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Moral Outrage vs. Moral Good March 5, 2011

Posted by Bill in abortion, Christianity, Current Events, health, Politics, Religious Right, Uncategorized.
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The great state of Texas is about to pass more restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.  This restriction is in the form of requiring a sonogram test to be taken anywhere from 2 to 24 hours (still being worked on by our high minded representatives) before an abortion along with requiring the women to view the image, listen to the heartbeat, and listen to the doctor describe its development. 


The march towards doing away with the moral acid (abortion) that has burned and stained our nation for so long continues!

Or does it?

For those who are anti-choice/pro-life and who are celebrating this seeming victory I have a question:

Are you more interested in reducing the number of abortions or in expressing moral outrage and becoming “morally pure”?

I ask because when looking at abortion rates around the world something becomes very clear very quickly.  Those countries with the lowest abortion rates have legal and liberal abortion laws.  Those countries with the highest rates of abortion either have very restrictive abortion laws or have made abortion totally illegal. 

Western Europe has the lowest rate of abortion in the world at 12 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44.    We, with our mix of abortion rights with restrictions come in at 21 per 1,000 women.  Of course this is still much better than the Latin American countries where it is not only restricted but also usually illegal.  Their abortion rate is 31 per 1,000 women. 

Now another item that I notice is that in many of these countries where abortion is legal, birth control is also available.  In fact Western Europe actively teaches about contraception and works to make sure that it is easily available. 

Personally I believe that it is this linkage with birth control that has helped bring down the abortion rate in countries that allow abortion, although I freely admit that I cannot find research showing this to be true.

However given the following facts:

 –         Countries with high abortion rates are those in which abortion is illegal or severely restricted. 

–         Countries with low abortion rates are those in which abortion is legal.

–         Countries with freer access to contraceptives have lower abortion rates.

–         Anti-Choice/pro-life people wish to make abortion illegal.

–         Anti-Choice/pro-life people usually do NOT support contraceptive education, nor do they support making it more easily accessible. 

I feel comfortable in stating that the anti-choice/pro-life people, in their efforts to promote morality and eliminate the killing of fetuses are instead working to actually increase it by creating the conditions for abortion rates to increase. 

Kind of ironic that. 

As for myself, I consider myself a pro-choice/pro-life person.  I believe the woman has a right to choose for herself.  However I would like our country to  create a setting in which choosing abortion would be rare or even non-existent.    Given what can be seen around the world that involves a setting in which abortion is legal and not surrounded by these roadblocks and a greater emphasis on contraceptive use. 

Now my choice is fairly easy.  I look at the evidence and go with it. 

However the anti-choice/pro-life  people have a harder decision.  They first have to decide what is more important to them – reducing abortions or being morally pure.


Flower Power Has Given Way to Mob Power March 24, 2010

Posted by Bill in barack obama, Current Events, health care reform, Obama, Politics, Right wing, Uncategorized.
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I love living in Texas for many reasons– if nothing else it’s always good for a laugh– but after listening to the furor that has arisen since the passage of the Health Plan, it’s enough to make me long to live in a place where the sun hasn’t scalded everyone’s brain. It can be dangerous, however, to make generalizations based on where people live, and it is becoming ever apparent that Texans are not the only ones in need of an icepack on their heads.

Seriously, folks, when did it become okay for one member of Congress to yell “Baby Killer” at another member of Congress on the floor of the House, as the GOP Congressman from Texas, Randy Neugebauer shouted at Bart Stupak? When did it become okay for crowds to scream the N-word at minority members of Congress? When did it become okay for another member of Congress, Representative Joe Wilson, to shout, “You lie!” to the President of the United States while he was making a speech to a joint session of Congress? When did it become okay for people to go on Twitter and call for the assassination of our president?

I have to wonder what is truly behind this increasing rancor. We’ve had political disagreements in this country before, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything like this. Certainly there were plenty of ticked off people when Dubya was president, but it never rose to this level of discord. Probably the closest thing we have had to this were the war protests of the late sixties and seventies– if we’d had Internet then, we might have gotten out of Viet Nam much sooner than we did.

Much of this must be attributed to the instantaneousness of the Internet– and the anonymity. You can hide behind a fake identity, set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and whip people into all kinds of a frenzy without anybody ever knowing who you actually are. Not only that, but you don’t even have to tell the truth because it’s real hard to sue for libel or slander for things that are said on that vast frontier of lawlessness that is the Internet. Do you really think that the whackos who claim Obama isn’t a US citizen would ever have gotten a foothold if they couldn’t send their lies to everyone with a working email address?

And there are people who have a vested interest in maintaining this frenzy– the Fox Talk Show hosts wouldn’t have near the ratings they do now if they came on the air and told everyone, “Hey, Obama is really a good guy and even though we don’t agree with him on everything, we know he wants what is best for this country.” If Sarah Palin got up and told everybody the truth about issues such as the so-called Obama death squads, she wouldn’t have her lucrative new contract with Fox TV as well as crowds of people urging her to “Run Sarah run!”.

And let’s face it, these guys have a ready audience because the conservatives out there are just plain mad. They’ve been mad for a long time. In fact, I think they might have been born mad. They were mad when Clinton was elected, and they got madder when Obama was elected. They are so mad that they have forgotten that other people  have a right to think differently and vote differently than they, which is what the Liberals did in the last election because they were mad as well. The trouble is, Liberals just don’t get mad as effectively as Conservatives.

What we’ve got is a mob– a large group of crazies who are feeding on each other and getting whipped into a frenzy by savvy manipulators who are out for their own personal gain. As Deep Throat once said,  “Follow the money.”

There is plenty of room for honest disagreement in this country, but when did disagreement get to the point where we can’t even listen to each other? Where we can’t accept that other people have different views that may be as valid as their own? Okay, we get that you don’t like the Health Plan. We get that you are afraid that it is leading to socialism or that you think people should not be required to buy health care or that you think people should take care of themselves and not expect a handout from the government. We disagree, but does that mean it is okay for you to stand up and yell “N—–!” at one of us?

Whether you like it or not, the Health Plan has passed, and as the Liberals who hate the Faith Based Initiative and the Iraq War have learned, it’s real hard to stuff the crickets back in the jar after it’s been opened. (Those conservatives who have been trying to get rid of the Education Department certainly ought to know that!) I suggest that those of you who are opposed to the Health Plan come to the table to discuss what comes next in a rationale manner rather than throwing colossal temper tantrums and acting like two-year-olds. It’s here. Now you need to figure out how to deal with it.

Talking the Plane Down March 16, 2010

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Schools, Uncategorized.
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You all have seen the movies. The jet airliner full of passengers and the pilot and co-pilot suddenly stricken with food poisoning and unable to fly the plane. The hapless passenger who gets plucked from his seat and handed the controls of the airplane while on the ground a grizzled old war pilot with a hundred years of experience– usually one who is undergoing a “what use am I to anybody now that I am 150 years old and no longer able to fly?” type of crisis– talks reassuringly to the erstwhile pilot and guides him step by step through landing the plane.  As the relieved passengers leave the plane, the beautiful flight attendant kisses the hero and tells him that he saved everybody’s lives and he replies, “No, I couldn’t have done it without the help of Old Jake,” while the grizzled old veteran blinks a tear out of his eye and rides off into the sunset.

The passengers of that plane were lucky that they don’t live in Texas because if the Texas State Board of Education had been in charge, instead of getting Old Jake to talk the plane down, they would have pulled a minister in to pray with the passengers of the plane after a banker made sure they understood the benefits of the free enterprise system.

Far fetched? Not to anyone who has been following the escapades of the Texas State Board of Education in adopting the standards for Social Studies textbooks in the State of Texas, a process that will have ripple effects throughout the rest of the United States because of the clout Texas wields over all the textbook publishers because of its size.

In a process that was so acrimonious that one member walked out of the meeting in protest, the right wing faction of the BOE succeeded in passing such measures as requiring students to describe how “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.” (I suppose twenty years from now a similarly situated panel will be directing students to learn how the search for WMD in Iraq provided justification for the Iraq War.)

Plenty of other columnists have lambasted the individual measures of the proposals– and there is plenty of fodder to lambast– but I have to ask, why are we letting a group of politicians make decisions concerning what will be taught in public schools to begin with? If your car is broken down are you going to call up your local school board member and ask him how to fix it or are you going to take it to a mechanic? If you need to have a tooth pulled are you going to go wait for a member of the Board of Education to have a chance to yank it for you or are you going to go to a dentist? Oh- wait a minute! One of the members of the Texas  BOE IS a dentist, so lucky you can actually get someone there who is qualified to pull your tooth!

But my point is, why aren’t experts in the subject area making determinations about what should be taught? Among the members of the Texas State BOE we have 4 teachers, 1 school administrator, 1 substitute teacher/instructor/test monitor, 2 attorneys, 2 realtors, 1 investment banker, 1 businessman, 1 dentist and a couple of professional volunteers. Very few of these members would be qualified to be hired as a teacher in a Social Studies classroom, yet they are making decisions about what will be taught in those classrooms?

We cannot hold teachers accountable for poor outcomes if the standards are stupid to begin with. If we want to improve education in the United States, we need to look at the top and evaluate the processes whereby curriculum decisions are made– and I do not believe that allowing a group of people who have little to no specialized education or expertise in the field of
Social Studies is the best way to determine what should be taught in such classes.

The United States – A Secular Government, a Christian Culture March 13, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Church and State, Current Events, Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Schools.
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In Texas we have had our Texas School Board discussing what our social studies and history curriculum should be.  Given that this standard will stay for 10 years and that as one of the largest consumers of textbooks this decision could have a national impact. 

 Needless to say, since this is Texas, the religious conservatives have a nice majority on the Education Board.  Which means that this is not going the way that I think it should. 

 For example, there was a proposal to teach students about why our Founding Fathers considered the separation of church and state of such importance.  It was promptly shot down since the majority of the School Board considers the separation of church and state a myth and the United States a Christian nation founded to be so by our Founding Fathers.

 As evidence they point to several utterances of various Founding Fathers supporting the virtues of Christianity or their actions in supporting religion.  However there are three historical facts that to me shout out very loudly that these people are wrong:  our Founders meant for the United States government to be secular and not a Christian one. 

 The first of these facts is that nowhere in the Constitution, other than a dating convention, is there a mention of God.  There is no mention of Christianity or Jesus.  Nowhere.  This is especially telling since there was a motion to mention Christianity or at least God somewhere in the Constitution.  This motion was not acted upon.  Rather a strange thing to do if they had intended for the United States government to be a Christian one.  Especially considering the fact that every state constitution at that time did mention either God, Jesus, or Christianity. 

 The second fact is that the Constitution barely, and I mean barely, passed.  It was voted on by conventions in every state and in each and every state it was a political battle; one that was lost in some and won in others.  One of the criticisms of the Constitution brought up by many who were against it was that it did not include a mention of God or Christianity.  Yet despite the closeness of the vote and the importance they placed on enacting the Constitution none of the Founding Fathers tried to modify it to gain a few votes.

 The third fact is the Treaty of Tripoli.  This treaty was signed on Nov 4, 1796.  After having been read in its entirety on the Senate floor it was unanimously (23 or the 32 Senators were in attendance) ratified by the United States Senate on June 7, 1797.  The treaty was signed by President John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, on June 10, 1797. 

 Of interest here is article 11, which states:

 “Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

At a time when George Washington, Thomas Jeffereson,  James Madison, and many of the other founders were still alive this government document explicitely states that the “Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”.   It passed without protest, without debate, and unanimously.  And was signed by another of our Founding Fathers, President John Adams. 

When you put these three facts together it is very hard to see how it could be claimed that we are founded as a Christian government.  Especially when you toss in a couple of other supporting facts:

–         There is no religious test for public office.  In fact it was explicitly prohibited.  And this at a time when the state constitutions often did require a religious test to hold public office.

–         The state governments over the years gradually dropped those religious requirements and also mention of God and Christianity; following the lead of the United States Constitution.

–         That there were several attempts to change the Constitution to include a mention of God or Christianity.  There was a large push during President Jackson’s Presidency as well as again after the Civil War.  All failed.  

 Then how can the quotes and actions those who oppose the seperation of church and state be reconciled with these facts.  There are several items to keep in mind here:

–         Not all of our Founding Fathers thought alike ( After all, one did present a motion to include God in our Constitution even though it was not acted upon).  In fact they often disagreed with each other with a ferocity that makes it even more amazing that they managed to find compromises that allowed them to create our Constitution. 

–         There is a difference between a nation’s culture and its government.  While it is undoubtedly true that our culture is Christian it is also undoubtedly true that our Founders set up a secular government as the best way to protect the religoius rights of all.

–         At the time of our Founding the states were not required to follow the Bill of Rights.  That was a limitation on the Federal government and not on the State governments.  What would be proper for a State official to do would not for a Federal one. 

o       This can be most clearly seen in regards to the abolition movement.  Many of the southern states outlawed any books or tracts promoting abolition and arrested those who spoke out against slavery.  Free Speech only applied at the Federal and not the state level. 

o       It was the passage of the 14th Amendment after the civil war which changed this and made the Bill of Rights apply to the State government as well as the Federal government. 

In summary then our Founding fathers did indeed set up a secular government amidst a Christian culture. 

The reason why? 

That is my next blog “What Most Have Forgotten”

No Winners in Follicle Fight January 18, 2010

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Manners, Schools.
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Here in Mesquite, Texas, we have a 4-year-old who has been serving  in school suspension since November. Every day he takes his classes alone in a library with an aide to supervise him. So what has Taylor Pugh done to be forcibly ostracized from his class? Is he a behavior problem? Does he hit other children? Bite? Say bad words? Show up late for class?

Um… no. Taylor’s heinous offense is that he has long hair. The Mesquite Independent School District has a very strict dress code that includes guidelines that boys’ hair MUST be above the collar. Taylor’s parents tried putting the hair in a pony tail but that didn’t satisfy the school. They tried putting it in a top knot and that didn’t satisfy the school either. The school district counter offered by ordering the boy to wear his hair in corn row braids that would keep it off his shoulders. The parents say that braiding Taylor’s school so tightly causes his scalp to bleed and they won’t do it.

Now both sides have dug in, and neither one is going to budge. The school district says  they are going to impose stiffer penalties if Taylor doesn’t comply. Mom and Dad say they are going to appeal to the Texas Education Agency (my guess is that they won’t get anywhere with such an appeal. this is Texas, after all.) And in the middle of it all you have a 4-year-old boy who spends his school days in isolation, missing out on what is one of the most important aspects of school for a 4-year-old– socialization.

Public sentiment here in Texas is pretty much of the law and order type. Rules are rules and kids need to be taught to obey rules, dammit. That’s why we send them to school in the first place. Bloggers and posters in response to the online articles have commented that the parents look like trailer trash and/or “tattooed hippie biker dudes” and have no business having kids in the first place. Some posters have posited that the little boy is probably gay, and if he isn’t, the parents will turn him into a queer if they don’t make him get his hair cut. One poster commented that since the criteria to be admitted into the preschool program in the first place meant that the family either didn’t speak English or was on welfare, they should shut up and be glad their kid is getting to go to preschool for free.

I have been a kindergarten and preschool teacher and to say that kids go to preschool to learn to obey rules is a vast oversimplification of everything that is involved in preschool/kindergarten education– and it is wrong. Kids don’t go to preschool to learn to obey rules- they go to learn how to work and play with others, to acquire essential language, verbal and math skills, as well as gross motor and fine motor skills. They go to get the building blocks they need for learning to read and they go to start learning how to function in a classroom environment in which they will be expected to sit quietly and pay attention to a teacher for much of the day. They go to learn how to follow directions and how to behave in an orderly fashion and how to use their indoor voices and to walk, not run in the hallway. And apparently in Mesquite, they go to learn that gender roles require that boys have short hair.

Generally I tend to go along with school rules, but I’m having a hard time with this one simply because it IS such a stupid rule. Do we really want to teach our kids that blind adherence to authority is a good thing? If that is the case, then we certainly should NOT be praising America’s Founding Fathers because they knew a stupid rule when they saw one and rebelled against it. Nor should we be praising the abolitionists or people like Rosa Parks or Oskar Schindler and Miep Gies.

Yes, I’m playing the race card and the Holocaust/Hitler card because the same principles apply. Blind adherence to authority leads to things like My Lai, leads to the torture of Iraqi prisoners, leads to people doing things they shouldn’t simply because they were following orders.

Still, it’s a long way from a little boy refusing to cut his hair to soldiers blowing up a village in Viet Nam. Yet, I can’t get beyond the fact that this really is a stupid rule. The Mesquite District points with pride to the fact that the rule has been on the books since the seventies. That, in itself, might give them a clue that it’s time to revisit it. A lot of things have happened since the seventies. For instance, when I went to school in the seventies, girls weren’t even allowed to wear slacks (unless the temperature dipped below ten degrees).

There is no evidence that strict dress and hair codes improve academic performance and/or student behavior. What evidence there is is mostly anecdotal for either side. The few studies that have been done show little to no correlation between dress codes and substance use, behavioral problems and violence. 

One thing I have learned as a parent is not to sweat the small stuff and to save my energy for the stuff that really matters. That’s one of the big problems in this dispute– both the parents and the school district have picked an awfully small hill to die on.

While I don’t mean to discount young Taylor, what he wants is actually pretty irrelevant here. He is four years old and he probably wants a tricycle, moon sand and a transformer as well. In his life he is going to go through many hairstyles. My guess is that he would probably be content with whatever hairstyle his parents gave him (although seeing the picture of him in the topknot that makes him look like Pebbles Flintstone does give me pause to think.) Reportedly he is growing out his hair to donate to Locks of Love, which is certainly commendable of  him, however he could be given other ways to make a contribution to the needy.

The school district needs to step back and take a chill pill. They need to focus on the factors that ACTUALLY influence student performance and quit fussing about the length of this child’s hair. By spending so much time, energy and money on this, they are missing the bigger picture, which is are they meeting the academic needs of their students?

And Taylor’s parents need to step back and take a chill pill. They aren’t going to win this one. The TEA is unlikely to rule in their favor. No court in Texas is likely to rule in their favor and the US Supreme Court probably would not touch this one with a ten foot pole. Yes, it is a dumb rule. In the course of Taylor’s life, he is going to encounter many dumb rules. You either obey them, fight to change them or go somewhere else. I’ve got news for Taylor’s parents– Mesquite, Texas proudly wears the title of Redneck Capital of the world and they ain’t gonna change this rule because a couple of “tattooed hippie biker dudes” don’t like it. If they do not want to comply with this utterly stupid and senseless rule, then they need to take Taylor out of this school district and put him somewhere else.

The only thing that is clear is that as long as the school district and the parents continue to fight over this completely stupid issue, a four-year-old boy is going to be sitting by himself and missing out on what are some of the REALLY important things about going to preschool. Nobody is going to win this one, least of all Taylor.

Those Darned Gays Ruined My Marriage November 23, 2009

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Family Values, Gay marriage, Politics.
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Thanks to homosexuals, I am no longer married to my husband of nearly thirty years. Nor is my daughter actually married to her husband of two years. In fact, she never was married, and Bill and I haven’t been married since 2005.

It all started with those blasted homosexuals who had the audacity to demand the same rights as everyone else in the US– to get married to a single partner of their choice in a mutual relationship in which both parties are of legal marriageable age. Why homosexuals want this right is simply beyond me– being allowed to go visit some sick person on their deathbed isn’t a piece of cake, after all, and anyone who has ever been without health insurance in this country KNOWS that we do a fantastic job of providing health care for those without it.

But for some silly reason homosexuals want to have the same rights as married people so they’ve been demanding the right to get married and have actually been successful in some hotbeds of liberalism such as Iowa and Vermont. Thank the god I don’t believe in that I live in the great state of Texas that doesn’t allow such tomfoolery.

In fact, Texans saw this push for gay marriage for what it was– an attempt to sneak the gay agenda in the back door and to force EVERYONE to marry someone with the same plumbing between the legs. Now Texans KNOW what is right, and one of the things we know is that if perverts are allowed to marry each other, then it’s going to ruin the marriages of all right thinking people.

So in 2005, Texans passes an amendment to make darned sure that any gays wouldn’t go doing some end runs to try to get their sicko practices through the back door so to speak. We banned gay marriage and said that not only would we not do it in Texas, but we wouldn’t recognize it if some queers got married in another state and then tried to come here and say they were married. Uh-uh, no sir. We don’t care what those liberals in Iowa do, they ain’t gonna do it here in Texas.

Except now Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general says that Texas went a little overboard and in our zeal to ban gay marriage, Texans managed to ban all marriages in the state.  The problem, Radnofsky says, is this tiny little clause in Subsection B of the amendment which states, “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”


Texas cannot recognize any legal status identical to or similar to marriage? Um. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even play one on TV, but I can see some fancy schmancy attorney getting up before a judge and saying, “Judge, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck and since Texas says we can’t have anything that looks, talks or acts like a duck in this state, we can’t have ducks here.”

So there you have it folks. The red necks were right after all– if we start allowing gays to get married it WILL ruin the institution of marriage. They certainly ruined mine.

What Are We Teaching Kids Anyway? September 13, 2009

Posted by Bill in Church and State, Religion, Schools.
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In Texas, a proposal being reviewed by the State Board of Education would drop the mention of Christmas from the 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum, replacing it with information about Diwali, a Hindu religious festival. Not surprisingly, conservative Christians are up in arms and revisiting their Continuous “War on Christmas” battle cry.

Actually, to be precise, the standards being considered are a requirement that sixth graders be able to explain the significance of religious holidays such as Yom Kippur, Diwali, Ramadan and Easter. Christmas is not included in that list although it is included in the CURRENT standards and Diwali is not.

Personally, I’d include them both, however, it’s possible that the committee recommending the changes thinks that sixth graders are probably already very familiar with the significance of Christmas and don’t need the school to spell it out for them. Let’s face it, it is not possible to live in the United States and NOT be aware of the religious significance of Christmas. It’s kind of like expecting the schools to teach kids in Texas about the importance of football– oh, wait a minute, schools in Texas– Arlington, Texas– are already expected to teach students about the importance of football. That’s why the district is busing 500 fifth graders to the new Cowboys Stadium in September.

No! No! No! It’s not to teach them the importance of football! It’s so they can hear the former president, George Dubya Bush, explain the importance of a volunteer initiative that will happen during the 2011 SuperBowl.

Volunteering is important, and no one should have a problem with their kids hearing about it. After all, it’s an important value, kind of like staying in school and studying hard- but wait! This is the same school district that completely boycotted Obama’s speech to school children about staying in school and studying hard because it took 18 minutes of class time away from IMPORTANT things, presumably like teaching the significance of Christmas!