Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"The Obama campaign and its appendages have set back racial relations a generation"

So says Victor Davis Hanson, and I heartily (and sadly) agree. Orwellian times indeed:

Just ten years ago, any candidate, black or white, would have rejected Wright making a speech about genetic differences in respective black and white brains. Now it's given to civil rights organizations by the possible next President's pastor and spiritual advisor — and done to wild applause for an organization founded on the idea that we are innately the same, while being gushed over by ignorant "commentators."

It is appalling.

And shame on those who applauded Wright's speech at the National Press Club. I agree with what John says:

There is a deep irony here: genuine Christianity, not Wright's hateful perversion of the Gospel, really is a liberation theology. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." No one is liberated by being fed lies of the sort peddled by Wright, e.g., that the federal government invented the AIDS virus. To believe such foolishness is to have one's freedom stunted and one's prospects in life limited. Wright is a thoroughly despicable character, and one wonders how long Barack Obama can go without confronting the cancer on his candidacy that Wright represents.

It is all the more ironic and sad to recall that Barack Obama once criticized conservative Christians for tainting and politicizing faith:

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," presidential hopeful Obama said. "Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us."

Oh. My. Speaking of hijacking the faith and dividing instead of uniting.

It would all be deliciously improbable Greek tragedy unfolding for our entertainment--if it weren't our own blessed country undergoing the consequences of this pathetic farce that the Obama campaign has brought upon us.

Thanks, Senator Obama, and thanks, Democrats, for showing America what a post-racial campaign looks like.

UPDATE: Bookworm thinks it's all more Shakespearian than Greek.

UPDATE: Baldilocks (via American Digest) says Rev. Wright does not preach true Christianity:

Excuse my English (and pardon the pun) but who gives a DAMN about skin color, type of clothing and style of music when it comes to the realm of saving souls and keeping them out of Hell? Why, Wright and BLT’s “founder” James Cone do. As a matter of fact they worship these things instead of the Creator. Wright rightfully claims that Christian missionaries of Europe fell into error and sin back when they were bent on converting the natives of all lands. Not by the act and desire of leading others to Christ, but by making Christianity about something other than Him, His Sacrifice, Resurrection and the purpose thereof. The missionaries bound up Christ in themselves and their own culture. But Wright now is mired that same error while condemning the missionaries for it out of the other side of his mouth. Beams and motes indeed.

Guys like Jeremiah Wright care about self-centric totems of race, culture and vengeance more than they care about leading their flocks down the straight and narrow path. They need these totems to fill the void of self-doubt and that need is filled by navel-gazing religions like Black Liberation Theology and one of its parents, the Nation of Islam. Yes, BLT is a progeny of the NOI, Christianity and Marxism—a bastard child, to be sure. It’s an I-deology all right and Wright has sacrificed the eternal souls of those who believe his lies and are grateful for his good works. He has sacrificed these upon the altar of race and culture. (My own pastor says that God has special plans for shepherds—pastors—who mislead their flocks.)

I agree with those who wonder why there should be a "black church" among those who call themselves Christians--any more than there should be a "white church." There shouldn't.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Not your Mom's sixth-grade "social studies"

My daughter is currently on the honor roll at one of the top public middle schools in our state. Her most challenging course right now is an advanced social studies class giving an overview of the geography and a smattering of the culture and history of the various countries and regions of the world. She is certainly learning more about such things (and memorizing more countries and maps) than I ever learned in school, let alone in sixth grade.

Happily, she is very fortunate to have a remarkably energetic and rigorous teacher who is also teaching the class college-prep study habits and note-taking skills, while offering animated lectures and lots of additional material in class to supplement the dud of a textbook.

It is true what they say about assigned social studies textbooks. They make good doorstops. They are produced by committees whose credentials evidently exceed their creativity. If you pick one up and look through it, it is obvious that such books are meant to attain goals that are only secondarily educational, for there is little within such texts to invite the reader to sit down and learn. They are visually so disjointed and cluttered with poorly designed graphic interruptions as to be almost unreadable.

Instead, the primary goals of such abominations of visual and organizational chaos, namby-pamby condensations of "facts" to be memorized, and over-arching political correctness are to a) make money and reputations for the many levels of bureaucrats and publishing employees involved and b) to fulfill state educational mandates with as little controversy as possible.

I shudder to think what it must be like to be a kid stuck in a social studies class without an intelligent and talented teacher working to make the subjects more appealing.

Anyway, I sat down this weekend with my daughter to help her study for her upcoming test on the unit she had just covered in school: Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Since I have been to Sydney and the South Island of New Zealand, I thought that maybe some personal observations or some historical context I might relay could make the study of these places more appealing to her.

First we got out our world globe, and found the objects of our discussion. I had never really studied the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia--have you? My own education had huge gaps in it when it comes to world geography. As an adult, I now find it exciting to see where all these places are whose names have been accumulating in my brain for fifty years through other contexts: the islands contended for in World War II, the islands mentioned in Broadway musicals, Herman Melville novels, Mutiny on the Bounty, and PBS and National Geographic specials, or visited by honeymooners, movie stars and crews, Paul Gauguin, Darwin, and Captain Cook. Did you know New England whaling ships sailed these islands of the "South Seas"? Did you know there is a Starbuck Island? Did you know where Easter Island is? And do you know where Guam is, home of people who vote in our own Presidential primaries? Cool!

My daughter had to tear me away from fawning over the pretty globe so we could get some studying done. She had brought her social studies doorstop/textbook, and I had brought my favorite textbook: What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Sixth-Grade Education edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. (from the Core Knowledge Series).

I read first. Of course, you've got to start with "The British Empire" (pages 116-117) if you're going to discuss Australia and New Zealand. And you need to set the stage of how the Industrial Revolution got underway first in England, which ultimately gave an advantage to it and its neighboring countries, Scotland and Wales, who all joined together to form Great Britain in 1707. Then you've got to tell about how Britain became the most prosperous and powerful country in Europe as the Spanish Armada was defeated and Britain began to accumulate many faraway colonies. You've got to tell about how, at the end of the 1800's, almost one-fourth of the human race lived under the British flag, and it was famously said that "the sun never set on the British empire."

My daughter had never heard of any of this. Even "the Spanish Armada" didn't ring any bells.

Guess we should have been studying together sooner.

Next we learned about "Queen Victoria" (pages 117-118, with a nice, "We are not amused!" photo), who ruled Great Britain as its indominable monarch for 64 years, from 1837 to 1901, the "Victorian Age" being the greatest years of the British empire. We learned about the German Prince Albert, her beloved consort, and her forty years of mourning after his death. We learned about the "stuffiness" and self-righteous attitude that some people characterize as the main qualities of the Victorian Age, and how "the people who built the British empire" were "serious, determined, and hardworking" and how they were very sure of themselves, thinking that, as Englishmen, "they knew better than anyone else how things should be done. They thought that they could run countries all over the world better than the people who already lived in those countries."

This was a fair evaluation, I thought. My daughter had never heard of any of this, and had never heard of Queen Victoria, let alone Prince Albert.

Next I read her the discussion of "British Imperialism" (pages 118-119), which told in a few paragraphs, with a quote from Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden," the good and the bad of the British empire's conquering and improving, albeit with certain racist and pecuniary motives, its colonies around the globe. It told about how "many English people felt it was Britain's destiny to rule over much of the world and that Britain had the right to rule because of its superior culture. People who felt this way usually had the racist idea that Africans and Asians were 'inferior' to Europeans" and that by such a "degrading message . . . imperialists caused deep anger and resentment that persist to this day."

I thought this was an admirably straight-forward and honest summary distilled down into four simple paragraphs any 12-year-old could understand. My daughter was learning, for the first time, the complicated story of the modern development of the civilized world.

Finally I read the section on "The British in Australia" (pages 122-123). It told the story of a vast, empty country that seemed perfect to Britain for use as a penal colony. It told of how a trickle of adventurous free settlers, who often couldn't afford passage back to England, began to establish communities, and how immigrants began flooding in after gold was discovered in the 1850's. And it talked about how the British acted upon the native aborigine population, again, most often with racist and imperialist motives and effect.

It has always seemed to me that, as with getting to know people, you've got to know the story of a place to even begin to know what's going on there. It seems to me, as an adult who now loves reading and learning history, that if you don't have a good idea of a place's story, its historical context and roots, you don't really know much of anything. Besides which, understanding a place's story, of course including its true history, makes its study more interesting and hence it is easier to memorize the facts and names you must know to pass an ordinary school test.

Now my daughter pulled out her social studies textbook and began reading aloud to me the introduction to the chapter on Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania:

Human-Environment Interaction: When Europeans first came to Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, the landscape had been largely unchanged for tens of thousands of years. In Australia and New Zealand, the settlers cleared the forests to provide land for farming and housing.

This human activity has had some unexpected consequences on the environment. In Australia, for example, more than 40 percent of the country's forests have been destroyed. Over-cultivation of this land has depleted the soil of valuable nutrients. Over-irrigation has resulted in too high a level of salt in the soil. As you can see above, very few plants are able to grow in salty soil.

What do you think? What do immigrants risk by changing an environment too quickly after settling in it?

How might the people of Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania have benefited if the settlers had balanced development with environmental concerns?

Is anybody else besides me struck by what an odd introduction this is to this part of the world? Show of hands--would anybody prior to the 1990's pick an environmental angle (and European immigrants as the whipping boys) as the way to introduce children to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific?

This text appears next to a uncaptioned photo featuring a close-up view of a dried-up desert plant near what looks like one of Australia's most famous landmarks, Ayers Rock, or Uluru. Or it could be a photo from one of the many deserts in Australia--Great Victoria desert (647,000 km2), Great Sandy desert (400,000 km2), Simpson desert (145,000 km2), Sturt desert (130,000 km2), Gibson desert--deserts not caused by man, but by lack of rainfall. We'll never know from this textbook, which obviously wants to start out, right off the bat, with the idea that heedless and stupid "European immigrants" are most remarkable in this area's history for killing plants and raping a hitherto virginally ideal environment.

Well, that's one way to look at it.

The next nine pages in my daughter's textbook purported to cover the history, governments, economies, and cultures of Australia, New Zealand and the islands. We learned about how and when the original inhabitants of these places, including the aborigines and the Maori, arrived, which was interesting news to me, reflecting the latest scientific discoveries of human migration. We heard brief mention of European explorations for spices, Europeans bringing smallpox to infect the natives, and the Treaty of Waitangi (and how "Europeans" are still treating native peoples unfairly today). We learned about the Commonwealth of Nations, copra, matrilineal and patralineal societies, Charlie Perkins, the "Aborigine Martin Luther King," and Cathy Freeman, Aborigine athlete and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. We learned a smattering of "facts" such as that many Asians live in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. We skipped the sideline boxes urging us to tackle such chores as "Imagine that you were a Maori inhabitant of New Zealand. Write a dialogue between you and one of the European settlers."

Since this textbook does not mention that the Maori were cannibals before the British missionaries arrived, it leaves the children at a disadvantage in constructing a really lively imaginary dialogue.

Again, the presentation of this material, even apart from its political slant, is so disjointed and chaotic that I can read it several times and still not be able to tell you a coherent narrative about any of it. How are children taught in this way ever to learn to write essays on themes, ideas, or historical developments? Such textbooks only urge memorization (for the moment) of vocabulary words and faddish prejudices to be picked out on multiple choice or true-false tests. My daughter proved this when she revealed she didn't know how to pronounce or spell (and hadn't really read) the word "aborigine." She said she didn't need to know it--she just needed to remember that the "M-word" were the New Zealand natives and the Australian natives were the "a-word," good enough to differentiate on the expected multiple-choice test.

I told her she did need to learn "Maori" and "aborigine," and made her do it.

In my daughter's textbook there is no mention of the British Empire, Queen Victoria, the penal colonies of Australia and Tasmania (the dreaded Van Dieman's Land sung of by the Irish Rovers), the Yankee whaling ships, the discovery of Australian gold hard on the heels of the California gold rush, or any other historical context explaining the important issues of racism, mercantilism, exploration, colonization, or imperialism in a frank or fair manner. There is no real discussion of what motivated the "European" individuals to adventure the South Seas or settle as pioneers in a land so foreign from "jolly old England." There is no discussion of what they met when they met the Maori and the aborigine peoples, other than that big implied theme of "white man bad, natives good."

I found it astonishing to discover the extent to which our state is currently, in place of teaching historical facts, preaching to our children, so baldly and so clumsily, the patronizing racism of the "Noble Savage" philosophy Jean-Jacques Rousseau popularized in the 1750's.

The saddest part about all of this is the disservice this "educational" textbook does to the vivid and fascinating true stories of these lands and these unique people.

Or maybe the saddest part about all of this is what a stunted and slanted education such textbooks aim to give to our kids.

I'm not surprised my daughter finds little joy in studying "social studies." I guess she'll have to wait until she's older and out of the clutches of the "social studies" curriculum to discover the true joys of studying history. In the meantime, I see my homeschooling attempts are a necessary and important supplement to her public school education.

I don't resent that I find it necessary to spend such "teaching moments" with my daughter; in fact, she and I enjoy pooling our resources and learning about the world together. My presenting additional and alternate viewpoints to what her textbook contains helps her to become a critical thinker, which is what education is all about.

But I do feel the urge to caution other parents to be aware that if they leave the education of their children entirely in the hands of the public schools, no matter how "good" the public schools may seem, they may find themselves dismayed by the final results.

UPDATE: Diane Ravitch's book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, is must-reading for parents, as she offers an insider's view of the process of textbook vetting. When a Clinton education appointee is shocked, you know something bad must be happening:

The bias and sensitivity reviews work with assumptions that have the inevitable effect of stripping away everything that is potentially thought-provoking and colorful from the texts that children encounter. These assumptions narrow what children are exposed to, at least on tests and in textbooks. Parents, teachers, and the public need to be aware of these assumptions and the reasoning process behind them, because they are reducing the curriculum in the schools to bland pabulum....

...the concept of bias has become detached from its original meaning and has been redefined into assumptions that defy common sense.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Contrasting the candidates

Speaking of must-reads:

One of my favorite humorist/writers, P.J. O'Rourke, pens this exploration of a U.S. aircraft carrier in "24 Hours on the 'Big Stick' (What you can learn about America on the deck of the USS 'Theodore Roosevelt')" (via Instapundit) His visit to the ship prompts thoughts of our current crop of Presidential candidates:

Some say John McCain's character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do--voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer's or a half gallon of Dewar's. I look from John McCain to what the opposition has to offer. There's Ms. Smarty-Pantsuit, the Bosnia-Under-Sniper-Fire poster gal, former prominent Washington hostess, and now the JV senator from the state that brought you Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns. And there's the happy-talk boy wonder, the plaster Balthazar in the Cook County political crèche, whose policy pronouncements sound like a walk through Greenwich Village in 1968: "Change, man? Got any spare change? Change?"

I believe it is important to remark and to remember that in his favor as a Presidential candidate John McCain comes from and still represents that part of our American culture and people that does things for all the right and most noblest reasons, in no way necessarily monetary or for reasons of personal power.

McCain represents the best and perhaps most overlooked and minimalized breed of Americans, members of whom we saw coming forward on and after 9/11; people who volunteer to serve their country and their fellow citizens under fire, who exemplify true but quiet heroism in their communities, and who know how to handle great responsibility honorably and to sacrifice themselves for others or for the good of the country when necessary. The other candidates...evidently do not. I want to see more such essays in the months ahead. And I want to see all of these ordinary people in America who understand character and honor coming out in November and lining up to vote.

"These are the same kids," a chief petty officer said, "who, back on land, have their hats bumped to one side and their pants around their knees, hanging out on corners. And here they're in charge of $35 million airplanes."

I'm guessing there are more ordinary Americans who at heart do understand the difference between John McCain and the Democrat candidates than anybody yet realizes. Or, at least that's my Hope.

In contrast, check out Powerline's evaluation of Barack Obama's latest revealed associates, William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who helped launched his political career in Chicago. Punches holes in Obama's inadequate and lame response. Nuff said.

UPDATE: "It takes a lot to make Hillary look good. Perhaps that's Barack Obama's greatest accomplishment."


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring break road trip to Washington, D.C. (Part 3)

Final random snaps from the family's educational road trip....

The Washington Monument on a foggy spring morning--
its flawed two-tier color scheme forever displaying how
dissention and the Civil War interrupted and changed everything.
Since completed, it remains the tallest
and most beautiful building in Washington, D.C.
Laus Deo!

Mecca for all X-Files fans: the FBI Building

And so we and our children saw and contemplated just a few of "The ties that bind the lives of our people in one indissoluble union."

Well worth the drive, the traffic, and the gas.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

I can has freedom of speech

I’ve become more [of] a free speech absolutist. I think Western democracies are insane when they attempt to criminalize opinion. Nothing good comes from that....

I’m happy to be criticized by free-born citizens. But the idea of some hack bureaucrat saying you can’t say this and you can’t say that, should be repellent to any free society.

--Mark Steyn

Do you know how rare in this world freedom of speech is?

Most Americans go through life blissfully ignorant, just taking it for granted that they can open their mouths at will, spill their guts, and not end up fined, in jail, unemployed, tortured, or otherwise silenced for speaking their minds. Most Americans remain totally unconscious all of their lives of precisely how blessed and even unique we Americans are in being able to share our thoughts aloud in words or print or pixels or art.

I cherish a family story of a young German immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800's; he served in the U.S. Army, then worked hard for years making a decent living. Finally he made a trip back across the ocean to his home village in Germany to revisit the scenes and the people of his youth. Unfortunately he got to shooting his mouth off about the politics of the Kaiser in a local saloon and ended up incarcerated in a Reich jail for several months before he was able to return home to Pennsylvania. He had gotten used to the American free-and-easy way of speaking his mind.

Freedom of speech is stimulating, addictive, and natural. Our Founding Fathers were right when they labeled it a natural right from God. We Americans today (as Americans have always done) can deplore some of the messages our First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees immunity to--we can deplore the crassness, the bigoted ignorance, and even the obscenity of much of what passes for free speech sometimes (especially, and I am speaking as a parent, whenever children are involved).

But most Americans know in their hearts that the downsides are not only worth, but essential to, that freedom of speech we enjoy, and that they must necessarily come with the territory. We realize we are also free to find quick solutions and workarounds for the downsides, because creative people living in freedom learn to analyze, synthesize, debate, and be robust, precise, and flexible in exchanging views and ideas to promote personal and social progress.

I did not realize until I traveled to Sydney, Australia eight years ago that even the British Commonwealth puts limits on free speech that we Americans don't have to submit to. The signs around Sydney's ferry docks at Circular Quay prohibiting uncivil speech or behavior (I forget the exact but surprisingly ominous-sounding wording) at first glance reassured me (a conservative fan of social order and the rule of law) that my Dreamboat and I would enjoy a pleasant after-dark tourist stroll unmolested by (for example) assaultive panhanders, menacing drunks, or mentally ill thugs. But my next thought was to look over my shoulder and worry that Big Brother might overhear us saying something deemed--who knows how or why--"uncivil." And my third thought was: Too bad for the Aussies, content to live "protected" from the rough-and-tumble rights we Americans can handle.

I have since learned by internet surfing that Australians have no "bill of rights" as Americans do, but rather have "implied" rights "under common law" that are being reinterpreted all the time. Circular Quay was then (and is still?) under the jurisdiction of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority regulations passed to ensure that law and order reigned during the 2000 Olympics.)

And part of the ongoing reinterpretation of Australia's free speech codes involves the recent passing of legislation to outlaw "hate speech," which is really the government taking on the right to define "hate" and decide, with criminal penalties at stake, what people think, intend, and mean when they dare to air their own opinions.

As one proponent (Waleed Aly) of such "hate speech" legislation and prosecution writes, "There is free speech and then there is hate-inducing vilification." But this line of thinking implies that if a hearer of a speech, for whatever psychological reasons, experiences "hate" as defined by himself or the government (and/or subsequently commits a crime), then it is the original speaker who is at fault. This kind of reasoning to me seems (like another agument by Waleed Aly) to be obviously specious and hence should by rights present no serious indictment of free speech.

But there is a growing tide of legislation around what one would think of as the "free world" to prosecute vigorously against such ill-defined "hate speech." They grant that it is an amorphous term, to be defined by government bureaucrats with their own biases and agendas, mind you.

In France, Brigitte Bardot is on trial for "inciting racial hatred" for saying that the Muslim community is "destroying our country and imposing its acts."

And recent developments closer to home, in good old, friendly Canada have been very disturbing, thanks to its non-elected Human Rights Commissions prosecuting "hate speech" against not all, but only certain privileged identity groups:

There is the story of the pastor, Stephen Boissoin, who published an anti-homosexual letter in his hometown newspaper (additional background here). According to Mark Steyn, he was given "a lifetime ban on ever speaking or writing publicly about homosexuality anywhere in public again." This Stalinist gag order seems incredible to contemplate in a country that supposedly venerates human rights. Mark Steyn recently wrote more about this case:

By way of comparison, consider a less stellar victim of the anti-"hate" regime and one who lacks the support of one of the Canadian mosaic's preferred identity groups. Stephen Boissoin is the more or less penniless pastor clobbered by the Alberta "Human Rights" Commission for one letter to the newspaper on the subject of homosexuality. Last Sunday, his story was on CBC TV: They interviewed the plaintiff, Darren Lund, but not Mr Boissoin. A couple of weeks before that, The Globe And Mail ran a column by Mr Lund, but rejected one by Mr Boissoin. Before that, The Red Deer Advocate ran a front-page profile of Mr Lund about Mr Boissoin's "hateful" speech, but declined to run a letter by Mr Boissoin.

And so it will go, forever and ever. The thought police have declared him a non-person. For years to come, "human rights" crusaders like Mr Lund will make reference to the importance of "the Boissoin case" and of taking a stand against "Boissoin's hateful speech", but Boissoin the person will have no right of reply, even in the local newspaper, which will have no desire to attract the attentions of Lund and his enforcers.

There is also the case of the Canadian Catholic anti-homosexual and anti-abortion activist who has been "banned for life" from publicly criticizing homosexuality.

Another activist, Ron Gray, has been prosecuted for publicizing articles critical of homosexuals.

Here is a summary article of more such cases in Canada.

Two most prominent cases in Canada recently have been launched, first, against Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, which published the controversial Mohammed cartoons and was then charged with "hate speech" by an irate Canadian imam. (Ezra's own blog is here and his amazing appearance before the HRC interrogator is here; also here is his appearance on Glenn Beck's TV show.).

The other complaint has been lodged against talented American (formerly Canadian) writer Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine, which published an essay from his book America Alone. This case was just belatedly declined to be heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which in declining, nevertheless implied Steyn and Maclean's were racist and xenophobic. (Steyn has his own blog too.) I have read America Alone, and these charges are patently untrue. Mark Steyn is still to be put "on trial" for the same "crime" by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission, starting June 2nd.

The latest news concerning the Canadian thought-police culture is that Richard Warman, a former HRC prosecutor, is suing several prominent Canadian conservative bloggers for guess what? yes, "hate speech."

It is all most disturbing.

There are fourteen different Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) in Canada at the federal, provincial and territorial level. Ezra Levant says: "I don't think there is a sane one amongst the bunch." As Mark Steyn writes:

• Originally designed to arbitrate employment and tenancy issues, HRC’s are now monitoring and enforcing politically correct speech and thought.

• Government always provide the lawyers for the complainants; there are no limits to how much can be spent. Defendants have to pay their own legal fees, and do not qualify for “legal aid” for HRC cases.

• HRC’s are subject to “Forum Shopping.” Complainants can freely file their grievances in multiple jurisdictions - with the legal costs for each complaint paid for by the taxpayers - in the hope that at least one of them will provide relief. Defendants are stuck with paying multiple legal bills in multiple jurisdictions. (In a real court, defendants can only be charged once; anything more than that is called “double jeopardy”.)...
That big, friendly, smart, civilized Canada is propagating this kind of Big Brotherism among its own citizens is scary. Conservatives and the blogosphere are fighting back, but do they have any legal legs to stand on?

Meanwhile some folks in the U.S. would like to see similar tribunals set up here to enforce PC speech codes and chill unPC criticism (such amorphously restrictive speech codes are already in place on many college campuses). It can and does happen here.

What we think of as freedom of speech in the U.S. does not really exist elsewhere. And like all of our American liberties, it must always and constantly be defended here, too.

One of the main reasons why I blog is: because I can. Is this a natural right my children will be able to retain in another 20 years? Or, like the unwary old Pennsylvania German-American, will they end up being thrown in jail for dissing the Kaiser?

Background essay: "Thought and Crime"

UPDATE: "Great Britain's Free Speech Breakdown"


Dropping out of political polls

One good thing about blogging is I get to vent my opinions and political views here, which acts as an emotional release valve for me, no doubt about it. I do have strong opinions, but in "real life," face-to-face among real people, acquaintances, family, and friends, I am usually much too polite and non-confrontational to bring up the subjects of politics or religion. Only my husband and kids and the rare, game friend or two, are willing and privileged enough to get overdoses of my blowhardism.

In fact, social warning bells go off in my head if somebody else I don't know very well should bring up those subjects, and I usually just smile, keep my opinions to myself, and steer the topic to something less controversial.

I really have to know and trust somebody to be fair-minded and congenially tolerant (i.e. unthreatened by opposing arguments) before I will share my most closely-held political or religious views with him or her. Not because I am a bully about imposing my world views on folks, but because such subjects can be so incendiary to some people that they can lash back out of sheer emotion, or can prematurely judge you by mere labels and stereotypes. I am still on the fence about whether my natural (or inbred?) reticence is just me being chicken, or me being socially sensitive.

But before blogging, I used to answer the telephone calls of political pollsters with relish, recognizing the rare opportunity to vent my true opinions about candidates and issues. Participating in such surveys offered me some weird psychological release. But no more. Now I have an alternative expressive outlet. Now I am free to consider such calls just intrusive and time-wasting, knowing that the polls are not very accurate anyway. (Plus, I have grown wary of all telephone strangers as potential fraudsters and disruptive intruders of my privacy, and I have grown chary of giving out any further info to one and to all than "Not interested!").

The polls are flawed. And if anyone wants to know what deceptively mild-mannered curmudgeonly voters like me are thinking, they should be reading the blogs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring break road trip to Washington, D.C. (Part 2)

A few more random snaps from the family's educational road trip....

Our former DC-area townhouse, with cherry blossoms --
not much has changed here in 17 years.

Great Falls National Park, on the Virginia side
of the Potomac River

Mather Gorge on the Potomac --
hasn't changed much since George Washington surveyed it

You can still see remnants of George Washington's
Potomack Company canal (the ditch to the left)
next to the trail through Great Falls National Park

Canal boat on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
on the Maryland side of the Potomac River

Three national parks in one day!

To be continued....


Happy Tax Day--it's all about power (not yours)

"These people have all the power. You have virtually none. This balance of power can be shifted ... but you need to get out there and fight for change." --Neal Boortz

Here's a little story for you on the day that makes Americans feel the shaft: Tax Day. It's a flight of imagination envisioning what it would be like if you and your parents had grown up all your lives under the Fair Tax, and suddenly some bright politician came along and proposed a move to our current taxation system. Can you envision the details?

This helpful illustration comes from the fertile mind of Neal Boortz, co-author, with Congressman John Linder, of The Fair Tax Book and FairTax: The Truth: Answering the Critics. Congressman John Linder is also the primary sponsor of HR 25, the Fair Tax Bill, in the House of Representatives.

Think it over as you are reminded today how big and insidious a bite the government and the politicans are taking from you--while they pry into the details of your private life, waste hours of your time and chunks of your hard-earned cash, and skim the cream off the country's profitability and global competitiveness for themselves, their lobbyist and laywer friends, and their pet pork projects.

It is all so unnecessary. But it is all about their power--and your complacency.

UPDATE: "The Fair Tax Act has the highest number of cosponsors among tax reform proposals (attracting 74 in the 110th United States Congress), gathering much stronger support than popular flat tax legislation. A number of congressional committees have heard testimony on the FairTax; however, it has not been voted on in either Chamber. The plan is expected to increase cost transparency for funding the federal government and supporters believe it would have positive effects on civil liberties, the environment, and advantages with taxing illegal activity and illegal immigrants.[5][14] Because the FairTax plan would remove taxes on income, tax deductions would have no meaning or value, which concerns some law makers about losing this method of social incentive." I'll bet!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

"A short course in brain surgery"

At YouTube: Here's looking at the future of a "free" government-run health care system" in the United States. As the Canadian medical services broker says:

"Then where will I sent my clients? I'll have nowhere to send my clients. Your hospitals will be backed up, you people will be waiting two or three years for surgeries; I'll have nowhere to send Canadians."

Sadder-but-smarter Canadian medical care lobbyists should be rallying now to keep free-market health care available in the U.S.--for Canadians!

Meanwhile, Massachusetts' experiment in mandated health insurance is less than successful:

"They said it would get us universal coverage and reduce costs and it's done neither," Tanner said.

The biggest challenge is rising costs.

In 2006, a legislative committee estimated the law would cost about $725 million in the fiscal year starting in July. In his budget Patrick set aside $869 million, but those overseeing the law have already acknowledged costs will rise even higher.

Lawmakers are hoping to close the gap in part with a new cigarette tax expected to generate about $154 million a year.

Doh. Full-speed ahead with eyes wide closed.

(Via Neal Boortz.)

UPDATE: The situation in Great Britain, where it can also take months to diagnose and treat cancers, most often breast cancers, childhood cancers, and bowel cancers. If the health care system in America is nationalized, where will the rest of the world send its critical care patients?

Am I the only one to whom the idea has occurred: if you are administering a medical care pot with necessarily limited government funds, isn't sometime the cheapest option the one where you let the patient die? And if you let the patient die by bureaucratic attrition, then how can anybody be blamed?

Nice racket. Why would we want anything like that here? Not even "for the children"!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring break road trip to Washington, D.C. (Part I)

A few choice and random snaps from the family's educational road trip....

Egyptian motif in rural Western Virginia...

Tourist Mecca--the ever-popular FOAMHENGE...

Rooms available at Skyland, atop the highest peak
in Shenandoah National Park...

More deer than you can shake a stick at.

The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Skyline Drive,
at an altitude where spring has not yet sprung...

After coming home and hearing about all the airline flights grounded, I was triply-glad we were seeing America up-close and personal in our beloved and comfortable Honda Odyssey.

To be continued....

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Back in the loop

The family and I are back from our spring break trip, and I've been trying to catch up on what I've missed in the news and in the 2008 Presidential race. A few highlights:

Zombie covers the Olympic torch's progress through San Francisco, including a four-mile sprint to an alternate venue (Zombie clearly qualifies for the PhotoJournalism Olympics).

Barack Obama (the "Wizard of Ooze") puts his foot in his mouth again, this time revealing his love and veneration for small-town Americans (link via Instapundit). I realize Obama does represent a huge slice of the liberal mindset, but is this really the man half the country wants to put into office so he can, like Jimmy Carter, talk with terrorists like Ahmadinijad and Hamas? I say as a mouthpiece for America he is clearly not ready for prime time (and may never be). And neither is his wife.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton laughs off a serious question and loses even more supporters. Who is a Democrat supposed to vote for this year, anyway?

No freedom of speech in Canada: bloggers being sued for airing conservative or contrarian views.

Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value.

-- Dean Steacy, Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Thank God I'm an American. But it can happen here too (see Cyber-Slapp) if bloggers do not put up a fight. And conservative university professors and students are already in the trenches, where the "hostile environment" put up by liberalism in academia has reigned uncontested for decades.

Finally, this great idea (via Betsy's Page):

California Republican John Campbell yesterday introduced in the House his "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act," which would amend the tax code to allow individuals to make voluntary donations to the federal government above their normal tax liability. The bill would place a new line on IRS tax forms to make this easy.

Mr. Campbell says he has heard the "cries" of those wealthy Americans – Mrs. Clinton, Warren Buffett, Barbra Streisand – who reject the lower tax rates passed in 2001 and 2003 and complain that they and their fellow rich don't pay enough. "It's a great injustice that citizens wishing to fulfill their dream of paying more taxes cannot simply check a box on their 1040 form to make a donation," he says. His bill would give liberals a chance to salve their consciences without having to raise taxes on millions of Americans who already feel overtaxed as it is.

Yes. Millionaire liberals who believe in "giving back" like John Edwards, George Soros, Bill Gates, Ted Kennedy, Ted Turner, Bill & Hillary, and Oprah Winfrey could quickly and easily create and fund a system of private charity to provide access to free health care for life for all needy Americans if they put their minds to it. (Many people across the political spectrum would generously contribute.) Millionaire liberals could, in a handful of years, create a solution by putting their money where their mouths are--and the rest of us who believe in personal liberty and the importance of maintaining a competitive free market in health and medicine as in everything else could remain free of government's clutches. But some of us know that's not REALLY what millionaire liberals want, don't we?

Sheerly for fun:

Photoshop virtuosity: cutting-edge consumer products in vintage advertising

MOMA color chart exhibit

Geekiest Legos and Rubik's Cubes

Friday, April 04, 2008

Best comment of the day by Tom W. And note that it is expressed without misspellings, typos, profanity, or grammatical errors:

Tom W.:

Gosh, how awful that everybody hates us because of Bush.

The Red Chinese hate us, when they’re not harvesting organs from political prisoners, poisoning everyone on the planet, and mowing down Tibetan monks and nuns.

The Europeans hate us, when they’re not surrendering to Islamists, cramming their nonwhite immigrants into slums, and selling arms to every butcher and despot there is.

The Africans hate us, when they’re not slaughtering each other, imposing famines on each other, poaching all their animals into extinction, and wallowing in permanent failure and corruption.

The Central and South Americans hate us, when they’re not clear-cutting their forests, murdering their indigenous peoples, and backsliding into failed socialist narcostates with gun battles in the streets, perpetual coups, dictatorships, and collapsed economies.

The Central Asians and Middle Easterners hate us, when they’re not throwing acid in women’s faces, burning down schools, rioting over cartoons, ethnically cleansing, raping, blowing up, skinning alive, murdering, and destroying irreplaceable art.

The U.N. really hates us, when they’re not kissing Islamist butt, condemning Israel, sending child-molester troops into Africa, helping tyrannies arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and lining their pockets with bribes.

What a shame that we’re so reviled! Save us, Obiwan Obama! You’re our only hope!

Nicely put. This is the kind of perspective I wish I could so eloquently offer to my friends who tell me America is "now," since Clinton left office, so hated around the world for her "arrogance" as expressed by Bush and his policies. You can read the rest of the comments and the original post, "When Obama ‘Talks to Our Enemies,’ What Will He Say?", at Pajamas Media.

Yeah, sure Canada and France hate us:
"It's not when it's difficult that you abandon your friends." As I always tell my kids when they used to worry about "mean kids" not being nice to them: consider the source. A few good friends of quality and discernment are worth more than the twofaced friendship or the outright enmity of a world of scumbags. Which of our Presidential candidates understand this best?

And here's Bookworm's take on Frontline's "Bush's War"--

“Yes,” I said. “But that’s the past. We’re in Iraq now. Bush and his whole team are leaving office in January 2009. What would you do?” The only answer I got back was “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Mr. Bookworm’s preference for wallowing in the past and his unwillingness to deal with present realities is hardly surprising. In his world — the New York Times, the New Yorker, NPR, PBS — only the past gets discussed. To the extent that there is an Iraq plan, it can be summarized in one phrase: “Get out.” Of course, smart liberals, and my husband is very smart, know that “Get out” is neither an operational plan, nor a good one.

Equally unsurprising is the fact that Barack Obama, a man who is rather strikingly uninformed about foreign affairs given the fact that he has voluntarily plunged into the center of political life during time of war, has exactly the same attitude. He too never looks beyond the liberal media world and, while perfectly ready to spell out the Bush administration’s past failures, is incapable of dealing with the current reality, which is that we’re in war in Iraq.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This kind of amazing technology will soon make it unnecessary to visit Washington D.C. at all. Dick Eastman says that "at five gigapixels, it may be the largest single graphic image ever placed on the Internet."

Just one of the free services touching on U.S. history available at in conjunction with the National Archives.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An epistle worth reading

...and the comments, too, all eloquent: Phyllis Chesler's Letter to Alice Walker in Response to her Pro-Obama Article. Via Instapundit.

But if you prefer pithy, here's the Cliff Notes version by Confederate Yankee:

Writing in the Guardian, Alice Walker claims that Barack Obama is America's Nelson Mandela, and if you are a white woman who can't see that, you're a racist.

Ha. I nominate Thomas Sowell as our nation's Nelson Mandela. And Mark Steyn for VEEP. Think Alice Walker could get behind that?

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What is it about the Democrat party

that it keeps putting liars forward as Presidential candidates? What does it say about Democrat voters, psychologically, that so many of them seem willing to ignore the early warning "red flags" or clues indicating that a candidate is less than honest? Do facts matter to liberals? Don't they care that much about honesty? Don't they care that dishonesty will come back to bite their candidate (and all of us poor suckers once a dishonest candidate is elected) in the end?

--Red flag: According to Hillary Clinton's former supervisor (a lifelong Democrat), in 1974, "Hillary wrote a fraudulent legal brief, and confiscated public documents to hide her deception." (Via Little Green Footballs).

--The latest in a long line of lies: The Tall Tale of Tuzla by Christopher Hitchens -- fisking the Bosnia sniper fire whopper. Lies this stupid have to be pathological--and disqualifying.

Obama as a candidate seems too much a neophyte politician on the scene to have left a long trail of lies. It remains to be seen if Democrats will ignore his current red flags as they have ignored so many others.

Frank Rich says they lie because they are still analog arrogant in a digital world. I add that it's because the bloggers, commenters, and YouTubers are doing journalists' and analysts' work and helping to force the mainstream media to cover reality in the free-market community of information. It also helps that Democrats have turned on each other in their primary and the news outlets, having to cover it, while touting their own partisans, are actually starting to lob a few hardballs at liberals.

"I've always wondered how a Democrat would fare being treated like a Republican by the media. Now we know."

Review: Dr. Sanity on red flags and psychological defense mechanisms

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