, and as the preceding web site indicates, teachers are publicly organized to propagate the pro-choice stance within the public school system.

Well, in some respects I think UK is doing worse off socially than we are here in America. When you've got the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that the country may need to adopt parts of sharia law, you've got some serious issues.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Isn't Love Grand?

How long do you think this couple is going to last?

A newlywed couple spent the night in separate jail cells -- she in her wedding gown -- after police said they brawled with each other, then members of another wedding party, at a suburban Pittsburgh hotel.

The fight started Saturday night after a reception when he knocked her to the floor with a karate kick in the seventh-floor hallway of a Holiday Inn, according to police. It escalated when she attacked two guests from another wedding party who came to her aid, police said.

The melee moved to an elevator and then to the lobby, where the couple threw metal planters at the two guests of the other party, causing minor injuries, police charged.


The couple declined comment upon their release Sunday morning.

She left with her father, still dressed in her white gown.

Wielechowski left alone, sporting a swollen eye, tuxedo pants, a bloody T-shirt and one shoe.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Is Bush Leaving Office?

'Cause it can't come soon enough. The Justice Department is telling Congress that the CIA is legally allowed to torture.

Recent letters from the U.S. Justice Department to Congress state that intelligence agents working on counterterrorism can legally use interrogation techniques that might otherwise be banned by international law, The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions.

The Justice Department's interpretation shows the Bush administration is contending that the boundaries should have a degree of latitude, the Times said, despite the president's order last summer that he said meant the CIA would hew to international norms on the treatment of detainees.

Write to your Congressional representative and tell them that this is unacceptable. Something needs to be done about this.

I Can Still See...For Now

I saw my optometrist on Thursday to get a full eye exam. Everything looked good - no sign of diabetic retinopathy or cataracts or any other fun eye disease. Checking my vision as it stands now, it is close to 20/20, but he did say that in all likelihood as my blood sugar gets better regulated and is not up and down then my vision will return much closer to what it was. I have to go back in a month or so, assuming my blood sugar has been normal for at least two weeks, to see what I'm at and if I need a new prescription.

As it stands now, my vision is still pretty damn good without my glasses so I have not been wearing them. It is an odd feeling, though. I have worn them since junior high and I keep touching my face expecting them to be there.

Weekly Secret


Weekly Music Video

An awesome metal song with one of the coolest bass riffs EVAR!!1! "Peace Sells" by Megadeth.