Friday, August 28, 2009

A great resource for the teens in your life

I follow a lot of blogs through the dashboard. Some of them, I read every post. Some, occasionally. They are all great, but I believe it's important to give young people encouragement when they are stepping out and doing something difficult and worthwhile.

Therefore, I'd like to point your attention to No Question Left Behind, a blog written by teens to answer questions by other teens on matters relating to living the Catholic faith. They discuss Church teaching, Scripture, practical decisions, and teen issues all with an eye towards helping others towards a full life in Christ. Check 'em out and see for yourself.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The same people who can't say the word "Halliburton" without cringing and ranting about corporate greed, conspiracy theories and the evil Dick Cheney will suddenly light up with praise for the completely altruistic Planned Parenthood. But the truth will eventually come to light.

h/t: DM

A friend sent me this

Response to the Washington Post

Homeschoolers Say No to Mandatory State Testing

Ian Slatter
Director of Media Relations
August 25, 2009
“Homeschooling is the sleeping giant of the American education system,” is the opening line of a recent article by Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews.
He’s right.
He’s also right when he says, “All surveys of home-schooled students so far indicate they have higher achievement rates on average than regular students,” and when he dismisses the claim that homeschoolers might not be properly socialized by saying, “Homeschoolers go outside often and get just as big a dose of pain and joy and ignorance and wisdom as regular school kids.”
Where Mathews goes wrong is his support for a recommendation by Robert Kunzman, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Education whose new book Write These Laws On Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, calls for all homeschoolers to be subjected to regular, compulsory, standardized state testing.
To be fair to Mathews, it seems that his desire is to defuse what he sees as a gathering movement within the public school establishment to regulate homeschoolers.
He reports that his contacts are becoming nervous about the fact that homeschoolers are nearing 4% of the school-aged population and growing at 9% per year.
“Some public school educators I know are uneasy about this. They don’t know home-schooling families well. They worry those kids are being ill-served by well-meaning but inexperienced parents. There is potential for more battles over regulating home-schooling.”
In effect, Mathews gives homeschoolers a gentle and timely reminder that we must be ever vigilant to defend our right to homeschool.
As Mathews correctly notes, HSLDA has been at the forefront of reducing regulations on homeschoolers, but he fails to mention why so many state legislatures have agreed with our view.
The crucial missing detail from Mathew’s article is that the homeschool academic surveys he alludes to show that the level of state regulation has no impact on the results of homeschooled students. Consider the most recent study of homeschool students’ test scores conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute, and commissioned by HSLDA. Homeschoolers in low regulation states scored on average in the 87th percentile and those from high regulation states (which require some form of testing) also scored in the 87th percentile.
The question HSLDA regularly puts before state legislatures is, “If government regulation does not improve the results of homeschoolers, why is it necessary?” The obvious conclusion based on the research is that government regulation of homeschoolers is a waste of taxpayers’ money and parents’ time.
Regrettably, many homeschoolers have known for some time that the success of the movement might provoke greater scrutiny. And the success of homeschooling cannot be denied. We continue to grow in numbers, and homeschooled children continue to significantly out-perform public school students—by 37 percentile points in the latest homeschool academic achievement study. This academic success is achieved at a fraction of the cost (average public school student—$10,000 per child per year—average homeschooler—$500 per child per year). No wonder we’ve drawn the attention of the education establishment.
Public school officials are accountable to taxpayers, and taxpayers may begin to ask, especially in an economy that’s struggling, questions like, “Why are my property taxes so high when homeschoolers are getting much better results for a fraction of the cost?”
The response brewing within the education establishment appears to be to try to make homeschoolers more like public school students by subjecting them to state-mandated testing. It’s not a strategy that will work.
Today, homeschoolers can be found in all walks of life and all political persuasions. We are a diverse movement with a variety of opinions. There’s one issue, however, that unites almost all homeschoolers—opposition to mandated state tests.
The reason is simple—once the state chooses the test, you have to “teach to the test”, and consequently your curriculum will have been chosen for you by the government. This is an intolerable intrusion and one that would radically alter homeschooling.
Freedom and flexibility are the hallmarks of homeschooling. Once they are removed and the state is allowed to regulate the curriculum through testing, then homeschooling will be changed beyond all recognition.
One of the main reasons homeschooling is so successful is because parents are able to design an education program for the individual child. Homeschooling parents can allow their children to advance rapidly in areas where they are strong and spend more time on areas where a child may be weak. Trying to advance at a state-mandated even pace through all subjects just isn’t feasible for homeschoolers.
There’s also the nagging question of what the state will do if a child fails one of its tests. Does that mean the child would be forced into public school?
The state has a legitimate interest in the upbringing and education of children by parents only when the state has evidence that the children are being harmed. It has no right to impose its education views on parents who choose to educate their children outside the state system.
HSLDA hopes that state legislatures will continue on their path of lifting restrictions on homeschooling and that the homeschool movement will continue to grow and thrive without state interference. But Jay Mathews has done the homeschool community a service by reminding us that people within the public education establishment are thinking about ways to regulate our education choices.
Every homeschooler should be ready and willing to actively oppose any attempt to impose a state mandated testing regime.
We have been warned.

Just my two cents on the home-schooled girl

ordered into a public school by a judge because she had rigid religious views.

In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

I wonder, if, as Subvet asks, what would have happened if she had been raised as an atheist? Would she have been sent to a Catholic school? Or if she had been raised by Muslims, would the judge have ordered her to a synagogue school?

Of course not.

Now, I don't know this girl and neither do you. Maybe she has a devout, even orthodox, faith in Christ. Maybe she thinks that anyone who rolls the toilet paper off the top instead of the bottom is predestined for hell. But that's not the point here. Obviously, her education was not an issue, as the judge clearly admits that she is “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level”. What the judge found in need of correcting was that the girl has firmly held beliefs not in conformity to the amorphous, relativist, secular mindset that pervades our culture. The problem is not that the girl has religious beliefs; the problem is that she takes those beliefs seriously.

See, people in our culture are very tolerant of those who have different beliefs, as long as no one holds those beliefs to be actually true. Beliefs are permissible if they are not actually beliefs. Nice fables, fine. Vague moral compass, OK. But the moment that someone acts like beliefs and actions have real consequences in a metaphysical way, then they must be isolated and corrected.

It's like the parents that send their kids to Catholic school so they will have some religious upbringing, but fail to attend Mass. These are the people who send their kids to learn all about the faith that's not real enough or important enough to put into practice. But that's OK, right? I mean, as long as you're a good person, God's not going to reject you.

I'm not advocating any witch-hunts of non-believers, if that's what my tone suggests. But my frustration lies greatest with an attitude toward that faith that renders it "cute" or "curious". The danger of a pluralistic society is not that there are people who believe differently who might challenge my beliefs. It's that a pluralistic society demands that I have no belief at all.

If only Obama could hide the truth...

...he'd be as successful as LBJ in enacting health care reform. At least that's what NPR's Renee Montagne and her guest James Monroe concluded in this story that aired on August 26th.

Johnson maneuvered every step of the way getting this bill through Congress, and one of the things he did — and this is a little dicey in today's climate — was suppress the costs. So this young kid gets elected from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, in 1962, and Johnson is explaining to him [over the phone] how you get a health bill through. And what he tells him is don't let them get the costs projected too far out because it will scare other people:

"A health program yesterday runs $300 million, but the fools had to go to projecting it down the road five or six years, and when you project it the first year, it runs $900 million. Now I don't know whether I would approve $900 million second year or not. I might approve 450 or 500. But the first thing Dick Russell comes running in saying, 'My God, you've got a billion-dollar program for next year on health, therefore I'm against any of it now.' Do you follow me?"

We believe, after looking at the evidence, my co-author [David Blumenthal] and I, that if the true cost of Medicare had been known — if Johnson hadn't basically hidden them — the program would never have passed. America's second-most beloved program would never have happened, if we had had genuine cost estimates.

Ya got that? One of the most "beloved" entitlement programs in American history, which is headed into insolvency only passed because Johnson hid the actual cost of the program. And a host on NPR offers this as advice to President Obama in order to pass health care reform. You see, what Mr. Monroe calls "dicey" is known better by a different word: "deceit."

But do you get the bigger implication here? Medicare is the second-most beloved program in America and it would have gotten derailed if people had been scared off by the cost of it. And all of you fear-mongers trying to derail this health care reform just don't know what's best for you like we do. If only you'd shut up and let us pass this without your opposition, you'd get another giant entitlement program that everyone will love twenty or thirty years from now.

Except that there's this nagging fact about Medicare: it's going to be bankrupt because the money was mismanaged and the original cost was incorrectly predicted. But there's no reason to think that will happen in this case, is there?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Family reunion

Pepere et Memere (Philias and Yvonne, circa 1930?)

Toute la famille (circa 1950)

All the brothers and sisters, same order, 2009

...and with their spouses

Many (though not all) of the first cousins

The family with the best T-shirts there

Many of the second- (or third-) cousins

Memere's sister Diana (oldest relative) with my sweetie-pie baby-girl (youngest)

A short but great vacation

Last month the family and I went to Canada for my dad's side's family reunion. (I'll post that separately.) We made a mini-vacation out of it and spent some time in Maine visiting my best friend since childhood who moved up to Middletown, County Nowhere some years back. Here are some pics:After about six hours, we're all sick of being in the van, especially when baby-girl starts crying.

After a sumptuous dinner at the TGIChiliRubySteakhouse, Fric, Frac and Fred pile into their PJ's and the backseat cinema showing of Shrek on the teeny-tiny screen.

Mom and the boys on the bridge over Bad Little Falls.
(Note the vice-grip she has on two hands at once!)

Some of Bad Little Falls


Somebody has a great sense of humor.

My friend lives pretty close to Lubec, home of the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, at the easternmost point in the U.S.
By the way, the clapper on that bell is still attached. And it is LOUD.

Oh, big surprise, it was foggy. Visibility was about fifty feet over the water.

Our host and Fred.

Yes, it was July.

At the crossing of Calais, ME/St. Stephen, NB.
Don't let the name fool you.

I want one.

Jasper Beach is one of the two places in the world with a smooth stone-only beach.
(And in case you're wondering, yeah, we came home with about fifty pounds of rocks.)

Um, why are you taking my picture? The water's that way.

My sweetie-pie baby-girl.

Quick story: We realized on the way home that Frac's stuffed puppy dog (which goes with him everywhere) went missing. After looking everywhere in the van and at my friend's house, we decided to go back to the seafood shack we had eaten at on the way up a few days before. I asked the guy at the counter if he had seen it. No, being a dog lover he would have remembered a stuffed dog. Oh, well, thanks anyway. Then Fric peeks behind the giant ice cream cone and finds the puppy dog where Frac had tucked him away four days earlier!

test post

Just testing out my feed. Nothing to see here. But there might be something to see here, here, and here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Truth or Fiction?

Okay, here's a tip for President Obama.

When you want to sell snake oil to the American public, and someone in the crowd, whose vocation is to give witness to the truth, points out that it's snake oil, don't accuse him of lying, especially when that person is citing the documents that proves he's right.

Did I mention that I've always liked Cardinal Rigali?

A great cause to get off the ground

Ave Maria Home is an independent, non-profit, Catholic lay organization that is dedicated to providing residential care for pregnant women in Southeastern Connecticut. We emphasize a respect for life, recognizing the unique dignity and potential of each individual. We are affiliated with Good Counsel Homes of New York. Our goal is to maintain the highest level of assistance to pregnant women. We uphold the same principles of Good Counsel Homes and operate in the same manner.

I know the people involved and they are trying to start this much-needed project with great faith in God and love for the unborn and their mothers. Their site is still under construction, so please visit often and offer any help you can!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One more post for tonight say Congratulations to the proud grandpa Mr. Shea and the new obsession in his life, Lucy.

Stop by his place and offer those congrats to him, too.

In other 11th hour conversion news

President Obama has become increasingly cozy with (using) religious groups who can help him sell the health care reform bill. One project he's now working with is 40 Days for Health Reform. This amalgamation of religious groups includes Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, both groups focused on social justice, while their websites have very little, if anything, to say about the abortion holocaust in the U.S. (Noticeably absent: USCCB). From their website:

40 Minutes for Health Reform: National Faith Community Call to Action with special guest President Obama Wednesday, August 19, an estimated 140,000 people of faith gathered on a historic national conference call with President Barack Obama and the American faith community.


Over the next 40 days, people of faith are leading a national campaign for health care reform. While members of Congress are in their home districts, we’ll be holding hundreds of prayer vigils and in-district events. We’ll sign petitions, write our representatives, organize a nationwide conference call for people of faith, and air a national TV ad –all to say the faith community supports health care reform.

What I noticed was absent was any discussion on why the particular kind of health care reform that the White House and Democratic members of Congress are proposing is the right plan. There are no citations as to why the health care plan doesn't actually cover abortion, doesn't actually lead to more rationing of care, doesn't actually lead to more government control. No explanations necessary, I s'pose. God is Obama's partner in this, folks. Are you going to go against God?

And what of the 40 Days? Prayer vigils, letter writing campaigns, petitions... I wonder where they got that idea from? It doesn't explain the significance on their site, but I suspect I know the source.

AmP points out another place where the White House has no problems emulating the work of others for his own purposes while being deceptively silent on the issue of abortion.

Speaking of fishy emails mine or anyone else's, some questions still remain.

Who was receiving the emails?
How many staff had access to them?
What was the protocol for sifting which emails should be addressed?
Was personal information expunged? (Correspondence with the White House is to be retained in the Archives unaltered)
What was the plan for addressing "misconceptions"?
Would the authors of such "misconceptions" be contacted directly or would the issues be referred to by administration staff on weekend talk shows, for instance?
Some people got letters from David Axelrod to clear up misconceptions. I outed myself and have received diddly squat for a response. What gives?

Maybe Mr. Gibbs will clarify all that for us. Here's to holding my breath.

I hate to be the killjoy...

but all you civil libertarians dancing in the streets about the White House taking down the citizen spy email address "" should be aware that it's not gone, it's just hiding in the bushes.

From the White House Press Briefing, August 18th:

Q Was “Flag” at a good idea?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, still is.

Q Why remove it?
MR. GIBBS: It was consolidated on “Reality Check.” If people see or hear misinformation or have questions or concerns about some rumor that they’re hearing on health care reform, there’s a mechanism to get the truth.

QSo it’s just been put together, it’s not really gone?
MR. GIBBS: Consolidated from two platforms into one.

That's right! If you'd like to point out the persistent myths your neighbors are continuing to pass along, just visit Oh, the White House kindly asks you to refrain from including other people's personal information without their permission. (Sounds to me like the AG or White House counsel took someone out to the woodshed for the heap of trouble the White House can get in for collecting and retaining information regarding their political adversaries' use of their First Amendment rights.)

Planned Parenthood caught lying...

The White House and its political allies are on a heated campaign to dispel “myths.” One such myth cited is that the current health care legislation would not cover abortion. An August 14th letter in the Day by Vice President of Public Affairs and Communication for Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, Susan Yolen, reiterates such a clarification by stating, “It is a myth that abortion care coverage will be mandated in health care reform.” The problem is, however, that she is dead wrong. While the text of the bill (which I have read) did not state definitively either way, Senator Barbara Mikulski admitted to other Senate committee members that it would, in fact cover abortions and refused to consider including text which would forbid the coverage of abortions under the new plan.

If that seem inconclusive, then consider the Capps Amendment to the bill, passed in The Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 30th, two weeks before Ms. Yolen’s letter. It not only states that private plans in the Health Exchange must have at least one plan that covers abortion but that the public option shall provide coverage for abortions. This amendment can be read here:

If this health care legislation were to pass in its current form, it would mean that taxpayer dollars would be used to kill babies in the womb. This is not a myth, it is a fact, and no amount of repetition by the White House and Planned Parenthood can change that.

I nominate myself for the...

"Hey, Didn't You Used to Have a Blog?" Award.

No, I have not been in some sort of accident and am now in traction and must type with my chin, but it has been an incredibly busy summer: two trips out of state (one of them out of the country) lots of overtime at work, packing, repairing and moving junk out to put our home on the market, birthdays, phantom car repairs, reading training manuals, and of course, goofing with my boys and baby girl.

So if anybody out there was thinking, "Hey that Mike guy just up and disappeared! The re-education squad must have picked him up already," be at peace. (Besides, they haven't finished constructing all the camps yet.)

I'll try to post pictures and some of my thoughts about my own travels this summer as well as some angry comments and amateurish analysis of the health care reform over the next few posts. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Catholic Dads have a new crib!

And I, for one, am still reading the instruction manual on how to navigate the new site, so bear with us all as we settle in to our new digs.

Check it out!
(And thanks to RobK and Jason for putting it all together! But why are there two screws left over?)

Friday, August 7, 2009

A letter from a fishy American (sent to

Dear Mr. President (and the multitude of staff screening the correspondence on this email),

I am writing to let you know that I am a fishy American. I do not accept the party line that you expect Americans to believe on the issues of health care reform. I am deeply concerned about a socialist future, as well as end-of-life health care rationing and taxpayer-funded abortions. I reject this plan and will continue to voice my concerns to you, my senators and representative in Congress, and my family and friends.

To make it easier for you to track the use of my First Amendment right, please feel free to read on my blog:

Thank you.

A concerned citizen.