Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Blessed Week of Ignorance

I have no idea what's going on, and it's a nice feeling for a change.

My vacation, from the day before Christmas Eve until New Year's Day, when I head back to work, is drawing to an end, and I've spent the time so far nearly news-free.

I read about the slaying of Benazir Bhutto, and about the tiger that managed to maul some guys at a zoo, but that's about it.

I skipped the local news, so I have no idea who got shot, or killed in a car crash, or burned in a fire. I don't know if anything was stolen, broken into or destroyed. I don't know if anyone got molested, robbed, beaten, persecuted or jilted.

And it feels great.

For a few days I was able to not be surrounded by mayhem; I didn't have to intellectually digest every rotten incident.

Most people in the news business have to hear about all the death and crime, the corruption and incompetence of local, state and federal government, and it's amazing what that does to your demeanor. You internalize it -- at least I do -- and it creates this blanket of pessimism that can get pretty thick.

To be able to spend a few days with friends and family, to get quality time that isn't interrupted by foul news reports or analysis, to be ignorant of all the horrible things in the world that I can't do a damn thing about anyway ... well, it's such a relief.

And, even at 36 years old, spending a little time with a Nintendo Wii was both entertaining and awe-inspiring, considering that I was around for the advent of Pong.

So, that's it -- no work, no posting, no news hunting for a week ... and I started to turn human again. As my return to work looms, I'm determined to make some quality resolutions for the new year -- Seeing as I can go day to day without worrying about my neighborhood getting blown up or not having food and shelter, so to not fully participate in the calculation of my quality of life is just silly and wasteful.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wise Words from Ben Stein

Here's something interesting that came in my mail today:

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.

Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

Saturday, December 15, 2007

School Daze

If you pay attention to news stories about the New Haven public school system, there's one phrase that pops up pretty much every time: No Child Left Behind.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which you can -- and should -- read about at the source, is criticized incessantly by school officials, from teachers to the superintendent.

They complain that the act forces schools to spend all their time "teaching to the test," at the expense of arts, culture ... and recess.

They complain that the act forces schools to maintain a high standard -- and high performance -- but does not provide extra money.

Some states, Connecticut one of them, even tried legal action against the federal government over this act.

I like the No Child Left Behind Act, I think it was one thing I am happiest for from the Bush administration.

Here's why:

The No Child Left Behind Act is an effort by the government to force abysmal schools to show to the public what they are doing with the millions of dollars they take each year from the state and federal governments.

Taxpayers are getting beat twice for education, and yet only about half the kids in the country are getting educated.

The act forces schools to recognize that rich or poor, black or white, it doesn't take just money to put a kid in a desk and have someone who knows something about something to tell a kid something and have that kid remember it.

In fact, it doesn't take a lot more than an effort on the part of the student and the teacher.

The teacher should make the effort or face losing their job. The kid should make the effort or face a bleak future, period.

The No Child Left Behind Act simply asks a school how they can spend millions and millions of dollars a year on education, and not be providing an education!

If taxpayers are the ones funding education, then I think we should get to make the rules, too. School officials -- like superintendents -- make more than $100,000 a year. That's just too much. I think a school superintendent should make no more than 75,000 a year, period. And teacher shouldn't make more than 60,000.

Now, before anyone jumps down my throat ... I think it should be that way because those are decent wages, and if you get people that really care about the education of the children, then they can deal with that kind of money, especially with the perks. It's more than I make, and I have a good job, so if I can live on it, so can they. If they want to choose money over being a teacher, so be it. Go ahead.

If you make it about the money, then you're going to get people that are in it for the money, and then they ktake the money.

And then that's where the money goes.

The biggest complaint seems to be the whole "teaching to the test" blather I keep hearing. So? What the hell is wrong with teaching kids enough that they can pass a test of their crucial cognitive skills?

How is that not automatically labeled the most idiotic concept in the history of the world?

So, what should they be learning how to do in school? Dance? Sing? Be completely inundated with "culture"?

No! They should be learning how to read, how to study, how to answer questions in a literate manner. They should learn to speak English, and add numbers. And if they can't do that then something is wrong.

And if the school system can piss away $25 million to $100 million dollars and not be able to have the majority of kids learn at a normal level, then they're simply not spending the money on the right things.

I'm old enough now to say this:

  • When I was in grammar school, we had no air conditioning, and no cafeteria.
  • We weren't allowed to wear shorts to school. We had a couple of assemblies a year, maybe 2 field trips.
  • Our classes were math, science, history, English, reading, art and music, and recess. That was it.
  • If you did poorly, you failed, and had to go to summer school. If you still failed, you stayed back a grade. No one wanted to stay back a grade because then they would be "the kid who got held back."

Now, it's totally different. School has become something other than school. It's become this place where people think you should make children into little adults where they make their own decisions, and have fun, and enjoy going there. They go there and learn how others live, how people feel differently. They go there and learn how people dance in every frigging continent on the globe.

That's not school. School isn't supposed to be fun, it's supposed to challenge you. You're supposed to go there and learn things, and learning is hard work.

It's easier to give slower kids easier work, because then they finish and you can move on without conflict or difficulty.

Yeah, I know, some of you have kids that are just the smartest things, and they go to school and they love it and have a great experience and are smart. Congratulations, you have a smart kid.

But when you put average and below-average kids in an environment like that, where the if they fail the challenge the challenge is made easier, then they're not going to get smarter, which, hello, is the goal of schooling.

So, no, I don't think the No Child Left Behind Act is detrimental to education, I think it's detrimental to bloated, misguided school systems that need to be revamped. The problem is that the people in power are the ones who should be tossed out, and they won't let that happen.

The most important aspect of the act is that it finally takes money away from failing schools instead of just dumping more money on them. It says to a failing school, "You threw that money out the window. Now, work with less."

It forces a school to restructure itself from the administration down -- if they get rid of the all the crap that has nothing to do with the education part of the education system, there's plenty of money to run a good system and pay to test the kids annually.

School vouchers and the No Child Left Behind Act are perhaps the last chances to make our education systems work.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Called "Critical Inquiry"

I may have written about this before ...

I attended Southern Connecticut State University beginning in fall 1989, enrolled in a program they called the "Honors College."

It was an interesting experiment. Instead of taking courses like chemistry, English 101, physics and such, we were given team-taught courses called things like "Science & Technology: Triumph or Tragedy?" and "The Idea of Self in the Middle Ages to the Renaissance."

The courses were taught by two professors from differing disciplines -- the science course above, for example, was team-taught by a scientist and a theologian.

It made for mind-bending work, let me tell you.

Anyway, my favorite course was called "Introduction to Critical Inquiry." The point of the course, and from other follow-up courses, was that everything you read or hear about, everything you are told, is potentially a gigantic crock of lies.

Unless you personally know a piece of information, then you have to trace it back through every stage, every "interpretation" it's gone through, in order to find truth. And, if you cannot, then you simply do not know.


So, if a newspaper reports a story about something an Iraqi said about something that he heard about, you have no idea at all if that's true, and you never will, unless you can start with the story in the paper, and go backward.

Story = To paper, from paginator from copy editor from editor from reporter from source; then you have to know if the source was the firsthand info, because if it's not, then you have to go further back -- to source, from a guy in the market, from a vendor who sold the guy grapes, from his son, from that kid's friend ....

Just a thought, is all.

I argue back and forth with people about different policies and situations and whatnot, but at the bottom, neither of us really have a clue as to whether the information we're basing our opinions on is true, so you have to base your opinions on logic and things that you can reasonably consider accurate and true.

In terms of this war, I think most of start out on the same page -- war is bad. I think most people prefer peace over war. That's why when I see people who have the opportunity for peace but make war where there is no need, like the factions in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, I get really confused. Why is there turmoil when there is nothing to fight about?

So even though I think war is bad, I see video of radical Muslims calling for people's deaths, plain as day, whether it be over a cartoon in a newspaper, or a teddy bear, or a book. I've seen video of people getting their heads cut off because they are not Muslims. What did Daniel Pearl ever do to deserve to have his head cut off in Karachi?

Now, to be accurate, I do not know if those videos were real. But, they found Pearl's head, so I'm guessing the video shows how it got detached from his body.

I don't know exactly why, but people flew planes into the World Trade Center

So, in foreign policy sometimes you have to make a call, politics aside -- do you wait and see if diplomacy works, or do you attack your enemy before he is stronger than you? Waiting would be nicer, except that in these days, waiting is essentially giving your enemy time to amass weapons you cannot defend against.

What if Hitler had been stopped years before he was?

That's what makes the whole Iraq argument so insane. I don't know that Bush lied about the WMDs in Iraq. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. The fact is that we do not know, and we probably never will, unless someone comes out with a tape of Bush stating his intention to mislead the world. Until they do, you have to pick a side based on nothing more than faith -- faith in your country, faith that sometimes people make honest mistakes, faith that the man elected -- twice -- to be the president of the United States actually cares what happens to the country and did what he thought was right at the time.

And for the record, again, I'm not rah-rah-rah for the war in Iraq. Knowing only the publicly-known information that I know, I would probably have tried to ally with Iraq against Iran, because Saddam wasn't a religious nut, he was a power hungry dictator who liked wealth and fame and glory, and he could have been bought off -- which I think is why some people were so gung-ho to get him out, because if he had or got a hold of WMDs, it's not unreasonable to think he would have passed them on to others if the price was right.

So, not knowing anything about anything, I just support what seems to make the most sense at the time. Sometimes I'll be right, other times I'll be wrong.

But sometimes I'll never know for sure.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Silence of the Libs

The latest demonstration of intolerance from the "religion of peace" is in Sudan, where a British teacher at a private school has been jailed for letting her 7-year-old students name a teddy bear "Muhammad," which these barbaric Muslim fanatics say is insulting to Islam.

Here's the latest story.

The thing is, the class chose to name the bear Muhammad after one of the more popular boys in the class, not after the prophet.

Also, the original sentence was to be 40 lashes, which was reduced to imprisonment.

Now, understand this: According to the story, thousands of protesters are rallying in Sudan, calling for the execution of the teacher for insulting Islam!

Are these people absolutely insane? They want to kill someone because she let children give a teddy bear the same name as a religious figure?

This is just another example of how screwed up these Muslims are, and how blind the left is about the danger they pose to the rest of the world.

I hear liberals bitch and moan about every mention of Christianity here in the U.S. -- they want to make sure that no one is even allowed to say the word "God" in public, let alone dictate social policy based on religious beliefs. They want all religious references taken out of schools, courts, government buildings ...

Can you imagine if Christians started executing Hispanics all over the United States because they dare name their children "Jesus"?

How about executing so-called comedian Kathy Griffin for openly mocking Christians and their beliefs? Or killing all atheists?

Liberals happily ignore the fact that these hardline Muslims are completely intolerant, violent, misogynistic barbarians who think that they are allowed to kill everyone they disagree with. I have no idea what part of this is so hard for libs to understand, because the Muslims are not quiet about their desire to kill everyone in the world, each other included, for every perceived slight.

Someone draws a cartoon about Islam? Kill the cartoonist AND the editor of the newspaper that ran the cartoon.

Someone writes a book critical of Islam? Kill the author.

The pope makes a historical reference to the barbaric practices in Islam? Kill him.

What the hell is wrong with these Muslims? And what the hell is wrong with liberals that they can completely disregard example after example after example of the violent, oppressive nature of these fanatics?

These fanatics kill homosexuals, oppress and abuse women, indoctrinate children to be fanatical killers as well ...

I know that there are Muslims that are not crazy and violent and bloodthirsty. But, there are so many that are crazy and bloodthirsty and intolerant that they have to be confronted because they pose a realistic threat to the rest of the free world. Because we let people come into this country pretty freely, we basically have the door open for the whackos to come in and kill us for not following their rules.

Iran jails and kills people because of the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, the way they dance. A woman who gets raped can't go to the police because they'll kill her for having been made unclean!

All the things that liberals espouse here in the United States are things that fanatical Muslims would kill someone for doing. And yet they ignore that, because they are afraid of the confrontation. They try to pass off cowardice as pacifism, and I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of hearing Muslims here in the U.S. bitch about how they get a bum rap or are profiled, because they're "peaceful" and "only the fanatics are dangerous." Well, there are millions of those fanatics, not dozens or hundreds or thousands, millions.

To steal a comparison from Bill O'Reilly: Not every German was a Nazi, but the Nazis posed a threat to the entire world. And if it wasn't for the United States confronting Hitler, the Nazis would have won.

It took warfare to end the threat. But for some reason, liberals cannot come to terms with this. I contend that fanatical Muslims post a bigger threat to the world than even Nazi Germany did, because Nazis weren't allowed to come into the United States freely and set up camp. These crazy Muslims are here in the U.S., they are in Britain.

And if you turn your back, they will cut off your head. Stop kidding yourself. It's not paranoia, it's not a "fear" of a "different culture," as liberals would like to believe.

You should be afraid, because someone has vowed to kill you, and your government is not being allowed to protect you.

How many more examples will it take? How many more videos of beheadings do we have to see? How many more innocent people have to be murdered in the name of the "religion of peace" for liberals to understand that it's not a joke, and that they would be the first to be killed under Muslim sharia law?

Rosie O'Donnell will criticize the U.S. and defend fanatical Islam, and yet the Muslims would kill her not only for being a lesbian, but simply for speaking her mind!

Liberals seem to be so comfortable with the freedoms they enjoy from the blood shed by others that they cannot see that fanatical Islam wants to take those freedoms away. They criticize every effort by the U.S. to protect its people from these barbarians, but they're silent on the real threat, because it's easier to stand outside the White House with a silly little sign than it is to fight the enemy.

When the crazy Muslims start running through the streets of American cities, burning the flag and killing innocent Americans, who are you going to look to to save you and your family -- a sensitive politically correct liberal? Or Dick Cheney and his shotgun?