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31 Mar


“Mom, that woman is naked!”

March 31, 2005 | By |

Las Vegas is a seductive place. As we drove into town down the Strip, the Penta-Posse was thrilled — billboard-size flat-screen televisions with life-like fireworks . . . (Women in g-strings – “Mom, that woman is naked!”). . . a roller-coaster that explodes in a wild loop outside the NASCAR Cafe. . . . strobe lights make you think there’s a cop behind you. . . but of course there’s no cop, no cares, no accountability. Remember, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Right?

We hadn’t been in Vegas more than half-an-hour before the Dreamer saw an older woman, sitting in front of the slot machines, with her head in her hands sobbing.

I remain an admirer of his work, but what was Bill Bennett thinking?

Vegas remains a marvel of entertainment, which is mesmerizing for the Diva, our aspiring performer. Even the water fountains have choreography. On the way back to our hotel from a meeting last night, we stopped by the famous water fountain show in front of the Bellagio. It is truly breath-taking. Imagine hundreds of water fountains lined up like show-girls, with blasts of water “dancing” to lights and music. Amazing. At the end, the throngs lining the overlook began to applaud — almost as if there were human performers in front of us — then stopped quickly, almost embarrassed, and moved off into the night.

The Penta-Posse was entranced. They chattered happily about the spectacle as we walked away, until the Dreamer moved closer to me: “Mom, why does that woman have cards in the bushes? She’s naked and there’s a price on them.”

I tried to explain prostitution. (And gambling. And pawn shops. . .)

“So how much was she charging?” I asked.

“$49,” replied the Dreamer.

“She’s selling herself for $50?” I murmured.

“Wow. That’s cheap,” said the Dude. “Mom, why would she do that?”

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? I think not. John Donne said it better: “No man is an island.” One woman weeping in public, how many more weeping unseen?

Update: June 23, 2005 Feisty Repartee has more on the Vegas experience.

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30 Mar


Alchemy of Achievement

March 30, 2005 | By |

Major John Wesley Powell lost an arm in the Civil War, yet he went on to lead the first expedition that traveled the full length of the portion of the Colorado River that cuts through the Grand Canyon. The trip was so treacherous, and the river rapids so perilous, that the Indians warned Powell against even making an attempt to explore the Colorado. Nevertheless, he recruited nine other men and on May 24, 1869, the expedition party set off in three wooden boats.


Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution

One man abandoned the trip after the first month. Powell and the remaining eight men continued their exploration until they reached Separation Canyon. They faced a crisis: three men in one boat argued that it was foolishness and certain death to continue. After failing to convince Powell to join them, they left the expedition and began an attempt to hike out of the canyon.

They were never seen again.

The tragic irony is that the rest of Powell’s journey was not as challenging as that which they had already completed, and two days later they reached civilization.

Powell conquered the mighty Colorado River, with only one arm. Now that’s audacity.

All of life’s major achievements are accomplished by those who persist in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles, and non-OSHA compliant work environments. On the other side, are the nameless ones whose foolish obstinence leave them and their followers lost in obscurity, or worse yet, immortalized in infamy.

Where is the line between reason and audacity? And when is it quitting too soon?

I kept asking myself this question yesterday as our western adventure took us to our own Colorado River: taking the Penta-Posse skiing.

In the past, we’ve skiied with our extended family, which raised the adult to child ratio to a more reasonable level. But, hey, how bad could it be? The Posse has always loved skiing, and Jack loves to brag that the Diva “skiied before she could walk.”

How bad could it be indeed. For the first hour there was nothing but crying, whining, complaining and bickering. And that was just me and Jack.

Then the Posse got in the act. “My boots are too tight!” “I’m too hot!” “I’m too cold!” “I can’t do it!”

I wanted to go home. I wanted to give up the expedition and hike out of the canyon. When we took an assessment at the end of the day, all agreed that every member of the Posse cried actual real tears at least once in the morning. . .

But then came the afternoon. The Posse saddled up to ride. They were all over that mountain. Everyone also agreed (except for the Dancer who lost consciousness the minute she sat down, still with her crash helmet on) that the day was “awesome.”

Of course skiing is not quite in the same league of challenge as exploring the Colorado River, but I do hope the Posse learned something valuable about persistence.

What is the alchemy of achievement? It’s hard to know where the perfect union of reason and audacity lives. But I do know that in looking for it, you can quit too soon.

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29 Mar


The Politics of “Demeaning”

March 29, 2005 | By |

How strangely appropriate that the political denouement of Terri Schiavo’s sad odyssey began drawing to a close this past weekend on Good Friday.

As our nation went through the weekend simultaneously debating the value of the life of a disabled woman, observing solemn remembrances of the Passion and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the profound ramifications of the growing schism between the secular and the religious became clear.

This confrontation over one woman’s life is so profound because it forces us to grapple, collectively, with the question of suffering and what makes life worth living.

I turned on the Fox coverage of Terri’s legal battle Good Friday morning and saw Congressmen Chris Smith (R, NJ) and Jim Moran (D,VA) debating the issues.

(I once spent a full day with Congressman Smith doing “participant observation” in his home district during my doctoral coursework — I came away with a deep respect for his integrity. Conversely, during the time I lived in Congressman Moran’s district, I developed an opposite opinion of his integrity (see here for exhaustive details) and exercised many opportunities to vote against him.)

Moran’s closing filibuster rings in my memory as a refrain that sums up the corrupted attitudes of those opposing Terri’s right to live — her right to simple food and water. When asked by the moderator what he might say to Terri’s parents, Moran rambled, then finally concluded by observing that he believes Terri’s life is “demeaning.”

Here’s the emotional core of the national debate over Terri’s life. Moran sees pictures of Terri — disabled, dependent on those who love her for care — and wants to avert his eyes. He sees no worth, only degradation.

I read today a piece from a young man who has standing to respond. Joe Ford is a junior at Harvard — he has severe cerebral palsy and a doctor tried to euthanize him at his birth. Be SURE to read this article he wrote for the Harvard Crimson entitled “Bigotry and the Murder of Terri Schiavo.” Joe writes that he purposefully wears his Harvard t-shirt when he travels in an effort to stem the patronizing attitudes he encounters when he meets strangers.

Here is Joe’s argument about bigotry toward the disabled:

Like many others with disabilities, I believe that the American public, to one degree or another, holds that disabled people are better off dead. To put it in a simpler way, many Americans are bigots. A close examination of the facts of the Schiavo case reveals not a case of difficult decisions but a basic test of this country’s decency. Our country has learned that we cannot judge people on the basis of minority status, but for some reason we have not erased our prejudice against disability.

Let me take Joe’s argument to its logical conclusion: Terri’s case demands an eternal perspective. When the sun rose Sunday morning, Christians around the world proclaimed: He is risen, He is risen, indeed! In that triumphant cry, we spoke to the vast empty space in our souls where a redemptive understanding of suffering can be.

The stakes are high in the politics of death. Are those who suffer “better off dead?” In that emptiness, in that sorrow, place an empty tomb. That’s the only way to give “re-meaning” to Terri Schiavo’s life.

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28 Mar


He is Risen!

March 28, 2005 | By |

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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The alarm went off at 3 AM. Could we manage to rouse five tired children and make it to the sunrise service at the Grand Canyon 90 miles north? Having come this far on our westward adventure, we wanted to try.

But the Penta-Posse got themselves up, into the ski clothes we’d laid out to combat the cold, and beat me into the truck. (They may have been eased along by the chocolate and jelly beans the easter bunny left. . .) In fact, they were in such high spirits that they wanted our progress up Arizona Rt. 180 through the Coconino Forest to turn into a race with the lone hatchback we encountered along the way in the dark.

As the little car left us in his wake (Dad, c’mon, let’s go!!) Jack told the posse that we would let the hatchback “hit the cow” for us and tried to refocus their attention on seeing who could guess how low the temperature would go. The Dreamer “won” when the thermometer dropped to 17 degrees. I worried about the wind-chill on the canyon rim. Then, we crested a hill and came up suddenly on the hatchback, which was stopped dead in front of us as a herd of six or seven deer charged acrosss the road.

The mountains to our right, capped in snow, glowed with the reflected light of a full moon.

We reached the canyon at 5 AM just as the faintest light began breaching the eastern rim. We parked along the shoulder near Mather Point; the Dancer had fallen asleep again and didn’t want to venture into the cold — we wrapped her in a blanket and joined the others who were streaming in the direction of haunting music playing on a loudspeaker at the outlook. We were early enough to be among the first there; eventually around 1600 people arrived, filling up the platform, the stairs to the outlook, and lining the rim looking out over Mather Point.

The Dreamer, the Dude and the Diva scrambled up to a perch atop a large boulder, while Jack and I settled in to lower seats along a rocky wall with the Dancer and Boo.

By now, a faint pink light was spreading along the horizon. We had made it! My eyes filled with tears as my apprehension and tension from the press to get there was replaced with a sense of awe at the majesty in front of me.

Then the cold started to seep in. The Dancer started to cry. She settled in to Jack’s lap and buried her face in his chest. A little later, the Dreamer came down to take her so that they could warm each other. Boo slept on.

Half an hour left until the service and now the light was spreading and we could see the growing crowd around us more clearly. My worst fears about the wind-chill never materialized, but it was very cold. A stranger came over to the Dancer and the Dreamer, and wrapped them in a blanket. “Here,” he said, “you look cold. This is an extra.”

It wasn’t an extra. We were among friends. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

The service started and Boo began to cry. Then he settled quickly into my shoulder. . .

The sun broke over the northeastern rim with a brilliant glow, revealing the colors of the canyon in all their glory. Red, green, pink, orange. Deep clefts of darkness and shadow. The Colorado silently running in dizzying depths below. A raw wood cross on the edge appeared to hang in the air, silhouetted with the vast expanse of the canyon behind.

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!

Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!

Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!

Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

Hail, the resurrection day, Alleluia

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!

Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!

Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!

Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Afterward, the Dude and I stood and looked over the canyon. “This is awesome,” he said.

He is risen. He is risen, indeed.


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24 Mar


Run Cheri, Run!

March 24, 2005 | By |


With the news this morning that Terri Schiavo is dying and that the appeal to the Supreme Court has failed, we should be reminded that we need good people in our government. My friend, Cheri Yecke, is running for Congress — the Sixth District Congressional seat in Minnesota.

Five candidates are running in the primary and the first FEC filing deadline is coming up quickly on March 31st. Cheri needs to show strength in that filing.

This is an open seat, so it is a wonderful opportunity to get a strong, pro-life conservative (woman!) into Congress. I wish it were irrelevant that Cheri is a woman, but I emphasize it because in today’s political world, you aren’t a “candidate for women” unless you are a liberal with a skirt (or a chic pantsuit).

Cheri’s a fellow UVA Ph.D., with a solid public policy background in educational issues — she’s a “good guy!”

So Go, Cheri Go!!! If you are a Minnesotan, or know someone who is, please spread the word about her campaign. But everyone can support her, every dollar counts — her website is

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23 Mar


The Culture and Carlsbad Caverns

March 23, 2005 | By |

No matter how high you fly — or how deep underground — the tectonic clash in our culture appears in the strangest places. . .

One of our favorite stops on this grand Western tour has been Carlsbad Caverns. Words fail to describe the enormity and grandeur. The dropoffs are terrifying — the Penta-Posse discovered with terrific glee that their mother has a bit of vertigo as I kept calling them back from the edge.

With Boo on Jack’s back, we walked for three solid hours through the murky underground with its strange and wonderful rock formations. Toward the end of the tour, we rounded a corner and faced one of the most fascinating: huge, imposing and covered in intricate, limestone accretions, we had come to “the Rock of Ages.” According to the tour material, we learned that the tours used to stop at that spot and sing together the old hymn that is so dear and familiar to many.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure;

Save from wrath and make me pure.

However, the tour noted, this practice was discontinued due to logistical concerns. I didn’t believe it. Sure enough, the truth involves politics. The first Superintendent of the Caverns, Thomas Boles, began The Rock of Ages ceremony in 1927. Here’s what happened, according to a history of the Caverns from the National Park Service: “His Rock of Ages ceremony gain[ed] fervent visitor support and [was] presented for 17 years in the Big Room at the cavern until national level forces deem it not suitable for a park program.”

At one time, this hymn was part of a shared culture, providing a sense of community, and comfort in times of trial. In 1886, a ship was sinking, and those in the lifeboats heard the passengers left behind on the London singing Rock of Ages as it went down. (see W.T. Stead)

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyes shall close in death,

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

Imagine trying to have a Rock of Ages ceremony in Carlsbad Caverns today. That shared cultural heritage has nearly disappeared. And that is a real loss. We are the poorer for it.

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It’s Hyperalimentation, not Hyperventilation

March 22, 2005 | By | One Comment

There in the plexiglass display case, in Mesa Verde National Park are two crude crutches from our stone-age past. We spent yesterday exploring the cliff dwellings of pre-historic Pueblo Indians — they built their homes in the sides of sheer rock walls. They did not have the wheel; they did not have feeding tubes. They had to climb cliffs to get into their homes.


But they did fashion crutches for crippled children.

Each is crafted from one rough stick, topped with a Y-shaped branch, held together with a leather yolk painstakingly stitched together. They are on display in the Mesa Verde museum as evidence of the care these cave-people spent on crippled children — the official archaelogists’ interpretation.

Today, a federal judge has declined to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. This is impossible to believe.

John Derbyshire over at National Review Online thinks that this concern over a disabled woman’s life amounts to “hyperventilation.” I am a big fan of John’s; I think he is a very smart man. But he, and some other very smart people, are getting this issue all wrong. And it revolves around one simple, central point:

It’s hyperalimentation, not hyperventilation.

What’s “hyperalimentation?” It’s food offered through a tube. I offer some niche expertise. My husband used to be a medical sales rep for medical device companies — one of which was IVAC, which makes fluid-control machines. He sold, and trained the clinicians how to use, the plastic tubing that is used to feed people who are disabled.

(Med-techie stuff. There are two ways to do this — enteral and parenteral feedings, by gut and by intravenous catheter — a feeding tube into your stomach with pureed food or an IV catheter into your arm with a nutrient admixture. Terri receives food through a simple hose into her stomach.)

Here’s the key point: food is not medicine. In fact, Terri’s parents could administer the feeding at home. Jack, my husband, says he would be happy to teach them how to do it.

Here’s what says about home feedings:

A nutritional support team will be involved with the use of hyperalimentation. The person’s nutritional status is studied and his or her nutritional needs calculated. The solution is changed when the persons needs change. For instance, if a person is taking in food or fluids by mouth, he or she will need fewer calories from the solution. The family will be taught how to administer the hyperalimentation and care for the person if he or she is to receive care at home.

I repeat: food is not medicine. Even Rush Limbaugh got this point wrong on his show yesterday during a conversation with a doctor from San Francisco in the midst of an otherwise wonderful broadcast about Terri’s plight.

It must have been quite a burden for the prehistoric cliff dwellers to care for a crippled child. Climbing was an essential part of their lives; and their lives were consumed with survival in a way we cannot imagine except through visiting a dig. They certainly had easy ways to dispose of inconvenient people — the cliffs loomed.

Yet still, they sat in the dirt and lovingly crafted a crutch.

How is it possible that these pre-historic people were more civilized in this than we?


Be sure to follow Your Business Blogger(R) and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest

Jack and Charmaine also blog at Reasoned Audacity and at Management Training of DC, LLC.

Thank you (foot)notes,

Update June 22, 2005; Darleen’s Place provides reasoned words on Another voice

June 21, 2005; The definitive gathering point on this issue is Blogs for Terri which has an update

ProLife Blogs has more.

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22 Mar


Baseball or Life? Hmmm, hard call . . .

March 22, 2005 | By |

Here’s David Broder on Meet the Press yesterday on why Congress should not intervene in the Terri Schiavo case (her husband has had her feeding tube removed even though her parents have been fighting desperately for the right to care for her):

But for Congress to step in at this late stage with no expertise at all, intervene in a situation where the state courts have had ample opportunity to try to weigh the difficult balance, seems to me that they are way out of line.

Now here’s Broder on the Congressional hearings into steroids in baseball:

I do not think that Congress was out of line at all to look into this issue. I think it’s–it is the national pastime, and this is the national legislature, and I think it is a real problem that they have properly exposed.

Well, by gum, it’s, it’s the national pastime!! Sure, get involved in that, but don’t get too worked up about a woman whose life is on the line.

Look, don’t get me started on steroids in baseball — I hope they get the mess cleaned up so that the Dude can have some sports heroes who aren’t cheaters. But is that really more worthy of Congressional attention than Terri Schiavo’s life?

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22 Mar


Meet the People, Mr. Brownstein

March 22, 2005 | By |

On yesterday’s Meet the Press, the roundtable discussed Congressional attempts to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case (just in case: the young Florida woman, who is brain-damaged, whose husband has succeeded in getting the courts to order her feeding tube removed.) The focus of their discussion was the politics surrounding the controversy.

Everyone very sagely noted that, yes, indeed politics was involved in this case. Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, then commented that the Republicans in Congress who have been working to try to save Terri’s life have been doing so. . . in response to the interests of the social conservatives who elected them.” This is about responding to a base that is essential to their vote,” he said. (Transcript here.)

Oh, the horror! Politicians who are responsive to their constituents?! Well, golly, I must have missed something in my Ph.D. coursework ’cause I thought that was exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

Let’s review our definitions just briefly for Mr. Brownstein. Trick question: Is the United States a democracy? No. That’s when the people vote directly on issues. Instead we are a representative republic. We elect our representatives to, um, represent us.

And, in fact, isn’t it the liberals who are forever complaining that Washington isn’t attentive enough to “the people?”

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20 Mar


Remember the Alamo

March 20, 2005 | By |


The version of the Alamo story that I knew prior to visiting the mission still standing in San Antonio, involved a vague idea that some Texans died defending a fort against a Mexican army. I did not understand that the battle at the Alamo was actually a two-week siege by General Santa Anna, culminating in the Mexican attack in the early hours of March 6th, 1836, in which all 189 defenders of the mission were killed.

During our visit I learned that they could have all escaped. They knew their immediate situation was hopeless: Santa Anna had over 2000 troops. Making a stand against him at that point meant certain death. They could have all simply left, retreating out the back, and have lived to fight another day.

But they did not.

Only one man left; all others chose to stand and fight for liberty.

Remember the Alamo, indeed.

My reaction to the Alamo visit has generated a much longer piece. Watch this space for its posting. Here’s an excerpt:

When Europeans search for just the right word to describe their disdain for George Bush, they reach for the epithet: “cowboy.”

It is a wonderful illustration of how little the Continental elite understand Americans in general, and American culture in particular.

It’s not just that they misunderstand George Bush, or even the American electorate. They fundamentally misunderstand the cowboy, and his importance in American history, and enduring influence on American culture.

They need to visit Texas.

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