Friday, September 30, 2005

#200 - Bibles for Classrooms?

Not quite. Apparently there are those who wish to be able to teach high school kids about the Bible to help them achieve a better understanding of their cultural heritage and the development of their language, among other things. Read the whole article to get a better synopsis. (H/T: Joanne Jacobs)

Color me neutral.

First of all, "Bible as Literature" classes are nothing new. Even in some high schools, some English departments have found a way to introduce the Bible as just another literary work; albeit one with a powerful history and tremendous influence on the lives of millions of people throughout the world. To that end, it's a good thing that students receive at least a working knowledge of the Good Book even if they don't receive much by way of doctrinal understanding.

My problem with this scenario is that this is not what the scriptures were meant for. As a Latter-day Saint, I'm well acquainted with what happens when people take an "academic" approach to sacred writings. The academic approach requires at least an outward showing of some sort of "objectivity." Objectivity by its very nature requires an emotional detachment from the subject, and that is the antithesis of what these scriptures represent.

Even in reviewing the writings of another religion, I could never do it with any objectivity, feigned or otherwise. I am a spiritual creature, and everything I read that deals with that side of me is subject to my spiritual reactions. If, for example, I decided suddenly to take up a study of the Q'uran, I would have to do so on the basis of my own faith. This instantly colors what I read, even when reading directly from the source. This is why you will find two extremes when reading books written about LDS scriptures such as The Book of Mormon. Either the writer wholeheartedly supports the book and its teachings, or will foam at the mouth to explain why even reading the book will lead you directly to hell, or the IRS, whichever is worse. Such reviews are meant to provoke some sort of spiritual response, whether pro or con.

Come to think of it, I don't believe I could ever study the Bible as merely an interesting source of literature. I could study the literary devices of the work, but always there would be that spiritual curiosity.

So, call it what you will. Any study of the Bible as literature at any level just doesn't do anything for me. If it helps convert some soul who finds the doctrine helpful in his or her life, that certainly would count as something of worth.

Better yet, go to church. There we teach scripture as a means to an end. Of sorts.


In attempting to post this, gives the following fascinating message:
Blogger is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.
This downtime will last 1 hour from 4:30pm - 5:30pm (PST).

Um... it's only 1:00pm PST by my clock. Does that mean they're early, or does it mean that Blogger will be completely unavailable (a la 404 error unavailable) between 4:30 and 5:30 this afternoon? Is this my three and a half hour warning? That's generous, especially by IT standards! Funnier still, it's now only 1:05pm PST and Blogger just let me log in. Does this mean they were not only early but ended ahead of schedule? Or is the Apocolypse just around the corner?

Questions... questions...

Monday, September 19, 2005

#199 - Elect Me, and I'll Steal Your Stove!

Disasters always bring out extreme versions of those who suffer through them. One who has endured personal disadvantages (too much personal debt, for example) and sees no relief in the immediate future might tend to become one of those opportunists who turn to looting. Others who always cling to their moral compasses become those who think on their feet and find ways to help, no matter how daunting the task.

With that in mind, you need to read a couple of articles. The first one is based on a UPI report as published by Monsters and Critics. Now read an article (may require registration) that enlarges on the UPI report in the Washington Post.

Besides the word count, notice the difference?

The real story here is the ingenuity, fortitude, and desire to serve being demonstrated by a number of local political leaders in the Gulf region in the aftermath of Katrina. These men and women clearly have their priorities straight. They have shown courage in the face of innumerable obstacles, none the least of which appears to be the federal government.

To call any one of them a "crook" needs some serious context.

Mayor Brent Warr was called one in both reports. Granted, the things he did were technically illegal. One does not hijack a fuel truck or steal a stove and expect to get away with it. Not usually, I should say. But when you find yourself the leader of a city without power and thousands of citizens who are suffering, you might need to take extraordinary measures.

Fortunately, the Post added some crucial context to Mayor Warr's situation. Yes, he hijacked a truck. Even got an inmate from the city jail to do it. But that fuel was immediately routed to a local hospital to power their generators and, ultimately, keep patients safe and relatively healthy. Of course he "stole" a stove. When you have over 500 first responders working themselves into oblivion with nothing to eat, you bet you confiscate a stove. You also set it up in the parking lot of City Hall and continue to use it to feed those good samaritans while there's work to be done. You also (the UPI fails to mention this) watch helplessly as your own family business is itself ransacked and looted.

A criminal? Hardly. A visionary leader with the guts to act? All the way. Is he alone? Nope. Able-bodied citizens from around the region are pitching in to lend a hand in any way they can.

It's too bad, really, that we have to hear about the in-fighting and finger-pointing that have apparently paralyzed New Orleans and Louisiana politicos in this crisis. FEMA certainly deserves its black eyes in this mess. But we also need to hear about folks like Warr and other Gulf area leaders who refuse to wait for the paperwork to clear. Get the job done now, whatever it takes, and sort it all out later. Will the owner of that fuel be compensated? Eventually, I'm sure. The owner of that "confiscated" stove? Use it with my blessing, Mayor. Warr and other mayors meet to decide how best to help the people in the cities they love so well. They need help, and they're asking for it, but they're not just sitting on their brains all day with wringing hands waiting for the feds to come through.

Even the Mississippi governor's wife is helping by driving supplies into stricken areas with a pickup truck. It's cynical of me to have a hard time imagining Maria Shriver doing such a thing in California, but one never knows.

As I say, disasters will either bring out the worst, or the best, in just about everyone.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

#198 - Malkin Huffs Over the "HuffMobile"

Michelle Malkin takes the Sierra Club to task for sending an SUV to chauffeur Arianna Huffington to a speaking engagement at the Club's national summit in (where else?) San Francisco. I can only assume that large amounts of money were involved. What else would induce someone to visit San Francisco just to meet with the Sierra Club?

Aside from the fact that I hold no allegiance to the Sierra Club, or the fact that I have been utterly unable to come up with even a smidgeon of curiosity about Huffington, I really could care less about these two eco-nuts who despise everything about SUVs. I mean, sure, it's ironic and everything that the Club used one to ferry The Huffster to one of their Bush-bashing opps, but there's no teeth in that irony.

If you want real hatred for SUVs and most of the people who drive them, ride in my car with me some time.

You may call me a recovering SUV owner if you wish. I know how it is in the Blogosphere... someone makes a statement and the Pajama Brigade are suddenly hacking into every database in the world trying to trip that person up. So, before you get all snarky on me, yes; I did once own what might be termed today an SUV. I don't count it as that personally, however. For one thing, it didn't behave like a typical SUV. I had hoodwinked my then-wife into buying it purely on the basis of my guy-induced lust: It looked cool. It even had a spare tire attached to its rear end! How cool is that?

However, in terms of being an actual muscle-bound, heavily armored, steroid-enhanced, log-hauling piece of manly equipment, it ranked right up there with Richard Simmons.

Those of you veteran (read: anyone older than 30) car owners who understand these things will likely snort into your morning coffee (assuming you drink coffee... I sure don't) when I tell you that my SUV of choice these many years ago was a Chevy Blazer, with the "Tahoe Package."

When you've finished laughing at me, I'll continue.

Yes, I had managed to get my hands on the single most gutless vehicle ever created by General Motors, and I'm including my first car, the ever-popular Vega, in that statement. It had a trailer hitch on it, but if you attempted to tow anything heavier than, say, a bicycle with it, it would go backwards. On level ground. This vehicle was pathetic. It was really just a Chevy S-10 frame with a Blazer body perched precariously on top. I was never happier to be rid of a vehicle when it finally chose to disintegrate rather than face the jeers and taunts of Yugos that were more powerful.

So now I drive sedans. I have become responsible in my second adulthood, and I drive more sedate - less juvenile vehicles. Mrs. Woody drives a Saturn that we picked out as soon as we found out she was pregnant. It has served us well as a family vehicle, although we are leaning toward a mini-van when my bachelor-mobile finally wears out. This may take awhile, because my car is a Honda. It has over 20 years and over 200,000 miles on it, and it's still running. This car will likely still be running when my old Blazer is converted into a Borg-like cube (if it isn't already). I drive this car 45 miles a day for work, and it just hums right along. I'd hum along with it, but it's summer time here in Southern California, and this car has no air conditioning. I'm told by its original owner (Mrs. Woody) that it had air conditioning once upon a time, until Manny, Moe, and Jack got their corporate hands on it.

The point is, neither of my current cars is what you might call a "road hog." They're both small enough that I can fit both of them comfortably in my car port, and we can still squeeze in a visiting vehicle if it's about the same size. When we ride in our Woodymobiles, we are riding relatively close to the ground. If anything larger than a motorcycle is immediately in front of us on the road, we have visibility problems.

That's why I despise SUVs.

The rest of my statements are based on a scientific survey consisting of persons who commute to work with me every day. (That would be me.)

SUVs have huge visibility problems. Let's forget, for the moment, the fact that they have a wonderful bird's-eye perspective on life from their lofty perch. My guess is that they really can't see anything within about a thirty foot radius immediately around the vehicle, which is why they suddenly appear in your lane right next to you, forcing you to slam on your breaks and lean on your horn. They can't hear you, however, because their personal entertainment systems are playing at a volume that would make a Shuttle launch sound like someone sneezing in the backseat. Also, listening for that distinctive bump that means you've just run over a smaller car interferes with the extremely important conversation they're having at that moment on their cell phone. In fact, I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw an SUV driver without a cell phone permanently clamped to their ear. I suspect that these people require occasional surgery to have their hands removed from their ears because the skin will have become fused over time. I can only hope that their insurance doesn't cover that.

So forget the Sierra Club, and pay no attention to Arianna Huffington. If you need someone to come speak at your rally against SUVs, I'm happy to do it. Call it my sense of moral duty. Call it my need to be an environmental hero. Call my agent and make sure my fee is direct deposited.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

#197 - Affirmations

Heh. Gerard at American Digest strikes again with "Daily Affirmations for Bloggers."

I sure hope I'm not that bad!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

#196 - Imperius Barber

Terrific post by La Shawn Barber regarding one of my favorite topics.

Education, more than being a privilege, is a responsibility. I made the comment (scroll waaaaaay down) that we who are citizens share the responsibility for providing an education to all who want or need one. That does not mean that I support mandatory or compulsory education, and also does not mean that I support giving public money to private homeschoolers (or, for that matter, private schoolers, period). I also happen to believe that no matter what nonsense the atheistic NEA throws at our schools, parents who are actively involved in their kids' educations can and do make a difference. I just prefer to make mine at home.

I also do not believe that homeschool is the only answer for any given family. I've seen far too many families that I would actively discourage from homeschooling simply because I don't believe they have the capacity to pull it off. Homeschool requires incredible devotion and patience. Yet another reason I love Mrs. Woody so much! She has patience, devotion, incredible smarts, and loads of talent. My two young firecrackers are well on their way.

Shucks, even ol' Woody can larn a thing or two right along with 'em!

UPDATE: Chris Naaden of neighboring Corona, California, responded to my comment on La Shawn's blog. His comments, in part:
My disagreement comes when Woody comes when he talks about education being a civic duty. Exactly when did that come into the picture? At what point was it figured that the masses are uneducated, and the government needed to step in? I object strongly to my taxes being used to educate someone else. My supposed indirect benefit, that those around me receive an education, is neutered by the amount of spending, which takes more taxes, which kills the benefit. I wish every school was private, and market-driven, but I’m a raging capitalist.

It was never a question of the federal government "stepping in." There's a difference between government interference and public support. Or, at least, there should be. My views on public education mirror those of Thomas Jefferson:
"I... [proposed] three distinct grades of education, reaching all classes. 1. Elementary schools for all children generally, rich and poor. 2. Colleges for a middle degree of instruction, calculated for the common purposes of life and such as should be desirable for all who were in easy circumstances. And 3d. an ultimate grade for teaching the sciences generally and in their highest degree... The expenses of [the elementary] schools should be borne by the inhabitants of the county, every one in proportion to his general tax-rate. This would throw on wealth the education of the poor." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:70

Obviously, we've strayed from the purer faith since this proposal was first considered. Jefferson and several others realized that one of the greatest protections we could have for our unprecedented republic was an equally unprecedented education of the general public. He saw rampant illiteracy as a great danger to our democratic principles, and envisioned publicly supported education as a means for ensuring that our citizens had all the tools at their command to make informed decisions with their votes.

Jefferson, as with all the Founders, was educated privately. He recognized, however, that this was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. What he wanted was a way to provide at least a fundamental education to the rest of our citizenry, and deemed it our civic duty to support those who couldn't otherwise afford it. Those who wished to continue beyond the "elementary" education might be supported by other means, usually involving trusts or donations set up by landowners and others.

I don't disagree that privately run institutions can and often do a better job of educating than the public schools, but the federal government was never supposed to jump into the education arena in the first place. The Dept. of Education leeches their funding from my income taxes. However, I directly support public education in California via my property taxes. That's the civic duty to which I refer. And I'm glad to do it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

#195 - The Real Body Count

Legacy media types will now be falling over themselves to demonstrate just how insensitive they truly are. Bad enough that they indulge in the sort of grandstanding that we've come to expect from certain celebrities during a crisis of any sort. Now they have pressed for, and won, the opportunity to film dead bodies for their increasingly sensationalistic reports.

This would appear to hearken back to a time when newspapers gleefully published photos of gangster related crime. The bread and butter shots were of those gangsters who themselves were on the receiving end of several automatic rifles. In fact, the gorier the shot, the better it sold. Capitalism at its finest, I suppose. By the time I was growing up, however, the media had implemented a different code. Whether by compulsory or self-inflicted means (I'm no historian on this topic, so I'm not sure) the media had scruples against showing dead bodies in their reports. The closest we ever came to seeing a dead body was when it was completely covered by a blanket while being loaded in the Coroner's van. Crime scenes were verboten unless the body were removed, so that all we ever saw was the chalk outline.

These images - tame though they are by today's standards - were plenty powerful to an impressionable young mind such as mine. I had no need (or, truly, desire) to see an actual body to appreciate the horror associated with whatever shortened that individual's life.

Our consciences have become seared, however, over time. More and more we have become so desensitized to death and destruction, that we (the generic "we") now crave ever more graphic depictions of the violence that surrounds us every day. And the media are the baying hounds who can't wait to unleash that horror into our living rooms.

Two statements stand out in CNN's report of this issue:
CNN's brief argued, "It is not the place of government to replace its own internal judgment for that of a free and independent media."

Perhaps not. But is my right and obligation to exercise discretion as to which media I use to glean my information. That's what free market truly represents, and, I notice, CNN's share is dropping.
Because of controversy about how FEMA and other agencies handled the disaster response, CNN lawyers argued, "it is even more vitally important for the public, Congress and the administration to have an independent view of the conduct of this important phase of the operation."

Or, stated more truthfully, it is vitally important that the news-consuming public have CNN's opinion of the conduct of this important phase of the operation.

I have said it before and I will say it again. What once represented the noble cause of reporting events as they occur has now devolved into a need to shape American political ideology and public opinion using the liberal religion of zero personal accountability.

Is there culpability to be impugned over the fiasco that was Katrina? You bet. Let's start with the media, and work our way up from there.

You certainly can't work any lower.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

#194 - Sierra Missed

I want to like the Sierra Club. I really do. As a young lad, I remember going to Sierra Club-sponsored classes on backpacking and actually getting excited about stepping out into nature and seeing the bigger picture. Until, that is, I hefted my first actual backpack, at which point my excitement evaporated.

I love the environment. That is, I love what it should be: clean, robust, and self-sustaining. I worry constantly about how badly we seem to be managing our resources, and the damage we cause as a part of living in "civilization." And so it's easy for me to sympathize with such groups as the Sierra Club whenever they try to make a stand for those resources. I secretly cheer whenever the Club goes after some corporation and stops them from making parking lots out of the territorial home of some obscure species of bird that only mates once every four years.

Call me a closet environmentalist.

By the same token, I have only one caveat to my latent liberalism: I don't favor protecting nature over the needs and, especially, the safety of our citizens both living and yet-to-live.

Michelle Malkin points to this article in the National Review by John Berlau which outlines attempts by the Club to halt upgrades to stretches of the levee system which, up until a couple of weeks ago, protected much of the developed portions of the Mississippi delta. Berlau makes it clear in his article that we cannot simply level blame for the breaches in those levees on the Club or any other organization. It's just too much of a stretch. So this post is not about blaming the Sierra Club for any part of the disaster that we all are anxious to see resolved.

This post is mostly about why I find myself getting irritated with any organization that seems to think that we somehow are merely adjunct to nature and are therefore intruders on terra firma. PETA, for example, gets more upset about the abuse of animals than they do the destruction of unborn babies in this country. I just don't get that. And (for you who are even now whipping out your snarkiest comments) I never will.

Let's focus on New Orleans as an example. The city is nearly 300 years old. The greater New Orleans area is home to over 1.3 million people. Much of that area, as we all know by now, sits below the water line and is in constant threat of flooding. For that one simple reason alone, I cannot understand why so much opposition would be raised against an initiative to shore up and improve the levee systems that protect that many people. It smacks of weakness in our priorities. Let's first reasonably ensure the safety of our citizens, then worry about whether we're about to upset an ecosystem.

Now, I'm certain that such things can be done concurrently. It must be possible to address both needs without upsetting balances already in place. But if we're told that we have only so much money, and we can either protect people or the environment with it, I tend to side with protecting the people.

This is, I realize, a horribly simplistic perspective on the entire situation. As I say, no one can (yet) adjudicate where blame rightly rests for this disaster. There is, I'm sure, more than enough blame to pass around. The finger-pointing has only just begun, and will end only when no one can think of anything else to say about it. I'd say that, in reality, the finger-pointing will have its own nuclear half-life. I therefore do not blame the Sierra Club for any of this.

But I reserve the right to later on, if they deserve it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

#193 - 1941

The gorgeous Mrs. Woody points me in the direction of this article in Meridian magazine. The author, Steve Farrell, describes the unthinkable: An official position of the National Educators Association that actually espouses God, Christ, and religious principles as saving graces for the United States of America.

I actually had come across something like this not long ago as I was researching the NEA and wondering to myself what, exactly, had happened to embitter them so in what is alleged to be an enlightened age.

Of course, before we get too excited about some sort of "hidden agenda" that the NEA might have tucked away deep in the bowels of their humanist creeds, we need context. This is not the manifesto of a modern, atheistic NEA; this was the God-fearing NEA of 1941.

The context, then, is war. A world having entered a conflict as much about ideology as about dominion. A world waiting breathlessly to see if the United States would join the battle and help those who needed our strength, our industry, and our faith. A world filled with increasing hatred and animosity. This was the NEA's considered response to this dangerous time in our country:
The American concept of … government had its roots in religious belief. This ideal of the brotherhood of man roots down into the fundamentals of religion. The teachings of the Hebrew Prophets and of Jesus Christ inculcate the idea of brotherhood. The growth of the idea gave us the concept of democracy in government. It ennobled home life. It emphasized the sacredness of human personality.

Do tell! And where was the ACLU when American children were being spoon-fed this obvious propaganda?

The source, by the way, was an NEA-published document entitled "American Citizens Handbook." It was created to be a resource for anyone, young or old, citizen or immigrant, to prepare to be productive and responsible contributors to society. A noble idea, and one not destined to survive the twentieth century.

In the face of war the NEA advised, "Is it not plain that what the world needs just now is a new devotion to the great religious ideals?"

It boggles the imagination to think that a handbook that was apparently in use throughout the 50's and beyond has, in just a few decades, become obsolete to the mindset of our so-called "professional" educators.

As I say, I've come across similar ideas in American education before. Many of them come from my own experience. Can you ever imagine today having a teacher stand before your class and announce that a prominent American had just been assassinated, and suggest that all bow their heads in silent prayer? Unthinkable, right? And yet, that's what we were counseled to do when, first, Martin Luther King, Jr., and, later, Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated within months of each other during a turbulent 1968 and I was an impressionable 5th grader. I remember going home to discuss these events with Mom, and I remember Mom doing a lot of comforting. With prayer.

Once again we face war. Disasters, both natural and man-made, are increasing in frequency and intensity. (Events, by the way, that have been foretold in the very scriptures that we no longer allow in our classrooms.) In an age of "inclusion," when so much emphasis is being placed on tolerance towards special interests and sensitivity towards all, does it not make sense to remember (and include) those who still believe in the religious principles on which this country was founded? Must we consider that people of faith are "dangerous extremists" and liable to be the cause of all our country's ills?

Some would have us believe that. There are many - a dangerous many - who believe that religion ought to be vanquished and completely removed from society. This sentiment is no different in its practice than was that of all those who fronted the Communist Manifesto as their basis of government. And this sentiment is currently the basis of all propaganda currently being issued by the NEA and all of its affiliated organizations.

In 1950, teachers could advise us to pray.
In 2005 we can sue teachers for even mentioning prayer.

In 1950, teachers could speak the name of God.
In 2005, God is relegated to literature, if at all.

In 1950, teachers could teach the Golden Rule.
In 2005, schools "reprimand" students for using profanity more than five times.

God bless the NEA...

...of 1941.