The state school superintendent in Georgia wants to remove the word "evolution" - not the concept, but the word - from school curriculums in her state:
The state's school superintendent has proposed striking the word evolution (search) from Georgia's science curriculum and replacing it with the phrase "biological changes over time."
...Superintendent Kathy Cox said the concept of evolution would still be taught under the proposal, but the word would not be used in the curriculum. The proposal would not require schools to buy new textbooks omitting the word evolution and would not prevent teachers from using it.
Cox, a Republican elected to the post in 2002, repeatedly referred to evolution as a "buzzword" Thursday and said the ban was proposed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in socially conservative areas where parents object to its teaching.
"If teachers across this state, parents across this state say, 'This is not what we want,' then we'll change it," Cox said.
I just want to shake my head and sigh. That's not the way to advance teaching in the sciences, and it's only going to make an unnecessary division markedly worse. Evolution is a) a legitimate theory, and b) is proveable in at the very least the special evolution level. Clearly this state school superintendent isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Why not use this opportunity to straighten out the teaching so that it treats both sides fairly? The evolutionists need to be required to accept the concept of a creating force to be taught as one of the two options for the earth's origin. That's not religion. And the creationists need to cease and desist from pushing a strict adherence to the Bible's account of creation into the classroom - that's not proveable science, although in my judgment it's an accurate accounting of events. In both cases, the true believers need to recognize that science is about what is proven, and not about their extrapolations or assumptions.
I personally think that an influx of Christians into the science fields would revolutionize it. Not because they would suppress evolutionists, or because they would use bad science to try to prove their religious beliefs. But rather, I think they would bring a different worldview to their scientific approaches that would allow them to ask different questions, in different ways, than the current crop usually thinks of - because of their own blinkered worldview. As long as the scientific method itself remains pure in its practice, how can a different approach to the questions put to the test be a bad thing? As long as evolutionists discriminate against the religious, there will be trouble in the schools. And as long as many religious people fear science, there will continue to be a majority rule of true believers in evolution (as opposed to those who see it as a theory rather than a lifestyle choice) in the highest reaches of science.
This kind of shenanigans in Georgia doesn't serve any purpose other than to make everybody mad, and for good reason. I'm somewhat troubled to even find myself in agreement with Jimmy Carter. A little. I still don't much like his actual words. But I'll refrain from a Carter-rant.
Living in other peopleâ€™s space isnâ€™t easy. Not that I feel uncomfortable generally â€“ at both places, they go out of their way to make room for me, and I know theyâ€™re fine with my being there for now. But Iâ€™m traveling with my things from place to place, most of it staying at my friendâ€™s house so trips to my brotherâ€™s always involve bags: overnight bag, book bag, toiletries bag, miscellaneous bag for the needlework I spend more time packing than working on. Needlework and books are my security blankets, the things that help me cope. Thereâ€™s no place to go thatâ€™s mine. There will be, hopefully soon, but itâ€™s draining and I spend a lot of time driving.
I find that Iâ€™m a biology teacher now. Iâ€™m teaching two psychology classes, which I agreed to teach thinking that the focus would be mostly theories of psychology. Ha. This week has been all about chromosomes and genetics, dendrites and axons, brain and physiological maturation. Iâ€™m actually handling it fine, and itâ€™s a good review for me. But Iâ€™m forcibly reminded of the teacherâ€™s mantra, â€śYou donâ€™t have to know it well â€“ you just have to know more than they do.â€ť And I do. The biggest focus for me, as always, is making connections â€“ not memorizing what a gene is, but understanding what role it plays in making a person who she is, and what place in occupies in the debate on nature vs nurture. I give my first exam this semester on Tuesday. Weâ€™ll see how Iâ€™m doing.
The only true thorn in my flesh is a student who sits there with his book closed, his notebook closed and his ink pen lying still on the desk. Itâ€™s like heâ€™s holding a big sign saying, â€śI already know more than you. Iâ€™m just here to get this grade on paper.â€ť I know itâ€™s playing into my own insecurities, but I just get edgy. It doesnâ€™t help that heâ€™s in two of my classes, and he does exactly the same thing in both. He seems bright, and personable; I canâ€™t even find a decent reason to dislike him. Other than that he doesnâ€™t take notes in my classes. How pathetic: getting psyched by my own student in a psychology class, for goodness sake! Yeeche.
Yesterday I had my first physical therapy session. I was there for over two hours, getting through the first session, with giving a medical history, chatting with the therapist, and starting my exercises. And of course I had to chat with the people there. One young woman has a fascination with gruesome crimes, most specifically serial killers. So the time I spent with her, as she was teaching me my PT exercises, I give short biographies of various serial killers from Ted Bundy to Ed Gein. I think I tossed in Richard Speck as well, but she didnâ€™t seem to mind my sneaking in a mass murderer. Then the physical therapist came back to massage my leg where my muscles are holding my kneecap too tightly to the outside. That lasted for about 20 minutes (he has wonderful hands), which was long enough to pick his brain about the presidential race. He admitted to being a Democrat, which he said is almost blasphemy here in Alabama, but he said he is a â€śmoderateâ€ť Democrat. A little probing revealed that heâ€™s an environmentalist who doesnâ€™t think Republicans have much of a good record with the environment, but doesnâ€™t see that as a make or break issue. He said he didnâ€™t like Dean because he seems too â€śhot temperedâ€ť and, well, a bit unstable. He didnâ€™t know enough about Edwards to have an opinion, liked Kerry okay, but when asked who his preference was, he chose Wesley Clarke â€“ because he thinks Clark would be the best person to handle the Iraq situation. He added to Deanâ€™s negatives that Dean wants to pull out of Iraq. He said, I didnâ€™t really like all the reasons we went into Iraq (although he didnâ€™t elaborate), but he thinks now that weâ€™re there, we need to do a good job of it and not leave too soon. In fact, he said he would be open to voting for Bush if for no other reason than he would be the best person to finish out the job properly in Iraq.
And thereâ€™s your modern Southern Democrat. Iâ€™ll be curious to see how representative he is as the Dem candidates swing into this part of the country in the next weeks. Iâ€™d say heâ€™s fairly average.
Tomorrow is more work, but possibly more Internet access too. I might even get to post something more than an evening ramble. We shall see. I hope you all are still doing well, and just in case I havenâ€™t let you know lately, Iâ€™m very grateful that you take the time from your own busy lives to check in with me. I promise things will pick up around here in a few weeks. Thanks for sticking around.
Today I lectured on the impact believing in general evolution vs creation would have on your understanding of human development - physically, cognitively and emotionally. I actually went all the way back to the two possibilities of origin - eternal energy and eternal matter - and explained the basic trajectory of each from stasis to where we are now.
One of the textbooks I'm teaching from has a heavily evolutionary emphasis in its explanation of development theories, which I knew (from the conversation I had with one student last week) was disturbing to some students. Whereas in the past (that is to say, in New Jersey) I gave a version of this lecture as a means to indicate to students that they didn't need to accept general evolution as fact just because it's presented that way in the textbook, this time it was to help students understand that they shouldn't reject the theories and concepts just because the originators of them founded their research on a belief in evolution. I explained where theology and science diverge in their focuses - one seeking to answer who or what the energy is that caused the universe to exist, the other seeking to understand precisely how the universe and all its systems operate, individually and as a part of a whole.
I also pointed out that the author of the textbook writes from the perspective of his own worldview, and I will lecture and teach from my perspective - and both involve biases. Ultimately the decision about what to recognize as the right answer is up to them. However, and this was the central point, I emphasized the need to distinguish between elements of a theory that have proven explanatory value and elements that are suppositions or conclusions about the processes and results of the parts that have been proven.
I know there are those in the class who have struggled with the dissonance created from believing what they're hearing in class is somehow against God - an almost fearful anxiety about it. My goal was to help them recognize that truth is truth, regardless of the motives and belief system of those who discover truth. A Christian who believes that God created the world shouldn't feel that God is threatened by humans learning more about His creation.
I know there's no comfort for atheists or agnostics in this, but that's not my intention. I did make it clear that I do not, as their instructor, care or even want to know (in class, as a part of class) what their beliefs are on the matter. That's immaterial to the class focus. The only question they may see about that lecture would be one about what impact your belief system can have on how you perceive and analyze new information.
It's odd to be in the position of defending science to students suspicious of things that could be anti-God. Odd, but okay. I'm told that some of the students were closed to my lecture, apparently because I didn't state categorically that God created the world and the textbook author is a godless liar. I don't know that I believe that, but if it's true, then I hope - and pray - that they eventually understand what I was trying to say.
And that's today in Alabama, typed while I listen to Steve Malzburg in the overnight on a WABC 770 radio stream from snowbound New York City. I love the Internet.
Al Franken tackled a heckler at a Dean rally yesterday, breaking his glasses in the process. He said he "merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely". The heckler is a Lyndon Larouche supporter (which actually means they probably could have called the men in white uniforms driving a white truck with a strait jacket in hand, but that's another post for another time).
Franken said he'd have done it if it was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally, since, you know, free speech is the point. My question is, how would he have responded if it had been Rush Limbaugh tackling a Kerry OR Dean supporter at a George Bush rally? Somehow I'm not thinking he would have run up the flag and started singing America the Beautiful in tearful appreciation for Rush's protection of freedom of speech.
[Thanks to Alan for the link]
It's been over a month now since I've spent much time following the news, although I catch glimpses when I have time to get online, or when I see the evening news or a newspaper. What strikes me most is how news becomes some kind of background buzz, like a persistent mosquito always just two inches from your ear, when you aren't plugged into it like I have been for the past few years. Another murder, another house fire, another celebrity getting married/divorced or baring all or getting arrested for drunk driving, deadly storms sweeping some part of the nation, a businessman arrested or convicted for fraud, the liberals hammering like a traveling evangelist about the wonders of the candidate flavor of the week, the conservatives complacent in their repetitions of the need not to be complacent about Bush's chances in the fall. It's no wonder the average American pays little attention, especially to the political season: Meet the new boss, just like the old boss.
That doesn't mean that I won't plug right back up as soon as I get my own digs - of course I will. But maybe I'll have a clearer perspective.
The David Kay situation is an interesting one, seen in fits and snatches from online article teasers and network news blurbs heard in passing. To hear the mainstream media, you'd think he said that there never was anything to worry about, the administration knew it, and he's quitting because he just figured that out. Somehow I'm thinking that's not the way it went down. On a local newscast tonight, they had a question on at the 5 p.m. news with results at 10 p.m. The question went something like this: "If you had it to do over, would you support the war knowing that not only did Iraq not have WMD, but that the adminstration knew they didn't?" It wasn't quite that flagrant, but close. I wanted to call up and ask if they had Babs Streisand write it, but since it did use the right country, I thought they must not have. Unsurprisingly, 54% of those who answered said no, they wouldn't support the war. And this is presented with much gravity, and no explanation about the fact that the question was rampantly biased in its presentation, and the respondents could not in any vague shape, form or fashion be considered representative of the population as a whole.
Did someone say "fair and balanced"?
Not banking on it
I learned today that opening a bank account is a complex business. I don't want to get an Alabama license until I actually have an Alabama domicile, but the bank I went to wouldn't let me open an account without an Alabama license. Then I asked about wiring the cash in my hot little hand to my bank in Kentucky so I could at least pay my bills with checks, and they said, $35 and oh, you need the street address of the bank. Huh? I thought all this was done electronically! I bizarrely enough don't carry on my person the street address of the bank I haven't lived near in 5 years, so I left still holding on to my cash. I called my KY/NJ bank (it has branches in both states) to ask about the address, and the helpful customer service representative made a startling suggestion: Deposit via ATM! For virtually no charge! An amazing concept. I've never done that before. But I can, from here, with nothing more than my debit card! Suddenly life got easier. Who needs that ole Alabama bank anyway?
I also reached the end of my ability to stand my hair today. Chop chop. I drove up the main drag until I found a hair salon that seemed neither too trendy nor too trashy (I don't want anything asymmetrical or blonde and poofy). $28 later ($25 cut, $3 tip) I have a cute chin-length bob that - wonder of wonders - will also do a flip! How's that for versatility? Of course as I type it's pulled back into a (very abbreviated) ponytail with clips holding up the sides. Always gotta have ponytail capabilities.
I didn't manage to escape sans hairspray though. I don't mind a little, but the salon chick kept poofing and spraying and flipping and finger-combing, and... well, it looked better before she popped the cap on the hairspray can. Another reason for the ponytail. But I can tell that it'll be fine once I wash it all out tomorrow and style it myself. I'll have to make sure I have time for the 2-3 washings it'll take to get the spray out though. (Okay, not really, but it feels that way.)
Joys of Alabama Part 281623
This weekend I mainly just enjoyed being here. I can't begin to express how very grateful I am. I keep feeling like I'm on vacation and someone's going to call me to ask when precisely am I returning to New Jersey? I love the backroads drive to my brother's house. I love the small but very friendly church. I love the community college where I park 4 feet from my classroom door, and have chats with my students about God. I've been to Wal-Mart almost every day. On Saturday it was warm, in the 60s, and I bought a padded lawn chair at Wal-Mart to sit outside on. When it started raining, I moved the chair to just inside the open garage door at my friend's house, and sat watching the rain come down in sheets and patter on the tarp over a dirt pile at the end of the driveway, smelling the smell of rain on dirt and grass, trees and metal, and warm concrete driveways.
In the past month, I've spent more time around people for purposes other than work than I probably did in the six months prior. And it's been a good thing. You don't realize just how much you miss it until you're around it again, until you're with people you care about, because if you really thought about it when you are away from them, you couldn't get up in the mornings. At least I couldn't.
Sweet Home Alabama.
Last and most definitely least
Rick Pitino is taking a leave of absence. I'm sorry he's in such pain, and I wish him a swift and complete recovery. But couldn't he have taken the leave before that U of L/UK so-called game?
I finally saw Return of the King. It was phenomenal. I cried several times. I want to savor it a while longer before starting to discuss what I liked and didn't like about it. So more on that later.
I also went to the doctor today about my knee, which has been hurting and giving me trouble since the evening I moved the last of my things from my NJ apartment - I'd say a dozen or more trips up and down three flights of stairs carrying things would do that. And I've had knee trouble for a few years, so this was an exacerbation of a long-standing problem. They took X-rays, and I must say it's startling to see your knee cap riding on the edge of the socket instead of down in the valley of it. Physical therapy starts next week.
On the way to the doctor I passed a sign that said, "NOHAB Blog". I didn't stop, but I need to next time. And photograph it. I searched for it online but no dice. So what does it mean?
Another day of little to no news. Sorry - I'll try to do better next week.
Today I was tempted to take out an entire class, and I think it would have been justifiable homicide. I retained my composure, however. We were discussing nature vs nurture as the source of our traits, behaviors and accomplishments, and I reiterated a point I'd made several times in previous lectures - that is, we all are born with specific ranges of potential in each characteristic, and our nurturing determines where on that range we ultimately fall. To make it plainer, I told them that there were people that no matter how hard they worked, or how long, they would not attain something they wanted to do or be because they just did not have the raw talent to take them to the top.
Many of the students were very resistant to that idea. They wanted to believe that they could be anything they wanted to. I said, nope. Sorry about your self-esteem, but we all have limitations that we cannot transcend, no matter how much we desire to. The good news is, we all also have talents and abilities where we can transcend the average if we work at it, and often we can transcend the average in anything we persevere at, merely because the average person doesn't make the effort. And a person of medium talent, plus drive and discipline, can do better than someone with great talent and no drive or discipline. They weren't real excited about that revelation either.
It may be a long semester.
Nothing more to really report about Alabama. I spent the day teaching and working on a grant proposal I'm collaborating with Tamryn to write for a local organization. I continue to appreciate the joys of easy traveling and parking within a few steps of your ultimate destination. And I read books to Molly Katherine and told Haydon stories.
In other words, so far, so good.
Did I mention that I haven't read a newspaper, read the news online or watched television news all day? It's a strange yet peaceful place to be, as a respite. But I don't expect (or want) it to last.
I saw hippies today in Birmingham, a girl and a guy in hugely bell-bottomed jeans, long hair and Salvation Army accessories. They were crossing the street near the natural foods store, which carries soy ice cream and a full range of homeopathic remedies. Just a block away was the first Starbuck's I've seen here, close to an art store and a small gallery. This is the trendy part of Birmingham, I'm told, called Five Point or Southside. I sat in the library and read a Stephen King novel for an hour, my car parked on the street at a meter allowing 10 hours of parking without moving. There's people in NYC who'd pay rent for that space, transferred to their fair city.
Downtown Birmingham has the odd distinction of having parallel streets with the same numbers, only with N or S on them. So you have larger numbers with South on them (8 Street South) going down to First Street South as it moves north, until it hits some street in the midst of it all (I never could find a sign with its name) where the numbers change - now it's all North. So you can travel north and pass Second Street South, First Street South, Unnamed Middle Street, First Street North, Second Street North, etc. Freaky, and nothing I've seen before. But simple. I should do okay. Actually, I did do okay, going to a meeting downtown today. Pretty city, no heavy traffic, empty parking spaces everywhere. I could grow to like this.
Not much to say about the rest of the day, and I've read no newspapers so no comments there. I did see a big headline in the afternoon paper saying that abortions have gone down. I meant to buy a paper and didn't. Perhaps I'll read it online tomorrow and tell you who thinks that's a tragic thing. There's bound to be somebody who sees it not as either people making better decisions about sexual behavior or people taking greater responsibility for the consequences of said behavior, but rather as a sign that someone somewhere is being oppressed. Of course.
I think of blog posts I'd like to make several times a day, but there's never a computer with an Internet connection either close by or available. I'll be glad for that reason, along with many others, to get my own place again in a few weeks. But I'm still planning to post daily, at least on weekdays.
A good question
Today after one of my psychology classes, a student came up to ask me a question. We had discussed foundational psychological theories in class, like those of Freud, Skinner, Piaget and others. Her question?
"Did any of these men believe in God?"
That was like opening the floodgates with me, as I'm sure most of you who've read this site for very long knows. My answer would not sit well with the "God has no place in education" crowd, but not that well with a lot of the "science is anti-God" crowd either. Not knowing the personal histories of the theorists that intimately, I couldn't say "No" definitively, but I said likely most did not in the same way she does. What followed was essentially a 30 minute discourse on what I think about science, God and education.
In summary, I told her that it's a shame a lot of people of faith distrust or dismiss science, including psychology, because recognizing the facts scientists discover is not anti-God. How could it be? If God created the world and everything in it, including humans - which I believe - how could knowledge about it be problematic? What is an issue for discussion is the conclusions extrapolated from those facts, and the ideology and biases that inform the research questions they pose. A solid analytical thinker, regardless of ideology, must be capable of separating what is proven from what is extrapolation, and that applies to both evolutionists and Christians. One of the negative consequences of a fearful attitude about science that many religious people have is that those fields have been left to those whose religion is a belief in the eternity of matter. A whole range of approaches to scientific questions is relatively unexplored because non-religious scientists reject them out of hand as irrelevant.
It wasn't just a monologue - she interjected comments and questions - and at the end, she thanked me and said, "I think God is pleased we had this discussion."
I know I was. It's precisely the kind of conversation that I wanted to have, when I started on this PhD chase.
On the backroads
Tonight, traveling the same backroads mentioned in the post on stars (the kind in the sky), I realized that on long stretches of road, I could see nothing in my rearview mirror. I even turned it to the daytime setting, and nothing. Amazing. In the city at night you can drive for blocks, or miles even, and not realize that your own lights are not on. Here, you can drive for miles without seeing any lights at all behind you, and your own headlamps are the only spot of brightness.
Chaos and calm
Life is still chaotic and will be until I get my own place. The pattern thus far has been my spending no more than three nights in a row at any one place - I'm at my brother's for a few days, then over to Tamryn's, then back to his house. There I sleep on the living room couch and spend a lot of my time reading books to little girls. He is on the Internet a lot, and when he's not he's working on his computer - sermons, the weekly bulletin, or his class lectures. Just today I figured out how to connect my laptop to the Internet at his house. But how could I post about wild presidential politics when Molly Katherine is standing beside me, looking up with big blue eyes, a book in her hand, saying, "Ba! Ba!". And when you read it once, she almost always says, " 'gain!"
In the midst of this, I'm preparing for and teaching three classes twice a week, talking dissertation stuff with Tamryn, getting Rutgers straightened out about my student loan, and (tomorrow) meeting with an organization in Birmingham about writing a grant proposal for them. Hectic. Some days I'm only on the Internet for the five minutes it takes to read my email once. Quite different from NJ. But when all my things are organized in one place, and I'm not spending so much time on the road, I'll be able to write more here.
Did I mention that my cell phone doesn't work very well in either place I'm staying, and they're on their own phones enough for me to feel uncomfortable making many calls on them? Not that they would mind, but one tries to be a good guest. Even if it means my mother starts calling me "the black sheep daughter who never calls".
Someone asked me yesterday whether I was still glad to be down here, with all the chaos my life is right now. And I said, in NJ it was like a calm ocean on the surface with waters churning and disrupted underneath. Now the surface is churning, but the depths are calming perceptibly. And that's a good thing. The surface will ease.
A political comment
I watched some of the State of the Union address tonight, but very little - the University of Kentucky was playing UT-Knoxville. Nearly got beaten despite a one-time lead of 16; it went into overtime and Tubby finally got his 300th career win in a game that squeaked to the last second. My brother was, unsurprisingly, reluctant to trade hot basketball for a political speech, even one of that importance, especially since he's not a big fan of Bush's anyway. He said, "What's there to hear? It'll be, 'Blah blah blah double the spending blah blah blah war in Iraq blah blah blah bomb all of the Middle East'". But at commercial he switched over. And what was the phrase that came out of Bush's mouth?
"... I will ask you to double the appropriation for..."
The UK game was really good. Did I mention that?
Japan has sent an advance team of 30 to Iraq to prepare the way for a contingent of 550 troops from their Ground Self-Defense Force - which is even more significant than it seems on first blush:
A 30-member Ground Self-Defense Force advance team left Friday from Narita airport bound for Iraq, marking the first time Japan has sent troops to a nation experiencing conflict since World War II.
It's created some stir back home in Japan, but I think it's great and for the right reasons:
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said the SDF is going to help rebuild Iraq, not wage war. He has also said the dispatch serves Japan's national interests, as it will strengthen ties with the United States and contribute to stability in the Middle East -- the source of 90 percent of Japan's crude oil supplies.
This isn't about altruism, but that's okay. Few things in international politics are. I think both this, and the increased involvement with Australia (discussed in the next post) are evidence that the US has turned a corner in world opinion. Basically, it's accepted that we're there to stay and it's better to be with us than against us.
And whoever thinks that would be correct on both counts.
Not to mention that it's an amazingly diverse force in Iraq, for a unilateral mission.
This is good news:
The [Australian] Federal Government is looking to further deepen its military ties with the United States with a proposal for a joint military training facility in Australia.
The plan would see troops from the US Pacific Command training alongside their Australian counterparts.
It's not a plan to put a base in Australia, which I wouldn't mind, but just a closer tie between the two countries as their militaries train together. I think that's great. Australia has proven to be a true friend to the US, despite its contingent of crazies, and anything we can do to strengthen those ties is a good thing. The US, Great Britain and Australia make a nice triad - the US in the Americas, Great Britain in Europe/Asia and Australia in Asia - in the effort to keep an eye on things worldwide. My hope, of course, is that if we do get a stronger foothold in Australia, the public opinion there will turn even more in the direction of US policies. Not that they should rubberstamp US policy initiatives, but rather see themselves as permanent allies of the US, in a "I don't always agree with them, but they're my brothers" kind of way.
Apparently there's also a push to get Australia involved in a missile defense system, which is also good for the same reasons. However, this is not (IMHO) anything approaching a one-way deal. Australia's PM John Howard puts it well:
"It seems to me a fairly common-sense proposition that if Australia could have access to a system that prevented missiles directed to Australia from arriving in Australia, then it's something we ought to be part of, and I can't understand why anybody would be against it."
Of course there are those against it, and the Labor Party there is twisting itself into a pretzel of protests. Here's hoping that their radical anti-security liberals are as irrelevant there as they are proving to be here.
Do you remember "The First Wives Club", a big movie in the 1996 season? The author of the novel it was based on has died at 54:
Olivia Goldsmith (search), the novelist whose savagely funny debut book, "The First Wives Club," became a revenge fantasy for wives tossed aside in favor of younger women, has died of complications of plastic surgery (search). She was 54...
Goldsmith had been in a coma since she suffered a heart attack Jan. 7 as she went under anesthesia for a procedure to remove loose skin from her chin.
It's sad, but it feels somehow appropriate. Not that I think she should have died that way, but it seems that she was prey to some of the same vanities and insecurities that her characters were. Who would think you could die just trying to get loose skin removed?
Today in my criminal justice class, I divided my students into three groups and had them form governments. They had to decide what kind of government they had, who made the rules, and what the law enforcement, courts and corrections looked like.
These folks are tough.
Each group had an island and 20,000 people. There were a few squishy points - one group decided no cars, only bicycles and those only in the hands of the police and public transportation, and they also had no guns at all. Even the police just had tasers. But all three groups wanted stricter rather than easier enforcement, and the punishments...! I'm surprised we didn't have an ACLU representative there by the end of class. All of them didn't put much stock in rehabilitation, and long jail terms kicked in on second offense. Only one group didn't want the death penalty, but that was just a way not to feel bad about killing someone: their alternative was to banish the criminal - into the ocean. With sharks. And if they survived, more power to them. One group went so far as to want public executions and mediaval style chopping off of a hand for stealing.
I think they'll tone down a little by the end of the semester, after we've discussed the reasons for the various choices our society's made for the criminal justice system. But it did my heart good to hear all of them say, unequivocally, that their biggest concern was protecting society from crime.
I'm going to try to bring in a representative from the ACLU and/or from the local public defender's office to give the other side. Fair and balanced, that's me. But I can't help placing this experience in Alabama's plus column.
Richard Perle and David Frum wrote a book about how to end terrorism. It's apparently (and surprisingly) quite hawkish and strongly worded. And - also unsurprisingly - the NY Times book reviewer frothed and spewed and steamed all the way through the slice 'n dice review of the book.
Pot, meet kettle.
Reading between the lines of the review, I'd say that An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror would not hit all my preferences either. I'm hawkish, and very proud of America and what it can do for good in the world, but I'm also not sure we need to clean out every nest of vipers outside our borders when some non-terrorist vipers have sunk their teeth deeply into us here at home. On the other hand, I read this with none of the clear fury the NY Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, shows:
Of the United Nations, another one of their nemeses, they write, "The U.N. regularly broadcasts a spectacle as dishonest and morally deadening as a Stalinist show trial, a televised ritual of condemnation that inflames hatreds and sustains quarrels that might otherwise fade away."
Sounds about right to me. What's most amusing, though, is that Kakutani accuses Perle and Frum of "swaggering", of writing "a furious manifesto aimed at true believers", of "(m)aking its points with all the subtlety of a pit bull on steroids", of "strident" writing - in the course of writing a review that accomplishes all those same things in the narrow confines of a daily newspaper's columns. As she says of them, "one unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn't already share the authors'...views and self-righteous braggadocio". One wonders if she actually had to wear a bib while writing it, to catch the hanging drool.
Frum responded to the review in his National Review Online space, according it precisely the respect it deserves:
Richard Perle & I take some pride in having done our bit to make Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times choke on her biscuit yesterday morning. When she reviewed THE RIGHT MAN last year, she complained â€“ as much in sadness as in anger â€“ that I had not lived up to the high standards set by my earlier work. (Her enthusiasm for the earlier work inexplicably went unexpressed at the time.)
This time there was no pretense of regret, but only inarticulate howling rage. There was no argument in the review, only a series of gesticulations: â€śCan you believe they said this? And THIS? And THIS??!!! Well we did say it, and we do believe it.
Read both. Good for a chuckle on a slow Wednesday afternoon.
Billionaire George Soros has pledged to defeat President Bush, and has already given $15 million to doing so.
Where are the Dems who always complain about the corrupting influence of big money? Where are the Dems who say that the Republicans are the fat cats trying to leverage evil capitalism to push their own agenda? Where are the Dems who rail about the Christian Coalition and claim Christians are attempting to hijack the country into their own worldview?
Could it be that pushing an ideology using resources not available to the average person is not a bad thing if the ideology is the correct one? Surely not.
I think Soros won't have much luck with his little ploy. He's not in any way mainstream in his views. But it's pretty amusing to see the latest from
Hypocrisy Central the radical frothing libs.
UPDATE: The obviously non-partisan and unbiased commenter styling him/herself as "BlameBush" has posted in comments that the difference here is that Soros is using his money for good, not evil, and is thoughtful about the "little people" he built his empire on. I'd just like to make a few points here in response.
First, I'd be very interested to see if Soros treated those "little people" any differently on his rise to billions than any other billionaire. I'd say not. BlameBush, my love, can you assert that he didn't step on those "little people"? That during his rise he made any attempts to redistribute his own wealth rather than trying to find ways to get someone in power who will assiduously try to squander my far-from-wealth?
Second, if he's all about those "little people", why is he a billionaire? He can run a successful business and not scrimp on it while still making sure his personal wealth rains on the little people. How much does he make a year? How much of that goes to clothes, housing, entertainment, country club memberships, Lear Jets, more homes, all the trappings of megawealth, and how much goes to the little people? Charitable donations, programs offering job training, day care, food to those starving children out there, drug rehab programs? Has he offered to personally support an entire housing project so that those funds can be redirected to some other worthy cause?
And "putting your money where your mouth is" doesn't count if that also accomplishes bolstering your own position and power. Do you think Soros' choice has more to do with making himself the center of liberal attention, the darling of his little radical social circle, and less with actually improving the plight of those "little people"? I do. To him, $15 million is pocket change. If he meant to do what he says he wants to do, there'd be a lot different tone to his behavior, and a lot more seriousness in his spending.
Third, even if you shake loose your radical liberal moorings enough to commit the hypocrisy of saying some people can have vast personal wealth because "they use it for good" but others can't because "they use it for evil" (and who set you up as arbiter of that distinction?), don't you think the starving children of America, the homeless, those out of work while Soros rakes in daily more than any 10 of them make annually, could find better uses for $15 million than giving it to MoveOn.org to produce more Bush = Hitler ads?
Face it, BlameBush, Soros is engaging in a vicious personal vendetta that you approve of only because you are on the same (dare I say?) evil mission. You both would poison the minds of Americans with hateful drivel rather than actually put forward the honest pros and cons of a second Bush administration vs whatever some Democrat would bring. I have no quarrel with honest debate and differences, and I count some very liberal types among my closest friends. But when you defend Soros because he is "good" and not "evil", you show yourself to be wallowing in rankest hypocrisy and wilful blindness to what democracy is.
And a postscript to Velkro: Yes.
Just watched the TODAY show segment on blogging. Pathetic. It was about teen diary blogs, and Matt Laughable focused on whether parents should find it scary because of the information their children are sharing online. Other kinds of blogs were dismissed with a "many people use them for political or other commentary". Yes, people - not just teens - should be careful about what they put out for public consumption. But chat rooms are at least as scary in that way as blogs, and parents who have Internet savvy kids and haven't had that conversation multiple times with their kids are not going to be moved by that segment. Not much useful information, and a scary image of blogging created. Nice work, Matt.
I became friends with JCPD Officer Marey Phillips over the past year, and just before I moved she and I hung out together several times, including my making a trip out to the home she bought last summer in a rural area of New Jersey. We bought apples at a roadside stand, where we got into a discussion about gun control with the Australian who was running the stand; we went antiquing and then sat chatting in front of the fireplace in her living room, nearly bare of furniture because sheâ€™s doing extensive renovations. We worked together on projects at the police department too, and she is one of the most talented, relentlessly cheerful, can-do and optimistic people I know.
Last night I learned that she was severely burned in an accident, badly enough to where she may be fighting for her life.
She tried to get a fire going in her fireplace using gasoline, a devastating error on her part, and the flames leapt up on her. She suffered third degree burns on nearly 40% of her body â€“ most on her upper body â€“ and is now in intensive care in a medically induced coma as doctors fight to save her life and restore her to full functionality. Recovering from severe burns is touch and go, since our skin does so much to protect our bodies and is so difficult to restore when extensively damaged. Once she is physically on the mend, I fear she will struggle emotionally because the scarring will likely be extensive, and she may have lost some functionality in her arms or hands. That will improve over time, but it will be a long time.
Iâ€™m asking my readers to please keep Marey in your thoughts and prayers. Her life and spirit have brought blessings to many people. I hope and pray they will again.
One of the textbooks I'm using in my classes this semester has a sidebar on assisted suicide; the point for the students is contrasting the social mores in societies and the ways those affect the laws in each. This one I found both fascinating and deeply disturbing:
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia ("mercy killing"). The new law simply formalized practices that had been taking place since 1973, when this European nation's courts decided that doctors can help terminated a patient's life if certain conditions are met: the patient must explicitly request such an action, the request must be voluntary, and the patient's suffering must be unbearable and without any hope of improvement. The law requires youths aged twelve to sixteen to obtain parental consent before requesting assisted suicide. From the age of sixteen, all patients have the right to discuss the matter with their doctors without obtaining their parents' approval.
In explaining why the Netherlands accepts actions that many other countries would consider objectionable, observers point to several characteristics of Dutch society. First, doctors hold exalted positions, and their actions are rarely questioned. Not only are doctors authorized to terminate "meaningless" lives, but they are also expected to do so. Second, the country lacks a strong religious influence, which might place the question of assisted suicide in a different moral perspective. As it is, hopelessly ill patients who fail to request euthanasia are seen as adhering to outdated ethical values. Third, and most important, is the Dutch emphasis on personal autonomy; the choice to die is considered the responsibility of the individual, not of the state. (Gaines & Miller, Criminal Justice in Action: THE CORE, Second Edition, United States: Thomson Wadsworth. 2004. Pg. 5.)
Every society must have an overarching moral basis for decisionmaking about rules, even if the moral basis is amorality (as opposed to a specific immorality; amorality just indicates that no moral standard as is usually recognized is seen as relevant; immorality recognizes some moral standard and chooses to disregard it). Amorality creates a vacuum, and what usually substitutes for a moral standard is some mix of societal utilitarianism and individual utilitarianism. The former puts the state before the individual; the latter, the individual before the state. This example from the Netherlands shows the significant flaws in such a "moral" foundation, and also makes it very clear that there can be no situation where amorality as a national standard results in an environment where individual cultures and religions can operate on their own moral bases independent of the others under the ultimate oversight of the same national government. There has to be some common ground for foundational laws, and the source of that reasoning in a secular society is a utilitarian assessment of society's best interests. Religious reasoning is not just seen as immaterial, but even "outmoded" (and thus social forces are brought to bear to override them).
Look at a few of the indications specifically, remembering that I'm using this as an example and not saying this is perfect or absolute. Doctors are "exalted", and their decisions apparently accorded the same kind of respect in regards to questions of morality in the medical realm as clerics are in other societies. That is, again, usually the case: some type of moral "experts" will emerge and be accorded authority in whatever moral standard sweeps in to replace traditional moral codes. People will turn to them for advice and guidance, thus tying into a larger belief system.
Next, note that the discussion refers to " 'meaningless' lives" and the fact that "hopelessly ill patients who fail to request euthanasia are seen as adhering to outdated ethical values". That gives you the needed clues to determine whether the society is more about society supremacy or individual supremacy. If it were the latter, then the decision to remain alive as long as possible would be as respected and supported as the decision to die. However, that obviously is not the case. That means that, despite the "Dutch emphasis on personal autonomy" comment, which is meant to indicate individual supremacy, the overarching societal more is that individuals should kill themselves when they become more of a drain on society than a benefit, for the sake of society as a whole. And "drain" means, actively removing resources (the energy of those attending him/her, the medicines and facilities needed to sustain life) rather than adding resources (such as doing work). The emotional benefit to family of having a loved one live longer, or the philosophical belief that the human spirit should not be hastened from the earth, are not accorded any value. It is a materialistic utilitarianism that denies the spiritual as a benefit to society.
And not least is the fact that children, with their parents' permission, can choose death as young as 12, and those 16 years old can choose to die without their parents' knowledge that it's an active consideration. It would be interesting to see where "adulthood" is placed when the consideration is criminality - is the dividing line for placing a teenager in the adult criminal justice system also 16?
The most frightening aspect of this, other than the devastation it no doubt causes in the Netherlands, is that we see seeds of this type of utilitarianism being constantly sown in this country - and the seeds of utilitarian philosophy from earlier generations bearing fruit rapaciously. Our society is becoming ever more secular under the guise of becoming more "tolerant" of a wide range of belief systems. What is needed for our society to be welcoming to morality is not establishing a secular cradle for religions to grow - that cradle would prove deadly in the long run. Rather we need to preserve our nation as a religious nation, actively supportive of people of faith, so that faith in God will always inform our laws rather than being relegated to outposts of society and eventually segregated from it. Because there is no such thing as a country without an overarching moral grounding to its laws. Rather, we will be one of two things: Moral, or amorally utilitarian.
And in my opinion, when amoral utilitarianism becomes the standard, this country will no longer be the great nation it is now.
I'm safely ensconced in my friend Tamryn's basement, which is really more a garden level, and is quite convenient. The full bath complete with washer and dryer is literally four steps from my bedroom door. After over four years of hauling a big bag of laundry down three flights of stairs, driving it to a laundromat, leaving it overnight, picking it back up, usually hauling it two or more blocks to my apartment building and then up three flights of stairs, walking seven steps and putting it in a washing machine is a luxurious feeling. Here's hoping my new digs have the same amenity.
I'll be here for a few weeks, and since it's a busy family of five who can't have the phone hogged for significant periods, posting will be fit in around their schedule. However, I'm settling in to a routine, and I'll have Internet access at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so posting should be daily. I know, I said that last week. But now I mean it!
As for Alabama... well, I really like it so far. Last night I drove the 27 miles from my brother's house to Tamryn's, and for the first 20 miles of it passed maybe 5 cars coming in the other other direction. It was about 11:30 p.m., and very quiet on the backroads of mid-Alabama. I could see the stars very clearly overhead, close and bright, with dark silhouettes of trees and small hills forming a natural horizon. The drive was peaceful and enjoyable, very different from what a 27-mile drive would be where I used to live. I'm still getting used to this place. But it's a good place. I'm happy to be here.
And the title of this post? I thought it would amuse you. Given the way that even the least obstacle thrown in the way of a ravening liberal results in frantic cries that someone is trying to crush dissent, I figured that my living in a place with limited Internet access would qualify as my having my dissent crushed - whatever it was I meant to dissent about. I mean, after all, the fact that I chose this situation, am happy to have it as an option, is immaterial, right? I think it much more signficant that Tamryn is a liberal!* See how sly they are?
* Not a ravening one. An actually quite reasonable one.
John Cheves has two articles in today's Lexington (KY) Herald Leader about state political hirings. It's not often that you get to compare articles on similar topics by the same writer in the same newspaper on the same day, so I was intrigued to see how the tones would compare. And the difference is quite stark, although I couldn't say whether it is a matter of poor reporting or actual bias in operation.
The first article is about the new Republican governor hiring his brother's wife for a $25,000/year executive secretarial position, working for a cabinet head. Look at the tone:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's sister-in-law reports to work Wednesday as a political appointee at the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. The move smacks of nepotism and hypocrisy, a representative of state employees said...
The chief of the Kentucky Association of State Employees laughed when told of the hiring, and he suggested that Fletcher's career as a government reformer was brief.
"Sounds like it's politics as usual in Frankfort," said Charles Wells, executive director of the employees' association.
"You hire your family and friends; you look out for your own, first and foremost," Wells said. "Everyone else gets hiring freezes and tiny pay raises."
The second article is about the new state Attorney General hiring ... well, I'll let Cheves tell you:
One of Attorney General Greg Stumbo's first acts will be to hire Danny Ross, who was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the previous attorney general...
In 1998, a grand jury under the direction of then-Attorney General Ben Chandler indicted Ross and three other Patton allies. They were accused of steering labor union funds to Patton's 1995 gubernatorial campaign in violation of fund-raising limits.
Patton pardoned all four defendants last year before a trial could be scheduled, after many delays and appeals...
Yesterday, Stumbo said he thought that Ross did not knowingly commit a crime during the 1995 campaign.
"That indictment -- the law was vague, obviously, and it's now been done away with by the legislature," Stumbo said. "I feel comfortable with Danny Ross."
Where's the disdain? Where's the laughing/outraged employee representative? It's a position paying twice the salary, with a lot shadier connections than the governor's sister in law coming on as a secretary. Yet the tone of the Fletcher hiring article is highly derisive, with no mitigating information or quotes - things that the journalist has control over. It certainly appears to me that Cheves has no interest in being balanced about Fletcher's choice while giving the Stumbo choice at least a chance to be explained away. I personally find the hiring of some indicted for misappropriation of funds as a representative of the Attorney General's office at a salary of $50,000 to be much more problematic than the governor's sister in law being hired for $25,000. Should the governor have allowed his SIL to be hired? It might have been wiser to avoid the ethics questions it would raise, although I don't think it's a bad thing in and of itself. Sometimes relatives of politicians really can do a good job, and would do well.
It's reasonable to do articles on both of these situations. But I think Cheves showed a little partiality in his coverage, either deliberately or (more likely) by unwittingly letting his personal opinion show through in his selection of quotes and efforts to present a fair picture of the situations. It's also interesting that the Fletcher situation was a lead article featured on the front of the L H-L website, while you had to dig down a little to find the Stumbo one. Perhaps Cheves isn't the only one at the Herald Leader allowing his personal views to shine through.
As I get more deeply into my reading on media and policing for my dissertation, I've begun to see evidence of the symbiotic relationship almost every day. I don't think it's increased, I just think I'm sensitized to it. It's both a good and bad thing, that the media and police operate on a perpetual love-hate-necessity loop that sometimes operates for the good of all and sometimes for the good of none, including them. Here's an example of the police using the media, and not in a good way. This brings up another question: to what extent should the media allow itself to be used? We see journalists complaining and climbing on their Journalist Pedestals about how they Will Not Be Used (for example, actively helping police in investigations when it may involve publishing an untruth), yet they will publish something like this photograph. Should they refuse to do so? Are they responsible for perpetuating police irresponsibility, do they have culpability in the damage done, if any?
Playing out crime and punishment in the media is not a new thing; as long as there's been media, it's happened. But the ubiquity of media now means that even low profile cases, in the larger scheme, receive major attention, and careers can be made or lost through the way media is managed by police, prosecutors, courts and correctional officials. Just this past weekend I was talking to my cousin, a prosecutor in a Kentucky court, and he was telling me about a murder case they will be trying in February that will be covered by Court TV. It involves the clerk of an Eastern Kentucky county who is accused of killing one of his employees. How likely would it be that anyone outside of Kentucky, and few outside of that region of Kentucky, would have known about the case 20 or 30 years ago? Fairly small, probably. Now small-town prosecutors will be nationally televised for weeks. How can that not have an impact on how they approach the case? On how anyone would approach their work, no matter how they try to treat all cases the same regardless of publicity?
The relationship between media and police is much more complex and interesting than I realized. You'll be seeing a lot about this.
Completing my bloggish tour of the US on my way to Alabama, I stopped in Nashville yesterday for lunch with Jordana of Curmudgeonry. What a pleasure! It was a lovely visit, enlivened by her two sweet (and well behaved!) children. One of the best parts of blogging is meeting people you can connect with in so many ways, people you otherwise would not ever know even existed. I now have a friend in Nashville, and I'm looking forward to visiting again.
Meanwhile, we'll keep up with Jordana and company at Curmudgeonry.
(Jordana, Alan said he'll consider your dowry offerings when you're ready ;). )
God bless Alabama.
Full blogging to resume on the morrow.
It's a lovely new year already, peaceful, quiet and full of possibilities. I'm finally really starting to relax. Last night I watched scenes of Times Square as the ball came down, and thought, I don't have to go back to New Jersey. I'm not going back to New Jersey!
It's amazing the differences I can feel already. I've been shopping for purses - I haven't carried big purses much since moving to NJ, always on edge that someone would steal it. I'm looking at jewelry. I haven't worn a lot of necklaces, bracelets or rings for several years, thinking of all the stories of people with necklaces ripped from their necks, or robbed of their other jewelry. Did I have a high risk of that, where I lived, where I worked? Probably not nearly as high as my changes in behavior might indicate. But high enough to where those changes weren't a ridiculously overdone caution, either. For those who've not lived in hyperurban areas - or those who are more in sync with them - it's difficult to describe how coiled up inside you can get, and stay until you don't realize that it's not normal. It's only when you are away from it, and don't have to go back, that the coil starts to ease and you suddenly find yourself more at ease than you've been in... well, in my case, years.
I'm just not a city girl. And I'm good with that.
Part of the uncoiling has just been letting everything go that wasn't a necessary part of my family's holiday celebrations. There are people I haven't called that I should have, people I should have visited that I didn't, and certainly many many posts I could have written here and let slide. I've felt a twinge of conscience about that, but not a lot, figuring that I'll be of more value to everyone at holiday's end. I hope that you too have taken some measure of hiatus just to enjoy the slowdown this time of year allows.
My next year will be busy. I'm not making specific resolutions, just keeping my priorities in order in my mind and resolving to do something to move each forward daily. First is a renewed commitment to God and nurturing my spiritual life; you may not see a lot about this on the blog, because that's not the point of this space. But that comes first, and will necessarily inform all else. Second is my PhD work. I've decided to graduate in May 2005, so that will mean a lot of hard work this year. I'm looking forward to it, and you will hear about what I'm learning - not about the process of the dissertation, but posts discussing the issues I'm focusing on. Third is my teaching. That's what I want to do as a career when I'm done with my PhD, and I want to focus on getting better with each semester. I'll be teaching three classes this spring - Intro to Criminal Justice, General Psychology, and Human Growth and Development, at Central Alabama Community College. You may hear some about that, but only generalities - I don't intend to put my students or the school up on this site for scrutiny.
Fourth is my health. As my tension and discontent in NJ built, my efforts to be physically healthy took a nosedive. That's not acceptable any more. That's also something you won't see a lot about here, but it will take a goodly chunk of time.
And fifth is this blog. I am committed to posting daily, but it may be only one post some days. That will depend on what else is going on, and the availability of Internet connections. When I first move to Alabama, starting next week, I'll be staying with a friend and her family until I decide where in the area I want to set up house. She doesn't have DSL, only dialup, and with an active family of five the telephone can't be tied up for long periods when they're home. So I'll be arranging my online time around their schedules. I'll be able to post when I'm visiting my brother and family, and I have this handy dandy laptop now that I can (I hope) connect to the Internet at the school's library. So I'll be trying, but you understand the complexities.
I have other ideas and projects on the back burner, always more I want to do than I will ever have time to actually accomplish. But that's what makes life exciting. I think this site will benefit a lot from all the things I'm up to, because they will all add new richness to my range and depth of thought. I always think better when I'm writing something out, and I want to start writing longer things on this site as a part of that.
I fully expect this year to be the best ever. So what are you looking forward to in your new year?