Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Reject Your False Null Hypothesis! least I think I maybe do.

Do two negatives make a positive? In math they do, but how about in the world of science? If you attack a hypothesis that used bad science with bad science does that make it null?

A long time ago I took a logic class in college and one of the arguments had something to do with fish, gills and whales. If I remember it went something like this:

Fish swim in the sea, whales swim in the sea, therefore all Whales are fish

In the world of toxicology we have to make a lot of conjecture simply because no one wants to volunteer to be the “case” side for the dose. There are a number of scientists that think endocrine disruptors - small amounts of natural and synthetic hormones or chemicals that act like hormones - are causing a number of health issues, primarily male reproductive problems and breast cancer. There is evidence to show in laboratory studies that this is plausible, however, in humans the link is not adequately supported according to some scientists.

Dr. Stephen Safe with Texas A&M University lectured our class the other day discussing his paper called “Endocrine disruptors and human health: is there a problem” (note: there is no question mark at the end so I am not sure if it is a statement or a question)

Good science needs it skeptics, and when it comes to endocrine disruptors there is no bigger naysayer than Dr. Safe. For the record, I tend to be skeptical about a lot of conclusions about cause and effect, but I try to have an open mind so that I don’t miss the truth, at least the truth that can be supported by sound science.

And therein lies the problem with Dr. Safe's lecture and paper on endocrine disruptors. He believes, and he has published support for his point of view, that their hypothesis is based on incorrect or inaccurate data. The foundation for their belief is that endocrine-active chemicals may be responsible for the increased incidence of breast cancer and disorders of the male reproductive tract. If this foundation is not true, as Dr. Safe suggests, then their hypothesis is not correct.

Dr. Safe makes a convincing argument and backs it up with his own meta-analysis. So what is a lowly grad student like me supposed to take away from this? Well for me, if I am not convinced or have concerns with the premise then I will have a heck of a time convincing someone else in the general public that knows less than I do.

Where he lost me, both in his lecture and in his paper, was on “Xenoestrogens and breast cancer” A xenoestrogen is defined as a by-products of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogen-like effects. There are three major naturally occurring estrogens in women, estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Each one does something different but they are all called estrogens. From his paper:
"The endocrine disruptor hypothesis regarding decreased male reproductive capacity suggest that inappropriate in utero exposure to estrogens plays a role in the testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS) Swerdlow et al. (1997) tested this hypothesis by investigating the rates of testicular cancer [in] dizygotic and monozygotic twins since studies have shown that free estrogen levels are [naturally] higher in the former group. Their results showed that there was a 50% increase in the risk for testicular cancer in dizygotic compared to monozygotic twins."

To counter this, Dr. Safe then writes, in the same paragraph:

"A recent twin study from Denmark directly tested the role of in utero exposure to estrogens on sperm counts/quality of singletons mono- and dizygotic twins [showed] no significant differences in sperm quality in any of the three groups of men and concluded that “higher prenatal concentrations of oestrogen are not related to reduced sperm counts in adulthood.” Offspring of women who were prescribed high pharmacologic doses of DES or estrogens during pregnancy are among the highest in utero exposed individuals to hormones. Studies in the United States and Finland showed that fertility in these high exposure groups was not different from a control population."

So here is where I scratch my head and say "say what?!?":
  • Does the higher concentration of oestrogen mean the same effect would be seen for any of the other estorgens, single or combined?
  • Is there an additive, synergistic, or potentiating effect that low levels of Xenoestrogens could play that are different than what the natural production of hormones would show, or the consumption of a single hormone, like DES would show. I am reading this as: Because oestrogen and DES are estrogen-like, any estrogen-like material would show similar results.
  • Swerdlow showed an “increase in the risk for testicular cancer” to support the hypothesis whereas Dr. Safe rebuts this with research that showed “no significant differences in sperm quality.” An apples and oranges problem here.
Like I said I am just a lowly grad student trying to figure out how all this stuff fits together. The fact that I pose these questions may prove that I am ignorant as all get out. But because I do, because they are there and I can see them, they can be asked by anyone.

If we has a profession are going to tell people to be afraid we better have something real to show them, and if we tell them not to worry, we had better be beyond reproach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Throwing the first stone

It was a simple question, “who are you voting for?” asked to random University of North Texas students in the October 24, 2008 Homecoming Edition of the North Texas Daily.

“John McCain” Senior Sarah Carroll responded. “Mostly for moral issues” she replied when asked why.

So what are these “moral issues” that persons of Ms. Carroll’s persuasion speak about? And why do they attach them to Republicans, and more specifically, to Sarah Palin?

Is it Abortion? I think a lot of folks tend to vote Republican for their steadfast opposition towards Row v. Wade wrapping them in the morality blanket called “pro life.” This one single issue does produce a conundrum for those voters that see abortion as a strong moral issue.

But it is not just abortion that has led the self-proclaimed righteous ones that tag themselves as “values voters.” No, it is this simplistic idea that if you say you are Christian, wear a flag pen, decorate your car with a yellow ribbon, and fly the American flag you are somehow more moral then those of us that think deeds matter more than labels.

So there was McCain, struggling with his base of conservative value voters. Despite what he has persevered through, what he has done while in congress, and how he has led his life, he just wasn’t conservative enough for the base. No, they needed someone like them, someone they could identify as having Christian values. Enter Sarah Palin. “OMG! She is sooooo, like, value plus!”

There is a strange dichotomy on the Right. They like her for what they think she is, they do not like McCain because of what they think he isn’t. So using just a bit of irony and logic here ……

  • Palin was born in 1964, that puts her at 44 years old
  • She had attended the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, for 32 years and until 2002.
  • In 2002 Palin was 38 years old, which means she has been raised in a Pentecostal environment since she was about six years of age.
  • She was the head of the “Fellowship of Christian Athletes” chapter at her high school.
  • She was married on August 29, 1988.
  • Her son, Track, was born on April 20, 1989 when she was 25.
OK, so if I do the math correctly that means Track was born…..premature!

Is this one of those “mostly for moral issues” things that girl was talking about? It is not that Palin needs to be tarred and feathered for her sin, heck there but before the grace of God go I, but come on! She is as far from being a poster girl for morals as Bill Clinton is.

At some point you need to see yourself as flawed, which means that everyone else is flawed too. You don’t own morality because you claim yourself to be a Christian or conservative. Even with Jesus in her life, 25 years of age, the Church, and her Christian Values, Palin still sinned.

I just wonder if that was Hilary would these “moral issues” voters be so forgiving about her past?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I was going to write a blog entry dealing with the hypocrisy of the NRA using Charlton Heston’s own words. It was going to be great, if I do say so myself, a real work of wordsmanship that maybe two people might ever read.

I am not fond of any group that paints a black and white picture of the world and then uses propaganda to keep their faithful in line. No one deserve my dislike for their practices and unbridled vitriol more than the NRA – so with all their smugness about what a patriot is, I was winding up to throw out a spitball that would put them in their place.

And there they were, Heston’s own words and the NRA tribute juxtaposed against their opposition to banning “cop killer bullets.” That’s right, the NRA wants to allow for the sale of “cop killer bullets” while touting how patriotic, moral, and law abiding they are. What better way to show just how hypocritical they are than holding up their support for – yes, one more time – “cop killer bullets.”

Since this is a rather old story I wanted to get a little background so I typed in to Google “NRA cop killer bullets.” And guess what I found out? There are no such things as “cop killer bullets.” This story came out around 1982 and was the result of a company named KTW that developed a line of handgun ammunition using brass coated with Teflon to prevent damage to firearm barrels caused by firing hard metal projectiles through them.

So… mean to tell me they were not designed to kill cops? Not just "no" you moron, but in fact, from what I have read, both the Justice and Treasury Departments tests showed that the Teflon had little or no effect on penetrating soft body armor.

Damn it! There goes my great story idea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still dislike the NRA’s method, tactics, and philosophy. They have shown themselves to be mean spirited bullies when they do not get their way. But I cannot perpetuate a mistruth even if it would support my position perfectly.

What I find odd about all of this is that for 25 or so years I thought there were actually “cop killer bullets” being produced for sale by anyone that felt the need to own them.

But then when I look at it is it really all that surprising I would think that? Now one can blame the “main stream liberal media” because, you know, they hate guns and want them banned, but really that is too pat an answer. It was more the result of hype to get attention for a news story, then the “in theory it could happen” mentality caught on, followed by “we need to do something about this possibility,” which then was immediately countered with the NRA’s “they just want to take our guns – stop them!” battle cry. Lost in all of this was the truth.

So next time you hear someone tell you Obama wants to change the National Anthem because he doesn’t’ place his hand over his heart because he is a Muslim and his wife is not proud to be an American. Pause for a second and ask:

Is that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My name is Jeff and I am a....gamer

I like to consider myself a gamer. I will never be as good as those 2/3 my age, but still I profess a liking and commitment to play them through to the end. I play only on the PC as I have never mastered the art of pressing six buttons in some particular order quick enough to beat the opponent I am up against. I also do not like first person shooters due to not being able to see behind me or on my sides. Which is why I like games from Blizzard.

I got into gaming when a friend of mine told me that he and his son were playing a game called Orcs and Humans. I was hooked, literally. There I was stumbling into work after finally beating the level at, oh, 4:00 in the morning. Apparently gamer must mean “he who sleeps little.” From there I played Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo II, and then left Blizzard to try my hand at EverQuest, one of the first successful on-line multi-player game. This was back in the days of dial up which on large raids was an interesting endeavor as key people became disconnected or “DC’d” right in the middle of a fight.

To this day, EQ still holds the top position for depth of play in my humble opinion. But nothing can hold a candle to the all around game play and beauty of World of Warcraft. What I like about WoW is all the things I hated about EQ. Your character actually hits his foe, the skeletons don’t look like an empty toilet roll with a skull head, and best of all, everything you pick up has a purpose – crap to sell or crap for a quest. In EQ there were thousands of things that no one had discovered a use for – so for questers like me – I hung on to everything. Thank Rodcet Nife they started a shared bank slot!

What I hated about EQ most was the ridicules way you went about questing. Once figured out, you followed the directions posted on web sites. But for the ones still locked up, it was, well kind of stupid. First you had to find the NPC that would start the quest. No little yellow exclamation points over their head in EQ. You had to find them among all the thousands of NPCs that were in place. In terms of size, EQ is to North America as Wow is to Rhode Island.

So there you would be trying to find out if the grave dust you collected in some zone is part of a quest. You would walk up to an NPC and type in a question. The problem was you had no idea if this was the correct NPC or if you asked the question correctly. No response – move to the next one. But wait! Some NPCs would only appear at certain hours of the day or night. That is the one you needed, but in order to talk to him you have to bribe him with some ale. I kid you not – there were quests like this that someone figured out. So you would wait, and wait, and wait for the NPC to show only to find out that “opps sorry”, he was camped by another player who got him before you showed up. Come back in 24 hours.

But still I played until the time waiting for a group to quest or raid got to be drudgery. Which got me into WoW when it came out. Started on day one played ever since with a few months off to concentrate on school. But WoW also brought about the drudgery of “LFG” looking for group). I was lucky enough to be in a guild that could raid the upper stuff – but that demands more time than I want to give. Time is what it takes to move up in these types of multi=player games – and unless you can devote the time it takes to learn the fights you become less and less wanted because of your noobiness and chance to wipe the whole darn raid. So I either commit to playing three nights a week from 11:00 till about 3:00 in the morning or I sit there “LFG.” Wow is turned off right now….until the next expansion.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The two McCains

Trey Parker and Matt Stone put out some of the best parody and satire around. The sad thing is that they would have never made it this far had they not been able to meld the two ingredients - lampoon and shock value - together to get a large number of eyeballs to watch the show. In the beginning it was more the latter but as they have matured so has the show particularly in its parody sophistication. Without the crudeness it would not have an audience anywhere near what it has now, and without the wit it would not be watched by people like me. What an odd combination of the two. But it works.

Which brings me to John McCain. He was on Letterman last night to eat crow about missing a scheduled appearance on the show. What struck me was how much I like John McCain when he is being John McCain. When he is in political mode – he makes me turn away. So there I was watching the two different McCain’s talk when it dawned on me why I am bothered by it. It doesn’t work.

The idea behind the straight talk express was for McCain to be McCain. It worked getting him the nomination because there is a lot of substance there. Not everyone in the Republican Party wanted him, but enough did to cause the others to drop out. But getting your Party’s nomination and winning the election are two different things which McCain soon found out would be his situation. He needed the Republican base and that base doesn’t want straight talk they want red meat.

Enter Sarah Palin. She is everything that McCain is not to the base. An evangelical-gun loving-gay loathing-conservative values-liberal hating-rhetoric spewing answer to what is all wrong with America. She is the artery-clogging red meat that was necessary to “energize” the folks that now make up the base of the Republican Party. These are the same ones that would have stayed home on Election Day because McCain was just not conservative enough for them.

So McCain parked the straight talk bus and tried to disguise himself as red meat too. Trouble is he is not. Parker and Stone can make South Park work because they understand both aspects of what their show has to be in order for it to be successful. When they are crude it is because they themselves think it is funny – they get it. And when they parody and lampoon - they get that too. They understand it because they can relate to it, and because they relate to it they can pull it off.

McCain does not understand or relate to the base he needs for support so when he tries to placate them it falls flat and the attempt turns me away. He is substance only and substance doesn’t sell to the Republican base that doesn’t want to hear straight talk. They want to hear and be fed terrible things about Obama – and McCain don’t play that – at least not very well.

Neither Obama nor McCain will win because of the votes from people like me. We are drowned out by the “kill him” mindset that makes up too many of my fellow Americans. They care little about the substance in the rhetoric thrown to them. This needs to change. Call me naive but I really do think straight talk and hope are tangible but only if their messengers believe fully in them.

"You know what, I've learned something today…"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NIMBY and Risk

Christine Todd Whitman, the former Administrator of the EPA and former Governor of New Jersey spoke at our September ACHMM conference in Minneapolis, MN. I was impressed. The point of her talk was that we need to have balance in what we present for the future in terms of economic growth and meeting current and future energy needs. Her mantra was:

“We need to stop saying “no.”

The use of the word “no” dates back probably to the first true word uttered by man. Even God told Adam and Eve “just say no.” Unfortunately we have taken to saying the word “no” when we should be saying “yes – but proceed with caution.” Barack Obama has been very cautious in not mentioning nuclear power as a potential energy source for fear his base will jump ship. This is a prime example of not looking at what is best all around. You want to lower your carbon foot print – go nuclear, you want to reduce pollutants into the air – go nuclear, you want to lower the amount of foreign oil you import – go nuclear.

So why not go nuclear? Two reasons:
  • That’s what the Republicans suggest – so the Democrats must say “no.”
  • The public does not understand no such thing as zero risk.
And that is what drives policy – one side says go which the other side must, for their own self interests, boldly state “stop.” Then mixed into these two sides is a public that has not been educated on how to properly assess risk. In fact – they have been lead to believe that any risk is bad unless they themselves choose to partake in it.

“But the nuclear plants will generate waste that will stay radioactive for like a million years!” So? If properly managed – for example at Yucca Mountain – it will not present a risk. In order to have a problem that must be exposure, in order to have exposure it must be transported through the environment to the receptor (i.e. human). Tucked deep inside the salt mine – it ain’t a going anywhere.

"But to get it to the site it must be transported – it could be released then!” Not likely (and therein lies the problem – I can’t say it ain’t a never going to happen). How can I say not likely? Because I have seen for myself that they have engineered transportation caskets that can be hit by a train and remain closed. They have engineered out a real potential concern while the waste is being transported. If it can withstand a train it can withstand a truck or car or possible explosive device.

"But...but...but...well anyway still, not in my backyard!"

A grenade poses a substantial risk, however it was engineered to be safe when the pin is in place. If you take that same grenade and bury it deep in the ground it will still pose the same capability as it did before – but the risk of harm is minimized to a point where we could all reasonably say – “I am safe from that grenade.”

That is how we need to look at everything that posses a risk – can we engineer out the risk to a point where we can reasonably say “My concerns have been addressed.” It is not about risk vs. reward but about lowering the risk to a point where we can all feel comfortable. That means both sides have to give, and, in the words of Ms Whitman:

“We need to stop saying “no.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just Because I.......

I hate being labeled. And, if I am honest with myself, I will admit I do it too. It is easy to quantify what you see or hear for a second or two into a black or white sound bite label. But we are, or at least I am, more than just a label. Most folks I know are a little bit of this and that (queue Marie Osmond!). I am not an enigma but a mixture of many things I have seen and experienced over time. I have remained basically the same in my core values but have thrown out beliefs that can’t stand solidly on their own. So what you see is not always what you think I am.

Just because I am for government control of health care does not make me a socialist

Just because I am against school prayer does not make me an atheist.

Just because I do not hunt does not mean I support PETA.

Just because I like guns does not mean I like the NRA.

Just because I want abortion to end does not mean I am not pro-choice.

Just because I am for the environment does not make me against industry.

Just because I believe man evolved over a period of time does not mean I do not believe in a God.

Just because I do not go to church does not mean I have no faith

Just because I am against the war does not mean I am against the troops.

Just because I want a lean, fiscally sound government does not make me a conservative.

Just because I like John McCain does not make me a Republican.

And just because I will vote for Barack Obama does not make me a liberal.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seven Types of Americans

As I see it, there are seven types of Americans:

Type 1 are the hegemonies – those that want to exert an ideological or economic influence over other countries and will pay any cost – other than from themselves – to see it happen.

Type 2 are the theocrats – those that want the US to adhere to a fundamentalist Christian dogma in leading and running the country – interpreting passages in the Bible to suit their needs and beliefs.

Type 3 are the capitalists – those that believe that money is the key to everything good and see no moral ambiguity in anything they do as long as it is good for business.

Type 4 are the freeloaders – those that have grown accustomed to somebody else, primarily the government, being responsible for their welfare.

Type 5 are the apathetic – those that do little to make things better and get in the way of those that want to make a change.

Type 6 are the extremes – those that believe in a cause to such an extent that the end will always justify the means. I place in here the Anarchists, ELF, PETA, and the NRA to name a few.

Type 7 encompasses all the rest.

Most of us lean into one or more of the types identified above, but in the end we balance pretty much into a Type 7. The problem, as I see it, is that we have some folks that fall squarely into one of the other six types. What's the problem? These Type 1-6 people vote and each party will cater to one of them if it increases their chance at getting elected. As long as the elected party ignores them they can’t do much damage, but, in large numbers they often start demanding a voice for delivery of their vote.

The choice for me this November is which candidate is least likely to allow any of these groups to influence the America that the Type 7s want to live in.

One Hell of a Price to Pay

In a Dear Margo column in our newspaper (The Eagle 10/10/08) a woman with a five year old writes that she was molested by her stepfather when she herself was five. “I told my mother what happened ...... and no matter how many times I tell her, it seems she doesn’t believe me. She becomes irate and rude.”

This woman’s mother expected her to attend family get-togethers and makes her feel bad for wanting to have nothing to do with the stepfather that molested her for 10 years. Margo’s response got me to thinking in terms of what price some of us pay for the actions of others. She writes back “I hope you will sever communication with your mother which will solve some of your problems.”

For a few minutes of excitement and release, this woman’s stepfather has exacted from her not just her childhood, but her dignity and future peace of mind. The fact that this went on for 10 years is irrelevant in the price that is to be paid. One time, 10 times, 10 years – there is a price paid by the victim each and every day of their existence. While the abuser just waits for the next opportunity.

And now, some years after the last molestation took place, this woman is asked to pay again. This time she must lose her mother and her son must lose his grandmother. “Well they ain’t losing much” some might say. True to that, but it was not this woman’s choice to have to give up her mother so her stepfather could obtain a few minutes of pleasure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

American Style!

I heard him speak today on the radio (recorded from around the mid 1960's)

"I don't think the whole of Southeast Asia, as related to the present and future safety and freedom of the people of this country, is worth the life or limb of a single American [and] I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty bloody dollar crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own design and want, that they fight and work for. And if, unfortunately, their revolution must be of the violent type…at least what they get will be their own and not the American style, which they don't want…crammed down their throat"

General David M. Shoup, a former commandant of the Marine Corps (60-63) and a bearer of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Replace "Southeast Asia" with "the Middle East" and it still holds true for today. Going after bin Laden - Necessary, Establishing "democracy"- not worth the life or limb of a single American.

From David M. Shoup: A Warrior against War By Howard Jablon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)


While waiting for my turn a magazine cover lying on the couch caught my eye. “Charlton Heston, Death of a Patriot” was its title. “Ahhh” I said to myself, “it’s an NRA publication.” Now I don’t want to dispute the merits of whether Mr. Heston is, or is not, a Patriot. What I take issue is the how the NRA chooses to define what a patriot is. There are certain words, of which patriot one of them , that transcend above politics and singular issues and do not belong to one side or the other. The NRA calls Mr. Heston a patriot not so much because he marched along side Martin Luther King, or joined the Air Force in WWII but because he “found his anchor in the tenet of conservative values” of which one of the principles tenets is the zealous commitment to the protection of the 2nd amendment. I just have a feeling that this is why he was anointed by the NRA as a “patriot.”

We Americans spend a lot of time claiming that those we disagree with are somehow less deserving of certain words like “American,” “Christian,” or “patriot” that hold a great deal of significance & meaning. How presumptuous of some to do that or the rest of us to allow it to happen. Just today I was listening to an AM conservative talk show where the host claimed that if Obama was such a patriot he would have written more about America in his book.

I don’t know if there is a litmus test out there that would definitively allow us the ability to attach the word patriot to Mr. Heston or anyone else for that matter. Assuming that Mr. Heston is, indeed, a patriot for reasons other than his attachment to the NRA cause, I wonder if the NRA would also call Mr. James Brady a patriot upon his death as well. Or is that term only reserved for those they have deemed worthy?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

LeapFrogging to Idiocracy

I saw on T.V. an advertisement that made me shake my head in disbelief.

A man was dressed in a frog costume in back of a table with two books. One book was an illustrated children’s book on amphibians and the other a LeapFrog book with Spongebob and frogs. “Which book is more fun to read” he would ask each kid who – surprise, surprise – picked the LeapFrog book.

OK, so you think you have a better way to get kids to read, but why go to all the trouble making the real book – the book on amphibians – look like something a kid should not touch with a 10 foot pole? That’s just what they did with their - would you rather have Spongebob read to you or have to look at this clearly inferior printed material when compared to ours - attitude

I think the LeapFrog method has merit – as a tool to get children to not be afraid of reading because they stumble over words. But time spent with a LeapFrog product is not reading. It is pointing a wand at commercial characters and listening to them read for you.

There was nothing wrong with the book on amphibians based on what I could see. It had descriptions of the frogs and very colorful illustrations of what they looked like. That is what reading is supposed to do for a child – open their eyes to the world out there.

LeapFrog’s webpage states that they "put learning first" and have developed a methodology that incorporates three principles into their products:
  1. We start with a rigorous, proven learning methodology
  2. We create compelling, multi-layered content
  3. We deliver the content and learning experience through the use of technology that is intuitive, invisible and engaging.
I would like to add a forth…..

We value the licensing agreement and want to create a world where all information is obtained from commercial venues and independent thought curtailed unless we own the rights to it.

“We put education first” the say. Not as I see it. I think what it needs to say is:

“Leapfrog we make good little consumers out of every child.”

Who needs books when you can have a wand!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Once Upon A Time....

In the kingdom of Gnomeville dogs were the economic engine. Everything was geared around dogs, from places where people worked, to their education system, retirement, and even the kingdom’s security was wrapped up in the dog.

So it came to pass that as the outgoing mayor of Gnomeville was leaving he would sign into law the city council’s proclamation that dogs would no longer be required to be leased. They would, forever more, be free to run, play, and hunt without any bindings that would restrict when and where they went. Without restraint the dogs could visit whomever they wanted making them, and their owners, very, very happy. This, the city council and mayor believed would trickle down to make for a more prosperous society.

And things in Gnomeville did prosper as citizens made all the necessary preparations to have one of the dogs pay them a visit. The dog owners who loved their dogs above and beyond everything else were keenly aware of how important the dogs were to the citizens of Gnomeville and developed various mechanisms whereby the dogs could visit the citizens once they had a proper lawn in place. This became the model for how a successful and satisfying life in Gnomeville would be defined. Work hard and one day you would have the opportunity to be visited by a dog. This setup made the dogs happy which in turn made their owners happy. “Win, win, win” they would all say!

One day a particularly crafty dog owner decided that he could make more citizens happy if he let his dogs run free with little very little oversight. This was, at the beginning, very disconcerting to the other dog owners who had always kept very tight control on where their dogs would visit. And as they watched this crafty dog owner they realized that he was becoming very happy as his dogs paid more and more visits to the people of Gnomville. They also realized that more visits from the crafty owner's dogs meant less visits from theirs. Their dogs needed to make visits too, they would tell each other.

Slowly at first, but then with ever greater speed each of the other dog owners began to let their dogs run freely as well. With so many dogs needing places to visit it soon became necessary to let anyone who wanted a visit by a dog to participate regardless of how poor their lawn was.

Mable Fugwheather sat in her little bungalow on Elm Street and noticed what was taking place. She had spent her time working very hard, like her parents and her parents before her, securing the right balance of lawn necessary for a proper dog visit. “This is an outrage” Mable Fugwheather cried! “These people do not have the proper lawns to take on these dog visits! Something must be done about this or we will all suffer!”

And so it went for the next few years. Citizens of Gnomeville without proper lawns were allowed to have the dogs visit and the dog owners, pleased with how happy their dogs were, looked the other way. But Mable Fugwheather knew what was going on. She knew it would only be a matter of time before the poor lawns would no longer support a dog visit. And, on one sunny day in September, that time came to the good people of Gnomeville.

There was a foul smell that permeated the air. The dogs, without proper lawns, had left messes too big for the ill prepared citizens to handle. There was grumbling now, not just from Mable Fugwhether, but from others who were now looking at the mess and wondering how it would affect their properly maintained lawn.

The dog owners soon became concerned about the quality of lawns they had let their dogs visit and began to keep dogs inside. And the dogs grew unhappy, and their owners grew unhappy, and, without dog visits taking place, the citizens of Gnomville grew unhappy. This chain of events slowed down the dog based economy which caused the mayor and city council to panic. “We must do something” he nervously told his constituents “or things will get really bad!

The people of Gnomeville started to panic. “I have a plan” the major assured them. “The dogs need lawns to visit, let’s give them all of our public parks so that they may have a lawn to visit and be happy.” “What a wonderful idea” the city council exclaimed. “We will vote yes to give the dog owners our public parks!” “What a stupid idea” yelled Mable Fugwheather. “You are giving the culprits who caused this our beautiful parks rewarding their bad behavior!” “Now is not the time to affix blame” chastised the mayor. “We are in crisis and will be doomed if we do not act swiftly!”

With the turning over of the parks, the dogs were free to once again visit and the mayor and city council were hopeful that happiness and prosperity would soon be abundant in Gnomeville. Without the weight of doom and gloom, the people set about trying to affix blame. “It’s those greedy dog owners that let their dogs run free” some people cried. “It’s those careless citizens that had inadequate lawns that caused this! Other bemoaned.

So who really caused this mess to happen in the kingdom of Gnomeville? The outgoing mayor of course! For he could have vetoed the repeal of the leash law when he was in power which would have prevented the dog owners from allowing their dogs to run free and visit the lawns of those citizens that were ill prepared to maintain them properly.

Note: This story was inspired by the following letter to the editor in the October 3rd 1008 edition of The Eagle:

I agree with Jim James (Eagle, Oct. 1) that Democrats and Republicans alike are responsible for the economic health of our nation. When he stated, however, "Democrats point to the Republican-led repeal of Glass-Steagall" he didn't tell the whole story.

While the repeal was authored by Republicans Phil Gramm, James Leach and Thomas J. Bliley Jr., Bill Clinton had the power to veto it. Instead he signed the bill, making it into law.

Can't blame the Republicans for that one.

College Station

What God Wants Woman to Do

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. I have no problems with that, just like I have no problems in academic programs designed around dance, or art, or recreation, or anything else a person would want to explore. To deny a woman the right to pursue a path, any path, that she sees as worthwhile for her life would be wrong. So why bring this up- this woman only class - if I feel this way?

It is always about the reason, the why so to speak, that must be put out there for all the world to see. If a woman chooses to be a stay at home mom or a homemaker, or adopts the position of being 2nd or subservient to her husband, that is – and must – be allowed to take place in order for that woman to be truly free. If It is her choice, done without fear, dogma, pressure, or ignorance then you go girl! But that is not why we have this class being offered. It has nothing to do with providing as much opportunity to women as possible so that they may participate in society equally with men.

As men, society asks us to assume certain rolls, but it also puts very few constraints on the pursuits we can participate in. For woman, this is not the case. The position of Southern Baptists is that a woman may work outside the home so long as her husband agrees. So when a little girl grows up in a Southern Baptist household she faces two doors – one that will close her life off to other pursuits based on what her husband may or may not allow and the other that will provide some freedom, again at the whim of her husband. So with only two options, a Southern Baptist girl that becomes enlightened as she enters womanhood would be faced with either leaving her religion or giving up on her dreams.

Does the leadership of the Southern Baptists understand this? Yes, every dogmatic or oligarchic group since recorded time has figured this out to be a problem for the population they wish to control. Enlightenment breeds questions, questions require answers, and the answers given expose their hypocrisy. Although we can make the answers always fit our model, eventually you will run up against the brick wall of logic. Case in point: In a recent interview Rev. Akin said he supported Palin’s candidacy, arguing that while the bible speaks about the role of women in church and home, it says nothing about woman in government.

Argggg! And this guy is their leader? If, according to Rev. Akin God’s assignment to young women is” to be a homemaker,” how can Southern Baptists – who predominantly vote Republican – cast a vote for a candidate that will have a woman as his vice president? A woman with five young children no less! Oh this creates such a dilemma! Doesn’t Timothy 2:12 have Paul say “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man?” [that smell you detect is their little brains on overload]

“There is no disconnect or inconsistency whatsoever” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is quoted as saying. “We do not go beyond where the New Testament goes. Public Office is neither a church, nor a marriage.” No hypocrisy there! And to prove my point I am sure that the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will soon offer a new course for women wishing to assume high level government elected positions. Maybe that can be an elective after they have taken Subservient Practices 101.

Source: The Eagle, October 4, 2008

Note: The above article states that Southeastern offers this class. My research shows that they do not. It is Southwestern that offers the class. I will hold that the quoted statements are true until I find out otherwise.