Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Couldn't Have Said It Better

I watched the Rev. Jeremiah Wright meltdown on Monday and I more than horrified, I was shaken and deeply saddened by the words I heard and show I watched. I felt like 40 years of progress in race relations were melting away before my very eyes.

Surely Dr. Martin Luther King was spinning in his grave. He gave so much to get our society past this point. And now Rev. Wright was moving to goal posts backwards.

I worked on a blog post, but I simply could not find the right words. Fortunately, Tuesday afternoon Barack Obama did it for me.

    “I’m outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate. I believe they do not accurately portray the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray mine. If he considers this political posturing, then he doesn’t know me very well. And I don’t know him well either.”

    "There wasn’t anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was was a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth…It was a show of disrespect to me.”

    "I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he’s done enormous good. … But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS. … There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced.”

    "It’s antithetical to our campaign. It’s antithetical to what I’m about. It’s not what America stands for. Rev. Wright does not speak for me. He doesn’t speak for our campaign. I can’t prevent him from making these outrageous remarks … When I say I find these statements appalling, I mean it."

    "It makes me angry and saddens me.”
Obviously I've done some editing and reworking of my transcription and those I located on other blogs. I apologize for any errors I have made. But, Obama's words are powerful. I certainly couldn't have said it better.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Class Action Child Removal

I hope everyone saw the excellent Keith Morrison documentary on Dateline NBC last night chronicling the State of Texas raid on the Yearning For Zion ranch and the horrific aftermath for the families and children who had lived there.

Morrison put a human face on the tragedy. And it is worse than a tragedy. It is easily the worse abuse of power by any state in the history of the United States. Four hundred sixty two children were kidnapped and imprisoned in concentration camp like conditions by the State of Texas. And a court system that should be protecting the rights of these children, has completely ignored the facts of the case and issued rules based solely on rumor and prejudice.

Jessica Dixon, director of the child advocacy center at Southern Methodist University's law school in Dallas has called the raid "class-action child removal."

She added "I've never heard of anything like that."

Keith Morrison has brought the whole story to life.

    Lorene: "Clinging to my skirt. My baby's sick."

    Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC: "How old is your baby?"

    Lorene: "Seventeen months -- and he's so sick."

    Keith Morrison: "Who has him?"

    Lorene: "I don't know, some woman has him, I don't know who it is."
Keith Morrison had full access to the Yearning For Zion Ranch. And the remaining parents were open and candid in their interviews. The compound was modern, clean and attractive. The school is modern and well equipped. The buildings, carved from limestone right on the ranch, are stunning.

However, the State of Texas wouldn't allow Keith to see any of the women and children they had forced to leave in mere minutes without explanation. Texas "protected" the women and children by locking them away and wouldn't even allow their lawyers to visit them, let alone the press or any of their families.

And although Texas law demands they have a hearing before children are removed into foster care, after three weeks in confinement, the children were placed into foster homes as far as 500 miles from their homes or parents.

    The women and children were held first at the complex of Fort Concho, an hour away, then taken to this sports coliseum. Three weeks elapsed. During which the mothers said they were offered a choice.

    Keith Morrison: "Were you allowed to leave at all?"

    Mother: "If we left, we couldn't come back to our children."

    So here they stayed. The media, and even their own lawyers, were refused entry.
The Associate Press reports that CPS officials have conceded there is no evidence the youngest children were abused, and about 130 of the children are under 5.

Teenage boys were not physically or sexually abused either, according to evidence presented in a custody hearing earlier last week, but more than two dozen teenage boys are also in state custody, now staying at a boys' ranch that might typically house troubled or abandoned teens.

Constitutional experts say U.S. courts have consistently held that a parent's beliefs alone are not grounds for removal.

"The general view of the legal system is until there is an imminent risk of harm or actual harm, you can't do that," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.

The DATELINE Report continues with this sad anecdote:

    Lorene, it turns out, is one of the tearful women just returned from that sports stadium, where she watched her children bused off to foster care. She worries most about Natalie, her only daughter.

    Lorene: "She's always been very attached, she doesn't do well without me."

    Authorities said they'd attempt not to separate siblings, but couldn't guarantee it as they spread the children around the vast state of Texas.

    Keith Morrison: "You don't know where they've gone?"

    Rulon and Lorene: "No."

    Keith Morrison: "Have they gone to one place or more than one place?"

    Rulon: "We've heard more than one."

    Lorene: "We've heard rumors that they're split up."

    And this very morning, Lorene tells us, was her 3-year-old's birthday.

    Lorene: "He turned 3 today. His third birthday and they took his mother away."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Tip of the Wizard's Pointy Cap to Barack Obama

I can't tell you how pleased I am that Barack Obama has agreed to an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace. The interview is long, long overdue and reflects a real maturity in the Obama campaign.

You'll be able to see the interview tomorrow morning on your local Fox Network broadcast station or tomorrow evening on FOX News cable channel.

I don't believe Obama was dodging Chris Wallace or FOX News as much as he was responding to the childish pressure from the far left who love to demonize FOX News. As Barack Obama fought hard for the Democrat Presidential nomination he was under intense pressure to please the hard core of the party who used FOX as a litmus test. Appear on FOX, fail the test.

I believe Obama is serious when he says he wants to change the way Washington works. I believe Obama is serious when he says he want to reach out to all the people.

For Barack Obama this appearance with Chris Wallace is the the next logical step on the road to the Presidency. Obama will win the nomination. He is ready to move beyond Hillary Clinton's sad efforts to derail his candidacy. It is reported the bulk of Obama's comments with Wallace are aimed squarely at Republican John McCain. He is politely trying to ignore Clinton. I think this is a winning strategy.

And it certainly should prove to the skeptics that his message of change is for real.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How To Identify Victims of Child Abuse

How can you identify victims of child abuse?
As the State of Texas moved swiftly to protect 460 victims of child abuse, look no further than the common characteristics of the children taken from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints and their Yearning For Zion 1,700 acre ranch.
These children are in such horrific danger that they are being moved as far as 500 miles away from their home, their mothers, fathers and family members, and often out of reach of their court appointed attorneys, in order to "protect" them.
The abused children all have these identifying traits (Source: Associated Press):
  • They are healthy and seem happy.

  • They are polite and well mannered.

  • They have been raised on a diet of home grown vegetables, chicken and fresh fruit. Absolutely No Junk Food!

  • The dress modestly. No low slung jeans or bare midriffs for these kids.

  • They have been home schooled and are well probably ahead of the children attending public schools.

  • They engage in prayers with their family every day.

  • They can be any age from one month to 18 years of age or older.

  • They can be boys or girls.

The exact nature of the abuse suffered by the vast majority of the 462 "children" now under the protective custody of the State of Texas can actually never be determined by any psychiatrist or other professional. It's so secret only the State of Texas will ever know what it is.

To be certain a very few girls in the FLDS sect have been forced into marriage, possibly at a young age, as young as 13. Of the 462 children taken by the State of Texas their might be fifty (50) who are or were at one time, victims of forced marriage. Maybe. Eventually the State of Texas may or may not get around to actually investigating this potential crime. Certainly no one has been charged yet.

Had the of State of Texas moved to protect those fifty young girls, it's unlikely there would have been much objection. The action might have been applauded in spite of the fact the whole raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch was started by an easy-to-identify false report. So while the legal grounds for the armed assault on the compound might have been faulty, rescuing the girls could have made it all worthwhile.

But that's not what happened. Janet Bennion, the nation's leading expert on the polygamist sect is appalled. Bennion is a world renowned Professor of Anthropology at Lyndon State College in Vermont. She has spent months living with the sects in Utah, Montana and Mexico.

As reported by Vermont's WCAX-TV, Professor Bennion stated, "This is absolutely the wrong way to go about it. This is a group of people that are already against the government and the outside world, and then you get raided by state troops, kidnapping the children."

"If you can establish abuse, of course intervention must be made, but use an intervention that doesn't break the constitution and that doesn't violate all these civil rights laws," argues Bennion.

Some believe it's polygamy, not the alleged child abuse, that's actually on trial. Others fear it's an excuse to attack the underlying religion.

A motley assortment of almost four hundred lawyers is struggling to sort out this madness. Unfortunately, most are court appointed and come from all four corners of the state. Some have yet to meet their clients, others are simply trying to figure out where their clients have been taken.

According to Texas law none of this should be happening. But short circuiting the law has become the norm for this case.

So some of the lawyers for the parents and other lawyers for the children are attempting to restore logic and order.

ABC News reports tonight, "A state appeals court has agreed to hear arguments next week about whether the state can place the children into temporary foster care without giving each family an individual hearing."

"These families have the right to have their voices heard in the legal process," said Robert Doggett, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which filed the appeal. "The idea that these children can be taken away without giving their families the opportunity to address allegations and fight to stay together is absurd."

Lawyers point out that the figurative cows are already out of the barn. Now that the children have already been scattered throughout the state, it may be nearly impossible to insure them of their rights.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Barack Obama Looks Weary, Sounds Whiny

It's been six weeks since I've been able to issue my late night ramblings while listening to the drone of the cable news pundits murmuring in the background.
God, isn't Chris Matthews a jerk? It frightens me that he might actually believe his own bullshit. But if you dare to change the channel you get Sean Hannity trying to act like an intellectual in a discussion with Karl Rove. I sure do miss Walter Chronkite and Huntley and Brinkley. But I digress.
Tonight I listened to the speeches by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton was bright, upbeat and rather impressive. Of course Hillary has the wind at her back.
What disappointed me was the rather tired speech served up by Barack Obama. I swear to god, he's starting to sound like former President Nixon. Pedantic, professorial and lost in the theory of process. And that, my friends, is not a good comparison to be forced to make.
And all this week he was terribly whiny. He old forte of answering Hillary's attack each afternoon is really sounding tired. Weary. And whiny. Oh, I'm repeating myself, just like Barack.
And his spin machine is too busy blaming other people for his loss. This doesn't come off well, either. The whole group started to sound like a lost pack of dogs, alternately howling at the wind or barking at the moon.
Remember Obama outspent Clinton 3 to 1 in Pennsylvania. But the rural Pennsylvanians clung to their religion and to their guns and pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton.
If, indeed, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos cost Barack Obama this election, then Obama deserved to lose.
It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama can regain his footing and pull out a win in Indiana.
Why does any of this matter? Because it's 99% probable that Obama will still be the nominee. His actions today will have a strong impact in the fall. Can he muster a solid campaign against John McCain. Whining will really look and sound weak in the general election.
And we still have a real chance that Obama's poorly explained "bitter ... clinging" comments may still become his "macaca moment." If Obama can't beat John McCain in Ohio and Pennsylvania, then this election is already over.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Could a deranged woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado call the police and accuse you of child abuse or rape and have the police bring an armed assault force to break into your house and take your children into "protective custody?"
That's exactly what happened this week in El Dorado, Texas. The woman, who has a long history of making false abuse claims, called long distance from Colorado. She claimed to live at the Yearning For Zion compound in El Dorado, Texas. In repeated calls that may have continued for two weeks, she accused her imaginary husband of rape.
And Texas responded in full force. They sent a veritable army. They expected a war.
Hasn't anyone in Texas ever heard of "Caller ID?" And what ever happened to old fashioned ideas like investigation?
Texas had four years to investigate the compound. A simple Google Search would have yielded plenty of information about the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), most important their demand that sect members practice polygamy, illegal under Texas law.
But that never happened. Instead a false claim by a very sick woman has yielded the results that critics of the sect have long desired.
The state removed all 416 children from the compound and are holding them in frankly disturbing conditions. Families are split apart and all children over the age of 4 have been forcibly separated from their parents.
Experts say this will continue for many months. The court today decided to continue the state's custody. And they ordered DNA tests in hopes of proving some children were born to mothers under the age of 16.
It's a pretty good bet that there have been forced marriages and polygamy and children born to young teens. But, lawyers tell me, it's unlikely that anyone will ever be prosecuted. No one is going to jail.
But some children may end up in foster care. And, under Texas Law, the court battles will go on for years and will likely result in many children ultimately returning to their parents, though perhaps not to the compound.
Many of my readers think that's a good thing.
I hate the fact that the State of Texas was unable or unwilling to do their job. Instead, they've made a mockery of the judicial system, and all of us are more vulnerable because of their failures.
The New York Times has an excellent investigative article here.
I encourage my readers to also read a strong opposing view presented by Utah Savage. Be sure to read the extended discussion by her readers. This is an important issue that does involve all your civil rights as well as the illegal activities and the lifestyle of the FLDS.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three Thoughts

FIRST: Please, please, please take the time to watch the entire video I posted earlier this evening, Missing Pieces. It's a remarkable music video and all based on a true story.

SECOND: I think the questioning during the Democrat Debate last evening was entirely appropriate and necessary. The critics of ABC's moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are just plain wrong.

Barack needs to be asked tough and occasionally personal questions that directly reflect his character. Hell, until last night, the contestants on American Idol were facing tougher scrutiny than Barack Obama. And, frankly Simon Cowell is a whole hell of a lot tougher than any debate moderator Obama has ever faced in the 25 preceding debates.... until last night. Kudos to Gibson for a job long overdue.

The man is running for President of the United States! I want to see him under fire before I cast my vote next November. Namby-pamby questioning on The View just ain't gonna cut it.

The best benefit of the debate last night was that it helped prepare Obama for the fall campaign. Yes, Obama struggled at times. But he'll be ready next time.... when it will really count.

THIRD: The State of Texas versus 416 innocent children is a moral, political, financial, legal and logistical disaster. The children of the families of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints face absolutely no imminent danger from the church, it's elders, the families and certainly not from their mothers.

But the children are in a living hell thanks to the State of Texas. And based on today's nightmare in Court, they will likely be in limbo for years. As MICHELLE ROBERTS, writing for the Associated Press, said today, "As many feared, the proceedings turned into something of a circus - and a painfully slow one."

Now we have 400 lawyers all trying to make a name for themselves. God help us all. And God especially help Texas District Judge Barbara Walther. She will need the wisdom of Solomon.

Missing Pieces

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us

The Child Protective Service (CPS) in Texas will tell you they have a sacred obligation to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us. They could not ignore the accusation of rape from the now curiously missing sixteen year old girl and they absolutely couldn't leave the 416 children at the Yearning for Zion compound in west Texas in harm's way.

Now we see the beautiful, well groomed, nostalgically dressed mother's and grandmothers weeping in genuine agony, their children ripped from them. We are left to imagine the tears and absolute terror of the children who have suddenly had their entire lives destroyed.

Television and reporters are now revealing to us the Yearning For Zion compound. Like the mothers weeping in the foreground, the compound is beautifully manicured, quaintly nostalgic and perfectly maintained. It reminds one of an Amish community.

And the similarity doesn't end there. As I write tonight there is an Amish teenage girl being forced into a marriage she doesn't want, being forced into a life she yearns to escape. A virgin, with virtually no sex education, she is terrified of the wedding bed. Her lifelong religious upbringing prevents her from seeing the event as rape, but many outside her community might see it as such.

This young Amish girl longs to go to college, longs to escape a life that seems like slavery to her. But society, her parents, her family, her church, her traditions will not allow her to escape.

And Child Protective Services will never be called. And, if they were, they would never intervene.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, a young teenage girl is preparing for a day in school. She is dressed in conservative traditional Islamic garb, but she has hidden modern clothing and she will change clothes as soon as she is out of her father's sight.

What this poor girl doesn't know is that her father knows of her sin and plans to take corrective action immediately. Instead of going to school, the girl will be swept off to Pakistan without warning, without a goodbye to friends or family. She will immediately be forced into marriage to a fifty five year old man.

It must be done today, before the young girl's flirtations with secular life goes to far and the family might be forced into taking more horrific action to save their honor. They genuinely believe they are saving the girl's life.

And Child Protective Services will never be called. And, if they were, they would never intervene. After all, a parent has the right to move anywhere they wish, even Pakistan. The child is a minor. We don't arbitrarily rip a child from her parents for something that might happen. Do we?

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, another child prepares to make a really horrific journey. She is going, alone, to have an abortion. Society will protect her for a few hours. She will be able to abort her unborn child without ever telling her parents. But she is terrified and lonely and, after the abortion, she will return to the drug invested, gang ruled neighborhood that led to her pregnancy in the first place.

She has no way out, at least no way she can see. To survive she will once again give her body to the gang. She sees no option.

Because society has decided abortion is such a sacred right, no one will dare call Child Protective Services. But, if they did, no one will help. They are no laws being violated.

As a society we've deciding polygamy is wrong. And there are only a few hundred members of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. They have no version of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to lobby for their protection or to improve their public image.

But this much is certain. Somewhere tonight a six year old child cries for his mother. He is sick, lonely and frightened. He doesn't understand why the state of Texas decided his entire life should be destroyed.

I'm having a little trouble with it myself.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ALERT: Texas Child Abuse

I've been very concerned about the raid on the polygamous sect in Texas since the moment it began.... for a lot of reasons.

Certainly the hold that Warren Jeffs, the now imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has had over his followers, especially the women and children, is cause for great concern. Forced marriages and pre-arranged marriages between young teens and older men offends us all. And the horror stories from women and children who've escaped the cult-like religion are terrifying.

But, this raid seems to have been based on faulty, misleading or nonexistent information. And the resulting horror now being forced on 416 children and their mothers by Texas Department of Child Protective Services (CPS) is potentially much worse. Children are being forcibly separated from their mothers and crowded into living conditions that are simply pathetic.

The size of the relocation and the coming massive legal actions will do tremendous damage to the children. The Texas and federal officials were simply totally unprepared when they invaded the Yearning for Zion Ranch. Like the US troops that invaded Iraq, they were expecting massive resistance, but never figured out what to do once the families and children surrendered.

ABC NEWS is reporting today:

More than two dozen women who belong to a reclusive polygamous sect said in a rare public appearance that they felt lied to by state officials and pleaded for their 416 children to be returned to them.

The women returned to the sect's West Texas ranch Monday night after state officials separated them from their children who were taken into state custody after a raid on the compound last week.

Many of them sobbing, several of the mothers told ABC News that they weren't able to say goodbye to their children before being given the option to return to their ranch or be sent to another shelter.

"All we want is our children back, clean and pure," said a woman who identified herself as Sarah and said her five children were still in the state's shelter. "The last thing we have is our children."

This is being badly mishandled by the State of Texas and their CPS. FOX NEWS Reports:

"They said, 'your children are ours,"' said the sobbing 32-year-old whose three sons are aged 9, 7 and 5 and who would not give her last name. "We could not even ask a question."

She said the children at the ranch have not been abused, but she feels like "they are being abused from this experience." She said the children have been "have been so protected and loved."

The women believe the abuse complaint that led to the raid came from a bitter person outside their community.

What was needed here was a lot more investigation and a lot less Rambo-style raiding and massive relocation of children into poor conditions and terrifying isolation.

The State of Texas is crossing a dangerous line. While we fight on the left for more freedoms and opportunities for gays and lesbians and a greater choice of lifestyles and marriages, things are happening in Texas which seem to deprive us all of freedoms and civil rights and due process.

Are we damaging children in the name of protecting them? Are we denying people their civil rights?

I recognize that this post might make me very unpopular with both my readers on the left and on the right. Equating the plight of this polygamist cult with the fight for gay rights, women's rights and religious freedom may offend many people. But you cannot demand freedom for one group without at least protecting the civil rights of another, even when you disagree with their beliefs. No, ESPECIALLY if you disagree with their beliefs.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

One World

Please just consider this singular reality as you weigh decisions that you must indeed make about the future of Iraq and the Middle East.

We're in a really tough situation in Iraq. But not nearly as tough as situation the Iraqi's are in themselves. Tragically the United States controls the future of the Iraqi's. They will have to live under the results of the decisions we make in the 2008 elections.

Here, without any further editorial comment are the words of Saudi cleric,
Muhammad al-Munajid, aired on Al-Majd TV, March 30, 2008.

Here is a transcript the most important words of Muhammad al-Munajid:

    "The problem is that they want to open a debate on whether Islam is true or not, and on whether Judaism and Christianity are false or not. In other words, they want to open up everything for debate. Now they want to open up all issues for debate."

    "That’s it. It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief."

    "They say: Let’s have freedom of thought in Islam..."

    "They say: I think, therefore I want to express my thoughts. I want to express myself, I want to talk and say, for example, that there are loopholes in Islam, or that Christianity is the truth."
    "Then they will talk about freedom of belief, and say that anyone is entitled to believe in whatever he wants... If you want to become an apostate – go ahead. Fancy Buddhism? Leave Islam, and join Buddhism. No problem."
    "That’s what freedom of belief is all about."
    "They want freedom of everything."
    "What they want is very dangerous."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Barrack Obama is Simply Wrong

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

This weekend, as you watch the Republicans and conservatives and Midwesterners and the Hillary Clinton camp rise up in unison to condemn the words of Barrack Obama keep one thing in mind, Barrack was completely, totally and entirely wrong.

He clearly fails at the most fundamental level to understand red state America and the people who live there. His remarks are condescending, but they are much worse than that. He has no respect for what is probably the majority of Americans.

Barrack and Michelle Obama simply don't understand Americans who didn't graduate from Harvard with $300,000 in student loans.

The Obama's don't understand Americans who don't attend a black radical church that routinely condemns the American experience.

By virtually any measure, I am an elitist. I admit it. I am not a traditional Christian. I'm not conservative. I attended a prestigious, very liberal college. I am in the upper percentage of Americans in terms of income, occupation and lifestyle. I know it.

But I have been relocated into very small town America. The folks who live in our little town lost most of their jobs and virtually all of their factories because of NAFTA. Due to this poorly thought out trade agreement, the jobs were exported south of the border.

These are the folks that Obama was talking about. It's simply tragic he was so horribly wrong about their values, their religion, their goals and aspirations, their lifestyle, their values and their patriotism. It simply isn't possible to be more wrong.

If Barrack Obama had lived my life for the last ten years he would have been incapable of making a mockery of these people who make up the very heart of our country.

If Barrack had joined these amazingly wonderful people for breakfast each morning, attended their weddings and funerals, helped them serve lunch to the Army reservists each month, joined them in community colleges as they retrained for new jobs..... and received their warmth and love and support in a time of deep personal crisis, he would never have made remarks that can only be described as stupid.

My friends, and coworkers and neighbors are not bitter. They do not cling to guns or religion out of fear or desperation or any misguided motive. They are most assuredly not anti-immigrant, nor are they anti-trade.

We (and I'm proud to be included in this group) are working hard to rebuild our community, We are looking forward and not living in the past. We are optimistic. Frankly, we are a hell of a lot more optimistic than Barrack Obama.

I am more than insulted. I have lost a great deal of respect for the Illinois Senator and this potential candidate for President.

As one television commentator said a few moments ago, this may well be Obama's "Macaca Moment."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Joy of Blogging

"I think.... Well, I think that it would be swell,
If I could win the Nobel
For the books I've read,
When, instead of getting up,
I've stayed in bed."
Emma Wallace
"Come Here To Me (The Ice Cream Man)"

It occurred to me again this morning that the real benefit in blogging comes, not from what we write, but in what we read.

On a good Sunday morning (and this is a good one), I read through my favorites list of about twenty-two blogs, large and small. Many are political blogs, and that has become my favorite topic for most of my own posts.

And, of course, I read and weep each day as I read the blogs and posts from Darfur. I remain appalled that one after another our world leaders lament past genocides and demand that we must "never let it happen again." Then those same leaders find dozens of reasons to fail to intervene in Darfur, effectively enabling today's on-going genocide.

But I digress.... I also read several blogs on other topics like sports, music and movies. And I love blogs of general interest written by really talented and clever writers, a group to which I will never belong.

When a blog entry makes you stop dead in your tracks and think, that is a great moment. Rachel Lucas did that to me this morning with her blog entry "Conservatives are nicer than Liberals"

Her post stopped me in my tracks. Not only have I found that she is 100% correct, I've often intended to write the same thing. Leave it to Rachel to beat me to the punch.

Since I read a reasonably even number of liberal or progressive blogs and conservative blogs and I enter my comments on both, I think my experiences might be typical. And I do run the gamut from The Daily Kos to Michelle Malkin. While my experience in only anecdotal, I've done no studies, I've found this to be true nearly 100% of the time. If you really want to read death threats, vile and x-rated mudslinging, and demeaning insults aimed at an entire class of people (usually based on their religion or geographic residence), look no further than the comments sections of the progressive blogs.

It's not that such insults don't exist on conservative blogs, it's simply that they are rare. So rare I've virtually never read any.

So it was an eye-opener to read that Lucas has had the same experience. Rachel writes:

    "Liberals are so much kinder. I know this because they are the only ones who ever send me hate mail, and are the only ones who link to me with statements like, “Rachel Lucas and her commenter's prove that there’s no need to dumb America down any further, they’ve already taken care of it.” They’re definitely the only ones with enough open-mindedness and love in their hearts to leave comments about how I’m a stupid Texan who needs to get laid and/or shot with my own gun. See, they’re all about hope! and change! It emanates from them."

If Lucas started me thinking , Susan Jacoby put my brain into overdrive. As I drove to my office to pick up a gift for my grandson, I was listening to a program called To the Best of Our Knowledge on National Public Radio this morning about the really pathetic state of public education in this country.

Susan Jacoby, the author of The Age of American Unreason, was quoting some alarming statistics that indicated, among other things, that most 15 year old's do not know that the American Revolutionary War preceded the American Civil War. When asked by the program host, Steve Paulson, why this is, Jacoby answered confidently that it was because we (the United States) have "too many" Christian fundamentalists who take the Bible literally.

She stated with supreme confidence that there were no fundamentalists in western European countries ( I guess she was excluding Islamic fundamentalists) and, therefore Europeans are much better educated.

Now we've all watched enough Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments to realize that a significant number of people are clueless about history. But I'm seriously doubting that Christian fundamentalists have a corner of poor history knowledge. If Jacoby had any statistics to prove her highly prejudiced viewpoint, she failed to discuss them.

The key to my "ah ha" moment was the incredibly condescending tone of Ms. Jacoby's commentary. She clearly looked down upon those who didn't hold her "reasonable" views.

Had similar remarks been aimed at blacks or Hispanics or gays, Jacoby would have been summarily dismissed. But her comments garnered no objections from the host, who seems to agree with her every word.

So what does this all mean? I'd be forced to guess. But my observation is that conservatives are actually more open minded, they don't lump progressives into some "brain dead" group. Lucas observations in her blog this morning makes the same point:

    "As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough, I’m on the record as NOT being either a conservative or a Christian. I’ve openly expressed disbelief in the Bible, total rejection of organized religion, serious beefs with Christian thought processes, a desire to legalize marijuana, no problem with gay marriage, loathing of children, and now even support for teenage girls being given contraception without their parents’ knowledge. Also, I cuss a lot and take the name of your Lord in vain on a near-daily basis."

    "So how mean and intolerant are the right? I’ll tell you."

    "The vast bulk of regular “traffic floods” to this site comes from none other than Conservative Grapevine and Right Wing News, both run by John Hawkins, a Christian who probably disagrees with at least a third of what I write, who’s also the only blogger to ever interview me and was the first blogger to ever link me. He sponsored me for BlogAds and has given me priceless advice."

    "What a jerk! You just can’t reason with conservatives can you? If you don’t toe their line and share all their beliefs, why, they’ll….they’ll…do you huge favors on a regular basis. If that’s not intolerant and hateful, I don’t know what is."

There are large number of excellent liberal and progressive blogs that are every bit as open-minded and tolerant and helpful as the conservative blog Lucas mentioned. I frequent those blogs often and love the conversation and ideas and dialog.

But we all ought to be careful not to group people into stereotypes and dehumanize them or their writings based on ideology.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Autism Disaster

Today, April 2, 2008, is World Autism Awareness Day. If there ever was a disease or affliction that needed a World Awareness Day, it is Autism.

Today autism will affect one out of every 150 children born in the United States. World wide rates are unknown, but clearly the incidence of autism is rising.

Autism is a developmental neurological disorder that appears, often suddenly, in children between the ages of two and three. Parents often speak of their "children being stolen from them, right before their eyes." And, indeed, it often seems that way.

Children who were highly verbal and socially interactive withdraw and lose their language skills. Autistic children often stop interacting with parents and playmates. They no longer look anyone in the eyes, instead turning away or even shrieking or crying when approached or hugged.

Unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests are common symptoms of autism. So are outbursts and fits of anger. Boys are affected four times more often than girls.

But what is most frightening about autism is what is not known about the disease. We do not know the cause. If fact there are more questions and debates than answers.

And parts of the medical community actually fight research into potential causes like childhood vaccinations, rather than support further investigations.

And we do not have any specific treatments or drugs to treat autism. In fact so little is actually known that parents are often left to attempt treatments and remedies on their own. Special diets seem to have helped some children. Physical therapy, including some unusual patterning therapies, have helped others.

But there isn't a single answer or therapy. And virtually none of the treatments or therapies have been researched or scientifically studied.

So here we have an epidemic that is poorly understood, its causes unknown and treatments unverified. And research is random, poorly coordinated, and underfunded.

I certainly urge you to get involved and I know many of you, like me and my family, have been personally touched by autism. I have a list of autism links at the end of this article.

The Autism Society of America is urging everyone to support and elect candidates who will support autism research and help break the log jams in the medical community. This is excellent advice.

Here are some links for those who want more information or wish to donate to support autism support and research:

Autism Society of America

Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children

Autism Speaks (an excellent resource)

Autism Research Institute

Autism Fact Sheet: National Institute for Neurological Disorders