Willful ignorance?

A recent Harris poll shows what American respondents believe about the following issues:

  • 61% believe that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to U.S. security
  • 64% believe that Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda
  • 47% believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
  • 44% believe that Several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis

Not a Christian nation

This article in The Nation offers a nice, succint summary of the religious beliefs of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the United States. Suffice it to say that anyone who claims the U.S. was founded on Christian principles does not know or is ignoring historical fact.

Laughing stock…

This is something you have to actually hear to appreciate (I heard it on NPR yesterday): at a news conference at the European Union yesterday, President Bush was asked about the US’s intentions in regard to Iran. Mr. Bush responded: “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.”
There was a very short pause, and then the press corps started laughing.

Religious Fiction

Yesterday, I browsed in Barnes and Noble, and noticed that they now have a ‘Religious Fiction’ section (thanks to this, I assume)–located, of course, next to ‘Christian Inspriation’, not near real fiction.

Facts about abortion

This short editorial in The Christian Century argues, with sound evidence, that the best way to reduce the incidence of abortion is to make it legal and safe:

The countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world are Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal and covered by national health insurance…
Judging by abortion rates, one would have to conclude that what Bush (following Pope John Paul II) calls a “culture of life” is actually flourishing more in Western Europe than in Latin America. And there are reasons for this. Belgian and Dutch women are well educated about contraceptives and have access to them…The Belgians and Dutch can also rely on generous government provisions for health care, child care and parental leave, which means raising a child is a more sustainable prospect…
Such evidence suggests that most people will choose against abortion if other ways of regulating family size are available. They will also choose against abortion if they have some confidence that the community around them will help them with medical care and child care.

Valentine’s Day

With the help of my geeky co-workers (and Carolyn, who’s not a geek), I made this valentine for Katie yesterday.
The guy on the end is our graphic designer and a known trickster. He copied my photos, replaced ‘Katie” on the last photo with his wife’s name (and he has the graphics skills to make it look good), and made a valentine for her. He did the same for another coworker (I guess ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery’ should apply).

Life-changing experiences

A recent thread on Ask Metafilter asked members about experiences that changed them. It’s a long, and truly amazing, set of stories. But as a parent, the ones that struck me the most were about children whose lives had been changed by rather mundane careless words and acts by parents and other adults. Here are some of those stories:

12 years old, just beginning to take those “career aptitude inventory” tests they give you, I share with my father my interest in one day becoming a computer engineer. His response, “How the hell are you ever gonna help anybody doing that!?” leads me to completely devalue my own interests and goals for the next four years or so in favor of what I think other people think I should be doing. Later I get my head on straight and realize he was being a complete jerk, but the damage is still done. I still base my feelings of self-worth on the opinions of others (even though I know that’s what I’m doing).

The Bad – I was overweight in middle school and junior high and was teased mercilessly by several other students. I suffered in silence for a year and a half before finally breaking down and telling my parents that I couldn’t take it anymrore. Their response? Ignore it and it will go away. It was bullshit. I knew it. They knew it. I realized then that they weren’t going to help me and I was going to have to deal with it on my own. Which I couldn’t. I became shy and bitter and distrustful. I needed my parents to help me and they refused. It took me a long time to get over that. I’m not really sure I am completely over it, to be frank.

One time when I was 7 or 8 my dad was supposed to pick me up after school. I waited until dark and he never showed up. I knew that he and my mother had forgotten about me. I started walking home when it got dark. While waiting for somebody to come get me I decided that I was alone in the world and couldn’t even trust my parents. I’ve been basically distrustful of people and an introverted loner ever since.

During the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I gained some weight sitting around and making my first webpage (another formative experience!). My mom approached me about the issue, made it feel less like something I should be ashamed of and more like a health issue, and I started exercising and losing the weight. A year or so later, I had returned to a more healthy size. One day, walking through the kitchen, my dad looked me up and down and said “Wow, Bridget, beneath all that weight there’s a pretty girl!” and in one moment destroyed the healthy attitude my mom had tried to give me. My little mind swum with all the implications of what he had said – My mom hadn’t mentioned anything at all about my not being pretty! I didn’t know I had to be pretty for my dad to show me a moment’s worth of genuine affection! Maybe that’s how it is with all men!

These stories make me realize that everything I do as a parent can have profound effects on my children. Sobering.

Sea monster!

From the Sydney Herald:

A rare – and dead – oarfish washed up at City Beach in Perth yesterday, proving more than a handful for Troy Coward, Andy Mole and Axel Strauss (pictured).
The serpent-like animal was found six metres offshore, bringing to at least six the number of oarfish that have washed up on the West Australian coast in recent months. Prefering to live in the depths of the ocean they have only been known to come to the surface when sick or dying and have rarely been seen alive.
Living in the world’s warmer oceans, it feeds on plankton and is harmless to humans. The longest bony fish in the sea, it grows up to nine metres long with a bright red crest that runs the entire length of its body.
It is probably the creature that sparked “sea serpent” legends following sightings by ancient mariners.