25 May 2008

Give and Take

Yesterday morning I was desperately reading every article in the paper in an attempt to find something to blog about from the media. Somehow, nothing in the media has managed to raise my hackles in the past few days. When I didn’t find anything in the newspaper, I decided to focus on an issue that has saturated the media for the past several years: conservation, going green and protecting the environment. I was planning to take a look at how large businesses waste huge amounts energy. Companies leave lights and computers on over night all the time. Grocery stores have countless displays of products that need refrigeration but are not enclosed. Before I could get that blog written, though, I heard NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I should have known that show would provide me with plenty of fodder for today’s blog.

First of all, we must arm ourselves to protect those holiest of men: Ben and Jerry. GWB’s bioethics council recently gave him a report discussing man’s dignity. A Mr. Leon Kass suggested, no he outright stated, that eating an ice cream cone is undignified. Well, Mr. Kass, ice cream cones are one of my favorite indulgences, and I consider Ben and Jerry holy men for their creation of their phenomenally delicious ice cream. If you are suggesting that I cease and desist my enjoyment of ice cream cones, well then you’re just nuts. And if you for one moment think the world is going to support you in taking out Ben and Jerry then you’re beyond nuts. Say this to any woman who has spent many an enjoyable evening watching a favorite sappy movie with those never complaining men (who are so few and far between) Ben and Jerry and you’ll be lucky to walk away wholly intact. Say it to a woman in the act of enjoying a movie with Ben and Jerry and you can be sure to walk away less of a man.



Secondly, sexism in video games is finally proven. A video game for use in the urinal where you can drive a car, blast aliens in outer space or guide a skiier down a slope by targeting sensors placed around the inside of the toilet bowl. If you ever thought that video games were designed for males, then this game will definitely prove your point. Though the designers claim women can participate using a special paper cone, it is beyond obvious that the game was designed for men. Men, who only need one more reason to waste countless hours in their two favorite hobbies: videogames and playing with themselves.


20 May 2008

Just One

I happened to catch the first part of this morning's On Point on VPR. Tom Ashbrook was hosting a discussion of the California Supreme Court's recent decision supporting Gay Marriage. One of the many guests this morning was Brian Brown. Mr. Brown is the executive director for the California chapter of the National Organization for Marriage. Mr. Brown is against Gay Marriage. Mr. Brown is a moron.

Mr. Brown was only on the show for a few minutes, but it was long enough to illustrate just how much of a moron he was. First of all, he started by ranting about how activist judges are a huge problem. Then he stated that the California Supreme Court decision was just another example of how an activist judge can have a huge effect. He said, and I quote, "One judge forced this decision on California. One Judge." One judge? Really? One person formed the majority decision in this case? Funny thing, I heard it was a 4-3 decision, which means there were 4 (four) judges in the majority opinion. I know it's been a long time since I was in a formal math class, but I'm pretty sure 1 and 4 are different. Quite a bit different.

Perhaps I'm just latching onto nothing here, but that statement, that one statement, really pissed me off. Granted, most of what he was saying pissed me off. But, that one, that's the one that set me off. I don't often talk to the radio, there really isn't much point. But after I heard Mr. Brown's One Judge statement, I sat there fuming. WTF?!? I yelled. W. T. F. Do you even know what you are talking about? There were 4 judges forming the majority opinion, please tell me exactly which one of them is the One Judge. I'd also like to know what he'd be saying if it had been a 4-3 decision against Gay Marriage. Would he be standing there claiming it was One Judge who made the decision. No, I'm pretty sure he'd be standing there saying these are 4 terrific judges who really know what they're talking about and he's really glad they made the right decision.

And that's the other thing. We're talking about the California Supreme Court. Did you miss those two little words? Supreme. Court. I think that kinda means it's an important court, and those are important people. They're also probably pretty smart. Somehow I don't think it quite appropriate for some moron who can't even count to go around telling these 4 Supreme Court Justices that they made the wrong decision. I know they're only human, but still. It's not for Joe Schmoe to be telling a Supreme Court Justice that he was wrong.

And You Thought The Bridge To Nowhere Was Bad

originally blogged Tues. 13 May

An acquaintance recently commented that perhaps it was time for Hillary to bow out of the Democratic Primary race. This acquaintance saw her continued campaign as a great silliness marked by a tragic waste of resources. Why, she asked, should Hillary continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign that is doomed to fail? Though I did not vote for Hillary, I do support her right to continue campaigning. I do, however, agree that the amount of money that has been spent, and will continue to be spent, on this political race, by both parties, is tragic. The good that could have been done, here in the US and around the world, with that same money is amazing. I recently finished a book, Pearls, Politics, and Power, in which the author posed the idea that much good can be done in politics by politicians, and that those who volunteer in their communities should not discount politics as an avenue of do-gooding. The points made by the author helped me see just how much good a politician can do, but I still can't help but feel that the good that could have been done with this political money far outways the good that any of the candidates might achieve in office.

After putting to rest my thoughts about the wasteful practices of the current political campaign, I found myself contemplating in what other ways large amounts of resources are wasted on efforts that are, in and of themselves, doing good. Which reminded me of what I recently saw on Animal Planet.

While puttering around the house, I happened to enter the living room just as a skin and bones dog was brought into a vet's office. I don't know what show I caught, but it doesn't much matter. The poor dog had been abandoned to starve in a backyard. The house was in a cold climate, during the winter. The dog was left with no food, no water, and no shelter. The dog was, quite literally, skin and bones. The vet examining the dog stated that it was dying. And yet, they immediately set about trying to save the dog. I realize that it is a heart breaking story, and there are many animal lovers in the world who think it would be just as cruel to kill the dog as it was to leave it without food, water, and shelter in the first place. Yet, I cannot help but think that perhaps saving that dog was a tragic waste of resources. I know, I know, I have just uttered fighting words. With that one thought I will probably have my "animal lover" card revoked and have my pet owners license revoked for eternity. But, let me at least defend myself.

First of all, let me remind you that I am speaking of a dog that a vet has already stated is dying. Not almost dying. Not would have died if it hadn't been found and brought to the vet. Dying. The dog is dying. It's body already in the process of shutting down. The poor animal had no chance to survive. Not to mention the fact that the dog doesn't even have a loving owner to help care for it as it recovers. Despite all this, the vet and her staff immediately began efforts to warm the dog, and provide IV medicine and liquids. Even if the dog survived the night and subsequent days, it will be a long uphill climb to full recovery. A climb that will most likely be blocked numerous times by a multitude of health issues brought on by near death. With absolutely no guarantee of a finally healthy, physically or mentally, dog. For all these kindhearted people know, this dog is extremely aggressive, or has cancer, or heartworms, or failing hips. They could very well be attempting to save a dog that will only continue to require the allocation of resources to maintain whatever semblance of health is finally achieved.

And that's what it comes down to, no? Resources. Who is paying for the care of this nearly dead dog? More than likely, as is often the case on Animal Planet, a rescue organization or humane society has come forward to pay for the care. Perhaps the vet has even offered to allay some of the costs. Either way, a great deal of money will be spent on an effort that has little chance to succeed. We must also consider the time and space given over to this dog. Surely many hours of the vet's time and of tech's and assistant's time were taken away from other needs and devoted to helping this dog. If the dog somehow survived, there is then the time spent by a foster care taker as it continues to regain health. Similarly, the dog takes up space. A kennel or more at the vets office, and then a kennel or even entire room at the foster home. In each case, this dying dog will consume an extreme amount of resources.

Thus I ask, is saving this dog a wasteful use of resources? Should the dog survive, then most people would probably say it was not a waste. How could it be a waste if the ultimate goal, of returning a dying dog to health, is achieved? I will ask the question that I'm sure most would not ask. Is this dog so important, so worthy, that it deserves to have so many resources? Are there not other dogs in the world that would just as easily please a family looking for a pet? If we know nothing else about the plight of dogs in our world, it is that there are always homeless dogs looking for a loving family. And I would offer the idea that there is no one perfect dog for any family.

Stuffing a Sock In It

originally blogged Wed. 23 April



Last summer the Vermont Legislature created the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection to explore the possibility of expanding Vermont's Civil Union law to grant gays full marriage rights. The commission held public meetings to ask Vermonters how they feel about Civil Unions and gay marriage. The commission just released it's report to the Legislature. The report strongly recommended that legislators seriously consider the differences between Civil Unions and gay marriage, but the report did not actually endorse or condone either.

The most interesting part of this commission and it's report is the opponents to gay marriage. There are several groups in Vermont working against gay marriage. Two of these groups actively boycotted the commission's hearings. When the report was issued, the president of one of the groups said, ""They can't really claim to have heard from all Vermonters." If he is suggesting that the commission's report is faulty because the commission did not receive information from the (supposedly) many Vermonters against gay marriage, then he has only himself to blame. When a series of public hearings are scheduled for the express purpose of gaining information about a subject and you have information you consider important to the topic, then you attend the meetings. You do not behave like a grade schooler and refuse to share your information because you assumed your voice would not be heard, or because you assumed the leaders of the hearings were already decided. If they were already decided, then they wouldn't be hosting public hearings. Nor do you go out and hold your own set of hearings in opposition to the commission, which is what this one anti- gay marriage group is planning to do. First of all, the commission has already issued it's report, your hearings are too late. Second, you should have attended the commission's hearings.

According to an editorial in today's Rutland Herald, the commission reported that there was very little opposition to gay marriage voiced in the hearings. The legislature is going to read this, and very likely conclude that there is only a minority opposition to gay marriage. The legislature is (I hope) going to act on this information and begin the process of allowing gays to marry. And then the opposition groups are going to come crawling out of the woodwork, complaining that their voices weren't heard at the commission's meetings and they have been disenfranchised from the process. The opposition groups are going to point to the commission's report and claim that it was biased in favor of gay marriage from the beginning. The opposition is going to be loud and spread misinformation and attempt to convince Vermonters that gay marriage is just another way that the legislature is forcing it's liberal, left wing agenda on Vermonters. And that's going to piss me off. Because the opportunity was given for everyone to voice their opinion, share their information, and provide facts to support their ideas. If you chose to stuff a sock in your mouth and not share important information, then that's your fault. Don't try to blame it on anybody else.

I sincerely hope that when the opposition groups begin their whining and complaining we all remember who it was who refused to participate in the discussion in the first place.

A Passion for the Status Quo

originally blogged on Wed. 23 April.


In his editorial today, Poor Elijah quoted a colleague from Kentucky who recently published a piece in Education Week discussing the unfortunate fact that schools seem to be only focusing on testing and scores. Apparently the Kentuckian suggests that more focus should be given to inspiring students and creating a passion for learning. As I was reading, I failed to understand why Elijah was quoting the Kentuckian. Elijah's columns usually focus on something in the education system that Elijah thinks is absurd, not working, or just plain wrong. I failed to see the Kentuckian's assertions as any of those. Elijah, though, was seemingly deeply offended at the suggestion that schools and teachers should be instilling a passion for learning in students. Furthermore, he scoffed at the idea that schools should be producing students "who desire to become responsible citizens." Oh, yes, later in his article Elijah claims to be in favor of teaching responsible citizenship. But, his idea of teaching responsible citizenship is to repeatedly remind students that in only a few decades they will be in charge of the country and will be responsible for all the decision making, and won't have anybody to ask for help.

Perhaps it is teaching methods such as Elijah's that has left the United States with an uninformed populace. If you read the newspapers, or watch television news reports, it is obvious that people are not interested in making informed decisions. All they are interested in is what one important leader supposedly says about another important leader. They don't have a passion for researching the truth. They don't have a passion for analyzing and contemplating the information they have. They don't have a passion for making their own decisions. In other words, they don't have a passion for learning. But, obviously Elijah thinks this is just fine, because a passion for learning is unimportant fluff valued only by those who have a "persistent philosophical distaste for....the 'end product'." Elijah must think he is qualified to teach students every single fact, quote, and theory a student will need through the rest of his/her life. Otherwise, he would value the passion for learning that compels a person to continue learning and reading and researching and thinking throughout the rest of his/her life.

This is perhaps the saddest part of Elijah's article. Elijah seems to truly believe that a passion for learning is not a part of life. He suggests we "take a look up and down the supermarket aisle, and...realize that the thirst for knowledge doesn't rule most people's lives." He suggests that just because an English teacher won't fall in love with Trigonometry (and why not, I ask?), then people shouldn't bother learning anything about a subject about which they are not passionate. He follows up this statement by saying, "learning for most of us isn't a passion." Elijah, are you suggesting that just because the majority of people in the United States today aren't passionate about learning then we shouldn't try to foster that passion in the upcoming generations? Elijah, do you truly believe that the status quo is acceptable?

I disagree, Elijah. Not that learning is not a passion for most people. Sadly, I agree with that statement. Just spend a few moments listening to any average conversation in a grocery store, or in an online forum. It quickly becomes obvious that the average person is not passionate about continuing his/her education. What I disagree about is that this disinterest in learning and education is a good thing. It's not. It is a terribly horrifying thing. I consider it the biggest reason that the United States does not truly support our education system.

Fomenting in the current and upcoming generations the idea that learning is boring and unnecessary once you have finished your formal schooling is a dangerous thing. It certainly will not create a responsible citizenry. Oh, but that's right, Elijah scoffed at the idea of creating a responsible citizen through the teaching received in school. Sounds like Elijah has things all figured out for himself.