Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dressing the 11-year-old girl

It's all about making distinctions and discernment, isn't it? It's all about discussions and mother-daughter dialog. It's all about time spent together in each other's company. And "that's a good thing," as Martha Stewart says.

Here's a story ("Lolita's Closet" by Emily Yoffe at Slate) that made my morning and made me laugh out loud (thanks to Instapundit)--it's a savvy and down-to-earth mother's review of her back-to-school shopping expeditions for her 11-year-old daughter, and it's so funny and rings so true:

...Fortunately, my daughter shares my goals: She wants to look stylish while still sweet, trendy but not trampy. The designers at Limited Too, a shrine to 'tween fashion, and I differ on how to achieve this....

She (child of Washington that she is) had given me a useful parameter of 'tween fashion. While you don't want your daughter to look like Britney Spears, she doesn't want to look like a failed Supreme Court nominee from the Bush administration. In between those two poles, if you have patience and good arch support, you can find enough nice stuff.
--including the rare "pants with enough inseam to reach your waist and cover your underwear." Read the whole thing and enjoy. It certainly echoes my recent shopping experience with my daughter, who fortunately also wants to look feminine and classy, not like a cheap junior skank or fashionbot.

It's three weeks into the school year and my daughter and I have already been laughing over her descriptions of the little girls who've showed up at the middle school wearing ultra-miniskirts and leggings (in August's 90-degree heat). Or in multiple layers of spaghetti-strap tank tops, trying in vain to evade the rule that wearing spaghetti-strap tank tops will get them sent home from school. What a waste of time and energy that could be better spent actually learning something useful in the classroom. Who teaches these children, these precious little girls, to focus so much of their energy on such utter nonsense as to hassle with a middle school administration over fashion?

But having seen mothers show up to volunteer in the elementary school classrooms wearing low-slung hip-hugging pants and ill-advised shirts that reveal their plumber's cracks, navels, and way too much bosom when they sit down to help string yarn or cut-out construction paper shapes--nothing that the little girls wear to school in this district surprises me anymore. It's not the kids, it's the parents, as they say. It's not the 11-year-olds driving themselves to the mall and plunking down the credit cards. It's the parents driving the children to ape their own questionable consumerism. Yecchh.

Whenever I see a kid wearing anything that says "Abercrombie" (and Abercrombie clothes certainly advertise themselves on an army of willing zombie bodies, don't they?) I translate that immediately into "I am the unfortunate product of parents with more dollars than sense." In other words: poor dumb kids.

Clothes do make the girl, and they do telegraph what you were thinking and where you were coming from when you (or your parents) bought them. I'm very proud to see my daughter, once relatively unconscious about the clothes she wore (as long as they were comfortable and had a graphic of a cat or other furry animal on them), now putting together stylish yet respectable and flattering "outfits" with real taste and an eye for color, line, drape, and texture. She's signifying that she's growing up, thinking about and taking responsibility for how she projects herself, and wants to and deserves to be taken seriously and respected by the more discerning people around her. And she's telegraphing she's not afraid to be a cut above the crowd in order to be true to herself. That can be a hard row to hoe in middle school and high school, as the kids that dress like skanks are also usually the "mean girls" focused like lasers on what other kids wear (more wasted time and energy) and they have seemingly been taught no scruples or manners against browbeating others. But being true to yourself in the face of the herd I believe is the only way to a happy life in the long run. It's good (and unfortunately, necessary) to learn these lessons early.

Thankfully, just as you can find decent clothes if you keep looking, you can also find decent people who will share your views and tastes and appreciate your confidence, your unique strength of character, and your discernment.

UPDATE: Emily Yoffe takes questions from readers who agree and disagree with her views (more laughs).

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summertime follies: file this under "nobody's perfect?"

Throughout this summer work crews have been digging in our neighborhood of somewhat older suburban tract homes, replacing the municipal water system near the curbs and installing spiffy new fire hydrants. So far these work crews have inadvertently cut the telephone and DSL lines in our neighborhood three times, cut the cable TV lines once, and today they cut into the natural gas lines for the second time. Once again the fire department had to send a truck and crew out to blockade the road and babysit the workers until the gas company people showed up to staunch the leak. Luckily nobody's house blew up.

Workers sent out by all the buried utilities have repeatedly spray-painted the areas where the buried utilities are supposed to be. So what's wrong with this system, and why isn't anybody learning from experience? As the mishaps pile up, it begins to look more and more like a Laurel and Hardy comedy of errors.

Still, that's better than what happened in my sister's neighborhood in another state. When a subcontracted crew sent out by the city showed up to repair a sidewalk in front of her house, they broke into an underground water main and a monumental spray of water started arching up into the air. The subcontractors all fled, leaving their truck behind, and were never heard from nor seen again. Eventually the water company sent someone out to cap the gusher. Wanna take any bets that the subcontractors were illegal aliens?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Illinois school pushes smut on children

That's the title of this piece by Matt Barber at Townhall.com today, and unfortunately, it is not hyberbole (there is truly adult content at the link that middle-school age children and under should not access; cleaner version here). But here is the crux of the news:

Illinois School District 126, covering Alsip, Hazelgreen and Oak Lawn, has defended its choice to assign summer reading to 12- and 13-year-olds that is replete with harsh profanity and references to teen sex...

Prairie Junior High School’s required reading list for rising 8th graders gave children six books to choose from over the summer. Parents have complained that three of the six books contain adult content which is highly age-inappropriate. Those complaints, however, have fallen on deaf ears. At a recent school board meeting, school board members said they intend to continue assigning the books....

To add insult to injury, the school didn’t even have the courtesy to warn these kids — or their parents — about the adult content within the assigned reading. And parents are understandably furious. If one of my daughters came to me at twelve having been assigned this smut, I’d be ticked-off too.

Whatever happened to classics like Ivanhoe or Up From Slavery? Sure, some of them may even contain limited profanity and adult content, but there’s a big difference. The profane content [in this case] isn’t sporadic. It’s pervasive and gratuitous. ...

...it’s outrageous that educators, who are charged with helping to mold the minds of these 12- and 13-year-olds, would willingly — if not eagerly — contribute to their moral degradation by pushing this kind of vulgarity on them. It amounts to educational malpractice, and School District 126 should have its mouth washed out with soap.

I telephoned Robert Berger, superintendent of schools for District 126, fully expecting him to assure me that this foolishness would be remedied. But instead, his response was defiant, defensive and arrogant.

Berger refused to answer me when I asked him several times if District 126 believed that such mature content was appropriate for children. (I wonder; if it’s so appropriate, then why wouldn’t he defend it?)

I asked Berger if one could infer that the district found the material appropriate since it was assigned to children. He quipped, “Infer whatever you want to.”

No one’s calling for a book burning here, but c’mon, these are just kids. Does District 126 have any standards of decency at all?
No.

It is so disheartening to me to read that this kind of thing is still going on. I have written about this before, after I discovered similar shenannigans in my own school district and especially the American Library Association's big fat, evil hand in it. Evidently the fact that more parents are becoming aware of how the schools try to slip smut past them to their children in schools and school libraries has not yet thrown a healthy caution into the most determined of these would-be "educators."

Individual outraged parents seem to be having small effect in stemming this tide. Too bad Drudge or Rush Limbaugh wouldn't focus some well-deserved national attention onto this case so that other school districts would feel the heat and think twice. There is really no defense for what they are doing. There is no justification for assigning such books to young people when there are so many better things they could and should be reading.

The "adults" who make these assignments and rubber-stamp the decisions are sick. And they should not be in positions of power over other people's children.

Personally, I check out every book assigned to my children in school now. I read the reviews at Amazon.com (including the informative one-star reviews of trendy but trashy books from literate, disgruntled parents). And I can't tell you how disheartening it is to realize there are people out there educating our children who think exposing them to age-inappropriate, trendy smut masquerading as great literature or "a good read" is a good thing.

It's certainly been a "teaching experience" for me.

I think I'll write my school district superintendent and my school board rep right now and let them know my thoughts about this. And find out theirs. I don't want our school district to end up in the news the way Illinois School District 126 and the others have.

More commentary here at Free Republic (adult content, not for youngsters).

Any parents feeling really feisty and proactive? Download and submit the Parents As Full Partners in Education form to your child's school. Let them know you're awake.

UPDATE: In a related vein....If you aren't familiar with the SafeLibraries website, you might find this also interesting. It's not that we don't love librarians and great books--it's that we don't agree with or approve of the policies and the recommendations of the ALA.

TRUE DIVERSITY/ALTERNATIVE VOICES: Librarians who see through the ALA and are speaking out: Annoyed Librarian and SHUSH: A Website for the Conservative Librarian.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Childhood obesity and how adults have contributed to it

Adult and childhood obesity and how these conditions are increasing in numbers in America never leaves the news cycle, it seems. We've all been hearing about it for years; we've all seen spots on TV or read features about it in magazines and newspapers, or heard about it on the radio, over and over. I do believe "the experts" who study such things when they say it is a "growing" problem, because undeniably, there they are before our eyes, seen almost every day in public places: morbidly, alarmingly, shockingly, inhumanly fat people. My heart aches for them as I watch them physically struggling with the literal burden of the consequences of their actions. Consequences that are viciously consuming them.

I know that "fat Americans" has become a pejorative stereotype around the world, especially among the Western Europeans, where obesity seems to be a growing problem too, but is reflexively blamed on "American conditions" like ubiquitous fast food. In Europe's jaundiced eyes the once "ugly American" is now an ugly, fat American. That, along with current talk about the medical issues and insurance and health costs being paid for by all Americans, makes me an involved and concerned participant in the national problem.

But it is really most heartbreaking, I think, to see obese children. One of the most memorable features of the summer day when I take my children to enjoy the local water park once a year is is seeing obese elementary-school-age and teenage children walking around in their swimsuits, their extremely unhealthy fat and unhealthy future prospects revealed. Invariably the adult or adults with such children are also obese. Though a live-and-let-live libertarian at heart, at such moments I confess I feel the wild, useless urge to call Child Protective Services to intervene in a clear case of longstanding and ongoing child abuse.

But denial is a deep vein in our society, and much is overlooked and blindly tolerated here, while we distract ourselves incessantly with other things that simply do not matter (like daily blow-by-blow reports of the Michael Vick case, to name the latest overhyped cause celebre).

It's no mystery that parents with unhealthy eating habits would pass the same on to the children they are raising (and feeding). It's also no secret that American children get less exercise these days to burn off the ingested fats and empty sugar calories than they did when Hector was a pup and children walked ten miles to school through the driving snow with only a cold potato or an apple in their pocket for their lunch.

But here's another couple of factors I've noticed that I haven't heard anyone else talk about:

The educators have institutionalized between-meal snacking

Somehow over the last couple of decades we've become pushers of the "snacking" society. (And why do I think this was probably originally marketing- and product-driven?) I first started to notice this fifteen years ago when my son was small and I was a new mother. I'd take him to suburban parks and playgrounds, and most of the other doting moms would be toting along juice boxes and crackers or tupperware containers of Cheerios for their own small fry. Even if the accompanying snacks were healthy, it still struck me as funny then: couldn't these children spend an hour or two away from home at the playground between two sit-down meals without going into shock? But over time it became a habit for me, too. I didn't want to appear unprepared, or have my own child seem neglected. Food was the comforter, the ace-in-the-hole. Peer pressure soon got to me, too. I started packing Cheerios in the diaper bag.

When my son entered half-day preschool, I realized the snacking habit was an institutionalized mainstay. Snacks were part of the preschool day, a refreshment, doled out on a regular schedule, to fill some sort of evident need between the breakfast and lunch served at home. I didn't recall ever being so tied to needing a snack in mid-morning when I was a kid (nor did I get such snacks, usually--I was too busy playing). But who was I to second-guess the preschool experts, who'd had years of experience dealing with small children? Not me, a first-time mother.

As both of my children went through elementary school, bringing "healthy snacks" each day was not just permitted, but strongly suggested (i.e. an assumed requirement). If I chanced to forget to pack a snack and an additional drink box in addition to the lunch I also packed, my child would feel downright deprived during "snack time" when teaching came to a halt and everyone else in class pulled out their healthy (and unhealthy) "snacks" (some of which by no definition could be considered a mere "snack"). My children felt reassured that if Mom forgot to pack a snack, at least they could go to the teachers' "emergency" snack pantry and grab some Goldfish crackers or something else to sustain them through the long, arduous slog toward their 11:25 a.m. lunch.

Deprivation and socialization were the name of this game, I realize now. It had little to do with needing actual food, and a whole lot more with institutionalizing snacking between meals. They were, consciously or not, teaching the children that people really can't and shouldn't go for several hours without thinking about their stomachs and eating. Obviously, "everybody does it," and teachers and principals approve!

Now I am wondering what effect this institutionalized snacking has had on the nation's kids as a whole. It sure wasn't a regular part of my school day back in the 1960's and 1970's.

Even more pernicious is the institutionalization of using candy as a reward which I encountered (and hated) in my children's elementary schools. As real discipline and the ability to remove or effectively reprove troublemakers went out the window, teachers took on a new tact of "positive reinforcement"--rewarding good behavior with candy (Jolly Ranchers were the Gold Standard in our suburb). Since my children were taught at home to be well-behaved and obedient in school, they "earned" tons of sugar candy. To add to the problem, each of their teachers would do the same, so that my kids would be raking in empty calories from the music teacher, the art mom, the science teacher, etc.

The parents showed approval with sugar, too. In my day, Valentine's Day meant you got paper valentines. In my children's day, they got paper valentines AND a whole lot of candy from their classmates to go with them. I was one of the few old-fashioned mothers who didn't include sweets with the valentines we gave (and how meager my children's offerings looked in comparison, in the eyes of recipients). Peer pressure yet again.

Complaining to the teachers about the "candy for good behavior" policy got me nowhere and made no dent on the deluge. I had to sit down and level with my kids that so much candy, while indicative of great achievement on their part, was not good for them to consume. They were understanding and good sports about it. But why do teachers take this route to further their own interests at the expense of the children? Treating them like Pavlov's dog with empty sugar calories as a teacher-approved reward in mass crowd control situations is not a lesson I sent my children to school to learn. And what does this practice teach children already struggling with eating issues?

The adults running the schools don't care about the kids getting enough exercise

Finally, lack of exercise. My children had regular physical education and recess almost every day in elementary school, for which I was grateful. They certainly needed and benefited from that, and their coaches were very good. But once they entered middle school, they had only one semester a year of physical education, and no recess at all. That meant, that for one-half of the entire school year, they had no P.E. at all, and the only exercise they got was walking to and from the bus and walking around between classes. In high school, they are required to take only one semester of physical education in four years. Who in his right mind thinks this is sufficient exercise for children cooped up in a school all day?

I have complained to my school board representative about this for years and nothing has changed. Not enough parents care enough to put the school district's feet to the fire and require regular daily exercise for children. Too many other things need to be shoehorned into too few hours, I'm told. It is left up to the parents to make sure their children get sufficient exercise during the few hours they are out of school and not tied up doing homework. The middle school and high school here have thrown up their hands and bowed out of something that was a part of my daily school life when I was a teen. Although private schools can somehow manage to find time for all the necessary academic subjects and physical exercise for the kids, our public schools have decided we cannot afford to make P.E. that much of a priority. With our finite resources, if we increase P.E. time, then music will have to go, we've been told. How many other schools across America have been allowed to get away with doing the same?

How much of these factors in my own experience in raising my children are common across America? How much have they possibly contributed to the growing problem of childhood obesity?

There are many fingers to point and many causes to blame when it comes to the problem. But I don't think I have ever heard of educators being put on the hot seat--and maybe it's time they were. I offer up this post not as an example of venting blame, but in the hope that those who see they might be contributing to a problem might choose to rethink their actions. Can we do better and choose smarter methods that will help to decrease childhood obesity? I think so.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Anniversary to a former orphan

[Content warning: the following post constitutes "cat blogging."]


Today is our fourth anniversary of sharing our home with Katie, our calico cat. Yet even today there is still some debate about who named her. I maintain I named her in honor of the great, late Katharine Hepburn who had died earlier that summer. My daughter, who is now Katie's "kindred spirit" (in the Anne of Green Gables sense), claims she named Katie Katie because it is the perfect name for Katie (and that's pretty persuasive, too). At any rate, Katie is Katie now and she has been growing up with us for four years.

They called her "Sarah" at the adoption depot, according to the tag on her cage. She was an adolescent, four and a half months old. But she didn't look or act like a Sarah to us. Although her calico markings were strikingly pretty, there was nothing old-fashioned, reserved, or ultra-feminine about her. In fact, she scratched my son's finger once, the first time we visited her, when she was clearly being playful and trying to catch my son's attention. She was remarkable for her alert directness and the obviously friendly contact she made through the bars of her cage. She really seemed to like us, as soon as she set eyes on us, before we distinguished her from the crowd of homeless waifs.

My son, my daughter, and I went to visit the cats at the adoption depot several times, to scope out a new recruit for the household slot vacated by our previous darling angel cat, who had died of the sad infirmities of old age. She had been an astonishingly affectionate and devoted "mother cat" to both of my children--she obviously considered them her kittens--since they were born. We did not want to rush into any decisions. I especially, after the last years of nursing our old darling, didn't want to "rescue" any overly needy "victims" at that point. I wanted a healthy, loving pet who would be a rewarding addition to our household, not a new liability. I went there telling myself to be firm about wisely choosing a cat I would be glad to live with for the next ten or fifteen years. I had to be smart and choose a future friend, not a creature who might turn out to be a psycho or a millstone around my neck.

We three narrowed it down to two adolescent female cats, one of them "Sarah." Then I returned another day, alone, without my children along to cloud my reasoned final judgment with their mercurial, emotional pleas for one "cute kitty" or another. Again, I was drawn in by the way "Sarah" made confident and friendly eye contact with me. Clearly she wasn't bashful about telling me, "Get me out of here!" from inside her cage. It was clear as day--but she wasn't coming on as a victim, she was coming on like Charlton Heston wanting to be sprung out of the cage in "Planet of the Apes." A cute, furry, friendly Charlton Heston. I suppose that would equate to being Katharine Hepburn, don't you think so too?

After holding her against my shoulder like a baby and receiving a satisfying bear-hug, complete with a rumbling purr, soft chirps, and strong head-butts, the decision was made: here was my new baby.

As I was leaving the cat adoption depot, after having signed all the paperwork and forked over the considerable fees for her having been spayed and vaccinated, the administrator piped up, "You knew she was feral, right?"

"Huh? What's that? What do you mean, feral?"

"It means she was born outdoors and lived in the wilds, in the bushes, until somebody trapped her and domesticated her."

"Oh.... No, nobody told me that. Does that mean she's going to have problems adjusting to living indoors with our family? Will she be dangerous around my kids?"

"Probably not. If you have any problems with her, just bring her back and pick out another cat."

Hmmm.

That revelation of my new friend's origins took some shine off my unalloyed joy and replaced it with a little alloyed misgiving. What was I getting into, and what did owning a "feral cat" really imply? I had no idea. But now I was heading home with a loudly squalling, skinny teenage calico cutie in my cat-carrier. And the memory of that warm, fuzzy, purrful bear-hug she'd given me, once out of her cage and into my arms, that clinched the deal. How could a "feral cat" be that happy nestling against a human stranger's body?

So, I hoped for the best.

Four years ago this morning, I returned to our quiet home (my children were both at school and my husband was at work) and released our new pet from her cage. I immediately realized my mistake when she moments later disappeared behind the "entertainment center" in our family room. I had been living so long with our previous sedate, matronly cat (over 15 years) that I had not had a foresightful clue about the need to "kitten-proof" our home. I had no idea she would find and fit in such a tiny place. Katie was now evidently trapped behind our "entertainment center" (actually, a do-it-yourself phalanx of five tall bookcases loaded with games, toys, videos, photo and record albums, and heavy TV, electronic, and stereo equipment), and was yowling her little head off. Poor kitty! I pulled about 200 pounds of heavy, dusty junk off the first tall bookcase and carefully pulled it forward and down onto the carpet--only to see Katie's tail disappear behind the next filled bookcase in the row. Hiding and yowling--frightened baby!

I think at that point I left her and went off to babyproof the rest of the house, by stuffing pillows, books, and whatever else came to hand into every small "crack" I could now notice that Katie might decide to crawl into. When that was hastily accomplished, I returned to "rescuing" her. I think I had to clear out and take down three of the five bookcases in our family room before she consented to letting me grab her. Our family room was a wreck.

I put her into our small laundry room near the back door to the garage, and closed the door. Her food, water, and litter box were in there, and there was nothing else she could get into (that I could see). She stayed, yowling, in the laundry room, while I heaved the bookcases and their contents back into order. When things were aright again, I opened the laundry room door and checked on her. She was stuck as far behind the clothes dryer as she could be (and beyond my reach), still crying piteously. I decided she would have to come out whenever she felt good and ready, so I just left the laundry room door open and went about my housework.

When my daughter came home from school that day, we went looking for Katie and couldn't find her anywhere. I was growing seriously alarmed until we realized that a kitchen desk drawer near the telephone was halfway pushed out--and there was Katie, sleeping in the very back of the flat drawer, in a space only two-and-a-quarter-inches deep. At some point she had ventured out of the laundry room and into the kitchen, climbed up into the back of the drawer from underneath, and fallen asleep, flat, tiny, and exhausted--and covered with dust bunnies dragged along from behind the clothes dryer.

She wasn't the most promising "pet" that day, and capped her afternoon performance by getting similarly "stuck" behind my daughter's heavy bedroom dresser at bedtime, entailing more grunt work for me. This time she was easier to rescue though--she was beginning to realize I was going to be a recurrent face in her new life, I think. We put her in the laundry room that night for her own sense of security, but found her, hiding and crying, behind the dryer again in the morning. Saddening and pathetic.

But as her "feral" nature made her unnerved in a new home, it also provided the key to her rehabilitation. She absolutely could not resist chasing things that moved. So we eventually coaxed her out from underneath or behind furniture by dangling, swinging, and twitching enticing cat toys in her direction. She couldn't help herself--she had to come out and chase things until she was panting and collapsed in a heap. She was the grandest, most spirited and dedicated mouser of all time. She has the most talented paws of any cat I've ever seen, a born ball-handler. And she soon appreciated that we strange new humans in her life loved to play her game. We ran her ragged, and it wasn't long before she knew it was safe to come out in the open and share our space with us.

We learned she is terrified of thunder. To this day whenever she hears thunder she answers with a rumbling growl deep in her throat and runs to hide under our bed until the storm passes. We can only imagine what terrors she must have undergone as a tiny, homeless kitten forced to survive outdoors.

We have learned and accepted that she will never be a lap cat. Too bad, that, since our previous darling had been a lap-seeking missile, and we all love to cuddle with demonstrably affectionate cats. Katie only rarely cuddles, but she stiff-armedly tolerates being scooped up, petted and dandled and squeezed and made a fool of, especially by my daughter, who Katie has a rare and special relationship with. Whenever my daughter is hurt or sick or sheds a tear, Katie is there, not close, but in the room, visibly distressed and attentive, until all is well again. Doesn't matter what species you're talking about, that's the behavior of a true friend.

Katie also sleeps outside our bedrooms at night, but almost never wakes us up (unlike some cats who love to act as their humans' alarm clocks). Katie monitors us and our schedules, notes any deviations, but lets us get up on our own time, and only then runs to say good morning (her one overtly affectionate moment of the day--when it is her idea). Then she gets and gives all those bear-hugs and purrful rubbing embraces I hoped for when I chose her to be our pet.

These days my daughter is reading the Warriors series of novels about the epic stories and adventures of feral cat clans. I had to take the lint brush to her this morning before she went off to school sporting a patina of Katie hair, thanks to their morning hugs.

I often look our eccentric little friend in the face and wonder what she thinks and remembers, now that she is much too big to fit into a two-and-a-quarter-inch drawer anymore, and infinitely more relaxed in our home (she even climbs into our rope hammock on our back porch to rock herself, making me believe she might have made a good ship's cat). In the Cat Warriors vein, I wonder what her kittenhood was like, and how long she had the protection of a mother, or siblings, or a clan. I wonder what breed of humans caught her and what veterinarian took care of her and notched her ear, branding her forever as feral. I wonder who decided she was worth the gamble and the trouble of domesticating, and who handled her gently and lovingly when she was wild and small, giving her a chance to trust humans and so win a permanent home and a kind family.

Happy Anniversary, Katie. I couldn't have imagined you, and I'm glad we found each other.


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Friday, August 24, 2007

Michelle Malkin nails it again

On the mortgage bailout bandwagon:

Insane: Take from responsible taxpayers and give to homeowners who made bad investments and are up to their eyeballs in debt.

It’s the Democrat way.


Read the whole thing. Sickening. I hope this Democrat-inspired movement to subsidize risky behavior gets properly squelched.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not too old to learn

Ever get the feeling you've just read or viewed something on the internet that gave you a mini-college course in something you never realized you didn't know about and hence were lacking some crucial info? I just feel like that after reading Victor Davis Hanson's essay "Why Study War?"

The United States was born through war, reunited by war, and saved from destruction by war. No future generation, however comfortable and affluent, should escape that terrible knowledge.
I never thought I was interested in military history, but Victor Davis Hanson can make any subject fascinating. Why is studying military history important? Read the whole thing; it's phenomenal. Thanks to Betsy, who must be a very good and memorable high school history teacher.

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Huckabee worth a look

Wanna know what a 50-ish something American housewife and mother in flyover country is thinking about the 2008 Presidential Campaign?

I haven't been following the televised Presidential so-called "debates" very closely (i.e. closely enough to actually watch them), since I'm pretty sure I'll be voting against whatever candidate washes ashore under the banner of the Democrat ticket--that takes a lot of the urgency out of the interminable run-up. And I'm hidebound enough to consider 2007 too dern early for me to be very emotionally immersed in the 2008 election. I am not a politico and do have a full, rewarding, and demanding life quite outside of and beyond politics and "The Beltway," thankfully. I am confident I have the ability to rapidly get up to speed on what's what in 2008.

But I do read the after-debate reviews, and listen to talk radio in the car while I'm driving around doing errands, or while I'm going for my walks. Just as other people follow Madonna or Lindsey Lohan (whoever she is), I loosely follow the celebrities of the major world political game.

After living through five decades of modern life in America, including several Presidential campaigns and subsequent Presidencies, I've developed into a strange hybrid of a conservative/libertarian. Although I frequently vote for Libertarians whenever possible (sometimes if only to make a statement), the Republicans often offer the most bang for my voting buck in highly contended races, even though I am not always happy in casting a vote for them. I am almost always happy, however, when Democrats lose an election, as Democrat policies in general and in particular I consider to be (in most cases) unproductive, wrongly intrusive, hurtful, useless, often economically ignorant, and/or (when socialistic) downright venal.

I haven't yet settled on a Republican candidate I would back above the others in the pack. I have long thought Newt Gingritch is a worthy idea man, but currently think him to be unable to win a national election, which, let's face it, is a crucial factor in running for President. (I share Newt's obvious distaste for the prospect of a Presidential run, and I feel Newt can continue to contribute a great deal to the future of the country without being elected President). Both Romney and Giuliani have their attractions and their negative factors. I could and would vote for either of those two men against a Democrat if I had to.

Fred Thompson looks good to me on "Law & Order" and seems to be suitably snappy with little soundbytes on YouTube, but more needs to shake out before I feel I know what he would stand for. Sam Brownback turned me off permanently by being soft on illegal immigration. And as talk radio host Neal Boortz, with whom I share many libertarian tendencies, says about Ron Paul, "for me the absolute overriding issue in this election, and possibly many elections to come, is the protection of our country from the forces of Islamic radicalism. I want to take the fight to the Islamic terrorists, not wait to fight them when they reach our borders. Ron Paul will not do that ... therefore I cannot support Ron Paul. Just that simple."

But Mike Huckabee seems worth a closer look, even though up to now he's been classified by the media to be an also-ran. His understanding and support of the Fair Tax is a big plus for me right off the bat. Others are saying he's the kind of guy you'd really want to vote FOR, not just a
GOP-approved figurehead standing against a Democrat win. With the general and justified disillusionment many conservatives are feeling with the Republican party, that's saying a lot (if it's true).

Since I'm old enough now to have seen a once-disparaged Ronald Reagan emerge from the primary process as somewhat of a surprise victor--and having seen a once little-known Bill Clinton from Arkansas do the same--I'm not betting on anybody yet. There could be some surprises. I just hope that the primary process will allow the best candidate to win. It would be a relief next year to vote FOR a smart, principled, conservative candidate I could give my wholehearted support to.


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We're finally doing something right (and *gasp*--it makes the news!)

A nice pointer from Neal Boortz: "This is for all you parents out there. A recent poll shows that that teenagers cite their relationships with their parents as bringing them the most happiness in life:"


Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy....

You might think money would be clearly tied to a general sense of happiness. But almost no one said "money" when asked what makes them happy, though people with the highest family incomes are generally happier with life. However, having highly educated parents is a stronger predictor of happiness than income.

And sex? Yes, we were getting to that. Being sexually active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17 year olds, according to the survey. If you're 18 to 24, sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but not in general.

From the body to the soul: Close to half say religion and spirituality are very important. And more than half say they believe there is a higher power that has an influence over things that make them happy. Beyond religion, simply belonging to an organized religious group makes people happier.

And parents, here's some more for you: Most young people in school say it makes them happy. Overwhelmingly, young people think marriage would make them happy and want to be married some day. Most also want to have kids.

Finally, when asked to name their heroes, nearly half of respondents mentioned one or both of their parents. The winner, by a nose: Mom.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Illegal immigrant deported in act of flaunting her lawbreaking

Michelle Malkin points out the good news that the New Sanctuary Movement's darling has been deported to Tijuana. Read Allah's narrative. After more than a year of being given the pass by ICE, I wonder what the rationale on high was that called for that change of tune?

I still think she got off easy, being returned to 'Mexico, her country' at our taxpayers' expense, no harm, no foul. Want to take any bets she'll be back? I just hope my church has nothing more to do with her or the New Sanctuary movement.

My previous post.

UPDATE: Boortz sez:

One particularly dense immigration "activist" from Chicago, Javier Rodriguez, asks "How dare they arrest this woman?"

How dare they arrest her? She's been convicted of a crime, you moron, and is a fugitive from justice!

I guess that's the problem with so many of these pro-amnesty "activists." They have no concept whatsoever of what the "rule of law" means.


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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Preditory lenders are nothing compared to predatory liberals

Whoa, that was fast: Here's why I'll never vote for Hillary Clinton, Part 4 (earlier parts here): her incredibly stupid and counterproductive mortgage bailout proposal. As SoCalMortgageGuy (via Michelle Malkin's hefty summary/overview of the story) sez so succinctly, "Funny how there were NO problems with these mortgages when everybody was 'getting rich'--

Then things get really hairy as she proposes that the TAXPAYERS fund a ONE BILLION DOLLAR federal program that is supposed to help state and local governments help at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure. She says these programs will go to help 'unsuspecting families' linked to unfair mortgages. I don't want to know the 'standard' for handing out this money...as I'm sure there isn't one, just like handing out credit cards after Katrina. Another 'feel good' program that isn't thought out and becomes nothing more than another billion dollar boondoggle. If you really keep looking, there is another BILLION dollar fund she wants to create as well. As much as I hate to send traffic to her site, you can read her mortgage proposal for yourself.

IF the government IS going to help people, here is THE STANDARD that needs to be used: Only people that put 10% or more down, got a full-doc loan, with a 15,20 or 30 year fixed-rate mortgage should be eligible for any sort of help...and that is IF the taxpayers should help at all. I know that 'sh!t happens', but government shouldn't be in the charity business with taxpayer dollars, and certainly not to help people that made poor real estate decisions.

While we are at it, I should just address a few things she has in her 'plan' to address the mortgage industry. Of course, it is always good to find a 'victim' that needs to be 'saved' by government and politicians. I just scanned the US Constitution again...in case I missed something the first 100+ times, but it says nothing about government helping to make sure you can afford your home....

The complete and total lack of personal responsibility in this country makes me sick. But what do you expect? The politicians are all too eager to 'help out'...but with OPM (other people's money)....

We do NOT need government telling the lenders what they can and can't do...the FREE MARKET is already doing that!!! The lenders are not making those loans anymore because there is NO MONEY IN IT!!! Just ask Bear Stearns!

(My bold.) I don't even need to add another word to this accurate diabtribe, or to the other irritated and alarmed essays Michelle Malkin links to, all by people smart enough to "get" what Hillary is proposed and what a disaster it would be. I only want to reinforce the idea that politicians and bureaucrats really aren't even smart enough to run a bailout program competently or fairly, let alone run the mortgage industry, the housing industry, or the health care or pharmaceutical industries. As Reagan once said, "Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem."

And as I've heard someone say recently, most Democrats and liberals don't understand economics, which would seem to me to be a very necessary prerequisite for sticking their noses into any regulatory proposals touching on commercial or financial matters. I do, however, believe Hillary Clinton is smart enough to understand both politics and economics, and is quite willing and able to knowingly and purposely whittle away at the well-being of the free market fueling America for her own political power plays and her frankly Socialistic goals.

UPDATE: Betsy and George Will comment.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Modern-day tribes

Not just backwoods barbarians, but people all around you, living on the cutting edge of the future, are nevertheless, still exhibiting tribal behavior. All you have to do is check out an online networking system like Facebook or LiveJournal to see the tribal pull of unique common cultures spanning the globe (often, artificially defined and populated by erstwhile strangers passionately devoted to their self-selected tribe).

Antony Jay in "Confessions of a BBC Liberal" (via Neal Boortz) talks about the liberal bias of the BBC and a lot more, including his past years of being of the "dispersed 'metropolitan media arts graduate' tribe"--

We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the royal family, the defence budget – it’s a wonder we ever got home.

The second factor that shaped our media liberal attitudes was a sense of exclusion. We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual elite, full of ideas about how the country should be run. Being naive in the way institutions actually work, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge of the country.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world....

More observations of the modern (post WWII) tribes of anti-Americans and non-anti-Americans, along with some back story and analysis come from Unqualified Reservations (via American Digest): "The Secret of Anti-Americanism"...

...Anti-Americanism, in this interpretation, is the organizing ideology of an empire. Call it the Blue Empire. The Blue Empire is an American empire, and its headquarters are in Foggy Bottom and Cambridge and Times Square. Anti-Americanists have no idea that they are in fact serving the needs and wishes of the Blue Empire. But then again, why would they?

The Blue Empire's bitter enemy is the Red Empire, whose headquarters is in Arlington and (for the moment) Pennsylvania Avenue. The Red Empire is currently defending itself in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia - former clients such as Chile, Spain, Portugal, South Vietnam and South Africa having fallen to the Blue side. (The Red Empire still has strong clients in Asia, though, such as Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.)...

Perhaps the most virulent tribe galloping abroad right now in the light of its 15 minutes of fame is the global warming tribe headed by self-described spokesman, Al Gore. This tribe has swallowed up some older tribes, kind of like "The Blob." Where will it roll to and who will it swallow next?

Just goes to show you that you can dress 'em up and stick a Starbucks in their mitts, but you can't change human nature. Oops, I'm echoing the constrained vision again.


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Friday, August 10, 2007

Democrats and liberals don't understand economics

or if they do, they don't act or talk in public as if they do. (On the other hand, their cattle futures wins show they can be a lot more canny with their own money than they are with the taxpayers' dimes).

That's one of the most crucial reasons why I almost never vote for a Democrat (unless he or she comes close to making sense on policy and economics, which is very rare). Most of them spout rhetoric that makes absolutely no economic sense at all, and they don't even really try. It's as if they don't really care if people can't follow the implications, figure out the consequences or make critical sense out of what they're saying--they count on uninformed or stupid people being swayed emotionally by their high-flown words and chicken-in-every-pot, pie-in-the-sky promises to just vote for them. They boldfacedly deliver smooth words signifying nothing (but future tax increases), hypnotizing their target supporters into pulling the Democrat lever at the voting booth. After that it's go back to your slumbers, citizens--politics is best left to us compassionate, right-thinking experts.

Anyway, Betsy points out that I am not the only one listening critically to the economic white noise being spouted by Democrat candidates. James Pethokoukis of US News and World Report offers these nuggets:

1) "You know, six and a half years ago, we had a balanced budget and a surplus; now we are in deep debt with a rising deficit, and it is absolutely true that George Bush has put it on the credit card, expecting our children and grandchildren to pay for it." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton. Hey, the last time I checked, the budget deficit for this year was forecast to be $207 billion, half of what it was in 2004. (The budget might actually be back in the black when the next president takes office.) And while Bush did inherit a balanced budget and surplus from Team Clinton, neither administration successfully fixed the $100 trillion unfunded liability problem with Social Security and Medicare.

2 ) "For every $1 billion we spend [on infrastructure], 40,000 jobs can be created in the United States of America." -- Sen. Christopher Dodd. I have no doubt that jobs can be created through government spending. But those billions must be taken from the private sector. Will those billions be used more wisely and efficiently and productively by federal bureaucrats than by private managers? If so, maybe the feds should guarantee a job for everyone who wants one. Using the Dodd formula, it would cost a mere $175 billion a year to employ all 7 million unemployed Americans.

3) "Well, look, people don't want a cheaper T-shirt if they're losing a job [from free trade] in the process." -- Sen. Barack Obama. Inexpensive T-shirts vs. outsourced jobs isn' t really the debate. According to research from the International Institute for Economics, Americans are $7,000 to $13,000 richer because of trade, and removing all trade barriers would permanently increase our wealth by $4,000 to $13,000 per household. And since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, America has added nearly 30 million net new jobs.


It goes on and on, almost every minute of every speech I hear from the current crop of Democrat candidates. One hopes there are enough people educated about economics and common sense to make the important distinctions Pethokoukis makes...and to make the right decision come November 2008.

And one of my fondest wishes is that every person who graduates from high school in this country gets a thorough education in rhetorical fallacies, U.S. and world history, and the basics of economics and monetary policy. I don't think I've ever heard any politician, at any level, advocating for that. But fortunately, private citizens don't need to plead for government intervention in bringing it about. It's happening, one mind at a time.

UPDATE: Gates of Vienna: No Congressman Left Behind -- what a great idea! Standardized testing of Congressional politicians' understanding of economics!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

A reminder of real hassles at the airport

This post by Omar at "Iraq the Model" has been out for a few days, but I didn't see it earlier, as I was away on vacation.


I've been hearing a lot of resigned disgust this summer from people sick of all the hassles they've encountered at U.S. airports these days. I've also been reading about the continuing story of the flying imams and others who claim Muslims are being unfairly discriminated against and persecuted by our country's airport security.

Read Omar's story of how Iraqis are being treated at the Amman, Jordan airport and you may recalibrate your whining (i.e. count your blessings). I'd like to say that privileged Americans would never stand for such demeaning and unjust treatment, but we all know that when you have no alternatives, you put up with a lot and grow meek under the lash. You take whatever's dished out. What else can you do? What else can Omar do?

As we sail through TSA scrutiny with relative assurance, remember how bad others have it. I join Omar in wishing for a better day to come for his country--and a more enlightened one for Jordan and the rest of the Middle East, as well. Meanwhile, despite our endemic and chronic self-criticism, America continues to set and enjoy the high standards that others less fortunate can at least point and aspire to.

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Why I'll never vote for Hillary (part 3)

Peggy Noonan writes a good essay about First Ladies and their roles, and winds up with this observation about, of all people, our former impeached President and internationally-beloved maven, Bill Clinton:

He'll never dodge the spotlight. If his wife is elected, he will speak at conferences and be ambassador to the world. Will he bring drama and mess? Yes. He brings drama wherever he goes because wherever he goes, there he is. Will he bring the particular drama everyone expects? He is officially and forever The Rogue. If Americans hire her as president they will do it knowing he is going to bring his Billness with him.
O. mi. god.

She is right. If Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2008, Bill Clinton will be First Lady. He will be back in the White House, and back in the spotlight. He and whatever "roles" he chooses to take or retake will be utterly unfettered by the legislative rules and obligations governing elected or appointed government officials.

The First Lady's roles and duties in the White House, as Peggy Noonan points out, have never really been prescribed or proscribed, as it has always been so understood as to go unsaid that any person who becomes First Lady would know how to live and act the role more or less appropriately.

We have already seen ample evidence that Bill Clinton does not know how to act appropriately, and what's more, doesn't even care about trying. Like the naughty little boy he is, he squeals when caught in a bad act (over and over), and makes jokes when he gets away with things.

Hillary as President may and probably will do (personally, politically, and policy-wise) untold damage to the country through official channels, but Bill--

Bill Clinton returned to the White House--returned to the perks and the positions and the immunities and the influence and the power, without having to assume the accountabilities, the burdens, and the gravitas of the Presidency--will turn the White House into a candystore, a playground, a sandbox, a litter box. He will be an unending slow-motion car crash--not waiting to happen, but happening--for four stomach-churning years.

That's a two-for-one vote I will never cast.


Why I'll never vote for Hillary (part 2)

Why I'll never vote for Hillary (part 1)

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Friday, August 03, 2007

"The case for mistrusting Muslims"

Some call it Islamophobia, but some still dare to call distrusting Muslims a common sense reaction to recent events. I don't know Theodore Dalrymple, who wrote this op-ed piece, but it is one of the most refreshingly honest items I've read about the natural response of ordinary people in non-Muslim societies since 9/11, 7/7, and all the rest of the Islam-inspired jihadist violence around the world:

...Mistrust of Muslims in Britain has developed quite quickly and could develop much further. In my youth, I traveled extensively in the Muslim world and lived for a time in Africa with a Muslim family without being aware of any hostility or antagonism on my part toward the religion or culture (had I been a woman, it might have been different, of course). Contrary to what the late Edward Said, author of the anti-Western "Orientalism," might have thought, I had inherited no anti-Muslim prejudice.

Now, despite friendly and long-lasting relations with many Muslims, my first reaction on seeing Muslims in the street is mistrust; my prejudice, far from having been inherited or inculcated early in life, developed late in response to events....

A great piece--read it all. I was very surprised (and heartened) to see such things being written--and published by the Los Angeles Times, no less.

Then there's this interview of Ralph Peters that really pulls no p.c. punches. This guy is both a cynic and an realistic optimist at the same time. His insights and opinions about our future are riotously anti-commonplace.

Food for thought. Let's keep talking, shall we? The truth will out.

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Doing the job Congress and the President and Homeland Security won't do

Matt Towery (via Neal Boortz) writes about one American sheriff who is taking care of business and enforcing immigration law:

The fact is that most sheriffs and police departments in America have not gone to the trouble of obtaining federal training, much less have they taken the additional step of initiating deportation proceedings against those who are illegally in the country -- which in and of itself is breaking the law -- and then violate the law while illegally here.

One reason we don't see a nationwide run on such tight enforcement is, big shock, Washington hasn't provided enough funding to educate every local law enforcement agency, nor has money been appropriated to handle the deluge of deportations that would occur should every sheriff or police chief decide to follow the lead of Warren and others who have implemented such aggressive programs.

If your own sheriff is not enforcing immigration laws and taking advantage of federal training opportunities already available, add your voice to demand that the job be done. There's lots of blame to go around--don't forget to hold your local people responsible for dropping the ball, too.

And if they are doing a good job, let them know you're watching and you approve.

And don't forget about your local businesses and employers too.


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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What's the Christian response to illegal aliens?

And what should be the response of those illegal aliens who are Christians to our country, our laws, and our people?


I have been turning my thoughts to these questions for some time now. Ever since I learned that my own church, the United Methodist Church, was harboring an illegal alien calling for revolution against the U.S. and has evidently taken an official stance making no distinction between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants by lumping them all together under the labels of "newcomers," "strangers," and "sojourners." My church is not alone in doing this--and it is not an inadvertent non-distinction--it furthers a political agenda under cover of religiousity:

Hundreds of immigrants have sought help from the church movement recently, but congregations typically give sanctuary only to those who fit a profile. They seek immigrants facing deportation who have children, parents or other close relatives in the USA legally, to emphasize immigration laws' impact on families. Such immigrants must be willing to speak publicly to draw attention to the cause.

The cause is to defy the laws and the sovereignty of the United States by appealing to emotion. This has little to do with morality or faith in this case, and much to do with "social justice" (aka socialistic or one-worldism) aims and goals.

I have been forming arguments to present to my Church both locally and at the national level. Because it seems to me an obvious point: how can I demand that Muslims protest wrong things being done in the name of their religion if I don't do the same myself?

Meanwhile, I have found LaShawn Barber dealing with the same subject (giving me more food for thought). I think this topic and its many ramifications need much more public discussion. My experience so far has been that most folks in my local congregation are unaware of the UMC policies and of the case of the illegal alien being harbored from ICE for a year in a UMC church. Those who learn about it from me are dismayed and think it's a wrong application of Scripture too.

UPDATE: Making the case against the new sanctuary movement.

UPDATE: Just found this website of "conservative Methodists" and the Good News renewal movement of the United Methodist Church, which discusses these issues, including how the religious left has skewed the mainline denominations. Interesting. I am heartened that others are also already working on these matters.

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