Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Paltry and Ignoble

These two stories indicate that whereas some people have to work at making themselves look foolish, others find that it just comes naturally:

A parent complained to the Washoe County School District this week about her child's school showing students parts of Pope John Paul II's funeral on television.

The complaint by Debby Carr, the mother of a Marvin Moss Elementary School student, was the only one received Thursday by the district's communications office, said Ron Cooney, a district spokesman.

Carr said she is concerned that showing the pope's funeral sends a mixed message about what is allowed in public schools about religion.

Cooney said the district's central office didn't instruct individual schools about what to do in regard to the pope's death and funeral. He said a teacher at Moss plans to show a tape of it today so children can see an example of a historical world event.

"If there are parents who don't want their children participating, they can opt out," Cooney said.

The district's policy allows religious literature, music, drama or art in the curriculum if presented objectively. An emphasis on religious themes in the arts, literature and history also is permitted if it doesn't foster particular religious tenets or demean any beliefs.

The policy also says that student-initiated expressions to questions or assignments in forms of compositions, art, music, speech and debate that reflect their beliefs are allowed.

And then there's this story out of Madison, Wisconsin:

A Madison secular organization is protesting Gov. Jim Doyle's order to fly flags at half-staff at public buildings all week to remember Pope John Paul II.

The gesture "appears like an endorsement of Roman Catholicism over other religious viewpoints," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Gaylor said her organization would have looked the other way if the order had been for just Friday - the day of the pope's funeral - instead of all week.

"This seems excessive," she said. "Not everyone in the country is Roman Catholic, and (the pope's) not even American."

Federal statutes allow a president to lower flags not only upon the death of principal figures of the U.S. government but also upon the death of "other officials or foreign dignitaries."

Gaylor said she respects the private mourning of Catholics but protests state-backed grieving.

The American Humanist Association in Washington, D.C., also opposes the weeklong lowering of flags, said Tony Hileman, executive director. "We have to ask whether this would be done for other cleric - the Dalai Lama or Jewish or Muslim leaders."

Ms Gaylor evidently thinks that someone has to be an American in order to merit our respect and honor for the contribution he's made to civilization, and that if one is not a Catholic one cannot be moved to pay tribute to greatness. Why she should think such a thing is incomprehensible. Perhaps someone might remind Ms Gaylor of the old adage that it's better to keep one's mouth closed and have people just suspect you're a ditz than to open it and remove all doubt.

As for Ms Carr and Mr. Hileman, perhaps if they hadn't slept through the eighties they would understand that no religious figure in the history of the twentieth century did as much to relieve oppression and to promote peace as has John Paul II.

Mr. Hileman, blithely unaware of the embarrassing fatuousness of his assertion that this honor would not be accorded to religious leaders of other faiths, seems totally oblivious to the fact that there simply is no Jewish leader, and certainly no Muslim leader, who has accomplished what the late pope has. If there ever were, they would doubtless be likewise honored.

One gets the feeling that for such people as these the pope's contribution to the toppling of communist tyranny in eastern Europe is unimportant. Their gripe is that the pope was the head of a religion and was himself a model of piety. Honoring such a man in ways that might influence others to admire him is something they just can't abide regardless of the historic greatness of his life. Their carping sounds paltry and ignoble because that's precisely what it is.

A Glimpse of the Future in Gaza

Little Green Footballs tips us to this horrifying story in The Jerusalem Post from Palestinian-controlled Gaza.

Hamas has begun operating a "vice and virtue commando" in the Gaza Strip to safeguard Islamic values, Palestinian security officials and residents told The Jerusalem Post.

The new force, called the Anti-Corruption Unit, is believed to be behind the gruesome murder over the weekend of Yusra al-Azzami, a 22-year-old university student from the northern Gaza Strip. Her "crime" was that she was seen in public with her fiance.

Although "honor killings" are not a new phenomenon in Palestinian society, the perpetrators were almost always relatives of the victims. But this is the first time that one of the Palestinian groups has openly acted against a woman suspected of "immoral behavior."

Hamas's "morality" patrolmen first spotted the young couple strolling along the beach in Gaza City, together with Azzami's younger sister. After enjoying the spectacular sunset over the sea, they got into the future husband's car and started driving towards Azzami's home.

According to eyewitness accounts, five masked gunmen who were in another car gave chase, opening fire at Azzami, who was sitting in the front seat next to her fiance. She died instantly.

The fiance and sister were later brutally beaten and moderately injured by the attackers.

The incident took place at a busy intersection in Gaza City. What happened immediately afterwards left many passersby traumatized. The assailants dragged the young woman's body out of the car, pouncing upon it mercilessly with clubs and iron bars.

"It was the most horrific crime I've seen in my life," said a university student who witnessed the attack. "What they did to the body while it was lying on the ground was barbaric. This does not represent Islam." The student, who asked not to be named, said he and several other people at the scene were too afraid to interfere. "We waited until the gunmen left the area before we called the police and an ambulance," he added.

The witness claims that this savagery does not represent Islam, but then why is it that such atrocities seem so commonplace in Islamic countries? What the Palestinians are being given a taste of is exactly what the Taliban imposed on Afghanistan. If any Palestinian wonders what life will be like in the territories if, and when, the Islamists gain control of them all they need do is look at Afghanistan before it was liberated.

There's more on this brutal story at the Jerusalem Post link.

A Peanut a Day

Now comes word that whoever it is who studies these things has determined that peanuts are good for you. We knew it all along:

The federal government's latest dietary guidelines now acknowledge that peanuts, which contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, can be consumed in moderation. "Now we know that the type of fat found in peanuts is actually good for us," said Lona Sandon with the American Dietetic Association. "It doesn't clog our arteries like saturated fat. It helps keep the arteries clean."

But that's only if peanuts are consumed "in moderation," and that's the part that often trips up peanut lovers. There are 14 grams of fat in one serving of peanuts, which is only one ounce. And a handful can have up to 200 calories.

"The problem is that the portions need to be low so you don't overconsume the calories, that's where the public has a disconnect," said Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "It's a well spent 200 calories if you can limit it to that. The problem is volume. It's very hard to have a small serving of peanuts, meaning a small handful."

The humble peanut contains a respectable list of nutrients -vitamin E, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and essential minerals such as copper, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and magnesium. They also are a good source of fiber and protein.

Peanuts also contain a small amount of resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine that has been linked to the "French Paradox" - a low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite their love of cheese and other high-fat foods.

Research at Penn State University, Harvard Medical School, Purdue University and the University of Florida have shown that peanuts may help prevent heart disease, that they can lower bad cholesterol and that they can help with weight loss, possibly by making people feel satisfied so they eat less overall. One of the Harvard studies showed an association between peanut butter consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes.

So, contrary to what we had long been told, peanut products are good for us as long as we don't consume too many calories in the eating of them. Perhaps if we wash them down with diet soda that'll neutralize the calories. In any event, this is exciting news. If peanut butter is now found to be healthy can fried chicken be far behind?

The Twilight of Clerical Influence

The Strategy Report tells us that Sunni imams and other preachers of hatred and violence are seeing their influence dim as the number of Iraqi children killed by the insurgents mounts.

April 11, 2005: The rift between hard-line Sunnis and more moderate ones seems to be widening. While many imams (religious leaders) are not openly siding with the 64 Sunni Arab clerics who issued a fatwa (religious decree) saying Sunnis should support the new government and join the security forces, the more extreme imams who tried to issue counter-decrees have apparently been ignored. The Sunni religious leaders are caught in a bind. Much to their dismay, their calls to fight the "occupiers" has only resulted in a lot of Iraqis getting killed by other Iraqis and foreign Moslems.

No one expected this, but the Americans proved expert at defending themselves. The next available targets were Iraqi police and soldiers. These poor guys were not as good at defending themselves from terrorist attacks. And when the terrorists hit the police and troops, they tended to kill nearby Iraqi civilians as well. In some cases, this included numbers of children. Even before the Second Battle of Fallujah last November, the videos of dead Iraqi children, slain by Islamic terrorists, was forcing the Sunni Arab clerics to reconsider their position as cheerleaders for the terrorists.

Then came the Second Battle of Fallujah last November. To most Iraqis, it was no surprise that the Americans tore right through the town, killing or capturing several thousand terrorists and anti-government fighters assembled there to slaughter the "occupiers." Again, the Americans proved expert at avoiding casualties, while wiping out the "Holy Warriors" who swore they would prevail. Then came the January 30th election debacle. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed in January, as terrorists did all they could to discourage Iraqis from voting. It didn't work, and failed in a spectacular fashion as millions of Iraqis fearlessly came out to vote.

In February, you could hear the sermons at Friday prayers were getting less bloodthirsty. Many clerics were having second thoughts about whose side they were on. The terrorists and anti-government gunmen were looking like losers and killers who had only Iraqis for victims. Many of the Sunni Arab clerics believed the sermons they were preaching, calling for armed insurrection against the occupiers. The Sunni Arabs saw themselves as the guardians of Islamic orthodoxy in a sea of Shia blasphemy. But what's the point if you can't get at the occupying infidels, and they can kill you with impunity. What's the point when the Sunni Arab "Defenders of Islam" can only kill Moslem civilians.

There's more at the link.