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July 2006 Archives

July 14, 2006

A Victory for the Political Process

Last year, I blogged about a federal court in Nevada that struck down a duly passed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The decision was utterly hostile to the political process and openly celebratory of homosexuality.

But today a federal court of appeals reversed that decision and reinstated the amendment. Its a suprising move from a federal court, but a welcome one. The good people of Nebraska have spoken, and an activist judge will not be allowed to thwart their will.

This case is probably not SCOTUS material on appeal, simply because the lower court ruling was so irrational and without merit. But it is a reminder that even with the demise of the Federal Marriage Amendment, this battle still rages. It was only last year that the court struck down Nebraska's amendment, coming very close to legalizing gay marriage. Congress was happy to let this issue drop, but those interested in protecting marriage need to remain vigilant.

July 18, 2006

South Park and Scientology

South Park is an equal opportunity basher when it comes to religion, but while Catholics had to suffer the abuse (see South Park Slanders Blessed Mother) Tom Cruise is making sure Scientology doesn't suffer the same fate.

"Trapped in the Closet," which skewers Scientology and its popular proponent Tom Cruise, was set to repeat in March but was pulled off the air by the network amid published reports that Cruise had used his clout to bury it.

July 20, 2006

Neanderthal DNA and Stem Cells

The Paper of Record reports today that scientists in Germany are busy sequencing the DNA of the Neanderthal. They hope to learn more about the species, it seems. The article does not mention the gnashing of teeth in the Times’ editorial boardroom where they are lamenting the theocracy of George Bush evinced by his veto yesterday. Over there, the weight of human suffering is too great to bear, and any moment’s hesitation to kill the unborn is cruel.

I was particularly struck by the last paragraph:

"If the Neanderthal genome were fully recovered, it might in principle be possible to bring the species back from extinction by inserting the Neanderthal genome into a human egg and having volunteers bear Neanderthal infants. There would, however, be great technical and ethical barriers to any such venture."

Anyone who has seen my sons eating might suspect that something like this has already occurred. However, this question is hard to ignore: If stem cells harvested from killed babies is so vital that we cannot even limit it or discuss other options, why are the scientists dreaming of cloning Neanderthals? Aren’t we hearing that there is a crisis and there is no time to slow down and ponder the implications?

Also, I wonder…Will it turn out that homo sapien are to blame for the extinction of the Neanderthals? Will there be reparations? That could make the Middle East look like a love-in. We’d have to give back most of Europe. If we clone one, would he be allowed to enter the US without documentation? Will the Supreme Court grant him habeas corpus rights? If we clone a female, will she have the right to kill her unborn offspring, thus ensuring a second extinction? Would liberals get the irony?

July 22, 2006

You'll Have Chemo and You'll Like It

In a troubling decision, a Virginia judge ruled that 16 year old Starchild Abraham Cherrix must undergo chemotherapy for treatment of his Hodgkin's disease, aginst his own wishes and those of his parents.

The problem is he's been through this before and doesn't want to again.

Last year, 16-year-old Starchild Abraham Cherrix, who goes by Abraham, went through three months of chemotherapy. Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, the teen from Virginia learned in February his cancer had returned despite the previous treatment. Having heard this, Abraham, with the support of his parents, decided to forego traditional treatment and instead decided to treat his cancer with an herbal diet under the guidance of a clinic in Mexico.

After his decision, a social worker intervened and brought Abraham's case to court. The judge ruled that Abraham's parents were being neglectful in allowing him, a minor in the United States, to refuse treatment. The judge also ordered Abraham's parents to share custody of their son with the local department of social services.

His parents offer a chilling warning to parents everywhere:

I want to caution all parents of Virginia: Look out, because Social Services may be pounding on your door next when they disagree with the decision you've made about the health care of your child.

Hillary may get her health care wishes yet!

July 25, 2006

No Child Left Behind and a Culture of Unaccountability

The Paper of Record recounts today that sad plight of public school bureaucrats across the nation who have taken to defensive, defeatist whining in the face of federal oversight. It must be said that as a teacher with distinct federalist tendencies, I have no real love for President Bush’s master plan. But it has this going for it: it has a goal in mind. For all of the weeping about federal intrusion, the NCLB statute has a modest goal of achieving basic adequacy in reading and mathematics by 2014. As any teacher or parent would tell you, that is a minimum, a baseline level of acceptable education. The fact that the target date was pushed out ten years indicates just how pathetic our public school systems have become. In ten years, we hope to boast that every student in America’s public school system will be able to read and address math problems at grade level. Yes, that will be glorious day, and many will rejoice (during commercial breaks from “Desperate Polygamist Housewives”). We will all sing and dance (to Japanese karaoke machines, because Americans can’t design them) in fields of flowers amid fluttering confetti (produced by a Finnish shedder because Americans can’t produce one, operated by Azerbaijani technicians because Americans can’t be trained, using confetti produced in the Congo because Americans won’t tear paper for religious reasons). I can’t wait, but I think we’ll continue homeschooling until then. Our children can at least make confetti.

The Department of Education is threatening to withhold federal funds from schools that do not have a testing plan in place. This is the source of the screams of despair. How hard could it be to test literacy? The only reason to delay is if one knows, as many a state education secretary does, that their schools not only no longer teach basic skills, but do not even aspire to. Instead they minister to the psychological and intellectual detritus of broken homes and collapsing morals, blithely offering Twinkies to the malnourished. There has been zero accountability in public education for generations. Education professional are whining not about policies, but only about the fact of accountability. That is revealing. NCLB has at least begun to pull back the curtain on the circus of pathos that is American public education, and the Department of Education is at least threatening to do what few voters have: cut off the spigot of cash. Without the check ‘o plenty provided by the taxpayer, the calliope would collapse instantly, apparatchiks would lose their positions, and real change would happen, if only by default. In this way, NCLB is a good thing.

July 27, 2006

Chicago Orders Big Bix Retailers to Raise Wages

This is an interesting debate. Chicago has a large population of low-end wage earners, many of whom are also Big Box shoppers. With taxes already high, Chicago is using its leverage to squeeze higher wages (and therefore higher tax revenue) out of these retailers. Also, it would appear to raise the standard of living a little bit for these wage earners. Of course, it might also tend to raise the price of merchandise slightly to cover the higher cost of doing business in Chicago, and that would defeat the purpose of helping the poor (though not the purpose of increasing tax revenue, which Chicago undoubtedly uses, wisely or not, to help the poor in other ways). No one wants to bankrupt the chains, but they are in no danger of that now. Chicago is perhaps being quite savvy.

On the other hand, do we really want this kind of micro-management regulating the economy? Does the city council have any real sense of how the market operates? The market has set the wage for this kind of low education, entry level work. If you make Target and Home Depot pay an extra $3/hr, isn’t it likely that they will seek more for their money in terms of education and experience? To instantly give a cashier at Target a $2/hr raise is to place their income above that of their managers. To retain managers, Target would have to raise all salaries by a similar proportion. That could make the cost of doing business in Chicago prohibitive. This policy may simply mean shifting the least qualified around. The Big Bog stores may simply cherry pick the best applicants from the region, and that process might tend to exclude those with the poorest educations, language skills, etc. from the national chains. What happens if the economy tanks? Will the city council be quick to amend the law? Or will they leave it in place and drive the store out of town?

Perhaps the city council ought to work on policies that will create more higher wage jobs while ensuring that their public school system was turning out graduates who were qualified for those jobs.

About July 2006

This page contains all entries posted to The Seventh Age in July 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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