Thursday, December 21, 2006

Expectations for Asperger's syndrome

There is an interesting set of letters at Dear Abby about socially acceptable behavior and Asperger's Syndrome. At issue, is the question of how to react to a teenager who can't keep his mouth shut. One reader assumed it was overly permissive parents who'd rather be friends with their kids than discipline them, based on his own experience as a "Disappointed Grandfather."

Two other readers wrote in to suggest a disability, Aspberger's Syndrome, as a possible explanation for the teenager's behavior. Interesting to me on two fronts: first, notice our tendency in the Therapeutic Culture, to suggest a medical explanation for behavior. Without taking anything away from the difficulties of Aspberger's as a disability, I feel confident in saying that IN THE VAST MAJORITY OF CASES, THE "DISAPPOINTED GRANDFATHER IS CORRECT THAT THE MOTHER IS LETTING TOO MUCH SLIDE.

Even if your child does have a disability, you may not be doing him any favor to let socially obnoxious behaivor slide. Actually, ESPECIALLY if your child has a disability, he needs your help in learning good social skills.
We too, have an Asperger's son, whose behavior was very difficult to understand until we got an accurate diagnosis. But we were blessed to have many gifted teachers, including one who insisted that all her Special Ed students absolutely had to learn good manners. Her theory was that these kids will need to ask for help all their lives. They will have much better success at enlisting help if they are polite than if they are obnoxious.
We took that teacher's message to heart and have always insisted on good manners. The ultimate standard is the "Fun to Be Around" test. If the child isn't fun to be around, they flunk. If the child is fun to be around, you can overlook a lot!
We are proud of the fact that our son will graduate from high school this year, and that he is employed at the local supermarket. He has a CUSTOMER SERVICE JOB! Parents of kids with Asperger's will appreciate what an accomplishment it is for him to be a Courtesy Clerk. But the fact is, that good manners requires that you follow the rules, follow a script, which Asperger's kids can easily do.
There can be a very fine line between demanding something of a child that he really can't do, and helping him learn to do all he can. I'm convinced that Asperger's kids can learn courtesy, and that it is hugely helpful to them to learn it.

A Tone-Deaf Idiot Writes to His Constituents

Do we really need this kind of nonsense? Some of us want meaningful border controls. Some of us are worried about Islamo-fascism. Does it really help when elected officials utter such stupidity? It traints the whole movement. I hearby disassociate myself from this.

Calderon Off to a Good Start

New President of Mexico Calderon spent yesterday at the US Mexican border greeting Mexicans returning home for Christmas. His message was two-fold: first, a pledge to create jobs in Mexico:

“The generation of well-paid jobs is the only long-lasting solution to the migration problem,” Calderón said before greeting immigrants in cars packed with Christmas gifts.

Calderón, who took office Dec. 1, pledged to fight corruption to make Mexico more attractive to foreign investors.

“We need to ensure that more investment crosses the border into Mexico rather than Mexican labor heading to the United States,” the new president said.

About 1.2 million Mexicans are expected to come home for the holidays this year.

This has been my message as well. I've stated at an Acton Institute conference for Mexican bishops and in print, many times: there can be no lasting solution to the immigration problem, without doing something to improve the Mexican economy.
The other interesting detail in this article is the scale of the Christmas migration: an estimated 1.2 million people will return to Mexico for Christmas from the US this year. I have been aware of this phenomenon since we lived in Santa Rosa CA, north of San Francisco. Santa Rosa has a substantial agricultural community, part of the Wine Country. My daughter's elementary school was probably 75% Mexican. The place cleared out at Christmas time. The school simply accepted as a fact of life that most of the kids would be gone for a month around Christmas time. Bear in mind, that many of them were making a 12 hour drive to their homelands in Mexico.

This is what I addressed in my National Catholic Register article, Give Us Your Hearts. Many, many Mexicans keep their bodies in America but their hearts in Mexico. It would be better for all of us for them to be able to be integrated: let one place or the other be truly home.

By the way, Calderon's second message was: Merry Christmas! (They're allowed to say that in Mexico!)

American Muslims Rise to the Occasion

I was glad to see a group of American Muslims register their objection to the Iranian government's Holocaust Denial conference. A group of Muslims went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The Muslims were members of All Dulles Area Muslim Society. Holocaust survivors also attended the ceremony.

The idea for the ceremony originated with (Imam Mohamed) Magid, whose Sterling (VA) mosque has been active in interfaith efforts. After hearing radio reports about the Iranian meeting, “I said to myself, 'We have to, as Muslim leaders . . . show solidarity with our fellow Jewish Americans,' ” Magid recalled after the speeches.

He contacted Akbar Ahmed, an American University professor active in inter-religious dialogue, who asked the museum to hold the ceremony.

“It's important that the world knows there are Muslims who don't believe in this (Holocaust denial),” Ahmed said after the ceremony. Also in the delegation were representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council....

The Holocaust victims expressed gratitude for the gesture by the Muslims.

“We could live together in peace if only more of these things were happening,” said Halina Peabody, 74, a native of Poland who lives in Bethesda, Md.

She's right.
Cross posted at Acton blog.

I'm Proud to Follow Jesus

over at National Review. My Christmas article is up.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

John Cornwell, Call your office!

In light of Iran's Holocaust Denial conference, you'd think we would hear something from some of the authors who have made a name for themselves attacking the Catholic Church for not doing enough to prevent the Holocaust. Where is John Cornwell, author of Hitler's Pope, a scurilous attack on Pius XII for not doing enough to save Jews?
While we wait to hear from John Cornwell or James Carroll (author of Constantine's Sword) or Susan Zuccotti (author of Under His Very Window) to speak out, let the record show that the Catholic Church is speaking out against the denial of the Holocaust.

The Holy See itself issued a statement, the day after the Iranian conference opened.

Code: ZE06121205

Date: 2006-12-12

Holy See Says the Holocaust Is a "Warning"

Statement Issued After Tehran Conference Opens

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2006 ( The Holy See considers the Holocaust of the Jews during World War II as an "immense tragedy" which must be a "warning" to consciences.

So says a press statement issued today by the Vatican press office, a day after the opening in Tehran, Iran, of a conference that questioned the Holocaust.

The forum was organized under the sponsorship of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in a televised speech last December labeled the Jewish Holocaust a "myth."

Today's press statement ratifies the Holy See's position, expressed on March 16, 1998, with the document of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, entitled "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah."

The Vatican press statement explains that "The past century witnessed the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent murder of millions of Jews, of all ages and all social categories, for the sole fact of belonging to this people."

"The 'Shoah' was an immense tragedy, before which it is not possible to remain indifferent," the text says.

Hence "[t]he Church has a profound respect and a great compassion for the experience lived by the Jewish people during World War II," it states. "The memory of those terrible events must be a warning leveled at consciences to eliminate conflicts, respect the legitimate rights of all peoples and exhort to peace, in truth and in justice."

"This position," concludes the communiqué, "was affirmed by Pope John Paul II at the Yad Vashem Monument to Memory in Jerusalem, on March 23, 2000, and confirmed by His Holiness Benedict XVI during the visit to the Auschwitz extermination camp on May 28, 2006."

The U.S. Cardinal Keeler spoke out against Holocaust denial:

Code: ZE06121426

Date: 2006-12-14

U.S. Cardinal Rips "Revisionist" History of Holocaust

Echoes Holy See in Wake of Iran Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 14, 2006 ( Cardinal William Keeler says the U.S. bishops stand in solidarity with the universal Church in condemning "revisionist history" that seeks to minimize the horror of the Holocaust.

The cardinal, who is episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish Relations for the U.S. bishops' conference, today issued a statement entitled "We Must Remember the Shoah."

That statement cited, in turn, a communiqué issued Tuesday by the Holy See alluding to the teaching of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI: "The Shoah was an enormous tragedy, before which one cannot remain indifferent … the memory of those terrible facts must remain a warning for consciences with the aim of eliminating conflicts, respecting the legitimate rights of all peoples and calling for peace in truth and justice."

Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, said: "Here in the United States, we have a wide range of resources to use in fostering Holocaust education not only in Catholic schools but in private and public schools as well."

He noted that in preparing those resources, the U.S. bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs cited two major reasons why studying the significance of the Holocaust should be central to the curriculum of Catholic education.

"First, the Holocaust was not a random act of mass murder but 'a war against the Jews as the People of God, the First Witness to God’s revelation and the eternal bearers of that witness through all the centuries,'" the cardinal wrote in his statement. "Second, future generations need to be ever vigilant so that 'the spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism (will) never again be allowed to take root in the human heart.'"

Cardinal Keeler issued the statement against the background of a two-day conference this week in Iran at which speakers sought to diminish the scope of the Holocaust.

Where is the American Left on this issue?
Cross-posted at the acton blog:

Holocaust Denial as a Way of Life

Why does the Iranian government deny the Holocaust? Somali-born, Dutch citizen, American refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali thinks she knows. They deny it because they have never even heard of it.

ONE DAY IN 1994, when I was living in Ede, a small town in Holland, I got a visit from my half-sister. She and I were both immigrants from Somalia and had both applied for asylum in Holland. I was granted it; she was denied. The fact that I got asylum gave me the opportunity to study. My half-sister couldn't.

In order for me to be admitted to the university I wanted to attend, I needed to pass three courses: a language course, a civics course and a history course. It was in the preparatory history course that I, for the first time, heard of the Holocaust. I was 24 years old at that time, and my half-sister was 21.

In those days, the daily news was filled with the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. On the day that my half-sister visited me, my head was reeling from what happened to 6 million Jews in Germany, Holland, France and Eastern Europe.

I learned that innocent men, women and children were separated from each other. Stars pinned to their shoulders, transported by train to camps, they were gassed for no other reason than for being Jewish.

I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said was as awful as the information in my book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."

She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.

This is what we are dealing with in the Clash of Civilizations.

Finally: a Libertarian notices parents.

My old friend Cathy Young wrote a refreshingly honest column about the perils of the new parenting arrangements. While allowing that Americans typically refrain from passing judgements about personal lifestyles, Young observes that some of the modern lifestyle choices do have costs. Specifically, kids benefit from having both moms and dads, though, as Cathy notes, the direct evidence on heterosexual parents versus same sex parents is inconclusive so far. She goes beyond that to observe:
Of course, a child's well-being is a product of many complicated factors. But there is another issue here: Single parenthood by choice almost inherently reinforces gender inequality: because of biology, it is far less available to men. (Partly for the same reason, gay male couples are far less likely to raise children than lesbian couples.) Celebrated by some as an expression of female autonomy, solo motherhood actually enshrines the sexist stereotype of child-rearing and family as a female domain -- a modernized version of Victorian "separate spheres." It also radically alienates men from the family. (emphasis added.)

I am convinced that this has been the most important consequence of the trend toward normalizing single motherhood. Marginalizing men from the family is harmful to the kids, but it also hurts the adults. Men take longer to grow up than women do. Without the encouragement of marriage, and responsibilities of fatherhood, many men never will grow up. In the black family, the marginalization of men is almost complete.
Even legislative attempts to bar unmarried women from seeking artificial insemination have been quickly abandoned. True enough: Americans have an instinctive respect for individual freedom and privacy, and the majority will readily agree that discrimination and coercion are wrong. But, while respecting choices, can we also agree that some choices are less beneficial than others -- and that liberation often has its costs, some of them still unknown?
I have often argued that the legal rules that enable impregnation by anonymous sperm donors is bad public policy, so I wish she had not dismissed that point so quickly. Still, for a libertarian to take notice of these unknown costs is a breakthrough. I applaud Cathy.

My Father was an Anonymous Sperm Donor

This poignant Washington Post article should force some second thoughts about the rush to Artificial Reproductive Technology.

I'm 18, and for most of my life, I haven't known half my origins. I didn't know where my nose or jaw came from, or my interest in foreign cultures. I obviously got my teeth and my penchant for corny jokes from my mother, along with my feminist perspective. But a whole other part of me was a mystery.

That part came from my father. The only thing was, I had never met him, never heard any stories about him, never seen a picture of him. I didn't know his name. My mother never talked about him -- because she didn't have a clue who he was.

The author, Katrina Clark, loves and respects her mother. Nonetheless, she is angry that she never had the chance to have a relationship with her father.

When she was 32, my mother -- single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family -- allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.

And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?...

But the children have their own feelings about their origins, and they are now old enough to begin to speak out about it.

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place...
The same adults who are desparate for biological connectedness, can't seem to see that their children will need that same connectedness. This insight carries a whole lot more punch, coming from a Donor Conceived Person rather than from me. For whatever reason, the women are unable or unwilling to form a relationship with a man that will be durable enough to bear the difficulties of raising a child. Perhaps these women didn't see any prospect for a relationship that would work. Maybe they thought their children would be better off without any man at all, than in a stormy or fragile relationship that might end in the disruption of divorce. But Katrina's experience casts doubt on that calculation.

Growing up, it didn't matter that I don't have a dad -- or at least that is what I told myself. Just sometimes, when I was small, I would daydream about a tall, lean man picking me up and swinging me around in the front yard, a manly man melting at a touch from his little girl. I wouldn't have minded if he weren't around all the time, as long as I could have the sweet moments of reuniting with his strong arms and hearty laugh. My daydreams always ended abruptly; I knew I would never have a dad. As a coping mechanism, I used to think that he was dead. That made it easier....

In the middle of the fifth grade, I met a new friend, and we had a lot in common: We both had single mothers. Her mother had suffered through two divorces. My friend didn't have much to say about her dad, mainly because she knew so little about him. But at least she got to visit him and his new family. And I was jealous. Later, in the eighth grade, another friend's father had an affair and her parents divorced. She was in so much pain, and I tried to empathize for the loss of her dad. But I was jealous of her, too, for all the attention she was getting. No one had ever offered me support or sympathy like that....

When my mother eventually got married, I didn't get along with her husband. For so long, it had been just the two of us, my mom and I, and now I felt like the odd girl out. When she and I quarreled, this new man in our lives took to interjecting his opinion, and I didn't like that. One day, I lost my composure and screamed that he had no authority over me, that he wasn't my father -- because I didn't have one.

That was when the emptiness came over me. I realized that I am, in a sense, a freak. I really, truly would never have a dad. I finally understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it....
I participated in a couple of online groups (for Donor Conceived Persons.) When I read some of the mothers' thoughts about their choice for conception, it made me feel degraded to nothing more than a vial of frozen sperm. It seemed to me that most of the mothers and donors give little thought to the feelings of the children who would result from their actions. It's not so much that they're coldhearted as that they don't consider what the children might think once they grow up.
Those of us created with donated sperm won't stay bubbly babies forever. We're all going to grow into adults and form opinions about the decision to bring us into the world in a way that deprives us of the basic right to know where we came from, what our history is and who both our parents are....

Eventually, Katrina found her father. She began to develop a relationship with him.

After a bit, though, I noticed that his enthusiasm for our developing relationship seemed to be waning. When I told him of my suspicion, he confirmed that he was tired of "this whole sperm-donor thing." The irony stings me more each time I think of him saying that.

For him, the "sperm donor thing" was a minor part of his life. The child conceived from his deposit in a sperm bank was an afterthought. But for her, he was far more than a "donor:" he was and is, her father, the only one she has ever had or will ever know.

To know who you are, to be connected with one's past, to be connected to one's parents, these are very real, universal human needs. In our desire to satisfy the infertile woman's longing for motherhood, we overlooked the very real, visceral needs of the children who would be conceived.
The process of Artificial Reproductive Technology has zipped along far faster than our genuine ability to keep up with it. The law is barely keeping up. Society can't keep up either, and is attempting to keep up, by imposing a blanket of politically correct non-judgement over anyone who dares to object. But now the testimony of the human victims can not be ignored any longer.
It is time to slow this whole process down, as Elizabeth Marquardt has argued.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

International Stem Cell Trade

Last week, the BBC reported the possibility of a baby-murdering ring in the Ukraine.

Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them. Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world. There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases. But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.

This week, the BBC correspondent who investigated the story provided more detail in the Daily Mail. Ukranian mothers claim that their healthy newborns were taken from them under mysterious circumstances. The reporter, Matthew Hill, first became aware of the story through conversations with a British doctor:

Dr Stephen Minger, from Kings College, London, is a distinguished medical researcher who believes stem cells hold the key to finding a cure for some of our major diseases....

He is one of many reputable experts who fear their research into this field is being given a bad name by companies making a fast buck out of untested stem cell therapies.

Dr Minger told me he found out about the trade in stem cells from aborted Ukrainian foetuses two years ago, when he was invited to meet doctors from a controversial clinic in Barbados. called the Institute For Regenerative Medicine (IRM), the firm wanted Dr Minger to lend his endorsement to its therapies....

The clinic's method of treatment involves injecting patients with stem cells taken from babies aborted between seven and ten weeks old.

It is a technique, says Dr Minger, that has no credible research to back it up, and that raises disturbing questions about how the cells have been 'harvested'.

"The problem is, I am not sure how the cells are prepared," he says. "A six-week-old embryo can be just 1cm from head to foot, so it's difficult to dissect tissue from it. They may just homogenise the whole embryo." That's a polite way of saying that the aborted babies could have been liquidised.

Dr Minger was especially troubled that as well as offering unproven therapy to patients with degenerative diseases - at up to £10,000 a time - the clinic was running a lucrative sideline in offering stem cell treatments to reverse the effects of ageing....

"I find it very distasteful that they are used for beauty treatments," says Dr Minger. "As far as I can tell from what's been published, a lot of people go to this clinic in Barbados feeling a bit run down, or that their skin has just lost some elasticity, and they are getting 'smoothies' or perk-me-ups."

Matthew Hill traveled to Barbardos to investigate the company and its claims. The "proof" that the treatment works was a single case study. Hill asked about how the stem cells were harvested,

How could he be certain the stem cells the clinic was using had indeed come only from aborted foetuses in the Ukraine - a country where there's very little regulation over issues like consent from donors.

Was it possible that the cells had, in fact, been harvested from fullterm babies without any consent from the parents?

Dr Ramesh denied any knowledge of babies being sacrificed for stem cells. He said he had faith in the Institute of Cryobiology in Kharkiv, the source of the stem cells used by the Barbados clinic, but added that "maybe in the future we will go and check it out".

When Hill went to Ukraine to inquire at the Institute of Cryobiology, he received the silent treatment.

Once there, I made several attempts to interview the head of the Institute, Dr Valentin Greshenko, to put my concerns to him, but he refused. So my inquiries took me instead to Maternity Hospital Number Six, which stands in what my translator told me nervously was the "criminal area" of Kharkiv.

Through Maternity Hospital #6, he met two specific women with detailed accounts of how their live, healthy newborns were whisked away from them at birth. He eventually met with the head doctor.

Eventually, I was granted five minutes with the chief doctor, Larysa Nazarenko.

She was visibly uncomfortable as I set up my camera - her eyelids blinking rapidly as she stood behind her desk. "The children are not lost," she told me. "They are not stolen - that's just somebody else's illusion."...

"There is no such (stem cell) therapy," she said. "No work in this hospital is connected with the use of cells. This is the wrong address. I deny everything." Then I was ordered to leave.

The most gruesome, and convincing, part of Hill's investigations were the videos of post-mortem examinations of dead infants. One of the bereaved mothers contacted Tatyana Zhakarova, from the Federation Of Families With Many Children, who agree to investigate.

Tatyana discovered many more infants had died at the hospital in similarly odd circumstances. And after intensive lobbying, the authorities eventually agreed to have the tiny bodies of around 30 babies exhumed and examined.

Tatyana showed me the video she had been allowed to record of the post-mortem examinations that followed. The gruesome film shows the carcasses of babies, some of whom were full-term, with their organs and brains missing. Neurones in infants' brain are a rich source of stem cells.

Another body shown in the video is so badly dismembered it has to be put together piece by piece, like a jigsaw. Dismemberment is not standard autopsy practice and could, according to experts, indicate stem cells were harvested from bone marrow.

Stem cells mean money for somebody, scrupulous or not. Once we accept the idea that it is morally acceptable to use people for the sake of others, people's moral guards will be lowered. Stem cell opponents have warned and predicted that once these genies are out of the bottle, they will be very hard to control. We've gone from using stem cells from discarded aborted babies, to stealing healthy, wanted babies to be killed for their stem cells.

Matthew Hill's investigations were scheduled to be broadcast on BBC radio today.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Employers to Only children: Drop Dead!

The children of the Chinese One-child policy are finding new obstacles in their paths: no one wants to hire them. Incredible, but true. It seems that many of the only children have been so pampered by their parents, that employers do not find them suitable workers. Some have called these children, "Little Emperors," because their parents dote on them so thoroughly. Evidently, this is not good preparation for working in the global economy!

Recently, China Daily reports, the Sinohydro Engineering Bureau No. 1 in the central province of Henan held a job fair for students majoring in hydro-electricity. But when Chen Fengxin expectantly handed over his resume, it was not murmurs of approval he heard but these questions: "Are you from a village? Do you have any brothers and sisters?" If he was from a city, and especially if he was an only child (as city children are more likely to be), the recruiter was not interested. Chen was stunned.

A female representative of the hydro scheme explained to a local paper: "Students from cities and only children cannot endure the hardships incurred in the process of geological exploration. Brain drain is rife," she said, adding that parents of only children hope their offspring can stay close to them and not work too far away.
Just another hidden cost of China's aggressive population control program.

Cross posted at the Acton Power blog.

More on the Black Family

The Seymour Institute, founded by Rev. Gene Rivers in Boston, promotes marriage in the black community. See their helpful website here.

Marriage and the black family

I recently received a letter from a reader of my townhall column, "Marriage as a Social Justice Issue," which echoes some of the themes of Kay Hymowitz's book. My correspondent was concerned that I had overlooked a key fact: the lack of marriageable black men. She said, in part:
Education and the lower number of available black men are 2 major things you left out of your article. I know that marriage is important in the black community, but if every black man you meet has limited education, a criminal record and several children, what is getting married going to do, really? It is going to tie you to a man that can't provide for you, that wouldn't make sense. And if he didn't treat you well, then there really is no reason to marry him.

I think the real propblem here is not that blacks don't marry, it is that there are just not enough good black men to go around. So they screw around. Women are only human and they have needs. And if you are 30 never married with no prospects, I would imagine that over time, you get lonely, and men can take advantage of that, and they do. Very sad but true. So don't make the single mom the bad guy here. We are not bad and plenty of us work and don't get public assistance.
What can I say? She is correct. Put her point another way, many women may be making the best of a bad situation when they choose to have children without husbands.
My question to her, and to my readers: what can we do that would be constructive about the problem of lack of marriageable black men? Part of the problem is crime and incarceration, but that part of the problem is something neither I nor most readers are in any position to do anything about. My correspondent implied that men take advantage of the vulnerability of the woman who hopes for marriage or at least motherhood.
The reason this is important for EVERYONE and not just the black community is this: within the broader culture, the combination of feminist movement, gay rights movement and family law radicals are conspiring to make marriage a gender neutral institution. For all practical purposes, this has meant the marginalization of men from the family. In the black community, the process of marginalizing men is more or less complete. The kinds of family forms, and sexual dynamics we see there, is where the society as a whole is headed.
Cross posted at Acton Power Blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Marriage and Caste in America

Suzanne Fields writes today about Kay Hymowitz's new book, Marriage and Caste in America
Here is Fields:

Welfare reform did much to remove financial incentives for poor women to continue having illegitimate children, but illegitimacy remains a big problem for poor blacks, and the caste systems widens for children who grow up without fathers. Poor single mothers generally lack marketable skills that will carry them into a higher financial bracket, and their children are at a major educational disadvantage when competing with children of middle-class families.

These single moms have lost considerably more than a man in the house. They've lost the middle-class script for planning for the future, and they've lost the traditional institutional arrangement that's required for upward mobility, made all the more crucial in a knowledge economy when a college drop-out can no longer find a job in manufacturing.

There is so much evidence now that marriage is a protective factor against all kinds of child pathologies. While the rich and trendy at universities deconstruct marriage, the fact is that college educated women still insist on marriage before child-bearing. Among the poor, who can least afford the risk, marriage is more of a dream than a reality. Many poor women desire marrige, but don't think it is a realistic possibility for them.

I truly wish Kay well with her new book, Marriage and Caste in America . She is an able writer, and this topic deserves all the attention it can get.

Europe without Roots

An article by that title, by Marcello Pera, the former President of the Italian Senate posted over at the Acton site, Pera specifically cites the dictatorship of relativism as the cause of Europe's loss of confidence in itself.
Relativism has debilitated our Christian defenses and prepared or inclined us for surrender. It has convinced us that there is nothing worth fighting for or risking. It does not even object when others attempt to remove the crucifix from our schools (this happened in Italy). It presumes to see itself at the foundations of the secular state while it actually changes (or deconstructs) into a secular state religion of the state that prohibits Muslim girls in a European country from wearing the hijab to school (this happened in France). It shirks the educational burden of true integration, and one fine day it decides to separate these same boys and girls of Islamic faith from other boys and girls in a scholastic ghetto (this also happened in Italy).
Nothing worth fighting for or risking.... There is a problem if you only have one child: is there anything worth risking that child's life in a battle? Italian fertility rate is down around 1.3 baby per woman.

CA brings back gay marriage; expands domestic partners defns.

The gay caucus in CA is reviving its push for gay marriage. Their strategy is to expand domestic partnerships to include unmarried opposite sex couples. This is a blurring of the lines between marriage and non-marriage, which is not, in my view a good thing. This is what the family law radicals have been advocating for years, Stanley Kurtz's articles have shown. In this one, scroll down to the parts about "The Family Law Radicals," and "Beyond Conjugality," to see the extent of the attempts to redefine marriage.

And while you're at NRO, check out Condom-ism

Condomism is my neologism for the ideology surrounding contraception: All problems associated with sex can be eliminated with enough contraception. Any problems that can't be handled with contraception are not worth talking about. I have a column about it today on NRO.

The Thrill of the Chaste

Great interview with Dawn Eden of the Dawn Patrol, up on NRO. Her book sounds just edgy enough to appeal to the young and jaded, who are tired of being jaded.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Rights of Sperm Donor Dads.

There is currently a case in Kansas in which a non-anonymous sperm donor is seeking the right to have a relatiionship with his twin children.
The suit, set for arguments before the court Monday, concerns a Shawnee County man who donated sperm to a friend. The woman underwent artificial insemination and delivered twins in May 2005. The man argues that he always intended to act as a father to the children. No agreement was put into writing, however, and a judge later decided the man had no rights as a father.
Kansas law currently denies parental rights to sperm donors, unless they have a written agreement with the mother.
Kansas law denies parental rights to sperm donors unless they have a written agreement with the mother specifying that they will act as father. The 1994 law was designed to protect children conceived through artificial insemination from frivolous custody disputes, as well as to safeguard donors from child support lawsuits.
This makes sense, only if the intent of the law is to protect the anonymity of the donor. But I have argued that laws of this kind, which make the sperm donor a "legal stranger" to the child, are bad law. The law is actively assisting people who want to create a barrier between a child and her natural parents. This is the state assisting people's worst impulses, and in the process, undermining the most basic social institution, the family. Look at this particular woman's reasoning :

The unmarried woman, who, like the donor, is identified only by initials in court documents, argues that she never intended to share parenting with the man. She chose the man, whom she had known for 10 years, because of his good medical history.

“He is a donor only,” wrote the woman’s attorney, Susan Barker Andrews. Andrews argued that the man should have put his intentions in writing if he wanted to be a father.

The burden of proof is on the father who wants to be a father, rather than on the father who wants to "opt-out" of fatherhood.
What public purpose is served by creating an artificial barrier between the father and his child? I can think of no legitimate public purpose. If a woman wants to create a child without a marital relationship, she is free to try and do so, as the woman in this case evidently did. But why should the state assist her? It would be much better public policy to try to bind parents to their children and to each other, rather than to assist the destruction of those very natural bonds.
This new creation of the state, the unit of mother, child and deliberately absent father, requires the assistance of the state for its very existence.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Irrational AIDS activists

UNICEF warns that AIDS is at near epidemic levels in Eastern Europe. One might think that in an age of modern science and enlightened medicine, we might see calls for partner reduction programs and partner notification programs. But, as we know, AIDS activists have blocked any meaningful moves along those lines. Instead we have this:

In Europe, AIDS awareness was raised with religious services and agitprop art....

In Copenhagen, Denmark, artist Jens Galschioet put up an 8-foot sculpture of a crucified pregnant teenager outside Copenhagen's Lutheran cathedral. He called it a protest against the idea that “God allows nothing but chastity and unprotected sex.”

City authorities gave the artist permission to erect the statue, named “In the Name of God,” outside the cathedral.

Anders Gadegaard, the cathedral's dean, said, “It's a good supplement to the crucifix we have inside the church.”

I'm thinking: What are the city authorities thinking? What is the Cathedral's dean thinking? Does anyone on this blog know whether Lutheran pastors are funded by the taxpayers in Denmark?

Cross posted at the acton blog.

A Conservative Policy for School Administrators

If we are ever going to make progress in reforming the education system, we have to find ways to appeal to at least some members of the education profession. Often, teachers, administrators and school boards have distinct strategies. If we can appeal to a subset of educators, we have a better chance of success. Put another way, no school reform can possibly succeed, without the support of at least some members of the education establishment.

Here is a story that made my blood boil, as a parent. But it illustrates the point that there may be possibilities for reforms that appeal to at least some educators.

This story provides an example: Bong Hits for Jesus was written on the banner produced by a high school student in Alaska. He held it up for the TV cameras when the Olympic Torch passed by. His principal saw the banner, ripped it down and suspended the student for ten days. As parent and an educator and a person of common sense, I applaud the principal for disciplining this kid. Naturally, a lawsuit happened:

(The student) was off school property when he hoisted the banner but was suspended for violating school policy by promoting illegal substances at a school-sanctioned event.

The school board upheld the suspension, and a federal judge initially dismissed Frederick's lawsuit. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the banner was vague and nonsensical, and that Frederick's civil rights had been violated....

The appeals court said even if the banner could be construed as a positive message about marijuana use, the school could not punish or censor a student's speech just because it promotes a social message contrary to one the school favors.

And for her trouble, the principal, Deborah Morse, ( no relation) may end up facing fines.

The court is expected to hear arguments in the case in late February. In addition to the First Amendment issue, the court also will consider whether Morse can be held personally liable for monetary damages.

Morse, now the district's coordinator of facilities planning, said, “I think it's important for school administrators all across the country to have some guidance in how to enforce school rules at school activities without risking liability.”

So here is what some smart conservative advocate of school reform should suggest: come up with legislation giving immunity to school administrators from lawsuits. In any other profession, the professionals are given the room to make judgements and use their discretion. In education, professionals have the courts breathing down their necks, second-guessing their decisions and generally interfering with their ability to do their jobs.
This kid has no civil right to advocate drug use. A 10 day Suspension is not that big of a deal. Kids need to have limits set on their behavior. This adult was trying to do her job.

If conservatives could come up with a legal strategy to protect school boards and adminstrators from these frivolous lawsuits, it would be VERY attractive to that group of education professionals.
(Cross posted at the acton blog.)