Monday, January 19, 2009

Thank You Rep. Franks

I'm not talking Barny Frank here. Please read the comments of Representative Trent Franks from Arizona. They are reprinted below in their entirety.

All I can add is:

Thank you Representative Franks for your moral clarity and courageous position. I wish my congressional representative saw things as clearly as you do.

January 9, 2009 – Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) today made the following remarks on the House Floor in support of Israel, in light of the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

Mr. Speaker, the most fundamental purpose for any government is its national defense and the protection of its citizens. I stand here today in heartfelt support for Israel and its right to defend its innocent citizens from the attacks of a relentless enemy that seeks its destruction.

The conflict unfolding in Israel's heartland today is not unfamiliar to the Israeli people. Since its establishment in 1948, the tiny State of Israel— 22 of which could fit into our state of California— has faced enemies on every side that openly oppose its right to exist and actively work to bring about its destruction.

Indeed, Israel has never known a reality where its very existence was not threatened by this insidious ideology called jihad; an ideology so sinister as to make men and women leap for joy at killing their own children in order to be able to kill the children of others— whether that means flying commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center, or sending a Qassam rocket into the side of a bus carrying small children to school.

Mr. Speaker, in Imperial China, there was a terrible form of execution known as death by a thousand cuts. It was an unspeakably cruel demonstration meant to terrify observers into submission. Israel is fighting to stop the "death by a thousand cuts" strategy used by Hamas to inflict constant, incessant destruction and terror on the Israeli citizens— and the nation of Israel has acted nobly for the sake of innocent Israelis as well as innocent Palestinian civilians to justly refuse to allow the bloodletting to continue.

Hamas was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States in 1995, and it is a known proxy of the Iranian regime which openly seeks to see Israel wiped from the face of the earth. The governing charter of Hamas openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, with the goal of raising the banner of jihad over every square inch of Israel.

And still time after time, Mr. Speaker, Israel has acted in good faith and has extended gestures of goodwill toward its Palestinian neighbors and Hamas, including its complete disengagement from the Gaza strip in 2005, and its commitment to target only military installations, despite the routine attacks against its own women and children on almost a daily basis.

In all of its conflicts, Israel seeks to minimize civilian causalities; Hamas seeks to maximize them.

Hamas has broken every ceasefire agreement and every honorable rule of war by deliberately embedding their terrorist militants and weapons caches in the homes of private citizens, and in schools, hospitals, and mosques; and Hamas has repeatedly used innocent Palestinian civilians as human shields while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians.

There is no moral equivalence here, Mr. Speaker.

Hamas and Israel are guided by two completely opposite philosophies; one is committed to equality and human dignity under God, and one is committed to a totalitarian ideology of hatred and intolerance. One is devoted to protecting innocent human life, and one commands its destruction.

When a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas last June, Hamas used the opportunity to build up its stockpiles of rockets and other weapons that now threaten approximately one million Israelis.

And now, Mr. Speaker, in a struggle for peace and survival, Israel is once again forced to carry out defensive action against Hamas in order to stop the terrorizing of its innocent civilians.

And once again, certain members of the international community are calling on Israel to exercise "restraint."

Mr. Speaker, if 6000 rockets had fallen on an American city over a space of four years, what would we say to anyone who called upon us to restrain ourselves in and effort to protect our own citizens?

If those same members of the international community who so harshly criticize Israel for its defensive actions had to suffer for one week under these indiscriminate, incessant attacks against their own families and loved ones, as Israel has done for decades, I would submit that the lairs of Hamas would have been made ashes once and for all long ago.

Charles Krauthammer recently wrote in the Washington Post something I wish every world leader could understand. He said, "Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare, but excruciating."

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with his words more.

If the beleaguered Jewish people have learned anything in their struggles for survival over the millennia against enemies who have sought their complete annihilation, it is, as one Holocaust survivor said, when someone says they intend to kill you, believe them.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah stated that, “We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take from them. We will win because the Jews love life, and we love death.”

Wael Al-Zarad, a Hamas cleric, said "As Muslims, our blood vengeance against them will only subside with their annihilation..."

And Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi gave this mandate to jihadists on Hamas TV: "...We say to you: Dispatch those sons of apes and pigs to the Hellfire on the wings of the Qassam rockets. Jihad is our path... This is our strategic option, and not peace. ...They [the Jews] deserve to be killed. They deserve to die. You should not care if you hit a man, a woman, or a child. ...Destroy... everything...."

What horrifying words, Mr. Speaker, even when we hear them in the safe enclaves of our own homes and work places in America. But for the people of Israel, such words mean terror and death.

Mr. Speaker, America's enemies and Israel's enemies are the same. Both of us face the reality of radical Islamic jihadists, who would see our nations wiped from the face of the earth. Both of nations have been struck deeply, and in Israel's case, repeatedly, by this same evil ideology, that murdered Olympic athletes in 1972, that took American hostages in Iran, that murdered Marines in their barracks in 1993, that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, Riyadh in 1995, the Khobar Towers in 1996, the embassy in 1998, and the USS Cole in 2000. And then, Mr. Speaker, this murderess ideology massacred nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11.

And this enemy makes little distinction between those who support Israel, and Israel itself. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, we must realize that an attack on Israel is an attack on America and freedom itself.

Listen to the words of Sheikh Ahmad Bahr, Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He said, "America and Israel will be annihilated ....kill them all, down to the very last one."

Mr. Speaker, any policy of the United Nations or the United States must articulate three concepts as prerequisites to any agreement reached between Israel and Hamas. It must reject any moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel; it must place the blame for this current conflict squarely on the shoulders of Hamas; and it must clearly restate that America's commitment to the State of Israel remains unshakeable.

We stand with Israel not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans and fellow members of the human family, equal heirs of those unalienable gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which we recognize as basic human freedoms. We stand with the innocent people of Israel who have been terrorized on a daily basis, some for as long as they can remember— and we also stand with the courageous Palestinian souls who also long for freedom and peace with their Israeli neighbors.

Mr. Speaker, President Harry Truman, who formally recognized the State of Israel only 11 minutes after Israel had declared its independence, said: "I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization."Mr. Speaker, we recognize those words to be true and believe that the cause of liberty will prevail in the land of Israel as it has before; and that Israel does indeed have a glorious future yet before it.

Throughout its history the hand of God has been upon Israel, and today we join in solidarity with the State of Israel and its people, with innocent Palestinians, and with all who love peace and freedom, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Henry Wallace Lives Again

The 1948 presidential election pitted incumbent Harry Truman against Thomas Dewey. Nobody expected Truman to win. The MSM was pulling for Dewey, the Republican. Times certainly have changed. But that's not what I want to talk about.

There was a third party candidate, Henry Wallace. His organization was, "Henry Wallace's Progressive Citizens of America." How progressive was Wallace? According to David McCullough, in his biography of Truman, on pages 645-646,
Wallace refused to repudiate his Communist support. He would not repudiate any suport that came to him, he said, "on the basis of interest in peace."
The Progressive platform that emerged from the convention was virtually no different from the Communist Party platform in its denunciation of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the new draft law, and called for the destruction of American nuclear weapons, which were still the only nuclear weapons known to exist.
Later, on page 667, McCullough writes,
. . . his (Wallace's) main theme remaining constant throughout: the Progressive Party was "the peace party" that would end the Cold War through direct negotiations with the Soviet Union.

And in two days, Obama will be sworn in as president.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

More to Worry About

From the Department of Too Much Time on Their Hands, comes a disturbing report that Newbery-winning books are most often about white boys. It's disturbing to me because I'd always thought that these awards should be based on literary merit. Are we to expect Affirmative Action Newberys?

Figuring prominently in this article is the book, Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis.
In "Bud, Not Buddy," author Christopher Paul Curtis tells the story of a Depression-era black boy in Flint. The book won the Newbery Medal, the top prize in children's literature, eight years ago.

It was the last time a black character had the lead role in a Newbery book. If you want a Hispanic protagonist, you have to go back 43 years.

Characters depicted in Newbery winners are more likely to be white and male and to come from two-parent households than the average U.S. child, according to a Brigham Young University study. The trend has accelerated even as the United States has diversified, with fewer black and Hispanic main characters in the past 27 years than in the civil rights era of 1951-79.
Bud, Not Buddy is a really good book. I read it at least twice, once to a class. It deserves all of the praise that it gets. But it won on merit, not because the main character and author are black.
We are going to have a black president -- literature should catch up," National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie said. Alexie won the award for his 2007 "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," a semiautobiographical novel about a teen growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation.
What is it that literature should catch up to? Demagoguery? Shallowness? Empty promises?
To be sure, only about 10% of new children's books published last year focused on minorities, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a library that serves the university's School of Education.

The number of books about minorities has remained around 10% since 1992, said Kathleen Horning, the center's director.
This looks like a job for - OBAMA MAN! Only he can insure that more stories are written about minority children! And are awarded for it!

But more troubles abound.
The last book with a Hispanic protagonist to win a Newbery Medal was "Shadow of a Bull," by Maia Wojciechowska, in 1965. The book dealt with a young Spanish boy's struggle to follow in the footsteps of his slain bullfighter father.

Newbery Medal winners also depict disproportionately fewer characters living in single-parent households than the norm, the study found. About a quarter of all U.S. children now live with one parent, compared with 7% of the Newbery protagonists in the past 27 years.
It's time to categorize the Newberys, or perhaps institute a quota system. Whose turn is it this year? Blacks? Hipanics? Kids from single parent families? Left-handed Oriental dyslexic transgendered girls? Or would they be transgendered boys? I'm never sure.
"Maybe the ALA should just describe the Newbery award as awarded to the writer of the best book about white, two-parent households," said Julia Alvarez, a Dominican American and a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, who said she is thrilled about the award but is also frustrated because there is still a long way to go. She won the American Library Association's Pura Belpre Award, as well as the Americas Award for "Before We Were Free," which tells the story of a 12-year-old girl whose family is involved in resistance work in the Dominican Republic against the Trujillo dictatorship in 1960.
That's nice, but was Alvarez' book Newbery quality? Sounds like award envy to me.
Only one book wins the Newbery Medal each year, but the association names Newbery Honor winners, an accolade a number of minority writers have received. In 2008, Jacqueline Woodson's "Feathers" and Christopher Paul Curtis's "Elijah of Buxton" were named Honor Books. Both authors are black.

"The honor books are winners too," Scales said. "We have to look at the whole spectrum. We now give the Pura Belpre Award, which is strictly for Latino writers and illustrators."
That's right, everyone is a winner. There are no losers here!
Likewise, since 1982, the library association has given the Coretta Scott King Award to black authors and illustrators depicting a sense of the African-American experience in their work.

"Pura Belpre started in 1996 and was originally given every other year because there weren't enough books by Latino authors and illustrators," Scales said. "That's changing, and starting in 2009, the association will give the award annually."

"We are not just writing Latino books, we are writing stories for all of us," Alvarez said. "Sometimes there are these lags. The same thing happens in academia; minority writers, Afro Americans, women are taught in specialized courses, such as the Survey of Women's Literature. ... That is slowly changing, and the canon itself is more diverse. Boy, I can't believe it's 2008 and we're still having this kind of conversation."
So maybe part of the problem, and the reason "we are still having this conversation", is that some authors are writing "ethnic" books instead of literature. Perhaps they are so consumed with one ethnic, racial, or other sliver of society that they have limited their audience. The balkanization of literature in academia has hurt both literature and education.

One final word: In 1991, Oren Bell, by Barbara Hood Burgess was published to excellent reviews. There was grumbling from some though because Burgess is white and she dared write about black kids in Detroit. So, are authors allowed to write about groups they don't belong to? If a white author wins a Newbery for a book about a minority child, have we "caught up?"

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Entering into an Alternate Reality

Michael told me about a meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace. Actually, he described it at first as a pro-Palestinian meeting. I went with him. Michael likes to debate people, and he described it as "crashing" their meeting. And they certainly were pro-Palestinian.

The first and most important thing you need to know about Jewish Voice for Peace is that they are a bunch of truly twisted, deluded lunatics. They are communists, 9/11 truthers, conspiracy theorists, terror apologists, absolutely deranged, and morally deficient in their outlook on life. Yes, they are Jewish, but - and I hate to say this - they are anti-Semitic.

This meeting turned out to be a slide presentation of one woman's visit to Judea and Samaria. She was given a tour by some local Muslims living there. She swallowed every anti-Israel canard they fed her. She showed slides of the separation barrier and told us how Israelis threw garbage over the wall from their side - oh, I forgot to mention, according to her presentation, it was a 24 foot high wall the garbage was being thrown over. I guess those Israelis have really good arms. And determination. That would be quite a throw.

There were photos of where Palestinian olive groves used to be - according to the Palestinian handlers - but now they've been replaced by pine forests or housing. And then there are the Jewish only roads that go through the West Bank. On this one she was corrected by one of her own. They are Israeli only roads. Not all Israelis are Jewish. Over a million of them are - gasp - Muslims. And how many Jews are allowed to live freely in Muslim nations? But she continued throughout her presentation to refer to the "Jewish only roads."

According to this woman, these were only a few pieces of the Israeli's arbitrary cruelty to the poor downtrodden Palestinians. Apparently, the Palestinians have no freedom whatsoever. The Israelis keep randomly changing the rules on them and shooting them if they disobey. She showed a photo of two "martyrs". One was shot when he stuck his head out of his door to see if the arbitrarily placed 24/7 curfew had been lifted. Apparently it hadn't . The other was a child who was shot when the IDF was target practicing. Somebody missed. Strangely enough there were no photos of the martyrs who are really celebrated by Palestinians, homicide bombers.

This idiotic morally bankrupt woman believed everything she was told, no questions asked. And so did the audience . . . well . . . almost all of the audience.

The problem was, there was so much BS being continuously presented, it was difficult to find a starting point. I was astounded at the total and complete demonization of Israel by a Jewish organization. I don't know if everyone in the room was Jewish, but - well - they did advertise themselves as Jewish voices. And they believed and repeated gleefully every lie they were told. Nothing was put in context or questioned. Yes, the separation barrier is an eyesore, but shouldn't we be asking how many Israelis are still alive because of it? And who is really clamping down on Palestinian freedom? Have they ever known freedom living under Fatah rule? Somehow I doubt it. The Muslim world is not exactly known for its freedom of the press.

And that is why The Jewish Voice for Peace is anti-Semitic. They can criticize Israel. Anyone can. And if it's done honestly, it is political debate. But they were as honest as Hamas, as honest as every Jew-hater who is marching through cities throughout the world carrying Palestinian flags, wearing keffiyahs (and yes, there were two at this meeting), and yelling for the "liberation of Palestine" and for the Jews to "go back to the ovens." I was waiting for the woman to claim (and I was thinking of asking) that Israelis use the blood of Palestinian children to bake their Passover matzohs.

What I wanted to ask, but didn't get the chance, is if it is true as they present it, that Israel is the most evil country on Earth. After all, as they claim, the Palestinians have good reason for their "resistance" - (and yes, that was also anti-Semitic because it is a lie, as any glance at history and the charters of Fatah and Hamas will show) then it's OK to murder Jews. I wanted to bring up the fact that just as they excuse the murder of Jews by Muslims, all through history somebody somewhere has tried to justify the murder of the Jewish community. Jewish Voice for Peace is merely a link in the age-old chain of Jew-hatred.

If Jews aren't killing Christ, they're "desecrating the host" or poisoning the wells during the plague years, or plotting to take over the world, or working as money lenders, or practicing ritual murder, or- you get the idea. Watching a roomful of Jews buy into the pathology of Jew-hatred was troubling and bizarre. I know that every person in that room would vehemently deny being a Jew hater. I'm guessing they would claim to be insulted because they're Jewish and that they are anti-Zionist. But no matter how your slice it, it's still the same age-old sickness.

In the days before the meeting, I had planned on bringing a pen and paper to take notes. In all of the weather-related weirdness of the day, I forgot, so this is all from memory. These dopes made an unusually strong impression on me, and I took a few notes when I got home. I needed to remember this event.

During the Q & A, Michael's was the first question. I don't remember exactly what he asked, but he was quite dismissive of the presentation and condemned the lack of context and honesty. He became unpopular very quickly and many insults were shouted at him. One woman who wasn't shouted down, gave a long nonsensical tirade about elections in Ann Arbor. While some people around me grumbled under their breath, nobody tried to stop her. She went on for five minutes or so and I'm not sure what her point was, although it had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Another woman got up to explain that the only thing that will solve this problem is the overthrow of capitalism and the patriarchy. At least she was brief in her idiocy.

A couple of guys wanted me to buy copies of Revolution, a newspaper put out by the Revolutionary Communist Party (find it yourself if you want, I'm not linking to these psychopaths). I asked questions about the obvious anti-Israel propaganda photo on the cover that showed a wounded man on a bed and three healthy babies on the next bed. Neither sales rep could answer. And they wouldn't stand up for the paper's trivialization of the Holocaust in one of their articles, since we know, and the JVP will back me up on this, that every time Israel defends itself, somebody screams about a new Holocaust.

We had other conversation with other audience members. One woman went on for a while trying to convince me of the conspiracies behind the JFK assassination and the fall of the Twin Towers. It was a controlled demolition, you know.

Now I'm torn between amazement that people can allow themselves to be so deluded, and anger that there are Jews so morally warped that they let themselves believe lies, and they are walking the streets of my home town.

This is truly a demonstration that evil never dies, it merely adapts and changes form so that it will become not only palatable, but welcome to some in the every generation. The fight never ends.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interim Post

I went to a meeting of the Detroit area Jewish Voices for Peace this past Saturday. I've been to busy to write about these morally defective, terror supporting, useful idiot, dhimmis in training, but I hope to get to it this weekend. I'll also be finishing report cards so there are no guarantees.

In the meantime, here's a cartoon I found interesting.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words and Then Some

Jungle Mom always has a great selection of Saturday morning cartoons from around the Web. This week she ran some Dry Bones. One cartoon in particular, hit me.

I've had this argument with people. Yes, most of the world is currently outraged that Israel dare defend itself against the terrorist thugs of Hamas. If you've seen some of the videos of protests in London, Ft. Lauderdale, and San Francisco, you have to ask, is the majority always right? When it comes to moral issues, I say, absolutely not. During an argument once, I was asked, "You mean, Israel and the United States are right and the rest of the world is wrong?" I said, "Yes." There was no answer.

Israel is still right. We've welcomed a lot of Islamic antisemitism into the United States though, just as they have in Europe. The more of it we allow, and it's already expressed in the videos, the more of it we will have. There is an unwillingness among most people to admit that we've invited something hateful and poisonous to dwell among us. Rather than fight it, because that takes vision and effort, a lot of people are joining it. It's easier to scapegoat the Jews than to battle the real enemy. As always, in the end, it won't be only the Jews who suffer. Fight back, we must.

For more Dry Bones, visit The Dry Bones Project. It's worth you time.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

How Words Cast Their Spell

I have a friend who teachers higher level math at a local big-time university. Sometimes we talk about the current state of education. He turned me on to this article from the current issue of American Educator. I highly recommend it to those of you who are interested in reading, writing, and spelling instruction. I knew most of this stuff already, and you homeschoolers probably know it too. But to see it expressed out in the open, without apologies, as if it's become OK to challenge the educational status quo; that was exciting!

Here's a lengthy excerpt. It's a lengthy scholarly article, but I highly recommend reading the whole thing . . . if you're interested in teaching reading. The only quibble I have is that the pace they recommend can be a lot faster, as it is with Riggs.
More recent studies, however, do not support the notion that visual memory is the key to good spelling.6 Several researchers
have found that rote visual memory for letter strings is limited to
two or three letters in a word.7 In addition, studies of the errors children make indicate that something other than visual memory
is at work. If children relied on visual memory for spelling, regular
words (e.g., stamp, sing, strike) and irregular words that are
similar in length and frequency (e.g., sword, said, enough) should
be misspelled equally often. But they are not. Children misspell
irregular words more often than regular words.8
So, if words aren’t memorized visually, how do we spell? That
will be thoroughly explained later in this article. For now, here’s
the short answer: Webster was right not just on the importance
of spelling, but on how to teach it too. Spelling is a linguistic task
that requires knowledge of sounds and letter patterns. Unlike
poor spellers, who fail to make such connections, good spellers
develop insights into how words are spelled based on soundletter
correspondences,† meaningful parts of words (like the root
bio and the suffix logy), and word origins and history.9 This
knowledge, in turn, supports a specialized memory system—
memory for letters in words. The technical term for this is “orthographic
memory,” and it’s developed in tandem with awareness
of a word’s internal structure—its sounds, syllables, meaningful
parts, oddities, history, and so forth. Therefore, explicit instruction
in language structure, and especially sound structure, is
essential to learning to spell.

Don’t Students Learn to Spell through
Flashcards and Writing Words?

Given both the widespread belief that English spelling is irregular
and the previous studies that stressed visual memory for words, it’s no surprise that many teachers teach spelling by writing
words on flashcards and exposing students to them many
times or by having students write words 5 to 10 times. Unfortunately,
the effectiveness of such methods is not well established.
In contrast, studies show that spelling instruction based on the
sounds of language produces good results. For example, to test
whether a visual approach or language-based method is better,
researchers taught spelling to typical second graders using two
different methods: a visual method and a method in which students
focused on correspondences between sounds and letters.10
After administering lists of words as spelling tests, these investigators
drew the attention of the visual group to their errors, wrote
the correct spellings on flashcards, and showed children the correct
spellings. In contrast, the children in the language-based
group were given instruction on the sounds involved in their
misspellings. The group that received the language-based spelling
instruction showed significantly greater progress than the
visual group. Similarly, another researcher, after examining five
successful spelling instructional approaches for children with
learning disabilities, observed that the successful programs had
one thing in common: they were all based on structured language
instruction that explicitly taught principles like soundletter
correspondences.11 Researchers also have found that
second and third graders at risk of literacy problems improved
their spelling (as well as their word recognition, handwriting,
and composition skills) after structured spelling instruction
based on the concept that speech sounds are represented by
letters in printed words (i.e., the alphabetic principle).12 And a
series of studies showed that training in phonological awareness
(i.e., awareness of the sounds that make up language) improved
the spelling and reading of children in low-income, inner-city schools. The training was especially effective among the lowestperforming
children.13 In sum, these and other studies have
found that effective spelling instruction explicitly teaches students
sound-spelling patterns. Students are taught to think about
language, allowing them to learn how to spell—not just memorize

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