Friday, November 30, 2007

Conservationists Vs. Conservatives

I admit it. I have an axe to grind on this one. In the recent past, I came smack-up against governmental regulation of private property when I tried to sell this "family homestead." My experience differed as to the details provided in the following article from the November 30, 2007 edition the Washington Post, but some of the rights involved are the same (emphases mine):
A new front has opened in the long-simmering dispute between conservationists and property-rights activists as Congress has increasingly given federal protection to lands dubbed "National Heritage Areas."

With no official formula for their creation, the areas are designated by congressional action and overseen primarily by private, nonprofit community groups. The nonprofits also have roles in managing land use in the areas, which range from a section of abandoned steel mills on a riverfront in Scranton, Pa., to a stretch of the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.

But historical preservationists are encountering opposition from conservative activists, who see the rapid growth in congressionally created heritage areas as a backdoor way to restrict property owners' rights to develop their land as they see fit.

National Heritage Areas "pose a threat to private property rights through the exercise of restrictive zoning that may severely limit the extent to which property owners can develop or use their property," wrote Cheryl Chumley and Ronald D. Utt of the Heritage Foundation in a recent report on heritage areas. Chumley and Utt said such "regulatory takings" through zoning are the "most common form of property rights abuse today."

Republicans in Congress and property activists say that individuals who own land in these heritage areas now have to answer to a quasi-governmental body about how they develop their property.

Some of the projects, which receive federal funding but are not part of the National Park Service, are geared toward smart-growth revitalization of historically important areas. Others can be designed toward luring more tourists to drive through long stretches of a region with important cultural touchstones.

"By providing federal recognition and financial support, we encourage preservation and interpretation of important periods in our nation's history in a way that traditional units of the National Park System cannot do," Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said last month on the House floor. "Our initial investment 'primes the pump' and ensures that those areas get a solid start toward financial and operational independence."

The number of areas receiving the designation is increasing rapidly. The heritage areas program was created in 1984, and 27 of them were designated through 2005. But last year, another 10 regions received the distinction. Six more were approved by the House last month and await Senate action.

The program is receiving $13.4 million a year from the federal government, according to John Cosgrove, head of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, an association that represents the groups overseeing the areas. Cosgrove believes that Congress should increase funding so that most of the areas would receive about $1 million a year for the first 10 years of their existence. After that, they would be financially independent.

Before coming to Washington, Cosgrove oversaw the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Area, in the Scranton area. "Isn't that a tired, old coal town whose best days are behind it?" Cosgrove asked rhetorically. Now, that heritage area is helping promote tourism in the region, he said.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Natural Resources panel and a longtime opponent of special-interest spending known as earmarks, contends that heritage areas are becoming targets for earmarks, including 24 in the 2007 spending bills that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

But the program has bipartisan support; the House vote to approve the six proposed sites was 291 to 122. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) has estimated that an $8 million federal investment yielded $270 million in revenue for the community in a heritage area in his district.

Democrats want to see more heritage areas. "Given that each federal dollar is matched by local funds, the federal investment in the heritage area program is money well spent," Rahall said.

One of the more controversial proposed heritage areas, the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground" heritage area, is sponsored by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.). It runs from Charlottesville to Gettysburg along Route 15, past many American Revolution and Civil War sites.

"We should never seek to honor the heroes of our nation's founding by trampling the sacred principles for which they fought and died -- namely property rights and limited, local government," said Peyton Knight of the National Center for Public Policy Research at the time of Wolf's proposal.
As a history buff, I'm in favor of preserving historical areas. But in my view, owners' property rights should trump governmental programs as described above.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this posting, I have a personal take on the matter of government control of private property. I've encountered my local government's zoning regulations in the past, albeit not for a national heritage program. In effect, my local government prevented the sale of property over which I thought I had certain rights, including that of selling it for a fair price.

Last year, the sale of the lot on which my house sits was blocked by Fairfax County's obsession with installing "storm water management facilities" — never mind that the natural drainage of water here resulted from the county's having allowed the owners of ritzy nearby houses to build a private road without storm drains, followed by those owners then somehow managing to get the county to maintain the illegal road. Furthermore, these "storm water management facilities" is that they are animal- and child-killers, thanks to the county's reticence to enforce regulations for the required fences. In fact, these steep-walled drainage ponds, often dry because of the prevailing climate here, are used for snow sledding and grass skiing. The ponds rarely get dampened with standing water, let alone filled, even in a gully-washing downpour or during the rainiest periods of the year.

It was also not out of the realm of possibility that my house and that of my neighbor's could well have been dedicated worthy of historical preservation. At one point early on, the possibility of the county's declaring my house and that of my neighbor's as historically preserved actually came up in the course of the feasibility study, never mind that neither my neighbor or I can actually sell our houses as dwellings; our houses are undesirable now because buyers prefer modern homes, aka McMansions. Both my neighbor and I breathed a sigh of relief when the county finally declared that we could actually sell our respective properties. Talk about governmental control of private property!

As a conservative, I have a natural predilection for complaining about governmental intrusion upon my rights. I see the government — federal, local, and state — as using both the Kelo ruling and backdoor methods, including the designation "heritage areas," to subvert individual property rights in the name of the greater good.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/30/2007 08:02:00 AM  


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Washington Post Glosses Over A Story

Graphic from this essay by Mustang of Social Sense

The November 28, 2007 Washington Post story of Gillian Gibbons, the British schoolteacher arrested in Sudan for allegations of blasphemy over her young students' naming a teddy bear Muhammad, omitted the possibility of her receiving 40 lashes if she is convicted. To date, this particular story in the Washington Post is the only such coverage in the print edition, although these items from news services have appeared on the Washington Post's web site.

The article in the November 28, 2007 print edition of the Washington Post also omitted the following snippet from Reuters:
KHARTOUM, Sudan - A British primary school teacher has been arrested in Sudan, accused of insulting Islam's Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Muhammad, her school said on Monday.

Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons told Reuters they feared for her safety after receiving reports that young men had already started gathering outside the Khartoum police station where the Liverpool woman was being held.

Teachers at Unity High School in central Khartoum said Gibbons, 54, made an innocent mistake and simply let her pupils choose their favorite name for the toy as part of a school project.

Police arrested Gibbons on Sunday at her home inside the school premises, said Unity director Robert Boulos, after a number of parents made a complaint to Sudan's Ministry of Education.

Boulos said she had since been charged with "blasphemy," an offense he said was punishable with up to three months in prison and a fine.

A spokesman from the British Embassy in Khartoum said it was still unclear whether Gibbons had been formerly charged. "We are following it up with the authorities and trying to meet her in person," he said.

Boulos said he had decided to close down the school until January for fear of reprisals in Sudan's predominantly Muslim capital. "This is a very sensitive issue."...
Apparently, Ms. Gibbons didn't understand the implications of the cartoonifada.

The Washington Post article did, however, contain the following insightful information:
..."We don't have any teddy bears over here, so in Sudan, for us, it is a fierce and dangerous animal," Khalid al-Mubarak, a spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in London, told the BBC.


In Liverpool, the city's Anglican bishop and top Muslim leader issued a joint statement calling on Sudanese authorities to show mercy.

"We, as Christian and Muslim leaders in the city of Liverpool, appeal to the Sudanese government to show compassion in the name of God the most merciful and release Gillian Gibbons," said the statement from the Right Rev. James Jones and Akbar Ali, chairman of Liverpool Mosque.

The Danish cartoon controversy that began in late 2005 led to violent protests around the globe by Muslims outraged over the perceived insult to Islam. The Sudanese case has not led to similar protests.

"I don't consider it to be blasphemous," said Humera Khan, a member of al-Nisa, a Muslim women's organization in London.

In an interview, Khan said that in addition to the issue of reverence for Muhammad, Muslims generally do not give human names to objects or animals. "Our relationship with inanimate objects and animals is not as sentimental as in the West," she said.

Khan said Gibbons "should have been more aware" of the cultural sensitivities in the country where she was living. But, she said, the Sudanese "government shouldn't have been so stupid, either."...
"Stupid" is the word for insulting Islam by the naming of a teddy bear, all right.

Can you imagine Christians reacting is such a manner if a teddy bear were named "Jesus"? As a Christian, I might not like the possibility of disrespect of my Savior, but I surely wouldn't even consider punishment. In fact, I don't think that I'd even take offense.

Why are some Muslims so easily offended? Superstition? Reliance upon legalism? Something else?

And why did the the one "featured" story in the Washington Post omit the most outrageous part of what could happen to Gillian Gibbons?

Note: Mustang's satirical essay is HERE. Some of the comments are quite interesting.


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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/28/2007 09:05:00 AM  


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Outsourcing Family Life

Note: Yesterday I posted similar version of the following at THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS.

Image credit

According to this November 25, 2007 article in the Washington Post, some families are becoming too busy to take care of all sorts of tasks which make a family a cohesive unit:
Initially, the busy McLean couple hired Ezra Glass for a few mundane chores, like waiting for the cable guy. But over time, they began giving him more intimate tasks -- planning their last-minute vacations and picking up their kids from time to time.

Now Glass takes their cars to be serviced, is a house- and dogsitter and advises them on their home audio-visual system. He planned the funeral reception for a relative, taking the death certificate and the suit for burial to the funeral home.

"We've come to rely on him more and more," said Ken Nunnenkamp, 46, a lawyer. "He'll essentially do anything we can't get around to. . . . You definitely get spoiled by it."

Forget the dog walker and errand runner. Today, some busy two-career families are turning over virtually every aspect of their existence to lifestyle managers. These hired hands, who charge a monthly membership fee or up to $100 an hour, become like an extra member of the family.
Lifestyle managers have searched for a reliable used car for a client's 16-year-old or taken over their scrapbooking project. One wrote an online dating profile for a client. Others have negotiated overseas adoptions or bailed their clients out of jail. Another was handed a brown paper bag full of insurance documents from a client's recent surgery with the command to sort it out.

"People are ceding more and more of their lives to others," said Glass, a Potomac native. "It's going to be a huge trend around here. Our clients are mostly suburban families because they have a whole range of problems to deal with -- kids, carpools, dogs, houses."


Such personal helpers are often hired by mothers who want to appear as if they're doing it all and don't want their neighbors -- or husbands -- to know otherwise....
What is happening to the family unit? Are parents becoming too busy with their careers and social climbing? I noted in the article the following:
[One mother] has held onto certain rituals with her children, such as driving them to school -- even if she's on her way to catch the New York shuttle -- or packing their favorite lunch of Mediterranean rice and yogurt.
Since when is rearing children a ritual?

My mother, who married my father relatively late in life at the age of thirty-four, worked outside the home until a heart attack at the age of forty-four forced her to retire on permanent disability. But never did I feel that Mom was so overwhelmed by family life that she handed over her parental and familial responsibilites to someone else. Sure, I had babysitters, and we had live-in help; however, once my mother came home from work, she resumed her duties, including having long talks with me, fixing dinner, supervising my homework and piano practice, and, when I was very young, giving me my nightly bath and reading bedtime stories to me. Furthermore, Mom obviously took joy in doing all the mundane tasks. Never did I get the impression that she was being pushed too far; to the contrary, she later spoke of how she had wished that she could have spent more time with me. Her family was the center of Mom's life, and everything else took a back seat. The same applied to my father. In other words, both of my parents considered family life as their most important responsibility and not something to hand over to someone else because they were "too pressured" or "too busy."

In my view, something very detrimental is happening to family units wherein parents are too busy to make a house a home. These parents are kidding themselves if they believe that they are doing their children a favor by outsourcing family life.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/27/2007 07:32:00 AM  


Weekly Radio Show: November 30

Listen to The Gathering Storm Radio Show, which WC and I cohost. The show broadcasts live every Friday for one hour at noon, Pacific Time.

The call-in number is (646) 915-9870.

Callers welcome!

Friday, November 30: This week's guest at the bottom of the hour is Cinnamon Stillwell of Cinnamon, the Cinnamon Stillwell Blog and Daniel Pipes's Campus Watch: Monitoring Middle East Studies on Campus. Read the mission statement of Campus Watch HERE.

From Campus Watch:
CAMPUS WATCH, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students....
Ms. Stillwell is the Northern California representative for Campus Watch and has written articles for the American Thinker, Family Security Matters, Frontpage Magazine, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, the Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, the Conservative Voice, and many others.

You do not want to miss this show!

If you are unable to listen live to the radio show, you can listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts later by CLICKING HERE.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/27/2007 01:00:00 AM  


Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Memoriam

George Mason of Brushfires of Freedom and 6th Column Against Jihad has passed away.

I mourn the loss of this passionate counter-jihadist and fearless patriot.



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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/24/2007 06:30:00 PM  


The Toxic Blogosphere

For the past several weeks, ever since I posted this about the October 2007 counter-jihad conference in Brussels, I have dreaded turning on my computer to access my email and the various Internet blogs which I frequent. A whack-a-mole discussion has been raging as to how much support should be given to certain political parties in Europe. In my view, the divide has centered on two opposing positions:

• Go to battle with the troops that you have, i.e., “The enemy of my enemy” is my friend

• Association with certain political parties is dangerous because those parties’ have a history of advocating white supremacism (“a white Europe”) and could lead to the discrediting of all those involved in the counter-jihad

For a summary, please read this by Robert Spencer.

In the course of the discussions in which I’ve been engaged, I’ve been accused of racism, fascism, and stupidity, all from people I considered friends in the blogosphere—the first two accusations because I wasn’t issuing condemnations of the political parties and the last accusation because I made a mistake on the air of The Gathering Storm Radio Show of November 16, when, as WC and I were waiting for an inter-Atlantic phone connection, I mistakenly said that the British National Party was present at the Brussels conference. Please listen to the first half hour of the show. Very informative!

The attempt to correct my on-the-air error by means of a statement at the radio show’s web site led to additional salvos fired in my direction and the making of an even longer statement of correction, which you can read in the comments at the bottom of this page.

I cannot begin to tell you the time that I’ve spent on this rift among the counter-jihadists. I not only have needed to read, read, read about the political alignments in Europe (Another steep learning curve!), but also have spent hours upon hours upon the phone in pursuit of trying to sort out where lies the truth.

Poor Merry Widow! She has listened to me for countless hours! I wonder that she doesn’t disconnect her phone line altogether.

The Merry Widow is but one of those in what amounts to an audience I’ve been holding captive and patiently listening to what I have to say as I have worked through my own thoughts on the controversy. Pastorius, Mark Alexander, and, to a lesser extent because of time constraints, Christine have also been regaled by my mounting concerns.

I cannot begin to catalog the list of others with whom I’ve consulted. In this age of electronic communications, email has been another method of discussion, though neither as fluid nor as effective as the telephone. Here at home, I almost dare not mention again the topic to Mr. AOW, who has listening to me non-stop on the topic for at least three weeks.

In the course of all the various exchanges, I’ve come to feel that nothing I say or do is good enough. Yes, my feelings got hurt. I’ll get over it. No big deal.

Of more concern to me is that I am also seeing manifestations of “My counter-jihad is better than your counter-jihad” and “I’m smarter than you are.” Such is how far we have slid down the ladder of reason and courtesy.

At what conclusion have I arrived? No longer is there one counter-jihad — if, indeed, ever such a unity really existed in the first place. Perhaps that unity was simply wishful thinking on our part. Anyway, I no longer believe that we’re all going to get along. This question still remains, however: Can we all manage to coexist without cannibalizing the counter-jihad efforts? Time will tell, but time can also be the enemy as Islamization proceeds apace in the West.

The last thing which all anti-jihadists need is to be tarred with same brush. After all, when one looks at the various anti-jihadists, we fall at various points on the political spectrum — excluding the far left, of course, which is in bed with the Islamists. In the end, I believe that having separate counter-jihads is not so bad because, unless a hideous event occurs, all counter-jihadists will have to define what is stood for — not merely what is stood against.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/24/2007 10:06:00 AM  


Friday, November 23, 2007

Challenging Shari'a Law

(All emphases by Always On Watch)
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Recently, Saudi Arabia defended the sentence passed on a nineteen-year-old Muslima who was gang raped. Originally she was sentenced to ninety lashes, but upon review the Saudi General Court in Saudi increased her sentence to 200 lashes. The woman had defied shari'a law in that she was in the company of an unrelated male. According to this November 21, 2007 article in the Washington Post,
The attack occurred in 2006. The victim says she was in a car with a male student she used to know trying to retrieve a picture of her. She says two men got into the car and drove them to a secluded area where she was raped by seven men. Her friend also was assaulted.

Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Our State Department has "expressed astonishment" over the barbarism of punishing the victim. Hello, State Department? Are you unaware of how Saudi enforces shari'a law? Are you aware of how all-encompassing shari'a law is in some Muslim countries? According to this source,
[C]alling the Sharia 'law' can be misleading, as Sharia extends beyond law. Sharia is the totality of religious, political, social, domestic and private life.


Dogmatically, Sharia is not something the intelligence of man can prove wrong, it is only to be accepted by humans, since it is based on the will of God.
According to this article in the Washington Post, the victim's attorney has himself become a target because he has repeatedly challenged the application of shari'a law in the Saudi justice system:
Saudi officials have revoked the license of human rights lawyer Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, who has handled the country's most controversial cases and defended a gang-rape victim sentenced to jail time and lashes.

Lahem, 36, faces a disciplinary hearing Dec. 5 to determine the length of his suspension.

Lahem is accused by the prosecutor general of "belligerent behavior, talking to the media for the purpose of perturbing the judiciary, and hurting the country's image," according to an official letter he received Monday.

Since he started practicing law almost five years ago, Lahem has defended clients whom other lawyers refused, including a school administrator suspended for criticizing the religious establishment, a man convicted of promoting homosexuality for saying it was genetic, three political reformists seeking a constitutional monarchy, and the first Saudis suing the country's powerful religious police.

Lahem said that losing his license would be a blow to the country's budding human rights movement.

"If I am banned from practicing law, nobody will dare go up against the judiciary again," said Lahem, a slight man with a limp from a childhood accident. "If I win, it will open a new chapter for human rights in Saudi Arabia."....
At the same time that this modern-thinking Saudi attorney is himself facing a legal battle, we read the following in the Telegraph, a news source in the UK:
Islamic sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in parts of Britain, a report claims.

Sharia, derived from several sources including the Koran, is applied to varying degrees in predominantly Muslim countries but it has no binding status in Britain.

However, the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.


Mr Yusuf told the programme he felt more bound by the traditional law of his birth than by the laws of his adopted country. "Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law," he said. "It's not sharia, it's not religious — it's just a cultural thing."

Sharia's great strength was the effectiveness of its penalties, he said. Those who appeared before religious courts would avoid re-offending so as not to bring shame on their families.

Some lawyers welcomed the advance of what has become known as "legal pluralism".

Dr Prakash Shah, a senior lecturer in law at Queen Mary University of London, said such tribunals "could be more effective than the formal legal system".

In his book Islam in Britain, Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, says there is an "alternative parallel unofficial legal system" that operates in the Muslim community on a voluntary basis.

"Sharia courts now operate in most larger cities, with different sectarian and ethnic groups operating their own courts that cater to their specific needs according to their traditions," he says. These are based on sharia councils, set up in Britain to help Muslims solve family and personal problems.

Sharia councils may grant divorces under religious law to a woman whose husband refuses to complete a civil divorce by declaring his marriage over. There is evidence that these councils are evolving into courts of arbitration.

Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, a barrister and principal of Hijaz College Islamic University, near Nuneaton, Warwicks, said this type of court had advantages for Muslims. "It operates on a low budget, it operates on very small timescales and the process and the laws of evidence are far more lenient and it's less awesome an environment than the English courts," he said.

Mr Siddiqi predicted that there would be a formal network of Muslim courts within a decade.
And to add to the irony, this source states the following:
Sharia is primarily meant for all Muslims, but applies to a certain extent also for people living inside a Muslim society. Muslims are not totally bound by the Sharia when they live or travel outside the Muslim world.
As at least some in Saudi are attempting to modernize its interpretation of shari'a law, will the West be allowing the entire camel into the tent?

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/23/2007 10:37:00 AM  


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Weekly Radio Show: November 23 (Addendum: Video)

Listen to The Gathering Storm Radio Show, which WC and I cohost. The show broadcasts live every Friday for one hour at noon, Pacific Time.

The call-in number is (646) 915-9870.

Callers welcome!

Friday, November 23: SPECIAL SHOW!

This week's guest at the top of the hour: speaker, economist, and terrorism expert Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld. She is the director of The American Center for Democracy, which monitors and exposes the enemies of freedom and their modus operandi, and explores pragmatic ways to counteract their methods. Dr. Ehrenfeld is also the author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is financed and How to Stop It.

Our guest at the bottom of the hour is my dear friend and "brother," and my techie advisor Warren of the blog Long Range. We'll be discussing leftism and blog-site management, including dealing with trolls.

You do not want to miss this show!

If you are unable to listen live to the radio show, you can listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts later by CLICKING HERE.
Video addendum from Dr. Ehrenfeld (8 minutes):

"The Libel Tourist" is a short-form documentary film. In 8 minutes, our eyes are opened to a new and chilling threat: how Saudi petrodollars have cowed, silenced, and almost broken freedom of speech in the West.

The film documents the true story of how an American – Israeli author Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld was ordered to destroy all copies of her book in a country where it had never been published- England—after a notoriously litigious Saudi billionaire sued her in a British court. Ehrenfeld's book Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It, accuses the Saudi billionaire of funding of terrorism.

Now Ehrenfeld is fighting back, counter-suing him in the New York, to defend her and our First Amendment rights.
More information about The Libel Tourist

Again, if you are unable to listen live to the radio show, you can listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts later by CLICKING HERE.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/21/2007 11:50:00 PM  


The Virginia Thanksgiving Story

The above photo comes from, which also provides a little tune. All in fun? Sort of. Nevertheless, according to this article in the November 20, 2007 edition of the Washington Post, the Pilgrims-and-Indians story doesn't accurately reflect the origins of Thanksgiving, those true origins having been emphasized only once before in the 1963 Thanksgiving address given by President John F. Kennedy.

The following is the brief story of the Virginia Thanksgiving story (emphases mine):
In the Virginia story,...Capt. John Woodlief, a survivor of the Jamestown settlement's "starving time" who had returned to England, set sail from Bristol with 37 other settlers on the good ship Margaret to seek their fortune in the New World. After a violent storm blew them off course, they waded ashore Dec. 4, 1619 at what is now Berkeley Plantation [web site]. They opened their orders from their backers, which stated that they were to drop to their knees immediately and give thanks. Their landing date was to "be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."

No one knows if they had anything other than old ship rations to eat. Historians surmise that they might have supped on roasted oysters and Virginia ham. The settlers didn't stick around long enough to write it down or develop a tradition: They were wiped out in a Powhatan Indian uprising in 1622. From there, the Virginia Thanksgiving story faded from view, save for a handful of die-hard groups that have been hosting a celebration at Berkeley for decades.
Quite an ignominious end for that particular group of settlers. No wonder that the story isn't often told.

According to the Washington Post article, academia and politics played a role in how we today perceive the origins of the holiday we're celebrating this week:
Up north is where most influential early Colonial historians lived and wrote extensively about the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock. Up north is where President Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, sought to bring the country together by creating a national holiday, to be called Thanksgiving. And thus the great harvest feast of turkey, pumpkins, corn, beans and squash that the pious Pilgrim families shared with their friendly native neighbors was enshrined as the official American story. (It's not like Lincoln was going to pick a site in the enemy land of Virginia.)
Native Virginian and ham lover though I may be, I don't much care about any "dispute" as to the origins of the holiday we're celebrating this week. The real meaning of Thanksgiving lies in the heart.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/21/2007 01:00:00 AM  


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


(Each "Featured Question," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous QUESTIONS are HERE. Please scroll down for recent postings)

Not so long ago, I had a bit of an animal adventure when a squirrel invaded the cellar here. Read the posting and the comments about my encounter with the squirrel. The entire episode was stressful and harrowing! Who knew that a squirrel could be such a terrifying beast?
I've had a few other encounters with wild animals. All of them ended well. After all, I'm still here, unscarred and unscathed!

My encounter with a black bear was, no doubt, the most threatening of my interactions with wildlife. One early morning, in one of our national forests in southwestern Virginia, I decided to get some exercise by taking a long walk; Mr. AOW was still snoring in the camper. I went out alone into the woods, never imagining that I'd be dashing back to camp within a few hours.

The sun had barely risen when I headed out. As I trudged along, the woods got deeper and deeper, with the sunlight barely peeking through the dense canopy.

Well toward the end of my hike, I came to a lovely stand of hemlock trees. There I spotted evidence of bear activity: stump after stump torn apart for grubs. I hiked on, a little faster now, and in a clearing fairly close to camp, spotted a large black bear on the opposite side.

The bear and I started walking toward one another, neither of us breaking to run away from the other. All I could think was "What if I'm between a mother and her cubs?" Apparently not, because the bear was not behaving in an aggressive manner, although pointing its snout skyward so as to to get a better take on my scent. At one point the bear stood up on her hind legs, thus allowing me to see that the animal was definitely a female. I got close enough to the she-bear that I could faintly detect her gamy and musky scent.

When the bear and I were less than five yards from each other, still going eyeball to eyeball, I cut up the nectarine I was carrying, threw the pieces in a scattered pattern, and hightailed it back to camp. Upon detecting the delicacy, the bear busied herself with foraging. That foraging didn't take long, however, and within a few minutes I could hear the bear coming along behind me. Fortunately, I had a far enough lead to stay ahead.

Back at the camp site, my husband was chowing down on Sugar Pops when I approached, gasping for breath. "Bear behind me!" I panted. You never saw two people break camp and head out as fast as Mr. AOW and I did.

Do you have an interesting animal-encounter story to tell?

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/20/2007 11:59:00 PM  


Monday, November 19, 2007

Saudi Contradictions

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Excerpt from this article in the November 18, 2007 edition of the Washington Post:
...For the past four days, OPEC and Saudi officials have been trying to portray the oil cartel almost as a public service organization, scrutinizing figures on consumption and production to find a balance that would moderate wild swings in prices for the benefit of consumers and producers alike.

"We are not using the oil we are selling to the world as a political weapon," OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri said this week. "We have not used [it] in the past, nor will we use it in the future." ...

Really? Can the general be serious? The oil magnates of OPEC do not sell oil out the collective goodness of their hearts. After all, the House of Saud isn't exactly known for a spartan existence:
Photo credit
The meeting was held in an ornate royal conference center, with Corinthian columns and carved archways worthy of ancient Rome or the Venetian doges. The OPEC leaders were led to a room with 11 giant crystal chandeliers, marble floors, 20-foot doors of inlaid wood and gold trim, cavernous ceilings with carved patterns painted powder blue, eggshell white and pink, and enough cushy seats for 2,000 people.
All fully paid for, no doubt.

The article ends with what might be deemed a veiled threat:
Abdullah warned global warming activists and lawmakers against targeting oil use. "The echoes repeated here and there about the effect of petroleum on the environment is a discourse laced with . . . fallacies," he said.

Environmental concerns have come up repeatedly this week because OPEC officials worry that new taxes or cap-and-trade programs for greenhouse gases could add to the cost of petroleum products and put a dent in demand for oil. Earlier in the week, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said that "we do not like policies that discriminate against petroleum or fossil fuels in general."
Contradiction alert! According to the Saudis, the marketing of oil isn't political.

And, Al Gore, take notice. You've been called a liar, and the Saudis worry that your global-warming agenda could dent their bank accounts.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/19/2007 11:25:00 PM  



In about an hour, I am scheduled for a shot into my spine, with the hope that I can obtain some relief from this troublesome sciatica.
The doctor doesn't expect that I'll be sidelined, but one never knows for certain. Therefore, I have posted a few days early the information about the November 23 edition of The Gathering Storm Radio Show. And with those special guests, you can bet on my doing the interviews, one way or the other!

If all goes as planned in the doctor's office, I'll be back online later today.


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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/19/2007 08:02:00 AM  


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The British Exodus

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

According to this article in the Telegraph UK, Britain is undergoing an exodus on the scale of one British citizen emigrating every three minutes (some 400,000 annually) at the same time that more than half a million foreigners arrive in a single year. Such a large exodus of British citizens has not occurred there in almost fifty years.

Are these emigrants fleeing? If so, from what?
My UK friends are increasingly telling me, "Britain doesn't feel like home any more." Some might write off their comments as racism. But is the basis of my friends' concerns racism? Maybe, but I don't perceive my British friends as racists. Instead, their concerns seem rooted in the concern that they are losing their British culture.

According to the article, despite the increased rate of emigration, the population of Britain is increasing every year, to the tune of the size of the city of Bristol.

Furthermore, as the population grows, pressures on the UK system of public services are increasing:
In a bid to deflect criticism and fulfill Gordon Brown's controversial conference pledge to create "British jobs for British workers", the Government will today announce plans to create millions more adult training places to ensure that people living in Britain have the skills to compete for jobs with immigrants.
Read the entire article.

Recently, this article appeared in the Evening Standard. Excerpt:
Women are being given controversial "virginity repair" operations on the NHS [National Health Services], it emerged last night.


Doctors said most patients are immigrants or British of ethnic origin.

The trend has been condemned by critics as a sign of social regression driven by Islamic fundamentalists.
Apparently, this surgical procedure is gaining in popularity (connection to the above-cited figures on immigration?), even though, so far, such surgeries remain small:
...Dr Hend [a gynecologist at the Regency Clinic in London] said he was surprised by the "very good response" to the service and said there is "big competition on the market".

"They might be British of ethnic background, they might be immigrants, or some people come from abroad, Asia, Middle East, the Gulf, and they don't want to have it done back home," he added.

Dr Hend said demand is increasing, particularly from UK residents....
Labour MP Ann Cryer stated the following:
"It is a form of abuse of women and it may be that the woman who is asking for the operation to be done does not recognise the abuse that is taking place against her, but in later life she certainly will.

"We have to also ask whether our National Health Service should be providing this sort of facility. I don't think it should be available on the NHS."
Tory health spokesman Mike Penning also weighed in:
"If there is any cultural or other pressure being put on the women from any source to have this done, that would be a very retrograde step.

"If a woman has been violated or raped and lost her virginity, clearly everything possible should be done to assist her.

"But what nobody would understand is if taxpayers' money is being used to fund operations of this kind for cultural or cosmetic reasons."
Read the entire article. Talk about a bizarre procedure, with even more bizarre motivation!

In a posting entitled "Hip or Hymen: Let the NHS Decide," Raven contrasts the virginity-repair surgeries with NHS's denial of surgery to Mrs. Kinley-Manton, a British woman who needed hip-replacement surgery:
What should concern people is the stark reality of a culture that disregards a real medical condition vs. a politically correct and religiously based “demand”.

Muslim non-virgin women should be the ones going to other countries and paying for their own non essential surgeries with their own money; not slightly to moderately overweight women who could very well end up living in nursing homes for the lack of a simple and very effective surgery. Of course Mrs. Kinley-Manton could claim herself a Muslim, demand a hymen repair and perhaps as an added benefit ask for the hip replacement surgery: She would probably have a good chance of getting both.
As the demographics of the UK undergoes more changes, as mentioned in the first-cited article here, will the NHS be required to adapt to the religious demands of Muslims? And will similar adaptations occur here the United States?

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/18/2007 09:21:00 AM  


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Candid Camera

Sort of, but not for humor's sake.

Article from the November 17, 2007 edition of the Washington Post (emphases mine):
A dispute among OPEC ministers during a closed-door session Friday spilled into the open when a camera was inadvertently left on, broadcasting into the nearby press room a quarrel over whether to stop pricing crude oil in dollars.

According to reporters who watched the broadcast for half an hour before Saudi officials pulled the plug, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki urged the group to price oil in another currency or a basket of currencies, a perennial issue that has drawn greater attention recently because of the sinking value of the dollar.

"We're backing this Iranian proposal," Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said in Spanish, according to Bloomberg News.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal rejected the idea, suggesting that the group refer the question to the finance ministers from member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. But he said the group should not announce that its finance ministers would look at the issue because that might drive the dollar down even further.

"There will be journalists who will seize on this point, and we don't want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good for OPEC," Faisal told the ministers.

The weak dollar has hurt oil exporters who use oil revenue to buy goods priced in euros or yen. That has added inflation pressures in oil exporting countries. On the other hand, many wealthy exporters, including Saudi Arabia, hold huge dollar-denominated assets.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran's biggest banks and pressured other banks to stop dealing with Iran. Tehran is already selling oil in euros and yen, but those transactions mostly translate the current dollar price, oil traders said.
Apparently, Saudi's protectio of its own interests could work in favor of U.S. interests. For now.

Meanwhile, next year, Saudi is planning to pump out more high-quality oil. From this article in the November 17, 2007 edition of the Washington Post (emphases mine):
...Next year, Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, plans to boost production by 250,000 barrels a day, one step in an effort to expand the kingdom's oil-production capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day from the 11.3 million barrels. The new production is part of a strategy that could ease market tension and is designed to preserve Saudi Arabia's ability to produce 1.5 million to 2 million barrels a day more than its actual output in the face of rising world oil demand, said a senior Saudi Oil Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Tell me of any other country that's made commitments this broad on its own," Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the deputy minister of petroleum and natural resources, said during preparations for this weekend's summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. "We are the only country with a policy of maintaining excess capacity."


This week, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi reiterated pledges that Saudi Arabia would eventually deliver 1 million barrels of oil a day to China and keep the world well supplied.

Some analysts said that could be difficult because many of Saudi Arabia's oil fields are old and in decline. The rate of natural decline in Saudi fields was slightly faster than anticipated this year, according to a Saudi strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the subject. From 2005 to 2009, output from existing Saudi fields is expected to decline by 800,000 barrels a day. But Saudi Arabia's output capacity is about the same as it was 30 years ago.

If the amount of oil the Saudis can produce is open to question, the cost of production is not. Naimi estimated that it costs Saudi Arabia about $2 to produce a barrel of oil. Developing new fields is also cheap, he said, running about a quarter or less of exploration and development costs elsewhere. Asked whether Saudi Arabia would be interested in investing in Canadian tar sands, which require more than $40 per barrel in investment, Naimi said there would be no point....
Oh, goody, goody! Let's clap our hands in gratitude for the Saudis and their generous promise to pump more oil. But remember that any surplus of oil from Saudi will occur after the heating season is over here in the States.

Here's a picture of those in control:

No wonder their facial expressions are so smug!

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/17/2007 08:06:00 AM  


Friday, November 16, 2007

Oil And Dhimmitude

Interesting excerpt from this commentary over at The Daily Jot, the mission statement of which includes reporting and analyzing current events from a Biblical perspective:
The Saudi Arabian oil minister said there will be no discussion of increased oil production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at their upcoming meeting, meaning that OPEC will stand by and watch record oil prices drain the pocketbooks of American industry and citizens. Increased oil production by OPEC would bring relief to oil prices, which, in turn, would bring gasoline prices down. Instead, a 20-30 cent per gallon increase in gas prices can now be expected at pumps across the United States. This means that not only will prices go up at gas stations, but also the costs of goods transported, produced, and sold with the help of oil products will also rise substantially. Record oil prices be a reflection of an overall strategy of Islam to bring the United States into submission during jihad.


Dhimmitude is the Islamic system of governing populations conquered by jihad wars, encompassing all of the demographic, ethnic, and religious aspects of the political system. The word "dhimmitude" as a historical concept, was coined in 1983 to describe the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors of indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty, called a dhimma, to Muslim domination. All who are in submission to Islam are subject to Sharia law—the radical law of Islam.

Contemporary Islamists believe through dhimmi that when they have been given authority over something, that all of which they have been given is subject to them. For example, Islam receives permission to have a mosque in a town, then the entire town is under Islamic authority. If they have been given control over oil, then those who use the oil are subject to them....
Now, I don't regularly visit The Daily Jot. In fact, I found the above essay via a Google alert for "dhimmitude." Therefore, I don't know if I agree with all the interpretations espoused there. However, part of the last paragraph in the essay jumped out at me; therefore, I want to bring it to our attention here:
Contemporary Islamists believe through dhimmi that when they have been given authority over something, that all of which they have been given is subject to them....If they have been given control over oil, then those who use the oil are subject to them.
When I received my exorbitant heating bill, payment due in a few weeks (almost $800 for less than half a fill!), I certainly felt subject to blackmail, if not specifically pushed into a state of economic dhimmitude. Harvesting and burning my patch of woods in my living-room fireplace go only so far.

In the long run, my personal economic condition is of no importance. However, the global economy is now at the mercy of the oil sheikhs. According to this article in the Washington Post, the financial squeeze is on:
The biggest jump in gasoline prices in five months contributed to another elevated reading on consumer prices in October. With pump prices surging still, inflation is expected to be even worse in November.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that its Consumer Price Index rose by 0.3 percent last month. It was the second straight month at that level after prices had fallen by 0.1 percent in August and risen by 0.1 percent in July.

Economists said consumers should brace for a worse performance in November, given an even bigger increase in gasoline prices so far this month.

Labor Department economist Patrick Jackman said gasoline alone could add four-tenths of a percentage point to overall inflation in November.


Economists are concerned that rising energy prices will leave consumers with less money to spend on other items and will depress their spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. That would add to the list of problems already facing a slowing economy.

"Consumers are getting squeezed between falling house prices, rising mortgage payments and now rising oil prices," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York....
Today, the following photo appeared above the fold in the business section of the Washington Post:

Delegates pass a portrait of the late King Saud at OPEC's third summit in its 47 years, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The twenty-first-century sword of Islam is control of the oil market. The following excerpt from this article accompanying the above picture bears out my contention:
Friday, November 16, 2007

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- In September 1960, after the mighty Standard Oil of New Jersey dictated a cut in the price it was willing to pay for Middle Eastern oil, an angry group of leaders from the region and Venezuela got together and founded the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

No one paid much attention.
Two months later, a 43-page CIA report on "Middle East Oil" devoted only four lines to the new group, according to Daniel Yergin's history "The Prize."

Few would dismiss OPEC with such brevity today. Its often-squabbling members have wrested control of their oil fields from the big oil companies. In the 1970s, they administered two price shocks to the world economy. And now, a decade after oil prices collapsed during a financial crisis in Asia, unrefined crude is hovering around its all-time inflation-adjusted peak, channeling as much as $700 billion a year to exporting nations and threatening to slow even the world's strongest economies.

That's why this weekend, when the heads of state from the 13-member group gather here for OPEC's third summit, it should be a celebration. Yet the summit's Saudi hosts worry that the meeting could turn into a political embarrassment.

Concerned about their image abroad, the Saudis do not want to be seen as the villains behind the new oil shock and are pointing fingers at speculators, institutional investors and traders. And they fret that feisty leaders such as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could turn the summit into an anti-American political circus rather than a sober reflection on OPEC's future.


There is a paradox about OPEC on the eve of its summit. Decades after its founding, higher prices are still central to the group's purpose. Yet OPEC's bland slogan for this meeting is "providing petroleum, promoting prosperity, protecting the planet."

OPEC Secretary General Abdullah bin Salem al-Badri insists that the organization doesn't have a target price and that it simply wants to stabilize the volatile oil market for consumers, producers and investors.


Ultimately, power in OPEC is wielded largely by Saudi Arabia, which holds the overwhelming majority of the cartel's spare production capacity. That, plus its willingness to trim production to boost prices, makes Saudi Arabia the group's swing producer.

"OPEC is an organization that is supposed to have a big say on the market," said a Saudi government strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the government. "Instead, it is an organizational front for the policy of one country while giving a lot of publicity to countries that wouldn't get as much attention otherwise."

Other OPEC nations are producing near maximum capacity. War-torn Iraq is far short of its production peak. Its oil minister yesterday said production was up to 2.5 million barrels a day. About a third of Nigeria's production has been shut down by an insurgency. Venezuela's disputes with foreign oil companies and its own oil-patch professionals has led to sagging output. And Iran, due to its stubborn bargaining and international economic sanctions, has been unable to lure foreign expertise and investment to fully exploit its big oil and gas reserves.

Altogether, these developments have sliced at least 2.5 million barrels a day, or about 8 percent, from OPEC output without any organizational decision to restrict production.

The Saudi kingdom, however, is in the middle of boosting its production capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009, up from 11.3 million. Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi says that ample inventories indicate that there is no need to pump more oil now, though some Saudi officials say the kingdom will do that next month anyway to force down prices.

But if OPEC forecasts are wrong and consumption outpaces production, then OPEC could become no different from non-OPEC producers, simply pumping as fast as possible while the price finds a balancing point.

Economists say it is difficult for any cartel to survive for long. Artificially high prices tend to bring suppliers into a market or drive customers to substitute other materials. But in the oil industry, those alternative paths are lengthy ones. New oil supplies take years to find and develop, and they tend to be in more and more difficult places....
Thanks to lack of foresight (Something else?) on the part of our leaders, the West is being held hostage by oil. Loosing those shackles will take time. Meanwhile, our economy is in a squeeze, whether or not each of us yet feels that squeeze.

How much more belt-tightening is possible with OPEC in control? Another 9/11 isn't necessary. Economic jihad is in full play, and the West is about to pay a terrible price for its addiction to oil.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/16/2007 01:31:00 PM  


The Sense Of Entitlement

I've long believed that embuing a child with a false sense of self-esteem will wreak unintended consequences later in life. Today in our society we are seeing those consequences in all sorts of ways, including at the career and the university levels:
"What employers and universities find is not only that young people lack basic skills, but also they have this overwhelming sense of entitlement," he says, attributing it to schools in which children received "gold stars and happy faces for mediocre work," as well as the "trophies-for-all" approach to youth sports and parents "who were more concerned about being their children's buddies rather than authority figures."
The above quotation from this article in the November 14, 2007 edition of the Washington Times is attributed to Charles Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add. He contends that the "bubble-wrapping" children — insulating them from the bumps, bruises, and frustrations of life — leaves them unprepared for the realities of life. Read the entire article from the Washington Times.

A recent segment 60 Minutes illustrates the result of the rah-rah mentality on the work force. CLICK HERE to watch the video, about twenty minutes in length and worth your time.

"Too Much of a Good Thing," an article from, illustrates that, despite all the good intentions on the part of the self-esteem builders, young people are being psychologically and academically handicapped when parents and teachers ignore the importance of abandong standards in favor of promoting self-esteem (emphases mine):

We encourage them, we celebrate them, and we give them stickers and stars. But are we doing more harm than good?

Ask Korean eighth graders, “Are you good at math?” and chances are they’ll say they aren’t. Ask an American, and you’ll likely get an enthusiastic response. In a recent study, only six percent of Korean eighth graders considered themselves excellent math students, compared with 39 percent of American eighth graders. Yet the Korean students scored far better in math than their American peers.

We’ve taught our children since birth to believe they can do anything they choose, from starring in the school play to mastering long division. All that self-confidence, however, hasn’t produced more capable students. The Brookings Institution 2006 Brown Center Report on Education finds that countries in which families and schools emphasize self-esteem for students—America for example—lag behind the cultures that don’t focus on how students feel about themselves.

For decades our culture has concentrated on teaching self-esteem first, learning second. In the late 1980s, a California government task force found no connection between low self-esteem and societal ills, such as drug use, teen pregnancy, and school underachievement. Still, California forged ahead with a self-esteem education plan. Today, raising children’s self-esteem continues to be a primary goal in the classroom, and a goal of parents at home.

Downplaying grades, praising children for minimal effort, or using neutral-colored green or purple pens to comment on written work seems harmless enough, but we may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement. Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

The long-term impact of this rah-rah mentality is already apparent. In 2004, according to Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, 70 percent of American college freshmen reported their academic ability as “above average.” But, once ego-inflated students get to college, they’re more likely to drop out, says Twenge, when their skewed sense of self and overconfidence affects their ability to make decisions.

A growing contingent of experts agree that in the classroom, self-esteem should be an outcome, not a method. “Self-esteem,” says Robert Brooks, Harvard Medical School faculty psychologist, “is based on real accomplishments.” It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.

Feel-Good Academics

There is a correlation between self-esteem and grades; studies have shown that high grades do lead to high self-esteem. But rather then praising children for every effort along the way, we should encourage them to focus on achieving particular goals and applaud that achievement. The danger of too much praise is that children may turn their focus to how good they feel and how to get more praise, rather than on what they’re learning. “All children should be held accountable,” says Karen Bernstein, music teacher at Howard B. Mattlin Middle School in Long Island, New York. “We shouldn’t worry about setting boundaries for kids because of their feelings.” In her classroom, Bernstein makes children responsible for their actions, so that when they do achieve, “they feel good.”

If a student’s confidence isn’t built on their actual abilities, failure can be devastating. Walsh worries that his students’ sense of greatness may lead to a “psychological crash and burn” because they don’t understand why they failed. Walsh’s hunch is on track, according to experts; children who work solely for praise don’t feel intrinsic satisfaction. Even if a child feels competent, says John Shindler, associate professor of education at California State University, it’s not real competence if it’s rooted in constant praise. Furthermore, students absorbed with their own sense of self often have difficulty completing difficult tasks. One study shows that adolescent girls have lower self-esteem than adolescent boys. When confronted with a low score, the girls are more likely to work to improve their performance, while the boys are more likely to give up and change activities. “The real issue,” says Rick Weissbourd, who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “is getting kids to develop a sense of self-efficacy, along with real competencies and skills. Self-esteem will follow.”

What Teachers Can Do

The latest findings on self-esteem can be dispiriting for teachers. After all, who wouldn’t want to make students feel good about themselves? Rather than tear down your “Shoot for the Stars” poster, reassess your priorities. Make sure that your primary focus is on student performance and improvement, rather than how kids feel about themselves. Emphasize effort and specific character traits, such as persistence, helpfulness, and consideration.

Students need to see that achievement is related to the effort they put out. Establish clear expectations and rubrics that students can use to achieve the outcome, with effort as one of the criteria for success. If a student has trouble with large goals, says Bernstein, break the task into achievable chunks.

It’s all about realism, adds Twenge. Instead of focusing on how great the students are, highlight students’ real strengths. Teach them that none of us can be good at everything all the time. Weissbourd recommends that for each child in your class, identify three of his or her strengths and then make a plan to highlight those strengths.

Ask your students, what can they learn from this situation? What can they contribute? What do they want to achieve this week, month, or year? Then help them create goals and a way to achieve those goals.

Focus on actions and real character traits, not “special” and “great.” The best kind of praise, says Weissbourd, “communicates a specific achievement and the importance of effort in that achievement.” When you correct children, focus on what the child can do better next time, and show them how.

Aha! Diagnostic and prescriptive teaching! A lost art?

Continuing now with the article:
Don’t shelter children from failure. Children who are shielded from failure are not prepared to deal with adversity. When students fail, tell them exactly why and provide clear ways for them to succeed the next time. To break the ice, suggests Brooks, tell your students about a time when you failed in school, and how you recovered.

A Classroom Full of VIPs

Of course, you are working with children who have already been raised in a self-esteem world. They may think that they deserve recognition regardless of how they perform, and believe they should be considered first. Kids who act out don’t have poor self-esteem, says Twenge. Instead, they often think that they’re the most important person in the room and that everyone else is getting in their way.

When a child is disruptive, you need to figure out why the child is acting that way and work with them to fix it. William Ricks, a teacher in Sussex, Virginia, asks his students to walk with him in the hall to talk with them about their behavior. “I try to find the root of their attitude,” says Reid, “and then I talk to them about humility.” Addressing students’ needs is crucial for behavior and academics. Once students’ “social and emotional needs are met,” says Bernstein, “they will be more likely to work harder.”

Focusing on praise and avoiding riticism makes everybody feel good. But children who have high self-esteem may become rude and uncooperative when they’re criticized. Still, “don’t try to protect students from failure,” says Jennifer Crocker, Claude M. Steele Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. Instead, when we make failure a learning experience and not a threat, the student’s self-esteem isn’t on the line, and they’re more open to taking constructive criticism.

Young children are naturally narcissistic, and teaching them self-esteem keeps them focused on themselves, instead of thinking about others. “Narcissism separates you from other people,” says Twenge, while true “self-esteem brings you into connection with other people.” In the long term, narcissism has been linked with aggression and poor relationships, while connecting children to other people has a positive affect on behavior. And, says Crocker, children learn more when they’re supportive of others.

More important than self-esteem, says Weissbourd, is a child’s maturity, or the ability to be aware of other people, coordinate other people’s needs with their own, and regulate intense feelings. By rewarding our students’ social successes, such as helping their peers, being good community members, and listening, we increase their genuine self-esteem and improve their behavior. Allowing children to help around the classroom, says Brooks, increases their “realistic self-esteem [because children are] making a positive difference in the life of someone else.”

Walsh has worked with students who have inflated egos and no sense of responsibility or respect. Too much self-esteem, he says, “creates a sense of entitlement. I’m not saying that children don’t need reinforcement, but you have to make sure that you develop a realistic, practical, and consistent behavior plan.” When we focus on building students’ self-control, sense of belonging, and competence, we create more self-esteem than we do if we dole out constant praise. “Genuine self-esteem,” says Shindler, is “a set of unconscious self-beliefs, formed over a lifetime, reflecting our perceptions and abilities, our ability to love, and how we attribute causality for the events in our lives.”

Of course, for some years now (Decades?) both parents and teachers are themselves products of "bubble-wrappping," so they want to perpetuate the feel-good mentality in themselves, their children, and their students. In sum, the cycle feeds on itself.

Can the cycle be reversed or slowed? Comments welcome.

Note: Please see The Merry Widow's post "Those 'Fine' Young Cannibals."

[Hat-tip to Raven, at whose web site I found the above article from Scholastic]

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/16/2007 11:06:00 AM  


Thursday, November 15, 2007


(Each "Featured Question," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous QUESTIONS are HERE. Please scroll down for recent postings)

On Thursday, November 22, America celebrates the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day. Most families make a special effort to reunite and to sit down to a family feast. If, like my family, yours is a small one, perhaps you celebrate in some way other than a family reunion. For example, Mr. AOW and I sometimes walk down the street to our neighbors' house or even go out to a restaurant. Twice we have traveled to Southern California to celebrate with Mr. AOW's family.
My fondest memories of Thanksgiving are the celebrations of years past, when those who are now gone sat down to a huge meal (turkey, ham, and all the trimmings), followed by taking naps, playing cards, or watching football games. Mom hosted the annual feast for the Virginia branch of our family, and before we said our good-byes, we officially began our Christmas celebration by gathering around the piano to sing Christmas carols.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK, in two parts: (1) How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? (2) What do you most associate with Thanksgiving Day? Recipes welcome! In the comments section, I'll be posting the recipe for the one dish our Thanksgiving-dinner hosts ask that I bring.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/15/2007 11:59:00 PM  


Christmas Bombs?

Via this posting by Reliapundit of THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS (emphases mine):
MIRROR: Al-Qaeda's Xmas bomb blitz

EXCLUSIVE Shock terror warning

Shopping centres and sports stadiums are Al-Qaeda's top targets for a Christmas bombing blitz, it was revealed yesterday.

A chilling security report warns that fanatics are determined to inflict a mass casualty attack in the UK.

Gordon Brown is expected to give a terror update to the Commons at midday.

It will come just hours after Security Minister, Alan West has presented his report, Security in Crowded Places, to the PM.

A top security source said the message was stark.
He told The Mirror: "Al Qaeda are determined to carry out an attack in the UK. They want mass casualties, iconic targets and mass media coverage where the television cameras are present."

He added: "Sports stadiums and shopping centres are most at risk where large numbers of people are congregated in one place, especially over the festive season."
Reliapundit says:





We can hope that Al Quaeda is bluffing and has no actual plans for a physical attack, but rather trying to generate enough fear to tank the busiest shopping season of the year, thus waging a form of economic jihad. Still, we know that waging spectacular attacks is the desire of the jihadomaniacs. We further know that complete security for large gatherings is impossible. Stay alert! Keep you cell phone charged.


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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/15/2007 08:12:00 AM  


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Weekly Radio Show: November 16

(This posting stuck toward the top for a few days. Please scroll down)

Listen to The Gathering Storm Radio Show, which WC and I cohost. The show broadcasts live every Friday for one hour at noon, Pacific Time.

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Friday, November 16: Two guests!

Our interviewee at the top of the hour is Elisabeth of Austria. At the bottom of the hour WC and I will be interviewing Fausta of Fausta's Blog.
We'll be discussing with Elisabeth the latest anti-jihadist news from Europe: the Islamofascist conference in Brussels, Switzerland's banning of minarets, and legislation in Italy and France, both of which are passing laws to ship out Muslim trouble-makers.

According to Fausta's profile, Fausta was born and raised in Santurce, Puerto Rico and is a long-term resident of Princeton, New Jersey. She discusses New Jersey, taxation, current events, and how news are reported in the French and Spanish-language media.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/14/2007 11:59:00 PM  


Misleading Labels

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

According to this article in the November 14, 2007 edition of the Washington Post, the thinktank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which advocates rigorous standards for education, recently graded some Advanced Placement (AP) courses, in which some 14,000 students are enrolled and by which high-school students can receive college credit if they pass the AP exams. Literature courses received a B+, history courses a B-, biology courses an A-, and calculus courses a C-. Compared to the marks which Fordham Institute awarded state standards, those for AP courses were significantly higher than for regular-track courses. However, the report found particular fault with math and history courses because
math [programs]...allowed more use of calculators than the authors considered appropriate. AP U.S. History was faulted for mentioning few specific historical events in its course plan....The authors advised teachers to ignore the [course] outlines....
College Board, which oversees AP courses as mentioned above, has a different take than the Fordham Institute when it comes to history courses. Specifically, College Board has indicated that AP courses should
[pursue] changes to social studies courses that might encourage "more time talking about such themes as 'politics and citizenship' or 'continuity and change,' " which report authors worried would reduce time for learning facts about historical events.
That issue of time is, in my opinion, a valid concern. Teachers and students do not have unlimited time to cover course material. Furthermore, just how are students supposed to talk in a reasoned manner about such themes if facts and events are not the basis of such discussions? Maybe the students are supposed to rely on hunches and feelings — those stand-bys of leftist education.

No doubt those factless-based discussions of themes are presented in the list of course objectives and public-relations material for parents as "critical thinking activities." In my view, "critical thinking" is one of today's mean-nothing educational terms, in part designed to make parents feel that their children are learning instead of being propagandized.

Colleges are increasingly finding problems with the content of high-school courses. Students come into higher education without the needed skills and foundational knowledge. As a result, remedial courses of all sorts abound now at the university level. Just how far has our level of education fallen?

One of my former teachers said to me some fifteen years ago, "Now students can graduate from college with a pretty good eighth-grade education." That statement is hyperbole, of course, but still makes the point that our educational system has serious flaws, one of which is abandoning the basics in favor of bells and whistles.

For various reasons, I'm no fan of College Board. That said, the following item from the November 19 issue of US News & World Report provides one reason as to why College Board has a valid concern about the quality of courses designated as "advanced placement":
The College Board's first ever audit of high school Advanced Placement courses found that most of these high school classes did meet college preparation standards. Concerned that some high schools were slapping the AP label on inappropriate classes—in one case, a high school student submitted transcripts to the University of Virginia showing he had taken "AP Study Hall"—the College Board, which administers the AP tests, analyzed 134,000 course syllabuses from 14,383 schools worldwide. More than two thirds of those syllabuses, or 67 percent, were immediately approved by the 839 college and university professors hired to conduct the review, according to the report released last week. The other classes have either been rejected or are still under review, says the College Board's Trevor Packer, vice president of the AP program.
What are "the other classes"? Is one-third of existent AP classes being of questionable merit symptomatic of a serious problem with our educational system? With College Board? You decide.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/14/2007 07:46:00 AM