Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"If you take Islam out of the message all that is left is criminality."

Good news (via Instapundit): Egypt's counter-radicalization programs are bearing fruit:

In a prison cell south of Cairo a repentant Egyptian terrorist leader is putting the finishing touches to a remarkable recantation that undermines the Muslim theological basis for violent jihad and is set to generate furious controversy among former comrades still fighting with al-Qaida....

"If you want to rob these people of their cover you have to take away their legitimacy," says Ashraf Mohsin, an Egyptian diplomat dealing with counter-terrorism. "The way to deprive them of their ability to recruit is to attack the message. If you take Islam out of the message all that is left is criminality."...

Read the whole article.

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Keep your laws off my "hate speech"

What part of "freedom of expression" don't they understand?

Well, I guess they might understand it, but not respect it.

In Canada, I suspect a Puritanical drive for universal courtesy and an overweening wish not to "cause offense" has lately morphed into a convenient cover for the crushing of dissent.

In Britain and Europe it is so much easier to just move on to another subject than to irritate a violent or vocal nut. From seeking to avoid confrontation, we escalate to legislating "hate" out of the picture. (As if!)

But who gets the power to define "hate"? Because that's what the struggle all comes down to when somebody doesn't get to speak/write/argue because somebody else forbids it (or intimidates against it without consequences).

Personally, I find laws outlawing "hate speech" to be hateful. Who do I appeal to about that?

In the United States, thank goodness, our Constitution guarantees that nobody gets the power to "define" "hate speech" or any other speech and stifle it. After all, one man's specious, idiosyncratic, or punitive definition of "hate speech" is another woman's public service.

Let the words roll. Set the ideas free. Let the world take note of how we wacky Yankees handle it: If you can't take the heat, change the channel, vote with your dollars or your feet, start your own blog, argue your own case--but here in God's country you don't have the right to crush dissent. Principled, reasoned, assertive, and even courageous dissent IS the American Way, and you too can have it for free (as long as you're willing to fight for it). The stifling of freedom of expression (including rude, hateful, critical, or inconvenient expression) is a very hateful tool and a symptom of fascism.

Even a few Canadians can still understand that. Poor beggars.

And we in the U.S. can't afford to be complacent when this is happening on our college campuses. As the author sums up:

Free speech does not encompass the right to fire, suspend, or riot your way into a universe in which everyone agrees with your views, even if you have legitimate grievances. The courts are well aware of this, but it seems that universities, both here and in Canada, are not. On campus, you may "speak" freely—with fists, chairs, and broken glass—so long as you are a member of an aggrieved minority with delicate sensibilities and a narrative of oppression.

This leaves the state to take on a new role in protecting free speech. The state must be responsible for busting up the monopoly that has taken over the marketplace of ideas: a monopoly of suffering, political correctness, and sympathy without limits. In the firing cases, the state will be represented by the courts, which will reinstate faculty fired for no reason other than unpopular views. And in the campus protest cases, the state must acknowledge that people who use force to suppress the opinions of others are not performing some sacred protected speech act. They are committing assault, not merely on other humans and on the basic promise of free speech, but on democracy itself.

UPDATE: Bookworm writes about "thought crimes" (in particular, the current Koran flushing "hate crime") and sums up:

The bottom line is that a robust Constitution, indeed a robust country, cannot survive if the Government starts policing thoughts that present no harm to the public well-being, but that might hurt someone’s feelings.

And Ace writes:

But this case, more than any high-profile hate crimes prosecution before it, makes clear that in a hate crimes rap what is actually being punished is the hate and not the crime at all, the thought and not the act.

Sorry, you can't outlaw hateful thoughts or hateful speech. The U.S. Constitution protects them.

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Words to live by

Today's lesson is from Captain Capitalism:

For it seems that the freer a society is, the more one is allowed to pursue not just wealth, but allowed to keep the majority of their wealth, the more successful that society is, and not just for the individual, but for society as a whole.

And it is this that gets to the heart of the matter. If you are genuinely concerned about the poor, if you are genuinely concerned about advancing society and increasing the standards of living for ALL people, you would be the most ardent supporter of capitalism, low taxes, freedom and individualism. Alas, because of the left's vehement opposition to economic freedom, I am only left to conclude that the left uses "the advancement of the poor" as a farcical and cowardly cover argument to rationalize the transfer of wealth to themselves.

Check out this chart.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Judeo-Christian response to Jihad

Over at Bookworm Room they are having a discussion of what the Christian or Jewish God might say about fighting jihadists in a holy war. The question and comments piqued me and I got sucked into leaving such a long comment there that afterwards I thought I would reproduce it here on my own blog too (re-edited a little). The question posed was: "What do you think the Judeo-Christian God thinks about the holy war declared on His people by the Islamist extremists and His people’s reactions to it?"

My rambling response:

I was born into a Christian family and culture, and today I believe in God as I am personally (and imperfectly) able to understand Him, following a prolonged period of youthful atheism, years of both pleasant and hard learning experiences, and ongoing study of human nature, philosophy, history, psychology, religions and the Bible and its context. I cherish my Judeo-Christian heritage more the older I get and the more I learn. My former atheism seems to me now to have been a youthful backwater based on very incomplete and immaturely limited understanding. Now I can accept there are things beyond my understanding that are nevertheless important to deal with as best I can; religion provides a rudimentary vocabulary to enter into that realm.

I have learned that being humble does not necessarily mean being humiliated, and I have consented to shift myself out of the center of my universe and put God there. Thanks to people I have met and things I have learned, my personal concept of God as I understand Him is now quite different than the capricious Santa/Father figure surrounded by unpleasant acolytes and unintelligible mumbo-jumbo which many visualize as a child. As a thinking, adult Christian, I follow the teachings of Jesus and am free and able to have a personal concept of and relationship with God.

I understand this freedom and personal view of God is very different from the Muslim faith, unless I am mistaken.

I do not presume to push my faith on other people who have been predisposed not to see the positives in it that I do. Jesus is my model: he merely talked with people; he brought good news and comfort to people who needed and wanted it and took it, and he moved on from those who didn’t. Each individual has free will to make faith choices and use his God-given brains, in the Christian religion as I understand it.

Not so in Islam, unless I am mistaken.

Despite lots of current talk about the scary theocracy and the frightening “Religious Right” in America, it seems to me that believing in God as Jesus taught us to do, and ordering one’s life around that, results in a net positive for oneself, one’s family, one’s community, one’s nation, and the world. It brings life lived abundantly. And yes, I am not discounting all the bad things done in the name of religion by flawed people that have gotten it wrong. All of this, in a Judeo-Christian Western culture, is worthy of continuing discussion. In fact, I believe the openness and the seeking and the discussing among equals is a legacy of Judeo-Christian values and their veneration of the individual’s worth.

No so in Islamic cultures, unless I am mistaken.

I lean heavily on the Protestant freedom to read the Bible and find a very personal path to "the way, the truth and the life" as Jesus showed and taught us. Life on this earth is not perfect, logical, simple, or kind, but I see spiritual progress in human values, over all, over history, led by the Judeo-Christian beliefs, including the Golden Rule of the Greeks that Jesus also taught.

Now, what would God say about a holy war, you ask?

First of all, I don’t presume to speak for God; the Bible relates what He has reportedly said and what Jesus said about Him. Anyone with a serious interest is free to study it and draw his/her own conclusions. Beyond that:

It seems to me this nation was founded very largely and primarily on Christian values, beliefs, and inspiration; as many have recognized, this experiment in self-government depended on the Christian and Judeo-Christian morality of the populace to succeed, and it did. Many through our history believed God was furthering the success and existence of this nation against terrible odds, and prayed for exactly that. The Pilgrims and Abraham Lincoln were among them, to mention only two examples. I believe that the more people in our nation who sincerely and humbly believe this and live by it, the better off our nation will be.

It is not so much a question of begging alms from a celestial despot, as it is recognizing our realities and limitations and humbly calling upon and tapping into a source for inspiration, strength, good will, and moral guidance that is bigger than ourselves. You can even pose this process in sheerly psychological terms if you wish. Whatever it is, it has succeeded amazingly since our nation’s founding. Among the stories of our history, miracles abound. Read 1776 by David McCullough, for just one such story.

We have been blessed by many individual Christians (all of them human, none of them perfect) who forged our nation humbly and who keenly felt their human weaknesses and limitations and appealed to divine providence for strength, guidance, mercy. They gave God credit for the glory and there was much glory and divinely inspired prosperity and success. They felt–and I think I am convinced too–that man alone operating for his own self-interest could not accomplish what was done here without divine help. It takes humble people recognizing this and God’s role to be able to tap into that powerful force for good. It will take humble people to recognize the gift they’ve been given and to cherish it and take care of it in the future.

There are many grey areas where values and actions can be debated, but some clear ones where we know and will know what to do, individually and as a community. I don’t know if God loves the pacifist Quakers or the isolationist Amish more than He loves the soldiers fighting to defend the innocent and maintain human rights, law and order, and justice. I am pretty sure He forgives every individual with a humble and penitent heart who seeks to know Him and asks for His forgiveness for their human flaws and mistakes.

Unless I am mistaken, none of this pertains to Islam. The differences between Christian and Muslim believers are stark, and will have huge consequences even if we are unable to definitively answer such rhetorical questions as “What would God say about a holy war?”

I think on my very grumpiest days I do in fact consider Muslims to be infidels, blasphemers, and idolators, by the definition of old Judeo-Christian precepts. The important difference here is, my religion does not bid me to kill them or even to bother them for this, as theirs bids them to literally kill me and my friends and neighbors. I am quite comfortable, living in this country of individual rights, to accept that they are free to worship and live in peace as they choose, as long as they break no laws. I can love these neighbors as myself, and consider them also children of my God, who have yet to know Him.

I have a hunch the Christian response to holy war in this era (like or unlike the Crusades?) would be heavy on the individual conscience, each one searching his/her own heart for what God’s will for him/her would be and what the right action to take should be. There will be pacifists, missionaries, Christlike martyrs, warriors, prophets, and exhorters, divinely inspired courage and human cowardice and vice. There will be an acknowledegement that each soul, each life is precious. There will be a search for justice, and a righteous anger to defend the innocent. Perhaps in this way, doing God's will is fighting for the sake of the Judeo-Christian God. But no, Christians will no longer fight to mainly or merely convert infidels to their own beliefs.

Come the jihad (or anything else) I don’t think atheists and secularists will be able to tap into anything greater than themselves, which isn’t much of a force. But Christians fighting for the love and the will of God to prevail on earth as they understand it prevails in Heaven can be a mighty counteraction to anything a jihad of robotic, misogynistic killers angling for 72 virgins could dream up.

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"Let the best men and women win in the free arena of ideas and entertainment

Victor Davis Hanson has a great essay up on how "All's Fair in Love and Talk Radio." He makes a number of good points touching on the "Fairness Doctrine" longed for by some Democrats, including these:

The government is already in the broadcasting business with National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. Despite conservative whining about the leftwing biases of these two institutions, fortunately no one has succeeded in having their broadcasts monitored or in demanding equal time on them for all views.

More importantly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, liberals and conservatives tend to excel in different genres of American media. Most successful political radio talk shows are in fact conservative. On the other hand, humorous political TV spoofs, like Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," Bill Maher's "Real Time" or "The Colbert Report," tend to have a liberal bias.

Similarly, the major networks — CBS, NBC and ABC — are liberal bastions. So are most of our motion pictures and documentaries. The most prestigious and oldest grant-giving foundations — Rockefeller, Ford, MacArthur and Guggenheim — are liberal leaning. Likewise are the majority of universities, from the most prestigious, like Harvard, to the largest, such as the California State University system.

Yet, do we want a counter-editorial to everything a Katie Couric chooses to present as news at dinnertime? Or should we demand that Republicans match Democratic numbers on college faculties, or as graduation speakers and grant recipients? Should conservatives be provided an equal-time trailer at the end of "Fahrenheit 9/11" or "Syriana"?

Smart Democrats should eventually realize they don't want to revive or revisit the so-called Fairness Doctrine, as that will only publicly spotlight and challenge (and jeopardize) the liberal bias currently at work in our mainstream media. Liberals have time and again shown themselves happy to force their views on everyone else, but not at the cost of having other's differing views given an equal forum or forced on themselves.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Grotesque stances by Democrats

I would sure like to hear how my liberal friends justify the fact of the Democrats not supporting the "John Doe Amendment" (protecting terror tipsters from abusive lawsuits). And what would my Democrat friends say about all of the Democrat Senators lining up to vote for enabling voting fraud? These to me seem to be two instances where any reasonable person would be voting exactly opposite to how the Democrats voted.

The argument that requiring a photo id be shown at a polling place when going to vote constitutes a "poll tax" on the poor, the elderly, or minority voters, seems an incredible stretch. Especially when the "hardship" inflicted on a potential voter by requiring a photo id is mitigated by the alternative of signing an affidavit (later to be verified), or by the government offering to send mobile vans out to provide free photo ids at their homes for anyone who wants one. More and more states are finally beginning to require this common-sense rule. But the Democrats seem to be kicking and screaming about it at every level. Pretty crass.

UPDATE: "Keeping the flying imams airborne."

UPDATE: Good news!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vacation mode, new/old

Blogging will be light for awhile as my family and I are away on vacation. We are now among the 10 people gathered for one of the regular summer reunions of my Dreamboat's family. We meet at their cabin on an island in one of the Great Lakes. This special hideaway-getaway place has been in the family for 70 years.

When the property was first bought back in the 1930's there was an outdoor pump here (no inside running water) and no electricity, just kerosene lamps. There was an outhouse (no indoor toilet), an icebox, and only a fireplace for heat. The first, second, and third generations made upgrades over the years so now we "summer people" of the 21st-century are able to enjoy indoor toilets, hot showers, microwaved snacks and gourmet homecooked meals coming out of the kitchen, indoor heaters, refrigerators, a clothes dryer, and even television and DVD players. Thanks to Ebay, there are some snazzy new oriental floor rugs. The fourth generation gets to vacation here without really "roughing it" but can easily visualize the past while hearing the stories of what it was like in "the old days."

This year we learned the U.S. post office on the island will no longer be holding our mail care of "General Delivery." We don't put up a mailbox for daily delivery here as no one is here at the cabin for most of the year. The post office will still hold our mail if we pay $20 a year for a p.o. box at the post office (basically, charging us for General Delivery services previously rendered for free). The charge is minimal, but the developing consensus among the family is that maybe we don't need the U.S.P.S. at all any more. We have email, and the FedEx and UPS trucks deliver to our cabin door. We could get a computer color printer here in two days from Amazon for $40 total, if we wanted.

Oh brave new world, that has such consumers in't.

This year we also learned that the local cable TV company went kaput. Probably driven out of business by the satellite dish. We can only get one fuzzy channel on the TV now. (I remember previous summers, when some of us watched afternoon soap operas, and the infamous Ollie North hearings). But no problem--among the 10 people here there are five laptop computers. My Dreamboat brought a modem and has set up a cabin wi-fi network. For entertainment we show each other stuff from our computers or YouTube, or share photos or video (displayed on the TV) from our digital cameras. My son brought his huge library of DVDs to keep himself entertained until the Harry Potter novel arrives. Instead of sitting around the cabin together reading books, we now sit around looking up stuff on the internet. In between sailing, swimming, cooking, eating, walking, jogging, and kayaking, of course.

I organized daily walks of about a mile for those of us of all ages interested in getting some regular exercise. My sister-in-law brought some plastic bags along and we ended up becoming a roadside litter pickup crew, which was a not-unpleasant novelty for me. Our walks were slowed down considerably, but the constant bending over to pick up discarded cigarette filter tips is great for the waistline. I can't decide whether I feel more virtuous for doing a good "green" deed for the people of the island, or more silly for wasting my time on something so irrelevant in the larger scheme of things (surely if we combined our brainpower for the same amount of time I'm sure we could come up with something to better benefit the island than picking up cigarette butts). I decided to regard our trash duty as a sort of modern-day Amish/Quaker/Zen-like exercise in humbling oneself in a simple, plain, yet communal way to serve others. So what if it's mostly symbolic? (We are not making any real dent in the accumulated trash farther off the road's shoulder and into the poison ivy.) Nothing wrong with symbolism. As long as I wash my hands afterwards.

Things are changing and we're feeling our way. I was reluctant to bring my own laptop computer, as I know how addictive it is and I didn't want to invite distractions from family time or radical changes in the kind of vacations here in the great outdoors I've always loved. But time and change march on and no one can stop them. I brought my laptop. It's handy for looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words as my daughter reads Anne of Green Gables. It's handy for looking up the local weather forecast. And I find myself drawn into blogging and checking email and websites during the day instead of reading Edmund Morris' Theodore Rex.

Progress or retardation? You can be the judge.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Call your Senator and demand decent health care

Here's a dilemma:

A dear friend of mine who is a breast cancer survivor forwarded an email to me (and to several other friends of hers) asking us to sign a petition to combat "drive-by mastectomies." "I cried when I read this," she wrote, and "it happened to me."

Of course I sympathize with the pain and fear of being sent home from a mastectomy with drainage tubes still hanging from your body because your insurance won't pay for a longer stay. Of course I am angered and saddened by such stories of women struggling to deal with the emotional and medical aftermath of losing a breast and facing cancer. Of course I agree that a 48-hour paid stay in the hospital after such traumatic surgery would be great for all women wanting and needing to recoup under close medical supervision (in fact, why not a paid week, including psychological or even spiritual counseling, survivor support group meetings, and more?). Of course I want to be a mensch and step up to show support for my emotionally traumatized friend and all other breast cancer patients and survivors who suffer this catastrophe through no fault of their own.

In fact, why limit our sympathy to mastectomy patients? Anyone facing a medical crisis deserves our compassion, support, and help. It is a reminder to us all once again that life is definitely not fair.

But isn't inserting your Senator or any other elected or appointed official between you and your health care bound to make things even worse?

Not that they wouldn't leap at the chance to be there. But do Senators know even more about, or have even more compassion, time, or attention to deal with medical matters than do insurance companies? Wouldn't you think that insurance companies and medical professionals might be the real experts here? Certainly they have more knowledge and experience in dealing with individual patients, procedures, and medical cases. The thought of my own Senators pouring over medical minutiae gives me the willies. Shouldn't Senators, with their limited capacities and time, be passing and funding laws dealing with fraud and injustice in general, along with crafting all those resolutions?

What sort of Americans think Senators or any other politicians or appointed bureaucratic minions will be more compassionate, effective, efficient, knowledgeable or even honorable than medical and insurance workers liable to being fired for incompetence?

As for me answering my friend's email: if I am against socialized health care, how can I sign a petition calling for laws mandating specific medical treatment? What if medical advances outstrip the codification of Senatorial intervention in this and other cases?

Does the average American, let alone the average traumatized breast cancer survivor, ever think about a political or bureaucratic solution to a problem always being less efficient, less responsive, more bloated, more slow, more dumb and more susceptible to corruption than a free market solution? Do they ever recognize all the unintended consequences that will be brought about by their good intentions?

Just because insurance companies are profit-seeking entities dealing with aggregates and are not run to look out for the best interests of all patients in all cases is no reason to call for more intrusion of politicians and laws into the process and less freedom of choice for the consumer.

How about these alternatives for women considering signing such a petition:

--Inform your doctors, your insurance companies, your employers who carry your insurance, and your family members and friends about the issue and your displeasure at the status quo. Public persuasion, buzz, and shame have a lot of influence, and more so on people you know and the companies that serve you than on distant politicians or faceless bureaucracies.

--Familiarize yourself with all the ramifications of this problem, including the economic and political ones. How much more would a 48-hour hospital stay cost than a "drive-by mastectomy?" Who should pay this difference? Should it be a choice or a law? Who will pay this difference if it is mandated? If "insurance companies" are ordered by law to pay for it, where will they get the money? What will be the total cost for all Americans if such a law were passed? What effect (including unintended financial and behavioral consequences) will such a mandate have on doctors and hospitals, insurance companies and their premiums, and on the price level and quality of medical care in general? How will all of this be administered and by whom, and at what cost?

--Find out what your own health insurance now covers, in advance of a medical crisis. If you are angered or threatened by your insurance company not paying for anything more than a "drive-by" (outpatient) mastectomy, fire your insurance company and shop around for insurance you like better. With enough money, you can buy practically whatever insurance you like.

--Organize your finances and savings so that you will be able to pay for your own medical care above and beyond what insurance will pay for. Then make it clear to your doctors you are able and willing to pay for the best care possible, not the cheapest insurance-approved health care.

Too expensive, you say? Too time-consuming? Too hard to deal with statistics and finances? Too much to ask of women in pain and in turmoil? Too much thinking to require of average Americans?

Yes, it really is much easier to rally voters to form a self-serving special interest group to lobby politicians with emotion than it is to get Americans to accept the idea that their health care is their own responsibility. It has become such a received idea that someone else is supposed to pay to take care of your health that it is no longer even thought about. Now, along with one's employer "providing" our insurance coverage (it is actually part of our earned wages taken from us and delivered in a different form than fungible cash), we believe that health care is handed down on high from the crown, and that its quality and quantity is subject to begging, influence, and political power.

God help us and our country, and God forgive the poor innocents willing to fritter away their own power and all the benefits of a market economy taken for granted and unremembered, all for the promise of a unrealizable free lunch (or "free" restful hospital stay paid for by--whom??) "given" to them as a pretty gift by politicians only too glad to masquerade as beneficent heroes with other people's money. They will be happy to act as another layer of middleman taking their own slick payoffs.

As Neal Boortz has said many times,

Socialized medicine. It's just this simple: If the government controls your health care, the government controls you. The true path to reform of our health care system lies in the private sector, not government. But if people are in charge of their own health care, how can politicians use the threatened loss of that health care as a scare tactic in elections?

The game here is simple. Work tirelessly to make Americans more and more dependent on government. Destroy their individuality and their sense of self worth. Make them believe, as Democrats do, that American is great because of government, not because of the dynamic of free people working together in a system based on economic liberty and the rule of law. Make government the most important institution in the lives of every American -- every voter --- even more important than the Church or the family.

Once you've created a dependency on government all you have to do is threaten the voters with the loss of their government-provided security blanket and they'll follow you anywhere ... all the way to the destruction of the American dream.

Sorry, my friend. I appreciate your emotions, but I cannot follow your policy prescription.

UPDATE: Consider this thought experiment. If an additional 48 hours of a hospital stay will cost, say, $2,000 to 6,000 and it is YOU, the mastectomy patient and your family who will have to pay for it, do you feel any more inclined to try going home, as your doctor (in the face of a malpractice suit) allows you to, and have your family monitor and assist you as you recover, to save that $2,00 to 6,000? If it is your own money on the line paying the medical costs instead of manna from heaven being dropped in your lap to pay for it, do you still want to purchase the additional 48 hours of intensive hospital care?

This example highlights how much more careful we are with purchases and choices when it is our own hard-earned resources on the line. But too many of us feel we are owed services and resources by and from others without ever considering the fact that those resources are equally precious to someone else. All the women who have signed this petition: just where do they think the money will come from to pay for the 48-hour mandated hospital stay, including paying for the additional hospital bed space this would require?

I'm afraid the answer is: they don't know and they don't care. They feel someone else (who?) owes them this money they are unwilling to pay for themselves because....?

Here's an idea I offer as a possible better suggestion:

As hospitals necessarily provide more and better (and more costly) services per hour (and are subject to ever more regulatory and litigation costs and the costs of subsidizing nonpaying patients) so that overnight and extended stays become astronomically expensive, new minimal-service "rest centers" can be opened nearby where patients recovering from "drive-by mastectomies" and other outpatient procedures can choose to rest and recover for 48 hours under a monitoring nurse's care, at much less cost than for a full-blown hospital stay. In fact, the highest costs of this alternate solution would really be due to regulations, licensing, mandates, and paying for the medical malpractice insurance of the monitoring medical personnel. So maybe, to make this even more affordable for more women, it would be best to allow the patient to choose to go home or to a motel nearby to the hospital (in case of problems) and hire a nurse to stay with her for 48 hours.

Wait, don't we allow this already? Or are patients unwilling to pay anything for their own health care beyond what their insurance premiums cost them (and sometimes not even that much)?

An obvious and simple solution here is for women to ask their doctors to better inform mastectomy patients of what to expect after surgery, and how to find affordable access to aftercare resources, including rent-a-nurses.

If there is a demand for niche and alternative medical services, someone recognizing a profit-making opportunity will step up and satisfy the demand with a good, workable solution. But not if the government steps in and distorts incentives and the market. There has already been too much of that in the healthcare field.

Hang onto your choices, people. Don't go running to the politicians to pass more draconian and stupid laws limiting choices and confiscating money to be wasted through bureaucracy, bloat, and corruption. Don't give away your freedoms or take away the choices of others. Let the market do what it does best: respond, innovate and offer a range of new solutions. It is government that fences us in.

Think through all of the consequences of your actions when you appeal to politicians to interfere. Think beyond stage one.

FURTHER: Bookworm examines bad medicine and uninsured people.

Andrew Klavan shares feeling bad about having to be an impolite conservative.

Thomas Lifson: The U.S. subsidizes Canada's unworkable "universal health care."


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Potsmokers' logic

From Yahoo! news:

TORONTO (Reuters) - A U.N. report showing Canadians use more marijuana than people in any other industrialized country is more evidence that the drug should be legalized, activists said on Tuesday.

Huh? Come again? Why is that "evidence?" And why am I hearing my mother's voice asking sarcastically, "If 10 million Canadians jumped off a cliff, would that make it right?"

Papua New Guinea topped the marijuana list with 29.5 percent of the population using it, followed by Micronesia, Ghana, Zambia and Canada, according to the annual finding.

Nice company. Good on ya, Canada. Stick with the winners. Lots of benefits to reap as the big fish in that little pond.

I'm not even going to talk about whether marijuana use should be decriminalized or made legal. I'm just struck dumb at the goofy non-logical arguments made by the proponents of legalizing marijuana (as evidenced in this article, at least). They kind of undercut their own position that marijuana use is "safer than drinking coffee." I thought coffee at least made you smarter for about 20 minutes.

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"Greenhouse gasbaggery"

For giggles....don't miss this very funny essay by Jonah Goldberg (via Betsy's Page) on Al Gore's big recent fundraiser-flop ("Live Earth--Dead on Arrival"). Between them Jonah and Betsy (and Betsy's husband too) sum up all of my thoughts on the whole subject of celebrities and rock stars preaching climate advice with their considerable skills, Al Gore and his religious devotees, and the lack of both a "consensus" or scientific evidence supporting the political goals of the global warming doomsayers.

"Global warming" doomsayers anthropomorphizing nature are nothing more than this decade's signature sad-but-laughable and distracting coterie of loons. They make for grand media coverage, all out of proportion to their importance or their sense. Kind of like the telegenic hippies of the Summer of Love and the Woodstock era (remember all those great photo essays in Life magazine?), only cleaner and older in years if not in wisdom. In fact, some of them are the same people.

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So, what's happening in the Senate or the House on immigration reform?

Victor Davis Hanson has it so right (as usual):

If the American public wants the border closed first, and discussion of everything else later, is that really such a bad thing?

Were the government to enforce laws already passed — fine employers for hiring illegal aliens, actually build the approved fences, beef up the border patrol, issue verifiable identification — we would then soon be dealing with a static population of illegal aliens. And that pool would insidiously shrink, not annually grow.

Some of the 12 million here illegally would willingly return home. Some with criminal records could be deported. Some would marry U.S. citizens. Some could be given work visas. Some could apply for earned citizenship.

The point is that our formidable powers of assimilation would finally catch up and have time to work on a population that would be at last fixed, quantifiable and identifiable. As aliens were more readily integrated with the general citizen population, Spanish would evolve into a helpful second, not a single alternate, language. Wages would rise for workers already here — many of them soon to be Mexican-American citizens — without competition from a perpetual influx of illegal aliens who work more cheaply.

Mexico would be forced to deal with rather than export its own problems. Billions in earnings would stay in the United States to help our own entry-level and legal immigrants from Mexico, not be sent back as remittances to relatives.

In short, a savvy public is neither racist nor hysterical in wanting the border closed now. It's the only comprehensive solution to the present mess of illegal immigration.

Still no answers yet from my two Senators on what they are planning to do now to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Muslim women: "one of the least-free groups of people on the planet"

Afghan Girls Traded, Sold to Settle Debt (via Dhimmi Watch)

Forced Marriage Troubles - Germany's non-response to Muslim girls' forced marriages and honor killings inside Germany

Where is the feminist outcry against the slavery of women under Islamic sharia? Not so much recently or very straightforwardly here, but rather comphrensively here. And here.

Unfree under Islam.

As Hirsi Ali says,
"Western culture is superior to Islamic culture. Islam as a body of ideas is not compatible with human rights, it is bad for women, it is bad for the human being, it is bad for the imagination, bad for science and therefore bad for progress."

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

The anti-illegal immigration debate continues

And I'm still learning....

I caught part of a very lively and informative debate on C-SPAN Friday evening, described here. It was a panel debate of wildly divergent views on illegal immigration which took place before an audience of 2,000 self-described Hispanic journalists. It got my adrenaline flowing just watching it. The debate actually took place a couple of weeks ago, in June (so I couldn't find it listed among the programs on the C-SPAN website).

I found it very compelling viewing, and you can learn a lot by following the links in the essay describing it above. The debate was moderated by ABC news anchor John Quiñones, and panelists included Rev. Carol Breen speaking in favor of the New Sanctuary Movement (which evidently can't even bring itself to utter the word "illegal" or recognize any distinction between illegal and legal immigrants), Rick Oltman, spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization, Jamie Zuieback, Acting Director of the ICE Office of Public Affairs, and Monica Ramirez, a lawyer for the ACLU.

Googling after the fact, I gathered a few links on related topics I'd like to share here:

ImmigrationsHumanCost - includes a long heartbreaking list of victims making the case that illegal immigration is no victimless crime.

Via Power Line, an interview with "Breaching America" reporter Todd Bensman, on Arab illegal aliens and their route from the Middle East into the U.S. through Mexico.

The New Sanctuary Movement - as far as I can tell, certain Catholics and Unitarian Universalists are heaviest behind it, but other denominations are participating too, including the United Methodists. It seems at base to be part of the Socialist agenda utilizing the usual "useful idiots" (well-meaning compassionate people ignorant of the facts) to gain respectability and traction. An illegal alien hiding out in a Chicago UM church for almost a year now threatens a campaign "aimed at bringing this government and this economy to a halt." (Here, a Roman Catholic reader writes a protesting letter to his bishop.)

Illegal immigrants in California "educated on the public dime" and granted slots in California universities and colleges at in-state tuition rates are now demonstrating publicly for amnesty and financial aid.

LaShawn Barber gives a roundup of Arizona's latest responses to the Feds' failure to act. (More on Virginia here and Georgia here.) The problem remains that state and local law enforcement agencies willing to prosecute illegal aliens and the companies that hire them still have no other recourse but to report the companies and the criminal illegals to the Feds to accomplish the actual prosecutions, fining, and deporting--which doesn't much seem to happen. - vox populi. Scan the comments for some interesting reading.

"Mexifornia, Five Years Later" - a recent update on conditions in the California agricultural heartland by Victor Davis Hanson. This man speaks for me, and writes much better than I ever could.

American Patrol Reference Archive: Federal Immigration and Nationality Act Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii) - aiding, abetting, harboring, encouraging illegals is a felony.

What will the final resort of the American people be to get the job done, I wonder? Are we looking at a total breakdown of our government? At the very least we are looking at egregious negligence contributing to further lawlessness and criminality. Congress, the President, and Homeland Security are all liable, and are all passing the buck among themselves.

Here's part of the email I sent to my Congressional representatives this weekend:

What's next on securing our borders?

...I have closely followed the Senate's actions on the so-called comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that was recently killed....

...Senator, we are still waiting. What is your next step in enacting the will of the people to ensure that our national borders are secured, as everyone in the Senate seemed to agree was necessary and desired? Just because Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein and a handful of others in the Senate claim that this subject cannot be revisited anytime soon does not mean that they get to determine such things, does it?

My family, my community, and I look to you for strong, swift leadership in getting the job done that the American people want and need. Our nation's future literally depends on it. Please put these Senate naysayers to shame and continue to do and work swiftly toward what you were sent to the Senate for: to protect and serve the people of our state and the rest of the U.S. I can think of no more important task that needs to be done right now than securing our homeland and enforcing our laws, and thereby regaining the now-lost trust of the American people.

Senator, what do you plan to do now?
And now I am asking myself: what more can I do and what is my own next step?

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Does education increase happiness?

I always thought so. For as Orwell once said, the educated person need never be bored, but can always fall back upon his thoughts to entertain himself.

Now the Economist points out that in addition to providing such cogitative pleasures, more education in women means less divorce for them, and more children being raised in two-parent families (via Captain Capitalism). I don't know about you, but those two ways of life (married, with children) are the major determinators of my own deepest happiness--and that's not even getting into being able to tell a trochee from a troika, or knowing enough about good health and nutrition to stay active, eat wisely, and get regular medical exams (I believe long life and good health lead to happiness, too).

I'm eternally grateful to the former taxpayers of California who helped pay my way through a university education. I guess I owe them not only for my glibness, but also partially for my marital and child-rearing success. But probably my parents and my Dreamboat had something to do with it too.

Keep working on it, economists. Let's see if we can solve that mystery and quantify exactly how to run a society that supports marriage and intact families and increases education. Or at least let's see if we can teach ourselves how not to screw it up.

By the way, Kay Hymowitz reaches similar conclusions in her terrific new book, Marriage and Caste in America. It is widespread common knowledge by now that poverty and broken marriages go together; but what still evidently needs to be hammered is that poverty and ignorance (lack of education and even lack of wanting an education) go together.

Broken marriages and fatherless children are not so much caused by lack of material wealth as they are caused by ignorance (individual ignorance adrift in a cultural sea of ignorance) and a lack of human capital (the absense of valuing and learning from education, so that you can make good choices about everything from making a decent living to supporting and acquiring advantages for yourself and your children).

It is barely politically correct to label single unwed mothers and unwed fathers ignorant for making the choices they do, but that's what it amounts to. And their ignorance results in a lot of unnecessary unhappiness, most tragically for their children. Do we have to put a price tag on such unhappiness before we can believe it?

And I think the most important question of all is: why don't they believe it? Why do people still choose ignorance, broken families, rejection of education, a life of poverty for themselves and their children?

What's insulating such people from recognizing the consequences of their bad choices? And what's motivating people to make better choices and reject their surrounding culture of ignorance?

Actually, it's the economists who are on the right track here. We need to hear much more of their insights into understanding the dynamics of decision-making and then when it comes to governmental policy, we need to "think beyond stage one."

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tag, I'm it

Hey, this has never happened to me before. Thanks to Bookworm Room for so generously including me in the blogger game making the rounds. I doubt anybody cares knowing more facts about me but in the spirit of taking the old Cosmopolitan magazine "Test Yourself" quizzes of my teen years, here goes:

The rules are:

Players list 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, players then tag 8 people by posting their names and makes sure they know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at the tagee’s blog.

Eight little-known facts or habits about myself:

1. My favorite music is 1940's swing, and pretty much anything leading up to or spinning off from that. Benny Goodman rules. You can throw Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, some Dixieland, Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Texas Swing, Frankie and Tommy Dorsey and Nelson Riddle, Ella Fitzgerald and the Andrews Sisters in there too. For spice and sweetener, toss in some Perry Como, Spike Jones, Harry James, Helen Forrest, even Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire. The soundtrack of the 1940's was my kind of stew. I guess it's not odd that was my Mom and Dad's favorite music, too.

2. My favorite composers start with Bach and end with current new fave Mark Snow. In the middle somewhere: Beethovan, Chopin, Mendelsohn, Schumann, Schubert, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Tom Lehrer, Weird Al, Heywood Banks. I am moved by beauty and virtuosity and I love to laugh.

3. My favorite visual art includes work by the three Wyeths (N.C., Andrew, and Jamie), Norman Rockwell, the Hudson River School, Georgia O'Keefe, and the California architects and visual artists of the early 1900's. I definitely love illustration, story, color, line, and design; I venerate technique in reproductive art; for sheer emotion I prefer landscapes. Abstract and primitive art leave me cold.

4. If I could design my own home, it would be a modest Craftsman-style bungalow or a Mission-style ranch with contemporary technology and plenty of natural light inside. Family inside to fill it, live in it, mess it up and love in it is essential.

5. I have never hired or used a cleaning lady, gardener, landscaper, or yard service. For me, the ideal life is one of balance and grounding, combining the freedom to pursue intellectual and creative work and the necessity of shouldering chores of regular (humbling) physical labor (much as I hate to sweat and get dirty). I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice to be rich and keep manicured hands, but it's not something I hanker for and I don't think I'd be any happier that way.

6. Probably the biggest secret people don't know about me is that I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I really don't remember how it happened, anyway. I just tell my kids to do well in school, to get good grades and to not be afraid of hard work, and there's no telling where they'll end up. Maybe with fat financial aid packages to prestigious universities! Maybe as a happy housewife!

7. I have read Gone With the Wind more than 12 times, and then lost count. The first time was when I was in sixth grade, and my teacher made me bring in a note from my mother giving me permission to read it. My mother's attitude was, if I was old enough to want to read it, and attempt to read it, and was able to read it, I was old enough to be allowed to read it. Of course, she didn't have to reckon with the crappy-content, easy-reading books being pushed on kids today.

8. I am a lifelong voracious reader who began by falling in love with fiction and later, with "great" literature, who now reads almost exclusively history and biographies, because they are more varied and interesting. Most influential books in my life, all read several times before I was 18: Little Women, Gone With the Wind, Atlas Shrugged. I entered my adult years as a retro, idealistic Romantic and am now, thank goodness, at age 53, post-university, and after 30 years of marriage and halfway through raising two children, a grateful conservative/libertarian idealistic Christian American pragmatist. And if you think you can know me based on any or all of those "labels," you can't. Meanwhile, I have a developing sense of what I don't know and what I can't know, which I consider one of the hallmarks of wisdom. And I'm deeply grateful that I still have a lot to learn, and the chance and ability to still learn it.

I am also grateful and amazed that through little effort of my own, I have this blog-voice for sharing these culturally alternative thoughts beyond my own cranium. Take that, Paris Hiltons of the world and the media and marketers who aggrandize them.

I tag (not because I think they'll do it, but because I am interested in what they would say):

Victor Davis Hanson
Dr. Helen
Betsy's Page
Simi Valley Sophist
Thomas Sowell
Captain Capitalism
Texas Rainmaker
Breath of the Beast

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

No time to blog this morning; I've got to go start making the deviled eggs and packing the cooler. We are spending a family day together, enjoying a small-town American parade, some hiking, picnicking, and (we hope) some fireworks.

May your 4th of July be full of freedoms, gratitude, and pleasure. And to our service men and women who are not picknicking, but serving us and the rest of humanity and the ideals our country was founded on: thank-you, today and always.

UPDATE: The Missing Man table setting (from Operation AC):

The table is round -- to show our everlasting concern for our men and women who are serving far from home or have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The tablecloth is white -- symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of our service members, and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, waiting.

The vase is tied with a red ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to support them.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those who were killed, captured and missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by their families and friends.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The glass is inverted -- to symbolize their inability to share in today's toast.

The chair is empty -- for they are not home.

Freedom is not Free, remember our troops today as you share in your 4th of July celebrations.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Why they murder the innocent "unbelievers"

Here's your basic primer:

This fellow, Hassan Butt, supposedly a former British jihadist, writes a succinct essay about what is really fueling Islamist jihad around the world. It should be assigned reading for every self-respecting American and Brit today (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, and atheist) in the wake of the recent jihadist terror attacks that, as usual, make no distinctions of politics, religion, ethnicity, or age.

It is a reasoned message so succinct and clear it should be assigned reading in every high school in the English-speaking world, as 'an introduction to the thought behind violent Muslim jihad in the world today--and how to counter it.'

Although it is gratifying to hear an actual Muslim say these things, none of it is news--Robert Spencer, for one, has been saying the same thing for quite some time:

...I am saying that for reform to have any chance of success it must be based on a realistic assessment of the nature of the problem. If it is based on false pretenses, on comforting fictions, it will certainly fail. Instead of flatly asserting that the Qur'an forbids retaliation against those who insult Muhammad, and ignoring Muhammad's own contrary example, as well as the unanimous consensus of traditional Islamic jurists, Manji might have done well to acknowledge all this, and outline some way for reformist Muslims to reject the traditional view.

But as one of the commenters on the Butt article points out--

Mr Robert Spencer has written for years on this subject and been decried as a racist or 'Islamophobe' for merely making the exact same points as the above article, albeit in much more detail and with a much wider range of knowledge and information on the subject for reading. His readers did not need Hassan Butt to tell them that radical Islamism has no basis whatsoever in poverty or disagreement with foreign policy. Why is it taking so long for the penny to drop in the West? [my bold]

Because, discouragingly, reason always has an uphill climb against emotion, and it is easier to be a coward and say and do nothing than to stand up and avow your beliefs in the face of thugs. As Butt says:

For decades, radicals have been exploiting the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern secular state - typically by starting debate with the question: "Are you British or Muslim?"

But the main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Muslim institutions in Britain just don't want to talk about theology.

They refuse to broach the difficult and often complex truth that Islam can be interpreted as condoning violence against the unbeliever - and instead repeat the mantra that Islam is peace and hope that all of this debate will go away.

This has left the territory open for radicals to claim as their own. I should know because, as a former extremist recruiter, I repeatedly came across those who had tried to raise these issues with mosque authorities only to be banned from their grounds.

The more people, of all creeds, talking hard sense about the evil and wrong, death-cult theology driving the Islamic jihadists, the more chance we have of countering it.

Peaceable people must speak up and tell the truth. The reasonable and peaceful people in this world (of all faiths) still outnumber the killers. Speak up now before such questions are ultimately decided only by slaughter and war.

And when you are asked, "Are you British or Muslim?" or "Are you American or Muslim?" why not say, "Both, Inshallah." If you are then threatened or thrown out of your mosque, there's your wake-up call. You have work to do in the name of Allah, and killing has nothing to do with it.

UPDATE: Pointing out the obvious uphill battle (via American Thinker):
Attacks on the West from the inside will not stop so long as liberal apologists continue to produce justifications for fundamentalist Muslims who confuse their right to enjoy the liberty of the West with a need to confiscate the rights of everyone else.
And the antidote:
First we must not blame ourselves for this. We did not do it. They did it. They are the crazy doctors. And the major culprit is the Islamic belief system - the idea that anyone who is not Islamic is less than human. This is not a religion. This is - to carry forth the medical analogy - a virus, destroying everything in its path.

"Voiced and Unvoiced" at Gates of Vienna proposes modern pamphleteering:
Bloggers are the modern equivalent of the pamphleteers of the 18th century. We’re facilitating a conversation and a communication that would otherwise not occur. Most of us are doing this for little or no money, and some are taking great risks in the process.

Our governments and the media have shut out any effective and well-informed discourse on the topic of the Great Jihad, so it’s left to us ordinary citizens to take up the slack. We’re on our own.

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My morning horselaugh

Via Drudge Report: Hillary Rodham Clinton's response, on President Bush commuting Scooty Libby's prison sentence:

"This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice." - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.


UPDATE: "That's cronyism, Hillary!"

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Cool things in the dark: "Ratatouille" - four thumbs up; "Nancy Drew" worth seeing, too

Summer movies....

All four of us went to see the new Pixar animated movie, "Ratatouille," on Saturday. It's a story about a winsome, iconoclastic French rat who discovers he loves to eat well and who learns how to cook well enough to support gourmet Parisian restaurants (go figure). Verdict: We all loved it. It was amusing, cute, touching, and sweet, and when you got tired of all that, the animation was beyond superb.

I went in with reservations, afraid it would be just as overly-loud and too action-packed and frenetic as I'd thought "The Incredibles" was (I think that was the last movie all four of us went to a theater together to see, in fact). Fortunately "Ratatouille" was not too loud or too annoyingly action-packed or frenetic; this one dialed it back just right. My Dreamboat thought it was a little too long (as I did "The Incredibles") but the movie didn't drag for me. There were no immature gross "jokes" that I remember, thank goodness. I was even able to suspend my natural disgust with rats and my acquired disgruntlement with things French. In other words, I was begrudgingly charmed in spite of myself. We all laughed a lot, exchanged appreciative glances with one other in the dark, and happily got our money's worth ($40) for an afternoon of full-family matinee entertainment, popcorn, and drinks.

James Lileks reviews "Ratatouille" much as I would (scroll down).

I took my daughter and her friend to see "Nancy Drew" a couple of weeks ago, too. They are both 11, and said they liked the movie. As a bit of summer afternoon entertainment I liked the movie too, though the writing can't compare with that of "Ratatouille." (But then, remember what kind of movies I spent afternoons watching in a dark theater when I was their age: "With Six You Get Eggroll" and "The Earth Dies Screaming").

I am not sure purists would say the movie sticks closely enough to the venerable character of the girl sleuth of the books. After seeing this movie, I say flatly: so what. You want a Nancy Drew movie set in the 1920's? Go make one yourself, and if you succeed, I'll watch and enjoy that one too.

Having made the choice to update the characters and relocate Nancy Drew and her father temporarily for an adventure in Hollywood and Southern California (of all anti-wholesome places!--and I say that as a former So.Cal. girl myself), this movie has succeeded, by giving this Nancy Drew an offbeat, disarming, and even stylishly retro twist to her. In a land of suspended disbelief anyway, she is utterly wholesome, and succeeds by being plucky, brainy, and confident in herself (much like Sean Connery's James Bond succeeds by his wits and self-confidence in a fantasy world of cartoonish bad guys). All of that tickled me, being a longstanding retro girl myself, likewise destined to forever swim upstream in the spew of popular culture. This movie gets that. Go, Nancy, for retro good girls everywhere!

It was nice to root for a heroine worth rooting for, and I was ever-so-grateful there was nothing in the movie unfit for my preteen charges. I'd recommend this movie for anyone looking for good summer entertainment in a cool, dark theater. As this review explains, this movie refuses to smirk. How refreshing!

More of that, please, for my kids and for me.

PARENTS ARE ADVISED to check out new (and older) movies before they let their children see them. These parental-review websites below are WONDERFUL tools to help parents avoid movie stealth content bombs that "standard" reviews won't reveal, and help parents determine age-appropriate and/or culture-appropriate movies for their own kids. I love the internet!

Common Sense Media

Movie Guide

Kids-In-Mind Movie Ratings That Actually Work

Screen It! Entertainment Reviews

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