Friday, November 21, 2008

No more dumping your teenagers

Nebraska has put an age limit of 30-days for children who can be abandoned at hospitals under the state's safe haven law. That's because almost three-dozen children, mostly adolescents, have been surrendered to the state at Nebraska hospitals since July. The safe haven law allows parents to abandon their children at hospitals with no penalty. Some of the kids were driven or flown in from states as far-flung as Michigan and Florida. Can you imagine that vacation?

One wonders why states have made it so difficult to put children in foster care or mental health programs that parents feel compelled to rush the process by abandoning them.

The whole situation also reminds me of how our society -- human society in general -- has turned procreation into an idol. Even among people who don't buy into the anti-birth control teachings of various religions tend to talk about procreation as if it is the be-all and end-all of human existence.* I am at an age when many of my peers are procreating, or trying with all their might and the assistance of medical technology to procreate. In all but a few cases, they seem to be doing it with a vague, naive and unarticulated assumption that they will have wonderful, well-behaved, healthy children who will bring them joy that is, for the most part, uninterrupted by the selfishness, solipsism, and semi-sadistic tendencies that are a natural part of childhood -- not to mention the violence, mental illness, and chronic or fatal health conditions that, while not universal, are common risks of the human condition.

I'm not saying that every parent who dropped a kid off at a Nebraska hospital had this kind of naivete about parenthood, but it would be a statistical anomaly if none of them did. And so parents and children both become victims of the cult of family.

It's not that no one should ever have children. But I do wish parenthood were more often undertaken with the same forethought and weighing of pros and cons that other major decisions are. While a person can't anticipate every problem that might arise, I think it's important for potential parents to ask themselves how far they are willing and able to go in nurturing other human beings** from infancy to adulthood.

*It is, but only if you believe that our sole purpose on earth is to propogate the species at all costs; an extremely materialist and anti-spiritual argument if I've ever heard one.
** Because it could be triplets, even if you're only planning to have one!

What I've been saying all along

At least ultra-conservatives and I agree on one thing.

Cool air bags

Check out this cool exterior airbag a Swedish auto company designed to protect cyclists in crashes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quote of the day

"It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace." Andre Gide

Good chocolate

A week or so ago I posted a New York Times article about a cocoa cooperative in Ecuador that is producing dramatic improvements in the member-farmers' community. Whole Foods now carries the chocolate, but it might be more apropos to search for it in your local natural foods co-op, should it have survived the Whole Foods onslaught.

Dick Cheney indicted

Dick Cheney's finally been indicted, but not for Guantanamo or Iraq or handing the country over to fascism. He's charged with organized criminal activity related to for-profit prison companies that he has interest in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New windows

I got new, triple-pane windows on Friday. It's so strange going upstairs now. There's no longer a breeze blowing through.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Speaking of dignity

In Madison last week, a man was murdered in a fight at a local park. He didn't have to die, given that two people called in noise complaints to 911 an hour earlier, and more than one noise complaint about the same incident is supposed to trigger the dispatch of police officers. Afterward, our only surviving print daily published a narrow-viewed article about the victim. To summarize: The guy was an unemployed drunk, so it wouldn't happen to you, a reader of newspapers -- and besides, he doesn't matter anyway.

I think I was more offended by the newspaper article than by the video of James Dobson speaking at an anti-gay rally in California two weeks ago. I don't expect newspapers to print reminder that each and every one of us is a child of God. But it certainly evaded its journalistic duties by defining this man as a stereotype.

The article fails to mention that Mark Gregory Johnson worked for the same employer for 14 years, until it went out of business two years ago. It fails to mention that he had friends, family, and a cat. It fails to mention that he was a human being, although I'm sure the reporter would argue that piece of information was self-evident.

It also fails to mention that, "dear reader, it could happen to you since virtually every Wisconsinite is a drunk by definition and the unemployment rate sure is rising, isn't it?"

I am appalled at the thought of his family opening the paper to read this crap. They had to place an obituary to get the rest of the story told.

Shame and regret

I was glad today to read that 1,000 protestors gathered outside of Saddleback Church yesterday to express their disenchantment with Rick Warren and his support of Proposition 8, which revoked the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

I hope Rick Warren, or at least some of his congregants who have agreed with him on the issue, are beginning to experience shame and regret* over how they have allowed themselves to be used as tools to promote a bigoted and worldly** agenda that seeks to rob people of their God-given dignity. Rick Warren obviously has a heart and wishes, inasmuch as a human being might ever wish, to serve the greater good. But he has certainly allowed himself to be misled on this one.

*Given Obama's election on Tuesday, I am re-inclined to believe that all sorts of good are possible this side of heaven.
**"Worldy" is the Christian's polite way of saying "Satanic" -- and, being a Midwesterner, I am inclined to be polite.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Better than morning coffee

Dar Ward has a nice preview of the Victoria Policy Institute's “Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis: Techniques, Estimates, and Implications.” It has inspired me to perhaps actually read the document, although I must admit I prefer watching videos of cyclists during Copenhagen's rush hour as inspiration. Alas, watching videos alone will not get us from here to there.

The Green Wave in Copenhagen from Colville Andersen on Vimeo.

(If you watch the video, here are my three comments: Notice how few stops signs and red lights the cyclist has to stop for. Notice that there is room to pass in the cycling lane. And how no one rides their bicycle on the sidewalk -- a better deal all around for peds and cyclists.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Every cloud with a silver lining has a touch of grey

I refused to watch television on Tuesday night, listen to the radio, or go on the Web. I didn't want election news interfering with my sleep, and one never knows when the results will come in or whether they will effect the future. After all, Gore won in 2000 but did not become president, and the final decision was not declared Tuesday night or Wednesday or Thursday or ... And I couldn't watch in 2004 without thinking "but the story could be different tomorrow." So I went on a news blackout.

On Wednesday morning, N told me that I would have to look at the paper sooner or later. I didn't want to, but I did. OBAMA NEXT PRESIDENT, it said.

Always one to look for the touch of gray, I immediately started flipping through the paper to confirm my prediction that California's Proposition 8 would pass. Alas, it was still undecided, so I didn't have that news to ruin my day, either.

So I quickly turned my thoughts to the current president and the likelihood that he would mark this historic occasion with a hissy fit before leaving office. I find that The New York Times editorial board thinks a lot like me.

Despite my best efforts at protective cynicism, I was prone to attacks of hopeful thought throughout the day. My mom was in the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and even after the "I Have a Dream" speech never thought she'd see the day when Americans would elect a black president. Yet she has. And I fear that I will never see the day when the majority of evangelical Christians will reject idolatry and bigotry and instead embrace their neighbors in the humble way that Christ himself did, but maybe I will.

I imagine James Dobson has been sobbing on and off for the past day or so in fear that Proposition 8 has passed and the wrath of his god may be held back from California. But even he has some hope. The ACLU (may God bless them) is bringing the case to the California Supreme Court that the amendment process was not in accordance with California's constitution. According to that state's founding document, an amendment that substantially alters constitutional principals must be approved by the California legislature before it goes to ballot. The ACLU argues that, by removing civil rights from a minority group (marriage rights were recognized as civil rights by the California Supreme Court in May), the amendment alters the substance of the constitution.

A similar case succeeded in 1990. In that case, California voters had approved a constitutional amendment that limited the rights the state could grant to criminal defendants. The state's Supreme Court struck down the amendment because it altered the essential meaning of the Constitution and, as such, needed to go through the more rigorous process of legislative and popular approval.

If the ACLU succeeds, Dobson can have the glee of anticipating California's complete destruction. And, since he will die long before that happens*, he can enjoy the thought for the rest of his life.

*Yes, you read it here first. I predict that James Dobson will indeed die in the normal way that all humans, including Christ, have done, and not be part of a Rapture in which he is swept up into heaven without ever experiencing death. If I am wrong, I will undoubtedly be left behind in punishment for my detraction, and any of you who have not been swept up can gloat. Actually, those of you who have been swept up can gloat, too, as you watch me from up there on your clouds and spit on my head.