Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Bernard Lewis: We’re in the 3rd Islamic War on Europe

30.03.2007 (11:01 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Religion ::

(Hat tip to Melanie Phillips)

Bernard Lewis gave a must-read speech at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on March 7th.

Old news to many, but new to me. Very interesting reading. A key paragraph:

The declaration of war begins at the very beginning of Islam. There are certain letters purported to have been written by the Prophet Muhammad to the Christian Byzantine emperor, the emperor of Persia, and various other rulers, saying, “I have now brought God’s final message. Your time has passed. Your beliefs are superseded. Accept my mission and my faith or resign or submit–you are finished.” The authenticity of these prophetic letters is doubted, but the message is clear and authentic in the sense that it does represent the long dominant view of the Islamic world.

UN Watch: UN Human Rights Council “Criminal”

30.03.2007 (9:47 pm) – Filed under: World ::

Watch UN Watch’s presentation to the UN Human Rights Commission at Little Green Footballs – it’s a good thing.

Here’s the transcript as lifted from UN Watch’s own web site:

(Note that it’s not exact. But it’s close. And damning.)

Mr. President,

Six decades ago, in the aftermath of the Nazi horrors, Eleanor Roosevelt, Réné Cassin and other eminent figures gathered here, on the banks of Lake Geneva, to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. They created the Commission on Human Rights. Today, we ask: What has become of their noble dream?

In this session we see the answer. Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the Council pronounced, and what has it decided?

Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.

One might say, in Harry Truman’s words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.

But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.

It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements—and there will be three more this session—Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world—millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries—continue to go ignored.

So yes, this Council is doing something. And the Middle East dictators who orchestrate this campaign will tell you it is a very good thing. That they seek to protect human rights, Palestinian rights.

So too, the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims.

But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?

Let us consider the past few months. More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is three times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions in July and November. Yet the champions of Palestinian rights—Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard—they say nothing. Little 3-year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered in their car by Prime Minister Haniyeh’s troops. Why has this Council chosen silence?

Because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the dictators who run this Council couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.

They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.

You ask: What has become of the founders’ dream? With terrible lies and moral inversion, it is being turned into a nightmare.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I know almost nothing of the UN Human Rights Council so I’ll only say two things.

First, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer’s speech has the the ring of truth around it.

Second, more government leaders should be engaged as directly – and courteously – as council president Luis Alfonso De Alba was in Geneva on March 23rd, 2007.

I mark the date specifically in the event it proves to be a turning point in the way that people and governments interact. One can and must dream, after all!

But note De Alba’s immediate and snide reply in which he makes no attempt to address the issues but instead wields his authority as a weapon to close further discussion and debate.

Sadly, even good dreams end.

Update

The U.N. Human Rights Council today passed a resolution:

…which was opposed by a number of other non-Muslim countries, “expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.” It makes no mention of any other religion besides Islam…

Naturally.

They can piss up a rope as far as I am concerned. Islam = Human Rights Violation. No qualification needed.

Assimilation

30.03.2007 (5:26 pm) – Filed under: Immigration,Islam,Society ::

I’ve written about the need for immigrants from other cultures to assimilate when they come to the United States but as a conclusion to my last couple of posts I felt like I wanted to bang that drum again.

It’s been said that the writing on Black Shards is anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim and from a certain – limited – perspective that is the case. To the extent that it is true, I regret the need for it to be so. But the world demands that we be for some things and against others and I have chosen to be against groups of people who threaten the America that I grew up in. Some would disagree and call me a fool. So be it.

It might surprise some readers to know that I am married to a 2nd generation Mexican-American Princess. To make this reality possible, my father-in-law came here illegally. The fact that the result was his gift to me of the best part of my life does not make illegal immigration right. Nor does being against illegal immigration make a person a hater of Mexicans, obviously.

Neither does being here illegally automatically disqualify a person from being a good person. But the addition of even a single illegal immigrant to the U.S. population does marginally diminish economic opportunities for Americans and legal immigrants. It also places additional burdens on already strained social services, schools, and law enforcement that are not being paid for by illegals. This is an injury to Americans that we should not bear.

What of the illegals themselves? They are bound to their immigration status hand-and-foot and have only limited opportunities to move out of the separate, not equal society of other illegals. They live a fraction of the American dream but can never be a real part of our society because of language and legal barriers.

This lack of assimilation is the real problem with illegal immigration because it creates a shadow society that does not share American values and mores with her real citizens. It should be understood that assimilation is not a matter of renouncing the entirety of one’s history. But it is a declaration that one’s first allegiance is now to the new homeland and that you will comply with the customs, laws, and ways of living that country defines as being the minimum standard of acceptable behavior.

It is a fact that too many illegal immigrants have not met these standards. Ultimately this played a part in the deaths of two Houston woman and an unborn child only a few short days ago.

It is also a fact that Muslim immigrants, converts, and activists are beginning to “explore the possibilities” of changing America’s cultural and legal landscape to make it more to their liking. Yesterday’s post about the Muslim woman who sued a judge for refusing to let her testify in court with only her eyes visible is just the beginning of the steathy challenges that they will be bringing. See yesterday’s post for an interesting link and also read about how it’s already happening in Germany thanks to a misguided legal system.

For people like me who value the future of a (relatively) free and republican society it is not an acceptable outcome that foreigners come here and establish isolated pockets of alien nations. Neither is it acceptable that these groups attempt to re-write American laws and customs to suit themselves.

There are, after all, countries where immigrants can practice their religions, politics, business arrangements, and family arrangements according to their own cultural standards; namely, the countries from whence they came.

To the extent that immigrants enter the U.S., live, work, and worship within the parameters of the American system their presence is more than welcome here. Immigrants bring more determination, drive, and spirit to the table than most Americans and their contributions are invaluable – as long as they become Americans.

It’s incumbent on Congress and the President, therefore, to put aside their petty differences and implement a workable, far-reaching, long-lasting plan to reign in illegal immigration, promote cultural assimilation, and entice “best of class” immigrants to emigrate here.

Thus far both sides have failed miserably in this important work. Let’s encourage them, shall we?

Update

Israel Ortega understand this.

Inside Threats

29.03.2007 (10:41 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Law,Politics,Society ::

One of the problems with W’s War in Iraq (Wii – coincidence?) is that it has taken America’s eye almost completely off the ball, which is the global struggle against Islam.

The enemy – and they are a real enemy, in case anyone’s not convinced yet – is not just in Iraq. Or even in Afghanistan, perhaps the most immediate casualty of the Prez’s ill-considered decision to saddle up and charge into Bagdhad like the Light Brigade. Not even in the Sudan where Muslims have perpetrated murder of Stalin-esque proportions.

The enemy is also among us and is beginning to actively use the levers of our system of government against us. Earlier this year the first Muslim was elected to the U.S. Congress in the form of Keith Ellison. Immediately Ellison shocked his counterparts in Congress by insisting he be sworn in using the Koran rather than the Bible.

Not surprisingly the Democrats, from whose bosom Ellison naturally hails, thought this was a swell idea. Here’s a nice picture of Ellison with his pal Nancy Pelosi and Thomas Jefferson’s Koran:

But after an uproar of some proportions the event passed with little fanfare from the media or protest from Americans. What’s one representative? What difference does a book make when we cannot prove either one is true?

Despite what Democrats ignore and Joe Sixpack thinks, there is in fact a difference. Not in the significance of the ritual, which as we all know from watching Congress in action is meaningless, but in principle.

There’s the way we do things in America and there’s the way people do them everywhere else. We do things our way because it’s the right way or as close to it as mere humans can get. People want to be part of this country and come from all over the world to take up the American way. That way of governing and living should not be compromised for anyone or anything, not even Keith Ellison and his remarkable achievement.

More recently, Ginnah Muhammad filed a federal lawsuit against 31st District Court Judge Paul Paruk, alleging he violated her religious rights and denied her equal access to the courts by ruling that she could not testify in her case against a rental car company unless she removed her veil while on the stand (hat-tip to Debbie Schussel).

“I’m a human being and I wanted to come to court to get justice,” Muhammad said at a news conference Wednesday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

“When I walked out, I just really felt empty, like the courts didn’t care about me.”

Here’s another cool pic, this time of Muhammad’s costume:

Judge Paruk had the wisdom to deny Muhammad the right to speak in court while hiding behind the layers of cloth shown in the picture. Again it’s a question of how we do things in America: we demand the right to address our accusers and for judges and juries to see the faces and expressions of all parties in the case. We do this because it’s the right way to execute a quest for truth and justice.

“Victims”, their advocates, and the liberals who dredge their ranks for supports all see traditional American rules and laws as suggestions that can be changed as they become inconvenient to needs of the moment. In this moment it’s inconvenient to American Muslims who, some more reluctantly than others, have had to deal with the backlash that followed their less-civilized brethen’s murdering rampages.

Is that all it is? I am beginning to think otherwise. As comforting as it is to believe that Muslims in the U.S. are only running afoul of American colloquisms by accident, I do not believe that is true in all cases.

Keith Ellison clearly had an agenda and undertook the mission to undermine the already tenuous relationship between American government and Christianity with the use of two weapons: political correctness and the Koran. Democrats in power invented the former and pander to believers in the latter. The battle was lost before the first salvo went public.

It’s unknown whether Ms. Muhammad’s stance is politically motivated. Her language as quoted in the Detroit News shows an educated mind behind the words. Probably she is as sincere as she is misguided. Regardless she’s serving as a straight woman for what is or will inevitably become an deliberate, calculated attack on the systems and institutions that govern this country.

Consider Iraq and how few murderous thugs were required to turn that country from a conquered nation into a bloodletting free-for-all. America is safer, with entrenched institutions, a more educated populace, and a stronger, more ethical security apparatus.

But these can be undermined if they are not guarded with the diligent sacrifice and critical thinking that their importance demands of every American capable of these qualities.

Republicans recently made a correct decision – sadly, the first in some time – when they introduced and passed legislation protecting airline passengers from lawsuits should their report suspected terrorists.

This shows an understanding that there is a need to take strong, logical, politically incorrect action to define the way America operates. It is unacceptable to let terrorists and their sympathizers dictate events and our way of life to us and the truth was clear enough that over 100 Democrats were forced to agree.

That is exactly the kind of leadership and direction America needs to face the remainder of this century.

The question is, who do you think will provide that starting in 2008? And what, if we end up with another 8 years of a Clinton Presidency, are you prepared to do to ensure that we have that leadership, whether the Democrats or the Muslims like it or not?

Drunk + Illegal = Murder

28.03.2007 (8:14 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Immigration ::

Check out the Texas Rainmaker’s post on the recent drunk driving crash in North Houston that killed two women. Turns out the driver was an illegal alien who had 3 prior DUI convictions. TTR says:

Is anyone in immigration and law enforcement awake anymore? Consider the deaths of these three innocent people yet another tragic wake up call.

Back when HPD officer Rodney Johnson was murdered in cold blood by an illegal he’d cuffed and put in the back of his prowler certain local “immigration activists” and liberal apologists made cutting remarks to the effect that his murderer’s immigration status had nothing to do with the crime nor anything to add to the immigration debate.

Both of these lines of attack were blatantly false, of course, but they illustrate how the debate over immigration is steered away from matters of fact.

Now it’s happened again. As TTR points out, Ignacio Gomez-Gutierrez is yet another example of Houston’s complete failure to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants. From the Chronicle:

His third DWI arrest, which would normally become a felony, was reduced to a misdemeanor, a move the mayor’s crime victims advocate calls a “pivotal moment” that ultimately led to the deaths of Maria Ortiz, 49, and her 18-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who was five months pregnant.

Records also show Gomez-Gutierrez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was never deported after serving his time in jail in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

3 strikes and you’re out, right? I guess that rule only applies if you’re an American citizen. If you’re illegal you can do as you please in Houston.
One important question is this: Who was the judge in Gutierrez’s most recent case, the one who decided to allow the 3-time loser to cop to a misdemeanor? It seems to me that the answer to this question should be on the front page of the Chronicle every day for the next month. Hard questions should be asked and answers demanded.

Fool the judge once, shame on you. Fool her twice, shame on the judge. Fool the fool a third time and someone needs to be kicked out of office.
The relatives of the dead women know this:

The victims’ family members and others say Gomez-Gutierrez should never have been back on the road in the first place.

“We are so angry,” said Sylvia Flores, 28, whose mother and younger sister died in the accident. “If everyone had done what they were supposed to do, they would still be alive. I don’t want (Gomez-Gutierrez) to slip through the cracks again. He’s just been given a slap on the wrist. No wonder he did it again.”

But why are even the victims’ family members thinking in terms of the killer’s driving privileges, not his presence in the U.S.?  Ms. Flores is correct in saying that Gutierrez should have been in jail instead of out smashing the life out of innocent women and unborn babies.  However, given that he was not in jail the remaining fact is that Gutierrez had no business being in the U.S. at all.

I would hope that this will not be lost on the Latino community as they mourn the loss of these women and that Hispanics will finally wake up and realize that illegals from south of the border are not necessarily their friends simply because the illegals look and talk like them.

LULAC and the other spin-doctors will undoubtedly play a merry tune to distract people. But this time there’s nothing to stop us from seeing the truth. This country’s immigration policy is utterly broken and we have to ignore the voices around us who say otherwise.

Update:

Assistant Harris County district attorney Colleen Barnett  was responsible for allowing Gutierrez to  copy to the misdemeanor:

He might not have chosen the felony probation out of fear of deportation, Barnett said, adding sometimes defendants think it’s “easier to sit out the jail time.”

Way to go, Ms. Barnett.  Knowing all you had to do to get a 3-time loser kicked out of the U.S. was do your job you still chose not to.  Inspiring.

It’s a Only a Book…

27.03.2007 (10:36 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Literature,World ::

…and you know the one that I’m talking about.

It is, after all, the only article on the planet made of little bits of wood pulp, horse hooves, and black drops of dye (die) whose supernatural synergies grant the reader the inalienable right – nay, the duty – to kill anyone who thinks differently than or accidentally bothers you.

Update:  Or tries to spread a different religion than yours.

I’ve never read any of the books written by Salman Rushdie. They’re not exactly my cup of tea. Never saw any reason to. The truth is I thought both Khomeini and his fatwah were jokes from the middle ages. I guess I was wrong; Rushdie was just ahead of his time.

Does that make him a prophet?

Death Penalty Revisited

25.03.2007 (8:55 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Death Penalty,Texas ::

The horrific murder of a Texas co-ed at the hands of an obsessed ex-boyfriend and a report of an even more sickening fate suffered by an innocent 6 year-old boy have been lodged in my psyche as if the stories were shards of glass blasted into my mind’s eye.

I’ve read a lot lately about the polarization of the U.S.A. between liberal and conservative, black, white, and hispanic, and even north/south/east/west. I don’t doubt that it’s true. But because of cases like these I doubt that these divisions can be ameliorated.

Why? Because as long as there are people cowardly and insipid enough to believe that the perpetrators of these crimes deserve anything less than speedy trials and executions I will never back down from my position. Because I am right – with both certainty and vengeance – and they are wrong. There is no middle ground, no room for compromise so far as I am concerned. What their feelings are, I could not care less.

Strong words? Actually, to be honest with myself I have to go one step farther. American society affords her citizens the right to hold whatever opinions we choose and to demand representation in the government. That liberals choose to court the felon/murder/rapist vote is their decision. It’s a free country, after all.

However, to the extent that these people influence public policy they are an offense to me and no lawmaker who supports their cause will ever get my vote – unless even higher-priority issues are in conflict with our fundamental need to purge evil men from our society. For the record, there are damn few political issues of such magnitude.

The death penalty is a liberal/conservative issue and could serve as a prime example of why I say that liberals have lost their reform-oriented mindset and have resorted to playing politics with people’s lives – if I wanted to go there. But I don’t, today, so I’ll just state is my opinion is such.

No, today I want to rub their noses in their own piss. That a convicted child molester is allowed to strike again and with the explicit cooperation of the rapist’s own parents speaks of complete and utter failure in the the justice system.

Fundamentally this failure is one of the relativistic philosophy espoused by liberals. You know it, it’s the one that says that criminals are not responsible for their actions, that their prior experiences can justify the most heinous crimes, and that society’s right to exist in safety is trumped by their right to exist.

From Sister Toldjah’s comments:

benning: The innocent days of my youth – the 50s and early 60s – are gone forever. Was a time when my friends and I would wander all around the neighborhood… Today I would never let my child wander off, if I had one. Because the innocent days are gone forever.

NC Cop: Another baby. May God forgive us all.

PCD: These cases are more evidence that members of the ACLU ought to be deported, disbarred, and stripped of voting rights when they support NAMBLA, and other such perverts.

Yes, those days are gone. Whether that means forever or not remains to be seen. We could return this country to a better way of life, but it would not be easy or popular.

To NC Cop I say, “Right on, brother!” What we need to be forgiven for is that we’ve allowed our society to decay. PCD gives this partial voice by calling out the ACLU and their ilk. That we’ve allowed people who care so little for justice and so much about skin color to warp our justice system is itself a crime, a crime against the future, and one that every one of us who fails to act against them is guilty of abetting.

After all, Tynesha didn’t ask to be murdered, dismembered, and cooked over a grill. A man with no regard for himself or anyone else did this thing – deliberately, hatefully, spitefully – because he had no regard for her existence. His twisted, animal logic was that if he could not possess this female object then she could not be allowed to live.

In other words, her ex-boyfriend believed with such absolute certainty that he was entitled to her subservience to him that she could not be allowed to live if that submission was not granted. Evidently it was not and so he cut her into little pieces.

The actions of killers such as these cannot be obscured by fancy verbiage or linguistic sleight-of-hand. The American People have been dazzled by fast-talking liberal intellectuals for too long. One would hope that little Christopher’s grotesque end would be a hard, cold slap in the face of the elitist know-it-alls and that they would renounce their inane positions and begin to work for justice instead.

That will never happen, I’m afraid.

Liberalism = Nihlism

22.03.2007 (5:57 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Society ::

At the TownHall, Michael Medved asks “What constitutes the essence of modern liberalism?“.

The rhetoric of today’s left shows that they see society divided between the privileged and the powerless, the favored and the unfortunate, victors and victims.

Liberals feel an irresistible instinct to take sides with the less fortunate.

While the right wants to reward beneficial choices and discourage destructive directions, the left seeks to eliminate or reduce the impact of the disadvantages that result from bad decisions. In place of the conservative emphasis on accountability, the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion.

This leads directly, and inevitably, to the liberal passion to sanctify victimhood.

Later:

The best victim groups are those that reliably maintain their victim status. In this sense, the leftist world view effectively discourages empowerment or the pursuit of prosperity and pushes suffering subgroups to more or less permanent self pity.

It seems to me that Medved has made the point clearly: modern liberalism is about keeping ’em locked up on the plantation, not with chains and barbed wire but with unearned gifts and privileges.

Once there was an idealistic liberal agenda that had real purposes and objectives, however misguided they were. Where is this spirit of breaking new ground and shaking up the establishment? It seems to be utterly spent. In its place a new purpose of liberal politics has emerged: the perpetuation and extension of their own power.

As I’ve discussed in past articles, I truly don’t understand the liberal logic as applies to their political platform: pro-abortion, anti-death penalty, pro-gun control, anti-criminal justice – the contradictions are as stark as they are endless.

But what liberals are doing makes a twisted kind of sense if you consider the possibility that they are not even attempting to apply logic to the issues of the day. One would like to assume that liberal lawmakers are fulfilling their sworn duty to ensure the best possible future for Americans and that their politics, illogical as they are, are aligned with this objective.

Sadly, the modern liberal agenda is not about governing the country at all – it’s about getting and keeping power. Liberals have a natural advantage over conservatives when it comes to getting and keeping voters because of the very nature of their policies. They give their constituents free stuff that they confiscate from those who vote against them, whether or not their policy of wealth re-distribution is healthy for the country as a whole. Logical and philosophical contradictions are unimportant so long as their power base increases and, most importantly, their hands are on the purse strings.

As Medved says, this lack of interest in logical thinking is the key to understanding how liberals can justify their persistence in snuggling up to radical Islamo-nazis. They understand that their new cause is a cult of haters who, if they were to acquire power in the U.S., wouldn’t waste a moment before gunning down the very same pro-homosexual, pro-feminist, anti-Jewish, pseudo-intellectual free thinkers who have been defending them in America of late.

Liberals understand this. They simply don’t care. It’s all about short-term thinking and the necessity of finding and cultivating a new batch of downtrodden souls to add them to the give-me-free-stuff party’s voter base today – now – so that they can win another election.

What is so nauseating about the liberal left is that it’s not enough for them to live in a country in which they’re free to live according to whatever flawed belief system they dream up. They simply can’t be happy, can’t live, until they’ve forcibly foisted their fantasy island world view on the rest of us.

Liberal intellectuals claim the right to do define the rules of American life by repeatedly declaring themselves to be the country’s intellectual elite and the sole judges of right, wrong, good, bad, cool, and square. In short, they are the self-appointed arbiters of social justice.

However, this mantle of power has not not been earned on merit. Just as a no-talent artist might splash some paint on a canvas, roll around naked on the fabric with genitalia exposed, hang it on a wall, have his important, hip friends and patrons declare him the nest Picasso, and achieve fame and fortune, so do liberals build themselves up by buzzing about their genius until their message is the only one that gets heard.

Ideally there would be sufficient reality checks in the media to neutralize this blatant self-aggrandizement. Unfortunately, conservative thinkers’ opinions are not asked for and are summarily rejected when given anyway. The echo chamber of liberal self-congratulations allows only one ideological input. Dissonance, they recognize, would obliterate the straw men and women they’ve built into power brokers.

Liberals honestly believe that they deserve to decide how Americans should live because they’re the ones who know what’s best for all of us. That they don’t is evident to any observer interested in thinking. Liberals’ social experiments nominally designed to promote their constituents into better lives have done nothing but perpetuate the cycles of poverty they were supposed to fix. Their vision of social justice has failed for four decades. But still they persist in forcing it on us.

Of course there is such a thing as social justice. But it’s nothing like liberals imagine. Justice is blind, deaf, and insensitve to the needs and emotions of the moment. To achieve it, a nation must start with a playing field whose rules (laws, you understand) are well-known and permanent, line up the participants, say “go”, and get out of the way. The winners win, the losers lose, and social justice is served, over ice, in a highball glass at the country club. The best and brightest win, game over. What’s wrong with that?

Liberals say “plenty”, of course, not because they care about what happens to the losers but because there is no room for their kind in a competition without rules that can be bent to fit the feelings they have. Even if it is best for most Americans, liberals cannot stomach the harsh reality of a world in which people who are unable or unwilling to compete, like themselves, are left behind. Despite what logic and nature tell us about making progress, liberals would slow all of us to the pace and ability of the least common denominator.

The irony of their strategy is that, by championing the worst and dullest among us, liberals will end up making sure that the only environment in the world in which their kind can flourish is destroyed.

Mandatory Vaccinations

14.03.2007 (7:23 pm) – Filed under: Society ::

Yesterday Texas Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order that mandates a new 3-step vaccination for pre-teen girls. One would assume that there is a medical crisis either in play or in the making for Perry to do an end-run around public debate in the Texas legislature, right? So what is it that’s such a pressing emergency that every parent of a 12 year old girl in Texas must submit to the governor’s whim?

A sexually transmitted disease. Where’s the fire, Rick? There’s no epidemic. No contagions. No second hand communications of any kind. And we’re supposed to support a mandatory innoculation of all 6th grade girls with Gardasil, a drug that’s only been on the market for 7 months? This is not right.

“Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV [human papilloma virus] is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and mitigate future medical costs,” Perry said in a press release.

This may very well be true. I won’t dispute the governor’s point, for it’s not possible to do so absent information about what future costs might be or what new treatments might be forthcoming). It is, in fact, probably a good idea for girls to be vaccinated against HPV.

But government-mandated medical procedures such as Perry’s are appropriate only when there is a demonstrable risk to a significant portion of the population, as in the case of polio, etc., and those at risk cannot easily avoid contracting the disease. Neither is true in this case – HPV can be avoided simply by not engaging in risky behavior.

There is also the question of cost. CNN reports that insurance companies are reluctant to reimburse parents for their daughters’ vaccinations – they pay only a small fraction of the cost – and that doctors offices are reluctant to buy stocks of the medicine when there is a good chance that they may never be able to use it. Those that do carry it charge a premium for injections to guard against future losses.

The problem is that parents are looking at the $360-600 cost of the drug and have doubts about whether or not it is worth the money. Many would opt for it if insurance companies would pay for it, but since they may not, parents are saying “no” or at least “not right now”.

Then there is the entitlement crowd, as represented in the referenced articles in the person of Julie Falco, a New Yorker who, after struggling to find a cheap way to give the shots to her daughters, said:

“I still don’t have the shot, and now I have to decide whether I want to make a $1,200 investment to get them vaccinated,” she said. “I really don’t want to deny them what I think is right.”

I would suggest that if it were necessary and what she truly thinks is right that she would find a way for her 13 and 15 year old to be protected against this STD. But it isn’t medically necessary and she knows that, hence their lack of vaccination.

Back in Texas there was contention in the legislature:

A plan requiring sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer can expect a flurry of opposition in the Texas Legislature.

Critics contend that bills already filed in both houses would take away parents’ rights, send the wrong message to impressionable young girls and cost more than many parents can afford.

“Don’t we put seat belts on our kids, helmets on bike riders?” asked state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, sponsor of the Senate bill. “This is one more thing we can do to protect our daughters.”

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, the sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives, said she is hopeful about its chances but not quite optimistic. She said “ideology has prevailed over science” lately.

Ms. Farrar, I couldn’t agree more – if science were to prevail over ideology I’m fairly certain that scientists would say that 12 year old girls should not be having sex. The law agrees, what with the age of consent being significantly higher than that.

Enter Governor Perry, who charged in from left field on his white horse to save the day for all of the pre-teen girls at risk of contracting an STD. Cost is evidentally no object for Perry, especially now that he’s sitting on top of a fat budget surplus – of our money – in Austin.

It’s estimated that 162,000 girls would be eligible for the shot, making the total gross cost of the mandate a minimum of $58 million dollars for the vaccine alone. That’s at the MSRP price – the street price is 25-50% higher. One must also add in the cost of 3 office visits
to arrive at the true cost of the plan.

For those whose medical expenses are paid for by the state the inconvenience of 3 doctors visits is a minimal price to pay for what is almost surely a positive health benefit. But for those of us who pay for that entitlement and then have to pay again for our children to be in compliance with immunization laws this plan is a very bad investment.

None of this considers the moral implications of making pre-teen and early teen sex “safer”. Questions abound.

“These young girls are being given a hope that they will be protected from cervical cancer,” said Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum. “What about sexual activity that gives them AIDS?”

And Susie Moore, a retired woman, said she’s sympathetic to the argument that the shot could give young girls implicit permission to have sex.

“I’m old enough to remember when the Pill was introduced,” Moore said. “People raised the issue that it would cause promiscuity and advocates denied it, but promiscuity definitely followed.”

Free love, anyone? Well, not free, exactly. Not if you’re a Texas taxpayer.

Update – 2/6/2006

Governor Perry’s office said yesterday:

it would cost the state $29 million for its share of inoculating students who are uninsured or on government programs.

Federal funds will be available for girls on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Private insurers are expected to pick up most of the $360 cost of the three-shot series.

Perry also said this:

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” the governor said. “If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?”

The last line tells the truth. If we could cure lung cancer, smoking rates would soar. To think otherwise is to be a fool.

Update – 2/7/2006

The plan is coming under fire from an unexpected source – Texas doctors:

the Texas Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, many doctors are saying it’s too early to mandate the vaccine, which was approved for use last June. It protects against four strains of the human papillomavirus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers.

“We support physicians being able to provide the vaccine, but we don’t support a state mandate at this time,” said Dr. Bill Hinchey, a San Antonio pathologist and president-elect of the TMA, which represents 41,000 physicians. “There are issues, such as liability and cost, that need to be vetted first.”

“Perry gave a classic public-health-ethics rationale for the program,” said Laurence McCullough, a professor in Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Ethics and Health Policy. “But he needs to present to the legislature a cost analysis and funding source so other priorities are not displaced.”

Update – 3/14/2007
The Texas House agrees.

The Texas House sent a veto-proof message to Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday that schoolgirls will not be required to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer.

The House vote of 119-21 to tentatively approve the bill demonstrated a comfortable margin…

“Let’s continue to allow only parents and children and doctors to decide if this is right for you,” said Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the Angleton Republican who sponsored the bill.

As I wrote before, this is the correct decision. Even so, it’s may prove to be unfortunate for any number of young ladies. Let’s hope that the cost of the vaccine comes down as it becomes more well-known and demand, in theory, increases.

Of course, there is an even easier way to prevent HPV in teenage girls. Mom and dad, do you know that that is?

Teachers and Pay

14.03.2007 (2:02 pm) – Filed under: Education ::

Ask virtually any teacher whether they are paid enough for the work they do and you’ll get the same answer. “No!”

Is that true? Teachers are represented by unions, organizations that exist for the purpose of raising wages and improving working conditions. So why do teachers feel they are getting short-changed?

On the surface of things, teaching seems to be an easy job. You just stand up and tell a bunch of kids things that you already know, right? Not really. Consider some of the things that teachers are asked to do:

  • Teach subject matter, usually in multiple subject areas
  • Maintain discipline without use of corporal punishment
  • Diagnose learning disorders
  • Enforce dress codes ignored by many parents
  • Spot signs of child abuse
  • Stop bullying
  • Educate “special needs” children in situ and simultaneously teach the rest of the class
  • Act as substitute parent and role model
  • Stand or walk for 8 hours per day
  • Grade hundreds of papers every week & record results
  • Prepare individual progress reports for 2 dozen students every month
  • Balance real learning vs. mandated test results
  • ID and correct aberrant behavior
  • Ensure physical safety of children
  • Subject oneself to a constant barrage of coughs, sneezes, and germs
  • Excite children to want to learn about subjects they don’t care about

That’s a lot to ask for a person with a 4-year degree who generally comes into the profession making less than $30K per year. According to the Houston Chronicle, the average salary for an HISD teacher is about $48K per year, which is not bad, except for the fact that this number is inflated by the “combat pay” that’s dished out to get teachers to work there.

Support from parents and administrative officials is generally minimal or non-existent. At too many schools administrators fail to participate in curriculum development or simply issue vague mandates about following the latest trend in educational theory. School administrators are supposed to be leading the charge into the new century, not using teachers as blocking backs against the onslaught of standardized testing. Too often they are not carrying their share of the burden, a share that, given their relatively higher salaries, should be substantial.
As for the parents of today, well, what more needs to be said?

But teachers get the whole summer off, don’t they? Consider that the average teacher works about 10 hours per day for 190 days per year and compare this to Joe Sixpack’s 8 * 250 schedule. Teachers work about 100 hours less per year, assuming they don’t lift a finger over the summer. But many of them are busy preparing for the next school year without compensation. Some do so because they love what they do, some to make the next year a little bit easier, and most for both reasons, none of which changes the fact that there’s no pay for working extra hours.

Leaving the issue of unpaid time aside and sticking to the base number, we can see that new teachers are paid $15.79 per hour (30K / 1900 hours) – considerably less than your average plumber, air-conditioning repair man, UPS delivery driver, or fast-food restaurant manager. Is this what we want?

Let’s face it: teaching is a profession where burnout is much more common than we’d like to believe. We want children to be taught by teachers who not only have an “A” game but bring it to class every day. But the truth is that it’s impossible to do this day after day, year after year. Being asked to do it for 30-50% less money than comparably educated peers earn in other professions only makes doing the impossible that much harder.

Recall your own childhood. Do you remember a time when your teacher wasn’t having a good day? When he or she snapped at your childish antics for no apparent reason? I’m sure you do. Most of us have the luxury of letting a call go to voice mail on a bad day or putting off a difficult problem if we’re not feeling well or just going to the bathroom when we need to go. But there’s no down time for teachers – twenty-odd pairs of eyes are always watching, hopefully waiting to learn, just as often waiting for the teacher to make a mistake so they can point it out and laugh, but always watching and taking in everything the teacher does. Lessons have to be made fresh and exciting each time lest an opportunity to capture a child’s imagination be lost forever. And not just the first time or the second or third – every time, even when they’re old and stale in one’s mind.

Think you can do that every day for nine months while making a mediocre salary? If so, you should try. Every class has a couple of shining stars in it that are just a joy to work with. But don’t forget that you’ll have to deal with:

  • the 5th grader who can’t read
  • the ADD child who can’t sit still for 10 minutes straight
  • the kid who hates the world because dad beats mom at night
  • the boy whose parents let him stay up ’til midnight every night of the week
  • the girl whose parents let her dress like a sex toy

And all the while you have to teach twenty other “normal” children who – let’s tell the truth – don’t really want to be in your class. Also, don’t forget that when junior gets a failing grade on his report card that the parents who never helped him with his homework because TV was more interesting will demand a conference to find out why you didn’t force him to learn how to divide fractions. Don’t forget that half of your class has never been taught manners at home, don’t know how to behave properly in an educational setting, actively refuse to obey instructions, and misbehave the moment your back is turned. And above all, don’t forget that regardless of what you’ve actually taught the children that a standardized test will be the primary judge of your ability as an educator.

Money cannot compensate a person in enough ways to make these issues disappear. But it helps. HISD knows this – that’s why they paid out $14 million dollars in bonuses to the cream of the crop among its teachers. Sounds good to me – except of the fact that they did it wrong.

Here’s what some folks in Houston had to say:

“Let me just say that the BEST teacher at my school received NOTHING!!! One of the WORST received over $4,000. Teachers who co-teach on the same team received different amounts. Tell me how that’s fair – because one is labeled the language arts teacher and one is labeled the reading teacher??? What this incentive pay did was divide teachers and build resentment. If parents choose teachers based on incentive pay they will be TERRIBLY disappointed.”

“My children’s science teacher at their elementary receives no bonus. She has won many awards and has been featured in the Chronicle.”

“First off, I do believe in bonuses for teachers. It’s not easy what they do everyday for our children. However, they must not be grading the teachers correctly. My husband is a writing teacher, nominated for teacher of the year for his school, has 97% passing and his school was recognized in Texas Monthly as one of the best writing schools, yet he received zero dollars as a bonus.”

“Last year I taught 2 classes of 11th grade and 3 classes of 10th grade in one of the worst schools in HISD. All core subject classes, all tested by TAKS. 100% of my students passed. My bonus? $0. I guess 100% isn’t progress.”

“It must be very subjective. I get an award every year for 100% on TAKS. Yet I received no bonus while those without 100% passing receive thousands. Morale is VERY low among most teachers.”

“Teachers who have ALWAYS had 100% pass that TAKS and Stanford didn’t get a bonus. Go figure.”

“Please explain to me how every ancillary staff and part time staff recieved more incentive pay than I did. I had 100% of my 90 students pass the math TAKS with more than 1/2 recieving commended performance. Yet I was “ranked” lower than the ancillary staff. Thanks for a great day at work!!!”

Here’s a likely looking explanation:

“The performance pay system isn’t based on passing rates on the TAKS. It’s based on scale scores and student growth compared to students in similar classrooms. If this writing teacher’s students had more growth on the TAKS and the Stanford test last year than most other comparable classrooms, he earned the bonus pay. If the teacher didn’t get that kind of growth, he didn’t get the bonus pay. This is all about rewarding the teachers who get the most improvement among students.”

Why do we pay performance bonuses? To make teachers work harder? No. It’s to reward and retain the best teachers, with an emphasis on those who teach the most important subjects: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

If the measurement being used doesn’t generate the correct result then the measurement is not correct.

In this case the measurement is clearly stilted toward teachers who work with students with low achievement histories. At-risk kids. Why? Because these kids have the most room for improvement and can improve at greater rates than kids already utilizing their potential. This can generally be correlated with kids and schools “in the rough part of town”.

While educating these kids is a worthwhile goal in and of itself, a bonus system is an inappropriate way for their teachers to receive additional compensation. Instead, teachers should be given incentives to work at low-performing schools in the form of a higher base salary. That way the bonus plan can be used to achieve its true purpose: to identify and reward the best teachers across the system.

HISD superintendent Abelardo Saavedra says, “The system is designed purposefully to be objective,” Saavedra said.

But what is the objective, Abe? Here’s another anecdote that tells me HISD is aiming at the wrong target:

Linda Burks, the 2006 Teacher of the Year at Anderson Elementary, said co-workers rallied around her last week after learning she was not among the nearly 8,000 educators districtwide to pocket a bonus.

“They were shocked,” said Burks, a fourth-grade language arts teacher. “They really thought I (should have) received something.”

Somehow that just seems right to me. What about you?

How do we know who the best teachers are? Simple. We observe them.

Interestingly, the HISD bonus system does not make use of observations as data points in determining who should receive bonus pay. This indicates that the comment that defined the system as primarily rewarding teachers who improved the bottom of the barrel is correct. This is the wrong approach.

What should be happening is that teachers should be observed frequently over the course of the school year and a standard criteria applied to those observations to determine which teachers are providing the most benefit to their students. Monthly observations seem reasonable and would give teachers 9 opportunities to demonstrate their chops.

Administrators hate this idea, of course, because it means more work for them. But the objective should be to reward the best teachers and doing that means that the “cream of the crop” must be correctly identified.

Why is it the case that only very new teachers are observed in the classroom more than once per year? This is very nearly criminally negligent. In what other profession can one work 99+% of one’s work days without being observed by one’s manager? Annual observations are completely inadequate.

Yet many schools do not even implement this feeble standard of evaluation for veteran teachers. The theory is that they’ve been there, done that, and don’t need to be observed. But the truth is that just the opposite is true. Many veteran teachers are so burnt out from the stress of their jobs that they are only minimally functional in the classroom. These teachers need to be evaluated more often than relative newcomers, not less.

That isn’t happening. One reason why is that teachers and administrators think of education as guaranteed employment. Teachers that fail to meet the minimum standards of subject competency and coverage are retained, in part, because they are deemed to be entitled to the job they’ve held for X years already.

It’s easy to understand why they feel that way – simply refer to the bullet points at the beginning of this post to see why. And yet, few other professions offer lifetime security. Fundamentally educators are not entitled to more protection than the rest of us except for one reason: we’re not paying them a salary that’s competitive with their level of education. To make up for it the system offers a back-end reward, the teacher’s retirement system, that encourages (read “demands”) that teachers stick with their profession until retirement age whether they want to or not.

That too is a sign of a broken system, like HISD’s failed performance bonus system. Superintendent Saavedra was forced to offer a left-handed apology only days after the bonus distribution information was made public, saying that:

…teachers seemed especially offended that, at a celebratory news conference, he referred to those who received the biggest bonuses as “the cream of the crop.”

“The sense I got from the e-mails is, there’s a lot of confusion out there and a misunderstanding of the system itself,” he said. “I also felt that some of my statements at the press conference were misconstrued.”

I think the problem is, Abe, that teachers understood the bonus system perfectly. In my view, the system was never intended to reward the best teachers at all; instead, it was designed as a form of scholastic welfare, one that would drive money into underachieving schools.

Not too cool.

At least HISD did something, even if it was wrong. What would be right? I’ll tell you later!

Update:

Houston ISD’s principals can expect larger bonuses and proportionally more of them will receive bonuses then did teachers:

The district plans to reward at least 250 campus principals with a minimum of $1.2 million, said HISD spokesman Terry Abbott. If those estimates hold true, that means 83 percent of principals will receive bonus pay. The average check will be $4,800.

In comparison, an estimated 58 percent of the district’s teachers earned bonuses earlier this year, and the average payout was about $1,850…

Are we to believe that principals are half-again as likely to be dedicated to their jobs and exceed expectations than teachers.

Meanwhile, HISD’s head honcho Abe Saavedra will be living well this year too:

Houston ISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra will be $67,250 richer today when the school district distributes its latest round of performance bonuses.

Saavedra’s new contract, approved by the school board in January, made him eligible for $80,000 in bonus pay based in part on students’ test scores.

As head of the state’s largest school district, Saavedra earns a base salary of $302,000. His bonus — 22 percent of his base pay — is more than almost all his teachers take home in a year.

Something doesn’t seem right.