Saturday, January 30, 2010

West Bend School board election fields candidates from the 14th Century.

Hi everyone,

In the "This-isn't-rocket-science" category of "who-to-vote-for," my answer is always "vote for people who can do math and won't cost us a gazillion dollars by landing the school district in a federal lawsuit it can't possibly win."

If the self-proclaimed creationists make it on to the school board...

-- I'm sorry... I can't believe I even had to write those words.

Saturday's column.

Common sense dictates who to elect to School Board

The School Board primary on Feb. 16 has drawn quite a few letters extolling the virtues of various candidates.

I have one rule for voting in local elections – I am completely happy if the candidate can do math, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.

Take School Board member Tim Stepanski, who ran as “the eye for the taxpayer.”

Politically speaking, I disagree with his political commitment to conservative, anti-tax, principles but I completely agree with his commitment to good mathematics. Once he'd seen the actual numbers the school district was up against, he made a tough decision to support the tax levy increase. His principles remain in place, but he did the math and put his responsibility to the kids first.

You have to respect that -- and I do.

I also have no interest in the religious views of anyone running for office. Frankly, it’s none of my business, or anyone’s business, how elected officials worship or which god, or gods, they worship. I don’t care. I don't care, that is, so long as they don’t make their religious views my business.

But they cross the line when they think it’s OK to use my tax dollar to fund teaching their religious views in a science classroom.

(Personally, I approve of teaching kids about religion in literature or history or social science classes. It’s important that kids, especially in today’s global economy, understand how people from all parts of the world think – even in distant and strange places, like Madison, say.)

So long as candidates don’t insist on teaching their religious views as science, no problem. I mean, imagine if a religiously committed School Board member, maybe one who worshiped the old Scandinavian gods, insisted we teach science students that lightning is caused by Thor swinging his hammer. Thor is not a scientific hypothesis and this fact, along with the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, explains why fundamentalist Christian beliefs (in the form of creationism and its slicker but equally unscientific little brother, “intelligent design”) have repeatedly been removed from public schools by the federal courts.

Speaking of which: in a bit of karmic turnabout, I find myself indebted to the local chapter of the Eagle Forum for their recent poll of School Board candidates. Fortunately for all of us, this poll identified some candidates whose personal views could weaken the science curriculum and drag the school district into federal court.

Three of the remaining six candidates — I understand that Knepel and Williams have withdrawn — told the Eagle Forum that they were in favor of teaching creationism, a religious doctrine, in science classes. Those who demonstrated this lack of respect for either competent scientific education or the rule of law are Randy Marquardt, Douglas Rakowski and David Weigand. The Eagle Forum site notes that Mr. Weigand would be in favor of “teaching the TRUTH about evolution” — but to my jaundiced eye this suggests he believes evolution isn’t true. His original answer online indicated a desire to teach creationism in science classes.

Ziegler gave no response to the question but both Van Eerden and Corazzi gave answers indicating they believe that, regardless of your upbringing, a public school board needs to follow federal court rulings and teach science, rather than religious doctrine, in science classes.

Quite apart from simply upholding Constitutional principles, there are even more practical reasons for adhering to federal court findings. The now infamous Dover case (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), in which some School Board members pressured their science classes to include creationism, wound up costing that school district over $1 million in legal fees after a spectacular loss in federal court and a scathing opinion from the judge, one of the most conservative in the country.

Maybe Marquardt, Rakowski or Weigand won’t try to impose their religious views on the science curriculum, but let’s take them at their word: they think religious doctrines should be taught in a science class — even though pursuing this agenda would land West Bend in federal court.

And make no mistake: it will.

West Bend is now on the media’s radar and some of these creationist candidates are affiliated with the same people who made West Bend a national laughingstock during the last year; those who, first, attempted to eliminate anti-gay and lesbian language from the district’s hate speech policies and, second, helped put West Bend on the map as the book-burning capital of North America. The whole world is watching us now and waiting for the chance to send in reporters, film crews and the National Center for Science Education and ACLU legal teams. I don’t think we need any more of that.

One last irony: Weigand and Marquardt have been endorsed by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. Here’s what I want to know: how much common sense does it demonstrate to endorse candidates who publicly assert that their religious beliefs should be intruded into the school curriculum in a way that could cost the district millions in legal fees and international ridicule?

Common sense dictates a common sense approach to electing this board. Let’s elect people who will guarantee competent scientific education for the kids, keep us out of federal court, and off the front page of the New York Times.

Common sense dictates Corazzi, Van Eerden or Ziegler.

No really, the current year -- for those of you double-checking -- is 2010, not 1350.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Neo-Nazis, Militants Eye Tea Party for Recruitment

Fertile ground for radicals apparently.

Am I wrong or are radical right-wingers scarier than tree hugging hippies?

Neo-Nazis, Militants Eye Tea Party for Recruitment

"Tea parties are proving very attractive to both white supremacists and the militia movement"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New study ranks Madison and Milwaukee among best cities for business

What a bad day for the anti-tax, anti-progressive, wing of Wisconsin politics. Did they miss this over at Boots and Sabers?

BizTimes Daily for Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - BizTimes

Defying the locally perceived template that Wisconsin is not a good place to do business, both Madison and Milwaukee ranked among the top 20 metro areas in the country for business, according to this year’s study by

For the survey, MarketWatch scored the nation's 101 biggest metro areas - those with a population of more than 500,000 - on 10 metrics each. Five metrics measured the number of companies per capita in a metro area for a company concentration score. The remaining five metrics looked at the employment picture, growth and GDP for an economic stability score. The two scores were added together for a final tally. The highest tally went to Des Moines, Iowa, with 851 points, and the lowest was Youngstown, Ohio, with 164 points.

Madison ranked 12th 703 points, scoring particularly high in economic stability. Madison’s economy has been fueled by private sector growth in technology and biomedicine spurred by research at the University of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee ranked 20th with 643 points, scoring particularly high in company concentration. Milwaukee is home to publicly traded global manufacturers such as Johnson Controls Inc., Manpower Inc., Harley-Davidson Inc., Joy Global Inc., Bucyrus International Inc. and Rockwell Automation Inc., in addition to financial companies such as Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.

Des Moines ranked the highest, replacing Minneapolis-St. Paul, which had topped the charts in the first two years of the rankings.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Eagle Forum outs creationist school board candidates.

A nice letter in the Daily News today and I guess I should add my thanks to Ginny Maziarka for alerting the voters.

Sound judgement over emotion

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Ginny Maziarka and the local chapter of Eagle Forum.

Recently they circulated a questionnaire to the candidates for the West Bend School Board. One of the questions asked of the candidates was whether they would support the teaching of alternative theories such as Intelligent Design or Creationism in the science curriculum of the West Bend school system. By pointing out that Randy Marquardt, Bart Williams and Dave Weigand would support this philosophy we can plainly see that they would lead our School District into a prolonged, expensive and ultimately futile legal battle. Creationism and Intelligent Design have both previously been shown to be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution (See Edwards V. Aguillard [1987]& Kitzmiller V. Dover [2005]) and therefore CAN NOT be taught as science in our school system.

Eagle Forum’s questionnaire also shows us another very important thing. Democracy is a form of government that requires the participation of informed citizens. To rely on a few questions asked by an organization that one happens to agree with is a reckless recipe for disaster. It is the duty of every citizen to research the candidates that seek to fill the leadership roles in our government and choose people who are truly qualified for the job.

To that end we must elect School Board members who will base their decisions on sound judgment, reason and adherence to legal precedence instead of emotion.

Tony Palma
West Bend

It's bad enough we were turned into the book burning capital of North America last year in the national (and international) press. Now we'll be the next Dover, PA too. At least the pro-censorship lobbyists didn't cost us hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees -- to defend a 14th century view of the world -- but creationists on the school board may well do so.

Why are people so opposed to The Enlightenment? Admittedly, it is responsible for nuclear weapons, but it also gave us science and, oh yeah, America. One of the tough parts about a free democracy is that it must endure the activity of citizens who want to eradicate the very freedom that allows them to protest -- who want that freedom folded up into "one nation under [my] God."

Biting the hand: sex ed fantasies and Feingold?

Hi everyone,

This week's column intended to bite the hand of my editors over some too-clever headlining during the last two weeks -- and then, this week, they come up with something perfectly clever and amusing. Rascals.

I also want to revisit some old business with the anti-fact-based-sex-education contingent on the local school board committee and with the muckrakers who are annoyed with Senator Feingold because they prefer the health care industry's math over estimates from the Congressional Budget office.

Saturday's column.

Biting the hand that feeds
Headlines can miss the Mark

I’m a little irritable about some editorial decisions my friends at the Daily News made over the last two weeks and thought I’d get it off my chest.

Imagine you wake up one Saturday morning and find your driver’s license picture plastered onto the front page of the local paper, looking a little bit maniacal and positioned above some bold type proclaiming “A sex education fantasy.”

That's what happened to me two weeks ago. My sometimes dangerous wife, grinning like a Cheshire Cat, handed me the paper and said “I thought they wanted to sell papers. Why would they put your face on the front page?”

I've begged for a new picture for a year but to no avail. My editor likes this one and so, gentle reader, please remember: I didn't pick this picture. And, I don't write the headlines, either.

For instance: I thought “A sex education fantasy” looked a little sensationalistic – like an advertisement for something on pay per view. The headline was probably supposed to lure you into the Opinion page like a hawker at a strip joint on Bourbon Street. Worst of all, it suggests the local columnist – that is, me – was claiming abstinence-based education doesn’t work. That’s not exactly right. I wasn’t claiming anything, personally. I was merely reporting what the 2007 federally funded nation-wide scientific assessment revealed about these programs. Had the study indicated that abstinence-based education did work, then that’s what I would have said.

It didn’t.

Moreover, abstinence isn’t a problem. It's obvious that sexual abstinence prevents pregnancy and STDs. The problem is this: what’s the best way to help kids, surfing the hormonal hurricane of adolescence, learn to make good decisions about their sexuality? Abstinence is certainly a good option, but what’s the best way to make it look like a good option to a 15 year old?

“Just saying no” doesn’t work. We have to find another way.

Fortunately there are programs all over the world that do work better than the curriculum we've now wasted hundreds of millions pursuing. I notice that some members of the Human Growth and Development Committee, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that this discredited abstinence-based sex education curriculum works. Fine. If they want to support a program with no measurable effects, while teenage pregnancy rates in America continue to match rates in the Third World, be my guest.

That was two weeks ago. Last week the headline on my column appeared to contradict what was actually in the column.

What I'd hoped to say last week was that while political moderation is no longer popular, it remains a virtue well demonstrated by our own Russ Feingold. You know, he crosses the aisle to find common ground with members from the other party and goes after government waste while continuing to promote ideas that embody the best tradition of progressive Wisconsin politics. The headline “Feingold, the moderate. Push aside ethics and you’re left with politics” looks like I was insinuating that Sen. Feingold was unethical: he isn’t and I wasn’t.

In fact, what’s been most interesting is the way the right wing media has whined that Feingold lacks moral character because, they claim, he isn’t listening to his constituents. This is balderdash. Feingold was listening. The noise makers at the MATC and Hartford listening sessions were simply frustrated because he doesn't agree with them. Does disagreeing with a bunch of angry constituents raise questions about an elected official’s character? If those constituents are correct, then, of course: yes. But what if they're a bunch of knuckleheads?

I thought I’d better check to see whether these disgruntled disruptors understand the health care bill better than their senator does. Here’s what we have to go on: the Congressional Budget Office says the health bill will save us money. I’m not an accountant so I’m stuck having to decide whether to believe the CBO, on the one hand, or the Heritage Foundation and the Insurance industry on the other. Frankly, at this point, I feel safer trusting a nameless bureaucrat with nothing to lose than a bunch of rich lobbyists who need to buy gas for their BMWs.

I admit it, that’s my bias.

But I'm trying to imagine being Sen. Feingold at this point, listening to a room full of ginned up constituents complain that Health Care Reform, which the CBO conservatively estimates will knock $132 billion off the deficit in the next 9 years, will cost more than doing nothing.

The proof of Feingold's character, his backbone, is that he didn't compromise what he knew to be the facts even in the face of even the most passionately wrathful crowd.

And that takes care of my irritability. It’s enough of a threat to circulation that the Daily News actually lets me write a column; they don’t need my picture – at least, not this one – on the front page scaring away readers.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Creationists explain evolution.

Ah, creationists explaining what evolution is?

It's as much fun a going to the circus... or as watching this.

PSA for Creationists runniling for West Bend School Board

Hi everyone,

A number of those running for the school board in West Bend believe creationism should be taught alongside science.

Here's some commentary on this issue: Moral Orel : Geniusis


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Does requiring a supermajority violate the constitution?

Hmm. Maybe.

Mr. Smith Rewrites the Constitution
“All provisions which require more than a majority of any body to its resolutions have a direct tendency to embarrass the operations of the government and an indirect one to subject the sense of the majority to that of the minority.”

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #75

I'd like to see the old Mr. Smith goes to Washington filibuster returned... I want to see Senators bring sleeping bags and thermoses of coffee and orate for 12 hours -- now that would be full-contact democracy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A final thought for MLK day.

A final thought for MLK Day.

From his speech "Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam."

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on." I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant! And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name."

Martin Luther King Jr

Feingold knows health care like the back of his hand.

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd better check to see whether Owen's column in the paper today, in particular his caricature of Feingold as arrogant because "he's not listening", held any water. Was it true Feingold wasn't listening? Was it true that his disruptive audience members understood the health care bill better than he did?

First, Feingold was listening, of course. Owen, and these disruptors, are just mad because he doesn't agree with them -- disagreeing with a bunch of angry constituents obviously makes him arrogant, right?

Well, if those constituents were correct, then yes -- it would be arrogant to disagree with them. But what if they're just a bunch of knuckleheads?

What if we could check to see whether Feingold is exercising the judgment we pay him to exercise? What if we could check to see whether the people who have been disrupting his listening sessions understand the health care bill better than he does -- including the "doctor" down at the Mequon meeting and, I guess, Owen?

If only we had a Congressional Budget Office filled with accountants who could analyze the budgetary implications of a bill like this, then, wow -- we could find out. And what if we had internet search engines that would let us access that information after, say, about 2 minutes of digging? That'd be great, eh?

Well, as far as the CBO is concerned, it turns out that Russ is right.

As usual.

The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will save us money.

I'm trying to imagine being Feingold at this point, listening to a room full of ginned up constituents complain that Health Care Reform, which the CBO conservatively estimates will knock $132 billion off the deficit in the next 9 years, will cost us more than the current mess will.

The most amazing thing is that Russ didn't simply say "what's wrong with you?"

I guess the anger is more satisfying than the facts -- wrath always is.

This explains the popularity of Rush and Robertson and the current Right.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The 'Devil' Writes Pat Robertson A Letter

The 'Devil' Writes Pat Robertson A Letter in the Minneapolis Tribune.
Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.
But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.
Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?
If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.
You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
Best, Satan

Sunday, January 17, 2010

'The Tea Party Movement Is About To Be Hijacked':

About to be?

What are the odds the Republican Party really wants any of these people? Except as braceros, of course:

'The Tea Party Movement Is About To Be Hijacked': Activists Slam Plan For Convention

Even thinks it "smells scammy":The National Tea Party Convention.


What amazes me most of all is the degree to which these Tea Drinkers believe the Republicans represent their true interests.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moderation, once a virtue, now a dirty word in politics.

Hi everyone,

So, my editor apparently thought it'd be a good idea to top the column with a headline that contradicts everything I say in the column -- about Senator Feingold being the best example of the virtue of 'moderation'.

They did the same thing with a provocative front page headline last week about abstinence and sexual fantasy so, it's nice to be reminded that the opinion page's true function is to sell papers. -- more of which, next week.

In the meantime, what I'd hoped to note in this column was that political moderation is no longer popular but that it remains a virtue, well demonstrated by our own Russ Feingold.

He said.

Anyway, here's what the paper ran:

Feingold, the moderate

Push aside ethics and you’re left with politics [<- editor's contribution]

Lately I’ve been wondering whatever happened to political moderates and why being a moderate in politics is almost a dirty word. Aristotle argued that moderation is the key to virtue. Moderation encourages you to follow the middle path between extremes in order to live happily. History agrees with him. (The fancy technical term for moderation, by the way, actually showed up in the championship round of last years National Spelling Bee: it’s sophrosyne.)

Wisconsin’s tradition of progressive thinking embodies this virtue: It’s a healthy blend of fiscally conservative and socially liberal – it nails the mean between these two extremes and takes the best of both. Sen. Proxmire was a great example of this tradition: so is Sen. Feingold.

I’ve been watching along with everyone else as Congress gets ready to give away more of our money to giant agribusinesses that threaten family-sized Wisconsin farms, to Wall Street CEOs who will spend it on pheasant hunting and yachting, and to the health-care potentates who are, apparently, in bed with the leadership of both parties.

Mapping the corn maze of hidden costs by which taxpayers subsidize the food industry – mainly through massive subsidies for corn production – led me to Sen. Feingold’s Control Spending Now Act, designed to reduce the deficit by $500 billion over the next 10 years. I thought it looked like a great idea. Go Russ.

But I noticed that Sen. Feingold had to cope with some well-organized disruption during his listening session at Milwaukee Area Technical College this month. The conservative blogosphere complained that Feingold refused to listen to their grumbling about health care or about his support of Louis Butler for a federal court appointment. Frankly, the transcripts I’ve read tell a different story, but I find this complaint particularly ironic since Sen. Feingold continues to visit each county in this state every single year.

These complaints also manage to overlook the fact that he consistently embodies the virtues of our progressive Wisconsin tradition. Famously, he warned against the negative effects of NAFTA and was the only member of the Senate, apparently, who bothered to read the Patriot Act before, in an act of courage I can still barely fathom, standing up to cast the only vote against it. He doesn’t think government should legislate morality.

He voted against the initial Wall Street bailout, against the additional $350 billion in bailouts requested by the current administration and even against last year’s Omnibus Appropriations bill which had $7.7 billion tucked away inside more than 8,500 earmarks. He’s been pushing to bring back pay-as-you-go budgeting (which worked well enough, even during the testy Clinton-Gingrich era, to put the US budget into the black), and continues to refuse to accept increases to his Senate salary; the money goes back to the Treasury.

He routinely works with his Republican colleagues. He and Congressman Paul Ryan are introducing a “Janesville Line-Item Veto” that would let the president block earmarks and, of course, he continues to work with John McCain on both campaign finance reform and ending unauthorized earmarks. Doing what makes sense by avoiding the extremes defines a virtuous performance of ones duty so, go Russ.

The Tea Drinkers who disrupted Feingold’s listening session are unhappy not because he wasn’t listening to them, but because he disagrees with them. I’m still left confused by this since even the most knee-jerk Washington and Ozaukee county conservatives should be happy that the Concord Coalition put him on its “Honor Roll” for fighting government waste, or that Taxpayers for Common Sense named him their top “Taxpayer Guardian” in the Senate, or that he’s been recognized by the famously not-Democratic-Party-endorsing Club for Growth for his effort to curb wasteful government spending.

So, what’s gone so wrong that moderation has become a dirty word?

At the end of his book on ethics, Aristotle comes to the tragic conclusion that because morality requires rationality, and because “those who are governed by their passions are not amenable to reason” – which, alas, includes most of us – ethics probably won’t work most of the time. Instead of ethics, he sighs, we’ll have to make due with politics. He’s probably right.

When you reason carefully and support positions that aim for the mean between extremes, you can figure out what the real questions, and sometimes even the real answers, are – and nobody in politics wants that.


Friday, January 15, 2010

A reader disagrees about abstinence based education.

As I said in the original column, some people don't like the official findings.

Don’t set up abstinence to fail

Once again Mark Peterson exposed his amoral and anti-God sentiments when writing about sex education classes in public schools. By his words I understand he does not believe people can live a life according to God’s standards. I find that nonsensical for several reasons, three of which I’ll share.

First of all, in generations past, sex outside of marriage was not an activity society accepted; therefore most people exercised self control and waited for marriage for a blessed sex life. It was good for society and good for them personally. And, it was attainable.

Secondly, he cites a study saying, “Young people who participated in abstinence-only programs were just as likely to have sex before marriage as their peers who didn’t participate.” I easily found studies showing the opposite.

Abstinence-centered programs for kids work well when done right. Abstinence-centered programs need to be reinforced year after year. Kids need to hear the message that waiting until marriage to enjoy sex is attainable and better; kids want to hear the message that they are worth waiting for. If we present anything less, we are letting them down.

Just imagine the impact of abstinence-centered programs in schools at the rate of Mark Peterson approved programs telling kids, “don’t do it, but if you do, use a condom.” Those types of programs do not bring a message of hope and success to kids. The message is they are bound to fail, so deal with it.

Teachers teach for results. We need teaching to reinforce values, which build up kids and help them attain the best; programs that teach kids how to wait until marriage for sex, why to wait and the benefits of marriage. Let’s keep on that track.

Thirdly, since God created sex for marriage, then waiting until marriage is attainable and best.

Mary Weigand

Town of Trenton

Mary Weigand is one of the local fundamentalists who have opposed teaching evolution and science-based sex ed -- and including gay bashing in the school district's definition of hate speech.

I suppose in Ms. Weigand's universe, people like me who were raised ELCA Lutheran, are amoral and anti-God.

More's the pity.

I wonder how Ms. Weigand would reply to findings that indicate evangelical teens actually have sex sooner than the rest of us anti-God type Christians?

One which topic, see: Red Sex, Blue Sex: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?

On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual d├ębut”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

And one more while I'm thinking about it. For an evangelical's take on all of this, see the remarkably interesting Shelby Knox.

I mention it in passing.


Do we need to throw Falwell and Robertson's God out of the public square?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ending the fantasy of abstinence based sex education.


Saturday's column.

A sex ed fantasy

Instruction founded on abstinence doesn’t work

While I was busy grading final exams back in December, President Obama signed the 2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Nearly lost within the machinery of health care legislation, one small cog in this bill actually does something to improve the health of young Americans: It pulls funding from the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program and the abstinence-only program associated with the Adolescent Family Life Act. With a stroke of his pen, the president ended the billion-dollar farce of tax payer-funded abstinence based sex education.

Closer to home, back in November, the Wisconsin Assembly passed The Healthy Youth Act, which restores common sense to educating students about their own biology by using a curriculum proven “to reduce risky behaviors that result in unintended teenage pregnancy and STDs.” The Senate version is awaiting action.

Not everyone is happy about the prospect of better informed teenagers. Three community members from the West Bend School District Human Growth and Development Committee objected that these laws are headed in the wrong direction – specifically, away from abstinence-based programming. Their objection, however, depended on a sense of misplaced religious and moral outrage. Neither scientific evidence nor calm moral reflection supports their point of view.

First, the evidence.

Congress authorized a study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. as part of its evaluation of abstinence-based educational programs. The study, released in April 2007, found compelling evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs just don’t work. Young people who participated in abstinence-only programs were just as likely to have sex before marriage as their peers who didn’t participate. They also have their first sexual experiences at about the same age and eventually have about the same number of sexual partners. And in programs that use a “virginity pledge,” students had sex before marriage at the same rates as non-pledging students but were actually less likely to use contraception or get tested for STDs when they became sexually active.

An example of the alarming decline in education about proper birth control – and so, about safely avoiding sexually transmitted diseases – is that by 2002 one-third of American adolescents had not received any instruction on contraception: one third. This is no different from insisting that one third of all sixteen-year-olds just getting their driver’s licenses be kept out of driver education courses. We’re seeing exactly this kind of wreckage among teenagers today – not just in terms of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, but in the number of abortions that wouldn’t have happened had these young drivers, so to speak, been taught to fasten their seat belts and stop when the light is red.

Even worse, a 2004 congressional report found that federally funded abstinence-based curricula often “misrepresent the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy” by exaggerating their failure rates. This is like telling kids not to bother with seat belts, since they don’t work that well anyway.

Frankly, that’s criminally negligent.

Second, some moral reflection.

If people want to object to a fact-based sex education program on moral grounds, rather than scientific ones, here’s something to consider: Ignorance does not produce moral character. Ignorance does not improve a person’s sense of moral responsibility or promote good judgment. In fact, ignorance produces exactly the opposite: ignorance produces bad judgment, bad judgment leads to irresponsible action, and irresponsible action, over time, erodes moral character. This much, at least, the history of our civilization tells us.

Sexual education programs that ask 15-year-olds to put on blindfolds by “just saying no” to their own biology, contribute to moral weakness in young people, not strength. The self-discipline of moral strength does not derive from blind obedience but from the harder work of understanding oneself. Contrary to Orwell’s deadly slogan, knowledge is strength, not ignorance.

A prudent and temperate life, to use some old fashioned language, requires the kind of education that inoculates young people against the dangers of ignorance. We need to encourage the effort young people make to understand themselves, not reward the kind of ignorance that leads to increased pregnancy rates.

Fortunately even though the consequences of ignorance are contagious, a real, science-based education is the best inoculation against the kind of moral laziness ignorance encourages.

By some estimates, U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $1.3 billion since 1996 on programs that didn’t work. The federal report demonstrating the initiative’s failure came out in 2007 – two years ago.

It is possible our local Human Growth and Development Committee is unfamiliar with these two year-old results and may wish, based on the evidence rather than their personal convictions, to reconsider the best interests of West Bend students.

Postscript: by a weird [I-can't-imagine-that-it's-really-a] coincidence, the paper ran a guest column next to mine, written by some of the same members of the Human Growth and Development Committee I mentioned in the column. They complain, once again, that the state legislation promoting real sex ed "sends kids the wrong message". You can read their observations here.

Frankly, their ignorance of good science and sound educational practice is not nearly as startling as the inherent racism of their argument.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A reader disagrees about Krampus.

It's always interesting how people see things...

Columnist is the one who supports censorship

Mark Peterson, in his column of Dec. 26, has the highest praise for the West Bend Community Memorial Library receiving accolades and ACLU awards for not moving sexually explicit books from the children’s section of the library to the adult section. Hardly censorship.

Mark calls this a present from St. Nick. St. Nick is a part of the Christmas season which cele
brates the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our Saviour was born for the sole purpose of paying the sin debt, by His death on the cross - the sin death of the whole world - sin, like that expressed in these books.

We are all born in sin, so we all owe this debt. That is why we are so thankful to Him and celebrate His birth. By His death we have been made clean, if we believe in Him and repent of our sins. You might say, he is very narrow minded.

The books referred to are very offensive, and I have a hard time understanding why any adult would want a child to have the right to read them. I think I’m right in saying that even the Daily News could not print such material.

The ACLU has been very active in removing nativity scenes, Christmas trees in public places, monuments of the Ten Commandments and anything that acknowledges God. That, Mark, is what I call censorship. Where is our freedom?

Mark talks of the wisdom of the past. God says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10

Rather than earthly rewards, there are heavenly awards. To the library, you may gloat over your victory, but I feel sorry for the children being violated by such trash.

Tryon Edwards once said, “Hell is truth seen too late.”

Evalyn Kurer
West Bend

This reader believes that keeping religious demonstrations out of public spaces constitutes censorship, but I think they're really just mussed over having their own religion kept out of publicly funded areas.

Would they be inclined to let their tax dollars support Islamic based schools?

I'm thinking, not.

I keep coming back to the idea that maybe people like Ms. Kurer here believe that everyone else in America has the same religious beliefs she does and that, if they don't, we should simply have them all killed (on behalf of God, of course). I used to think this sort of observation was hyperbole, but I'm just not sure anymore.

Oh, and because the meme has been so often repeated, for the record, there never were any sexually explicit materials in the children's section of the library. That notion was simply part of their marketing campaign.

And so it goes.


Ballot order chosen for West Bend School Board Primary

Ginny Maziarka was kind enough to post up the Ballot order for the upcoming School Board primary election.

Here it is:

Doug Ziegler
Carl Knepel
Dave Weigand
Randy Marquardt
Bart Williams
Lynn Corazzi
Doug Rakowski
Kathy VanEerden

I think it would be useful to find out which of these candidates wants to 1) have creationism included in the science curriculum and 2) believes in continuing to cut academic programs in one of the better school districts in the state?

Let's find out.

Proof America has gone soft. :)

The Danes are tougher than we are.



Thursday, January 07, 2010

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010

South America, it pays to remember, is actually a continent.

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010 from Project Censored

Top Censored Stories of 2009/2010

Has anything changed in 30 years?

Just wandering around the web and stumbled back on this:

Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" Speech from July 15, 1979.

The last eight years make Jimmy look like a prophet, which, he was.

Even when a President promises transparency, not everyone wants to play.

Declassification of secret documents to be delayed
Spy agencies foil Obama plan for transparency.

At least with Libertarians you get an argumetn: Ron Paul Slams Dick Cheney

Ron Paul Slams Dick Cheney For Criticizing Obama On National Security

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

And blame for everybody: U.S. Economy 10 years of misleading stats.

Good news for everyone in the middle. Bad news for the ideologues.

U.S. Economy

Is the American economy facing a lost decade? That is the wrong question to ask. The right question is this: Is the United States facing another lost decade? During the past 10 years, inflation-adjusted wages have stagnated or declined for working Americans; net job creation has been zero; and temporary, bubble-driven gains in the stock market have been erased.

Tea Party popularity outpacing Dems and Republicans

Ah well, if David Brooks is right, and the polls are suggesting he might be, America was a great idea while it lasted:

The Tea Party Teens -

What happened to all of those supposed progressives and liberals who actually read Lakoff's analysis of why the conservative movement had been so popular? Maybe they preferred the Disciplinarian Father model of social reality as well....

Tiddly pom.


Wall Street Bounces Back on the backs of Main Street.

Robert Reich on the effects of the bailout.

How Main Street Got Shafted While Wall Street Bounced Back

In September 2008, as the worst of the financial crisis engulfed Wall Street, George W. Bush issued a warning: "This sucker could go down." Around the same time, as Congress hashed out a bailout bill, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the leading Republican negotiator of the bill, warned that "if we do not do this, the trauma, the chaos and the disruption to everyday Americans' lives will be overwhelming, and that's a price we can't afford to risk paying." In less than a year, Wall Street was back. The five largest remaining banks are today larger, their executives and traders richer, their strategies of placing large bets with other people's money no less bold than before the meltdown. The possibility of new regulations emanating from Congress has barely inhibited the Street's exuberance.

But if Wall Street is back on top, the everyday lives of large numbers of Americans continue to be subject to overwhelming trauma, chaos and disruption.

And so on.