Sunday, November 29, 2009

AmeriCorps update

As an addendum to the previous post about AmeriCorps, the March 2009 House bill to massively increase the size of AmeriCorps (HR 1388) sought to restrict members from many basic aspects of religious activity:

(Sec. 125 Prohibited Activities and Ineligible Organizations)

'(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.

(b) Ineligible Organizations- No assistance provided under this subtitle may be provided to the following types of organizations (including the participation of a participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle in activities conducted by such organizations) or to organizations that are co-located on the same premises as the following organizations:

'(1) Organizations that provide or promote abortion services, including referral for such services.

'(2) For-profit organizations, political parties, labor organizations, or organizations engaged in political or legislative advocacy.

'(3) Organizations that have been indicted for voter fraud.
This wording was not present in the original bill, but was added in an amendment sponsored by ____ and supported in a __ to __ vote. 

Here are the proceedings that led up to its adoption:

3/18/2009 4:32pm:
H.AMDT.49 Amendment (A012) offered by Mr. Miller, George. (consideration: CR H3607; text: CR H3607)
See item 237 for explanation.
3/18/2009 4:32pm:
H.AMDT.49 On agreeing to the Miller, George amendment (A012) Agreed to by voice vote.
3/18/2009 4:39pm:
On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 321 - 105 (Roll no. 140).
3/18/2009 4:39pm:
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
3/18/2009 4:40pm:
The Clerk was authorized to correct section numbers, punctuation, and cross references, and to make other necessary technical and conforming corrections in the engrossment of H.R. 1388.
Received in the Senate. Read twice. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 35.
There was no discussion of the amendment.  Had the legislators even read it?  The same minute that he advanced his amendment, it passed.  Within seven minutes of his putting forward the amendment, it was added to the bill and the bill passed.  Sick.

(Note that, and do not list the full text of this amendment).  This prohibition passed the House, but mercifully was not included in the Senate version.  The final version of the bill, which became law reads:

"(Sec. 1310) Prohibits the use of AmeriCorps positions for specified activities, including:
(1) attempting to influence legislation;
(2) engaging in protests, partisan political activities, or religious instruction;
(3) assisting or deterring union organizing;
(4) providing abortion services or referrals; or
(5) conducting voter registration drives. Prohibits the provision of AmeriCorps assistance to any organization that has violated a federal criminal statute. Prohibits participants in approved national service positions from displacing employed workers or other volunteers."

Note that religious observances are not restricted, and that abortion services or referrals are still prohibited!  Wow!  Does this mean that next year's City Year report won't list Planned Parenthood, and that ties with ACORN will be permanently severed?  It must, if they hold to the law.

My question is, will the people vote out those legislators who support a bill that deliberately and arrogantly shreds the first amendment of the Constitution?

"Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

(For future reference, the website allows users to track a given bill during its tumultuous life inside congress.  It also allows you to view different versions of the bill, from its first introduction, to its final version, if it makes it that far.  You can highlight changes in green to see what changed between versions. takes it a step further and allows you to see the text of all proposed amendments, along with their sponsors' names.  Another website to check out is  Finally, here's a link to another article about this bill.).


What is up with this?
Some of my favorite characters in fiction have become epithets that distort the original nature of their name-bearer:

Pollyanna -- "The novel's success brought the term 'Pollyanna' (along with the adjective 'pollyannaish' and the noun 'Pollyannaism') into the language to describe someone who seems always to be able to find something to be 'glad' about no matter what circumstances arise. It is sometimes used pejoratively, referring to someone whose optimism is excessive to the point of naïveté or refusing to accept the facts of an unfortunate situation."

Uncle Tom -- "Uncle Tom is a pejorative term for a black person who is perceived by others as behaving in a subservient manner to white authority figures, or as seeking ingratiation with them by way of unnecessary accommodation."

Little Lord Fauntleroy -- ""Little Lord Fauntleroy" is now most often used as a term of derision. It describes a pompous spoiled brat, usually a young male, who takes his wealth and privilege for granted (while this is obviously not consistent with the original character, it is inspired by the perceived self-righteousness of the little lord, and an assumed odiousness in his overweening goodness)."

(All are quotes from wikipedia articles by the same name; retrieved November 29, 2009).

All I can say is, don't let someone else's cynicism color your own usage.  Meet the original characters for yourself, then draw your own conclusions!

AmeriCorps, an American Neoplasm

Maybe you've seen the commercial with a young girl saying "I am change..." as red-jacketed young people do calisthenics.  Even though the young people are forming into militaryesque lines, their stylish hairdos and outlandish red jackets clearly show that they're not in the military. The organization they're recruiting for is City Year, an organization founded in 1998 by two Harvard roommates.  As I found out through a websearch, City Year is part of AmeriCorps.

So aside from the eh, distinctive garb (which, yes, you do get to keep after your year of service) what attractions does City Year offer to new recruits?  According to their current position description, a City Year participant will be awarded a $4,725 education credit, a "modest weekly stipend," and possibly a student loan forbearance.

A gal I know recently mentioned that she's thinking about volunteering with AmeriCorps when she graduates.  Why? I asked her.  She said she wants to "give back."  She heard about the program from a professor while she was an undergrad, and when she finishes her graduate degree she's thinking about joining the organization.  Internally I wondered how well the organization would use her specialized training.  I mean, do they have jobs specific for her science background? 

So what kind of jobs do City Year members actually do?  Their commercial flashed up images of Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and others, but if I join, what can I expect besides doing jumping jacks in my red jumpsuit?  Here's their overall mission statement:

"City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.

"As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods in 19 U.S. locations and one in Johannesburg, South Africa. Just as important, during their year of service corps members develop civic leadership skills they can use throughout a lifetime of community service.

"Major corporations and businesses participate in our mission by serving as strategic partners, team sponsors, and national leadership sponsors.

"Together we're building a citizen service movement that is larger than our organization, our lifetime, and ourselves."

What's not clarified is the type of change the organization is committed to.  What worldview is this organization committed to?  I mean, handing out toothbrushes, or conversely guns and bombs, would effect change in the world, but what does City Year have in mind?  Their website was high on vague phrases, but provided no specifics.  Fortunately, their 2008 Annual Report actually listed the organizations they've partnered with, by state and by city.  City Year has partnered with such well-known organizations as Habitat for Humanity and many churches and hospitals.  I searched for "Planned Parenthood," and found that while City Year has partnered with PP in Ohio, they have not partnered with a single crisis pregnancy center in any state.  

AmeriCorps itself lists more specific, if carefully selected, job descriptions:

  • Tutor and mentor disadvantaged youth
  • Fight illiteracy
  • Improve health services
  • Build affordable housing
  • Teach computer skills
  • Clean parks and streams
  • Manage or operate after-school programs
  • Help communities respond to disasters
  • Build organizational capacity

What's not described is that AmeriCorps members have been known to buy toy guns from toddlers, and to tackle perceived "anti-gay" prejudice.  ACORN and AmeriCorps have even partnered together.  It's documented that at least as far back as 1997, "AmeriCorps members of AHC [ACORN Housing Corporation] raised funds for ACORN, performed voter registration activities, and gave partisan speeches..."

Here is the vapid pledge that the 540,000 AmeriCorps past and current members have taken:

The AmeriCorps Pledge

I will get things done for America -
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy,
I will take action.

Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.

Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done.

So the goal is "to get things done."  How generic.  How vague.  How open-ended.  How manipulatable.  Some of their efforts are worthy, and many are entirely off-base and illegal.  Without even getting into the question of how much choice an individual City Year or AmeriCorps member has in what they participate in, why do we need such a program, and why is it federally funded? has this to say about AmeriCorps: "If it weren't for AmeriCorps, after all, young people might decide they're perfectly capable of giving back to their communities without the assistance or direction of the federal government. And wouldn't that be a tragedy?"

Good point.  Why does the gal I talked to think that she needs to go through a program in order to "give back"?  After all, I know a guy who donates his time to supplement highschoolers' education with free chemistry instruction.  And I know a gal who gives her time to teach middleschoolers to sew, draw, garden, and cook.  (That guy and gal are my parents, and they're members of a breed of volunteers who actually volunteer.  That is, they do not receive any monetary or in-kind compensation -- including red jumpsuits -- for what they do).

AmeriCorps isn't about volunteerism.  It's about compensated service.  Let's just call it what it is.  That members of our legislative and executive branches do not understand what the word "volunteer" means is abundantly clear.  As as example, take Obama's push to cap tax credits for charitable donations.  Or take the fact that when the U.S. House passed their version of the GIVE/SERVE bill that enormously increased the funding for AmeriCorps, it included a provision for mandatory "volunteer" service.  To be clear, if it's compensated and it's mandatory, it's not volunteerism.

How well has the organization handled its money?  At one point AmeriCorp donated $1.1 million to ACORN (which ACORN had to repay).  But ACORN knows a cash cow when it sees one, and there's been plenty of milking action going on -- though this was curtailed in the GIVE/SERVE act that became law earlier this year.  It's estimated that each member costs $17,500 annually.  Back in June of this year, Gerald Walpin, an inspector general of Corporation for National and Community Service, unearthed widespread fraud in the largest AmeriCorps program in the country.  He recommended that the Teaching Fellows Program pay back $75 million they had misused.  Walpin was summarily fired by Our Dear Leader, and replaced by one of the First Lady's cronies.

While the catchy (or as I see it overworked and conveniently vague) reference to "change" evokes images of Our Dear Leader, give credit where credit is due.  AmeriCorps was begun by the now-impeached Bill Clinton in 1993.  After 9/11, Bush Jr. encouraged all Americans to volunteer, and pushed federal programs like AmeriCorps vigorously.  In 2007, he sponsored a national recognition week for AmeriCorps when it reached the 500,000 current member and alumni mark.  Obama has now adopted AmeriCorps, and Republicans helped him triple the program by means of the $6 billion GIVE/SERVE act that seeks to expand the membership of AmeriCorps by 175,000, bringing its currently employed sum total to 250,000.  This law will increase the federal civilian workforce by 13%, and make AmeriCorps the 14th largest employer in the U.S.

Our Dear Leader describes the role of AmeriCorps this way: "Our government can help to rebuild our economy ... [but] we need Americans willing to mentor our eager young children, or care for the sick, or ease the strains of deployment on our military families..."

Others disagree:
"AmeriCorps is a wasteful boondoggle" -- Kate O'Beirne, correspondent, National Review.
"[T]he government-run, taxpayer-subsidized 'community service' boondoggle." -- Michelle Malkin, independent blogger.
"AmeriCorps in based on an unconstitutional misconception, and its continuance amounts to the systematic theft of the American people.  It is an example of how rapidly an unchecked government can grow.  Cut its funding and cut back on government metastasis."  -- me, U.S. citizen.


True or false:

1. Hillary Clinton, while First Lady and while Secretary of State, has worn a hijab (Muslim headscarf).

2. Condoleeza Rice, while Secretary of State, wore a hijab.

2. Laura Bush, while First Lady, wore a hijab.

The answers?
1. T
2. T
3. T

See more at Daniel Pipes' article.  (And note that he shows a companion page with images of glamorous Muslim women who do not wear the hijab in public).

Sharia law by evolution, not be revolution, is the theme here.  I see the dhimmi attitude, or dhimmitude, written all over these women wearing the garb that is mandated by an oppressive worldview.  (A dhimmi is a "non-Muslim living with limited rights under Muslim rule."  Basically, it's the status what many appeasers in the Western world are seeking as they as confronted by Sharia law.  If Neville Chamberlain was alive today, he'd be a whole-hearted dhimmi.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Healthcare Bill Update

National Review has an article looking at the state of the healthcare bill ("Condition Serious but not Hopeless").  Several points really stuck out to me:

1) Republicans are doing a fine job of airing the despicable nature of this bill, but they must strengthen the alternative they're offering.  They may be afraid to take away what so many of us are used to -- employer-provided insurance -- but it's time to put the choice about insurance back into the hands of the taxpayer.
2) The cop-out by Democrats saying that they simply voted for a bill to bring it to the floor, and that means nothing about voting for the final bill are pretty much saying that they just expect more earmarks inserted before they'll vote for it.  An overwhelming 97.6% of bills that win the motion-to-proceed vote gain final passage.
3) Democrats seem to be living by the slogan "Power is transient, but policy is forever."  Even though many of them have no hope of being reelected because of the unpopularity of this bill (no matter how much they say we're demanding it), if they can just get it passed, they see it as being worth it.
Republicans should highlight the differences Democrats have on the issues covered in this bill.
5) Contact your senator and no one else.  That's Rick Santorum's advice.  Especially if your senator is Lincoln, Landrieu, either Nelsons, Dorgan, Bayh, Lieberman, Webb, Bennett of Colorado, or Snowe, then by all means, contact them!
"What should you do? Call, email,write, organize not just rallies at the senator's state office but 24-hour vigils, attend his/her public meetings, and come to D.C. with as many friends as you can bring. Finally — contact your state's senator and no one else. No senator cares about what people in other states feel or say. In this hectic environment, your call to an out-of-state senator is probably blocking a call from someone in her state. Focus on your senator even if it is just to say thanks to a Republican who voted the right way and to encourage him or her to continue to do so."

From the Office of Senator Evan Bayh

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 10:33 AM
Subject: From the Office of Senator Evan Bayh


Dear _________:


Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform.  I appreciate hearing your thoughts and understand your concerns.  


The rising cost of health care has highlighted the critical need for health care reform.  Many individuals and families are unable to receive vital health services under the structure of the current system.  I receive letters from constituents on a wide range of health care issues, such as prescription drug affordability, out of pocket health care expenses, and lack of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  Please know that I am aware of these challenges and committed to improving access to affordable health care. 


Our current health care system must be improved.  The status quo is unacceptable, but that doesn't mean we should just do anything.  We must do the right thing.  A viable solution must reduce costs to make health care more affordable for the nearly 85 percent of Americans who currently have coverage.  Our reforms should also keep insured people from losing coverage and take steps to offer health care to the 15 percent of Americans currently without health insurance.


The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962).  The process for approving health care reform in the Senate calls for merging the bills from the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) into a single measure.  HELP passed the Affordable Health Choices Act (S. 1679) on July 15, 2009, and Finance passed the America's Healthy Future Act (S. 1796) on October 13, 2009.  The merged Senate proposal was offered on November 18th, 2009, and referred to as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 


As the Senate begins to debate health care reform, I will be reviewing the bill and looking for solutions that demonstrate a commitment to reducing the federal deficit, job protection, and affordability for Hoosier families.  I will continue to do my best to achieve solvent, practical solutions that provide high-quality, affordable health care to as many Americans as possible, while maintaining sound fiscal policy.

Throughout this debate, I have called for a process that fosters openness and transparency for the American people.  On October 6, 2009, I co-signed a letter to Senator Harry Reid, along with seven other moderate Democratic senators, that called for the legislative text of the Senate health care bill to be put on the internet for 72 hours before scheduling a vote on the bill.  I believe it is important that people like you have a chance to evaluate these policies and communicate your thoughts before we vote on this legislation. You can access the Senate health bill at and access the entire text of the bill there.  The bill was posted online and made viewable to the public at large on November 18, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. 


Again, thank you for contacting me.  I hope the information I have provided has been helpful.  My website,, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects.  You can also sign up for occasional email updates.  I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.



Office of Senator Evan Bayh
(202) 224-5623
Russell 131
Washington, D.C. 20510

Queer Medical Students Organization


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Few, Nora J <>
Date: Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 10:43 AM
Subject: [m1students] Queer Medical Students Organization
To: "" <>, "" <>, "" <>

QMS will be meeting on Thursday Dec 3 from 6 pm until whenever at V.Picasso, a new tapas restaurant in Urbana.  The main purpose of this meeting is to socialize in a queer-friendly setting.  Everyone is welcome.  (the tapas are really good and they have a full bar as well)

- Nora and Jim

V.Picasso Restaurant and Tapas

214 W Main St
Urbana, IL 61801-2622
(217) 328-0122


QMS is open to anyone who is interested in our organization. Queer, Straight, Bi, In, Out, Curious, or just interested. We exist to help address the concerns of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered students in the study of Medicine and related fields. One of our primary functions is to act as a social and support network where medical students can share concerns, or just socialize. We also may have opportunities to help educate medical and academic colleagues regarding GLBT concerns that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to encounter.

Membership in the QMS e-mail list is held in strict confidence.



Nora J. Few, Ph.D. 

Executive Assistant Dean

Student Affairs and Medical Scholars Program

University of Illinois College of Medicine

at Urbana-Champaign


p (217) 333-8146  f  (217) 333-2640

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Letters to Ms. Blanche Lincoln and Ms. Mary Landrieu

Hi, Ms. Lincoln!
I encourage you to consider a third option in this healthcare debate.  I'm studying to be a doctor, and this topic hits home for me.  I know that health decisions are best handled on a person-to-person scale, not determined by a third-payer system whose bottom line is cost.  This is true whether that third-payer is an insurance company, or a government agency.  

In the debate today, I know both of us have heard many concerning stories about insurance companies making decisions about who receives care at what level, and who does not.  These decisions should not be made by an insurance company, or, I believe, anyone except the patient and his/her doctor.

I urge you to reconsider your stance on the vote on the healthcare cloture measure, and support a third-way -- a way that reaffirms the personal, patient-doctor decision-making process.

Yours respectfully,

Hi, Ms. Landrieu!
There's a third-way in this healthcare debate that as a medical student I urge you to consider.  

Much has been said about the failure of insurance companies, and the pain they have inflicted on families.  I firmly believe that the fundamental flaw in the idea of medical insurance is that inserts a third-payer into what should be a person-to-person decision between a patient and his/her doctor.

Please reconsider your stance, and instead of submitting one third-payer (a government agency) for a previous third-payer (an insurance company), fight to reaffirm the patient-physician decision-making process.

Yours respectfully,

Letters to Mr. Harry Reid and Mr. Mitch McConnell

Hi, Mr. Reid
You and I both know how important healthcare is: you are leading the initiative in the senate on this issue, and I am working toward a medical degree right now.

As I've watched the debate about this issue online today, I've been struck by the number of times the debate has come down to one of two options -- either allowing insurance companies to continue as they are, or introducing the public option.

I firmly believe that a third way is the best approach we can take.  Medicine works best when decisions are carried out on a patient-doctor scale, not when the hospital room is in effect crowded out with representatives from third-payer systems -- either from insurance companies or government agencies.  

There is no substitute for freedom, and if the two people most impacted by healthcare decisions -- the patient and the doctor -- were the ones with the freedom to make decisions for themselves, I know that positive change in the medical field would be forthcoming.

Because of this, I ask you to reconsider your support of the public option, and instead fight for policy that affirms the freedom of patients and doctors.

Yours respectfully,


Hi, Mr. McConnell!
Thank you very much for your consistent fight against ObamaCare!  I'm currently studying to be a physician, so this issue hits close to home.  The most concerning aspect of this legislation is that it inserts itself between the patient and the physician.  I firmly believe that medicine was meant to be practiced on a person-to-person level, and that the Founders knew what they were doing when they did not include "medical care" in Congress' enumerated powers.

Thank you for standing for freedom!

God bless,

(Not used)
How can a third-party payer be anything but an obstruction?  The two people in the world that care most about the outcome of a medical treatment are that patient and that physician.  Any third-party (whether the representative of an insurance company or a government agency) can only complicate treatment.  The third-payer is not experiencing the symptoms that keeps the patient up nights, and does not possess the medical expertise that gives the physician insight into the cause and effects of the patient's disease.  Is it any wonder that their first thought is not of the patient, nor of the treatment and its outcome, but of the cost?

Letter to Mr. Harry Reid, Senator from Nevada

Hi, Mr. Reid
You and I both know how important healthcare is: you are leading the initiative in the senate on this issue, and I am working toward a medical degree.

As I've watched the debate about this issue online today, I've been struck by the number of times the debate has come down to one of two options -- either allowing insurance companies to continue as they are, or introducing the public option.

I firmly believe that a third way is the best approach we can take.  Medicine works best when decisions are carried out on a patient-doctor scale, not when the hospital room is in effect crowded out with representatives from third-payer systems -- either from insurance companies or government agencies.  

Simply replacing one third-payer (the insurance company) with another (a government program) is not the solution.  Personalized medicine -- relationship-based medicine -- is the way to go.

There is no substitute for freedom, and if the two people most impacted by healthcare decisions -- the patient and the doctor -- were the ones with the freedom to make decisions for themselves, I know that positive change in the medical field would be forthcoming.

Because of this, I ask you to reconsider your support of the public option, and instead fight for policy that affirms the freedom of patients and doctors.

Yours respectfully,

Letter to Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, Illinois Senators

Hi, Mr. Durbin!
I'm currently enrolled in the medical school at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign campus).  Illinois has a great thing going on this campus, where faculty, students, and alumni are driving forward medical research and spearheading innovation with positive impact from the bench to the bedside.
   The combination of compassion and progress in medicine have transformed the field into what we see today.
   I'm urging you to vote against the healthcare bill as it stands because I do not want compassion to be removed from the medical equation.
   I firmly believe that medicine works best when it's carried out on a patient-doctor scale, not when the hospital room is in effect crowded out with representatives from third-payer systems -- either from insurance companies or government agencies.  
   If insurance companies were eliminated, medical costs were influenced by supply-and-demand, and the freedom of the patient and the doctor were affirmed in health policy, I know that the same kind of successes in medical research would soon become apparent in medical costs and treatment.

God bless,

Letter to Mr. Richard Lugar

Hi, Mr. Lugar!
Thank you so much for standing against the healthcare bill that's currently being debated.  I'm watching the proceedings online right now, and you would not believe how comforting it is to know that you are dedicated to protecting your constituents from the monstrosity that is ObamaCare.  
    I am in medical school, and even the thought of practicing medicine within a socialized system is enough to make me shudder.
    Thank you again for your faithful resistance to this bill and what it stands for!

God bless,

Letter to Mr. Evan Bayh

Hi, Mr. Bayh!
I am glad to see your interest in healthcare.  As a med student, healthcare is something I think about quite a bit, as well!
I urge you to withdraw your support for this bill and the closure measure that's currently being debated.  Two of the things basic to medical care are: 1) properly diagnosing a patient's problem, and 2) prescribing the correct treatment for the problem.  Mr. Reid's bill does not do either of these things for the American public when it comes to healthcare, and that is why I urge you to withdraw your support of it.

Both of us, knowing Indiana, know the importance of small communities and the relationships in small communities.  If the third-payer system of insurance was completely eliminated, and the doctor-patient relationship was restored, I believe you and I would see a tremendous change for the better.

Yours respectfully,

Saturday Night. Do You Know Where Your Senator Is?

You and I may be thinking of Thanksgiving (and rightly so!), but today our friends in the Senate are getting ready to vote on a closure measure that would strangle debate on the ObamaCare legislation.  A vote for closure would not only severely limit debate, it would also prevent a pro-life amendment from being submitted.

Here's some details from National Review:
"The debate on Reid's bill is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the cloture vote to come around 8 p.m. If it passes, then the Senate will likely take a week off for Thanksgiving and come back to begin the floor debate on Monday, November 30..."
Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.): "Saturday's vote is an abortion vote," he says. "We often use arcane procedures in the Senate that just lose people. Things can get complicated on the process side here, so let me be clear: This cloture vote is a make-or-break vote on the pro-life issue. Reid's bill has language that includes a mechanism for public funding and a significant extension of abortion coverage. If this bill moves to the floor with 60 votes this weekend, the only way to change it is to get 60 votes again. That will be very tough to achieve once the bill goes to the floor. A vote to proceed is thus a vote for extending abortion coverage."

  • U.S. Senator contact info.
  • Live webstreaming from the Senate at Fox (click on "Senate Health Bill Debate") and CNN.
  • The Senate Doctors Show.  This show features the two physicians in the senate (Tom Coburn -- OB/GYN and John Barrasso -- orthopedic surgery).  In their latest episode they discuss this bill and the move toward rationing mammograms.
  • The Christian Medical & Dental Association has resources on this issue, including information about free health clinics, the ideologies involved in this debate, and the offer Mr. Harry Reid recently presented to doctors to garner their support.
  • National Review looks at several of the factors that have driven healthcare costs skyhigh, including the trial lawyer industry, and the third-party-payer system that we as patients often use to pay for medical tests we don't need.
P.S.1. I had never heard of closure, so here's some details from wikipedia:

After cloture has been invoked, the following restrictions apply:
  • No more than thirty hours of debate may occur.[8]
  • No Senator may speak for more than one hour.
  • No amendments may be moved unless they were filed on the day in between the presentation of the petition and the actual cloture vote.
  • All amendments must be relevant to the debate.
  • Certain procedural motions are not permissible.
  • The presiding officer gains additional power in controlling debate.
  • No other matters may be considered until the question upon which cloture was invoked is disposed of.
P.S.2. "The Senate is a more deliberative body than the House of Representatives because the Senate is smaller and its members serve longer terms, allowing for a more collegial and less partisan atmosphere that is somewhat more insulated from public opinion than the House." (Wikipedia, U.S. Senate, retrieved November 21, 2009).

If only, if only.  The reality is that with the healthcare bill, the Senate is following the same destructive path that the House did a few short weeks ago.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Ethel: Why'd you go into statistics?
Thelma: I wanted to be a woman of independent means.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Here are two passages that really jumped out during Bible study today:

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (Hebrews 3:12-14).

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are One." (John 10:27-30).

Facts of Faith

Two things!

1) Moody's Facts of Faith are on Youtube!
2) Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason fame, has a great article on "Faith and Facts"

Here's the crux of the matter:

That's why the Christian faith cares about the evidence, friends. For the biblical Christian, the facts matter. You can't have assurance for something you don't know you're going to get. You can only hope for it.

This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance--if Jesus didn't indeed rise from the dead in time/space history--then we are of most men to be pitied. That's what he says: We are of most men to be pitied...

The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence doesn't correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said...

So, when someone asks me the question, 'Are faith and science compatible?', I'm going to immediately ask for a clarification. 'What do you mean by faith?' If you think faith is mere fantasy and science is complete fact, well then, fantasy conflicts with fact, doesn't it? If faith is a blind leap in the dark, if faith has no concern for the facts, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weighing in

Here's what one grad student had to say.  My thought?  As far as teaching outside of your specialization, that's something even professors are often required to do.  Who specialized in general chemistry?  No one.  But somebody's got to teach it.  Also, nobody's making you stay here.  If you're as unhappy as you sound, you might consider a) counseling, or b) another career.

Irony of wage Negotiations

November 1st, 2009 - 10:16 PM
November 1st, 2009 - 10:16 PM
Letters to the Editor

I was impressed that the DI's Oct. 29 editorial cartoon by Jake Thompson glimmers with the great irony of wage negotiations at Illinois: some are so overcompensated for their 50-80 hrs/work per week that they have started to believe that they earned this money legitimately. And even worse, the people of the State of Illinois go along with this!

I don't mean to lecture you on the very un-democratic nature of this labor system, but this is my job. Yes, I was granted admission as a ph.D. student because the people of the state of Illinois wanted to support me in becoming an historian of working and underpaid people in the United States. So, I feel compelled to share with you my research. This is how capitalism works: a) a few people get their hands on challenging, interesting jobs; b) as their responsibilities grow, they pay others, under the guise of "apprenticeship," to do the menial parts of their job that they do not like (in our case, grading, actually discussing things with students, bookkeeping, simple research); c) these people with interesting jobs feel threatened by their trainees, so they try and control them by paying them less than a living wage.

Currently, on top of my dissertation I am working 20 hours a week grading for a course 2,000-3,000 years outside my specialization. I am paid $891 per month. Administrators are telling me that they have a right to better food and health care than I. They have the right to raise children without going into debt, while I do not. They have the right to travel to see family on holidays, and I do not.

Is this the American democracy that the people of the state of Illinois are paying me to someday profess?

Janine Giordano

graduate student

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Find that book!

Eureka!  I've found it!
Here's the best description of a library call number that I've seen anywhere!  And whaddyaknow!  It came out of mine own university.  Awwww :)

(I am utterly filled with joy to finally realize what all those letters and numbers mean!  For those of you who figured all this out at age four, you have my sincerest admiration and undying reverence).

Strike Volunteers -- Applications Being Accepted

Doesn't the GEO understand that our university is strapped right now?

I wonder if a majority of parents and students will respond in the way that the GEO wants, or if they will be angry at a group that's preventing their kids from getting the education they've paid for.

One further point here, then I'll have done: isn't it convenient to think that the GEO speaks for all grad students?  Then you don't have to work to understand what indiviudal grad students really think!  Unfortunately for the author of the email below, supporting grad students is more complicated than simply parroting the GEO.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Brad Bolton <>
Date: Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 6:06 PM

Hey Amnesty,

Since we decided to support the GEO last week, I thought I'd pass this along to all of you - it's a call for support and contains information about the strike.  Feel free to pass this on to anyone else you know.

We'll be sending our usual reminder tomorrow, so this is it for now - have a great night and remember to support our grad students!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Miriam Larson <>
Date: Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Hi folks,

This is an updated call for support with information about the strike and a more specific appeal to undergraduates and parents. Could someone please post this on facebook? Hopefully grads on strike will send this around to their undergrads and we'll post the UGA statement as well as this and the info about the Tuesday meeting on the website.

Hope to see you tomorrow!



The Graduate Employees' Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, calls for the support of undergraduate students, parents of undergraduates, and citizens of Illinois. As a final recourse to secure tuition waivers for graduate employees, the GEO has authorized a strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to begin at 8am on Monday morning.

After nearly seven months of negotiations, the GEO believes that we have provided the administration with every opportunity to avert a strike and ensure that classes are not disrupted. Our teaching and our relationships with our students is an incredibly rewarding part of our work and a top priority. However, we have been given no choice but to withhold our labor in order to secure tuition waivers. This request will not increase the University's costs, but it will help maintain the quality and accessibility of this university. If tuition waivers were rescinded, graduate education would be even further restricted to those with access to significant financial resources and our public university system will have failed in its core mission to guarantee access to education. We hope that undergraduates and parents of undergraduates will stand with us in holding the administration accountable.

Please help us make this strike as short as possible by calling Robert Easter, Interim Provost/Chancellor of the UIUC campus, and Christopher Kennedy, the Chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. A script and phone numbers are included below. In addition you can send an email by visiting: 

Provost Easter: (please consider adding a personal note to these emails)

Chair of the Board of Trustees Christopher Kennedy:

Thank you for your support. Please visit for the most up to date information on the bargaining process and the strike.


Miriam Larson
GEO Staff

Phone Numbers and Script: 
Robert Easter, Interim Provost
Phone: (217) 244-4545

ALSO . . .

Christopher G. Kennedy, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chair, President MMPI
Phone: (312) 527-7890 x7890

-Ask for Robert Easter or Christopher Kennedy. If they are not available, ask to leave a message.

- Introduce yourself and any affiliation with the University (especially if you are a current student, an alumnus, the parent of a student, or a faculty/staff member).

- I support the GEO and urge you to call off the strike by securing tuition waivers for graduate employees.

- Tuition waivers ensure the quality and competitiveness of the U of I and ensure that graduate education at the University of Illinois is accessible.

Thank you for supporting the University of Illinois Graduate Students! For the most recent information, visit


URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (November 15): The strike committee of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO), American Federation of Teachers/Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has authorized a strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to begin at 8am on Monday morning. After six hours of negotiation on Saturday afternoon, the GEO and administration bargaining teams managed to reach mutually agreeable terms on all aspects of the GEO contract except tuition waiver security. The administration's refusal to guarantee the continuation of its current tuition waiver practice not only means that the majority of graduate employees could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in additional tuition charges, but also indicates its plans to implement such a change. By making graduate education untenable for all but the most affluent students, the administration is abandoning its responsibility to ensure access to the highest level of public education for all.  This is contrary to the University of Illinois' mission as a public land grant institution.  By calling a strike, the Graduate Employees' Organization is holding the University of Illinois administration accountable to its stated commitment to excellent and accessible higher education.

The GEO is a labor union representing all teaching and graduate assistants (TAs and GAs) on the UIUC campus.  With over 2600 GEO members, and over 2600 graduate employees represented in the bargaining unit, the GEO is one of the largest higher education union locals in the United States.  Over the course of a three day vote, an overwhelming 92% of participating UIUC GEO members voted last week to authorize a strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer,, 253-222-5861, or the GEO office at, 217-344-8283, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL, 61820.  Information about the GEO can also be found on our website at

To Unsubscribe: Send an email to LISTSERV@LISTSERV.UIUC.EDU In the body of the email, type SIGNOFF amnesty-international-l

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bread & Circuses vs. Cash for Clunkers

Chip-off-the-ol' block, like-father-like-son, all that stuff.  Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, is running for office.  No, not president -- yet.  U.S. Senate.  Kentucky, here's your chance!  Rand, like his father, is a medical doctor (an ophthalmologist, in fact).  But there are some differences between Rand and Ron!  Here's a few soundbites from Rand's recent interview:

Washington Wire: Are there any areas where you disagree with your father's views on issues?
Paul: There are some minor areas where we disagree. One is on taking the pledge not to put earmarks in bills. He's probably the most fiscally conservative member of the House, but he's just taken the position that when his constituents ask for a particular road or museum, he puts them through. I think the whole system is broken down, and it's my opinion that we shouldn't put earmarks on bills.

Washington Wire: How do you talk about the economy on the campaign trail?
Paul: I see us in the latter stages of the Roman empire, when you have bread and circuses to placate the mob. But in our current society, we have Cash for Clunkers and the stimulus package. And the mantra we get from Washington is this soothing George Carlin voice that says, 'You just need to go to the mall and spend your checks.' But nobody believes that.

Washington Wire: I see.
Paul: I think there's a danger that we could destroy our currency and be like 1923 in Germany, with the Weimar currency, with money in wheelbarrows. Germany was a civilized country in Europe, and they destroyed their currency and then elected Hitler, so things have happened before and they could happen again.

Woah!  I certainly hadn't made the connection between bread and circuses and Cash for Clunkers!  All the best, Rand!  God be with you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MASSMAIL - Strike Information

Way to go!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Interim Chancellor and Provost <>
Date: Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 5:24 PM
Subject: MASSMAIL - Strike Information
To: All Undergrad Students & All Grad Students <>

Dear Students,

The Graduate Employees' Organization has authorized its strike committee
to call a strike at any time, and a strike is expected Monday, Nov. 16.
The campus expects that classes will be held as scheduled during the
strike. It appears that the GEO will establish picket lines around some
buildings with classrooms, and some instructors have indicated they may
cancel or relocate classes during a strike.

If you have questions about class access or scheduling, you should contact
the department that offers the class. Contact information for departments
is in the campus A-Z Index (

If you have questions about the impact of a strike on your academic
progress and degree completion, please raise these questions with your
college's undergraduate academic affairs office. College contact
information is also in the A-Z Index.

Students have a right to receive the education for which they are paying
and for which they have worked hard to earn the opportunity to receive at
the University of Illinois. Colleges and departments have been planning
for the possibility of a strike and will ensure that teaching and learning
continue. The university's goal is to ensure that students are treated
fairly and the objectives of their courses are fulfilled.

Our highest priority is to ensure that students' academic progress will
not be impeded.


Robert Easter
Interim Chancellor and Provost

This mailing approved by:
The Office of the Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

This Message sent via MASSMAIL.  < >

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dewey, You the Dude!

Four quotes:

"In 1868, when his school caught fire, he rescued as many books as he could from the school library; but inhaled a great deal of smoke in the process and consequently had a cough that lasted for months. Told by his doctor that he would be dead within a year or so, he tried to make the most of what he thought would be limited time... Efficiency became his obsession."

"Dewey's innovation was to combine a numbering system (like at the British Museum) with classification by topic. However, the numbers didn't indicate a shelf but rather a field of knowledge."

"Dewey began by establishing a broad division of knowledge into basic categories, to which numbers were then assigned--crudely put, these are the numbers to the left of the decimal point. That done, it was easy to add new subjects by dividing the original categories into progressively finer gradations--these are the numbers to the right of the decimal point. DDC is what today we'd call scalable--it has readily accommodated the explosion of knowledge since Dewey's day."

"We feel obliged to note that Dewey was no saint. He was racist, antisemitic, anti-black, anti- everything not white male Anglo-Saxon Christian."  (This I've got to look into!  I knew he must be a Christian from how he organized the sections.  My question is, how could he be "anti-everything" and yet set up such a beautiful system?)

Mysteries Revealed

So I just found out why I've had such a hard time finding the Dewey decimal numbers for books: they aren't free!
A company actually makes money off of telling you what the Dewey decimal number for a certain book is!!

The good news is, this company will give you the first few decimals for free.
Other good news is that you can search the book and see if it's already been assigned a Dewey decimal (some databases list this).

There's more details here.

Ahh... another mystery evaporates...

NEJM "perhaps" applauds the one-child policy

The editors' response to this letter is just plain creepy:

China's One-Child Family Policy

To the Editor: Hesketh and colleagues (Sept.
15 issue)1 provide an interesting survey of the
effects of the infamous Chinese one-child policy
after 25 years. However, I was somewhat taken
aback by the authors' editorial statement that
"relaxation of the policy can be considered only
if fertility aspirations are such that a baby boom
will not result." Certainly, this is the same sort
of argument that tyrannical regimes have given
for continuing their oppressive policies, from
apartheid and dictatorships to the oppression of
women and just about any other human-rights vio-
lation through history. The policy of one child
per family has been a terrible violation of the
personal rights of millions of Chinese women.
All that is necessary for the draconian policy to
be removed, not just "relaxed," is for the Chinese
government to make the decision to stop such re-
pressive measures and start dealing with the prob-
lems posed by an expanding population through
moral means. I am disappointed to see the "ends
justify the means" logic endorsed and unchal-
lenged on the pages of a respectable medical
Thomas R. Jackson, M.D.
Ireland Army Community Hospital
Fort Knox, KY 40121
Hesketh T, Lu L, Xing ZW. The effect of China's one-child
family policy after 25 years. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1171-6.
The authors reply: We agree that the one-child
policy is a violation of the human right to repro-
ductive choice, as we acknowledge in our article.
It is precisely for this reason that it is so contro-
versial. But we should not judge the Chinese by
Western standards. Few Chinese see the policy as
a human-rights violation. Most (though not all)
accept it with equanimity, even in the cities where
the one-child rule is enforced. This is perhaps
less surprising when one considers the overcrowd-
ing in Chinese cities, the pressures of child care
with two working parents (as is usually the case),
and the high cost of raising children.
The Chinese authorities would argue that the
policy has contributed to improvements in human
rights by lifting more than 200 million people
out of poverty and by raising living standards for
the majority of the population. In an increas-
ingly interdependent world, where available nat-
ural resources per capita are decreasing, the Chi-
nese government should perhaps be applauded for
having the courage to take unpopular measures
to control population growth.
Therese Hesketh, Ph.D.
Institute of Child Health
London WC1N1EH, United Kingdom
Zhu Wei Xing, M.P.H.
Zhejiang University
Hangzhou 310006, China

(New England Journal of Medicine 2006, 354, 8).

Marxism in Action


GEO Strike Informational Meeting for Chemistry Graduate Employees (GAs and TAs): Thrusday, 11/12 at 6pm in Davenport 279.  Pizza and drinks will be provided.

We will discuss the current contract negotiations, potential impacts on Chemistry, and field questions and concerns from Chemistry


Hello all,

You are receiving this email because you are either a current member or past member of the graduate student union (GEO).  If you are currently a TA or GA in Chemistry, then you are part of the bargaining unit for a new contract with the University.  The GEO has been negotiating with the University since last spring for a contract that includes living wages and guaranteed tuition waivers for TAs and GAs.  However, the university has consistently stalled on these demands.  Our contracts expired in August, making it imperative that we obtain a fair contract as soon as possible.

Back in October, the members of the union voted to begin the steps toward taking legal work action in hopes that this would end the stall in negotiations.  This did not work, as the University is adamant to hold onto policies that include extending furloughs (essentially, unpaid work days, which we already undergo for approximately one month in the summer) and the ability to revoke tuition waivers without notice.  These are the two issues that most impact Chemistry, considering that our department recently cut the tuition waivers of undergraduate general chemistry TAs.  Recently, the GEO members voted nearly unanimously to initiate a strike committee that has begun the process of organizing union members in the event of a work stoppage or strike.

I apologize for the short notice, but tomorrow at 6pm in Davenport 279 the GEO will be holding an informational meeting with Chemistry GAs and TAs.  Pizza and refreshments will be provided.  Again, if you are currently a GA or TA, you are part of the bargaining unit, so this meeting is aimed for you.  It will be an open discussion on the current state of contract negotiations, and the GEO board is interested in obtaining feedback from Chemistry.  Currently, we have one of the lowest representation in terms of card-carrying membership.  If you have not signed a card, you can sign one there.

In the event of a strike, Chem Annex is one of several buildings slated to have a picket line.  Noyes may also become targeted, depending on the duration and level of participation.  It is important that in the event of a strike, all GAs and TAs stand in solidarity and discontinue any labor concerning their appointments.  This translates into not holding office hours, not communicating with students, and not grading assignments or exams.  This DOES NOT mean you have to discontinue your research or stop attending graduate courses if you're a TA.  You are still a graduate student, so it is important to differentiate your duties as a student and your duties as an employee.  If you have questions, feel free to email me or come to the informational meeting.

RAs are also welcome to come to the meeting, though the union does not represent them and cannot legally protect you if you decide to withhold your labor during in case of a strike.

I hope to see many of you there.

Best Regards,
Shawn Wilkinson

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Go to triple w

This is creeping me out!
Why in the world would you require someone to fill out an offender's race/ethnicity, age, and country of origin?

And perceived motive?

Race/ethnicity, sexual orienation, age, national origin, marital status, religion, disability, sex, veteran status, other.

Like I said -- this is creeping me out!

Sunday, November 08, 2009


He's our brother (Romans 8:14, Galatians 4:6, Hebrews 2:10)
He's our high priest (Hebrews 6:19-20)
He's our creator (John 1:3)
He's our life (John 6:68, John 11:25, John 20:31)
He's our glory (1 Chronicles 16:35, Exodus 15:11, Psalm 3:3, Colossians 3:4)
He's our savior (2 Samuel 22:47)
He's our joy (Psalm 16:11)
He's our breath (Genesis 2:7, John 20:22)
He's our truth (John 8:32)
He's our lover (Song of Solomon 6:3)
He's our bread (John 6:33)
He's our light (John 8:12)
He's our way (Matthew 16:24, John 14:6)
He's our vine (John 15:5)
He's our rock (Psalm 18:46)
He's our teacher (Isaiah 48:17, John 13:13)
He's our kinsman-redeemer (Isaiah 41:14, Isaiah 44:24-28)
He's our rest (Matthew 11:28)
He's our lamb (John 1:36, Revelations 7:17)
He's our lion (Revelations 5:5)
He's our Lord (John 20:28, Revelations 19:16)
He's our peace (John 20:21, Colossians 1:19-20)
He's our faithful one (Revelations 19:11)
He's the King of Kings (Revelations 17:14)
He's our shepherd (John 10:11)
He's the source (Hebrews 5:8-9, John 15:5)
He's the beginning and end (Revelations 21:6)
He's our friend! (John 15:15)

Just some of the things that Jesus is!!!
Yes, He is all that, and so much more!!!!!
When our life's all about Him, our life makes sense.


"I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me..." (John 14:30)

Isn't that awesome!!!!!  Satan has no hold on Jesus!!!!!

Eatin' with Jesus

"They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord that day..." (1 Chronicles 29:22)

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  (Revelations 16:20)

Have you ever eaten with Jesus?  Boy, is it fun.

When I first moved here, in those mealtimes when I wasn't rushing to catch the bus I became acutely aware that I was alone for most every meal time.  But lately, I've begun to remember -- no, I'm not alone!!!  Jesus is here.  I'm with Him, He's with me all the time!  Jesus, thank you for letting me eat with you!

Film Believers

In 1989 Michael Medved made this surprising observation:

"In the 1940s, over 90 million Americans—close to two-thirds of the country—went to the movies every week. Today, the number of filmgoers is less than 20 million per week and, more importantly, surveys show that close to 40 percent of the American people don't even go out to a single movie in the course of a year. There is surely a significant overlap between that half of our population that attends church or synagogue every weekend, and that substantial portion of potential filmgoers who avoid all current films.

"Make no mistake: it is not just the high ticket prices or the gum on the seats or the easy availability of television that keeps patrons away from the theatres. Tens of millions of Americans have given up on contemporary movies because they see their own deepest values so rarely reflected —or even respected—on screen."

Woah, man!!!  I know that my grandma's diary listed many of the movies that she attended, but I honestly thought that a much higher percentage of the population watched movies now than when they first came out.  Wow, wow, wow!

His article is describing Hollywood's view toward religion, and how that shows up in modern films.  Today many of the clergy shown on the (corroded) silver screen are demented fiends. 

I won't try to say that Hollywood started out as a Christian endeavor, but I can say that the clergy are incredibly respected in all of the older films I have seen.  Take, for instance, even Hitchcock's 196___ film I Confess.  This movie simply wouldn't be made today.

I'm not hand-wringing here.  But I think it's important that we as Christians express our faith in what we do.  And films like Bella do just that!

One book, "The Fifty Best Catholic Movies of All Time", by William Park weighs in with this analysis:

It is interesting to note that the three best directors who ever worked in Hollywood, Frank Capra, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock, were all practicing Catholics. So much for the detrimental effects in these times of the Church upon art.

Crisis 15, no. 10 (March 1997): 82-91 (URL:, as quoted at

Why?  Take a look at this idea:

From: Richard A. Blake, S.J. (a Jesuit), "Finding God at the Movies ... And why Catholic churches produce Catholic Filmmakers", website: Woodstock Theological Center (

To an astounding extent that I had never suspected until I started to look into the matter, the movies are really a Catholic medium. While Jews have placed their mark on the corporate side of the industry, Catholics have been equally over-represented in the creative side. Think of some of the key filmmakers that even casual film audiences know by name: Hitchcock, John Ford, Frank Capra, Scorsese and Coppola, Leo McCarey, Robert Altman, Michael Cimino, and the master of teen-age horror films Roger Corman. In this ecumenical age we might even include Cecil B. DeMille, who was a high Episcopalian. Among the younger Americans, we have Kevin Smith, David Lynch, and Ed Burns. If we extend our reach to Europe, we find a similar pattern. Important directors and artistic movements arise far more regularly from Catholic cultures in France, Italy and Spain than from traditionally Protestant countries. Why is this?

...From an early age, Catholics learn to tame the mysteries of life and death with the hardware of the material universe. By dealing with the here-and-now rather than fleeing it, Catholic filmmakers allow their characters to seek a form of redemption in their day-to-day struggles. For Hitchcock, the workaday world contains unseen dangers, and one may even be threatened by a loss of identity, but the human person can prevail, eventually... All their characters seek personal integrity and redemption in the midst of a community. Their struggles are rarely couched in spiritual terms, but they are invariably religious quests with milestones along the way marked by Catholic images. The Catholic imagination is more than catholic, more than sacramental - it is profligate. It sees the workings of grace everywhere.   

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Mighty Mouse

I saw an article about the police sergeant who brought down the gunman at Fort Hood.  Her nickname was also Mighty Mouse!

"Sergeant Munley began her career as a police officer in the beachside town of Wrightsville, N.C., after graduating from high school in nearby Wilmington. She quickly earned a reputation for fearlessness, despite her stature. (She stands 5-foot-4.)

Her partner in Wrightsville, Investigator Shaun Appler, recalled how Sergeant Munley saved him one night when she wrestled a large man off him after the man had pinned him down and was trying to take his gun. She earned the nickname Mighty Mouse for that, he said.

'She's a ball of fire,' Mr. Appler said. 'She's a real good cop.'"

H.R. 3962 in a Vain Corset

There are 435 U.S. Representatives. Since half of that number is 217.5, at least 218 representatives are needed for a simple majority. (Why, or why, as Martin would say, wasn't a 2/3 majority instituted?). There are 177 Republicans, and all are expected to vote no. This means that if 41 democrats defect, the bill will fail.

I just heard about the Blue Dog Coalition. This is a group of fifty-two democratic U.S. Representatives who *say* they are dedicated to fiscally conservativism. Their website reminds us that the federal deficit is currently at $11,226,807,380,955.11, and your individual share in that debt is $36,683.01. Given their touted devotion to financial responsibility, I took it for granted that they would stand against the over 1 trillion dollar monstrosity that is H.R. 3962. No such luck:
"Matheson Statement on Senate Health Care Reform Legislation

Washington, DC - Today, Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, issued the following statement on health care reform legislation being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.

'While having only seen top line numbers and acknowledging that is still a significant overall cost, I am encouraged that the Senate Finance Committee has produced health care reform legislation that cuts the U.S. budget deficit. As the President has said, our health care problem is our deficit problem, and as Blue Dogs we are committed to ensuring that legislation in the House is not only deficit neutral, but contains costs and is fiscally responsible over the long term.”
This is about as reassuring as if he'd said, "Well, she's still weighs in at 1800 pounds, but we're confident in our vote for her as the next Miss America, because she said she's going to cut down on jelly beans." H.R. 3962 is fiscal madness, and any efforts to display her in a corset are not only vain and disgusting, but ludicrously doomed.

Fortunately, even if (God-forbid) this bill passes, it still has to go to the Senate.

Way to go, AMA!

Choose a God

Noor Almaleki is dead. Her father Faleh ran her down in his car as an "honor murder" because she was becoming too Westernized, and rejecting his Muslim "values."

If there ever was a time when I was glad my dad isn't Muslim, this is it.

I firmly believe that instead of referring to such acts as "honor killings," we should refer to them as "honor murders." The contradiction in terms is much more apparent, and the cruelty of the act is much more emphasized. This is not an isolated event, folks! As Mark Steyn points out, we in the West have not begun to understand the worldview guiding people like Faleh. We throw out terms like "radical Muslim" or "radical extremist." We try to convince ourselves that only a certain subpopulation of Muslims would actually engage in, or condone acts of brutality. But such smokescreens can't protect us from reality. At its heart, Islam is not about love. It's about submission. Those who cross Allah must pay the penalty.

Where's the emphasis on free will?

Sorry -- you're looking in the wrong religion.

What's curious to me is that while Islam has existed for millenia, those of us in the West are just becoming acquainted with its predictable-but-no-less terrifying atrocities.

Looking through Western literature, there are many glimpses of Muslim violence. Take, for instance, the Song of Roland. Or even Mark Twain's story of a group of tourists attacked by Muslims and violently told to convert to Islam. Or take this poem by Victor Hugo:

The Fallen Veil


What has happened, my brothers? Your spirit to-day
Some secret sorrow damps:
There's a cloud on your brow. What has happened? Oh, say,
For your eyeballs glare out with a sinister ray
Like the light of funeral lamps.
And the blades of your poinards are half unsheathed
In your belt -- and ye frown on me!
There's a woe untold, there's a pang unbreathed
In your bosom, my brothers three!


Gulnara, make answer! Hast thou, since the dawn,
To the eye of a stranger thy veil withdrawn?


As I came, oh, my brother! at noon--from the bath--
As I came--it was noon, my lords--
And your sister had then, as she constantly hath,
Drawn her veil close around her, aware that the path
Is beset by these foreign hordes.
But the weight of the noonday's sultry hour
Near the mosque was so oppressive
That--forgetting a moment the eye of the Giaour--
I yielded to th' heat excessive.


Gulnara, make answer! Whom, then, hath thou seen,
In a turban of white and a caftan of green?


Nay, he might have been there; but I muffled me so,
He could scarcely have seen my figure.--
But why to your sister thus dark do you grow?
What words to yourselves do you mutter thus low,
Of "blood" and "an intriguer"?
Oh! ye cannot of murder bring down the red guilt
On your souls, my brothers, surely!
Though I fear--from the hands that are chafing the hilt,
And the hints you give obscurely.


Gulnara, this evening when sank the red sun,
Didst thou mark how like blood in descending it shone?


Mercy! Allah! have pity! oh, spare!
See! I cling to your knees repenting!
Kind brothers, forgive me! for mercy, forbear!
Be appeased at the cry of a sister's despair,
For our mother's sake relenting.
O God! must I die? They are deaf to my cries!
Their sister's life-blood shedding;
They have stabbed me each one--I faint--o'er my eyes
A veil of Death is spreading!


Gulnara farewell! take that veil; 'tis the gift
Of thy brothers--a veil thou wilt never lift!

This is very first piece in the 1928 collection of "The Works of Victor Hugo." The publishers, Black's Readers Service Company, must not have anticipated the political correctness that would be so in vogue seventy-one years later. I wonder how many collections of Hugo's work include this piece today?

In Noor's case, her father, not her brother, was her murderer. What does her brother Peter-Ali have to say about her death? "Different cultures, different values. One thing to one culture does not make sense to another culture." That's relativism for you. No condemnation of his father's actions. From his quotes in interviews, he shows that he is understandably upset about his sister's injuries, but he still tries to cover for his dad! He reports that his sister was increasingly disrespectful to their father, and this is the ultimate insult that can be paid to a traditional Muslim man. Further, it's the people his sister was living with that triggered his father's anger. Evidently the real victim, in Peter-Ali's estimation, wasn't Noor, but Faleh -- the father.

A religion that requires "moderate" brothers and fathers to murder their sisters and daughters is a religion I want nothing to do with. What other religion requires brothers and fathers to do such bloodthirsty things? And lest you try to tell me that honor murders are not typical in Islam, let me remind you that this is not an isolated event! NPR has published a map that shows the countries where honor murders have been reported. Back in January this news agency -- which is hardly a bastion of "islamophobia" -- described four heinous cases of honor murders in North America. It demonstrates the Muslim way of dealing with sexual crime. Don't punish the perpetrator. Punish the victim. Rana Husseini has recently published a book on honor murders, documenting case after case where families valued supposed honor over the life. And Phyllis Chesler has detailed fifty honor murders that show that these intense, barbaric crimes cannot simply be dismissed as mere domestic violence. She also states that the common link in these cases is not culture, but religion.

(The one glimmer of hope I saw in Noor's story was that the mother was not complicit with the father, as sometimes Muslim mothers are. We're not told the mother's name, but when Faleh called her while he was on the run, she yelled at him and hung up. I was so, so glad to know that she did not support her husband in his decision.)

So what about the Muslim community at large? Do they condemn Faleh's actions, or are they filled compassion for women like Noor, deciding to change their attitude toward women who distance themselves from Islam? I searched the CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations -- anyone wonder why American and Islamic must be hyphenated? Is this a tacit admission that the two are mutually exclusive?) website for any mention about Noor's story. Incidentally, just below the search box is the phrase "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." Evidently Allah's compassion and mercy is only abundant to certain people in the world. The search function seemed to be disabled, but I could readily see that the CAIR home page and press release page carried no mention of Noor or her family. No, the mission of CAIR seems to be to protect Muslims from outsiders (dare I say "infidels"?), not to protect Muslims from other Muslims.

There's been numerous discussions about CAIR's silence. One apologist on the Talk Islam site said, "[T]he business about Muslim organizations having to sprint to the microphone to get at the head of the line for denunciations of honor killings is bosh, a bit piece of what is becoming a modern-day blood libel against Muslims about 'honor killings.' The targeting of CAIR – as opposed to any other American Muslim organization that hasn't yet denounced or commented on the Noor Almaleki case, is arbitrary and selective." "What's more, if one Muslim organization does denounce, then the Islamophobes go around to all the other orgs to bully them with it and hype the negativity." Evidently, the truth is far too uncomplimentary, so it should be buried as soon as possible. We don't want the facts to cloud the narrative.

Below this discussion was an ad for "The Muslim Matrimonials Site" -- The ad was complete with a picture of a stylish, smiling Muslim woman, and a button for "Browse photos now!" Anybody else creeped out?

The contrast I see in all this is how my Dad and Mom have handled my sister's decision to leave the family. My sister has no worries about brutal retaliation, because my dad isn't Muslim. He's a Christian. That's why he and mom had a police officer do a security check. They didn't do it so Dad could pinpoint her location and then show up with a gun, a knife, or a car. And they didn't do it so Dad could "sic" my brother on her to do the work for him. No, Mom and Dad genuinely love my sister, even though she's rejecting them. Dad doesn't hate my sister. He doesn't see her actions as a blemish on the family honor that can only be washed in her blood. Her rejection is disrespectful, heartbreaking, unthankful, and spiritually damaging. But Dad and Mom are not retaliating. They still love her. They still want the best for her.

Just thinking about a man murdering his own daughter is enough to make me puke. But thinking about the contrast in my own family, and the difference that Christ makes gives me hope. For which father is more forgiving and loving than our heavenly Father? This Father loves His children so much that even when all of us had turned away from Him, even when we'd spat in His face, demanded our inheritance early, left Him and tried to shake His love out of our lives, His love still followed us. He even sent His son to die for us while we hated Him.

He allows us to reject Him.

This husband is so loving that even when His spiritual wife Israel played the prostitute, He searched for her. Not with a knife in his hand. Not with a mob of other blood-thirsty men. But with an appeal. Come home. I still love you. I still want you.

He allows us to reject Him, but He still gives us a way to come back to Him, if we will.

God didn't send His Son into the world to murder us for honor's sake. God sent His Son into the world to show us His love, and give us a way to be reconciled to Him.

That's the huge difference between Allah and Yaweh. Allah kills those who reject him. He cannot give eternal life, yet he tries to destroy anyone who searches for life outside of his system of Islam. For Yaweh, he mourns over those who reject Him. He knows that He is eternal life, and He knows that anyone searching for life outside of Him will only find death. Yet Yaweh does not force anyone to accept His life. He only offers it for us to take freely.

It's your choice:
Allah, the god who values "honor" more than life, who requires fathers and brothers to murder their daughters and sisters, or
Yaweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who shows love even to those who reject Him, and who gave His Son to us so we could become right with Him.