Friday, July 21, 2006

Bush vetos something

I'm not a fan of my president. In fact, ever since he seized power in 2000-2001 I have been unable to hear his voice without feeling sick, and I have turned off the radio or television every time he appears or has his voice broadcast. But, I try to find the good in everyone, and there have been a few (a very few) policies out of the White House that I respect or admire. I liked his statement about protecting Taiwan from China (back in the spring of 2001). I like the general idea of moving from temporary shelters to permanent housing for the homeless (but he ought to fund that idea more than he has). And, believe it or not, I like his veto of the embryonic stem cell research thing.

What? How can this be? Am I against embryonic stem cell research? No, hardly! I support it. I'll donate my own money to medical research that uses frozen human embryos with joy. I have no qualms about this, as I cannot believe, and won't believe, that the sacredness of human life begins at such an early stage in human development. In fact, people who think a frozen blastula's have souls and precious human life seem sort of nutty and weird to me. "Irrational" I'll call them.

But then why do I support the President's veto? I support this because in a democracy we must not have a tyranny of the majority. I'm in the majority on this issue, thinking that frozen blastulas (early stage embryos) aren't human and don't deserve protection from medical researchers trying to find treatments for spinal cord injuries and so forth. But there is a sizable minority in my community who vehemently disagree with the majority. They think those frozen embryos are basically frozen children. To throw them out or perform medical experiments with them would be, in their view, a terrible evil. And the bill, as I understood it, would have allowed government money to fund this sort of thing.

When people feel their most basic beliefs about God and ethics and morality are being violated by some Government program, I think the program ought to be either not funded by the government (let private non-profit corporations and free enterprise do it without direct government subsidy) or else a fund ought to be established for people to pay into what they would otherwise pay in tax.

So, for the strict pacifists, they shouldn't have to pay for military spending beyond the costs of medical care for military personnel. People who oppose abortion or stem cell research shouldn't have to pay for government medical research or or Medicaid-funded abortions. And people who "have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny imposed upon the mind of man" shouldn't have to pay for our military or financial aid to despots and dictators. And strict vegetarians shouldn't need to pay for the agricultural policies that support the beef, pork, or chicken industries. With the exception of military spending and funding abortions for poor women, I'd say in most of these cases the government should just stop supporting these sorts of policies that violate some people's most basic sense of right and wrong. It's just easier to not fund stem cell research with the public purse and let others fund such things with private funds or public funds from more local sources (states, counties, cities, whatever).

But when policies can't be abandoned to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority another possibility would be these alternative funds. One could fund only medical care for veterans and government workers (including military personnel). Another might fund some utterly non-controversial government project such as environmental clean-ups, maintaining national parks, paying down the national debt, or subsidizing affordable drugs and quality medical care for sick people in poor countries. When people pay their income tax they should have a chance to testify that they have a strong ethical belief that is violated by some form of government spending (such as military or abortion funding), and so rather than having their funds go into the general revenue of the United States government they demand that their money go only into one or more of these funds.

In the case of stem cell research, I'm not convinced that avenue of research really promises as much as some people claim. The government can fund research on umbilical cord tissue or some sort of artificially-generated stem-cell tissue instead of violating the most profound ethical beliefs of the wackos who think frozen blastulas have sacred human life. In a democracy it's just doesn't do for the 75% of us in a majority to entirely alienate and frustrate a sincere and passionate minority, at least when that minority is as large as the 25% or so of us who oppose stem cell research with embryonic tissue.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hadley-Ives family update

Hadley-Ives family update

I just sent a letter to my U.S. Rep and Senators about the Israeli-Lebanon conflict:

I feel as I'm sure most Americans do, that the so-called "Hezbollah" (if God does favor a party, certain they aren't it) represents evil and terrorism. I hope Israel is successful in inflicting tremendous casualties upon the so-called "Hezbollah" fighters and leaders, and I wish Israel success in that respect.

However, I'm writing because I think the Israeli Defense Forces are going crazy. Why are they killing Lebanese regular army guys? I thought Israel claimed it wanted the regular Lebanese army to exert more control over the so-called "Hezbollah." Also, I can't understand this bombing of water-drilling trucks in a Christian area of Beruit. And what is going on with bombing whole villages and hamlets, destroying all the homes and houses? Maybe some of these homes are military targets because the so-called "Hezbollah" uses them, but surely other homes are inhabited by innocent civilians.

I fear that Israel is sinking to the same level of evil and wickedness as the so-called "Hezbollah". When the so-called "Hezbollah" shoots unguided missiles at Israeli cities, that is a war crime. When Israeli Defense Forces bomb civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and indiscriminately kill civilians and terrorists together without using surgical strikes, that is also probably a war crime.

I want the U.S. government to make this clear to Israel. I want you to let the Israeli ambassador know how concerned your constituents back in Illinois are about this. How can Israel ever achieve security and peace with its neighbors if it does such bloody work? A strong military response to the so-called "Hezbollah" is understandable, and I'd support it, but what we're seeing instead is total madness. And if America goes on defending this particular Israeli craziness we'll be hated even more.

So I'm pleading with you to support any House resolution that calls on Israel to show restraint and focus its military actions against the so-called "Hezbollah" and refrain from committing war crimes such as bombing civilian areas that are of no military value to the terrorists.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Zoo Tycoon.

It's nearly the end of the Fifth of May.

I decided today I'd eat at Cinqo de Mayo Restaurant at the Travel Lodge along Sixth Street. I pass it most days when I drive to campus to work at my office, and I figured it was a good day to try it out. I ordered from the lunch menu the Cinqo de Mayo burrito. It was big, and pretty good. In fact, it was so big I hardly needed to eat any dinner.

It might have helped that I also had a couple bowls of ice cream at our celebation of service award at UIS. We created a "leg-of-the-stool" award for service. The UIS says that faculty are supposed to have a balanced mix of scholarship, teaching, and service, and the university is kept steady by a balance among these activities like the legs of a stool. Well, the service leg isn't as strong as the teaching and scholarship legs, and this celebration was an attempt to start changing that.

I got home and I was exhausted. I was up late trying to help a student who is close to failing a course I'm teaching. I edited their paper and wrote more comments and suggestions than I think they had written in their own paper. This was a paper that should have been turned in a couple weeks ago, but I only saw it for the first time yesterday. So when i got home I was sleepy and took a nap.

Waking up, I went into the basement and tried the new computer game my sons have been raving about this week. I gave them Zoo Tycoon (with all the expansion packs) for the 12th Day of Ridvan, and they've been playing it an awful lot. I thought I would give it a try and see what it was like. That was about 8:00, when I went downstairs. At about 11:00 Jeri came down and reminded us that it was far past our bedtime. Wow, I didn't have those three hours to waste. I should have been giving feedback to students.

I guess that is what I'll do now.

Hey, it's working again.

Well, I had tried to post to this blog several times in late December and January and "Blotspot" (Blogspot) kept forgetting my password and username. It was strange, and then the semester began, and I didn't have time to post here.

It's nice to see this is up and running. I'll need to start posting here.

One thing I've learned this past semester, never teach three on-line courses in one semester. They are far too time-consuming.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Just Friends

I was driving on my way to work the other day and heard a song on the radio in which the singer plaintively says, "and you say that we're just friends" as if this is something terrible. Well, it could be terrible, as sometimes the phrase, "I just want us to be friends" means "I don't want to have anything to do with you beyond our being nodding acquaintances" and it can be said after a long and intense relationship. But, I think our culture is impoverished by this diminishment of friendship and the exaggerated reliance on the romantic relationship of marriage or the romantic (but non-sexual) alternatives to marriage.

This brought to mind my great-grandfather Mac. This was my great-grandmother Ruby's second husband, and my grandmother Nel's stepfather. I remember in the late 1970s Great-Grandpa Mac telling me about friends he had made in France when he was stationed there during the First World War. There were some families and some young men or boys who had been exceptionally friendly and affectionate to Mac over in France, and he enjoyed telling stories about how much they loved him and how much he loved them, and the things they did to endear and cherish each other. One of these little boys grew up to fly in the French air force, and I can remember Great-Grandpa Mac sobbing and crying when he recounted how this friend of his perished when his aircraft carrier was sunk and his plane ditched at sea during the Second World War. So, this was a friendship that he enjoyed recounting sixty to fifty-five years after it bloomed, and this was a death of a friend that had occurred 35-40 years ago and it still made him cry to remember and retell it.

I was recently at the Society for Social Work and Research conference in San Antonio, where I met (as I do every year) old friends from my time as a graduate student, or from my time as a professor at the University of Illinois. It is always so nice to be among friends and learn what discoveries they are making. It's also a pleasure to work with friends, and to think along with them, or write with them. I need to make more time in my life for that.