Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oh crap it's Sunday, get me to the office on time!

in yet another (successful) attempt at avoiding laundry and other domestic duties, I came across a story on White Pebble about Iraqi students protesting their week-ends being extended from one day off to two.

Before you feel selfish for wishing we could go to the 4-day work week (which is a really good idea in my not-so-humble opinion) you need to understand that it's not that they don't want a 2-day week-end, they just don't like the fact that the second day of their week-end is *gasp* Saturday and that is a holy day for Jews! Of course, my initial reaction to the article was "Oh dear Lord, they're pissed because the second day off is Shabbat for Jews?!? What the Hell is wrong with these people?" I knew the weekly Muslim holy day was Friday, but thought #1 this type of protest was a bit much, and #2 couldn't someone just have gone to whoever chose the day and said "Dude, we like the longer week-end, but Saturday's just not gonna work here"? I vaguely remembered hearing that Muslims start their holy days at sundown and decided to check the veracity of my recalled memory. This search was unsuccessful, but I did find out a few other interesting tidbits:

Friday was the day chosen by Muhammad to commemorate the creation of man on the "sixth day" of creation and to differentiate his followers from Christians and Jews. Muslims don't think of Sabbath the way Jews & Christians do, as the Qu'ran instructs Muslims to "disperse in the land for seeking livelihood after prayers are over." (62:9-10) because “He made the night for rest and the day for earning livelihood” (78:11).

I still don't understand why the Powers That Be in Iraq couldn't forsee adding the second day on Saturday as potentially being problematic. They should have known better or at least known to discuss their plans with community leaders; perhaps they're graduates of the W school of Social Ignorance with degrees in ethnic myopia. This doesn't exactly excuse the equally ridiculous over-reaction and protests by students which is most likely the result of years of anti-Jewish propaganda.

FYI: for anti-Muslim Christians who'd point to the audicity of Muhammad of "changing the Sabbath" to Thursday, it should be pointed out that Jesus and the apostles celebrated Sabbath starting at sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. The Christian sabbath was changed to Sunday by Constantine because he wanted it on the day to honor the Sun-god.

(yeah, I joogled a bit - you can guess what was #1 on google again)


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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Put on Depends

and gizoogle my blog.

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If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him

I get my weekly Torah letters on Monday, I try to hold off reading them until Shabbat (this has become my way of keeping Sabbath as of late). We're on Exodus 30:11-34:35; the 10 commandments, the Golden Calf.

Whenever I describe my religion and why it resonates with me, the first thing that comes to mind are the words of my childhood Rabbi telling me that Judaism is a "living religion". Being that my rebbe was a major-league frum Yid whose family had a personal relationship with Schneerson, his statement seemed quite revolutionary to me at the time. After reading Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger's commentary to this week's parsha, the Idol of Complacency, I realize my rebbe's words were anything but revolutionary - unless you consider the truth to be so.

We, as humans, understand things in our own terms. We try to nail them down to little tidbits as we comprehend them and, frequently, end up judging and labeling based on our understanding - our interpretation. This harkens back to the argument about the inerrancy of the Bible. I hear "Scripture said this" and "there is no room for interpretation of Scripture; The Bible is complete and every word is the literal truth" and yet we somehow not only have three Abrahamic religions (and multiple denominations of those religions) that disagree about certain things based on the same words.

Why is it that G-d does not want humans to make any graven images or molten statues of himself? Could it be, as Rabbi Loevinger asserts, that He doesn't want us to make a "fixed" image of Him? We fix an image of who or what someone is based on our own notion of who/what they are. That image may or may not be accurate, it may or may not be complete and/or it may or may not be outdated. Regardless, we have that image, and it is most often immutable much to their (and our) detriment. Just as we frequently fail to see the person before us due to our image of them (or even of ourselves, when we are not quite the being captured in our own self-image), we frequently fail to see all that G-d is.

When we limit G-d we limit his words which, in turn, decreases the boundaries of our minds and sets our hearts. In doing so, we allow ourselves to stand in His stead, to cast judgment in His name and to accuse those doing what they think is humane of quite the opposite. We do this because we have set our understanding into stone, not due to the words he cast there.


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Thursday, February 24, 2005

He came, She spit, They conceived

disproving the belief that it's better to give than receive

I heard about this case around the holidays and was concurrently amused and mortified (more the latter to be honest).

Dr. Sharon Irons claims Dr. Richard Phillips gave her a "gift" and she had every right to use it in any way she felt suitable - two years later, she hit him with a paternity suit and now he pays $800/month in child support.

As physicians, they both knew that oral sex would not reasonably lead to pregnancy, she didn't discuss her plans with him (because he would not have agreed); she figured she'd just have her cake and eat it too. One has to wonder why she waited almost two years to let him know what she'd done and that he had a child if she didn't feel she'd done anything less than honorable.

Phillips has, legitimately, sued for emotional distress. Her attorney had the audacity to say "There's a 5-year-old child here, imagine how a child feels when your father says he feels emotionally damaged by your birth." Hmmm, imagine how the child will feel knowing the circumstances of his/her conception...come to think about it, however will Dr. Irons explain that?


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Monday, February 21, 2005


Always in Spring
jostled from wintry sleep
the time of renewal
I awaken to dreams of you
though you do not exist
real enough in my mind
my heart
with me you stay
more than a memory
I travel the road not taken
I could not do right by you
know I did right by you then
not just by me
my mistake, my folly
and so much more
I've learned
and felt
more than I thought capable
a pain that lingers, the dull throb
taps on my mind, a healthy reminder
I tried my best
chose accordingly
paid the price
more hefty than I could have known
consequences accepted with little option
but not so severe as what could have been, those you might face alone
and I don't know what will be
so you are not

© 1994

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

verbatim et litteratim

While reviewing this (or, more accurately, last) week's parsha, I came across a commentary by Rabbi Shimon Felix called "The multiplicity of meanings." In it, Felix cite's the Ramban's preface to Genesis in which he states
the Torah is written with no punctuation, no sentences, just letters in a row, and therefore could, in theory, be divided up into words and sentences in a way other than the way we traditionally divide it up. The Torah would then be read in a way that is substantially different from the way in which it is traditionally read, communicating other meanings, other messages, other truths.
The order of the Jewish Bible (TANAKH) is different from the Christian OT (TAKHAN). As such even if the original text were a literal representation of G-d's word, it's easy to understand why there could be different interpretation to actual intent. To further exacerbate the situation, there have been changes made to the text through copying and translation (some intentional to change meaning and some creative to make the book more "poetic"). One's belief in the inerrancy of the bible is dependent on a personal understanding of what's being referred to as complete and error free.

The context matters. If you know I uttered the words "the sky is blue" but you don't know the full context, you can make some assumptions about the meaning and why I made the statement, but you don't know if I'm really trying to show an example of the color blue to someone, commenting about whether it looks like it's going to rain, saying what a lovely day it is, or if I was singing along to a song and there was no actual meaning behind my use of the words.

There are different bibles, different interpretations, additional religious texts to accompany scripture (and different interpretations of those), different religions/denominations, lack of religions, spirituality outside the constraints of organized religion, monotheism, polytheism, atheism, animism, etc. We all think our own understanding is the correct one (well, maybe not all of us, but a good many do) and, in a country with no "State Religion" how do we legislate based on scripture we don't all subscribe to? Those who think this is a Christian country, which would allow us to legislate on some non-denominational Christian scripture, ignore the fact there are vast differences of understanding of what is right and what should be legislated not only between denominations but often within them.

So, whose god is right? Between the monotheistic religions, there isn't a "which" G-d; there are different interpretations of scripture and it's intent, differening ideas of whose concept is right, but that 1 god is the same regardless of our different understanding of him. There are atheistic religions and polytheistic religions as well, but again, the "which" god or gods really doesn't matter because it's our (human) understanding of that we ascribe to a god or different gods. Does everyone who has ever encountered you describe you exactly the same way? Unless you're Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life. . .

God has three sorts of servants in the world: Some are slaves and serve God from fear; others are hirelings and serve for wages; and the last are children, who serve because they love. (F. G. Marchant, The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Joshua)

Those who following blindly or out of fear are missing out on so much that the world G-d gave us offers as they are threatened by anything requiring thought. Those who co-opt religion for their own political purposes and financial gain have obvious and ulterior motives.

Those who choose to believe after considerable thought and are comfortable with ourselves and our faith have no fear of challenge to our own beliefs. We feel no need to impose our religion on others and do not rail at those who reject our beliefs. As such we have no difficulty with tolerating and extending respect to others. Respecting the lives and beliefs of others does not mean we personally agree with them or even condone all their actions, it just means we realize that we have no right injecting our personal beliefs into the lives of others. People like us from all faiths & denominations (including rational Evangelicals) need to band together with each other and non-believers alike to forge a bond of mutual respect, develop consensus on issues to reach common goals, and to ensure the United States remains a country in which those in the minority are not subjected to the tyranny of the not-too-moral majority.


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Saturday, February 19, 2005

. . . so that we can comfort those in any trouble

with the comfort we ourselves have received from G-d (2 Corinthians 1:4)

In a sad note Anne Basso, from Our Homeschool, is going through one of the saddest experiences a person can experience, the pending premature induction of her baby who was just diagnosed with a fatal neural tube defect. Despite our frequent disagreements, my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family at this time.


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Monday, February 14, 2005

Take the power

to set you free
Kick down the door and throw away the key
Give up your needs...
Your poisoned seeds
Find yourself elected to a different kind of creed
"Money Can't Buy It" © 1992 Annie Lennox

One quick note before I turn in, hoping to get a decent night's sleep for once. I know I rag on the Fundies and have ot remind myself that there are mainstream "Evangelical" Churches that aren't radical right politicos. I also know that there are people within the Evangelical/Fundamentalist movement who are good Christians in every sense of the word.

There's something special about people who are on a "higher"spiritual plane (for lack of better terminology), and by using the word spiritual I'm not referring exclusively to members of organized religion or those who are overtly devout/frum. Maybe it's a degree of self-actualization, a better relationship with the world, a combination of both and/or something altogether different. I don't know. What I can tell you is that when it comes to "testifying" and/or expressing your faith (something considered key to Evangelical faiths), the best way to do it is by living it. People recognize when someone is settled, comfortable with themselves and "right with G-d" - it shows in how they act and how they treat others (and how unthreatened they are by the beliefs of others). Those subscribing to other ideologies are very comfortable around these people because they see us for who we are just as we see the light that shines from them.


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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Evangelicals to Americans: Please don't misunderstand

We're not trying to convert you, we just want you to know Christ

According to a recent AP story, Evangelicals attending a meeting at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary last week expressed concerns that mainstream Americans misundertand them and harbor an inaccurate view that they seek to create a Christian Government in the United States. According to Timothy Tennent, Professor of World Missions at Gordon-Conwell, Evangelicals can be respectful of other religions and have no desire to impose Christianity on unwilling Americans. According to Tennent, Evangelicals want to protect the right of members of other religions to be members of other religions in this country, but they still "want them to know Christ." Additionally, Robert Wenz of the National Association of Evangelicals distanced more practical Evangelicals from Jerry Falwell and the "Moral Majority" indicating their representation of Conservative Christianity was regrettable. According to Mr. Wenz, it was "supposed to be about making America a nice place for Christians to live." Wenz went on further to indicate that Evangelicals see themselves in a culture was against a "movement that seeks to impose a totally secular world view."

There are a few things I'm not sure Mr. Tennent & Mr. Wenz quite understand themselves. Mr. Wenz states people can be their different religion, but he still wants them to "know Christ." Knowing that Evangelicals not only think all other ideological beliefs are woefully inferior to Christianity, that their brand of Christianity is superior to all others, and that part of evangelism is testifying and prosyletizing in an effort to save the souls of others by "knowing Christ," makes his statement supporting the rights of non-Christians and comments that Evangelicals can be respectful a little hard to believe. The veracity of the statement is even harder to accept considering Evangelical support of current legislative proposals regarding changes to the US Constitution to define marriage limited to heterosexual couples in an effort to defend marriage against the gay threat; and state level legislative proposals to bring religion into the public schools and state level proposals regarding gay marriage sponsored by representatives that state the bills are intended to legislate in accordance to scripture. Furthermore, Mr. Wenz's statements imply the actions of Evangelicals are justifiable in response to some threat against their ability to live Christian lives.

If they truly do not want to impose a Christian state and want to make the claim they can be respectful of the beliefs of others, they need to starting putting their proverbial money where their mouths are. Support of laws aimed at limiting rights of others based on scripture and insinuating religious dogma into government and public schools undermines their assertion that a Christian state is not their goal. I'm sure they would agree that nothing good could come from the government injecting itself into chruch doctrine, the same could be said for the church injecting itself into government. Our founding fathers understood this and, in an effort to prevent the corruption of religion from government interference and the imposition of religion into legislative affairs, they included language to prevent just this in the Bill of Rights.

Those of us on the other side of the "culture war" are not preventing expressions of faith anywhere outside a private home or house of worship,
we are just demanding that there is no endorsement/sponsorship of religion (real or implied) by the government as guaranteed by the US Constitution. People of other backgrounds create an environment/community they feel is desirable, that's what makes it a nice place. Many of us they are "at war" with are deeply religious, but understand we live in a diverse country and respect that others, just like us, we do not want the imposition of values inconstent with our own by the government or in public schools. There is no way for public schools and the government to adequately and equitably address all religions (and the lack thereof) in a way that would not be offensive to someone. As such, these domains remain secular. People who want their children to get a religious education and learn a specific set of values as part of their regular schooling send their children to Parochial schools. Public schools were not created for their children to use as a tool to witness for their faith - if they don't want their children taught/lectured on values and beliefs inconsistent with their own and will fight it tooth and nail, why do they expect other parents not to do the same?

This does not mean that a person living in this country must lead a secular life or that religion is stripped from the people or country. The boundaries of propriety are essentially limited to government/public schools; and even within these locations there's nothing to prevent an individual from prayer or reading the bible on their own time, provided they are not creating a hostile environment for those around them. The country is not, by any stretch of the imagination, sanitized of religion.

We must remind ourselves that respect, as it pertains to tolerance of those who are different from ourselves, means "to avoid violation of or interference with." Affording gay people the right to marry does not require the Evangelical community (or anyone else, for that matter) to approve/accept/condone homosexuality; showing respect for the rights of these individuals would just mean not interfering in their lives or their pursuit of the same dreams and desires that heterosexuals have. Prosyletizing/testifying to a captive audience of schoolchildren in a public school can only be perceived as an attempt at conversion (based on the intent of testifying), which most reasonable people would consider interference.

Many of us understand that Hollywood and pop culture are not exactly big proponents of morality, one does not have to be an Evangelical Christian to want to tune them out. They worship a different green god, and as long as that god provides, they will continue to do so. A repsonsible person tries to go out of their way to avoid noxious stimuli. If mainstream entertainment doesn't suit Evangelicals, they can turn to the thriving Christian entertainment industry and avoid secular programs/music that doesn't sit well with them. Unfortunately, the world around us is not sanitized to prevent everyone from exposure to that which offends. We can handle these situations by walking away, by engaging in an irrational battle to arrange the world to our liking or by understanding that it will happen and addressing the situation like a responsible adult.


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Pro-Responsibility: Responsible People Making Responsible Decisions

Reproductive rights guarantee us the freedom to become a parent, or not; to use contraception to prevent pregnancy & take prophylactic measures to prevent spread of communicable disease should we chose to engage in sexual activity; to make informed and thoughtful decisions about our lives; and to consent, or not, in private, in accordance with our personal beliefs without government intervention. These aren't just rights, they're responsibilities as well: the responsibility to educate yourself about how your body works, how to prevent disease and avoid unintended pregnancy; the responsibility to learn about all your options should you face the one of the consequences of sexual activity; and the potential long-term ramifications of any decision you make.

Sexual intimacy is the domain of those mature enough to be responsible and held accountable for things that may occur after the moment has passed. Learn, think & act accordingly.

Responsibility. I'm all for it.
(Pro-Responsibility, the unofficial position of CGCS)

NARAL/Pro-Choice America has pledged to support the Putting Prevention First Bill sponsored by House Minority Leader, Harry Reid. Despite the differences between those who want to outlaw abortion and those who support leaving decisions about continuing or terminating pregnancies up to a woman, there is one thing we all have in common and that's the desire to drastically reduce the number of, if not eradicate, unintended pregnancies. I've already documented my suggestions as to how this can be acheived, but I'm glad to see that Pro-Choice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood are actively supporting the bill and are trying to find common ground with those adamantly opposed to abortion. While my hopes aren't high that the more extreme in the "Pro-Life" Movement will work together with "Pro-Choice" people as, in general, my experiences with most are that any action other than condemnation and outlawing abortion is considered as disengenous and "not enough" compromise from the left, it's certainly something we need to do with or without their assistance.

One of the most critical objectives is to reduce the number of sexually active teenagers and resultant pregnancies/STDs. A 2004 study conducted by Jacqueline E. Darroch and Susheela Singh for the Guttmacher Institute indicates that the teen pregnancy rate in the US, while among the highest in the developed world, decreased in the 90s. According to the report, more than 75% of teen pregnancies were unintended with approximately 35-38% ending in abortion. Increased abstinence may account for a reduction in the teen pregnancy rate of approximately 25% between 1988 and 1995; use of long-acting hormonal contraceptives seems to account for the reduction in pregnancy rates of sexually active teenagers. As such, it makes sense to do everything possible to provide sex education that encourages teenagers to abstain from sexual activity until adulthood in a way that won't make them just tune the message out.

I know teens don't want to hear they're not mature enough to have sex because they all think they're very mature (we did, didn't we?). We need to get the message across that there's something to be said for life experiences (outside of sex) that will enhance their understanding of the world as this will greatly affect their decisions. We need to affirm that while sex can be great, it's in their best interests to wait until they have more life experience and are able to take care of themselves before facing the potential consequences of sexual intimacy. I think a lot of the kids who are sexually active ignore the "wait" message in conjunction with abstinence only education as there's a very judgmental message that "sex outside of marriage (fornication) is immoral" and they must wait until they are married. While it is preferable that they defer sexual intimacy until they are adults in a mutually exclusive relationship; abstinence only education with concentration on marriage ignores that fact that many Americans are deferring marriage to later in life and a message with a focus on marriage is not perceived as realistic to those who are not particularly religious. It is for this reason, and the fact you don't usually limit information taught in school to that used in the near-term future, that information on use of prophylactic measures to prevent communicable diseases and unintended pregnancy. This information can be used by those who, despite encouragement otherwise, insist on engaging in sexual activity. The information can also be utilized by those who do wait until marriage to have sex that want to defer starting a family until a later date.

It's all about being responsible and making thoughtful, informed decisions.

Tags: ; ; ;;;

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

must . . . STOP . . . LIBERALS

because a mind is a terrible thing

States Considering Legislation to Counter Perceived Liberalism on College Campuses

In an effort to "stem the tide of professors sending students out in the world to vote against the very public policy that their parents have elected us for", Ohio State Senator Larry Mumper has sponsored SB 24 which seems fairly innocuous until you get to Senator Mumper's rationale of trying to prevent students from developing liberal ideological beliefs and Section (C):
Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose.
Now I have no problem agreeing that Professors should not be introducing subject matter that has no relationship to the coursework under study, but based on Mumper's comments, I have a feeling that anything that doesn't fit neatly with certain agendas may well suddenly become suspect. As for "persistently introducing controversial matter," some coursework is based solely on debate of controversial matter and the subjectivity of interpretation is most likely to turn into litigation or homogenized lectures which are diametrically opposed to the purpose of getting an education.

The proposal would prohibit public and private college professors from presenting opinions as fact or penalizing students for expressing their views. Anyone who's been to college has probably experienced the professor who graded their paper based on the views presented not the quality of the argument and submitted work (in my case, it was my Teratology Professor who wanted a verbatim regurgitation of his lecture and did not appreciate that half the class submitted a response with citations to support a slightly different conclusion - especially since this was consistent with a certain Pharmacology Professor's lecture); this sort of thing shouldn't happen but it does and is not the domain of liberal vs conservative, it's the difference between someone who wants to educate and someone who wants their ego stroked. Additionally, since the statute applies to private colleges can the legislature ensure that Religious colleges provide equal time for the advancement of ideas that run counter to religious doctrine? If they cannot, they need to either limit the bill to Public Universities/Colleges or scrap it all together as there is no way to apply this equally as supposedly intended.

Otterbein College sophomore Charis Bridgman tends to keep quiet in class if she thinks her professor might disagree with her Christian-influenced ideas. "They might chastise me, or not even listen to my opinion or give me a chance to explain," she said.
She hasn't spoken up and is making an assumption without even trying and this is the Professor's fault? Charis, you're 19 and supposedly going to college to get an education, speak up already, but know that if you think your view may be controversial/not well received you need to be prepared:
  1. Think about how best to present your views (you're more likely to be treated with respect if you are respectful yourself)
  2. Support your position clearly
  3. Open debate means being prepared to take criticism (and it's not always constructive)
  4. Most importantly, the best way to test your own beliefs is to have them challenged (this helps you delineate the nuances & shore up your arguments; research the opposing view with an open mind, this does not mean you're expected to change your mind it means you're expected to learn and understand the issue and controversy as a whole - this will also help you in those time in which you will have to respectfully disagree).
You may also find that the Professor you expect to chastise you has an increased respect for you just by virtue of the fact you spoke up, presented your case, addressed dissention and stood your ground with grace. What you learn from the disagreement and debate is invaluable and you're going to college to learn, correct?

"I see students coming out having gone in without any ideological leanings one way or another, coming out with an indoctrination of a lot of left-wing issues," said bill sponsor Sen. Larry Mumper, a former high school teacher whose Republican party controls the Legislature.
Umm, so it would be OK if they were indoctrinated with Conservative propaganda?
The mood on college campuses varies and pendulum swings back and forth. Some colleges are extremely liberal as a whole and some extremely conservative; most have a mix.

For a man who used to teach HS, he knows little about children and young adults. Teenagers and young adults tend to be idealistic and somewhat naive, as they have little real-life experience to help them put things in perspective. As such, this makes them more likely to have "liberal" leanings trying to make sure everyone is treated fairly and equally regardless. Many kids don't come across views dissimilar to their own until college and frequently check out different groups of people with different views as their own are still developing. Just like teenagers, college students are still more influenced by their circle of friends than their Professors or courses. Additionally, as people gain life experience, they run into the gray areas in which what is right and wrong isn't so obvious; this is why they need to be able to think critically so they can define their own views. In my own life, I was a bit of a "bleeding-heart liberal" (just shy of granola) as a child, picked up some "conservative" beliefs as I started to understand the news and was pretty much moderate starting in college until relatively recently when the Neo-Cons and "Religious Right" started scaring the Hell out of me and had that reactionary jump to the left. Propaganda and indoctrination (regardless of whetehr it's Conservative or Liberal) only works well (and in a sustainable fashion) on those afraid/too lazy to think for themselves.
Mumper said he is concerned universities are not teaching the values held by taxpaying parents and students.

Gee Senator, I'm glad you weren't my "teacher" in HS, since you don't seem to understand that Universities aren't supposed to teach "values", let alone those held by taxpayers. University Professors are not elected officials whose job is to further government programs and advance the political needs of a constituency. The goal of a University is to educate those enrolled there; this means presenting ideas, theories, facts within the context of a curriculum. Just in case you don't have a dictionary handy, I've provided a critical definition for you:

    1. To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction.
    2. To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose: decided to educate herself in foreign languages; entered a seminary to be educated for the priesthood.
      a. To provide with information; inform: a campaign that educated the public about the dangers of smoking.
      b. To bring to an understanding or acceptance: hoped to educate the voters to the need for increased spending on public schools.
    4. To stimulate or develop the mental or moral growth of.
    5. To develop or refine (one's taste or appreciation, for example).


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Commandment 1(a) - Alabama style

You will say the pledge, dammit!

After realizing that Alabama state law only provided that students be afforded the opportunity to say the pledge when other schools across the country mandate it, AL State Senator Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) proposed a bill to require that each day begin in Alabama public schools with students and teachers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill passed on a voice vote without any audible dissent. Not to be outdone, Sen. Curt Lee (R-Jasper) also submitted a bill to require each public school in Alabama to display framed or mounted copies of the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. In all fairness, Sen. Byrne's bill does have an opt out policy for teachers and students who object or are citizens of another country (and you know elementary school children feel empowered to do just that without fear of retribution from less than understanding class-mates), but I have to point out the irony of the new law and requirements of Sen. Jasper's bill:

  • Jehovah's witnesses cannot recite the Pledge because it is against their religion. The religious proscription is based on the pesky little commandment that goes something like this:"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"
  • The First Amendment of the US Constitution expressly stipulates that no law be passed "respecting establishment of religion"
Contrary to popular belief, the 10 Commandments are religious doctrine. Don't get me wrong, there's some damn good advice in them that everyone would be wise to follow regardless of their belief in G-d (or not), but the first commandment is to believe in G-d. Surely, I am not the only one to see the disconnect here.

I agree that the Decalogue is perfectly appropriate in Sunday school, Church, even your own home (though I do think that when present the 10 commandments to children, it should be converted to child friendly text; how do you explain adultery to a 7 year old?). In a public school setting, however, it's inappropriate because it advances theistic ideology. More specifically, it advances monotheism and doing so in public school implies endorsement to a captive audience of children. You can't just say to these kids, "oh honey you're Hindu or Buddhist or atheist so just don't think about that on the wall" it does affect children and sets them up for unecessary judgment that can interfere with the expressed purpose of public school - to educate our children.

It is the responsibility of the parents (and religious institutions) to teach values to children. Murder is not wrong and illegal because G-d said so, G-d say it's wrong because it is inherently wrong. You do not have to believe in G-d to be moral (and we all know people who purport to believe in G-d and/or religion who are not exactly moral beings). Regardless of your personal views, to imply otherwise, is counter-productive (and is one of the reasons some react so negatively to religion). If you want to post 10 commandments in schools, adapt them to fit the purpose of the public school system. So, without further ado, I present my:

Ten Commandments of Modern Elementary Education
  1. Treat the teachers with respect and pay attention in class
  2. Be respectful of your classmates, they have feelings just like you
  3. Do not swear; only use appropriate language on school grounds
  4. Do your homework and come to class prepared
  5. Let your parents know what you're doing in school and invite them to be a part of your education
  6. Do not commit an act of violence; fighting will not be tolerated
  7. Be loyal to your friends and your school; don't be a snitch or diss people who depend on you
  8. Do not steal; you don't want someone taking your stuff without permission so don't take theirs
  9. Do not lie or make up false stories about people or start rumors
  10. Do not envy, jealousy is a wasted emotion and things that might seem better for someone now may not really be as good as you think they are


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Thursday, February 10, 2005

We prefer the term "Selective Discrimination"

Bush calls for end to racism (other forms of discrimation A - OK)

At a White House meeting with prominent black leaders on Tuesday, President Bush reiterated language from his inaugural speech stating "we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time" and like everything else in this great country, the caveat remains "unless BushCo states otherwise."

Whaddya mean gays are discriminated against? They can get married, just not to anyone they'd want to marry:

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference. "And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."

"Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners," the president said Wednesday when asked for his views on homosexuality. "And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own." "I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country," Bush added. "On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage."(George W. Bush, 22 October 2003)

"nothing wrong with discriminating against gays." (VA State Sen. Kenneth Cuccinelli February 2005)

Choosey preachers choose Christians

Under the president's rules,
all government contractors, except religious groups, are now forbidden to discriminate in hiring on religious grounds. Thus religious groups are not being treated "like all other groups." Rather, they are being given a special right to engage in religious bigotry in employment in taxpayer-funded programs. Nobody was trying to "discriminate against faith-based organizations" before 2002, as Gonzales suggests. Religious groups were just asked to play by the same rules as everyone else. Gonzales' take on all this is Orwellian.

It's not your lack of religion that makes you enemy of the state, it's your lack of patriotism
"I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person," Mr. Bush said. "I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is. " (George W. Bush, 11 January 2005)

Keep your religion in your house of worship, abide by mine everywhere else

"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit," Mr. Bush said. "That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit.
(George W. Bush, 11 January 2005)

In an interview in 1999, Bush cited Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the two most conservative members of the court, as justices he especially admires.

Clarence Thomas advanced the position that the constitutionally mandated separation applied to the federal government, but not to individual states -- a position that would allow Virginia, for example, to declare a state religion and advocates allowing states use tax money to proselytize for that state's religion. [Elk Grove v. Newdow, 2004]

Justices Scalia and Thomas do not believe in the right to privacy with regard to sexual activity between consenting adults specifically referencing that once cannot distinguish homosexuality from other traditional morals offenses [Lawrence v. Texas, 2003]

Heathens need not apply
"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," he said.


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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Today's Special: Jefferson on a Spit

Bill to allow school proselytizing sails through Virginia House panel

Legislation that would open all public property — including schools — to preaching, praying and proselytizing breezed through a House committee on Feb. 4.

The bill would also write into the state Constitution a ban on same-sex marriage. It was endorsed 14-4.

With only four dissenting votes, the House Privileges and Elections Committee advanced a proposed change to religious-freedom guarantees rooted in the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and reflected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I don't even know where to begin. The first amendment of the US Constitution (apparently a minor and non-binding document the Supreme Court uses for grins) states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Government property is not your publicly funded church and the government is not permitted to sponsor or endorse religion (any religion). One's right to freedom of expression does not supercede the right to freedom of religion of another. If you want to proselytize, do it somewhere other than public schools and government property. It is not my responsibility to fund your religious activities, especially those targeted at infringing on my rights so you can try to convert me to your religion.

The religious-freedom resolution found wide support for remedying what its sponsor, Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr., contends is a growing bias against Christians.

He said other nations upheld their founding religious tenets and compelled respect for them, specifically noting the Muslim culture of Arab countries as an example. Then, he quoted Patrick Henry in appealing for greater leeway for Christianity.
Yes Henry wanted more leeway for Christianity, and yet, he did not prevail in attempts to make the US a country with a state religion. I think it's a safe bet to say he lost the appeal because his suggestions were not consistent with the general consensus of our forefathers; had they agreed the language of the first amendment would have been much different than what was ratified. There is no growing bias against Christians, nobody is preventing Christians from practicing their religion as they see fit. There is, however, a ground-swell of people who do not want so-called "Christians" forcing (secular people, people of other religions, non-fundamentalist Christian denominations) their religion on us.

Carrico's reference to the Muslim culture in Arab countries (you know, the religious culture we're currently fighting to bring Democracy & ostensively to provide "freedom" to their people) have something this country does not: a state religion. Despite the fact the majority of Americans happen to be among the drastically endangered Christian religion, the United States is not a Christian Country.

I'm no expert on Constitutional Law, but I'm not sure a state is allowed to create laws that are in direct violation of the US Constitution.
If laws are applied equally, what is to prevent use of government buildings & public schools to indoctrinate children in the evils of Christianity, G-d and Jesus is wrong (Go Satan?!), well those laws won't apply to equally to everyone. Those proposing & supporting these bills make it clear, the laws will be based on their specific interpretation of acceptable religious belief and/or scripture.

How does this bullshit get through the minds of rational people? Well either they're not really rational, they have an agenda that may seem innocuous to you know but may not be consistent with what you think you'll be getting in the long run, or they actually buy into the blatantly incorrect and politically motivated assertion that voluntary religious expression has been threatened or banned. My guess is there is a distinct agenda to not only obliterate the separation of church and state but to openly declare a state religion. It's interesting, though not surprising, that this is tied into an attempt at banning gay marriage (Virginia , where fornication is fine as long as you're straight). Abortion couldn't achieve this goal because when it comes to affecting their own lives, people will break with church doctrine of their own religions; but when it comes to homosexuality, many straight people focus on the sexual aspect of a gay relationship and, since they do not understand and do not think they'll be affected, they'll support measures based on their own internal "ick" response. What these people don't realize is that once you break with the protections of the 1st Amendment in this manner, legislation can (and will) be based on religious doctrine - in this case, Fundamentalist Christian doctrine.

Virginia is not the only state to decide to legislate with an eye to religion. New Mexico is playing the same breach of the 1st Amendment as VA.

NM legislators aim at banning gay marriage, infringes on freedom of religion as well. Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R-Alamogordo introduced House Bill 445 which not only limits marriage to heterosexual couples, but it provides fines to clergy who perform same-sex marriage ceremonies; specifically doesn't recognize same-sex marriages from other states or countries; and nullifies the New Mexico marriage licenses granted to gay couples in Sandoval County last year. Vaughn admitted there are religious intentions behind HB 445. "It defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, which is according to Scripture. God made Adam and Eve, not 'Adam and Steve.'

If Christian religion and scripture defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, the Christian Churches should not be sanctifying marriages that are not acceptable under their religious doctrine. Religious activities are not under the domain of the state and, as such, church doctrine should not be under consideration in development of civil legislation just as the government should not be dictating religious dogma and practice. This is especially important when considering that not all religions have the same views and doctrine (there is even 100% agreement between Christian denominations).
"Marriage is not defined that way in Hebrew scripture," said Rabbi Marvin Schwab of Temple Beth Shalom. "Whoever says that ought to read the Bible. And when they say they want the law to follow Scripture, do they support public stoning of women who commit adultery?"

Schwab said he considers HB 445 to be a violation of the separation of church and state and an infringement on his right to "interpret the dictates of my religion, as someone who was ordained to do that."

If you're Christian and not too keen on gay folks, these stories may not bother you much. Of course, you're idea of what a good Christian is, does and feels is acceptable may not be the same as the good, moral Christians making the laws. Are you sure you'd be accepted as a good moral Christian to all other Christians who may be in charge of legislating your activities & behavior?


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Sunday, February 06, 2005

The evils of cartoon exploitation

As I'm sure you've heard that some Christian groups, including James Dobson's Focus on the Family (FoF), contend that the We Are Family cartoon video has the audacity to promote different kinds of families to school-children.

"If you look at the Web site, it becomes pretty clear that a part of the agenda is to change the definition of family to include virtually anyone who chooses to be called a family, including homosexual couples and homosexual couples raising children," said Peter Sprigg, senior director of policy studies of the Washington-based Family Research Council. "Much of what they have is coded language that is regularly used by the pro-homosexual movement such as 'tolerance' and 'diversity.'

"Ultimately, we feel that this is being used as propaganda to indoctrinate very small children to accept a different definition of family."

Sprigg said the companies behind SpongeBob SquarePants and the other cartoon characters might not endorse gay and lesbian families but are being employed to give that message legitimacy.

In addition to the well-known non-humans singing and dancing, the video encourages children to go to the WAFF website to sign a Declaration of Tolerance, written by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

According to the New York Times, James Dobson, founder of FoF, said the popular cartoon figure SpongeBob SquarePants would appear in "a pro-homosexual video" while speaking at a congressional dinner in Washington last month.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," Paul Batura, an assistant to Dobson, told the Times.

Dobson and FoF reacted to the backlash by claiming he was taken completely out of context. They go on to claim Main Stream Media is abusing the situation to attack religion/good moral people. I tried getting direct information (full text articles in response and a copy of the speech transcript from the FOF site and just get the strangest messages when trying to access the site - maybe they have jewdar to keep computers of folks like me from accessing their info?). I was able to get an excerpt from the FoF response on a bulletin board:
In truth, this tale has very little to do with SpongeBob himself, and everything to do with the media’s ability to obscure the facts and to direct lies and scorn toward those of us who care about defending children.

The video, which millions of children will soon see, features nearly 100 favorite cartoon characters that kids will instantly recognize, including not only SpongeBob, but also Barney the Dinosaur, the Muppets, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Jimmy Neutron and Big Bird. The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family."

But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister. My brief comments at the FRC gathering were intended to express concern not about SpongeBob or Big Bird or any of their other cartoon friends, but about the way in which those childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children. Nevertheless, the media jumped on the story by claiming that I had accused SpongeBob of being "gay." Some suggested that I had confused the organization that had created the video with a similarly named gay-rights group. In both cases, the press was dead wrong, and I welcome this opportunity to help them get their facts straight.

Sesame Street has always use the same essential techniques for teaching children that not all people are just like them and their families, there is a vast and diverse population of people with different cultures and that children should accept and understand those differences.
The applicable definition of the word tolerance is: "the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others." As we all know (or should know), the word respect has different meanings: one that means to hold in deferential regard/esteem; another means "to avoid violation of or interference with" - the latter definition is the one that applies to tolerance.

The problem is, the Religious Right (Christianity as co-opted by Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, et. al.) is playing it both ways by making the claim the gay community/secularist liberals are using lessons in tolerance to promote behavior they find immoral/reprehensible (i.e., homosexuality, fornication, etc.) as they claim this forces them to condone said behavior. They then go on to complain that those who deride them for intentionally misdefining tolerance with regard to these programs and the homosexual/liberal "agenda" are "religiophobes" who are attacking Christianity itself.

It appears as though, in truth, the Religious Right thinks it has a fundamental right to be intolerant of others, as they appear to want to interfere and intrude in the lives of others
who do not wish to live in accordance with the tenents of Fundamentalist Christianity. This is evident in the manner in which they advance their agenda, ranging from simple hate speech (Fred Phelps and the like) to hijacking the Constitution in an effort to limit rights to a select group of citizens and criminalize behaviors solely on their personal/religious beliefs. In short, they apply definitions of respect as part of tolerance differentially to suit their agenda; they accuse their opposition of doing exactly what they, themselves, are trying to do. They cannot concede that tolerance programs are not malevolent because they only seem to understand the concept in terms of their own actions.

There is some good news from the Christian movement and that is that many of the rational among them are scratching their heads at this "controversy" as much, if not more than we are.
In the January 24th issue Christianity Today, Phil Vischer, the creator of Vegie Tales addresses the issue honestly and with a bit of levity. On whether the "we are family" organization/video promotes homosexuality, he states:
Boy, that's a thorny one. Does pledging to "respect people whose … sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own" promote homosexuality? We're supposed to love everyone. I'm pretty sure that's biblical.

At the same time, we certainly can't endorse behavior that the Bible labels as sinful. So is "respecting" more like "loving," or more like "endorsing"? Are they encouraging grade school kids to accept homosexuality or to accept homosexuals? I'm not sure I'm qualified to parse that sentence.

And what's the inverse of that pledge? To disrespect people of differing sexual orientations? Jeepers, that doesn't sound biblical.

He goes on to say he's baffled by the shock of the Evangelical Community when the rest of the world is caught "acting, well, 'wordly'" and that he's "anxiously awaiting the day the world registers great shock at the sight of Christians acting 'Christianly'." Maybe that's why I, as an outsider, am so very confused by such spiteful, un-Christian behavior by "good Christians." I get the impression I have the same view of "Christianly" behavior as Mr. Vischer and think we should all expect Christians to be just that so we can save the shock for the hate and vitriol spewed by what should be a very small minority of inacurately self-labeled "Christians".

The issue also has links to interviews with creators/producers of other children's cartoons and links to Dobson/FoF defending themselves. FoF claims "it doesn't object to Mr. SquarePants, but thinks he's being exploited." a very funny statement considering SpongeBob is a secular, cartoon designed for commericalization and marketing. Maybe FoF will partner with organizations like Witness or Amnesty International in an expansion into the new realm of Animated Character and Muppet Rights to prevent any further senseless exploitation of these beings.

mourningIg-gulsOn a sadder note, the Igg-els lost, but we beat the spread and TO made it through the game (I still think he was nuts to play). More importantly, that Ameriquest Ad was a riot!


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Saturday, February 05, 2005

From passive/aggressive to downright hostile

in 2 seconds flat. Yep, that's been me lately.

It must be the hormones, maybe the lack of sleep too. You'd think the promise of my impending escape from that painful little company would have me all bright and cheery.
Ig-gulsEspecially since the weather's absolutely beautiful and the Igg-els are playing in the Superbowl (certain members of the team better pray for a win. Considering some of the trash they've been talking, I think there are some very big men from New England looking to do some potentially career ending damage to those birds).

Kazan's spaz about the evil mutilation called circumcision and how his lack of foreskin makes it impossible to enjoy the ultimate in sexual satisfaction irked the shit out of me. I was less than appreciative of the slammage that I was being emtional as opposed to logical because I said that knowing my own family medical history (DM & PVD), I would have my sons (were I to have any) circumcised as infants (mind you, not by Rabbi Fischer). I've never known anyone so obsessed, let alone so angry, about something they're sure they're missing that must be exponentially more gratifying when they have no control group for objective and legitimate comparison.

I then went on to peruse CNN for some lighter fare to come across 2 teenaged girls losing a lawsuit for the great cookie caper of 2004. This is an example of the sort of frivolous lawsuit that tort-reform should address. I guess it's true, no good deed goes unpunished.

Eggs are put to hatch on a chance
As sad as it is, a "promising" blastocyst does not mean it will definitely implant, let alone make it past the first trimester and go to term.
Many of my friends (way too many, come to think of it) are well aware of this sad fact. What confuses me most is how someone who believes life begins at conception and that an unimplanted embryo is, indeed, a himan being with a right to life, could consider utilization of IVF. I feel for this couple who feels they've lost a chance at parenthood due to an error, but if they really believe that life begins at conception, they should be filing suit for wrongful death of all the discarded embryos (if they were all discarded and, if not, they should proceed with attempted implantation of any remaining ones).
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- A couple whose frozen embryo was accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic has the right in Illinois to file a wrongful-death lawsuit, a judge has ruled in a case that some legal experts say could have implications in the debate over embryonic stem cell research.

In an opinion issued Friday, Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence said "a pre-embryo is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb."

He said the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child has been killed.

The suit was filed by Alison Miller and Todd Parrish, who stored nine embryos in January 2000 at the Center for Human Reproduction in Chicago. Their doctor said one embryo looked particularly promising, but the Chicago couple were told six months later the embryos had been accidentally discarded.

In his ruling, Lawrence relied on the state's Wrongful Death Act, which allows lawsuits to be filed if unborn fetuses are killed in an accident or assault. "The state of gestation or development of a human being" does not preclude taking legal action, the act says.

Lawrence also cited an Illinois state law that says an "unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person."

"There is no doubt in the mind of the Illinois Legislature when life begins," Lawrence wrote.

Another judge had thrown out the couple's wrongful-death claims, but Lawrence reversed that decision, partly because that judge did not explain his decision at the time.

An attorney for the fertility clinic said an appeal would likely be filed.

The decision could curb reproductive research, said Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Chicago.

Connell expects the ruling will be overturned on appeal.

"It may be groundbreaking, but it's the wrong decision," Connell said. "No appellate court has ever declared a fertilized egg a human being in a wrongful-death suit."

Stem cells can potentially grow into any type of human tissue. Many scientists believe they could someday be used to repair spinal cord injuries and treat some diseases. Anti-abortion groups oppose such research because it involves destroying embryos, and the Bush administration has severely restricted federal stem cell funding.

Abortion opponents praised Lawrence's ruling. "Life begins at fertilization, not implantation," Pro-Life Action League director Joe Scheidler said.

While the ruling likely is too narrow to affect abortion law, it increases legal risks for fertility clinics, said John Mayoue, a family attorney in Atlanta and specialist on in-vitro law.

Mayoue said court rulings on the treatment of embryos have been contradictory.

"We are considering embryos to be property for certain purposes and life for others, and that's the incongruity," he said.
This suit and the IL law (like the VA law) defining a fetus incorrectly from the point of conception and stating that life begins at conception is dangerous on so many levels. If life begins at conception in the state of IL, how is it that elective abortion is legal there and how soon before IL has proposed legislation like the one original proposed amendment in VA that could have made not reporting a miscarriage a crime? Additionally, if the state of IL legally defines conception as the start of life, shouldn't criminal charges of felony homicide/recklaess endangerment be filed in the case above (and murder 1 charges be filed for any destroyed/discarded embryos even when the parents consented)? Either life begins at conception for all, or it does not, you can't have it both ways.

I stand outside this woman's work, this woman's world. . .
The Vatican recently praised a 41 yearold woman for refusing treatment for cancer that was diagnosed the same time she found out she was pregnant.
"She was aware that if she gave birth she wouldn't have had any hope of surviving," the Vatican newspaper wrote. "Despite that she went through with her choice, the choice of welcoming new life even at the cost of her own death."
The baby was born 6 months into the pregnancy, the mother died 3 months later. She is survived by her husband, who supported her decision, and 2 other children aged 10 & 12. It'll be interesting to see how her children feel about her decision when they grow up (especially the baby who may grow up with survivor guilt). Most of those I know who oppose abortion, would not expect any woman to make the decision to try to go to term in these circumstances, especially considering how early in term she was, that the cancer was treatable and she has two living children who deserved to have their mother much longer than they did. A case in which the pregnancy was further along and the cancer was most likely terminal would make the decision to go to term more understandable for most people. The point, of course, is that ultimately the decision was hers to make in accordance with her religious beliefs and her conscience. This points to the dangers of allowing religious ideals of morality dictate legislation in this country as unlike the Catholic Church, some religions would actually dictate a decision to terminate in this woman's situation.

What was she thinking? Jurors have recommended a sentence for a Houston man convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of a six-week-old baby. The child's mother, Eugenia White, 28, has been charged with failure to report child abuse because she failed to take her daughter to the hospital and then claimed she had accidentally scratched the baby while changing a diaper.
"I was really upset, and I was crying," White testified. "I didn't know what to do. He was begging me not to take her and not to tell them that he did it."


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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Snippets from the State of the Empire *erm* Union Address

To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage, and more control over their health decisions. I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda — with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor county, improved information technology to prevent medical errors and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees, expanded health savings accounts, and medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs, and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need
He'll be doing that by enacting tort reform which protects insurance companies (not consumers) & encouraging the outsourcing of jobs so people will be unemployed and financially distressed to the point they're eligible for Medicaid?
Our second great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free society. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children. Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.
[. . . and yet, in his next statement, he's going to advocate doing just that:]
Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
This helps families, children and society HOW???? By making sure homos and their families don't have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to everyone else, that's how. Unless both partners in a gay relationship have decent health insurance through their own jobs, one partner (and possibly their children) won't be afforded the same right to be covered under their partner's policy b/c they can't get married (and few employers provide domestic partner benefits). I guess in his thinking, they'll realize they can overcome being gay when they realize if they were "normal, moral" people they could get married and have these benefits (or maybe, if they still insist on being gay they won't have kids since they may not be able to cover medical costs)? I see lots of straight people who do a pretty good job of screwing up marriages - we don't make it illegal for some of those yahoos to get married (heck, Britney got married twice in the same calendar year)!
Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal, by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities — and I thank Congress for doubling the funding of the National Institutes of Health. To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought or sold as a commodity. America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical.
Our society under BushCo and the religious right would then be judged quite harshly by the standards of civilised societies. Brother Jeb has not only (unconstitutionally) created a law to prolong Terri Schiavo's death but he also felt the best way to intervene when it was discovered a severely mentally retarded 22 year old rape victim was pregnant was to appoint a legal guardian for the fetus to ensure the pregnancy went to term; a guardian selected to say that going to term was what "was best for the mother [rape victim]". In additon to cerebral palsy and autism, the woman was also prone to seizures that increased her already high risks of pregnancy/labor & delivery; sure that's what's best for this woman with the cognitive capacity of a 1 year old. I guess Quality of Life, suffering, etc. have no negative impact on human dignity only ensuring birth occurs and duration of life when one is terminal is what matters for the Bush family.
Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well qualified to serve on the bench — and I have done so. The Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.
apparently, if your interpretation of a law is different than Bush's you're an activist judge legislating from the bench but if you have a completely different interpretation that essentially re-writes the law to limit civil rights, you're not an activist.

*sigh* and ending by quoting FDR , lots of idea but no plan to address the fiscal issues - hey, what's more debt as long as the rich have tax cuts and big business has tax holidays, right?

Statement by John Kerry on State of the Union Address

“President Bush said tonight that the state of our union is strong and confident, but millions of Americans know it can and must be stronger. The best way we can instill real confidence in their future is if we follow the true mandate of the last election -- a mandate for unity and true bipartisanship. The political campaigns are over and now we must get down to work. For the 11 million children in this country without health care, we must make our union stronger. For our brave soldiers in Iraq and their families, we must act now in the wake of the Iraqi elections to give them reasons to be as confident about their future as they are courageous under fire.

“The best way to begin genuine bipartisanship to make America stronger is to work together on the real crises facing our country, not to manufacture an artificial crisis to serve a special interest agenda out of touch with the needs of Americans.

“Our country faces a real crisis in health care, a real challenge of record budget deficits, and every American deserves a real plan to improve retirement security -- not weaken it. The problems of health care can be solved if we stop giving tax cuts to those who have the most, and start making health care affordable for those working harder and harder for too little. I was disappointed the President did not spend more time addressing this problem that keeps millions of Americans up at night worrying about their children's future.

The problems facing Social Security 50 years down the road can be fixed tomorrow if Washington ends the borrow-and-spend policies that are running up a record debt and dumping it on the backs of our children. The challenge of retirement security can be solved if we sit down in the true spirit of bipartisanship and make it possible for young people to save and invest while still guaranteeing that Social Security remains insurance against poverty and disability that can never be wiped away. “Watching Iraqis go to the polls for the first time was an inspiring beginning this week, but we can't stop there. It wouldn't have been possible without the bravery of American troops. I am glad the White House will at long last act to provide a $250,000 benefit for the families of troops who've made the ultimate sacrifice. We must do more for those who give of themselves for God and country. But the greatest tribute to the memory of the fallen is an exit strategy called success. Elections were an important milestone, but to go the distance the President must now bring other countries to the side of the Iraqis to rapidly train a security force capable of providing stability. Even more critical is bringing Iraqis together and making clear to millions of Sunnis who stayed home that they have a stake in a secure nation. “We must succeed in Iraq, but we must also wage and win a more effective War on Terror. We must never take our eye off the ball in the greater struggle against extremism. I was disappointed that the President didn't mention Osama bin Laden's name once tonight. Wherever that terrorist who has murdered Americans is hiding tonight, he should know America will never rest until we've destroyed him and his terrorist network.

The state of our union -- our faith, our families, our values -- is strong, but we must challenge ourselves and challenge Washington to make the country we love as strong as the freedom that makes it special.


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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bush won't bail out urban Indian health center


New Mexico's two senators blasted the Bush administration on Friday for denying funds to an urban Indian health facility that is facing closure within months.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) reacted with disappointment after learning that the Albuquerque Indian Health Center will not receive the money it needs to stay open. The Indian Health Service (IHS) refused the senators' request for $5 million to ensure that 25,000 tribal members who make their home in the state's largest city will receive medical care.

"Barring a last-minute reprieve, this center faces sure closure," said Domenici. "There is little chance that Congress can provide any immediate funding, and the IHS assessment is that it has no funding available."

"This is an unacceptable situation," added Bingaman. "The Albuquerque Indian Health Center has already cut back dramatically on the care it offers Native Americans living here, and now the center is being forced to do it again."

The bad news came from Dr. Charles Grim, the director of the IHS. In a letter last week, the Bush appointee said the request for additional funds "is not a viable option because of limited funds throughout our system t o deliver health care services." So he ordered a "downsize" and a "reduction-in-force" at the facility.

"I am confident that the [Albuquerque] Area Office and the service unit will explore all opportunities to provide the highest quality health care to this population," Grim wrote.

The center has been under financial stress for the past few years. Hours have been cut, staff has been reduced and services have been scaled back as funds have dried up.

According to IHS, one source of the problem is that more money is going to tribal governments in the area for their own health programs. More than a half dozen Pueblos and Navajo Nation communities are within driving distance of Albuquerque, and six of the tribes have clinics and service units on their own lands.

To stay afloat, the center said it needed $5 million in federal funds or it would close its urgent care clinic, the lifeblood of the facility, on January 1. An estimated 100 to 200 patients received urgent care every day.

In hopes of preventing that from happening, Domenici and Bingaman last month asked Grim to use his discretion to reprogram $13 million in IHS funds. They wanted $5 million to stabilize services and $8 million to improve services. The center's existing budget is about $5.4 million.

The crisis developed too late for the senators to include earmarks or special provisions in the fiscal year 2005 budget that could save the center
. Still, Congress in November approved $3.0 billion for the IHS, an increase over the amount that had been sought by the Bush administration.

Despite the influx of money, Grim insisted that there isn't enough to go around. In his letter, he said alternatives are being considered, such as working with the state of New Mexico and tribes and obtaining "fiscal support" from the Navajo area office, which just opened a $12.5 million expansion of an urban Indian clinic in Gallup.

Domenici and Bingaman said they will continue to work to find a solution to the problem. Bingaman said he will write to Mike Leavitt, the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the IHS.

Cold Weather Gear for Pine Ridge Reservation Families

Winter has hit hard on the reservation and there are many families who lack the proper warm clothing and gear to protect them from the bitter cold, including children and elders. In the last couple of weeks the temperatures dropped below zero and there's no telling when it will happen again.

Please check your closets for items in like-new condition or do some shopping for coats, jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, hats, gloves, scarves, ear warmers/headbands, ski masks, new blankets and new socks to send to the community of Red Shirt. These will be distributed to local families so we are seeking all sizes--newborns through elders!

Red Shirt is an isolated community so not many donations make it there. The only community facilities there are the elementary school and the Head Start building. The town is far from the nearest post office, their letter-sized mail is delivered only 3 times a week, and those that receive packages in the mail must make the trek to Hermosa, 22 miles away, to pick them up. Please help us keep these families warm!

Please send your donations via the U.S. Post Office to:

Marlene Stout
Red Shirt School
HCR 89
Box 313
Hermosa, SD 57744

Winter Fuel Emergency Fund American Indian Relief Council
PO Box 6200
Rapid City, SD 57709-6200


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