Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why Change A Good Thing?

When I was a kid going to Delaware Elementary School in Springfield, Missouri, my mother would give me lunch money each day. I kept it in a little oval vinyl squeeze purse with a key chain attached. That was back in the sixties.

I still keep my change in such a purse. (My current one is blue.) For some reason, I've found that the best place to find such squeeze purses is in hardware stores, usually back in the back where they duplicate keys.

Sometimes when I pay for products, the sight of me opening my squeeze purse to get my change will prompt a cashier to say, "I haven't seen one of those in ages!" Well, they're still being made. In fact, offers the product in 14 different colors (including some translucent and neon colors)! But they'll charge you almost $3.00 for the product. If you don't require a nice selection of colors, also sells the product, and if you buy it in bulk from that company, you can get it for as little as $1.50 per coin purse. That's assuming that you're happy with the fact that they only offer it in blue.

Such squeeze purses are also offered by a number of companies specializing in "imprintable" promotional products, but they usually sell them only in bulk, customized with your own text and/or graphic image.

Occasionally, one of these purses will start to crack, due to constantly being opened and closed. Then it's time to get a new one. But overall, it's a great product, and well worth the money. Opening it to get out your change takes a lot less time than opening and closing a coin purse which uses a zipper, and it's a one-handed operation.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Money To Burn

The wife of a friend of mine works at a very fancy store on Michigan Avenue. I was speaking with that friend recently, and he told me that the store sells clothing for women. Some of the dresses sold in that store cost as much as $4,000. Oprah Winfrey is said to shop there from time to time.

Wow! I've never spent more than $100 for a suit in my life. And frankly, I can generally buy a nice shirt and a pair of pants for $50 or less, at places such as Marshalls, Filenes Basement or Penneys.

Now, I know that there are a few social situations where the type of clothes I normally buy might be considered unsuitable, which is why I might occasionally be willing to spend up to $100 for a suit in order to be prepared for such situations. But $4,000? Come on!!!

Yeah, I know that I'm a poor man who lives in a YMCA. But frankly, even if I were to suddenly become a billionaire, I still wouldn't spend $4,000, or even $1,000, on a suit of clothes. What kind of a pinhead would do such a thing? There are people starving in the world, and yet some folks can't think of anything better to do with their money than spend that money on clothes. And chances are good that the type of person who would spend that kind of money on one suit doesn't have just one $4,000 suit in the closet.

I have news for such people. A $4,000 suit is not made out of steel. It will wear out just as fast as a $100 suit.

If women think they have to spend that kind of money on clothes in order to attract men, I have another piece of news for them: Most men are much less interested in the clothes a woman wears than in the woman herself. An unattractive woman does not magically become beautiful by putting on an expensive dress or suit. A fat woman in an expensive dress is still fat. An ugly woman in an expensive dress is still ugly. Such things cannot be disguised with clothing or makeup.

Conversely, a really beautiful woman looks really beautiful even if she's wearing faded jeans and a ripped T-shirt. Or at least that's my personal opinion. One of the sexiest women I ever knew used to wear baggy denim overalls and T-shirts on a regular basis.

I'm not saying it isn't important for a woman to take care of herself. But it isn't necessary for a woman to spend oodles of money in order to be attractive to men, unless those men are just as shallow and materialistic as the women who are spending thousands of dollars for their suits.

Of course, some women would say that they aren't really dressing that way for the men. They're dressing that way to please themselves. Well, I guess everyone has to have a hobby of some type. But as a man, I've never quite understood women's obsession with clothes. To me, clothes are a necessity, but that's all.

A woman may say that she finds clothing to be a means of self-expression. I say, if you want to express yourself, learn to write or paint pictures or play a musical instrument, or do something else which actually contributes to culture in some important way. Writers and painters and musicians are sometimes remembered centuries after their death for their contributions to society. People who wear expensive clothes may also be remembered centuries later, but they are almost never remembered solely on account of the nice clothes they wore when they were alive. If your only legacy when you die is that you wore expensive clothes, then you haven't left much of a legacy, it seems to me.

When a woman such as Imelda Marcos has enough shoes to stock a shoe store, that tells me that there isn't a whole lot going on in-between her ears. If she's a political leader or the wife of a political leader, as Imelda Marcos was, it also tells me that she's totally clueless about the lives of the poor people living in her own country.

Most women aren't quite that extreme, but a lot of women exhibit a similar attitude towards clothes. And then women wonder why there still hasn't been a female president of the United States after more than 200 years. Perhaps Hillary Clinton will be the first woman to break through that barrier, but even if she does become our first female president, it still won't disprove the observation that in general, women tend to be obsessed with things which most men regard as trivial and utterly unworthy of great minds. I know that it isn't politically correct to say so, but a lot of things which aren't politically correct are nevertheless true.

However, this isn't a question of sexism. Frankly, I don't want a President of either gender who thinks that it's appropriate to spend $4,000 on a single suit of clothing.

My main reason for focusing on women is that very few men would think of spending $4,000 on a suit, or even dream of doing so. When men dream about being able to afford expensive things, the focus of those dreams is rarely on clothing. There are exceptions, of course, but they are exceptions.

Admittedly, wealthy men do sometimes have very expensive hobbies.

Jay Leno, for instance, owns some 80 cars and 15 motorcycles, according to an article at Wikipedia. Personally, I find that pretty offensive, given the fact that there are many people who can't even afford one decent car, and who really could use a good car. How many cars can a person drive at the same time? One. That's it.

In my opinion, the only legitimate reason for a single individual to own multiple vehicles is if the person is a car dealer, or if each vehicle serves a unique and necessary purpose in that person's life.

So, for example, I could see having a fuel-efficient car (for daily commutes to one's job, in order to save money on gas) and a small moving van or moving truck (for carrying music equipment to and from gigs and practice sessions) and an SUV (for trips to remote areas which were otherwise inaccessible) and a passenger van (for carrying groups of people to various events) and a touring bus (if one was a musician who regularly toured the country). Maybe an RV, if one was in the habit of regularly travelling the country, and if one determined that buying the RV would save money in comparison with staying in hotels or renting an RV from one of the companies which rent such vehicles.

I personally think that sports cars, as beautiful as they undeniably can be, are essentially a waste of money. What's the point of having a car which can easily break the speed limit? I'm a law abiding citizen, so I don't need to be able to drive at the speed of sound, or even at a speed which significantly exceeds the speed limit. In my view, buying a car which has such capabilities is socially irresponsible, since a person who has a car with such capabilities is faced every day with the temptation to break the speed limit. I am not opposed to having fun. But when your idea of fun is to needlessly jeopardize the lives of other people out on the open road, then you need to revise your ideas about what constitutes fun.

Plus, sports cars are totally impractical. Headroom and legroom are minimal. They sometimes carry only two passengers, and they rarely if ever have any capacity in terms of luggage. As far as I can see, the only real reason for having such a car is that it's a cool status symbol. I think that status symbols, by definition, are immoral. If you need to have a status symbol in order to improve your self esteem, then you're looking in the wrong place for your self esteem.

Having said all of that, Jay Leno can at least argue that his collection of cars will be donated to a museum when he dies, so that many, many people can enjoy looking at his collection of rare automobiles, which otherwise might not have been preserved.

How many of the airheads who spend thousands of dollars for their clothes can say the same thing with regard to their clothes? The only clothes I've ever seen in museums have been clothes worn by historically important figures such as the wives of U.S. Presidents. The likelihood that your overpriced dress or suit will someday end up in a museum is slim indeed, unless it's a museum of the absurd.

I think it's particularly funny that so many Hollywood celebrities seem to revel in the type of conspicuous consumption which would cause a person to buy such overpriced clothes. What makes it funny is that most of those celebrities are liberal Democrats who have often complained that Republicans were indifferent to the poor, or that Republicans were harming the economy. Apparently not enough to keep such celebrities from buying ridiculously overpriced clothes rather than giving the money to those who could really use it.

In my opinion, if a person is going to spend a lot of money on something, it should be a situation where the product being purchased actually provides a lot of functionality, and it should be a situation where a comparable product simply cannot be purchased for less money.

As a musician, for example, I find that there are situations where the instruments I want to own happen to cost a lot of money. A $2,000 Yamaha digital stage piano is worth the money, to me, because it's significantly superior to keyboard instruments which cost less money. The extra expenditure isn't just for the sake of vanity. It's for the sake of functionality. Such a digital piano is a tool which enables me to produce demonstrably better music than I could produce with a less expensive keyboard. It's easy for me to justify such a purchase because the purchase of such a product enables me to contribute to society in a way which would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Yet, if I found two products, and they were similar in virtually every important respect except for price, I would always go for the less expensive product. I would never spend a lot of money just for the sake of spending a lot of money and saying that I had proved, by doing so, that I had "good taste".

One example is the Zoom H4, a handheld digital audio recorder. Sony makes a very similar product, which came out before the Zoom came out. From what I can see, the only thing that makes the Sony slightly more appealing is that it has a nice pro black finish (which, to me, is pretty trivial). The Sony product costs about $2,000, whereas the Zoom H4 costs $300. Which one do you think I'd buy? That's a no-brainer. I could have six Zoom H4 units for the price of one Sony. Unless someone can show me how the Sony is superior in some really essential way, I will buy the Zoom when I have the chance. It's stupid to spend more money than one has to spend.

What gets me is that I always hear women complaining about "gender inequality" in terms of disparities between the amount of money men make and the amount of money women make. Well, apparently, that gender inequality hasn't prevented some women from being able to spend absurd amounts of money on their clothes. If they expect sympathy from me, they can forget about it. A person who can afford to spend that kind of money on clothes is not hurting for money.

I realize that not all women can afford such clothes, but the fact that some women can buy such clothes proves that it isn't gender per se which is preventing those other women from being able to buy such clothes. On an overall level, it may be true that women average slightly less money than men, but so what? There are still plenty of American women who make far more money than I will ever dream of making.

If you want my idea of the ultimate absurdity, it would be a person wearing a $4,000 dress and a bracelet saying WWJD. WWJD, for those of you who don't know, stands for the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" So here's a question to ponder: In your wildest imagination, can you picture Jesus walking into a store and buying a $4,000 suit for himself? Remember, this is the same Jesus who had no home of his own for the last three years of his life here on this earth. This is the same Jesus who showed unprecedented sympathy for the needs of the poor.

Personally, I can't picture it. I think that Jesus would be (and is) appalled by the self-centered lives many Americans lead today.

I'm not saying that Jesus wants us all to walk around in filthy rags. But the Bible very clearly speaks out against those who ostentatiously display their wealth in the form of bodily adornment.

I Timothy 2:8-10 says the following:

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Now, I know that some people would say that that's extreme. St. Paul didn't really mean that Christian women shouldn't ever wear gold (even in the form of wedding bands) or pearls or costly clothing, did he? He didn't really mean that women shouldn't spend hours upon hours having their hair braided, did he? Well, yeah, that's exactly what he said, so I have to assume that that's exactly what he meant. If you have an argument, your argument is not with me. Your argument is with the Word of God.

Are you one of those wealthy people who has money to burn? Be careful, or it may be you who ends up being burned, possibly for all of eternity. Ultimately, that's for God to judge, not me, but in light of the above scripture, I personally wouldn't want to take any chances of offending God.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Condescension Is Not A Family Value

The following blog post pertains to: Doug Ibendahl; Jack Roeser; Otto Engineering; The Family Taxpayers Network; The Champion Foundation; and RYP (Republican Young Professionals).

Committed Republicans are extremely rare here in Chicago. I am such a rarity. I have voted for Republican candidates for more than 20 years, primarily on account of my agreement with the party's pro-life, pro-family views.

Not all Republican candidates or politicians have agreed with my views on subjects such as abortion and gay marriage, and there have been a few rare Democrats (such as Bob Casey and Glenn Poshard) who have agreed with me about such issues. But not enough to cause me to switch to the Democratic party.

Around the time of the 2000 elections, when I first served as a Republican election judge here in Chicago, I began to meet with a small handful of likeminded conservative Republicans. One such Republican was an attorney named Craig Simmons. Craig and I had had some enjoyable conversations about our mutual beliefs and values, so we kept in touch on a regular basis.

Craig called me not long ago to let me know that his wife Susan Simmons had been appointed to be the "committeeman" of the 42nd Ward Republican Organization after the previous committeeman Rich Gordon stepped down from that position. Craig was very happy about that appointment. He'd always had a passion for politics.

Back in late 2005, I had spoken with Craig about my vision for a Christian ministry focusing on the arts. (For more information, visit I had gotten a lot of positive feedback from various people, concerning that vision, but I had received very little in the way of tangible support for the project.

Craig told me that he knew of a man who seemed to be likely to show an interest in my project, and who also had the financial means with which to help fund the project. The man's name was Jack Roeser.

Jack Roeser is the Chairman and Founder of Otto Engineering, a company with 500 employees. Jack is also the leader of a couple of conservative political organizations, known as The Family Taxpayers Network and the Champion Foundation. In 1994, Jack Roeser ran for Illinois Governor against Jim Edgar in the Republican primary election. (Jack received 25% of the vote, according to Wikipedia.)

Craig said that he felt he had reason to believe that Jack would be interested in supporting my project, based on Craig's knowledge of the types of organizations Mr. Roeser had supported in the past. Craig didn't have a direct connection to Jack Roeser, but he did have a secondhand connection to Mr. Roeser, via a man named Doug Ibendahl. Doug Ibendahl is the attorney for the Family Taxpayers Network, and he is also the leader of an organization known as the Republican Young Professionals. Craig seemed to feel that he had a good working relationship with Doug. Craig felt that he could persuade Doug to introduce me to Mr. Roeser in order to enable me to make a presentation which might potentially lead to Jack's support for my project.

Doug Ibendahl and I had discussed our mutual preference for gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweiss during the most recent Republican primary election. I thought that I had established a nice rapport with Doug during those e-mail exchanges, although we had never met in person.

On May 3, Craig invited me to a nice little get-together in a penthouse apartment on Lake Shore Drive. The gathering consisted of various Chicagoland Republicans who wanted to watch the Republican presidential debates held in the Reagan Library. I wanted to watch those debates, of course. But my primary reason for attending the event was that Craig had told me that Doug Ibendahl had agreed to meet with me on that occasion and to discuss my project with me. I came prepared with a nice little package I had put together specifically for the occasion.

Unfortunately, I had only spoken with Doug for a few minutes before I began to feel a distinctively negative vibe coming from him. He acted as if I was imposing on him merely by asking him to sit down on a nearby couch and speak with me. When I gave the package to him, he told me that he would look at my package, in a tone of voice which made me fairly certain that he had no intention of giving any serious consideration to my proposal. So I spoke with Craig later that evening, telling him about the inexplicable cold shoulder I'd received from Doug. I asked Craig to wait about a week (in case I was wrong), and then to contact Doug and find out what was up. Craig did so. It turned out that my perceptions had been quite accurate.

Why had Doug Ibendahl so quickly dismissed my ideas without really giving me a fair hearing? The first reason he cited, when speaking with Craig, was that he believed that Jack Roeser was uninterested in funding "nonpolitical" projects. I felt that there was a political component in terms of my vision for a Christian arts ministry, since the objective was to use the arts in order to make a positive impact on the nation's moral values, thereby strengthening the American family. It would have been nice to be able to sit down with Jack Roeser and explain why I felt that there was a strong connection between his goals and mine.

But what really shocked me was the second reason Doug Ibendahl cited for dismissing my ideas. He told Craig that I lacked credibility because I currently resided at the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago.

I'd never tried to keep that fact secret. I thought that most people were intelligent enough to evaluate my ideas on their own merits, rather than dismissing my ideas for no better reason than the fact that I lived in a low-rent apartment because my personal income level was low.

I responded by writing an e-mail message to Doug. In that message, I pointed out that Jesus had been a homeless man during the last three years of his ministry on earth, and I cited the specific scriptures to prove it. I pointed out that if Mr. Ibendahl's premise was correct, then Jesus Christ didn't have any credibility either.

(Just for the record, I was not in any way trying to say that I was comparable to Jesus in all respects. I know that I'm not worthy to tie the sandals on Jesus' feet. But I think that my point was clear. Dismissing a person's ideas solely on the basis of that person's place of residence is misguided, to say the least.)

I also pointed out that Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards, had founded that billion dollar company while living in a Kansas City YMCA. If a person had dismissed Mr. Hall's ideas and impugned his credibility, solely on the basis of where Mr. Hall lived at the time, that person would have been a fool.

After receiving my most recent e-mail, did Doug Ibendahl apologize for his insensitive and condescending dismissal of my ideas, based solely on where I chose to lay my head? No. In his mind, I was apparently in a social class lower than his own, so there was no need for an apology.

As I discussed in the opening sentences of this blog, I have been a Republican for a very long time. In general, I think that the Republican party stands on the right side of most of the crucial moral issues of the day. But I am aware of the fact that many people in Chicago prefer the Democratic party because they perceive that Republicans are often rich people who are indifferent to the needs of the poor. Sadly, Doug Ibendahl personifies that negative stereotype.

If it were solely up to Mr. Ibendahl, I would become a Democrat tomorrow. His presence in the Republican party is an anchor which is dragging the party down. And it's not as if Illinois Republicans are not already floundering. In the wake of the various scandals which have occurred in recent years, the Illinois Republican Party cannot afford to further alienate people.

What kind of person treats an ally in such a way as to convert that ally into a potential enemy? That doesn't strike me as a wise way to insure the success of one's own political party. Yet, that is exactly what Doug Ibendahl did during his most recent meeting with me.

One would think that Doug would appreciate the political value of being able to point to a committed Republican whose existence disproved the idea that all Republicans were wealthy, but apparently, he does not.

I don't hold Jack Roeser directly responsible for Doug Ibendahl's actions, but I do worry that Doug's attitudes are a reflection of the overall attitudes which are considered to be acceptable at the Family Taxpayers Network. I think that Jack needs to know that the person he has chosen to represent him legally is doing him more harm than good.

What I find strange is that I found one article on the web which suggests that there was a time in Doug Ibendahl's life, back in 2001, when he recognized the value of reaching out to the poor people in the community. But I suppose that a lot can change in six years, in terms of a person's attitude.

Or perhaps an alternative explanation is that painting schools in inner city neighborhoods was motivated primarily by the self-serving goal of building RYP and the Republican party, and not by any genuine concern for the people they were helping.

All I know is that the "compassionate conservatism" to which the article refers was noticeably absent when Doug spoke with me on May 3, 2007.

As for Craig Simmons, I do not in any way hold it against him that Doug treated me as he did. He had no way of knowing that Doug wouldn't keep his word. (He misleadingly caused Craig to think that he'd give my ideas a fair hearing.) Craig Simmons continues to be a good friend of mine. If Doug Ibendahl had half of Craig's class, the world would be a better place.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pro-Life Diversity

No one who has studied the history of the United States could fail to appreciate the diverse influences which have combined to make this nation what it is. That diversity of influences is one of the things which has made our nation great.

Unfortunately, the term "diversity" has taken on a different meaning in liberal circles in recent years. These days, liberals often use the term as a means of suggesting that there are no objective truths, and as a means of suggesting that competing value systems are all equally valid, even when there is no logical way that they can all be equally true.

"Multiculturalism" is another word which has similary been transformed by liberals in order to mean something quite different from the literal meaning of the word. The word is now used by some liberals in order to suggest that it is arrogant to say that some cultures are superior to other cultures.

In short, both terms have become code words designed to signify belief in moral and cultural relativism. Dare to suggest that Christianity is superior to a belief in Hinduism or in Wicca, and some will accuse you of lacking an adequate appreciation for diversity. Ditto, in some cases, if you dare to suggest that democracy is superior to monarchy or dictatorship or totalitarianism.

The issue, for such people, is not whether or not one belief is more or less true than another belief. Instead, such people have replaced a belief in objective truth with a system of belief in which the only real sin is to suggest that objective truth exists and that some people are objectively wrong.

Of course, there are a number of ironies here. One of those ironies is that if in fact the premise is correct, then it would be arrogant for a liberal who highly valued diversity and multiculturalism to claim to be superior in any way to a person who valued neither one of those things. If it's wrong to say that another person is wrong, then liberals have no basis for claiming that conservatives are wrong about anything.

Yet, in practice, that isn't the way that it works at all. Some of the most judgmental statements I've ever heard have come from the mouths, pens or computers of liberals who claim that it's wrong to be judgmental. (If you don't believe me, check out some of the blog posts which have been written during the past several days in response to news about the death of Jerry Falwell.)

Ironically, many of these same liberals fail to recognize and acknowledge real diversity where it exists. That's particularly true when it comes to the pro-life movement.

To hear pro-abortion or "pro-choice" liberals talk, one would think that the term pro-life is synonymous with "conservative Christian" or with "conservative Catholic". This characterization comes in mighty handy for liberals seeking to uphold the current status quo with regard to the legality of abortion. By ignoring the substantial diversity within the pro-life movement, they can speciously argue that laws limiting or forbidding abortion would constitute the imposition of religious doctrine on the general public.

In fact, pro-life people are not all Christians, nor are they all conservatives. There are pro-life people who identify themselves (or have identified themselves) as Jews (particularly Orthodox Jews), Mormons, Muslims, agnostics, Wiccans and even some atheists. There are pro-life libertarians (who deny that their general opposition to governmental imposition of moral beliefs is applicable to the abortion issue) and there are pro-life homosexuals. There are pro-life people in the Democratic party and there are pro-life people whose positions on other political issues could be described as liberal. There are many, many pro-life feminists. In short, it is utterly ridiculous to assume that all pro-life people are carbon copies of one another.

Admittedly, one of the reasons for the stereotypes aimed at the pro-life movement is that some pro-life people have done things to contribute to the stereotypes.

One of my complaints is that when some of the most active pro-life groups hold public events, they often do so in a way which enhances the perception that they are in favor of a theocratic government. For example, I've participated in pro-life protest marches in which many of the people in our group loudly recited the Hail Mary prayer, making it appear to passersby that every one of the people in our group was Catholic.

I would not describe myself as "anti-Catholic", in the sense that some people in this country have been (and may still be) anti-Catholic, but neither am I a Catholic. I happen to think that the official Catholic position on abortion is the correct one (which is why I have no problem standing shoulder to shoulder with Catholics on that issue), but I also think that Catholics are wrong about a number of important doctrinal issues, and I'm not afraid to say so.

In the unlikely event that the Pope issued a proclamation tomorrow saying that abortion was no longer a sin and that abortions actually ought to be encouraged, it would have no effect whatsoever on my own opinions on that subject. It would make me sad to see that the Catholic church had lost its spine (as many mainstream Protestant churches have done in recent years), but that is all, because my opinions about abortion have little to do with what the Catholic church says or doesn't say on that subject.

The problem with reciting the Hail Mary prayer (or any prayer) during public pro-life events is that it reinforces liberal stereotypes about the pro-life movement, inadvertently giving credence to the idea that pro-life people do in fact want to turn the U.S. into a Catholic or Christian theocracy. I've spent enough time with pro-life Catholics and Christians to believe that that is generally a false perception. but I can understand why unbelievers might incorrectly come to that conclusion after attending pro-life events in which leaders have unwisely spoken in such a manner as to suggest that pro-life politics and Christian beliefs are synonymous.

There is a time and a place for everything, including public prayers and public recitations of scriptures. In my opinion, political events focusing on the abortion issue are not the proper time or place for such things. The last thing we need to be doing, strategically speaking, is reinforcing public stereotypes which hinder the probability of our success in the political arena.

In order to accomplish our political objectives, we need to forge alliances with all pro-life people, even with those with whom we may have very strong disagreements on matters unrelated to abortion. If that means toning down the religious rhetoric so that pro-life people who disagree with us about religious matters will feel comfortable marching with us in opposition to abortion, then that's what it means.

(Whether or not such parades are politically effective is a separate subject which I will very likely discuss in another blog post.)

When I've tried to discuss this issue with some fellow pro-life people, they have often responded in such a way as to suggest that I am somehow ashamed of my faith in Christ. To the contrary. Anyone who's read this blog often knows that I am very upfront about sharing my faith. But when I am talking about the abortion issue, I generally try to deemphasize the religious aspects of my pro-life convictions, because I believe that one can make a strong case against legal abortion, regardless of whether or not one is a believer in Christ. In other words, while it certainly is true that the Christian scriptures offer a lot of evidence to the effect that abortion is wrong, it is not necessary to resort to quoting the scriptures or quoting the Pope in order to come up with persuasive and compelling arguments against legal abortion.

If I believed that the claims of pro-choice leaders were valid --- that is, if I believed that the only way to make a case against legal abortion was to resort to arguments which assumed that Christianity was true --- then I would be inclined to agree with those who thought that abortion should remain legal. After all, there is a legitimate distinction between that which is immoral and that which ought to be illegal.

I believe, for example, that it's morally wrong for a person to reject Christ as Savior. But that doesn't mean that I think that all non-Christians should be thrown into prison on account of their unbelief! Not only would such treatment be completely forbidden by the United States Constitution, but in addition, I would question the value of any so-called "conversion" which was due solely to coercion, not to persuasion. Going through the motions of acting like a Christian is not the same thing as being a Christian.

Fortunately, it is possible to make a strong case against legal abortion even if one does not accept the idea that Christianity is valid, just as it was possible to make a strong case in favor of civil rights for African Americans without resorting to religious arguments.

For example, Nat Hentoff is a liberal Jewish atheist (and lover of jazz) who writes for the Village Voice. He was once accepted as a member of the radical left, until he had the audacity to speak out against legal abortion. Then he discovered that many of his fellow liberals were hypocrites, inasmuch as they claimed to believe in civil liberties such as free speech, while doing everything they could to suppress the free speech rights of those who disagreed with them about abortion. If I were to write an article entitled "Pro-Choice Bigots" folks might say, "Well, that's what you would expect a conservative pro-life Christian to say." When Nat Hentoff writes about the hypocrisy of his fellow liberals when it comes to the subject of abortion, it really packs a punch.

As another example, Dr. Bernard Nathanson may be a Catholic now, but he was born a Jew. When he wrote his book Aborting America, he was a self-proclaimed atheist. I still consider that book to be one of the best books I ever read on the subject of abortion. His arguments against the practice were not based on Christian doctrines or scriptures. They were based on science and common sense. And that may be why the New York Times refused to review the book when it was first published. The liberals who dominated that newspaper were committed to a simplistic perception of reality which assumed that the only possible way to argue against abortion was to cite religious doctrines. Nathanson's arguments (none of which relied on religious doctrine or dogma) undercut their cherished assumptions and posed a real threat to their ideologies. His arguments were particularly powerful because of his background. He'd been one of the first people in America to perform legal abortions, and in fact, he had played a major role in making abortion legal. Yet, like Norma McCorvey (the "Roe" in Roe v. Wade), Dr. Nathanson later repented of his actions and became an outspoken opponent of legal abortion.

I am not in any way ashamed to identify myself as a Christian. But I think it's important for us to understand that there are reasons why abortion remains legal in the United States, and one of those reasons is that the abortion industry has successfully persuaded a lot of Americans that it would be unconstitutional to enact anti-abortion laws which, in their view, would violate the principle of the separation of church and state.

It is therefore in our best interest, politically, to do everything we can to refute that argument by offering ample evidence of the religious diversity within the pro-life movement.

Likewise, we need to emphasize the political diversity of the pro-life movement, so as to assure people that agreement with pro-life values and pursuit of pro-life goals does not necessarily need to imply support for everything which has ever been done or advocated by conservative politicians.

Most importantly, we need to identify our priorities when it comes to deciding who we ought to vote for. Personally, I tend to vote for Republicans, but my allegiance to the Republican party is not as strong as my allegiance to the pro-life cause. I became a Republican because of my perception that the Republican party was the pro-life party. If that perception were to change, even on a temporary basis, voting pro-life would be more important to me than voting for the Republican candidate.

Let's say, as one hypothetical example, that Rudy Giuliani (a pro-choice Republican) was running against Glenn Poshard (an Illinois Democrat who made it clear, when running for Illinois governor against George Ryan, that he was pro-life). In such a case, I'd vote for Poshard, provided that none of his other positions were so egregious that they cancelled out his pro-life views. But that seems unlikely, because I happen to believe that legal abortion (which has already taken some 49 million lives in the United States since 1973) is by far the most egregious assault on fundamental human rights which this country has ever known.

Unfortunately, as Nat Hentoff has made clear, the Democratic party is almost completely intolerant of pro-life Democrats such as Glenn Poshard and the late Bob Casey. So even though I am having difficulty getting excited about the current crop of Republican candidates for President, I am still far more likely to vote for a Republican than for a Democrat.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Death of Jerry Falwell

I just learned, upon visiting a Christian web site, that Jerry Falwell passed away today at the age of 73.

It might be assumed, on the basis of the fact that I share many of the views expressed by Pastor Falwell, that I was a great admirer of his. In some respects that's true, but I was always somewhat ambivalent about the man.

I certainly agreed with Falwell's strong opposition to legal abortion and homosexuality. I agreed that Christians needed to get involved politically rather than just acquiescing to every demand made by liberals who were blatantly opposed to Christian values and principles.

I also had to admire someone who started out with so little and built it into an enormously successful church (the Thomas Road Baptist Church), as well as Liberty University, from which sprang ministries such as the hip hop and rock music ministry of dc Talk. In terms of all of the above, I think it would be accurate to say that Jerry Falwell left a positive legacy.

On the flip side, there was Falwell's known tendency to get involved directly or indirectly in silly controversies (such as the one involving the Teletubbies), and to stick his foot in his mouth, much as another TV evangelist named Pat Robertson had also done on occasions. Some of Falwell's public statements were bereft of the love and charity which ought to characterize the lives of Christian leaders.

There was also the role Falwell ostensibly played in betraying another infamous TV evangelist, Jim Bakker. Bakker was hardly blameless, of course, but neither was Falwell. Overall, it was one of the uglier chapters in the history of conservative Christianity in this country, and it haunts conservative Christians to this day, in terms of giving some people an excuse to dismiss or ignore us.

I think one of Falwell's biggest liabilities, from the standpoint of public perception of the man, was his general demeanor. Normally, a nice smile is a good thing, but Falwell had a tendency to come across as rather smug and condescending. That's just my own subjective impression, and I freely admit that other people might see things differently. But I think that his overall demeanor frightened some people.

Admittedly, the people Falwell frightened were usually the type of people who, due to their radically different political opinions, would have been frightened by anyone who dared to challenge their dubious beliefs. But Jerry probably would have had more impact on such people if he had projected more of a sense of humility.

My own hometown, Springfield, Missouri, played a role in Falwell's life in his early years. Jerry studied at a very conservative Baptist college known as BBC (Baptist Bible College). Later, however, he switched from the more conservative Baptist Bible Fellowship International to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Not long ago, I read an online article which criticized BBC for inviting Dr. Falwell to speak at that college. According to the writer of that article, Falwell was far too "liberal" for such an invitation. I thought that was pretty funny, given the fact that Falwell was long regarded by the mainstream press as one of the most conservative Christian leaders in America.

But there was also a sad aspect to the article. It helped to illustrate one of the reasons why the Christian Church has often been ineffectual in terms of actually transforming our culture in any really significant ways. We have often been so busy bickering with one another over minor points of doctrine that we have failed to unite with one another in order to pursue common goals which we all ostensibly share. I think that one of Falwell's strengths was his recognition of the wisdom of forging alliances with other believers with whom one might not necessarily agree in every respect.

The bottom line, regarding Dr. Falwell, is that he was an imperfect human being (like the rest of us) who nevertheless loved the Lord and did a lot of good things during his lifetime. Anyone who accomplishes as much as he accomplished is bound to make a few mistakes along the way. Nevertheless, I fully expect to see his smiling face in heaven when I die.

UPDATE: If you want a really clear example of why I say that a lot of political liberals are hypocrites, just use one of the search engines designed specifically for searching blog posts (such as the one at and search for all blog entries pertaining to Jerry Falwell during the past 24 hours as of May 15, the day of his death. But don't do so unless you have a high tolerance level for obscenities and vile, hateful statements. More than a few liberals are rejoicing that Falwell is dead.

As just one tiny but typical example of the types of things which are being written by liberals who hated what Jerry Falwell stood for, consider this lovely statement (from someone who apparently doesn't quite grasp the basics of things such as capitalization and punctuation):

"while i am sorry for the family of mr. falwell, i cant say im disappointed he died. i just wish he would have taken all of his followers with him in a jim jones style mass suicide/murder extraveganza"
Let's see. Thomas Road Baptist Church, the church led by Jerry Falwell up until his death, has over 24,000 members, according to Wikipedia. So this particular blogger named "Buffalo Alice" thinks it's great that Falwell is dead, and that it would be even better if at least 24,000 additional people would drop dead immediately. Why haven't the authorities pegged this blogging nutcase as the next Cho Seung-Hui?

Of course, she would probably describe me as one of Falwell's "followers" too, since I share some of his beliefs. Which, logically, means that she would like to see me drop dead as well, along with virtually all conservative Christians throughout the land who sometimes agreed with Falwell.

What I find ironic is that many of the people currently saying hateful things about Falwell would like you to believe that they are strong believers in "peace and love" and things of that nature. It turns out that these so-called lovers of peace are every bit as capable of saying nasty things as Falwell ever was. In fact, I would say that the hateful things currently being said about Jerry Falwell far surpass the worst things he ever said about anyone.

Boundless Ignorance

Recently, I wrote and posted a blog article designed to illustrate what I believed, and still believe, to be the absurdities of the claims of transgendered people, who essentially argue that God mistakenly placed their brains in bodies belonging to the wrong gender. Some transgendered people are willing to try to learn to live with that discrepancy (sometimes because they have little choice, since they can't afford to pay the high costs associated with sex "reassignment", which is seldom if ever covered by insurance companies, which correctly regard it as cosmetic and medically unnecessary surgery). Others argue that it is the duty of surgeons to correct God's whopper of a mistake by surgically altering their bodies so that they have what they believe to be the correct genitalia, more or less.

(I say "more or less", because I've never heard of a person getting a sex change from male to female and then successfully getting pregnant and bringing the baby to term. Also, I seem to recall hearing or reading that men who get sex change operations retain their "Adam's apples" because that part of a person's anatomy is not subject to easy surgical revision. If you see a person dressed like a woman, with big breasts and an Adam's apple, you can be fairly sure that when that person was first born, the birth announcement said, "It's a boy!")

Anytime one writes about a controversial subject, one has to expect criticism. In response to the aforementioned blog post, a person named "Joe" wrote to me and said, "Your ignorance knows no bounds."

Wow! I have boundless ignorance. That means that my ignorance is pretty much limitless or infinite. And here I thought that only God had traits which could be described as infinite.

If my ignorance had no bounds, then that would pretty much mean that I knew absolutely nothing, and maybe even less than nothing, wouldn't it? So here's a question: If I know absolutely nothing, how did I manage to turn on my computer, log into Blogger and then write and post an article which was apparently so aggravating that Joe felt that it cried for a rebuttal? It's a wonder that an infinitely ignorant person such as myself could even finish writing a single sentence.

There's a word for such exaggeration. The word is hyperbole. Since Joe is prone to hyperbole, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when he went on to say that "modern science" had proven that transgendered people did in fact have brains belonging to the opposite gender.

I would like to meet this "Modern Science" and ask him some questions. But of course, I can't. There is no single entity named "Modern Science". There are modern scientists, for sure, but they have been known to disagree with one another from time to time. I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few people who could be described as modern scientists even though they strongly disagree with the premise behind the idea that transgendered people are what they claim to be.

Presumably, when Joe says that my opinions are at odds with the views of "modern science," he's not talking about the American Psychiatric Association, which still lists Gender Identity Disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Of course, there's pressure from liberals for the APA to legitimize yet another sexual aberration by removing that listing, but it hasn't happened yet. So unless Joe is prepared to argue that psychiatrists aren't scientists, it's more than a little bit specious for him to argue that my views on transgendered people contradict the views of "modern science".

Reading the Wikipedia article under the heading of "Transgender", I find that I am inclined to marvel at the incredible variety of sexual variations which currently can be found in our population. We now have transsexuals, cross-dressers, transvestites, androgynes, genderqueers, drag queens, drag kings, transvestic fetishists, homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals and asexuals. The list seems to go on and on and on. I'm surprised that there isn't a special category for people who prefer sex toys to people.

I'd rather just simplify matters and call them what they all are: Perverts.

Now, that might sound hateful to you, but it's not. I myself went through a brief period of time, shortly after puberty, when I experimented with cross-dressing. There was some guilt associated with the activity of dressing in women's clothing, but I didn't really understand my own motivations at the time, and there was a period of time in which I felt powerless to control my own behavior and thoughts.

Fortunately, I became a Christian. The dysfunctional behavior did not cease immediately, but I began to realize over a period of time that what I was doing was morally wrong. So I asked God to help me to conquer my compulsions.

You know what? God did help me! Through a combination of prayer and self-denial, I eventually got to the point in my life where I not only didn't do what I'd done in the past, but I didn't even have any desire to do so. I looked back on that period of my life and I wondered how I could ever have done anything so ridiculous. I eventually came to realize that my sexual dysfunction had been a symptom of my overall unhappiness with my life, and my lack of gratitude to God. I didn't need any therapist in order to reach those conclusions. The Holy Spirit was my therapist.

Years later, I read an article (in the Boston Globe) by a so-called "expert" in human sexuality named Beth Winship. Her column was entitled "Ask Beth". In response to a reader's question, Winship claimed that one might as well abandon the idea of changing the behavior of cross-dressers, because they could never change.

Having had some personal experiences of my own along those lines, I took umbrage at that claim. I wrote to her and told her so. She wrote back to me and assured me that all the "experts" agreed with her. Essentially, in her mind, I didn't exist. The "experts" said that what I had done could not be done, and that was all there was to it. It reminded me of an old saying: "I know what I believe, so don't confuse me with the evidence."

Do you see why I'm a little bit skeptical when I hear similar claims with regard to the idea that gay people can't change? When a person is motivated more by ideology than by a genuine desire to learn the truth, contrary evidence is simply ignored, as it was in my case.

In general, there seems to be a trend among some people towards a view of people which negates the existence of free will. In the minds of some people, we are not human beings capable of controlling our thoughts or actions. We are sex machines, programmed to act in ways we can neither control nor fully understand.

Such people often talk about freedom, but the reality is that they believe that people are slaves to their genetic programming. How sad and pathetic!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Confusing Acronyms

Organizations with long names love acronyms because acronyms considerably reduce the need to type out those long names when creating various documents. Such acronyms also make it easier to create visually appealing logos.

Sometimes, it's clear what an acronyms mean. For example, just about everyone knows that the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Likewise, even the most conservative person knows that the NOW is the National Organization of Women. It's kind of presumptuous of them to claim to speak for all women, since many pro-life women are completely opposed to the organization's agenda, but I will have to give them credit for coming up with an acronym which actually spelled a word which seemed to relate in some vague way to the image the organization wanted to project.

Pronunciation is sometimes an issue, which is why organizations seem to like acronyms with repetitive letters. Even though "n, double a, c, p" actually has one more syllable than "n, a, a, c, p", the former pronunciation seems to be preferred, perhaps because it flows more smoothly when verbalized.

Theoretically, one could refer to "the NOW", but very few people do. They say "the n, o, w" instead, because it's less ambiguous.

Some acronyms have multiple possible meanings because multiple companies or organizations use those acronyms. Potentially, things can be a bit confusing, making one wonder whether or not it would be easier to just spell out the entire names of the organizations.

For several years, when I was in high school, I attended an Assemblies of God church, in Springfield, Missouri, known as Evangel Temple. We all called our church "ET". Then, of course, the movie "ET" came out, along with a little TV show known as "Entertainment Tonight", which was often described as "ET". So which "ET" was one talking about at any given moment? It was sometimes clear from the context of the sentence, but not always. "I love ET" could have referred to any one of the three possible meanings (and possibly others I haven't thought of).

Another popular acronym, especially in Christian circles, is CCC. My first encounter with that acronym was when I attended Cambridge Christian Center in New England, near Harvard University. But it's been used by numerous ministries, including Community Christian Church, Christ Community Church, Christian Catholic Church, Community Congregational Church, and more. And it isn't difficult to think of a lot of other possible meanings. (I don't know whether or not anyone owns a business named Crazy Charlie's Cafe, but it isn't inconceivable.)

Acronyms seem to come in sets of 3 letters more often than any other number, but there are shorter acronyms and longer ones as well.

The acronyms I've chosen for the Christian ministries I want to start would be as follows:

CARC (Christian Artists' Resource Center)
CAI (The Christian Arts Initiative)
NAAAC (North American Alliance of Artistic Christians)

Whenever one chooses an acronym or an organizational name, one problem is that one may inadvertently be using an acronym which is already taken. Why is that a problem? Because the other company may claim that it "owns" the acronym already.

Take WWF, for example. WWF was the acronym for the World Wildlife Fund. That same acronym was also being used by the World Wrestling Federation. The World Wildlife Fund sued the World Wrestling Federation, forcing the latter organization to stop using the WWF acronym.

The weird thing is that if you ever compared the logos for the two organizations, you'd see that they didn't really look alike at all. There was little or no danger of people confusing the rounded typography and cute cuddly panda bear on the logo for the World Wildlife Fund with the hard metallic logo of the World Wrestling Federation. But the mere fact that they both shared the same 3 letters seems to have been enough. As it turned out, the dispute ended up costing the wrestling organization a lot of money, because all of the merchandise which had been branded with the old logo had to be redone with the new logo when they changed their name to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Now, in terms of the specific situation, Wikipedia states, "In 2000, the World Wildlife Fund (also WWF), an environmental organization now called the World Wide Fund for Nature, sued the World Wrestling Federation. A British court agreed that Titan Sports had violated a 1994 agreement which had limited the permissible use of the WWF initials overseas, particularly in merchandising."

So it may be that the legal issue wasn't the fact that they shared the same initials, but rather, the fact that there was a prior 1994 agreement between the two organizations. If that's the case, it's harder to feel sorry for the wrestling organization (and I wouldn't normally be inclined to have a lot of sympathy for that organization anyway, since I regard most pro wrestling endeavors as inordinately sleazy).

But it is interesting to the extent that it suggests that may be possible to get into legal trouble merely by using an acronym which is already being used another company or organization. How one is supposed to know that one is doing so is anyone's guess. To my knowledge, there's no national or international registrar which keeps track of all acronyms currently in use. I'm not quite sure how an organization would go about protecting itself against frivolous lawsuits pertaining to the use of acronyms. It could be devestating for a small organization which was already operating on the financial margins to begin with to be forced to change its name (after investing a lot of money in the previous name) in order to comply with the law.

As far as I know, there are no current organizations using CARC, NAAAC or NAI. But I could be wrong. I guess I just have to create logos, register those logos as trademarks (after doing trademark searches), and hope for the best.

What Martyrdom Is Not

When Cho Seung-Hui was preparing to kill numerous students at Virginia Tech, he prepared a statement to the media. He said, "Thanks to you I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the Weak and Defenseless..."

Strange. I don't recall reading anything in the Bible to suggest that Jesus died during the process of killing numerous weak and defenseless people who had no guns with which to shoot back. Jesus did not have a Glock in one hand and a Walther in the other in the moments prior to his crucifixion. In fact, Jesus rebuked Peter for using a sword against those who arrested Christ when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane.

If anyone oppressed the weak and defenseless, it was Cho, since it was he who murdered such people. Yet, his words seem to suggest that he wanted to be honored as some kind of martyr.

It's easy to characterize Cho as delusional and insane, but his ideas about martyrdom were only marginally different from the ideas which motivated Islamic terrorists to kill thousands of unarmed Americans on 9/11. Like the suicide bombers which have plagued the world both before and after that colossal tragedy, such terrorists had been taught that Allah would reward them for their murderous deeds! How anyone could be so stupid as to think such a thing is beyond comprehension.

God does not condone murder. To use the term "martyr" to describe people who died while murdering thousands of other people is an insult to the Christian martyrs, who died truly selfless, sacrificial deaths rather than bow to Ceasar.

Slandering The Almighty

The following story was inspired by a story I recently read on the Web courtesy of MSNBC.

John and Larry were next door neighbors. Over a period of time, they'd become very good friends. Larry was a bit eccentric in some respects, but John thought he had gotten used to Larry's strange ways.

Nevertheless, John was shocked one day when he looked out his front window. Larry was standing next to the curb. His pants were unzipped, and he was peeing on the fire hydrant.

John walked outside the house and approached Larry. "Larry, what do you think you're doing?"

"Peeing on the fire hydrant, John," said Larry.

"I can see that," said John. "Why are you peeing on the hydrant, Larry?"

"I'm not going to live in denial any longer," said Larry.

"Denial? Denial of what?" asked John.

"My inner dog," said Larry.

"Your WHAT?" asked John.

"My inner dog, "repeated Larry.

It was then that John noticed that Larry was wearing a leather dog collar and a dog tag. Larry finished his business and zipped up his pants. Then he said, "Turn around, John."

"Turn around? What for?" asked John.

"So I can greet you properly and thereby fulfill my doggie instincts," said Larry. "I want to sniff your behind."

"Oh, for crying out loud, Larry," cried John. "This silly charade has gone on long enough, and if you sniff my behind, I will most assuredly kick yours."

"Arf," yelled Larry. "Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf!"

"Stop that," commanded John. "You're not a dog, you're a man."

"Wrong," said Larry. "I just look like a man to you. But I now know what I never realized before. God made a mistake. He took my brain and put it into the body of a human being, but really, I'm a dog."

"What a ridiculous claim," said John.

"Ridiculous? Then explain why I've always liked to play frisbee. Explain why I hate vegetables. Explain why I always used to love to hang my head out of the car window when dad was driving the car."

"You are not a dog," said John. "Repeat after me: I am not a dog, I am not a dog, I am not a dog."

"Am so," said Larry.

"Tell me this," said John. "Why have you never claimed to be a dog before now? I know you've always liked dogs, but you've never claimed to be a dog."

"I discovered my true self when I went to a recent meeting for transspeciesed individuals such as myself," said Larry. "It was liberating. I'd always tried to deny it before, but I finally embraced my inner dog, and it was wonderful. Want a Milk Bone? Try it, you'll like it."

"No thanks," said John. "I think I'll stick to steak."

"Steak's good, too," said Larry. "But it won't make your teeth shiny white."

"Larry," said John, "have you ever heard of toothpaste and toothbrushes?"

"Dog," said Larry. "Remember, I must respect my inner dog."

"Larry, have you looked in a mirror lately?" asked John. "Does the image in the mirror look like a dog to you?"

"Of course not," said Larry. "Don't be silly."

"Well," said John, "if you don't look like a dog, then what makes you think that you are a dog?"

"Well, John, it all started when you got to talking to me about your girlfriend Mary. You know, the woman who used to be a man before she got that sex change operation. Mary claimed that when she was a guy named Marty, she felt out of place and confused. She just knew that deep inside she was meant to be a woman, not a man. So she found a surgeon who agreed with her and the next thing she knew, she had altered her anatomy so that it would conform with her vision of her true self."

"So what does that have to do with this situation?" asked John.

"Well, I figure that if God is such an incompetent creator that he would put a woman's brain inside of a man's body, what's to stop him from putting a dog's brain inside of a man's body? Arf, arf," said Larry.

"I see what you mean," said John.

"Want to come and watch the game?" asked Larry.

"I'll bring the Milk Bones," said John.

The Moral of The Story:
  1. If you think that you know better than God what gender of body you ought to have been given when you were born, then you need a lesson in humility.
  2. Believing something doesn't automatically make it so. Beliefs which fly in the face of the evidence are delusional.
  3. It is a sad, sad person who cannot accept himself or herself for what he or she is.
  4. Surgery can change a person's physical appearance, but God sees us as God originally made us to be. Surgery can make a man look like a woman. Surgery cannot turn a man into a woman.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Twisted Priorities

I just read a news item about a Kansas town named Greensburg. 90 per cent of the town was destroyed by a tornado. Naturally, the town will have to be rebuilt. The question is not whether it will be rebuilt, but how it will be rebuilt.

According to the article, Governor Kathleen Sebelius wants to rebuild the town so that it will be "the greenest town in rural America". By "green", she means that construction will emphasize energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources.

The article says the following: "Chris Kliewer, president of the Wichita chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said he offered Sebelius the group's support in rebuilding the town by sharing the latest trends in technology and architecture."

Now, I have nothing against energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources. All new construction projects should take such factors into account whenever possible, it seems to me. But I have to wonder: Is that really the biggest priority in Greensburg? Shouldn't it be even more important to use construction methods which will significantly reduce the probability of devastating damage and destruction when the next big twister comes along?

Why is it that houses built in regions which are prone to damage from twisters and from high winds often don't seem to look noticeably different from houses built in other regions where twisters aren't a problem?

I'm not an engineer, I freely admit. But I've gone online and found a lot of information which would seem to be of interest and value to any community wishing to minimize damage from tornados and hurricanes. In particular, I've been fascinated by information on the web site for the Monolithic Dome Institute, which designs and builds a wide range of concrete domes for homes, schools, churches, commercial buildings and more. One page on the site says this:

The Monolithic Dome is a permanent structure which is energy efficient, cost effective, disaster resistant and attractive. They have real strength. They can withstand the force of a tornado, hurricane or earthquake. They cannot burn, rot or be eaten by bugs. They are energy efficient -- saving up to fifty percent or more on heating and cooling costs compared to a comparable conventional building.
Dome homes are not new. An Eskimo igloo is basically a dome made from blocks of ice. Ditto for a "wigwam" or "wickiup" (a traditional native American home), except that it's made from twigs, tree limbs, and other natural materials layered atop one another in order to create a dense dome-like structure.

Geodesic domes were originally introduced to the modern architectural community by Buckminster Fuller. It's said that they are more energy efficient than conventional homes. But the folks at the Monolithic Dome Institute say that their one-piece domes are superior to geodesic domes in many respects.

Domes aren't perfect. In fact, they leave a lot to be desired in terms of interior space. If you look at a floor plan designed for a typical dome home, you'll see that there are usually a lot of awkward little unused wedge shapes after furniture (which is normally square or rectangular) is put into place. Also, headroom can leave a lot to be desired in a smaller dome where the curvature towards the ceiling begins at the point where the dome meets the ground. (Fortunately, some dome homes are built so that the vertical curvature doesn't begin at that point. In such cases, they look more like domes placed atop cylinders rather than pure domes.)

The numbers are somewhat deceiving when you read about how many square feet a dome home offers. A 2,000 square foot dome home typically has less usable interior space than a 2,000 square foot home which is square or rectangular, due to all of those unusable wedge shapes.

There's also the matter of how big a lot needs to be in order to accommodate a dome home, versus the lot size needed for a more traditional home offering a comparable number of square feet. By definition, a dome home with a 50 foot diameter is going to offer a lot less interior space than a square building measuring 50 feet long by 50 feet wide. You aren't going to get 2,500 square feet of interior space from a dome home with a 50 foot diameter. Yet, the dome home with the 50 foot diameter will require a plot of land as big as the plot of land required by the 50x50 traditional home. In other words, dome homes generally require larger lots than square or rectangular homes offering the same amount of interior space.

Fortunately, Kansas and Oklahoma are states where large lots aren't difficult to come by. Wide open space does have its advantages, even if it makes for a rather monotonous landscape when one is driving through the state. And what's the point of building an energy efficient home with tons of storage space, if the construction method makes the building so vulnerable to tornadoes that you can't rely on the building to protect you or your possessions? Dome homes might not make sense everywhere, but they definitely make sense in tornado territory, if they can substantially reduce vulnerability to tornado damage.

One of the most interesting aspects of the domes offered by Monolithic domes is that one has the option of building one's home completely underground, using a series of interconnected domes. It seems to me that it would be hard for a tornado to do significant damage to a home which was completely underground.

Another innovative approach to construction techniques designed to resist the force of tornadoes and hurricanes is being taken by a company known as Crete-Tech. The company builds houses which look more like conventional homes, but they use building materials such as SecureCrete and RhinoBlock in order to substantially reduce the likelihood of a home falling apart in such an extreme storm.

I also read an article recently about special nails which were designed not to rip out in the event of a hurricane or tornado, when subjected to the types of stress typical of such events. Searching online just now, I discovered that Bostitch HurriQuake nails are up to 2x as resistant to high winds, and they're rated for hurricane wind conditions and gusts up to 170 mph. They're also up to 50% more resistant to earthquake forces. To say that such nails offer total protection would probably be deceptive, but anything that can reduce the damage to homes in areas prone to tornadoes and earthquakes and hurricanes is worth a look.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Redefining Personhood

I grew up in the sixties. The end of that decade was a turbulent time, due to the Viet Name war, but overall, it was a simpler time.

Back in those days, for example, the terms "person" and "human being" were pretty much synonymous in the minds of average people.

Then the "abortion rights" movement came along. It was so important to certain people to be able to legalize abortion that they would say just about anything in order to achieve that goal.

Sometimes abortion advocates described the fetus as an undifferentiated "blob of tissue", as if the fetus had no distinguishable facial features or body parts. But that claim wasn't always effective, because anybody who had ever seen a photo of an actual fetus, aborted or otherwise, knew that it was a bald faced lie. When caught in their lies, did they apologize? Of course not. Instead, they merely switched tactics.

The next tactic was to argue that no one really knew when human life began. But that proved to be pretty unconvincing as well. Even prior to the advent of ultrasound technology, "quickening" was defned as that time when the mother felt the baby move for the first time. The actual timing of that moment occurred at different points in the pregnancy for different mothers, but for virtually all mothers, it occurred many months before the time of normal delivery. Once ultrasound became available, it became easy to see the babies moving about in their mothers' wombs well before the time of quickening. If they weren't alive, then why were their movements and responses to stimuli so similar to what one would expect from newborn infants?

Even in those days, there was ample scientific evidence with which to answer the question, "Does life begin at conception?" From a biological standpoint, "yes" was the clear answer.

As time progressed, the developing science of fetal medicine made it abundantly clear that human life began long before the moment of quickening.

Therefore, abortion advocates had to find some way to rationalize and legalize the killing of millions of unborn human children. They did so by redefining the terms of discourse.

At one time, it was thought that any entitity which was biologically alive and genetically human was, by definition, a human being. A person, if you will.

But that definition proved to be rather inconvenient to those who wanted to be free to kill unborn children. So they narrowed the acceptable parameters which were employed in order to qualify as a "person" or a "human being". According to their views, one had to meet a variety of criteria, pertaining to such things as communicative abilities, socialization, dependence upon others for survival (also known as "viability"), physical size, "wantedness", cognitive abilities, self consciousness and on and on, in order to be considered human.

Building on assumptions which had their roots in the teaching of Darwinian evolution, some people argued that even though unborn children were clearly human beings from a genetic and biological point of view, they did not qualify as "persons" because they lacked certain traits which were presumably so essential that the absence of those traits allegedly made them fair game for abortionists. Conversely, many of those same people argued that some animals qualified as "persons" because they did possess those traits to some extent.

An example of the consequence of such ideas (promoted by animal rights activist Peter Singer and others) can be seen in a recent article in which certain activists in Vienna, Austria have recently sought to have a chimpanzee legally declared to be a "person".

In grade school, I was always taught that the plural of "person" was "people". For some strange reason, the teachers of the new ideology decided for the purposes of their argument to turn the plural of "person" into "persons". Why they did that, I'm not sure, but I suspect that it was because they knew that people had become so accustomed to using the term "people" to describe all members of the human race that they needed a new term which could be used in order to deprive certain members of the human race of their divinely endowed human rights. So one had a paradoxical situation in which some people were not considered to be "persons".

The overall effect was to diminish or directly attack the idea that human beings were intrinsicically special and worthy of legal protection --- regardless of their individual traits at any specific point in time --- simply because they were members of the human species.

This led not only to the advocacy of legal abortion, but also to the advocacy of practices, such as infanticide, which had long been regarded as abhorrent by Western society. Michael Tooley, a prominent professor of philosophy at Stanford University, wrote a thesis entitled "In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide". If indeed the distinction between persons and people was a valid distinction, then Tooley's conclusions pertaining to infanticide were predictable and logical. Looked at objectively, the criteria which Tooley cited in order to exclude unborn children from the rights of "personhood" were equally applicable to newborn children.

(Here's one person's analysis of the book which first made me aware of Tooley's views when I found that book in a used bookstore.)

It is ironic to me, therefore, that so many advocates of legal abortion objected strenuously when they were called "baby killers" by their political opponents. The fact is that when such people were asked to explain why unborn children did not possess the innate right to life which other human beings possessed, they often answered by citing the exact same criteria which people such as Michael Tooley had cited in order to rationalize and justify infanticide. The only difference between them and Tooley was that Tooley had the insight and honesty to recognize and acknowledge that the consistent application of such criteria to the question of the right to life logically led to societal acceptance of infanticide, whereas most advocates of legal abortion strenuously denied that there was any connection between their arguments and arguments which would have legalized infanticide.

As appalling as most people would consider Michael's ultimate conclusion to have been, at least he was willing to acknowledge that the entities he advocated killing were biologically alive. In that respect, he was similar to many other people who have subsequently identified themselves as pro-choice.

Bill Clinton, for example, wrote the following on page 229 of his book entitled "My Life": "Everyone knows life begins biologically at conception. No one knows when biology turns into humanity." Similar statements have been made by other Democrats such as John Kerry and Jesse Jackson.

In the past, the abortion debate was characterized as a disagreement between people who believed that human life began at conception and those who believed it began at some other point. However, as time has gone by, fewer and fewer pro-choice people have continued to make such an argument.

It's pretty hard to look at a 3D ultrasound of an unborn children and then continue to argue, in defiance of the evidence, that it's merely a blob of tissue. It's pretty hard to watch as the fetus sucks its thumb, reacts to light and sound and does other things very similar to what a newborn child would do that it is not biologically alive! So even there continue to be a few poorly educated people who insist in defiance of the scientific evidence that unborn children are not biologically alive, more and more people have changed strategies, by arguing that biological human life and "personhood" and "humanity" are two entirely different things. Clinton obviously buys into that argument.

If indeed it's true that "no one" knows when biology turns into humanity, then why stop at abortion? Why not argue, as Michael Tooley and Peter Singer and others have done, that infanticide is permissible in some circumstances? For that matter, why stop at abortion and infanticide? Surely there are some folks, such as the old and the terminally ill, whose lives have become so difficult and devoid of happiness that they are no longer fully human. Do they really deserve unconditional governmental protection against those who would murder them? Some, such as Dr. Jack Kevorkian, would argue that they do not deserve such protection, and that in fact we are doing them a favor when we kill them.

And why stop there? Why not argue, for example, that people living in poverty cannot possibly live meaningful lives, and that they are such a burden on the members of "normal" society that they have no right to expect governmental protection against murder? Ditto for the handicapped, the retarded and the mentally ill. And one might then proceed to argue that certain ethnic and religious and political groups are so far removed from the mainstream as to cause them to forfeit the right to life.

In short, it seems to me that we have two choices here. The one choice is to accept the classic definition of personhood, in which a "person" is any biologically living member of the human species. The other choice is to accept the idea that all kinds of arbitrary conditions have to be met before one is welcomed into the human community.

What I find particularly ironic is that those who fall into the latter camp often describe themselves as liberals. Ironic, because the term "liberal" means "generous". Yet, such people are anything but generous to unborn children. Rather than giving unborn children the benefit of the doubt by granting them the rights of personhood in spite of occasional disagreements about the precise moment when human personhood begins, today's so-called liberals insist upon knowing with absolute certainty when personhood begins before they will extend legal protections against murder to unborn members of the human species.

Our society increasingly accepts the idea that a person's humanity is contingent on whether or not other people wish to acknowledge that humanity. This is particularly evident in the facile manner in which some people change the terms they use, depending on whether or not their unborn children are wanted.

But an entity is what an entity is. If it's a baby when it's wanted, then it's also a baby when it's unwanted. If it's a meaningless blob of fetal tissue when it's unwanted, then it's also a meaningless blob of fetal tissue when it's wanted. There is something incredibly egotistical about thinking that one's desires are capable of determining the objective truth regarding whether or not unborn children are "persons".

When abortion was legalized, it opened a Pandora's box which threatened and continues to threaten the divinely endowed rights of every human being on the planet. It is time that we stopped trying to rationalize feticide with rhetorical nonsense. As Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name remains a rose. A human being by any other name remains a human being.

More Thoughts About Evolution

Last week, during the Presidential debate between various Republican candidates, Chris Matthews asked for a showing of hands regarding which candidates believed in evolution and which ones didn't. Some people were shocked by the fact that some of the candidates acknowledged that they didn't believe in evolution. Shocked, I say!

What should have shocked people was that such a question was even raised in the first place. Even if one agrees with the debatable idea that a person cannot claim to be a qualified scientist unless that person believes in Darwinian evolution, the fact is that a President is not typically expected to hold impeccable scientific credentials or to be right about every conceivable controversy in the known universe. So the real issue is this: What was the relevance of the question to the debate?

In theory, a candidate's views on the subject of evolution might conceivably pertain to the likelihood that that candidate would support or oppose federal funding for scientific research pertaining to the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of evolutionary theory. But if that had been Chris Matthews' reason for asking the question, he could have simply asked, "Do you support funding for scientific research pertaining to the legitimacy of the belief in evolution, or do you oppose such funding?" The fact that he did not phrase the question in that manner strongly suggests that that was not his reason for asking the question he asked.

(A SIDE NOTE: If anyone would be likely to support such research, it would be those who were most convinced that the results of such research would support their existing beliefs. In my observation, most of those who argue in favor of evolution are uninterested in further research pertaining to the validity of their beliefs, for the simple reason that they believe that the matter was settled long ago. Now, that might be understandable, if we were talking about a dispute over whether the earth was flat or round, but the two situations are not even remotely comparable. There's abundant physical evidence supporting the belief that the earth is round, and no physical evidence whatsoever to support the belief in a flat earth. However, many years have passed since Darwin first published his theories, and scientists still have not produced a single example of an actual transformation from one species into another distinct species, in or out of the laboratory. Nor have they found actual fossil evidence for the innumerable "transitional life forms" one would expect to find if Darwin's theory were true. However, the absence of any genuinely conclusive evidence doesn't seem to matter much to those who passionately believe in evolution. Such people seem to be incapable of making the distinction between plausible conjecture and actual proof. And even in terms of plausible conjecture, I personally think that their theory is notoriously weak.)

One might argue that a candidate's position on evolution is relevant to the question of whether or not alternative ideas such as "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" ought to be taught in the classroom along with evolution. But unless I'm very much mistaken, such questions are generally answered on a regional level by local school boards (and, on occasions, by local courts). As far as I know, there currently aren't any groups pushing for a constitutional amendment requiring that those alternative ideas be taught in every American classroom, nor is the other side pushing for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the teaching of such ideas. So it's difficult to imagine why the issue of whether or not those ideas should be taught would have any applicability to the current campaign for the presidency. Unlike the very important issue of abortion, the issue of evolution simply isn't a national political issue at the present time.

Besides, if that had been the concern, Chris Matthews could easily have asked, "How many here would support national legislation which would require the teaching of alternative, theocentric theories of creation in the public schools?" or "How many here would support national legislation which would prohibit the teaching of alternative, theocentric theories of creation in the public schools?". Again, he did not do so.

The fact is that the relevance of the question about evolution to the issue of whether or not each candidate on the podium was fit to govern was never directly stated. There was no need for it to be directly stated, because it was obvious why Matthews asked the question. In effect, Chris Matthews was saying the following, albeit in coded language:

We all know that political conservatives, especially those who oppose abortion, are stupid reactionary religious fundamentalists who would love to turn this entire country into a giant repressive theocracy. We all know that evolution is proven scientific fact, and that anyone who isn't persuaded by the evidence for evolution must therefore be the type of religious fundamentalist I have just described. Therefore, if you don't believe in evolution, please identify yourselves so that we can instantly dismiss anything else you might say as the words of inbred, ignorant wackos who aren't fit to run for dogcatcher.

Imagine how outraged the public would have been if Alan Keyes or another black candidate had been on the stage and Chris Matthews had said, "How many of the candidates here tonight have an inexplicable love for watermelon and chitlins?"

In my judgment, the question which Chris Matthews asked about evolution was just as bigoted, in its own way. He wasn't asking a question so much as he was making a condescending personal statement intended mainly to discredit the Republican candidates with whom he disagreed.

If his intention was to impugn certain candidates by implying that they were stupid, wouldn't it have made more sense to simply address the issue of intelligence in a straightforward manner? Chris Matthews could have simply asked each candidate the following questions: "Has your IQ ever been tested? How did you score?" But of course, he would never do that, because then he would run the risk of revealing to the American people that many conservatives are in fact quite intelligent, despite the fact that we sometimes hold opinions which are at odds with the ideas cherished by liberal academic elitists.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts About Last Week's Republican Debate

Last week, I was invited by a friend of mine to join with a number of members of the Republican party in order to watch the televised Presidential debate held in the Reagan Library in California.

In a big city in which both political parties were equally influential, it would be an enormous privilege and honor to be invited to such a gathering, but here in Chicago, where Republicans are all but extinct, it probably isn't nearly as impressive to say that one is close friends with one of the local leaders of the Republican party. Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the friendship of the attorney who invited me to the event. His wife is currently the interim committeeman for the Republican organization in the influential 42nd ward.

After a suitable period of mingling with one another and sharing various food and drink items, we all gathered around the TV and watched the debate.

I soon found myself wishing that I had a written transcript of the debate so that I could refresh my memory regarding who had said what. As it turns out, I just found an online copy of that transcript. I would have preferred a downloadable PDF file, but I'll take what I can get.

Publicly televised political debates are strange in some ways. Like sporting events, the amount of time taken up by such debates is small in comparison with the amount of time devoted to post-debate analysis. All of the professional and semi-professional pundits feel compelled to weigh in on the significance of every little thing about the debate, even with regard to matters which are utterly lacking in the kind of substance which ought to characterize matters of such great national importance.

In an ideal world, a candidate's ideas and intelligence ought to be the only things which matter. In the real world, unfortunately, style often triumphs over substance. So the suave and handsome Mitt Romney was the clear favorite, whereas poor Tommy Thompson never really had much of a chance in the debate, regardless of the merits of what he had to say.

On a psychological level, that's understandable, especially considering that we live in a superficial society which seems to think that people like Paris Hilton actually deserve the kind of attention they receive from the press. But it's disconcerting when one compares the current state of affairs to the way things were when Abe Lincoln was the President. Abe was hardly what one would describe as handsome, although we now think of his visage as being inherently presidential for the simple reason that we've become accustomed to his image. As for being suave, it is said that he was chronically depressed, which helps to explain why photos of a smiling Abe Lincoln are extremely rare. At the time, Lincoln's passion for his vision of what America could and should be compensated for any lack of charisma on his part. But that was long before the age of TV.

Charisma or not, some have said that Mitt Romney is likely to find it difficult to acquire the support of the conservative and evangelical Christians who form a substantial part of the Republican base, since Mormonism is considered by many Christians to be a cult. There may be some merit in that view, but I think that a much bigger problem for Romney is going to be the fact that his recent "pro-life conversion" seems insincere and unconvincing.

When he was asked to explain the switch in his current position, Romney could have said that he had initially been pro-choice on the issue because he had been deceived by the standard propagandistic arguments heard time and time again from defenders of the abortion industry, but the more he considered the merits of those arguments, the more he realized how nonsensical they really were. He could have then offered up an example of such an argument, and he could have explained why he had come to realize that the argument was bogus.

Instead, his lame explanation was that when he studied the issue of cloning, he realized that society had gone "too far" into a "brave new world" mentality. In other words, by his own testimony, Mitt Romney wasn't persuaded to switch to the pro-life side because he had come to believe that it was intrinsically wrong for the state to sanction the deliberate killing of millions of unborn children. His only reason for switching was that he thought that legalizing abortion had set our feet upon a slippery slope which led to other things he considered to be unacceptable. Well, he was certainly right about the slippery slope. But even if legalizing abortion had never led Americans into a "brave new world" mentality with regard to cloning, legal abortion would still be an egregious assault on the fundamental right to life with which every human being is endowed by the Creator from the moment of conception. I don't think that Mitt Romney really understands that.

If the status quo regarding legalized abortion is ever to change in this country, it will be because our leaders are men and women of principle who are passionately committed to ending abortion, not just during the election season but all of the time.

If I cared about nothing but charisma and personality and good looks, then I'd probably be gung ho about Mitt Romney, just as I would have been gung ho about Bill Clinton if all I'd cared about was whether or not our President could play a mean saxophone. But charisma, good looks and the ability to play the saxophone are equally irrelevant when it comes to the qualities which make for a great President. We need an intelligent and principled President who will do everything possible to reverse Roe v. Wade, whether it's in the form of judicial appointments or support for a constitutional amendment protecting human life from the moment of conception.

Some of the current crop of Republican candidates impress me more than Romney with regard to the abortion issue. (Huckabee, for instance, seems to be one of the better options.) None of the current crop impresses me as much as Alan Keyes impressed me, but the situation isn't totally hopeless.

What really bothers me, though, is the way the political process in this country is dominated by the media and by opinion polls. The media is so quick to proclaim winners that it sometimes causes crucial funding and support to dry up for those who are not so favored. That, in turn, has the effect of depriving some voters of the opportunity to select from the full field of available candidates, due to the geographically sequential nature of primary elections, where people living in Iowa and New Hampshire are offered more choices than people living in other states which wait much longer to hold their primary elections.

General elections are held on the same day in every state of the Union. Why can't we pass a law requiring the same thing with regard to primaries? Then it wouldn't matter where voters lived, in terms of how many candidates they were allowed to choose from. Voters from Iowa and New Hampshire wouldn't have any more opportunities than voters from other states.

As for polling organizations which seem to think that people want a constant running commentary about who is "winning" at any given moment, I think it's downright strange to claim to know who is ahead in the race when no one has even been given the opportunity to vote yet!!! Are we such impatient people that we cannot wait until all the votes have been counted before we declare winners and losers?

Has it ever occurred to anyone that the premature manner in which the media proclaim candidates to be winners and losers skews public perceptions in such a way as to play a politically unhealthy role in the outcome of the election? Why are such running commentaries needed? Who do they serve, other than the media organizations which use such programming in order to beef up their ratings?

If I were ever to be elected to high office (which is highly unlikely), one of the first things I'd do would be to introduce a bill banning all election coverage until after all of the votes had been counted. This would not amount to censorship. Telling people when they can report certain news items is not the same thing as telling them what news items they can report.

When election results are reported after the election is over, the reporting of that news has no influence on the outcome of the election. It's incredibly naive to think that the incessant and thoroughly unnecessary reporting leading up to the election is similarly uninfluential.

Yes, we need certain types of public political events, such as public debates. But the pollsters and the pundits need to shut their yaps until after the election, so that voters can be allowed to make up their own minds without the corrupting effects of outside influences. If people decide who to vote for based on their perceptions of who is most popular and who is most likely to win, then by definition, they aren't basing their votes primarily on who they consider to be the best candidates based strictly on the merits of those candidates and their positions.

Our current lack of regulation pertaining to how and when elections are covered by the media creates a situation in which substantive candidates are pushed to the wayside in favor of those who are able to gain an early lead in the polls, no matter how they achieve that goal.

Of course, in an age where everybody and his or her brother or sister has a blog, there's no way that one can keep people from talking about their perceptions after events such as last week's debate. But such online discussions don't have the power to shape and corrupt election results the way that reporting from the major TV networks has the power to corrupt election results.

If I were to say, "Among Republican candidates, Mitt Romney is currently leading the pack in the race for the White House," you'd probably say, "That's your opinion," and you would be right. But if a reporter from one of the major networks says the same thing, people start to think of Romney as the leader in the race.

In truth, TV network reporters are just as opinionated and biased as anyone else. They often get things wrong when they predict who will win and who will lose. When it comes to political races, what they report as "facts" basically consists of a mixture of personal opinions and conjecture based on the supposition that political polls are reliable sources of information.

I personally think that the reliability of polls leaves a lot to be desired. The way questions are phrased can greatly influence the way in which the questions are answered, and such factors can lead to misleading poll results. Other factors (which I may discuss at another time) can skew poll results as well.

Even when polls are reliable, poll results are merely a snapshot of what the populace is thinking at any given moment. A slight shift in public opinion can make a big difference in some cases. Consider the classic example of Truman holding up a newspaper proclaiming that Dewey was the winner in the Presidential elections. Truman had a big grin on his face, because he knew that the newspaper's announcement had been premature.

The trouble with early reporting is that those who hear the early reports may change their minds about who to vote for, based on what they hear from the media. For example, if a person is watching a TV news show which says that a certain candidate has only received 10% of the vote so far, versus 90% for the other guy, that person may think, "The candidate I prefer hasn't got a chance of winning. There's no point in my voting, because the other person is going to win regardless of whether I vote or not." As a result, that person may decide to abstain from voting, or the person may actually switch his or her vote to the candidate who, in his or her mind, is going to win anyway. Either way, the outcome of the election is affected by such early reporting.

Likewise, if a person perceives that his or her preferred candidate is bound to win, that person may stay away from the polls because he or she thinks there's no need to vote in order to insure victory for his or her preferred candidate.

People often complain that our elections aren't really representative of the will of the majority of the people, because of low voter turnout. Well, why do you suppose there's such low voter turnout during many elections? Some would argue that those who fail to vote just don't care about the elections. That may be true in some cases, but I think that a more persuasive explanation in most cases is that people have been persuaded by the media that the outcome of such elections has already been predetermined. People who fail to vote often do so because they think there's no point in voting. And that, by and large, is the fault of the media.

Prohibiting election coverage until all of the votes are counted may be an excellent idea, but realistically, it probably isn't going to happen. So my advice when it comes to listening to media pundits and their ideas about who is winning and who is losing is to basically ignore what others say and vote your conscience rather than allowing perceptions about the race to influence your choices about whether or not to vote and who to vote for. Even if your candidate loses, at least you'll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you were not to blame for that loss.