Archive for 2008

Cohabitation – still just shacking up

It’s called cohabitation, the progressive, enlightened, and politically correct term for old-fashioned shacking up.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that “cohabitation, once rare, is now the norm.”  Roughly 10% of couples living together are not married.  It used to be wrong, discussed in whispers.  Our mothers would point to those who “lived together,” explaining in hushed tones they were not married.  What changed?  Were our mothers wrong? 

We need to return to a citizen government

Our Founding Fathers believed serving as President or in Congress was a duty to country, a sacrifice for country, a calling. They did not anticipate Congress becoming a career choice with members subservient to the power of the incumbency and the money it attracts. Rather, the Founding Fathers intended a weak federal government, subservient to much stronger state governments that served a powerful citizenry.  Thomas Jefferson resisted all attempts to foster a strong federal government, adamant the power must rest with the people.  What went wrong?  Does the power rest with the people, as it should?  Does Congress do the peoples’ work?  The movie Charlie Wilson’s War explains how well Congress tends to the people.  Asked by a political activist, “Why do congressmen talk so much and do nothing,” Charlie Wilson responded, “Tradition mostly.”  The Founding Fathers intended a citizen government, run by people like you and me, serving our country, doing the peoples’ work, and then going home.

The power of advertising prescription medications

Traditionally, pharmaceutical advertising has focused on advertisements in medical journals and sending representatives to meet with individual physicians.  During the last ten years, their advertising has increased over four-fold and they have also added direct to consumer advertising (DTCA).  According to Emergency Medical Abstracts, only the United States and New Zealand allow DTCA.  Is there a reason most nations do not allow pharmaceutical advertising?  Are expensive commercials the right way to select a medication?  Have you ever seen a television advertisement for an inexpensive medication?

Remembering Pfc. Joseph Dwyer

Our country has a large group of people who hope we never go to war. No, they are not the people disparaging our military; rather, they are our military personnel. Our military is full of reluctant warriors who understand better than anyone the travesty of war. They know the price to be paid; but, unlike the rest of us, they are willing to pay it. They know the parents who will lose sons and daughters. They know the husbands and wives who will lose spouses. They know the children who will lose fathers and mothers. They know the reality of war the rest of us watch from a safe distance.

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms”

The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As most of us now know, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Second Amendment right of an individual to “keep and bear Arms” was separate from, and in addition to, the rights of state militias to “keep and bear Arms.”  Justice Stevens suggested the majority was “making new law.”  Those who disagree with the ruling should read the majority justices’ reasoning of what the founding fathers were trying to safeguard with the Second Amendment.   They should read about our founding fathers’ beliefs, the countries of their origin, and their fears of the very government they were creating.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident” – July 4th

The birth of a nation, the realization of a dream, an eloquently simple statement:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  During June and July 1776, the Continental Congress was debating the future of the Colonies.  King George III continued his abuse of the Colonies with over a year of armed conflicts between the British army and the Colonists’ militias.  The King seemed deaf to the Colonies’ concerns. For the first time in history a people were considering creating a new nation with the people designing their own form of government.  This new government would get its power from the people, not vice versa.

Civility in presidential politics

Will civility ever return to presidential campaigns?  Is it reasonable to hope for respectful debating?  Or, are we obliged to accept the mudslinging as a given in politics?  What would our founding fathers think if they were to witness one of today’s presidential campaigns?  Would they be impressed or would they be embarrassed?  Can we ever return to the ethical debating they so prized? 

ABC declared 2008 the “dirtiest presidential campaign in history.”  With estimates of the cost of this year’s election exceeding $1 billion, will the candidates see a choice other than negative campaigning?  There is no second place.  “The art is to damage your opponent without getting caught doing it,” said Rob Shealy, a campaign strategist who was convicted for violating campaign laws.

Use as intended and die

Imagine selling a product that kills the consumer if they use it as intended.  Then imagine convincing our government to allow it to remain legal.  It is a one of a kind product, legal and if used appropriately, lethal.  It is cigarettes.  We have other products available to us that would kill us if we abused them.  But cigarettes alone are the only product with government sanctioning to kill.  Does it seem a bit absurd something this dangerous is legal?  The validity of the medical data is beyond debate, unless you are a tobacco company executive testifying before Congress; then the data are highly questionable. 

Of elephants, prisons, and fathers – FATHER’S DAY

Several years ago, our pastor told a story about a men’s prison that provided free Mother’s Day cards to inmates who wanted to send cards to their moms. Nearly all the inmates asked for a card and sent to someone they identified as “mom.” It may have been their mom, someone else’s mom, their grandmother, etc. Even so, they sent it to a woman they saw as the woman who cared for them, raised them, stayed with them, and was there for them.
Mother’s Day was so successful, the prison administration decided to build on that success, offering free Father’s Day cards. They were shocked when hardly any inmates showed up to get a free card to send to their father. Sadly, this confirmed what statistics had shown – 90 percent of incarcerated men lacked a loving relationship with their father or someone they could identify as their father figure.
As our pastor pointed out, you need look no further than this story to understand the cause of many, if not most, of the ills in our society.
This story suggests how critically important fathers are in the family, how critically important they are to the health and growth of their children. Are we dads doing our job? No, we run away, we disappear, we leave single moms scattered all over the country. The reality – mom odes the best she can, alone. Moms are paying our dues as well as their own.
Isn’t it time we pay our own dues and do our job?
Now, how do elephants fit into a column about Father’s Day? It starts with the murdering of rhinoceroses in Africa. Interestingly, whoever was killing the rhinos was not killing them for their horns because the horns were still present when the carcasses were discovered. Equally confusing, there were no bullet holes in the rhinos. Instead, the rangers found several large wounds they could not identify. If poachers were not killing the rhinos, then who was? The loss of rhinos was becoming critical, with an average of one white rhino murdered each month in the Pilanesberg national Park in northern South Africa. The rangers learned the exact same thing was occurring in another African park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park. The rangers at both parks were baffled, unable to determine who was killing the rhinos and how they were killing them. In all, nearly 10 percent of their prized rhinoceros population was dead, a population they had brought back from near extinction.
It took some time to solve the murders. To everyone’s astonishment, the rangers discovered it was a gang of local juvenile delinquents murdering the rhinos. Moreover, they were doing it for sport, killing just for the fun of killing.
These juvenile delinquents hunted the rhinos and indiscriminately murdered them. But these juvenile delinquents were not humans. They were teenage bull elephants.
This problem had its origins in another South African park, Kruger National Park, which was dealing with the overpopulation of its elephant herd. Rather than culling the herd, killing the excess elephants, they decided to relocate young, orphaned elephants to other parks wanting to establish elephant herds. This seemed like a reasonable, even progressive idea. Moreover, it was rather uncomplicated to do because young elephants were reasonably easy to transport and relocate because of their smaller size.
These orphaned elephants suffered two major traumas, the first from the loss of their parents and the second with relocation to unfamiliar territory. These young bulls and cows grew up without “adult” supervision and, as they grew into their “teenage” years, the murdering of rhinos started.
What do you do? You have out of control teenagers with out of control hormones, murdering for sport. How do you rehabilitate an elephant? How do you place a teenage bull elephant in a juvenile detention center? How do we teach an animal values when we cannot even teach values to fellow human beings?
Following lengthy debates and deliberation, an older ranger proposed a unique, unproven, never tried idea. He suggested getting a truck large enough to haul a full-grown old bull elephant, something that up to that time had never been done. Not wanting to kill these young bull elephants, the parks reluctantly agreed to the experiment.
What happened when they transplanted the old bull in with the young bulls? The old bull immediately established a new hierarchy and from the day the old bull arrived, all rhino murdering stopped.
Dad was home. Dad was in charge. Dad would teach you how to behave. Dad would make sure you grew into a good adult.
We have a profound responsibility as fathers. We have a profound impact on the adults our children become. We have a solemn responsibility to our wives, the mother of our children, and to our children. They deserve our best. Remember the prison inmates and the elephants – bother are in need of dads.

Who takes the risk and pays for our choices?

On June 6, 2006, a tragic accident occurred during a little league baseball game.  The 14-year-old pitcher was hit in the chest by a line drive off a metal bat. Unbelievably, when the ball struck the young man’s chest, his heart went into ventricular fibrillation, a rhythm incompatible with life.  He remained in this rhythm until the paramedics arrived and “shocked” him back into a normal rhythm. Unfortunately, he suffered permanent brain injury and will live with significant disabilities the rest of his life.  The family’s attorney estimates this young man’s future care will cost millions of dollars. 

Taps for the fallen brave – MEMORIAL DAY

Today we remember those who died in our nation’s service. Today we proudly display the American flag, a small flag in the living room window or a huge flag on a flagpole, the size is irrelevant. The flag is flown at half-staff until noon to honor the fallen brave, and then flown at full staff the remainder of the day. At 3:00 P.M. offer a moment of silence, remembering those who died for us. Memorial Day is the day we are not republicans or democrats, we are Americans, united honoring our war dead.

What to do about illegal aliens?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is challenging a federal government plan to use the Social Security Administration’s “no match” rule to crack down on illegal aliens.  Currently they send “no match” letters to employers who have more than 10 employees with a mismatch between their name and their social security number. Previously, there were no incentives for employers to respond, allowing them to ignore these letters.  The new plan from Homeland Security would give the employer 90 days to resolve the mismatch, fire the employee, or face legal consequences.  The chamber is concerned there will be a significant financial impact on industries that employ large numbers of illegal aliens.  They also are concerned that requiring industries to comply with the law will create costly paperwork and procedures.  But, the Social Security Administration only sends mismatch letters to employers with 10 or more mismatches.  Are we to believe employers with large numbers of illegal workers are unaware they are hiring illegal aliens?  How much sympathy does a company deserve when knowingly employing illegal aliens?

Science or religion – must we choose?

A thank-you to mom for all she did – MOTHER’S DAY

The Sunday is Mother’s Day.   I would like to remember my mom, the woman dad often referred to as ‘Mother,’ rather than by her name, Alice.  He used the term ‘Mother’ when he was referring to her with admiration and respect.    

Recalling my childhood, I can now appreciate how difficult those years were for us, but especially for mom and dad.  Dad was a school teacher and in later years a principal and superintendent of schools.  But the income was meager.  I read one of his teaching contracts from the 1940s; he was paid $600 a year.  They were raised during and lived through the Depression.  And like many others of their generation, they had known hunger and difficult times.  They watched pennies like they were $100 bills.  Everything mattered.  Everything counted.  Nothing was wasted. 

Intelligent design or random chance?

Is it one or the other?  Don’t ask me to give up my faith.  Don’t ask me to give up my science.  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  What did Darwin say about evolution, about random chance?  What does the Bible say about intelligent design, about God? I refer to the Bible because that is my faith.  To those of other faiths, I apologize for not being able to articulate your beliefs as I wish I could. 

Should America boycott Beijing?

August 8th is the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.  This Olympics will open with controversy, just as have some earlier Olympics.  The controversy surrounding this Olympics is the ongoing human rights violations attributed to China.  Political dissidents in China often face imprisonment, torture, or even death.  There is escalating violence in Tibet along with alleged genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, believed to be supported by the Chinese. 

Virginia Tech, one year later

April 16, 2008 is the first anniversary of the 32 people murdered on the Virginia Tech campus.  The state of Virginia has reached a legal settlement with most victims’ families.  The reactions to this settlement, the ongoing evaluations of what occurred that day, and the many assertions of who is to blame for the tragedy continues.  

“A brother’s a brother”

I recently made each of my three brothers a gift, an irregularly shaped piece of three-quarter inch thick walnut about seven inches square, with a two-inch by six-inch brass plaque.  In front of the plaque sits a metal scale model 1996 John Deere riding lawn mower and four small sticks tied in a bundle.  I worried these were a bit too ‘hokey’ and each one might end up in the back of a closet.  Instead, each brother has theirs sitting out.  Well, at least they’re sitting out when I visit.

How dare ‘Juno’ make a choice

My wife and I recently saw a movie that was delightful and comforting, with a surprisingly politically incorrect choice.  Juno, a high school girl, gets pregnant and immediately wants a “quickie abortion.”  Approaching the abortion clinic, she interacts with a girl picketing the clinic.  She then goes into the clinic but changes her mind and leaves, determined to have the baby and put him/her up for adoption; “It has fingernails?”  She continues to reject abortion even after her stepmother advocates that she “take care of the pregnancy” so she can have a “real” baby when the time is right.  Juno remains adamant, unwavering. 

Introduction to men and women

I am approaching thirty years in our emergency room.  I am not sure I can any longer recall patients I have seen, the histories I have taken.  Some histories are fascinating, some adding to my life education knowledge I never needed to know. The one constant that has remained throughout these years is that men and women are staggeringly different.  More important, those differences never diminish or go away.