The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

new project: This Earth Nature Blog

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I have decided to go another way, and have launched a new project: This Earth Nature Blog. Hope to see you there sometime.



Written by Christopher ZF

March 22, 2012 at 13:59

Posted in Uncategorized

The End is Come.

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Farewell, my friends.

I have realized that TRC has run its course, and your humble blogger has decided to end the project. This is the second blog that I have kept faithfully and the readership that took 4 years of blogging to build on Remember the Midwest took only about 7 months at TRC.

So thanks to all of you readers who have made this time as pleasant as it has been.  It has been exciting to see readers join and page links grow all why maintaining the derisive comments of my closest friends who were there from the start. You know who you are.

Anyway. I love blogging. And already have begun thinking about what my next project will undertake*, whenever that happens.

But it is time for TRC to come to a close. My weekly column at Precipitate will continue to show up on Tuesdays, so I hope to see you over there.

*Hint: It will not be politics.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 19, 2012 at 09:35

Posted in Personal Entry

homeschooling and educational neglect

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TRC doesn’t have strong opinions of homeschooling. It is up to families to decide how they want to pursue education, and when (or if) I have children, I want to be able to make those decisions with my wife and not with the government. I know many very intelligent, socially adept individuals who were homeschooled.

That said, ensuring that children receive a primary education is not optional. Education is a right for all children, and in the US, primary education is compulsory. Homeschooling is of course a viable and valid option for a child’s education. As long as children are receiving an education.

With those quick thoughts, I recommend Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids, by Kristen Rawls at Alternet. I’m less interested in the Christian Fundamendalist part than I am in the difficulty of evaluating and understanding homeschooling. The piece is mostly anecdotal, and according to the author, that’s because there’s really no other way to discuss homeschooling.

Given the scarcity of numbers on this issue, the best one can hope for at this point is anecdotal information about the problem. But because homeschooling is such a highly politicized issue, it is often difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening from homeschooling parents themselves. And because many parents see themselves as advocates of homeschooling, they are not always very eager to discuss potential gaps in homeschooling education. 

If you home school your children, you obviously believe in the practice, and are unlikely to admit if you are failing. So how can we know how well parents are doing? This  problem has nothing to do with Christian fundamentalism. But it is the real problem presented here, in my opinion.

Of course, there are problems to be mentioned in the Christian Fundamentalist homeschooling movement. As one former homeschooling parent described it, “We were convinced that it would be better for our kids not to have an education than to be educated to become humanists or atheists and to reject God.” That’s hard to hear. Not because I want every to become humanists and atheists, but because parents don’t  have a right to sacrifice their child’s education on behalf of religion.

And  stories like this are deeply troubling. But hopefully the minority:

Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.
As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.”


Written by Christopher ZF

March 16, 2012 at 12:17

how do we protect our castle without allowing murder?

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Here’s a story that I’ve been following a little.

A 17 year old kid, Trayvon Martin, went to the store to get some Skittles. He was walking in the rain on his return, when a 26 year old neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, saw him.

Zimmerman didn’t like the look of the kid, in his hooded sweatshirt in the rain. Zimmerman called a non-emergency dispatch, who told him to wait in the car. Then Zimmerman chased after Martin, who ran. He caught him, and the two fought.

Someone shouted for help, there was a gunshot. People showed up to the scene, where Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, and Martin was dead. Zimmerman told the crowd and the police that it was self-defense.

That’s the story. Under the Stand Your Ground laws in Florida, Zimmerman cannot be arrested unless there is evidence that Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense is wrong. Said the local Sheriff: “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”

This is so sad. But what can the cops do? This is the law in Florida. There is no witness to the shooting and no evidence other than the survivor’s word. A kid went out to buy Skittles, was pursued, fought with a man, and that man shot and killed him. Maybe, after the fight started, it really was self-defense. Or, maybe Zimmerman wouldn’t have needed self-defense if he didn’t chase Martin in the first place, like he was instructed.

Then you start reading the news coverage, and you start to lose your faith in what’s happening. In the cops. In the laws. You think, a white man killed a black kid, and now what will happen? You follow this thinking, knowing it too is not fair.

But you read:

After the shooting… a narcotics detective and not a homicide detective first approached Zimmerman. The detective pepppered Zimmerman with questions, the source said, rather than allow Zimmerman to tell his story. Questions can lead a witness, the source said.
Another officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help.
The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness….
The Sanford Police Department refused to release 911 calls by witnesses and neighbors.

and you think, what the hell? Why not follow the rules on the scene? Take down the story, take down the witness testimony, release the calls.

You read:

Lee publically admitted that officers accepted Zimmerman’s word at the scene that he had no police record.
Two days later during a meeting with Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin, an officer told the father that Zimmerman’s record was “squeaky clean.”
Yet public records showed that Zimmerman was charged with battery against on officer and resisting arrest in 2005, a charge which was later expunged.

And you think, why would you tell that to the father whose kid was just killed. And what does this matter anyway?

In Minnesota, we have the Castle Doctrine, meant to protect one’s home and family against threats or perceived threats. Just this month, legislators passed an expansion of the protections offered by the Castle Doctrine, which was thankfully vetoed by Gov. Dayton.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws are based on the same philosophical underpinnings. But they are broader and offer more protection upon killing an individual. The statute protects a person who is “presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril” to one’s self or another. I don’t know how one can ever disprove a person’s presumed reasonable fears. The statute only requires that a person have “reason to believe” that an unlawful act had occurred or was occurring. Really. I’m not a lawyer, but this is bad law, that will have a sad legacy.

I have no idea what actually happened in the confrontation between Mr. Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. But it seems the tools at hand, and the rules as created, are more interested in protecting someone who shot a youth than ensuring that justice is served.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 14, 2012 at 11:21

Posted in Castle Doctrine, crime

Tagged with ,

62 Percent of Americans are now Radical Environmentalists.

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That’s the only conclusion I can reach after reading Rick Santorum’s piece at Red State.

After admitting a tepid support for air and water and parks, Mr. Santorum contrasts his “good stewardship” with “radical environmentalism,” which “has a blind devotion to the promotion of a radical agenda that ignores the interests and property rights of people.  Global warming became the litmus test of this movement.”

So. Radical environmentalism promotes a radical agenda and the basis of that radical agenda is: Global warming. Also, Watch out! RADICALS!


According to recent polling, approximately 62% of Americans answered Yes to the question: “Is there solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer?”

And, as of last March, 52% of Americans believe that the cause of those increased temperatures is “pollution from human activities.”

We are swimming in Radical Environmentalists. What’s a Santorum to do?

more from Kate Sheppard.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 12, 2012 at 14:28

“Just think about that for a second”

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My last post focused on Sarah Palin’s completely preposterous claim that US President and African American man Barack Obama wants to return the US to an era of discrimination reminiscent of that which existed pre-Civil War.

Since then, I have been unable to shake that comment. If you too are struggling to conceive of just how AMAZING that idea is, I recommend Palin: The First Black President Wants to Revert to Pre-Civil War Society, by David A. Graham over at the Atlantic.

Graham does a quick but thorough job of explaining why Derreck Bell, and college Obama, are not actually scary black racists:

Bell wasn’t a violent revolutionary but an academic theorist and campaigner for equality; there’s no evidence that Obama was a zealous apostle of Bell’s critical legal theory; and Obama’s term in office, whatever other criticisms one may make of it, hasn’t been characterized by radical black nationalism…She suggests that by taking part in a protest of the near-total lack of senior faculty of color at Harvard Law School in the 1990s, both Obama and Bell wanted to restore apartheid in the United States. Keep in mind, they weren’t black nationalists calling for blacks to separate themselves, which might give some credence to her charge: they were advocating greater assimilation.

and looks at the problem of discussing racial inequality:

What Palin is expounding is a belief that has become common among conservatives. Almost all conservatives (like almost all liberals) agree that racial equality is the ideal toward which the United States ought to move. But many on the right have adopted the view that the only way to address racism is to pretend it does not exist. Thus, anyone who talks about race or acknowledges race or makes mention of the fraught American relationship with racism must by definition be a racist. Clearly, that makes Barack Obama and Derrick Bell racists. It also makes Juan Williams, a center-right commentator, a racist when he points out that Newt Gingrich is using “food stamps” as code for “black.”
Of course, if not talking about race were the solution, Harvard might have had a racially diverse faculty by 1991, rather than lacking a single tenured female professor of color. (And remember that Bell was the first tenured black professor, so he knew whereof he spoke.) And though Harvard Law has made gains in that area, there’s still a discrepancy — so the more quiet discussion of the topic in the last two decades doesn’t seem to have closed the gap.
Palin is right that the promise of America is that we “have equal opportunity to work hard and to succeed and to embrace the opportunities, the God-given opportunities, to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed.” But it is a masterpiece of doublespeak to say that standing up and asking society to deliver on that promise undermines it.

I don’t quote this at length to imply that Graham is right in everything he says–but I think his case is pretty strong that Palin is very, very wrong.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 12, 2012 at 13:55

Palin, Obama, and Pre-Civil War inequality

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Let me get this straight.

Sarah Palin thinks that Barack Obama is trying to bring the United States back to an era similar to that   which existed pre-Civil War? Um. Why would he want to do that? Ms. Palin, does that accusation not seem a bit, well, stupid?

He is bringing us back…to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly belived that not all men were created equal,” she said. “What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin.”

For the record, Ms. Palin. I don’t know anything about this radical professor that Obama embraced as a Harvard Law Student. I’m personally not particularly concerned about the first black president of the Harvard Law Review giving a cordial endorsement and hug to the first black professor of law at Harvard. You however seem pretty confident about the proper behavior of a young black law student in 1991, so I’ll let you judge. It sounds like Dr. Bell was fairly controversial, so maybe I’m not giving this its proper concern. Or maybe a 20 year old hug is a 20 year old hug.

But when you say, pejoratively, that Obama agreed with “the radical agenda of a racist like Derrick Bell who believed that white men oppress blacks and minorities,” I’m curious what you mean. Do you think that the white men did not oppress blacks and minorities? Because, you know that the United States has a long history of white men in fact oppressing blacks and minorities…right? And that history is in no way erased from our nation.

Anyway. I feel confident that I can safely say that the first black President of the United States does not want to return America to an era of pre-Civil War racial discrimination.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 9, 2012 at 14:25