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November 27, 2004

Sad, But Beautiful

Sometimes you run across a story in the paper that makes you cry. More rarely, it is a story which is tinged with sadness, but contains in it an element of great beauty. This is one of those.
Relatives say Gracie Jackson's wish was always that she and her husband J.C., the love of her life for seven decades, would go to heaven holding hands.

On Thanksgiving Day, her wish came true.

J.C. Jackson, 97, died of congestive heart failure about 2:30 a.m. Thursday at a nursing home in this Fort Worth suburb. Twenty hours later, Gracie Jackson, 88, joined her husband of 69 years, dying of pneumonia.

The family insists J.C. Jackson did not go to heaven 20 hours sooner than Gracie.

"No, Daddy waited on her, and they went together," daughter Cathy Spence, 62, of Hurst said in Saturday's editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I understand that sentiment. My wife is ill, suffering from a degenerative condition that will one day put her in a wheelchair (she already uses a cane in her early 40s, and has for several years), though it is not necessarily life-threatening. I've often said that I don't want to go before her, but don't think I could live without her. I can only imagine this couple felt something like that.

But I was struck by something else. It was the generosity of spirit these dear people showed in life.

Relatives described the Jacksons as a devout, big-hearted couple from East Texas. They married on Christmas Day 1934 in Terrell and raised two sons and three daughters.

During World War II, the couple opened their home -- with hot chocolate and dancing -- to English fly-boys who came to Texas to train.

"The Jackson house was big, with a ballroom. I can still see the winding stairs," said daughter Judy Earhart, 67, of Overton. "It was like a USO show."

J.C. Jackson spent a half-century as a grocer, while Gracie helped make ends meet by sewing. And everyone knew about her cooking, relatives say.

"The tramps and the hobos would be riding the rails through there -- there were a lot of them at the time," Spence said. "She never gave them money, but she would feed them."

Fried eggs mostly -- sometimes bacon, toast and what the family remembers as heavenly biscuits.

I'm told those were tough days, with littel money and rationing for the war effort. But they gave even when there wasn't much to give.

But what seems to be most noted was their love.

"We knew they loved each other, and they loved us," said daughter Toni Hood, 69, of North Richland Hills.
I only hope that the love we each show those we love is such that, when our time here is through, others will be able to speak in this manner of us.




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Religious Freedom Watch

Father Bill Carmody is a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is quite active in the pro-life movement in the area, and regularly says Mass for pro-life advocates outside the Planned Parenthood killing center in town.

At least he did until two weeks ago.

That's when the cops came in and busted Father Bill.

The charge? Having an open container of sacramental wine.

It seems that the local ordinance doesn't distinguish between walking down the street with a can of beer or a bottle of bourbon in a brown bag and engaging in First Amendment protected activity on public property.

Fortunately, Father Bill was let off with just a warning for trying to use his constitutional right to Free Exercise of Religion in a public place. But he is subject to arrest next time he tries to say Mass in a public place. The city seems in no hurry to consider his request to modify the open container ordinance to protect religious freedom

Any comments? Any lawyers who want to help deal with this affront to the First Amendment?





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The Heflin-Vo Election Contest

Here in Houston, we still have one State Senate race with an outcome still in question. Senator Talmadge Heflin is contesting the results of his race with Hubert Vo over on the west side of Houston. For those of you not familiar with the case, the final vote tally shows Vo with a 32 vote lead, while the Heflin campaign is raising issues regarding results from several Democrat precincts, specifically questioning whether or not a number of votes were legally cast in those precincts.

Let me offer a few disclaimers.

I know Heflin, though not well.

I know his campaign manager much better.

My wife taught and coached his granddaughter and I was always quite fond of the girl.

And I serve on the committee that trains GOP election judges and alternates, as well as some poll watchers. I know some of the precincts we have historically worried about with regard to voting irregularities have been in this district. Thus the questions raised don't surprise me.

Now I've not been involved in this case, but from what I have heard from my sources, there were several Democrat precincts in which they allowed individuals to vote who had moved outside the county. Such votes are invalid, no matter how you slice it. Similarly, there are a handful of voters (about two dozen) who cast ballots during both early voting and on election day. All totaled, there are about 250 questionable votes, more than enough to turn the tables in this election.

Now here is where the problem comes in. Whether you are talking about electronic ballots, punch card ballots or paper ballots with an X marked through a box, there is no way to go back and determine which ballot came from which voter -- nor should there be, as it would eliminate the secret ballot.

What are the options?

1) Seat the winner of the current count, even though the outcome is questionable. This means that the legitimate voters of the district may be disenfranchised by seating a man who probably got fewer of the legitimate votes and was pushed over the top by illegally cast ballots.

2) Seat Heflin, on the basis that most of those votes are from precincts that went heavily against him. This creates a serious question in terms of appearances, as well as never fully answering the question of who the legitimate winner is (after all, we can never know if those illegitimate votes were cast for Vo or Heflin?).

3) Follow state law in the matter and have a second election. If past history is any indication, Heflin will be stomped by Vo, as voters have historically voted against the person filing a contest when a new election is ordered (and it has been 10-15 years since one of these elections has been re-run).

Needless to say, none of the outcomes is desirable. And to be honest, I don't consider any of the outcomes good for Heflin or the GOP in the county or the state (I don't see it having national importance). That is especially true given the fact that the apparent winner is a Vietnamese gentleman in a district with a growing Asian population. Heflin's challenge could poison the well for the GOP for decades to come (I wrote this last night, before the Chronicle editorial today made the same point). But while I think the best of the three bad options is for him to pack it in, but I don't think that there is anything particularly evil about him making sure that every legitimate vote counts and that illegitimate votes are not counted.

Frankly, I thought Heflin ran a crappy campaign this time around. Dan Patrick has a good analysis of the problems over at Lone Star Times. Dan's observation about the failure of the Heflin campaign to advertise on the local station that had the most listeners with an affinity for conservative causes was a big mistake, because that meant Heflin never activated his base. As such, I have to say he deserved to lose just because his campaign was inept.





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A Reflection On The CIA Shake-Up

Recent headlines about the "purge" being conducted by Porter Goss at CIA are causing me to flash back to my younger days.

While in grad school about 15 years ago, I applied to work for the CIA, made it through all of the low-level testing and meetings and was invited to Langley for an interview (I wrote a paper for an Asian Politics class about relations between the PRC and Taiwan that impressed someone ).

One of the reasons I turned down that interview was a conversation I had with one of the recruiters. I expressed an interest in being in the Directorate of Operations. For those not familiar with the CIA, that is the part that deals with clandestine operations, agents in the field, and the "hands on" work of intelligence gathering. The recruiter's response was telling.

"Oh, no, you don't want to be in Ops," he told me. "That's not what we do any more. The real action and advancement is in the Directorate of Intelligence, doing analysis of foreign intelligence agency reports, satellite reconnaissance photos, and the stuff that Ops brings in. And you'll probably never have to relocate outside of the Washington area."

The recruiter made it clear that the agency wasn't looking for "James Bond wannabes," and that such field work had pretty much been marginalized since the Carter administration.

Which took me back to an earlier memory as a junior high kid. My father was career Navy, and spent a fair chunk of time in military intelligence. The day that Carter appointed Adm. Stansfield Turner to run CIA, I remember my father telling my mother that it was "bad news."

After hearing that recruiter about a decade later, I finally understood what my father meant. Following the excesses of the 1960s and early 1970s, it was Turner's job to "rein-in" a rogue agency. But in doing so, Turner changed the culture from one of intelligence gathering to one of paper pushing. It appears to me that Porter Goss is trying to change that culture by rooting out the spinners, leakers, and turf-guardians that inhabit any bureaucracy. The reelection of George W. Bush might just give him a chance, if Congress and the press don't get in the way.





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November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I'm thankful for so many things today -- especially my darling wife (AKA The Loyal Opposition) and Carmie the Wonder Pup. For family, friends, and a roof over our head.

I'm thankful for students,and colleagues, and even the administrators in the district office.

I'm thankful for this country and its freedoms, for those who lead it, and those who defend it.

And I'm thankful for having been touched by the lives of those we've lost this year -- Uncle Doc, Aunt Audrey, and my Grandmother. They will be missed in body, but present in spirit.

And to each of you I wish the most joyous of holidays.





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November 22, 2004

Good News On The Medical Front!

No surgery is going to be necessary. Barring an unforseen flare-up of the uncomfortable condition, it should clear up with no additional medical intervention in the next few days. I'll be back to a more or less normal routine pretty quickly, though I may need to take a little more down-time. I will have some dietary adjustments going on, but they are all ones that a guy in his 40s should be making anyway. But I will be a bit sore for a couple more days, and so might just limit my computer time.




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November 20, 2004

Blogging May Be Slow

I'm facing a medical issue right now that may impact my ability to continue blogging for a while. I may post a bit, but could find my output continuing to be low. If the issue resolves itself, I should be back up to normal pace soon. If not, there may be a masked man with a scalpel in my future.

Prayers and good thoughts are appreciated.





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Non-Discrimination Laws, The Way They Should Be

The city of Topeka, Kansas has adopted a new anti-discrimination ordinance that deals with employment rights. It bans discrimination against individuals based upon sexual orientation in city hiring -- but does nothing with private actions.

And that is as it should be.

Think about it for a moment. Government should not discriminate in hiring decisions. But private individuals and organizations have the right to set any ethos they desire. If one is religiously opposed to homosexuality, on what basis can the governemtn legitimately claim the right to override their free exercise of religion? Any law that required non-discrimination in private hiring would, in effect, be discriminatory against religious believers. That is not government's place.

Now some may object. They will argue that it is not right to allow discrimination by private individuals? A good example of this is found in the article.

"It does not matter what form discrimination takes, we should at every step attempt to prevent it," said Topeka lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray. "The issue here is equal protection under the law."
I would disagree. This law provides homosexuals with equal protection of the law -- and also provides those opposed to homosexuality with equal protection of the law. No one is violated by the law, and any "injustice" (if one exists) is a matter of private action, not public policy

Individuals have every right to import their personal beliefs into their business practices -- even if I find what they are doing to be repugnant. On that basis I also reject laws banning private discrimination against people because of race, religion, or sex (public accommodations as historically defined under common law excepted). If a gay bar wants to hire only gay employees, so be it. If WBLK radio wants to hire only black employees, I have no problem with that. That is a part of living in a free society -- people may use the freedom in a way I dislike.

That doesn't mean I support their discrimination -- it simply means I am "pro-choice" on such discrimination. I'm also "pro-choice" regarding patronizing such businesses.





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November 17, 2004

Scalia Smacks 'Em Down!

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been teaching at the University of Michigan Law School this week. His response to a questioner at one of his speeches illustrates perfectly why so many of us love him.
Scalia, who was at Rackham Auditorium to speak on the philosophy of constitutional interpretation, was asked by a member of the audience whether, if he had the chance, he would revisit his decision in the Gore-Bush 2000 election. Scalia cut off the questioner , saying, "I'm inclined to say it's been four years and an election. Get over it." That drew loud boos from the crowd. Scalia voted with the 5-4 majority in 2000 to cease the recount of disputed votes in Florida.

Yes, this drew boos from some -- but it is exactly the right response.

Oh, and by the way -- that was a 7-2 decision to stop the "make it up as you go along" recount. It was only 5-4 as to the deadline for finishing the recount.





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Hook, Line, And Sinker

They call it the Fish Empathy Project. That is PETA's latest campaign. It's goal? To get us big bad carnivores to show a little love to God's finned creatures by not fishing or eating seafood.
"No one would ever put a hook through a dog's or cat's mouth," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach. "Once people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they'll stop eating them."
Really? Tell that to the Koreans and Chinese!

But why are they seeking this goal (other than being fuzzy-minded leftists)?

"Fish are so misunderstood because they're so far removed from our daily lives," said Karin Robertson, 24, the Fish Empathy Project manager and daughter of an Indiana fisheries biologist. "They're such interesting, fascinating individuals, yet they're so incredibly abused."

Oh please.

Fortunately, scientists are ready to dispute this absurdity.


"Fish are very complex organisms that do all sorts of fascinating things," said University of Wyoming neuroscientist James Rose. "But to suggest they know what's happening to them and worry about it, that's just not the case."

Which is good. After all, I wouldn't want that fillet of sole or rainbow trout to have gone through an existential crisis between the water and my plate.

And even if they cannot get us to stop eating fish, the PETA people want "more humane" commercial fishing practices -- such as a requirement that fish be stunned before being filleted on commercial boats.

For a look at the "winners" behind this goofiness, jump back to Matt Forge's piece in the Entertainment section at Lone Star Times. And to think he didn't even need to work over with Photoshop the picture over with Photoshop!





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Academy Of Intolerance?

A military academy is supposed to train strong leaders. Its students take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and should be prepared to respect the rights of all citizens.

Sadly, the Air Force Academy seems to be failing in that regard.

The problem, according to Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., superintendent of the Air Force Academy, is that non-Christian students are uncomfortable.

"Some students had a feeling that 'If I'm not a Christian, I feel like I'm having Christianity crammed down my throat,"' Rosa said.

According to Rosa, their level of discomfort is striking.
In surveys done in August, more than 30 percent of non- Christian students said Christian cadets are given preferential treatment, while less than 10 percent of Christian students felt that way. Only a little more than half of non- Christian students reported they "have not felt pressure to be involved in religion" at the academy.

But when it comes down to pointing out problems, Rosa would only name one.
For example, Rosa said that when the film "The Passion of the Christ" was in theaters, some cadets e-mailed their squadrons to suggest seeing it together. The film, a graphic depiction of Jesus' death, was particularly popular among evangelical Christians.

"People felt they were being coerced," Rosa said.

Good grief! They felt coerced by an invitation to view the movie with a group of their peers! Mel Gibson's film is the top grossing picture of all time, and was also the most controversial new release of the last 50 years. Of course people would suggest that their friends go to see it. And given the subject matter, it is no surprise that some would even use it as a tool of peer-to-peer evangelization. But to call an email from a peer that SUGGESTS that a group go to see the movie is hardly coercion -- at least not if you have a spine.

Rosa believes he sees where the problem arises.

Many cadets bring their family's religious values to the academy with them, Rosa said, and don't realize they might be crossing a line when they talk about religion with others. He said the academy intends to address the problem by educating cadets about tolerance.

"It's not mean-spirited. It's all they know," Rosa said. "We must ensure a climate free of discrimination and marginalization."

Ah, I understand. It is those darn Christian again. They aren't content to stay down in the catacombs. They feel like they actually have a right to come up in the sunlight and talk about their faith on the same basis they might talk about politics, football, or tomorrow's English exam. We'll just hold mandatory indoctrination classes, to re-educate these ignorant folks who think that it is acceptable to freely talk about God in 21st century America.

The frightening thing is that the general does not see the inherent contradiction present in his plan. In an effort to make sure that the minority's feelings remain unscathed, the majority will be told that the exercise of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion will be restricted via the establishment of the religion of tolerance.

And we inch forward toward the day when Americans of faith will find that they are a marginalized majority, unwelcome in the classroom, the government, and the halls of government.





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November 13, 2004

Blogger Problems!

I'm not sure why, but a number of my posts over the last few days hve not appeared. I have finally gotten them to post correctly today. So go back and take a look at what I've posted that is dated over the past few days.




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Is Faith Genetic?

Do genetics play a role in religious faith? One American geneticist seems to think so.

Dr. Dean Hamer, of the National Cancer Institute, makes his claim based upon a study of 2000 volunteers.

Dr Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit at the National Cancer Institute in America, asked volunteers 226 questions in order to determine how spiritually connected they felt to the universe. The higher their score, the greater a person's ability to believe in a greater spiritual force and, Dr Hamer found, the more likely they were to share the gene, VMAT2.

Studies on twins showed that those with this gene, a vesicular monoamine transporter that regulates the flow of mood-altering chemicals in the brain, were more likely to develop a spiritual belief. Growing up in a religious environment was said to have little effect on belief. Dr Hamer, who in 1993 claimed to have identified a DNA sequence linked to male homosexuality, said the existence of the "god gene" explained why some people had more aptitude for spirituality than others.
Needless to say, this raises questions. Is the notion of faith undercut if belief is predetermined by genetics? Does it do away with the notion of God?

Dr. Hamer says no. In fact, he claims just the opposite.

"Religious believers can point to the existence of god genes as one more sign of the creator's ingenuity - a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence."
You can read more about the subject in his book, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hard-Wired Into Our Genes.





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O'l Dirty Bastard -- Dead At 35

Rapper O.D.B., AKA Ol' Dirty Bastard AKA Dirt McGirt AKA Big Baby Jesus AKA Russell Jones, died today in New York of an apparant heart attack. He was in the studio at the time of his death, working on a comeback album following his release from prison last year on charges of drug possession and escaping a drug treatment facility.

O.D.B. was among the founders of the Wu-Tang Clan, a group of rappers who helped change the face of the genre in the early 1990s. But for all his talent and influence, his erratic behavior and drug use wil will be the things he is most remembered for. O.D.B. is known to have fathered at least a dozen children, by a multitude of women, making him yet another poster child for male irresponsibility among the younger generation. And it may yet be determined that his high-flying lifestyle was the cause of his death.

And yet, I cannot help but be touched by one quote from the AP article announcing his death.

His mother, Cherry Jones, said she received the news of her son's death in a phone call, which she called "every mother's worst dream.''

"To the public he was known as Old Dirty Bastard, but to me he was known as Rusty. The kindest most generous soul on earth,'' her statement said. "Russell was more than a rapper, he was a loving father, brother, uncle, and most of all, son.''

I just wish that the young people who idolize him would realize that the "live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse" lifestyle advocated by so many of the "gangstas" in the entertainment industry impacts lot just the "playas", but also those who love them. No mother should have to bury her child, and certainly not because of a self-destructive hedonistic lifestyle.





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Some People Don't Have A Clue

Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times writes a mildly interesting column about the whole gay marriage issue. In it he talks about those who suggest that the Democrats should have come out agaisnt gay marriage, and why he believes that strategy would be wrong. The analysis isn't bad, neither rising above nor settling below that which the average local columnist writes. If that were all, I wouldn't bother commenting.

Deggans, however, also shows why he and many liberals don't have a clue regarding a key point on this issue.

As a black man married to a white woman, I couldn't help wondering what might have happened if Americans had voted on interracial marriage back in 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled that laws against such unions were unconstitutional. According to a Gallup poll from back then, 72 percent of respondents disapproved of the idea.

I couldn't imagine someone telling me my marriage was "too much, too fast, too soon," even then.

Expecting the Democratic Party to turn its back on a minority group fighting for equality feels too much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater - parroting a prejudice voters wouldn't believe coming from the party of Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy, anyway.

There was a time when black people were told their demands for equal housing, schools and voting rights were "too much, too soon," and they turned to the courts for victories they couldn't win at the ballot box. Can anyone blame today's gay activists - with 40 years of black-focused civil rights history behind them - for an unwillingness to wait now?

What Deggans misses is that there is a fundamental difference between the struggle for full equality for African-Americans and the gay marriage issue. More than one, actually.

Unfortunately, Deggans assumes that all opposition to gay marriage is based upon bigotry and hatred. It isn't. That allows him to discount the views of the majority without having to examine them. And it also allows him to ignore the fact that a majority of Americans, including the President, are willing to see the creation VIA THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS of some form of civil unions that will protect the rights of gay couples and their families by guaranteeing inheritance rights, medical decision-making and hospital visitation rights, and child custody rights. Many would also include healthcare and Social Security benefits, as well as adoption rights. But what most of us will not do is allow the courts to usurp the role of The People in the constitutional order of government.




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Help A Kerry Supporter

We keep reading articles that say Kerry voters are ready to flee the country because President Bush won. Here's a site that has been set up to help them.

Among the destinations available are the following:






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"Marlboro Marine" Profiled

We've seen the picture.

I've blogged on the response to it, both here and at Lone Star Times.

Now see the face behind the camouflage and the cigarette.

He is Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, a 20 year-old from Jonancy, Kentucky. And he's down to his last four packs of Marlboros. The Los Angeles Times, not may favorite paper in the world, does a halfway decent profile of the guy. I'm not sure that he is as nonchalant about the war or as disinclined to reenlist as the article makes him out to be -- but on the other hand, he sounds just like a lot of our men and women in uniform, folks who are in for a time of service to their country but who then want out so they can pursue the American Dream. In Miller's case, it sounds like that means doing auto body work.

My favorite part of the story? The explanation of the name of his hometown.

"It's named after my great-great-great grandparents: Joe and Nancy Miller," the Marine explained. "They were the first people in those parts."

God, don't you love this country, and the people who make it great.





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November 12, 2004

Couldn't Happen To A "Nicer" Guy

I don't like Bill Maher, and I don't know many folks who do.  So I took a little bit of guilty pleasure to find this on The Smoking Gun.
NOVEMBER 11--Comedian Bill Maher was slapped yesterday with a $9 million palimony suit by an ex-girlfriend who alleges that the HBO star subjected her to physical and verbal abuse, including "insulting, humiliating and degrading racial comments." In the below Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, Nancy Johnson, a centerfold model and former flight attendant also known as Coco Johnsen, alleges that Maher, 48, reneged on promises to pay her expenses and purchase a Beverly Hills home. Johnson, who says she dated Maher for 17 months before splitting from him in May, also contends that the performer promised to marry her and have children. Johnson, pictured at right, does not detail the degrading racial comments allegedly made by Maher, and recounts only one episode of supposed physical abuse by the host of HBO's "Real Time." She charges that Maher pulled her arm and shook her at one party, causing "injuries to her back and neck," and later that evening warned he'd hit her on the head with a hammer if she was unfaithful.

You know, I bet he didn't try any of that stuff with Ann Coulter.





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November 11, 2004

Gold Star Mom Trashes Moore


Eva Savage of Livingston, Tennessee, lost her son, Marine Cpl. Jeremiah Savage, in Ramadi, Iraq, on May 12, 2004.  His was one of the pictures abused by Michael Moore on his website.  I cannot do her words justice, so I include the entire content of her remarks.  Mrs. Savage is outraged by Moore's disgraceful actions.
''I am the mother of a United States Marine. Jeremiah was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq on May 12, 2004.

''People like Moore would have you believe that we hold President Bush responsible for my son's death. Michael Moore has not spoken to me — ever. So he cannot profess to know how I feel. He is a coward who thrives on the lives of others by twisting the truth and rewriting it to suit his own agenda.

''Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Edward Savage was a United States Marine. He was not drafted. He chose to join. It takes a special person, someone with a sense of honor, duty, commitment and courage to be a member of the Armed Forces. My son believed in his mission, in his duty to protect the way of life all Americans enjoy.

''A few Americans take that for granted and would have you believe that our military heroes have died in vain. My son did not die in vain. The only way that would be true is if you believe people like Michael Moore. My son died for Moore's right to use the First Amendment. But if Moore had said those same things about Saddam Hussein as an Iraqi, he would no longer be living.

''Michael Moore wants us to believe that the picture of President Bush's face — a mosaic of the lost lives of our soldiers in Operation Iraq Freedom — is a statement that President Bush is responsible for lives lost in vain. Let me tell you what I see: I see heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue to be free. I see faces that make up the face of our commander in chief who is not afraid to stand his ground, not afraid to say 'enough is enough' and will not back down to the terrorist, not afraid to cry with a mother, a wife when he meets with them, not afraid to admit he prays to the living God. I see honor, duty, commitment and courage. I see Semper Fidelis (Always faithful).

''I will continue to speak out against closed-minded co-wards like Michael Moore. I used to be afraid to say what I thought for the way someone would think of me. Not any more. You do not walk in my shoes, Mr. Moore. You do not know what I feel or think. Until you have stood where I stand, do not put words in my mouth.

''I have a voice, and it is about damn time I stop being silent. My son died giving me the right to speak, and speak loud. I will not allow his name or even his picture be disgraced.''

Some things need no further amplification.




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Inane Letters

It's Veteran's Day, and American troops are in combat.  So of course the Houston Chronicle will run letters attacking the troops -- for smoking in a combat zone.

Yeah, that's right.  Not one, but TWO letters complaining that a Marine getting a break from the Battle of Fallujah was shown with a cigarette.  Oh, the horror of it all!  These Smoking Nazis are concerned about the impact such a photo will have on "the children."

First we get Dr. Daniel Maloney of the Woodlands, who writes,
I was shocked to see the large photograph on Nov. 10. A tired, dirty and brave Marine rests after a battle — but with a cigarette dangling from his mouth! Lots of children, particularly boys, play "army" and like to imitate this young man. The clear message of the photo is that the way to relax after a battle is with a cigarette.

The truth is very different from that message. Most of our troops don't smoke. And most importantly, this young man is far more likely to die a horrible death from his tobacco addiction than from his tour of duty in Iraq.

Yeah, Doc, you are probably right.  The young man in the picture probably shouldn't be smoking.  But do you really have nothing better to do than chastise a Marine in combat for smoking?  One would hope you have something better to do with your time, not to mention a higher standard of decency.  Were I one of your patients, I would be looking for a new physician right about now -- and I encourage any reading this to do so.

Then there is Maynard Hovland of League City.  His entry in the "Disrespect for Veterans" competiton is shorter and more absurd.
I opened the Chronicle this morning and got slapped in the face by a huge picture of a "battle weary" Marine with a fine looking cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

I respect everyone's rights, but do we really need to encourage our young people to think that this is part of required military gear?


Well, I'm glad to know you respect people's rights. I'm sure that young man respects your right to write such an inane letter to the editor to show your disdain for his putting his life on the line for your freedom. If seeing someone with a cigarette is such a traumatizing event, I can only assume that you don't watch movies or leave your home for fear of becoming psychologically scarred by the sight of a tobacco product in use.

I'm no fan of smoking.  I've lost too many loved ones to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other smoking related maladies.  But I do have a sense of proportion about that particular vice, and it seems to me that any creature comfort our fighting men can get in a war zone is one that I'm not going to criticize.

So to all our men and women in uniform, far from home and in harms way on another Veteran's Day, the smoking lamp is on.  "Smoke 'em if you got 'em!"





|| Greg, 11:00 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Wallace B. Jefferson, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court

It was a historic day for Texas.


AUSTIN -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia administered the oath of office today to Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, the first black person to preside over the nine-member Texas Supreme Court.

A mere fourteen decades after emancipation, Texas has a Chief Justice who is the descendant of slaves. For thirteen of those decades, Texas politics were controlled by Democrats.

[Gov. Rick] Perry first appointed Jefferson to the court in March 2001 to fill a vacancy created when Alberto Gonzales left to become White House counsel for President Bush.

Apparently the Democrats were unable to find even a single qualified black candidate to serve on the court for one and a third centuries, but Republicans could easily find such a candidate, along with qualified Hispanic candidates.

Jefferson won election to the court in 2002. His term expires in 2006.

But we all know, for the media and the Democrats and the "civil rights" leaders all tell us so, that Republicans are the party of racism and segregation, while the Democrats are the party of equal opportunity and inclusion for minorities.

Yeah.

Right.

Sure.

Actions speak louder than words.





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Cornyn's Irrational Logic On Specter

My senator, John Cornyn, has made this absurd statement to explain why he will likely support Arlen Specter's bid to become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


"Based on what he told me yesterday -- if that is his position and if it is his public position and it is one we can rely on going forward -- I would not have an objection to him serving as chairman," Cornyn told reporters.

Hold on, Senator. Your use of the word "if" in that sentence should be reason enough to oppose Specter. You really don't know, and can't know, his position. Given his recent contradictory statements (both before and after the election) and his treatment of Robert Bork, the single most qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the latter half of the twentieth century, it seems clear that anything he says now is a self-serving statement to secure the center seat. There is no way anyone can be sure where he stands.

It is really simple, Senator Cornyn. Arlen Specter should not even be permitted to SERVE on the Judiciary Committee, much less run it! If you cannot see that, perhaps it is time for those of us who work the grass roots of the party to start encouraging a primary challenge designed to make you a one-term senator.





|| Greg, 01:34 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

November 07, 2004

Blue To Leave The Union?

Secession?

Well, that's the position of Mariel Garza of the LA Daily news. She proposes that the entire West Coast secede and form its own country -- Caliwashegon. She's basing that on the fact that the red/blue map shows her part of the country to have voted for the losing candidate.

"Theoretically, it's possible," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law professor at Duke University who formerly taught at the University of Southern California. "Realistically, it won't happen."

But just for the sake of giving into the hypothetical, here's how it could go: First, California leaders would have to get a mandate from residents to declare the state a republic. Neighboring states would, I guess, do the same. We would need lots and lots of money. Hey, Darrell Issa, time to break out your checkbook again. This is your chance to be secretary of state.

Once the residents are in accord, our leaders, headed presumably by President Arnold Schwarzenegger, inform Washington, D.C., that, um, sorry, we won't be participating in your little republic anymore.

Here's the tricky part. If no one else in the rest of the country objects - if Texas, Iowa, New York and all the others are glad to be free of the Left Coast wackos, good riddance - then we are home free. If not, it's time for Civil War II.

Well, setting aside the fact that such a plan is unconstitutional (not that the Democrats have cared about the Constitution since Franklin Delano Roosevelt), there is the fact that the states in question are not particularly blue -- just a few counties.

Yeah, that's right. The hate-filled rhetoric of the Ranting Left finds a receptive audience among only a relatively few counties. Most parts of most of the Blue States are not blue at all. They are filled with people who are supportive of the president and the War on Terror, people who see al-Qaeda as a bigger threat than the GOP.

But we can be gracious. We'll let Ms. Garza have California and all the rest on a county-by-county basis. That will do a way with a good chunk of her "sixth-largest economy in the world and a population larger than most countries." And by the way, Mariel, my relatives up in Oregon and Washington tell me that the local liberals even (perhaps especially) hate Californians, so I doubt you'll get the neighbors to join you in leaving the Union.

Hasta la vista, baby!





|| Greg, 01:25 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Why Voters Rejected Gay Marriage

Every Sunday, I rush to the keyboard to get my weekly dose of Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz. And most weeks I am not disappointed by this iconoclastic libertarian.

Vin offers a different take on the adoption of gay marriage bans by 11 states this week (and 13 this year). I think he may have a good point, one which has been missed by the commentators I've read.

Look at the huge margins of victory for the "marriage is between one man and one woman" ballot measures adopted in 11 states Tuesday. Voters have shown no recent enthusiasm for jailing anyone for practicing homosexuality, thank goodness. The general attitude is laissez faire -- leave them alone as long as they don't frighten the horses. So what are these "gay marriage" votes really all about?

It's not at all far-fetched for parents to worry the next step could be federal "civil rights" lawsuits complaining the number of openly gay schoolteachers and chaperones in their local school doesn't meet "federal guidelines."

Conservatives aren't saying gay marriage is the start of the socialists' campaign to destroy the wholesome social institution of marriage; they seem to see it as something more closely approaching the last straw.

As I've been discussing with Jason over at Positive Liberty, I'm open to the whole concept of civil unions -- provided they are adopted legislatively rather than judicially -- to protect certain legitimate interests of homosexuals in relationships. I know very few (if any) folks who want to prevent someone from passing property to their same-sex partner or deny that partner the right to be present in a hospital room during a partner's serious illness (or even direct the medical care of that partner). Where we get hung up is calling the status of such partners "marriage" (we object to the redefinition), anti-discrimination laws (which have the effect of discriminating against many religious believers) and mandatory spousal benefits for partners (for the same reason). There are not many Rev. Fred Phelps-types out there, and most conservatives (even Christian conservatives) I know are more grouped around the libertarian paradigm. We are more than willing to co-exist in peace with homosexuals if they are willing to co-exist in peace with us -- but we will fight back when we believe we are under attack. To that end, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision on gay marriage and Mayor Newsom's antics in San Francisco have been the 9/11 of a culture war in our society, and the amendments have been our response.





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November 06, 2004

Mrs. Sharpton Leaves Al

According to my friends at Lone Star Times, after 23 years of marriage, Kathy Sharpton has left her husband, former Democrat presidential candidate, Rev. Al Sharpton.

I can only assume it is because the defeat of John Kerry guarantees that Al won't become the nation's first Secretary of Racism and Anti-Semitism.





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November 04, 2004

Arlen Specter -- Rebel Without A Clue

Fresh from having had his Senate seat saved for him by President Bush and fellow Pennsylvanian Senator Rick Santorum, prospective Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter has had the audacity to warn the President not to select conservative pro-life nominees for the Supreme Court. Already there are hints of a possible revolt against the elevation of Specter to chairman.


When asked Wednesday about Specter's impending chairmanship, another Republican on the panel, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, did not offer a ringing endorsement.

"We'll have to see where he stands," said Cornyn, a close friend of Bush who worked to get all of the president's nominees through the Senate. "I'm hoping that he will stand behind the president's nominees. I'm intending to sit down and discuss with him how things are going to work. We want to know what he's going do and how things are going to work."

We need to encourage Cornyn and other conservatives on the committee to abort a Specter chairmanship. If you need any more reason to question Specter's judgement, all you have to do is look at this quote.

Specter also bemoaned what he called the lack of any current justices comparable to legal heavyweights like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo and Thurgood Marshall, "who were giants of the Supreme Court."

"With all due respect to the (current) U.S. Supreme Court, we don't have one," he said.

Though he refused to describe the political leanings of the high court, Specter said he "would characterize myself as moderate; I'm in the political swim. I would look for justices who would interpret the Constitution, as Cardozo has said, reflecting the values of the people."

Thurgood Marshall as a giant of the court? Marshall was hardly a giant as a justice (though he was probably the greatest courtroom advocate of his generation). Even a cursory reading of his opinions shows a sloppy jurisprudence which was more concerned with reaching a desired result than providing a reason for that result which was grounded in the Constitution.

On the other hand, we have a Chief Justice who is one of the great historians of the Supreme Court, and two associate justices (Scalia and Thomas) whose opinions are scholarly masterpieces of originalism and textualism. No giants on today's Supreme Court? Only if one isn't looking for them!

And as for the Cardozo quote, I need only note that such a jurisprudence would leave the Republic without the anchor of the Constitution, for "reflecting the values of the people" is usually the excuse a judge uses to substitute his own views for the text of the Constitution itself.





|| Greg, 05:19 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Chronicle to Bush -- Repudiate Your Principles To Unite Country

With exit polls showing that moral issues were a key issue for American voters who returned President Bush to office, the Houston Chronicle had this little bit of advice to offer him.
Bush could demonstrate his sincere desire for a more united nation by discouraging the use of wedge issues and spurious constitutional amendments that have no chance of passage and would erode states' prerogatives and individual rights if they were adopted. When he has an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, as he soon might, Bush could nominate a jurist who is respected on both sides of the aisle, one likely to respect the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
So, what needs to happen is that the President needs to repudiate the voice of the majority that elected him in order to gain the support and cooperation of those who will never support or cooperate with him!

But then they go on.

Bush will need a measure of Democratic cooperation to battle the problems the nation faces: uncontrolled deficits that could hobble the economy; an insurance crisis that threatens the health care and solvency of middle-class families and the profitability of the companies they work for; widespread resentment of U.S. foreign policy around the world, particularly among Arabs and Muslims who prefer tyranny and chaos to U.S. hegemony.
Yeah, I suspect he would need some help from the Democrats to battle many of those "problems the nation faces," which appear to have been taken word for word from the Democrat Platform adopted in Boston this summer.

But most disgusting is the unwarranted cheap shot at Talmadge Heflin, whose defeat had been a major goal and editorial policy of the Houston Chronicle for months.

While liberals might seem to have more to gain from a conservative administration's offer of harmonious cooperation, conservatives also must adapt and bend or be supplanted. Southwest Houston, where a Democratic newcomer unseated the Republican chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, offers a telling example. Perhaps the constituents of the diverse district found appealing Hubert Vo's history as a hardworking immigrant. Perhaps they resented state Rep. Talmadge Heflin's family values. These include making it harder for some children to get health insurance, and using the courts in an unjust attempt to take a child away from its mother.
Kicking a man when he's down, and using half-truths to do it is pretty low -- but typical of those who set policy for that paper.






|| Greg, 05:05 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

November 03, 2004

VICTORY!

President Bush was reelected.

John Kerry has conceded, showing great grace and class. I hope he genuinely means the things he said in his concession.

May God bless our reelected president and our nation in the years ahead.





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Well, We Survived!

Precinct 333. had a good day yesterday. We voted over 1400, and had over 700 early vote. That means that given our registration 0f 3100, we had a total turnout of over 67%.

Special thanks to several people.

Janet, my Democrat counterpart who served as alternate judge, was a joy. She is proof that people of good will exist on both sides of the aisle.

My darling wife, the Loyal Opposition, came and worked for me despite feeling less than her best. That's why I love her.

Northstar, from TPRS, helped make my day a lot easier by picking up some of the slack when I didn't even realize I needed it. I may disagree with him, but he is a good guy.

And thanks as well, to all my other clerks. and to the library staff.






|| Greg, 05:11 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||
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