In the wake of disappointing results from the U.S. speed skating team at the Sochi Olympics — no U.S. skater finished higher than 7th place — skaters, coaches and experts associated with the sport are looking for answers. Some quickly rushed to blame the untested, high-tech suits, designed specifically for the team by Under Armour. The Washington Post reported:
Had the Americans trained hard enough? Had they overlooked something the medal-gorging Dutch had figured out? And what about the Mach 39, devised in collaboration with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, no less? What had happened to the propulsive blast it promised to deliver?
Reporters wanted to know. And some U.S. speedskaters started having doubts.
Delivered by Under Armour to the team on Jan. 1, as contracted, the Mach 39 had never been worn in competition before the Sochi Games. So how could the U.S. skaters know for sure that the air vents down the spine translated to speed? Where was the experiential proof that the relocated zippers and high-tech fibers helped their performance more than hurt it?
“The reasoning behind that was we wanted to keep the suit a secret in case other people found out about it, and they had enough time to switch their technology,” explained U.S. speedskater Brian Hansen, 23, of Evanston, Ill., asked why the athletes hadn’t competed in the suit before Sochi, given prototypes to train in instead.
The team hastily voted to switch back to the Under Armour suits they had worn in the World Cup races, with no better results. Sensing a potential rift with a major sponsor and a lot of money at stake, the U.S. skaters quickly began to shift the focus away from the suits and the U.S. Olympic Committee jumped to extend its contract with Under Armour through the 2022 Games.
Now that all the Olympic excitement is winding down, it’s worth thinking about the extent to which our children, under the new Common Core Standards, have become lab rats in an experiment much bigger than the one the U.S. speed skating team participated in during the Sochi Olympics.
“And now I know that every single day, the best and the worst, only lasts for twenty-four hours.” — Tricia Lott Williford
Two days before Christmas in 2010, amid the festive pictures of family Christmas celebrations, cookie recipes, and excited discussions about plans for the holidays, some terrible, heart-sickening news began to spread through my network of Facebook friends and acquaintances:
Stunned by some news. Please pray for a friend and her young family. The husband and father was unexpectedly taken to heaven for Christmas.
Pray for Tricia Williford as her husband went to heaven this morning. They have two little boys, Tucker and Tyler. What a sad day this is.
Three years later, I have fresh tears in my eyes as I re-read those words and I think about the shattering of lives, dreams, and families in that one terrible moment. How does a family survive such a profound tragedy? Can those shattered pieces be fused back together again? What does that really look like? I mean, in real life, starting with how you get out of bed the next day and how in the world you explain to two little boys that their daddy has died?
Tricia Lott Williford, a writer and editor — and a fabulous storyteller — had a blog at the time of her husband’s unexpected death at age thirty-five. Her bio explains, “On the day of her husband’s death, an unknown someone posted a link to her blog on Twitter with the words, ‘Please pray for this woman. Her husband died this morning.’ Overnight, her blog went viral and her community of readers grew exponentially.” Tricia continued with her long-established discipline of writing every day and shared her story, in all its brutal transparency, with friends and strangers around the world. Her story has now been turned into a book, And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed, released February 18th.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in January of 2013. It is being republished as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months. Click here to vote for your favorites in the comments.
Last Sunday, the long-awaited third season of the ITV hit Downton Abbey finally premiered on American television. Just in case you weren’t one of the record 7.9 million viewers tuned in to PBS that night, Downton Abbey tells the story of the aristocratic Crawley family, living on an expansive British estate along with their faithful (but occasionally treacherous) servants and their silent yellow Labrador Retriever named Isis. Lord Grantham and his American wife, Lady Cora, like many (stereotypical) aristocratic British drama families, gave birth to three daughters and no sons, and therefore must scheme and manipulate in order to keep the estate in the family.
Season 1 Recap: Titanic sinks, heir is dead, Turk in the bed, blind cook, slippery soap, baby blues, enigmatic valet, conniving servants, family scandal.
Season 2 Recap: WWI, manor hospital, faceless stranger, sham wedding, real funeral, real wedding, fake elopement, another funeral, enigmatic valet, conniving servants, family scandal.
If you just realized you’ve been missing the “next big thing,” it’s not too late to catch up with the series that has quadrupled the regular PBS audience and doubled the Season 2 premier even though the entire season has already aired in the UK. Amazon Instant Video has both Seasons One and Two available…free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
You can also watch the first episode of Season 3 there.
When Season 2 ended, we saw distant cousin (and reluctant heir to the estate) Matthew Crawley propose to Lady Mary, daughter of Robert Crawley, earl of Grantham. As Season 3 unfolds, we find the family trying to return to their lives after the turmoil of the Great War years. The family is now busily preparing for the much-anticipated wedding. Unfortunately, the family’s opulent lifestyle is about to unravel and we discover:
5 Covert Conservative Lessons in Downton Abbey
Warning: Plot spoilers below.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in March of 2013. It is being republished as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
Planned Parenthood certainly blusters a lot about helping women in need, but the truth is they make an awful lot of money off the grisly business of abortions. Their most recent annual report shows nearly $1 billion in assets and $997 million in revenues distributed to their local affiliates, plus another $177 million in revenues to the national office. By conservative estimates, abortions constitute 37% of Planned Parenthood’s revenues. Fair enough, I suppose, but isn’t it a little disturbing to think they have a business model (and a profit motive) that requires getting women onto the abortion tables with their feet in the stirrups?
With all the vitriol surrounding the abortion debate, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that every day mothers with unplanned pregnancies make life-altering decisions about their unborn babies. While politicians and activists battle over the legislative issues, compassionate counselors at non-profit pregnancy resource centers (and their donors) quietly make a monumental difference in the lives of mothers, fathers, and babies every hour of every day across the United States. They literally save the lives of babies.
It’s no wonder Planned Parenthood warns women to avoid these non-profit pregnancy centers which, let’s be honest, hurt their bottom line.
Here are some things you may not know — 5 Things Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Want You to Know About Pregnancy Resource Centers:
The so-called social issues continue to vex the Republican Party and the conservative movement, so I appreciate the robust and respectful discussion that we’ve had here, spurred by Roger L. Simon’s article, “How Social Conservatives are Saving Liberalism (Barely).” I don’t think anyone would disagree with his observation that the left will attempt to use the issue of same sex marriage as a “wedge to sabotage a whole lot of change at a time when it couldn’t be more necessary. It dovetails perfectly with the mythological ‘war on women,’ which we all will be sure to hear about incessantly.” The left excels at using both marriage and women’s issues to paint conservatives as evil, bigoted misogynists.
As a card-carrying social conservative and member of my county Republican Executive Committee, I understand that these are more than academic debates. It’s not overly dramatic to say that the future of the Republican Party may depend upon how we resolve these issues in the coming months and years. Bryan Preston explains the seriousness of the situation:
The fact is, telling us social cons to shut up is a recipe for demoralizing and destroying the GOP at its base. It would take the cornerstone of the Right out of the movement. Coastal libertarians are not the base of the Republican Party. They don’t man phone banks (sorry for being gender normative there), they don’t conduct block walks, they don’t even usually run for office. They can’t even build a viable movement in their own states.
Many in the Republican Party (and the conservative/libertarian movement) think that the answer is to jettison social issues — or worse, to adopt the left’s positions on them — while banishing social conservatives to dank phone bank rooms (and assuming they will continue to support the approved, well-scripted, non-ideological candidates). But Andrew McCarthy explains that Republicans cannot win elections if they lose the support of conservatives, “including those animated by social issues,” who, by the way, notes Preston, “aren’t actually pushing anything forward, at least not in the cultural arena.”
A group called American Atheists is sponsoring a digital billboard near MetLife Stadium targeted at Super Bowl attendees. Six times each hour through Super Bowl Sunday the billboard will proclaim, “A ‘Hail Mary’ Only Works in Football. Enjoy the Game!”
“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” says American Atheists President David Silverman.
It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about—people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about—coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.
On Fox News’ The Five on Friday, Greg Gutfeld seemed to agree. ”If prayer actually works in a game no one would ever lose,” Gutfeld said. He added, “I don’t believe God designed the world on who’s the best pray-er.”
On the surface, Gutfeld and the atheists have a point. Several years ago when my son was playing football for a Christian school, the teams would huddle together before the games for a short prayer. As the team’s captain, Ryan was often called upon to lead the prayer, along with the captain of the opposing team. He admitted at one point that it didn’t seem right for both teams to pray to win and he thought it was especially awkward to pray for a win in the presence of the other team. They were, after all, asking God to bestow his favor upon one Christian team and not the other. How would God ever choose? Would he pick the team with the “best” Christians? The most fervent pray-ers? Or does God not bother with such trivial things as the outcomes of football games?
In the end, my son decided that he would pray for all the players to do their best and that God would protect them. He also prayed that he and the other boys would demonstrate Christ-like attitudes on the field and that they would honor God in the way they played the game. He would leave the outcome up to God and then play to win.
So does God care who wins the Super Bowl or the curling competition at the Winter Olympics or your family’s Monopoly game? Two of God’s attributes, his omniscience and his sovereignty, as described in the Bible, help to explain God’s view of matters that may seem trivial upon first glance.
Terrence O. Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College says that today’s students are not prepared for college:
The students going off to college these days, at least those who come from the public schools, for the most part, cannot have a serious discussion about even one work of literature. Not one. The freshman year of college… is a crash course in learning how to read and write at anything beyond a basic level. Learning, in short, what high school did not teach you but should have taught you. And the new [Common Core] Standards that we’re talking about are not going to help that. In fact, they will make it worse.
Moore, a former Marine with a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh served as the founding principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools for seven years and is the principal advisor to Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Initiative where he has helped start four classical charter schools and is helping found a dozen others. He recently gave a lecture about the Common Core Standards at Hillsdale’s Allen P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington, D.C. based on his book, The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core. Moore says that more important than the recently-invented notion of “college and career readiness” is the question of “what kind of mind, indeed, what kind of soul will you have” after going through the Common Core?
The outlook is grim, according to Moore. “In short, your English classes would have taken you down one of two roads: that of utter boredom caused by all the nonsense you had to suffer, or if you actually took these lessons seriously, down the depressing path of a prematurely jaded, post-modern, anti-heroic view of life.” In the later case, says Moore,“you would have been intellectually and morally debilitated.” And in neither case would you have learned how to be more human.
The Common Core will “take away the great stories of the American people and replace them with the stories that fit the progressive liberal narrative of the world.” Moore calls the architects of the Common core story-killers saying, “they’re deliberately killing the greatest stories of the greatest nation in history.” The great works of literature are being replaced by “informational texts” and recent articles written by journalists. Not only are we losing the great works of literature, but, Moore writes in his book, also “what we might call the Great American Story of people longing to be free and happy under their own self-government.” They will be killed by a “deadly combination of neglect, amputation, misinterpretation, subtle and not-so-subtle criticism, and a further dumbing-down of the nation’s classrooms.”
Moore rejects calls for what the so-called experts refer to as “college and career readiness for a 21st century global economy,” asking where we can find the college presidents who are calling for such an education and which schools have tested these new standards. “The 45 states that have adopted the Common core standards with little — almost no — public discussion bought the farm sight unseen.” He explains that attending college and obtaining a career are byproducts of a good education that should include studying truth, beauty, goodness and the virtues of courage, justice, industriousness and prudence.
“For almost 400 years in this country and almost 2000 in the history of the West, truth and knowledge and beauty and virtue were the aims of education.”
Last fall Bret Baier from Fox News interviewed author and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about his best-selling book, Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics. They discussed Krauthammer’s spinal cord injury that paralyzed him in his twenties while he was a medical student at Harvard. Krauthammer said,
“I made one promise to myself on day one. I was not going to let it alter my life except in ways where were, sort of, having to do with gravity. I’m not going to defy gravity and I’m not going to walk and I’m not going to water ski again. That’s fine. So that you know. But on the big things in life, the direction of my life, what I was going to do, that wouldn’t change at all.”
Krauthammer told Baier that he never entertained the possibility that he would walk again. He accepted his fate and focused on accomplishing his goals in life regardless of his disabilities. Despite overwhelming hardships, Krauthammer managed to graduate from medical school with his class and went on to a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He ran into some unexpected problems, however, during his psychiatry residency, when all residents were required to attend “group therapy” once a week. Krauthammer refused to attend. “I thought, it’s a pointless exercise. So I was called into the chief’s office after about seven weeks of non-appearance.” Krauthammer explained that he was there to give therapy, not receive it. “The chief of residency told Krauthammer he was in denial. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m in denial! Denial is the greatest of all defense mechanisms. I could be a professor of denial. I’m an expert at denial!’ Krauthammer said. The chief “was not amused.”
Krauthammer completed the required therapy, though he mostly refused to participate in the sessions:
“I’m not a big therapy guy…I don’t like to talk about myself…I’m not a touchy — I’m not a feely guy. That’s probably why I quit psychiatry. If you’re not into feelings and emotions and all the backstory then you ought to be doing something else.”
“We’re talking about football here, and a lot of people took it further than football,” Sherman said. “I was on a football field showing passion. Maybe it was misdirected and immature, but this is a football field. I wasn’t committing any crimes and doing anything illegal. I was showing passion after a football game.” — Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks cornerback
Our family’s first foray into youth sports didn’t go quite as planned. The female coach who had volunteered to coach our son’s T-ball team told the children on the first day that the players who didn’t get dirty would get candy at the end of the game. A few parents took this well-meaning (but misguided) mother aside and explained to her a few things about the nature of boys and something about the physical properties of baseball and dirt and informed her that their sons would not be participating in her little “clean game” nonsense. This was our introduction to the ubiquitous drama that permeates youth sports leagues.
My husband and I spent a lot of years coaching youth sports as our sons grew up — baseball, soccer, basketball — mostly because we were the only parents who didn’t drop-and-run. We weren’t savvy enough in the early years to realize that you are by default the U4 soccer coach if you’re the only parent left on the field five minutes after practice is scheduled to begin (other parents, making a beeline to the parking lot, shouted to us, “The whistle and cones are in the blue crate! We’ll see you in an hour. Good luck!”)
We always believed it was important for our boys to participate in team sports, not only for physical fitness reasons, but because they were of the male gender and we thought that participating in sports would be a good way for them to learn to control and channel the aggression that is inherent to their maleness.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden wasn’t the first to warn about the dangers of the government spying on American citizens through massive data collection programs. Several groups, including the ACLU, have been banging the drum about the issues of data privacy for many years.
The passage of the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 gave many Americans cause for concern about surveillance procedures used by the government to spy on potential terrorists — techniques that threaten to infringe upon the privacy of American citizens who have committed no crimes.
In 2004 the ACLU released a humourous video (it was originally a flash feature on their website) based loosely on an internet joke about privacy in the future. The script follows a guy just trying to order a pizza on his way home from work. Unfortunately for him, in Future World, ordering a simple “Double Meat Special” is a daunting, expensive task.
There will be a new $20.00 charge for this, sir. The system tells me that your medical records indicate that you have high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. Luckily, we have a new agreement with your national health care provider that allows us to sell you double meat pies as longs as you agree to waive all future claims of liability. You can sign the form when we deliver, but there is a fee for processing. The total is $67.00 even.
The girl at the pizza place convinces him to skip the pizza. She tells him it is in his best interest to go with the sprout sub combo with a side of tofu sticks and proceeds to scold him about his 42″ waist and maxed-out credit cards.
When this was released, most of us thought it was cute and we all chuckled (perhaps a bit nervously) about the premise, never imagining how prescient it was. The ACLU warned at the time,
Government programs and private-sector data collection are destroying our privacy, pushing us towards a 24-hour surveillance society. We are facing a flood of powerful new technologies that expand the potential for centralized monitoring, an executive branch aggressively seeking new powers to spy on citizens, a docile Congress and courts, as well as a cadre of mega-corporations that are willing to become extensions of the surveillance state. We confront the possibility of a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready for access by the authorities whenever they want.
In a 2003 report, “Surveillance-Industrial Complex,” the ACLU said, “The U.S. security establishment is rapidly increasing its ability to monitor average Americans by hiring or compelling private-sector corporations to provide billions of customer records.” The report said that “many people still do not understand the danger, do not grasp just how radical an increase in surveillance by both the government and the private sector is becoming possible.”
Nine years ago this video seemed like a conspiracy theory parody. As it turns out, the ACLU saw the writing on the wall and warned the American people about the coming surveillance society that we now see unfolding before our eyes.
George Will gave a good accounting of many of the objections to the Common Core Standards Initiative in his Washington Post column on Wednesday, pointing out that the standards spring from a top-down, big government approach to education that threatens to live on in perpetuity because the Common Core is tied to generous federal bribes — and threats that the bribes will go away if states don’t fall in line with Common Core.
But ontological and ideological arguments aside, Will does a fine job of explaining the organic rise of opposition to Common Core — an emerging pattern we’ve seen in recent years as the conservative movement has matured and learned to bypass traditional methods of influence. Will gives examples of “three healthy aspects of today’s politics” which, if applied correctly and used consistently, can lead to the defeat of the Common Core standards. Below are three strategies Will says are making a difference:
Spoiler alert for the December and January episodes below!
Many shows on TV offer viewers an escape from reality — shows featuring highbrow families living in ornate castles or series’ where immaculately dressed crime investigators pick their way around gruesome crime scenes in stiletto heels. And there’s always the option to tune in to a scripted “reality” show that bears no resemblance to reality.
NBC’s Parenthood is no such escapist fare. Now in its fifth season, the series tells the story of the Braverman family of Berkeley, California — Zeke and Camille, their four children and assorted grandchildren. The show alternates between funny, quirky, awkward, poignant, and brutally honest. Kristina Braverman’s battle with breast cancer last season was incredibly raw and painful, but laced with enough humor to make it bearable. (Monica Potter, who plays Kristina, was absolutely robbed of a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Series by Jacqueline Bisset.) The show deals sensitively (and at the same time humorously) with a range of life issues common to many families: teenage rebellion, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, marital strains, childbirth, problems at school, the empty nest. Parenthood does it in a way that makes viewers say, “I could totally see someone in my family doing that.”
Perhaps the most acclaimed story line of the series surrounds Max Braverman and his struggles with Asperger’s syndrome. When the show debuted in 2010, actor Max Burkholder played 8-year-old Max Braverman, who had not yet been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Burkholder has brilliantly “grown up” with his character, who is now a high school student. If you know a family that has been touched with an autism spectrum disorder, you’ll see them in this family, even if the details are not exactly the same — fear, frustration, exhaustion, giftedness, surprises, and social isolation are all common issues for these families.
Jason Katims, the show’s creator, has a son on the autism spectrum, so the scenes reflect the realities of life with a child who sees the world on a completely different plane than the rest of us. Katmis told Mari-Jane Williams at the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure they would be able to do the story line justice. He also had concerns about his son’s privacy, but he said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Katmis explained that he wanted to convey both the challenges and the triumphs of life with a child like Max:
It’s not only the challenges but also the unexpected beauty of it, and we definitely felt it was important to explore that. It really makes you focus on what’s important. You just want them to have friends and be happy and be in a place where they are seen and heard. That’s what you should want for any kid. As parents you really share the triumphs, even when they’re just small moments, even when they’re things that nobody else would even notice. Those moments, when they happen, of him being successful, or progressing, or showing love, I feel like they are much more cherished moments.
In case you missed the official announcement:
From now on conspiracy theorists will no longer be receiving their memorandums, instructions, and dispatches (including “red meat” and “dog whistles”) via listservs, talk radio, blogs, or newsletters. Neither will rumors or conspiracy theories be whispered to them at the secret cabal meetings, effective immediately. All members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, the bitter clingers, the “conspiracy nuts” and tea party members have been informed that they will hitherto be apprised of important subversive announcements, apocalyptic instructions, and other missives via the Harvard Law Review.
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now using the Harvard Law Review, “bastion of liberal elitism,” to communicate with ”those on the far right concerned about Agenda 21, NAFTA superhighways, or any of a range of other conspiracy theories.” Cruz has apparently signaled this shift in right-wing strategy by penning a 10,000 word essay titled “Limits on the Treaty Power,” inspired by the Supreme Court’s consideration this term of Bond v. United States, a Tenth Amendment case. Jacobs seems baffled that Cruz somehow managed to convince the editors of the esteemed publication to give him space to make the case for limits on the powers of treaties, and implies that there must be some nefarious secret message buried within the essay “replete with 181 footnotes, against the scale and scope of the modern federal government.”
The phraseology Cruz uses, according to Jacobs, “serves as red meat to those on the right concerned about the United Nations, especially those who believe that Agenda 21, a non-binding plan for sustainable development is a Trojan horse for instituting world government.”
[Note: At least the left is now acknowledging that those on the right are literate.]
In the essay, Cruz argues that, “The president cannot make a treaty that displaces the sovereign powers reserved to the states.” Citing Missouri v. Holland, a 1920 Supreme Court case dealing with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Cruz warns that, “if Justice Holmes was correct [that Congress has plenary power to implement any treaty], then the president and Senate could agree with a foreign nation to undo the checks and balances created by the people who founded our nation.”
Such language is pure “red meat” for the right, according to Jacobs.
And then there are these secret code words embedded in Cruz’s essay: “We must jealously guard the separation of powers and state sovereignty if we are to preserve the constitutional structure our Framers gave us.”
Cruz is blowing a “dog whistle for conspiracy nuts” with this constitutional crazy talk, says Jacobs.
The RNC wants to know your favorite candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination and they’ve set up a handy straw poll on their website so you can make your views known. You can choose from a whopping thirty-two potential nominees including Rand Paul, Tea Party favorites Ted Cruz and Allen West, and a spate of
undocumented Democrats establishment Republicans.
For the small price of your personal data (name, email address, zip code), you can vote for up to three candidates and then view the results…
Well, actually, no. For the small price of your data you are asked to make a donation and then you can view…
Unlike the vast majority of polls of this sort where you’re asked for your opinion (and some of your data is mined), you don’t get to view the results. Apparently this is some top secret project of the RNC. Perhaps the outcome of the straw poll is known only to that stealthy RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, who will at some future date enlighten the unwashed masses about who should really run for president.
One has to wonder how the decision-making process went with this straw poll. Did the RNC tech team not consider that site visitors would be annoyed at being tricked into handing over their data, only to discover that they wouldn’t be shown the results of the poll? Very poor form on the part of the RNC.
Of course, there could be a more cynical reason for this omission. The RNC may not want the public to view the results of the poll — it may burst the Christie bubble we’ve all been hearing so much about or may show that Republicans aren’t all that jazzed about the undocumented Democrats that the party would like to see win the nomination. After all, how awkward would it be if Jeb Bush went down to Ted Cruz or if Rob Portman lost badly to Allen West?
If you have any doubts that the RNC is after your data and your money and doesn’t give a hoot about your opinion, note that Ron Paul is included in the poll and that you can vote more than once.
While it won’t hurt anything to join the RNC’s mailing list, it will do little to help elect constitutional conservatives. A much better strategy is to identify good candidates and donate your time and talents directly to their campaigns.
And when Reince Priebus trots out the results of this straw poll in a few weeks, believe at your own risk.
Many are beginning to recognize that there is more to the so-called “culture war” issues than mere disagreements over abortion and gay marriage. It’s becoming increasingly clear that something more basic is afoot. In many cases our most treasured American rights — freedom of speech and freedom of religion — have been diminished as the czars of political correctness desire to create a nation where tolerance is redefined to mean tolerance only of culturally acceptable viewpoints. Those of us on the outside of this new cultural orthodoxy find ourselves not only marginalized from the public square of ideas, but increasingly, on the wrong side of the law. We’re warned to keep our religion in our churches as many attempt to make a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion, the former allowing only for private expressions of faith.
Liberals — I like to call them illiberal liberals — are often the most vocal perpetrators of intolerance against unpopular viewpoints, but a fair number of those who profess to be of the libertarian persuasion also have a penchant for trying to silence those with whom they disagree on certain issues. The justification for this squelching of speech is usually some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones…and your words are mean, so you have forfeited your right to speak in public.” The libertarian version of this is (paradoxically), “You’re embarrassing us and making our side unelectable. Knock it off.”
It’s not uncommon in our modern political discourse for ridicule to replace dialogue and open hostility to replace genuine debate, to the detriment of our country and our humanity. Those who demand silence from those with whom they disagree dishonor the principles of liberty upon which our republic was founded. Those who use the courts or who pass laws to force Americans to violate their religious principles trample on the graves of those who fought to defend our liberty through the ages.
Apparently we are experiencing a weather event of epic proportions. The headlines on Drudge tonight screamed:
CHICAGO SMASHES RECORDS…
COLDEST AIR IN 20 YEARS…
‘Exposed skin may freeze in less than five minutes’…
Power Demand Soars…
Texas grid pushed to edge…
Indianapolis Mayor Bans Driving…
JETBLUE To Halt All Flights To, From Boston, NY, NJ…
AMERICAN AIRLINES Cancels Flights Over Frozen Fuel Supply, Cold Employees…
Here in Ohio, as early as Wednesday afternoon schools began closing in anticipation of the frigid temperatures and wind chills. Even the Cleveland Horseshoe Casino and local ski resorts closed due to the “dangerous wind chill temperatures.”
Immediate mockery by nearly every Ohioan over the age of forty began on Facebook:
- Well I see all the public schools in my area have already WIMPED OUT and cancelled school for the next two days because of . . . snow and ice and cold temperatures. Heavens. I guess the poor little dumplings can’t take it. Is everyone going to cancel work too because it’s so cold?
- I can’t believe they cancelled already when the temps are still ok and not one flake has fallen. Hello Wussy USA!!!
- My wife rode the bus from the time she and her sisters were in elementary school. If there were one or two foot snow drifts. . .if they could get the buses out of the barns. . .they went to school. Parents can walk or drive their kids. We are turning our kids into wimps nowadays.
- I delivered newspapers when in snowstorms many times. I think the real problem is that parents want their kids to be protected every minute from the time they leave home. They probably have a greater chance of getting shot in school than getting frostbite but that is another issue.
- I’m only 20. But even I know things have happened a lot worse than what we have now. It’s sad to see that we’ve come so far just to be so annoyingly weak.
My personal reaction to the wall-to-wall news coverage of this “dangerous weather event” has been something along the lines of “seriously?”
Why all this derision — even hostility — simply because the schools and some businesses wanted the public to stay home for a couple of days until this cold weather blew over?
Quite simply, Ohioans of a certain age remember January 26, 1978, the day the Great Blizzard of ’78, also known as the White Hurricane, also known as the Cleveland Superbomb, descended upon Ohio.
Charles Blow over at the New York Times editorial page has his knickers all in a twist over a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project that found many Americans still reject the atheistic view of evolution. Blow called the results of the survey “sad” and said “it’s embarrassing.” The December 30th survey found that ”six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
Rejecting out of hand the notion that 33% of Americans might actually be able to think for themselves, Blow resurrects the vast right-wing conspiracy to account for the fact that Americans still reject evolution, despite the fact that virtually every public school child and every student attending college is taught as fact that they evolved from a common ancestor and that life on earth came about as a result of some sort of “highly energetic chemistry” that produced a self-replicating molecule rather than by the design of an intelligent Creator. Blow says,
But I believe that something else is also at play here, something more cynical. I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.
So it’s those scheming Republicans who are to blame for this embarrassing display of ignorance, as Blow sees it. Probably Karl Rove, too. And the Koch brothers along with George Bush.
Charles Blow calls the views of a third of Americans — the 33% — ”extreme religiosity” and “a form of dysfunction” and then turns around and mocks those who claim there is hostility toward religion in this country. He writes, ”This is a tactic to keep the Republican rank-and-file riled up.”
James Varga, a 25-year-old professional gamer who goes by the screenname of PhantomLOrd, had quite an interesting day on Monday. What started out as a normal day (normal for a pro-gamer) would take a sudden turn into a dramatic cat-and-mouse game with the Derp hacker group and end with police and pizza delivery men swarming his L.A. area home.
James “PhantomL0rd” Varga gets paid to play video games — and apparently he’s quite good at them, including League of Legends, one of the most popular games on the internet. He often plays on Twitch.tv, a streaming service that allows gamers to share their experience live with others. According to Varga, he was achieving an unusually high score in League of Legends (LoL) on Monday when the server went down. He switched to another game with the same result. And then another. Eventually he figured out that the Derp hacking group was following him from game to game and not only knocking him off the sites, but also shutting down the games for all other players worldwide.
David Birti, a computer science student a Cedarville University, explained what happened:
Derp is a hacking collective that started out taking down small private game servers, but has recently moved on to much bigger targets. Starting on Monday, they claim to have taken down League of Legends and EVE Online (the two most-played games in the world), along with EA.com, Club Penguin, KCNA (a North Korean news agency), World of Tanks, Guild Wars 2, a private high school’s website, Runescape, and a Westboro Baptist Church site; all of this was done “for the lulz” (just for fun).
They accomplished this using a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS), which can take down servers for short periods of time by flooding them with nonsense traffic. This is usually accomplished with a botnet, which is a group of normal computers that are under the attacker’s control (usually via a virus). Since there are so many computers contributing to the flood, blocking all of them is infeasible. The larger a target is, the larger a botnet needs to be to take it down. And judging from the high-profile targets they’ve taken out, their botnet is undoubtedly very large.
Throughout the DDOS attacks Varga made several attempts to contact Derp representatives through online chat rooms. At one point Varga said, “The whole server is depending on us winning this game.” Reddit documented the entire drama, including screenshots of the chats. At one point Varga’s personal information was posted on the gaming sites — called DOXing — and pizzas started to arrive at his house.
Camille Paglia gave a wide-ranging interview to the Wall Street Journal last week, covering everything from diminished respect for the military to radical feminism as a threat to all of Western civilization. Paglia, a liberal feminist and lesbian who voted for Obama and excels at destroying sacred cows, said that “our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly” and falsely promises them that they can “have it all.”
Paglia also broached a topic that’s not discussed nearly enough, even in conservative circles. Saying that sex education classes focus too much on mechanics, she said that girls should be taught to consider how vocational decisions they make as teens can impact their futures:
I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don’t have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you’d like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you’re going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented.
In our “have it all” culture, young people — young women in particular — are told to go to college, have a career, and then, perhaps somewhere way off in the future, get married and have kids. But no one really explains to young women about the requisite costs and trade-offs along the way. If a girl thinks she would like to have a family and children some day, it’s essential for her to consider how and when that might happen and whether that goal conflicts with other plans she has for her future. Despite the stereotypes fed to us by Hollywood, for most families, babies do not just pop out into designer 5-bedroom homes with live-in nannies. A 17-year-old girl may not want to think about such mundane things as child care when she is dreaming about a glamorous career as a CSI investigator, but better to consider them at age 17 than to have reality come crashing in later when she has less flexibility to make career-related decisions. Unfortunately, this kind of “family planning” is not only absent from most sex education classes, but it’s also rarely mentioned in career and vocational planning for teens.
Neal Boortz, subbing for Sean Hannity on his radio show on the day after Christmas, took the opportunity to unload a heap of libertarian wrath upon social conservatives, saying that Republicans will not win another election if they continue ”screaming and yelling about abortion, about gay rights, about prayer in school.” Boortz spat the words “social conservative Republicans” into the airwaves as he railed against (some unnamed) Republicans who, apparently “obsessed” with social issues, are running around the country raging against the forces trying to take prayer out of school. Boortz seemed particularly upset with Republicans who want to peer into everyone’s bedrooms to find out who is sleeping with whom.
During the three-hour show, Boortz dragged out nearly every straw man that the left uses to waylay Republicans in elections, using a few isolated cases as the exemplars of social conservatism in the GOP.
Perhaps Boortz has missed this development, but Rick Santorum is no longer the face of the Republican Party and he’s not even the face of social conservatism. For that matter, even during the course of his presidential campaign, Santorum was not much of a social crusader. The left and their collaborators in the media are the ones who are “obsessed” with social issues, having put them on the front lines of the 2012 campaign, including their contrived War on Women. Santorum could hardly stick to name, rank, and serial number when he was relentlessly badgered about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception on the campaign trail. At least he had the decency to be intellectually honest about his views rather than taking the politically expedient route.
But social conservatives have, by and large, moved on. If you look at the list of supposed presidential contenders (according to a recent Fox News poll), none are “screaming” about social issues. Leaving Christie out of this discussion because he seems to be evolving at the moment, all of the others on the list have professed, to one degree or another, support for the social conservative agenda. But which one of those potential candidates is running around the country “screaming” about them?
Instead, most social conservatives have shifted the debate to the issue of liberty. There is every reason to believe that it’s a winning strategy for Republicans to defend freedom and liberty — freedom of speech, religious liberty, the right to life. Even many on the left are beginning to reject the absurd and illiberal trajectory of what Mark Steyn has called the Bureau of Conformity Enforcement. When even liberal feminist Camille Paglia describes the fisking of a 67-year-old Christian grandfather from Louisiana as ”punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist,” we know that support for this battle for freedom of conscience is growing by the hour. Though social issues are necessarily rooted in religious and moral questions, that’s not the only way to discuss them in the public square, as many conservatives are learning.
As I write this I am perched on the edge of a Christmas “celebration” threatening to become a cross between Christmas with the Cranks and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (complete with a Something-of-the-Month-Club gift for my husband, purchased online tonight due to my procrastination). My in-laws will be arriving in a matter of hours and the turkey is taking a leisurely candlelight bath in the kitchen sink right now because I neglected to take it out of the freezer 3-4 days before Christmas Eve as recommended and it is currently suitable only for bowling. The ham is in another county, caught in an internecine family “misunderstanding” which may result in the turkey flying solo on the big day. The presents are unwrapped, not a single cookie has graced my oven, and I am seriously considering punting on my one contribution to Christmas Day with my own family — the dessert.
In addition to the food and gifts and unsent Christmas cards — okay, no, I did not even purchase cards, let alone address and mail them — and while we are on the subject, I cannot even bear to open another one of those braggy Christmas newsletters to hear about everyone’s perfect life — and now I’ve lost my train of thought. This is what the Christmas “festivities” can do to a person.
As I was saying, add to all of this the heaviness in my heart for friends and family members who are struggling during what should be a joyous time of year — grieving lost loved ones, dealing with parents in the hospital and in nursing homes, struggling with health issues and marital difficulties. And then there is the migraine monster that battles for control of my head and my life. Will this second round of steroids knock out this 2-week cycle?
When my husband walked in the door, sans meat, and announced the ham embargo, I lost it. By lost it I mean I completely checked out. I ran to the pharmacy before it closed and then came home and sat in the car in the cold garage on my own personal pity pot for a very long time. I let calls about tomorrow’s plans go to voice mail and then shut my phone off.
So, Merry Christmas, right?
As I desperately worked on an attitude adjustment tonight, I realized that the problems are not Christmas cookies and syrupy family Christmas letters or even a ham that is MIA.
On Wednesday I wrote about SB 248, an offensively intrusive bill introduced in the Ohio Senate by Senator Capri Cafaro. The bill, named Teddy’s Law for 14-year-old Teddy Tedesco who was brutally tortured and murdered by his mother’s boyfriend, would require all homeschooling families to submit to background checks and interviews with social workers before being permitted to homeschool or enroll in an online school in the state. Parents and children would be separated for interviews and any finding by a social worker that homeschooling was not “in the best interest of the child” would be grounds for denial of the right to homeschool or enroll in an online school.
In a stunning reversal, Cafaro, the bill’s sponsor, announced on Thursday that she intends to withdraw the bill. Declaring that the bill was never meant to provoke a policy debate on homeschooling, Cafaro said,
After consultation with Teddy’s family, we have collectively decided the best course of action is for me to withdraw SB 248, and instead pursue a more comprehensive approach to address the current challenges in the state’s social service and criminal justice system.
Ohioans for Educational Freedom (OEF), a statewide PAC that supports homeschooling, began telling Ohio homeschoolers and other supporters of freedom in education about the bill at 10:35 p.m. on Monday night. By Thursday afternoon the bill was dead.
The evolution of SB 248 from the time the Ohio education community first learned about it until the moment Cafaro announced she was abandoning it is an excellent example of what the grassroots can accomplish when they speak with one voice and work with laser-like focus on a single issue. Mark Stevenson from OEF reported:
By Tuesday morning, we sent around to all the Facebook home school groups we were in contact with. By Tuesday afternoon, the news had traveled so fast and furious that all the typical e-mail lists were sending out our RED ALERT quicker than we could keep up with.
CHEO [Christian Home Educators of Ohio] put out a thorough Alert of their own and it seemed most of the Ohio home school population became fully aware that this was the biggest encroachment of home schooling rights in Ohio.
By Tuesday afternoon Mike Donnelly from HSLDA [Homeschool Legal Defense Association] put out a statement saying ”This is the biggest over reach I’ve seen in a very long time if ever in the area of imposing regulation on home schoolers.” Later that evening, HSLDA sent out their evening e-mail that announced a headline of ”Worst-Ever Homeschool Law Proposed”. We were receiving intel reports that Cafaro’s office had been overwhelmed and inundated with phone calls all day on Tuesday and it was continuing through Wednesday.
In response to the “indefinite hiatus” of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for his straightforward (if inelegant) comments to GQ expressing his personal belief that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Democrat Party political pollster Bernard Whitman appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show on Wednesday night. Whitman said, in essence, that Christians no longer have the right to publicly express their views on homosexuality unless they only express agreement with the homosexual lifestyle. Whitman made the following statements:
“He is not entitled to be on TV spouting hate.”
“It’s time that we stop agreeing that religion can be used as a weapon to spew hate and cause people to feel bad about themselves and who they are and who they love.”
“If he wants to go out and have hate speech…if he wants to go out and have hate speech all over America — and hate speech conventions — by God, let him do it, but it shouldn’t have to be in the public square where people have to tune in and see that sort of thing.”
“You can have your private beliefs but they don’t have to be aired on public networks.”
“I think that he can’t hide behind the veil of Christianity or any religion and use that as a weapon to indict people, to condemn people or make them feel ‘less than.’”
“I think it’s a matter of first understanding what the true meaning of spirituality is or Christianity is or Judaism is or Islam is and that is, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ As Pope Francis recently said about gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ Clearly, the Duck Dynasty guy, Robertson, is judging. There’s just no place for that in religion, I think.”
I have a few questions for Mr. Whitman and others who want to silence Phil Robertson and millions of other Americans who agree with his sincerely held and constitutionally protected religious beliefs:
Why are you entitled to be on TV spouting hate toward the views of Robertson?
When are you going to stop using your lifestyle as a weapon to spew hatred toward Christians, causing them to “feel bad about themselves and who they are” and the God they love?
What gives you the right to determine that Robertson’s comments are “hate speech” while your accusations of bigotry are not? And if you shouldn’t “have to tune in and see” the sort of thing that Phil Robertson expressed (note: Robertson expressed his views on homosexuality in a magazine article, not on TV), why should Americans who disagree with your lifestyle have to tune in to Megyn Kelly’s show to see the “sort of thing” that they find offensive?
Why should your beliefs alone be represented and permitted on the public airwaves and in the public square while the beliefs of Robertson are silenced? What makes your beliefs superior to or more correct than his?
Why are you permitted to hide behind the veil of “no matter who they love” and use that as a weapon to condemn people and make them feel ‘less than’?
Who are you to judge? What gives you the right to judge Phil Robertson or any other Christian — let alone define and decree what their personal religious beliefs should be. As a self-proclaimed Jew, I don’t think you really have a lot of jurisdiction over Mr. Robertson’s statements of faith and doctrine.
Do you not see that you are guilty of the very accusations you level against Roberson?
If a bill introduced by four Democrats in the Ohio Senate last week becomes law, it would be the most radical homeschooling law in the country, stripping parents of their constitutionally guaranteed right to direct the education of their children and requiring interrogations by social workers before homeschooling is permitted. Home School Legal Defense Association’s Michael Donnelly said SB 248 is “breathtakingly onerous in its scope” and called it the “worst-ever” homeschool law that has been proposed.
Sponsored by Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard), SB 248 — Teddy’s Law — was proffered in reaction to the very tragic death of Teddy Foltz-Tedesco in January 2013. Teddy and his 10-year-old twin brothers were abused by Zaryl Bush for at least five years while the boys’ mother, Shain Widdersheim, stood by and allowed the torture and beatings to continue. Teddy ultimately died from a severe beating by Bush, who was sentenced to 33 years to life for the murder while the mother received a sentence of 15 years for allowing the abuse.
Widdersheim had withdrawn the boys from school — allegedly teaching them at home — after teachers began to suspect abuse. Relatives and neighbors say they reported the abuse to the children services board (CSB) on repeated occasion but were rebuffed. Widdersheim’s sister was one of them. “We called, multiple times we did,” she said, sobbing. “They wouldn’t do anything. They told us we were lying.”