Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

The God Debate

30.04.2007 (8:33 pm) – Filed under: Liberalism,Philosophy,Religion ::

Is there a God who actively works in Earth’s affairs?

Those who answer “No” have virtually nothing to discuss with those who assent, whether deist, agnostic, or atheist. What common ground is there when the most fundamental question is answered differently?

To me it seems that the atheist position is nonsense. Given that matter and inertia exist, some force must have created the former and initiated the latter. We’re taught that matter is neither created nor destroyed. But where did it come from? Out of a magician’s hat?

That said, the deist/agnostic position is logically plausible and quite possibly true. However, it is ultimately, in my opinion, utterly without inspiration. Time, space, and men are all too dull without something to give them meaning.

To paraphrase Chris Rice: Would I really be so curious if there weren’t something more? I don’t think so.

As relates to the governance of America, there can be a healthy tension between the theist and deist belief systems so long as neither side gains supremacy.

That balance, I believe, was the intent of the Founding Fathers rather than the denial of Christianity that we see being espoused by the intellectual left today.

Russell Miller recently wrote about pro-choicers being unable to accept living in a country where they were “only” free to do whatever they wanted for the first trimester of their baby’s life.

We can generalize his argument and apply it to the religion-in-government debate in general. Liberal atheists/agnostics – as a group mind you, individual positions may vary – have not been content to be free to live and believe as they please. Instead they insist on their “right” to be governed by a system that does not acknowledge God in any way, no matter how small.

In this, as in everything, I have no patience with fools who insist on having it all their way. Americans must remember how to give a little.

Intractability is met with resistance. Escalation ensues. Polarization results. Balance is lost. Enemies capitalize. We do have a few enemies out there, don’t we?

Americans of all affiliations – indeed, all Westerners – really must begin to remember that fact and give the rather precarious position we find ourselves in proper consideration when deciding who to start “holy wars” with, abortion being just one such.

Death Penalty Blues

28.04.2007 (9:31 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Death Penalty,Texas ::

Earlier this week the Supreme Court, hot on the heels of a long-overdue decision in against partial birth abortions, took a step backwards by overturning the death penalty sentences in three Texas murder cases.

The rulings in the cases of LaRoyce Smith, Brent Brewer and Jalil Abdul-Kabir said the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals incorrectly analyzed whether faulty jury instructions prevented Texas juries from considering mitigating evidence that might have persuaded them to spare the men from execution.

Smith was convicted in the 1991 slaying of a worker at a Dallas Taco Bell. Brewer was convicted of fatally stabbing a man during a 1990 robbery in Amarillo, and Abdul-Kabir, also known as Ted Calvin Cole, was convicted of strangling a San Angelo man during a robbery in 1988.

When Brewer, Abdul-Kabir and Smith were tried, jurors determining their sentences were asked two yes-or-no questions: whether the murder was deliberate, and whether the killer would continue to be dangerous in the future. Two “yes” answers meant a death sentence. One or two “no” answers meant a life prison term.

In later years, after the Supreme Court found those instructions inadequate because they prevented jurors from properly considering mitigating evidence, Texas judges began crafting additional instructions. They told jurors that if they thought there was any mitigating evidence that warranted sparing the killer’s life, they could simply change one of their “yes” answers to “no.”

The high court also rejected that approach, and now Texas jurors must answer a third catch-all question, asking whether any mitigating evidence in the case is strong enough to spare the killer’s life.

Also:

The instructions, which were meant to help jurors weigh evidence such as a defendant’s low intelligence, mental illness or childhood abuse, have not been used in Texas since 1991. But they were used during the trials of many current death row inmates.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office estimates the number of cases that could be affected by Wednesday’s ruling at close to 50, while defense attorneys say the number could total 70 or more.

Justice John Paul Stevens, part of the 5-4 majority, wrote that the 5th Circuit’s conclusions

“fail to heed this court’s repeated warnings about the extent to which the jury must be allowed not only to consider mitigating evidence, or to have such evidence before it, but to respond to it in a reasoned, moral manner and assign it weight in deciding whether a defendant truly deserves death.”

Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed:

saying the lower courts had done the best they could to follow Supreme Court guidance.

He called Wednesday’s majority opinions by Stevens and Kennedy “utterly revisionist.”

“We give ourselves far too much credit in claiming that our sharply divided, ebbing and flowing decisions in this area gave rise to ‘clearly established’ federal law,” the chief justice wrote.

Instead, Roberts said, the high court has provided “a dog’s breakfast of divided, conflicting, and ever-changing analyses.”

An American has a better chance of getting struck by lightning than hearing Stevens admit there are valid uses for the death penalty. It’s all about ideology, even on the SCOTUS. Witness Justice Ginsburg’s outrageous comments about the partial birth abortion case as a prime example.

What’s even more irritating about Steven’s pompous self-righteousness than his brazenly illogical failure to think is the fact that it’s utterly irrelevant.

Juries are told repeatedly by judges and lawyers that they are only allowed the barest possible leeway in their decisions. Guilty or not. This evidence can be consider. This cannot. You can discuss this but not that. You can ask this question but not that one. The idea is to control the jury into following a specific path of action so that individual input is minimized.

This is necessary to keep verdicts somewhat standardized in similar cases. Justice, after all, should be predictable as well as blind.

However, we should all recognize that these instructions are usually ignored. The fact that a man or woman in a black robe gives a juror an instruction that as much as says he/she is a voting robot does not mean that juror will accept the admonition.

I believe that the jurors in these cases considered mitigating evidence when rendering their verdict of guilty + the death penalty. I believe it because that’s what people do, on or off of the jury. The judge’s exact phrasing of the instructions are meaningless for this reason.

But Stevens, a die-hard liberal whose vote is as predictable as it is wrong, would never accept that reasoning, not when his liberal bias demands otherwise.

Given these predators’ insistence on killing again, it’s ludicrous to put law-abiding citizens in harms way by allowing them the opportunity to be paroled, escape, or be sprung on appeal. Let’s hope that the respective D.A.’s do the right thing and make sure that they won’t get those chances.

My perspective: The victims deserve our empathy, not the killers.

Bush to Congress: We Need Immigration Reform

28.04.2007 (12:20 pm) – Filed under: Immigration,Texas ::

From the Houston Chronicle:

President Bush urged lawmakers today to come together on the complex and emotional issue of immigration, calling it “a critical challenge” now before the nation.

“We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society,” he said in his weekly radio address. “We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all.”

There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, and passions run high on what to do about them. Bush wants to establish a temporary worker program for some of them and create a path to citizenship — albeit a difficult one — for many. He says it is unrealistic to propose that millions of people be deported.

What he likes to call comprehensive immigration reform was once Bush’s top domestic priority.

But the president was stymied by members of his own party

David Broussard, a friend of mine, recently wrote about immigration from what I call the traditional conservative perspective, one that disapproves of any sort of amnesty for the current crop of illegals.

Bush should ignore these critics. They are unrealistic and he should, as usual, stick to his agenda. Not only is this one area of governance he understands, he is also correct: the 12 million, mostly Mexican illegals the U.S. allowed to come here and work, many for years, are not going home. Period. Any plan that doesn’t start with that reality is doomed to failure.

More from the Chronicle:

The new approach would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties. Conservatives still called it overly permissive, essentially amnesty for illegal behavior.

Most national polls show Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of an immigration overhaul that would allow those here illegally to stay, work and earn their way to legal status.

Hopefully Congress will listen to the people who voted them into office. Republicans failed to give us what we wanted on many issues and they were rebuked; Democrats should face the same fate if they fail to deliver a solution on this critical issue.

Given that illegals won’t leave voluntarily – think about it, that’s why they’re illegals, after all – two critical things must be done. First, the “good” illegals, the vast majority, must be put on the path to citizenship and productivity, as Bush suggested.

Second, the inflow of illegals must be stopped. Not reduced or slowed. Stopped. The current state of the border and the Border Patrol will not allow this happen. The National Guard was deployed but not given authority to act. The Border Patrol acts, often ineffectively, and is not supported when they do, as in the Ramos and Compean case David referred to and of which we are all aware.

Desperate to try something, anything, that might work, last year the Border Patrol proposed to start try illegals for their crimes instead of shipping them back to Mexico. This plan failed to even get off the ground:

New Mexico’s federal judges reminded the Border Patrol that they lacked the resources to handle the hundreds of new defendants who would stream into the court system every day.

“We said, ‘Do you realize that the second week into this we’re going to run out of (jail) space?'” Martha Vazquez, chief judge for the District of New Mexico, recalled telling Border Patrol chief David Aguilar.

Sending illegals back is expensive and futile; they simply come back again. Charging them is futile too: our justice system can’t handle it. Nor should it have to. The border simply needs to be sealed, regardless of what it takes. This has been needed since 9/11 and little progress has been made. (Last fall’s passage of bill to construct a partial fence along some parts of the border was more symbolic than practical.)

This means that the National Guard will have to actively seek out and deny entry to Mexicans attempting to enter the country illegally. There is the potential for bloodshed and a lessening in the quality of our relationship with Mexico. Sadly, that is the price that must be paid to correct years of border mismanagement by both Bush and Clinton administrations.

If this is done, there will no doubt be a great hew and cry raised by liberals in this country decrying our national cruelty at denying the illegals’ human rights. But make no mistake: illegal immigrants are not refugees. They choose to abandon their own country and live here as aliens instead of striving to create a Mexico in which they could prosper. The voluntary nature of illegal immigration removes from the U.S. any burden of acceptance.

We will also hear from foreign enemies and domestic critics who, bereft of any rational argument, perpetually throw the Statue of Liberty’s inscription in our faces:

Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…

A great and noble idea, that, and one that was implemented with great success in an America whose land mass was essentially unpopulated. Now, many decades later, nearly 300,000,000 people live here, in the greatest nation to ever exist. There is no more land to be had for the taking, no more wilderness to be tamed.

All giveaways of free stuff, whether land, food, or cold, hard case, eventually have to come to an end, as unfortunate as that is. Circumstances change, nations change with them. On this issue it is not the United States that must change, it is Mexico.

HPD Loses Guns, Evidence

27.04.2007 (11:10 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Texas ::

Earlier this week the Houston Police Department admitted that 21 guns were missing from their property room, two of which surfaced again in the hands of criminals.

This is not good news for a department that recently received one heck of a stinger of a black eye when faulty DNA testing procedures tainted hundreds, possibly thousands of cases going back 2 decades.

About the missing guns which, I have to assume, were sold to criminals by police officers, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said:

“The problem with the Houston Police Department and with the Department of Public Safety is they have to hire employees out of the human race. You are going to get some good ones, and you get some bad ones,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t know of any way a person can be screened to be sure they are not going to be a criminal.”

…”It concerns me they are guns that used to be in police custody that are now in the hands of people who are not necessarily our best citizens,” Rosenthal said.

Good point, Chuck.  Meanwhile:

Criminal defense lawyer Kent Schaffer said he’s concerned evidence has walked away from “what should be the safest place in town.”

“Whether it’s needed now isn’t relevant. If a case gets reversed and they go back to trial, the evidence is missing,” Schaffer said.

“We are committed to establish and provide proper security protocols and will take steps to ensure there is proper management oversight of evidence and property in our custody. As a matter of fact, it should be noted, it was our own internal checks and balances that led to the discovery of the missing weapons,” [ed. HPD Chief Harold] Hurtt said.

I don’t imagine that Schaffer is too upset – a missing piece of evidence, particularly the weapon used in a crime, could easily be a “get out of jail free” card for one of his clients.

As for Hurtt’s internal checks, they seem to have been too little, too late.  I would like to think that evidence (and again, particularly weapons) are treated with a little more precision than is evident in this case.  More from the article:

Investigators studying the HPD crime lab and property room found that issues with evidence storage began long before Hurtt’s announcement.

Michael Bromwich, who led that team, found that the 280 boxes of mislabeled evidence resulted from a practice that began in the 1980s when the property room allowed the storage of materials from various HPD divisions in its facilities.

More to the point, verification procedures should have been implemented before now.  Bromwich is quoted thusly – circa 2005 – in a follow-up article:

“The property room currently uses a number of forms to track chain of custody,” Bromwich wrote. “The forms are cumbersome and archaic and increase the chances of errors and the risk of misplaced evidence.”

Hindsight tells us that he was correct.  A little foresight by a department that had already proven its policies had failed quite dramatically could have prevented this latest humiliation.

As a proponent of law and order and stiff sentences, this is a difficult pill for me to swallow.  How are juries believe HPD is trustworthy given the evidence otherwise?  And why did a series of police chiefs fail to address known problems with their procedures?  Is it asking too much for public servants to show a little competence and character?
As I said earlier, one has to assume that the weapons were given to criminals in exchange for money.  A worst case scenario for HPD, it also seems to be the most likely.

This case demonstrates why governments cannot be completely trusted.  Americans live under the best government that has ever existed, yet here we are.  As Rosenthal said, the problem that governments have to hire employees out of the human race.

That means that suspicion must be built into the system from the get-go in order to assure  that correct outcomes are reached and that everyone involved plays by the rules.  No one is above the law, not even the law itself.

Abortion Debate: We’re All Wrong

26.04.2007 (9:37 pm) – Filed under: Abortion,Liberalism ::

Russell Miller has been thinking about the exchange I had with the Kos-ite earlier this week and he’s written about what I think are some very powerful insights.  Read the whole post – it’s so good I wish I’d written it myself.  Some choice quotes:

I’m also finding myself a little concerned with the “pro-choice” response in other ways. Like with many other things, they do not seem to be content with being left undisturbed to do as they think is best – they seem to dislike any dissent at all.

I believe a woman has the right to do as she chooses. I will not interfere with that right. I, however, do not have to like it, and I don’t have to have anything to do with her. I don’t like abortions. I think they are in most cases cowardly and show a callous disregard for the life that in many, many of the cases the woman voluntarily created. While I should not interfere with that choice, why should I be forced to accept it?

Having the right to do something should be sufficient. I’ll defend the right of anyone to do whatever they wish, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. But requiring others to actually like it? Sorry, you can’t have it all. Just as you have the right to do as you choose, I have the individual freedom to be disgusted by it.

This is right on the money – the pro-abortion crowd is so strident that any opposition to their ideas is offensive to them that no discussion is possible.  Even trying to agree with them in a substantial but incomplete manner is not enough, as I found out the other day.
For my part, I find abortion to be one of the most immoral acts imaginable.  I wish that the procedure hadn’t been invented, let alone put into practice 1.5 million times annually in the U.S. alone.

But – and it’s a bit but (no pun intended) – I also believe in personal responsibility and freedom of choice.  Prohibition of abortion is too radical a constraint on personal liberty.  It must be legal, to a point.  As with any aspect of life there are limits on this freedom.  Consent of both parties is one, independent viability of life is another.
Others feel differently, on both sides.

Today someone left a bomb at the Austin Women’s Health Center.

“It was configured in such a way as to cause serious bodily injury or death,” Austin Police Assistant Chief David Carter told reporters

Happily the device was found before anyone was maimed or killed and safely detonated by police.  Needless to say, planting bombs in women’s clinics is not a reasonable way to win the debate with the other side.  Neither is it a tactic that will sway judges’ decisions about this highly emotional issue.

It’s obvious to me that both sides are in the wrong in some respects.  Perhaps if everyone could just turn down the rhetoric and, perhaps, mind their own business, a reasonable compromise could be reached.

Mexico City just voted to legalize abortions performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.   Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.  While still despicable, this new rule at least places clear limits on what’s acceptable and what is not, something the U.S. SCOTUS has failed to do.
Anti-abortion activists in Mexico vow to fight on.  Hopefully they won’t do so with the tactics of terror seen in Auston today.

Ultimately it’s this refusal of either side to back off from their all-or-nothing positions that drives the debate to such heights of folly and fury.  Would it be too much to ask everyone to just stop and think things through like rational people?

The Great Divide

25.04.2007 (10:16 pm) – Filed under: Philosophy,Sports ::

With thanks to Eric Gunnerson, I want take a break today to talk about something real and good and worthy, unlike so much in the media and the world at the moment and, in all likelihood, in all moments.

The subject is the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race, as documented by one of the riders. Kent Peterson is way cool and his experiences on the 22 day, 2500 mile ride are the kind that can and inevitably must shape a person’s life.

Read all of Kent’s day-by-day account of the trip, it’s awesome:  well-written, entertaining, and heartfelt.  After reading about the adventure I find myself thinking that I’d like to do it someday.  Soon.  I’m not getting any younger and neither is my already-bad knee.  Soon my older sons will be able to outride me – perhaps then.

Some exerpts from the first half of Kent’s ride:

Every racer but me has chosen a 29” wheeled, multispeed bike so naturally my rigid steel Redline Monocog is the bike that attracts the most attention.  I’ve gotten used to confused looks from folks when they see my choice of bikes and many people seem compelled to issue forth well-meaning critiques starting with phrases like “wouldn’t it be easier…?”  I’ve learned to keep my responses as simple as my bike and often reply that the Redline is a fun bike and it’s really all I need. If I’m feeling chatty I point out that it would be easier not to ride the Divide at all or to ride the course on a motorcycle, but that really doesn’t seem to be the point. Every person racing the Divide is here for a challenge, I’m just defining the challenge a bit differently. I want to see how fast I can ride a rigid singlespeed mountain bike from Canada to Mexico.

June 20th

I roll into Helena around 9:30 AM and arrive at Great Divide Cyclery just as it’s opening up.  I work at a bike shop, so I know that my own crisis is just one problem in a litany of woes the shop will see today and that they probably have a queue of regular customers with higher priority concerns.  I present my case to Gwen Sensing and Steve Coen, the two folks working here this morning.  What I need is a new rim and some spokes to lace it up, or a new wheel, and I’ll be happy to do the work myself.

It turns out I don’t have to do that. In a stroke of extreme good fortune, Great Divide Cyclery has one Specialized Hardrock Singlespeed on the sales floor.  The chainline is right but the tire has to be swapped and a 17 tooth cog installed.  In order to clear my rear rack, we have to pull the rear disk brake.  But the new wheel sports a beefy Ditch Witch rim with a great braking surface and everything comes together with what the Taoists call effortless effort.  I am on the proper path.

I leave Helena and ride back into the wild country. I’m really loving the descents now that I have two working brakes. I get a bit of extra excitement as an enormous elk leaps across the trail about eight feet in front of me on a particularly steep descent and later I see more deer and beaver and various other creatures. In places the trail is very rough and steep and in other places the headwinds are fierce but my general sense is just an overwhelming
feeling of joy that I’m able to ride.

June 24th

The night is bear-free and in the morning I roll down to Flagg Ranch, a tourist Mecca on the main highway that runs between Yellowstone and the Tetons. Mr. Rockefeller has his pavement here and the pavement seems to have attracted every RV in the western hemisphere. I know that many people are saying that gas prices are too high these days but on this day, in this place with large nomadic herds of mobile comfort careening from one scenic spot to the next, I’m thinking that gas prices could stand to go a bit higher.
June 30th

I’ve seen a lot of emptiness on this trip but the small spot where my Tarptent should be is a void that dwarfs even the Great Divide Basin. In the twilight I stare dumbly at a flapping loose strap as I mentally replay the day. I’d packed the tent up this morning, about sixteen hours and 116 miles ago. I’d double strapped the various bags as is my custom but in a moment of inattention, two straps were looped into one. And that key strap, somewhere on the trail between Breckenridge and this dark place, a path of beautiful stony climbs and high-speed, high-bounce descents, somewhere on that long trail, a single buckle gave way. I think about chains with weak links and how you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I think perhaps that I am too stupid to race the Divide.

It is easy and wrong to think that minimal gear and a simple quest equates to some kind of renunciation of the material world. In a very real sense, a Divide racer’s minimalism is in fact an extremely purified form of materialism. I’m not free of material goods, I’m intensely dependent on them. Each item I have chosen for this journey has been extensively studied and obsessively considered. I’ve literally weighed my options and made my choices. The other racers have done the same.

Like I said, read the whole thing – Kent’s race diary is the coolest thing I’ve seen on-line in way too long.

At the risk of putting my words to his story, the last paragraph above says something to me about the way most people live their lives.  I’m no exception, I’m sad to say.

What it says to me is that we too often bind ourselves to material things and immaterial ideas that seem valuable but are worthless.  The ability to see, hear, and feel the truth is inate in men and women.  It’s part of us.  But participating in society deadens the spirit inside us.

We’ve all felt it, that sense of understanding that comes during a long stretch away from work, at a funeral of a loved one, on the beach facing an endless stretch of water.  We glimpse it at odd intervals, for too-short moments, and know we have a purpose that we’re not fulfilling.  Duties call and, rushing to met them, we forget that we have higher obligations.
The truth about us is not in our jobs.  It’s not in our televisions.  It’s not down at Moe’s Tavern.  It’s not in the public faces we present to the world or the falsehoods we mouth to keep the illusions in place.
The truth is in our hearts and minds.  But where did it come from?
Tune out the noise, turn off the cell phone, forget your job, your boss, your sister-in-law, the newspaper.  Don’t believe the lies you tell yourself every day.

A ride like Kent’s prunes the useless debris from our lives and leaves us with only the most important things in our hearts.  There’s only so much we can carry.  Consider and accept what is true, whether you like it or not.  What else matters?

Rebel Without a Kos

23.04.2007 (9:39 pm) – Filed under: Abortion,Men's Rights,Society ::

Yesterday I decided to have spot of fun with the “progressives” over at the Daily Kos by responding to this Kos post about the framing of the case against partial birth abortion.

Sadly my comment was deleted by the mighty Kos censors (or at least cannot be seen by mere mortals such as the author). It began thusly:

Babies are frequently born short of term and grow up to live happy, healthy lives. Aborting a child that would otherwise live must be considered a killing by any logical thinker.

There is a point after which the parents’ right to an abortion – that’s both of them – ends. That hasn’t been defined legally yet, although this case may be a stepping stone toward that end.

My comment went on to note that the “woman’s right to choose” was itself framed to both give credence to the acceptability of the act and the removal of male input for or against it. Evidently this was not appreciated. As you can see, my comment is no longer there, although it was utterly without the bad language and manners, threats of violence and approval of same, and plain old bad taste that so frequently grace the mighty Kos.

I was therefore intrigued to be confronted by a Kos-ite calling herself Edwardssl and seems to have inside information about my now-defunct post.

What follows is our “dialogue” on the subject after she tracked me down and flamed my comment to another, unrelated post. E-stalking is (un)cool!

(Note the formatting: my words in regular text and hers indented and italized for clarity.)

You’re a real-woman hater, aren’t you?

I was just reading your blather about women in the hidden comments, such as

Ethically there is no such thing as a “woman’s right to choose”. There is a couple’s right to choose, perhaps, but the fact that the female hosts the child grants her no special privileges unless the male fails to meet his obligations.

A female host? What is this, Alien?

No man in the world tells me what to do with my body. NO ONE! In fact, no woman, either.

You’re a disgusting pig of a troll.

(Hidden comments? I don’t follow. Is that a Kos-ism?)

I do hate debates where one side claims 100% of the rights without corresponding merit. That’s the “women’s rights” side in this case, obviously.

Your right to “control your body” does not supercede your child’s right to live or your partner’s right to the child if you decline to meet your responsibilities. Your momentary inconvenience is unfortunate but not sufficient to dictate to the other parties.

Sorry.

You are so full of shit!

You feel so strongly about it, then don’t have a abortion. Mind your own goddamned business and leave others to make their own decisions. It’s her life, not yours.

You hate debates where one side claims 100% of the rights without corresponding merits? Take a look in the mirror, you hypocrite.

Who the hell died and left you in charge of determining what’s ethical and what’s moral. Having a child that you have no way to support? Bringing a child into an abusive family? Having a child that you are incapable of loving? The scenarios are endless. That’s a decision that needs to be left up to the woman. It’s all about her, and not about you.

Momentary inconvenience? If you think raising children who are loved and wanted, raising children to be responsible and sensible human beings, sacrificing everything for them for 18+ years, is only a momentary inconvenience, then obviously, you’ve never raised children.

Well, I’ve raised two, both in college now. They are doing great, we have a wonderful relationship. Because I wanted them, I was ready for them, and we could provide for them.

And yes, you should be sorry. And ashamed for your sexist attitude.

Let’s say Jack and Jill make a baby. They decide to get married and raise her. 5 months later they break up. Jack wants desperately to keep the baby and will assume full responsibility.

You argue that Jill has the right to terminate Jack’s child’s life and he has no recourse, simply because Jill is carrying her temporarily. Correct?

How is Jill ethically entitled to that authority?

I say she’s not. I’m not ashamed of that.

Recall that the topic was partial birth abortions. Jill has 4 months left to go before handing the baby over to Jack or, should he chicken out, giving her up for adoption.

This is both inconvenient and temporary. I won’t apologize for believing that Jill should do what’s right.

You are obviously educated and understand that there is a point after which a baby is a viable human being. Killing one after that is…well, what would you call it?

If Jack pulled some male “I ain’t havin’ no kid” crap and Jill is in the first 20 weeks, I think Jill has the right to act as she sees fit. The law of the land says so, her partner isn’t interested and, the baby isn’t viable at that point.

Given that most abortions occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy, that’s hardly claiming 100% of the right to decide.

I am a few years behind you in the child-rearing department but have 3 and about the name number of years of parenting experience as you do, so don’t presume to talk down to me on this basis.

As long as the fetus is part of her body,

Jill has the right to determine whether or not she keeps it.

And the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed with me, last week’s horrible decision on one rare type of procedure notwithstanding.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times babies have been born, onlyto have the boy, who after the child is here suddently realizes he’s in waaaaay over his head, bolts.

Yeah you can try to incite some irrational, emotional response by calling it “killing”. It’s a smoke screen for your pathological need to control the lives of women you know even know nor care one wit about.

We have 6.2 million single-parent mothers that receive no assistance from the fathers of their children, of which over 4.3 million have activily been trying to get it these deadbeat dads to support their children.

Are we going have more fathers in this country willing to take financial and emotional responsilibility for the offspring they produce? Doubtful. Are you going to guarantee support? Of course not. Are you going to adopt all these children and provide them with good homes? Of course not.

Each woman makes her own decision, on her own if she so decides. Period.

You disagree with SCOTUS’ recent decision; I disagree with their previous ones. Despite the fact that my side has given 98% of what yours wants you demand more. That’s pathological.

I guess it’s a waste of time to discuss further.

I demand what you have no right to take from me.

100%.

You started this diatribe of yours by saying that no man, or woman, can tell you want to do with your body.

As your employer will tell you, this is patently false. We are constantly told what to do every day of our lives. It’s childish propaganda to pretend otherwise.

Re

Yeah you can try to incite some irrational, emotional response by calling it “killing”.

I wouldn’t call telling the truth in as simple, non-inflammatory words as possible trying to incite an emotional response. It’s called stating the facts, a simple technique that ought to be used more often.

And re

Each woman makes her own decision, on her own if she so decides. Period.

That is just a determined father and an unbiased judge and/or SCOTUS away from being rectified as well.

I don’t usually engage in ideological battles with the enemy because they always end in in name-calling and talking past one another, at best.

In true Kos form, however, this one started out with the usual feminist vitriol right from the beginning. I let myself be drawn in because I’d asked for it and I felt like mixing it up a bit with them!

Note the standard form of liberal address: advance, particularly when no logical or even discernible facts are on your side, as if you were personally under attack.

Here we have a woman whose child-bearing years are over or nearly so spitting, clawing, scratching, eye-gouging, and name-calling as if she were on trial for her soul. Of course this is precisely the case. But that is in no way because of my marginally effective comments.

What hatred motivates this woman – who is obviously educated, mature, and intelligent – to not only accept but to embrace and even demand the right to kill an unborn child in or out of the womb and deny a willing father the right to his own child?

If I am to take her at her word it’s simply to create the right for women to have complete control over the reproductive process. Men are superflous in her view of the process, as shown above. It’s almost laughable, this posturing, yet I think in it she’s telling the truth: there is no valid use for a man in her arch-feminist world, save possibly as a beast of burden.

In summary, it was an interesting descent into the lair of the enemy at home.

I fear I am not cut out to take them on frequently; it’s not in my make up. Once a person reaches a certain level of incredulity with me, my “tune out, walk away” breaker trips and I am done with the conversation, as now.

Fixing No Child Left Behind

21.04.2007 (11:45 pm) – Filed under: Education ::

George Bush’s most positive contribution to American society may be the No Child Left Behind Act.

This is not saying much given that NCLB is a train wreck that one simply can’t look away from.  I mean that quite literally – we can’t look away.  We can’t afford to.

Most Americans have absolutely no choice about how their children are educated.  Only those wealthly enough to elect to pay twice and teach their children at home or send them to private schools have options.  The rest of us are forced to endure the educational equivalent of waterboarding as our children suffer through 12 years of a failed system, only to emerge unprepared to compete intellectually against their peers in the rest of the world.

(The majority of Americans believe the current, compulsory state of the education system is an inalienable right.  This is not correct; however, I’ll assume it for the duration of this post.)

Dan Lips of the The Heritage Foundation says that the best way to make sure our children get the education they need is to allow states to set their own standards for achievement:

Conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced a bill that would let states opt out of many of the mandates imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Under the new approach, states would be free to use federal education funds as they see fit, provided they maintain student testing to assess their progress and make the test results publicly available.

The law requires states to test students annually and offers a menu of penalties for schools that fail to show progress on those exams.

Some states are “dumbing down” their exams to let more students pass and more schools show “adequate yearly progress” under NCLB.

Ironically, the No Child Left Behind “opt-out” provision is the most promising way to protect the goals of the law: to make public education truly transparent and accountable.

Lips gets one of his points right:  American schools that fail to meet standards should not be punished for the failure of their students to perform.  That is, federal funds should not be removed from these schools because of test performance.

Why?  Because the students at these schools need all the help they can get and taking away the ~8% of their schools’ budgets provided by the feds will not improve the situation.

This is not to say that there should not be consequences for schools’ failures.  State regulatory bodies and school administrators must assume responsibility for the children they have in their care.  If they do not deliver results they – not the children – should be made to fall on the sword.  That’s being held accountable.
To make this a reasonable requirement, these regulators and administrators must be free to staff schools as needed to get the job done.  This means eliminating the highly-unionized, “job for life” system that is currently in place in public schools.

This will not be popular with the powerful unions.  But accountability demands freedom to act, freedom to fail, and freedom to succeed.  Currently too many incompetent or marginal teachers and local administrators are kept in their jobs by the non-competitive nature of our schools’ human resources system.  This is simply not acceptable.

Lips’ idea that control – and therefore responsibility – must be pushed down to the local level is the right one.  At the same time, local districts must also adhere to certain “best practices” of administration, policy, curriculum, and grading and someone must enforce these standards.

It’s foolish to think that we can simply return to a system of local control without centralized oversight.  We’ve tried that before with dismal results.  To “trust but verify”, as Ronald Reagan famously said, seems to be the correct model.

At the moment, one all-to-common practice at the local level that would certainly not meet Regean’s criteria for passing verification is schools’ practice of forcing teachers to give a 50% grade on homework and/or tests turned in by a student.

Trust me on this as one who knows – this happens at many, many schools.  The inevitable result is that grades are given to students that were simply not earned.  Turning in sheets of paper with a name on them gets students most of the way to passing classes.  This too is completely unacceptable and must be stopped.

Students, one must understand, know how to play the system and they understand how to get something for nothing.  They also feel in their guts that they are being rewarded for something they didn’t earn and the result is a disdain for the entire system that isn’t entirely unjustified.

Some central oversight is therefore required.  And that’s not all that’s needed from the ivory tower folks in D.C.

Part of holding state and local administrators accountable for their students’ progress is measuring that progress, as George Bush knows well and rightly insists on.  High-stakes testing is an important part of NCLB.  However, states’ ability to set their own standards has made a joke out of this delegation of responsibility.

States such as Illinois, Tennessee, and Oklahoma have lowered standards to the point that they are not even trying to measure academic achievement.  This demonstrates exactly what one would expect:  those responsible for meeting a standard cannot be allowed to set that standard.

If we are to have meaningful testing of students’ performance and use that testing as a tool to ensure state and local educators are performing as required, those tests and standards must be developed and enforced at a higher level.

America needs a standardized achievement testing system and we need it to be established by the federal government.  Furthermore, we need a system that local districts cannot “teach to” (and thereby cheat) by simply instructing students about how to take the tests while neglecting the real business of educating them.

This is what is needed to maximize our results from public education, not a handing of unmanaged authority and money back to local districts.

Partial Victory on Abortion, Bad Pun Intended

20.04.2007 (1:01 pm) – Filed under: Medicine,Men's Rights ::

By a 5-4 margin the US Supreme Court made the right decision Wednesday by upholding President Bush’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. From the Houston Chronice:

Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to uphold the “sanctity of life.”

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion,” he said. “Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.”

As I’ve discussed before here and here, it’s my belief that in America both unwanted pregnancies and the decision to have an abortion are very often the result of laziness on the part of one or both sex partners. We all know what causes pregnancy. Accidents happen, but the argument that ignorance causes unwanted babies simply isn’t true.

While it may seem callous to label a pregnant woman as lazy, the truth is that in most cases pregnancy is a short-term inconvenience that can be endured without significant, damaging, or long-lasting effects.

Certainly the laziness effect applies just as equally to fathers, far too many of who fail utterly to accept their responsibility for the care of their partners and their children. The male who abandons the woman to fend for herself is no man at all; rather he is a pathetic creature with neither soul nor courage.

It is inconvenient indeed to be forced to provide for the lives we create. Inconvenient and utterly necessary.
Planned Parenthood, predictably, disagrees:

Eve Gartner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women’s health and safety. … This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them.”

So did SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Today’s decision is alarming,” she wrote in dissent.

Ginsburg said that for the first time since the court established a woman’s right to an abortion in 1973, “the court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.”

Of course neither is correct: the law allows the procedure to be performed when a woman’s life is in jeopardy.

Which brings us back full-circle. If a woman’s life is protected under the law, the fact remains that most abortions are caused by a perceived inconvenience, usually on the part of the woman.

(Too often these decisions are made solely by the woman but that is another topic.)

That laziness is a factor in many abortions is particularly true in the case of partial birth abortions which, by definition, take place when the pregnancy is more than halfway complete. Four or fewer months are all that remain for the woman to complete her obligation to the child, allow him or her to live, and give the baby up for adoption. It’s not so hard. No harder than being murdered, for instance.

Perhaps it is not fair to criticize the individuals involved given the fact that our society demands instantaneous satisfaction of our smallest want or need. Nine months of unpleasant, unwanted pregnancy can seem like a much larger issue than it is when one’s perspective is lacking, as so many Americans’ are.

The ruling is more symbolic than practical. Even so it is important because it establishes a precedent against the most heinous forms of abortion. The LA Times says:

the disputed procedure is used in fewer than 5,000 of the more than 1.3 million abortions performed nationwide each year.

and:

It was the first time the court upheld a ban on an abortion procedure. Though Wednesday’s opinion does not overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion, the majority said it was prepared to uphold new restrictions on doctors who perform them and women who seek them.

The decision is likely to elevate the abortion issue in the 2008 presidential campaigns. Two of the court’s strongest supporters of the right to abortion are also its oldest: John Paul Stevens will be 87 on Friday, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 74. The next president might have to nominate one or more new justices.

Let’s hope so. Ginsburg’s comments make it clear that rational Americans could do little worse on this issue by replacing her and Stevens, who voted with her.

Assimilating Islam

18.04.2007 (10:30 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Society ::

I recently wrote about the need for foreign nationals to assimilate when they make the U.S. their home.  In the light of the horror perpetrated by a foreign student at Virginia Tech University this week I think that the need for assimilation is more obvious than ever.

Sadly, there is no indication that Muslims are willing to participate in American society the way that the rest of us need them to.  Judging from the demands they have been making for seperate and “more equal” treatment in American courtrooms, taxi cabs, and classrooms they have no interest in the American melting pot. 

Today’s post at Atlas Shrugs includes a long exerpt from a great article by Katherine Kersten about Muslim demands for special treatment at American universities.  Here’s a short snippet that I think delivers the point quite succinctly:

The [ed: Muslim Accommodations Task Force] task force’s eventual objectives on American campuses include the following, according to the website: permanent Muslim prayer spaces, ritual washing facilities, separate food and housing for Muslim students, separate hours at athletic facilities for Muslim women, paid imams or religious counselors, and campus observance of Muslim holidays. The task force is already hailing “pioneering” successes. At Syracuse University in New York, for example, “Eid al Fitr is now an official university holiday,” says an article featured on the website. “The entire university campus shuts down to mark the end of Ramadan.”

This does not sound like assimilation to me.  Nor does it sound like the MATF’s goals and objectives are aligned with traditional American collegiate experiences such as meeting people of different backgrounds, discussing ideas from new perspectives, and learning how to be a self-actualized human being.

Another bit clipped from Kertsen’s article explains this fully. 

[ed: For Muslim students], “learning to live with ‘different kinds of people’ ” actually “causes more harm than good” for Muslims, because it requires them to live in an environment that “distracts them from their desire to become better Muslims, and even draw[s] weaker Muslims away from Islam.”

I am certain that this perspective is true – experience with a better way of life often causes people to abandon old, inferior ways of living.  It’s called maturation in some circles, growth in others, and assimilation here at Black Shards.  Whatever name it goes by, experiencing life and determining one’s own philosophy is a good thing for people to do and is perhaps the most important part of being a young person in America.

For this and other reasons I do not believe that it’s acceptable for Muslims to be allowed to segregate themselves within the framework of public institutions. 

Specifically in regard to higher education, I see no accomodations being made for Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist students on campus.  Muslims are no more deserving of special treatment than these groups, even if they are louder about demanding special privileges.  On the basis of equal treatment their demands should be ignored.

Equal treatment is the least of it, however.  American laws and customs apply to Muslims just as they do to every other group of citizens.  Muslims must accept this fact of life, bow to it, and, to the great extent to which America and Islam are incompatible, live their lives as Americans first and Muslims second. 

There can be no reverse Jim Crow laws passed to create a shadow society for Muslims in America. 

On a related note, a new post at American Future discusses some utterly laughable social programming that the politically correct would like to foist on the citizens of Scotland.  As reported by the UK Times:

PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.

A document intended to educate against religious intolerance and sectarianism urges teachers to “make pupils aware of the various forms of Islamophobia, ie stares, verbal abuse, physical abuse”.

The document states: “Some Muslims may choose to wear clothing or display their faith in a way that makes them visible. For example, women may be wearing a headscarf, and men might be wearing a skullcap. Staring or looking is a form of discrimination as it makes the other person feel uncomfortable, or as though they are not normal.”

Exactly how one polices that sort of “policy” I do not understand.  Wise law makers know enough not to create rules that are inevitably going to be broken.  In the AF post Marc Schulman says this:

I’m imagining cameras in classrooms recording the eye movements of every student (and, using advanced technology, determining who’s being looked at) and charges being filed against non-Muslims who look at Muslims longer than is acceptable. Presumably, there would be no restrictions on how long Muslims could stare at other Muslims and non-Muslims at other non-Muslims.

The “no staring” policy is insipid foolishness at its worst.  If Muslims intend to live in the West then they must adapt to our way of life, not the other way around.  They must become Europeans or Americans and accept our laws. 

To state matters simply, there can be no accomodation of either cultural seperatism or Sharia law in the American legal system. 

Sharia is not – and should not be – acceptable to Americans or to the American way of life.  Sadly, some Muslims may turn to violence – as advocated by their faith’s fundamental writings – if they are not allowed to have their way.  For some of their number, this is a goal in itself: the creation of a victimization mentality and the resulting rally of righteous fury.

I believe that the time is upon all Americans to choose sides in a cultural battle that has been going on 5 times longer than our nation has existed.  The enemy is among us, I’m afraid, and is corrupting the institutions on which American life is built.

We cannot allow this to happen.  Cries of discrimination will no doubt emanate from the Muslim and liberal lobbies every time Americans stand up for their customs, laws, and institutions and refuse to give in to the demands of the intractable aliens among us.

Some of these decisions and the resulting backlash may prove painful or even tragic.  This is to be expected.  In a battle for survival, losses are inevitable, if no less disheartening.  We must be resolute if we want our grandchildren to live in an America like the one we enjoy today.  We must not delay in beginning to defend her.