Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Indoctrination In The Classroom

Stanley Kurtz has an intriguing and yet frightening article on National Review Online about how the Saudis are using federal education programs to influence curriculum used in public schools about the Middle East:

Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we’re going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror. I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I’m talking about K-12 education in the United States. Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America’s K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East. While we’ve had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America’s Middle-East studies curriculum at home.

How did they do it? Very carefully...and very cleverly. It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education. Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach. That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America’s K-12 teachers. These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes. Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).

Enter the Saudis. By lavishly funding several organizations that design Saudi-friendly English-language K-12 curricula, all that remains is to convince the “outreach coordinators” at prestigious, federally subsidized universities to purvey these materials to America’s teachers. And wouldn’t you know it, outreach coordinators or teacher-trainers at a number of university Middle East Studies centers have themselves been trained by the very same Saudi-funded foundations that design K-12 course materials. These Saudi-friendly folks happily build their outreach efforts around Saudi-financed K-12 curricula.

In one sense it's easy to see how the Saudis can be so successful in their attempts to indoctrinate American schoolchildren. But at the same time it is frightening to consider that the same tactics that are used in Middle East countries than either sponsor or encourage terrorism could be used in American schools. Hopefully, Congress will take the steps necessary to fix this situation. Given the fact that Democrats are more concerned conducting endless investigations than dealing with our country's more serious problems it's unlikely that any deal can be struck. Our kids, and ultimately our nation's security, will suffer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Real Home Run King

Any day now, Barry Bonds will break the career home run record when he hits number 756 (he's sitting on 753 as I am writing this post). But for many people, myself included, the real home run king will be the man who currently holds the record: Henry Aaron. In a terrific piece, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci explains why.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Indispensible Book

love to read and am always on the lookout for something new and exciting to explore. The other day I picked up a book from my library that I was excited to get to read. In fact, I wish it had been around when I was a boy. It's a safe bet that if I had this book when I was younger I would have been involved in much greater adventures (and no doubt my fair share of trouble) than I did. It's The Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden.

Even though I only have girls, I found the book thoroughly entertaining. Less a narrative and more a handbook of things that boys should know, it's a highly engaging and occasionally irreverant look at the things that fascinate boys. As I was reading the book I thought about the fact that (1) girls are much different to parent than boys (they don't have nearly the same interests) and (2) it's never too late as a guy to get involved in the stuff of adventure.

This is a book that covers everything from baseball, rugby, and soccer to poetry, grammar, and how to treat girls. Famous (and not so famous) battles are explored. Skills such as tanning skins, hunting and cooking rabbits, and tying proper knots are all documented. They also include profiles of courageous individuals and the things that we can learn from them. The section on Douglas Bader alone makes the book worthwhile.

The best thing about the book is it offers endless possibilities of activities for fathers to enjoy with their sons. Things such as building treehouses, making proper paper airplanes, or carving your own bow and arrow are the types of activies that will become wonderful memories that father and son can cherish for years to come. This is not a book to read through but rather one that you pull off the shelf anytime you need to know how to wrap a package in brown paper and string or find a coin trick to teach to your son. It's a book that a father and son could spend years working through and never get tired of trying out its projects.

Even if your a dad and you don't have any sons, go get this book. There's plenty as a guy that you need to know that you weren't taught in school. Then buy a book for your friends that do have sons. Make sure you have a copy to give to your future son-in-law. It's a book you'll want to come back to over and over again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Should Churches Be Allowed to Use School Buildings?

It's a commonplace occurrence among newer churches. They don't have a building of their own so they rent space that is not in use on Sunday. Often, they will rent public school buildings since they would otherwise sit empty. But a case that is likely headed to the Supreme Court may decide whether such usage is constitutional under the First Amendment (Hat tip: Christianity Today):

The three judges on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel who heard a Bronx congregation's challenge to the policy each issued a separate opinion. One judge of Bronx House hold of Faith v. Board of Education ruled in favor of the church; another decided in favor of the Board of Education's anti-church policy; a third found the case was not yet ready for review. As a result, the church may continue to use the school building pending further appeal.

The case likely prompted such division because of the question, more theological than legal, at its center: What is worship? The legal significance of the question hangs on a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the court held that schools allowing use of their campus after hours by secular groups could not then exclude religious groups from conducting religious instruction or discussion on school grounds.

But in the 2001 case, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the federal high court appeared to draw a distinction between religiously oriented lessons and outright worship, leaving it to federal judges across the country to grapple with whether schools were permitted to ban on-campus worship services. Ruling that such blocks are legally permissible a judge on the Second Circuit panel nominated by President Clinton, Guido Calabresi, declared worship to be a form of speech incomparable to all others. By separating out all worship, Judge Calabresi, concluded that the Board of Education's policy against it does not discriminate against a particular viewpoint — which would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment — but instead justified the Board's content-based distinction.

A second judge, John Walker Jr., who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, rejected that distinction and accused Judge Calabresi of relying "more on judicial legerdemain than judicial reasoning." "The fact is," Judge Walker wrote, "that none of us who are judges are competent to offer a legal definition of worship." Judge Walker said that the Board of Education could not prohibit congregations from gaining access to public schools for worship without violating their First Amendment rights.

Although vehemently opposed to Judge Calabresi's outcome, Judge Walker seems hesitant of his own conclusion, writing his approach is "admittedly imperfect in this uncertain legal terrain." The dispute could, Judge Walker wrote, "benefit from a more conclusive resolution" by the Supreme Court.

New York City's policy prohibits churches from using public school buildings for worship services. Bronx Household of Faith had filed suit in order to continue to meet in the school. The central question is whether the church's use of the school violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Establishment Clause states the following: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". At first blush, the language appears fairly plain. Permitting a church to meet in a school does not equate to establishment of religion since there is no specific requirement for citizens to participate in worship at that church or become a member of the church. But given the convoluted rulings that have come down from the Supreme Court recently particularly in these types of cases, it's entirely possible that the Court will uphold the city ordinance.

Although the ruling from the 2nd Circuit fails to resolve the issue, Judge Walker is correct in that more guidance is needed from the Court in order to decide the issue at hand. It will be interesting to see whether the Court decides to hear the case and use it to provide some clarity for Establishment Clause cases. Given the rulings handed down at the end of the current term, it's more likely that they will hand down a ruling in favor of the church without addressing the fundamental flaws of the relevant precedent cases.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

David Eckstein: Getting More From Less Talent

David Eckstein, shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, is not the most talented guy in the major leagues. He does, however, get more from the talent he has been given than any other player in baseball. This is due to both his work ethic and his faith as Marvin Olasky explains:

Eckstein, the MVP of last year's World Series and also the shortest athlete on the field, at a generously measured 5-foot-7, is not without talent: He can hit a curveball, which Michael Jordan, a foot taller, could not. But his work ethic and faith sustain him. When I asked him about his success before a game last month, he responded, "Just keep working, working, working, and don't worry. If you start worrying in this game, everything becomes even harder. Work is your friend. Worry is your enemy."

Question: How does he keep from worrying in a sport where a player can hit the ball perfectly and still make an out? Eckstein explained, "I'm not as big as the other guys, so I've always known that I had to work real hard. But even with all that, I couldn't do anything without God. It's all Him. Let Him take control. If I go 0-for-4, I just keep working hard and praying. I'm not anxious because I know it will turn out all right My faith in Jesus is everything to me. You have to understand that He's working in His way. I've got to do everything possible to be prepared, and then to let Him take over."

Be sure to read the whole article. It's a great profile of a truly classy guy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

For many folks, the Fourth of July has come to mean fireworks, a day off from work, and the backyard barbecue. But as we continue to fight the long war against those who seek to destroy us, it's worthwhile to reflect upon the words that brought these great United States into being 231 years ago: The Declaration of Independence.

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more
disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the
necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The
history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute
Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and
we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

NBC, Al Gore, and the Fairness Doctrine

Fox News' John Gibson made a great point during his commentary today at the end of his show The Big Story about NBC's plans to televise 75 hours of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts starting this weekend:

What is NBC doing airing dozens of hours of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts this coming weekend? And why are the Fairness Doctrine proponents of the Democrat Party not objecting to this outright gift of unequal time to just one side of a controversial issue?

NBC is reportedly airing hours of the concerts — hours upon hours — on and through various NBC platforms. Al Gore is the chairman of the Live Earth project. NBC is a company which is owned by a corporation which must declare its political contributions.

Does anybody think the Live Earth concerts are not a political statement by Gore's supporters that will end up benefiting Al Gore? Does anybody think Al Gore isn't running for president? I know he's said he's not, and every time I get a Democrat analyst sitting next to me, he or she says he's not. But it sure looks like he's running to me.

Look at the field. Hillary's got the big "mo" and the big Bill. Barack has the big pile of cash. There is a chance they will bash each other to a pulp.

Meanwhile, Gore sits on the sidelines. Remember he's a saint to the left. Remember he won in 2000. You do remember that, don't you? If you have forgotten, just ask a Democrat.

You do recall he was the original Bush hater. Didn't like Bush, didn't like the war. He's been calling for us to come home before we even touched home base in Baghdad.

Plus this whole deal about the planet melting. Gore is the left's guy, and he plays to his base.

So what's NBC doing giving Gore so many hours of airtime on NBC owned and operated television operations? Does this constitute a political contribution of free airtime? Do the people who want the return of the Fairness Doctrine think NBC should be forced to give equal time to me and let me argue against Al Gore?

I don’t think so.

That's My Word.

It's ironic to me that the same liberals who have made so much noise about resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine are silent about the real issues that providing such an abundance of coverage on this one issue presents. Plus there's the fact that even though Al Gore says he's not a candidate for President, he's certainly acting like one.

NBC, which already earned a well-deserved black eye for being willing to pay money for high-profile interviews (think Paris Hilton) apparently doesn't see a problem with overt issue and candidate advocacy. I suppose it's not a problem for them as long as it's a liberal Democrat that they are putting all over their networks. Then again, I learned a long time ago that NBC, like the rest of the "mainstream" media is much more biased than many, especially liberals, are willing to admit.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scooter Libby's Commuted Sentence

President Bush stepped in just as former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was about to head to jail and commuted his sentence:

President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case Monday, stepping into a criminal case with heavy political overtones on grounds that the sentence was just too harsh.

Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."

Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."

Democrats, predictably, were quick to criticize the President's decision:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mi.) released a statement saying that "until now, it appeared that the President merely turned a blind eye to a high ranking administration official leaking classified information. The President's action today makes it clear that he condones such activity. This decision is inconsistent with the rule of law and sends a horrible signal to the American people and our intelligence operatives who place their lives at risk everyday."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added that "the President's decision to commute Mr. Libby's sentence is disgraceful. Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."

In the end, it appears that the President made the right call. Regardless of what he decided to do about Libby, he was going to be criticized. If he did nothing, conservatives would be on his back for not pardoning someone who was caught in the middle of a dubious criminal investigation. If he pardoned Libby outright, he would have heard much more whining from liberals. In the end, he showed respect for the rule of law by allowing Libby's fine and probation to stand. In President Bush's mind, Libby did commit perjury even if the underlying case (the Valerie Plame leak case) had very little merit. Libby still deserved to be punished and now that punishment seems to be just about right.