Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bobby Jindal: Demon slayer.

Hi everyone,

When numbers don't work for you, think: who would Karl Rove have reply to President Obama?

illusory tenant found it first:

Your mother darns socks in Hell


Updating mental and physical facilities at UWWC

Hi everyone,

I'm taking a break this week from shooting at the fish in our community well, so here is some reflective and amusing fluff for the end of February.

Actually, some of this is even scarier than the Puritans now vetting our public library.

Keeping up with students: mental physical facilities are involved

The University of Wisconsin-Washington County is celebrating its 40th year serving our corner of Wisconsin and, last week, rededicated itself to this task by opening a new floor of classrooms and engineering labs, all designed to meet the needs of our rapidly changing student body. But if the facility needs to keep up with the students, so does the faculty.

I’m in about my 30th year coaching students through logic, ethics and the Federalist Papers and I have to keep pace, too.

The students today have had experiences far different from students 10 or 20 or (gasp) 30 years ago. To remind ourselves of how much students have changed, faculty all over the country turn to a list published by Beloit College.

Every year a new list appears and, every year, I shake my head at how fast time has gone by. See if you shake your head too. Here's an excerpt.

The Beloit College Mindset List for the class of 2012:

  • Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born around 1990.
  • For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson and Stevie Ray Vaughan have always been dead.
  • Harry Potter could be a classmate.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • All have had a relative – or known about a friend's relative – who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
  • Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
  • Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
  • Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
  • Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • There have always been gay rabbis.
  • Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
  • McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
  • They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
  • There has always been Pearl Jam.
  • The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno.
  • Authorities have always been building a wall along the Mexican border.
  • Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
  • The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
  • They never heard a gas station attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

To those of us who grew up in the pre-Favre era, it’s impossible to imagine what it was like to grow up with Brett running the show. (For me there was only ever Bart Starr.) To today’s students – 21-year-olds who have, in their lives, watched 20,000 hours of TV, played 10,000 hours of video games and sent or received 250,000 emails or instant messages in their lives – I look like a dinosaur; a strange experience for me, considering I was once a cutting-edge computer geek who had a BITNET address and who was the second person in his class with a personal computer. My future was so bright, I had to wear shades. But that was 25 years ago.

And so, this past week, Washington County’s own UW campus rededicated itself to making sure our current students can compete in a world we can barely imagine.

Einstein once said that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Today, everyone’s job is to help make sure students have the tools to think their way into the future they’ll be creating.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coo coo ca choo Owen Robinson on the Fairness Doctrine.

Hi folks,

Yeah, I was wondering about this too.

The Fairness Doctrine Revisited.

The closing observation nails it. America isn't going to be fooled so easily anymore, not once we get used to a President, again, who can speak in complete sentences.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fear and Library Web pages

Hi everyone,

A few weeks ago, a local group of coconuts discovered that the WB Library webpage contained a list of books for LGBT youngsters. Shocked to discover that their sense of sexual orientation no longer matched reality, they filed a formal complaint.

And so.

Saturday's column.

Library Web page complaints reveal fears

A local group of parents filed a complaint with the West Bend Memorial Library last week because the library has a Web page listing books for young gay and lesbian patrons. The complaint will be discussed at the Library Board's monthly meeting in March.

Public library systems in Appleton, Madison and even Shorewood have links for age-appropriate literature of this kind and it is standard, established practice for libraries to provide coming-of-age literature for young people, without making value judgments about sexual orientation.

Admittedly, complaining about values we don’t share is apple pie American – it’s certainly one of my favorite pastimes – but the Supreme Court has already weighed in on whether such literature can be removed from public school libraries – at least with regard to books, if not to Web pages describing books.

In Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) the bench wrote, “In brief, we hold that local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’ West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S., at 642.”

In a nutshell, you can’t ask that certain books be removed from library shelves simply because those books violate your own religious worldview. What if, for instance, a local majority of ELCA Lutherans asked that all Missouri Synod Lutheran writings be removed from the library? How would that go over? You get the idea. In America, alas, we have to learn to cope with the ideas of our fellow citizens, even when we don’t like ’em.

By a remarkable coincidence, just after the newspaper ran its story about these moral crusaders for sexual conformity, I received some e-mail from the first guy I ever knew who was gay. I was part of a conspiracy in high school to keep him from getting beaten up.

Now, being gay in Alabama in the 1970s was dangerous, but my friend had camouflaged himself brilliantly by “dating” one of the cutest girls in school. The slack-jawed red-neck bullies who would have beaten him to a pulp on a daily basis never saw through this cleverly staged misdirection and, to her credit, the girl played her part to the hilt. Things got complicated, of course, when she and I realized we liked each other. We went out secretly during the last half of senior year, but could never be seen together in public because it might have compromised his cover story.

All of this is funnier now than it was at the time, but things aren’t a lot safer for gay or lesbian high school kids today. Violence, bullying and harassment are the rule in schools across the country today. According to GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey, 39 percent of all LGBT students report being verbally or physically assaulted, often with a weapon, and, more telling, nearly one out of three LGBT students skipped school in the past month because they were simply too afraid to go.

Back to my friend in 1975. One night at a party, where the three of us could hang out together in relative safety, I finally asked him when he had decided to be gay. He laughed and fired back “when did you decide to be straight?” I said I’d never made a conscious decision – at some point my interest in model trains and Little League had been replaced by an interest in girls that filled, for practical purposes, every waking moment. “Ditto,” he said, “except for the girls.”

That was good to hear at 17. Still is.

The folks complaining about our library Web pages worry about exposing young people to literature with homosexual themes because they believe sexual orientation is a choice: as if deciding your gender preference is like ordering it off a menu, as if choosing to be gay is no different from ordering soup instead of the coleslaw. But if sexual orientation were a choice, then why would young men and women pick the one dish guaranteed to make their lives a living hell? Because they don’t.

I wonder if it’s true that the things we’re afraid of in others are the things we fear most about ourselves?

Can anyone name the 60's cult movie from which I stole this closing line?


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Equal time for my critics. A letter to the editor re: the danger of heliocentrism.

One of my readers was thoughtful enough to write-in and critique my column on the dangers of heliocentrism.

Return to universal truth

Regarding Mark Peterson’s column of Feb. 7, using his own statements, his education has yet to begin. (Proverbs 9:10)

Darwin wasn’t the first to teach evolution as a fact. There are many references to this “religion of no god” in the Bible. St. Paul discovered it in the Epicurean culture, in Greek philosophy and elsewhere, however, it wasn’t called “evolution.”

Mr. Peterson stated the truth when he said, “heliocentrism is Biblically false.” However even today we refer to both the sun and the moon as rising and setting. We know the earth rotates on its axis about 1,000 mph at the equator, along with the entire atmosphere. The earth orbits around the sun at about 64,800 mph. It’s been theorized that the sun also is traveling at a tremendous speed.

The entire universe is in the Creator’s hand. He stretched it out to its present form (Isaiah 42:5). Since the God of the Bible created and controls all things, He can and did do anything He wanted to. What difference does it make as whether the earth or the sun is the center of the universe when the universe extends to infinity? Where is the center of infinity?

The lies of humanistic religion (evolution) are taught as fact in our schools, even though evolution has been disproved many times. Religion hasn’t been taken out of the schools – Christianity has. Why do public schools have so many problems with discipline, cheating and disrespect? Christian schools have almost no such problems because they teach the word of God. Christian students graduate knowing they are worth something and didn’t just come from primordial slime.

If you want some good science, look in the Bible. It is filled with scientific facts that have not changed since the triune God instituted them.

Fredric Schille
West Bend

I'm completely unsure how to respond.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

If you really want to prevent abortions … Grind some coffee and find some common ground

Hi everyone,

I just got tired of all the whining. Clear paths to preventing abortions exist and the shortest one, the one that doesn't require any legislative or constitutional hurdles, is simply to adopt road tested sex ed and contraception programs -- the very thing these celebrity anti-choice mullahs avoid like the plague. If we ever taught kids how to be sexually responsible, it'd take all the shrill wind out of their movement. I'm banking they'd rather sustain the social cost of unwanted pregnancies than lose this particular bit of divisive political ammunition.

Without the abortion issue, Glenn Grothman's popularity would depend solely on saying "no" to any state funded programs.

One of the best sources of info on issues related to abortion is the Guttmacher Institute.

Here is Saturday's column.

Last week the UW-Madison Hospital and Clinics board voted (11-3) to provide second trimester abortions at the Madison Surgery Center. During the process of consideration and discussion, one of our local politicians and a Greek chorus of Moral Media Mullahs launched into a satisfyingly self-important rage about tax dollars spent killing babies.

Unfortunately for these celebrity protesters, and the people who follow their lead, the facts don’t fit their theory: 1) the hospital is financially independent from the university so no tax dollars will be spent on late-term abortions and 2) late-term abortions can only be performed in Wisconsin when the mother’s life and health are in danger. These protests, despite their moral fury – even among wellmeaning participants – are a big noise about nothing. And that’s a pity.

Not a single abortion has been prevented by protests aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade or by attempting to pass state mandates that violate the federal law. State politicians who use this issue to get elected cannot change federal law or make appointments to the federal courts. Worse, sanctimonious stone throwing is never a useful deterrence to women who have to make this terrible decision.

Despite the animosity it generates, the public conversation about abortion needn’t be futile.

Rather than walking picket lines without ever saving a single unborn child, the pro-life movement needs to look for an alternative that can prevent abortions in reality and not merely on their protest signs. The most effective alternative to protest, and something even more difficult, is for Wisconsin’s anti-abortion groups to sit down with their adversaries and stake out some common ground.

Some issues will forever remain beyond reason to determine, like whether human life begins at conception or at some later point. Science can never measure when, or if, a soul enters a fertilized human egg. Such questions must be left to an individual’s faith, and religious faith cannot be used as the sole determining factor in law. If it could, there would be nothing to distinguish the United States from Iran.

But common ground can be found, if not in deciding when life begins, then by considering a solution that is already producing significantly fewer abortions in Europe: educational programs proven to prevent unintended pregnancies.

There is evidence that such programs can work here at home. The Guttmacher Institute (from which most of this data is available) estimated that, in 2000, family planning clinics funded under Title X of the federal Public Health Service Act helped women prevent nearly 20 million unintended pregnancies during the previous 20 years. Of those 20 million, an estimated 9 million were at risk for termination by abortion. That’s 9 million abortions avoided simply through better education.

Even better, teenage pregnancy rates fell from 33 percent in 1974 to 17 percent in 2004. The Institute found that a large part of the decline (which began before abstinence-only sex education programs began receiving federal funding) was attributable “to increased use of contraceptives and use of more effective methods.” If your aim is to reduce abortions, this is great news.

Simply improving education among teenagers could cut abortion rates by 17 percent. But there is an even better target for the positive effects of educational programs: the Guttmacher Institute reports that fully half of all unintended pregnancies occur among the 11 percent of women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy, but who are not using contraceptives. These women are the most likely to seek out abortions so simply by targeting this 11 percent, by improving access to contraceptives and proper education, would be the quickest route to reducing the overall number of abortions.

In a nutshell, more abortions can be prevented by education than by any number of protests, no matter how earnest or well-motivated.

Nothing happens if we don’t talk about it. What if Planned Parenthood and Wisconsin Right to Life sat down, put on the coffee, fastened their seat belts and found some common ground?

Big parts of the abortion question will always remain unsolvable, but as long as we merely argue – generating heat but no light – nothing will happen. Abortion rates among American teenagers, though lower than they have been in many years, remain as much as five times higher than teenagers in Europe. There are opportunities to reduce the number of abortions without limiting the right of women to make that choice and without requiring government interference.

But nothing can happen until we start talking to, and not at, each other.

And to those of you who have other views, all of your comments will be published -- so long as you don't use profanity.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

In honor of Darwin Day: West Bend’s anti-evolution campaign hasn’t gone far enough

Hi everyone,

Creationism has been a hobby of mine for nearly 30 years now. Creationist arguments are best compared to poisonous Central American toads -- beautiful to look at, but not the sort of thing you'd let the kids play with unsupervised.

Saturday's column.

West Bend’s anti-evolution campaign hasn’t gone far enough

On Feb. 12 this year, the world celebrates Darwin Day, the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday. Not everyone is celebrating. Despite his world-changing insight, a lot of people are dragging their feet. Evolving isn’t always easy.

In 1985 the West Bend school district was pressured to remove evolution from the curriculum. In 1995 I gave a public talk in West Bend on the dangers creationism poses to public education. In 2004, a parents group in Grantsburg, along with some of their board members, tried to slip creationism into its curriculum. In 2005 the Dover, Pa., school board attempted to force their staff to teach "intelligent design" (a camouflaged version of creationism). They were found guilty in federal court of unconstitutionally conspiring to teach religion as science. In 2006, a parents group in West Bend lobbied to diminish the importance of evolution in local biology classes and recommended an out-of-date textbook approved by the wingnuts at the Institute for Creation Research.

I might sound critical, but I don’t think the folks behind this latest anti-evolution campaign went far enough. They never followed through on their anti-scientific impulse. Evolution in the schools is bad enough, but there's another, even more pernicious, “theory” circulating in local classrooms. It's called “heliocentrism” – an anti-religious view that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of our solar system. According to Morris Berman’s “Dark Ages America,” only 21 percent of Americans today believe the sun revolves around the Earth. That number indicates just how successful heliocentrism’s propaganda campaign has been.

Let’s look at this “earth goes around the sun” business with a bit more common sense.

1) Heliocentrism is Biblically false. Even the Bible suggests the sun goes around the Earth – when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, God commanded the sun to stand still in the sky. Common sense tell you that the sun could not have stopped if it weren't moving in the first place. Moreover, in 1634 the Roman Catholic Church actually put Galileo under permanent house arrest for spreading this nonsense – even though in 2000 Pope John Paul II, for reasons only Jesuits understand, apologized. But this just illustrates how deeply these heliocentrists have dug themselves into our most important institutions. They’ve taken over the universities, they’re inside the government, and nowadays they're even inside our churches. What’s next?

2) Heliocentrism is part of a government sponsored conspiracy to strip Americans of their freedom. Heliocentric elitists want to tell us what to believe. Eventually they’ll demand a national science czar who’ll tell us how to live and probably raise our taxes to perpetuate their do-nothing government jobs. After that they'll mandate healthy diets and take away my coffee. I thought America was supposed to be about the freedom to think and believe whatever we want. Why should we let some scientist tell us whether the Earth goes around the sun? Isn’t that my own damn business? Besides, teaching children science only teaches them that it’s OK to raise questions about what they’ve been taught!

3) Hitler believed in heliocentrism.

4) Most scientists don’t really believe in heliocentrism, they only say they do because their jobs depend on it. None of them can get federal money if they don’t stay in line with the heliocentrist party-line power brokers. Professors who question the politically correct version of solar position are denied tenure and refused promotion. Their research is intentionally left unfunded.

Look, if you’re going to get hot and bothered about evolution, don’t stop halfway. Write Congress today demanding they pass laws to put the Earth back at the center of our solar system and, while we’re at it, let’s demand legislation to round off the number “pi” to 3.2 – like they did in Indiana in 1897. Think how much easier math tests will be.

OK, OK. I’m kidding.

Happy Anniversary Mr. Darwin. Rest in peace and remember: nobody worries about heliocentrism anymore, even though it took us 400 years to get over the whole “we aren’t the center of the universe” thing. Shoot, you’ve only been dead for 126 years. In that time humans have accepted a scientific approach to explaining disease (no more trolls in the stomach!) and nearly everything else. By 2282 humans might have evolved beyond their fear of taking a scientific approach to explaining themselves.