Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oklahoma and the Crusades

The American Taliban

A religious war (Latin: bellum sacrum) is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to spread its faith by violence, or to suppress another group because of its religious beliefs or practices. The Muslim conquests, the Crusades, the Reconquista, and the French Wars of Religion are frequently cited historical examples.

   I woke this morning at around 1:30. I don't know why. I haven't been sleeping very well lately. I don't know why.
   I began my normal morning routine. Let Herkimer, my invisible cat out. 800 push ups. 972 sit ups. Three 147 count burpees. Meditation. Shower. Looking forward to the Academy Awards today at five o'clock. Herkimer came back. I knew pretty much how my day was going to pan out, what I would write about today. Then I checked my Email.
   I don't get a huge amount of Email on the weekends, and most of it's crap I can quickly delete, however I do usually read those that come from Care2 on a daily basis. They contain about 5 or 6 stories on various subjects that are remarkably concise and easy to get through, and I can send nice Ecards to my friends on holidays from their website.
   Anyway, this mornings Email had two stories concerning the Sooner State, Oklahoma.
   My dear mother actually drove me and my dear sister through Oklahoma once, as fast as possible, on the way to Kansas City.
   The first story concerned how two guys were trying to deny affordable birth control for nearly two million women who live in the state.
   Oklahoma already prevents women from using their insurance plans to help cover abortion services, but that's not enough for these guys.
   State Sen. Clark Jolley ((R) of course) has introduced a measure that would do for contraceptives what they've already done for abortion services.
   "Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees."
   Jolley said the inspiration for the measure came from just one constituent, a Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who says he is morally against contraception and abortion. He said he had to give up his small group health plan because the only plans available in the state required coverage for contraception and sterilization.
   Why did he have this coverage in the first place, I ask myself, if he was so morally opposed to contraception? Did he not know what he was buying? Now he's making a big stink about it?!
   Here's his explanation:   
   He was forced to buy it because all small group plans cover it. Now he's going to have to find more expensive insurance.
   Poor baby. He's a freaking cardiologist for Christ's sake! He can't afford to pay a bit more if he's so morally opposed?
   I guess not. He'd rather have the entire state ban contraceptive care on all health insurance plans.
   Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
   "Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother," Pedulla said. "They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn't bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies."
   Jesus H Christ and his mother Alice!
   So this guy knows what a woman's place in society is... shouldn't be anything except a nice complacent mom. And a man's role I guess is to provide guidance to all of these ladies who just don't know any better, or what's good for them.
   And all of the women in Oklahoma are being asked to poison their bodies? Who's asking them to do that? Poison? The Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral birth control pill in 1960, and that type of contraception is so safe that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends making it available without a prescription.
   I say if he's so worried about poisoned bodies why doesn't he have his pal Jolley introduce a measure banning cigarettes and booze?
   But public health is not their goal. Again, it's ideology, theirs, that they want to force it on everyone else.
   It sickens me.
   Another Oklahoma City doctor, Eli Reshef, medical director of the Bennett Fertility Institute, noted that depriving women of contraception increases the likelihood of abortion.
   "If one does not have access to contraceptives, unintended pregnancies can occur," and "with unintended pregnancies, abortions will increase," Reshef said. "Half of all unintended pregnancies will end up as an abortion."
   But that doesn't seem to concern these two morons. The measure, Senate Bill 452  passed the Senate Business and Commerce Committee by a vote of 9-0 with no debate and now heads to the full Senate. I wonder what will happen there.
   Lovely women of Oklahoma, migrate to California like in "The Grapes of Wrath." We will love and cherish you.
   The second story concerned education, or rather, the denial thereof.
   Let's say your a high school science teacher in Tulsa, OK, and you ask your students to turn in a paper concerning the age of the Earth. That's a simple enough assignment. The age of this planet is well known to be approximately 4.54 billion years old, determined by evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples. Half of your class turn in papers with the correct answer. Accordingly you grade these papers with a A. The other half turn in papers stating the age of the Earth is around 6,000 years old, based on counting backwards people found in the Bible, back to the Garden of Eden. By Oklahoma law, you are required to give these students an A as well. You cannot do otherwise. Last Tuesday a bill mandating this practice was approved by the Oklahoma Common Education committee by a 9-8 vote. Issues concerning climate change and evolution are included as well. Of course they are.
   From Mother Jones:
   "Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. "I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks," says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."
      WTF? "students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks."
That's the whole point of having textbooks, to have a standard of accepted knowledge of which there is little debate. Otherwise a student can spew out any dribble they want... about anything!
   If students disagree with what's being taught for obvious religious reasons, then this is cause for discussion within the classroom, but to allow students to go through their education without applying accepted standards is doing them a huge disservice as you are allowing them to enter a real world for which they will be totally unprepared for. You are essentially equating opinion with fact. 
   This is just another attempt to get creationism into schools, 25 years after the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated religious instruction in science classes, and certainly has nothing to do with "scientific exploration."
   Judy Mulland, who wrote the article, reports "Just a few weeks into the 2013 legislative session, there are already anti-evolution bills circulating in Missouri, Montana, Colorado, Indiana, in addition to Oklahoma. And in some cases, like this one, climate change has taken a prominent place, along with evolution, as a target for creationists."
   Yet there's more sinister movements afoot.
   Wikipedia tells us:
   "School choice is a term or label given to a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools, to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence. In the United States, the most common option offered by 'school choice' programs are educational voucher programs. These programs offer a given student and their family the option to take a subsidy from public educational funds and put that money towards tuition in private schools. This subsidy may also be accomplished through tax-credit programs. Other 'school choice' options include open enrollment laws that allow students to attend other public schools and charter schools, and homeschooling."
   K.C. Boyd reports from Altenet:
   "With the money of wealth funders like Richard and Betsy DeVos (sister of Blackwater scion Eric Prince and daughter of Elsa and Edgar Prince of the Amway fortune) and the Walton, Koch and Scaife Foundations, simpatico politicians are hard at work bringing  Dominionist ideals quietly into the forefront of American education policy. While much of the country argues about budgets, deficits, and guns, a cleverly camouflaged package of School Choice and ”Bible-driven curricula“ make their way up the ladder.    
   On the surface, School Choice is purportedly about increasing opportunities for inner city and rural youth. The all-important subtext, however, is that School Choice is really about freeing up dollars for Christian-based education. An important arrow that energizes today’s religious quiver is the intentional misuse of language in changing the debate by referring to public schools as “government schools” and public education as a “government school monopoly,” thus instantly and directly speaking to Tea Partiers and Libertarians.
   To still relatively scant notice, the call for “School Choice” or Vouchers continues to play out in state capitols across the nation in an effort to increase Biblically based education through a redirection of tax dollars from public to private religious schools. In order to accomplish the end goal of Christianizing all students, stealth remains largely the rule of the day."
   This is a stealth program, a patient program, a well funded program to change the fundamental way our educational system works, to slowly transition it from one that is secular in nature to one that teaches Christian fundamentalism.  
   Rachel Tabachnick of Talk to Action reports:
   "'We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities," Dick DeVos warned in a December 2002 speech at the Heritage Foundation. DeVos was introduced by former Secretary of Education William Bennett and then proposed a stealth strategy for promoting school vouchers in state legislatures.  DeVos and his wife Betsy had already spent millions promoting voucher initiatives that were soundly rejected by voters.  Pro-privatization think tanks had concluded that vouchers were the most politically viable way to "dismantle" public schools; the DeVoses persevered.  Dick DeVos introduced his 2002 Heritage Foundation audience to a covert strategy to provide "rewards or consequences" to state legislators, learning from the activities of the Great Lake Education Project (GLEP) initiated by Betsy DeVos. Vouchers should be promoted by local "grass roots" entities and could not be "viewed as only a conservative idea."  DeVos added, "This has got to be the battle.  It will not be as visible."   
   Ten years later, the DeVos stealth strategy has been implemented and is winning the voucher war in several states.  As recommended to the Heritage Foundation in 2002, the public face of the movement is bipartisan and grass roots, and millions of dollars are poured into media firms to reinforce that image. However, behind the scenes the movement continues to be led by the DeVoses, and the funding used to provide "rewards or consequences" for state legislators continues to be raised from a small group of mega-donors."  
   The Crusades that lasted between 1095 and 1291, used violence to achieve it's goals. People like Richard and Betsy DeVoses employ other methods appropriate for our times, yet it's no less a war. Those who share their beliefs would turn this country into one as religiously fundamental as that in Afghanistan and the first step in combating this movement is to be aware that it exists.

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