Thursday, November 24, 2005


I saw a sign once that said "The hardest part about being an atheist is that you have nobody to thank for the good things in your life." I think that's incredibly true.

Thank you (anybody who reads regularly, friends, family, other loved ones) for being in my life. God Bless you on this Thanksgiving...and remember to give thanks for all you have.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Vent Pipe Posted by Picasa
Have a happy Thanksgiving & for those who will be out and about (like me) tomorrow getting a jump on the Christmas safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Paris Riots

This is a little late, but her is my take on the Parisian Riots. This also serves as my column for the Picket

‘We will take the fight to them before they bring it to us.’ This bold and definitive statement by President Bush has been heard over and over again in defense of what has become known as the “Bush Doctrine,” a cliché for “President Bush’s policy of seeking out and destroying terrorists and regimes that support, encourage and/or allow terrorism preventing a devastating blow to the free world.” It’s safe, I think, to argue that it is this ‘doctrine’ that has led to the ‘left-right’ division of this country—those on the right, like myself, believe that we must hunt down and destroy the enemy before they get us, the others believe that we should sit and wait while a gathering threat prepares to wipe us out of existence and that it can only be prevented by ‘rehabilitating’ these monsters (and let’s not dance around it, terrorists are monsters) rather than simply destroying them. The division in beliefs on the proper way to deal with terror is not limited to our own national political boundaries. It extends far beyond our borders and into the global realm, where there are those that are “with us” and those that are “against us.” Since the initiation of this ‘doctrine,’ the French have, quite openly, been against us.

Now, though, the French find themselves in the midst of trouble. Many in the media call the recent devastation in France “riots.” They proclaim that these ‘riots’ are results of social injustice. Some even state that these monsters should/could be called ‘freedom fighters.’ I challenge those who take this stance. I propose that the recent events in France are not ‘riots’ fought by ‘freedom fighters;’ they are terrorist attacks launched by monsters—the same monsters who led the massive attack on America in September, 2001, who killed innocents on the subway in Madrid, and who attempted another mass attack on the transit system of London just a few months before. Now France, who so proudly rejected US policy, finds itself on the opposite end of the “Bush Doctrine,” fighting the war on the home front.

I do not wish to give the wrong impression—I am not blaming France’s problem on the fact that they did not join America in its quest to rid the world of a ruthless dictator in Iraq. I am not blaming their problem on not being ‘with us’ in our position on other rouge terrorist nations. I am, however, blaming the problems of France on their weak, typically left stance on terrorism. I also blame the devastation, which is now pouring across the French borders and into other European cities, on long standing policies of appeasement and tolerance. These idiotic policies have never worked. As Joseph Farah, editor of World Net Daily, a popular internet news source, put it, “…appeasement was [to be accepted as] the solution in Iraq…[and] appeasement was the [French] solution for Hitler…” Appeasement does not work. Tolerance does not work. Ridding the country of the scourge that has spread like a dark hand through the heart of Europe is the only possible solution, just as destruction of Hitler in the 40’s and destruction of Saddam in recent days were the only true and lasting solutions to similar evils.

European weakness does not end with their disgusting anti-terror policies, but also lies with immigration policies. As reported by the Washington Times, most of the trouble has been centered in areas inhabited by illegal immigrants from North Africa. These immigrants pass seemingly freely through the channels of the European Union, bringing with them the toxic stink of radical Islam and who knows what else. Through this ‘all accepting, let’s be politically correct and not offend anybody’ approach, Europe has allowed people who carry a belief that calls for the destruction of ‘infidels’ (IE any body who doesn’t believe exactly how these radicals do) to enter, reproduce and now threaten to seize a majority of the population. As some experts have pointed out, reproduction rates amongst ‘European natives’ (IE non Middle-Eastern Muslims) are so low that a ‘zero immigration’ policy would see the population of Europe shrink. In other words, immigration and reproduction of immigrants provides the dominant source of population growth throughout the European Union.

So what does all this mean? It means that Europe will continue to be pushed around by thugs until it puts forth a forceful resistance to this growing problem. It means that as long as the ‘flood gates’ remain open through North Africa and into Europe, these thugs will continue immigrate into the EU, slowly tearing Europe apart from within. It means that Europe, particularly France, must revamp its immigration policies to adequately handle the influx of migrants, and that they must also take a firm resolve against terrorists. And it means that we have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that Europe has made in dealing with these difficult issues in order to prevent similar problems on our own soil. I pray we do just that.

That's all I have to say on this subject, assuming no further developments ensue.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Please Pray

The following was distributed as a handout in the weekly Bulletin at my Church. I thought it would be proper for me to share it and ask anybody who reads this to please pray:

Guinea (ASSIST News Service)

A baptism ceremony in Nzereokore was attacked Wednesday, October 19, 2005 by Muslims. They complained that the music from the service disturbed their prayers at a nearby mosque. Ten people were injured, two seriously, and several houses were sacked. The Muslims rioted again Friday evening and razed a local video store. Elite soldiers had to be deployed to restore order. Several guns were confiscated and a curfew was imposed. During the weekend some 100 people were arrested, with 56 still detained. Nzereokore is located in Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, close to adjoining borders of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea. The region is awash with bored exsoldiers, illegal weapons and illegal immigrants. The wider region, especially neighboring Ivory Coast, is simmering with ethnic and religious tensions. Guinea is 85.4% Muslim, 9.7% African Traditional Religion (ATR) and 4.7% Christian. After decades of Marxist, pro-Islam persecution of the church, there is now religious freedom in Guinea. The Guinean church has embraced missions and in the past decade indigenous workers have begun witnessing crossculturally to previously unreached peoples. The Guinean church is growing, but in recent years, as Islam has radicalized worldwide, the Christian minority in Guinea has been increasingly on the painful end of a revived Islamic intolerance

Pray God will protect, preserve and strengthen the Christians of Guinea, blessing their witness for his glory and His eternal Kingdom. Pray his Son will set people free from the spiritual shackles that have kept them in darkness. Pray the Lord will empower pastors, evangelists and all believers with His wisdom, discernment and all-encompassing love as they deal with their Muslim neighbors.
No ranting. No screaming. No throwing a fight and politicizing this: I think it speaks loudly enough about the abuse that Christians of the world, but especially in these remote locations, are facing from Muslims, especially the radicalized wing. I find it hard to believe that NOBODY (UN, NATO, US Government, ETC ETC) is screaming about this. Pray that people wake up and call attention to this devestating situation.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

'NCLB Sucks Because GW's An Idiot'

I hate stupid people. I just hate them. I can't be nice about it. There's not dancing around the fact, no trying to sound nice, no saying "well, he had a hard childhood. Afterall, he is 'different.'" No. None of that. I just hate them and I want them all to be pushed into a large whole where they can just bug the hell out of each other and leave me in peace.

George W. Bush is not an idiot. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) does not suck. Therefore, No Child Left Behind does not suck because George W. Bush is not an idiot. There. I said it. Why did I say it? Because of stupid people--stupid people who proclaim (in all seriousness) that NCLB 'sucks' because 'GW is an idiot.' These words were actually said (with some measure of pride) in my education class this week. NCLB sucks because GW's an idiot....oh, and then there's always the part about how 'it's an unfunded mandate.'

To quote Dr. Joseph Merz, Ph. D., "Good God." If it weren't for liberal slogans and catch phrases, would anti-Bush morons have anything to say? I mean honestly. If the Howard Deans of the world hadn't come up with easy-to-remember slogans, would they even speak? I think not.

I guess I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Let's back it up a bit....

This week in my Shepherd University Foundations of Education class, we have been studying (well discussing) standards, curriculum, assessment and accountability--all things which tie into NCLB. This, naturally, prompted a review of the sweeping legislative act of 2001.

Let me summarize (and evaluate) what I have learned, through our textbook and other readings as well as my own personal research, about NCLB with some:

  1. NCLB is NOT NEW LEGISLATION. President Bush did not introduce some ground breaking legislation which was completely out of the air and unexpected. NCLB is a 're vamping' of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964, which was introduced by Lyndon B. Johnson in order to ensure that minority students are receiving the same degree of education as everybody else. It has been reintroduced and, not surprisingly, repassed every four years. Each time it is reauthorized, the scope of the legislation is broadened. The book goes on to explain that over the past forty years no measurable progress has been made, thus 'GWs' plan to revamp.
  2. The first goal of NCLB is to have 'Highly Qualified Teachers' (HQT) in every elementary and secondary classroom. I would think that nobody would argue with this, but there are some who, because 'GW is an idiot,' oppose this plan. I would also think that this is something that doesn't need to be written down in federal policy, but apparently it does, as many states are without qualified teachers.
  3. The second major goal is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is measured by (surprise) standardized tests. I believe, with all of my mind, that standardized tests are good things. I also believe that having these tests count for something (whereas in the past students said 'well, this things have no effect on me whatsoever') is a good thing. AYP must be met by 100% of the student body of each school. That is not to say that a student must display 'mastery' of every skill, but rather 'proficiency' in every skill. Opponents suggests that this is an ambitious goal. I counter by saying, though ambitious it may be, it should be our goal. What is the point in bothering to educate students if we're going to do it half way? If we're not going to make sure that a student demonstrates proficiency in the skills we're giving them, then we might as well 'hang up the chalk-holders' and go into something else (I guess something like ditch digging...wait, no, can't do ditch digging because it requires that we proficiently dig the ditch). The biggest argument against the AYP requirements is that even special education students must meet the set requirements. This is troublesome and I have mixed feelings concerning this. On the one hand, I must say that I'm a bit snobbish and believe that if Special Education students are going to receive the same diploma that I am, then they should have to pass the same exams, undergo the same assessments and have the same requirements. On the other hand, it is unrealistic to ask a truly handicapped student (IE somebody who cannot even function on a high enough level to raise a drinking class to his/her lips) to read a passage and pick the 'controlling idea.' This issue, though, brings up a whole new topic, which I may address at a latter time--should Special Education students (or at least the severely handicapped students) even be in the average classroom?Testing these students is something that can (and should) be addressed when the act comes up for reauthorization.
  4. The third goal/objective of NCLB is consequence: what do we do about students/teachers/schools/districts/states that do not meet the outlined requirements? Do we continue to provide them with federal funds? Do we just let them continue to fail? Do we send the State BOE in to take over the school? These questions are tough. Firstly, we must address funding. NCLB is often described (more often than not by people who say 'GW is an idiot') as being an 'unfunded mandate,' but how much of an increase must education receive before it is considered to be thoroughly funded? Ten%? Twenty? How about 100%? According to White House Press Releases (which some would consider a biased source, but I would call a primary source), for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, the increase in education expenditures represented a 131% increase between 1996 and 2004. In eight years, the increase in the budget for education was 131% Take a minute and let that soak in. That is to say that the US government spent 2 and 1/3 times the amount of money in '04 as was spent in '96...and yet it is somehow called unfunded. Now that we have addressed funding, we must address what do to with these schools. The plan calls for schools that do not meet requirements to be labeled Schools in Need of Improvement (SINOI). This, from the perspective of any rational human being, makes sense: If you fail to meet expectations, you NEED IMPROVEMENT. After a predetermined hierarchy of corrective actions have been taken, a more severe step may be initiated. School choice must be offered (that is, parents must be offered the chance to send their students to alternative schools that have met the AYP requirements and have adequate space to allow more students). School boards my choose to completely remove all staff members at a school and rehire quality teachers from within the district, while also reaching out for new teachers. Or, if so desired, they may employ a 'for profit' company to come in a manage the school. These are just some of the many ways the government has suggested to improve AYP.

So lets review:

  1. NCLB is a reauthorization of a 40 year old bill meant to ensure that all students receive the basic skills.
  2. NCLB seeks Highly Qualified Teachers
  3. NCLB seeks for all schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress thereby ensuring that all students are proficient in the basic skills.
  4. NCLB presents consequences for failure in order for Schools in Need of Improvement to take corrective action and meet the AYP standards.

Wow. This is a bad thing presented by an idiot, is it not? Qualified teachers? Making progress in education? Correcting problems? I just can't take the negativity!

I don't want to give the wrong impression: NCLB is NOT PERFECT. It needs some (a lot?) work, some editing and some revision, but it's something. George W. Bush dared to stick his neck out and offer something new. Damn him! It may not be perfect, but it has brought education to the front burner again, and it has started a dialogue... and I don't see how anybody in their right mind can call that negative.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

George Bush--the Woman Hater

There was a lot of talk in the past few years about how much George W. Bush has done to 'repress' or 'force back' the progress of the Women's Rights Movement. Naturally 110% of this stems from his anit-abortion stance. I would like for the wacko's out there who hate Bush because he "hates women" to interview the women whom I covered in my latest contribution to the Picket if THEY think he is a 'woman hater' considering where they are now, and where they were (in terms of progress) five years ago...

I wear a pin on my book-bag as I go throughout the day which has a picture of George W. Bush on it and says simply, “Protector” and “Liberator.” Although I receive much flack about this pin, I wear it proudly and defend the President often. As the day begins to wind down and I, too, wind down, I turn on the evening news, expecting to see nothing of the “protecting” and/or “liberating” which has come from our War in Iraq. When there is a particularly long stretch of pessimism displayed through the media, it is sometimes difficult to maintain my hopeful view of the war. Indeed it is not uncommon for me to even question whether or not we were justified in our actions, and if, perhaps, we have made a wrong decision, but just when I am
about to take the ‘low road’ into negativity and pessimism, I read a story or see a report which reminds me that we (along with Bush) are liberators and protectors.

The latest pick-me-up lies not in a story concerning a school being built, free elections being conducted, or a mass murderer finally facing justice (even though it seems at times that Saddam will never go to trial), but rather in the story of four brave women risking their lives every day for the cause of freedom.

The story appeared in the October 24 issue of The Washington Times and describes four women working for a private security company. The women are trained side-by-side with men under the direction of Boulos Karam, a veteran of the Lebanese Civil War. Karam describes his group as a “low profiles security convoy” which “do[es its] best not to be discovered, part[ly] by using women.” The women are put through vigorous exercises which test them physically, mentally and emotionally, preparing them to stand up to the insurgency which we read about daily. One woman, called Muna, describes her feelings about this opportunity, “Before I got into this, I was a normal female; when I heard bullets, I would hide…Now, I feel like a man. Now I feel equal to my husband.”

Equal rights, though, is not the only thing this opportunity has brought her. Speaking with what are described as ‘intense black eyes,’ she says, “We are trying to defend ourselves and defend each other. I am doing this for my country.”

These women have inspired me and reminded me why this war ( or any war) is necessary: It’s not about weapons or threats (although that is also important). It’s not about violating laws or UN sanctions. War is about people; this war is about the Iraqi people. Muna gets it. She understands that it is about—something bigger than her. It is about her country, her freedom and her equality. She gets it, why don’t we?

I find these women to be a fascinating contradiction to the seemingly common view that "George Bush Hates Women." They're truly inspirational and the Iraqi citizenry should follow in their footsteps. If the citizens of Iraq would step up in the same way that these women have, our 'occupation' would be finished--indeed they would no longer require our assistance.