Katrina Euthanasia Update

Lost in the dustbin of inconvenient memories, left behind in the light-speed pace of internet information mania is the story of the deaths of patients at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A physician and two nurses were arrested after the Louisiana District Attorney charged them with murder, accusing them of having injected a lethal cocktail to terminate frail patients who had no hope of rescue from the hell-hole the hospital had become.

The arrests were widely decried in the medical community — most of whom clearly had read none of the rather compelling and chilling testimony of other physicians and nurses who were present at the hospital. The case quickly became mired in charges of political grandstanding by the DA, who was considering running for governor and using the publicity around the case to raise money for his campaign. It subsequently went to a grand jury, which has used deliberate — some would say glacial — speed in investigating the case.

CNN today reports an update on the grand jury proceedings, where two of the involved nurses have been offered immunity to testify against the physician accused, Dr. Anna Pou.

The CNN update mentions this previously-unknown side story:

Craig Nelson, a New Orleans lawyer who is convinced his mother was killed by a lethal dose of morphine, has taken steps to file a civil lawsuit.

Nelson had an autopsy performed on the body of his mother, Elaine Nelson. The 90-year-old Jefferson Parish resident died inside Memorial Medical Center during the aftermath of the hurricane. Nelson said her death is not part of the murder investigation because his mother was elderly, frail and sick.

She was a patient of LifeCare, a long-term care facility run inside Memorial Medical Center’s seventh floor. Nelson said his sister was helping to care for his mother during Katrina, but was asked to leave. It was after his sister was evacuated that he was told his mother had died.

Test results conducted by a private lab hired by the lawyer indicate high levels of morphine in Elaine Nelson’s liver, muscle tissue and brain, Nelson said. He said his mother should have had no morphine in her system, since none had been prescribed to her in the week and a half before she died.

My prior discussion of this event may be found here, along with a substantial list of links for more information.

Sunday Suggestions

One of the features I enjoy on some of my favorite blogs is a periodic summary of interesting things they are reading. After all, if you enjoy reading a blog, and value their thoughts and insights, it makes sense that you might well be interested in the things they find interesting. And so, I will begin an irregular weekly feature regularly on a sporadic basis every seven days or so, or whenever.

It’s my hope that both my regular readers will find this enlightening, educational and entertaining.

Cool tools I have stumbled across will also be on the docket, as will useful or interesting new sites.

And being a narcissist, I will also include some of my own previous posts which are lying in the digital dustbin, blowing off the cobwebs of some prior bloviations for old times’ sake.

So here goes:

♦ hitchens is not Great: As some of you may know, Christopher Hitchens has written a book entitled god is not Great. Now, I have a great deal of respect for Hitch, who like a lonely prophet cries out in the in the vast intellectual desert of the Left, seemingly alone understanding the stakes at hand in our struggle against the evil of Islamic fascism. Hitch is a very smart dude — and also an outspoken atheist, which indicates he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

So you owe it to yourself to check out Mark D. Roberts’ slapdown of ol’ Hitch in his series of posts on the book. See what Hitchens’ knowledge of church history and biblical scholarship looks like after being processed through a Cuisinart. Top with whipped cream, a cherry, and serve cold.

Apologetics at its very best (HT: Hewitt).

♦ Disputed Sovereignty: Richard John Neuhaus, the editor-in-chief over at First Things, has a transcription of a recent sermon to the military chaplains at the National Cathedral. Excellent discourse on the moral challenges of being a Christian minister at war. Key quote:

We are servants of a disputed sovereignty. In the responsorial psalm we declared, “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy.” Christ has ascended his throne, but his rule is challenged by rival thrones. For us who believe, St. Paul says in today \'s second lesson, it is the fact that Christ rules “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion.” But the principalities and powers of the present age still rage against his rule. We are the servants of a disputed sovereignty.

Check it out.

♦ In the Cool Tools Department: One major problem I have in life is time — not enough of it, that is. Being a physician is more than a full-time job, which seriously cuts into the gadzillion other things I enjoy doing, or which are important, and just need to get done. I’m beginning to utilize the GTD (Getting Things Done) approach (popularized by David Allen), although I’m not quite compulsive enough to really master it (actually, I spend so much time looking at GTD sites and tips that I have trouble, well, getting things done…)

This week I stumbled across a remarkable tool in my search for organizational Nirvana, called Backpack. Backpack is a web-based tool for creating To Do lists, project pages, idea buckets, and a host of other extraordinarily useful capabilities. It’s a breeze to master, intuitive, lean & mean interface — the first such web-based tool which you will want to use for getting your life under control. I could spend an hour describing its features and uses, but won’t — if you need to get your life together (organizationally, at least), try it out and be amazed.

♦ From the Dustbin: And closing with a blast from the past, here’s a lengthy, but hopefully worthwhile, meditation /essay of mine, on sitting down for a cuppa’ Joe with God, called The Prayer of Java.

Take care, God bless, and have a great Sunday.

Health Care Coverage Takes a Hit

Recently Barack Obama released his proposed health care plan, which bears a resemblance to several other proposals, such as Mitt Romney’s in Massachusetts, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in California, and a number of others. Such proposals have a number of common themes: mandating insurance coverage, provided through private insurers and monitored through a government bureaucracy; taxes or penalties on businesses who do not provide coverage for their employees; often a tax on physicians and hospitals; tight regulation of insurance premiums; removal of preexisting condition restrictions; financial assistance for the poor in paying for coverage; cost “efficiencies” brought about by an increased emphasis on preventive medicine, information technology (electronic medical records), and a hoped-for reduction in premiums due to an enlarged risk pool.

At first glance, some of these proposals appear to use the existing network of health insurance plans to extend healthcare coverage to the uninsured. They also seem designed to avoid the tar baby of government-run, single-payer healthcare, which is anathema to many Americans. But the difference between these plans and single-payer, practically speaking, is far more illusory than real.

I am on record as favoring mandatory catastrophic healthcare insurance. While generally I do not favor government mandates in such areas, I find catastrophic healthcare insurance to be analogous to mandatory auto insurance: in both cases, the uninsured pass the expenses of their misfortune onto society as a whole, either directly or indirectly. I would favor such a mandate at the state, rather than the Federal level, enforced by showing proof of health insurance at the time of driver’s license renewal. Such insurance should be major medical only, covering catastrophic illness with very large deductibles. It should be purchased by the individual, rather than provided by employers. In such a scenario, the vast risk pool, large deductible, and coverage limited to major medical events should keep premiums relatively low. There should, however, be little regulation of what such policies cover, as opposed to the micromanaged mandates common in most states today. Supplemental policies to cover other services would still be available, tailored to the needs and economic abilities of the insured.

The recent sweeping proposals of presidential candidates are far removed from such simplicity, however. They will create a massive healthcare bureaucracy which will no doubt be involved in setting specific coverage requirements (doubtless at the whim of politicians), will engender cost-shifting by price controls on insurance premiums, and will almost certainly create a very large problem of access. There is no free lunch — if insurance companies are forced to lower premiums below levels required to fund their outlays, they will invariably respond by drastically reducing reimbursements to healthcare providers and hospitals. Health care providers will by necessity no longer be able to see patients in these plans, as reimbursements drop below the cost of providing the service — which is exactly the problem which Medicaid and Medicare are encountering currently. Federal control of private insurers will breed a million mini-Medicares, with so-called “private” insurers micro-managing medicine under the harsh glare of Federal hyper-regulation.

The continued linkage of health insurance to employment perpetuates the current environment where the consumer of healthcare is insulated from its costs. Taxes on businesses — whether by mandates to purchase insurance for all employees, or penalties or taxes on those who do not — are nothing more than surrogate taxes on the general population, as businesses will pass these costs through to consumers in the form of higher prices and reduced productivity. New employment will likewise be constrained due to the high entry cost of hiring and keeping workers.

The challenges manifest in our current healthcare system are legion, and highly complex. The difficulty is not merely greedy insurance companies with high administrative costs — although many insurers exemplify these problems. The insurance giants are indeed unscrupulous and unethical — but in the proposed plans they are a convenient political straw man. The real problem is that the insurance companies are no longer accountable to their customers. The camel’s nose is not merely under the tent; the camel is inside the tent — and is eating your lunch, while leaving large camel pies on your Persian carpet.

When you purchase auto insurance, you shop for coverage using price, service, and covered benefits. When you have an accident in your SUV, you expect your insurance company to pay promptly and honestly for the damages you have incurred. If they refuse to do so, or have poor service, or very high rates, you will shop for another insurer.

In health insurance, this normal accountability relationship between the insurance company and the client is broken. Your insurance premiums are not paid by you in most cases, but by your employer — and therefore you have neither flexibility nor options for seeking out the best rates for the coverage you desire. Your coverage is also likely determined by your employer, rather than by you — with some unnecessary services thrown in by state benefit mandates.

When you need healthcare services, you do not pay the physician or hospital directly, other than a small co-pay or deductible. You receive the service, and the provider then bills the insurance company to be reimbursed. The provider is constrained by contract with the insurer, and will only be paid a fixed amount determined by that contract (which, amazingly, the insurers will often refuse to disclose to the provider). If he or she excels in their field, they are not free to make separate arrangements with you at a higher price — even if your are willing and eager to pay for such excellence. If your insurance company chooses to deny a claim and refuse payment — which they do on a regular basis — you may be entirely unaware of this fact.

Hence the insurance company is shielded from accountability to you, the consumer. Your employer also has little or no influence over the insurance companies rates or payment policies. Therefore the insurance company is essentially accountable to no one — a fact which they use to gain a huge financial advantage. It is well established that insurance companies frequently deny claims filed by physicians arbitrarily, knowing that the high volume of claims processed by a physician practice will allow them to do so without consequence: over 50% of practices will simply write off the denial of payment, even if the payment was legitimately due. Practices simply do not have the time or manpower to appeal each and every one of these endless claim denials.

We have allowed the insurance companies — and Federal payers as well — to come between the patient and the insurer. In older, simpler times, it was quite different: you paid the physician directly, and submitted your bill for his or her services to the insurance company, who in turn sent you a check. Under this system, you were fully aware of what the physician was charging, and were fully aware of how promptly and appropriately the insurance company reimbursed you for your healthcare expenses. If they denied a claim, you, their customer, would be on the phone demanding to know why, and if you were not satisfied with the answer, would ultimately change insurance carriers. The physician required far fewer employees to massage and process claims, and as a result their overhead — and fees — were lower.

When politicians — or anyone else — begin talking about “efficiencies” brought about by preventive medicine or information technology — be afraid, be very afraid. Preventive care, as I have discussed elsewhere, is a healthcare talisman, wildly shaken with chanted incantations and ritual dancing as the solution to most, if not all, of our healthcare problems. Other than in selected areas such as prenatal care, or screening for hypertension, cholesterol, or diabetes (which are already routinely done), preventive medicine largely comes down to the Big Three: weight loss, smoking cessation, and regular exercise. If you believe you can get the population at large to embrace these lifestyle changes en mass through some national healthcare policy, you have been spending entirely too much time at the bong.

The idea that large financial return may be gained by simply implementing electronic medical records is beyond naive, bordering on moronic. The entry costs of such systems are enormous, and the complexities of integrating them into healthcare are extraordinary. Keep in mind that much of the current demand for electronic medical records has been driven by the government’s extraordinary documentation requirements imposed by their own reimbursements system. The benefits of electronic medical records are substantial, but cost savings is quite simply not one of them. Any long-term cost-savings would not be seen until there is near universal utilization and standardization — a scenario which is many, many years in the future. In the short term, conversion to electronic medical records substantially increases expenses and complexity, and tends to drive costs up, not down.

The current crop of healthcare reform proposals are an intoxicating blend of wishful thinking, heavy-handed government regulation, and unfulfillable promises. The politicians are inhaling deeply on their health-care hookahs — and hoping that the sweet aroma obscures the reality that they are only blowing smoke.

Kicking Back, Looking Forward

I’ve been kickin’ back for the past week or so, taking a much needed vacation from work, and — as is commonly the case — I’ve been as busy at home as at work: yard work, catching up on chores around the house, making a dent in my reading list, and getting my new web site for vasectomy reversals up to speed.

The web site’s been a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m building it in — WordPress!

Blogging software for a professional content-oriented web site? You betcha — the capabilities of WordPress in its latest renditions (now up to version 2.2) are truly amazing. It is now easy to have a static page as home page, and use page templates and post categories to display specific content on a specified page. So I can have, say, a page for frequently asked questions, and add new questions as blog posts with the category “FAQ.” WordPress page templates and template tags (pieces of PHP code which are used in the templates, and pull content from the database) are very flexible, well-documented in the WordPress Codex, with a short learning curve. This is sooo much easier than hacking together a static site using Dreamweaver or hard-coding html and css.

On the writing front, I’ve been giving some thought to my direction here, as I approach my third blogging birthday. As both my readers know, my typical format has been long essays or multi-part series (which are really very long essays, too long for a single post). These essays can prove to be rather gargantuan tasks at times, often taking 1-2 weeks to formulate, edit, and complete. The amount of time and effort thus entailed pose a significant initial hurdle: it takes quite a bit of energy to launch into one, and it is all too easy to procrastinate. The time limits of my profession don’t help as well. So I periodically get tired of the demands incurred, and have trouble gearing up again.

I have thought of branching out a bit — being a semi-professional techno-dweeb, I have a million little tools, utilities, and programs (Mac & Windows) which I find immensely useful, so I thought I might review the good, the bad, and the ugly I’ve run across and use regularly. I’ve also thought of having a Q&A format: any pressing issues you’d like me to pontificate upon, medically, faith-related, or other off-label topics? Let me know, and I’ll give it a shot.

My current readership (site visits per month) is about half what it was one year ago. The reasons for this are of course inscrutable — perhaps the content no longer appeals to as many people, or to other, more prominent bloggers who bring traffic by mentioning and linking to posts. Perhaps it has nothing at all to do with such factors, and is just part of a down cycle. I write from a passion of the soul — for my faith, for my profession, for a great culture in decline, for the joy of life, and family, and pets, and laughter. Hit counts mean little — but being human, they give rise to second-guessing when their decline is noted. Sending words blindly into the digital ether — especially when their generation requires substantial effort and time — can prove easily discouraging when few echoes return.

Well, enough of my navel-gazing — I will write as long as I am called to do so, and as long as there are those who read, and listen, and hopefully gain some insight and benefit from the effort. I genuinely appreciate those of you who visit regularly, and comment — you have blessed me far more than you know.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day, and God bless. Back soon.

Ducking the Hard Questions

It’s good to know that science is finally beginning to address larger questions of the meaning of life, rather than wasting time on trivial pursuits such as the origins of the universe. This epiphany came to me upon reading the following news release:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Several species of ducks have evolved complicated genitals in what appears to be an “arms race” between the sexes, researchers reported on Tuesday.

And females may be coming out ahead, said the team of biologists at Yale University in Connecticut and the University of Sheffield in Britain.

Their findings not only open a window into a little-studied area of biology, but could help shed light on how evolution works to help both males and females control their own breeding, the researchers said.

Patricia Brennan of both Yale and Sheffield was trying to figure out why some species of birds have penises and some do not.

“Birds are the only group where it mostly has been lost — 97 percent of birds do not have phalluses at all,” Brennan said in a telephone interview.

“So if it is such a handy tool, why don’t they have them any more?” Brennan asked.

Instead, they mate using what biologists call a “cloacal kiss” — a brief touch of the single opening that birds of both sexes have for disposing of waste and that both eggs and sperm come out of.

Brennan noted that in many species, females choose a mate after he puts on an elaborate courtship display, and breeding pairs are often monogamous.

An exception is ducks — especially mallards. Although mallards pair off to mate, females are often raped by stray males.

Yet studies show that these rapes do not pay off for the males. “Even in a species where 40 percent of the copulations are forced copulations, the ducklings still are mostly sired by the mates,” Brennan said.

“That implies the females may have some kind of mechanism that allows them to keep control of the paternity.”

So Brennan’s team looked at a lot of duck bottoms.

What they found surprised them — corkscrew-shaped oviducts, with plenty of potential dead-ends.

“Interestingly, the male phallus is also a spiral, but it twists in the opposite, counterclockwise, direction,” said Yale ornithologist Richard Prum in a statement.

“So, the twists in the oviduct appear designed to exclude the opposing twists of the male phallus. It’s an exquisite anti-lock-and-key system.”

Brennan believes females evolved convoluted oviducts to foil the male rapists.

“You can envision an evolutionary scenario that, as the male phallus increases in size, the female creates more barriers. You get this evolutionary arms race,” Brennan said.

Only if the female is relaxed and cooperative can the male’s sperm get anywhere near the unfertilized eggs, the researchers suggest.

“What I think is really cool is this does speak a lot about the ability of the female to have these cryptic mechanisms of choice,” Brennan said.

And it may mean something for people. “We can expect that these types of antagonistic traits are probably widespread and are likely part of the reproductive interactions of all sorts of animals, including humans,” Brennan said.

See also here, where Dr. Brennan informs us: “When females cooperate during copulation, they don’t struggle.”

News you can use, to be sure.

Despite my fascination with corkscrew copulation, I must say that some questions still remain. First of all, what sort of passionate dedication leads a man to spend the better part of his life studying duck genitalia? This sounds like the sort of fellow who was ecstatic when Dolly the sheep was cloned, because he would have a date both Friday and Saturday night.

And it’s good to know that evolution is creating longer penises; perhaps, in a few billion years, my e-mail inbox will no longer be filled with spam which is, shall we say, long on promises and short on delivery. This is also exciting news for my new business venture; I anticipate you will soon hear an announcement for MallardWear™. As there are millions of ducks in the world, this may represent huge business opportunity.

And while evolution is enhancing the studliness of well-endowed drakes, it is simultaneously making the lady quackers pro-choice. Think of the long-term implications of this process: In a billion years or so, there may be no more demonstrators carrying placards which read, “Keep your clergy off my cloaca!” Who knows, evolution may bring about all sorts of favorable change along these lines. A billion years from now, we will almost certainly see the demise of Fox News; the end of global warming; the extinction of Republicans and conservatives; and surely there will be no more blood for oil. Male ducks will evolve training wheels to manage their formidable phalluses — or perhaps their penises will simply grow wings. “Fly United” will take on a whole new meaning.

And the thought of emptying our prisons of rapacious renegade ringneck rapists is certainly a hopeful dream — freeing up more prison cells for safe-quackers and other Mallardian malfeasants. We’ll all sleep better.

Ain’t evolution grand? How did she get so smart?

Perhaps she might also engineer the extinction of moronic scientists.

One can only hope.

Franchise Opportunity–Going Fast!

Rarely a day goes by when I do not receive, from my friendly Post-person, some promotional material. Much of it is trivial (pens emblazoned with drug logos), most of it banal (copies of stupid marketing materials which insult the intelligence, like this), all of it unsolicited.

But there are rare occasions when something truly transformational arrives at your door, unexpected and unannounced.

Yesterday was such a day.

The box seemed like so many others, UPS-tan, no distinguishing labels. Upon opening it I was greeted with what appeared to be a black t-shirt, in a clear plastic wrapper. Underneath, a curious plastic sheet with fluid-filled domes, not terribly unlike mutant bubble wrap on steroids.

My curiosity piqued, I read the enclosed letter.

I would like to introduce you to Vaso-Ware … The garment is designed to be worn for several days after vasectomy or vasectomy reversal … Each Vaso-Ware combines practical design and functionality … from its interior shelf for support to its oversized front pocket to hold ice … Vaso-Ware: we have your support.

Vaso-Ware?? What the …??

A closer look at the “t-shirt” reveals a smartly-designed pair of black Jockey briefs — sans the customary peep hole. In its stead: a pouch. I check inside: no baby wallabies. The weird bebubbled sheet fits neatly into the pouch, turning the briefs into a lumpy yet luxurious instrument for hi-tech genital hypothermia.

Sweet.

Suddenly, the light goes on; marching bands begin to play; my ship has come in at last!

This is a great franchise opportunity! And I’m giving you, my faithful readers, an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Dr Bob, I love your writing, and I trust you implicitly. But are you trying to get me to invest in a business which sells a single product, which someone will purchase to use just once in their lives? What sort of fool do you take me for?”

Oh ye of little faith: ever heard of a bridal shop?

(Yes, I know that marriage is a growth industry; almost everyone nowadays seems to get caught up in more than one. But you get the point …)

So hear me out: this thing is big — really big.

The problem is, you’re thinking inside the box (or the pouch, if you will). Granted you’ve got the perfect apparel for making those ‘nads nippy in the dreadful days after the ol’ “snip-snip,” or the hopeful re-hook to keep the new wife happy. But what’s to keep ’em coming back for more, rather than tossing the bepouched panties into the dustbin of bad memories, never to purchase again?

Re-purposing, my child — re-purposing. Expand those horizons. Multiply those possibilities. Visualize success.

The key is to see the potential in this product — it’s almost limitless. Just to demonstrate — here’s a small sample of our new Vaso-Ware™ product line:

 ♦ iPants™: Plug in your buds, slip the ‘Pod in your duds! iPants™ come in a rainbow of colors to match your iPod. Great for the gym, where folks’ll think your scratchin’ yo’self when you’re just changing playlists. Bump the base, turn up the Ludacris, you’ll have a workout without breaking a sweat!

 ♦ Vaso-Ware Executive™: You’re an important person — and you know it! Your cell phone never stops ringing. Keep it close to home, and set the ring to vibrate for those you love. No more lying when you tell ’em to “call again soon.”

 ♦ Vaso-Ware Endowment™: If you’re more gifted than the rest, blessed by genetics, touched by Eutykhia — or are an aficionado of spam e-mails — life is good. But you know the headaches it can cause: enraged feminists casting icy glares at your glory; beautiful women “accidentally” bumping into you; pretty boys grabbing the adjacent stool (and other things) at the bar. It’s endless, embarrassing, and it’s time to put an stop to it. With Vaso-Ware Endowment™ you can pack your pachyderm in arctic coolness, guaranteeing the shrinkage which will put you back in the middle of the pack.¹

 ♦ Vaso-Ware Wannabes™: If you’re one of those poor fellows at the opposite end of the spectrum — whose bell clappers are high chimes rather than cathedral bells — Vaso-Ware™ has the answer for you, too! Stud-muffinry at its finest. Custom-fit bulges to enhance your image in all the right places. Available in Large, Extra-Large, and World Cup.

 ♦ Vaso-Ware Heat™: The world’s a dangerous place. You never know when some crazed Korean commando’s gonna shoot up the joint — and who wants to be his next victim? But you’ll be ready if you’re packin’ heat! With Vaso-Ware Heat™ you’ll be ready for action! Accepts all common handgun sizes. Shotgun and AK-47 adapters coming soon!²

 ♦ Junk-in-the-Trunks™: We don’t want to forget you ladies out there! Tired of that boring flat bum? Longing for that bodacious booty, but dreading painful plastic surgery? Then Junk-in-the-Trunks™ is just what the doctor ordered! Designed with a broad pouch in the rear, with perfectly-formed implants to make yo’ girlfriends green with envy! Comes in three sizes: Sportscar™, Wagon™, and Rumbleseat™³.

So you can see the enormous potential in this product. Why work the ol’ 9-to-5 when you can retire in luxury as a Vaso-Ware™ reseller? We’re also exploring foreign sales, and test-marketing specialized products, such as 72-Virgin-Ware™ for Middle East markets.

So don’t tarry — call 1-800-MyPouch for your information packet on investing in Vaso-Ware™ now. Our operators will be waiting.

1. Excessive exposure may cause frostbite. Discuss with your doctor before extended use.
2. Some restrictions apply. May not be sold to felons. Concealed weapons permit required. Safety lock recommended. Not available in every state.
3. Pilot car and wide load warnings may be required in some states.

Indoctrinating the Children

I normally pay little heed to the madness which is endemic in my home state, especially in the Puget Sound area, where the insanity of politically-correct multiculturalism is on daily display in all its glorious absurdity. But this little nugget is just too rich to pass up.

From the web site of the Seattle Public Schools:

For the first time, Seattle Public Schools are sending students from four high schools to attend the annual White Privilege Conference, sponsored by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the University of Denver, Teaching Tolerance, Study Circles Resource Center, The Matrix, Center for Judaic Studies, GLSEN, and many more organizations. Speakers include Geneva Gay, Peggy McIntosh, Joy Leary, John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas and many others who are actively engaged in anti-racism … We are very excited about this opportunity for students and teachers to grow and learn together at an intense 3-day conference. In support of increasing student voice related to school reform and equity, funding for students to attend the WPC is provided through the small learning communities grant.

The White Privilege Conference is described on the UCCS web site as follows:

The annual White Privilege Conference (WPC) serves as a yearly opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression. WPC provides a forum for critical discussions about diversity, multicultural education and leadership, social justice, race/racism, sexual orientation, gender relations, religion and other systems of privilege/oppression [emphasis mine]. WPC is recognized as a challenging, empowering and educational experience. The workshops, keynotes and institutes not only inform participants, but engage and challenge them, while providing practical tips and strategies for combating inequality.

The conference participants and presenters include corporate and non-profit community members, students, educators, activists, musicians and artists. This conference is not about beating up on white folks. This conference is about critically examining the society in which we live and working to dismantle systems of power, prejudice, privilege and oppression.

Sooo, what are the chances that this conference “is not about beating up on white folks?” (Anyone notice a bit of patronizing condescension in the description, “white folks?”) Notice this snippet from a prior year’s conference:

During the civil war, the armies of the Confederacy relied on blacks to cook for the troops and to make the implements of war they would use in battle; and likewise, the Union relied on black soldiers–around 200,000 of them–to ultimately win the war. That too, is most assuredly dependence.

And white dependence on people of color continues to this day. Each year, African Americans spend over $500 billion with white-owned companies: money that goes mostly into the pockets of the white owners, white employees, white stockholders, and white communities in which they live. And yet we say black people need us? We think they are the dependent ones, relying as we assume they do on the paltry scraps of an eviscerated welfare state? Now let \'s just cut the crap. Who would be hurt more: black folks if all welfare programs were shut down tomorrow, or white folks, if blacks decided they were through transferring half-a-trillion dollars each year to white people and were going to keep their money in their own communities?

Or what about the ongoing dependence of white businesses on the exploitation of black labor? Each year, according to estimates from the Urban Institute, over $120 billion in wages are lost to African Americans thanks to discrimination in the labor market. That \'s money that doesn \'t end up in the hands of the folks who earned it, but rather remains in the bank accounts of owners.

Whoa. One could have a field day with the logical flaws in this article alone, but why bother? When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail; when all whites (and only whites) are racists, every situation involving whites and other races is viewed through rosy racist glasses.

I for one am glad to know that the proud tradition of engendering white guilt through liberal indoctrination of our children is alive and well. Otherwise, how would we raise the next generation of liberals to amuse us with their abject foolishness and illogical prejudices?

[HT: Orbusmax]

Deep Waters

The following essay was originally posted in June 2005. The story is a true one, although the names have been changed.

 
Lake ClarkThey say that hell is hot. Sometimes, though, it is very, very cold.

Jim loved Alaska–it had been his home since birth. God’s country: wild, unpredictable, spectacular in beauty–there was no place like it on earth. Cities were a necessary evil, with their services and surliness, but out in the wild was where life could be found. Out among the glaciers, the ragged mountains framing the endless blue sky like jagged, broken glass, out where grizzlies snatched salmon from raging rapids, shortening their march to death as they fought wild currents to reach their spawning grounds. Out where eagles graced the sky, soaring above green fir spires and spotless snow fields. Out where God lived, where a man could see His hand, and hear His voice.

Jim lived a simple life of simple faith. He loved his wife as he loved the land, and together they were blessed with six children–three older girls, the twin boys, and a baby son their most recent gift. Each was a treasure greater than the next. Their lives were story book: The lodge they owned nestled near the shores of Lake Clark, a large inland glacial sea, mirroring the snow-peaked mountains surrounding it. Summers were busy–hunting and fishing tours, visitors from afar seeking trophies and photographs, decked in newly-purchased gear from REI in the lower 48. Jim loved to fly–the float planes lifted gracefully from the lake, carrying their awestruck passengers over endless miles of breathtaking beauty to some far-away stream where tied flies touched water and fish broke airborne for their last meal.

Out in the bush, relationships were few in number but rich and deep. Church was more than a Sunday obligation–it was a place where life was shared, joys celebrated, suffering comforted–a place where faith begot works, where love put on snowshoes and helped stack the winter’s wood. Family life was alive, ripe with blueberries picked, hikes to the falls, and quiet nights beside campfires. Summers passed quickly at Bible camp, concentric ripples of cannonballs and giggles of joy rolling across the lake from the old dock. Dates with dad and high tea with mom found no competition from mindless cartoons, and bedtime prayers thanked Jesus for His goodness and God for His gifts.

Winter was time for quiet reflection, as the short days and deep snows kept sportsmen far away, and school and indoor chores made the time pass slowly but with purpose. The plane was their lifeline: what few roads there were became impassible in deep snow, and flights to Anchorage a necessity for supplies and health care. The girls came along often, although the younger boys stayed with friends and relatives for lack of space.

Jim had tens of thousands of hours of flying experience, a skill which paid rich dividends in the harsh, capricious winters of south Alaska–there was little in the way of flying conditions he had not challenged and mastered. So this flight to Anchorage in February was a pleasant surprise: the low gray skies broke open to display the rare winter glory of sunshine on pristine snowfields, the glorious tinted rim of Alaska Range peaks and deep seas of Cook Inlet. The supplies garnered and the girls’ dental care completed, they took off for the return flight to home and hearth.

The storm struck without warning, a white she-devil blown in from the Gulf, the Cessna buffeted by sharp, hard winds as visibility and ceiling dropped precipitously. The instruments held true, and countless hours of difficult flying forged Jim’s nerves steely and his focus intent. Mom held the girls’ hands, distracting them from natural fears with songs and stories and heads held to breast, her own pounding heart betraying her calm demeanor. “Will we be OK, mommy?” “Jesus will bring us home, honey.”

The GPS told Jim they were indeed near home–the lighthouse in space beaconing safety and rest. By reckoning they should be near the lake, just a few miles out from the landing strip. But Nature had not finished yet, her rage reserved for one final blow.

A whiteout in a small plane is dreadful beyond imagining. Suspended between earth and sky, with no point of reference, no sense of up or down, sensory deprivation in a aluminum rocket. Your training trusts your instruments, but instinct and eyes scream for visual confirmation. There! On the right! Through a brief window in the suffocating white blindfold, a dark line: the outline of the lake shore. Jim banked the plane toward this beacon of hope. “Are we home yet, daddy?” “Almost there, honey.”

But wild Nature held one last vengeance: an atypical winter thaw had opened a long dark crack in the ice, normally frozen solid in February. The line Jim saw was not the shore. The plane hit water at airspeed.

The prop and windshield exploded. The cabin filled instantly with icy water, as Jim craned his neck to reach the fast-retreating air, still restrained by his harness. Years of wilderness training sprung to life, as without a thought he grabbed his Bowie and cut free the webbing. He struggled with the girls’ restraints, hopelessly locked between seats crumpled by the impact. His wife was nowhere to be seen. Time was up–the air was gone. He broke from the cabin, gasping for air at the surface, hoping to dive and try again to free his treasures. It was not to be: the plane sank like a millstone, 600 feet to the bottom of the frozen fjord, entombing the family he worshiped.

In shock, he looked around. His wife, by some miracle, thrown from the plane at impact, had struggled to the surface and clung to a floating berg. Spared from a frigid tomb, they stood on a fragile shelf of thin and breaking ice. Over two miles from the shore, clothing soaked through in sub-zero temperatures, their survival was still a loser’s bet. Slowly they worked their way shoreward, breaking through the ice at times, body temperatures dropping despite their exhausting physical efforts. Guided by some hand unseen, they finally fell exhausted on shore, finding shelter in an empty lodge. Blinded by cold and head trauma sustained in the crash, Jim was led into the cabin by his wife, who cut off his frozen clothes and started a fire.

Friends awaiting their arrival grew anxious, and the Air National Guard was called. A Pavehawk helicopter–battling the same merciless weather–located the crash site, and ultimately reached them at the cabin. Even then, they could not be evacuated, as conditions grounded the rescue helicopter until morning. A friend flew a Piper cub–braving the same horrendous storm–to bring arctic sleeping bags and warm food. Bravery, love, and duty had spared their lives.

Months passed. Physical healing came quickly, but the rawness of heart wept like an open sore, gently salved by friends and faith, prayers and potlucks, tears and thankfulness. The boys were precious as never before, but the emptiness of heart left by a lost child cannot be filled. The rage at God passes–slowly–as strength flows from trust born of countless old decisions to set aside self and act in faith. But the memories remain–the laughter lost, the peace of a sleeping child, the love of a flower picked, the unexpected hug. There is no answer to “why?“–only time, and trust, and talk, and the tender whispering of a gentle Spirit. Yet one haunting regret refused to die: the vasectomy Jim had undergone after their last son–expeditious at the time, financially prudent–was now a self-imposed prison in a home filled with people, yet achingly empty.

And so they sat in my office, seeking my skills to restore what no man should be asked to provide–hope and happiness. And they told their story, my heart aching with each small detail disclosed. Jim was a man of enormous character and strength, his wife still bearing the unspeakable pain on her face–yet there was no shame in the tears that welled up in their eyes. As I gently probed deeper with almost unseemly curiosity, I was drawn in by the most remarkable revelation: these two would stand. Theirs was a strength not merely of hardiness, or training, or steely denial hiding a dying heart, but of power beyond the means of any mortal. They had faced the hell that men fear even to consider, and conquered it. There was glory in their weeping, victory in their agony. They would never be alone, and never be defeated. I, the proud expert, felt strangely insignificant in their presence.

The surgery went well, and early recovery smoothly. As I spoke with Jim before he left for home, he talked about the girls who had loved their daddy and whom he still loved so deeply. “You know, if I could fly to heaven and bring them back, they would not want to come. Their happiness is complete, ours still unfulfilled. Jesus has indeed brought them home.”