Anne Wilson

 

 

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Saturday, June 29, 2002

 
The `Cultural Bridges Act of 2002' (Senate Bill 2505) is a bi-partisan bill that sets up an "exchange visitor" program for secondary school students from the "Islamic world." Its purpose is:

(a) IN GENERAL- To carry out the purpose of section 4, and to redress the underrepresentation in United States international exchange visitor programs of persons from the Islamic world, the Secretary, acting under the authority, direction, and control of the President, is authorized to establish an international exchange visitor program under which eligible secondary school students from the Islamic world would--

(1) attend a public secondary school in the United States;

(2) live with an American host family and experience life in a United States host community; and

(3) participate in activities designed to promote a greater understanding of American and Islamic values and culture.


On the surface this looks really bad. Rod Dreher of NRO hates it. However, it has some "crazy like a fox" points, even if they weren't intended by the bill's sponsors.

Many, many men from Islamic states have studied in the US, and they usually *don't* study 17th century British literature. They're in engineering, science, and technology programs, and many of them are working toward advanced degrees. In general their experiences have *not* "assimilated" them or made them friendlier to American life.

What would be the advantages of a high school program? It's a masterful propaganda opportunity. Hopefully the high schools chosen will be of the most fun-loving, social, Clueless-type variety available. High school offers far more opportunities to get immersed in Western life than engineering school.

Engineering school can be a meat-grinder. It's difficult; those who do well spend many hours working. Engineering campuses (like Purdue or Illinois Institute of Technology) aren't noted for the same vibrant and diverse campus cultural life enjoyed by those at, for instance, Indiana University in Bloomington. It's pretty easy for these students to isolate themselves in their own same sex-same language cliques.

By contrast, high school students will probably find themselves among only a few, or perhaps the only Islamic-state student on the campus. Instead of living with their "own people," they'll live with a host family (who probably will have at least one high-school age student as well.) If they have an outgoing family and an active school, they'll probably get involved in all sorts of high school activities like football games, proms, dances, socials, clubs, other sports etc. This is far less isolating than the college experience.

Engineering students (especially graduate students) tend to be older and presumably more formed and set in their attitudes, compared to more impressionable 15-18 year olds.

The program requires "gender diversity," which means that women students have to be included as well. This is extremely significant because very few Islamic-state postsecondary students are women. The more Islamic-state women are exposed to freedom, perhaps the harder it will be for their systems to continue the way they are.

Another advantage to the high school experience is that many high schools follow highly interactive teaching methods. Many engineering schools stick students in dehumanizing "factory style" classes of 200-400, often with a barely-English-literate graduate student who is clueless about teaching.

By contrast, good high school teaching (as well as good college teaching) is interactive, Socratic, "hands-on," and group-oriented. While some conservatives might not like this, on the other hand it provides students from rigid theocratic societies an opportunity to actually listen and communicate with others as part of the educational process. People whose views *never* would be heard in Islamic societies (girls, Jews, even Christians!) are indeed heard in "progressive" high school classrooms. Again, these opportunities are rarely found in engineering and technical schools.

So would a program like this really turn little jihadis into modern men and women with at least rudimentary experiences of freedom? Maybe, maybe not. But at least ideas like this should be considered as part of the long-term psychological war against jihadist terrorism.

 
Rawbservations has some comments in response to mine on vouchers.

For a good presentation of "the conservative case against vouchers," see the Home School Legal Defense Association's position paper.

One reader writes about control issues in parochial schools:
You touch upon an interesting point about Catholic schools in your blog. I know many Catholics who either home school or use public schools because of their concerns about things like sex ed, and because they see little difference between Catholic schools and public schools.

Parents who use the parish schools have less control over the schools than those who use public schools. Even in terms of things not having to do with the faith. Catholic school boards habve little power, and the members often are appointed by the pastor or principal, and can be fired by the pastor. They are just advisory.

Here in our area, with an abundance of Catholic schools, we're taking our kids out of the parish school and putting them into a private Catholic school to avoid the sex ed and other issues.

Another reader contributes some questions about vouchers:

Will voucher-receiving private/parochial schools take the same state-mandated tests as private schools and have their scores posted? If not, why not? In "free states" (i.e. those with little regulation on private education), private schools and home schools don't take state tests. I would expect any state voucher law would require voucher school students to take state tests.

If voucher schools are required to take state standardized tests, two things will happen. First, that will create two tiers of private schools - those subject to government regulations and those not. "Free" schools will be under pressure to conform to state testing regulations as well.

Second, since the tests drive the curriculum, private schools will change their curriculum to meet state testing requirements.

Will voucher-receiving schools be able to reject public school students who apply for admission? If so, on what basis? I would imagine schools receiving vouchers would not be allowed to reject students on the basis of religion, sex, behavior, or disability. Private schools now are href="http://www.enstrom-foundation.org/Liberate/PMisc/Con-p125.html">not permitted to racially discriminate if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. Conceivably, if there's seen to be a greater "public interest" in opening up private schools through vouchers, it may be that private schools will also have to reject sex, behavioral, and disability "discrimination."

The question also arises whether hiring practices will have to conform to "anti-discrimination" rules. For instance, would vouchers be acceptable at an all-boys' school that hired only men as teachers?

Will the public be able to attend the board meetings of voucher receiving schools? I can't imagine the public being allowed to attend school board meetings at church schools, especially if these meetings aren't even generally open to members of the congregation.

This to me is one of the most significant accountability issues surrounding vouchers. Except for closed sessions involving personnel matters, all school board meetings are entirely open to the public.

A further question: who will be *on* the school boards when church or private schools receive vouchers? Any voting resident can usually run for school board. Private school boards are by definition private, closed entities. If they receive public funds, should they also be subjected to public governance?

Will voucher-receiving schools be held to to same state building standards as public schools? If not, why not?I would imagine that schools would have to follow fire laws and occupancy codes - if there are any and if they're enforced.

Can students who use vouchers be dismissed from private schools on the basis of not doing assigned work? If so, why cannot public school students be dismissed on the same basis? In one sense this is where vouchers can possibly help the public school situation. At present students can't be dismissed from public schools for misbehavior or slacking off. If voucher students are known to be dismissed from private schools for misbehavior or for failing to do work, I would imagine *public school parents* who wish to see behavioral and academic standards enforced would have grounds for lawsuits, because "equal protection" (i.e. ridding classrooms of behavioral or academic slackers) is not being applied to them.

Conversely, it may be that these private schools will be forced to accept students with behavioral or academic deficiencies.

Will parents who use vouchers retain the same rights they had in the public school system regarding things like sex education? When the right test case comes along, that will be interesting to see - especially if the voucher-receiving parent challenging the sex education happens to be a parishioner.

Friday, June 28, 2002

 
Our Bosnian Muslim friends are the subject of a Weekly Standard article by journalist and Islamic expert Stephen Schwartz. I found the link on Free Republic, and something interesting there as well. Apparently Stephen Schwartz converted to Sufi Islam; read his conversion story here.

(For an alternative view, read Pravda's "running dog zionist imperialist" take on Schwartz's conversion.)

It does lend a different cast to his articles on wahhabism and the Balkans (where many Muslims are Sufis), however. For instance, when Schwartz wrote an article on "moderate Muslims" in National Review Online in October 2001, it would have been nice to know that Schwartz had converted to the Sufi group presided over by Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, whom he quotes extensively in the article.

Now Sheikh Kabbani, far as I can tell, is one of the "good guys." In January of 1999 he attempted to alert the US State Department to the dangers of Saudi-sponsored wahhabi infiltration in the vast majority of US mosques (as described in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.) He is friendly to Christians and reputedly more pro-Israel than many Muslims. For instance, in this week's Jewsweek, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said of Kabbani:
Hoenlein said that Sheik Hisham Kabbani, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, is one Muslim leader whom he finds acceptable. Kabbani, who has spoken out against organizations such as CAIR and AMC, has found himself under attack from those organizations in the last two years.
Personally, I have no problem with Schwartz becoming a Sufi, or even that he doesn't write under his Islamic name "Suleyman Ahmad." Nor am I accusing him of "keeping it secret." I do find it interesting that when he is bylined, his Sufi connection isn't mentioned.

The closest equivalent would be a journalist covering the Catholic Church sex scandals who was writing about a particular bishop - who just happened to be his own bishop who had catechized him and brought him into the Church as a convert. For better or worse, readers probably would find that important, because it would add depth to the journalist's coverage. So it goes with Schwartz too.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

 
More thoughts on the voucher decision: No offense to Catholics here, so *please* do not take any, but the vast majority of private schools receiving voucher funds are Catholic. While I am not Catholic, I know "conservative" Catholics who have opted *out* of the Catholic school system because they find it too liberal. It's claimed that Catholic schools use public school textbooks and teach a watered-down version of the Catholic religion. Having never had a child in a Catholic school, I don't know from experience if this is true or not.

Yes, this is hearsay. So from what I hear, a primary reason for "conservative" Catholics choosing home schooling or private independent Catholic schools is because of explicit sex education in Catholic schools.

Why is this important? Normally this would be an internicene Catholic fight, between the "AmChurch" Catholics who disagree with the Roman Catholic Church's stated positions on birth control, abortion, women priests, authority of the Pope, on one hand, and those who see themselves as "traditional" Catholics who determinedly adhere to the catechism. However, when taxpayer funds are involved, what would normally be an internal religious disagreement will in one way or another spill over into public policy.

There are two "litmus tests" coming up that will show the practical effects of this unfortunate intermingling of religion and state. The first will come when a voucher recipient's parents decide that they want to remove their child from Catholic parish school sex education. Perhaps this is not so problematic if the child is not a Catholic (which is often the case in inner-city parish schools.) More interesting - what will happen if that voucher student is also a parishioner, whose parents object to sex education on Catholic religious grounds? Will there be two policies for students receiving public funding: one for non-Catholic voucher students, and one for Catholics?

Another acid test will come when parents attempt to get vouchers for schools that (unlike Catholic schools) are not generally open to those outside the faith community; which require interviews with the elders and testimonies of faith from at least one parent; which require that parents adhere to codes of personal behavior (like the Christian school that dismissed the "stripper mom's" child because mom wouldn't find other employment), and last but not least, schools that teach strict creationism and the "young earth" view.

What degree of religious individuality will be tolerated in government-funded "private" schools?
 
Don't turn Japanese, please: Zach Frey of Eclectic Amateur found this really amusing riff on why you do not want to learn Japanese. (Actually, I do...)

I would add one more caveat - don't rely on subtitled anime to learn Japanese. You will probably repeat something said at the lowest level of politeness by the crudest person in the anime, and look like a dumb gaijin.
 
SCOTUS approves vouchers 5-4: Those ruling in favor of public funds for religious private schools were Justices Rehnquist, Thomas, O'Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy.

While highly conservative, I am not a voucher supporter, mainly because I think funding private schools with tax money will produce the same pressure to conform to unacceptable government policies that's already occurred in private universities and in religiously-run hospitals.

SCOTUS ruled that the programs are constitutional *if* there is "choice" between non-religious and religious programs. This will inadvertently result in discrimination against poor *rural* schools. Private schools are thick on the ground in many urban areas, but rural areas have very few private schools of any kind, and the distances between them are often prohibitive. Thus the only option offered to many who literally *are* trapped in poor rural school districts is home schooling. Vouchers also have the potential, however, to make home schooling more onerous.

I fear for the integrity of home schooling, because in some states (like Missouri), homeschooling is defined statutorily as "private religious education." If voucher funds are available for private religious schools, then by state law they probably will have to be extended to home schooling as well. This will involve unwelcome and intrusive levels of documentation and regimentation.

Finally, while the vast majority of private schools in urban areas are Catholic parochial schools, other religious schools will also qualify - private Muslim schools, for instance. To refuse to do so would constitute "discrimination." Personally, I do not want my tax dollars to go to fundamentalist Islamic schools where girls are made to wear hijab and Israel is blotted out on the map. Of course, one could say that the government should *regulate* these private schools so they don't blank out Israel, but that again leads to an undesirable interference into private education itself - one which will eventually have more consequence for Christian schools than the madrassahs.
 
The "Bear" Necessities: The Russians got themselves a 13% flat tax rate. They are sitting on enormous natural gas and oil reserves, and aren't afraid to undercut OPEC periodically. Now in a powerful step towards a free-market economy, Russians for the first time in 85 years will be able to buy and own farmland. Interestingly, purchases by foreigners will be strictly prohibited. Maybe we need to study their playbook a little more closely.
 
New Star Trek Movie: Nemesis: Apparently it's about the Romulans, who are actually rogue Vulcans. While the retro-art-deco look might be passe (swept out by the return to icy-cool glass and concrete modern in Minority Report) it's still fun to look at, even though Romulan interior design does seem to have a slight whiff of Albert Speer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

 
From the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Department: Kuwaitis sue over Guantanamo prisoners. Are we going to pull their chestnuts out of the fire if Saddam invades again?
 
Defending the indefensible: That's Robert Jordan's job as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He wants to convince us that The Saudis Are Really Our Friends with the following pious platitudes:

U.S.-Saudi relations understandably have come under a great deal of scrutiny since Sept 11 ... If enhanced public scrutiny of our relationship leads to better understanding and a strengthened commitment to work together to confront challenges to global peace and security, we will be able to prevent future acts of terrorism. But if we strike out blindly against perceived enemies and undermine the ability of our friends to work with us against the scourge of global terrorism, we will have a lot to answer for.
What we will have to answer for is why we let our brothers' blood cry out to us from the ground. When we abandon our own national security to go slutting after foreign oil; when we abandon our own citizens - children! - to lives of unremitting Saudi barbarities; when we continue to allow Saudi citizens free run in our country even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks - yes, there's a lot to answer for there, isn't there, Mr. Jordan?
Thousands of children born here bear both American and Saudi passports.
I'm glad he brought this point up. Yes, the Roush girls and all the other US citizens who are being *held captive in Saudi Arabia* have really been allowed to exercise those US passports. Where are those children and young adults, Mr. Jordan? Why are they allowed to be kidnapped by their Saudi fathers and held against their will and against US court rulings?
At the same time, tens of thousands of Americans, a large percentage from Texas, have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, helping the country to take a giant leap from a pre-industrial society to a modern state.
Wrong. Modern states don't murder people when they change religion. Modern states don't allow female mutilations. Modern states don't amputate limbs in the public square for theft. Modern states don't force women into purdah and not let them leave the country without daddy or hubby's signature. Saudi Arabia may have modern technology (thanks to us) but it is *not* a "modern state." It is a state of pure barbarism dressed up in a suit.

We have serious concerns about human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, particularly regarding religious freedom and women's rights. And we talk to them about our views. But we must focus as well on what we agree on.
Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. There are certain limitations to one's alliances. As I recall, many leftists and even some moderate Republicans waged an all-out propaganda and economic war against South Africa because of human rights abuses against blacks. The abuses perpetuated in Saudi Arabia against its own citizens - and against ours as well - are *far* worse than anything dreamed up by the white apartheid government of South Africa.

Blacks in South Africa were forced to carry passes, work in inferior jobs, even forced to relocate to the "tribal homelands." But they were generally allowed to live. In Saudi Arabia, if you dissent from Islam, you die. As Flannery O'Connor said, "You can't be any poorer than dead."

And the Saudis and we agree that governments in the region should focus on internal reforms so that the people of the region can live prosperous lives, free of the threat of war and terrorism.
And exactly what reforms will Saudi Arabia initiate? Does it plan to allow religious freedom for non-Muslims? Will Muslims who want to change religions be allowed to do so? Will our men and women in uniform be allowed to freely practice their religions while protecting Saudi posterior from Saddam Hussein?

Since Sept. 11, the Saudis have let scores of Western journalists travel throughout the kingdom ... I encourage more journalists to see Saudi Arabia for themselves. Firsthand reporting promotes mutual understanding by dealing with our differences realistically. It also has the advantage of being factual.
Just don't send any women, but if you do, make sure they're clothed head to toe in the equivalent of black trash bags, with their faces covered. Of course they won't be able to drive. If one ankle shows, they can expect a beating from the religious police. Keep in mind that they'll probably be segregated from the men anyway. I suppose they can hang around the beauty parlors and interview Saudi women about the wide economic and cultural opportunities open to them in the Evil Kingdom.

Virginia Postrel asks, Are they sure he's the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, not vice versa? I think the phrase they use is "Gone native."


 
Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional and cannot be recited in schools, a West Coast Federal appeals court rules. While this doesn't apply to the entire country, it's a sad, sad ruling. What's next, taking "In God We Trust" off the money? Does the little Masonic pyramid with the all-seeing eye have to go too?
 
"I want to buy your children." In a letter to the editor in today's print edition of the Wall Street Journal, Scott Miller of Atlanta, GA makes an offer to genocide-bomber mother Naima al-Obeid.
I'll offer more than Saddam Hussein has offered; he'll pay $25,000 each if they are willing to turn themselves into human bombs, but I'll pay $30,000 each.

I want to buy them away from the god of death you worship. Perhaps I can help them convert to traditional Islam, a religion that abhors murder and suicide. Maybe they'll wish to become Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or atheist. That will be their choice, if I can raise them as Americans. ...

For a long time my wife and I have wondered what we might do to help in the war on terror. In buying your children, I see an opportunity for us to save countless innocent lives, among them your seven children.

Contact me. I'll pay.
The question is, will the INS let them into the US?
 
Church of England vicar sentenced for gun possession: Given that churches in certain parts of England are being attacked by gangs of Muslim youth, the priest's desire to protect himself is understandable and in my opinion not at all un-Christian. The Archdeacon of Manchester said:
“We were somewhat shocked by the nature of the custodial sentence, given the circumstances of this case, including his American upbringing and previous good character.
Maybe we need to get the NRA to once again personally donate firearms to Great Britain to fight off invasion.
 
Why foreign grad students often can't speak English: One of the greatest scams in American higher education occurs when college students and their parents pay $20,000 to $30,000 per year so that Johnny or Jane can plunk it down in calculus or circuit analysis and stare at the foreign graduate student teaching assistant poised in the front of the classroom with chalk in hand. Then he opens his mouth, and what comes out in no way resembles a coherent English sentence. What these college students are getting for their $1300 a credit hour is ripped off.

One reason this occurs is because of scams in foreign countries where prospective graduate students who want to come to the US pay others to take their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams for them. This used to be a largely Asian thing. But no one accused the Asians of terrorism.

Now the Saudis are getting into the act, with a twist. Meanwhile, this Newsmax article calls the entire student visa program "a security fiasco."
 
Iranian possibilities: Thomas Friedman explores the likelihood of fomenting a revolt for freedom in Iran. He claims that Iran has three "power centers" - the "dark clerics" who are essentially Iranian Taliban; the "rational clerics" who were radicalized under the US-backed regime of the Shah and who are currently allied with the Dark Side, and the reformers (the middle class, students) who could really use the help of the "rationals."

Friedman thinks that convincing the "rationals" to switch their support from the Dark Side to the Reformers might just tip the balance.

It makes sense. Iran has a long history of "Persian-ness." It is not and has never been an "Arabic" country, even during periods in its history when ruled by Arab invaders. For instance, while Islam has a long tradition of suppressing art which features the living form, even Persian Islamic art has for centuries featured charming depictions of people, animals, and mythical creatures.

Why we don't have 24/7 Farsi-language propaganda beaming down into Iran is beyond me. While government propaganda might not ever equal the eye-candy value or pack the persuasive punch of MTV, the Persian angle might be worth exploring. Not only is the radical and repressive Islam of the imams inimical to freedom and progress, it's probably also inimical to the *Persian* heritage of the Iranian people.

The Shi'a Iranians are already held in contempt by the Sunni-Wahhabi Arabs. Focusing on this split also would seem to be a profitable wedge for US propaganda. Friedman asks why it was necessary at this point to include Iran in the "axis of evil" rhetoric, and I wonder the same. They seem ripe for a samizdat revolution with a little of the right encouragement.

Monday, June 24, 2002

 
Let's slip inside the "Arab Noose:" Bet you didn't know we had crack teams of psychological warfare experts in Saudi Arabia, "launching periodic assaults on the youth of the Kingdom."

What do these evil Svengalis do? They're disguised as foreign reporters, and they follow Saudi young women around and *ask them questions about the status of women in Saudi Arabia.* The poor dears collapse in tears from the strain. These psy-ops terrorists also invade peaceful family picnics and ask embarrassing questions about Osama Bin Laden, thus showing "they have no morals whatsoever."

Oh, the horror. Pass the smelling salts; the Arab world has the vapors again.
 
The Maginot Line of Catholic theology occurred in 1968 with the enactment, and subsequent almost-universal dismissal of Humanae Vitae. Veni Sancte Spiritus addresses this point in an interesting article.

We also see eye to eye on the "root cause" of the sexual abuse scandals in the clergy (and I might add, not just in the Catholic clergy, but in *any* religious group's clergy.) He says:
I think men who sexually abuse children and mature teenagers have issues that are not attributable to sexual orientation. There is a sickness that is much deeper and rooted than plain old sexual desire. I think that sexual abusers have issues that stem from the desire to overpower and control.
Yup. (Thanks, Veni, for the bloglist link as well!)
 
Oil over people raises its ugly head again in Nat Hentoff's excellent column on slavery in the Sudan. Hentoff charges that southern Sudanese are being "ethnically cleansed" to make way for oil development, and also exposes our own inaction in fighting Muslim Sudanese enslavement of Sudanese Christians and animists:
Republicans and Democrats on the committee wanted to know why the Bush administration continues to oppose an amendment by Rep. Spencer Bachus that passed the House by a 422-2 vote, but stalled in the Senate by order of the White House. This amendment would forbid foreign companies from listing their securities in American stock markets and raising capital here as long as those firms are in partnership with the Sudanese government in oil development.
Can we also have such a resolution about Saudi Arabia, please, given the enslavement of Muslim women there, the state-approved murder of those who leave the Islamic religion, and the complete outlawing of any other religions in that country?

 
Charter school furniture fire sale? Maybe the California homeschoolers would like to buy some classroom furniture.

Once this Muslim-oriented charter school was the largest "chain" in the state, with over 1000 students and 14 campuses. Now the Fresno school district has pulled its charter amid charges of excessive debt, bad hiring practices and investigation into possible fraud.
GateWay leaders could not be reached for comment but have denied any wrongdoing, saying in letters to the district as well as in a recently dismissed lawsuit that they believe the scrutiny is related to prejudice directed toward Muslims in the wake of Sept. 11.
The superintendent of the extensive charter system told the school district that was supposed to be supervising him:

"I sincerely and highly recommend that your board of trustees and some administrators from [the Fresno County Office of Education] and [the Fresno Unified School District] enroll in a diversity training program that includes the lifestyle of Muslims."
I thought Muslims weren't supposed to get into debt...
 
Give them the guns, for crying out loud: We trust pilots to fly planes that can deliver the payload of bombs, but we won't allow them to carry guns. This is what you get when you appoint token Democrats to executive offices. Norman Mineta needs to g-o.

However, the furnishings of the new Transportation Security Administration take highest priority as Undersecretary John Magaw redecorates, according to US Congressman Ron Paul. Magaw was the former BATF head under Clinton. Imagine that.
 
The praxis of "education reform:" This article about how federal "education reform" plays out in the trenches in Memphis schools is worth inspecting as a harbinger of things to come. First off, notice how parents are rendered *incapable* of helping their children with mathematics because the math curriculum has been "updated" beyond all reason:
Sharon Cooper doesn't know how to help her daughter, Rochelle, who just failed the sixth grade at Cypress Middle School.

Cooper did OK when she was in school, but the math Rochelle brings home is Greek to her mom.

"I never learned math that hard," Cooper said. "I can't comprehend it."
In other words, muck up the math curriculum so badly that even sixth grade work is incomprehensible to parents, and then .... drum roll .... make *private tutoring* an entitlement for those students "failing" because of the abysmal math.
Starting this fall, many struggling students in low-performing schools will be eligible for free tutoring by an outside provider, paid for with federal money.
Another "solution:"
Another major provision being put in place this fall: help with school choice.

Memphis City Schools will have to pay to bus students in low-performing schools to higher-achieving schools if their parents request a transfer.
Notice how the parents of children in "higher-achieving schools" are not asked whether or not *they* want the choice of having students from poorly performing districts *dumped* in their own districts.

There's usually a 1:1 correspondence between school district quality, taxes, and the degree of parental education and involvement. Parents have often scrimped and saved to afford the taxes and housing costs in better districts, and have *made* those districts better by endless hours of volunteering and by starting not-for-profit corporations which distribute grants to their districts.

Another significant point is that often better districts are better because class sizes are below state-mandated maximum levels. For "school choice" to work, districts will most likely not be allowed to maintain their low student:teacher ratios, because classroom space will be required for students to exercise their "choice."

Nor will middle-class parents have a choice in paying for these programs. Normally when students transfer in to a district, the student is charged tuition (in my city it's about $5,000 or $6,000 per student.) In "school choice" (read: non-choice for some parents) plans, the state pays for the tuition, presumably out of general tax revenues. So the parents in better and wealthier districts end up paying twice: first for their own districts through taxes that are high to start with, and then through increases in their state taxes to pay for the tuitions subsidized by the state when students are *forced* on them by these "school choice" plans.

In other words, all choices are equal, but some are more equal than others.
 
More mailbox: Alan Henderson (go visit his blogsite) writes:
Re: Islamic "moral high ground" includes Rent-A-Wife arrangements: One would normally expect this kind of thing from leftist Christian organizations like the World Council of Churches. Well, when the issue is something that leftists favor (like the demonization of Israel). My advice to these conservative Christian outfits: fight for your cause, but INDEPENDENTLY from murderous totalitarian regimes. We don't need any more Roosevelt-Stalin pacts.


Meanwhile, Catholic sci-fi writer Sandra Miesel writes:
Short-term "marriages" were developed in medieval Islam as an end around prostitution. Willing women would post prices on their doors so visitors could enjoy the benefits of "marriage" away from home yet still look down on Christians for tolerating prostitutes.


(Slightly off-topic: here's an interesting Sandra Miesel article on the history of weaving as a womanly art.)
 
From the mailbox: Reader Terry Reed writes:
On your article about the State Dept. needing to post the article again about women being wary of Saudi men.

Generally people or their cultures do not change. There will always be men from the Middle East that use women. There will always be some men everywhere that do that. But, there will always be women who do not remain true to their family's heritage and are attracted to someone other than a man from their own background, and then act on it.

If a man's culture is traditionally known to mistreat women, and a woman is smart enough to know that, why do they fall it? Why do they put themselves in a compromising position? That should be something that is engrained in them as a child from their family, and them having a paramount desire to continue that.

I support you being able to keep that site posted. Americans are made to feel they have to change for the world, by people from elsewhere, who want to live here. If we are so bad, why did they leave their country? Why don't they go to school there? It's about time we as Americans, stop being so candy pants sensitive about their feelings and start thinking more about how we are going to continue our culture if we keep changing it every time some one whines about us not changing for them.

Remember, these people who whine about us being politically incorrect and want us to change to their culture, are the same ones who will never budge to adapt to ours. After they get all the benefits of Capitalism and some American woman, they do not care about us at all. Maybe we should put your article on posters that go out to every
college in America.

Thanks and God Bless. Yes, GOD bless.
Not only do exploitative Saudi and other Islamic-state men get the benefits of capitalism and an American woman (although sometimes her better American qualities get beaten out of her), they get the benefit of permanent residence in the US.

I like the idea of posters at colleges, although I can imagine their fate after the first five minutes.

While this may be too "statist" an approach for some, perhaps it's time for states to enact laws warning women of these dangers when they go apply for their marriage licenses. The states and federal government both have an interest in making sure that Americans are not kidnapped, confined, and abused abroad.

We have to clean our own houses here, too. There are probably far more college-educated women out there who want to get married than there are young men willing to marry them. This is a weakness highly exploitable by the predatory. It's not enough to raise girls who don't think of themselves as victims; boys need to be raised to think of themselves as husbands, fathers, and providers, instead of with the "Why buy a cow...?" mentality.
 
We hit the big time: One of you wonderful readers sent me a heads-up on this humble real estate's mention in Fox News's Tongue Tied about the Saudi marriage warning website.
 
Baby steps in Iran: The legal age of marriage for girls has been raised from age 9 to age 13 for girls, and from age 14 to 15 for boys.

Judicial bypass is available, however, for those fifty-year old men who really, really must marry that ten-year old girl for a few hours.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

 
Minority Report: Yes, I know we're all supposed to be torqued off at Steven Spielberg for whiting out the guns in the new remix of E.T., but get over it. Minority Report is that good.

Like last year's poignant and disturbing AI: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report serves up a rare dish hardly ever sampled on the screen since the Cold War: intelligent science fiction with ideas instead of Babes with Boobs and Guns. The requisite action fits seamlessly into the plot, and one chase scene can't even be described without spoiling the surprise.

The ghost of Stanley Kubrick hovers over this film, especially in the first few minutes when Tom Cruise's John Anderton raises his sensor-gloved hands in front of a holographic computer display and rearranges the psychic-generated future-crime scene images like a conductor before his orchestra.

The Teenage Computer Guru of the house likes anime because "you have to know something already to get something out of it." Likewise for this film. Someone was definitely reading both their Greek drama and their Calvinist/Catholic debates about predestination versus free will when they wrote this one. No, it's not "dorm-room sophistry," either, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch complained.

It's not too long. Use the potty beforehand, and don't buy that float-your-boat 44 oz. soda.

Yes, it has a complicated plot. Pay attention. Practice by seeing Shakespeare in the park. Rent Rashomon or Seven Samurai to build those film-watching endurance muscles.

Yes, the color *was* deliberately made unnatural, so that things we are supposed to notice stand out. (Remember how the little girl's red coat in Schindler's List hit us right between the eyes when the Nazis raided the ghetto?) Go rent Wings of Desire (aka Der Himmel Uber Berlin) or the 1946 "afterlife movie" Stairway to Heaven to see how this color language is used.

Both Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick, God rest them, would have been proud.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

 
Islamic "moral high ground" includes Rent-A-Wife arrangements: Wahabbi Sunnis disapprove, but that doesn't stop Shi'a Muslims in Lebanon and Iran from entering into contract marriages that may last for a few years or a few hours, depending on the terms. In Lebanon the practice is called mutaa, and in Iran sigheh.

Nor, according to Jean Sasson in her Princess series of books (about the horrorshow called "marriage" among the upper classes of Saudi Arabia) does it stop purist wahhabi Saudis from renting Shi'a women for assignations.

The practice itself is simple, with the payment for services rendered made more palatable by calling it a "dowry." As one Shi'a man describes:
The contracts are often verbal, the dowries equally simple -- sometimes they are cash, but Hussein said he was more inclined to offer a bolt of quality fabric, a dress, or even a basket of fruit.
A fruit basket. Isn't that sweet.

Both Sunni and Shi'a interpretations of Islamic law justify the mutaa "marriage."
"What is one to do? Either one slips into adultery, or marries," [one sheik] said. "We say, 'There is a way that Islam has made legitimate with which you can build a relationship with a woman and conduct a [marriage] contract for a certain period.' " The contracts can run into years, or conclude in hours. Widows, divorcees and those who lack the cash to marry and set up a household in the customary fashion have needs and always will, the cleric says.

"The opposing [Sunni] view is that the Prophet made this legitimate for a limited time. We say he made it legitimate to meet a pressing need, and that need is still around."
I wonder if the Christian organizations scrabbling for common ground with Iran and other Islamic-law states over UN family planning issues know how severely the moral high ground is eroded when it comes to traditionalist, Islamic-state views of women.


 
Battlebots with an attitude: The British Magna Museum has a "living robots" display designed to illustrate the principles of "artificial evolution."
This groundbreaking experiment, described as an evolutionary arms race, has transformed into a spectacular public show at Magna. The amazing exhibition will take place in a purpose built arena, in the atmospheric Big Hall and is designed to hold 500 people at any one time. Visitors can watch as predator and prey robots hunt down their prey in an epic struggle to survive.

The Living Robots have one goal, to obtain enough energy to survive and breed. The prey find their food from light sensors within the arena, while the predators feed off prey by stalking and chasing them before sucking away their power.
How they breed isn't specified.

Last week, one decided to set off on its own, as this article describes:
Professor Noel Sharkey [developer and designer of "Living Robots" -AW] said he turned his back on the drone and returned 15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift paddock it was being kept in.

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.

Sharkey said: "Since the experiment went live in March they have all learned a significant amount and are becoming more intelligent by the day but the fact that it had ability to navigate itself out of the building and along the concrete floor to the gates has surprised us all."


Why should this surprise this latter-day Dr. Tenma? Even a hermit crab will try to get out of its enclosure.





 
No more rewards for genocide bomber families as Israel prepares to deport them to the Gaza Strip and demolish their homes.
 
Women's Rights Whinefest - NOW: Less than twelve months ago, women in Afghanistan were still getting their fingertips amputated by jihadi savages for wearing nail polish, but NOW's national convention yatta-yattas on about how American women's "rights are being eroded."
There's a renewed push for one-gender schools, which in theory sounds good but "separate is rarely equal," they said.
Gosh. One-gender schools. We have rafts of illiterate-in-both-languages immigrants flooding the US, but NOW is worried about "single-gender schools." We have sixteen-year old girls in middle school in Boston, but God forbid they might do better in single-sex schools.
Women must mobilize for the 2002 elections, said NOW president Kim Gandy, in particular to get candidates they support elected to the U.S. Senate, where their preferred party, the Democrats, holds a one-vote advantage.
Keep herding those stupid females onto the Democratic reservation.
"The Supreme Court is tottering, 5-4, just to preserve the basic abortion rights..."
This is what it's really all about. If you're not pro-abortion, you're not a feminist. This has got to be the biggest lie of the past 30 years.
And the House and the Bush administration do not support most of NOW's agenda, which includes welfare reform that isn't "punitive," abortion rights, and equal rights for women, racial minorities and gays and lesbians.
Feminists have always been for unqualified, unlimited welfare. Like Democrats in general, they depend upon a large underclass of welfare-dependent drones to keep them in power or as their spokesmen (note: this is an Inclusive Language-Free site.)
Chris Mitchell, a social worker from Duluth, was among those attending. She said that the NOW chapter in Duluth has been a sponsor of Take Back the Night, an annual event held nationwide to protest violence against women, and that she is now looking for new ideas for community involvement.
I have one for "taking back the night." It's called the Second Amendment, especially in its concealed-carry form.

Other workshops include "Getting out the vote" and "Fighting the Far Right Takeover of the Federal Judiciary." Funny, where are the workshops on all the oppressed women overseas that usually grace feminist get-togethers? What, no solidarity with the enslaved Third World sisters this time around?

But the best comes last.
Such was the political analysis coming from Friday's opening meeting, which drew about 300 people.
Three hundred people, probably a third of them reporters. This is the media-created paper tiger that's supposed to "speak for women."

Thursday, June 20, 2002

 
The man "in country" to read: Tal G. in Jerusalem has been added to the link list on the left.
 
Another genocide bombing in Jerusalem: President Bush has put the discussion of an "interim Palestinian state" on hold. Good. It would be rather bad manners to bring it up at this point.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks continue to roll into Palestinian areas. Looks like the US administration is finally letting loose of the chain around Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's neck as Ari Fleischer says:

The White House said Bush did not oppose Israel's decision to reoccupy Palestinian areas in response to attacks.

"The president believes that Israel is in the middle of recovering from a very serious attack and that Israel has a right to defend itself," Fleischer said.
Thank you, Mr. Fleischer.
 
I AM going to get "Comments" - sometime... I have all kinds of excuses. I'm never online when YACC's golden twelve minutes per day opens up. I am a Windows moron and YACCs' screens scare me.

Yatta, yatta. Meanwhile, send me e-mail. I might not publish every letter but I *will* answer your e-mail - maybe not within 24 hours, but I will make an honest effort. I *like* mail and surprisingly, haven't received any from any wahoobi morons(tm) - thank you, Mark Shea, for that stellar addition to English phraseology.

If you send me a letter, and want your name/blog site listed, let me know in your e-mail & attribution will be included if it's published.
 
You can run, but you can't hide...A reader writes:
Thank you for posting the link to that mirror of the State Department's advisory on Saudi marriages. I picked it up via NRO's Corner and was quite happy to see it. I have to agree with Dreher- Dante's placard for Hell is quite appropriate as a title. Should repopularization of the issue and widespread viewing of the mirror result in another outcry leading to ABC caving and removing it from THEIR site I've made sure (as Im sure a few other folks with forethought have) to keep a copy archived on my site as well. That's one of the wonders of the Internet - Information can never really be censored as long as someone has the will and ability to archive it, and more often than not several someones wind up doing it.
Those wishing to request that the State Department reactivate its "Saudi Marriage Warnings" page can contact them here.

What amazes me about the whole Saudi / Palestinian / Jihadi propaganda machine is how it seems to be clueless as to the potential of the Internet for *smoking out lies.* Not only can facts be quickly cross-checked and absurdities exposed, but fine services like MEMRI bring translations of original documents to everyone's fingertips. We have the ability to look inside the jihadi mindset in ways never before available.

One consequence has been the rapid de-romanticizing of Arab/Islamic-law society. It's no longer possible to believe platitudes like "Jihad really doesn't mean 'holy war'," or "Islamic law guarantees women's rights," or "There is religious tolerance in Islam." Anyone who wants to look can go find out for himself.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

 
Out of work? Looking for a job? Need encouragement? OddTodd will help. He has a blog, cartoons, and a really disgusting tunafish/mac and cheese/pea recipe. Go see.
 
Middle-school dropouts: the end-game consequence of abolishing social promotion.

Conservative "education reform" often includes calls to "end social promotion" and to retain students who can't or won't master the material in elementary grades. Unfortunately, failing to keep students with their age-mates results in 16 year old sixth graders. According to today's Boston Herald:
``These numbers are as bad as I've seen in a very long time,'' said Wheelock. ``There is no excuse for having any 16-year-olds in middle school at all, but this is a crisis Boston creates through a combination of high stakes testing policies, rigid responses to kids at risk and indifference to the most vulnerable kids.''

The majority of the students left middle school in 1999 with less than a seventh-grade education, Wheelock found. In all, 83 of middle school dropouts in 1999 left from sixth grade; 45 left from seventh grade and 28 left eighth grade.

``These are just completley alarming, unbelievable statistics that are just sad,'' said Chris Troy, executive director of Boston Urban Youth Foundation ...


Not only sad, but probably dangerous as well. Some sixth graders are small and physically immature. What are the consequences to them of having sexually mature and probably highly aggressive, angry sixteen-year-olds in class with them? On the playground? Off in the corners where no one knows what's going on?

Another question: one wonders how many pregnancies occurring in 11- and 12-year old Boston middle schoolers are the consequence of statutory rapes perpetrated by these 16-year olds?

This also ought to give pause to those who want to increase compulsory attendance from age 16 to age 18. That would be really wonderful - 18-year olds in 6th grade.

Far better to end compulsory attendance at age 14. Let them go to work instead, and leave schooling for those who can profit by it. Better to have "child labor" than child abuse by *those who are for all practical purposes adults* in middle school? What is really worse?
 
"It's a question of sovereignity," explain Saudi officials who refuse to let US investigators interrogate Saudis arresting for trying to shoot down a US military plane.

How about this: you want national sovereignity, defend your own country. See how long it lasts.
 
Bar "imams" from prison ministry? Cal Thomas interviews prison minister Chuck Colson, who claims that many Islamic "prison ministers" are actually imams in the pay of wahhabi Saudi Arabians. Their "jailhouse ministries" involve finding angry minority inmates who will eventually serve as a terrorist "fifth column" of US citizens upon their release.

Interestingly, the wahhabis were intent on doing an "end-run" around American Muslim leaders - presumably because the locals are too doctrinally soft?

Is it time to bar Islamic recruiters from prisons?

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

 
A reader sends a list of "gnostic movies." I found it curious that the list named Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder as a "gnostic film." I saw it as a decade of purgatory experienced and transcended in the last dying moments of a Vietnam soldier killed in a horrific medical experiment gone wrong.

My reader also reminds me that The Truman Show definitely qualifies as a "fiercely incarnational movie;" of course he's right.
 
"Virago" is a compliment... Diana E. in Letter from Gotham gets twitted by an Islamist who calls her a "fishwife" and links to a Bartleby site to reveal synonyms like "termagant," "shrew," "scold," and "virago."

I especially like the last term: it's from the Latin root "vir," or power, and essentially means "woman of power." It was used originally to describe women "of a certain age" who got cranky, hard to manipulate & control, and self-assertive as they got older. I can see where rationalists for Islamic states would have a problem with "women of power." Tough.

He thinks he's insulting her but my shoulder valkyrie assures me that in actuality compliments are raining down upon her head. I for one have been waiting all my life to grow up to be a proper termagant.

Deborah, and Jael, and Golda Meir were viragos too. Congratulations, Diana!
 
Friends don't let friends marry wahoobi morons: This Newsmax article has an unfortunate title: "Saudi Kidnap Mom in Talk Radio Meltdown." At first I read "kidnap" as a verb...

Actually, it's about Pat Roush (whose daughters have been held captive in Saudi Arabia and "married off" against their will) losing her temper on the Sean Hannity show when callers quite reasonably asked her why she married a Saudi in the first place. Roush apparently howled:
"You know something - I'm not on the hot seat here," Roush protested. "I was young. I made a mistake. I won't be crucified for making the wrong judgment." ...

And don't blame me for my personal mistakes." ...

"... Your program is supposed to screen people before they come on and not have two calls in a row that are condemning me for marrying a Saudi."


Sigh. Sounds like yet another case of Defensive PC Multiculturalism. Why not just admit, "Look, I screwed up, and my bad decision wrecked my children's lives. I'm trying to make amends now, and I'm here to tell you, don't do what I did?"

Well, since Pat Roush didn't, I'll tell you. Marrying a Muslim national from an Islamic-law country is Not a Good Idea.

Last week Mideast expert Daniel Pipes testified before the House Government Reform Committee that a web page warning women against marrying Saudi nationals was taken off the State Department web site under pressure from Muslim lobbyists. (A mirror version of the document is here. ) Pipes said:


REP. DOUG OSE (R-CA): Now, I do want to pay a compliment to the State Department. The State Department has posted on its website an advisory to Americans considering marriage to Saudis. But what I don't understand is why that advisory has been taken off the website.

MS. ANDRUCH: I was not aware that it was taken off the website? There's one on Islamic law that's on our website, it's a travel-dot- state-dot-gov.

REP. OSE: Travel-dot-state-dot-gov.

MS. ANDRUCH: Yes sir.

REP. OSE: So, this one that refers specific to Saudi Arabia has or has not been removed?

MS. ANDRUCH: I-I don't know if it's on there right now, so I'll have to check.

REP. OSE: Dr. Pipes?

MR. PIPES: If my recollection is correct, it was taken down at the behest of an Islamic group in the United States.

REP. OSE: It was taken down at the behest of an Islamic group in the United States? Which Islamic group?

MR. PIPES: I believe it was the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

REP. OSE: And with whom did they communicate their interest-

MR. PIPES: They protested this document to the State Department, which proceeded to take it down.

REP. OSE: Well, did they protest it on the basis of inaccurate information?

MR. PIPES: They said it was discriminatory. This is all from memory it was a couple of years ago. I believe they said it was discriminatory.

REP. OSE: Is there information in this material that's inaccurate?

MR. PIPES: I don't think that was their point. I think it was that posting this about marriage to Saudis, as opposed to, say, marriage to Canadians, was discriminatory.

Later Daniel Pipes corrected himself on the organization which protested the web site:
MR. PIPES: It was the American Muslim Council, which issued a press release on March 10th, 2000, titled "AMC expresses satisfaction over change in U.S. advisory on marriage with Muslims. The American Muslim Council has expressed dissatisfaction over the positive changes brought about in the U.S. Department of State's Islamic family law brochure," and it goes on to give the particulars.

It says, "The State Department has removed the hurtful statements from its web page that were derogatory and biased against Muslims."


OK, boys and girls. Friends don't let friends marry wahoobi morons (or Shi'ite morons, for that matter. Some things to consider:

  • If the girls are under 18, yes, parents can tell them who not to date.

  • Borrow or rent Not Without My Daughter and watch it with teenage girls. Explain the laws.

  • Be aware that Islamic-law nationals go to American universities in droves and in some cases seek out American girls to "court." If a girl majors in an engineering, scientific, or technical area, she is going to meet these men. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • Government intervention sometimes is good. States should be required to give information packets to *all* women applying for a marriage license who are marrying an Islamic-state national.
  • The State Department needs to *get that document back up on the website,* with bells and whistles.


Monday, June 17, 2002

 
Modern art causes depression: Channelled via bookslut (which is a really cool site.) I could have told them that.

For those wishing to remove the taste of modern art from their mouths, and who are fortunate enough to be in St. Louis from now till September 15, go see the Gentilischi exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum. Orazio and Artemisia Gentilischi were a Renaissance father and daughter who were both masters at portraying dramatic moods and scenarios.

Artemisia herself was extraordinary - at a time when women were still largely confined to their houses and often illiterate, she was taught painting in her father's studio and in my opinion, at least, went on to surpass him as a dramatic painter.

Raped as a teenager, she went through a hideous trial but eventually prevailed, and returned to the theme of fierce Old Testament heroines triumphing over their Canaanite invaders and oppressors, like Judith Beheading Holofernes or Jael and Sisera (from Judges 4.)
 
SUNY goes trolling for students in Riyadh according to the "Arab Noose." If this is to recruit American-citizen US embassy personnel's kids, fine, but if it's to recruit Saudis, then this needs to be made an issue in the NY state capitol next time SUNY's budget is under consideration.

Also in the "Arab Noose:" Saudis are advised not to visit the Big Bad Great Satan USA because we're So Mean. Boo-coo-boo-hoos all around.

Meanwhile, American, European, and Indian "useful idiots" participate in an "Islam's Message of Peace and Harmony" conference.
Rahman said that Islam rejected fanaticism and always called for peace. He stressed the importance of spreading the real message of Islam.


Hope none of them were American women daring to step outside without black garbage bags over their heads. Then they would see how peaceful and harmonious things can get around there.
 
This isn't just a French thing? Montana garden-gnome liberation ring busted. Courtesy of Lucianne.
 
Border control Israeli-style: An American Muslim "peace group" of 20 was turned away at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport. The group's leader plans to "complain to the State Department, members of Congress and to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom." Be our guest.

 
How to tell original hippies from nouveau ones: ABC News had a humorous article on America's faux-hippie teens. I thought I'd embellish it a bit:

  • Old-time hippies listened to record albums; faux-hippies listen to CDs.

  • Old-time hippies embroidered their own jeans (or their boyfriends'); faux hippies buy theirs at the mall.

  • Old-time hippies knew where Marrakesh was; faux-hippies know where Kabul is.

  • Old-time hippies spent the summer at Woodstock; faux-hippies spend the summer in SAT prep courses.

  • Old-time hippies wanted to be dharma bums; faux-hippies want to be doctors or lawyers.



 
Parent sues Catholic parish school for their admission standards: The Chicago-land parish wants 8% of the *gross* income in the form of contributions (the parochial school charges no tuition.) Someone who earns $90,000 per year will pay $7200 - even if they have only one child in the parish school.

It seems like a lot of money - until you realize that if the parents are in the 35% tax bracket, that's 35% off the $7200, which makes it more like $4700.

This father might want to be careful who he goes around suing, however - he might attract more attention than he bargained for, like from the IRS. There is the little problem with taking a tax deduction when you receive a "benefit" for the contribution (in this case the education.) How the parents of this parish get around this is an interesting question.
 
Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas: Today's Washington Post describes how some "conservative" Christian groups have allied with some Islamic-law countries in opposition to various UN "reproductive rights" efforts. This bespeaks to me a certain amount of naivete, a lack of understanding of the consequence of actions, and a failure to appreciate how abortion and birth control are seen by "fundamentalist" Islam.

First, the players:
  • the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (an orthodox Catholic organization that monitors UN birth control/abortion programs)

  • John Klink, a former Vatican adviser;
  • Janice Crouse of Concerned Women of America
  • Paul J. Bonicelli of Patrick Henry College in VA.


Contrary to most conservatives' views, Islamic-law countries do not absolutely forbid birth control, or abortion for that matter. What they do forbid is birth control or abortion done on the woman's own initiative.

The "conservative" Islamic view on birth control is just about identical to the orthodox Jewish or "conservative" Eastern Orthodox view - that it is generally considered a good thing to have a lot of children in marriage, but that for serious individual medical reasons it is justified. The "conservative" Islamic view would add - *when the husband* wants it.

Similarly, "conservative" Islamic, Jewish, and Eastern Orthodox views on abortion are similar - that it does represent the taking of a life, but that when there is a serious threat to the mother's life or even to her health, it can under some individual circumstances be justified. In addition, orthodox Judaism and "conservative" Islam adhere to the old view of 'formation' of the fetus, where before 40/80 days (female/male) the unborn child is determined to be "unformed," and thus while still serious, an abortion at these early dates is not as severe a transgression as that of a fully animated unborn child.

The problems of alliance with these Islamic states (like Libya, the Sudan - where Christians are routinely enslaved, Iran, Iraq, etc.) are twofold. First off, while advocates like Austin Ruse claim that the alliance is "pro-family," what passes for "family values" in these countries are essentially institutions based on slavery, imprisonment, polygamy, abuse, and for all practical purposes pedophilia, as girls of 11 and 12 are forcibly married off. One reason Afghanistan had 20% infant mortality rates and almost as high *maternal* mortality rates was because girls between 12-14 were forced into marriage and virtually endless childbearing under stone-age conditions.

The problem isn't with birth control - Islam already accepts birth control under limited circumstances. Unlike in Catholicism, birth control is *not* considered intrinisically wrong in Islam. But when those who do believe birth control is intrinsically wrong meddle in Islamic societies, they essentially tighten the chains binding women in these toxic and dysfunctional systems.

The second problem is that birth rates in Islamic-law countries are used as direct weapons against the entire non-Islamic world. It is probably no coincidence that Iran, with the most developed "samizdat" movements, a fairly educated female workforce, and most advanced rebellions against the imams, also has one of the lowest birth rates in the Islamic world (probably a leftover from the reign of the Shah.)

On the other hand, countries like Saudi Arabia where women live in virtual lockdown, have some of the highest fertility rates. Outbabying the "enemy" (us) is a deliberate strategy whose aim is the *extermination* of every other religion on the face of the planet. Allying with those who use the imprisonment of women and forced procreation as ways to forge weapons against one's own religion is counterproductive to the maximum.

The "enemy of my enemy" is *not* always my "friend."




Sunday, June 16, 2002

 
A teacher friend writes:
Your Piaget/cargo cult writing is right on. I'm going to use it next year with the kids. This year I've been stressing the connection between religion/world view and standard of living. I'll add this as well.
I'm waiting for a "renaissance" of those old writers (Piaget, Levi-Strauss, even old Sigmund Freud himself.) They've been too casually dismissed by both post-modernists *and* conservatives.

Friday, June 14, 2002

 
Derbyshire *knows...* why Arab states "just don't get it" about America, and why they won't for awhile.

Back in college psych class we studied Piaget's theory of cognitive development. According to Piaget, intellectual activity does not just happen all at once. As they grow during childhood, people pass through four distinct stages, the highest being the "formal operational" (i.e. highest level of abstract thinking.) Many adults remain stuck at the "concrete operational," where only the surface of things are considered, and not the abstract, underlying causes beneath. People stuck in the concrete operational stage may learn how to work things, but they don't really learn how things work.

In his NRO article, Derbyshire mentions "Cargo Cult" thinking: which is clearly "concrete operational" on the Piagetan scale:
Another thing, I think, is that pretty much all of the Arab world is locked in a kind of cargo-cult mentality. Cargo cults came up in the Melanesian islands of the South Pacific during WWII. The peoples of these places saw the Americans and British come in and build airstrips. Then, when the airstrips were built, planes started to arrive, loaded with cargo. The Melanesians deduced, not altogether unreasonably given their state of knowledge, that if they built airstrips, then planes would come to them, too, likewise bringing cargo. They accordingly hacked makeshift runways out of the jungle and built mock-up control towers out of grass and mud. Then they sat and waited for the cargo to arrive.

You get a cargo-cult flavor in a lot of Third World countries. America has skyscrapers. America is rich and strong. Let's build some skyscrapers — then we'll be rich and strong, too! The idea that the wealth and the strength are rooted in customs, arrangements, laws, liberties, traditions, patterns of thought and behavior and association, and that the skyscrapers are an incidental byproduct, is not well understood.
Just as children can't be forced from one cognitive stage to another, but must develop naturally at their own rate, so I'm afraid the Arab and other Islamic-law nations can't be forced into understanding abstract concepts like freedom, human rights, religious tolerance, etc. and how they form the *basis* for the prosperity and social development behind the skyscrapers.

While Derbyshire ends on a pessimistic note, I think development *is* possible - but we have to safeguard ourselves against the danger of military attack while the maturation takes place.
 
"What do you tell the kids?" asks Mac Frazier, regarding the 9/11 attacks.

Growing up on the East Coast, I learned about the Cold War from direct experiences rather than media accounts. The Cuban Missile Crisis frightened my parents, and while it was obvious my father was trying not to scare my socks off with his explanations, it didn't work too well. I recall my mother talking to neighbors about how all the moms were collecting their kids' babyteeth and sending them off for strontium-90 testing. ("Mommy, what's strontium-90? Where does it come from?")

What really sticks in my mind, though, were the school "duck and cover" and "Let's go to the fallout shelter now" drills. We sat in the basement of our school with only the emergency lights on, surrounded by olive-green barrels of water, the radiation signs on the wall. There's really wasn't a way to shelter children from those realities.

The media influence which stands out most were those Herblock cartoons from the newspapers with Mr. Atomic Bomb, with his evil expression and gross cigar.

I don't know if children growing up during the Cold War had such experiences in other parts of the country, but our attitudes I think were shaped by what we saw and did, not perceptions caught through the media.

Regarding 9/11, our children are older than Mac's. The children's schools announced the 9/11 attacks and the kids did watch some television coverage. I am glad personally they did, because they were with other kids and teachers, and didn't experience the shock alone. On the National Prayer Friday, they watched at least part of the National Cathedral service and also had patriotic assemblies. Again, I'm glad they went through this as a group.

Why? Because 9/11 didn't affect us as a nation only on the level of individual families. It was a direct strike at our way of life, including our corporate way of life, and that includes institutions like our police, our firemen, our schools, our military, our political system and our freedoms themselves as they play out in our life as a people. It was also good that the children saw other adults comport themselves with dignity, calm and concern in this crisis.

We were pretty glued to the television at home for about two weeks. We get a lot of newspapers, and they're always spread out for anyone to read. When kids are older, it's impossible to hide most things from them anyway, especially events this momentous.

We have had many, many discussions.

Because we *don't* live on the East Coast, I think their fear was far less than children living in NYC or Washington, DC. I recall one child looked alarmed when the newspapers reported that two suspected of collaboration were arrested outside of St. Louis on a train.

Before age four or five, many children can't easily separate fantasy from reality, and so it makes sense to shelter them *if we have that option.* As my own Cold War childhood shows, though, that option sometimes isn't there. If everyone is heading for the bomb shelter, even the kindergartners, that's an aspect of war that those children will experience whether they like it or not. Similarly, the children whose parents or relatives were vaporized by terrorist murderers on 9/11 had no consideration. They are victims of war and will be for the rest of their lives.

From the perspective of a parent with older children, the question that I lay awake nights worrying about is this: will there be a war when our children reach 18? Will there be war? Will there be a draft? As one can see, the questions don't necessarily get easier as the children get older.
 
The special gifts of the young are highlighted by Charles Krauthammer in this article on the armed-and-ready youth of Israel. Krauthammer observes:
As Americans learned in Afghanistan, an operation that makes the terrorists pay (even if not all them) and that cuts down on the terrorism (even if it cannot stop it) is a sine qua non in this kind of war and particularly in fighting the despair that comes with passivity.

What despair there is, I found, tends to be generational. It is the parents who are depressed. The kids -- the young people in the army -- are defiant.

The parents are the ones who made the great leap of faith into the Oslo peace process--a Trojan horse that brought terrorism into the heart of Israel. They did so in the hope that their children would not have to do what they did -- carry a rifle. Now that Palestinian terrorism has reminded them that to exist Israel must remain a garrison state, they feel they have failed their mission.

The kids know that every Israeli generation has had to fight and sacrifice to survive. Now it is their turn.
I have the same sense about young people who are conservatives, especially the conservative minorities at liberal high schools and universities. They aren't depressed or resigned like their ex-liberal, mugged-by-reality Baby Boomer predecessors. Like Krauthammer's young Israeli soldiers, they are defiant. Perhaps they go overboard occasionally in their enthusiasms, but that's another one of the charms of youth.
 
Meanwhile, back in the *other* Evil Empire: Communist Chinese police once again entered an embassy and dragged out an escaping North Korean father. His 13-year old son managed to stay inside. This time the South Koreans are the ones issuing "formal protests" after last month's Chinese encroachment on the Japanese embassy.

Of course, we must keep the supply of athletic shoes flowing, no matter what. God forbid we should be any more self-reliant in that department than we are in energy.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

 
Muslim who defaced statue of Virgin Mary sentenced: Remember the Muslim in California who vandalized the Catholic Church shortly after 9/11? Today he got sentenced to 56 months in the slammer. Hope he enjoys the company of patriotic American criminals. It's better than what Christians and Jews get for practicing their religion in Saudi Arabia and other sha'riah countries.
 
On the blogwalk: Diana Hsieh blogs on American women held hostage in Saudi Arabia and provides a link to Dria Davis's escape story.

When Dria wrote letters to then-president Bill Clinton (and Hillary Clinton as well), they were "returned unopened."

Read the PDF account down to page 6 (at the end), where Dria wrote her "Letter to the Future President of the United States" (obviously written before the 2000 election.) She tells him that on TV, children are helped at the US embassy, but in Saudi Arabia she would have been turned over to the Saudi police. She implores him to help other children held captive.

President Bush, are you listening?

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal today assures us that military US/Saudi relations are entering a warm and wonderful period of revitalization. (International section, pg. A14, 6/13/02.)
 
In praise of simple weddings: From a reader:
I just wanted to add my amen to your post about weddings. I couldn't agree more. My husband and I married young, while he was finishing college and I was finishing grad school, and we had a nice debt-free wedding. We used a church that only cost a $50 cleaning fee to rent, had our reception at the free and gorgeous student union on our college campus and only travelled about an hour drive away to a little bed and breakfast for our honeymoon. I don't think our wedding could have been more perfect, either. It really is the way to go. Though I have no data to back me up, I think the bigger the production with the wedding, it seems like the less likely the marriage is to last.


 
The Supermajority Coverup:Yesterday the Dallas Morning News revealed its bishop database, which shows that 111 out of 178 diocesan bishops had at one time or other "covered up" for priestly sex offenders, alleged and otherwise.

Reaction was swift, as the head of the US Council for Catholic Bishops said "it was a smear campaign" and wasn't nuanced enough.

Hate to break it to you, Monsignor, but we need more nuance like we need scabies. The big machine has started to grind, and it's not interested in "nuance" or "sensitivity" or "case by case considerations."

Priests who grab little kids and teenage boys are going to get ground up by the legal system, and it's largely out of the bishops' hands. In St. Louis a grand jury has been convened to investigate two dozen priests accused of sexual abuse.

I like grand juries far better than prosecutors. Prosecutors are political animals, and while I do not claim that they are influenced by their religion per se, they are influenced by political forces around them - getting on the right side of donors and supporters; keeping influential friends, and generally being in what CS Lewis called "the inner ring."

Grand juries, on the other hand, are non-elected citizens, and there's something comfortingly Anglo-Saxon in this tradition of The People getting together and determining whether charges should be filed. Further, grand jury proceedings are strictly private and severe penalties await those stupid enough to attempt tampering. Grand jurors go in, do their duties as citizens, and don't have to worry about what happens to their party connections or what fallout will come on Election Day.
 
Filipino jihadi's hostages released - how about Saudi hostages?: Perhaps Michael Wolfe would like to explain how kidnapping and imprisonment of American citizens serves as an example of "how Islam reflects American values," especially the "dignity of women."

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal turned over a few rocks and exposed how Saudi Arabia holds American female citizens hostage, and how the US State Department collaborates. McGurn described the ordeal of Pat Roush, whose Saudi-born husband kidnapped their two daughters years ago, took them to Saudi Arabia, and forcibly married one off. The girls (now young adults) are condemned to life imprisonment in that country, because women are forbidden to leave the country or even travel without permission of their male "owner."

Today a WSJ editorial points out that the House Government Reform Committee has evidence of some 46 cases involving Amercian citizens held against their will in Saudi Arabia.

Forty-six. One is too many.

On Monday [Pat Roush] learned that her Saudi ex-husband has married off Aisha in what she believes is retribution for her participation in these hearings. Dria Davis was luckier: At 13 she escaped from her abusive Saudi father, after getting no help from the U.S. embassy.


McGurn said that Dria was taken to Saudi Arabia by her father at age 11. This little heroine managed to engineer her own escape through Bahrain at age 13. She should be given a Congressional medal. Instead, the US government continues to cozy up with her kidnappers.

Apparently the US embassy in Riyadh is doing *nothing* to help these women.
But perhaps the most searing was Monica Stower's tearful account of having two U.S. Marine guards escort her out of the Riyadh embassy where she'd sought refuge with her children. "One of them apologized to me saying, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry but we're only doing our job.'" Miss Stowers delivered her testimony yesterday via videotape, because she refuses to leave Saudi Arabia so long as the Saudis won't let her daughter depart with her."


Some people have a shoulder angel and some a shoulder devil, but I have this little shoulder valkyrie who, in the time-honored Teutonic tradition, starts reaching for her battle armor over stories like these.

What are we *doing* as a country? Why do we continue to have this "special relationship" with people who deliberately subvert American law, refuse to honor American passports, and hold American citizens captive?

What is to be done?

First, the Saudis need to be exposed and made into the pariah nation that they are. Articles like McGurn's need to be spread all over. American media outlets need to *refuse* the Saudi PR spots spreading like cancer over some television networks.

How about trying to use 15% less gas - *not* from enviro-whacko concerns, but because when buy Islamofascist oil, we weave the noose that will eventually enslave our own people - and is enslaving them, when they make the serious mistake of marrying Muslims from sha'riah states.

A corrupted State Department needs to get the message that to hold citizens hostage is an act of war. The US special forces in the Philippines have been training Filipino soldiers to rescue Abu Sayyaf hostages. What about *Saudi Arabian* hostages? How long will it take for us to figure out that the time for the "phony war" is past, and that the Saudis are not our friends,

Instead of Marines throwing mothers and children to the Saudi wolves, Marines need to be removing those captives from their jailers - by force of arms if necessary.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

 
Bad Baptists! Bad! The Baptists had a big conference here in St. Louis and the Rev. Jerry Vines called Mohammed a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives - and his last one was a 9-year-old girl. The remarks met with "warm applause" and:
Instead of censuring Vines, the denomination's leadership said it supported his characterization of Muhammad and Islam.

"It's an accurate statement," said the Rev. Jack Graham, the denomination's new president and senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. "It's history. Muhammad's last wife was 9 years old."
Actually, she was six when he married her, but nine when the marriage was consummated.

The usual suspects are not amused. Leaving the demon question aside, what part don't they agree with?
 
The Arab world needs a Lateran Treaty: The Lateran treaty ended the Mexican stand-off between the secular Italian government and the Vatican after a series of Italian revolutions which culminated in the complete formation of the Italian state in 1870 and the eradication of the Papal States. The treaty established the sovereignity of the Pope over Vatican City, the military protection of the Vatican by Italy, and most important signaled an end to the temporal and military power of the Roman Catholic Church.

Right now, the wahhabist Saudis have an undue influence because Mecca and Medina happen to be in their country. Islam has become too closely identified with "Arab wahhabism." The Saudis use this religious influence as well as petrodollars to try to pervert the rest of the Islamic world to their view.

While it's important to break the flow of petrodollars from the West to the Arab countries, breaking the flow of religious domination is important as well.

Here's a thought: As conditions for continued US defense of Saudi Arabia, and continued US arms sales to the Saudis, Mecca and Medina would have to pass out of Saudi hands, into the hands of an independent governing body of the world's Muslims which would jointly administer these Islamic sites.

Since Arabs represent only a small portion of the world's Muslims, this would mean that if representatives were chosen based on population, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and Indian Muslims would hold the bulk of consortium seats. The Arab/wahhabist influence would be diluted. Reduction of wahhabist influence is important to the long-overdue "reformation" of Islam.
 
The roots of The Scandal: In this WorldNet Daily article, an anonymous California Catholic activist comments:
The shocking but still relatively small percentage of priests abusing children is a serious problem, but it is only a symptom, he says, of something much deeper.
That "something deeper" is the sexually amoral and explicit sex education found across the board, in Catholic environs ranging from university think-tank courses, to in-service training, including sexually explicit programs used in Catholic schools. For example:
Explicit films are common in Church institutions, said [Roman Catholic Faithful founder Stephen] Brady, noting the showing of a production at a Notre Dame all-girls school that included sadomasochism.
At least one sexual offender has been involved in these programs, like Father James Arimond of Milwaukee, WI, who offered a doctrinally squishy course in the 1980s called "Homosexuality and its impact on the family," and who in 1990 pleaded no contest to sexual abuse of a teenage boy.

With tax funding for religious schools, would we see less of these programs, or more? I know in my own district that the sex education at the grade school level is *far* less explicit and extensive than that offered in Catholic parish schools. In the public schools there's no question that students can opt out; this isn't always the case in Catholic schools.

What's going to happen when a voucher-receiving student at a Catholic school is forbidden to opt out of explicit sex ed? Theoretically voucher students should be exempted, but what if that voucher-receiving student is a Catholic parishioner? Will he get to stay (to keep getting the tax money) or will he have to go (because mandatory sex ed is considered part of required religious education in many Catholic parish schools?)