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    I’m an opinionated Grumpy Old Man. I enjoy the intellectual give and take that goes along with that, but have very little patience for stupid people (Note: there is a big difference between “stupid” and “educated”. Some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met have a PhD…). Beside arguing, I like to build things in almost any media. Right now I’m mostly building in wood, Lego, and a bunch of different electronic media. I teach in a number of different venues - from preschool all the way through graduate school. Subjects range from talmud to neuroscience to engineering.

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Veterans Day: Enough Sacharin Already!

Yep, Wednesday is Veteran’s Day. You can tell Veterans Day is coming because the editorials and “news” media are gushing with crappy, maudlin poetry and odes to remember our soldiers. How about some reality: To the vast majority of Americans, Veterans day is just another day off school or work.  If you go to church, shul, mosque, whatever, the service leader will probably make some sappy noises to “remember the soldiers”. Maybe we pay some lip service by reading one of those crappy poems or editorials, but probably not. If you’re REALLY motivated (meaning there is a veteran in your immediate family), you might go to a parade or a dinner.

Here’s an idea: instead of either ignoring the holiday or making some motions, how about doing something to remember the ideals that the soldiers are/were actually fighting for. Write you legislators about an issue you care about. Use the day make some sacrifices of your own, and go help out in a food pantry, visit the sick in a hospital, or visit a nursing home. Chances are good any one of those three activities will bring you into direct contact with a veteran. And it will actually mean something.

Our Veterans don’t need poems, sermons, or TV news people spouting crap about them, and little yellow ribbons are meaningless. We need the rest of the country to actually prove that he sacrifices that Veterans have, are, and will continue to make actually have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what your political views about the current or past wars are. Do something for the ideals that he soldiers stand for.

And while you’re at it, stop and think for a moment: in modern wars, more civilians and non-combatants are maimed and killed than military personnel. Remember the innocent bystanders as well.

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The New Dark Ages

I’ve been noticing a lot of similarities in some recent news and some not-so-recent history. The dark ages were a fun time: ignorance, poverty, disease, and war were the norm. A powerful christian government work hard to maintain ignorance, as literacy and rational thought were considered to be major threats to the mindless dogma preached by the church. By keeping the masses ignorant, the church was able to maintain power, and use war as a tool to continue that power. Poverty and disease are natural elements in an ignorant, uneducated population, and also served to reinforce the church’s stance (if you were poor, it must mean that god doesn’t like you,so you must have done something bad). A random walk through some of today’s news events shows a remarkable similarity.

Ignorance. The dark ages were rife with ignorance, superstition, and church doctrine. The general populace was not only discouraged from learning to read, but in many cases, it was illegal for them to know how to read. The dominant government (the christian church) decided what was fact, and what was acceptable for the peons to know. The idea was that all law came from the bible. Of course, if the peons could read, they would be able to figure out that most of what was being taught as church doctrine had nothing to do with the bible, so reading was reserved to the “right-thinkers” in the church. This was also a method of ensuring that the church maintained its position of authority – science and critical thinking would erode the church’s “we talk to god, so we know the truth” dogma, so the church did its best to keep people ignorant (this is the same church that threw Galileo in prison, and refused to admit that the Earth rotates around the sun until late in the 20th century). The church as an entity had an official policy of maintaining the ignorance of the populace. Among other things, it made it impossible to do any sort of business without church involvement (and taxation) – the church was the only agency that was allowed to write, so things like keeping track of shipping, sales, and land records was wholly under the control of the church. This provided a handy revenue stream to support wars against those pesky foreigners and heathens that didn’t buy into the church myth.

In the modern world, the church has much less official power – we even pretend in the USA that the church is just another social group. But if we take a look at what is going on, we can find “christian influence” (read: ‘christian ignorance’) in many places. One of the scariest is the influence that the church continues to have on education. While most of the first world laments the fact their children are not keeping up with upstart developing nations educationally, the church is working to continue to stifle knowledge and free thought. With amazing effectiveness. Depending on the surveys, as much as 30-60% of the people in industrialized nations continue to believe that creationism is as scientifically valid as evolution. The majority of people freely admit that most technology and science is little more than magic to them – it is simply beyond their understanding. Of course, in places like India and China, it is very common to find people who not only understand technology and science, but are using it to displace the “industrialized world” as the leaders of new technological developments. The first worlddoes still have the major educational institutions, but a visit to any hard science or engineering graduate program will make it clear that most of the students there are from second or third world nations. A review of the scientific and engineering primary literature shows the same thing. Take a look at journals from 40 years ago, and the vast majority of authors will have anglo-european names. Take a cruise through the journals today, and most of the names are asian, indian, or middle eastern.

Of course, the Dark Ages did end. The church was finally overthrown by internal divisions, and by the influence of educated free thinkers from other cultures – most notably Asia, India and the Middle East. In the modern world, we are faced with many dangers – a much hyped example is the militant extremists from the muslim left that kill a few people every day. A much more insidious danger is the creeping ignorance and denial of science that is so strongly supported by the christian church. So next time the bible-thumpers are at your local library or school board lobbying to get Harry Potter pulled off the shelves (it has witchcraft in it, and the bible says that witchcraft is bad), don’t just sit by and assume that rational thinkers will simply ignore them. Show up, and speak out. Make sure they know that we recognize their idiocy, and that we won’t tolerate it. When you hear or read about a school district that is buckling to the local moral minority, and is pulling evolution and science from their curriculum, go to the school board meetings and make some noise. At the very least, go read some history, and decide if you really want to live through another round of ignorance driven dark ages. We can hope that the developing world will save us from our own apathy and ignorance, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it ourselves?

Government health care plans.

The feds are at it again. Health care reform. Yet another attempt to pretend that the government can do a better job at managing health care than private industry can. Lets be real folks, the government of the USA couldn’t figure out how to get out of a wet paper bag without spending a few trillion dollars on pork, bribes, bailouts, and a new Star Wars light saber space alien defense system (to keep the Russians at bay), etc.

Then again, the commercial, private sector health care providers haven’t managed to do any better. Health care costs are absolutely insane – prior to the meltdown, unexpected health care expenses caused something like 80% of all individual bankruptcies. The economic meltdown may have reduced that number a bit, but only because there are a lot more people going bankrupt – the number of medical bankruptcies is being diluted, but not reduced.

So, lets take a few minutes and compare a government run single payer system with current health insurance systems.

OK, first an easy one: we KNOW the government will waste huge amounts of money. The feds can’t pass any type of spending legislation without slipping in a bunch of pork, so lets take a look at private sector health insurance and see if they can do any better. We know that health care executives (who do NOTHING to actually provide health care) are among the highest paid executives in the country. I don’t know if that counts as pork, but it certainly does contribute to the insane costs of health care. Remember: we’re talking about the executives at the local hospital, lab company, health insurance carriers, etc. etc. etc.

Drug costs are also supported by the fact that US insurance companies are willing to pay a lot more for drugs (both name brand and generic) than any other country. The same pill, manufactured in the same plant, to the same spec will cost a fraction as much in any other country.  Why? Because the folks that pay for meds in other countries aren’t willing to pander to big Pharma.  They set prices that are competitive and rational. If the pharma company isn’t willing to accept the prices set, they aren’t allowed to sell ANY meds in that country. Hmmm. This is actually an example not only of how badly our insurance industry manages drug costs, but is an example of how well OTHER governments regulate it. Of course, they don’t have the Pharma companies contributing bazillions of dollars to their re-election campaigns like politicians here in the states do.

Of course, what it really boils down to is quality of care. I constantly hear rants about how bad the medical care in countries with government run health care is. I only have limited experience with this – Canada, the UK, and Israel. In all three cases, there are problems – long waits to see doctors is one of the most common complaints. However, a trip to the emergency room always results in quick treatment…. Of course, we also have good emergency rooms here, with private health insurance. The problem is, so many people who do not have health insurance use the ER as their primary care providers, and avoid going to the doctor until they have no choice. I’ve spent a lot of time in emergency rooms (for a lot of reasons), and I’ve found that in the states, I can pretty much always count on at least one person being there because they didn’t get some basic treatment when they needed it. I’ve never seen that in other countries. (note that this doesn’t mean it never happens, it just indicates that it is a lot less common.)

Of course, if you happen to HAVE private insurance, you are only covered if you see a doctor that is covered by that particular program, so if you happen to have an illness that is beyond their ability, you’re left high and dry. Unless you can afford to pay for it yourself. So we’re back to paying. The simple reality is that folks that have more money will ALWAYS get better care. In the countries with socialized medicine, they are the ones that can afford private doctors and hospitals. In the US, the rich are also the ones that can afford private care, or can go overseas to other countries to get care that is not available here. Instead of looking at the top of the scale, we have to look at the average, and bottom of the scale.

At the bottom, there is no real question: the US already has socialized medicine. Medicare and medicaid provide some of the best (and most cost-efficient) medical coverage in the country. About the only better coverage is the health care plans that the government provides to its top employees (the  ones we vote into office). Yes, there are people that fall through the cracks, and yes, the upper limit of eligibility is so low that a lot of people that need medicare/aid can’t get it, but for the folks that do get it, it works.

That leaves those that are too rich to qualify for medicare/aid, but not rich enough to be able to afford private hospitals and medical care. The vast majority of americans. The same ones that are being forced into bankruptcy because their insurance doesn’t cover their kids broken leg (or whatever the unexpected emergency was). The same ones that are livid because their health insurance premiums have risen to as much as 50% of their take-home pay. The ones that select employment based on the health insurance plan – not pay, working conditions, or anything else. The same ones that voted Obama into office – in part because of his health care platform.

Sounds to me like there is a pretty strong call for major health care reform.

Of course, the health care industry – and the insurance industry in particular  – are lobbying hard to convince us that reform is a Bad Thing. “You won’t be able to keep the health care plans you have and love”they say. OK, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know ANYBODY that is currently satisfied with the way their health care plans work, or what they cost. What they’re really saying is “don’t do anything to make us operate more efficiently”.

So, here’s my idea of how to give everyone a fair shake. the insurance companies insist that the people (that would be you) want to continue with their existing policies, and will continue to accept double digit percentage premium increases every year. They insist that the government couldn’t possibly operate as efficiently as the “free market” economy. They claim that the creation of a single payer system will force them to shut down.

So here’s the gig: they claim that their customers love them, and that they are doing a better job, more cost effectively, and with better care than the government ever could. The solution is just too easy. Let the government set up its own health care systems. Let the private industry continue the way it is. Let the people choose what program they like better.

Now THAT is something that terrifies the insurance companies. They know that even with all the pork, mismanagement, and bureaucracy, the cost of running a federal medical insurance company is a lot lower than the bloated profit centered commercial health insurance industry. The real issue is that the private insurance industry sees real competition coming along, and they know that if it happens, they are going to have to tighten their belts, and stop paying their investors and executives huge bonuses and dividends.

Of course, the best solution would be for a respectable private entity to start offering health care coverage at rational pricing, but that would mean no big bonuses for execs, no big dividends for the stock market, and no money for lobbying. The truth is that the government can’t begin to operate a single payer health care system efficiently. The reality is that the ‘free market’ has proved that it can’t either.

13 year old strip searched for Ibuprofin?

OK folks, get this:

A student at a junior high school is caught with Ibuprofen. The school has a zero tolerance policy for ANY medication. The student claims that the pills belong to another girl. The second girl is called to the principle’s office, and is subjected to a search. Not just her backpack and locker, but her body – a full strip search.

So, we all know that the whole “war on drugs” thing has gotten so extreme that it borders on insanity, but folks, this was IBUPROFIN, and I’m sorry, there just isn’t anyway to justify a strip search – especially based on the accusation of some other kid who is trying to stay out of trouble. Think about it – if YOU knew that you were facing the likes of a strip search, and all you had to do was point your finger at someone else (especially in middle school), how fast would YOUR finger be flipping out?

The thing that is even more amazing is that the courts have (for the most part)  supported the school’s right to carry out this search. Fortunately, the Supreme court had the decent sense to actually uphold the fourth amendment (which protects you from unreasonable search). Unfortunately, they also upheld a lower court ruling that the perpetrators could not be held personally liable for their actions. Sorry folks, even in the army in a war zone, following an order that you know is illegal will get you in a rash of hurt. “Just following orders” didn’t cut it at Nuremberg, and it certainly doesn’t hold water here.

I don’t know what has happened to the school officials involved in this incident – it took place in 2003 in rural Arizona. At the very least, I hope they lost their jobs. What SHOULD have happened is that every single school official involved (including the school board members and teachers union members that supported the perpetrators) should have simply been lynched. Now THAT is a nice clear message that no school official in the country could possibly misinterpret. Couple nice news pics of a bunch of bureaucrats hanging from the local live oak would make national headlines and make sure that any school official thought twice about this type of abuse of power. If lynching is too strong for you, I guess I could settle for burning them out of their homes, applying a liberal dose of tar and feathers, and running them out of town. Lets face it folks, in any other venue, these  thugs would have been labeled as sexual predators, face major jail time, and a lifetime of being labeled as perverts. Of course, in this case, it would all be justified.

Folks, our school systems suck, and they are eviscerating anything resembling our children’s civil and constitutional rights. As citizens, it is our responsibility to make sure that the legal system does not simply sit idly by and allow this type of abuse. If and when the legal system DOES let criminals like this off the hook, it is OUR job as citizens to protect our children from these predators.

“Rural Arizona” is an area that tends to have a large number of folks that understand the failings of the legal system, and I certainly hope that a few of them had the balls to polish off their shotguns and demonstrate that in some cases, vigilante justice is not only justified, it is necessary. Ladies and Gentlemen: lock and load. If I ended up sitting on the jury considering the prosecution of an individual involved in the appropriate disciplining of these perverts, I’d be proud to make a finding of “innocent”, and I’d be proud to to shake that persons hand.

those wacky Christians. Ghandi had it right.

“I love your Christ, but I hate your christians” (slightly paraphrased from the big G).

Speaking as a Jew (actually, as a Jewish Carpenter, I feel particularly qualified to spout on this topic, seeing as I have pretty much all the same qualifications as that Jesus dude…)

Anyway, the whole idea of what being a “christian” means is a good sight different from what Rabbi Jesus suggested. See, Jesus was would today be considered a conservative (or maybe right wing reform) Jew. He took the Torah and ‘modernized’ a couple parts of it – mostly as an intellectual exercise – the same way rabbis have been doing for the past 6000 years (give or take a few). The problem is what happened after he died.  See, there was all this political turmoil, and J’s followers (who still identified themselves as Jews) had a couple of radical rabble rousers, who figured that he small differences between the sects of Judaism (and there were a ton of them -maybe even as many as there are now) presented a pretty cool tool to use to advance their political agenda. The whole “Us” and “Them” concept. Politicians have been using it for ages – from Bush, t0 the Muslim Jihadists, to the Nazis, to pretty much every political leader in the history of the modern world (including our own revolutionary war folks, and the folks on both sides of the civil war, war of 1812, Spanish American war, etc. etc. etc.).  So, as these rabble rousers started to gain a foothold, they felt that it was time to start identifying themselves as something other than Jews (this wasn’t until a few hundred years after the Big J bit it).

So, these guys get together, write a collection of Jesus’ “sermons.” Really, after 100+ years of political posturing, they hadn’t changed a bit, and were still the same exact words… Really. trust me on this. I have a college degree, and besides, God told me it was true. Don’t get me started on that whole virgin birth thing – my bet is that either Mary was getting a bit (or maybe a lot) on the side, or Joseph finally got fed up with that whole “saving myself for god” thing, and set her straight. Anyway, suddenly a set of documents appear that really prove that Jesus’ followers are really not Jews (even though J kept insisting that they were, and the4 Jewish population pretty much agreed that they were too). But hey, who cares what reality is when political power is involved? To make a long story short, these guys succeeded. The following few thousand years of “christian” history pretty much continued this trend, with the church completely ignoring any and all of its tenets in order to secure and maintain political power. Holy wars, crusades, even the fun witch hunts within the different sects of christianity make the Muslim Brotherhood look like a couple of guys out on a street corner having an argument. The christians have the blood, terrorism, murder, rape (it’s not rape if the victim isn’t christian – check out your history – particularly during the crusades and medieval period), and otherwise nasty stuff down pat. And when they’re not actively involved, they’re sitting on the sidelines either ignoring, or quietly supporting the actions (recent examples include the vatican’s response to the Holocaust, the KKK, and other hate groups).

So, what IS there to love (or even like) about the christians? There are actually some of them that have managed to bypass the history and teachings of the church, and are dece3nt human beings. ‘Course, that can be said for any group, so it doesn’t really hold much water. Probably the best thing that can be said is that they’ve finally started to realize (as their political power has slowly slipped away) that they have to start playing nice, or they’re going to quietly get laughed into oblivion. They’ve already (in most of the world anyway) slipped from a major political power to a  fringe group that is mostly laughed at. Yes, there are local concentrations of them that continue to cause problems (the wackos in Texas and other parts of the deep south that are still trying to force schools to teach creationism are good examples). Yep, ignorance is the only way to continue to try and force folks to buy the christian point of view. Course, that has ALWAYS been the case – if the masses are too uneducated to actually read the bible and question it, the mother church can fob off whatever blather suits them at the moment. However, for the most part, the truly ‘dedicated’ have faded into the comics page of life.

So there ya go: the basic premises of Jesus’ teachings are pretty much universal, and for the most part taken directly from the Jewish Torah: treat others as you wish to be treated, be accepting of other points of view, and in general just be a decent person. Sounds like most major religions, which is not surprising as the monotheistic religions are the main religions now, and they all originate in Judaism. Maybe that’s why the christians have such a hard time with the Jews – they don’t like to admit that the ‘christian’ ideals are really the same as the Jewish (and by the way, Muslim) ideals. Anyway, christianity has become a great example of a good idea that completely failed in execution. Of course, ‘execution’ is an idea that the christians really liked – they are the only monotheistic religion that has consistently given people the option of “convert or die”…..

Gay marriage and individual rights

OK folks, time to roll up the sleeves, and dive into this weeks fun socio-political goat rodeo.

There has been a lot in the news lately about gay marriage, and if it is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Personally, what 2 people do in private makes no real difference to me. OK, lets be honest: 2 people, 3 people, huge crowds of people, random pets, livestock, fruits, vegetables, aliens, or whatever. Makes no real difference to me, but keep it private: I’m really not interested in hearing about it.

Of course, politics doesn’t work that way, so, as an introduction, a brief summary of my views on the whole issue: I don’t care, with the exception of some semantic issues, and some issues regarding personal choice that I’ll address later. The semantics are easy, and I’ve covered them before, so here’s the short form: “Marriage” refers (in my opinion – the only one that matters here) to a religious ritual/state/condition. The term has been used by governments because in the past, their definitions matched those of the religious organizations. In today’s world, that is no longer the case. Instead of getting hung up on the word “marriage”, let the government come up with some other term to replace ‘marriage’ in the legal arena, and the problem is solved. Nobody can complain if the legal term is ‘civil union’ if its the same term that is used by all couples.

OK, now for the fun part: the personal choice and individual rights issues. This is the place where one persons (or couples, or groups, or whatever – see the list I opened with) desires can (and often will) be at odds with another persons or groups. The easy example is the rabbi/priest/mullah that is asked to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. This is something that directly contradicts the tenants of their religion (at least for those that actually follow their source documents – the Torah, Bible, or Koran). Is the rabbi/priest/mullah legally obligated to perform the ceremony? If they refuse, are they subject to being prosecuted for discrimination? What about their parent organization – the temple, church, or mosque – what happens when they refuse to allow the same sex ceremony to take place in their building? How about the religiously observant photographer, justice of the peace, caterer, event planner, etc?

Certainly all of the people involved have the right to practice their religion, and to follow the tenets of their religion as they see fit. So what happens when this conflict comes up? For rational people it’s easy: if one vendor doesn’t want to provide you with a service, you simply find one that does. Unfortunately, expecting people to be rational isn’t realistic. New Hampshire recently went through this very issue – the state government legalized same sex marriage, but the Governor vetoed the bill, and sent it back with one demand: strengthen the language protecting individuals and organizations that were at risk of being in this exact situation. After a bunch of political back-and-forth, a compromise was reached that satisfied the govorner – some language was changed, the protections were increased (but not as far as the Governor wanted), and it is expected to pass. Of course, the issue will really be decided in the courts when someone is denied service and sues for discrimination. Time will tell what the law really means.

Personally, I suspect that he majority of people WILL be rational about this, but there is always the vocal minority that is looking for a cause or a way to raise a stink (the moral minority during the Reagan era is agreat example), and I fully expect to see someone raising hell over this. There’s evena  decent chance that it will end up in the US Supreme Court. If that does happen, current indications are that the individual rights would win out – and I certainly hope that is the case.

One other issue bears looking at here: equality. The feds have recently passed what is the first of a series of employment benefit policies that allow “domestic partners” access to the same benefits as “married partners”. In concept, I think that this is a good idea. In execution, these guys just tripped over their dicks so bad that they’re not gonna be getting any for the next 20 years. The problem is that they have extended a benefit that ONLY applies to same sex couples. A hetero couple that have been living together for 15 years, but choose to not get married are denied the benefits. The argument is that hetero couples can just get married, and they’ll get the benefits. The old idea of “separate but equal” has already been shot down, and the “special treatment for minorities” is being recognised as discriminatory more and more often. While I applaud the action, by simply allowing the benefit to be applied to ANY domestic partner instead of just same sex partners, the execution of the idea could have been as good as the idea. Instead, a flawed execution almost guarantees that this too, will end up being litigated as discriminatory (which it is). My hope is that the situation will be corrected BEFORE the cost, hassle, and bad press resulting from litigation happens. If it is not, expect to see motions to halt the implementation of the plan while the courts hash it out (as should happen – discrimination is discrimination no matter how politically correct it is).

Gay rights are making slow headway -this is a good thing. However, it is essential that we remember that the goal is EQUALITY, not special privileges.

The dangers of modern society or “why the Evil Ones want to use your kids as dog food”

Ok folks, time to put on the skeptic hat and rant.

For some reason, in the past week I’ve been exposed to 4 or 5 occasions where people have mentioned the drastic increase in day-to-day dangers that we are exposed to – especially with regards to the hazards out kids must be protected from. WTF? We and our kids are safer now than we’ve ever been before in history. Statistics for crime against children show drastic drops in the past 20 years, and violent crime against adults is also at near record lows. Of course, it could be argued that the reason we are so much safer now is because we all live ina state of constant fear and vigilance – our kids are safer because we never let them have an unsupervised moment, and we (as adults) are safer because ummmmm. I dunno, maybe because we spend all of our free time sitting in front of the tube instead of doing risky things like hanging out with our friends and neighbors?

Yes there are some”new” hazards that have presented themselves in the past 20 years or so – the ‘net is a great example. Of course, when I was a kid (when all we had was DARPA net), we didn’t have folks trolling the net for victims, or pushing porn in email. It was all available down at the corner, in the drugstore, or (if you’re catholic) from your local priest. The hazards aren’t anything new, but the advertising is. So why the freak-out? Well, in part, I think its simply because parents haven’t kept up with the reality of technology. When I was a kid, everyone knew where the “bad’ parts of town were, and could avoid them if they chose (of course, being kids, we HAD to explore them and see just how bad they really were – even then the perceived risks were overblown). Of course, now the ‘net brings the “bad” parts of town right into the living room – kinds like TV, but without the censorship it had in the 1960s. ‘Course, even in the 60s, my parents had TV shows that we weren’t allowed to watch (part of being a responsible parent is having some idea as to what your kids are doing). So, in the modern world of the net, why can’t we expect parents to have the same level of responsibility for their kids? You think facebook is full of pedophiles trying to lure your kid into a cheap hotel room? Simple: cut off Facebook. If you’re too lazy to bother keeping track of what your kids are doing online, you can download free software that will shut the sites off for you. Its called parenting, and it comes with having kids. Its YOUR job, not someone else’s.

OK, so much for the net. What about those predators that are lurking behind the bushes just waiting to grab your kid when (s)he’s waiting for the school bus? You know, the one that’s been out there just waiting for some irresponsible parent to allow a kid to be alone for just ONE SECOND because her Doberman Pincher needs some live food. Get real folks. The reality is that your kids are way more likely to be harmed by a FAMILY member than by a stranger. If you’re serious about protecting your kids, make sure they’re never left alone with their older sibling, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or other family members or friends. The kids are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted by one of them than by a stranger. Kidnapping? O.nce again, the most common kidnapping are by family members (often in cases of separation or divorce) or by friends.

Now don’t get me wrong: there IS random crime and violence, and there is no way to avoid it. Nut jobs will always be out there, and there will always be random violent crime. The thing to remember is that it is extremely rare, and in reality, there is NOTHING that you can do to protect your kids from it. Some wacko decides to crash her car into the a store front, and guess what? It doesn’t matter WHAT precautions you’ve taken – if you’re there (or your kids are there) you might get hit. Some kid at a school gets fed up with something and decides to take it out by building a bomb, and there isn’t anything you can do to protect your kids, the school staff, or the random person that happens to be at school that day. Of course, the most likely source of danger to your kids is the car. That cell phone call you make while driving, changing the radio station, or simply being in the wrong place and getting into an accident. The most likely way your kids will suffer a serious injury is in YOUR car while YOU are driving.

So there ya go. Next time you see some rating-generating horror story about the one kid that was used as dog food by some whack job, put it all into perspective by thinking about he tens of thousands of kids that were killed, maimed, and otherwise damaged by the accident in the family car, in the family kitchen, or in the backyard – all while under parental supervision.

Yes, we all want to protect our kids (and ourselves) from unnecessary risks. If you really want to live in absolute safety, lock yourself in a closet, avoid all contact with any other people, and pray that your house doesn’t catch fire. Otherwise, accept the fact that life is inherently risky, and focus on living an enjoyable life. Take a chance and let your kids go for a walk on their own. Go for a bike ride. Do some of the things YOU did as a kid (and let your kids do them too). After all, you survived, didn’t you?